31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- I wish to advise the Senate of the following appointments in the National Country Party of Australia. I will lead the party in the Senate, Senator C. R. Maunsell will be Deputy Leader and Senator G. Sheil will be the Whip.
-I present the following petition from 25 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the 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 Women ‘s Advisory Council and increase Federal Government support for its activities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 9 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, as it is clear that unemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
1 ) That the Government adopt positive policies to reduce unemployment;
That the basic unemployment benefit be raised to at least the level of the poverty line as calculated by Professor Henderson;
In line with other social service additional income awards, and in order to encourage’ work creation schemes and the fostering of initiative and self respect, that the $6 a week additional income limit be raised to at least $20 a week;
That the financial penalties above the earning of $20 a week, assessed on a monthly basis, be calculated at the same rate as other social security benefits;
That the Commonwealth grant subsidies to State governments so that the unemployed can be granted transport concessions in order that they are not penalised in job seeking; and
That pharmaceutical and medical concessions be granted to the unemployed equivalent to those received by other social service beneficiaries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
The Deputy Clerk- 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 Senators Melzer and Primmer.
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 Senator Lajovic.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Can the Government tell the Parliament the results of the negotiations which the Government has been conducting with certain Middle East oil exporting countries, that is, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, following the Government’s decision to investigate the principle of purchasing oil on a government to government basis?
– Discussions as to the desirability of setting up a formal organisation to bring about government to government trading are still in process. A standing body, the National Petroleum Advisory Committee, looks at the situation and advises us. We are considering the idea of having a mechanism whereby government to government trading could be done as a supplement to ordinary trading. We do not want to disturb what is still a successful venture, that is, the securing from the Middle East of 270,000 barrels a day, which is 30 per cent of Australia’s needs. At the moment matters are evolving. When the Government makes a firm decision on policy and mechanisms I will be happy to announce it to the Senate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: What significant expressions of concern have been made by the wider community of Western nations in relation to the matters concerning the invasion of Afghanistan by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?
-I note that Opposition senators are laughing. Perhaps there will not be any laughter when I read the text of the resolution of the European Parliament. It met in recent days in Strasbourg and resolved as follows:
The European Parliament outraged by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and profoundly concerned about the threat to international peace.
Condemns the armed intervention in Afghanistan which is contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter.
Calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan in order to enable its people -
Opposition senators- Hear, hear!
-I hope that Opposition senators will continue their ‘Hear, hears’. The text continues: to determine their own form of government.
I note that the ‘Hear, hears’ are a little slow now. The resolution continues:
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Minister is unduly provocative in the manner in which he is answering the question and, on yesterday’s experience, it will lead to disorder in this place. I think he ought to be brought to order by some comment from the Chair.
– No point of order is involved. It is a matter for the Minister to reply in a way in which he deems correct.
– The resolution continues:
– Who said that?
– That is the European Parliament- the Parliament of the nine member nations of Western Europe that are down the gun barrel from the Soviet threat. Unlike America and unlike Australia they have no elections; they have only the threat of war. They have in fact devised a threat in stronger words and stronger terms than ever President Carter or Mr Fraser has said. Contrary to the Labor Party’s statement that the Americans and Australians are doing election stunts, they have called in the strongest terms for the boycott of the Oympic Games. The final paragraph of the resolution reads:
If I may say so, I believe that that statement by the nine member nations of Western Europe is one of the most profoundly significant statements that have been made on the Afghan war and upon the significance of actions to be taken by member nations regarding that war including the boycotting of the Games.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the repeatedly expressed concern by both members of parliament and commentators such as Professor Gordon Reid over the ineffectiveness of parliamentary control on decisions of the parliamentary Executive, does the Minister consider that there were any special circumstances which justified the Fraser Government in ignoring the unanimous decision of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works rejecting the establishment of the Casey University Military Academy? If so, what were the special circumstances and, in particular, does the Government consider that that Committee was, firstly, unrepresentative, secondly, ill-informed, or, thirdly, negligent of its responsibilities to the public and the Parliament in reaching its conclusions?
-This Government above all governments would be keen to ensure that the relationship between the Executive and the Parliament was one of full understanding and full co-operation, unlike others in the past. As I understand it, the Government of course commends the Public Works Committee as an institution of this Parliament, a statutory institution which has done a first-class job over the years in reviewing decisions of government in terms of the implementation of the building and construction of various projects. This time the Public Works Committee has concerned itself to go wider and to report upon the policy implications of this matter. In fact it has made a recommendation which goes beyond the ordinary costs, techniques and tenderings for the buildings; it has gone into whether there ought to be such an academy. That is a policy decision. In the end result two things may be considered. It is quite competent upon any individual or any body to put forward policy suggestions to government. In the final result, the decision on policy must rest with government. The Government will take note of every suggestion that comes forward from committees. In the end, it is the Government’s responsibility to make up its mind, and that it will do.
– I refer the Attorney-General to his statement of 26 August 1979 relating to the introduction of new measures aimed at preventing children being removed from Australia by one parent without the knowledge or against the wishes of the other parent. Now that six months have elapsed since the Government’s intentions were made known, is the Minister in a position to indicate when the legislative and administrative steps will be taken to implement these necessary procedures?
– A number of steps were to be taken in relation to this matter. They were mostly administrative and, of course, not all of them were to be taken within my area of responsiblity. The most important matter for my Department was the provision of legal aid for people who want to obtain custody in a foreign country. We are implementing that. A sum of money has been provided for that purpose. As to other steps to be taken by other Ministers, I will endeavour to obtain an up-to-date report on how the policy is being implemented and whether any difficulties have been experienced. I have not been alerted to any difficulties, but I will endeavour to obtain an up-to-date statement from the other Ministers concerned.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development and Energy concerning the wholesale price of petrol. It does not concern the Government’s world parity pricing policy, with which we disagree, but concerns price. The Minister may know of my constant criticism of oil companies forcing Australian independent retailers out of business by selling petrol at under-cut prices to their own outlets. By way of preface I say that many cases have been reported to me of petrol being offered privately to truckies and small group users at prices up to 6 cents a litre lower than to independent retailers. I ask the Minister: Does this mean that the wholesale price as set by the Prices Justification Tribunal is too high and that the PJT could well be rubber-stamping a king size rip-off of the Australian motorist? Will the Minister make inquiries so that he can give the Senate an assurance that giant windfall profits are not going to the oil companies at the expense of the Australian motorist?
- Senator Chipp raises two, I think, useful questions. The first one probably is more directly the responsibility of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs than mine, but if I may I will simply say this as I am on my feet: Senator Chipp may be aware that for quite some months the Government has been discussing with the independent operators and the companies the whole question of the future of retailing of petroleum in outlets in Australia. That has a series of characteristics to it, including franchise and other matters, and the capacity of oil companies to influence in their own favour certain prices. In respect of this matter, the Government has taken not a unique but an unusual step in preparing a draft Bill and circulating that draft Bill to the community ahead of its becoming a Bill presented to this Parliament. Whilst that draft Bill perhaps does not of itself go as far as some may like- it may go further than others would want- it is a start in a public dialogue on what is, I think, a very important problem, and that is the whole relationship -
– It does not deal with prices.
-No, it does not, at the moment; I quite agree. That is why I said it does not go as far as some people would like. But it opens up the whole question of franchise and the whole question of the relationship between the independent operators and the oil companies. I cannot say that the ability to discount in certain cases is an indication of unnecessarily high price mark-ups or that the Prices Justification Tribunal in fixing prices has therefore fixed them too high. I will put that under study.
The Government is highly conscious of the fact that its aim ought to be to do two things: First, to provide petroleum products as cheaply as it can to the people of Australia. We are doing that as the third cheapest in the world, and we hope to do as well as we can on that. Consistent with that, of course, we aim to provide them in continuous supply. That is a very nice balance for the future because the price itself has to have within it an incentive for others to come in with subsitutes. So there is an eternal battle between the two and compromise is necessary. I will look at the second pan of Senator Chipp ‘s question.
– I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his helpful answer, but on the very matter that he introduced concerning the so-called Bill, which is not yet a Bill, the Minister will know that that was introduced as a Bill not a Bill in October 1978 and was euphemistically known as the Fife package. The Minister then promised that it would be legislated at the earliest opportunity. Since early this month we have had what is known as the Garland package which apparently is to lie on the table and not be discussed until October of this year. My concern- and I ask the Minister to convey this concern to Mr Garland- is that if we wait until October, and if the oil companies persist in undercutting independent retailers, there will be no use in the Garland package being implemented because there will be no independent retailers left.
-I will direct the whole substance of the question and the supplementary question to the Minister concerned.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Special Trade Representations. Has the Minister seen Press reports relating to remarks attributed to the Philippines Ambassador to Australia at the Institute of Export in Sydney on 19 February? Does the Minister agree that there are good prospects for the further development of trade between Australia and the Philippines?
– I have seen the basic text of the Ambassador’s remarks. I recently had the opportunity of visiting the Philippines, amongst other member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. The trade situation between our country and the Philippines is significant. It runs on a two-way basis to something in excess of one quarter of a billion dollars annually. The Philippines, of course, is having significant problems with the energy crisis, which is common to many countries, and Australian expertise and resources may well be able to help solve those problems.
I was interested in the Ambassador’s remarks relating to the clothing and textile industry. I was glad to see that she recognised the degree to which Australia imports from her country. On a per capita basis, in the textile field we import four times as much as the European Community or the United States, and some eight times as much as Japan. In that sense and in that ratio we are doing quite a deal for the textile industry in the Philippines. There is close association and liaison between our countries at government and officer level, and also at a commercial level, and the prospects generally, as the Ambassador suggests, are good.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. It follows an answer he gave to a previous question I asked regarding the production of avgas at the Maranoa oil refinery at Roma in Queensland. At the time the Minister said that the Government would request information from all oil refineries in Australia, including the Maranoa refinery, to investigate the possibility of manufacturing avgas in their refineries. I now ask the Minister whether he is able to indicate what reponse his Government has received to these requests.
-I owe Senator McAuliffe an apology. I well recall that he asked me that question. I have been concerned with avgas on a general scale and am able to report that it will come on stream at the Shell company’s refinery in Geelong on 1 April. That matter has preoccupied me. That, plus my getting the information here, has led to the failure on my part to consider the Maranoa refinery matter. I will do so immediately and let the honourable senator have an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to an announcement last year by the Minister for the Capital Territory that Canberra would be linked to the natural gas pipeline. What priority is being given to this project? What stage has now been reached in arrangements to link Canberra to the pipeline? What advantages will it offer Canberra?
– There has been significant progress in this area since only 15 January of this year when the franchise was finally granted to the Australian Gas Light Co. to reticulate natural gas in the Canberra area. It was then anticipated that it would be available in Canberra early in 1 982. It now appears that it will be reticulated in Canberra by the middle of 198 1. The speed is in the right direction. The introduction of natural gas to Canberra is of real significance. It will save in the vicinity of 250,000 barrels of oil in 1 982. It is estimated that by 1987 it will save in the vicinity of 420,000 barrels of oil.
Moreover, the company intends to have an office in Canberra City in March of this year. It will also have a display of some significance by the middle of the year and of much greater significance by December of this year. This should be of some benefit to the employment area. It is anticipated that some 60 to 70 permanent employees will be involved and that in the shorter term, up to 200 people will be involved in the construction process.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: What effect, if any, will the Thai army order curtailing food and medical supplies from crossing the Thai border have on Australian aid to Kampuchea?
-I would not like to give an answer off the top of my head. I think it is an important question. I hope the answer is that there will be no effect. I will take the matter up with the Minister whom I represent. If there is some effect I will see how we can obviate it.
-I refer the AttorneyGeneral to the recent decision by a majority of the High Court dismissing an appeal by the Australian Conservation Foundation relating to the Yeppoon development in Queensland, on the grounds that the ACF did not have sufficient standing or interest to sue. I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is aware of the statement of Mr Justice Gibbs in which he said:
It is Tor the Parliament, whose members are the elected representatives of the people, to change an established rule if they consider it to be undesirable, and not for judges, unelected and unrepresentative, to determine not what is, but what ought to be, the law.
In the light of these judgments exposing the extreme limitations on the rights of citizens or conservation bodies to take action to protect the environment, will the Government take early action to reform the law on standing or rights to sue in Australian courts?
– I am aware of the decision of the High Court in the case referred to by Senator Missen, although I have not had the opportunity of reading any of the judgments in it. Now that he has referred me to a particular judgment of Mr Justice Gibbs I will certainly make it my business to look at that judgment as soon as possible. What Mr Justice Gibbs has said, if I may say so with respect, seems to be eminently correct and sensible. I would remind the Senate, however, that my predecessor, Mr Ellicott, gave a reference on this matter to the Australian Law Reform Commission and we are expecting a report from that Commission in regard to this whole matter. It has already issued some discussion papers about it. I do not know when the report is likely to come forward but I would expect that it would be in the not too distant future.
Naturally the Government would not wish to make any decisions in advance of the report of the Commission, but I assure Senator Missen that I am most interested in the question and in the report that is forthcoming. I will certainly give the report very close attention when it comes to hand. I believe this is a subject of very great importance. From my personal experience as Attorney-General it is a matter which raises serious problems for an Attorney-General in having to make decisions in this area when he does not really have any guidance from the legislature on how they should be made.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. He will be aware that the Government’s Callaghan report called for increased defence expenditure in Tasmania. In view of the Minister’s statement to the Senate on Tuesday night will he now give an. assurance to Tasmania that it will be able to participate in a substantial way in the employment and economic activities associated with increased defence recruitment, procurement and deployment?
-As I understand it, Senator Harradine raises questions of Australian industrial participation, in particular Tasmanian industrial participation, in further defence spending which was foreshadowed in a statement by the Minister for Defence. I do not know that I have any particulars. I think these matters still have to be considered and decisions made upon them. I will refer the question to the Minister for Defence to see whether there are any particular matters which could be foreshadowed at this time. But I think the questions are still to be decided. The matters raised by Senator Harradine, of course, are ones which will be given close attention.
– I have a supplementary question. The answer is totally unsatisfactory. The Minister must have misunderstood the question. It did not relate solely to industrial participation. I mentioned clearly the Callaghan report which the Minister must have read and understood, and the recommendations therein dealing with deployment of forces, employment opportunities and economic activities.
-I take note of the fact that Senator Harradine ‘s question is of a wider character than perhaps I interpreted. I will ask the Minister for Defence to provide information in relation to that matter as well.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. A report in the Canberra Times of today, titled ‘Defence to be moved north’, indicates that two squadrons of the new tactical fighter force will be based at Townsville and Darwin and that there will be semi-permanent deployments at Learmonth, Western Australia, and Tindal, near Katherine, in the Northern Territory. Can the Minister confirm the report and advise the timetable for such plans? What ancillary projects will be carried out to support such proposals to strengthen Australian defence in the north?
– No decision has been made on the basing of the Royal Australian Air Force fighter squadrons when they are equipped with new aircraft. There is no submission presently before the Government on that matter. There has been no decision on the future of squadrons based outside Australia. For many years the airfields mentioned by Senator Kilgariff have been seen as suitable fighter deployment bases. Various improvements are carried out from time to time, and these will continue. For example, improvements to Learmonth are among the defence initiatives that the Prime Minister announced this week. Planning is proceeding for the construction of a new airfield at Derby in Western Australia. That was also announced. Improvements will be made to other airfields, but no decision has been made as to which ones will be selected.
-My question, to the Leader of the Government, refers to the proposal by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, to suggest to the Federal Government that it ban the export of wool to the Soviet Union in view of the Soviet Union’s attitude to Afghanistan. Does the Leader of the Government share the opinion expressed this morning by the Deputy Prime Minister that such a proposal would not be considered by the Australian Government although the ACTU, if it carries the proposal, proposes to talk to the
Government about it and ask for some compensation to growers in the event that such a policy is acceptable to the Government?
– The Government will consider any recommendation on any matter made to it. If, as I understand it, the proposal from the ACTU is that the Government should introduce a ban on wool sales to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, I am bound to say that the Government would have to ask itself why wool is to be singled out. If a ban is placed on wool- which is no more a strategic material, although it provides clothing, than is food, which keeps people alive, or any other commodity- I would query why the thought process should not be directed at a total ban on all exports? That would be a very serious step. At this moment the Government, in terms of its Co-ordinating Committee on Exports of Technology to Communist Countries arrangements on strategic materials and technology, sees no reason to ban wool; nor does any other government see such a reason. The situation is grave. One would be interested to hear the view of the ACTU, which must now regard the Russian action as being so grave that it suggests that some of the most salutary steps should be taken against a nation. If this involved a ban on the export of wool, it would spread to other matters and would approach total sanction. I would like to wait to see what is the nature of the recommendation. I do not want to polarise this matter into a situation of confrontation. I believe that the views of the Australian people on Afghanistan are not polarised, and they ought not to be.
-Is the Minister for National Development and Energy aware of the concern in South Australia at the Federal Government’s decision not to proceed with further funding of the Flinders University electric car, as distinct from the Flinders University electric van? Can the Minister assure the Senate that all possible steps are being taken to ensure the development of a viable electric passenger vehicle, bearing in mind that necessary priority is being given to research into electric vans?
– There were statements in the Press some weeks ago on this matter, but they were inaccurate and I sought to correct them. It appears that that correction has not penetrated. The fact of the matter is that the Government has made and is making a very substantial contribution regarding the electric car not. only to Flinders University but also to the
University of New South Wales and to the University of Queensland. Any approach to an understanding of research on the electric car must be made while considering the whole concept of where the research is. If honourable senators will bear with me, I would like briefly to state the situation because there is immense interest in the community on it.
The Flinders project is directed at developing a direct current electric drive system. Current work is directed at looking at prototype systems fitted into a General Motors Bedford one ton commercial van. An integral part of the project is the development of a rapid exchange system to replace discharged batteries. The Flinders project is one part of an integrated electric vehicle development program supported by Commonwealth Government funding through the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council program.
Originally, in 1978, Flinders University applied for funding of electric drive systems to be fitted into both vans and cars. The NERDD Council considered that priority must be given to a project which concentrated on developing electric drive systems in a van. It was its view that this would permit the most rapid progress in evaluating drive systems under development. In addition it anticipated that vans would have earlier commercial application. This view was conveyed to Flinders University and funding was provided.
This financial year Flinders requested further funding to finalise development of the drive system and associated equipment. In addition the South Australian Government, in conjunction with the Flinders group, applied for funding to demonstrate commercial operation of the system in a number of vehicles and utilising the necessary rapid battery exchange system. The Council supported this work to finalise development and allocated funding to commence the demonstration program on a limited basis. It was not prepared to recommend support for the recommended comprehensive demonstration project until it had been shown that the technology under development had in fact reached a sufficiently advanced stage of development, had been properly tested and results on the vehicles ‘ performance had been made available. At the University of New South Wales Mr D. Gosden has developed an alternating current induction motor drive system. The system has also been developed in a Bedford van.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. This is a bit much. Mr President, how many times have you indicated that answers of this nature are not permissible in the Senate? We are getting a whole lot of technical detail about a particular matter, which may be important- I do not question that- but it is not appropriate that Question Time here be taken up with a prepared answer of that nature. I suggest, Mr President, that you rule that the Minister not proceed further with that answer.
– Ministers may reply to questions as they think best but I suggest that where it is possible the incorporation of material after an explanation would possibly meet the situation and could assist us all in enabling more questions to be asked and answered.
- Mr President, I think that if you look at the nature of the length of questions over recent days you will find that that is exactly so. You will also note that I prefaced my answer by seeking the indulgence of the Senate to allow me to make a slightly longer answer than usual.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Minister appears to be breaking a standing order by challenging your ruling, Mr President.
– To a degree it is an explanation. Senator Carrick may complete his answer.
– The Energy Authority of New South Wales has been approved funds to evaluate independently both the Flinders and Gosden vehicles by service testing of prototype vehicles. A Lucas van developed in the United Kingdom is to be included in the testing program. In the University of Queensland hybrid vehicles are being developed with a system utilising small internal combustion engines combined with electric systems. I apologise for the length of my answer. I asked for indulgence because this is an important matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I have noticed that there is a statement relating to agent orange to be made later this morning by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, so part of my question may be superfluous. Has any consideration been given to a pilot survey being conducted in the Australian Capital Territory on personnel who served in Vietnam, who feel they may have been affected by any dioxins or defoliants, and those who were in the service but did not go to Vietnam? As the Australian Capital Territory is a relatively small, contained area which is not affected in the same way as other areas by the use of herbicides, the statistical facilities are readily available and there is a concentration of both service members and ex-service members who fall into the category I mentioned earlier, it would be an ideal situation for such a survey. In the event that such consideration has not been given, will the Minister undertake to raise the issue with the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs as a matter of urgency? Will she also seek to have any inquiry or survey extended to include those people who feel they may be suffering the effects of agents blue, white and purple as well as orange?
As Senator Coleman mentioned, I will be making a statement on behalf of the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs in the Senate this morning. But I think there are matters referred to in her question which are not covered by the statement that I will be making. I will refer those matters to the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs to secure a response.
-Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs seen reports of Aboriginal Legal Service involvement in the Western Australian election campaign for the seat of Kimberley and, in particular, the proposal that the Aboriginal Legal Service would be scrutineering for all candidates and taking other active steps in the campaign? Can the Minister advise whether Commonwealth funds can be used for activities of the sort reported?
– I have seen reports of Aboriginal Legal Service involvement in the State election campaign. I am aware of the concern which has been expressed about such involvement. I must confess that I too am concerned about the involvement which has been reported. I stress to the Senate that my concern relates not to private political activities of individuals but to the possible use of Commonwealth funds and Commonwealth funded organisations for party political purposes.
The financial rules of my Department clearly prohibit the use of funds and equipment and, indeed, the use of the organisation or any Aboriginal organisation for such a purpose. In fact, my Department contacted the Legal Service last week and drew its attention to the rules which have applied for some time. Subsequently, members of the Legal Service asked if they could see me and I saw them on, 1 think, last Thursday in Perth. I also drew their attention to the financial rules. They disclaimed to me any party alignment and said that their only wish was to assist Aborigines. I pointed out to them that any acceptance of appointment as scrutineers for one party was not compatible with the non-partisan aim that they professed to me. I also pointed out that I did not see this as being a legal service.
I understand from communications I have had that members of the Service are not proceeding with the proposal to act as scrutineers. There is some uncertainty as to just what they do propose. In light of that uncertainty I sent them a further message yesterday reminding them of the rules which apply to the grants that they receive from the Commonwealth and asking them to do everything possible to ensure that the Service is and is seen to be aloof from party political conflict.
I also said in that message to them that to the extent that individuals connected with the Service are involved in the election campaign they should ensure- of course as private citizens they may be involved and are free to be involvedthat they do not use Service facilities or ALS funds for any election purpose, including transport to the area. I think that is an unexceptionable stance on the matter. I think it is quite clear that when the Commonwealth funds organisations for the advancement of Aborigines, those funds should not be used for partisan political purposes.
– My question is to the Attorney-General and follows his answer to Senator Grimes yesterday on the subject of illegal telephone recordings and the social security frauds case. Does the Attorney acknowledge that it is within his competence to direct the prosecution to withdraw the evidence based on illegally recorded conversations which has so far been led in the social security frauds case, by means of the prosecution requesting the magistrate to disregard any such evidence in reaching his decision? Will he further acknowledge that such action of this kind, whilst perhaps unusual, is not unprecedented and could not in any way be construed as an improper ministerial attempt to influence the court ‘s decision?
– I suppose I could take the step that Senator Evans has suggested. However, it would be a particularly strong and unusual step to take. I think we must bear in mind that the position of the Crown Solicitor in this matter is as the legal representative of the informant. The informations having been laid by police officers, the Attorney-General’s role in this matter is as legal adviser and legal representative. Independent counsel have been briefed to conduct the proceedings. They are not proceedings taken by the Attorney-General himself or by his delegate, as they are on an indictment. To take any steps in those sorts of decisions would be extremely unusual. Whether they are unprecedented or not I do not know. I would not want to make any comment on that without looking into the past. However, it has not appeared to me that any such step as suggested is called for.
I explained in answer to Senator Grimes’s question yesterday that in the first place I do not propose to make any public judgment on evidence that has been given in the case. It is a matter for counsel to argue before the magistrate and for the magistrate to make a decision. In any event, the question of whether evidence is to be admissible or not, regardless of the manner in which it has been obtained, is a very delicate question and one with which the courts are familiar. There are plenty of authorities on it. There is a balance between the interests of arriving at the truth, which is what the court process is all about, and any particular rights of the defendant. It is a balancing process and one which is proper for the court to follow. That is why I said yesterday and affirmed again today that I do not propose to take any action along the lines that have been suggested.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Are we . to take it from the Attorney-General’s answer that he does not propose to exercise the powers which he undoubtedly has, that the Government regards it as quite proper that evidence should have been obtained by illegal means and that this activity by the law enforcement agencies is something to which the Government in fact gives its moral approval?
- Senator Evans or the Senate should not assume that. I said in answer to Senator Grimes yesterday and have said again today that I am not making any public judgment whatever on the evidence in the case. That is for the court to decide.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that the economic situation in Australia is such as to attract people from New Zealand to come to this country to work. What limitations are placed on the entry of New Zealanders to Australia? What provisions does the Government have to detect persons, particularly those from New Zealand, who overstay their visa limitations?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI believe that Senator Townley ‘s question requires some specific information and, in order not to give any misleading information, I think that an answer could be better provided by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I will refer the question to him and see that Senator Townley is advised.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, arises from the Prime Minister’s statement which was reported in the National Times of, I think, 21 January. He said that it was unrealistic to expect the USSR to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the Russians are grateful for the information that President Carter’s most garrulous supporter did not take the ultimatum seriously, whether the Prime Minister was deliberately sabotaging President Carter’s ultimatum or whether the Prime Minister just did not know what he was doing.
-I was able to inform the Senate this morning that the nine member nations of the European Parliament not only had confirmed what Mr Fraser and Mr Carter had said on Afghanistan and the Olympic Games but also had gone further in stronger terms. I would have thought by now the suggestions that Mr Fraser was out of step with either American opinion or Western opinion would be completely gratuitous and such a question would be useless. Mr Fraser was expressing a view that the USSR was in Afghanistan for purposes other than minor ones relating to Afghanistan and therefore was unlikely to withdraw. I understand that it is reported that Sheik Yamani, the very respected energy minister of Saudi Arabia, has made it clear in a public statement that he believes that the intention of the USSR in Afghanistan is to move from there into the Middle East oil fields. That statement comes not from a garrulous person but a very well respected member of the Middle East, which again is down the gun sights. There was nothing garrulous. It was an expression by Mr Fraser. But the overall concept now of what Mr Fraser and President Carter have been saying has been interlocked by the nine member nations sitting in the European Parliament- a parliament, I remind the Senate, that was formed out of Schumann’s and Churchill’s concept of uniting Western Europe so that it could defend itself against the very threat that that Parliament now sees.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. The statement of the European Parliament has nothing to do with this question. I ask the Minister: Does he agree that the Prime Minister’s admission that he does not take President Carter’s ultimatum seriously and does not expect it to succeed would have sabotaged whatever chance the ultimatum might otherwise have had of succeeding?
-I do not agree that it would have been sabotaged. I believe, as has now been proved, every action that Mr Fraser has taken on the world scene has been endorsed both by President Carter and by the European Parliament as being valid and extremely helpful.
– I refer the Minister for National Development and Energy to a report which I have seen from Tokyo that three Japanese firms- Kobe Steel, Mitsubishi Chemical Industries and Nisho-Iwai- have formed an association to implement a joint Japan-Australia brown coal liquefaction program in Victoria. I ask: Who are the Australian partners in this program? What is the division of capital between the Japanese and Australian partners? Where is the plant to be located?
– The discussions between Japan and Australia on brown coal are ones that I have been closely associated with and ones in which we had discussions with Prime Minister Ohira when he was here and with others subsequently. The Commonwealth Government and the Victorian Government have been seeking in partnership to discuss with Japan first a feasibility study and then perhaps a pilot plant on brown coal. I believe that in the Budget of the Japanese Diet to be brought down in early April an amount the equivalent of about $A1.5m is to be allocated to indicate Japan’s willingness to join the feasibility study. I have indicated to the Japanese through my officers in Japan that we would certainly match that. Certainly there is a move towards a significant feasibility study.
My understanding is, however, that there is some belief that we could be able to put aside a feasibility study and go to a pilot plant stage. That would be one proposal in which the Commonwealth and the State would be interested. I do not believe at this moment that there are in Australia any formed lines of Australian commercial or industrial finance in the matter.
The matter, I think, is still down the track in feasibility and pilot stage, but it is a very vital one indeed. However, one of the things that would be necessary in any discussion with any country about energy development in Australia in partnership would be to determine how willing Australia would be to allow energy to be exported from such a project. We would need to determine what price we would be willing to pay for investment and technology from overseas as under such an arrangement some kind of price might have to be paid.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate which follows a question asked earlier by Senator Button concerning Casey University. In the Minister’s reply to that question he sought to imply that the Joint Committee on Public Works had in some way exceeded its charter and that it was on those grounds that the Government did not accept the unanimous recommendation of that Committee. I ask the Minister whether he realises that section 17 of the Public Works Committee Act, which is the charter for the Public Works Committee, states quite clearly that the Committee shall have regard to:
I ask the Minister: Is it not clear that that Committee was acting within the terms of the Act under which it operates? Will the Minister now give us an answer to Senator Button’s question, that is: Why has the Government ignored and rejected the unanimous decision of that parliamentary Committee?
-Senator Wriedt has a habit of implying answers that I have never given. In fact, I did not seek at all to imply that the Public Works Committee had exceeded its charter.
– You certainly did.
-Indeed, I invite Senator Button to look at the Hansard record and to respond next Tuesday on this matter. What I said was that that Committee was a respected committee which did its job well; that it had the right to make recommendations on policy or other matters; that the Government would consider those recommendations; and that the Government had to make the final decision in policy making. I made no suggestion such as that which Senator Wriedt implied. That is a technique Senator Wriedt uses. I suggest that he look at the Hansard record of my answer, which will be a full and effective answer to the question he has just asked.
- Mr President, I will accept the Minister’s invitation to look at the pinks as soon as Question Time is finished. But I do ask the Minister: In view of the fact that he denies that he questioned the authority of the Committee, will he now tell us why the Government in fact has ignored the Committee’s findings?
– I made it perfectly clear that it is the duty of the Government, taking into consideration all information before it from all sources, including of course, committees, to make its independent judgment. It did exactly that on this issue as it has on all others.
– I ask the Minister for Special Trade Representations: In view of the problem which exists as a result of a New Zealand decision to cut to 4 per cent of the market Australia’s exports of clothing to that country, followed by another announcement on 19 February that total imports of clothing into New Zealand would be increased to 10 per cent of the total market, will he pursue the problem now in an effort to obtain for Australian clothing exporters a more attractive proportion of that new available trade?
– I thank the honourable senator for his question. It certainly is my intention to pursue the matters to which he has referred.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Does the Government welcome the announcement of the Trade Practices Commission that Bankcard in Australia, being uncompetitive, has disadvantaged consumers? Does the Government see the decision resulting in more competition for the consumer dollar, lower rates of interest for Bankcard users and the price of goods for cash purchasers being lower in the market place?
– I have been advised only this morning of the decision of the Trade Practices Commission in its draft determination on the Bankcard scheme as it relates to the Trade
Practices Act. That is not surprising, seeing that it was given only yesterday. It is an interesting decision and one on which there is yet to be a final determination after further discussion between the parties. I am sure that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will be taking a close interest in this matter. In the light of the specific question that Senator Gietzelt has asked, I will refer it to the Minister and ask him whether he wishes to add anything.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs follows the question asked by Senator Peter Baume. Will the Minister advise the Senate of the composition of the European Parliament? Which countries are members of it? How many members are there of each country? What is the representation by the political parties?
– Very briefly, there are 410 members of the European Parliament. Their political groupings are as follows: 1 1 1 Socialist, 106 European Peoples Party, 63 Democratic Group, 44 Communist and Allies, 40 Liberal, 2 1 European Progressive Democrats and 25 others. France has 81 seats, the Federal Republic of Germany 81, Italy 81, the United Kingdom 81, the Netherlands 25, Belgium 24, Denmark 16, Ireland 15 and Luxembourg 6. The membership covers the whole spectrum of politics from Liberal through Labor to Socialist and beyond. My understanding is that the vote on the Strasbourg decision was a very significant majority. Of course there were communists who voted against the decision and there were some left wing socialists who also opposed it. But the decision is one of the whole of the member nations of the area, representing all political castes and creeds, and was made, as I say, more emphatically and more firmly than before.
I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I have raised this point of order before when the Leader of the Government has taken the time of members on this side of the House unduly to read out long statements in answer to Dorothy Dix questions. Today he took six minutes to read a statement. I suggest that Question Time ought to be extended in order to allow members on this side of the House an opportunity to ask questions.
– There is no point of order.
– I also want to speak to the point of order. I think it goes a little further. I appreciate the responsibility and the right, probably, of the Leader of the Government in certain circumstances, but I think rulings on cricket are that if a bowler is in the middle of an over he usually finishes it. At least two honourable senators were on their feet when Senator Carrick concluded his last answer. The next person on his feet should then have been called. Instead, Senator Carrick, without resuming his seat, asked that further questions be placed on notice. I think this is really transgressing the spirit of this chamber.
– Speaking to the point of order, I should just like to place it on record that during Question Time the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader have precedence for the call. We have been keeping a count of how many times they have used that precedence. It is perfectly proper that they should do so, but they exercised their precedence for the call and for supplementary questions at the expense of their own back bench. If Senator McLaren is concerned that he is not getting the call and if Senator Mulvihill is concerned that he is not getting the call, the place to look is at people in front of them. Question Time is being taken by their own leaders who, in accordance with their rights, are asking more questions and numerous supplementary questions. That is the first place to look.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I suggest that nothing should be done in this place without leave of the Senate first being obtained. I have raised this matter before, and I raise it again. This is the only occasion on which the leave of the Senate is not sought. I insist that a discontinuance of Question Time should occur only with leave of the Senate. I suggest that the Senate Committee on Standing Orders should look at this very matter. If the discontinuation of Question Time was by leave of the Senate, honourable senators themselves could determine whether Question Time should be longer or shorter. The real problem at the moment is that Question Time is a defined one hour and the Government has established a practice of making certain that the hour is taken up by long questions and even longer statements. I get back to my submission on the point of order. Nothing in this place should be done without leave of the Senate. The practice of ending questions without notice should be discontinued.
– No point of order is involved but the matter which Senator Georges has raised has been referred to the Standing
Orders Committee and will be discussed at the next meeting following his request for such consideration to be given to it. The Leader of the Government is in order to call for questions to be placed on notice under the present accepted arrangements.
-Mr President, I seek, leave of the Senate to ask you a question.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The matter I raise concerns a submission made to the Presiding Officers by the Combined Library Unions Committee about proposals to move certain client service staff of the Parliamentary Library to the Hotel Kurrajong. Mr President, can you inform honourable senators of any developments along these lines? Will special reference books and journals also be moved with the staff, thus depriving senators and members of the traditional easy access to them that they have enjoyed? Will provision be made for extra courier services to run between the Hotel Kurrajong and the Parliament? Mr President, will you ensure that the sections of the Library that provide a direct client service to senators are not moved from this building?
– The matter to which the honourable senator referred- the accommodation of staff at base- is of deep concern to Mr Speaker and me. We are currently in communication with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in respect of this matter. No decisions will be made on any movements of sections of the Parliamentary Library from this place until we know, with the requirements of the five departments concerned, what is best for the whole parliamentary system. Beyond that I cannot give Senator O ‘Byrne any precise information on the matter that he raised this morning.
-by leave- The matter of resources for members of Parliament is one that we appreciate has been the concern of the Parliament for a considerable time. There is a great deal of alarm at any suggestion that any of the resources of the Parliamentary Library should be moved out of the building. Without in any way intruding upon the domain of the Speaker and the President, I think that the Senate at least ought to be given an opportunity at some appropriate stage to submit views to the two Presiding Officers on this matter. Mr President, as you may be aware, the Remuneration Tribunal has placed limitations on the staffs of members travelling to Canberra. The consequence of this is that not every member is able to use those limited resources for the purpose of carrying out in the Parliament itself the essential research that is required on Bills and other related matters. The Parliament being as it is, there is an inability on the part of members to leave the Parliament to go to the Hotel Kurrajong, for example, to have discussions with officers placed there or to consider matters that require consultation with persons who may be carrying out research who, hitherto, were employed in this building. Having to leave this building would create tremendous problems. We are required to be here in case of divisions. Perhaps Government members are required to be here more than Opposition members in case quorums are called, but generally there is an obligation on members of the Parliament to spend the day and the evening within the precincts of the Parliament itself. Considerable concern and alarm have been conveyed to me by members of both houses of Parliament about the suggestion that there will be some reduction, because of space factors, in the library itself and in the effective use of the resources which members require. Particularly this flows from the fact that many times the Government brings legislation into the Parliament and in a matter of some urgency requires the Parliament’s consideration of it. The party committees in the Opposition have great difficulty in assessing that legislation without ready access to the Library. Often we are placed in an invidious, difficult and sometimes embarrassing position because of the time-table set by the Government parties. That relates particularly to new legislation. Efficiency will be considerably affected if the Presiding Officers have the view that because of space considerations there ought to be some movement of the library. I would have thought that that would be the very last place considered when considering a shift of resources from this place. There would be other sections of the Public Service that could be shifted. There are other supernumerariescertainly I would regard them as supernumeraries, although that might be a debatable point- who could be shifted.
Mr President, if serious consideration is being given to shifting any section of the Library at all, I plead with you to afford- if not within the Senate itself, privately- members of the Parliament the opportunity to present an alternative view to you because we genuinely regard this as a very serious matter and one which would certainly affect the ability of all members of the Parliament to carry out their functions properly as they see them. We would therefore ask for a great deal of caution to be exercised and we would ask for mature consideration to be given to allowing members of the Parliament to present their point of view. Changes are made in the Library which sometimes I find difficult to comphehend. Members of the Parliament are rarely consulted about those matters; yet I would have thought that the whole of this building is here to provide resources to the members. There seems to be a breakdown in consultation and communication. Without in any way getting involved in the controversy about that, I would think there is a need for a lot more taking into consideration and account of the views of the members.
– I can assure the honourable senator that the needs of the members of this Parliament are always given the highest priority in the services afforded to them by Mr Speaker and myself as the Presiding Officers.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Baume. In the course of a discussion at the conclusion of Question Time today the Government Whip, Senator Baume, rose to his feet and sought to explain the length of Question Time by suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) and I had a right to ask as many questions as we wanted to and that this had delayed Question Time.
– I did not say that at all.
-Oh, yes you did.
– I said that you asked those questions at the expense of your back bench.
-That will do. What Senator Baume said was: ‘We keep a count’. He did not reveal the count but he said: ‘We keep a count of the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’. I inform Senator Baume, who presumably as Government Whip is responsible for knowing the procedures of this place, that I have no rights as Deputy Leader of the Opposition to ask more than one question on any day, nor have I ever sought to exercise such a right. Senator
Baume clearly does not know that. Today Senator Wriedt asked two questions and I, as is my custom, asked one. I find Senator Baume ‘s ignorance in this matter sad for the Parliament. I reject the implications and imputations based on Senator Baume ‘s ignorance and I have taken advantage of that ignorance to delay Question Time. I claim to have been misrepresented in that matter.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the Murray Valley Salinity and Drainage Report 1979. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the adjournment.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present an agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to New South Wales and Victoria for urban expansion and redevelopment (Albury-Wodonga) 1979-80.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present the second annual report of the Parole Board of the Australian Capital Territory 1978-79.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 33 of the Criminology Research Act 1971, I present the seventh annual report of the operations of the Australian Institute of Criminology 1979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to sections 10 and 10a of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act 1953, I present the Royal Australian Air Forces Veterans’ Residences Trust annual report and the associated AuditorGeneral’s report for the year ended 30 June 1979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present the fifth annual report of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation 1977-78. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the adjournment.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present a report entitled Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation, 1979’. This report was also distributed to honourable senators during the adjournment.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present a report by the Prices Justification Tribunal on the processed food industry 1 979.
– by leave- I move:
I suggest that the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal on the processed food industry be listed for serious consideration and debate by the Senate at an appropriate time. I congratulated the Government when the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) made the decision to have a Prices Justification Tribunal examination of the food industry in Australia. Certainly the report amplifies the fears that have been expressed in many quarters about what is taking place in the marketplace so far as food prices are concerned, and vindicates the decision of the Government to have a public inquiry. It was a public inquiry in that the various interested groups were invited to make submissions to it, but it was not open to the public. When one reads the report in great detail in order to comprehend the various submissions that have been made by the manufacturers, the retailers and the consumer groups, one has to reach certain conclusions which are not necessarily borne out in the general summary, recommendations and findings of the Tribunal.
However, a number of important factors emerged from this report and I think they are worthy of debate in this place at an appropriate time. I suggest that the Parliament ought to examine what has taken place in post-war years in the food industry in Australia, particularly the dramatic change that has taken place in the marketing of food. We have moved into the supermarket concept, and we have seen the demise of the small corner grocer’s shop as the principal place where people buy food. We have seen the growing and very strong tendency for butcher shops to disappear. Also we have seen the decline in the number of fruit and vegetable outlets, a tremendous degree of emphasis on advertising and the encouragement of Australian consumers to do all their shopping in one shop. This has the considerable effect of removing the small businessman from the marketplace and placing more and more economic power in the hands of large retail supermarket outlets. This trend will develop more and more.
It is interesting to look at what manufacturers had to say. They have shown, very clearly, that they are being screwed by the big retail outlets. The big retailing supermarket companies are forcing the food producers, food manufacturers and food processors in this country to bear the major proportion of the promotion of their products. A great proportion of this emphasis is reflected in the price of an article. As the cost is borne by the manufacturer the retailer is profiting very greatly. In Australia the food manufacturing industry is now completely under the thumb of the retailer. That is a very dangerous development. It is an indication of the economic power that has changed the wholesaling and retailing of food in this country.
It is interesting that the report brought down by the New South Wales Government recently has drawn attention to similar malfunctions in the distribution process. I think that both reports emphasise a point that I made at the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference in Adelaide last year, and which was embodied in the policy of my party, that there should be a public inquiry into the general production, marketing and distribution processes in Australia. This report emphasises the correctness of that decision.
It also draws attention to another malfunction that affects the price, competitiveness and processes that operate in the marketplace so far as food products are concerned. A great deal of emphasis is placed by economists on the need for economies of scale. The more goods we produce, the greater the production run, the cheaper the price of the product should be. What is happening to the sale of food products in this country is that the manufacturer- in respect of certain brands of food products- is being forced to provide a substantial sum of money for the promotion of his articles, both in newspapers and on the electronic media. Therefore this affects the price and places the manufacturer at a disadvantage to the retailer because the retailer insists upon that process. This accounts for the so-called special ‘ which has become synonomous with the sale of food in the market place. Whilst that process has become common place and whilst the retailer forces the manufacturer to accept that concept, the retailer at the same time requires the manufacturer to produce a retailer brand or a no-frills brand which involves no promotion costs in the cost of that article. Of course, that article produced by the same manufacturer with a slight variation- it might have a bit of colouring, less tomato sauce or a different sort of labeldoes not have the promotion cost factor involved in its production. The alternative article is then able to be retailed in the market place at a cheaper price, ostensibly providing competition for the potential customer. This report highlights this anomaly and the fact that the manufacturer is considerably disadvantaged. It also highlights the fact that the promotion cost is now a significant part of the cost of the food items that are retailed in the market place. One would therefore hope that we would have an opportunity to consider the implications of this report and the very dramatic changes that have taken place in food production and distribution in Australia in much greater detail than I can provide at this moment.
I conclude by drawing the attention of the Senate to the profit margins and the accumulative effect that they have. I particularly ask my colleagues from South Australia to look at the main distribution company in South Australia, Associated Co-operative Wholesalers Ltd, to see the tremendous increase in the rate of profitability that has taken place in that State. That company has almost a complete monopoly situation in that State and has increased its assets. Honourable senators should also look at what has happened to the main food marketing organisations in Australia to see the tremendous increase in their rates of profitability and the asset accumulation that these figures show over the years 1976, 1977 and 1978. This is surely a matter of great concern to the Australian community, to the manufacturing section of our community and to consumers and it ought to be the concern of the national Parliament. I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks later and hope that the Government will agree to make provision for further debate on this matter.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission on passenger motor vehicles and components- export facilitation.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on coated copying film.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on baby carriages and parts thereof.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on ships, boats and other vessels not exceeding 6,000 tonnes.
-by leave -I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; dabate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western Australia-
Attorney-General)- I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the publishing industry for 1979.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on short term assistance to certain bits of cemented carbides.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on certain engines not exceeding 7.46 kilowatts; and rotary cultivators and tractors having a power of less than 15 kilowatts.
– On behalf of Senator Chaney and pursuant to section 61 (3) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 I present the annual report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner for the year ended 30 June 1979.
-by leave -I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 29 of the Aboriginal Land Fund Act 1 974I present the annual report of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission for 1 978-79.
-by leave -I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the sixth annual report of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd for 1978-79.
-by leave -I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Australian Manufacturing Council for 1 978-79.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 7 of the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Act 1979, I present the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland dated 15 November 1 979 for the purpose of funding the development of facilities at the Acacia Ridge rail freight terminal and the installation of centralised traffic control between Caboolture and Gympie.
-by leave -I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 4 1 of the Australian National Railways Act 1917I present the annual report of the Australian National Railways Commission 1977-78. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the parliamentary recess.
– by leave-I wish to draw attention to the fact that although the report is late I do not seek, as I normally would, to have this report referred to the Senate Standing
Committee on Finance and Government Operations. The reasons why the report is late have been investigated by the Committee and it has reported to this chamber in relation to the problems which have been experienced by the Australian National Railways Commission in reporting to the Parliament. That investigation is referred to in the third report by the Standing Committee on statutory authorities. For that reason I do not seek to have this late report referred to the Committee.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted, debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of Christmas Island 1 978-79. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the parliamentary recess.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of Norfolk Island 1978-79. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the parliamentary recess.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands 1978-79. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the parliamentary recess.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 6 of the National Fitness Act 1941I present a report entitled ‘National Fitness in Australia 1978-79’.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 14(1) of the Fire Brigade (Administration Ordinance) 1974 I present the fifth annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade 1978-79. Copies of the report were distributed to honourable senators during the parliamentary recess.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Viability of the Christmas Island Phosphate Industry, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) relating to the report.
– by leave- I move:
I think a few appropriate words might be made at this time. The report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Viability of the Christmas Island Phosphate Industry which has been some time coming, can be regarded as a vindication of the view that has been taken by the workers employed on Christmas Island and probably can be regarded also as a victory for their point of view. Unfortunately, we have not had time to contact them to get their precise views, but I would certainly take the charitable view that the report has substantially nominated the areas of concern which the workers have been expressing over recent years and which have been expressed from time to time in Australia by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The report’s recommendations, if adopted by the Government will be of great importance to the people who work there. I refer to the indigenous people as well as those who have come from elsewhere.
The report lends credence to the complaints that the workers on Christmas Island have made over the years. My colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, will recall that he was active in this area when he was a Minister in the Whitlam Government. The complaints were substantially about wage rates.
– We established trade unionism on the island.
– Yes, that is right. We were concerned, of course, about the questions of authority in the area, our jurisdiction in the area, and we were concerned with the colonialist and discriminatory policies that were being pursued, particularly towards those who were working for the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission. As we know, that Commission represents three governments. It was tied up pretty much in such a way as to make it generally beyond the powers of governments unless there was unity and agreement between the various arms of government. I am led to believe that the New Zealand Government is still being unco-operative in relation to this report. We will need all of our negotiating skill to have the recommendations considered and, I would hope, adopted.
The recommendations are quite far reaching. The Commission recommends, for example, that the wage rates for the phosphate operators be the minimum Australian award rate. That is a very important step forward in the workers’ general demands to have a wage rate comparative to that of workers in Australia. The adoption of this wage rate will still enable the island to be economically viable. The Commission makes a further recommendation that a board of five commissioners be appointed. I am not so sure that that is as far reaching as it should be, although it is a considerable improvement on the existing arrangements. The Commission recommends the appointment of two commissioners from the mining industry, two from the fertiliser industry and one to be nominated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The report does not establish the principles of selfmanagement for those who are actually working on the island. However I should imagine that the representative from the Australian Council of Trade Unions would probably be a person representing the work force on the island. We still have a large influence from those involved in the industry, nevertheless this would be a very important step forward from the existing arrangements. The Phosphate Commission would have its rights terminated under this agreement should it be finally accepted.
The Commission recommends that the new authority should look at greater capital investment in Christmas Island, particularly in labour saving machinery. But of course if draws attention to the fact that the introduction of such labour saving equipment onto the island would have a great effect upon the number of workers employed there. That means that we will be confronted with a problem of redundant workers. What will happen to them? Will they be allowed to be resettled in this country? Will they go back to Singapore and other islands whence they came? The problem of human relations assumes some significance.
The report also suggests that discriminatory policy in employment and elsewhere should be abolished and that the Malays and Chinese should be trained to fill senior supervisory positions. That is a very important factor. There is no question that those people have the skills, but, because of the colonialist policies that have been pursued by the British Phosphate Commission or government representatives who constituted the management previously, acceptance of those important principles of workers developing skills and taking over management responsibilities- as is happening in any Australian mining community- have not been considered.
The New Zealand Governments attitude will cause difficulties unless we can change it. A report which suggests that the work force now should come within the orbit of our tax laws would probably be controversial to the work force. We are dealing with a minimum wage and not with a wage that is comparative with other mining communities in Australia.
The report says that all the parties which gave evidence to this inquiry agree that there are too many workers on Christmas Island, so there is the humane problem of what to do with the surplus labour on the island. We will have to concern ourselves with the increasing surplus labour if capital equipment is introduced, as has been suggested, to increase production by the use of modern machinery.
The main criticism of the report is that apart from the wages issue it advocates major changes in the organisation of phosphate mining on Christmas Island. But nowhere in the report is it suggested that the members of the work force who obviously will be greatly affected by the suggested changes should in any way be consulted. A weakness that exists in many government reports that come down from time to time is that the people who are likely to be affected by proposed changes are very rarely given the opportunity to have their voices heard. They are very rarely consulted. I think it is a matter to which the Government ought to give very serious consideration. If the workers’ lifestyle, environment and future are to be affected by proposed changes- and that is as sure as night follows day- a consultative process ought to be set in motion which will at least be able to hear the views of those who will be affected by the changes. In all of these sorts of inquiries the tendency of the so-called experts to give consideration and to make recommendations without concerning themselves with those who are affected by change is to be regretted. More consideration should be given to avenues of consultation with those who are to be affected by the changes. It is generally the case in public service inquiries- there is a considerable number from time to time whose reports are presented to the Parliament- that those who are to be affected by whatever changes are proposed rarely have the opportunity to present a view or to be consulted. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned. .
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources on solar energy.
-On 30 March 1976, the Senate referred the matter of solar energy and its potential as an alternative energy resource to its Standing Committee on National Resources for investigation and report. The report of the Committee, which was tabled on 4 May 1977, emphasised the need for the development of solar energy as an energy resource within the context of an overall energy strategy, and made a number of recommendations on appropriate future action to be taken by the Government. I wish now to report to the House on action taken by the Government in relation to that report.
Since the preparation and tabling of the report, considerable changes have occurred in the energy area, notably increases in the price of crude oil and other non-renewable energy resources, and growing uncertainty regarding the availability of crude oil supplies. These changes in the energy situation have increased the scope for deployment of solar energy technology; not only does it show great promise in domestic and commercial heating and cooling but the potential for solar power generation in remote areas is also significant.
The utilisation of solar energy by growing crops for conversion to liquid fuels is a further area of promise as a result of changing energy costs and growing uncertainties. Such crops may allow solar energy to contribute significantly to Australia’s energy supplies within a few years although much will depend on the economics which will, in turn, depend on improved technologies, as well as changes in the price and availability of other fuels. The development and assessment of the necessary technologies are receiving attention in the Government’s policies on research, development and demonstration funding and in recent initiatives on fuel ethanol. Government action has therefore extended beyond that recommended by the Committee. Details of Government action pertinent to the Committee’s recommendations are contained in the statement made by the then Minister for National Development on 5 April last year and the major energy policy statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 27 June.
The Government has taken firm action to establish mechanisms to formulate and coordinate energy policy. The Government established the National Development portfolio in December 1977 with explicit responsibility for national energy policy, including planning and research into coal, oil and gas, uranium, solar energy and other forms of energy. More recently in December 1979 this portfolio was extended to become National Development and Energy, and made the responsibility of a senior Minister in the Cabinet, reflecting the Government’s perception of the growing importance of energy policy.
Co-ordination of energy policy responsibilities occurs within the National Energy Office of the now renamed Department of National Development and Energy. In addition, the National Energy Advisory Committee- NEAC- was established on a permanent basis to advise the Minister on the formulation and implementation of energy policy. The National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration CouncilNERDDCwas established in May 1978 to advise the Minister on the development, coordination and funding of an Australian program of energy research, development and demonstration.
The energy research, development and demonstration priorities recommended by the Standing Committee have been reassessed in the light of the current energy situation and the changes in energy economics. The future role of solar energy has also been addressed in a number of reports on energy matters notably in reports by NEAC on Australia’s Energy Resources: A Research and Development Program for EnergyNEAC Report No. 3- and the report by the Australian Science and Technology Council on Energy Research and Development in Australia. The priorities now considered desirable for the various areas of energy research and development, including solar, are detailed in the paper
Priorities and Relativities for Research, Demonstration and Development Support Grants tabled in Parliament on 5 April 1979 by the Minister for National Development.
The Standing Committee considered that research and development funding for solar energy projects should be considered on a competitive basis with funding required for research into other energy sources. This approach has been adopted in the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Program which to date has committed a total of $38.5m to energy research and development. Of this total, $6.03m has been approved for research into renewable energy sources- $3.21 m for solar energy projects, $2. 57m for biomass conversion and $0.2 5m for wind energy. The criteria used in formulating this program and in assessing individual projects are those previously referred to in the priorities and relativities paper. Details of the projects funded in 1978-79 under the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Program are presented in the document Australian Energy Policy- A Review, issued by my Department on 15 October 1979. Although research in Australia is being carried out in all areas related to solar energy, special attention is being directed to commercial development of low grade heat applications for industrial purposes, use of solar energy for space heating and cooling, and small scale power generation in remote areas. Many organisations, both in the private and public sector, as well as the universities, are undertaking work in these areas. The National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council’s annual report 1978-79 gives more details of the technologies under development.
As well as encouraging research into various aspects of solar energy in Australia, the Government has been active in establishing a number of bilateral and multilateral arrangements, in particular with Japan, India and the International Energy Agency, to promote collaboration in solar energy research, development and demonstration. Discussions are also continuing with the United States of America on collaboration in a number of fields.
International collaboration in solar research and development is considered a necessary complement to our domestic programs. For example, collaboration with India is focussing on solar air conditioning- one of Australia’s priority areas. Similarly with Japan, co-operation is concentrating on remote area power- another of our priority areas. An Australian mission visited Japan at the end of January for discussions on collaboration in solar energy, including possible projects in relation to solar power plants in remote areas and the testing of photovoltaic solar arrays under a range of Australian environmental conditions using Japanese developed technology. Discussions on these projects will continue in the near future.
In recognition of the role of solar energy in the area of energy conservation, the Government has also introduced financial incentives which will encourage greater use of solar appliances. For instance, solar energy appliances have been exempted from sales tax liability and new taxation concessions announced in the last Budget to encourage the conversion or replacement of oil-fired industrial equipment with non-oil fuelled equipment will also help to promote the use of solar appliances. In summary, the Government has recognised the role of solar energy as a significant energy source for the future and has taken measures to encourage its development and application in the context of our overall energy strategy. In doing so we have taken cognisance of the Committee’s recommendations and have taken appropriate action concerning them.
May I say in conclusion that, as is the practice of this Senate, the Senate Committee has done in detail and in a comprehensive way a job of significance which adds to the stature of this Senate. The report is part of the significant literature on energy which is now available. We have responded to the report. I believe we have responded in a very wide way now but we will continue in the development of solar energy as far as modern technology allows. In that regard, development of certain Australian research is in the forefront of the world. I commend the statement to honourable senators.
-by leave- As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources which conducted the inquiry referred to in the statement by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick), I want to make a few remarks about the statement. I notice that at page 2 of the statement the Minister states:
Government action has therefore extended beyond that recommended by the Committee.
I shall refer to that shortly. One remark which has been drawn to my attention appears at page 2 of the statement, where the Minister states:
The Government has taken firm action to establish mechanisms to formulate and co-ordinate energy policy. The Government established the National Development portfolio in December 1977 with explicit responsibility for national energy policy, including planning and research into coal, oil and gas, uranium, solar energy and other forms of energy’.
At present the same Senate Standing Committee on National Resources has before it the reference: ‘The replacement of petroleum-based fuels by alternative sources of energy ‘ and we are conducting that inquiry. I am interested in the Minister’s use of the word ‘uranium’ because some weeks ago in the Committee’s current inquiryevidence given to the Committee is now public evidence so I am allowed to refer to it- in a submission made by the Victorian Liberal Government, it too expressed great concern about safety measures to be adopted in the use of uranium. That was in conformity with what the Australian Labor Party has said; we too have expressed very grave concern about safety measures to be adopted in the use of uranium and the byproducts derived from it.
Whilst we often are castigated and criticised because of our policy on uranium, we find that the Victorian Liberal Government has a policy on uranium which runs practically parallel to that of the Australian Labor Party. The Victorian Liberal Government will not be prepared to enter into the use of nuclear power until a full public debate on the issue has been conducted and it is assured that the necessary safeguards will exist. That is what the Australian Labor Party states also. So we are not alone in our fears about the use of nuclear power and the mining of uranium. Another section of the statement which was drawn to my attention- I agree with itappears at page 4, where the Minister states:
For example, collaboration with India is focussing on solar air conditioning- one of Australia ‘s priority areas.
Those of us who take an interest in the use of energy know that whereas the peak use of energy used to occur in winter time with the use of heating appliances we now find that, with the increased use of air conditioning, the peak is starting to occur in the summer time. Australia lends itself to the use of solar appliances for air conditioning. I am one who has a solar domestic hot water service and from about the middle of October until early April I do not have to use any auxiliary power. I can recommend solar energy to any person who might be thinking about using it. The Minister, on the last page of his statement, states:
In summary, the Government has recognised the role of solar energy as a significant energy source for the future and has taken measures to encourage its development and application in the context of our overall energy strategy. In doing so we have taken cognisance of the Committee’s recommendations and have taken appropriate action concerning them.
In this statement I see no reference to one of the recommendations made by the Committee, namely, the recommendation made in paragraph 10 of the report, headed ‘Environmental Considerations ‘, which reads:
The Committee considers there is a need for the Commonwealth and State Authorities to investigate the need for legislation to define the solar rights, right to solar energy or sunshine rights of individual property owners and the implications for current town planning and building regulations.
The Committee was concerned that, with the increased use of solar energy, people who install solar appliances on the roofs of their houses or in their gardens in an elevated position might find that if appropriate legislation to protect those people were not introduced- of course, this is the sole responsibility of the States- local councils might give permission for high rise flats to be built alongside the residence of persons with solar energy units or might allow tall trees to be grown nearby. In that event, those solar units would become inoperative.
I am surprised to see the Minister’s statement that the Government has gone beyond the recommendations of the Committee when no reference has been made in the statement to the Commonwealth Government having had any consultation or discussions with State governments to bring about the implementation of legislation which will protect the rights of people who now have solar energy appliances. I see that the Minister is nodding his head. I hope that now that this has been drawn to the Government’s attention some action will be taken in the near future because, as we go around the countryside now, we see more and more solar domestic hot water appliances being installed on the roofs of houses.
-by leave- As Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources, to which the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) referred in the statement he made to the Senate a short time ago, on behalf of the Committee I thank the Government most sincerely for the statement it put down today. It does deal in a fairly comprehensive way with the points we made in our report. Of course, the Government responded in a much more detailed way to the report when it was tabled some time ago. I was going to make the point in regard to the rights to sunlight which Senator McLaren so ably made. I make an additional point that we should try to encourage the people who are embarking on new housing sub-divisions as far as possible to make allowance for maximum access to sunlight. I think that those are two rather important points to which we drew attention in our report.
I challenge Senator McLaren’s interpretation of the evidence we received from the Victorian Government. I suggest that Senator McLaren has quite radically misrepresented that evidence. I suggest that anybody who is interested should read the transcript of evidence, which goes nowhere near so far as Senator McLaren suggested. I thank the Government for its response to our report. There are still one or two areas which have not been considered by the Government. I look forward to its response at a later stage.
-by leave- The Government’s energy policy is an amalgam of negligence, tardiness, fortuity, fiscal opportunism, inconsistency and misrepresentation. Most of those attributes can be found in the statement which the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) has delivered this afternoon. But what puzzles me most of all about this document is why he bothered to make a statement at all. The stated reason is that it is a comment on the report of the Senate tabled on 4 May 1977, which draws attention to the tardiness of Government response in this area, and the excuse for making the report seems to be at the end of the first paragraph where Senator Carrick said:
I wish now to report to the House on action taken by the Government in relation to that report.
I looked through the report to find any meaningful action that the Government may or may not have taken. I could not find any, apart from the omissions to which Senator McLaren has drawn attention. Is action taken by the Government covered by such meaningless waffle as this? Does this meaningless waffle fall into the category of action taken by the Government:
The utilisation of solar energy by growing crops for conversion to liquid fuels is a further area of promise as a result of changing energy costs and growing uncertainties. Such crops may allow solar energy to contribute significantly to Australia’s energy supplies within a few years although much will depend on the economics which will, in turn, depend on improved technologies, as well as changes in the price and availability of other fuels.
Anyone who has given more than a moment’s consideration to this question would have known all that without the benefit of a statement from the Government. Or is the rationale for the existence of this statement an opportunity to announce such profound decisions as this:
The Standing Committee considered that research and development funding for solar energy projects should be considered on a competitive basis with funding required for research into other energy sources.
Should be considered on a competitive basis’. I do not think there would be much serious dispute about the proposition put up by the Committee that various potential areas of research should be considered conjointly and on a competitive basis. Therefore it is no surprise to learn from Senator Carrick, as a definitive statement of Government policy, that this approach has been adopted in the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration program. It is nice to know that the Government is not breaking, at least in this instance, some of the fundamental commonsense rules which we would hope would guide any government. But I do not think a piece of monumental trivia like that really justifies the presentation by a Government Minister of a statement which presumably purports to be a serious comment on energy policy. On page 2 of the Minister’s statement it is asserted:
The Government has taken firm action to establish mechanisms to formulate and co-ordinate energy policy.
What the Government has in fact done is to establish a plethora of inert committees. The Government does not have an energy policy, and a plethora of inert or semi-inert committees does not comprise an energy policy. On the same page we are told:
Co-ordination of energy policy responsibilities occurs within the National Energy Office.
This directed my attention to a question on notice which Senator Carrick was good enough to answer quite recently, although the question was directed to his predecessor. This was a question which I put on notice on 22 August. It was answered formally this week, but actually answered a couple of weeks ago during the recess. The question was:
As the question implies, on 16 January 1979 the former Minister issued a statement saying that he would enter into consultation with farm organisations regarding farm energy supplies. This of course was a completely unobjectionable and unexceptionable thing to do. I sympathise with Senator Carrick ‘s embarrassment in answering this question five months after it was put on the Notice Paper. It was something that should have been answerable within a week. But I guess one of the reasons why it was not answered within a week was that when I put the question on the Notice Paper in August, seven months after the Minister announced that he was going to have these consultations, it appears, or it is implicit in Senator Carrick ‘s answer, that no consultations had in fact taken place. Indeed, if one reads Senator Carrick ‘s answer, and I will not read it in its entirety because it is rather long, but it can be seen in the Hansard of 19 February 1980, it would appear that no consultations whatever took place until the final quarter of 1979, and probably none before 7 November 1979. That is another excellent demonstration of tardiness and, I suppose, with the wisdom of hindsight, misrepresentation by the Minister who was responsible at that time.
It is a bit early to pass judgment on Senator Carrick as to whether there will be more improvement in the administration of this crucial area than there was under his predecessor. Certainly there seems to have been a real attempt to answer questions, which was conspicuously absent before. Certainly there has been an improvement in the political handling of the question as far as the Government is concerned. There is no evidence that there will be any improvement in the policy area. But we would hope, as concerned Australian citizens first and foremost, that there will be. There has, however, been considerable improvement in the political area. For example, I am sure that Senator Carrick would never be silly enough to admit before a bunch of journalists at Charlie’s Restaurant how he conspired with the Prime Minister and other Ministers to mislead the House, to concoct an alibi that was not true, to explain previous contradictory answers given by Ministers in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Senator Carrick is far too shrewd a person ever to admit in the presence of journalists that he conspired with the Prime Minister and other Ministers to deceive the House and to give it false information. Of course it is a matter of public record, although I regret to say not formally acknowledged in this Parliament by the Government, that that is precisely what his predecessor did. The reason why that fact cannot be formally acknowledged in this Parliament is that if conventions mean anything at all- that might be arguable under this present Government, but if previous parliamentary practice means anything at all- for the Prime Minister to admit that he was involved directly in a conspiracy to mislead the Parliament and to deceive it with false information would mean that he would be obliged to resign.
There is nothing objectionable in this statement except that it purports- I suppose this is the real reason why it has been presented- or attempts to generate an illusion of activity and an illusion of coherent policy. What has been notably deficient in the Government’s approach to this vital question is the absence of any meaningful activity and the complete absence of any cohesive policy.
Senator McLAREN (South Australia)-I claim to have been misrepresented and seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– I spoke earlier on the tabling of this statement, and some of the comments I made were referred to by Senator Thomas. He said that the Victorian Government’s policy on nuclear energy was nowhere near as radical as what I had said. To put things in their proper perspective I must explain myself. I will read one paragraph from the Victorian Government’s energy policy which was put out in March 1979. This was a document which was given to us. That policy is nowhere near as illustrative as the public submission which was given to us. The Victorian Government’s policy on nuclear energy stated:
The policy of the Victorian Government is to ensure a satisfactory resolution of all technical, economic and environmental questions associated with nuclear power generation before any consideration is given to it. Any firm proposal for the introduction of nuclear power in the future would only be put forward after such questions had been satisfactorily resolved and after providing the opportunity for public consultation on all aspects of the proposal.
That is the crux of what I said. During the questioning of the witness from Victoria I said to the gentleman that it would appear that the Victorian Government was of a like mind with the New South Wales Government which had already given evidence earlier that day. The gentleman’s answer was yes. What I said today can be read in the transcript of evidence. I was surprised that Senator Thomas should say that my remarks were more radical than the policy of the Victorian Government.
– by leave- I am making a statement in relation to the May 1979 Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations entitled ‘Capital Territory Health Commission Annual Report 1975-76’.
There is deep community interest in Australia in the provision of health services, their scope and cost. This applies equally to the Australian Capital Territory.
Therefore, it is of real concern that the first annual report of the Capital Territory Health Commission was not presented until February 1979, more than 2Vi years after the end of that financial year.
The services provided by the Capital Territory Health Commission under the Health Commission Ordinance 1975 are very extensive. In the States a number of departments provide such services. They range from community health centres, child health facilities, mental health facilities, public health services as well as operating two major hospitals. In terms of the services it provides and the cost of those services, the Commission bears a very heavy responsibility to the community and to the Parliament because of the Commonwealth money which goes towards funding those services.
In these circumstances I thank the Senate Standing Committee for bringing to the notice of the Parliament the fact that the Capital Territory Health Commission did not meet the provisions in the Health Commission Ordinance in reporting to the Parliament for such a long period. There may have been cogent reasons for this inability but these annual reports provide the only real mechanisms for the Parliament to review the activities of such statutory authorities as the Capital Territory Health Commission to ensure that the funds provided from public sources are used in an efficient manner.
Honourable senators will have examined the Committee ‘s report and may have drawn certain conclusions from it. In fairness to the Commission, however, I believe it is important to view the delay in presenting the 1975-76 annual report in the light of the main difficulty which arose in the course of compiling the report.
The Senate will be aware, as the Committee noted, that the Commission had adopted a cash accounting system which was in line with the practice adopted generally by State health authorities and which meant that the Commission was able to satisfy the requirements of the Commonwealth- State hospital cost sharing arrangements which are based on cash budgeting. Such a system was also adequate to allow the Commission to provide comparative information to the Hospital and Allied Services Advisory Council so that uniform statements of cost sources and finances for hospitals and nursing homes could be published.
It was unfortunate that the provisions in the original ordinance, which were drafted in the time of the former Government and which I am sure were intended to provide this House with appropriate financial information to enable it to review the activities of the Commission, led to different interpretations of the requirements for the annual financial statements.
The Health Commission Ordinance 1975 contained a phrase which required the AuditorGeneral to report to the Minister for Health whether the statements provided to him by the Commission were in agreement with the accounts and records of the Commission and showed fairly the financial transactions and the state of affairs of the Commission.
The Commission considered that on the basis of its existing accounting records and accounts it would be impractical at that stage to produce financial statements on an accrual basis.
On the other hand, the Auditor-General’s Office considered that a form of accounts based on accrual was necessary to meet the reporting requirements of the Ordinance.
In the case of hospital and health facilities there has been a debate going on for some time in accounting circles as to whether the efficient management and cost effectiveness of the services are reflected by the present method of presenting financial statements of the various hospitals and other authorities. The Senate Standing Committee, in considering the adequacy or otherwise of the Capital Territory Health Commission’s financial statements raised the broader issue with various witnesses whether the present method of providing financial information to the Department enabled it to assess the cost of hospital services and their cost effectiveness.
The problem of the cost of hospital services has been one of the major areas of concern to the Government and the Australian community for some time. Despite all our successful endeavours, the cost of hospital services continues to increase in real terms, although we have succeeded in stemming the rate of increase from 13 per cent for the 12 months ended 1 975-76 to an estimated 2.4 per cent for the 12 months ending 1979-80. However, the Government believes there is room for further efficiency and cost containment. The Government therefore announced in May 1979 that it would set up an inquiry into the efficiency and management of Australian hospitals. To this end the Government announced on 29 August 1 979 that a commission of inquiry has been established under the Commonwealth Royal Commissions Act 1902 and the States have agreed to co-operate and participate in that inquiry.
The Commissioners, namely Mr Jamison, Dr Yeatman and Mr Holmes a ‘Court, are all eminently qualified to participate in such an inquiry. I am sure we can look forward to receiving a thoroughly considered and beneficial report. The Government should be able to consider this report early in 1981 as I am sure the Commissioners will adopt every procedure necessary to complete it by the end of 1 980.
Since the Government has established such a wide-ranging inquiry as the terms of reference indicate, including the cost accountability of hospitals, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee, Senator Rae, has agreed that his Committee will not pursue its interest in the cost accountability of Australian hospitals until such time as the report of the commission of inquiry has been received and considered.
I am in no doubt that submissions will be made to the Jamison Commission which will encompass the cost accountability of hospitals in Australia and that the pros and cons of cash accounting and accrual accounting as they affect hospitals will be thoroughly canvassed.
I expect that this will be a matter on which the Government will receive recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry.
In regard to the problem of the Capital Territory Health Commission’s 1975-76 annual report, I am confident that the Commission did not deliberately attempt to delay its report. With hindsight, it may have been more prudent to prepare an interim report for tabling in this House. However, on each of the occasions such a proposition was considered it was thought that discussions were moving towards their conclusion and that an interim report would be inappropriate.
It became obvious, as the discussions took place between the Commission, the Department of the Treasury, now the Department of Finance, and the Auditor-General’s Office, that if similar difficulties were to be avoided in future years, an amendment to the Health Commission Ordinance 1975 would be necessary. That amendment was made effective from 26 October 1978 by amending section 72 2 (b) to remove the words ‘and show fairly the financial transactions and the state of affairs of the Commission’. This amendment made it possible for the AuditorGeneral’s Office to accept that the presentation of financial accounts by the Commission on a cash accounting basis in future years would enable an unqualified audit report to be given under the terms of the amended ordinance. It did not affect the status of the 1975-76 financial statement. Consequently the Auditor-General found it necessary to provide a qualified certificate for those accounts. That report was dated 1 1 October 1978, following receipt of the financial statements on 3 October 1978. Once the Auditor-General had provided his certificate, it was then a matter for administrative procedures to be fulfilled before the annual report for 1975-76 was presented to the former Minister for Health and tabled in the Parliament.
Honourable senators will be aware that the Commission, despite its unfortunate start with regard to its late initial reports to the Minister for Health and to the Parliament, tabled its 1976-77 annual report on 22 May 1979. That report included the financial statements for 1976-77 and the Auditor-General’s report thereon dated 16 January 1979. The statements were formally signed by the Chairman of the Commission on 17 November 1978.
The Commission’s annual report for 1977-78, which was tabled in the Budget session includes financial statements for 1977-78 which were formally signed on 30 May 1979 and the AuditorGeneral’s report thereon dated 12 June 1979. These reports, I am sure, provide the Senate with a comprehensive range of information on the activities of the Commission and the level of services it provides in the Australian Capital Territory. The Commission’s interim annual report for 1978-79 was tabled on 20 November 1979. 1 am sure that honourable senators will agree that the Commission has shown admirable dedication in overcoming the delays in completing its annual reports.
Honourable senators, I believe that it should be put on record that in terms of services provided, and having regard to the inherent problems of the overprovision of hospital facilities in the Australian Capital Territory caused by the reduction in the rate of growth of Canberra, the Capital Territory Health Commission compares more than favourably with its State counterparts. I have every confidence that the Commission will continue to provide the highest level of health services to the Australian Capital Territory while at the same time recognising government policy to control health costs.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– by leave- As an Opposition member of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations I want to make one or two short observations about the ministerial statement that Senator Dame
Margaret Guilfoyle has tendered to the Senate on behalf of the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar). The first thing I want to draw to the Senate’s attention is that the report of the Senate Standing Committee is dated May 1979. I thought that a ministerial statement was issued some two years ago by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stating that the Government would make a response to reports of standing committees and present it to the Senate or to the House of Representatives within six months of the report having been tendered to the Parliament. Of course the six-month period would have expired last November.
– The Senate was not sitting then.
-Of course the Senate was sitting last November. I am suggesting that the Government has been a little tardy in its approach to an edict that it issued as a form of discipline on its own Ministers. Now we are receiving the Government’s response in the first week of the new sessional period but I would have thought that it could have been made last November. I am pleased to note that it has come down because there is a meeting of the Senate Standing Orders Committee taking place, as you would know, Mr President, on Monday. I as a member of that Committee was going to make reference to the fact that the Government has been a little tardy in its approach to its own rules or regulations.
The second comment I wish to make is that frankly I do not think the Minister’s statement has added anything to that which we already know. The position, as I see it, and as all members of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations see it, is a serious one. It is something that cannot be glossed over. On the evidence presented to the Committee and on the evidence published in the report I do not quite know how the Minister can make the assertion he has that the Health Commission has succeeded in stemming the rate of hospital cost increase from 13 per cent for the 12 months ended 1975-76 to an estimated 2.4 per cent for the 12 months ended 1979-80. If one reads page 10 of the report of the Committee one will see that there is reported to the Senate a statement made by an officer of the Department of Health in response to a question by Senator Lewis, a Government senator. Senator Lewis said:
What you have just told the Committee is that the Department of Health does not know what the cost of operating the hospitals is each year.
The officer of the Department said:
On a total accrual system that is correct.
Therefore taking into account all costs that should be taken into account no one can say that the escalation in hospital costs has been held back from 13 per cent in 1975-76 to 2.4 per cent in 1979-80. Again to show the unsatisfactory nature of the situation, I point out that the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Rae- as reported on page 10 of the Committee’s reportasked an officer of the Auditor-General’s Office this question:
Under the present system of cash accounting in relation to the management of hospitals in Australia, there is no way of accurately aggregating the cost of that section of health care because it omits a whole range of real costs accruing annually, such as long service leave or superannuation or some of the others of which mention has been made. Is that the situation?
The officer of the Auditor-General ‘s Office said:
Yes, as I see it . . .
That is quite a serious situation. I am delighted to note that the Government has confirmed that it has referred to the Jamison Committee of Inquiry on efficiency and management of Australian hospitals the question of the cost accountability of hospitals. As we pointed out in our report of May 1979 accrual accounting is not new to the hospital system. We pointed out that a form of accrual accounting existed in both the New South Wales and Victorian hospital services before the introduction of the Commonwealth-State cost sharing arrangement. We also pointed out that the predecessor of the Capital Territory Health Commission, namely the Canberra Hospital Board of Management, used a form of accrual accounting. I also note in the last paragraph of the Minister’s statement, which states: . . having regard to the inherent problems of the overprovision of hospital facilities in the ACT caused by the reduction in the rate of growth of Canberra, the Capital Territory Health Commission compares more than favourably with its State counterparts.
In that respect I wish to draw the attention of the Minister and the Health Commission, through this debate, to a following statement that was made by the New South Wales Minister for Health to the New South Wales Parliament yesterday. This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, reports:
In a statement in the Legislative Assembly, Mr Stewart detailed high payments already being made to country doctors for standard ward patient treatment.
The figures that he produced, according to the newspaper report, show that 38 per cent more surgical procedures were performed per 1,000 of population in NSW than in Queensland, where no fee-for-service system exists for standard ward patients. The report states that he went on to say: . . that the NSW Health Commission had recently prepared statistics that showed 53 per cent more appendectomies were performed per 1,000 of population than in Queensland . . . that 23 per cent more caesarian sections were performed, 48 per cent more stripping of varicose veins, 33 per cent more plastic surgery of the breast and 80 per cent more obstetrical procedures per 1 , 000 population.
Mr Stewart is reported to have said:
There are no differences in the population of each State health-wise, so the only significant difference would seem to be the payment by fee for service for doctors in NSW against sessional payments for doctors in Queensland . . . ‘
Because the Health Commission is responsible for the health of the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory, I hope that the Commission and the Federal Minister for Health are taking some cognisance of the remarks of Mr Stewart in New South Wales and that the Commission will give attention to the matters, as they relate to Canberra, about which Mr Stewart was complaining in relation to New South Wales. I hope that the Health Commission, having given that type of matter some consideration, not only tenders its next annual report on time but also includes in it some conclusion about how such practices are affecting health services in Canberra. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- When I use the personal pronoun in this statement, it refers to my colleague, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann). I make a statement on a matter which has created a good deal of public interest since the Parliament rose at the end of the Budget sittings last year. I refer to claims by some Australian veterans of the war in Vietnam that contact with herbicides, particularly agent orange, during their service in Vietnam has caused disabilities in themselves and abnormalities in their children. Agent orange was one of the herbicidal mixtures used in the Vietnam war between 1962 and 1971 by United States forces for the purpose of denying enemy forces the cover of dense jungle foliage and to destroy their food crops. It was called agent orange because of the orange identification ring on the containers in which it was carried. Other herbicides used in Vietnam had code names such as agent white, agent purple, agent green, agent pink and agent blue, but these were not used as widely as agent orange. Agent orange was a mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. The component 2,4,5-T contains an impurity, one of a group of toxic substances known as dioxins.
It has been claimed that exposure to agent orange and other herbicides in Vietnam has affected the health of Defence personnel who served there. Health problems which have been mentioned include fatigue, skin rashes, diminished sexual drive, cancer, liver damage, psychological problems and birth defects in offspring. Others who have no symptoms fear that health problems might develop in the future. In the first half of last year, reference was made to herbicide exposure as a possible cause of disabilities by a few Australian veterans making a claim on my Department, but as recently as early December of last year we had received only a handful of such claims. By the end of December, 20 claims mentioning herbicides had been received by the Department. By the end of last week, following the recent extensive media coverage, 149 claims had been received. The independent Repatriation Boards which determine eligibility have decided 13 of these claims, but to date, in none has it been accepted that the disability is due to contact with herbicides. Some disabilities have been accepted as related to service on other grounds. I might also mention that the United States Veterans Administration, to the end of November last year, had received some 750 claims relating to herbicide exposure from a Vietnam veteran population of 2.6 million. Only two were accepted as due to contact with herbicides, and these were for a skin condition called chloracne which has been linked to dioxin. Some claims have been granted for other reasons.
Let me clearly state the principles which govern the provision of compensation and medical care for Australian veterans and their dependants for incapacity or death related to their war service. The Repatriation legislation covers all veterans of all wars for any disabilities which may be related to their service. The access to compensation provided is generous by any standard, as the major ex-service organisations agree. However, under these principles there must be a logical basis for a presumption that a given disability is related to a veteran’s military service.
It should be understood that various overseas studies thus far have produced no confirmation that disabilities reported by veterans are due to exposure to herbicides. The United States National Academy of Sciences in 1974 reported after an extensive follow-up study of the effects of herbicides in Vietnam that there is no evidence of long-term health effects in humans from the use of herbicides in Vietnam. While there is no conclusive scientific evidence at this time that any of the conditions, except chloracne, reported by veterans and deformities in their children are related to any of the chemical components of agent orange or other herbicides used in Vietnam, we are actively seeking out the facts.
In view of the growing concern of the Australian veteran community, I asked the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Sydney last month whether an independent study could establish whether contact with agent orange could have caused the disabilities and deformities reported by Australian veterans. There has been some public criticism of the choice of this research body to undertake this study. Some persons have said that the School should not have been chosen, because its staff is public servants employed by the Commonwealth. The fact that the staff of” the School is employed by the Commonwealth has no bearing on the matter. Any study done by any suitable body would have to be paid for by the Commonwealth. Also, the Government has been assured that, although the School is administratively under the control of the Commonwealth Department of Health, it is completely independent academically as to the nature and the conduct of its investigations.
Also, there appears to be some public misunderstanding of the nature of this proposed study. It would be a scientific study, the basic purpose of which is to gather medical statistics from which valid conclusions can be drawn. It would not be a public inquiry such as a royal commission to which people make submissions. For this reason the school will not be seeking such submissions in relation to its proposed study. However, interested persons and organisations are welcome to put to me or my Department any submissions which they feel may help in resolving this complex matter.
The Government has now received from the school an outline plan for a study of the possible adverse effects on the health of Australian veterans and their children of the herbicide agent orange and other chemicals used in Vietnam. Broadly, the plan provides for three groups of veterans to be studied, namely, Australian veterans who were in Vietnam and were exposed to agent orange and perhaps other herbicides of significance; Australian veterans who were in Vietnam but were not judged to be exposed to the chemical but perhaps exposed to other environmental hazards; and a matched comparable group of Australian veterans who did not go to Vietnam and were not exposed to any of the chemicals used there.
The three groups would be compared to see whether there were differences in the incidence of defined illness in the veterans themselves; differences in the incidence of certain genetic defects in their offspring compared with the control group; and differences in the incidence of birth defects in their offspring and the incidence of abortion in their wives.
The school has indicated that it would be necessary to interview a very large number of veterans and their children in all States. For the purposes of the study as proposed by the school, information on the veterans and units which served in Vietnam, the use of herbicides by Austraiian and United States forces by specific geographical area and time, medical records of servicemen, the present addresses of the persons involved, certain statistical data such as that recorded by the State registrars-general of births and deaths, and medical information from private practitioners and State medical services, would need to be available to the school.
The school also proposes that there should be an external monitoring of the conduct of the study. This would include publishing the methodology in such a way that it is available for criticism by relevant authorities and establishing a scientific review committee of three or four nominated independent persons. I would comment on this initial advice by saying that the study which the school has proposed would obviously be a massive task. There are a number of basic conditions to be met before the actual study can commence. The co-operation of a number of Government authorities will need to be assured and access obtained to a wide range of information in Australia and overseas.
I wish to mention the other positive actions which we have taken in this matter. A committee of Ministers has been established to report to the Government on matters relating to the study of possible health effects of exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. This committee, comprising the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar), and myself, will be supported by a committee of officials from the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Defence, Health and Veterans’ Affairs. An immediate task of the committee of officials will be to examine the proposals of the school and provide advice to the committee of Ministers. The
Government will need to be sure that the basic criteria of the study can be met and that it will produce a valid outcome. In line with established practice concerning important matters affecting the welfare of the veteran community, I will be consulting with the federal body of the Vietnam Veterans Action Association and the Returned Services League on the proposed study. I have already met the National President of the Vietnam Veterans Action Association and have made it known to the Association that I am available for further talks as soon as they are ready.
As I said earlier the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is continuing to seek information on the effects of herbicides on Vietnam veterans and as I announced on 1 1 February a Member of the Repatriation Commission, Mr Keith Medbury, O.B.E., will go to Washington tomorrow to see at first hand what is being done by certain American agencies studying this question. I would add that there is a number of continuing studies in the United States to determine what- if any- long-term health effects might arise from exposure to agent orange and other herbicides. For example, the United States Air Force will conduct a detailed health study of some 1,200 servicemen and veterans who were exposed as handlers of agent orange or who flew spraying missions. The data gathered on this group will be compared to a larger control group not exposed to herbicides. The United States Veterans Administration is also undertaking an epidemiological study of ground troops who served in Vietnam. In addition to these studies, there are several laboratory studies dealing with the chemistry, bio-chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of dioxin and related compounds and epidemiological studies of industrial workers subjected to chronic herbicide exposure.
Apart from the study proposed by the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is collecting information from Australian veterans who report disabilities which they believe may be due to exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. Although no claims in relation to herbicides have been accepted so far by the repatriation boards, should any study reveal such a connection, all rejected claims will be reviewed. If it is established that there is a connection between birth defects in the children of veterans and exposure to herbicides in Vietnam, the Government will take appropriate action. I am sure that the Senate will agree that in this matter of agent orange or any other chemicals which may have affected the health of our Vietnam veterans and their children, the
Government has acted swiftly, decisively and responsibly.
-by leave- I move:
I say in passing that I think it is a fairly exaggerated statement for the Government to say that it has acted swiftly, decisively and responsibly on this matter. It has been before the Government and the people of this country for many months at a high level of consciousness and for a couple of years at a lower level. The fact that this paper coincides with a visit to Canberra today of the veterans concerned, I think, has more to do with the timing of its presentation than with anything concerned with the swiftness and decisiveness of the Government’s actions.
Agent orange and herbicides of this type are important. It is important that we get to the bottom of what may be a very real problem as far as the health and environment of people in this country are concerned. As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) said, agent orange was a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, both of which are commonly used herbicides and both of which are toxic. The problem with both these herbicides is that almost invariably they are contaminated, to a varying degree, with 2,3,7,8 tetrachlordibenzodioxincommonly known as dioxin- which is an extremely toxic substance. It is toxic in minute amounts, and in cases of acute poisoning it causes renal, liver, respiratory and cardiac damage. It is known to cause chloracne, which is a very unpleasant skin condition. In the long term- and certainly in animals- it has been shown to cause mutations, to be carcinogenic- to cause cancers and other tumours. The chemical 2,4,5-T is still extensively used in agriculture in this country.
Between 1962 and 1970 some 5 million acres in Vietnam were sprayed with very heavy concentrations of agent orange and similar herbicides. It was said that the main reason this was done was to destroy the forest cover to prevent the Viet Cong from getting suitable sites for ambush. But it was also done to destroy crops and to drive people from Viet Cong controlled villages to government controlled villages in Vietnam. It was done despite protests from scientists in the United States and other parts of the world who knew then of the severe toxic effects of these herbicides and in particular the severe effects of dioxin which contaminated these herbicides. A long and bitter campaign was waged in the United States of America and other parts of the world to stop the use of these herbicides in this way. What happened during that campaign is a sad example of the power of the military and the industrial establishment in countries such as the United States and Australia to confuse the issue and to delay the conduct of a reasonable inquiry seeking to prevent the misuse of substances like this.
After being discovered, I think, in 1941 the substance 2,4,5-T was in fact developed by the American military as a biological warfare agent. Over the next 20 years it was developed in this way, but there were no investigations by these people into its long or short term effects on the reproductive capacity of animals and in relation to whether it caused congenital abnormalities in animals that became exposed to it. It was developed as a biological warfare weapon. The military had a vested interest in its use, as did the Dow chemical company and other chemical companies which produced the substance. They spent years attempting to discredit anybody who suggested that there was an environmental risk in the use of these herbicides, either in Vietnam or in agriculture generally. In the end, as a result of the continued campaign that went on and as a result of the Environment Protection Authority inquiries, the United States stopped using these herbicides in this way in the Vietnam war.
There has been a long history of problems involving the use of these herbicides. In 1949 in Nitro, West Virginia there was considerable leakage from a production plant producing 2,4,5-T. This resulted in considerable illness and difficulties to the workers and people living around the plant. In 1953 at Ludwigshafen on Rhine in West Germany there was an explosion- it was the first of the explosions- in a 2,4,5-T factory which resulted in the spreading of dioxin, which is a very toxic substance, around the environment. In 1963 in Amsterdam a similar explosion occurred. Between 1965 and 1969 in Czechoslovakia, at a production plant, there were consistent leaks of contaminants containing large amounts of dioxin which caused considerable problems to the workers, to the people who lived nearby and to the fauna in the area. In 1 968 in Bolsover, Derbyshire, England there was another explosion in a production plant which spread dioxin around the district. The worst explosion occurred at Sevesco in the district of Lombardy, Italy, in 1976. All these instances resulted in considerable illness and, in some cases, death to humans and to animals, particularly in the Italian situation. In Italy people were evacuated from zones around the area of the explosion. The Italian Government, in what was an extraordinary move for an Italian government, provided the facility of abortion to women who were pregnant and who had been exposed to dioxin. Some 60 women in Italy, despite the religious difficulties in that country concerning abortion, took advantage of these procedures and had abortions because of the recognised risk.
These are dangerous substances and are recognised to be dangerous substances. Their use in Vietnam was deplorable. There is absolute evidence of illnesses such as chloracne, as the Minister has said, from the people who were exposed to these substances in Vietnam. There are claims by the present Vietnamese Government and by visiting Swedish medical practitioners who are working in Vietnam of a high incidence of birth abnormalities in villages in Vietnam which were exposed to heavy concentrations of these herbicides. Therefore, we should take this matter seriously because so many of our troops in that area were exposed to the high concentrations that were used. We should take seriously the claims of these worried ex-servicemen. We should also take this matter seriously because in this country considerable amounts of these chemicals- certainly in much lower concentrations- are used in agriculture and have been used in agriculture for many years. The sort of investigation by the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine that the Minister has announced is useful. It is useful in that it will gather information, will add to our general picture of what has been happening in this area, in this country and will show what has happened to our ex-servicemen.
– It is essential, in fact.
– It is essential initially. But I make the point that I do not think it goes far enough because we have limited numbers of people in this country who were exposed. We need to get information from inquiries in the United States of America. I am suggesting that we will need a truly independent inquiry eventually.
– Isn’t that independent enough?
-I do not think it is independent enough. We know from the long years of inquiries in the United States that the companies which have a vested interest in the use of this substance- in the case of the United States, a military establishment is involved, which does not apply so much in Australiaworked very hard for many, many years to discredit anyone who produced evidence to suggest that these substances were dangerous. There were endless court cases in state after state against environment protection authorities, against local authorities and, in some cases, against state governments that wanted to restrict the use or the storage of these substances in their states or local cities. We need the sort of inquiry in which witnesses can have protection from the sorts of activities of these people who have a vested interest in the production and the use of these substances. Certainly, the gathering of statistical data which this investigation will carry out is terribly important, as Senator Baume has said. It will not give us all the answers and, I suggest, will not satisfy those people who are genuinely concerned that they were exposed to dangerous substances in Vietnam which may have caused them long term damage. This investigation will certainly not satisfy those who are concerned about the long term effects of these herbicides on the community in general.
I am glad that at last the Government is doing something about this matter. The principle of the repatriation system in this country has always been that the veterans have the benefit of the doubt and that, if there is any doubt about whether their illnesses were war caused, they get the benefit of that doubt. I hope that that practice continues in the case of agent orange and in the case of those who suggest that they have been affected by it. I hope the situation does not develop in the repatriation system in Australia where we have an adversary principle that we so often see in compensation cases in this country between insurance companies and the victims of injury or accident. I think that to get to that situation in the repatriation system would be very wrong. I think the Government has, perhaps unwittingly, given the impression that this sort of adversary situation has developed over the last few months in relation to the claim and counter claim about agent orange and the other herbicides. I think we have to give people the benefit of the doubt.
This whole matter raises another problem, and that is, that if agent orange and other herbicides are, in fact, found to affect the offspring and sometimes the wives of those who have been exposed to it, we will certainly need to make a modification to the Repatriation Act. I think that under the present Act it would be very difficult to compensate the children who may be affected in this situation. I personally welcome the investigation. We need these sorts of figures. But I do not think it goes far enough. I will persist with the motion I have on the Notice Paper that we should have an independent inquiry into this matter because many people in the community are concerned, not only the veterans.
– As Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment I feel that I should have a word about this subject because the Committee has no small interest in the matter of pesticides that may have possible effects on people’s health. Honourable senators will recall that in 1978, following the publicity that was given to the chemicals 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, the Committee on Science and the Environment decided to conduct an unofficial inquiry under the heading of our responsibility to observe a continuing oversight on pollution in the environment. We called before us the following witnesses: Mr L. R. Kentwell, First Assistance Secretary, Agricultural and Food Services Division of the Department of Primary Industry; Mr J. T. Snelson, Pesticides Co-ordinator, Pesticides, Agricultural Chemicals and Veterinary Drugs Section of the Department of Agriculture -
– He came from industry just before that, I believe.
- Mr Snelson happens to be a world regognised expert on pesticides. I am just saying that we were trying to inform ourselves about the subject. Other witnesses were: Dr Langsford, who is the First Assistant DirectorGeneral, Public Health Division of the Department of Health; Dr Fitzsimons, who is the Director of the Toxicology Section of the Department of Health and Chairman of the Poisons Schedule (Standing) Committee; Mr Wilson, who is Secretary of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee of the Department of Health; and Mr Brett, the Executive Director of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Association of Australia.
As a result of that fairly short inquiry, bearing in mind that two or three other inquiries were already being conducted in Australia by State governments, we made a few recommendations to the Government. We suggested:
Bearing those three points in mind, our recommendations were:
That examination did occur. Following the recent publicity given to agent orange, as Chairman of the Senate Committee, I telexed the Minister for Health on 1 7 January in the following terms:
Reference Hansard 24 November 1978 page 3455, the former Minister for Health Mr Hunt, in responding to Senate standing committee on science and the environment report on herbicides pesticides and human health, spoke of need for a national perinatal statistical unit and an expanded national drug poisons information service. He said that these systems will allow a more extensive monitoring of the incidence of poisonings, congenital abnormalities and cancers, and will allow detection at an early stage of change in disease patterns in the community which might be attributable to toxic environmental substances.
This statement is relevant to current concern about alleged effects of agent orange on Vietnamese veterans and their families.
Would you please advise what action has followed my committee ‘s report and Mr Hunt ‘s statement.
It might be of interest to the Senate to hear what the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) had to say in response. The letter was written on 23 January and states:
Reference your telex received 17 January 1980:
As announced by Mr Hunt 24 August 1979, National Perinatal Statistics Unit has been set up, with the support of the NSW Health Commission, within the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, and located in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Unit Director, Dr P. Lancaster, is now finalising recruitment of support staff in addition to making necessary arrangements with State health authorities and others for introduction of appropriate statistical systems.
Re expanded Poisons Information Service, the National Poisons Register which provides details of the formulations of a wide range of poisonous substances including proprietary preparations is currently being transferred to computer to facilitate up-dating and allow information to be made available more quickly to hospitals and Poison Information Centres through the distribution of computer generated microfiche.
He went on to say that negotiations were under way with a view to using a United States based information service called ‘POISINDEX’ which provides detailed advice on the medical management of poison cases. In the interests of saving time, and for the benefit of honourable senators, I seek leave to incorporate the remainder of the reply.
The document read as follows-
All Poison Information Centres have been visited by an officer of my Department to ensure their complete satisfaction with the updated microfiched version of the National Poisons Register.
With the staff and resources available the project is being effected as quickly as possible.
In addition, cases of poisoning are continually being monitored by the National Poisons Information Service of my Department. The statistics for 1979 will be available in April 1980. Improvements in the collection of these statistics nas also been contemplated after discussions with Poison Information Centres.
Regarding the National Drug Information Service, progress has continued at both Commonwealth and State level. My Department has been involved in the generation of profiles on the most commonly prescribed drugs and all new drugs.
The hard copies of these profiles have been distributed to those States which have nominated major centres (Vic./NSW/Tas./ACT) and other interested bodies. Profiles have also been entered into the computer data base which is now available to NSW, ACT and Vic.
Within the limits of the staff and resources available the development of the National Drug Information Service is proceeding as quickly as possible.
In the future profiles will be available on microfiche and the computer will become available to the remaining States.
-The Government has responded to what I regard to be responsible suggestions of my Committee. It is quite clear that there has been a neglect on the part of some hospitals in Australia to record statistics associated with birth deformities in order to establish clearly to what these deformities can be attributed. Governments have to deal with this important matter. The Minister for Health recognised that importance.
Senator Grimes was quite unfair when he said that the statement just made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) was a result of a congregation of Vietnamese veterans in Canberra. That is quite wrong. Perhaps the publicity that has been given to agent orange gave reason to accelerate such a statement. But the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been examining and monitoring these matters since 1978. The Department has also been in consultation with the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs. We read in the statement that of the 2.6 million veterans who were in Vietnam and could possibly have been exposed to this herbicide only 750 applied to the
Department of Veterans’ Affairs claiming compensation and only two of those were shown to have had chloracne as a result of their contact with that herbicide. We have to give the Department of Veterans’ Affairs credit for taking this matter up and for instituting an in-depth inquiry to ensure that the veterans concerned and their children are not affected by this chemical.
We have to appreciate also that many things are said quite often without a full knowledge of the chemicals concerned and without a full knowledge of the possible effects they could have from a pathologic or mutagenetic point of view. Senator Mason may say that the herbicide roundup may well be a substitute for 2,4,5-D and 2,4,5-T. That may well be. The matter is worth pursuing. I commend him as a member of my Committee for that thought.
I have received a letter from the Technical Services Manager of the Queensland Grain growers Association which points out that the levels of dioxin applied under commercial agricultural formulations of 2,4,5-T are of the order of one five-thousandth of that which was applied in the chemical formulation of agent orange as used in Vietnam. He went on to say that the chemical 2,4-D contains no dioxin, although this has been frequently misreported, that it should not be linked with the chemical 2,4,5-T and that it should be divorced from the issue. He said that efficient grain growing is dependent on the availability of 2,4-D, which is the lesser of the evils.
– Of the two evils.
-I think Senator Melzer will recall that the expert witnesses that we had before us said that any herbicide is dangerous and, if treated improperly, can kill or cause illness.
– Almost by definition.
-That is right. By following the label and observing the dose recommended for the application of these herbicides and pesticides there is a safety factor of something like 1,000.
– And you know the problem with having people follow the label.
-Well, that is right. That is the point that I made earlier. Our Committee suggested that more ought to be done to inform people and to educate them with respect to the usage of pesticides, to the point where there ought to be multilingual instruction. The Committee also suggested that perhaps in these enlightened days of metrication, for the benefit of farmers who perhaps in remote areas are still thinking in imperial terms, it may well be a good idea to specify doses in imperial measurements. We have displayed an interest in this matter. I know my Committee members are more informed than they were.
Another aspect is that the distribution points of these herbicides ought to be more properly defined, perhaps to the extent of allowing only pharmacists to provide them to people. That may take it too far, but at least one could say that the person who is selling these materials would be able to warn the customers of the possible dangers. That may well be taking it too far, but it is a point that ought to be considered.
Having read and heard the Minister’s statement on the matter I feel happy that the Government is concerned about it and has taken appropriate action. I think I speak on behalf of my Committee when I say that we will continue to take an interest in these matters and from time to time it may well be necessary for us to examine certain aspects related to the use of these sorts of materials in the Australian community.
– I am interested in the terminology in the statement put down by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). I was a little perplexed by the strange choice of the words ‘a good deal of public interest in the matter’. I would have thought that the words ‘a good deal of public concern’ would be more to the point. The Government ought to realise that this is a very important matter on which not a great deal is known and about which a good deal has yet to be found out. I hope that this matter can proceed beyond what the Minister has stated.
In the interests of precision I initially take some issue with the Minister’s definition of agent orange. It is a specific dioxin- TCDD- which is under suspicion. This is not an impurity but an inevitable product of manufacture of 2,4,5-T unless specially removed and disposed of. I confirm Senator Jessop ‘s point about what Senator Grimes said. In the information I have, 2,4-D is not an offender in this regard. It is not known to contain this dioxin which is under so much suspicion. The point of course is that to a large extent dioxin is now removed from 2,4,5-T. It is important to make the point that it is not eliminated from 2,4,5-T. It is possible to remove it only to a certain extent. The nature and terribly dangerous character of dioxin presents a monstrous problem for disposal. This has been confirmed to me by all the chemists I have spoken to.
I recall to the attention of the Senate that large quantities of TCDD removed by Union Carbide when it manufactured 2,4,5-T in New South
Wales- it has now stopped manufacturing itwere in fact dumped in public earth filled dumps. I am assured now by the New South Wales Pollution Control Commission that the substance has gone where it cannot now be retrieved. That is not a criticism of Union Carbide which fulfilled its obligations to the Commission, but it is a criticism and remains a criticism of the Commission because that dioxin in large quantities is still there in those earth filled dumps on activated charcoal and it is a time bomb ticking away towards some future contamination.
The point is that the levels of dioxin in 2,4,5-T vary. It is not known how much outside influences such as undue heat, atmospheric and moisture contacts can increase it. This is why tests on dioxin at the point of manufacture or even when it is imported are not necessarily the last words on the subject. It is known that undue heat can increase it. That is in fact what has happened in Seveso and the other place that Senator Grimes mentioned where explosions took place. The amount of dioxin in 2,4,5-T increases at a monstrous rate. It did so in Seveso to the extent that it was necessary to evacuate the population and also for the Government to authorise abortions in order to avoid the risk of massive and monstrous abnormalities.
– That is assuming it is terotogenic.
– I was going on to that point.
– It may well be but we cannot pre-judge it.
– I think there is a good deal of evidence that it might be. I intend to deal with that. I notice that chloracne is mentioned. This is conceded in the Minister’s statement. It is one of the most obvious effects of 2,4,5-T dioxin exposure. However, I think there is not sufficient evidence against the terotogenic effect. Certainly I think the authority which was cited- the United States National Academy of Science report of 1974; six years old-is not a particularly suitable one for the Minister to have used. A good deal has happened since then all over the world and circumstantial evidence is available. The point is not made by the Minister- I think Senator Grimes made it- that there is a good deal of evidence from Vietnam and some of this did precede the period of the communist government in that country, with all respect to its authenticity or otherwise. The evidence was that women there did have a higher rate of abortion, a higher rate of deformed children in areas which had been extensively sprayed with agent orange.
As the Senate is aware, I have on several occasions asked for limitations on the use of 2,4,5-T. The Austraiian Democrats have not called for a complete banning because we know it is dioxin reduced. But I suggest that to say from extension that agent orange with its very high rates of dioxin is not likely to have caused a terotogenic effect is bordering on irresponsibility. I am not an expert in this field as are Senator Peter Baume and Senator Grimes, but from what I have read recently the authorities seem to feel that the amount of a terotogenic substance can be very small and have those effects when a person receives it in the very early stages of pregnancy. In other words, the later the pregnancy proceeds the larger the amount that is necessary to induce a terotogenic effect.
I am glad to see that the Government has said that it may review the refusals that have been made by the Repatriation Boards because more accurate definitions will be necessary before we can make definite acceptances or rejections of such claims. We just do not know enough. I refer in this context to Senator Jessop ‘s contribution. I am most interested in the herbicide study by the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment of which I am very pleased to be a member. I must say that that Committee has accepted with tolerance such points as I have put forward. At times perhaps it needs tolerance when it is dealing with me. The Committee is following up those points. I think I should refer to the glyphosphates, one of which is Roundup, the alternative that he mentioned. It is a fact that in most major applications there are substitutes for 2,4,5-T. It would appear that in the long run they would work out to be cheaper than 2,4,5-T because they usually need only one application. It is hoped that they will be registered in all States this year as blackberry killers. Incidentally they have a toxicity lower than that of common salt. They are biodegradable quickly in the soil and appear to be safe.
I think it is relevant that eight councils in New South Wales have recently decided not to use 2,4,5-T. The most recent was the decision by the Queanbeyan Council yesterday. I congratulate these councils. However there has not been a definite scientific proof of association. Although I have made this point again and again, it seems hard to get it through. The only way to establish a definite association, definite scientific proof, is to experiment with dioxin on pregnant women. Nobody has ever been able to answer that argument. If we leave that completely unspeakable and intolerable alternative aside, which of course one rationally must, only circumstantial evidence can determine whether there is some such association. I suggest that on the evidence at Seveso and other places around the world- Senator Grimes mentioned the enormous series of incidents including those in Vietnam- we have to concede it is reasonable that there could be an association.
I am trying to make the point today that we should get away from the controversial aspects of 2,4,5-T. I do not want that. What I do want to see is that in spite of this controversy the interests of our servicemen, servicewomen and their children are not prejudiced. There is a grave risk of this happening because this whole matter is in an adversary situation. Because of that the Australian Democrats are not really very happy about the investigation as it stands. I am not criticising the people who are going to make it. I am sure they will do their best. But I warn the Government that public controversy will go beyond the findings of that group if a more wide and more open inquiry is not permitted. To put it in the hardest possible way, this is a group of public servants over which a group of Ministers will ride herd. That is basically what the statement says. It is another way of putting it.
I believe that a group of people will be outside referees. But who will appoint them? They may be appointed because they are people who the Government feels are rational, good scientists. I believe that often we take that view of people because they agree with us; that also is a part of human nature. What evidence will this group take? None, we are told. No submissions are to be sought. That seems to me to be foolishness of the worst sort because there are people in this country who do know a lot about this subject, who have studied it carefully and have studied the foreign evidence. I would have thought that it was reasonable and rational to expect that their points of view should be heard.
Three times now in this Senate I have asked for a public inquiry into the effects of 2,4,5-T for that same reason, that is, that it is not good enough merely for facts to emerge, the sponsors of which quite honestly and sincerely believe to be correct; it is necessary for them also to appear to be correct. We go back to the question of justice not only being done but also appearing to be done. I believe that in a case such as this the parallel is absolute. So I think it is not adequate that there should be an inquiry which is not open to the Press and the public, which does not take evidence from anyone who wants to put in before the inquiry and which, as Senator Grimes remarked, does not have the power to protect its witnesses. Without those things, whatever comes up will not be acceptable, and properly so. That is not to say that this inquiry might not present us with some interesting and useful facts; no doubt it will. But that is not enough in this regard.
Finally, I bring forward what I think is a sane contribution to this whole point. It was brought forward at the first national conference of the Australian Democrats in Canberra last weekend by one of our members- a respected memberwho is a doctor of medicine and who in fact already has dealt with some people who have come to him over the possibility of agent orange contamination. He is not the sort of person or doctor who would take a view on these points which was anything less than responsible. He sponsored the following motion, which was carried unanimously:
That this Conference calls for the setting up of a register of all Australian persons who took part in the Vietnam war. The purpose of this register is for medical surveillance of them and their children over the next ten years, through the mechanism for reporting adverse drug reaction-
Those honourable senators who are doctors of medicine will know that that mechanism exists. The second part of the motion reads:
It is the first part of the motion that I want particularly to bring to the attention of the Senate. I commend it to the Senate and I will be raising it again in a more formal way in the future.
– I rise in this debate to support my colleague, Senator Jessop, in his remarks. In doing so, I recommend a most thorough examination of the claims of our veterans as a result of their having been exposed to agent orange in Vietnam. What happened in Vietnam is abhorrent when one thinks of the high levels of concentration of toxins in agent orange. However, I think it is important that we should distinguish between the high level of toxins in agent orange and those of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, which are used for normal agricultural purposes here in Australia. We must recognise that years of extensive research have gone into the side effects and the use of those herbicides. I think it is true to say that there is a general consensus that tests to date have shown that the formulations of those agricultural herbicides do not lead to abnormalities and birth defects. I think that we should avoid getting too emotionally involved in the use of those terms because we must recognise that both 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T are the most widely used herbicides in Australia. In some preparations the toxins constitute a very small proportion. In some sprays, maybe 2,4,5-T, it could constitute perhaps 10 per cent; in others it could constitute 40 per cent or even 80 per cent. The herbicide 2,4,5-T is used in the eradication of blackberry, gorse, sweet briar, small acacias and young eucalypts. On the other hand, 2,4-D is used extensively in cereal and other crops. I think that if it were not for 2,4-D the sugar cane growers in Queensland would experience tremendous additional difficulties and extra costs in eradicating weeds. The advantages of 2,4-D is that it has little toxic effect on grasses and pine trees. Therefore, provided it is used sensibly, it can be effective for most horticultural purposes. However, it is in the misuse of sprays, whether they be 2,4-D or 2,4,5-T, that we encounter problems. Therefore, when using any agricultural or horticultural spray it is necessary to take strict precautions, such as wearing adequate head cover, a water-proofed coat, gloves and so on. It is necessary also when spraying to select the day and to ensure that there is no wind in order to minimise spray drift. No sprays should be used in the proximity of rivers, lakes or any water courses whatsoever. Again, I believe that when aerial spraying one must be doubly careful to keep well away from homesteads to ensure that spray drift is kept well away from any household tanks, rivers, springs and the like. So I stress the importance when applying any spray to consider the atmospheric conditions of the day on which the spray is applied, to keep away from water and to ensure that adequate protection is taken. I suggest also that the clothes worn should be washed immediately after use and that care be taken in the disposal of the water used in the washing.
Whilst there is much controversy over the use of those two herbicides, I think it is important that we do not become too emotionally involved and neglect to acknowledge the difference between agent orange and the normal agricultural applications of the herbicides used in it. As my colleague, Senator Jessop explained, agent orange, was a 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. This concentrate was used to defoliate the jungles in Vietnam, but for normal agicultural use the dioxin present in 2,4,5-T is only onefive.thousandth at the maximum, of that present in the agent orange which was used in defoliating the jungles in Vietnam. The dioxin is toxic. It is a synthetic organic chemical which is formed during the synthesis of 2,4,5-T but not in the preparation 2,4-D. Therefore, I think it is important that we distinguish between warfare and agricultural use and the absence of dioxin in 2,4-D preparations. I acknowledge that dioxin is dangerous, but I think we must recognise that it does tend to break up, both in the soil and on exposure to sunlight. I therefore stress that, in the state of the current knowledge, providing primary producers take care these preparations can be used safely, but they must be used sensibly. I thank the Senate.
– I want to make only a brief contribution to this debate. I think the opportunity to expose some of the dangers involved in the use of these herbicides should not be overlooked. Most members of the Senate would be aware that I have raised the subject of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D in this chamber on several occasions. I think Senator Watson mentioned that in the State that I represent, Queensland, considerable amounts of these particular herbicides are used in the sugar industry. But I was amazed that he played down their danger. After all, even the most observant and careful people are not always able to carry out the safety precautions recommended. In the far northern tropical areas there has been a long history of malformed births. No real explanation has been advanced for this. After protest, the Queensland State Health Department decided to carry out some sort of bobtail investigation in relation to the malformations in birth, particularly in the Cairns area in the far north of the State. There was no explanation. Doctors in other areas have told me that as far as they are concerned the incidence of malformed births or still births is still too high.
A few weeks ago the Queensland Minister for Health, Sir William Knox, decided to reactivate an inquiry into the malformation of babes in the far northern area. He was overruled by the Cabinet because the Premier said that he had been using 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D for a long time and that there was nothing wrong with it. With the National Party dominating the Coalition, of course it is posssible that the great majority of land holders are using this type of herbicide. Over the last three or four months emphasis has been given to the dangers and the problems associated with the use of dioxin even in the minute quantities that are included in 2,4,5-T, in particular. There are an amazing number of unexplained illnesses amongst veterans who served in Vietnam and amongst their children. In one particular family which has received some publicity there are three brothers with about 10 or 1 1 children between them, only two or three of whom are normal. Amongst the three wives there have been at least two still births.
In our office we keep a register as a result of the publicity associated with this matter. One of the young fellows who comes in is suffering from nervous problems. He was sprayed on several occasions. He has unexplained rashes and both of his children have something wrong with them- not seriously in either case, but they do have something wrong with them. A number of veterans have registered with us.
I am not happy with the way in which the Government has taken up the challenge to answer the statements and the accusations that are being made regarding the problems associated particularly with agent orange. I believe that in the case of the State Health Department in Queensland something more definite should have been done. A belated attempt is now being made to compile a register. I was amazed to find that no medical register had ever been kept in that State relating to children born with deformities. It is too little too late so far as the State Health Department is concerned. I understand that a register is to be kept for a period of two years. Nothing much will be done about it. There will be no interim report. Apparently it is to be kept there as a statistical record and at the end of two years no doubt it will be placed into a file somewhere and it will never again see the light of day.
I am told from an area of expertise that there are other things which can happen with women who become pregnant in these circumstances. There is a type of hydrotitaphol mole which can occur only as a product of conception. Apparently it produces wild mutant cells which multiply rapidly into a dangerously large mass which causes extensive haemorrhaging, and death frequently follows. There have been an abnormal number of these cases in the tropical areas. There is no explanation for them. I understand that these cases do not have to be registered so that further inquiries can be made. If it will help, perhaps our medical man on the other side of the chamber would like to make an explanation about this afterwards.
I think there is a grave moral and political responsibility on every member of this chamber, regardless of the party to which he or she belongs, to endeavour continuously to obtain the widest possible medical investigation. I am not satisfied that either the Commonwealth Department of Health or the Queensland State Department of Health or, for that matter, some other State departments of health, apply sufficient significance to the possible effects that can be caused by these types of herbicides which are used extensively. As well as veterans from Vietnam who have been affected, I am told on very reliable authority that the Vietnamese people themselves, including women and children, are suffering extensively as a result of the use of these defoliants. At the time when we were sending our young men to Vietnam we on this side of the chamber warned the Government of the day that there were problems associated with all aspects of conflict in tropical areas. We are told and the Government has not denied it, that at that time the Department of the Army in Australia or the Services generally also used dangerous herbicides extensively. But the worst part, I suppose, is that the amount of dioxin used in these herbicides under these conditions was many times above that which we use for herbicides in Australia.
– Who was the Army Minister?
– I think that for most of the time the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was the Minister for the Army, and he has been strangely silent. From memory I think he followed that other famous gentleman who bought into high-rise buildings on . the Gold Coast, and he was deposed as Minister for the Army at the time for other reasons. However, I do not want to divert into those areas. We do have a responsibility as a parliament. If there are people who suffer as a result of the use of the herbicides, there is a moral and political responsibility on the Government of this country to see that the condition is cured, if it is curable, although there is some doubt whether it is curable. There are many instances where cancer has developed and, whilst the relationship between these two things may be coincidental, there are too many cases for it not to be investigated. I hope that that will be done too. But then we also owe these veterans the right to compensation. Some have much time off from work. They are not covered by any sort of repatriation benefits or compensation because, according to the representatives of the Government, none of these things were caused by the herbicide. But 50,000 veterans in America cannot be wrong.
The incidence of skin afflictions and so on is much too high for it to be just a coincidence. There are gathering numbers in Australia who are seeking some sort of inquiry, some sort of medical examination and, if necessary, compensation. If their families have been damaged in two ways, in other words, if their offspring suffer as a result of the father’s involvement in Vietnam and his exposure to agent orange and some of the other herbicides that were used there, it is our responsibility. The Prime Minister of this country, being one of those largely responsible for sending the young people to Vietnam during that particular conflict and for keeping them there and increasing the numbers there, has a great moral responsibility on his head to activate this Government to make sure that these cases are properly investigated.
In summary, I think we ought to look first of all at the right of people to go to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and to ask for a medical examination. I am not at all happy with the way that this whole matter is being dealt with. I wrote to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) before Christmas last year seeking a contact for their people, and we were given a contact in Brisbane.
The people who come into my office ring the Department. All that happens is that their names are registered. They are told: ‘We may contact you later about this matter.’ That is not good enough. If people are suffering from some sort of disability, the onus is on the Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs and its rather slow acting Minister to ensure that medical teams go to the people, wherever they may be, to carry out examinations on the spot. There is confusion in the minds of some representatives of the medical services as to the number of things that can be done. I think that this is one way that the matter ought to be dealt with. Perhaps the .medical teams should consist of two or three experts in this area. The average general practitioner coming into contact with this sort of illness would probably describe it as prickly heat or some other tropical rash that could be caused by heat and humidity. I believe that an examination by a medical team is the first thing that we ought to do.
The next thing we ought to do is to suspend the use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D until a proper investigation is carried out. Despite what my opponent on the other side of the Senate, Senator Watson, said, 2,4-D is also a very dangerous herbicide. No register is kept of the use of these herbicides. They lie around in back yards and gardens in cannisters and bottles. A man came into my office in Townsville recently. He had been using some herbicide to kill a tree on his daughter’s property. Some of it had splashed on to his arm. The effect was quite dramatic. The herbicide can be absorbed through the skin without any problems at all. There ought to be a ban on the use of both herbicides until an inquiry is carried out. I am sure that the sugar industry will not go bankrupt if this happens. There is carelessness in the use of these herbicides. There is carelessness on the part of the State Department of Primary Industries. There is carelessness on the part of some of the crop dusters who do not observe all the rules in relation to wind direction and so on before they start using the herbicides.
When we have a full scale debate on this matter I will be able to produce written evidence on a few other points. I hope that the two actions which I have suggested are taken. The next thing we need is a proper inquiry into the abnormally high rate of birth deformities, still births and the problem of hydrotitaphol mole. The incidence of these things is too high to be coincidental. I hope that we will start to deal with the problem on the basis of the points I have made and develop a solution from there.
– In this short debate people have explored a number of areas of concern regarding the use of some herbicides and the effects which may have flowed from them. One of the points that has worried me has been the assumption that the committee of inquiry into the effects of herbicides cannot be an impartial committee, that the people who are conducting it are under suspicion because they work at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and that only some other kind of inquiry will satisfy the public. This is an area of very great concern. Illness is a disaster for anyone. The birth of a handicapped child is a tragedy. When illness occurs or when one comes into contact with a handicapped child, one obviously asks the question: ‘Why did this happen?’ If one belongs to a family that has been affected in this way and one thinks that one has found an environmental cause then one wants that belief followed up. But we are not always right. It does not follow that what I have identified as a cause of what has happened to my child is necessarily the cause at all.
The problem facing us at the moment is to settle three questions. Firstly, how do we give just compensation to our veterans? The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) has already set out the steps that have been taken there. Secondly, what hazard, if any, exists for our civilian population from the intended use of these herbicides? My colleagues have already adverted to this. Thirdly, what may happen if the herbicide is improperly used? To resolve these questions we need facts. It is no good coming into the Senate and just asserting that in north Queensland certain things have happened. They may well have happened. We will only know whether they have if we actually measure them. Thinking that something has happened, even with the most genuine goodwill in the world, does not mean that it has actually happened.
Let me give an illustration. The incidence of births of handicapped children is surprisingly high. About 0.7 per cent of all births give rise to handicapped kids. What a tragedy that is for many families. But it is wrong to assume that every one of those births necessarily has an environmental cause. Those that do we want to know about. We want to respond and act properly. But the problem we face here is that we cannot determine the cause by public argument and advocacy. We can do it only by trying to gather, examine and interpret the facts. That has been the general tenor of the debate. We want to know the facts. The Government has established a mechanism for getting to the facts. It really is not very important- those honourable senators who have made representations on behalf of veterans will know that this is true- that we do it today rather than tomorrow. As long as we are seeking the truth and have made a commitment to do justice to everyone involved, the fact that we are carrying out the inquiry is the important thing. We have to examine whether there is acute toxicity. We know that these herbicides can be toxic if a person receives a large dose. We need to know about the chronic toxicity. We already know about a rare skin condition. I think there is no argument about that. If someone presents himself with chloracne and the possibility that he has been exposed to these herbicides, the association is accepted. But for most other chronic conditions it is neither understood nor accepted yet.
Another point raised by honourable senators, for example Senator Keeffe, is that the herbicides may have an effect which we call teratogenicity, that is they may promote the birth of deformed children. This could occur in a civilian population if, say, a mother is exposed during pregnancy. But to propose that this is the cause of defects in the children of war veterans one would have to assume that the herbicides had an effect upon the chromosomal material which the veterans were carrying. I notice that Senator Mason is acknowledging that that is what one would have to assume. It may be so. But until we investigate the facts we cannot assume that it is so.
We have difficulties in finding out. There is an accepted means of trying to answer these issues. Without trying to push any special barrow, when Sir Richard Doll decided 25 years ago that he wanted to investigate a link between cigarette smoking and illness, he could not do it overnight. It took a long time because it had to be done using techniques that would bring out the truth, whatever the truth was. This is not the kind of work that can be done by amateurs- even dedicated amateurs anxious to get a result. It requires people with training, commitment and resources to get an answer. There are not many of those people around. They must be people who are calm, who will take care and who will be impartial with the evidence. That is the kind of person we want to carry out the study. I am not critical of what Senator Mason said. I am concerned that in our society a situation may exist where a group of people whom I believe have these attributes- attributes which are scarce in our country- may be disbelieved, irrespective of what report they bring in, on the basis of who they are and where they work. Senator Mason drew attention to the fact that they were public servants. The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is one of the few places where one will find people able to assemble, analyse and use epidemiological data.
This is a classic problem in epidemiological analysis. That is the trouble we face today. We want the truth. There is no value to our society in getting anything other than the truth. What is the alternative to using the people who have the skill, to using the people who by training can do this kind of analysis? Is it to try to get a scientific answer by public advocacy so that those who can mount the loudest case will get the ear of the media and will be declared the winners? That is not what anyone would want. This kind of issue is too important to be resolved that way. 1 think we have to commit ourselves to acknowledging the scientific independence that exists in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The people who work there are not going to have their good names as scientists impugned or put into doubt by doing other than a first rate inquiry. We need their expertise and I think we should encourage the work that they are going to do to give us that kind of answer. What we need to seek is a commitment that the interests of veterans and any other Australians who may have been exposed to these herbicides will be preserved. Should there be compensation payable to any veteran, it should be back dated. It should be payable only if we can make the case. A quick decision is likely to be a bad decision. The community will lose nothing by applying to the study of this matter the same scientific standards as we apply to all other epidemiological investigations, provided we are commited to it and we get on with it and produce an answer. A political or action campaign by veterans organisations does not establish facts. It stimulates governments to look for facts. We applaud the veterans for having mounted their campaign, but they do not establish facts with anecdotal reports. They have to analyse large numbers of figures.
Passion in the argument will not alter the facts. Either these agents do or do not produce certain health effects. However much fire we bring into the debate it will not alter the facts of the matter. As Senator Watson pointed out, the benefits from the use of these herbicides are real. We are anxious to find out what the potential and the actual costs, will be and, if there are costs, how we properly compensate the community for past damage and prevent damage in the future. I am looking forward to the invited scientists conducting their inquiry quickly, impartially and expertly. I would hope that we suspend judgment on whether or not they will carry out an examination free from influence until we see their report.
– I enter this debate because of the confusion there seems to be in the minds of the Government speakers. Nobody is questioning the integrity of the officers of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. I think Senator Keeffe touched briefly on the real matter. I would never underestimate the counterattacking capacity of the chemical industry. Even when attempts have been made to bowl it out, it has rolled with the punches and come up with all sorts of justification. If we accept the general formula that is visualised and we have an overall assessment of various Vietnam veterans- and if necessary their wives and children- these manufacturers might produce counter-evidence during that inquiry or later. I am worried about how that evidence will be evaluated and the way it will be presented. I do not say that idly but I think speaking as the Deputy Chairman of the Committee -
– It reminds me of the tobacco companies. That is how they operate.
– I am a non-smoker so the question of tobacco leaves me completely indifferent. When Senator Jessop ‘s Committee made an extensive survey of wood chips and the effect of herbicides on the mortality of wildlife and the regenerated forests some witnesses looked at us with their big, warm brown eyes, and one man in particular, assured me: ‘Senator, we are aware of that. We are going to have repellants’. Subsequently I have asked them: What progress have you made in repellents?’ The answer has been ‘Zero ‘.
If the big manufacturers have to jettison a lucrative trade, I am inclined to believe that they will want to cut their losses and just do a little bit. These are the fears I have; I have no fears about the integrity of the officers who will do the inquiry. Senator Watson, in his usual charitable approach, talked about caution. Sometimes we need the Jane Fondas in this world to go after the truth. I wonder what would happen if Jane Fonda was on an inquiry, giving it an international blend. I have no doubt that the insiduous tentacles of the Du Pont colossus will be around somewhere. Its agents in Australia will be trying to tell us that black is white. This is the secret fear that I have and I know that it is in the mind of Senator Keeffe.
Witnesses failed dismally to live up to promises and to testimonies under oath before our Committee about repellents. I will admit that is only a small time affair compared with what we are talking about now and just the tip of the iceberg. Some honourable senators may say that what I am saying is fantasy. I am sorry Senator Puplick is not here. I know that he is a keen cinema goer. The film ‘Blood Line’ with Audrey Hepburn reveals the machinations that go on. When a cheaper cure is discovered somebody wants to hold it in the lab.
I do not object to the way the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine will go about its inquiry but I do not want to see any back door methods and people doing a gigantic snow job. People in the chemical field have done plenty of that before. I think honourable senators and even the medical fraternity know how these people act when there are millions at stake. They will do these big snow jobs. That is the only reservation I have.
When our Committee under Senator Jessop had its mini-inquiry at least one officer- I suppose one might even call him a silver-tongued orator- looked up to high heaven and replied to everything with the words: ‘It can’t happen’. But it happened and is still happening. That is the sort of ambush I am fearful of. There is no questioning about the people who will conduct the initial inquiry, but we do not want to see one of those midnight delegations going to the Lodge and saying, ‘Look, here is new evidence’. We want the cards on the table face up.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I wish to report to the Senate on the Government’s response to the 1976 review by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment of the 1969 report by the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution. The Senate Select Committee report was tabled in September 1969. The
Committee held many hearings, conducted extensive inspections and considered a number of submissions. Its report was very comprehensive and detailed, and continues to serve as a useful reference source.
Eight major recommendations were made in the report. Briefly summarised, they were: that the Commonwealth should immediately enact legislation for the control of air pollution within its Territories; that the Commonwealth Government should initiate a conference between Commonwealth and State Governments to discuss the establishment of a Commonwealth-State Bureau of Air Pollution; that such a Bureau should include senior State and Commonwealth Government officials, as well as representatives of industry and research establishments; that the Bureau should include amongst its functions, principally, to co-ordinate Commonwealth and State activities in air pollution research and control measures by recommending and advising on standardisation of policies and techniques; that a Division of Air Pollution be established within the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to undertake basic research of particular relevance to Australia; that the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology establish a national network of air pollution monitoring stations; that urgent consideration be given to ways and means of controlling motor vehicle emissions; that the Commonwealth Government give consideration to granting tax relief to industry for expenditure on air pollution control equipment and its maintenance.
By 1976, when the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment was established, these recommendations had largely been overtaken by events, and the Standing Committee instituted a review of the 1969 report, upon which it presented its conclusions in a report tabled in the Senate in June 1 976. A major consideration, of which the Standing Committee and the Select Committee were keenly aware, was that the responsibilities for environmental protection and for other aims upon which air pollution infringes should be distributed between the Commonwealth and State governments. In terms of the practical administration of these responsibilities, however, close liaison between the governments through bodies such as the Australian Environment Council and the National
Health and Medical Research Council has achieved co-ordination of activities to a significant degree.
Much of the progress towards directly controlling air pollution in Australia has been made as a result of State activities directed toward specific local problems. The Commonwealth Government’s role is clearly to bring about such co-ordination of air quality and protection activities as is necessary properly to reflect national interests. Such interests particularly include the establishment of a common basis for collection, collation and analysis of air pollution data so that problems, and the effectiveness of control measures, can be seen in a national context; and the need to avoid unnecessary variation of standards between States and thus the imposition of additional costs on industry.
I do not propose in this statement to review in any detail the multitude of actions and events which have occurred since the Select Committee tabled its report in 1969. The attention of the Senate is, however, drawn to four specific areas.
Firstly. in 1979 the Government commenced the establishment of a permanent baseline air pollution station in the Cape Grim area of northwest Tasmania. The station will be a most important Southern Hemisphere component in a small international global network engaged in monitoring minute changes in the composition of the global atmosphere, especially those caused by man’s activities. Results obtained so far by temporary monitoring facilities at the site have helped to establish trends in the global accumulation of carbon dioxide, the fluorocarbons used in aerosol sprays, and other atmospheric constituents of concern. Such changes, if sustained, may have long term consequences on the world ‘s weather and climate. Investigations in this field are continuing and the Australian baseline station will make a significant contribution to such investigations. Secondly, honourable senators will be aware that on the question of motor vehicle emissions, very extensive action has been taken principally through the application of Australian Design Rules. Such measures are of major economic and environmental consequence. Governments are also concerned to conserve energy and to maintain acceptable health standards. The availability of adequate data is an essential element in developing control measures and evaluating their effectiveness.
Thirdly, I draw honourable senators’ attention to the National Air Quality Data Centre which is established in the Department of Science and the
Environment. The Centre is currently engaged in collecting, aggregating and analysing the air quality data which are available at the present time from the monitoring activities of State authorities. Recently, the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) jointly announced with the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment the commissioning of a computer facility, funded by the Commonwealth, in the New South Wales State Pollution Control Commission’s office. This computer is being used to transmit air quality data to the NAQDC in Canberra. Finally, I advise that the Commonwealth Government is continuing to give consideration to means by which air quality assessment facilities available in Australia may be augmented by further co-operation between the Commonwealth and State governments.
I present the following paper:
Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment: Air Pollution Report- Ministerial Statement, 21 February 1980.
-by leave- I move:
The statement just made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) relates to a review which was presented to Parliament on the first occasion on 3 June 1976. Now, some three and a half years later, we have what might charitably be described as a statement of the Government’s non-response to the review and initial report. The statement is an apology for inaction, confusion and mismanagement by the Federal Government in relation to air pollution matters. It is a statement reaffirming the nature of the Fraser Government’s new federalism policies. 1 will come back to that assertion in a moment.
The 1969 report by the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution recommended efforts to set up a joint Federal-State bureau of air pollution to co-ordinate research into, and the establishment of, standards to be applied in relation to air pollution problems. That was some 1 1 years ago. This has never happened; there is no bureau of air pollution to co-ordinate research. This statement resiles from that proposition on the basis that these matters are properly within the area of the States, and should be left to them. It is interesting that the 1969 report was a report to a Liberal Government and there were noises made about the desirability of accepting its recommendations. Some 1 1 years later, finally we have a statement resiling from the Commonwealth’s role in relation to the monitoring of air pollution, and a suggestion that the matter should be left to the States. This is just a formula for vacating the
Government’s role in national leadership on a very important- and increasingly importanttopic. It is an abdication of the national government’s role of assisting positive co-operation between it and the State governments as we have seen on so many recent occasions under the Fraser Government. The 1969 review reiterated very clearly the need for increased co-operation between the Commonwealth and State governments on these matters.
The statement just brought down by the Minister points to certain achievements, which the Government claims are in some sense worthwhile. The first of those achievements is the establishment of a pollution monitoring station at Cape Grim in Tasmania. I remind the Minister and the Government that the 1969 report of a committee of this Senate called for a national network of monitoring stations within the Bureau of Meteorology. As yet, no such network has been established. There have been no attempts to establish such monitoring stations within the Bureau of Meteorology. There is no indication given by this statement that any further consideration is being given to that question. Perhaps by some strange quirk of language or figure of speech- Senator Missen might help me as the appropriate expression eludes me- instead of a national network of monitoring stations, which the Committee suggested, we have Cape Grim, an establishment in Tasmania.
– It sounds ominous.
– Yes, it does sound ominous. The point I seek to make is that it does not give much scope for optimism. Many people in the community are concerned about levels of air pollution. Certainly in my own city of Melbourne it is a very important and growing issue- indeed, one might say a trendy issue which senators such as Senator Missen would be anxious to get onto quickly. He is always astute enough to jump on any bandwagon of that kind. It is becoming a very important issue in Melbourne but it is even more important in a city like Sydney where pollution levels are so much higher.
In regard to the matter of the control of emissions from cars, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recently issued warnings of the dangers in the atmosphere of lead and ozone levels caused by cars. I just indicate at this stage of my remarks that this statement by the Minister is an example, if I can use these words, of the ‘utter spasticity’ of this Government in not letting one Minister or one committee know what the other is doing. Consequently we get contradictory conclusions. The
Government does not seem to have the capacity in its Cabinet to put these various conclusions together in a comprehensive statement. I am reminded of Stephen Leacock’s character who jumped on a horse and galloped off in all directions. That is precisely what we see this statement does when we look at the various committees which have pronounced on this subject and the conclusions which the statement draws.
On this occasion I have referred to the National Health and Medical Research Council’s warnings about the dangers of lead and ozone levels caused by cars. I draw attention to the fact that only quite recently- on 6 February 1 980- Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, in her capacity as Acting Minister for Health, issued this Press release on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health. The statement reads:
The Acting Minister for Health, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, said today that the Government had noted recent recommendations by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) on photochemical oxidants and lead.
There is no indication in the statement brought down today that the Government has noted that at all. The Press release continues:
Senator Guilfoyle said that with respect to photochemical pollution, which is expressed as an ozone level, NH&MRC had expressed the opinion that there was at present sufficient scientific evidence to indicate the adverse health effects which could result.
The Press release further states:
With respect to lead, NH&MRC believed that lower levels of lead than were previously thought to be significant may be causing adverse health effects. It has been claimed that blood formation, the central nervous system, behaviour and learning ability and other body functions may all be affected by various lead levels, Senator Guilfoyle said.
So we have a Minister in the Senate only a couple of weeks ago, making a- statement about this important question from the point of view of the National Health and Medical Research Council. If one reads that statement charitably, one can read between the lines some concern about the health of the Australian population in relation to ozone levels caused by cars and affecting the atmosphere.
The statement which the Minister brought down refers to the fact that governments are concerned to conserve energy and to maintain acceptable standards of health. Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle ‘s statement indicates a concern to adopt acceptable standards of health but the statement which the Minister has brought down today gives no new initiatives about how the Fraser Government intends to tackle that particular problem. Quite frankly, the Government is in a complete mess on this issue. I wish to refer to a document from the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, in which he has expressed a somewhat confused and different view on that issue. In a moment I will point out why it is confused. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 1 June 1 979 reads as follows:
The Federal Transport Minister, Mr Nixon, has cited the fuel penalty’ and the availability of alternative methods to control petrochemical pollution from cars as reasons why the present emission controls should not be intensified.
On the one hand we have the statement from Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle about problems affecting health and on the other hand we have the statement from Mr Nixon about what he calls the ‘fuel penalty’ as a result of emission controls. It is worth noting that in a speech in June of last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
As part of the energy conservation programs of the Government the level of lead in petrol should be increased to 65 grams a litre.
It is worth noting that when we are talking about the relationship of the Commonwealth Government with the State governments, the level of lead in petrol in New South Wales- Sydney has a very serious air pollution problem- is prescribed as being 0.45 grams a litre, which level is to be reduced to 0.4 grams a litre by 1 980. So while the New South Wales Government, concerned as it must be under its health responsibilities with the effects of air pollution in that State, is lowering the permissible lead content in each litre of petrol by 1980, the Federal Minister for Transport- one assumes that this is part of some sort of exercise of non co-operative federalism- is concerned that the levels should be allowed to be raised. The Prime Minister is concerned that the levels should be allowed to be raised. It is not a problem of an ideological clash on the lead content of petrol only between Mr Wran and Mr Fraser, because in Victoria Mr Hamer also has higher standards than the Federal Government is now talking about. The Victorian standard is now 0.45 grams a litre. That is significantly below the standard suggested in the speech made by the Prime Minister in June last year when one suspects he quoted off the top of his head the figure of 0.65 grams a litre.
The report of the 1969 Senate Committee recommended, firstly, national government involvement in the monitoring of air pollution, secondly, the establishment of monitoring stations throughout Australia, as part of the Bureau of Meteorology services, and, thirdly, co-operation between State and Federal governments. None of the recommendations which was made in the Senate committee report has been implemented by this Government. In fact this statement is continuing a process of moving away from the recommendations of a Senate committee report made 1 1 years ago, when problems of air pollution were not as significant as they are in 1980. That is a matter of considerable concern to the Opposition.
To illustrate the situation in New South Wales I refer to a statement reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 June 1979 when the Minister for Planning and the Environment, Mr Landa, described the Commonwealth proposal- that is, the proposal made by the Prime Minister- as ‘reckless irresponsibility’. That is an extraordinary accusation to make about the present Prime Minister. He went on to say:
I have given the industry notice that lead content in petrol must be reduced in New South Wales from .45 grams a litre to .4 grams by 1980. New South Wales under its Clean Air Act had complete constitutional authority to insist on the lead reduction.
The proposal by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, in his energy conservation program to increase that lead content to 65 grams a litre was - madness
Mr Fraser’s proposal ignores the recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the findings of the study by Smith and Freeman, Mr Landa said.
Of course, the findings of the Council were brought forward with soothing noises of approval by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle only a fortnight ago in the Senate. I also wish to refer to an Age editorial on this subject because Victoria- Senator Missen will know this, as I know it- also has higher standards than does the Federal Government in some matters.
– It is the leading State.
-I concede that in many matters we are well up with the field, in matters such as bike riding and things like that. The editorial in the Melbourne Age of Monday, 31 December has a number of things to say about the technical committee of the Australian Environmental Council. That technical committee of the Australian Environment Council is yet another body which has suffered 1 1 years of neglect by the Federal Government. The statement brought down today does not seem to refer to it in any detail.
– How many different Federal governments since then?
-I know, but the Liberal Party is in government now. He keeps giving me little lectures about what my task in Opposition is. It is to keep him on his toes. That is what I am doing. If he wants to give me those lectures I will do my best to oblige him. His party is in government and it is his responsibility, not ours.
– We think you are very good at keeping us on our toes.
-I am doing my best. I recognise that I have difficulty with Senator Chaney, but I am doing my best. The Age editorial- Senator Missen will be interested in this- stated:
More than one in three new cars examined by a technical committee of the Federal-State Environment Council failed to meet the design specifications on exhaust emission controls laid down in 1 976.
Going on to deal with that subject, the editorial in the Restated:
That is, the findings of that committee- that only in some heavy vehicles is fuel consumption increased and that the devices actually help to reduce consumption in small cars, can be expected to trigger a fresh debate on the subject.
That is the finding of a national joint FederalState committee which forms a conclusion which is totally opposed to and which totally rejects the position adopted by Mr Nixon, the then Minister for Transport, and by the Prime Minister. I do not know which bureaucrate compiled this funny statement which Senator Chaney read to us today, but he really ought to be on his toes since we are talking about this subject. He really ought to be on his toes to report to this Parliament on the findings of an important committee whose responsibilities are both to the States and to the national Government. He ought to be on his toes to see that that matter is reported to the Parliament. It looks strangely reminiscent of some form of double thinking that that committee’s unpalatable finding which has been recognised by State governments in Victoria and New South Wales, should not be recognised by the national Government. That is a problem which is of growing concern to the Opposition. We get all these reports and documents, but I do not know whether there is a certain illiteracy in the Cabinet of this country. These documents do not seem to be read by the people who are responsible for the government of the country. In the same editorial there is a reference, of course, to the overall mess which has arisen because of the failure of standards, properly laid down in terms of primary obligations, by the Australian Government. Again I quote from that editorial:
The editorial went on to report what the committee had to say about manufacturing standards. All this indicates a general mess about standards on this important problem. I refer briefly also to the Government’s establishment of the National Air Quality Data Centre, as it is called. I make the point that such ventures are limited in their effectiveness by the extent of real co-operation or otherwise that State governments can give when collecting the data that they put into any national aggregating centre. Let me give an illustration of the problems of the different standards which apply in different States. I have already referred to the fact that the permissible lead content in petrol differs in two States and differs again from the standard of the Commonwealth Government. In an interview on AM on 31 October 1979, Dr Auliciens from the Queensland University Department of Geography was interviewed. The commentator had this to say about the report by the Queensland University Department of Geography:
The report is pointedly critical of the monitoring activities and the findings presented to Parliament by the State Air Pollution Council. In one instance in 197S-76 the Council’s Annual Report showed a dramatic decrease in smoke and sulphur dioxide readings. According to Dr Auliciens report however, a close inspection of the data revealed that the decrease was due to the moving of a monitoring station to a less pollution prone site. In another instance a graph purported to show a favourable comparison of pollution in Brisbane with overseas centres, however investigations reveal that the graph had matched overall averages in Brisbane with maximum elements from an overseas site.
Not to put too fine a point on it, that comment from the Queensland University Department of Geography really suggests that the Queensland Government is prepared to cook the figures on this question of air pollution, as it is on the question of Aboriginals and a variety of other matters, and to manufacture the evidence to suit its own position. That again brings me back to the importance of national standards as recommended by the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution in 1969. The Senate Committee- some of the older generation of senators on the Government side might say it was a committee of the States House- recommended national standards and national co-operation between the States and the Federal Government on this very important topic of concern to the health and well being of thousands of Australians. The Senate of 1969 was far more advanced in its attitude than is the Fraser Government of 1980. What a tragedy. That is something about which we have to be concerned when we consider the report which has been brought down today. Of course, the statement which the Minister brought down completely ignores the major message recommended by the Standing Committee in its review to reduce the number and concentration of air pollution sources. I need refer the Senate only to the report itself and point to the measures which the Committee regarded as being important. It singled out the following measures:
Improved public transport systems with added incentive for their greater use.
Decentralisation of commercial and industrial activities with attendant planning controls to minimise local pollution.
Improved urban traffic flow achieved through careful evaluation of improved secondary road systems and traffic control.
Of course, nothing is said about those matters in the statement now before the Senate. I remind the Senate that one of the recommendations of the 1 969 report of the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution was that the Government give consideration to tax concessions to industry and others investing in air pollution control equipment. Presumably that could have been made part of the investment allowance which the Government brought in, I think, in 1976. The report was ignored because pollution is a subject which many industries would prefer not to think about; it is something which gets in the way. It is important that the Senate be reminded of the suggestion of the 1969 report, which the Australian Labor Party- always astute to look to the wisdom of the Senate in formulating its policies on important matters such as this- adopted in its platform some time ago. We think it is time that the Government gave serious consideration to this matter, particularly in the light of the revenue which is available from the Government ‘s petrol tax at the moment and which has a direct connection with the subject matter of the statement.
This whole issue has become a saga of confusion and of bad government. The Government has failed to read all these reports which were commissioned at great cost to the Australian taxpayers and to draw conclusions from them consistent with the needs of this society and the views of the Senate. If we could have a statement from the Government which was less confused and less ignorant and which took account of these matters, of course, not only would the interests of the Australian community be served but also the interest of government in Australia. The interests of State and Federal governments would be better served if this sort of co-operative arrangement which this Senate was prepared to suggest had been followed through. The Opposition is very critical of this lackadaisical, slapdash, nervous Nellie approach to what is a very important topic.
-I just want to take a few moments to refer to the statement that has been presented by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in response to a report that was laid down in 1976 by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, of which I am Chairman. It seems a long time since that report was presented, and I join our colleague Senator Button in suggesting that time should not be allowed to slip by like that and that these reports should be commented on much earlier. I am glad to say that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) recognised the significance of parliamentary committee reports some time ago and asked his Ministers to respond to them within six months.
– It was not the Prime Minister who recognised that; it was the Senate.
– Our Committee drew the Government’s attention to the need to respond within three months. The Prime Minister agreed and issued a statement and instructions to his departments to respond in six months. I know that the Government still has to respond to a number of Senate reports. I know that two of my Committee’s reports were presented over six months ago. I look forward to a response early in this session.
I think the Senate must realise that the Government has made money available to the States for expenditure in order that they may establish monitoring points throughout Australia. The spirit of the recommendation of the original Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution- I think, Mr President, that you were Chairman of that Committee, which has become famously known as the Laucke Committee- was that a division to study air pollution be established in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. To a point that has been done in that the Government has seen fit to establish the National Air Quality Data Centre within the Department of Science and the Environment. It is very important to emphasise the need for proper communication between State air pollution monitoring points and that centre. I hope that the Government has paid sufficient regard to the importance of the collation of information on a national basis.
Another point I note in the report is that as a result of the establishment of the air pollution station at Cape Grim it has been possible to obtain results by temporary monitoring facilities. This has helped establish trends in the global accumulation of carbon dioxide. This accumulation is presenting the scientists of the world with some concern because, as we all know, the production of carbon dioxide in the environment has a tendency to increase the earth’s temperature. In the long term this is a very serious matter.
At this point I think it is wise to remind the Senate of just how much carbon dioxide is being produced in the world. For example, to provide an individual in Australia with the necessary energy to keep him comfortable in a year requires the burning of three tonnes of coal in a conventional power station. This liberates into the environment no less than five tonnes of carbon dioxide. It is very important that this aspect is monitored carefully and the trends are observed and corrected where necessary.
Another point made in the report that my Committee presented to the Senate related to the dangers of fluorocarbons used in aerosol sprays. We drew attention to the dangers of high flying supersonic aircraft. The chemical reaction with the ozone layer in the long term could present dangers because, as we all know, the ozone layer is our environmental shield protecting us from the harmful ultra-violet rays. I understand America has decided to ban the use of aerosols in favour of aqueous sprays. I think that point ought to be taken seriously by the Australian Government.
A number of other points were made in the report. One that ought to be looked at carefully- I am not sure what action has been taken by the Government in this area- is providing incentives for companies to use air pollution control equipment. The Select Committee recommended that appropriate financial relief by way of taxation concessions be granted to industry and others investing in air pollution control equipment. I know that the Government made some concessions- a 40 per cent investment allowance in certain circumstances- but I do not think it has gone far enough. I know that Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd in Port Pirie expended a considerable sum in constructing a chimney of a height of about 600 feet to deal with air pollution in that town.
The recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Science and the Environment report also drew attention to the following measures:
Improved public transport systems with added incentive for their greater use.
Decentralisation of commercial and industrial activities with attendant planning controls to minimise local pollution.
Improved urban traffic flow achieved through careful evaluation of improved secondary road systems and traffic control.
In respect of traffic control, the present Government has provided money to the States to improve traffic flow in major cities and centres. That is a significant contribution but the position ought to be examined further to ascertain whether any further improvements can be made. That is all I wish to say at this stage. There are other aspects of the report that need attention. I suggest that the Minister might convey those thoughts to his colleague.
– I also wish to say a few words about the statement that has been presented today. Firstly, it is extremely curious that we are expected to take part in some rational discussion on a matter immediately after we walk into this chamber and hear a statement.
– Adjourn it.
– No. I am prepared to make a few remarks. Some remarks have already been made on the statement that has been put down. No doubt we will get an opportunity later to speak. No, Senator Chaney, I do not want to adjourn it now. I want to say a few words but they will be somewhat stilted, somewhat inadequate, because I am not in a ready position to discuss the details. Senator Jessop has just passed me a copy of the 1976 Review of the Report of the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution. I had read it previously but I have not read it for some time. When I looked at the Notice Paper today, I saw these words:
Senator Chaney to make a statement relating to a Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment.
How I could be expected to know that the statement would be about air pollution or something else is beyond my comprehension. It seems to me to be totally inadequate for it to be described in that way and suddenly to find ourselves in the debating stage of a report on air pollution. This subject has taken a very leisurely course. The original report of the Senate Committee was made in 1969. There was a review of it in 1976. Now there is the Government response in February 1980. 1 would have hoped that the response would have been rather more detailed and also that it would, as I have said, have been seen by honourable senators before we were called on to debate it.
In the light of those difficulties that are before us let me make a few comments about this matter because it does not seem to me, I must say, an entirely adequate response. My criticism is not really of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson). He is a new Minister in this portfolio. It is to his credit that some statement has been put forward. But I am not altogether satisfied that the recommendations which were brought down by the Committee which you, Mr President, chaired in 1969 are adequately covered in the Government’s response. The Minister does not actually detail all matters of air pollution. He says quite fairly:
I do not propose in this statement to review in any detail the multitude of actions and events which have occurred since the Select Committee tabled its report in 1 969.
He is quite right. There is certainly no detail. Of those four things that he does speak about- one paragraph on each- one would not say that they seem adequately to express all the matters that are within the compass of air pollution to this day. There are references to aerosol sprays, the matters which Senator Jessop spoke of and the possible dangers to the ozone layer. One cannot say those fears are established in detail as yet but certainly there are aspects that we have to fear. Some of us with inadequate skins and who are more susceptible to skin cancer than others -
– Grow a beard.
-No, I will not go to the extent of growing a beard. I am not in quite such a desperate situation. But I do feel that many people in this world will be worried if some danger does come in this area. I would have felt that we would have been able to say more about what we have done or we ought to have done more to look into this area because the possible danger to people in this country is quite considerable. We have a problem with exposure to the sun. I think there are real worries on that score.
There is also a good deal of concern in the community with the second matter which was itemised, that of motor vehicle emissions. I do not want at this moment to go into the detail of the question of the lead in petrol because I have not with me in the chamber the material which I have been collecting, studying and trying to understand over the last year or so. But I would like to enter into some discussion on that. I am not satisfied when I read in the Minister’s statement that the Commonwealth ‘s role is to bring about the co-ordination of air quality and protection activities and that it is establishing a common basis for collection and avoiding unnecessary variations of standards. To my mind the
Commonwealth’s role is greater than that. As described, it is a rather negative role. 1 think we ought also be concerned with the advancement of and improvement in endeavours to reduce the level of air pollution. We should recognise that the problems are common particularly in our great cities. What is said about Sydney applies equally to Melbourne. Senator Button, who is from a different political party to the party that governs Victoria, made the fair comment that Victoria is in fact a leading State and it is, of course, concerned with the question of pollution such as that which arises from the lead content in petrol.
I have read the various allegations that have been made in respect of the effect that lead has on plants and vegetables, things of that sort, growing in the suburban areas, also the effect on children and their development. I have read the statements, which I do not think have been proved but which should be carefully considered, of the effects of lead on the minds and the development of young children. The onus of proof, of course, is not on the people claiming to be affected. The onus is the other way around. The onus is on those who want to use certain levels of lead in petrol. I certainly hope that we will not be relenting on lead content standards. I hope there will be a lowering of the lead content in petrol. I think we ought to hear a bit more about this insofar as the Commonwealth responsibility is concerned. The same point might be made in regard to the other air pollution matters which have been identified tonight.
This problem of air pollution was brought strongly to my attention particularly in July of last year when I spent some little time in Mexico City where I saw what seemed to be air pollution gone mad. It is a city of 14 million people. It is set about 8,000 feet above sea level. It is like the whole of the population of Australia being placed above Kosciusko in a bowl where pollution does not go away and where millions of cars are stalled in the city with a noticeable state of pollution in the air which is worse than anywhere in Australia. But it could be our fate later if we do not take the necessary precautions. Because we are not the worst in the world is no reason for any complacency. I am not satisfied that this very slender statement today represents enough activity bearing in mind the length of the period during which this question has remained under consideration. I hope that we will have further debate on this. I hope that somehow we will find a way of getting proposed statements like this to senators before they are presented in the chamber so that in fact one can actually look at one’s records, look at the material, look at the representations that have been made and then debate the subject in the light of that knowledge.
I regret the rambling nature of my remarks. This is due to inadequate preparation which is necessarily so in discussing this matter today. But I believe those things should be said.
– I wish to make a contribution somewhat similar to but perhaps on a different tack from what Senator Missen just raised on the matter of presentation of reports to the Parliament and debates on them. I think the honourable senator has raised a valid point which ought to be taken into consideration by the Government. But I would like to approach the matter from a different angle. What I find is a growing tendency- in fact, it is a practice which has now developed- in this country for reports of significance, reports from standing committees of the Parliament and reports from public inquiries which are conducted on behalf of the Parliament by the various commissions and tribunals as a result of decisions made by the Executive Council or the Executive invariably to be released to the Press before they are released to the Parliament. Invariably public comment on the reports is made in the Press before the Parliament has even seen them.
I think that that practice is bad. But it is even worse when back bench members of the Parliament are denied the opportunity to make any sort of considered judgment on the subject matter of a report, sometimes days and even weeks after that report has been debated in the columns of the newspapers. It is even worse still that very occasionally front bench members of the Opposition are rung up by the Press and asked to comment upon a report which at that stage the members have not seen but which is the subject of a critical comment, sometimes a favourable comment, sometimes a lengthy comment, in the newspapers.
I think that that is the subject which the Parliament ought to examine. I suggest to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) that there ought to be a change in the processes and procedures adopted with so many of these reports. Once the newspapers have picked out what they consider to be the issue germane to a report it is rather difficult for the Parliament to make a considered judgment after it has become stale news. That is what happens with so many of these reports. In quarters in which it ought not to take place, a policy of denigration of the Parliament- I would not put it at the level of a conspiracy- is taking place. Because of the way in which our society has developed an alienation process exists within the community. But within the media- I am talking about it in the general sense- there is a policy of denigration. Even within certain sections of the economic sector and of what I would loosely call the establishment forces there is a policy of denigrating the Parliament and politicians.
For example, I recall last week listening to a talk-back program on one of the Sydney radio stations to which I have listened before. The announcer said: ‘I do not intend to make my session a place for politicians to talk, particularly now that we are beginning an election year’. The thought immediately struck me that that program certainly was not available to politicians. The announcer proceeded to denigrate politicians as though we were som.* sort of necessary evil, as though we were an adjunct of some sort which was not really of much relevance. In a certain sense that is true. I think that the Government of the day- I am not saying that this Government is any different in this respect from any other government- tends to exacerbate that problem by releasing reports to the Press so that the Press become part of the process of public debate before the Parliament has an opportunity to consider them. It is true that the Press have many more resources than we have to carry out an examination of a report, but when they have carried out that examination and reported on it very little is left for the Parliament to say about that report.
I take on board Senator Missen ‘s point that important matters are considered at great length and in detail by committees of the Parliament and then, as a sort of after thought and in a cursory way, the reports of the committees finally are presented to the Parliament, as they were today. About half a dozen reports in which I have an interest were all presented without due notice to the Parliament, without due notice to honourable senators of either party and certainly without due notice to front bench members who, after all, are supposed to shadow the activities of departments, to be on their feet and on the mark, as it were, in relation to what the Executive is doing. It is just impossible for us to do that when, in many cases, we do not know until we come into this place at Question Time at 10.30 of a morning that the reports are to be presented. Copies of them might well be in our offices-I am not criticising that process- but if eight or 10 reports are presented that day or even the preceding day we really have no chance to examine critically the matters contained in them.
Sometimes they are reports on matters which have occupied our select and standing committees for weeks and months in collecting evidence, questioning witnesses and considering the subjects generally. Our committees do a very worthwhile job. Then, in a matter of minutes, as it were, we are expected to receive the report, to seek leave of the Senate to move a motion, and to make some sort of 5-minute excursion into the subject matter of the report. Then the matter is placed at the back of the business paper so that it is never debated again. If it has not already been dealt with by the media we hope to God that the one journalist who sits in the Press Gallery might have received an indication of or might have a feeling for what Opposition or Government members might think about the report. I think that that is unfair to him or her; certainly it is unfair for honourable senators to be placed in that position. Certainly it is unfair to deal in that way with all the evidence the committee has taken and all the consideration it has given to matters over a considerable period. That applies to most of the reports which come into the Parliament.
Because I accept the fact that the Minister is interested in making the processes of Parliament work more effectively, I suggest to him that this matter ought to be examined, if not by the Government then certainly by a standing committee such as the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders to determine whether we cannot tidy up this aspect a little. I make the plea that reports to the Parliament should be released to the Parliament first and not to the Press the day before they are released to the Parliament. I do not denigrate the Press; I think that they have a very important role to play in these matters. But as a shadow Minister I find it aggravating that views which I and my party hold on many matters are canvassed in the Press before we even have copies of the relevant reports.
It is part of the process which does not allow the Parliament to carry out its proper review functions. As 1 said, I am not necessarily prepared to say that it is a conspiracy. But I believe that certain influential people in the community- that certainly would include some media proprietors- want to denigrate the role of the Parliament. They want to place us in a position in which members of the community believe that we do not carry out our function, whereas the overwhelming majority of the members of parliament want to be effective, want to play a meaningful role in the process of debate, want their views to be considered and publicised and want to use the media as part of that process of public debate.
We depend upon members of the Press Gallery to publicise the views we express. They might be views with which they do not agree; they might be views which they reject. But unless consideration is given to those views in the media the whole process is weakened. All those matters, based on what Senator Missen said, prompted me to speak in this debate. As he will concede, there are many diligent members in this place who want to make a contribution. I hope that the Minister and /or the Senate will take on board some of the points which have been raised, not to score points against anybody but to make our work a little more effective.
- Mr President, I have noted the various remarks made by honourable senators. I particularly enjoyed Senator Missen ‘s contribution which he has described as stilted and inadequate. It is just a measure of his high standards that he should so describe his remarks. He was concerned about the same matters as were latterly referred to by Senator Gietzelt. I wish to respond very briefly to their comments. I think it would have to be said that the present Government has demonstrated that when changes are sought to improve the ability of Parliament to operate, they do tend to lead to other areas of criticism. The decision made last year to undertake a response to parliamentary committee reports, which was the first commitment of that type undertaken by any government, is one which has brought a new stream of criticism on the Government. At the moment I am in breach of that obligation. There are two reports to which I should be responding, one on Aboriginal health and one on the situation in Queensland, on which I am already overdue. In response to questions I have already indicated to this chamber some of the causes of the delay. But up to the time of the Government’s decision, the fact of delay would have been regarded simply as standard. In fact we have dealt with a report today which I think is the first formal response to a report put down in 1969 and more recently updated by a Senate committee.
I remind the Senate that although the Government has not been able on all occasions to meet its commitment to a response within six months, and although some speakers have suggested that the responses are not as detailed as they would wish, the fact is that for the first time in the history of the Senate, as I understand it, the Government does accept that it is obliged to come back with a report and to give the Senate a further opportunity for debate. I think the Senate itself will have to give some thought to which advantage it wants. Does it want the advantage of an immediate and first response which is sought by Senator Gietzelt, or does it want the advantage of a more considered response, which is sought by Senator Missen. I do think there are difficulties about releasing Government statements extensively before they are put down in Parliament. That would simply give rise to the other criticism that I have heard in this place when the Government makes statements available outside the Parliament, that the proper place for information to be made available is here. I merely remind the Senate that there are complications. The fact is that the Government has moved towards giving the Senate and the Parliament generally greater opportunities to consider the Government’s response to the Parliament’s work through its committee system. I am sure that the Government is prepared to look at the sort of suggestions which have been made today and to get better value out of that, if it can. But I would trust that we can move towards changes on the basis that the Senate itself is in control of its business and will adopt procedures that are most likely to achieve the maximum benefit for the Australian public.
I think there may be some misapprehension about who gets the reports when. I do not think there is any system of providing reports in advance to the Press. Rather the information which I have obtained from the Whip with respect to statements and reports is that ministerial statements which are sought to be made before the Senate by leave are distributed two hours beforehand to the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader, the Opposition Whip, the Leader of the Australian Democrats and the relevant committee chairman if it is in response to a committee report. Where ministerial statements are to be incorporated in Hansard by leave, that is done by arrangement with Opposition spokesmen and obviously cannot be done without their concurrence. With respect to the tabling of papers pursuant to Standing Order 67, no prior notice is given, although a list of the papers to be tabled is usually distributed beforehand. Papers become public at the moment of tabling and are not to be released beforehand unless on the specific direction and responsibility of the Minister. In general I think there are good reasons for putting the report into the Parliament rather than making it available publicly beforehand. I think there would be serious objections from members of the Parliament if it were thought that these papers would be available elsewhere before they were available in this place.
I have no other comments to make on the substance of the matters which were raised in the discussion on this report. Senator Jessop made a number of thoughtful suggestions which I will ensure are brought to the attention of the Minister. I thank the Senate for its consideration of the report. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Scott requesting that he be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee of Privileges and the Standing Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
I have also received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) requesting that Senator Scott be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and nominating Senator Collard to be a member of the Committee.
Motions (by Senator Chaney)- by leaveagreed to:
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) requesting that Senator Keeffe be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and nominating Senator Donald John Wheeldon to be a member of that Committee.
Motion (by Senator Georges)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Keeffe be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and that Senator Wheeldon, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36AA, be appointed a member of the Committee.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Bonner resigning as a member of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Motion (by Senator Chaney)- by leaveagreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964 the Senate appoint Senator Peter Baume to be a member of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Bonner.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Acts Interpretation Amendment Bill 1980.
Amendments Incorporation Amendment Bill 1 980.
Statutory Rules Publication Amendment Bill 1980.
– by leave- Today I wish to inform the Senate of the outcome of extensive government consideration of the report and recommendations on the inquiry into the employment of musicians by the Australian Broadcasting Commission undertaken by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts.
The Committee’s report was tabled on 1 June 1977.
The Government has since studied that report and recommendations based on the Committee ‘s findings. These range across a variety of issues either directly or indirectly associated with the employment, training and education of orchestral musicians.
The more significant recommendations have focused on:
The appointment of an independent committee of inquiry into orchestral resources in Australia; removal of the statutory obligation on the ABC to broadcast all or part of all concert performances for which it levies admission charges; assessment by the ABC of arrangements which could be made to make orchestral services available to other performing arts organisations; research into programming, audience appeal, ticket and recording sales procedures, and employment conditions relating to its orchestras; creation of a national forum to look at the question of tertiary education and training in music and teacher accreditation schemes.
After receiving the Committee report, the responsible Minister wrote to the Chairman of the ABC, seeking the views of the Commission on it. Discussions have also been held with other authorities having an interest in matters dealt with in the report. Some authorities and government instrumentalities support the proposal for an independent inquiry into orchestral resources. I remind the Senate that the Government has established a committee of review to inquire into and report on the services, policies and performances of the ABC. In the light of that decision, the Government believes that the committee of review would be a more appropriate vehicle to carry investigation of, and debate on, the issue of orchestral resources.
Under the present provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act relating to the ABC, the Commission has a statutory obligation to broadcast all concerts for which admission charges are made. The ABC has pointed out that this statutory obligation has posed a number of continuing difficulties for that organisation. One of the recurring problems has stemmed from the repetition of concert programs. An artist, or an orchestra may present, say, three recitals or concerts- all with the same program- at different venues within a week or less.
Under present provisions of the Act, the ABC must broadcast, or televise either ‘live’ or from a tape recording, at least a part of each performance, despite the fact that one particular performance could be artistically and acoustically superior to the others and would be far preferable for programming.
The ABC has emphasised that, due to the vagaries of acoustics and other facilities in the venues available for concert performances in some areas, recordings made in those venues may be lacking in technical quality. The Commission believes that the community would be far better served if the ABC were free to exercise discretion in the selection of performances to be broadcast.
The Committee recommended that this statutory obligation should be removed from the Act. The ABC has indicated its support for this recommendation while making it clear that the Commission would continue to broadcast or televise all or part of most of the concerts and other public entertainment it arranges.
The Government proposes to take the necessary action to amend the Act in line with the Committee ‘s recommendation.
The ABC has already taken action to implement a number of other recommendations. It already co-operates with other organisations, making orchestral resources available to them. Performing arts companies which are presently benefiting from co-operative arrangements include the Australian Opera, the Tasmanian Opera Company, the South Australian Opera Company and the International Piano Competition. The Commission views these arrangements as effective subsidising of performing arts companies in return for the right to broadcast extracts from performances. ABC annual reports and other publications now outline the basis on which audience attendance figures are compiled in accordance with recommendation 3 of the Committee report.
Research projects along the lines described in recommendations 5, 6 and 7 relating to audience response to programming policies, ticket prices and the subscription system have also been commissioned by the ABC. Similarly, the ABC has acted upon recommendation 8 advocating more effective sales promotion for records of ABC concerts made under its own or commercial labels. The ABC has created the position of Head of Merchandising to promote records now being sold under the Graceline and Phonart labels.
The Department of Education is moving to implement some of those recommendations which fall within its area of responsibility. That Department has referred the proposal to create a national forum to exchange ideas on tertiary music education and trainings in accordance with recommendation 1 1 . The recommendations for the introduction of a music teacher accreditation scheme and for the development of consultation processes to determine priorities for music education in Australian schools, recommendations 12 and 13, have been referred to the Schools Commission.
The Government believes that the most detailed study has been made of all matters raised by the Senate Standing Committee. I must say, Mr President, that the Government would wish to acknowledge clearly, and to commend, the valuable role performed by the ABC in the provision of orchestral services in Australia. In the light of the Committee’s findings we believe that these services should be reviewed in the overall context of the ABC’s role, policies and performance. I again reiterate our view that this reassessment would most constructively be achieved under the umbrella of the current ABC committee of review.
Finally, the Senate Standing Committee is to be commended for the dedication and painstaking effort given to this inquiry. During the course of its inquiry, the Committee heard evidence from 59 witnesses and received 58 submissions, all of which were given close consideration. The report and recommendations on the employment of musicians by the ABC is yet another demonstration of the seriousness with which the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts approaches its investigative and advisory responsibilities. I present the following paper:
Senate Standing Committee Report on Employment of Musicians by the Australian Broadcasting CommissionMinisterial Statement, 2 1 February 1980.
– by leave- I move:
On this occasion I will take another tack and say that the statement which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has brought down has been the most effusive example of kindness, friendliness and good will that has ever emanated from the Fraser Government. In fact, the whole of the last page of this four-page statement is devoted to commending the Australian Broadcasting Commission for its good work over many years. More particularly it commends the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, of which I was a member. The members of that Committee have been described as dedicated and painstaking. We take our work seriously and it appears that the Government takes us seriously.
– You would admit that, would you not?
-Yes, I would admit the first part, Senator. I think there is something to be said for that view. It is very nice to note that charity begins at home, that we have been commended for all these activities and, particularly, that the Government does take the committees of the Senate seriously. Having said all that, I must say that the statement is a rather disappointing one in some respects because it misses the point of what the Committee, chaired by Senator Davidson, determined about a number of issues. The classic way in which it misses the point- I hate to record Senator Chaney ‘s grins in Hansard, but I am going to do it- is in the passage which records that the Department of Education has been asked to make a response to the report. It states that the Department of Education has decided on matters which fall within its area of responsibility and has referred the proposal to create a national forum to exchange ideas on tertiary and music education, and training in accordance with recommendation 11. I pick out that example as being typical of the waffle that this statement contains about the Committee report.
Let me illustrate more specifically some of the important recommendations which the Committee made and how such recommendations have been dealt with. First of all, the Committee was very concerned that the statutory obligation on the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast all or part of all concert performances for which it levies admission charges should be removed. The reason for that was one of common sense. If an Australian Broadcasting Commission orchestra makes three performances of a particular symphony, under the present provisions the ABC has to record all those performances for the purpose of broadcasting. That is ridiculous when it has the capacity, I am sure, to select the best performance and make a recording of that. So that provision was important in the deliberations of the Senate Committee and is one which the Government has acted upon or indicated it will act upon in due course. I am sure that all members of the Committee will welcome that.
Certain other matters described as significant recommendations of the Committee have been referred, as it were, to the ABC itself for particular attention. There is an indication of some small action being taken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to rectify some anomalous situations and to conduct research into programming, audience appeal, ticket and recording sales procedures and employment conditions related to its orchestras. These are matters which are important and one would hope that that sleepy dinosaur which constitutes the administration of the ABC has been prodded by a pin from our Committee. I remind Senator Davidson that the dinosaur is the animal that when it has a pin stuck in its tail it takes two years for the response to get to the brain. That is an appropriate analogy in the case of this report because it was some time ago that we reported and stuck a pin in the ABC and it has taken a long time for the response to reach the brain of its administration or of the government or whatever.
– You are not applying that analogy to Senator Davidson though; let us clear that up.
– No. I apologise profusely to Senator Davidson if anything I said was misconstrued by wicked Senator Chipp. The other important thing which the Committee recommended was the appointment of an independent committee of inquiry into orchestral resources in Australia. This is where the statement is most deficient because it says: ‘Yes, the Government has appointed a committee of inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission’. That is quite a different thing. The committee of inquiry appointed into the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been appointed pursuant to recommendations made by the Green committee of inquiry appointed by Mr Eric Robinson in 1976 when he was Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I think it recommended a sevenyear review or inquiry into the ABC. For two or three years the Opposition has been pressing for a royal commission or at least a committee of inquiry of almost equivalent status on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The reason for that, if I can go back to the dinosaur analogy, is that we regard it as a very top heavy organisation in terms of its administration and we see the cultural and social vitality being ousted from the life of the ABC. If honourable senators watch ABC television they will see that it has a sort of continuous nature program with koalas and platypuses -
– And dinosaurs.
– It is very parochial, senator. No dinosaurs, but I suppose a platypus is a member of the dinosaur family so the analogy can be extended to that extent. But there has been a very real decline in the programming quality of the ABC and that is why the inquiry has been appointed by the Government and, it is hoped, will concern itself with those matters. The Senate Committee recommended an inquiry into orchestral resources in Australia. I think Senator Davidson will correct me if I am wrong but I think the ABC operates six orchestras in Australia, which the Committee looked at in terms of its deliberations. That is a very large number of orchestras for a population of this size in Australia, although we have to take account of the scattered nature of the population within
Australia. The fact that the ABC operates six orchestras and that their performances are broadcast over the ABC, totally ignores the fact that there are many other fine orchestras in Australia, small ones admittedly in most cases Musica Viva society orchestras, theatre orchestras and things of that kind which operate in various States.
The Committee was looking for a rationalisation of the services of musicians in orchestras in the communities in which they operated throughout Australia. That embraced all orchestras, not just the ABC ones. It is a totally wrong attitude that is put forward in the Minister’s statement. It says in effect that this matter is being accommodated by the appointment of an inquiry into the ABC. It is of the utmost concern to the Opposition and, I am sure, to other members of the Committee that there should be an inquiry into the orchestral resources of Australia as a whole. That recommendation is consistent with the entire flavour of our report. All our recommendations are made in the context of developing programs from the entire orchestral resources in this country.
We are critical of the statement which has been brought down by the Minister. We think that only in minor respects does it grapple with the nettle which the Senate Committee report posed for consideration. We regard it as totally inadequate because of its failure to do so. I hope that we will have a better response in the future and more opportunity to discuss the matter in the course of deliberations in the Senate.
– Any remarks that I make should be preceded by the word ‘rallentando’, which I think to musical people means a delayed performance, because we seem to have waited a long time to hear some comments from the Government in relation to this report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. Speaking personally, I think that we are glad that it came from the desk of Senator Chaney this afternoon, who is noted in this place for his contribution to our harmony and who rarely but sometimes is out of tune. He has been known to give the Senate some good sustained bursts of fortissimo and on occasions some instances of allegretto, which, as all honourable senators who are good musicians would know, is something light, graceful and moderately fast. I express appreciation at the Minister’s response to this report and to the work of the Committee. I acknowledge the tributes and references he has made to its efforts.
I note with appreciation the number of responses which the Government has made to the various conclusions and recommendations within the report. I note with a little concern that a number of these have been referred to other departments and will, it seems to me on reading them, get rather lost in the vast and complex arrangements of national forums and exchange of ideas and accreditation schemes to determine priorities and things of this nature. I hope that in due course we will be able to obtain from the Government or the relevant Minister some report as to how these various references to other bodies, authorities and organisations are progressing and that in due course there will be some feedback from these various groups so that the recommendations of the Senate Committee report will be constantly not only under review but also receiving some form of implementation.
We are critical from time to time of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We all have our various criticisms of it and its management and of the services which it provides. But let me say very strongly here, in repeating the words in the opening paragraphs of our report, of the role and contribution of the ABC in the development of fine music in Australia from the time of its establishment in 1932. As early as 1934 the ABC engaged its first overseas conductor, the famous Sir Hamilton Harty, who with an improvised orchestra of some 50 players in that year gave five concerts in Sydney and four in Melbourne. We are approaching the 50th anniversary of that quite notable foundation of orchestral and fine music development within Australia. One hopes that during that year the ABC will be able to make some appropriate observations and celebrate the anniversary occasions. In 1946, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was established on a full-time basis and over the next five years, which is not a very long period, full-time symphony orchestras were established by the ABC in each of the other State capital cities.
Apart from the development of fine music and any cultural development that might have occurred as a result in Australia, it is important to point out that the establishment of these fulltime orchestras by the ABC brought stability of employment to orchestral musicians in Australia and allowed the Australian Broadcasting Commission to have performed and broadcast a much wider repertoire than ever before. To a country as large as Australia, with its widely scattered population, it is important to recognise the contribution that is made not only to any cultural or educational development but also to our personal pleasure. Also, it provided the opportunity for entrepreneurs, conductors, vocalists and recitalists to be brought to this country from Europe and the other great cultural centres of the world so that people who lived in Australia could have the opportunity of not only enjoying good music but also hearing it splendidly played by the ABC’s splendid orchestras.
Although the Australian Broadcasting Commission has borne much of the financial burden of keeping those orchestras, State governments, city councils and other authorities have come into the picture and have made their contributions. So, the statement put down by the Minister today is of some significance to this area of our public and national life. I, for one, express my appreciation of the regulation which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has established, that is that Ministers shall report to Parliament from time to time on the Senate committee reports which fall within their portfolios.
I turn to the principal recommendation within the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, raised by Senator Button a little earlier this afternoon. I agree totally with him in relation to the matter of the inquiry. I am disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to take on board the real thrust of the Committee’s report in relation to this inquiry, and to respond to what is the great problem of the orchestral situation within Australia. Because the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been the dominant entrepreneur and organiser of orchestral performances within Australia, the orchestral situation has reached a stage whereby, in my view, it is suffering from that dominance. There needs to be a new approach and a new interpretation; there needs to be a fresh realisation that the cultural climate of Australia has changed a great deal in the years since the ABC brought Sir Hamilton Harty to Australia.
That is why the Committee recommended a particular kind of inquiry; that is why we headed a chapter ‘The Concept of Rationalisation of Australia’s Orchestral Resources’. The committee was not talking about the ABC’s orchestral resources; it was talking about the orchestral resources of Australia. Throughout its inquiry, the Committee was aware of a general feeling among the witnesses that there was a need for an approach to the longer term requirements for orchestral resources in Australia, that there was a need for a more positive, creative and efficient use of orchestral resources and that this would provide services from which the community would derive great benefit and musicians would not only get greater employment but certainly greater artistic satisfaction. The members of the
Committee were of the view- we set this out very clearly in the report- that objectives such as these would not be met by the present, uncoordinated system and that thinking should begin now on a complete reappraisal of orchestral resources with the object of arriving at a sensible musical solution both for Australia and for each State.
There was a wide range of opinions in regard to the administration of a plan such as this. Some suggested that there should be a trust or similar independent organisation. It was also envisaged in other areas that commercial interests might be approached for financial support, and that approaches should be made to prominent business houses and businessmen. The whole area of private donations to the arts in Australia has been very limited up to now, but the Committee saw a great movement forward in other countries in this regard. It was felt that this should be looked at.
Therefore, the main thrust of the report was that, as a matter of urgency, the Government should appoint an independent committee of inquiry to examine and report upon all aspects of orchestral resources in Australia. Paragraph 6.43 states:
The Committee recommends that, as a matter of urgency, the Government appoints an independent committee of inquiry to examine and report upon all aspects of orchestral resources in Australia with particular reference to:
1 ) rationalisation of orchestral resources;
) the ABC ‘s role and responsibilities for orchestras;
) funding an administration; and
Yet, the best way in which the Government can respond- as shown on page 2 of the Minister’s statement- is to say that its own committee of review would be a more appropriate vehicle to carry out such an investigation. I agree with Senator Button that the Government has entirely missed the thrust of the Committee’s report; it has entirely missed the point of the statement that the Committee put down; and, it has entirely missed the combined opinion and considered judgment of orchestral musical leaders within this country. It has put our orchestral situation right offside compared with orchestral developments in other nations. Whilst appreciating the Minister’s comments and the Government’s response as they relate to the amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act, I cannot conceal my disappointment that the very important point that the Committee suggested to the Senate and put to the Government by way of recommendation has not been taken up by the Government, or has been taken up in a totally inadequate way.
It has been stated that there will be a committee of review into the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That means it will be looking at the Commission’s role in terms of its sporting and educational broadcasts, its management, its news service, its technical administration and a whole range of other matters that belong to a broadcasting authority and into which it is very appropriate for a committee of review to conduct an inquiry. In this broad spectrum of activity of the ABC, in the view of the committee of review orchestras will be only one small area. In the meantime, the rest of our orchestral resources will wither on the vine because this committee of review will be looking only at the orchestral situation of the ABC. Naturally enough, it will concentrate its efforts on the functions of the ABC and all its multifarious activities which serve Australia so well, however much we may criticise them from time to time.
I emphasise again that the investigative task of the committee of review will be too wide for it to look at ABC orchestras in detail. As I understand it, probably it will not be allowed to look at orchestral resources in Australia at all, which is the very point the Committee made, with emphasis, in its report. I hope that in the light of the speeches that have been made on both sides of the Senate this afternoon and especially by two members of the Committee the Government will take on board the strong comments that have been made, and take another look at its response to this section of the Committee’s report and recommendations. Having said that with emphasis, I renew the expression of my appreciation of the comments that the Minister has made and of the responses which the Government has made to other sections and recommendations of the Committee ‘s report.
– I wish to make only a very short comment on the statement that has been brought down by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) concerning the inquiry conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. I merely point out that when the Labor Government was in office, we had a policy of promoting and encouraging the employment of Australians in the theatre, in the musical arts and so on. It was only today that I received a reply to a question that I placed on the Notice Paper on 25 September 1979.
What was: (a) the total percentage of Australian content of programmes televised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC); and (b) the percentage of Australian content in each of the program categories maintained by the ABC for statistical purposes, in each year from 1969-70 to 1978-79 inclusive.
In the year before the Labor Government came into office, namely 1971-72, of the total time devoted by the ABC to musical performances, only 72.46 per cent of that time was devoted to Australian productions. Within three years, 1974-75, under the Labor Governmentwhen I was Minister for the Media- that figure of 72.46 per cent had risen to 96.42 per cent. Last year- four years after we had gone out of officethat figure had dropped to 78.26 per cent. I cite these figures in this debate to place them on the record.
-I wish to make a brief comment in this debate. I would like to impress upon the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) that he should not be discouraged by the flow of criticism which has become evident today. I trust that he will not be discouraged in bringing down further statements. I think that further flow of criticism is valuable; it may lead to further expedition and less delay in the presentation of these responses by the Government. The importance of such responses cannot be underestimated.
The statement that we have before us has led to some sharp criticisms from both sides of the Senate. I would like to add some support to those criticisms because of the tremendous role which the various orchestras play in the cultural development of our society. I find myself in a position of being an addict of and of being extremely dependent on music produced by these orchestras. I strongly oppose anything which diminishes their role and I strongly support anything that adds to the enhancement of the position.
I think it is necessary to realise just how important it is to seek some sort of investigation into and some sort of co-ordination of the variety of talent which exists and which should be developed within Australia. Without that coordination the standard of orchestral achievement in Australia will remain at a level lower than it should be. I hope that eventually by some means- this is suggested in this report- we develop to the point where we have a national orchestra of world standard which can move from place to place and which can establish that our level of cultural achievement is of a standard that ought to be admired in the world wherever the artists play. I think that this is important because music is a means by which there can be a complete interchange without limitations of understanding. I believe that in this area of production the lack of understanding which we suffer at the present time can in some way be overcome. From the manner in which these comments have been delivered they may appear trite, but I sincerely believe these comments. Although some honourable senators may suspect that I am trying to avoid a debate on another matter, I still say that the comments which I have made ought to be heeded.
I congratulate the Minister for bringing down the statement. I say to him also that it is not necessary that he give us such short notice of such statements. I know that he says that these statements ought not be made public before they are presented to the Parliament. But I suggest that the practice of making them available to some parliamentarians ought to be extended to making them available to all parliamentarians. They should be made available not only to the leaders and to the Whips but also to all honourable senators two hours before the debate takes place. If that were done we would not have the legitimate complaint which Senator Missen has raised.
I recommend to the Minister that in future statements be circulated to honourable senators at least two hours before the debate takes place so that they can peruse them and draw together their material. That practice would not make the statements public. I have had these statements in my folder for some time. I may be incorrect but the comments which have been made seem to indicate that that privilege has not been extended to other honourable senators. I am suggesting that no harm would be done if these statements were circulated two hours before the debate takes place. I thank honourable senators for their patience.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
– by leaveAmendments of the Public Service (Salaries) Regulations, being Statutory Rules 1979 No. 220, were not available for purchase at the time of publication of the notice of their making in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 642 dated 23 October 1979, as required by Subsection (3A) of Section 5 of the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903.
Copies of regulations purporting to be Statutory Rules 1 979 No. 220 were made available for purchase at the place specified in the notice on 23 October 1979. However, on 6 November 1979 printed copies as distributed were found to contain an error resulting from the inadvertent transposition of two lines of type during the final printing of the regulations. A corrected reprinting of the regulations was thereupon undertaken and correct copies were made available at the specified place on 12 November 1979. Distribution of the reprinted regulations has been completed.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903 1 table the document.
-by leave- I do not want to delay the Senate, but I think this matter raises some important legal questions that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) might answer. When does a regulation become law? Is it at the time of publication, at the time of tabling or when the copies are made available to the public? An incorrect copy had apparently been made available to the public. Did the incorrect copy become law until such time as the correction was made? Did the corrected copy repeal the incorrect copy which was available to the public? I do not know whether everything is solved by reprinting a correct copy. I think this is a matter that our legal brains should take up and put right. We may have unknowingly been in error and in breach of a law for some time.
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- by leaveUnfortunately I made this short statement on behalf of Senator Scott and I am not, therefore, as fully briefed on the matter as I would wish. It is my understanding that the position is regularised by this statement. But I undertake to make very careful inquiries and to give the honourable senator a full response quickly. I think the position is as governed by the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903. So I think the position is regularised by this notice. I am not able specifically to answer the series of queries raised by the honourable senator, but I will seek early answers for him.
– I move:
Honourable senators will recall that this debate on the fifth report of the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges was deferred owing to the unfortunate fact that Senator Georges was in hospital at the time. Honourable senators will also recall that on 30 August 1979 the Senate referred to the Committee of Privileges three questions related to the imprisonment of Senator Georges in Queensland. The second and third questions related to whether the imprisonment of Senator Georges was a civil or criminal matter and whether the privilege of freedom from arrest, which adheres to senators under section 49 of the Constitution, had been violated. The report of the Committee concludes that the cause of Senator Georges’ imprisonment was not civil in character and, therefore, the privilege of freedom from arrest did not apply. No further consideration of these questions is required. The first matter referred to the Committee, however, is a matter of greater importance and has caused the Committee to recommend to the Senate that it passes the motion I have moved. This question concerns the failure of the authorities in Queensland to notify the President of the Senate of the imprisonment of Senator Georges. The Committee believes that this should have been done.
The Committee ‘s report notes that fortunately there have been few cases in the past of members of the Australian Parliament being imprisoned, at least by a court, and that in the one recent case known to the Committee, when Mr Uren was sent to gaol under a warrant issued by a court in New South Wales, the court notified the Speaker of the House of Representatives, observing the traditional courtesy to the Presiding Officer. The Committee believes that this was the proper course of action on the part of the authorities of that court. As the report indicates, it is firmly established in Britain that a court must notify the Speaker of the House of Commons of the imprisonment of a member of that House. This right to be notified is a privilege of the House. The reason for the practice is that the House must know why it is being deprived of the services of its member and must have formal knowledge of the reasons for the detention so that it can determine whether a privilege has been infringed. The report points out that, apart from these very cogent reasons, it is desirable that the practice of notification should be followed simply as a matter of courtesy.
The report also recommends that whilst the right to be notified of the imprisonment of members can be regarded as a privilege of the Senate under section 49 of the Constitution, and whilst the Senate would be justified in treating a failure to give such a notification as a contempt, action should be taken to secure the co-operation of the courts in the various jurisdictions of Australia in observing this practice. Should the Senate agree to the motion I have moved, the report of the Committee recommends follow-up action to secure that co-operation. The Senate will note that the report refers to the arrest and imprisonment of Senator Georges by the court which dealt with his case and does not refer to his earlier arrest and detention by the police.
There are three reasons for this. Firstly, under the law of Australia and that of other common law jurisdictions, arrest by the police can be only for the purpose of bringing a defendant before a court which then determines whether he will be held in custody. Therefore, the primary responsibility falls on the courts to take notice of a person’s membership of Parliament for the purpose of observing the privilege of freedom from arrest and the right of the Parliament to be notified of that arrest. Secondly, whilst there is good authority for the proposition that courts must take notice of a defendant’s membership of Parliament, there seems to be no authority on the question of a similar obligation falling upon the police. This matter was referred to by Professor Geoffrey Sawer in his submission to the House of Representatives Privileges Committee in connection with the case of Mr Uren. Thirdly, it may in any case be impracticable to impose an obligation upon the police to notify the President or the Speaker whenever they have arrested a member of Parliament.
It is realised that in practice there may be a considerable delay between the arrest of a defendant by the police and his appearance in a court and that the Parliament might be deprived of the services of one of its members for up to two or three days before the opportunity arises for a court to make the required notification. It may well be, therefore, that there ought to be some obligation upon the police to give notification of the arrest of a member. But the Committee’s report is concerned with ensuring that the primary responsibility falling upon the courts is accepted in Australia.
It should not be impractical for the courts to take notice of the defendant’s membership of Parliament. Under the present law this must be done already in relation to civil cases, as has already been indicated. It is apparently possible for the various courts in Great Britain to notify the Presiding Officers of any imprisonment of any member of parliament in spite of the fact that there are over 630 members of the House of Commons and over 1,000 members of the House of Lords. In any case, whenever a member of parliament appears before the courts the fact of his being a member of parliament is well known. It is believed, therefore, that the requirement to notify the Presiding Officers would not impose an undue burden upon the courts. Should a member of parliament appear in court under a different name, or if there were other circumstances which had the effect of concealing his membership of parliament from the court, the obligation on the court could not arise.
The Senate should note the implications of the motions I have moved and the Committee’s report in relation to the time of notification. The report indicates that the President should be notified when the detention of a senator has actually taken place pursuant to the order of a court. When a court issues a warrant of commitment in respect of a senator it would be proper for the court to notify the President when the court receives notification of the execution of the warrant. This was done in the case of Mr Uren when the New South Wales court notified the Speaker. In Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice it is stated that under the British practice when a court issues a warrant of attachment for the arrest of a member of parliament for contempt of court, the court notifies the Speaker when the warrant has been issued because the court does not know when the warrant is executed.
The procedure of attachment is an old procedure which is now regarded as virtually obsolete. It is not known whether any courts in any of the jurisdictions of Australia follow the procedure of issuing warrants of attachment or have any similar procedure whereby the court might not know when the arrest of a person actually takes place. In any case, the courts should have no difficulty in complying with the spirit of the report’s recommendation.
The motions I have moved deal also with a situation of a member’s being detained by a court-martial or an officer of the Defence Force. This, of course, can arise only when a senator is a serving member of the armed forces. It is at least theoretically possible and has happened in the case of a member of the House of Representatives in the past. The motion gives expression to the practice which prevails in Britain. The only other circumstance in which a member of parliament might be detained is under a law which provides for detention without trial or which suspends the writ of habeas corpus. Fortunately, no such laws are presently in force in Australia and therefore the report and the motions do not deal with that contingency. The Senate will note that the motions refer only to senators. This is because it is not for the Senate to say what should happen in relation to members of the House of Representatives.
– Why not?
-That is for that House to decide. If the Senate passes the motion and the follow up action recommended by the Committee is taken, the various courts of Australia will no doubt accept the obligation to notify the Presiding Officers whenever any member of parliament is detained.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m.- (Quorum formed).
Debate resumed from 11 October 1979, on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I would like to explain what seems to be a mix-up. The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, of which Senator Missen is Chairman, was presented to the Senate on 8 June 1 979. As he was away, I believe overseas, I as Deputy Chairman moved That the .Senate take note of the paper’. The matter then went on to the Notice Paper and it came up again on 1 1 October. As Senator Missen had returned from overseas he spoke to the motion which I had moved but had not spoken to. He stressed the two important factors of this report which requested the Government to do two things. The first was to get its house in order by perhaps altering the Acts Interpretation Act dealing with the disallowance of a regulation which does not bring into operation the regulation that existed before the disallowance. There was a vacuum in the regulation. As it was not clear what would happen- and this was only an opinion of the Attorney-General (Senator
Durack)- it was thought it should be put beyond dispute by amending the Acts Interpretation Act.
The second matter brought up in the report was that the regulations which throw an onus of proof upon the defendant in criminal proceedings should be clarified possibly by another Act to provide that in criminal proceedings the onus should at all times be on the prosecution. This is possibly one of the most important principles of human rights. It was suggested that the Government should act accordingly and perhaps the matter should go to the Standing Committee on Constitution and Legal Affairs to determine the ramifications and what should be done about the proposal.
Following the speech by Senator Missen I replied but there was not another speaker. The report was presented on 6 June. It came up again in the Senate in October. Obviously the Government has seen the report and considered the implications of the suggestions, but not one Government member spoke on the question- not one. As it may have been considered to be just another report of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee I had no alternative but to reply to my motion that the Senate take note of the paper. I pointed out that, although six months which the Government had stipulated as the time for the bringing down of a report had not at that stage expired, I did not think that there was any prohibition on it bringing down a report before the expiration of that time because the matters were so urgent. As the Government had not done so I invited it to bring down its report. It is now February 1980. Although more than six months has passed since the presentation of the report we have not had a response from the Government in accordance with its statement that it would bring down a report within six months. There are two important questions of law left in the balance. We do not know what the Government intends to do about them.
With respect, I point out that at the present time there is not a Minister in the Senate who can tell us the Government’s intention. Obviously it is a matter for the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). Until some action is taken there could well be criminal prosecutions under regulations and the onus of proof will be upon the defendant. This is a vital human rights matter. Senator Missen, who knows his law, has pointed out an important area of jurisprudence. I commend to the Senate the speech he made on 1 1 October 1979. Although these questions are important, no one is taking any notice.
This raises the question why the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is sitting. Why are we wasting our time every week on a voluntary basis to bring down reports for this chamber in an endeavour to protect the interests of individuals in the community if we have a government that takes no notice of them at all- no notice at all- from June in one year to February the following year? Nothing has been done to rectify the anomalies or the ambiguity that the Committee found in the legislation. There is no more than I can say. I can only impress upon the Senate that no one is interested. Senator Missen and I serve on that Committee. Apparently we are interested in the question but no Government representative has seen fit even to speak on this question and say that the Government will try to do something about these important issues which we have raised. I can only ask the Government to agree to the motion that the Senate take note of the report and perhaps in a subsequent motion some action can be taken on this question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 September 1979, on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Sente take note of the statement. ( Quorum formed).
-Mr President, I look around the chamber to see whether there is to be a response from any member of the Government. I see that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is here now. Should he desire to speak on this matter I will, of course, defer to him. When this matter came before the Senate on 13 September 1979 I moved the motion that the Senate take note of the paper and spoke in reply to the statement which constituted a response by the Government to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and which the Attorney-General had put down. I then made some, I think, pretty severe criticisms of the response which had been received from the Government.
I do not intend to repeat those remarks. They stand in the record. They stand unchanged. Unfortunately, I have no reason to retract them or to find any consolation in anything that has happened since that time. We were told that legislation would be brought in to implement the Government’s decisions, which made a move in the direction of the reforms which the Committee had suggested. But no such legislation has yet been introduced. Of course, that legislation will not touch on the most vital area which was criticised, particularly by Senator Tate and me, in the debate; that is, the area of pay-as-you-earn taxation, in which the Government insists on retaining its priority. As I think we pointed out, that means that an estimated $5m a year will be retained by the Government. It will be recovered by way of the priority it has as the Crown over all other ordinary creditors.
I think that what I should do now is to say that there was one other speaker in previous debate on this matter; that was Senator Lewis. It would seem perhaps rather ungenerous of me to reply to his remarks as he spoke in the debate to support the remarks of his colleague from Victoria, namely me. But he did say in a gentle way that he thought that I, as Chairman of the Committee and the only continuing member of it, had been too close to the subject to see what really had been achieved. He thought more had been achieved than perhaps I saw in the statement which I had seen for only a short period up to that time. I am afraid that I have no reason to think that the ‘success’ which the Committee achieved in the Government’s statement was other than relatively minor. In fact, I see that the success is even more minor than I thought at that time. He did go on to say that, because of those factors, I had been unable to see what had been achieved and he thought that I had done my Committee and the Government ‘a slight injustice’.
The problem is that what the Government has agreed to do is to waive some of its priority in the Crown. Though finding itself in agreement with the whole approach which the Committee had taken and with our general arguments, the Government was not prepared to waive its priority in the area which is really the substantial matter in issue- an area in which the Government really does recover money. Of course, the Government’s decision on this is dependent upon discussions with the States. The States must be willing to forgo their priority because, if the Commonwealth priority goes, the State priority comes up and takes first place. I believe that the attitude of at least one State and possibly more is: Why should they forgo their priority if the Commonwealth probably will still receive the lions share in most cases. The States would have little to gain from that.
I had hoped that we might have heard something from the Attorney-General on this subject. It may be that I am wrong, that the States are willing to forgo their priority and that therefore these reforms can come into practical operation. As I have said, I will be very happy to stand aside to let the Attorney-General come into this debate. I had hoped that we would have heard more from the Government on this issue by this stage and that, as a Government representative, the Attorney-General would have entered into this debate. Therefore, I do not think that one is being ungenerous to the Government in saying that the half-way house that it has put forward as a solution to this problem is not likely to be successful. My belief is that more than one Stateprobably only one State is necessary- will not be prepared to go along with the legislative changes that are needed to abandon both Federal and State priorities.
In support of our recommended reforms we had so much evidence from all sides of the community- from trade unions, companies, liquidators, the small creditors who have always been the ones who have lost out on this and from the employees who also have suffered. We had a mass of evidence. The only evidence against our recommendations was from the Commissioner of Taxation and the Department of Finance. It appears that to this stage those two have won. That being so, I regret to say that I am sure the Committee feels that this is a most disappointing result after its effort. I still hope that we might hear something from the Government in this regard or that, failing that, in the debate tonight it will look again at the solutions which we think are fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. (Quorum formed).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) by leave- I regret I was not in the chamber when the matter of the response which the Government made to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs was called on for debate; I had not expected it to be brought on for debate quite so soon after the suspension of the sitting for dinner. I regret that I do not have much more information to give to the Senate in relation to that matter. The Senate will realise that the matter falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) and not mine. But I can advise the Senate as follows: As Senator Missen recognised, some amendments to the legislation are required to give effect to the Government’s views on the matter. I am advised that the necessary amendments to the Bankruptcy Act are incorporated in the Bankruptcy Amendment Bill 1979, and that amendments to other Acts are being prepared. Some of the amendments in relation to Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance may require the approval of the States under the co-operative arrangements with the States in relation to the companies and securities scheme. As Senator Missen has already indicated, the question of Crown priorities in respect of the States is a matter for the States, and negotiations are in train with the States to amend the proposed companies and securities legislation to give full effect to the Government’s decision. I am not in a position to state how far that is advanced.
As a stop gap measure the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) has decided under the provisions of the Audit Act that the Commonwealth will waive all remaining crown priorities except those relating to Pay-as- YouEarn taxation. I think that is all that I can tell the Senate as to any developments that have occurred since the Government’s response was made here. I appreciate that members of the Committee who have spoken in this debate have expressed disappointment about the decision. The Government is still of the view expressed in its response to the statement. It will, however, pursue the implementation of the decisions which it has taken. I will endeavour to obtain for the Senate as soon as I can a report on how far the discussion with the States has proceeded, and how far the Government has been successful in persuading the States that they should withdraw their priorities to the same extent as the Commonwealth.
Debate resumed from 25 September 1979, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– I am attracted by this item on the Senate Business Paper. I must say that it reads very well. It states that the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations should occupy some of its time investigating expenditure on the hire of pot plants. I notice that the item appears on the Notice Paper in consequence of a motion moved by Senator Button. No doubt his whimsical nature must have been attracted to this. I have no doubt that had he been here he would have said considerably more in lighter vein and in a manner that I cannot match. For that reason, because’ Senator Button is required elsewhere this evening, I believe we should put the matter to the Senate.
- Senator Georges has said that perhaps when Senator Button took the adjournment he was speaking in a somewhat lighter vein and that he might have dealt with the matter in a light vein tonight. I would think that having the matter referred to this Committee would not have been in a light vein, that people were concerned about the very heavy expenditure by this Government on the hire of pot plants. I want to express my concern that the taxpayers’ money could be wasted in this area when there are so many areas of need in this country, when the Government could be spending the taxpayers’ money to relieve suffering, particularly among the underprivileged and the pensioners. I think it is a very good thing that this matter has been drawn to the attention of the Senate, that we now have people in government who are prepared to spend exorbitant amounts of money on the hire of pot plants. There was another occasion when we found that cut flowers were introduced. They were freighted up from Victoria for a function here in Parliament House. That was another waste of the taxpayers’ money. I would think that when Senator Button took the adjournment on this he was very sincere in what he did. Had he been here tonight and not required elsewhere on the other duties which have called him away, I am sure he would have had some very strong words to say. I hope the Government takes great cognisance of the fact that the Senate is concerned and its Committees are concerned about the waste of money by the Government on such frivolous things as the hire of pot plants for this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 27 September 1 979, on motion by Senator Coleman:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9 October 1979, on motion by Senator Ryan:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– The Joint Committee on the Australian Captial Territory has looked at the ministerial response in regard to this matter, as I mentioned in my earlier comments. While it is disappointed at the fact that the Government has not been able to accept six of our recommendations, we are happy that it has accepted more than 30 others. Of the recommendations that the Joint Committee made to the Parliament and thereby to the Government, there was one in particular to which I should like to refer tonight. That is a proposal that a land use tribunal should be established in the Australian Capital Territory to deal with a range of problems that confront citizens of the ACT with respect to many matters relating to land use or changes in land use, and for which there are not now adequate appeal mechanisms available, or where those mechanisms have to be through some judicial procedure.
The Joint Committee examined such appeals mechanisms around Australia. For example, it looked at the system in Queensland, which has an almost entirely judicial process. It looked at procedures elsewhere, such as in Hobart where procedures are handled by tribunals- not by the complex and often very costly judicial means. The Committee felt that in the Australian Capital Territory there was a need to look at some new system, in effect some additional means of appeal on a range of issues for citizens in the Territory. It opted for a system that would avoid the complexities and the expenses involved in judicial proceedings and proposed that a land use tribunal be established to deal with the range of matters which are set out in the report that the Joint Committee presented to the Parliament last year.
In his response on the report, as I have mentioned already, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) indicated that the Government had been able to accept most of the recommendations in the report, but not all of them. One of the recommendations that the Government did accept was the one relating to a land use tribunal. The Government conceded the need for such a tribunal and endorsed the general views of the Committee. The Minister made the point in his statement that the Government at that stage, and it was very close to the end of the session, had not been able to resolve the details as to the form and procedures of such a tribunal. In particular, the Minister said that the Government wanted to examine the possibility of some of the appeals referred to by the Committee in its report being put to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, thereby requiring some amendment to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act.
Earlier this week, on the resumption of Parliament, I asked what action the Government had been able to take since the Minister’s response on this matter last November. I believe that it is a matter of great importance to the people of the Territory because of the need to have more appropriate, effective and readily available means of appeal on a whole range of land use matters. The response provided by Senator Scott, representing Mr Ellicott, was that the Government had referred the matter to the Administrative Review Council, asking particularly for its views as to how such a tribunal might be set up and what role in that its system of appeals the Administrative Appeals Tribunal itself might have. He said that once the Administrative Review Council has had the opportunity to examine the matter and report to the Government the Government will give that report and the recommendations of the Administrative Review Council high priority. I am sure that all members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory would be appreciative of the fact that the Minister has indicated that the Government will give priority to that matter when the Administrative Review Council has been able to put its views on the proposal of the Joint Committee to the Government.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members of the Joint Committee, including Senator Ryan, my colleague from the Territory in this place, who cannot be here because of illness, when I say that the Committee regards this matter as one of great significance and of the highest priority. Not only are there difficulties in the present system of appeals that are available but also there “are gaps. The Joint Committee proposed the establishment of the land use tribunal, as it was termed, to overcome those sorts of problems and to provide avenues of appeals on such matters to citizens in this Territory. I stress that those avenues of appeal are readily available to citizens elsewhere in Australia. It is worth stressing that these matters are of particular significance in the Capital Territory because there is no three-tier power structure, as we call it, of government in this Territory. There is no local government with any executive authority to make decisions on normal local government matters. There is no State government to make executive decisions on the range of issues normally dealt with by State governments. All these matters are Commonwealth responsibilities and are dealt with by Commonwealth departments.
For this reason the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has taken the view that a more effective means of public participation, particularly in the planning and decisionmaking process, which affects everybody who lives in the Territory- well over 200,000 people are now living here- should be accessible to the citizen. The individual and the community in general should have a greater capacity to participate in that process and to appeal against decisions that are made. Lacking the normal structure of local and State governments, there is an obvious gap in the capacity to participate or go to local elected representatives who are, to a significant degree, accountable to voters for what they do and for the actions that they may take on particular issues. The Joint Committee in its report has given particular attention to the whole range of issues relating to the community in the Australian Capital Territory having some capacity to participate in the planning and decision-making processes and to have a greater capacity to appeal against some of the decisions that affect people in relation to land use. It was in that respect that the Committee proposed the establishment of a land use tribunal.
I take this opportunity to reiterate the emphasis which the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory gave to this matter, the significance which attached to it in the context of this report on planning in the Australian Capital Territory and the wish of the Committee that the matter would be resolved soon; we hope that the Administrative Review Council will make its views known to the Government as soon as possible, and that the Government will, as the Minister has indicated, act promptly when that report is available to the Government and make a decision as to the form that such a land use tribunal should take. I emphasise that the Government has indicated that it accepts the principle that there should be such an appeals mechanism. The only question now is what form it should take. It is that question which the Administrative Review Council is examining and on which the Government must make a decision- not on the principle but on the form which the tribunal should take.
Since it has been some time since this matter first arose, I repeat that the report by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Teritory was really a follow-up to a report by a Senate select commitee of 1955 which was asked to examine the future of Canberra. That was at a time when the future of this city, the national capital, was uncertain and when the Government of the time and, no doubt, the Parliament of the time was exercised to some extent as to what should happen in Canberra. That select committee reported in the following year. The report and the recommendations that went with it had two major results. The select committee was chaired by Senator McCallum. Of the two major recommendations which were implemented, one resulted in the establishment of the National Capital Development Commission, which remains the body responsible for the planning and development of the national capital. The other resulted in the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the late 1950s. It is fitting that at the end of the 1970s, 20 years later, Joint Committee itself should have taken somewhat further the report of the Senate select committee which had given rise to the creation of the Joint Committee. It was in that context that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory was asked by a former Minister for the Capital Territory to look at planning procedures and the question of public participation in those procedures in the Capital Territory. In the 20-year period since the late 1950s this city has grown from one of about 30,000 people to 200,000 people. It has developed from a large country town into a major city, the largest inland city in Australia, and one with its own particular problems.
As I have mentioned already, lacking the other tiers of government, the city is very responsive to Commonwealth Government decisions relating to employment and expenditure. We have seen in recent years how those sorts of decisions can affect this city and the people who live in it. It was in that context that the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory was asked, in effect, to look at what had happened since the late 1950s and the implementation of major recommendations of the Senate Select Committee and to assess where Canberra should go from there now that it had become a major city. It was against that background that the Joint Committee examined the existing planning procedures and the role of the community in the decision-making process and made recommendations as to how that role should develop in the future. We saw the need for significant changes in the means of public participation in the process of planning and development this city. Whereas the National Capital Development Commission was established originally to develop broad acres, open country and to build a new city or new towns, it is now developing or redeveloping urban areas. It is playing a rather different role which involves many more people than it did in the past.
The Joint Committee, because of those sorts of factors, had to look very carefully at the capacity of the people here to have some say in the processes that now affect them. The Committee recommended, as I have mentioned, a number of processes that we felt would increase the capacity of the community to have some say in the planning process and in the decision-making process that affects them. The Government has been able to support, and will implement most of those recommendations. Some the Government has rejected. The Committee is disappointed about some issues which were substantial recommendations. But as I have mentioned tonight, one issue that I think all members of the Committee would want to give particular attention to at this stage is the establishment of the land use tribunal, which the Committee recommended and which the Administrative Review Council is now examining and on which the Government has said it will now take action as quickly as possible after the Administrative Review Council reports to the Government.
It is in the context of the background of this report, following the Senate Select Committee of the 1950s, and the changes in Canberra from a large country town to a significant city, that the Committee examined these issues. It is in that context that the land use tribunal is of such importance. It is for that reason that I feel it ought to be emphasised on this occasion in the Senate.
– I recall that when this report was presented I made some comments on it which I think rather shocked Senator Knight because he thought he was talking off the subject. But I cannot see that a general consideration of Canberra is out of order in a debate on a report of planning in the Australian Capital Territory. I wanted to make the point again because I have heard nothing in what Senator Knight has said about the real issues involving Canberra, which is probably one of the most highly manicured cities in the world and also one of the major depressed areas in Australian society. I would have thought that at some stage these realities might enter the minds of the Committee and that it might consider the situation. I suggest that honourable senators talk to a few shopkeepers in the Belconnen Mall. They will find that people there are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, just an edge away from bankruptcy. They should consider the fact that it is now notorious wanting to buy electrical goods. One does not buy them in Sydney or Melbourne but in Canberra because Canberra is such a depressed society -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Mason is once again utterly irrelevant to the question under discussion. I would point out to him that the Joint Committee is a bipartisan Committee of this Parliament. It made a bipartisan report without dissent. It related to planning procedures and public participation. The terms of reference are quite clear. Senator Mason quite clearly has not read the report. We are now discussing the Minister’s response to that report, with which I dealt quite specifically. It is not unusual for Senator Mason to be utterly irrelevant, but I would suggest that he ought to be held to the subject of this debate.
– I raise a point of order. Senator Knight is entitled to make a point of order but I do not think he is entitled to engage in personal abuse of my colleague Senator Mason, and I would ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– Relevancy in debate is necessary. At the same time the honourable senators feel compelled to reply to other honourable senators. I will listen to Senator Mason and hear that which he has to say.
– I am obliged to you for that ruling Mr President. It is a fact that Senator Knight, in the course of his speech, gave us a long dissertation, going back as far as 1955, on the planning of Canberra and the origins of this Committee. He has introduced into the debate I suggest a whole area of consideration of the planning and future of this city and its present plight. I raise these matters because I heard him make those comments and because it seems to me not irrelevant that we should consider them. I believe that as a member of this Parliament who represents Canberra Senator Knight should be concerned, beyond technicalities, of the plight of the city that he represents- a place where unemployment is rife and where people have no hope of ever finding work for their children because there is nothing here they can work at.
– I raise another point of order. That is not only irrelevant; it is untrue. If Senator Mason wants to indulge in statements of that kind, I suggest he perhaps do it outside this place rather than debasing the Senate by such statements. Let me put to you again, Mr President, that his comments are utterly irrelevant to the subject under debate. I confined myself very strictly to the subject matter of this debate- a planning report and the Government’s response to it. I suggest that Senator Mason should do the same.
– I rise to speak on a point of order. It seems to me that Senator Knight is becoming very sensitive to the questions that Senator Mason has raised. After all, Canberra is recognised as a Public Service city but because of the policies being pursued by this Government, there is a decline in Canberra. It is noticeable at all levels. Certainly in my sphere of activity I can endorse what Senator Mason has said. Canberra has too many shops, there is a lack of consumer demand in Canberra -
– Is this a point of order or not?
– Order! I have heard sufficient discussion and debate on this. The fact is that we must keep to the matter before the chamber as specifically and directly as possible. Honourable senators may need to refer to certain other matters in introducing certain aspects of the subject, but they must be relevant to that subject because that is necessary under Standing Orders. Honourable Senators must remain relevant to the business before the House.
– I raise a point of order. I think that you, Mr President, should rule what is relevant. We are discussing a report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Knight has told us that he went through the report on the planning of the Australian Capital Territory. What Senator Mason is telling us now is that with all their planning the authorities have mucked things up somewhat with the result that businesses are going bankrupt. Surely that is relevant to the question. When there is a fellow sniping at someone all the time to stop him from saying things, he is entitled to some rebuttal. In this case Senator Mason has raised the question of Senator Knight’s concern. If a politician here cannot take the knocks, including accusations that possibly he is not concerned with the city of Canberra, he has no right to be here.
- Mr President, I must respond to this -
- Senator Mason was entirely relevant to the question. If you, Mr President, say that Senator Mason must keep relevant, you must try and tell us what relevancy is. No member should take objection to a statement made against his contribution unless it offends Standing Order 418. 1 say that respectfully. But I do not think casting some doubts on Senator Knight’s interest in the Australian Capital Territory comes within Standing Order 418.
– The fact is that we are debating the Government’s response to a report. Senator Mason must adhere to the Government’s response to the report which has been tabled.
-I feel that you, Mr President, would permit me to clarify a point with Senator Knight. I have not made any allegations about Senator Knight. I think he must have misheard me. I said that he should consider the plight of this city, as he is the member for it. I think that is not an unreasonable statement to make. I was rather surprised, to be honest, with his response to it. I did not say he was neglecting his electorate. I did not make any statement of that kind.
– You did say he was not interested, and I supported you.
– We will leave that point. I feel that it is irrelevant, anyway, and I am probably transgressing in becoming irrelevant to that extent. The matter on which I was giving introductory material was the matter of planning. I agree very much that this city needs it. The planning of Canberra, until now- possibly due to preoccupations with the minutiae of organising reports and so on- may not have taken the direction it should have. I made certain points about the inadequacies of Canberra. I would like to ask why there is not more industry in this city. I do not mean the type of industry that is found in Fyshwick, where there are service industries. Why not allow Canberra to become, to some extent, a normal type of city where things actually happen and where life goes on, not just a Public Service town?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 11 October 1979, on motion by Senator Rae:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– I wish to take the opportunity to make a few remarks on the matter before the Senate, which is the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on the Advance to the Minister for Finance. I had a telephone call last week from a very agitated and concerned ex-serviceman. He had been told that he had qualified for a loan from the Department of Primary Industry. But, after having made the necessary arrangements to carry out his financial affairs, he was told that the Department did not have enough money to fulfil the promise that it had made to him. It has caused him great concern.
The report tabled by Senator Rae on 1 1 October 1979, under the heading of ‘Authority for Advance ‘, on page 4, states:
The Advance to the Minister for Finance (or the Advance to the Treasurer as it was called before the Department of Finance was created in December 1976) is a means of enabling a Government to expend money on items in excess of their specific appropriation or where no appropriation has been provided for them.
In this particular case, on retiring from the Army this ex-serviceman with 24 years service applied for a loan through the Department of Primary Industry. He was told that he qualified for a loan of $10,000 but shortly afterwards he was advised that the Department had no money and could not find the money that it had promised. He telephoned the Department in Canberra and said that he would contact a senator. I happened to be the senator that he contacted. The next day I telephoned the Department, and spoke to an officer. I stress that I direct no criticism at all at the officers of the Department; my criticism is levelled at the Government. I was told that a cheque for $8,500 was being mailed that day to this gentleman but that he would have to get bridging finance for the remaining $1,500, and that the Department hoped that it could find that money in the next month.
This caused me great concern. I suggested to the officer concerned that the Department approach the Department of Finance, through the Advance to the Treasurer, as it then was. He was startled to know that the Department could get money in that way. I said that I recalled that last year an approach was made to the Department of Finance for an advance of $40m to buy two VIP aircraft for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I thought that it was a sorry state of affairs when a government could not find $10,000 for a man who had served in the armed forces for 24 years. I was informed also by the person who telephoned me- not the person in the Department- that there are four other people in a similar situation, who find themselves financially embarrassed because the Government cannot find the money that they have been promised.
This matter having been raised in Parliament, first by the Committee and now by myself, I hope that this does not happen again; that the Government does not see ex-servicemen financially embarrassed and having to find bridging finance at a much higher rate of interest than they had been promised by the loans department of the Department of Primary Industry. I hope that no member of parliament will be approached in the future by an ex-serviceman who has been promised a loan and then told within a very short time that the Government has run out of money so he will have to go to a private money lender or banking institution to get the money to make good the amount they have borrowed from creditors. If the Government can do that, it will save a lot of embarrassment to people who are, in the main, in country towns and who want to get on with their farming pursuits.
– I wish to speak on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations but I confess that at the beginning I will be mildly irrelevent. However, I seek the indulgence of the Senate. Certainly what I am about to say will not be party political, and it will be in the interests of assisting the Senate. I believe that every honourable senator would agree that this night is a precious night for private members. This is a matter which quite often governments pull off the Notice Paper, necessarily, at the end of a session. There are many important but fundamental items on the list of something like 200 matters to be dealt with, and yet tonight honourable senators find themselves debating matters such as potplants and whatever, which may well have appeared important at the time they were put on the Notice Paper but have since receded in importance.
Part of the system is that where anything is referred to a committee of the Senate it immediately takes precedence on the Notice Paper, so that there might be some quite fundamental matters such as the Human Rights Commission report- which I think is probably one of the most fundamental human rights documents brought down in Australia in the past 20 years- buried in the Notice Paper. At this rate we will never get to that matter. As each week goes by it will be buried even further. This is not a criticism of the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) because he is in charge of Government business and he would be the last person to interfere with the rights of private members. It is hardly the responsibility of the Whips, because they are bound by Standing Orders. Certainly I do not have a solution to the problem but it seems to be an inordinate waste of money- that is what honourable senators are talking about- to debate matters in that order. The Meat Board annual report 1976-77 is item No. 21 on the Notice Paper and yet the statement on the Royal Commission on Human Relationships is item 25. There is also the report of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare, the report and evaluation of the Australian health and welfare services, on which Senator Baume made one of the best speeches on social welfare I have heard in this chamber for some time. Many of us want to speak on matters like that but at this rate probably we will never get to them.
I thank the Senate for its indulgence but I do believe that honourable senators ought to have enough wit amongst them to devise a system by agreement between the private members to put this list into some reasonable pecking order so that on every second Thursday night we have some fundamental matters to debate, most of which are non-party political and which could enhance the stature and standing of this chamber.
- Senator McLaren referred to what he felt was a prejudiced case involving an ex-serviceman. If he cares to write to me and give me the details of the ex-serviceman concerned I will undertake to follow up the matter. If I heard Senator Chipp correctly regarding the conduct of the business of the Senate, I understand that it is the precedent that the Orders of the Day are called on in the order that they are listed. Unless and until this chamber agrees to alter that procedure we will continue with it. This being honourable senators’ business, it is in their hands. We will conform with their wishes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 11 October 1979, on motion by Senator Davidson :
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I wish to make a few remarks this evening regarding the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts report on the Archives Bill 1978. Just as Senator Missen did earlier today I wish to make a preliminary apology for not having put together all the material that I wanted to bring together on the Archives Bill and the report on the Archives Bill because obviously I was not paying close enough attention to the fact that we would arrive at General Business Order of the Day No. 7 on the Notice Paper by 9 o ‘clock this evening.
There are two aspects of the report on the Archives Bill to which I wish to draw attention. One relates to the relationship between this report and Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs report on Freedom of Information. The other more substantive matter that I wish to deal with this evening relates to the Committee’s recommendations on the Australian film industry. I wish to make some remarks about that industry as they relate to the recommendations contained in the report on the Archives Bill. But I wish to start by indicating that the Archives Bill is one which in some ways is complementary to the Freedom of Information Bill. When these Bills came before the Senate some time ago, both were referred to separate committees of the Senate. In fact the Archives Bill suffered the fate of being split by a device of this chamber so that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts reported on the Archives Bill in fairly general terms, without paying any attention to freedom of information aspects, and the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee was required to report on the freedom of information aspects of the Archives Bill. Without at this stage attempting to explore the somewhat different conclusions that have been reached by the two committees, explicitly in the case of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee and implicitly in the case of the Education and the Arts Committee, there are a couple of matters to which I believe attention ought be drawn.
The Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, in dealing with the Archives, for instance spent some time discussing the composition of a body which is to be established under the Act and which is to be entitled the Advisory Council on Australian Archives. According to, I think, clause 10 (2) (a) of the Archives Bill, the Advisory Council is currently to be established with a certain number of members, one of whom is to be Director-General of the Australian Archives. The Education and the Arts Committee has recommended at paragraph 4.22 that clause 10 (2) (a) of the Bill be amended in such a way as to remove the Director-General of Archives as a member of the Advisory Council on Australian Archives. That is a point of view which was canvassed, to a certain extent, before the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. It did not find much support with its members. The Education and the Arts Commitee indicated its support for an advisory council of 1 1 members. In fact it says very little about the actual role that that advisory council is to play.
However, paragraph 34.25 of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee report on Freedom of Information reads:
There is one other power of the Archives in the exercise of which, in our opinion, the Advisory Council ought also to play a role. Hitherto we have emphasised the importance of making information available to the public as to which of the Commonwealth’s archival resources have been preserved. Equal emphasis must be placed upon availability of information as to which archival resources are to be destroyed. Pursuant to clause 25 of the Bill, any Commonwealth record can be destroyed by agreement between the Archives and the Commonwealth institution from which the record was received. It was conceded by a spokesman from the Archives that: ‘It is certainly possible that records can be destroyed without the potential users of those records knowing of that action. ‘
The Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee was concerned that in the establishment of the Advisory Council on Australian Archives some changes in its method of operation should be effected. The recommendation that the Committee came down with is set out in paragraph 34.28 of the report and reads:
The Archives Bill should be amended to provide that the Australian Archives shall not permit or approve the destruction of a Commonwealth record until the proposal to destroy the record has first been notified to a meeting of the Advisory Council on Australian Archives.
The tenor of the Freedom of Information report is that the end users of Commonwealth information should be represented more effectively on the Advisory Council and that the destruction of Australian archival records should not take place without the Advisory Council having a role to play and should not be a matter within the jurisdiction of the Director-General alone or of the professional officers of the Archives. Therefore I think it will be necessary to read the Education and the Arts Committee report on the Archives Bill more closely and in conjunction with the recommendations which the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee has made in its own analysis of the freedom of information aspects of the Australian Archives.
However the significant point to which I now wish to turn is in fact an area dealt with in the Education and the Arts Committee report with which I find myself very much in strong disagreement. It relates to the way in which film archives are to be preserved in Australia. As honourable senators will know, Australia is now going through a rebirth of the Australian film industry. Preserved in the National Library of Australia is one of the most unique collections of film archives to be found anywhere in the world. It is certainly the most unique collection of films, stills of films, film scripts, details about films, television programs, literature about films, magazines and professional journals about films that can be found anywhere in Australia.
It was quite clear, from the evidence presented to the Education and the Arts Committee, that there was substantial disagreement between the Australian Archives and the National Library of Australia over the way in which film records were to be preserved. In essence it boiled down to this. The Australian Archives said: We as the principal archival authority of the Commonwealth should have the carriage of the storage, maintenance and collation of films within Australia. (Quorum formed). The National Library of Australia took an entirely contrary view to that expressed by the Australian Archives. It put forward the proposition that the National Library which, at the moment, has its own national film archive should be permitted to continue to be the principal collecting and repository authority of film records in Australia.
I want to examine why I believe that the case put by the National Library is, in fact, a better case than that put by the Australian Archives, although the Education and the Arts Committee concluded its deliberations in favour of the recommendations made to it by the Australian Archives. As I have said, the national film archives is located within the framework of the National Library of Australia. I understand from talking to the Director and the officers of the national film archives that very few members of Parliament have ever, in fact, taken the time or the interest to go to the national film archives in order to see what is there and to get some understanding of the work that it is currently engaged in. If they do they will find very precious film records of the extremely early part of Australia’s film development. They will find films of 1907 and 1908. They will find the first moving film record which the National Library acquired from a private collector in France. In fact, it is one of the earliest films of the Melbourne Cup. It is perhaps not surprising that the running of the Melbourne Cup in about 1898 is the first piece of moving film that was ever made in Australia.
– Do you know who won it?
-No, but I do not think it was Archer. I understand that the collection of early films is something of which the National Library is very proud. That is an important aspect of this debate. The National Library has developed within the film archives the means for preserving, caring for and repairing old films. Those services are not available within the Australian Archives at present. Any move to transfer the film archives from the National Library to the Australian Archives, which does not possess the highly expensive and complex technical facilities to keep those films in good repair and in proper storage, may well lead to the permanent loss of some of the most valuable records of the Australian film industry and early life in Australia. When the National Library Inquiry Committee reported to the Parliament in 1956-57 it established, on page 1 1 of this report, the particular function that the National Library was to play in the development of film archives. In paragraph 63 it drew attention to the fact that: . . the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, the main national film libraries are quite separate from traditional libraries.
In paragraph 64 the report went on to indicate the following:
The National Library has taken the view that film collection and distribution is a proper activity for it to undertake. Its first activity in this field, we were told, was to collect and preserve Australian films as pan of the total record of Australian life and development. From this beginning as a repository of historic Australian films, it has come to have the largest library in Australia of documentary and educational films and to be very active in the business of fulfilling orders (at cost) for prints made from negatives held either by itself (usually of films produced overseas) or by the Film Division of the News and Information Bureau of the Department of the Interior (Australian National Film Board films). The actual making of the prints is not done by the Library but by commercial firms and the Film Division of the News and Information Bureau.
From those beginnings the film archives has developed in the National Library. Not only does it possess films but it possesses all the adjuncts to the film industry, including historical records. For instance I have a May 1979 publication entitled Unpublished Film Script Holdings. If those interested in the film industry wish to go through this document, which has some 85 pages and I guess it has five or six entries to the page, detailing unpublished film scripts held by the Australian film archives at the moment, they will see the creativity and the interest that a large number of Australians have taken in the film industry, not only in recent years but also going back a long way into history. The draft report of the interdepartmental committee on Commonwealth Archives which was referred to the Commonwealth Librarian in 1963, at paragraph 55, after analysing the functions of the Commonwealth Archives Office, stated:
This statement of functions of the Archives Office raises the question of the status, in future, of records which are marginal to the work of the Archives Office and of the two institutions which have been provisional Archival Authorities viz the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial.
It is quite apparent that for reasons best known to itself, the Australian Archives has pursued a deliberate policy of establishing itself as almost the sole repository of the archival records of Australia. I believe it has done this at the expense, in some instances, of the material that has been held in places such as the War Memorial and, indeed, the National Library. It was for that reason that the National Library went before the Education and the Arts Committee and asked that Committee to make an amendment to the definition of the word ‘record’ in sub-clause 3(1). Its amendment was:
So as to exclude published material (films, sound recordings, printed material, photographs, maps, et cetera) that is essentially the end-product of government activity and only incidentally evidence of a government transaction.
That was a view which the Australian Archives fought against very strongly. It said that it was not intending and that it would not be proper for it to duplicate the work that the National Library was doing in relation to film archives. The Committee, in paragraph 2.8 of its report, concluded that no amendment should be made to the definition of ‘record’. So the Committee, in fact, has adjudicated between the claims put to it by the Australian Archives and the claims put to it by the National Library on behalf of the national film archives and has adjudicated in favour of the Australian Archives. I think that is a wrong decision. I think it is a decision which fails to appreciate the very substantial difference in the way in which one would care for, collate and catalogue and, indeed, repair and preserve different types of archival records. Old films particularly cannot be treated in the same way as old books. The repair of old films is a very specialised and very difficult task. The persons who currently do that, who are trained experts, specialists and highly skilled people, are part of the National Library. They are part of the national film archives. Nobody within the Australian Archives has the slightest interest in films as films as distinct from an interest in films simply as yet another archival record. I believe that any move to transfer the films held by the national film archive into the Australian Archives would be a most detrimental step. The Australian film industry is one of the more exciting and more enlivening aspects of Australian cultural life. It is in a renaissance at the moment. I believe that it does not receive sufficient encouragement from the Government. I do not believe that it receives sufficient encouragement from the private sector in Australia. It would be a great tragedy if those records- which are in some ways indispensable to any film industry so that it can see what has gone before, how many versions of the Ned Kelly story have been put on film and how they have been made and interpretedshould be put at risk by being physically transferred from the National Library to the Australian Archives.
The service that the Australian Archives provides for people who are users of the National Library is extraordinary. A person can go to the film archives section of the National Library and if he has the time and interest can go through filing cabinet upon filing cabinet containing the printed stills of films held by the Archives, including the oldest films made in Australia. One can obtain copies of them at a reasonable cost. They make a most interesting historical record. I believe that its failure to appreciate the substantial difference that exists between the archival records that are held in the normal print on paper type and those which exist on celluloid and those which exist as old films has led the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts to make a recommendation about the preservation of Australia’s film history which should not be supported.
When the Archives Bill eventually comes before the Senate I shall be pressing very strongly to seek an amendment to it in order to ensure that the definition of ‘record’ which appears in the Archives Bill is in fact altered so that the film archives can be preserved and protected within the existing structure and in the hands of the existing dedicated specialists and experts in the national film archive within the National Library of Australia.
I think the Education and the Arts Committee has made an important decision, but unfortunately it is one which I believe the Senate should not be prepared to accept. I hope that in the interim, between now and the eventual debate on the Archives Bill, a number of senators and members will avail themselves of the opportunity of a brisk walk at lunchtime across to the National Library to have a look at the archival records in the film archives section of the National Library. The records are fascinating. The dedication and the skill which have been brought to bear by the people who are charged with their preservaiton at the moment is impressive. The records are part of our national heritage which should not be put at risk by being transferred into the care and control of people who have no expertise in this field and who indeed are not possessed of the same degree of interest and enthusiasm about film records as those people at the National Library. The record, for instance, at the National Library, which I understand now has the only complete collection of the Mavis Bramston Show- the library also obtains from all the television stations the Australian made television programs which the television stations are no longer interested in keeping and storing- undoubtedly will provide some future social historian with a great deal of evidence to make his comments about the development of social attitudes in Australia.
Having made those points about the film archives and because I believe it is important that we should also debate those aspects of the report of the Education and the Arts Committee as they relate to those things which have been raised by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, I will take this opportunity to seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18 October 1979, on motion by Senator Georges:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
-Mr Deputy President, I take this opportunity to congratulate you on being elected to the office of Chairman of Committees. We are confronted with the response by the Government to the report on dual nationality by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I believe it must go down as one of the most heartless and indifferent responses by a government to the bipartisan dual chamber deliberations of the elected representatives of this country. The report deals with a matter of great concern to many hundreds of thousands of Australians, the many migrants who have come to this nation particularly from nonCommonwealth nations since the Second World War.
A migrant comes to Australia, takes up residence, decides to take on the obligations of citizenship and goes through a ceremony full of emotion and great significance at which time he makes an oath or affirmation saying that he will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil his duties as an Australian citizen. Immediately before that oath or affirmation he renounces all former allegiances. But because of the peculiarities of the hold which some nation states maintain on their citizens even though they have migrated to Australia, one finds that the renunciation which is required by the Australian community as a condition of obtaining citizenship is utterly ineffective in that the renunciation in no way affects the claims of the government of the former homeland of the new Australian citizen upon the now Australian citizen. This creates not only a degree of upset and personal turmoil for the person concerned but also very real risks and dangers, particularly when such a person returns to his former homeland to engage in some business or simply returns as a tourist. All honourable senators, through their offices, would have dealt with people asking whether their return to Greece or Yugoslavia would involve their falling within the jurisdiction of the government of their former homeland, even though, as I say, they have in the citizenship ceremony accepted Australian citizenship and said that they will faithfully observe their duties as Australian citizens and have renounced or attempted to renounce their former nationality.
On 14 October 1976 the Joint Commitee put down a report which made certain recommendations for government action. I can say that almost without exception the recommendations of that Committee have been repudiated, not followed through by the Government, or else said to be impossible of fulfilment. Let me give some examples. The Committee recommended very strongly that the Australian Government take up in international forums particularly those associated with the United Nations, the whole question of dual nationality. The interdepartmental committee set up to examine the Joint Committee’s report said that this action would be unlikely to be effective. In its view there was no evidence that nation states were prepared to give up their discretions in these matters. The Government, in the response laid before this chamber in October of last year after three years consideration, came to exactly the same conclusion that multilateral negotiations were not the way to proceed in this matter because nation states were showing no signs of changing their attitudes. That does not happen to be correct. Both the Western European Community and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in conjunction with its Eastern European allies have shown they are prepared on a multilateral basis to devise machinery and means to forgo their claims on former nationals who wish voluntarily to renounce the nationality concerned. The Eastern European model followed by the USSR and its allies roughly assumes that the sole nationality follows residence between the nations concerned. Thus on moving from the USSR to Hungary, a person who obtained citizenship of Hungary would automatically lose his status as a Soviet national unless he expressed a choice of citizenship of the USSR. That is one model that obtains in the Eastern European bloc. I think Senator Knight, who is shaking his head, will find that that is corrct
– I am just wondering how meaningful that is. It is still in the Soviet bloc.
– Yes, but I am showing that a model is available there. What the Australian Government ought to be saying in negotiating with the Soviet or Eastern European authorities concerned is: ‘There is a model from which you can find a means of fulfilling the desire of your former nationals to take up the nationality of their new home of residence’. It ought to be done in those instances in which there is bona fide migration to this nation. I know it will not be as simple as that. I am not as naive as that, but the machinery does exist.
I agree that a more pertinent model to follow would be that obtaining in the Western European Community as established by the Council of Europe Convention of 1968. Under that model the person does need to seek the consent of the state whose nationality he wishes to renounce but the former homeland may not withhold consent if the person concerned has not been resident there for 10 years or more and is ordinarily resident in a state whose nationality he wishes to retain.
The point I made in the debate in this chamber in March 1 979 on this very topic was that there was no reason why Australia could not accede to that Council of Europe Convention.
– That includes Yugoslavia, does it?
– No, but it includes Greece, I imagine, which is a very important nation from this point of view. The point I am making -
– Could Australia accede to that and have that applied to Australians of Greek origin?
– Yes, I believe it could. There is no mention of that at all in the Government’s response to this report by the Joint Committee. My point is merely to illustrate that there has been movement in the international community where multilateral arrangements, embodied in various conventions, have been able to be arrived at. It seems to me that rather than the one-to-one approach of going in Canberra to the Argentinian Embassy, the Greek Embassy or the Yugoslav Embassy, it is still worth while the Australian Government pressing for a more international, a more multilateral, approach. The United Nations forum ought to be used because I believe ultimately it is not in bilateral government-to-government negotiations that a situation in which a concession will be made by the government of the Australian citizen who wishes to renounce citizenship of his former homeland will be found. It is more likely to happen that a concession will be made where the government of the former homeland is exposed in a multilateral international forum as wishing to retain a tyrannical unreasoning hold on a former national who had migrated, say, five, 10 or 15 years previously and made a new home in that country. Therefore, I believe it is unfortunate that the Australian Government appears to have put to one side the possibility of pressing for the raising of this matter of dual nationality in multilateral forums.
The other matter on which it is unfortunate to find a very negative response by the Government occurs in relation to that recommendation of the Committee concerning recording the name of the country of birth of an applicant for an Australian passport. As was raised many times by honourable senators on both sides including, I think, in particular Senator Lewis, during the debate in this chamber on the Passports Amendment Bill, it is a matter of grave concern to Australian citizens who were born say in Yugoslavia or in the former Baltic states that they are required to give on the passport application form the name of the country in which they were born. It has been found that this is a requirement that is enforced effectively by embassies which will refuse a visa to visit their country unless they find such evidence in the Australian passport. The point being made by the Committee and certainly by me is that the Australian Government, nation and community should not be so subservient to the claims and wishes of other nation states to require in an Australian passport that the name of the country of birth be recorded against the name of an Australian citizen. An Australian passport is an identification that a person is a citizen of Australia. It ought to be sufficient that the passport states that the holder is, for example, Michael Tate and that Michael Tate is a citizen of Australia and gives the place of residence in Australia. If a person is required to disclose details about his place of birth including the name of the country of birth when he wishes to visit, say, his former homeland, so be it. He may be required to do this in the visa application forms or the forms that he is required to fill in on the aircraft or the ship when approaching the port of destiny in that former homeland. But our passports should not be required to carry information which Australian citizens do not want to disclose to other governments.
– But if another government requires it before it will allow entry, what do you do? The Australian citizen simply cannot go there.
– I think the Australian Government ought to take a more robust line with the embassies and governments which make that claim and it should say quite reasonably that if in the visa application procedures they want to have that information as a condition of the Australian citizen visiting his former homeland, so be it. The Australian Government will not interfere with the application of the laws of the former homeland, but the Australian
Government should on behalf of the Australian community say ‘Our passports designating the status of a person as an Australian citizen is our property’ as the Passports Amendment Bill which we dealt with last session states. The passports are our property- the property of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is up to us to make a sovereign decision as to the information a passport contains. I am sorry that the Government has not been able to accede to that recommendation of the Committee which was made at the request, as I said, of many hundreds of thousands of Australians.
Another area in which the Government has refused to act is in the setting up of special machinery to deal with claims of harassment of Australian citizens. Many made claims in evidence before the Committee that they are subject to what in their view amounts to a form of intimidation or harassment by officials of the embassies or consular offices of the country of their former homeland, their prior nationality. It was recommended by the Committee, as I recall, that some such machinery as the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations ought to be publicised as particularly appropriate to those migrants who, having obtained Australian citizenship, claim that officers from the embassies or consular offices of their former homeland are making claims on their lives and interfering with the conduct of their affairs in a way which they regard as objectionable. That Office is no longer available as a result of legislation passed by this Government last year. But it is not surprising that the Government has come to the conclusion that no such office is required because the interdepartmental committee, in its report to the Government stated:
The Department of Foreign Affairs is not aware of any significant instances in recent times of harassment in Australia of dual national Australian citizens by representatives of their former country.
Of course it is not aware. It is a classic Catch 22 situation. I believe that that Department is not aware because the appropriate machinery which would have enabled the Government to become aware in a co-ordinated and recorded way was not established and it is not sought to be established by this Government. Yet those of us who receive representations in our offices as senators, as parliamentarians, and who read the evidence which was presented to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence know that such claims of harassment are made- I will not say that they are made in great numbers- with some frequency. I believe that some sort of machinery ought to be, if not established anew, at least publicised widely throughout the community as being particularly appropriate and available for the examination of claims of such harassment.
I was pleased to see in the final paragraph of the response by the Government to the report, which was laid down on 1 7 October 1 979- only three years after the Joint Committee had reported to the Parliament!- that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) stated: the Government is keenly aware of the concern felt by certain Australian citizens about the new Soviet Law on Citizenship which came into force on 1 July this year.
He went on to state:
I hope that the Government will soon be in a position -
He said this in October last year- to provide guidance to those people who have made inquiries about this new Law.
I link that indication of the Government’s concern to provide to Australian citizens information about the new Soviet citizenship law with the reply which I think the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick, gave to Senator Lewis in the course of the passport debate, when he said that the Government was on the verge of concluding an agreement with the Yugoslav Government in regard to the problem, in particular, of passports arising from this dual nationality situation. I think that Senator Knight was engaged in much of the debate on that day and would recall that also. I look forward to the Minister for National Development and Energy now, some four months later, informing the Senate of precisely what the Government has been able to achieve in ameliorating and clarifying the situation with regard to Australian nationals who have a former nationality as claimed by the Yugoslav or Soviet governments. I expect that the Minister will be able to respond with regard to those matters at this stage, in February 1980.
Finally, I wish to raise a matter which has not been raised by either the Government or, indeed, I must confess, the report of the Joint Committee. But I think it is quite important for completeness to mention it. I know that Senator Baume also has much interest in this point. It is a constitutional point because it is the desire of the Australian community to enable the assimilation of migrants into the full range of possibilities for career and service to the community within Australia. In that regard, one would hope that as many Australians of recent overseas origin as possible could take part as fully as possible in the political process. But one finds that because of section 44 (i.) of the Constitution many Australian citizens who are dual nationals may find themselves disabled from being chosen or sitting as a senator or member of the House of Representatives. Section 44 of the Constitution states:
Any person who- (i.) is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
That disability has been the subject of a very interesting letter from Senator Baume to a Senate standing committee looking into some problems relating to section 44 (i.) of the Constitution. It is of some importance that we give attention to that discriminatory provision which would deny Australian citizens the opportunity to participate in service to the community in the national Parliament for reasons which obviously are beyond their control, namely, that despite the formal renunciation of their former nationality at their citizenship ceremony, the government of their former homeland refuses to loosen its hold and claim upon them as nationals of that former homeland. It seems to me that we ought at least to modify the section to exclude those citizens who unequivocally renounce their former citizenship and rights, irrespective of whether such a renunciation is accepted by their former country. It would seem to me that that would go a long way towards creating an atmosphere within which all Australian citizens could feel that, if they so desired, they could advance to the highest political office available to them as a representative of the Australian people within the National Parliament.
I bring that point forward as a matter for the further consideration of the Government. It is a new point. The other points I have mentioned have been known to the Government for threeandahalf years. The Government was tardy enough- may I say, indifferent enough- in taking three years to come forward with any response whatsoever to the Joint Committee’s report on dual nationality. When one looks at that response one finds, I regret to say, that it is as indifferent and as lazy in its analysis as was the interdepartmental committee report upon which it was so absolutely based. It does not deviate one iota from that interdepartmental committee report. Mr President, I find that the Senate’s expression of opinion in March 1979 also has been completely ignored. You will recall that at that time I moved the following motion:
That the Senate notes with concern the lack of action by the Australian Government to relieve Australian citizens of the disadvantages of dual nationality, particularly as experienced in visiting former homelands, and urges the Government speedily to implement the recommendations contained in the Report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Dual Nationality, tabled in the Senate on 14 October 1976.
I believe that the Senate ought to renew that call to the Government speedily to remedy the plight of so many of our fellow citizens. The Government is to be condemned for its tardy and inadequate response to the Committee’s report. My motion initially merely chided the Government for its apparent lack of concern. It was in moderate terms designed to obtain, as it did, a bipartisan support for the motion. But I feel that the time has come now when the Government must be unreservedly condemned for its failure to relieve the plight of many hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 18 October 1979, on motion by Senator Archer:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– Before I begin my remarks on the report of the Joint Committee on Publications, I congratulate you, Mr Deputy President, on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. The Joint Publications Committee made 108 recommendations to the Government. As I said in October, when the report was put down in the Senate, the work that went into this Committee was quite substantial, as I think is the case with any Senate standing committee or joint committee of the Parliament. I do not deny that the Government has the right to refuse to act on the recommendations of a committee; it is most certainly the Government’s prerogative to do that.
When there is a joint approach by all political parties to find the answers to many of the problems that beset our parliament, our community and our nation, I believe that committees do a tremendous job. I know that many members on both sides of the House put a great deal of their time into committee work. But very often when the reports are handed down, the Government, which as I say has the right to refuse recommendations, very rarely explains in full to those committees the reason why it does not accept the recommendations. I believe that there should be better liaison between the Government and the committees which do some of this valuable work for the Government, work which I think is done very cheaply.
I suppose it would be quite ridiculous to say that a Minister would go through the whole report of a joint committee. As I mentioned earlier, the Joint Committee on Publications made 108 recommendations taking up many pages. I presume that it would be staff or public servants who would go through those recommendations and advise the Minister whether the recommendations should be accepted or rejected. If governments expect committees to work extensively to produce good reports, which they should do, I believe some better method has to be found to overcome this anomaly. I know for a fact that Liberal and Labor members served on this Committee. As I said, they gave up a lot of their time when Parliament was not sitting and worked very extensively on this examination and made this report to the Government. Many members of the Committee were disappointed at the Government’s response to the report. There have been very similar circumstances with other committees. As I said, I think there has to be better liaison and better understanding. The Committee must understand fully why a government does not accept its recommendations. It is to no purpose if members from both sides put in this huge amount of work if the report is simply rejected with a few strokes of the pen.
– I wonder whether Government members are interested in this?
-Yes, I think they are, but we do not have many of them here. (Quorum formed). If the committee system is to continue- I sincerely hope that it does- I do believe that the people who serve on those committees with a great deal of dedication should be treated better than they have been in the past. The committee system has saved the Government large sums of money and has delivered some very valuable reports. I believe there should be some system so that when governments do not accept the recommendations of a joint committee or a standing committee, it is incumbent upon the Minister involved to go to that committee and explain in detail why the recommendations have not been accepted. I think any Minister owes that to members of a committee who have spent a lot of their time and who in some cases have travelled extensively for the benefit of the Government.
In my opinion the committee system has much to recommend it. It is a system by which investigations can be made into all aspects of the question and negotiations undertaken. Politics do not really come into it. I believe that everyone who serves on a committee tries to do the best that is possible. I have seen some very good reports come out of the committe system. The other committee on which I have served is the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. I served on the Baume Committee only for the last 18 months, after which it delivered its evaluation report, but I believe that that report must have the potential of saving this Government many millions of dollars.
I have risen only to raise the objections as I see them. I believe that when the Government rejects reports it should have the courtesy to advise the members of the committee why the recommendations have not been accepted. I ask the Government to take note of what I have said. I do not think it is right for recommendations to be rejected out of hand and for everyone to be in the dark as to why they have been rejected. I believe that there should be better liaison between the Minister or Ministers concerned and the committee that has worked so hard on making its recommendations. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 November 1979, on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– I do not know why we get agitated about debating General Business on Thursday night. No one seems to be in the Senate to listen to or participate in the debate. The speakers shown on the Notice Paper as being in continuation on the last two items that we debated, resumed their speeches and sought leave to continue their remarks, thus leaving the items on the Notice Paper. Both speakers must have a lot to say at some time in the future which they could not say tonight. Perhaps they have a desire to keep the debate open until such time as someone who has an interest in it sees fit to attend the chamber on Thursday nights.
– There may be another good reason.
– There may be another good reason. I am trying to find an excuse for speaking on this issue this evening. This matter came before the Senate on 6 November. Senator Guilfoyle- now Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle- sought to incorporate in Hansard a statement detailing the Government’s responses to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. No one had seen the statement. Senator McLaren objected to the incorporation of the statement in Hansard unless there was a guarantee that Thursday nights would be available to debate General Business. During the suspension of the sitting for dinner that day some arrangement was made to make Thursday nights available to debate General Business. As a result the statement was permitted to be incorporated in Hansard. Senator McLaren was anxious that Thursday nights should be available to debate General Business. Seeing tonight’s attendance in the chamber I wonder why. Why do we insist on debating General Business on Thursday night if no one is interested?
After the incorporation of the statement in Hansard, Senator Baume, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare, congratulated the Government on adopting 30 of the 36 recommendations. Senator Grimes followed in the debate, by leave of the Senate. I do not know why he had to seek leave. He said that he was not satisfied with the response to the report. Under the influence of Senator McLaren, I hoped that the matter, being such an important issue, would be debated on a Thursday night. I moved that the Senate take note of the statement in order that it was placed on the Notice Paper for a full debate. I thought that it was the most important issue that could possibly come before the Senate on a Thursday night. That time has now arrived. It occurred to me only tonight that perhaps I should refer to the Committee’s recommendations and the Government’s response to them. I can find no justification for Senator Baume ‘s claim that the Government accepted 30 of the 36 recommendations. I find that the Government has accepted practically none of them. It has found reasons why we should do things in another way.
Senator Grimes complained; I think the Committee also complained; that there is no hope of finding a complete solution to the problems involved in social welfare unless, as is suggested in recommendation 27 of the report, the Commonwealth Government directs the Australian Bureau of Statistics to raise to an appropriate level the proportion of its budget spent specifically on health and welfare statistics. The Committee was groping in the dark, not knowing what the statistics were. The statistics collected were insufficient for the purpose of formulating opinions on the causes and possible remedies of disease throughout the nation. We heard Senator Baume say, in a good address to the Senate today, that it is essential to have facts and figures for the purpose of making an assessment of the causes of and the cures for certain diseases. In responding to recommendation 27 the Government said:
The Government recognises the need for better and more comprehensive health/welfare data.
The Government realises the importance of this.
So many of the Government’s responses contain the word ‘however’; there is always the excuse that while it supports the Committee’s recommendations it cannot implement them- the proportion of resources available to the Australian Bureau of Statistics which should be allocated to the development of health/welfare data is a matter for judgment in the light of a continuing examination of competing claims; there are areas of unmet need for data outside the health/welfare sector e.g. additional economic data proposed by the Crawford Study Group on structural adjustment.
In the Government ‘s opinion it may be necessary for the health and welfare of the community to take second place. If a limited amount of money is available, the Government leaves it to the Australian Bureau of Statistics- not the Government itself- to decide whether it is important to spend it on economic data proposed by the Crawford Study Group on Structural Adjustment or to give priority to health and welfare. It is not very responsible for the Government to give the Australian Bureau of Statistics so much money each year and let it decide how to spend it. The Bureau should not determine the importance of the welfare of the people. The Government’s response continued:
The Social Welfare Policy Secretariat will co-ordinate the preparation of a composite submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics that details the additional health and welfare data requirements of Commonwealth agencies and suggests future arrangements for co-ordination of data requests.
Therefore, the Secretariat is to decide what the requirements are. The response continued:
The Treasurer will be asking the Australian Statistics Advisory Council to report on the appropriateness of the share of Australian Bureau of Statistics resources being allocated to health /welfare statistics, in the light of the submission on data requirements mentioned above, when it next considers the Australian Bureau of Statistics forward work program. (See response to recommendations 1 1 and 29).
We can carry out the recommendations of the Committee and get the necessary information and statistics on the vital matter of the health and welfare of the community only if we are able to give the Australian Bureau of Statistics enough money for the purpose of employing the research staff necessary to collect that information and only if the Bureau of Statistics decides to give priority to spending money in that area and not somewhere else. How can one say that this is compliance? How one can say that this is of interest to the question of the health of our community? It is a complete neglect of responsibility by the Government.
I did state that I had nothing further to say but I raise again the question that Senator Elstob raised. What is the value of committees if nothing is done about their recommendations? It is all right for Senator Baume to say that the Government adopted 30 of the 36 recommendations, but in fact it has not adopted one of the recommendations or adopted only very few of them. I have not read all the responses. Why do we serve on committees and bring down reports which no one reads? No one attends in the chamber at the appropriate time to discuss the reports and no one is interested. More work has been created for the Government in finding excuses why they cannot carry out certain recommendations.
Senator Elstob said that the committee of which he is a member brought down 107 recommendations. What committee believes that 107 recommendations will be adopted by the Government? What hope does the Standing Committee on Social Welfare have that its 36 recommendations will be adopted? We have an accumulation of committees with reports coming in but without any interest being shown in them. My motion was that the Senate take note of the ministerial statement on the Committee report. This was the opening of my speech but as yet no one has spoken on that question.
– I would like to support the remarks made by Senator Baume and Senator Grimes on 6 November and also the remarks of Senator Cavanagh made tonight. At first glance one might be grateful that 30 of the 36 recommendations made by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare have been accepted by the Government. But on closer examination one worries a little whether the Government or the Department of Social Security had really understood what the Committee was saying when it talked about the control of welfare programs. Both Senator Baume and Senator Grimes made this point in their speeches. The Department defended itself by saying that strict and stringent controls were made over expenditure on social welfare programs, and one would, with certain exceptions, accept that. But it is quite clear that the Committee did not have financial control in its mind when it made its recommendations for the evaluation of social welfare programs. What it had in mind in terms of control was whether the hundred thousand dollars of taxpayers money spent in a certain area was being used for the maximum good in relation to alternative avenues of expenditure. From the statement of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) it would seem that the Department did not grasp the finer interpretation of the word control ‘ or the word ‘ evaluation ‘.
Let me give a classic example. I speak now after three or four years of active participation in social welfare when I was shadow Minister for Social Security in the Liberal Opposition. Aged persons homes were a magnificent concept when they were introduced, but the clear purpose of financing or subsidising the construction of aged persons homes was to get homes for the frail, aged poor. I think all members of parliament have made a flowery speech at some time or other praising the initiative of governments, both Labor and Liberal, in subsidising and allowing these aged persons homes to be built. But I remind the Senate that the purpose was to provide accommodation for the frail, aged poor.
I have asked the question, and I am still not sure of the answer: Has not the majority of taxpayers money gone to the frail, aged middle class? That sometimes happens with social welfare schemes. The middle class or near wealthy benefit. I am not saying that that has happened with aged persons homes assistance but that is the kind of control or evaluation that Senator Baume ‘s Committee was getting at when it talked about control, not simply whether a dollar spent on an aged home was spent wisely and well in the construction with bricks. To me this is a far more fundamental concept. If the people who can use such a system, namely the relatives of the frail, aged middle class or wealthy, have been able to use the system at the expense of the frail, aged poor, obviously the original program, good though its aims were, has missed its mark.
– They had better have $3,000 to get in there for a start.
- Senator Cavanagh is confirming my worst fears. The point that he and other senators have been making is that that kind of evaluation overall has not taken place as well as it might. Let me give another example. Over a period of years this Parliament has been subsidising, indirectly or directly, what is euphemistically known as kindergartens. All of us have taken some pride that there was a place subsidised by taxpayers’ money, quite often through States, I admit, where little children could go at the age of three or whatever before they were ready for school and be taught how to communicate with fellow human beings and how to accept some form of authority. We thought that was a wonderful thing. I suppose it did do a great deal of good.
But if we have a look closely we find that the kindergarten, as it is so-called, is found in the more salubrious suburbs of the capital cities where a parent- a mother- virtually needs a car, which means a two-car family, to be able to take the young child to the kindergarten at 9.30 twice or three times a week and retrieve the child at 12.30. Clearly only a certain socio-economic bracket can do that. The mother cannot be working. The mother must either live near the kindergarten or have the financial means to get there twice a day, three days a week. That kind of evaluation is the thing which I think the Committee was talking about.
I have a very strong view that any kind of money that we spend on children in that waypreschool children- should be directed towards child care. The latest research, as I understand it, is that the whole of the motivations, ambitions and to some extent character of the human being are formed between birth and three years of age. Some researchers such as Dr Berton White put it even beyond that- back to the point of conception. Good though primary school teachers are, what in many cases we are doing to them is setting them a target and saying: ‘There is the child at five. Now mould and motivate it properly. Give it ambition and a sense of social values’. But it is too late by then. An evaluation of this kind of program, I would have thought, would have tended to say that this money should no longer be spent on the middle class kindergarten but that the first priority should be given to child care centres which cater for the working mother so that the child can have those manifestations of love, discipline and interrelationships from birth.
Senator Grimes mentioned the Australian Assistance Plan. I still stay with my original statement in 1973 when I responded on behalf of the then Opposition and said that Mr Hayden ‘s or the Labor Party’s Austraiian Assistance Plan was the most progressive and exciting social reform brought down in Australia in the century. It seemed to me to be purely Liberal philosophy. It was not the handout mentality but the sort of helping mentality- getting the people in the community to involve themselves. I can quote cases where literally millions of dollars worth of assets, both material and non-material, accrued to the community for the expenditure of very little of the taxpayers’ money. That is the sort of evaluation I believe Senator Baume and Senator
Grimes were talking about when this report was received.
I would hope that by adding the view of the Australian Democrats in supporting both the Liberal and Labor speakers in this House the Department might take a different look and put a different interpretation on the words ‘evaluation of social welfare programs’.
– I rise tonight to make some comments following the remarks of my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, who drew the Senate’s attention to the fact that when the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare was brought down in the Senate on 6 November last I refused leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. The reason I did that was that at that time the Government was jamming business through the Parliament and had already taken away from the Opposition the previous two Thursday nights of General Business debate. That was my main complaint. At that time I felt that the report was deserving of a full debate. The Opposition hoped that we could have had that debate the next week, but considerable time has gone by.
Senator Cavanagh was quite right in his criticism that there is very little interest now being shown in the statement that was made. I hope that as this session goes on and we get towards the winter recess- whether it be the eve of an election or an ordinary winter recess- the Government does not again attempt to jam the business through the Senate and take away from honourable senators on this side of the chamber the right to debate General Business after 8 p.m. on each Thursday night. That was the sole reason why I refused leave. I think I made an explanation later, in the next week, of the reason I was not in this chamber after 8 o’clock. As I said then, I am the secretary of a committee and I could not get back; otherwise leave might not have been granted to have the report incorporated unless there was an undertaking from the Government that General Business would not be denied us. I hope that Senator Baume takes note of what I have said tonight, otherwise he will find that I, for one, will not grant leave to have anything incorporated in Hansard if we face the same situation at the end of this session that we faced at the end of last session.
– I do not think that threatening statements in this chamber help very much. I assure all honourable senators that the Government will continue to try to give as much time as it can to General Business debates. The record of the Government over four years is that, by the standards of Senate history, the number of weeks in which General Business was allowed is well up to, if not in advance of, what has happened previously.
– Four days in the last session.
– I suggest that the honourable senator look at the records and examine how much time there has been in the past. The Government will continue to try to make provision for as many General Business evenings as possible. I seem to recall that when Senator McLaren refused leave last year it had been a rather confused week. I am not sure if it happened before or afterwards, but that situation seemed to begin with me refusing leave to Senator McLaren to make a statement. It turned out later that, far from getting up to make some argumentative statement, Senator McLaren had wanted to say something conciliatory and complimentary to the President following a response of his. I think that that is correct. I simply put on record that it was an error on my part to refuse leave to Senator McLaren. I hope I am not the only person in this chamber who can go back and look at events and decide that his or her actions would have been different if the opportunity was presented to relive them.
In relation to the reference to evaluation, you, Madam Acting Deputy President, were a member of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare, which was a hard working group. The report has been received very well in the community. The first printing sold out, but I do not know whether the second printing has sold out. It has been taken up by several tertiary institutions as a text book which is now prescribed for students because, as Senator Chipp has said, it raises the kinds of issues that are seen as important in schools which teach social planning and management, and a whole range of other things.
The Committee went through an interesting staged learning experience. It started off imagining that it would do an exercise in benefit-cost analysis- more punch for the dollar. The Committee thought it would begin with that, until some of its witnesses gently advised it that, in fact, it was talking about a lot of other matters as well. The Committee was talking about better management of programs and also how welfare programs are planned, and how they can be planned better. It was not just a benefit-cost analysis but an examination of the management and planning of social welfare.
In addition, members of the Committee came to learn that evaluation is about power in the welfare area. There is power over resources and power over decisions, because if one knows what is going on one has more opportunity to influence what is happening; if one knows what is going on one has more power to influence what happens to an organisation or community.
Because it involves power and access to power, evaluation is resisted by many people who have vested interests to protect at all levels in welfare management. Many community groups want nothing at all to do with the practice of evaluation because they see in it a possible threat to certain powers which they have. In the final analysis, evaluation is about the redistribution of power. The more evaluation there is, the more power will pass from those who hold it to those who need it. To that extent, evaluation as a mechanism is a radical, redistributive mechanism. All honourable senators should understand that, when we talk about evaluation, that is what we are talking about and that is the reason many managers with vested interests resist it so hard, and will continue to resist it. They know that when they give way to demands for evaluation they are potentially giving away some of the power they have and opening up what they are doing to critical examination and challenge.
The only other matter that might be worth reporting to the Senate is that a number of the most impressive scientific bodies in this country have taken an interest in the report. The Australian and New Zealand Society for Epidemiology and Research into Community HealthANZSERCH this year is having its main activity in Canberra around a subject which includes evaluation. There is a whole seminar being conducted by the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science- ANZAAS- on the politics of evaluation. It is work by bodies like the Senate Committee- but not just the Senate Committeewhich have provided the stimulus and push necessary for these kinds of seminars and this kind of activity.
The Committee has worked as a group of six people, with a lot of help from outside consultants. I mention again Professor Stephen Leeder and the many people who wrote commissioned papers for the Committee. I will continue to promote the report, as will my colleagues on the Committee. I will continue to promote it on the grounds that it is an essential document to help people gain more information and to gain more power.
– The report is more than that; it is a philosophy.
-Senator Chipp is right. The document is a philosophical statement about welfare generally. That is where the importance lies, far more than in any message it may have for the expenditure of money or for this program or that program in welfare. The Committee has been fortunate to get from this Senate a continuing oversight into the area. The Committee has the capacity to return at any stage to examine evaluation issues. I dare say that if the Committee, as a group, decides so to do, it will return and reactivate the reference, and examine what progress has been made to implement some of the Committee’s recommendations.
– in reply- I wish to make only a few remarks in reply. As the mover of the motion I think that I have a right of reply. At no time did I criticise the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. My criticism was directed mostly to the lack of interest in General Business on a Thursday night. I thought that the Chairman of the Committee would have supported me in that view. However, I notice that every time a quorum is called the honourable senator comes in the chamber door.
The other point I wish to make is that we were not considering the Committee ‘s report; we were considering the Government’s response to the Committee’s recommendations. I went out of my way to criticise severely the Government’s response to recommendation 27. Whether we get the statistics that this highly praised Committeethat praise is well deserved- though justified will depend upon the priorities of the Australian Bureau of Satistics. The criticism of the Government was for not taking the initiative in ordering that it wanted the information. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) sits here and says nothing; she is the Minister who is responsible for the health and welfare of the community. They want information; they want statistics but they cannot get them because of the financial restrictions imposed by a government which hands out a sum of money and says: ‘You work out your priorities and what you spend it on’. One of our Committees is saying that this information is essential, but the minister sits here and says nothing when this criticism is being made. In these circumstances what is the use of a committee reporting and advocating that the Government does something?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I will move the usual motion for the adjournment of the Senate in a moment, but before I do so I wish to make a statement in respect of a matter raised by Senator McLaren.
On 14 November 1979 Senator McLaren asked me to consider what he regarded as the imbalance in the broadcast of Senate Question Time on the evening of 13 November 1979. In my reply, on 15 November 1979, 1 indicated that I had examined the statistics relating to the broadcast of Question Time on 13 November, and that these statistics did reveal an imbalance in that the broadcast time taken by questions and answers where the questions came from the Government side of the chamber was much greater than the time taken by questions and answers where the questions came from the Opposition side of the chamber.
I pointed out at that time that his imbalance was not due to the editing of the tape of Question Time for broadcast. The editing consists of removing extraneous matter, such as points of order, interventions by myself, remarks of welcome to distinguished visitors, interjections and noise, and deleting those questions which are asked to be put on notice or which are deferred for future reply. The relative time taken by questions from each side of the chamber depends upon the pattern of the questions and answers, and in particular upon the length of the questions and answers, and upon which questions are deleted. The tape of Question Time is reduced to approximately 43 minutes for the broadcast, so that there are usually a number of questions and answers towards the end of Question Time which are not broadcast because of this time limit.
In my statement I indicated that the responsible Senate officers would compile statistics on the broadcast of Question Time for the remainder of the last period of sittings, to ascertain whether there is any imbalance on the broadcast time, and so that I could give consideration to what action might be taken. I stressed that the broadcast on 13 November 1979 may not have been typical, and that it would be wrong to take action merely on the basis of one day’s statistics. I have now been supplied with the statistics relating to the broadcast of Question Time during the remainder of the last period of sittings, and with the concurrence of honourable senators I will incorporate these statistics in Hansard.
– The statistics reveal that apart from the broadcast on 13 November 1979- which I have already discussed- there was one day, 23 November 1979, the last day of the sittings, on which much more time was taken by questions from the Government side of the chamber than was taken by questions from the Opposition side. This was again due to the relative length of questions and answers and to the number of Opposition questions which were asked to be placed on notice or deferred for future reply. On the other hand, there was one day, 15 November 1979, on which there was an even greater imbalance in the broadcast time in favour of questions from the Opposition side of the chamber. This was due to two extremely lengthy questions and answers in relation to the alleged social security fraud cases.
Apart from these three days, the rest of the statistics indicate a fair balance between each side of the chamber in relation to the broadcast time taken. I am inclined to think, and this is also the advice of the officers concerned, that the three days on which there was a serious imbalance in the broadcast time, whether in favour of the Government or the Opposition, were not typical, and that the other days represent a more typical pattern. The statistics still relate to an extremely small sample taken at the end of a period of sittings, and before considering the matter further I have asked the responsible officers to compile statistics over a longer and more representative period. I would like to stress once again, however, the desirability of keeping questions and answers brief and concise and to the point. In his response to my statement Senator McLaren complained of prepared answers to questions from the Government side of the chamber. This matter is being brought before the Standing Orders Committee, as requested.
Brisbane Airport Proposals- Bi-Centennial Authority: ACT Representation- Housing of Elderly Citizens in South Australia- Aircraft
– 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.
- Mr President, before I begin on what I wish to speak on this evening, can I ask you whether we will have a chance to speak to your report, because if we will not I might use some of the time available to me this evening. I have a couple of points that I would like to raise.
– I made a statement.
– Can we speak to that statement on the next day of sitting?
– Yes. An opportunity will be provided for a discussion of the statement, if honourable senators so desire.
-Thank you, Mr President. You may remember, Mr President, that this afternoon I came to see you and mentioned that I would like to speak in the adjournment debate tonight. I mention that because of the nature of the topic on which I wish to speak. Mr President, I did not mention to you the nature of the topic on which I would speak. I suppose it would be rare for a senator to do this. It was early this afternoon that I approached you. I wish to speak about the Brisbane airport. I suppose it is rather coincidential that the tragedy at Sydney airport occurred this evening between the time I spoke to you, Mr President, and the time that I am speaking tonight. I do not wish to refer to that tragic incident at Sydney this evening. I believe that another honourable senator will do so later. However some of the remarks that I wish to make about the Brisbane airport probably will take on greater significance now that we can look at what happened at another airport in Australia this evening.
For many years Brisbane residents have looked forward to having a new airport. In fact all Queensland residents have looked forward to their capital city having a new airport. The facilities at Brisbane airport in some respects are adequate but in others are quite inadequate. The buildings are old and a lot of makeshift work has been done to try to keep the terminals in a satisfactory condition for the number of passengers who pass through them. For a long time we have realised that Brisbane has needed new airport facilities and a new airstrip, particularly for international air travellers. International travel was once the province of the wealthy person but now it is open to a vast number of Australians. We find that in Brisbane we are disadvantaged because of the fact that not many international aircraft can take off from there and go direct to their overseas destination. More often than not Brisbane residents have to fly to Sydney. It is rather quaint having to fly to Sydney from Brisbane when one is travelling to London or to San Francisco. Perhaps it is even more galling to a passenger who lives in Brisbane, when he is coming home. He actually has to fly over Brisbane, land in Sydney and then travel back to Brisbane.
It is not only the personal inconvenience that we have been considering in Brisbane; it is also the inconvenience to the economy of our State. The fact that we have not had a real international airport in Brisbane has stunted Queensland’s tourist growth. Tourism is the fourth major industry in Queensland. We realise that if we had an international airport at Brisbane- one where planes would be able to land directly from overseas and take off directly to overseas, except in a few isolated instanceswe would have a much better chance of improving our tourist industry. Therefore, Brisbane residents and many Queenslanders greeted the announcement of a new airport with great joy, even though we realised that the airport that is being built now will not be ready for the Commonwealth Games that will be held in Brisbane in 1982.
After reading an article in this morning’s Courier-Mail I am not sure whether Brisbane and Queensland residents should be overjoyed about what is happening in relation to the new airport for Brisbane. I wonder whether we should halt for a moment, take stock and be absolutely sure that we are not building a $170m white elephant. Certainly I want the airport to go ahead. All Brisbane residents want the airport to go ahead. But I do not want to see funds poured into what could be a total failure. Let us make sure that we will have a well developed, functional airport. I shall read from part of the article in this morning’s Courier-Mail which starts off:
Work on the new runway for the new $170m Brisbane Airport is due to start next month. Canberra feels it should be congratulated on at last launching the much-delayed new Brisbane Airport. Not so, says a Queensland airline pilot.
The Queensland pilot who wrote the article was Captain Paul Ciough. The article is headed: New airport an operational nightmare’. I should mention that Captain Ciough flew with the Services and has flown with a major Australian airline since 1 964. 1 shall not mention the name of the airline because I think it could embarrass Captain Ciough or the airline. But it is one of the major Australian airlines. I will not traverse all of Captain Ciough ‘s article, but it is necessary to point out and perhaps even cite several points. Captain Ciough firstly points out how in Brisbane at present we have a two-runway system and how this system is used. He outlines how small planes can land on one runway while the larger jets are landing on another and how the system helps the traffic to get away and to come in much more quickly. In this article Captain Ciough expresses his alarm that the new airport complex will have one runway only. In addition he claims that the runway is incorrectly sited. He states:
The single runway proposed, while long, will not be aligned in the direction of prevailing winds … the prevailing wind is invariable easterly or south-easterly.
He also states that all wisdom resides in Canberra and ‘the runway is to be predominantly north-south’. He continues:
This will mean crosswind landings, and most aircraft have strict crosswind limits on landing ability. The limits are quite high when the runway is dry, but when the runway is wet, it is a different matter.
A couple of paragraphs later he continues:
The international carriers will go to Sydney in the wet season with monotonous regularity.
If that is going to happen it will be disastrous for our tourist industry. It will be disastrous if planes keep going to Sydney rather than coming into Brisbane which, after its construction, is supposed to be an international airport. Captain Ciough goes on to discuss high air temperatures, the proximity of Moreton Island which poses clearance problems. These factors combined with the crosswinds and the poor braking performance, he claims, will result in major air carriers bypassing Brisbane. Those senators who have flown into Brisbane will know that Moreton Island has a fairly high terrain, just out in the Bay. Captain Ciough points out that because of the new siting of the runway it will be about four or five kilometres closer to Moreton Island than it is now. He claims that this will pose clearance problems and, therefore, exacerbate all the other problems that are there at the moment. I wish to mention Captain dough’s comments in relation to aircraft bypassing Brisbane. He says:
The major world air carriers will give Brisbane a big miss and continue to use Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as Australia’s gateways.
Politicians can intimidate Australian carriers to accept a second-rate airport. But the major carriers can give Brisbane a large ‘raspberry’ with impunity.
In other words he is saying that the major airlines within Australia will have to use the Brisbane airport but that the overseas airlines, if they consider the Brisbane airport to be not satisfactory, will quite easily bypass it and use Sydney or some other major airport. If this occurs, of course, it will be disastrous, as I mentioned, for our tourist industry. It will be disastrous for all the problems that we have at the moment because we will be virtually put back to where we are at present. Perhaps more serious is Captain Ciough ‘s suggestion of a serious accident. With the events of this evening in mind, it is quite telling that an experienced airline pilot says that there is perhaps a danger of serious accident because of the way that the new airport is being developed. He says:
We have been told that operationally, this new project will be safe. But has any thought been given to the distance an aircraft has to taxi for take-off to Runway 20?
It appears it will be about 8 km from the international terminal to Runway 20 holding point.
A fully-laden B747 taxiing that distance develops considerable kinetic energy and in a subsequent rejected take-off there is a fair possibility that some tyres would disintegrate due to heat generation.
One accident due to bad design of this airport and this will be another reason for the world’s aviation to bypass Brisbane.
Finally, Captain Ciough makes some claims about the cost of the airport. He says: . . some of us believe that when the final cost is known, this runway will be Brisbane’s answer to the Sydney Opera House and the RAAF’s Fill cost fiasco … If Queenslanders accept this thoroughly fourth-rate airport development it will become the northern shrine to mediocrity.
There is much more in the article to which I have referred and which appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail this morning. I would commend the article to senators and to the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt). I am not saying at this stage that I am fully aware of all of what Captain Ciough says. All I do is fly in aeroplanes. I do not know much about the technicalities of them. When an experienced airline pilot makes claims such as this I think it is necessary for us to look at them and to make sure for ourselves and for the public whether these claims are correct. If they are correct, let us look to see whether this airport development should go ahead as it is.
The two points I make are these: Brisbane wants an adequate airport and it does want a new airport facility. But it does not want to see $170m wasted. The criticisms I have mentioned tonight call for a reply from the Minister for Transport. I hope that he will have a look at this article and make some sort of reply to the chamber. After all, the money for this airport will come through this Parliament.
We should examine Captain Ciough ‘s arguments now. I would not like to see a situation develop where in 10 years time we will look back and say that perhaps we should have looked at Captain Ciough ‘s arguments because they were correct. By that time it will be too late. If the Minister for Transport can tell us, after a proper study of the article that was in the Courier-Mail that the airport development as presently envisaged should go ahead and can explain why it should go ahead we should accept it. The people in Brisbane will certainly look forward to having that airport. But if there are problems let us fix them now. Do not let us waste money and give Brisbane an airport that it is not looking for at the moment.
– While Senator Colston was speaking, I noted that he referred twice to Canberra and in using the term was in fact referring to the Federal Government and the Federal bureaucracy.
– I was quoting a report.
– Yes. In quoting the report Senator Colston used the term ‘Canberra’ meaning the Federal Government and the Federal bureaucracy. That, in a sense, reflects the state of mind that gives rise to the problem that I wish to raise this evening.
The immediate issue emerges from a statement on Tuesday by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) relating to the announcement of the members of the Australian Bicentennial Authority. The announcement causes me some concern. The Minister first of all announced seven Commonwealth appointees from various parts of Australia. He then went on to announce appointees from the six States and the Northern Territory. It is noticeable that once again, as so often happens in a situation of this kind, the States and the Northern Territory are taken directly into account and given representation, as they are given representation on this Bicentennial Authority, but the Australian Capital Territory is not. I note that among the seven Commonwealth appointees from all over Australia there is one from the Capital Territory. I do not reflect in any way on the capacity of that eminent citizen and judge as a resident of the Australian Capital Territory. My point relates to the fact that, having appointed seven Commonwealth nominees, the Commonwealth then sought appointees from the six
States and the Northern Territory without seeking a specific appointee from the Capital Territory. That has happened before with the creation of an advisory committee on small business by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch). There were appointees from the States but none from the Capital Territory specifically representing the area.
This problem is, I think, made worse in this case by the fact that in his statement on behalf of the Government Mr John McLeay said that it was envisaged that each of the State appointees to the Authority would become the Chairman of a relevant State or Northern Territory committee yet to be established. Presumably, those six state committees and the Northern Territory committee will deal with specific issues on behalf of the Australian Bicentennial Authority relevant to those States and the Northern Territory. The interests of those States with respect to the bicentenary will be drawn to the attention of the Authority by those committees. The statement emphasises the lack of a representative amongst the seven specific appointees from the Capital Territory. Once again there is to be no committee, according to this statement, for the Territory. I presume this to be so because there is no specific appointee from this Territory. That is despite the fact that the Australian Bicentennial Authority, as the Minister pointed out in his statement, is to be incorporated as a company in the Territory. The appointment of a specific representative of the Territory, as distinct from the appointment of a representative from the six States and the Northern Territory, has been overlooked, as has occurred before. I hope, as a representative of this Territory, that it will not happen again.
As the Minister points out, legislation on this matter will be introduced shortly. I hope that in the time available the Government will take the opportunity to re-examine this matter. Canberra, as the national capital, has a very special role, one would hope, in Australia’s bicentenary celebrations. In that context, whilst I acknowledge again that amongst the seven Commonwealth nominees there is one very eminent citizen from this Territory, I hope that the status of the Territory and the 220,000 people who live here will be more effectively recognised by having a specific appointee as do the six States and the Northern Territory.
I raise this point this evening because this sort of thing has happened before in similar circumstances. I appeal to the Government to recognise that the Capital Territory has a right to full representation on authorities, committees and organisations of this kind particularly when they are set up by the Commonwealth and when they affect the national capital and the bicentenary of this country. I ask that the Government give attention to rectifying what seems to me to be an unjustified oversight.
– The Senate will recall that when Senator Baume rose to speak on another matter earlier tonight he spoke about the need for the members of the Senate to be conciliatory and to give credit where credit is due. He was referring to me and to a little altercation we had last year. I am sure that Senator Baume recognises that I always try to be conciliatory and that I always try to give credit where credit is due even if I always try, perhaps, to be very critical where I feel matters deserve criticism. I have the pleasure to rise tonight to be very charitable and to offer a word of thanks. It will be recalled that on Tuesday night I rose during the adjournment debate to raise a matter which I had raised last year concerning funding for the Kapunda Committee for the Ageing Inc. in South Australia. Senator Knight rose after I had spoken and made an explanation as to why the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, could not be in the chamber.
Tonight, after dinner, I was very pleased to be approached by the Minister and to be told that she had now made available the money for the Kapunda Committee for the Ageing. When I rang the people in Kapunda after receiving the message they were overjoyed. I take the opportunity tonight to pay tribute to the Minister for her very prompt action in dealing with the matter after I raised it during the adjournment debate. I think this shows that there is some value in making speeches on the adjournment. I say thanks to the Minister from myself and especially from the people in Kapunda, who have asked me to pass on their thanks to her for consenting to make this money available from her Department at the beginning of the next financial year, 1 July. I want to read the pertinent part of the letter which I received from her after she spoke to me. The letter reads:
Although the Kapunda Committee’s proposal was not included in the initial 1980/8 1 approvals, a further assessment of the proposal has now been made and I am pleased to advise that the proposal has been given an approvalinprinciple for funding in 1980/81. 1 would suggest the Committee provide the Director of my department in Adelaide with firm details of its proposal as soon as possible. This will enable the Director to give whatever advice and assistance he can.
I again thank the Minister for her prompt attention to the matter that I raised in the Senate on Tuesday night. I also pass on the very grateful thanks of the Kapunda Committee for the Ageing.
– I rise tonight to mention briefly a matter that has come to my notice. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) will well know, since my election to the Senate I have attempted to take an interest in matters that are associated with the airlines and with aircraft safety. I have heard tonight that a Kingair twin-engined aircraft crashed at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport. I am informed that some 13 people were killed. Before I say anything else I extend my sympathy to the relatives of the people who were killed in that crash. No doubt in extending that sympathy I am speaking on behalf of all those honourable senators who have already heard and those who will hear of the crash.
My reason for raising this matter is that I believe the aircraft took off from Sydney towards the south on the long runway. It apparently lost an engine and turned back to land at Sydney airport. That is something that I believe we, the pilots of small aircraft, are told never to do. We are never to return to land on the same strip we took off from if the engine fails because so much height is lost in the turn. But this was a twinengined aircraft. I am not yet informed to what height it had climbed to or how far it had travelled from Sydney airport. But I am informed that when it returned to the airstrip it landed in such a manner as to cause it to burst into flames and, I believe, nobody survived the crash.
I ask the Minister: Was this aircraft one that the Department of Transport had licensed to fly over regular public transport routes? An example of such a route would be the route between Melbourne and Devonport on which aircraft are licensed to fly on a regular basis with dispensation from regulation 203. The Minister may be able to inform us how many pilots the aircraft had. Was it an aircraft that could fly with one dead engine? In addition to whether it could fly with one dead engine, was it an aircraft that could maintain height with one engine out? I think it would be an advantage to the Senate if we knew whether some aircraft which are permitted to fly on these RPT routes regularly with dispensation from regulation 203 cannot maintain height with one motor out when there is a full load. I have flown on aircraft from Canberra to Albury with one pilot and on these occasions even though I may not be able to fly the aircraft as well as the pilot on board I try to sit as near to that cabin as I can in case something happens to the pilot.
I think as a matter of extreme urgency the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), who I realise only represents the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) in this chamber, should state whether this crash will prompt the Government to re-examine the dispensations that are presently granted under regulation 203. Can the Minister now categorically say that in such examinations the restoration of the safety of flying that we have come to expect in this country will be uppermost in the Government’s mind and indeed in the Department of Transport’s mind because really that is where the directions lately have been coming from? Furthermore, is this crash not an indication that the Department of Transport should be divided and the Department of Civil Aviation re-established, as I believe we promised a few years ago. Finally, in 1 979 did airlines and pilots criticise the Department of Transport for granting some regulation 203 dispensations for charter operators to operate over routes which were serviced by regular public transport operators? Perhaps I should close by asking: Do we need a crash at Hobart airport before that runway is lengthened?
– I rise to reply to the matters which were brought before the Senate this evening by Senator Townley and Senator Colston. I firstly respond to Senator Townley and join with him in the sentiments he expressed to the many people who must be bereaved as a result of the accident in Sydney this evening. I assure the Senate, as it would expect in the course of the practice which is always adopted in these matters, that immediate action has been taken in respect of the crash. The site has been protected. Officers are on duty at the site and a special investigation team from the Department of Transport is being assembled in Melbourne and will be in Sydney tomorrow morning. I am not in a position to answer the specific inquiries which have been put forward by Senator Townley. I must say that I do not believe it would be desirable to deal with many of them at this stage bearing in mind that a detailed investigation is to be made. I do, of course, undertake to draw the attention of the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) to those inquiries.
The only point that I did wish to respond to is that in the course of the remarks of Senator Townley I think he did address the question of safety. I wish to give the Senate the assurance that the Minister and the Government give absolute priority to questions of safety in this field and of course that will be uppermost in the
Government’s mind and I am sure in the Department’s mind in the investigation of this matter and any action which might flow from it.
I turn to the matter which was raised by Senator Colston. The honourable senator quoted extensively from an article which I think appeared in the Courier-Mail this morning, but in any event the Hansard record no doubt will tell me that. I again undertake to draw to the attention of the Minister for Transport the matters which he has raised with a view to getting some response. I have little doubt that an article with the prominence that has been described by the honourable senator would already have been drawn to the attention of the Minister by his departmental officers or by his staff. I suppose I can only hope that it was the author and not Senator Colston who was responsible for the inaccuracy which gave me hope that the whole of the article might be faulty when Senator Colston said Brisbane was 25,000 kilometres from Canberra. I can only say that is a greater degree of insulation from the Canberra he was talking about than I realised had existed. In any event, he raised serious matters which he said are raised by an experienced pilot and I will ask the Minister for Transport to give the honourable senator a response on those matters.
– Very briefly, I rise to reply to Senator Knight who as usual expressed his concern in no uncertain way for the electorate that he represents so vigorously. The honourable senator is concerned about the representation or perhaps the apparent lack of it of the national capital on the Australian Bicentennial Authority. It is of course most appropriate that the national capital should figure prominently in the Australian Bicentennial celebrations. Therefore, I am very pleased to note that the Australian Capital Territory along with the six States and the Northern Territory will have its own committee in this organisation. I have no doubt whatsoever that its contribution to bicentenary celebrations will be completely and absolutely appropriate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Consequently the 2,4,5-T in this particular mixture differed from that used for agricultural purposes in Australia where the TCDD level is not allowed to exceed 0. 1 ppm.
Testing for TCDD is conducted by the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories on spot samples of 2,4,5-T submitted by State authorities. It is pertinent to mention at this stage that a close check kept on the product, whether imported or produced locally, has confirmed that levels are generally well below the prescribed maximum. Although TCDD can be produced during the manufacturing processes for 2,4,5-T, this does not apply during 2,4-D production.
Although dioxins have been associated particularly with the manufacturing procedures for 2,4,5-T it should be stressed that these compounds may be produced in other high temperature processes unassociated with pesticides. At the same time the high degree of toxicity associated with TCDD should not be underestimated and it is for this reason that such stringent precautions are taken during manufacture.
There are no Federal Government departments or agencies having toxicological testing facilities suitable for the assessment of long-term and short-term effects of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D in animals. However, the Cell Biology Section at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, University of Sydney, has participated in an international study of short-term tests for carcinogenicity which do not involve the use of animals. In addition the Section is developing a range of mutagenesis tests to determine changes in chromosome structure resulting from their exposure to chemicals.
These tests serve only as screening tests and in any toxicological evaluation need to be complemented by the more important long-term chronic toxicity studies before sound scientific conclusions can be drawn with respect to effects in humans. Such long term studies are considered essential in any detailed toxicological assessment of chemicals. In view of this, full use is made of the results of animal studies carried out overseas to ensure that comprehensive assessment is made before such chemicals are released in Australia.
Another report which was given a high degree of publicity was one by Dr Barbara Field and Professor Charles Kerr of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in Sydney. Although it was suggested that authorities attempted to suppress this report it must be stressed that it was published in letter form in the medical journal ‘The Lancet ‘ on 23 June 1979. Although this report purported to demonstrate an association between neural tube defects and previous 2,4,5-T usage this could not be supported when subjected to critical analysis. Indeed it was agreed by the NH&MRC Working Party of which Professor Kerr was a member, that factors operating during the early part of the study were clearly not operating in the latter part. This eliminated 2,4,5-T as the causative factor since this was used throughout the whole period.
Other publications referring to these chemicals are too numerous to mention but I am not aware of the suppression of any information which might be of value in making a proper evaluation of the subject. In relation to the Alsea Report, scientific authorities in the United Kingdom and New Zealand also studied the E.P.A. document and their conclusions were similar to those reached by the NH&MRC Working Party. Recent evaluations of this study in the United States itself also support the conclusions of the NH&MRC.
The Victorian Government convened a Consultative Committee to examine the incidence of birth defects in the Yarram district. It also concluded that there was no link between the use of 2,4,5-T and the incidence of birth defects in that particular area.
It must be accepted that all substances have the potential for creating harmful effects and indeed there is no such thing as a harmless substance- there are only harmless ways of using substances.
Decisions reached by experts can only be based on existing knowledge and consequently new information is constantly reviewed and further investigations instituted whenever indicated.
This has recently been clearly demonstrated in relation to Agent Orange, regarding which my colleague, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has announced that the investigation to clarify questions raised on the possible effects of Agent Orange on returned Vietnam veterans will be conducted by the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in Sydney.
The honourable member may rest assured that the Federal Government sees no benefit in suppressing information or in permitting the continued use of substances believed to be damaging to the health of the population. It is essential that all chemicals should be subjected to critical appraisal and controlled in such a way that their beneficial effects are used to maximum advantage but only when potential harmful effects are reduced to an acceptable minimum.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 24 October 1 979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 13 November 1979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
By way of clarification, the level of the service connection fee which applies uniformly in metropolitan and country areas alike is not directly related to whether or not wiring is required at an applicant’s premises. In practice, the fee ranges from a minimum of $10 to a maximum of $120. The minimum fee of $10 applies where an applicant takes over an existing service on an ‘in place’ basis. The fee is designed to cover the administrative costs incurred by Telecom in altering service records and including the new service in the Telecom Directory. On the other hand, a fee of $120 represents a part contribution by the applicants towards: the capital cost of adding a new service to the network; the technical costs associated with the individual installation; and administrative costs.
Against this background, the following information is supplied in connection with the honourable senator’s specific questions:
1 ) Telecom does not maintain costing information of the nature sought. However, in the financial year 1978-79 the estimated average investment for each additional service added to the network was: metropolitan areas- $2, 120. country areas- $3, 1 90.
Telecom’s development statistics are maintained on the basis of:
new service ie, those which require new line plant and /or equipment at the applicant ‘s premises; and
in-place service ie, those on which a service left intact after cancellation by an outgoing occupant is taken up by the incoming occupant.
In 1 978-79 the number of services installed were:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 November 1 979:
Has a further print been made of collection cards for Underpaid’ mail, as mentioned in the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Second Annual Report 1979, page 86; if so, how has the layout been changed; if not, when is it anticipated that a further reprint will be necessary.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. It is expected that the next reprint of collection cards for ‘Underpaid’ mail will be completed in the latter pan of 1 980, at which time the layout of the card will be changed.
Cancellation of Request for new Telephone Service: Refund (Question No. 2289)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 November 1979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 November 1 979:
Has the new notation, mentioned in the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Second Annual Report 1979, page 87, now been placed in all telephone directories; if not, when is it expected that it will be.
A new notation has been included in telephone directories issued since early October 1979, including the Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Tasmanian and Northern Territory books, and will appear in all other 1 980 directories, which will be issued progressively. All of the remaining 1980 directories except the Sydney White Pages book are scheduled for issue between January and May, with the Sydney book being scheduled for issue in August 1 980.
Reverse Charge Calls on ‘Red Phones’ (Question No. 2298)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 November 1979:
Is it possible to accept reverse charge calls originating both within Australia and from overseas on a ‘Red Phone’; if so, are there any special precautions that a lessee of a ‘Red Phone ‘ can take to ensure he or she is not defrauded by the unauthorised acceptance of reverse charge calls.
National and overseas reverse charge calls may be booked to a Redphone if the caller knows the service (telephone) number of the Redphone concerned. Where the person who answers the called service agrees to accept the call, it will be connected and charged to the lessee of that service.
Telecom alerts applicants for leased coin telephones, including Redphones, to the possibility of such fradulent calls and advises them against the display or disclosure of the service number of the unit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 22 November 1979:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 February 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800221_senate_31_s84/>.