31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from eight citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
There is a limit to the capacity of Australia’s drug manufacturing industry in Australian hands.
Accordingly, our resources should be managed and developed under Australian ownership and control.
Publicly owned trading enterprises and corporations have been established and operated for the benefit of Australians since Federation.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, Qantas, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, Australian Wheat Board, were all designed to operate to the benefit of our Nation as a whole under public ownership.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject outright proposals of the Fraser Government to sell the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines and the Fawnmac group of companies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– On behalf of Senator Evans, I present the following petition from 1 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament in Canberra assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
That the right to work without discrimination on any ground including, inter alia, discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex is a fundamental human right;
That it is both the duty and responsibility of society to fully support those denied work and therefore those who are unemployed as a result of society’s inability to provide full paid employment should be guaranteed an adequate income without discrimination on any ground, including inter alia discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that appropriate and adequate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, in employment of individuals under federal awards, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 16 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the Women of Australia.
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia.
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian Women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
That in the 1976 census 78.6 per cent of Australian women said that they belonged to a Christian denomination, so that, it is very likely that a large percentage of Australian women have views which are not reflected in those parts of Draft Plan of Action issued by the National Advisory Council concerning family issues.
That your petitioners are very concerned that the National Women ‘s Advisory Council does not take into account the views of the majority of Australian women.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative “Advisory Council”.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully petition:
That the government will act to prohibit the use of all public monies for the killing of unborn children. That the said use of government monies is an unacceptable government endorsement of a great national tragedy- the deaths annually of at least 80,000 unborn children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Primmer.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because we already inherit constitutional safeguards and many free institutions which assure to us as an unconditional right, the enjoyment of all basic human rights,
And because the exercise of our true common law rights is the proper means of dealing with attempted infringements or abuses of our human rights or personal freedoms within the Commonwealth of Australia and its territories,
And because the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 would virtually eliminate our common law rights and heritage by substituting so-called rights and freedoms as defined under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of December, 1966, which does not correspond with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in fact deletes some of its essential safeguards,
We have the conviction that the above-mentioned Bill would in due time destroy much of our traditional liberties and rights and established system of law, remembering that it calls for all ‘the laws of the Commonwealth’ to conform to it, that we would be liable to the definitions, whims and decrees coming from a foreign source instead of our own sovereign, elected, constitutional parliamentary democracy, that the United Nations today is composed of a large majority of totalitarian-type States, and that the Bill must certainly result in a quickly expanding costly bureaucracy with wide and alarming powers of investigation and opinion-making.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia will withdraw, or repeal as the case may be, the Human Rights Commission Bill 1 979 to protect the rightful interests of Australia and all Australians.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
-Did the Minister for National Development and Energy receive a telex this week from Mr J. F. Kirk, Chairman and Managing Director of Esso Australia Ltd? Was that telex concerned with a submission that the Minister was to place before Cabinet this week? If so, what was the substance of that telex?
– It is the normal practice in any relationship between the Government and individuals or businesses outside the Parliament for any messages to be regarded as confidential. I will not comment on whether there was a message between the Government and any individual outside the Parliament.
– I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister deny that the telex expressed Mr Kirk’s view that the Government should not proceed with the consideration of the submission on the pricing of liquefied petroleum gas? Did Mr Kirk express his great concern that the Government should make such a decision while he was overseas? Did he indicate to the Government that he would disapprove if that decision were made in his absence from Australia?
– Clearly from my previous answer I would neither assert nor deny the situation. I stress that if there were to be communications between members of the community and the Government they would be, in the ordinary course, regarded as confidential communications between the two parties. It would be a distortion of ordinary practice and ethics if they were not so regarded. Therefore, I make no comment.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations seen an article in yesterday’s West Australian which reports that industrial disputes are costing the Australian wheat industry an extra $50m a year in freight charges? Because this amount of $50m has been lost to the Australian wheat grower and, ultimately, to the Australian community, will the Minister endeavour, firstly, to examine ways to make the public aware of such losses and, secondly, to find better ways to solve this type of industrial dispute, which directly affects a section of the community which has no responsibility for causing or solving the dispute?
– I am aware of the article referred to by Senator Thomas in which the view is expressed by a meeting of the Farmers Union of Western Australia concerning the losses that the wheat industry has suffered from industrial disputes. I am not in a position to make any estimate of such costs. I will draw the question to the attention of the Minister for Industrial Relations to ascertain whether any costing is possible in the light of the complaints made by the Western Australian Farmers Union. However I think it is perfectly clear that industrial disputes are, in some cases, very costly indeed. The long demarcation dispute last year in Western Australia at the co-operative bulk handling terminal was an example of that type of cost. I think that the public as well as the Government are well aware of the high costs that are involved in industrial disputes. The major element as far as the Government is concerned is the availability of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is the proper forum where industrial disputes are resolved. We have one of the most notable tools for the settlement of industrial disputes in our arbitration system and it, in the Government’s view, is the proper medium to be used in these matters. In the case of the complaints by the Farmers Union, one does not know whether they are matters within Federal or State jurisdiction. We know that there are problems and they are the subject of continual discussion at the present time between the State and Federal Labour Ministers. The Federal and State governments are endeavouring, by very extensive consultations in this area, to see where they can iron out the jurisdictional problems insofar as they contribute to this problem.
– My question is again to Senator Carrick. Is it correct that additional appointments have recently been made to the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council? Is it also correct that the only additional oil company appointee was Mr J. F. Kirk of Esso Australia Ltd, the gentleman to whom I referred in my previous question? Will the Minister explain to the Parliament just what is the role that Mr Kirk plays in the determination of Government energy pricing policy?
- Mr Kirk plays no role at all in the determination of Government energy pricing policy. Recently I announced a number of changes to the National Energy Advisory Committee, a body which is set up and structured so that it is widely representative of the whole community, including scientists, experts, industrialists and others. It is a body which objectively looks at applications for research grants and makes recommendations to the Minister on this matter. It is true that one of the persons appointed to NEAC is Mr Kirk, the Managing Director of Esso. He comes to the Committee with an enormous amount of knowledge and experience of the oil industry, both in Australia and abroad.
Opposition Senators interjecting-
-I take it from this that the Labor Party would not willingly have a representative -
– Would not have Mr Kirk as a representative.
– Abuse of individuals is in poor taste when those individuals are not here to defend themselves. I take it that the Labor Party is indicating that it would not have a representative of the oil industry on NEAC.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. The Minister continually asks the Opposition to give a response. He directs questions to the Opposition and when the Opposition does respond by way of interjection it is then brought to order. I would suggest that the Minister cease to be provocative in the manner that I have described.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport indicate the results of discussions held on 24 January last between his Department and the representatives of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, AFTA, dealing with the problems associated with the new cheap international air fares?
– I am sure that the Minister I represent can give the honourable senator that information. I will seek it for him.
-I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the Prime Minister’s statement reported in the American Press following interviews with Randolph Hearst of United Hearst newspaper chain that Australia’s military co-operation with the United States in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf would be absolute’. I ask the Minister: What will this absolute commitment entail? How does he see Australia’s present defence resources meeting such an absolute commitment? I also ask the Minister why the Prime Minister has seen fit to contradict the terms of the ANZUS treaty in this statement, and whether the Prime Minister consulted with our partners in that treaty before stating that the ANZUS security zone includes the Indian Ocean. How are these statements of the Prime Minister reconciled with the action of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, when he refrained from giving the ANZUS Council any commitment to meet threats in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the region?
– A recent question was directed to me which was based on a purported interview between the Prime Minister and Mr Hearst and one other. I indicated that I had no knowledge of this matter and that I would seek information on it. I have in fact sought so to do. I shall add Senator Button’s additional request to that, and seek an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask whether approximately 50 per cent of Australia ‘s exports go to South East Asia, while only 20 per cent of our Government ‘s representatives are located there. In contrast, I ask whether approximately 4 per cent of Australia’s exports go to the United Kingdom, where we have some 4,000 representatives. In the light of increasing needs for closer coordination of our efforts in the Asian-Pacific region, will the Government review its priorities to ensure that there is balanced overseas representation?
-I am not able to say whether the percentages that Senator Messner cites are right. I wonder whether he includes Japan in South East Asia. I take it that his question really refers to Asia and not South East Asia. I think some 28 per cent of our exports go to Japan. That was, I think, the figure, pre-war, that went to the United Kingdom. There has been a transposition. Taking that into account and therefore taking the rest of Asia into account, the figure of 50 per cent is probably right. It is true that Asia is a very significant market for us and that our representation should be significant. Our representation in the United Kingdom is based not only on trade. Our representation in the United Kingdom is based on the fact that the United Kingdom still remains, in terms of the world, a centre for a great exchange of information on banking, government and international matters. The implication in the honourable senator’s question that we should make sure that we have adequate representation in Asia is one that is important. I will bring it to the attention of the Minister.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs will recall the family reunion agreement signed by the Australian and Indonesian governments in August 1978 under which some 600 East Timorese were to be reunited with members of their families in Australia by Christmas of that year, with the program, of course, continuing. I ask: Is it a fact that only some 300 persons, mainly of Chinese ethnic origin, have entered Australia under the terms of that agreement which has now been notionally in operation for some one and half years? Given the Government’s humanitarian concern for the victims of aggression by a large power against the inhabitants of a neighbouring independent nation, I ask: Will the Government make new and strenuous efforts to enable those families which have been torn apart for many years to be reunited?
– I am aware of the family reunion program. I am not aware of the progress made in regard to numbers of people. I will have that matter looked into. If there is a need to expedite the matter, I will certainly bring it to the attention of the Minister and have him direct his attention to it.
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of a report in the West Australian of 5 March concerning the National Aboriginal Employment Development Committee’s campaign to increase employment opportunities for Aboriginals in the private sector? An Aboriginal spokesman has been quoted as saying that about the only use of the campaign was to give money to the media. Will the Minister inform the Senate of details of the Government’s campaign to increase employment opportunities for Aboriginals and, in particular, explain how and for what purpose funds will be used?
– A number of factual matters that I could tell the Senate were contained in a response to a question asked by Senator Cavanagh yesterday. I will not repeat those facts. I saw the report to which the honourable senator referred which quoted two leading Western Australian Aboriginals, the Reverend Cederick Jacobs and Ken Colbung. There was a suggestion, I think from Mr Colbung, that the campaign would merely result in the money going to advertisers. The fact of the matter is that this campaign has a total budget of about $300,000. The campaign has to be seen as ancillary to the various projects which I detailed in my answer to Senator Cavanagh yesterday, and which involved the direct employment of many thousand Aboriginals.
This program is meant to improve the situation where there is a relatively small amount of employment in the private sector for Aboriginal people. This program has been carried out very carefully on a pilot basis. Mr President, there was a pilot program in your State at Port Augusta and one also at Dubbo in New South Wales. In each case there were substantial results. In Dubbo 132 people were employed in a threemonth period. This figure represented a fourfold increase over the figure for the three-month period in the previous year. At Port Augusta 76 people were employed, which was a threefold increase in employment on the three-month period in the previous year. So there are some runs on the board. It is thought to be a program which can achieve positive results for Aboriginal people. A relatively small amount of money will be spent. The amounts I have talked about sit alongside amounts of many millions of dollars which go to the actual employment creating projects which I mentioned to Senator Cavanagh yesterday. The Government believes that this is an extremely worthwhile attempt to expand Aboriginal employment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. In reply to a question asked by me on Tuesday, the Minister asserted:
It is perfectly clear therefore that the pricing at export parity would give a higher price to petroleum products than would import parity.
I ask the Minister whether he will stake his ministerial position on the veracity of that assertion or whether he would care to recant while he still has time.
-Leaving out the florid rhetoric which has become a characteristic of Senator Walsh, I would be happy to indicate the understanding of the meaning of import parity to the Government and indeed to commerce and industry, and also its understanding of what is export parity. The import parity price for Australian produced crude oil is, theoretically, the price which we would have to pay for such oil if it were imported, that is the replacement cost of such oil. In practice, the price determined for domestically produced crude oil is somewhat lower than true import parity because the set price is based on the price of Saudi light crude rather than on the average price for internationally landed oil. Saudi oil is now priced at $US26 a barrel, compared to the average world price of about$US29 a barrel. Furthermore, the set import parity price has not yet been adjusted to take account of the $US2 a barrel increase in the Saudi pricewhich was announced in February 1980. The formula used to determine the import parity price takes into account the price of Saudi light crude oil plus allowances for quality differential between Saudi oil and Australian oil, the exchange rate and transport and insurance costs.
If we were to use the export parity as the basis for pricing our domestic crude, we would be using a price which domestic producers could obtain on the export market. One has only to look to see the huge prices that producers such as the United Kingdom and others are getting on the export market to realise that the export parity price would be very significantly above the import parity price that the Government has chosen. Given that Saudi marker light is currently underpriced relative to other Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the current average world price is around at least $US29 a barrel and rising, it is probable that the export parity price for domestic crude would be considerably higher than our current import parity price. That is quite clear. Because Australia is basically a seller of liquefied petroleum gas to the international market, the Prices Justification Tribunal has adopted the export parity price as the benchmark for the domestic price of ex-refinery liquefied petroleum gas, that is, the price that can be obtained. In contrast, because we are buyers of crude oil and petroleum products from the rest of the world, the import parity price is appropriate. They are not my terminologies; they are the terminologies of the market place and they are the facts within which the terminologies are used.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for, after three days, getting around to replying to that question and for making it quite clear that when he talks about import parity he does not mean real import parity; he means the Government’s version of import parity. I ask: In future, when the Minister uses the term ‘import parity’, will he define whether he is talking about real import parity or the fudged, Fraserian version of import parity?
-I again refer to the florid rhetoric which does no benefit to the argument. The fact is that this Government has defined what it means as import parity pricing and has never departed from this definition. It has said that it will take as its benchmark, as its marker price, the Saudi light crude oil price. No amount of florid rhetoric can get away from the fact that that has been stated, and so it has been defined. There is no need for any further explanation because the principle and the statement of definition have been made quite clear over the past.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the study from the Univesity of New South Wales entitled ‘Lead Burden of Sydney School Children’ substantially correct when it purports to demonstrate that 42 per cent of children at a Mascot school and 22 per cent of children at a Mosman school had in excess of 25 micrograms of lead per 100 millilitres of blood? Are these levels of lead matters of concern? Is the Minister able to indicate what the implications in this study are for the health of Australian children?
I understand from the Minister for Health that the study entitled ‘Lead Burden of Sydney School Children’ published in January 1979 indicated that 42 per cent of children at a Mascot school and 26 per cent of children at a Mosman school had blood-lead levels above 25 micrograms of lead per 100 millilitres of blood in the spring 1974 survey. The corresponding figures for the autumn 1975 survey were 18 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. It was found that 1 1.5 per cent of all the Sydney school children surveyed in the spring survey and 3.3 per cent of those surveyed in the autumn survey had blood-lead levels above 30 micrograms per 100 millilitres.
I am also advised that the National Health and Medical Research Council has indicated that a level of 30 micrograms per 100 millilitres of blood should be considered as a level of concern. The Council recognised the varying contributions made to the total lead burden from food, water, air and other ingested substances and considered that it was desirable to reduce the total lead intake. The Minister for Health advises that the Garnys, Freeman and Smythe report has been challenged, particularly on its findings and conclusions relating to the effects of elevated blood-lead levels. This should not detract from its importance in being a major survey relating to Australian conditions. Overseas studies, such as the Needleman study in the United States of America, have indicated neuropsychological deficits in children with elevated dentine lead levels. The two studies are not directly comparable because of the different lead level markers assayed.
No doubt the honourable senator is aware of the complexities of the current debate in relation to health effects and body lead burden and the problems associated with the recognition of its subclinical effects. The debate relating health effects to various body lead levels will continue. However, it would seem to be significant that levels previously thought to be safe are now being suggested as capable of producing adverse effects.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that the great goodwill and rapport that has been built up between the people of mainland China and the people of Australia through the activities of Radio Australia are now placed at risk because that service can no longer afford the stamps that are necessary to reply to all the appreciative listeners that write in? Is the Minister prepared to use his influence to see that this service, which is contributing so greatly to the creation of tolerance and understanding between peoples of diverse cultures, is sufficiently funded so that it can carry on unhampered with this important work?
-The Government is in favour of the general principles which are being supported by the honourable senator in his question. However, I point out that, at best estimates, there are approximately 900 million Chinese and I do not think that the Government can undertake to correspond with all of them if our programs are so successful as to induce that sort of reaction. I do not remember the exact figures as to mailings which were reported and commented on in the Senate last year- it may have been by Senator Mcintosh- but they amounted to many thousands of letters. There was considerable administrative difficulty in responding to them. I suppose that the service will have to consider whether, in cases where it receives such a massive response, it should respond through the medium that has brought about the correspondence. In other words, some of its replies might have to be generalised. I will refer the matter that the honourable senator has raised to the Minister to enable him to give it consideration and to pass on the honourable senator’s concern to the broadcasting authority. I suggest that there may be some limits to the ability to respond in the massive way which seems to be called for.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. Is the Jackson Pollock painting Blue Poles, which was purchased for $1.3m in 1973, now deteriorating? Will the Minister give details of the nature of the deterioration of Blue Poles and, more importantly, what action is being taken to prevent further damage? Can he give any estimate of the current value of Blue Poles!
-The Australian National Gallery has sought conservation advice concerning the condition of the painting Blue Poles. The advice suggests that the painting is not in need of conservation treatment at this point, but that it should be kept in a stationary circumstance and in a stabilised environment. By ‘stationary circumstance’ I mean that it should cease to travel. As a result of that advice the National Gallery has determined that the painting should not be placed on public exhibition until such time as it can be hung in its permanent home in the new gallery.
So far as the value of the painting is concerned, it is a very difficult matter to arrive at the value. It could probably be ascertained only by an auction sale, and even at auctions values change almost from day to day. As a matter of interest, a painting by Jackson Pollock was sold in 1976 reportedly for in the vicinity of $2m. Beyond that comparison I can give no further estimate of the value.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. I want to be clear on one point. Did the Minister say that at present no conservation action was required provided the painting was kept in its current stable situation? Secondly, in view of the Minister’s answer, could he assist in arranging for me, and perhaps others who are interested, to inspect Blue Poles?
– Yes, I did say that on inspection it was the considered opinion that no conservation treatment was necessary at this stage. As for Senator Knight’s interest in inspecting the painting, it seems to me it would be most appropriate if such an arrangement could be made for Senator Knight and any other interested senator. I shall pass that suggestion on to the Minister concerned.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Is the Minister aware of the dispute between the Public Health Advisory Committee and the Food Standards Committee which has resulted in the decision to raise the safe levels for a fl a toxin contaminants in peanut paste or butter from 5 to 15 parts per billion? Does not the Government believe that food standards should, when there is any dispute, be weighted in favour of the consumer, not the producer? Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, take up with the National Health and Medical Research Council this matter of protecting unsuspecting consumers from a mould or poison that affects the liver?
I am not able to provide any information on that question today but I will refer it to the Minister for Health and see that Senator Gietzelt is advised.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development and Energy. Has the Minister seen the article in today’s Courier-Mail that Esso Australia Ltd is to establish, by June of this year, two oil exploration teams in western Queensland and that these teams, consisting of 200 personnel, will operate for 1½ to 2 years looking for oil in the Winton and Charleville areas? Is Esso’s claim that this will be the largest land-based search for oil in Australia’s history true?
– I have not seen the newspaper today but my understanding is that Esso is undertaking that exploration. There is a very considerable speeding up in the exploration and development programs of Esso. I will seek further information as to the magnitude of the exploration and let the Senate know.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government and also to you, Mr President, because it concerns you. I refer to the definitions which have been made by the Prime Minister resulting from the report about two officers from the Office of National Assessments giving some information to members of the Parliamentary Library research service. It seems to me that our research officers, whether they are giving information to Government or Opposition members, should have the most expert advice. I realise that there should be some reservations about security but, as the Leader of the Government well knows, the Office is in fact available to give briefs under secure conditions to members of committees, special people, et cetera.
I ask the Leader of the Government and you, Mr President, to ascertain whether members of our parliamentary research staffs are in a position to obtain the maximum information with which to advise members of parliament. It seems to me that, resulting from what the Prime Minister has stated, certain inhibitions might be placed on the advice that the research staffs give and that members will have to rely entirely on their own assessments. I ask the Minister and the President to consider whether the effectiveness of our research officers will be reduced in any way.
– I certainly would be happy to talk to the Prime Minister to clarify the limitations. My understanding is that the intention of the Prime Minister is in no way to stop the bona fide supply of information that is not regarded as so classified that it is not available. Such information, of course, is available to the Leader of the Oppostion. So, there is a need, I think, to clarify the matter. I will do so. Mr President, when I have done so I will let you know so that if you feel you need to respond in any way you will be able to do so.
-I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a motion which was presented to the Senate yesterday and which the Senate duly passed. It involved the erection of certain facilities within the parliamentary triangle. I ask: Why was this matter referred direct to the Parliament and not to the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House? It has previously been the practice to give that Committee an opportunity, if it so desired, to inquire into the need or otherwise for any of these recommendations so that it could then refer the matter back to the Parliament with its approval or otherwise.
-I am not aware that that was not done. I am aware of the very good work of that Joint Committee and the importance of its being kept informed on and its advice sought for virtually each activity within the parliamentary triangle. I pay tribute to the work of the Committee in the past. If the matter was not referred to the Committee I will seek out .the reason. In any case I will convey the message to the Minister concerned.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs aware that the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, has announced that if, as seems certain, the British Olympic Committee decides to send a team to the Moscow Olympics, the British Government will take no action to stop the athletes selected attending? What will be the Australian Government’s attitude if the Australian Olympic Federation also decides to send a team to the Olympics?
-I believe that the answer to Senator Sibraa ‘s question is probably contained in the answer that I have received from the Minister to a question from Senator Sibraa on 28 February. Senator Sibraa then asked me a question without notice concerning the fund raising campaign launched by the Australian Olympic Federation in Sydney on 27 February. The Minister from Home Affairs has advised me that the Olympic Supporters Club of Australia is one of the many fund raising efforts of the Australian Olympic Federation. The publicity relating to it features former prominent Australian sportspersons. The Government has no intention of inhibiting this program in any manner. I believe that that answer is relevant to Senator Sibraa ‘s question this morning.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for National Development and Energy to the reported comments of Mr Roger Morse,
Chairman of the Victorian Solar Energy Research Committee, with respect to Australia’s solar research program. He said:
Australia, with more sunlight than many countries, is slipping in its research program.
Will the Minister comment on Mr Morse’s claim? Will the Minister inform the Senate what research is currently being conducted by the Government or government agencies into ways of improving Australia’s solar power technology? Will the Minister assure the Senate that consideration will be given by the Government to incentives to encourage more extensive research into, and use of, solar energy within our communities?
-I have not seen Mr Roger Morse’s statement. I would be grateful if Senator Missen were to direct my attention to it. It is true that Australia, by its very climate, has recourse to considerably more sunlight and therefore potential solar energy than many other countries. A very considerable and growing amount of research on solar energy is being undertaken in Australia. I think that in one or two aspects of research and potential technology Australia is in the world forefront. So that the details requested can be given, I will get from my Department information on research which is being done on solar energy, in many ways through research grants from the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council, and also research into solar energy being done in the various universities; for example, over the years the Australian National University has concentrated heavily on such research.
-And the CSIRO.
-And the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I suppose that enough research undertakings are never going on. Only a few days ago I was privileged to be in Gawler in South Australia to perform what was called a switching-on ceremony for a combined windmill generator and solar voltaic cell, which I think demonstrated that in the more remote areas of Australia it would be possible, by way of a simple arrangement of wind and sun power, to light a reasonably sized homestead and to use that power for all domestic purposes. That was an instance of the initiatives of the Philips organisation. But because this matter is important, I will seek details of research being undertaken into solar energy and, in due course, I will seek leave to have the information incorporated in Hansard.
– Did the Department of the Minister for Social Security receive a request from the insurance industry, through the Life Underwriters Association, to provide a quarter of a million dollars funding for its ‘Family Time’ program and did her Department quite rightly reject that request? As all honourable senators received an expensive glossy booklet from that Association, will the Minister assure the Senate that her Department’s funds, which are designed to help people in genuine need, will not be directed to such forms of disguised advertising?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI am not quite sure of the facts with regard to the first part of the question. I will have those checked and advise Senator O ‘Byrne. As far as my Department’s funds are concerned, if they are funds which are to be used for information programs or things of that kind, I think the Department is aware that it is important to provide information on its programs and policies and on ways in which people are able to be assisted. The information program of the Department is one which has my full support and one which, I think, could always enhance the opportunities to provide information. But whether I was able to give a blanket assurance in the terms required by Senator O ‘Byrne would depend on the programs which might be placed before us, in which it was thought that we could have some interest. I think that I can only give an assurance that a great deal of consideration is given to providing adequate information services to ensure that those programs of government are provided to people who need them most. I believe that a great deal has been achieved, but more could be achieved with further development of our information and advertising services.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Can I take it from the answer which Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has given that her Department will not subsidise the Life Underwriters Association’s advertising campaign?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI give only the assurance that any program that would be supported through my Department would be one which would give assistance to those people who would require the services of our Department and who might be assisted through the programs. I am not aware of whether the program of the Life Underwriters Association would do that at the present time. But, as I said, I will have the matter investigated to see whether any proposals are before the Government and whether any consideration needs to be given especially to such proposals at this time.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in a position to indicate to the Senate the results of the latest meeting between Magellan Oil Pty Ltd and the Central Land Council with regard to the Mereenie oil field and the Palm Valley gas deposits in central Australia?
– I think honourable senators will be aware of the long-running nature of the negotiations between Magellan and the Central Land Council, which have been the subject of a fair amount of publicity over the last couple of years. Originally there were complaints about the need to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. Happily, over the last six months or more there have been negotiations between the parties in a real sense. My most recent advice is that representatives of the Central Land Council and Magellan have initialled an agreement relating to the development of the Mereenie oil field.
The initialling of that agreement is not the end of the matter. I understand that Magellan has to provide further technical information to the Central Land Council and that the Central Land Council has to undertake further consultation with the traditional owners of the relevant land. It is also a requirement of the agreement between the parties for an environmental impact study to be carried out. I understand that at present this is under consideration by both a Northern Territory department and the Commonwealth Department of Science and the Environment.
The position is a much happier one than obtained in 1 979, particularly in the early part of that year, when there appeared to be something of a stalemate. That stalemate certainly seems to be a thing of the past. I look forward to the development of the Mereenie field on terms which will be acceptable to the traditional owners of that land.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Minister will no doubt have noted that a further interim report in the Gollin company investigation was tabled yesterday in the New South Wales Parliament and that that report by Mr
Spender, Q.C., was highly critical of the behaviour of several named directors of the Gollin group. Does the Government propose to issue statements condemning the tabling of this report in the New South Wales Parliament as being a grossly improper misuse of parliamentary privilege, as it did with Mr Finnane ‘s report on Mr Sinclair, or will double standards once again prevail?
– The only double standards that would prevail would be if a lawyer, who ought to know what natural justice is, sought to apply natural justice only when it suited him. That is a matter for Senator Evans to judge.
– You would say that after the character assassination you have conducted in this place. You spent three years assassinating people.
– Order! That is a reflection on Senator Carrick. Senator Grimes, you should use parliamentary language. You should be careful of the use of language which gives offence. I do not want to refer continually to Standing Order 418. The honourable senator should be careful of the words he uses in this place.
- Mr President, with respect, immediately before I spoke the Leader of the Government in the Senate had accused Senator Evans of not knowing his place as a professional man, a lawyer, and of ignoring natural justice. I regard that statement as offensive and an insult to Senator Evans. My reply was that the Minister spent three years in this place when in Opposition indulging in character assassination against people on this side of the chamber. I refer particularly to Rex Connor. If honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber want to deal it out they have to take it back. I am fed up with people on this side of the chamber being made to sit down merely because the Leader of the Government happens to be offended. He can remain offended for all I care. If he cannot stand the heat he should get well out of the kitchen and stay out.
– 1 wish to raise a point of order. For the record it is important to say that I took no exception at all to what was said. There is no question of my standing the heat. Mr President, you drew attention to the remark. I want to make it clear that Senator Evans asked whether the Government’s response to the tabling of a report in the New South Wales Parliament was another example of a double standard by the Government. I said that a double standard would apply only if a lawyer sought natural justice in one situation and not in another. I put it to you, Mr President, that that was a very appropriate response. May I proceed with the answer?
– I call the Minister.
– The fact of the matter is that the Government indicated that any report by an investigator which involved findings which might reflect upon the future liberty of or future penalties facing an individual, whoever he may be, ought to be held and not tabled prior to an Attorney-General making a decision. One could understand that the Government had to decide whether to prosecute or not. The Commonwealth Government was not thinking of any one person or number of persons. It was thinking out aloud about an essential principle when a person’s reputation is threatened, because there is nothing definitive or final in the findings of an inquiry that is set up. That is not a judicial finding at all. The inquiry could prove to be wrong in its findings. The Government therefore has been wondering how best one could protect all individuals in that regard. The principle would apply whether it were Gollin directors or any other person.
– I ask a supplementary question. Given that the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral does not yet appear to have exercised his mind as to the question of the prosecution against the directors named in yesterday’s report, will the Government come out with an unequivocal condemnation of the behaviour of the New South Wales Government in tabling this report, or will it continue to be selective in the kind of indignation that it offers on these occasions?
-If indeed the AttorneyGeneral were to be prosecuting, the Federal Government would have felt that that announcement should have been made and the report withheld because it could influence courts of law and juries in the future. That has been said before. There is no need for the Commonwealth to sit in judgment. It would be a matter for the Wran Government to look to its own sense of natural justice if it does not follow procedures which practising lawyers believe are good procedures- that is, if the Attorney-General is going to prosecute he should indicate prosecution and withhold the report until the evidence of the prosecution comes out.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. A meeting was held recently of a large representative group of Australian stud cattle breeders for the express purpose of discussing what they regard as a serious lack of representation when decisions are made on such matters as the introduction of new breeds, quarantine regulations, conditions for exporting breeding stock and livestock improvement programs. Will the Minister bring this matter to the attention of the Government with a view to considering the views of this group?
– The Government is in constant communication with producer organisations, and so it should be. I am interested in Senator Thomas’s question about Australian stud cattle breeders and their concern over such important matters as the introduction of new breeds and various quarantine and export regulations. If in their opinion these matters are not being sufficiently well promoted and understood in Government circles, I shall be happy to bring to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government the matters which Senator Thomas has raised relating to the Australian Stud Cattle Breeders Association.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to a statement in the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission’s annual report 1978-79 which stated that on 28 June 1979 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs withdrew a ministerial directive of 10 February 1978 and issued another in its place. Can the Minister explain the reason for the withdrawal of the directive and the issue of another in its place?
– The honourable senator will probably know from previous reports of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission that it was concerned about some difficulties experienced in operating under the original directive. I became Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in December 1 978 and I met members of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission fairly early in my ministry. I had subsequent discussions with them, I think in June 1979. In those discussions I said that I could see the difficulties that they had, and I agreed to revise the directive. I do not have the report with me, and I do not remember all the details, but there were a number of problems.
I do not think the directive was the specific problem, but there were problems with respect to walk-in walk-out sales and a need to have money available for expenditure on items other than land. That difficulty was overcome by giving them access to the Department’s enterprise funding. In any event, it was a general attempt to give the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission an ability to operate more freely. Since that time I think there has been an accelerated rate of purchases by the Commission. I have sought from members of the Commission details as to their purchases since that change in the directive. I am satisfied that they will spend most if not all of their budgeted funds this financial year. If the honourable senator would like more detailed information, I would be happy if he would see me or if he would put the question on notice, and I could give him a detailed reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether any consideration has yet been given to the restoration of both diplomatic and trading relations with the new Zimbabwe Government, or whether it is anticipated that consideration will be given to the matter in the near future.
– The Zimbabwe Government is, of course, brand new. I am not advised as to what consideration has been given. I will seek this information from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and let Senator Archer have it.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she can inform the Senate just how many potential employers an unemployed person must contact in a fortnight before being considered eligible for continued unemployment benefit. I draw the Minister’s attention particularly to the problem which arises in Pingelly in Western Australia where Aboriginal unemployed are expected to do the rounds of farmers when they have no means of getting out to those farms and when in fact the farmers’ sons are themselves unemployed because there is no farm work. These unemployed are finding that because they have been unable to get to the farms, they lose unemployment benefit for at least six weeks because they are considered to be voluntarily unemployed. Does the Minister approve of this attitude to unemployed Aboriginals? Can she inform the Senate in general terms how many times a person must seek employment in a fortnight before being considered eligible for unemployment benefit?
In reply to the honourable senator’s general question, application forms for continuation of unemployment benefit have been introduced in all States. These forms make provision for beneficiaries to list the names and addresses of persons approached for employment. This information is used to assist in establishing essential facts on which determinations under the Social Services Act depend.
The Act requires a claimant for unemployment benefit to satisfy the Director-General of Social Services that he or she is taking reasonable steps to obtain work. The signature of the persons approached for employment are not required and there is no requirement that the beneficiary should approach any given number of employers in the search for work. Each application is considered on its merits. In relation to the matter of Aboriginal unemployment in the district mentioned by Senator Grimes, I will have that matter checked and see what information I can provide.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In June 1979 it was indicated that the Australian Government was considering a report which examined methods to overcome the lack of communication and liaison between the Taiwanese and the Australian governments. Considering the ever-developing trade between the two countries and the arrangements that existed prior to the recognition of mainland China, is the Government now in a position to indicate what action, if any, will be taken to normalise diplomatic relations with Taiwan similar to those with the European Economic Community countries and the United States, to overcome the problems of communication in regard to trade, issuing of visas, and so on?
-I believe Senator Kilgariff is referring to an answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 5 June 1979. In that answer no reference was made to the Government considering a report on the question of representation in Taiwan. However, I provided information in an answer on 20 February to a question on notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. In that answer I indicated that the Department of Trade and Resources recently consulted a number of Australian enterprises which have an interest in trade with Taiwan to ascertain the views of the commercial sector in Australia on the extent to which the absence of any form of trade representation in Taiwan has adversely affected the commercial sector’s ability to take advantage of opportunities for increasing trade between Australia and the province of Taiwan. I believe this may be what Senator Kilgariff is referring to as a report. I add that no government having diplomatic relations with Peking has informal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. A country either has diplomatic relations or it does not. It is true that the United States of America has established under legislation a commercial corporation in Taiwan known as the American Institute to maintain commercial and other nongovernment contacts with Taiwan. These include the administration of procedures for the entry of Taiwanese visitors and the continued operation of commercial and other understandings. I will give further details to the honourable senator.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Health may recall that last year I raised the question of the safety of valium for use especially by young children. I think that at that stage an undertaking was made to give me some sort of reply to my request for a survey. I ask the Minister whether she is aware of statements appearing in this morning’s Melbourne Age by Dr Anne Schlebaum, who is deputy director of a New South Wales Health Commission child unit at North Ryde. Dr Schlebaum was speaking at the Pan Pacific Conference on Drug and Alcohol Use. The article stated:
Drug abuse was a hidden but increasingly widespread threat, producing child zombies, baby junkies, and malformed foetuses, a doctor warned yesterday. One in two children under five is routinely medicated and thousands of crying babies are silenced with valium syrup, . . .
I ask the Minister: Will she please go back to the Minister for Health, as months have elapsed since I raised this matter, and inquire again for me whether anything is being done about this immense social problem?
I will refer Senator Mason’s question to the Minister for Health. I will refer the article in the Melbourne Age mentioned by the honourable senator to the Minister to seek a response on that matter. Also I will refer to the earlier question to see whether information has been provided.
-I indicated that I would seek information on several matters. On 4 March, Senator McAuliffe referred to a recent visit to Indonesia by the Australian amateur boxing team and commented that no official from the Australian Embassy had attended any of the contests or the official dinner arranged by the Vice-President of Indonesia. He asked whether in view of the importance of cultivating friendship with our neighbours, the visit to Indonesia by an Australian team provided a very suitable encouragement to fostering friendship with one of our important neighbours.
I am advised that it is not correct that no Embassy official attended the boxing contests. At least one officer attended some of the matches. Our Ambassador, who presented awards in 1979 for a similar event, would have liked to attend the recent contests personally, but his other official requirements prevented his participation. They included functions, at some of which the Ambassador was the host, associated with visits of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Special Trade Representations, and the opening night of the Australian Chamber Orchestra performances in Jakarta. The manager of the team, Mr Tunstall, was informed of the Ambassador’s commitments by a senior Embassy official. On 6 February the Ambassador also expressed his regrets in a letter to Mr Tunstall. An invitation to the Ambassador to attend a function organised by the organising committee of the boxing tournament arrived on the evening of the function and was declined in his absence because of his other official engagements. In principle, arrangements are normally made for Embassy officials to attend sporting events where Australian teams are represented. However, in countries of considerable importance to Australia, such as Indonesia, there are heavy demands on the time of our Ambassador and it is not possible for him to attend every function personally. Where sufficient notice is given he tries to arrange for a staff member to attend.
- Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a number of brief statements regarding questions asked by Senator Sibraa on Australian aid to Zimbabwe, by Senator Young on maritime boundaries between Australia and Indonesia, and by Senator Wriedt, on 28 February, concerning the neutralisation proposal of Afghanistan.
The documents read as follows-
Australian aid to Zimbabwe
On S March Senator Sibraa asked me a question about Australian aid to Zimbabwe.
Australia has already demonstrated its concern for the well-being of Zimbabwe by providing Sim to assist the repatriation of refugees from neighbouring countries. Zimbabweans have, of course, benefited over the years from training awards offered by the Australian Government. There are at present 34 officially sponsored Zimbabwean students undertaking courses in Australia and a further 10 students will commence studies this year. It would be premature at this stage to predict the form and extent of future assistance which might be given by Australia.
Australian aid is given on a Government to Government basis and as soon as the Government of an independent Zimbabwe takes over we will, if requested, be happy to begin discussions with them on how we, along with other members of the Commonwealth, might assist the rehabilitation and development of the country.
Maritime boundaries between Australia and Indonesia
On 5 March, Senator Young asked to be informed of the current position regarding the establishment of offshore boundaries between Australia and Timor.
I am advised that negotiations on the delimitation of those areas of seabed between Australia and Indonesia not covered by existing agreements, including the area south of East Timor, began in Canberra in February last year. At the same time, preliminary discussions were held on the delimitation of fisheries jurisdiction. A second round of negotiations was held in Jakarta in May 1979. The two delegations exchanged specific proposals, which were subjected to detailed discussion and technical examination. The Governments of Western Australia and the Northern Territory were fully consulted during the negotiating period and sent observers to negotiating sessions.
When the Australian Fishing Zone was established on I November last, the outer limit of the zone was set so as to follow the median line between the two countries. This was done on an interim basis, and the Indonesian Government was informed that the limit would be adjusted later, if necessary, to comply with the terms of a permanent bilateral agreement. We affirmed that the position of the permanent fisheries boundary was a matter for resolution in the delimitation negotiations. We have expressed the hope that those negotiations, which relate to both seabed and fisheries boundaries, might be brought to an early conclusion, but no date has yet been set for the next round.
Afghanistan: Proposals for Settlement
asked me a question on 28 February concerning the neutralisation proposal put forward by the British Foreign Minister, Lord Carrington. Because of the significance of the question asked I referred it to the Minister concerned who has advised that the Australian Government has been carefully monitoring all developments in the Afghanistan situation and has noted a number of suggestions which have been recently put forward to help defuse and resolve the present crisis. It is aware of the proposal made by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, and endorsed by the EC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, that Afghanistan should be made neutral and free from competition between the Great Powers. There have been other initiatives. All share Australia’s basic objective of a withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, which must form the basis of any attempt to achieve a lasting settlement of the crisis.
- Mr President, has the Minister for National Development and Energy any response to the questions about which I asked him and to which he undertook to give responses two weeks ago? The questions related to assurances in respect of Defence expenditure in Tasmania.
-I do not have the information at the moment, but I will seek it with some urgency.
– Earlier today in Question Time Senator Colston asked me a question about the directive to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission. I now have a copy of the report to which he referred. If he examines pages 1 and 2 of the report he will see a description in general terms of the changes which were made. I am pleased to draw attention to the fact that the Commission regarded the changes as establishing a more logical set of arrangements. On pages 23 and 24 of the report, details of the directive are contained. As I indicated in my earlier answer, the position is that the Commission was relieved of the obligation to consult with the Minister on any purchase other than the purchase of a pastoral lease. The reason the requirement for consultation on pastoral leases was retained by me was that there are still some difficulties in a number of States with respect to the purchase df pastoral leases for Aboriginal corporations. Those difficulties are in Western Australia and Queensland and they are matters which are currently under GovernmenttoGovernment discussion. In consultation with the Commission I indicated that I thought it was desirable that I should retain the interest which the directive requires. That is the current position.
The only remaining point was that I directed that the Commission minimise new forward commitments during this financial year. The reason for that is quite simple. As honourable senators know, there will be a new Aboriginal Development Commission as from 1 July which will be taking over the functions of the Land Fund Commission. I did not want its hands to be tied by forward commitments made by the existing Land Fund Commission. It seems to me that that would in part reduce the value of the aboriginalisation of this process in its early period. I think that that is a reasonably adequate explanation of the changes that were made, but I repeat the offer that I made to Senator Colston, namely, that if he is puzzled he is welcome to see me and discuss the matter.
– I have received a letter from Senator Gietzelt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to effectively prevent price rigging at the expense of consumers by large scale retail outlets.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
- Mr President, the Opposition wishes to discuss this matter of public importance which is the failure of the Government to effectively prevent price rigging at the expense of consumers by large scale retail outlets, because we are aware of the growing community concern at the price rises that have been occurring in the market place. Every housewife and every consumer is complaining about the ever increasing rate of price rises on practically every article that is being sold in the market place. It is true that there have been vast changes in the whole marketing process in the post war years. It is true that some economies of scale have developed, but the regrettable fact is that in the process of this development some market concentration and some vast increase in a variety of consumer goods has simultaneously taken place.
The connection between this Government’s announced and real policy is, of course, one of total contradiction and cover-up. For example, when the Government says that inflation is coming down, it goes up; when it says that unemployment is coming down, it goes up; when it says that interest rates are coming down, they go up. We are concerned about the cost of basic items which people have to purchase, the charges which they have to meet and the inability of the Federal Government to take any meaningful stance in respect of protecting the interests of ordinary people. We need only look at the cost of food and rent, at government charges and at petrol prices to see that a whole range of increases is taking place. The Government is on record as saying that it wants to encourage competition, but what we have seen take place in recent years has been monopolisation of the whole retail industry, not competition. A couple of days ago Mr Garland went on public record as saying:
The complexity of our industrial society and the international economy, combined with increasing community concern about the rights of consumers, have made it inevitable that there should be greater Government involvement in the activities of business.
What has this Government done in respect of these matters? It has received innumerable reports from the Prices Justification Tribunal recommending courses of action and it has received innumerable reports from the Trade Practices Commission recommending courses of action. It has also received innumerable reports from the Industries Assistance Commission. All of these reports have given certain advice to this Government but it has failed to put that advice into effect. Why does the Government hesitate to take action in these matters? It does so because it is attracted to the philosophy that market forces will be the mechanism that will determine the acceptability or otherwise of goods and will act as the sole mechanism in the market place to protect the interests of the consumer.
This Government worships largely at the shrine of market forces, but we know that market forces no longer dictate operations in the market place. That is dictated to by the big companies. We live in a. world where directors of companies decide what we wear, consume, listen to through the electronic media and “ even read in newspapers. From birth we are bombarded by commercial propaganda. This Government is a government that talks about human rights, but where is the right of the individual to be protected from this commercial propaganda, which is now. so much a part of our way of life?
It is about time that we realised .that market forces, if they exist, are doing harm- npt good- to our country. In those circumstances we have to look at what has happened in.the market place in recent times. In most cases the huge shopping complexes which have emerged as the principal mechanism by which people purchase goods have themselves become part of a giant chain of retail outlets which do not operate in the interests of the consumer. These huge shopping complexes, are mostly unnecessary. They are often built in areas which are oversupplied with shops, while areas that really need new facilities get none because they cannot promise satisfactory profit returns to the investor.
Let us look at some of the figures. In the 1977-78 financial year, G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd increased its total trading area by 1 3 per cent, yet it has announced a $77m expansion program for New South Wales which will involve it in opening up another 33 stores. In 1978 Coles spent $100m on capital expenditure. In 1978-79 Woolworths Ltd expanded its floor space by 10.85 per cent. David Jones Pty Ltd is building a new $21m shopping centre in Sydney. The Safeways organisation intends to invest $25 m this year on establishing six new stores and extending existing ones. A study by the Department of Housing and Construction snowed that in the year ending March 1979 capital expenditure in the retail industry was up 39 per cent on the previous year. It set a record, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review of 25 January last. Capital investment resources are scarce in this country, yet capital investment decisions are being made in the area of retail outlets. The recent Prices Justification Tribunal report on the processed food industry said that 648 new retail outlets were built in the period from 1976 to 1978 and that in south Queensland alone 35 major centres were being or would shortly be built.
What are the complaints people have about this massive and continuing expansion of retail space and shopping complexes? Many would have thought it would have brought about competition and resulted in lower prices for the consumers. But the same PJT report I referred to says that in terms of prices ‘there will be no lasting benefits’. I will look at this in more detail shortly. The first result we ought to notice is that this growth by the major retailing companies, Coles, Woolworths, Myers and Grace Bros, is occurring at the expense of the small proprietors. Of course, more outlets means more advertising; saturated advertising. The real rate of growth in retail sales, after allowing for inflation, is only 1.2 per cent while the growth of floor space by the. major retailers is much, greater. The fact is that increasing numbers of small retailers are being forced out of business. Between 1968-69 and 1973-74 the number of small grocers and tobacconists declined by 42 per cent, fruit and vegetable , stores by 38 per cent and butcher shops by 57 per cent. The Age indicated in a report that an estimated 1,400’green grocers have been forced to close in Victoria in the last six years.
Anyone who goes into a supermarket can see why all this is happening. Supermarkets used to sell only a certain type of food item- processed food, tinned food and so on. But today, supermarkets sell much more than groceries. They have expanded into meat, fruit, vegetables, bread, toiletries, health and beauty products and so on. That same PJT report said that while the supermarkets comprise just under 6 per cent of all grocery outlets they account for about 40 per cent of all grocery sales. One can appreciate the growing community awareness and concern about the threat posed by the unplanned, insidious and anarchic growth of shopping complexes. Every day more and more people are expressing their opposition to this new shopping development. I want to quote from an article in the Age of 8 May last year. It states:
In the suburbs the tide has turned from gleeful acceptance of major new shopping centres to general resistance . . . Local battles are now being fought in Sandringham, Doncaster, Mordialloc, Berwick, Brighton and Werribee. The giant Myer group must have been shocked to find it had to embark on a considerable public relations campaign (full-page advertisements, pamphlets and surveys) to push through its plans for a Target discount store and supermarket in Bay Road, Highett.
The same report says that the Melbourne central business district, which already is struggling to maintain its share of the market and retain its customers, is now faced with several multimillion dollar shopping projects. These projects include a $30m 70-shop Centrepoint mall, a $4m 50-shop development by the AMP organisation, a $3m 43-shop city square development, a 30-shop to 50-shop project by the State Savings Bank and 74 new shops in Collins Place. We suggest that this is a gross misuse of scarce capital resources in this country. Decisions to go ahead with the construction of those sorts of projects ought not to be made because a proliferation of this sort of shopping development with large rentals results in increased charges for goods to cover overheads and keep the enterprises viable.
Community resistance has spread throughout Australia. There is widespread concern in the community- even by the Bjelke-Petersen Government about proposals to rezone and develop land in various parts of Queensland. There has been resistance in Sydney. There has been resistance in most of the States to attempts to exacerbate the problem by increasing the number of outlets at the expense of the consumers. The National Times has drawn attention to the proposed development projects by Myer and to the opposition, about which we should all be aware, that is taking place in the Geelong area. Time will not permit me to deal with the pros arid cons of the development struggle that is taking place in the area.
What has been said by Keith Campbell, the Chairman of the big Hooker Corporation and the gentleman who is conducting an inquiry currently at the request of the Government into the financial system and financial institutions of this country? He said:
Developments are proceeding in places where, perhaps, a specialist eye would regard the area as over-shopped by conventional tests.
Hooker itself has rejected several shopping centre developments which have subsequently been undertaken by other developments. An integral part of this whole process has been the relentless and rapid growth of monopoly in the retail industry. Let me give some illustrations. In the market for groceries, for example, the share of the biggest 10 grocery retailers increased from 62 per cent in 1970 to 72 per cent in 1977. The combined share of Coles and Woolworths alone rose from 28.2 to 36.4.
That rise is at the rate of more than one per cent a year. The Legislative Research Service of our own Parliamentary Library has also compiled some interesting statistics for me. They show that the total value of retail sales of goods for the 10 selected largest retailers increased by 115.4 per cent in the five-year period 1974 to 1979. This compared to an increase of only 75 per cent for the rest of Australian industry. This indicates an unbalanced position which is unhealthy from the point of view of the viability of Australia’s economy. In the same period these 10 big companies increased their share of the total retail sales from 23 per cent to 27 per cent. If that concentration continues the big 10 will control 40 per cent of the total market by 1 990.
The total number of retail outlets owned by Woolworths, Coles and Myer has increased in that same five-year period from 939 to 1,341. Most stores are getting bigger and more diverse than the older style stores. We know, of course, the great monopolisation that is taking place in the retail area. Coles has taken over K Mart, Waltons has taken over Mark Foys and McDowells, Grace Bros has acquired recently J. B. Youngs and David Jones has been involved in the acquisition of three other major retail outlets. The value of total assets of the 10 major retailers has increased in that five-year period by 75 per cent. That of course indicates that whilst their profit ratios have remained constant in some cases and in other cases higher, the emphasis in their asset increase only has to be examined to see what the companies are doing with the capital funds that they accumulate. That is a very interesting example of the way in which scarce capital resources are being misapplied in Australia. A number of the major companies concerned increased their assets in the year 1977-78 in round figures by about 50 per cent whilst their profit margins remained somewhat the same. Part of their profit has been allocated to the expansion of new retail outlets. That is borne out in this Government’s own Prices Justification Tribunal’s report that was presented recently.
The same PJT report expressed concern- I refer to the Government’s own report on the food manufacturing industry- over the declining number of wholesale and retail buying points. Nationally, these buying points are largely limited to Coles, Woolworths and Foodland which collectively represent 40.8 per cent of all grocery sales. Of course, in South Australia a similar process is taking place by the one big enterpriseAssociated Co-operative Wholesalers Ltd. One result is that the major retailers are able to force food manufacturers to provide a large proportion of the cost of advertising and promotion. Having established the outlets, the retailers then seek to increase their market share. They encourage excessive advertising, as the retailers do not bear the costs involved. It should be noted that foodstuffs are now the most heavily advertised product in Australia. In 1 976 $62m was spent on advertising food and that amount has been substantially increased recently, although the figures are not available. The power of the big retailer is being used against the smaller retailers and the small corner shops.
The December 1979 report of the Trade Practices Commission reports big wholesale discounts on goods sold to the major retailers. I give one example: In South Australia, whilst the halfcase store sells Heinz tomato sauce for 55c a 600ml bottle, other retailers must buy the same product from the same wholesaler for 70c and must then add a mark-up. Perhaps this trend towards bigness and monopoly would have some justification if it meant lower prices for the consumer, but let us look at what the Bulletin stated at page 1 8 of this week’s edition under the heading ‘ Food prices up ‘:
Food prices were an average 2 per cent dearer in January compared with December, the Bureau of Statistics reported Brisbane was the worst hit, its food prices jumping 4.4 per cent. Sydney’s food prices rose 3 per cent, Canberra 2.2, Adelaide and Perth 1.6, Hobart 1.3 and Melbourne 0.5.
So it goes on, indicating an overall 2 per cent increase in one month. If that were to be calculated in the way in which this Government calculated inflation rates when the Australian Labor Party was in government, it would mean an increase of something like 24 or 25 per cent in food prices in a year. The Government ignores the fact that, with this rapid expansion, construction cost increases are greater than the rate of consumer inflation. In the period in which this accelerated development took place building costs rose by 50 per cent and fitting costs rose by 84 per cent. Those high overheads mean higher prices. High rents mean higher prices. Higher advertising costs mean higher prices. Market concentration means higher prices. Those are exactly the conclusions which have been reached by consumer groups; those are exactly the conclusions which have been reached by the Melbourne-based Knox Prices Action Group. The recent PJT report endorsed the conclusions of that consumer group, stating that it confirmed the analysis the PJT had made of the activities of price rises in the market place.
Despite all the alleged advantages of supermarkets- lower fixed costs per dollar of turnover, fewer staff and lower labour costs- the conclusions of the Knox Group and the report of the PJT prove that one-stop shopping is for the average consumer the most expensive way of buying goods. I estimate that people who are being encouraged to be involved in one-stop or one-shop shopping in fact are being fleeced of between $3 and $4 a week from their pay packets as a result of what is taking place in the retailing of goods in the new market place setup which exists in Australia.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-The Senate may not be aware of it, but the issue which has been raised as a matter of public importance is:
The failure of the Government to effectively prevent price rigging at the expense of consumers by large scale retail outlets.
If honourable senators had been listening carefully to Senator Gietzelt they would have thought that he was arguing that the Federal Government- not the State governments, but the Federal Government- should stop the development of large-scale shopping complexes. He has used raising this matter to attack a most responsible section of Australian business, namely, the large retailers. The large retailers are out to get business and their motive is profit- there is no doubt about that. But they obtain that profit by volume turnover. Let us look at an extract I have from the Daily Telegraph of 30 October last year, headed ‘Price battle launched ‘, which states:
Supermarkets in NSW yesterday began a Christmas price war which promises a bonanza for housewives.
The first shot came from the Safeway group, which announced a price freeze on more than 1 8,000 items.
Coles, with more than SO stores in the State, quickly retaliated, saying it would match Safeways’ 12 NSW and 52 Victorian stores.
A spokesman for Woolworths which has 90 supermarkets and family centres in NSW, said last night:
It is an integral part of Woolworths lower prices policy to meet all competition ‘.
How Senator Gietzelt could make that attack on those large retailers who are trying their best to achieve profits by volume turnover rather than substantial mark-ups is beyond me. How he can say that the large retailers are squeezing the small retailers out of business by charging too much is also logically beyond me because if their prices are so high, why are the small retailers unable to compete with them? If shopping centres were not price competitive and if they were not wanted by consumers, shoppers would not use them. If the honourable senator wishes to stop that development, what he proposes is to deny consumers their right of choice. In fact, if the honourable senator had any practical knowledge of this subject he would know that the best place for some types of small businesses to be situated is right next door to a major store because that is where they get traffic generation.
I have practical knowledge of that from a client of mine who some 15 or 20 years ago asked me to try to obtain for him premises right next door to a large grocery outlet- a Coles supermarket store. I asked him why. He said: ‘Because I will kill them. I have a mark-up of only 5 per cent on every item which I sell and I sell only the items which are volume turnover, whereas Coles in their major stores have a mark-up on most goods which is substantially in excess of 5 per cent. Some goods Coles sell at below the wholesale price. I cannot compete with them on those goods, but overall I will kill them on most items and ultimately the housewife will come into my little store instead of shopping at Coles’. That is a perfect example of a small businessman who is using his head to compete with the large retailer. That is a practical example which 1 suggest is beyond Senator Gietzelt ‘s understanding.
Those large retailers that he spent so much time criticising have millions of dollars invested in goods, let alone the millions of dollars they have invested in capital. In fact, Senator Gietzelt has given us examples of that. In other words, he has criticised the large retailers for investing millions of dollars in Australia. I cannot understand an honourable senator of the Parliament of Australia criticising those companies which invest so many millions of dollars in this country. Of course, the trouble with the Australian Labor Party and with Senator Gietzelt is that, because those retailers are large, by his and his Party’s definition they must be crook. That is a Luddite approach to the whole business of retail marketing. Trying to stop the development of large shopping complexes is like trying to stop a bullet train on the Tokyo Express. On Senator Gietzelt ‘s own figures, there is no doubt that the development of large-scale shopping centres is here to stay. Quite frankly, it is just a Luddite approach to argue that the Federal Government should stop the development of such shopping centres. I am reminded of one of my colleagues who said: ‘The Opposition calls itself the Australian Labor Party; I think it should call itself the Australian Luddite Party’.
Senator Gietzelt ‘s matter of public importance totally ignores any constitutional problems. He forgets the fact that during 1 974, under a Labor Government, a referendum in relation to controls to be exercised by the Federal Government was held and was rejected by the people of Australia. The honourable senator ignores the constitutional difficulties when he suggests that the Federal Government should stop the development of large-scale shopping centres. He also ignores the role of the State governments in this area.
I turn to the real nature of the proposal submitted by Senator Gietzelt, which criticises the Government for allegedly failing to prevent price rigging. Let us look at what the Government has done in connection with this matter within the constitutional limitations of our federal system. Firstly, there is the Trade Practices Act. Under section 45 of that Act, contracts, arrangements or understandings between competitors that substantially lessen competition are prohibited. That is made perfectly clear by the Act. Section 48 prohibits resale price maintenance. On page 88 of the report of the Trade Practices Commission for 1979, in the chapter headed ‘Restrictive Trade Practices Investigation and Enforcement’, the Commission reported:
Enforcement in court of the law against restriction of competition is fundamental to overall compliance with that law.
Paragraph 4.2 states:
The Commission has established a priority system for the purpose of selecting cases for investigation . . . only the most worthwhile investigations are carried out.
The direct impact of the practice on the public or the indirect impact through the effect on businesses is one of the major matters which the Commission takes into consideration. In 1979 the Trade Practices Commission completed five resale price maintenance cases. Currently, the Commission is involved in ten court cases relating to price maintenance. The Commission is supported in those cases by the Federal Government. They involve ski equipment, shoes, motor vehicles, white goods, bottled beer, petrol prices and sports goods. Two other cases involve nonconsumer goods. It is unbelievable that an honourable senator should say that the Government is not effectively preventing price rigging when the Government is supporting, through its Commission, cases involving these goods.
Let me refer to the Prices Justification Tribunal. Under the Labor Government the Prices Justification Tribunal spent most of its time approving price rises. Some people thought that, in some way or other, the Tribunal kept prices down. An enormous amount of paper work was involved. Companies complained bitterly to me about the amount of work in which they were involved in trying to provide the Prices Justification Tribunal with the information it required under the Labor Government in order to effect a price rise. In the end the price rises were granted as they had to be but there was a tremendous amount of wasted time, money and effort. Under this Government the resources of the Prices Justification Tribunal have been directed specifically at price surveillance and price inquiries. As a result, the Tribunal has become a far more relevant body in protecting the interests of the consumer. In the past 18 months not only has the Government encouraged the PJT to maintain a general oversight of prices but also it has specifically directed the Tribunal to inquire into certain matters. Those matters included petrol prices, beef prices and processed food prices.
Processed food prices are relevant to what Senator Gietzelt has been talking about this morning. The PJT looked into not only the manufacturing costs of processed food but also the retail prices. I make it quite clear that the inquiry into processed food prices was conducted by the PJT specifically at the Government’s request. The PJT came up with a series of findings. Perhaps its major suggestion was that major wholesalers and retailers should review the margins applying on high turnover and house brand products. What did the Government do? Immediately, the Government formally brought to the attention of both wholesalers and retailers the report of the PJT. It made it clear to them that they had to look to their own margins. Perhaps this was a matter for self-resolution but the Government brought it to their attention and directed them to apply their minds to the matter.
In addition, the Government directed the Prices Justification Tribunal to monitor, through its normal surveillance procedures, the margins applied by major wholesalers and retailers in respect of high turnover and house brand products. It requested the PJT in the light of this monitoring to report what further action, if any, might in its view be appropriate with regard to wholesale and retail prices. I do not know how Senator
Gietzelt can come into the chamber and criticise the Government for its actions with regard to socalled price rigging when the Government has directed the Prices Justification Tribunal to monitor the margins being applied by both wholesalers and retailers and to report to the Government if any further action needs to be taken. It seems to me that the whole of Senator Gietzelt ‘s proposal falls by the wayside in light of the clear evidence of what the Government has done. The proposal by Senator Gietzelt totally fails. He has used his time to attack people and companies which are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia. He has failed in that criticism. His proposal attempted to criticise the Government but he made no effort in his speech to do so. In the light of the matters which I have disclosed to the Senate as to what the Government has done in this field, the proposal totally fails. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 23 August 1 979,I inform the Senate that Government statements on certain committee reports have not been presented within six months of the tabling of such reports. A list of the reports of the current session of Parliament to which the Government has not responded within the prescribed time has been circulated to honourable senators.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report by the Uranium Advisory Council on the feasibility of uranium enrichment in Australia together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) relating to the report.
– by leave- I move:
I wish to speak briefly to the motion. The judgment of the Opposition on the commercial viability, and the pure economics, of uranium enrichment in Australia- I leave aside the question of whether we should be involved for other reasons- was expressed yesterday in the House of Representatives by Mr Keating when he said that our assessment of the situation is that because of the declining number of reactors which are likely to be built there is a glut situation and it is highly unlikely that uranium enrichment would be viable in Australia on economic grounds alone and should not be proceeded with. The Government has been non-commital. When one reads the statement brought down by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) yesterday one can see that the Government clearly is asserting that it will leave the question to industry. That sentiment is expressed in this passage in Hansard where Mr Anthony said:
It is industry which is being asked to make the commercial judgments whether a uranium enrichment industry is an attractive commercial proposition for Australia.
I want to query whether that is in fact likely to happen; that is whether it will be left to the commercial judgment of firms like Peko- Wallsend and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I submit that at least one State Government is likely to arrogate some power to itself in this area. I would be less worried if I could believe the Government’s statement that it will be left to the commercial judgment of the private firms. It is no secret that the Premier of Western Australia and his former Minister for Industrial Development, who was sacked earlier this week but not, I think, for this reason, are determined to establish an enrichment plant in Western Australia if they possibly can.
– Did you say sacked?
– Mensarsos was sacked as the Minister for Industrial Development.
– He was promoted in the ministry to a different portfolio. Mensaros is still senior to Jones in the ministry.
– He was put down so that Jones could be put up. But I do not want to go into that at this stage. Prior to Jones ratting on what is now called the National Country Party and officially joining the Liberal Party -
– Mensaros is still senior to Jones.
– He is senior in the order in which their names are listed but not senior in respect of the importance of the portfolios which have been allocated to them. The point I am making is not the machinations within the Liberal-National Country Party- or whatever it is called these days- Cabinet of Western Australia. The point I want to make is that a decision on the establishment of a uranium processing industry is not likely to be left to the commercial judgment of the firms concerned because people like Sir Charles Court will interfere in that process. Because of the abdication of responsibility by this Federal Government on 7
December last year, Sir Charles Court is likely to transform his pipedreams into some sort of reality as he has been given unlimited access to overseas borrowings. One of the most alarming decisions of all the decisions which the Fraser Government has made was that of 7 December last year when it declared open season for overseas borrowings by State governments for what it called development projects. Sir Charles Court is not the only State politician who displays these attributes but they have developed to an alarming degree in him.
The reality behind that decision by the Fraser Government is that the politicians who irresponsibly borrow overseas for uneconomic projects will receive the credit for being great developers in their lifetimes and the bill will be picked up by the next generation. Sir Charles Court’s growing belief that reality can be bent to conform with his will has been the subject of comment by senior public servants in Western Australia. That is most unusual because in Western Australia the Public Service is highly secure in a sense compared with what it is and has been for some time in Canberra. Public servants are aghast at the propositions wheeled up to them by the Premier and which he expects them to implement. There is little doubt that unless something is done to curb this man’s megolomania the proposition to establish a uranium enrichment plant in Western Australia will be wheeled up by him. It is likely to be uneconomic even if a cheap supply of electricity is available and there will be no cheap electricity in Western Australia for projects of this magnitude. To complete the circle of irresponsibility, Sir Charles Court would probably then argue that a nuclear reactor would have to be built to supply the electricity for the enrichment plant which could then supply the fuel for the nuclear reactor.
The point, and it is terribly important, is this: Because the Commonwealth Government has abdicated its responsibility in the area of overseas borrowings, or at least asserts that it has, and has declared open season for borrowing by any irresponsible or megolomaniacal State Premier, there is a real danger that a whole host of wild, uneconomic and irresponsible projects could be funded from this source. When the condition has developed to the point that it has in Sir Charles Court, where he actually believes that reality can be bent to conform to his will, obviously the dangers are sharpest. In closing I would like to observe that that particular mental condition, that reality can be bent to conform to the will of the individual, was lucidly portrayed in Albert Speer’s book Inside the Third Reich and was manifest according to Speer, in Adolf Hitler in his declining years.
– I note the Uranium Advisory Council’s fairly cautious approach in its introduction to this matter and the Australian Democrats applaud that. The Uranium Advisory Council makes the general proposition that wherever practical in general Australian minerals should be processed here before export. Then the Council says:
Given that the export of uranium is destined to continue, the persistent image of Australia as a mere quarry could be ameliorated to the extent that its product goes abroad in enriched form.
There are two points to be made. Firstly, it is nice to see some realisation that there is a persistent image of Australia as a mere quarry. Secondly, I think that the conditional reference to uranium is well justified by the circumstances. There are one or two points in the report that I would like to comment on in relation to that very matter. One is the question of cost. These procedures of uranium enrichment are enormously expensive. I think that we have to look in the energy field- I am sure that the Government appreciates this- at a comparable result for an equivalent amount of money. I should point out that on the latest figures relating to wheat technology it is estimated by responsible scientists- I had this confirmed several times- that for a capital investment of about $ 1,000m we can organise enough agro-industrial ethanol complexes, particularly using wheat, to provide 20 per cent of Australia’s motor spirit. I think that is an important figure. I would urge honourable senators also to compare that figure with the figures being quoted for Rundle shale. They might come to a rather interesting conclusion.
One of the most important red lights that the Council pointed out in this report- one which we would do well to take note of- is the fact that the enrichment market may have a limited life expectancy if fast breeder technology should develop more rapidly than expected. I would have thought it would have a limited life if fast breeder technology develops at its present rate because it is a fact that Super Phoenix, a very large French fast breeder on the Rhone River, is now well under construction and, according to our latest reports, is expected to be in operation by 1983. We must also bear in mind that France is now probably the only remaining country which will go ahead with a major nuclear program. Japan is cutting back on its program, Germany is cutting back on its program. The figures in relation to projected reactor numbers have been cited in the Senate many times, and the numbers of reactors which are on order and are being built. They are familiar to honourable senators, so I will not waste the time of the Senate by giving those figures again. However, I believe it is a fact that by 1 990 it would be very surprising indeed if there were any markets left for enriched uranium produced by these rather oldfashioned procedures. The fast breeder reactors will be coming into operation then. If we can get this technology into operation now, there might be some argument for it, but I think that talking about after 1 990 is being in the airy fairy world.
Relative to that, of course, is the enormous speed at which the alternative technology is developing for the generation of electric power. I think that this is basic. Honourable senators may not be aware- I do not know whether they are, because this experiment is very recent- of the successful experiment in Israel for salt water pondage for generation of electric power. This has caused wide interest in the United States which is to adopt immediately this technology. Israeli scientists say that it is a goer, it is a permanently renewable resource. Incidentally it is a resource which will be particularly applicable to Australia because it uses shallow ponds of salt water and it has an extremely low rate per kilowatt and capital cost, and costs can be expected to go down rapidly.
Many other forms of technology are available; for example, ocean temperature thermal energy conversion. This technology may not apply particularly in Australia because of our continental shelf, but it is certainly already being applied overseas to the extent that the United States is building a 100,000-ton plant. I think another one will go into Nauru quite soon. I think we can expect these plants to be generating enormous amounts of electric power in direct economic competition with nuclear power before the decade is out. The point is-and perhaps the Council has made it, and I think the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) has made it in his own waythat we would be mugs to go into this. Certainly we should not put the Australian people’s money into this anywhere. It is not a goer. It is a very dangerous investment for the future on purely economic grounds and on any reasonable forecasts of energy production methods for the future. It has nothing to do with one’s own views on nuclear power and the export of uranium. My own views are well known. But I do want to make the point that it has nothing to do with that; on economic grounds alone the thing is not a goer.
Finally, I should like to speak very briefly about one aspect of the report. It is the reference to the safety or otherwise of this method. I feel that the Council has done this matter a little less than justice. But it can be forgiven, I think, because it is only over the last few days that it was reported in the United States that there was a 10-ton spill of uranium hexafluoride at the enrichment plant at Piketon, Ohio. That spill occurred in March 1978, but it has only just been reported publicly. Most of that radioactive material, an enormous quantity, vapourised into the atmosphere adding to the general background radiation. It is not true that enrichment plants are safe and do not release materials into the atmosphere. In fact the same plant at Piketon, Ohio, has recorded ten other releases of uranium hexafluoride into the air since 1976. That is in a very short period of two years. I think the Australian Democrats would rebut the Council’s imputations in this report that enrichment processes would not be harmful to the environment, although I note that the Council has said that the plants should be located in pretty remote places. There again, that will involve additions to the cost of the facilities. We wish to make the Australian Democrats’ point of view quite strongly. Our view is that we should not go into this technology. It would be stupid, it would be betraying the Australian people in the economic sense, and dangerous to boot. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Pursuant to section 72(4) of the Health Commission Ordinance 1 975 I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission 1978-79.
– by leave- I move:
Speaking very briefly to the report, the Australian Democrats and one of its members on the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly have a great deal to do with the Commission and with the report. We commend the report, with two reservations. I have not had much chance to read the entire report, but the Australian Democrats do commend it, although there is an omission relating to training for the nursing profession. I refer to the Committee on Nurse Education and Training chaired by Dr Sax and its report of August 1978 which made several recommendations on basic nursing courses which read:
Commonwealth and State Education Ministers be approached to obtain agreement to:
I understand that those recommendations have not yet been accepted by the Government. We believe that they are urgent enough to be accepted. In relation to another aspect of the report, I notice that there is concern expressed in regard to the fact that the drug abuse, prevention and curative services were expanded. I read with interest about the rehabilitation of users of drugs, and the drug legislation which was brought down. That is peripheral to this particular report, but I find it absurd. I refer to the dispute existing in Sydney with the Customs officers.
While this Commission is quite properly pointing out what it is doing with regard to drug addiction, because of the industrial dispute between management and staff at the New South Wales Bureau of Customs, dedicated officrs are now being overruled by senior officers in the prosecution of their duties to such an extent that the staff association tells me that there is no way they can properly police drug importation or importation of literature concerning drugs. I have just seen a publication High Times which was seized by Customs officers. This is a glossy magazine which contains explicit instructions on how to buy heroin, how to use it and how to inject it. The chief preventive officer wanted to prosecute on this publication but was overruled by higher authority at the Bureau of Customs in Sydney, and seven cases of such confiscated material were returned to the people who peddle this sort of thing among Australian youth. We commend the report and ask the Government for a response as to when it will react to the 1 978 recommendations of the Sax Committee on nurse education and training.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on rubber products.
– For the information of honourable senators I present details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 July 1 979 to 3 1 December 1979. Copies of this report are available from the Table Office.
– by leave- I move:
I have a few comments to make about this report. I have had very little time to peruse it, but it will be recalled by honourable senators that the last time a similar report was tabled in the Senate, I had quite a lot of things to say about Government back benchers travelling in Queensland on the VIP aircraft chartered by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am happy to see in this report that the Prime Minister must have taken some cognisance of my remarks. In looking through the report hurriedly I find that on only three occasions have back benchers of the Government been passengers on VIP aircraft. I will refer to them firstly and then I will refer to another passenger who has brought about some discussion in this Parliament.
I see that Senator Davidson is one of the people popular with the Prime Minister. He travelled from Essendon to Adelaide to Canberra on 24 September. Looking hurriedly at the report, he is the only member of the Senate I could find who has had the pleasure of accompanying the Prime Minister on VIP trips. I notice that Mr Katter is still very popular with the Prime Minister when he is travelling around Queensland. He is one of the back benchers of the Government who I had occasion to mention the last time a similar report on this matter was tabled. Mr Katter travelled from Canberra to Rockhampton on 28 September last year. He travelled with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, from Thangool to Emerald on 10 December and 1 1 December 1979. So it would appear that the back bench members from Queensland receive some special privilege in being allowed to travel on VIP aircraft around that State. No doubt this travel was for political purposes. Of course, we all know that members of parliament receive certain charter rights under the direction of the Remuneration Tribunal to service their electorate. It appears very strange that, particularly in Queensland, back bench members, who receive a very liberal allowance for their big electorates, are still allowed to travel with the Prime Minister and his Ministers. It appears that the number of flights has been severely curtailed since I raised this matter in the Parliament. I think that goes to show that we get some results when we pay very close attention to the use of these VIP aircraft.
The other matter I wish to raise, which is now in the manifest, is the travel undertaken by one member of the staff of the Liberal Party of Australia, Mr Eggleton. I notice in the schedule of flights that he travelled from Canberra to Perth, to the Seychelles, to Lagos, to Dar es Salaam and to Lusaka, and from Lusaka to Mauritius, to Perth and to Canberra. This trip was the subject of a question asked in the Senate on 23 August by my colleague Senator Sibraa. The question was directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, and asked for some particulars about that trip. In the course of Senator Carrick ‘s answer, he said:
I do not think that anybody throughout the Commonwealth of Nations would question the extremely high standing of Mr Eggleton, his particular objective expertise and his knowledge of the Commonwealth secretariat and, therefore, . . .
Senator Carrick went on.
– His name is a household word in Delhi and Bangladesh.
-Mr Eggleton? No doubt it is. But since Senator Carrick made that statement to the Senate we now know that the same Mr Eggleton was the person responsible for severely doctoring some documents that came into his possession from the Australian Labor Party office at Curtin House.
– He also had Mr Mugabe elected.
-He had Mr Mugabe with him too, did he?
– I am not concerned about who he had with him. What I am concerned about is the answer that Senator Carrick gave. I repeat that he said that Mr Eggleton was a man of ‘extremely high standing’. Yet we find that documents were doctored by this same person to try to vilify the Australian Labor Party.
This is a person who is able to travel on this VIP aircraft at taxpayers’ expense, I believe, or can the Minister tell us that the Liberal Party of Australia has paid for Mr Eggleton ‘s fare on this trip around the world? I am not aware that Senator Sibraa has yet received the details he asked for. He may have received them. I have not had time to ask him whether he has because this document has only just been tabled. I look forward to having some more particulars about this trip before the Senate rises for the election, which is appears could be held some time after 30 June, which is very soon. We need to know who the Prime Minister is ferrying around the country and whether these people, if they are not members of parliament are travelling at the taxpayers’ expense. I suppose one should not be over-critical when a member of Parliament hitches a ride on a VIP aircraft, but one can be very severe in one’s criticism when members of the Prime Minister’s own political party are ferried not only around Australia but also around the world, particularly when one of those people is the man who is prepared, for political purposes, to doctor Labor Party documents and to give a false impression to the electorate. That is one of my main concerns. I hope that the Minister can give us an answer before the Parliament rises as to whether, in fact, the Liberal Party has made compensation to the taxpayers of Australia for the trip taken by Mr Eggleton.
I take a very dim view of the fact that members of the Liberal-Country Party Government can take their party officers around the country to advise them. We all know that the Prime Minister is sorely in need of a lot of advice when he goes overseas. I recall a cartoon in the Melbourne Age a few weeks ago when the Prime Minister was overseas and was travelling on this Boeing aircraft that I am talking about. It stated that Mr Fraser had left Australia to advise Mr Carter, that he had gone on to advise Mrs Thatcher, that he had then gone to Europe to advise some of the leaders of the government in France and West Germany, and the next caption stated that Professor Harries had gone to Honolulu to advise Mr Fraser on the way back to Australia on what he ought to say. That is typical of the Prime Minister. As I have said, he certainly needs somebody with him to give him some sound advice. This has been proven by what we have seen in recent weeks, the way that he has fallen flat on his face in regard to the issue of the Olympic Games.
I make a plea again that we get some more details about these flights. I think I made that plea the last time a similar document was tabled and I spoke to it. I said that we ought to have an indication alongside the name of the people who travel on these aircraft whether they are journalists, staff of Ministers, staff of the Liberal Party of Australia, or who they represent. I noticed from a quick look through this document that a Mr Kailis travelled in the Northern Territory and Western Australia on one flight with the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, who is no longer in the Ministry. These are the matters in which the taxpayers of this country are interested. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- The purpose of this statement is to provide an assessment of the current state of the Australian economy, to put into context recent developments on the monetary front and to inform the House of certain revenue decisions. More than six months have now passed since the Budget and it is therefore appropriate to take stock of the current performance of the Australian economy. This year’s Budget was designed to equip Australia to succeed in a world environment of rising inflation and intensifying competition. Subsequent developments have more than borne out the concern then expressed by the Government about the world economic outlook. World inflation has most certainly intensified and the international economy has become more uncertain. Notwithstanding this difficult setting, the broad goals of the Budget are being achieved. Indeed, the Australian economy is now performing more strongly than thought likely last August. This is not to deny the persistence of some adverse factors.
At the time of the last Budget we expected inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, to rise by a little above 10 per cent for 1979-80. On the evidence so far this prediction remains unchanged, however, additional inflationary pressures have developed since the Budget with potentially harmful effects. These make it more than ever essential that we maintain, indeed strengthen, the downward pressure upon inflation. Honourable senators will be aware of the sharp rises in inflation overseas in recent times. Between December 1978 and December 1979, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average inflation rate rose from 8.4 per cent per annum to 12 per cent per annum. (Quorum formed). It was, of course, impossible to isolate the Australian economy from this development, which was a major reason why prices rose faster in 1979 than in 1978. These overseas pressures persist.
At the same time, further pressure upon our inflation rate is coming from adverse domestic developments, principally in the wages area. These developments, in the form of claims for additional wage increases, constitute a growing worry to the Government. Although the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the last national wage case discounted the consumer price index to cover the direct effects of policy measures, it refused to go further. As a result, the economy is in the process of absorbing a further 4.5 per cent rise in award wage rates. However, more alarming than this is the spread of wage increases on what appear to be increasingly tenuous work value grounds in which the Commission is acquiescing. This adds a layer of wage increases on top of those obtained through the normal indexation process. A continuation of this will undermine the modest, but nonetheless encouraging, gains which have been made on the employment front over the past year. It is incumbent upon all who are part of the arbitral process to bear in mind that nothing will more quickly dissipate these gains than further excessive wage increases. The Australian economy cannot afford wage increases in excess of productivity gains and those involved would do well to recall what happened when that occurred in 1 974 and 1975.
The Government remains convinced that general wage restraint is a crucial element in controlling inflation and sustaining economic recovery. To the extent that it does not occur, greater strain is placed upon other areas of policy, in particular, monetary policy. Against a background of sharply accelerating inflation rates amongst major industrialised nations, Australia has held the line remarkably well. For the 12 months ended December 1979, the Australian rate of inflation was 10 per cent against an OECD average of 1 2 per cent. Comparatively lower inflation and pragmatic management of the exchange rate have made Australian industry more competitive. This, combined with another buoyant rural season, is reflected in the strong growth in exports. For the first seven months of this financial year, the value of recorded exports rose by nearly 40 per cent over the equivalent period the year before. Of particular satisfaction has been the noticeable lift in manufactured exports.
Evidence of Australia’s enhanced economic reputation is not only to be found in our improved export performance. Our more stable and predictable economic climate has meant that, more than ever, Australia is seen as an attractive place for long term investment. The chief importance of the increasing interest now shown in Australia from abroad lies in its contribution to the growth of our future productive capacity and thus to higher levels of output and employment. Historically, Australia has largely financed its current account deficit through an inflow of private capital. In recent years, however, due to lower levels of private capital inflow, large overseas borrowings by the Government have been necessary to finance our current account deficit. Now, as a result of our strengthening external position, we have significantly reduced the amount of overseas borrowings. To illustrate, the total amount borrowed by the Government last financial year was $l,561m. So far this year a total amount of only about $470m has been borrowed.
This much improved external performance has been matched by a strengthening in many domestic economic indicators. Although profits are still below the levels required to ensure .a return to earlier rates of growth in employment, there has recently been a recovery in business profits which is now being reflected in higher investment. All too often the crucial role of private sector profitability in economic recovery is forgotten. Despite the inevitable effects of the reduced investment allowance, business investment recovered in the December quarter and the Statistician’s most recent survey of new capital expenditure by private enterprises points to further strong growth in the remainder of this financial year. More and more businessmen are displaying the confidence to make long term investment decisions.
The growth in capital investment has been broadly based. Naturally, the mining and resource industries are attracting large volumes of capital investment, but the appreciable lift in the volume of manufacturing investment should not be overlooked. Private dwelling investment also grew strongly over the course of 1978-79 and continued at a high level in the September quarter. With private dwelling commencements and approvals continuing to rise in the December quarter,’ further steady growth in this area can be expected over the balance of this financial year. Whilst there has been inevitable uneveness, production growth has occurred across a wide front. Of the 32 major indicators of production collected by the Australian Statistician, 24 increased in the latest three-monthly period when compared with the same period a year earlier. In 15 cases the increase in volume was in excess of 10 per cent. The overall gains are reflected in the 7 per cent rise in the ANZ index of industrial production for the year to December 1979. Whilst we cannot ignore the relatively subdued level of private consumption expenditure, there has been some recent evidence of greater growth. For the year to January 1 980 the value of retail sales showed an increase of 13.3 per cent over the previous 12 months, which implies a growth in real terms.
In. the Budget Speech, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said that he did not expect unemployment to improve in the year ahead, and it was estimated that employment growth of about one per cent would occur in 1979-80. On the evidence to date, the outlook on both fronts is rather more favourable. Total employment in the three months ending January 1980 was 2.3 per cent higher than in the corresponding three months a year earlier. This rise was the largest over a 12 month period for3½ years and spread across all sections of the work force. The budget-time forecast now seems likely to be exceeded. This growth in employment has, in part, been met by drawing people into the work force. However, the unemployment situation itself has also shown positive improvement. January was the third successive month in which unemployment was below the level of a year earlier. At the end of January 1980, approximately 440,000 people, or 6.7 per cent of the labour force, were unemployed compared with 7 per cent in January 1979. Although these improvements are pleasing, unemployment remains a significant social and economic challenge to all sections of the community.
For its part, the Government will continue to respond to that challenge on two fronts. Firstly, we shall pursue general economic policies designed to achieve lasting growth and thus a greater stock of jobs in the community. Secondly, we shall maintain a variety of training schemes aimed at improving the skills, versatility and mobility of the labour force. In this latter area the Government has, since the Budget, inaugurated, with the co-operation of all State governments, a program designed to smooth the transition from school to work for those most likely to experience difficulty in finding their first job. Overall, the economy’s performance has been somewhat stronger than foreshadowed in the Budget Speech. We are now well on our way to achieving a growth in non-farm product for 1979-80 of over three per cent.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-I turn to the budgetary situation. This year’s Budget provided for an overall deficit of $2, 193m and a domestic deficit of $875m. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the projected deficit implied a reduction from the previous year’s outcome of 3.4 per cent to an estimated 1.9 per cent. The customary detailed mid-year review of Budget outlays and receipts has been completed. Putting aside for the moment the recently increased receipts from the crude oil levy, this review indicates that the Budget is very much on track.
On the expenditure side, growth during the first seven months of this financial year has been closely in line with that provided for in the Budget. I remind the Senate that if the Budget projection of 9. 1 per cent growth in outlays is fulfilled, it will mean that in the four years this Government has been in office growth in Commonwealth Government Budget spending will have averaged slightly under one per cent per annum in real terms. This contrasts markedly with an average growth of10½ per cent per annum in real terms in the three years to 1 976.
Since the Budget was brought down the Government has taken a number of far-ranging decisions about the size and composition of defence expenditure. The reasons for these decisions and their details have already been provided by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). These decisions imply an increase in defence expenditure from a current level of 2.6 per cent of GDP to approximately 3 per cent of GDP by the end of the current fiveyear defence program. Furthermore, those decisions involve increased defence expenditure of approximately $100m in 1980-81 and significantly increased amounts in subsequent years.
They represent an essential but nonetheless major addition to the expenditure side of future
Budgets. However, they will not add to Budget outlays in the current financial year. Increased defence expenditure will not be financed in an inflationary manner. Expenditure restraint has been one of the mainstays of our economic policy over the past four years. This will again be the casein 1980-81.
On the revenue side, the Treasurer indicated early in January that additional revenue from the crude oil levy would yield about a further $440m during the present financial year. The mid-year review of receipts and expenditure has now revealed a downward revision in the estimated additional crude oil levy receipts to about $340m. This results from expected lower production of domestically produced oil in the third quarter. In looking to the final outcome, I must enter the caution that variations can occur up to the end of the financial year. This is particularly so in the areas of company and provisional taxation.
In the Budget Speech the Treasurer said growth in the volume of money- M3- of about 10 per cent over the course of the year was judged to be appropriate. The stronger economic growth to which I have referred might, in other circumstances, suggest that a slightly faster rate of growth in the monetary aggregates would still be consistent with the Government’s antiinflationary policy. However, the overseas and domestic inflationary pressures I have detailed are such as to require firm adherence to the monetary outcome thought desirable at the time of the Budget. I therefore confirm the Government’s belief that an outcome of this order remains appropriate.
Recently, there have been a number of developments exerting upward pressure on monetary growth. Perhaps most prominent have been the rapid expansion of bank lending and limited sales of government securities to the non-bank sector. A key factor in monetary developments has been the rise in overseas interest rates. This surge in interest rates abroad- which continueshas inevitably exerted upward pressure on interest rates in all sections of the Australian capital market. The initial impact was less than expected. It was not until early this calendar year that it became clear that overseas rises were unlikely to abate in the short term. Local financial institutions, most notably the trading banks, experienced a rapid growth in demand for loans at current interest rates and it became increasingly difficult to sell government securities. In these circumstances, there were rises in market rates on government securities and the Reserve Bank adjusted rates on its ‘tap’ stocks accordingly.
More recently, there has been a further round of increases in overseas interest rates which has been followed by additional rises in yields on Commonwealth Government securities. They rose in the market early last week by around 0.6 to 0.8 percentage points. Whilst no Government welcomes such rises, not to have allowed them would have undermined our capacity to sell government securities and our objective of containing the growth of monetary aggregates.
The Loan Council has also approved increases in maximum yields on local and semigovernment securities by a similar amount. Moreover, in .order to ensure that Australian savings bonds continue to make an adequate contribution to restraining the growth in monetary aggregates, and in view of the increases which have already occurred in most private and official interest rates, the Loan Council has also approved a new series of Australian savings bonds with an interest rate of 9.75 per cent.
These increases still represent very modest upward movements compared with rises which have taken place elsewhere. For example, since 1 July last year, interest rates for prime borrowers in the United States have risen by approximately 5lA per cent and in the United Kingdom by 3 per cent, against a rise of less than one per cent for a comparable transaction in Australia. This very favourable comparison is a direct reflection on our better inflation performance and a basic overseas perception that both the Australian economy and our dollar are strong.
Looking ahead there will, of course, be some seasonal rises in short term interest rates as we enter the liquidity run-down in the June quarter. Some financial institutions will doubtless have to pay temporarily higher rates for their liquid funds. Nonetheless, the evidence before us is that the private sector as a whole is well-equipped to meet the seasonal liquidity run-down. The Government- and the Reserve Bank in particular -will closely follow developments during the run-down period to ensure that there is no undue disruption or tightness.
As was noted in the Budget Speech last year, unexpected developments can significantly alter the outcome of projections properly based at the time they are made. For example, the currently projected outcome for bank lending during the course of 1979-80 is approximately $400m above that thought likely at the time the Budget was put together. Equally, current prognostications about the contribution of private sector foreign exchange transactions put it some $250m lower than thought likely at Budget time. Likewise, other decisions I shall shortly announce will have an appreciable effect upon the monetary situation.
I now return to the question of the disposition of the estimated additional crude oil revenues of $340m in the present financial year. Three factors emerge very clearly from the economic assessment I have just provided. Firstly, the economy is growing more strongly than thought likely at Budget time. Secondly, developments at home and abroad have heightened inflationary pressures and expectations. Thirdly, whilst significant action has already been taken, continued firmness in monetary policy is required.
In taking its decision the Government has sought to make a responsible contribution towards mitigating adverse pressures within the economy and consolidating very evident gains to date. It has therefore decided to apply the entire proceeds of the increased oil revenue in this financial year towards a reduction in the Budget deficit. As honourable senators might expect, the Government has, since the Treasurer’s statement of early January, received plentiful advice and numerous suggestions from a wide variety of sources as to what to do with the additional revenue. The Treasurer’s January statement made it clear that the additional revenue would not be allowed to open the way for general increases in Government spending. Although expectations have undoubtedly been raised that some tax reductions might occur this financial year, the Government believes that the considerations I have just outlined present a compelling case for not providing such reductions. However, the Government does believe that there is scope for some taxation reductions to be made next financial year without prejudicing our general objectives.
Within the scope available the Government has decided that priority should be given to reductions in personal income tax and has made two decisions affecting taxation levels in this area. Firstly, with effect from 1 July 1980, the rebate for dependent spouses will be increased from $597 per annum to $800 per annum. There will be equivalent percentage increases for daughter-housekeeper, housekeeper, sole parent, invalid relative and parent rebates and in allowances for children for zone rebate purposes. For example, the sole parent rebate will rise from $417 to $559 and invalid relative rebate from $270 to $362. Secondly, the Government has decided to apply 50 per cent indexation of the personal taxation scale, also with effect from 1 July 1980.
It is not possible at this time to indicate with absolute precision the adjustments to be made to the rate scale from 1 July 1980. For one thing, the indexation factor is calculated for the year to the March quarter and it will be some time yet before the CPI figure for the current March quarter is available. I am able, however, to provide some illustrative figures on the basis of an assumed increase in the CPI in the March quarter, but I emphasise that actual figures to be applied cannot be determined until after the March quarter figure is known. For illustrative purposes we might assume that the average CPI figure for the four quarters ending March 1 980 will be about 9.5 per cent above the level of the previous year. Discounting that figure for the effects of indirect taxes and the first two stages of the move towards parity pricing for oil, as already prescribed in the law, would produce an indexation factor of about 8. 1 per cent.
It would be consistent with past practice to discount also for the health insurance changes that were announced on 24 May 1979 and for the further impact of the Government’s decisions to move to full import parity pricing of crude oil. On present indications these adjustments would have the effect of reducing the estimated figure of 8. 1 per cent by about a further 0.9 percentage points, producing a full indexation factor for 1980-81 of 7.2 per cent. On that basis half indexation, as proposed, would mean adjustment of the rate scale by 3.6 per cent with effect from 1 July 1980. That adjustment would itself have lifted the spouse rebate from its present level of $597 to $618 but, as indicated earlier, it has been decided to increase it to $800 and to effect proportional increases in other dependant rebates. In deciding to increase significantly the dependent spouse rebate the Government has responded to what it believes to be the relative disadvantage of single income familiesparticularly those on low incomes- under present taxation arrangements. The proposed increase of $203 per annum in this rebate means that the largest relative gains will accrue to low income families with a single breadwinner.
With indexation of the rate scale by 3.6 per cent the tax threshold above which the standard rate applies would increase from its 1979-80 level of $3,893 to $4,033. When allowance is made for the higher rebates, the effective threshold for a taxpayer with a dependent spouse would increase from $5,698 to $6,533 and for a sole parent from $5, 1 53 to $5,779. The
Treasurer has had prepared a number of tax tables on the basis of these illustrative figures and I seek leave to incorporate these tables in Hansard.
The tables read as follows-
The tables show that all taxpayers will benefit from 1 July. For example, a taxpayer on the standard rate with a dependent spouse will be $4.70 a week better off as a result of these changes. On the basis of the figures quoted, the changes are estimated to involve a revenue cost of about $6 16m in 1980-81. Legislation to give effect to these changes will be introduced in the current sittings as soon as practicable. As a result of these changes millions of Australians will receive an increase in their take home pay. Against this background the Government expresses the very firm hope that the Arbitration Commission will take full account of these tax reductions when making both its indexation and work value determinations.
Over the past four years this Government has worked hard to establish the preconditions for a return to firm sustainable growth. The point has now been reached where there are sound prospects of self-sustaining growth in the private sector. We have no intention of parting company with the principal tenets upon which our economic policy has rested for the past four years. The assessment contained in this speech and the decisions I have announced today should be seen within that context. Only by pursuing an uncompromising attack upon inflation will we be able to ensure that Australia’s great potential is realised in the 1980s. We all understand that basic truth. We shall not lose sight of it in our policies. I present the following paper:
Australian Economy- Ministerial statement, 6 March 1980. and move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– I am somewhat concerned that we do not have more time to debate this statement because it is an important one and a number of honourable senators, certainly on the Opposition side and presumably on the Government side, would wish to make some contribution. However, we will give that further consideration. The statement which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) has just delivered to the Senate, describing the state of the economy and announcing limited taxation adjustments, strongly confirms the Parliament’s and, indeed, the people’s view that the present Government’s credibility has been lost. That statement confirms that the Government has lost control of the economy and from now on we can look to everything being up under this Government. Unemployment will be up; inflation will be up; petrol prices will be up; taxation collections will be up and, as usual, interest rates will be up as well. The nation will enter the next decade with a string of major promises that have been broken by this Government. Therefore much of what we have heard today can be taken with a grain of salt. It is not surprising that the electorate at large will view the announcement of limited tax adjustments with considerable cynicism. If the performance of this Government over the past three years is any indicator, no one can count on the concessions which have just been announced applying after the next election, given the chance that this Government might be re-elected. This statement is, of course, intended by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to be the start of an election campaign. Let me look at what the Minister said in this statement. It states:
Although expectations have undoubtedly been raised that some tax reductions might occur this financial year, the Government believes that the considerations I have just outlined present a compelling case for not providing such reductions.
In other words, the Government, or its advisers, is saying that if it gives tax concessions it will in fact be encouraging inflation and creating money supply problems. There is no doubt that the Government is so worried about, for example, the adverse impact of increasing petrol prices, broken promises over a wide range of economic measures and now increasing, and likely to increase, interest rates that it has been virtually compelled to buy votes. So much for the claim that this Government’s first consideration is for good economic management. I will return to the question of economic management after dealing with one or two other matters.
Two tax proposals are contained in this statement. The first is that the spouse rebate will be increased from the present level of $597 to $800. The second is that the Government will introduce what it alleges to be half indexation of personal income tax scales. There is no cost to revenue of the proposals. It needs to be made perfectly plain, which is the way the Prime Minister always expresses these things, that the Government is handing back what could only be described as a pittance. It is a very, very small proportion of the tax increases which have taken place under this Government. Let me refer to the figures on personal tax revenue collections. In the last year of the Labor Government total personal income tax collections were $7,7 14m or $7.7 billion. Yet this current financial year this Government will collect $15,128 billion. That is more than double the personal tax collections in the last year of the Labor Government. So really the Government has presided over a massive taxation increase. Last year the total collections amounted to $ 12,804m. This year that amount increases by about $3,000m. Assuming that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is correct when he says he is handing back about $340m, that works out at about two per cent of the total income tax take which, in anybody’s language, must be described as a miserably small amount. He claims that to the average wage and salary earner the changes will be worth about $4 a week or, in a full year, about $288. He does not say that at the same time the Government will be taking an average of $600 from every family that owns a motor car; that is, the average user of motor cars in the Australian community.
We must confess some degree of welcome to these taxation deductions. We must be grateful for small mercies under the policies of Mr Fraser. The Government has failed to make any major concessions. It will still collect $2 for every $ 1 that it takes from the taxpayer. This is consistent with the deceptive nature of this Government’s taxation policies ever since it came to office. Even in its very first year of office the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, had to describe his own figures as being rubbery. We all remember the rubbery figures of the first Budget of the Fraser Government.
Let me go back to 1 November 1977 to look at some of the undertakings that were given. The Prime Minister said that his Government would fully index personal income tax for inflation over the three years. Those sentiments were reiterated by the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, and were restated in this chamber by Senator Carrick. But the claims proved to be false. In 1976-77 the Government came closest to its promise and introduced indexation of around 90 per cent. In 1 978, after making such a bold election promise, the Government backtracked from what in fact had become 80 per cent indexation- this had come about, of course, by the discounting of the consumer price index- and indexation came down to 35 per cent or thereabouts. The final crunch came in the 1979-80 Budget when indexation was scrubbed altogether and the tax surcharge was imposed in its place.
Now the Treasurer is trying to tell us that 50 per cent tax indexation will apply from 1 July. This cannot be substantiated because the
Treasurer is again talking about massive discounting of the CPI from the inflationary measures which this Government has implemented and which have hit hardest the low income earners. Under the Howard proposal, tax indexation will be only 38 per cent, not 50 per cent. Thus we are closer to one-third indexation rather than to the half indexation that is claimed. None of us in this place should be surprised because it is consistent with the Government’s attempts to remain honest about the promises that it has made. The Government’s performance certainly has been rubbery- to use Mr Lynch’s term of three years ago- and perhaps slippery is a better term to use.
The electorate should be very clear that it is only getting one-third indexation. If, by some remote chance, this Government is returned after the next election there will be no guarantees whatsoever that indexation will even be as high as that. If we needed any support for the proposition that the Government’s economic promises cannot be believed we could add another couple of promises relating to interest rates. For example, in November 1 977 the Prime Minister said:
Interest rates have begun to fall- and they will keep on falling.
Again, on 6 December he said:
Once the election is over, we will start to move to the consummation of a 2 per cent reduction in interest rates and that means about $500 a year for someone on an average home loan.
But what happened? Interest rates did move down very marginally for a temporary period, but they have now commenced to climb again. Interest rates are presently over 1 1 per cent. By the end of the year we can expect them to be 12 per cent or 13 per cent, particulary if Australia follows the patterns which have occurred in the United States and Britain. Instead of giving each holder of a home loan $500, these policies will in fact be adding a similar amount to home loans every year.
The net effect of these tax adjustments and other policies announced in this statement is to increase taxpayers ‘costs by around $800 to $900 annually. This will be made up of the $600 through the crude oil levy that I have referred to and about a $400 to $500 increase in home loan costs. That figure of $800 to $900 will increase because the Government has said even at this stage that the most recent increase of $2 a barrel in imported fuel costs by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has not yet, of course, been applied. Assuming that the Government is consistent with what it has said we will see a further increase in the figures that I have used.
The average taxpayer, as a result of these policies, could be paying an extra $1,000 a year or thereabouts. If members of the Government do not believe that the electorate sees them in this way they should talk to some of the people out in their electorates who have to buy goods with what are, in fact, in real terms steadily decreasing incomes. No one looks a gift horse in the mouth, but no one can say that these benefits to the Australian people will have any significant impact either in improving consumer demand in the economy or improving the position of the ordinary wage and salary earner.
Let us look at a couple of other matters which the Treasurer deals with in his statement. There are some remarks about the influence of international events and how Australia cannot insulate itself from them. These, of course, are very similar conditions to those that existed in 1973 under the previous Labor Government. The Labor Government found these massive increases in prices taking place in overseas countries. In one year alone our import bill of $8 billion increased by no less than 25 per cent. At that time we recognised that it was impossible for us to insulate ourselves from those price increases that caused imported inflation, as it was then termed. The present Government- it was then the Opposition- said that that was all nonsense, that we could not blame the overseas position for what was happening in Australia at that time. The Government concedes now that it also cannot insulate itself from these effects. We have felt the full brunt of them. I suspect that the Treasurer is now recognising that the criticism of his predecessor was unjustified and the problems which face this Government are very similar to those which faced the Government in 1 973 and 1974.
It is not the problems of wage restraint which are the major concern for any government. The major concern is the level of overseas activity and the state of the international economy. The Treasurer now admits the fact. Another fundamental aspect is the exchange rate. I regret to say that in answer to questions last year Senator Carrick, on behalf of the Treasurer, showed that he did not understand the significance of the exchange rate changes for Australia’s competitive position. If massive mineral exports start to increase Australia’s reserves and attract more private capital inflow there will be pressures to revalue the Australian dollar. This would be almost a repeat position of what we experienced in 1 973. If the inflow is large and the export earnings are high the pressures will be for revaluation. No doubt such a revaluation would be difficult and harmful to the rural and, of course, the manufacturing export sectors. But if the Government does not revalue in response to those pressures it will face very serious money supply problems and, of course, the inflationary pressures that go with it. Also, there is the prospect that we will be forced to follow the overseas trend of even higher interest rates if the rates in the United States of America and Britain remain at or about their current level of approximately 16 per cent. Private capital will tend to flow out of” Australia and our current account deficit could become larger.
I was interested to see also that the Treasurer played down the matter of overseas borrowings. He admitted that last year the Government borrowed $ 1,561m but indicated that this year it borrowed only $470m. What he did not say was that Australia’s overseas borrowings total still well in excess of $5,000 billion. The repayment schedules that have been tabled here in the Parliament indicate the sorts of problems that will be posed by those repayments. In one year, 1983-84, repayments under that borrowing program will total almost $ 1,000m. In spite of the alleged recovery in the economy, the levels of overseas borrowings are still very much higher than they were or were intended to be under any previous government. What is worse, the sums which have been borrowed by the present Government will not be used for any mineral or other developmental programs in Australia. Whilst we on this side of the House recognise the need for overseas capital accompanied by technology and market access, we do share with people such as Gordon Jackson of CSR Ltd and other very prominent and reputable Australians in the business world a concern about the haphazard nature of this Government’s foreign investment policy and the extent to which nonAustralians are gaining control again of our valuable mineral and energy resources. We are seeing a very similar position developing to what we saw in the late 1 960s.
In answer to a recent question, the Treasurer admitted that of the foreign investment approvals during the September quarter last year, 77 per cent would have resulted in a reduction in the level of Australian ownership and only 7 per cent would have led to an increase in the level of Australian ownership. So, one does not have to think very hard of the consequences of where that is taking us. Apart from the very serious problems of the control of our own natural resources, the increasing extent of overseas ownership means that in future years dividend and capital remittances will pose great problems for us. I am concerned also that changes have been made in the composition of the inflow, which could adversely affect the future balance of payments.
These matters the Treasurer has skirted around and I suspect he skirted around them because he does not want to face up to them. He must know, as well as any other Treasurer in any government knows, where that trend will take us and where it will lead us at this rate of development in the next three or four years. He is attempting to paint a rosy picture of an economy which obviously has very serious structural problems. Our level of unemployment remains too high. We are looking at a level of unemployment, perhaps in four or five years, of 10 per cent in this country. It is significant that because the tax adjustments are related to rebates and threshold levels they do absolutely nothing for those people who are on incomes which are not affected by the increase in the threshold.
The manufacturing sector is patchy and is running at only about 78 or 80 per cent of capacity, despite the reports that were presented by the Jackson and Crawford committees. Very little has been done to bring about the sort of adjustment which would help to strengthen those sections of the manufacturing industry which are capable of exporting as well as satisfying the local market. The car industry I suppose is a classic example of an industry which is not making the progress and attaining the stability which it should be able to attain. If the money supply continues to run at the current high levels, despite the fact that the Treasurer has said that that will be kept under very close watch and that the effect of any rapid increases in money supply will be closely guarded by the Government, the Government still will be selling more Treasury notes and bonds and pressures for higher interest rates will remain.
Those are the broad problems which the Opposition sees as the result of the statement made by the Treasurer. The Opposition does not for one moment deny that some benefit, limited as it is, has been afforded to some people in the community. But the essential point is that for the past four years the wage and salary earners, who constitute 80 to 85 per cent of all adult Australians, have had their real incomes depressed. That is one of the principal reasons why this Government is unable to restore the level of economic activity which it undertook to restore when it was elected in 1975 and again in 1977. This statement goes a minuscule way to overcoming the sorts of problems which Mr Fraser and his colleagues have brought upon themselves.
– I thank the Senate for allowing me time to respond to the statement made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). I shall speak briefly, as was my undertaking. But I would not like any honourable senator to think that my being brief in my comments reflects the amount of concern we have about the statement. I would have liked to speak for much longer. The Australian Democrats welcome the announcement that the rebate for dependent spouses will be increased and also that an equivalent increase will be made in the daughter-housekeeper, housekeeper, sole parent, invalid relative and parent rebates and in allowances for children for zone rebate purposes. We welcome also and commend the Government on its application of 50 per cent indexation of the personal taxation scale, with effect from 1 July 1980.
Having welcomed those aspects of the statement and having contended the Government on them, I might say that, the only other message of any significance that this statement contains is the indication that there will be no general election in July; that the general election has now been postponed or will take its normal course and will be held in December 1980. The goodies which the Government is congregating from the excise on petrol and whatever will be dispensed in an election Budget later in the year. Therefore, I criticise this statement as being essentially one of election expediency. It also confirms the obsession the Government has with inflation at the expense of caring for the unemployed. There is an absence of any mention of applying the petrol excise revenue to alternative fuels. On that basis, we condemn the statement.
I want to put into perspective what the tax rebates mean. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has issued tables which show that certain persons, not everybody, on an income of between $ 1 40 and $300 a week will have $4.70 a week more in their pockets as a result of these amendments. That is perfectly true. But I wonder what kind of relief that will be to those people after other factors in the mix are taken into account. For example, recently interest rates on home loans rose by at least half a per cent. That will mean that it will cost a person upwards of $4 more a week to pay off a home loan of $40,000 than it is costing that person now. My figures tell me that the price of petrol has increased by 11c a litre since May 1 979. Assuming that a person earning between $140 and $300 a week puts about 30 litres of petrol in his tank a week, that will mean an additional cost of $4 a week. So already, after taking into account just those two items of expenditure, without allowing for increases in rents, food prices, fares and whatever, that mythical person earning between $140 and $300 a week will be paying out an additional $8 a week. Some people will get back $4.70 a week but not until 1 July. One cannot accuse the Government of being over generous in this statement.
What upsets me even more is the kind of rationale the Treasurer and the Government use in their statements concerning inflation. Page 1 8 of the Treasurer’s statement talks about an average consumer price index of 9.5 per cent. I do not agree with that figure. I think that it would be above 10 per cent now. The Treasurer made some rather extraordinary statements. He said that by discounting the effects of moving towards import parity the real inflation rate comes down to 8.1 per cent and that by discounting the increased costs in health insurance changes it comes down to 7.2 per cent. On a sheer basis of logic, if we discounted any more factors- for example the increase in food prices, fares and rent- we could conclude that there is no inflation at all. As Senator Colston said, we could produce a figure indicating that there is a negative rate of inflation. That is not the correct way in which to present this situation.
I am still concerned- I have said this before; I merely repeat it today- with the obsession that this Government has with the monetarists’ theory. In every statement the Treasurer makes we hear the magical, mythical M3 formula. I do not class myself as an expert on economics but when I was at university the quantity of money theory, as it was then known, was valid. It is still valid today. As I understand it, that simply means that when the supply of goods and services equals the demand for goods and services, if more money is injected into the economy too much money is chasing too few goods and services which results in pressure on prices. That theory was valid then; it is valid today. To that extent the monetarists are correct. But will anyone in this chamber suggest that the demand for goods and services today equals the supply, with factory output at 30 per cent to 40 per cent under capacity and human resources at 10 per cent to 12 per cent under capacity? The proposition is absurd. The more the Government moves towards its obsession with the monetarists’ theory, the more cost-push inflation we will have.
I was concerned with the thread of the statement. It seemed to give all sons of cures for inflation- I believe they are wrong- but almost no suggestion of how unemployment might be cured. Senator Wriedt said that within the next four years 10 per cent of the work force could be unemployed. I disagree with him. I have predicted for some time that one million people will be unemployed by 1982. This will not necessarily be caused by the policies of this Government or a future Hayden government but by the simple, inevitable march of inflation and computerisation. Those figures can be substantiated by studies that have been done in several European countries. There is no mention in the statement about discussions leading towards a shorter working week on a sensible basis, earlier retirement or an earlier pension age. There is no reference to the substitution of alternative fuels. There is no mention of the possibility of doubling Australia’s sugar cane crop using part of the excise on petrol that the Government collects. The crop could be doubled to make power alcohol from which high octane petrol could be gained. This would introduce a labour intensive rural industry. To that extent we are disappointed with the statement.
We would have liked to have seen more emphasis in the statement on unemployment, which is now costing revenue, as far as I can see, about $2, 500m a year. We are also disappointed that such an important statement cannot be debated forthwith at length by the Senate. Overall, whilst we welcome the changes made in the statement, we see it as a clear holding back of some goodies in the kitty to dispense later in the year in an election Budget while the people suffer in the meantime. To that extent we express our great disappointment at the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 18 March 1980, at 3 p.m., unless otherwise called together by the President or, in the event of the President’s being unable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from 5 March, on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill before the chamber seeks to amend the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act. As I was saying yesterday in the brief remarks I made before the adjournment, the Bill follows closely upon the recommendations made in a report entitled ‘Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Operations and Capital Works Program. Report of the Independent Inquiry’ and dated April 1978. In July 1977 the Government decided to establish an independent inquiry into certain aspects of the operations of the Commonwenalth Serum Laboratories Commission. It appointed Mr J. B. Reid, the Chairman of James Hardie Asbestos Ltd, and Sir Gustav Nossal, the Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and Professor of Medical Biology at the University of Melbourne, to undertake this inquiry. The report was presented to the Minister in April 1978. It was presented to the House of Representatives in May 1978. It then took until 1 1 October 1979 for the recommendations in that report to be translated into the legislation which is now before the chamber.
The principal effects of this legislation are four-fold. Firstly, it permits the CSL to engage in the production of non-biological products, which it must do after having obtained the consent of the Minister and the Minister having notified in disallowable regulations his consent to the undertaking of certain activity. Clause 10 of the Bill repeals those parts of section 1 9 of the original Act which limited the CSL’s activities to the production of biological products only. Secondly, the Bill provides for the Commonwealth to meet the costs of what are called national interest activities, that is, those activities undertaken by the CSL at the direction of the responsible Minister. Thirdly, it increases to eight the membership of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission from the current level of four. As I understand it, that Commission operates under the chairmanship of the former Federal Minister for Health and honourable member for Barker in South Australia, Dr Forbes. Fourthly, it provides certain machinery amendments which, as I indicated last night, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) in her second reading speech described as being designed ‘to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Authority’.
I turn firstly to the report of Mr Reid and Sir Gustav Nossal, who investigated the operations of the CSL. As I have said, the numerous recommendations of the report have been followed very closely by the Government with the exception of recommendation 22 to which I referred last night, and which reads:
The Government retains ownership of the Fawnmac companies: states unambiguously that this is its policy and confirms the present pattern of operations which is understood and accepted by the pharmaceutical industry and their suppliers and customers.
The response of the Government, rather than adopting the recommendation of the ReidNossal report, has been to indicate that the Fawns and McAllan group of companies is to be put out to public tender. One of the tenderers is the CSL itself. It remains to be seen whether the CSL is successful in its attempt to take over the ownership of Fawnmac and integrate the activities of Fawnmac into those of its own.
One of the minor matters to which I wish to refer is the size of the Commission which, as I said, is to be increased from four to eight. The Reid-Nossal report said in its recommendation that the Commission shall consist of ‘not more than nine commissioners’. The Government has decided that it will consist of eight commissioners plus the Director. As I understand it, that is intended to improve the range and scope of activity which members will bring to the board of the Commission. I hope it will have its impact in terms of making CSL more competitive in the marketplace and that it will also have a greater, impact upon CSL developing certain business activities something which the whole Bill in fact is designed to encourage.
The second minor matter to which I wish to refer relates to the changes which are made to section 20 of the Principal Act, the old Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act. Let us bear in mind that CSL had its genesis in 1961 and that this particular section was last amended in 1966. Section 20 (2 ) provides that:
The Commission shall not, except with the approval of the Minister, purchase or dispose of capital assets for a consideration exceeding Forty thousand dollars.
That is to be repealed and replaced by a more realistic approach to current price levels and activities. In section 1 1 of the Bill now before us it will be seen that section 20 (2) is to be amended so as to read:
The Commission shall not, except with the approval of the Minister-
a ) enter into a contract involving the purchase or sale of pharmaceutical products where the consideration under the contract would exceed $500,000 pr such higher amount as is prescribed; or
b ) enter into a contract, other than 9 contract referred to in paragraph (a), where the consideration would exceed $250,000 or such greater amount as is prescribed.
That will free CSL from the necessity to consult the Minister continually about its activities where the sum of money involved is greater than the figure of $40,000 which, as I said, was set by amendments to the legislation enacted in 1 966. 1 wish to refer now to what I regard as one of the very substantial provisions of this Bill; that the Commonwealth shall assume the cost of those activities which are described as national interest activities. In the past, under section 19 (b) of the existing legislation, CSL has been required to undertake certain activities when directed to do so by the Minister. Part of the problem with that has been that CSL has been required to meet the cost of undertaking those particular activities. This legislation now provides that when CSL is charged with undertaking activities by direction of the Government, then the Government will bear some of the cost of that particular activity.
– The Government only used to make up the shortfall.
-That is correct. The Government made up the shortfall of those activities which, in effect, ended up as being a cost to CSL. An article in the National Times of 17 February 1980 said:
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories spent $2. 26m on national interest projects. All its profits for commercial trading were eaten up and the Government granted it a $ 1.24m so that the books balanced.
That indicates the degree of shortfall that had to be made up on the last occasion. The activities most recently undertaken by Commonwealth Serum Laboratories on behalf of the Minister and by direction of the Minister are listed in the 1977-78 annual report of Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I would seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard the list of the 1 2 activities undertaken by CSL pursuant to section 19(b), that is, at ministerial direction.
The list read as follows-
Research work was carried out by Ministerial Determination under S 19(b) of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 196 1- 1973 on the following topics:-
Laboratory and field assessment of the clinical efficacy of current human and veterinary biologicals.
Development of new and/or improved bacterial and viral vaccines for human and veterinary use.
Development of new and/or improved biological products other than vaccines for human and veterinary use.
Development of new and improved diagnostic agents.
The establishment and maintenance of cell lines.
vi ) Development of “ in vitro “ testing.
Biochemical and biophysical studies of human plasma proteins.
Studies pf venoms and antivenoms.
The establishment of a specialized Pharmacological Unit.
The establishment of a specialized antibody labelling unit.
Development of new techniques for scaling-up procedures to assist in the design of approved capital projects.
Rabies diagnostic centre. ( Quorum formed).
-The other matters that are likely to fall within the definition of national interest activities, as I understand it, are threefold. They are, firstly, the stocks of material which CSL will hold at the direction of the Government; secondly, the reserve capacity which the Minister directs CSL to keep because of some determination of what are national priorities; and thirdly, small capital amounts which are required to service the above. Whilst I understand that no precise figure can be given for the cost of national interest activities which the Government in the future may have to pick up, I believe that it would be reasonably accurate to say that the total cost could be in the vicinity of $5m to $6m. The latter figure I think is the extreme outside figure which the Government would be required to pick up instead of leaving to CSL.
There are a number of areas I would wish to indicate to the Senate which clearly illustrate what are regarded as the national interest activities undertaken by CSL and for which the Commonwealth will in future bear the cost. I think that the most important of those in many ways, because it goes to the heart of a number of practices in Australia which are familiar and which are regarded highly by the Australian community, would, for instance, be the work that CSL undertakes in the area of blood fractionation. CSL acts as the agent for Red Cross organisations not only in Australia but New Zealand and, I think, Papua New Guinea and possibly even further afield. That is a cost which in future will be regarded as one of the national interest activities for the Government to pick up.
It has been put to me by a number of people that there have been overtures made by United States companies, and in particular by Travenol and Baxter, who would like to get into Australia and into the business of blood fractionation. Indeed, they would like to get into the business- it is common in the United States- of the sale of blood and blood products. As I understand it, that is currently prohibited by State legislation in all States except New South Wales and by regulations in the Territories. The Australian Law Reform Commission, in its report on tissue transplants, drew attention to this lack of
State legislation in New South Wales. I would hope that it would be regarded by all governments in Australia that there would be no grounds and no circumstances by which companies could be allowed into Australia to indulge in the commercial sale of blood and blood products, that the service currently offered by the Red Cross and by the blood transfusion services throughout Australia is recognised as one of the finest, if not the finest in the world, and that no departure from existing procedures should be contemplated. I understand that in regard to such matters as research into bluetongue and the possibility of production of a bluetongue vaccine, vaccine research in general- and indeed anti.venine research- and I refer particularly to those things to which we are constantly having our attention drawn in terms of snakes, spiders, the blue ringed octopus and various other unpleasant creatures which tend to be natives of this country, and I am not referring particularly to any honourable senator when I make any of those remarks- are likely to be included in the national interest activities. The Government, for example, will now have to determine the extent to which it is prepared to pick up the tab for the work that is done in research into and the production of insulin in Australia. There are a number of members of this Senate, because of personal close involvement and need from time to time to use insulin as the primary treatment for diabetes, who would appreciate the significance of the work that the CSL does in terms of research and production of insulin for the Australian community.
I understand that one of the other principal activities of CSL is to be one of the two producers of penicillin in Australia but this activity is unlikely to fall within the national interest category. Honourable senators will recall that on 2 August 1 976 the Industries Assistance Commission, in its report entitled ‘Pharmaceutical and Veterinary Products’ indicated that it was not in favour of continuing any government assistance to the production of penicillin. On page 42 of its report the Commission indicated that:
This is because the Commission found that generally no assistance is required to protect the industry against import competition.
The Government however was not prepared to follow the recommendations of the IAC, and on 1 9 November 1 979 the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Fife, issued a Press release in which they indicated that the subsidy to two local manufacturers producing penicillin sold for human use in Australia would be continued. The Press release stated:
The Government had decided that Abbott Australia Pty Ltd is to be subsidised for the continued local production and sales of phenoxymethyl penicillin (Penicillin V), and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for the local manufacture and sales of benzyl-penicillin (Penicillin G). The subsidy is to operate for a period of 5 years, with an initial overall annual limit of $900,000. The subsidy limit for individual products would be reviewed annually in light of overseas penicillin prices, the level of cost increases in Australia and domestic usage.
Presumably therefore the penicillin activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will attract a very small subsidy from the Government under the national interest activities provisions of this Bill, although of course, as honourable senators will have seen from that Press release, they will attract a subsidy in general for the production of penicillin.
I want now to turn to what is in fact the principal provision of this legislation; that is, the amendment to section 19 of the Principal Act allowing Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to produce non-biological products. At this stage I would seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard paragraphs 2.3.1 to 2.4.4 of the Reid/ Nossal report under the heading ‘The Biological Constraint ‘ which sets out the details of the argument that Mr Reid and Sir Gustav Nossal advanced for this particular amendment.
The document read as follows-
2.3 THE BIOLOGICAL CONSTRAINT
2.3.1 The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act, 1961-1973, states in Section 19 and elsewhere that the functions of the Commission relate to the production or import and sale of biological products of therapeutic use. For the greater part of the life of the Commission, the inclusion within the legislation of the adjective “Biological” has been seen as a constraint. In particular, C.S.L. has felt itself to be at a competitive disadvantage with respect to private manufacturers who have a completely free choice of entry to all segments of the pharmaceutical market, subject only to patent and tariff considerations. 2.3.2 In evidence, C.S.L. stated that immediate removal of the “biological constraint” would not lead to substantial immediate changes in C.S.L. ‘s product strategy. In particular, it would not intend immediately to manufacture synthetic drugs. This attitude could change, were the Government to dispose of its ownership of the Fawnmac group of companies. 2.3.3 In the longer term however, C.S.L. believes that to survive as a healthy, independent organization, it must be given the incentive of pursuing profits wherever it can find them, thus reducing the drain on the public purse. Further, C.S.L. believes that removal of the constraint will facilitate access by C.S.L. to licenses for manufacture or importation of new products of which it may become aware. 2.3.4 In the veterinary area, C.S.L. feels disadvantaged from a marketing point of view against companies that market non-biological products such as veterinary products including dips and drenches. 2.3.5 In seeking removal of the constraint, C.S.L. is fully aware of its special responsibilities with respect to biologicals. Should an opportunity arise for non-biological products, C.S.L. would initially seek access to products which could be manufactured and/or distributed within existing facilities and infrastructure, and with the potential for a profit contribution of at least $50,000 per annum. 2.3.6 At present, there is very little conflict of interest in the market place between Fawnmac and C.S.L. If the constraint were removed, there would have to be consultation between the two companies as to which could produce and market the new product more effectively. 2.3.7 The Independent Inquiry believes there is a different and more compelling reason to avoid the restricting adjective in legislation. This relates to its lack of scientific precision. Historically, biological products cover substances present in, extracted from or made by living organisms. However, the giant strides made recently in molecular biology are blurring the traditional distinction between biological products and synthetic drugs. Hormones, for example, are traditionally extracted from tissues, such as insulin from pancreas glands. Now many hormones can be made by synthetic chemistry from the component amino acids, and the costs of such procedures are coming down rapidly. Legalistically, it becomes open to debate whether such a synthetic hormone is a biological product. The day of synthetic vaccines is still some distance away, but much current research is being directed at the point. Many of the penicillins sold by C.S.L. are already “semi-synthetic” derivatives, the original biological extract being altered through sophisticated organic chemistry. Finally, there are numerous examples where a biological product and a synthetic drug subserve very similar thereapeutic goals ( penicillins and sulfonamides; ACTH and cortisone; thyroid extract and thyroxine). It seems illogical to perpetuate in legislation, the capacity of a company to make and market the one but not the other. 2.3.8 There will however, be a continuing need for a general surveillance by the Minister, the Director-General and C.S.L. to ensure that C.S.L. does not embark on the manufacture of non biologicals.
at undue cost to the taxpayer and
b) to the detriment of its national interest role. 2.4 Recommendations 2.4.1 The Independent Inquiry recommends that C.S.L. continue operation in the field of biological manufacture. (Recommendation No. I ) 2.4.2 The Inquiry recommends that C.S.L. continues to collaborate with the World Health Organization in its programme aimed at the immunization against six common diseases of every child in the world by the year 1990, giving high priority to the manufacture of bulk stocks of vaccines for purchase by W.H.O. or developing countries. The Inquiry recommends further that the obtaining of a high price not be the key element in negotiations with W.H.O. for the supply of vaccines. The national interest, it is considered, will be served by improving the health of the world ‘s children, thus adding to global welfare and stability. Any loss would be handled by the procedure set out in paragraph 3.5.2 (Chapter 3). (Recommendation Nos. 2 (a) and 2 (b)) 2.4.3 The Inquiry recommends that the C.S.L. Commission keep a close watching brief on world supplies of biologicals, and consider local manufacture of such products as are deemed vital to the national interest and the supply of which is precarious. (Recommendation No. 2 (c)) 2.4.4 The Independent Inquiry recommends that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act, 1 96 1 - 1 973 be amended by removal of the word “biological” wherever it appears and particularly in Section 19 which specifies the function of the Commission. ( Recommendation No. 3 )
-I thank the Senate. These arguments, I think, will be found to be particularly cogent by all senators, especially the reasons advanced in paragraph 2.3.7 which reads:
The Independent Inquiry believes there is a different and more compelling reason to avoid the restricting adjective in legislation. This relates to its lack of scientific precision.
That appears to be a most significant statement. The paragraph continues:
Historically, biological products cover substances present in, extracted from or made by living organisms. However, the giant strides made recently in molecular biology are blurring the traditional distinction between biological products and synthetic drugs. Hormones, for example, are traditionally extracted from tissues, such as insulin from pancreas glands. Now many hormones can be made by synthetic chemistry from the component amino acids, and the costs of such procedures are coming down rapidly. Legalistically, it becomes open to debate whether such a synthetic hormone is a biological product. The day of synthetic vaccines is still some distance away, but much current research is being directed at the point.
This point and the restriction of this fairly artificial and historically now fairly oldfashioned limitation on CSL’s activities was referred to by Dr Neville McCarthy, the director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, in a paper entitled ‘The Case for C.S.L. to have Normal Choice of Entry to Pharmaceutical Markets’ in which he states:
Whereas C.S.L. does not have protection against competition in its commercial activities from private sector manufacturers, there is restraint of entry against C.S.L. into the largest parts of the pharmaceutical market.
The effect of these restraints means not simply that here is a government instrumentality which is not allowed to compete properly on the open market. It means that here is a government instrumentality which is prevented from returning to revenue a reasonable sum of money because of the outdated restraints which are imposed on it. I think it would be recognised that CSL is favourably regarded in the marketplace. An article which appeared in the publication Pharmacy Trade, May 1979 issue, indicated:
Merck Sharp and Dhome, Roche and CSL topped the poll of doctors’ opinions of pharmaceutical products, according to a recent survey.
Frank Small and Associates found there was a high awareness of pharmaceutical companies among doctors with Roche, MSD and CSL respectively, the best known, and Glaxo, Astra and Boots at the bottom of the list.
Doctors regarded MSD and CSL most favourably overall.
I think that the reputation which CSL has developed in that regard should not be taken lightly. I think it is a credit to that organisation and the scientists who work for it, and the people who have responsibility as administrators, that that should be the case. CSL is not a major factor in the brand name pharmaceutical section. The Ralph report indicates that about 2.7 per cent of the market, worth about $4.6m is held by CSL brands. ( Quorum formed). It can be seen from an article which appeared in the National Times on 17 February 1980 that within CSL certain difficulties are being experienced at the moment, particularly in terms of the direction of the research and development which is being undertaken by CSL. I am encouraged by the report which refers to the attitude of the Director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Dr Neville McCarthy. A paragraph in the newspaper article reads as follows:
The director is clearing the decks to make his qango competitive in the marketplace.
That is a comment that undoubtedly will pluck the heart strings of Senator Rae and many other people. The article went on to report that Dr McCarthy said:
There’s no justification for going on with research projects just because we ‘ve been doing them for 20 years.
I think that is the sort of attitude that one would want to see develop in an organisation like the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The 1977-78” annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories shows that it sold in the order of $25m worth of biological products and from that derived a profit of just over $lm. The key items which it produced were insulin, the venines, flu vaccine, Penicillin G, blood fractionation products, cryoprecipitate and anti haemophilic factor. Each of these in its turn has an important role in the public health requirements of the Australian community. Many of them have been commented on in speeches and in questions asked in the Parliament. I do not think anybody disputes that the role of CSL, particularly in matters that are now familiar to all Australians, such as flu vaccines, antivenines, insulin and Penicillin G puts them in a prominent and important position in the market.
In the course of the last couple of years CSL sales have been broken up in roughly the following fashion: Twelve per cent of its revenue has been derived from treatments which it makes for large and small animals, in a market against six competitors. Twenty-eight per cent of its sales come from antibiotics. In that market it is competing with some 40 competitors. Of its sales 1 1 per cent comes from insulin and heparin. In that market it has four competitors. Of its sales 8 per cent comes from diagnostic agents, media and allergin products. In that market it has twelve competitors. Five per cent of its sales comes from measles, rubella and polio vaccines, which it produces on behalf of the Commonwealth. Thirteen per cent of its sales comes from fees for processing blood fractional products. Thirteen per cent of its sales comes from antivenines and vaccines such as smallpox, triple antigen, cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus toxoid and BCG, and 10 per cent comes from the sale of influenza vaccines.
The final matter to which I shall turn is only indirectly related to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. However, it is a central problem for governments attempting to come to grips with the challenges which are now arising as the result of advances in molecular biology and advances in the whole field of genetic engineering. Currently the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories appears to have little capacity to indulge itself at the threshold of scientific endeavour in terms of recombinant DNA experiments or genetic engineering in general. Certainly, compared with the Hall Institute, La Trobe University or Melbourne University or Sydney University, it is not in the same league. But it is interesting that in terms of the production of vaccines there is some debate within the scientific community about the stage which that matter has reached. For instance, in the journal Science on 9 November 1 979 it was reported:
A conference held last month at the National Institutes of Health suggested that at least one of the proposed applications of recombinant DNA, production of pure vaccines, may be considerably further off than predicted. Although virologists reported great strides in manipulating viral genes, old-hand vaccine makers were sceptical that the new techniques had anything immediate to offer. ‘I don’t see any short-term pay-off from recombinant DNA technology- it is going to be a long haul ‘, said John Seal, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
– Biological Luddites, I think, Senator.
-It may well be, as Senator Baume says, that these are biological Luddites who are unable to perceive the pace and scope with which these developments in recombinant DNA and other matters of genetic engineering are occurring. But it is perhaps important to understand that this is an issue which Australia will not be able to avoid and simply ignore for very much longer. Clearly the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has a role to play within this activity and one which, because the Government retains ultimate control over CSL, the Government will have to face up to. There has already been engendered in Australia debate about questions related to genetic engineeringfollowing on the, I think, infamous decision made by the town council in Cambridge, Massachusets- to attempt to impose on Mas.sachusets Institute of Technology certain restrictions on the work that it could undertake in genetic engineering. In March 1979 a report was prepared for the University of Melbourne University Assembly, entitled ‘Report on Genetic Engineering’. The inquiry was chaired by Professor Charlesworth, Dean of Humanities at Deakin University. One of its principal recommendations was as follows:
The Open Enquiry has concluded that the benefits promised from recombinant DNA research are not so clearly advantageous to society that the immediate prosecution of the work is essential. Its potential impact has not yet received sufficient attention. We therefore believe that: there should be a further halt on all work in the field of recombinant DNA research to permit the evaluation of the potential impact. The important social and ethical questions involved should be discussed fully in parliament, the media, and in public forums organised for that specific purpose.
I think that this is one of the most glaring expressions of the hostility towards science that could possibly be generated by people who call themselves experts in the humanities. This is a report which I think, if honourable senators take the time to read it, will be found to be shoddy, illogical, emotional and, indeed, not particularly worthwhile. It comes to a conclusion that research, development, progress, investigation and experimentation ought to be held up until some sort of open public inquiry had come to grips with the issues involved in recombinant DNA research. Frankly, if that were the way in which science in the past had been allowed to operate, undoubtedly the environmental impact statements that Galileo, Newton, Pasteur and everyone else would have been subjected to had these people had their way, would have ensured that we were still living in caves and rubbing sticks together in order to generate some degree of light and heat. It nevertheless indicates the level and indeed lack of public debate in Australia which I believe the Government has to come to grips with. In a recent issue of Science News it was indicated that:
Approximately 85 per cent of the experiments now covered by the National Institutes of Health guidelines on recombinant DNA research would be exempted from most of the rules under a proposal recently approved, by a vote of 10 to 4, by the recombinant DNA Advisory Committee.
That was in the United Kingdom. So in the United Kingdom an inquiry recommended that recombinant DNA research ought in fact to be freed from some of its restrictions, while in Australia we still have these people arguing that, in fact, a total halt ought to be called so far as that is concerned. The United States is even further down the track and is now at the stage where people like the Genentech Corporation of San Francisco, under contract to Eli Lilly, have in fact taken out patents on substances such as insulin. A report in Science of 9 November 1 979 not only indicates that a number of American companies such as Cetus, Genentech, Genex, and Biogen are in the business of seeking patents for the production of these substances but that this matter has, in fact, even been before the United States Supreme Court. The heading of this article is interesting. It reads: ‘Supreme Court to Say if Life Is Patentable’. The article goes on to describe a case argued and now decided by the United States Court which was asked to review the question of whether the production of living organisms could be made patentable. The United States Supreme Court held that it could. The Court indicated that it could not be the intent of existing patent laws in the United States to deny patentability to something just because it was alive. The Court went on to indicate that it was because substances were alive that they were useful. The article stated:
The bedrock of the appeals court’s position was that ‘In short we think the fact that microorganisms, as distinguished from chemical compounds, are alive, is a distinction without legal significance ‘.
It remains to be asked whether in fact the Attorney-General’s Department in Australia, or any other organisation within the Government in Australia, in terms of the production of those sorts of organisms, has addressed its mind to these particular problems. We know that in the United Kingdom the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology recently issued a report on recombinant DNA research. In the New Scientist of 9 August 1979 honourable senators will see that report is described. If it were to be said to the Australian Parliament that a group of parliamentarians should look at the question of a national policy on recombinant DNA research, one would not see volunteers for dust. Yet that is clearly a role that this Parliament has to face up to. It is clearly a role that this Parliament has to play. I say ‘this Parliament’ for a particular reason. Honourable senators who have read the Sydney Sunday Telegraph of 2 March 1980 will have seen an article entitled Master Race Scheme. Nobel winners’ sperm bank to produce genius babies’. The article refers to a number of United States Nobel Prize winners who have agreed to donate sperm to an experiment which involves the impregnation of a number of American women- those who are already high scorers on the Mensa tests of IQ and intellectual ability- with the aim of producing what is regarded as a super intelligent master race of children. One of the prime movers of this project is a Nobel laureate by the name of William Shockley whose beliefs include, for instance, the belief that Negro people in the United States are genetically less intelligent than Caucasians.
One can see, in the terms of Brave New World, that the alphas are on the march. Frankly, the only protection that the epsilons have, as far as that system is concerned, is the protection that this Parliament is prepared to give them. It is for those reasons that I believe that there are a number of matters raised in this legislation, or raised in terms of discussion about the role of an organisation like CSL, which take us far wider than the simple provisions of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill. They are, as with most scientific questions, questions which this Parliament is not interested in facing up to, questions which this Government, by and large, has not been interested in facing up to. They are nevertheless, questions which this Parliament will at some stage be compelled to face up to and which I hope honourable senators, and indeed members of the House of Representatives, are prepared to devote some attention to, as the issues come before them- because they will- with the progress of science and scientific technology.
It is with those remarks that I wish to conclude to indicate that these are fields which will increasingly come before the attention of the Parliament. Those matters which are dealt with in terms of the amendments to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Bill, are certainly, as far as I am concerned, most welcome. I hope that the Bill will have speedy passage through this chamber.
– The Senate is debating the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill 1980. 1 say from the outset that the Opposition is giving full support to this legislation. When Senator Puplick commenced his remarks today I wondered whether we were going to hear a complete repeat of what he said last night, because while he was talking today I was reading the Hansard of last night and for the first five minutes he repeated every word that he said last night. I was wondering what his purpose was. Is he going to get copies of his speech and send them to some of his colleagues? That must be so. He did not want the interruption in it. However, during the course of his remarks last night he made some comments which I want to repeat because I interjected. He said:
As honourable senators would be aware, the decision of the Government is that the Fawnmac companies, which were purchased by the Whitlam Administration, should be put to tender and sold.
That, of course, is in keeping with the policies of this free enterprise government. They are of the belief that any instrumentality that is run by the Government is not efficient and runs at a loss. If the honourable senators look at the report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission they will see that quite the reverse is the case. Senator Puplick went on to say:
I understand that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is one of the parties interested in acquiring the Fawnmac companies and integrating their activities and projects into its own. Without necessarily endorsing their remarks which Senator Grimes made in terms of wishing CSL well in its bid for Fawnmac, I hope that, in the interests of a rational policy on pharmaceutical products in Australia, CSL would not be disadvantaged in its attempt to acquire Fawmac and that it would be treated in exactly the same way as any other tenderer might be treated.
Of course, those remarks mean that he hopes that the Government will accept the highest tender. That is what this Government is all about. He went on to refer to the making of dollars. I interjected and said:
CSL should not have to bid for it at all; it should be handed over to CSL.
Senator Puplick then replied:
I can appreciate Senator McLaren’s desire to hand over large sums of money without any degree of control.
It is quite obvious that Senator Puplick, in most of his remarks today quoted from the CSL report which was tabled in the Parliament last year- he quoted it verbatim, practically- but it is quite obvious that he has not read clause 25 of the Bill which we are discussing where it states that the Auditor-General has an oversight over the activities of CSL. But the honourable senator said that he could appreciate my desire to hand over large sums of money without any degree of control. It is quite obvious that he has not read the legislation. He talks about handing over large degrees of money but I point out that it is already a government instrumentality. As Senator Grimes pointed out, and as Dr Klugman pointed out in the other House, the Fawnmac group of companies was purchased by the then Minister for Health in the Whitlam Government, Dr Everingham, on behalf of the Government. At one stage we found that shortly after the election in 1975 this Government was going to do all it could to unload Fawnmac back to private enterprise. I am afraid that that might be the end fate of Fawnmac, that CSL might not be able to get it. As I have said Fawnmac should be handed over to CSL so that it can work in conjunction with the successful enterprise which CSL already operates.
Senator Puplick went on to talk about some of the things in the Bill and some of the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry which have been agreed to. He said that Dr Forbes was going to be chairman of the new commission. We well recall that during the time of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 we were repeatedly told that the then Labor Government was finding jobs for the boys. Nothing could be nearer the truth than what has happened in this case, because Dr Forbes was a one-time Liberal Party member for Barker in South Australia, and a Minister for Health. It would appear that this is a job for the boys. I hope that people in the community are not misled by Dr Forbes title and think that he is a medical man because he is not. Although he was a Minister for Health, he is not a medical man. He is a doctor of something else. I do not know what it is. It could be philosophy, but he is certainly not a medical man.
I am one of the Federal members of Parliament who have been fortunate to spend time at CSL’s headquarters at Parkville and more than half a day on its farm at Woodend. I cannot be too high in my praise of the work that is done at Parkville and, in particular, on the farm. I only hope that more members of the Federal Parliament will avail themselves of the standing invitation to visit Parkville and the farm at Woodend. It would do them good to see how dedicated the people in both places are and what a valuable asset they are to the Australian community. I do not know whether Senator Puplick has been there, but he displayed in his remarks today a great deal of knowledge about the workings of the CSL. If the honourable senator has not been there, I advise him to get out there as quickly as he can and look at the work that is going on. That goes for every honourable senator. Anyone who is a lover of horse flesh can see at the farm at Woodend the wonderful percheron horses. There are very few of them in Australia. I think CSL has most of them. It also has cattle and sheep on its property. It opens one’s eyes to see what is done there. I cannot praise too highly the work of CSL.
I refer now to a matter in this legislation that has attracted my attention. It relates to clause 25, which refers to the role that the Auditor-General plays. I am not saying that I have any doubts about the accounting procedures of CSL, but I have doubts about the accounting procedures of some other enterprises. Clause 25 of the Bill, in proposed new section 41 ( 1 ), states:
The Auditor-General shall inspect and audit the accounts and records of financial transactions of the Commission and records relating to assets of, or in the custody of, the Commission and shall forthwith draw the attention of the Minister to any irregularity disclosed by the inspection and audit that is, in the opinion of the Auditor-General, of sufficient importance to justify his so doing.
That provision applies to most pieces of legislation which come before the Parliament, but it is not always carried through. I remind honourable senators that in the case of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd the Auditor-General reported to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) that things were not all that they might be and a subsequent audit was held. The Minister has refused consistently to table that report in the Senate. There are two notices of motion on that subject on the Notice Paper. One of them is in my name and was given on 22 November 1979 and the other is in the name of Senator Walsh and was given on 20 February 1980. We are now at the end of the third sitting week of the autumn session and we still have not had that AuditorGeneral’s report tabled in the Parliament, as is the case with all other bodies. We are wondering why. Whilst it says in the Bill that the AuditorGeneral is to oversight the financial dealings of CSL, I am wondering what would happen if anything transpired- I am not saying that it willwhich needed a second investigation. Would we ever see that report. I think the Minister has a lot to answer for when he will not carry out the legislation that is passed by this Parliament.
– Is it the Minister for Health that you are saying has a lot to answer for?
– It is the Minister for Primary Industry, so far as I am aware. It is now Mr Nixon, who has had that report for some time. He admits that he has it but he will not table it in the Parliament. Every day that goes by and it is not tabled makes people more suspicious of what is in it that the Government does not want to disclose. I do not want to say too much on this Bill. I think that I have said all that I need to say except that I want to go on record as praising the work done by the people in the CSL. It is of great value to the community, particularly to primary industry, which is something in which I have a deep interest. While we have bodies like this in operation, we can be sure that the interests of primary producers will be safeguarded. When it works in conjunction with the Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong, once it is finally established- the primary industry sector of this country will be well served. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, in the last paragraph of her second reading speech, said: the Government is acting in the belief that there is a continuing need for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and for this important national asset to be as efficient, progressive and innovative as possible.
The Opposition heartily endorses those remarks of the Minister. I hope that we never see the day when a free enterprise government will endeavour to dispose of the assets which are tied up in CSL, as the government proposes to dispose of the Fawnmac group of companies which, in our wisdom, we considered ought to be under the control of the Federal Government. Despite what people say about government run bodies, if they look at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories’ report of 1978-79 they will see that it is a very efficient body. The balance sheet is set out. I will not quote from it because Senator Puplick has already done so. It is a profitable concern. We are often told that Commonwealth Government instrumentalities run at a loss and are a drag on the public purse, but in this Bill there is a clause which deals with the surplus profits of the Commission. Therefore, it must be expected that this Commission will have surplus profits which will have to be distributed in some way or other. That gives the lie to those people who are only too quick to say that anything run by governments is not efficient and is a drag on the taxpayers ‘ purse. If those people would only take the time to read this report, they would see that they cannot level that accusation at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I think the CSL should be congratulated for the work it does and for the way in which it has conducted its financial affairs. It is a credit to the Australian community.
-We are debating the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill 1980, which will amend the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961. At the outset I congratulate Senator Puplick for the excellent speech he made a few minutes ago. He outlined much of the mechanism of the Bill and expressed some thoughts about what it should and should not do. I have to take issue with him on some of the things that he thinks it should do, but before I do so I wish to respond to a matter raised by Senator McLaren a moment ago. I noticed that a quorum was not called for while he was speaking (Quorum formed). When that quorum was called for there were three members of the Australian Labor Party in the chamber. There are only three members here. Not one member of the Labor Party came in when the quorum was called for.
Opposition senators are paid the same money as Government senators; yet they are not attending to their duties in the chamber. They have the habit of calling for quorums. Every time they do so when I am speaking I will say the same thing. I turn to the point at issue.
– I raise a point of order. I suggest that Senator Townley be required to withdraw those remarks because they are extremely sweeping. If he contemplates the fact that there are about 34 Government membersthe Government has a substantially greater number of members on its side- he would realise that there is equal responsibility.
– What is the Standing Order that this point is taken under?
– The Standing Order I appeal to is that which relates to relevancy. The speaker on his feet should relate his remarks to the matter before the Chair. At any time Senator Townley wants to debate the matter which he has raised in an irrelevant way he can do so in an adjournment debate and we will discuss it fully. But if he is going to make those sorts of remarks he can rest assured that he will delay the House.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Collard)- There is no point of order.
-Because of what Senator Georges has just said I will not go into the past voting pattern for Senator McLaren. I will move on to discuss something the honourable senator said about the Bill.
– Voting pattern?
-One day I will go over his voting pattern again. I intended relating the voting pattern for the senator from South Australia to the profits of the Fawnmac group of companies since it was taken over by the Government. The profits of that company have gone down roughly to the same extent as voting for the honourable senator in South Australia has gone down since he became a member of parliament. I think he will find that the profit of the Fawnmac group has not increased in the way it should have increased since it was taken over by the Government.
There are several points on this Bill that I would like to take issue with. First of all, as we know, CSL is a qango- a quasi autonomous national government organisation. My friend Senator Rae has shown a profound interest in qangos over the last few years. Under this Bill the number of commissioners is to be doubled, and that is something that I do not like. Under this Bill the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will be able to borrow money. Under clause 2 1 section 34 of the Act is repealed and the following sections are substituted:
In other words, the CSL Commission, which is going into competition with private drug companies, if the Minister so decides, will be able to borrow money appropriated by the Parliament at interest rates to be determined by the Minister for Finance. It may well be that those interest rates will be unfair. They will not necessarily be commercial rates of interest. That is one of the points that I think the Government could well look at.
The main matter which prompted me to speak on this Bill today relates to clause 10 of the Bill. The second reading speech states:
Clause 10 of the Bill also authorises CSL to produce, buy, import, supply, sell or export any prescribed pharmaceutical product.
The second reading speech also states:
The Bill provides that CSL can only engage in commercial activities in relation to a pharmaceutical product that is prescribed in regulations made under the Act which are of course disallowable by the Parliament, or a product which comes within a class of pharmaceutical products so prescribed.
I believe that those provisions will effectively allow a government of such a mind to run the CSL at a loss with money supplied from the Treasury and enable the CSL to compete with established private enterprise drug companies. If a government were of a mind it could make it impossible for those companies to continue in business. In the long term it could mean that we may not get into this country the drugs that we need as they become’ available from overseas companies and as new drugs are discovered. If the Government wants competition with the private drug companies, which I admit are mainly overseas companies, I believe it should sell the Fawnmac group of companies not to the CSL but to an Australian owned company. The Government should insist that the company buying the Fawnmac group is Australian owned and let that private company compete with the industry. I doubt whether the CSL, even if it gets the Fawnmac group, will be able to compete fairly and effectively with the overseas companies.
A moment ago I referred to clause 10 of the Bill which provides that any of the regulations that are prescribed by the Minister can be disallowed by the Parliament. The regulations may be disallowed but what is there to stop action being taken during a parliamentary recess when disallowance procedures cannot be taken? The CSL is able to enter into contracts up to a value of $500,000 and there is no limit on the number of contracts that it may enter into. With aircraft flying drugs into this country the CSL could get into a difficult situation and it would be too late to do anything about it when the Parliament resumed. Anyway, I am not sure whether the Senate particularly will always have the numbers to overturn any regulations. One does not have to be Einstein to see the dangers in this Bill in the long term in respect of the established private enterprise pharmaceutical industry and perhaps with a minister or a government that is opposed to it more so than the Liberal Party Government is. I believe this Bill sets the ground work for the eventual nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry in this country.
If I may reiterate what I said earlier, the CSL Commission will be able to get Treasury dollars if it cannot make a success of its financial operations and the interest on any loans is purely at the discretion of the Minister for Finance. Surely the Bill should stipulate that such loans to the CSL should be at commercial rates. I have spoken today because I feel that every step towards socialism should be resisted, no matter how small that step is. On one extreme there is socialism which the Labor Party enjoys. Creeping socialism is one of the things that pleases the Labor Party. It was noticeable that when Senator Grimes was speaking he said that he was pleased to see the Bill come in in its present form. I believe that if the Labor Party had brought the Bill into the Senate during its term of office the Senate would have kicked it out. Even now I think the Government should re-examine the effects of this Bill. I do not like the terms under which the Commission is able to borrow. I do not like the increase in the number of commissioners. Most of all, I do not like the way we are setting up the CSL to compete with the privately established drug companies. The fact that some of these things were recommeded to the Government in the report of an inquiry does not impress me. Governments are paid to make up their own minds and not to hide behind committees or independent inquiries.
– The Senate is considering the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill. Several honourable senators have made contributions already. I was particularly attracted to Senator McLaren’s remarks when he described with pleasure his visit to the Parkville campus of CSL and also his visit to Woodend.
He described the horses and the cows at Woodend. Senator McLaren was hiding his light under a bushel. We know what really attracted him to the Woodend farm of CSL. Let me refer to the annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for 1978-79. The honourable senator has already drawn this matter to the attention of the Senate. The report states that the specific pathogen-free poultry flocks housed at Woodend produced over 50,000 eggs. I understand that the honourable senator’s interest would have been highly professional and based on his previous occupation. He did not say very much about the functions of CSL, however, in producing vaccines or drugs.
-I could have told you about the all white mice and guinea pigs at Parkville.
-The honourable senator talks about the 140,000 white mice. I am sure that Senator McLaren patted every one of them and felt quite at ease with them all. This amending Bill has had a long gestation and its drafting has been really quite difficult. Whilst at this stage I do not agree with the points raised by my colleague Senator Townley they were very much in the minds of Government members when we were looking at the proposals for the amending Bill and trying to resolve what was the proper way to deal with the problems facing the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. CSL does have problems. The problems can be set in some kind of historical perspective. Honourable senators will be aware that in 1914, with the outbreak of the Great War, Australia suddenly found that it had no indigenous drug industry. Its supplies of a whole range of products were cut off. Honourable senators will be aware that one result of that occurrence was the emergence of the Nicholas company to fill the gap with the production of aspirin which was a drug urgently needed at the time. The existence of some minimum adequate drug manufacturing capacity has a strategic and national value as well as a commercial value.
CSL fulfils a function which is unique and necessary in this country. I think that my colleague Senator Townley would have no difficulty in agreeing that there is a specific function for CSL. Senator Puplick has referred to it and I will just mention it again. This country cannot depend upon exotic pharmaceuticals entirely. We cannot depend upon exotic vaccines. There are other reasons why we should be wary also about being totally dependent on other countries for our supplies of drugs. One area in which CSL is heavily involved is the production of insulin which is an essential drug tor some of those with diabetes, i am aware that recently in the United States of America a lot of concern has been expressed because one of the major nongovernment pharmaceutical companies, through a series of manoeuvres, had virtually cornered the insulin market. The American anti-trust mechanism had operated to force this company to divest itself of some of the control it had over the supplies of insulin.
It is desirable that this country has a serum laboratory to carry out certain essential functions. I remind the Senate again that CSL is Australia’s sole source of insulin. It is our sole processor of blood fractions. I will not weary the Senate by referring to the debate we have had over the years about the recurrent shortages of blood fractions. It is the sole manufacturer of human vaccines. It has a large capacity to produce penicillin. It is a major manufacturer of veterinary medicines. It is our World Health Organisation reference centre for influenza and brucellosis. It is the national rare blood group reference centre. That may not mean much unless a person has a rare blood group. For people in that category it is very important that we have this kind of reference centre. For many of these activities there is little profit. There is, however, national interest and national importance. That kind of function for CSL is very important. I would imagine that no honourable senator who has taken part in this debate would want to deny that function or deny that importance.
- Senator Townley does.
-I do not think that Senator Townley denies that function. His concern is with the other functions which this Bill will give to CSL. Why would someone of my political persuasion who might take on board the general concerns expressed by Senator Townley agree to this kind of Bill and to these kinds of proposals which allow CSL to take on new functions and to produce any kind of prescribed pharmaceutical products provided that they are prescribed by regulation and the Parliament does not disallow them? The reason is that we cannot see any other way to move. If we want CSL to continue to perform the functions which we consider to be important, for example, to make insulin, the biological constraint is no longer reasonable or meaningful and will do nothing else but make trouble.
It is hard to know what is a biological product or what is not. Senator Puplick already referred specifically to that part of the report on CSL- the Reid-Nossal report-which emphasised the difficulties in deciding what is a biological product. Let honourable senators consider insulin. Some insulins are made and zinc is added to them. Zinc is a metal. Ls that product now a biological product? It” it is not, is CSL still entitled to make it? It would be ridiculous if the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories found itself unable to carry out certain functions which it was clearly intended it should carry out when the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission was established. This could be due entirely to the march of technology. The fact is that CSL is being overtaken by modern processes which were not available at the time it was set up. In the days when it was set up it was necessary to buy pancreases and to extract insulin. This was purified and injected into people. Senator Puplick has already indicated to the Senate that in years to come this may not be the way in which insulin is made. Yet we will still want some organisation like CSL to carry out the functions and to make a whole range of products which other people probably could not do at the same level of expertise. Certainly other people have not traditionally done so. Methods may be used which no longer entitle CSL to claim that what it is doing it is doing under a biological constraint. That word ‘biological’ has limited everything which CSL has been able to do up to now.
I do not refer just to insulin. We still make penicillin by fermentation, but we will not always do so. Senator Puplick referred at some length to recombinant DNA. He is talking about teaching germs to produce the drugs that we want or using other methods of synthesis where we can put together the proteins we want other than just by extracting them from living tissues. When that happens it may no longer be a biological process. We are therefore obliged in the best interests of CSL to review the charter under which it operates. This is the difficulty which faced honourable senators on this side and members of my party when wc sat down to examine how to resolve the problems.
I am not about to give CSL a free charter to enter the field of pharmaceutical manufacturing as some favoured government organisation to compete unfairly in the market. 1 am prepared for CSL to be given every freedom to do that job which it does best, for which there is no alternative in this country, and to do it without unreasonable constraints. The mechanism which we developed was that of suggesting that CSL should be able to carry out functions prescribed by regulation so that the Parliament and people such as honourable senators would be able to disallow any regulation giving to CSL any function which this Parliament considered inappropriate. What could be fairer than that kind of proposition? We would have the right to withdraw from CSL those kinds of functions if we thought they were not right.
Blood group fractions will be needed more and more. We are not yet at the stage of making them synthetically, but one day it will happen. I want CSL, as our national reference centre, to be able to do that job which it does well. Human growth hormone, an important chemical, is in short supply in this country. Human growth hormone can change the lives of children with dwarfism, but it cannot help them unless it is available. Human growth hormone will be available by biosynthesis by obedient microorganisms before much more time has elapsed.
Senator Puplick emphasised that there will be an interregnum yet before we can look to genetic engineering to produce for us the chemicals we need. But it is absolutely necessary for CSL to be in a position to respond, to meet the objectives and the genuine national goals of governments and the public. Of course, CSL produces and holds our supplies of vaccines, such as flu vaccine. It does that in ways which are nonsustainable commercially. It holds much greater supplies of vaccine than it could hope to sell. It holds supplies in reserve for other countries. It does that as a national service. I think that it should continue to do so. So I am not attracted to the idea that the Government should even consider divesting itself of its involvement in CSL and in the activities which it undertakes.
I will be brief on this, but I would say that the least satisfying part of the report prepared by Mr Reid and Sir Gustav Nossal was that section which dealt with Fawnmac. Whereas their arguments with regard to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories were cogent, coherent and well argued, no consistent or coherent argument was advanced with regard to Fawnmac, apart from the observation that it was desirable to keep a window on the industry. I do not know quite what that means. It might be that there were good reasons for keeping Fawnmac, but I do not think that the Reid-Nossal report, excellent as it was in relation to CSL, was adequate to allow anyone to argue that Fawnmac should be retained. People may want to retain Fawnmac because of the values they hold. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the chamber have values which would make them want to retain Fawnmac. Some of us on this side of the chamber would like to dispose of it under proper conditions. My only comment is that the report on CSL and Fawnmac produced by Mr Reid and Sir Gustav Nossal did not help us to resolve or to settle that argument
I do not want to delay the Senate any further. I wanted to make the point that the resolution of the problem of how to allow CSL to do its job seems to have been achieved by giving it a broader charter, by allowing it to undertake prescribed functions disallowable by the Parliament. I conclude by saying, as other speakers in this debate have said, that CSL is a fine and unique organisation in this country. It has a proud record of service to the Australian community. It is an ornament to the nation. I believe that this Bill, which seeks to amend CSL’s functions and capacities, is overdue. I support the Bill.
– I have not had the advantage of being present during the second reading debate. I hope that the second reading of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill will have the support of the Senate. I understand that subsequent to the Bill being read a second time it is proposed to refer it to a Senate committee. At this stage, I trust that the motion for the second reading of the Bill can be put and passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Referral to Standing Committee
-Pursuant to sessional order I move:
I refer to the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has been concerned with the problems which appear to have arisen with a large number of statutory authorities when amendments have been made by this Parliament to the legislation setting out the way in which those authorities shall be accountable and what the audit provisions shall be, when those amendments have been made during the progress of a year and inadequate consideration appears to have been given to the practicality of requiring a new method of accounting to be adopted during the currency of an existing year.
In this case we have a Bill which proposes amendments to existing sections 40 and 41 of the
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act. At the moment Section 40 of that Act provides that the Commission should be required to ‘keep proper accounts and records in accordance with the accounting principles generally applied in commercial practice’ and shall ensure that all payments are correct and properly authorised and that adequate control is maintained over its assets and liabilities. In the Bill which is before us it is proposed to change that provision and to require the keeping of ‘proper accounts and records of the transactions and affairs of the Commission’- a slightly different way of wording it- in accordance with generally applied commercial accounting principles to ensure payments are correct and properly authorised and to ensure that adequate control is maintained over the liabilities and the assets of and assets in the custody of the Commission. That is a rather different provision from that which exists at the moment. If this Bill were to go through and receive Royal assent the new accounting standard would be required to apply for the current financial year. In other words, it would have a retrospective effect back to 1 July 1979.
If we impose on the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories a requirement that it take steps to the satisfaction of the Auditor-General in relation to the control of assets in its custody, we may find that, in fact, it has not maintained primary records since 1 July 1 979 which would enable it to go back and rewrite a custody assets register. It may be that we will find that when CSL comes to submit its financial statements to the Auditor-General for certification it will be in the same position as that of the Australian National Railways Commission, the Australian Housing Corporation, the Capital Territory Health Commission and the Canberra Showground Trust. I could go on for a long time with a list of other bodies which the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has investigated. It has been found that their accounting requirements have been changed during the currency of a year, creating a foul-up- an impossible position- and it takes years of effort by the authority concerned, the Department of Finance, the AuditorGeneral, the sponsoring department of the Government and sometimes other people to sort out the mess which has been created.
– This Bill is to come into operation on 1 July this year.
– Not necessarily. There are some transitional provisions.
– They all come into operation after 1 July.
– The point is that there are transitional provisions. Clause 30 states:
– That is 1 July.
– The point I am trying to make, if Senator Cavanagh will listen to me for a moment, is that whilst there are transitional provisions with regard to proposed new sections 34B ( 1 ) (a) and 38, the amendments to sections 40 and 4 1 of the Principal Act are not included in the transitional provisions, nor is there an explanation.
– That sets out what will happen next. That happens on 1 July at the beginning of the financial year.
– Whilst I appreciate Senator Cavanagh ‘s interest, if I could make my point- he may like to debate it later- we would progress more rapidly. Whilst there are transitional provisions for certain aspects of the legislation, the changes which are proposed to the existing sections 40 and 41 are not declared to be transitional. Perhaps it will not be possible, without the aid of transitional provisions, for the CSL to comply with the new requirements.
One of the problems we have found has been that when the accounting requirements are changed there are very often different attitudes between the Department of Finance, the accountants of the authority concerned and the Auditor-General as to what is the meaning of the new obligations. It is not until the authority submits to the Auditor-General its accounts, prepared on what it believes to be a proper interpretation of the new accounting requirements, that the authority finds out that it has kept its records on a basis which does not satisfy the Auditor-General. I asked Senator Cavanagh to be patient while I made that point. We have found that incredible delays, cost and confusion have been created. The Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations recommended that when there is to be a change in the accounting standards for statutory authorities we should ensure that there is demonstrable consultation and understanding, particularly between the Auditor-General, the Department of Finance and the authority concerned, so that they are all of one mind as to what the changed standards will mean. The sponsoring department is also involved in that consideration.
The belief, therefore, is that there will be no substantial delay if this Bill is referred to the Committee and the Committee reports to the Senate on the next day of sitting, which is the 18th of this month as the Senate is not sitting next week. The Committee will be able to meet next week. In anticipation it has made preliminary arrangements to meet on Thursday to enable the Auditor-General and the accountants of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the Department of Finance and the Department of Health to ensure that, using the Senate committee system, there is no misunderstanding as to what the new accounting requirements will mean. We do not know whether the accounting records will have to be re-written or whether it will be practical to introduce the changes on the day specified or on the day that the Bill receives assent. It is a matter of ensuring that we do not make the accountancy provisions worse rather than better. We are seeking the opportunity to ensure that everybody understands those provisions. I note that there has been no reference in detail to the meaning of these changes. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document which I have prepared. It is a very brief summary of the requirements of sections 40 and 41 of the existing Act and of proposed new sections 40 and 41.
The document read as follows-
– The document itemises and identifies the changes, the principal one of which, as I have already mentioned, is the introduction of a requirement in relation to not only the assets of the authority but also the assets in the custody of the authority. There are a number of other changes in relation to the audit. I do not wish to interfere with the flow of this Bill through the Parliament. Honourable senators should bear in mind that the matter can be examined by the Committee and it can report to this chamber on the next day of sitting.
-This morning I was approached by Senator Rae and members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations from both sides of the chamber to see whether the Opposition would agree to the referral of this Bill to that Committee. It is on the proviso that the Committee reports by 1 8 March and that the passage of this legislation is not delayed, particularly until after the commencement date of the legislation, that the Opposition has agreed to this request. I express some concern about the manner in which this matter has been dealt with. When I spoke during the second reading debate I said that I was surprised that at that stage no Government supporter had expressed an interest in the fact that the Bill was strengthening and widening the capacity of a statutory authority when in the past Government supporters have been determined to curb the powers of statutory authorities and, in some cases, get rid of them. I hope that no one involved in this exercise intends to use it as a means of getting rid of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories or severely curbing its activities, which I consider to be very important.
– In my motion I am specifically limiting it to finance.
– I accept that undertaking from Senator Rae. I express some concern that an authority such as the CSL will come in for considerably more scrutiny from the Parliament in this important area than its competitors are ever likely to come under. I wish to ensure that that will not be an inhibiting influence in its ability to operate in a rough and tough market in the future. I suggest that in future the Government, in preparing legislation, does what Senator Rae has suggested and ensures that the requirements of the Auditor-General, the Department of Finance and the accountants of the organisation itself are compatible and able to be carried out in a sensible way so that all legislation of this kind does not have to be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations at the last minute. I hope that the Committee can sort out the matter and report to the Senate by 1 8 March. Believe me, if it does not the Senate will be hearing from the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present the 15th report of the Joint Committee on Publications.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– by leave- In its report on the parliamentary papers series, the Joint Committee on Publications included a recommendation that the Clerks advise the Chairman of the Committee on any occasion when an author body has failed to meet a statutory requirement to table its annual report within the stated period or within a reasonable time following completion of the period. In their joint statement of 22 November 1978, the Presiding Officers indicated their support for this recommendation and undertook to implement it. The Presiding Officers stated that three months would be regarded as a reasonable time within which a report should be tabled. The Committee has now received details in relation to the 1978-79 financial year and I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The report read as follows-
ANNUAL REPORTS REQUIRED BY STATUTE
Details for 1978-79 Financial Year
PART A: REPORTS NOT TABLED AS AT 4 MARCH 1980.
PART B: INTERIM REPORTS ONLY TABLED.
PART C: REPORTS NOT TABLED IN 1979 BUT TABLED BETWEEN 19 FEBRUARY AND 4 MARCH 1980.
PART D: REPORTS TABLED BETWEEN 1 OCTOBER AND 23 NOVEMBER 1979.
PART E: REPORTS TABLED BEFORE 30 SEPTEMBER 1979.
N.B.: Dates listed for tabling are those of first tabling in either House.
No report for 1978-79 financial year as at 4 March 1980
Aboriginal Loans Commission Act
Air Navigation Act
Australian National Airlines Act
Australian National Railways Act
Broadcasting and Television Act- Special Broadcasting Service
Coal Research Assistance Act
Commonwealth Employment Service Act
Defence Force (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Act
Dried Fruits Research Act
Education Research Act
Fishing Industry Act
Fishing Industry Research Act
Health Insurance Commission Act
Home Savings Grant Act 1964
Housing Assistance Act
Industrial Research and Development Grants Act and
Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act
International Monetary Agreements Act
National Health Act
States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Act
Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Act
Commissioner for Superannuation
Superannuation Fund Investment Trust
Trade Union Training Authority Act
Interim reports only for 1978-79
Albury-Wodonga Development Act ( 14 November 1979)
Defence Service Homes Act (8 November 1979) (Interim statement, 1 3 September 1979)
Homes Savings Grant Act 1976 (8 November 1979)
Honey Industry Act ( 1 2 September 1979)
Seat of Government (Administration) ActHealth Commission Ordinance- Capital Territory
Health Commission (20 November 1979)
1978-79 Reports not tabled in 1979 but tabled between 19 February and 4 March 1980
Aboriginal Land Funds Act (2 1 February 1980)
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act- (21 February 1980)
Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act -Interim Report- 1 1 October 1979 -Final Report-26 February 1980
Criminology Research Act- Australian Institute of Criminology- (21 February 1980)
Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act-(2 1 February 1980)
1978-1979 Reports Tabled After 1 October 1979 but Before 23 November 1979
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act (13 November 1979)
Atomic Energy Act ( 13 November 1979)
Australia Council Act (20 November 1979)
Australia- Japan Foundation Act ( 15 November 1979)
Australian Bureau of Statistics Act-
Australian Bureau of Statistics ( 8 November 1 979) Australian Statistics Advisory Council (8 November 1979)
Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act (20 November 1979)
Australian Film and Television School Act (2 1 November 1979)
Australian Film Commission Act ( 13 November 1979)
Australian Heritage Commission Act (23 October 1 979)
Australian Industry Development Corporation Act ( 10 October 1979)
Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act (15 November 1979)
Australian Institute of Marine Science Act (25 October 1979)
Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Act (8 November 1979)
Australian Shipping Commission Act (22 November 1979)
Australian Tourist Commission Act (21 November 1979)
Australian War Memorial Act (21 November 1979)
Broadcasting and Television Act-
Australian Broadcasting Commission ( 14 November 1979)
Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (20 November 1979)
Coal Industry Act( 13 November 1979)
Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission Act (22 November 1979)
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act (8 November 1979)
Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act (20 November 1979)
Conciliation and Arbitration Act (20 November 1 979)
Criminology Research Act- Criminology Research Council (20 November 1979)
Curriculum Development Centre Act (22 November 1979)
Dairy Produce Act- (Interim 18 September) (15 November 1979)
Darwin Reconstruction Act (21 November 1979)
Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act (15 November 1979)
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act (8 November 1979)
Family LawAct(20 November 1979)
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act (22 November 1 979)
Housing Loans Insurance Act ( 14 November 1979)
Immigration (Education) Act ( 15 November 1979)
Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act (22 November 1979)
Industries Assistance Commission Act (8 November 1979)
Insurance Act ( 1 7 October 1979)
Law Reform Commission Act (22 November 1979)
Legislative Drafting Institute Act (25 October 1 979)
Meat Research Act (9 October 1 979)
Metric Conversion Act (25 October 1979)
National Capital Development Commission Act (25 October 1979)
National Gallery Act (21 November 1979)
National Library Act (2 1 November 1979)
National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (25 October 1979)
Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Act (8 November 1979)
Ombudsman Act (15 November 1979)
Papua New Guinea (Starling Assistance) Termination Act (9Octoberl979)
Parliament House Construction Authority Act (22 November 1979)
Pipeline Authority Act ( 1 3 November 1979)
Postal Services Act ( 7 November 1979)
Prices Justification Act ( 10 October 1979)
Racial Discrimination Act (9 October 1979)
River Murray Waters Act (20 November 1979)
Seat of Government (Administration) ActConsumer Affairs Ordinance- A.C.T. Consumer Affairs Council ( 14 November 1979)
Legal Aid Ordinance- Legal Aid Commission (A.C.T.) (9 October 1979)
Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act ( 10 October 1979)
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act (20 November 1979)
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act (1977) (20 November 1979)
Telecommunications Act (21 November 1979)
Tobacco Industry Act ( 1 8 October 1 979)
Wool Industry Act (14 November 1979)
1978-79 reports tabled before 30 September 1979
Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Act (27 September 1979)
Australian Science and Technology Council Act (20 September 1979)
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Act (29 August 1 979)
Bounty (Books) Act (29 August 1979)
Bounty (Commercial Motor Vehicles) Act (29 August 1979)
Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act (29 August 1 979)
Bounty (Metal Working Machine Tools) Act (29 August 1979)
Chicken Meat Research Act ( 1 1 September 1 979 )
Commonwealth Banks Act (25 September 1979)
Dairying Research Act ( 1 8 September 1979)
Export Market Development Grants Act and Export
Expansion Grants Act (23 August 1 979)
Pig Industry Research Act (27 September 1979)
Pig Meat Promotion Act (20 September 1979)
Poultry Industry Assistance Act (27 September 1 979)
Reserve Bank Act (23 August 1979)
Science and Industry Research Act (20 September 1 979) Ship Construction Bounty Act (28 August 1 979) Trade Practices Act ( 1 8 September 1979)
-Briefly the details show that as at 4 March statutory requirements for reports in 23 Acts had not been fulfilled for the year ended 30 June 1979. Interim reports only had been received for a further five, and five other authorities did not report on the 1978-79 financial year until the current sittings. Nineteen reports for 1978-79 were received before 30 September 1 979 and a further 62 reported between 1 October and 23 November 1979. At today’s meeting the Committee resolved that:
The Committee is of the opinion that a. fourmonth target date would be more reasonable. We strongly believe that the reports on a financial year must be available to senators and members before the summer recess. The fourmonth period after 30 June will enable authorities to prepare reports and have them produced and tabled before the end of the Budget session. The Committee is aware that two reports referred to in the list were in fact tabled in each House this morning. However, the schedule was closed off on 4 March. I am confident that the procedures which have been developed will enable the Parliament to more effectively discharge its responsibilities in the oversight of Commonwealth activities.
-by leave- I move:
I do so because I believe that we may need to debate the matter concerning the Joint Committee on publications and the report a little more fully. I do not deny Senator Rae the right to speak at this moment. The figures that have been placed before the Senate indicate that there has been an effort on the pan of many of the institutions concerned to comply with the Presiding Officers ‘ request. But it does emerge that the three-month period within which financial reports must be tabled appears to be a limitation. For that reason I would support the proposition that the period be four months. Most of the organisations would thus have another month in which to bring down their reports.
However I put the point of view that was expressed by Opposition members on the Commitee. It must not be understood by the organisations that because there is a stipulation of four months within which to submit their reports they must present them three or four months after they are due. Four months is being provided merely in recognition of the fact that some organisations may not be able to get all their figures by the end of July when they must necessarily prepare and submit their reports. I think the proposition that has been put before the House by Senator Archer is a reasonable one and I believe that we should accede to and support his request. However, there are some organisations, and some important ones- I do not doubt that Senator Rae has something further to say on the matter- that persist with delay. Some of those reports are still not down. There is strong objection to that being the case. The four-month period that Senator Archer mentioned in his statement allows the Senate to receive those reports in sufficient time to debate them before the rising of the Christmas session.
Honourable senators will notice that he proposed four months. This would mean that the reports should be in by the end of October. That would enable them to be discussed over the remaining four weeks of the session. It has been the practice for some of the organisations to wait until the very last day to present these reports. In the past we have had a great number of reports presented in this place on the last day, thus giving no opportunity for debate. I think it must be impressed upon those concerned that the sooner the better, but the period of four months is in recognition of their difficulties.
-Might I obtain an indication from Senator Georges as to whether he would like me to seek leave to continue my remarks when I have completed what I wish to say this afternoon?
– I am glad to support in broad terms what Senator Archer has said in the report of the Joint Committee on Publications that has been presented. I join with him in saying that I regard this as a matter in need of attention because it had got to a quite serious stage. This question of reporting, and timely reporting, as well as detailed reporting, has got out of hand. It is my intention to continue with what has been happening in this chamber for 12 months now; that is, whenever a report is late in being presented here I shall move for it to be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and
Government Operations Committee for investigation and report as to why it is late. It is through that Committee that the Senate can be informed as to what is going wrong and what is causing some of the delays. In some cases the delay has been four years or more. The matters to which I was adverting a short time ago in relation to the preceding Bill, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill, are relevant.
I would also like to take the opportunity to refer to the report of Trans Australia Airlines. Its 1976 report was presented to this chamber in November 1977. Its 1977 report was presented in June 1978. In each of those years the reports were for the year ended 30 June. After some agitation on my part in this chamber last year its report for the year ended 30 June 1978 was presented on 22 May 1979. After I had drawn attention to this I received a communication from TAA saying, in effect: ‘Hey, fair go! ‘ I was provided with certain information which I subsequently brought into the chamber and presented because I felt that in fairness I should. TAA claim that the situation is again the same this year in respect of last year’s report. TAA had expeditiously prepared its financial statements and had completed them by the end of September. It worked hard throughout the whole of its State branch operations to get the information collected, put together and submitted to the Minister. TAA say it is not its fault that the bureaucratic system under which it has to operate as a statutory authority is such that it takes six to 12 months for its reports to find their way through the bureaucracy.
– To surface?
– To surface. I want to make the point that it is not always the statutory authority which is to blame in these sorts of circumstances; it may well be the Public Service and the Executive Government which is to blame. Unless I have been misinformed, and if I have I hope somebody will correct me, the situation is that TAA has been doing a good job in getting its financial statements prepared and submitted at the earliest reasonable date, and certainly that which would apply to a public listed company, which I think it should be. It shows that TAA can do it. TAA is a major part of a major industry in Australia and its reporting is important in a whole section of planning not only by government but by all sorts of people in the community that is held up for periods of up to 12 months whilst the bureaucracy gradually shuffles the bits of paper around or between departments, or whatever may cause the delay. I regard that as a matter for identification, for expression of concern and for correction by the Executive Government.
I draw attention to the fact that the last three reports of Trans Australian Airlines have referred to the fact that it has not made any provision for ground staff employee superannuation contributions along the lines of that which is required as a result of them being subject to the Commonwealth employees superannuation scheme. I draw attention also to the fact that there is a financial direction to statutory authorities, of which Trans-Australian Airlines is one, suggesting, recommending and directing that provision should be made for a 25 per cent contribution by employers in respect of superannuation. In its annual report TAA indicates that this has not been done, pending a government decision in relation to what will happen. I regard it as an unsatisfactory situation that for three years, and presumably for a fourth year for which we have not yet seen the report, TAA, as one of the statutory authorities reporting to this Parliament and this chamber, has not received an answer from the Government as to what is to happen about that matter.
There is other information which causes me even more concern, into which I do not propose to go at this stage. I do hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), will draw his attention to the fact that I have refrained from going any further than this at this stage. That does not necessarily mean that my tolerance will remain as great as it has been this afternoon. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 March, on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Before this debate recommences, I seek the opportunity to suggest to the Opposition that perhaps we can take the two Bills, the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill and the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill, cognately.
-That is all right. I just made that suggestion.
– The purpose of this Bill is ostensibly to provide for better arrangements between a borrower and the Defence Service Homes Corporation on matters such as the choice of a home, the choice of insurance and the percentage of its value which may be advanced. When one looks at the purpose of the Bill and the arrangements which the legislation will provide to exservicemen, one can only say that the Bill falls miserably short of its purpose, and in no way does it represent a choice for ex-servicemen in respect to a home, insurance or the percentage of its value which may be advanced. To that extent I think it is necessary to draw to the attention of the Senate a report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure which deals with the problems associated with the Defence Service Homes Act generally. The manner in which this Government has dealt with this report highlights the cavalier way that it treats the operations of its own parliamentary committees, its own members, Parliament, and ex-servicemen generally.
One can only come to the conclusion that the Government is riding roughshod over its own back bench and the parliamentary process, as indeed it is, by this particular piece of legislation, riding roughshod over ex-servicemen generally. It cannot be argued that housing has not become a major social problem in this country. In fact all the evidence has pointed to a significant development in recent years of the magnitude of the housing problem and the degree to which a great number of people are suffering from the high cost of housing and the Government’s inability to make any sizeable or significant attempt to solve the accommodation problem per family unit.
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Defence Service Homes Act. The Government claims that it is giving effect to the recommendations made by the House of Representatives Committee. The Bill is disappointing not only to members of the Opposition but also to members of the Government itself. It is disappointing also to members of the Standing Committee who put so much hard work into the inquiry and who took their job seriously. One can say only that most of the recommendations put forward by the Committee have either been rejected or diluted. I find it somewhat limiting that the second reading speech seeks to suggest that by putting into effect one of the minor recommendations of the Committee the Government has taken the Committee’s work into consideration. In the brief three weeks that we have been back in this Parliament, we have heard, in the debates in this place, the way in which this Government is treating most of the committee work carried out by various committees of the Parliament, whether they be House of Representatives committees, Joint Committees or committees of the Senate.
The Government’s attitude indicates the contempt that it has for the effective work of the Parliament itself by the arrogation of power to itself as the executive arm of government. The Bill indicates the Government’s complete lack of understanding and lack of concern for the severe problems facing people in need of housing in any field, and it complements this Government’s lousy approach to housing generally in this country. This particular piece of legislation shows what the Government is doing with respect to interest rates generally, and it shows what it is doing by cutting back on funds allocated to the States for their new housing programs. It shows the Government’s complete inability to appreciate the level of housing problems in Australia. I suppose we can be thankful for small mercies. We can be thankful that the latest increase in interest rates will not affect the Defence Service Homes loan. The interest on the loans under this scheme, of course, still operates. It has been held at three and three quarter per cent ever since its inception, and the volume of money has certainly increased over the years.
I should like to draw the attention of the Senate to the increases in funds which have been made available in recent years. The maximum amount of loan available when Labor came into power was $9,000. Labor came to government in 1972; in its first Budget in 1973 it lifted that amount to $12,000, which represented an increase of 33 per cent. The following years it increased the amount by a further $3,000, which was a further increase of 20 per cent. An amount of $15,000 is now available. It is true that in making available that extra sum the Labor Government did place an additional rate of interest on it, taking it up to 7V4 per cent. From the point of view of interest rates generally, I think that even this Government would accept that from a housing point of view the loan is probably the most generous available in Australia. The sad thing is that the cost of housing and land has increased so considerably in the post-war years in which the Liberal and Country Party governments have been in office.
For example, in 1949, when the Menzies Government came to power, a block of land in Sydney could be purchased for one hundred pounds; that is $200. That was the general price, and that land was in areas which one could say were within ready access to the city properwithin 10 to 12 miles from the city proper. That was the price of land. In those areas today, because of the policies being pursued by the national Government, one cannot buy land at anything less than $25,000 to $30,000. We have seen the tremendous increase in housing construction costs to the stage where the price of constructing a three bedroom brick dwelling has risen from something like £2,000 or $4,000 to an amount in excess of $40,000 or $50,000 for a comparable type of construction. Those who were able to borrow in those days of course borrowed on very generous terms and that money provided adequately for their needs. That was in the immediate post-war years. At one time Government members were very proud of their defence service homes legislation. I do not think they are particularly proud of it today. Every member of Parliament, whether in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, would agree with me that there is a waiting list of great magnitude, that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction about the inadequacy of funds, that there is a great deal of concern about the long waiting period to get access to funds and that there is concern about the restriction on eligibility with which, this Government has been associated in the various amendments it has introduced since it came into office.
Government members talk big but act small when it comes to the case of ex-servicemen. In times of crisis they are always concerned with a jingoistic attitude to the defence of this country, patriotism assumes tremendous proportions and all the promises in the world are made. But when it comes to providing for those who served in the armed services they are not prepared to put into action their rhetoric, which starts to disappear as do the funds available. Of course, the situation is that the defence service home loan remains at $15,000. The first $12,000 is repayable at 3% per cent interest. This has been pegged since the time of the Labor administration. The $3,000 is repayable at 7V4 per cent. But as honourable senators know, housing costs have grown astronomically over the last five or six years, certainly in New South Wales and Victoria in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. This sum of money comes nowhere near to covering anything but a fraction of the costs involved in the construction or the purchase of a home.
Some years ago, under the Labor administration, the amount made available under the war service homes legislation was approximately 60 per cent of the total cost of acquiring a house or building a house on land. Today that percentage has dropped to 40 per cent. Consequently, what is the ex-serviceman forced to do? He is forced to go into the second mortgage loan market. He is forced to borrow at rates ranging from 14 per cent to 1 8 per cent, which nullifies the generous interest loan rates that otherwise would be available to him. This happens precisely because this Government refuses to take any steps to appreciate what has happened in the home market in this country. Because of those and other reasons which I will elaborate, the Opposition will move an amendment to the motion: ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’. I move:
I will deal with the latter part of the motion. I recall the situation that existed in 1974-75 when the Labor Party was in government. At that time there was a squeeze on the private housing sector. In that period we were able to develop substantially the defence service homes scheme as we were able to upgrade the availability of public housing. The Labor Government in its first year of office made available $130m in its Budget, the biggest sum of money ever allocated for defence service homes. Currently this Government has allocated $78. 5m in the 1979-80 Budget for this purpose. This represents a dramatic reduction both in money terms and in real terms. Under the Labor Government the number of loans provided under the Scheme in 1974 was 9,385, that is, almost 10,000 people were able to apply successfully for loans. In 1 978-79, the last financial year, the number of loans provided dropped to 5,365. This represented a drop of some 43 per cent. Surely honourable senators on the government side of the chamber will not defend that drop, particularly when bearing in mind that the period of waiting to become eligible for a loan has risen also in the same period from 11 months to 14 months. So ex-servicemen have to wait and wait and wait. That is what is happening under the administration of the Fraser Government.
As I said earlier, the defence service homes scheme provides a maximum loan of $ 1 5,000 repayable over 32 years. The first $12,000 is repayable at 3% per cent and the remaining $3,000 at 7’/4 per cent. The size of that loan was determined in 1974-75. It has not shifted since. This is the Government that talks about inflation and rising costs and the need to contain them. Yet it does not take those factors into consideration when it brings in this piece of legislation which states that the purpose of the Bill is to arrange for better arrangements between the borrower and the Defence Service Homes Corporation. How does this legislation constitute a better arrangement? lt is a worse arrangement and it is a deteriorating arrangement. It is an arrangement which, year by year, gets worse from the point of view of the borrower. As I have indicated, at the time when that last increase was made, the loan represented 60 per cent of the average cost of a block of land and a house which, in 1 974-75, according to the figures from the Australian Housing Corporation, was $25,456. That was then regarded as an average price.
Today it is virtually impossible to find a dwelling or land package in any of the major citiescertainly I can speak with some authority about the Sydney metropolitan area- at a price less than $42,000. Looking at the situation Australiawide, I think in Adelaide in some cases a block of land and a dwelling may be purchased for as little as $35,000. But that has happened because an effective State Government housing organisation has been operating in that State. It has been able to maintain the pressure on the price of land and, consequently, put the public sector in active competition with the private sector. The average price across Australia for such a package is about $39,000 which, of course, highlights what I have said- that this loan represents only 40 per cent of the value of a house and land package. So the ex-serviceman, who is supposed to receive some compensation for his contribution to the defence of the country, whether it was in the Second World War, the Korean War or the Vietnam War, or whether he is eligible in a restrictive way as a result of his activities in the permanent forces, is still forced into that exorbitant second loan market.
In a moment I will consider what is happening with insurance. But before I get on to that matter I think it ought to be drawn to the attention of the Senate that this Government has now imposed a $75 application fee on the applicant who wants to qualify for a loan. For the first time since the Defence Service Homes Act or its equivalent was introduced they have to pay $75 for a loan application fee. The Act has had its name changed so many times that I do not think even members of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs could list the number of times the name of the Act has been changed. But I shall call it the Defence Services Homes Act. It has been in operation now for about 60 years. Never before has an application fee been required. What does this Government- which claims to represent the exservicemen and which claims to be representative of all the people in this country, according to our Prime Minister’s rhetoric- do? For the first time it introduces an application fee of $75. Immediately the ex-serviceman is put at a disadvantage, because we know that all along the line he is putting extra money in for this certificate, extra money in for that certificate, conveyancing costs and so forth, and extra money for taxes that are imposed by the States. He is liable to pay hundreds of dollars before his application gets off the ground. I do not need to express again what I think of this course of action. This fee was never charged in the past and it should not be charged now. A criticism from the Committee was that no application fee should be paid by those who receive a grant, but that, of course, is one of the recommendations that has not been regarded as effective.
I do not know whether the purpose of the charge is to discourage ex-servicemen from making an application, but I think that there is already enough discouragement for those who want to come into the home acquisition market. Heaven only knows, every person who has the task of providing accommodation for himself has enough obstacles put in his way without having to meet this extra obstacle, this extra restriction. The Government has also extended in this legislation, from three years to six years, the period of service necessary for serving servicemen to qualify for a loan. How does that meet the purpose of the Bill to make things easier? But we are told that that is the purpose of the legislation. There are additional provisos. We previously heard argument about navy personnel who have been disqualified and army personnel who have had their applications approved. I am sure that honourable senators have had those problems to deal with in their own constituencies. Ordinary service personnel now have to contract to a further three years, making their qualifying period nine years as against six years for officers. So class distinction is inserted in this piece of legislation. That represents a blatant form of discrimination against those who need access to defence service homes most.
Surely no government senator would contest with me that a person in the services, if he were at officer level, would more than likely, in 99 per cent of the cases, be able to provide for himself more adequately than a person who was in the ranks. Yet what does this Government do? It places one person in an advantaged position and the other person in a disadvantaged position. Let us look at what the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill does in respect of the Defence Services Homes Insurance Scheme. Here we have a scheme which, by all criteria, in every possible way, represents a competency, a cover, an efficiency, that is unequalled in any insurance field in Australia, without any question at all. The insurance scheme which has operated has been very successful. It has been self-supporting and it has cost revenue nothing. It has provided cover without parallel to any other insurance scheme operating anywhere in this country. What does this Government do? It bows down and sells out to the private insurance lobbies which put forward the sorts of arguments which we have heard put when dealing with other Bills today.
Let the private sector get in on all of the cream and let the public sector in on all of the milk. Where is the criticism about the success of our insurance scheme that operates in conjunction with the defence service homes? There is no criticism at all, from those who are fortunate enough to participate in the scheme. The only criticism comes from the insurance lobbies themselves. One can hazard a guess as to why this Government has seen fit to change the long-standing arrangements and to break the tie that exists so that the private insurance companies, most of which are now owned by foreign companies, can come into this lucrative field. If one examines the way in which the Liberal and National Country Parties’ political campaigns operate in this country, where they spend four and five times more than the Australian Labor Party and about 25 times more than the Australian Democrats, one does not have to hazard a guess or to think very deeply about where some of their slush funds must be coming from. I am not suggesting that they do come from the insurance lobbyists, but it stands to reason that there would be many people in the big business sector- in the corporate sector- of our economy who obviously finance the Liberal and National Country Party election campaigns. It does not come from their membership because they have a decreasing membership. They do not carry out sufficient activities to be able to spend four times more than the Australian Labor Party in election campaigns.
One is entitled to draw a conclusion that somewhere along the line the big business sector in our country, which was so ably defended in a previous debate by Senator Lewis, provides the funds that flow very easily and freely into the coffers of the conservative parties to finance their election campaigns. We know that there are paid lobbyists, former members of this Parliament who were conservatives- Tories- who parade themselves around the Parliament, day in and day out, lobbying for private pharmaceutical companies. We know this from the debate on the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. We hear their views echoed in the debates taking place in this Parliament. If we look at this matter with any form of objectivity, we are entitled to wonder why we take the step to break the satisfactory arrangement that exists in respect of the insurance arrangements so far as defence service homes are concerned, because as the level of reserves in the trust account rises so the premium reduces.
That happens to be a personal observation because I am one who is happy to qualify. I know what happens in the system and how it operates. I know that there is such a successful operation of this scheme that at the end of the year we see the arrangements changing to the benefit of the borrower, to the benefit of the participant. But the insurance companies do not lake that. They want to get their grubby little hands upon the sort of margin that assists the borrower so that the companies can build their mighty castles in every part of the Commonwealth and invest their capital wherever they feel that more profit is to be made. How can any honourable senator defend that sort of decision? How can any honourable senator say that the purpose of this Bill is to improve on that when in fact it is obviously going to cost every person in the scheme who opts out of the existing arrangements and ties himself up to a private arrangement? It must inevitably cost him more than the existing satisfactory arrangements.
I can recall the Brisbane floods, for example, and so would my colleagues from Queensland who do not happen to be sitting in the chamber. We recall also the difficulties that took place at that particular time. We know how the private companies sought to fleece the ordinary, average person in the city of Brisbane who was beset by that tremendous tragedy. But no criticism of the Defence Service Homes Corporation was made. There was no criticism made of the insurance companies associated with the Defence Service
Homes Corporation. There was a ready response and they met their obligations, as they should. It was the private insurance companies which sought in every possible way to get themselves out of their obligations. They were the reluctant ones. They were the hesitant ones. They were the mean ones in respect to honouring their commitment. It is to the credit of the Corporation that there was full co-operation with those exservicemen who had their homes insured through the scheme and who stood to suffer a tremendous loss in their only principal asset, their home. I think the Corporation, particularly as it relates to insurance, is to be commended. One would have thought that this Government would have wanted to maintain that arrangement. Of course we seek to have a more fundamental review of the defence service homes scheme than the present amendments allow. One part of the Opposition’s amendment calls for the withdrawal of this Bill and for its re-drafting to improve the operations of the scheme.
The last point I want to make in this debate relates to the third aspect of our amendment, that is, that there should be a Government-backed guarantee so that mortgage loans can be acquired at reasonable rates of interest. An exserviceman, having gone through all the difficulties of getting into the scheme, should not be forced, because of a lack of capital, into the mortgage loans scheme. He should not be forced into the dearest loan money in order to acquire a home. The Government can guarantee a loan, probably through the Commonwealth Bank, at a reasonable interest rate. I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that the Government ought to carry through its obligation and ensure some measure of equity from the point of view of the difference between the cost of a home and the loan that is made available under this legislation. Later this year when the election is to be decided we will be putting to the Australian people that in government we will guarantee loans through the permanent building societies at interest rates lower than those currently available in the second mortgage market. Ex-servicemen should not be pushed into the high interest rates which are now synonymous with the existing gap. Another problem is that these people have to repay their loans over a much shorter period. Ex-servicemen can take out a war service loan for a period up to 32 years but, as honourable senators would appreciate, the repayments on a second mortgage are made not only at a higher rate but over a shorter period. This creates additional difficulties for applicants.
We should examine the Australian Housing Corporation Act that we introduced in 1 974-75 for the purpose of overcoming all of the deficiencies that exist in the current administration of the Defence Service Homes Act. It is the intention of the Labor Party to re-establish the Australian Housing Corporation and to take the Defence Service Homes Corporation from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. We would make available through the Australian Housing Corporation funds for ex-servicemen and other people who are in need so far as housing is concerned. There would be government-guaranteed mortgage loans at reasonable rates of interest. Surely, in a period of rising interest rates, that would be a very useful contribution in stimulating the domestic economy. It is sorely needed in a period of high unemployment and stagnation generally. This Government should be interested in trying to establish more rapport with ex-servicemen. However, I think the Government has become so blase about its tremendous majority in the House of Representatives that it believes it can continue to ignore this section of the Australian community. To ignore it might well cost the Government support not only in the short term but also in the long term.
The Labor Party believes that the housing industry is one area in which we can inject some growth in the Australian economy. We would press for some activity in the housing industry because of the snowballing effect that it has and the demand it can create. At least that would stimulate activity in the domestic economy. Currently about 1 1 9,000 dwellings are being constructed. According to all the reports that I have read about the building industry the industry believes that it can construct 135,000 dwellings without in any way contributing to inflationary pressures. This means that there is a shortfall of about 16,000. One would have expected the Government to utilise its revenue- and it has got plenty of it as a result of its petrol tax; it has got plenty of money on hand- to create sufficient activity to build those extra 16,000 homes. There is one way that it can achieve that objective; it can be done by making more money available in real terms to wipe away part of the backlog and create demand in the economy.
In my view many people in our community are facing hardship as far as housing is concerned. Many people in the ex-service section of our community are also facing real hardship. We should have a great deal of sympathy for all of those applicants. A Labor Government will not only make money available and make the terms and conditions more generous, we also will do a lot more to give to the ordinary people in the community the low income groups in particular, the disadvantaged groups in our community, the opportunity to come into the ambit of home ownership. In cur community there are 100,000 homeless people. There are 250,000 people living in temporary dwellings. There are 75,000 families registered on State housing commission files. So we do have a housing crisis. I can think of no greater social problem than that that besets those families, estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000 people, that are unable to solve their accommodation problems. This Bill fails dismally to meet the challenge so far as exservicemen are concerned. I have already moved my amendment and it has been circulated for consideration by the Senate. I hope the Senate will give some support to the Opposition’s point of view.
-The Senate is debating the Defence Service Homes Bill 1980. Senator Gietzelt said towards the end of his speech that the trouble with this Government is that it is not giving any consideration to ex-servicemen. I wonder on what basis he makes that allegation when the subject under debate is the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill which does precisely what he is saying the Government is not doing. This Bill removes a number of restrictive lending conditions and introduces freedom of choice in the selection of house insurer. I do not intend to elaborate greatly on those two matters because they have been explained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott). The Opposition has indicated in its amendment that it is concerned to establish the defence service homes insurance scheme as a socialist insurer, to widen its field rather than to give prospective applicants under this scheme an opportunity of choosing whichever insurance company they want. One can understand the socialists with that philosophy putting forward such an amendment. Of course, it will not be supported on this side of the chamber. The solution to the problem which Senator Gietzelt puts forward is, of course, the usual solution which the Opposition constantly puts forward in debate on whatever Bill is being discussed in this chamber. The Opposition says that the way to solve this problem is by spending more money. The Labor Party’s solution to all problems is either to spend more money or to reduce government revenue. Clearly, that is the policy that it will put forward at the next election and just as clearly the people of Australia will reject it. Nowadays the people of Australia appreciated that the inevitable result of these philosophiesand policies is to inflate the economy. TheLabour Party’s proposals cannot be paid forinanywayotherthan by printing money.
Theproblemwhicharisesin relation to the Defence Service »u;r.v»loan is the limit of $ 15,000. There is nodoubt today housing costs are veryhigh although I cannot agree with Senator Gietzelthat the cost ofhouses in Sydney is up around $42,000.My information, which I obtained from the Sydney Sun of 29 February, is that a Bovis home can be bought for just under $ 1 9,000.I do not know how Senator Gietzelt gets the figure of $42,000.I suggest that he ask Premier Wran to have a look at his land policy in New South Wales. Perhaps the New South Wales Government is at fault. Nevertheless, the cost of a very modest 3-bedroom home in an outer suburb is $30,000 to $32,000. The loan limit under the present scheme is $15,000. There are problems, and I intend to deal with them.
The system adopted in Australia is the most generous system in the world. Australian Government and the Australian people can be proud of the fact that we look after our exservicemen in this way. Let us look at the problems of a person who is eligible under this Act for a loan and who is trying to buy or build a modest 3-bedroom home. He is looking to raise a sum of $32,000. Let us assume that he has saved $3,000 and has qualified for a defence service home loan of $15,000. He would be faced with a gap of $14,000 to complete his purchase. The unfortunate thing is that he needs to go to some other source of finance for that $14,000. This would mean he would need a second mortage and would probably pay a high interest rate. I agree with Senator Gietzelt that he could probably be paying an interest rate of 14 per cent to 18 per cent. Perhaps a second mortgage could be obtained at 15 per cent. He would also be up for two lots of expenses. He would be up for expenses under this Act such as valuation fees and some contribution towards his legal fees and mortgage fees. He would certainly be up for valuation, legal and mortgage fees for the second mortgage.
That is not the only problem. As a practitioner in this field I know that one of the great problems is the interminable delay that occurs. Frequently applicants get so sick of the interminable delay that they seek temporary finance to overcome it. The cost of temporary finance in any field in Australia is very high. It is not uncommon for someone to pay as much as $ 1,500 for temporary finance in order to enable him to complete his purchase and to get into his house. These are the sorts of cases which get the Public Service of Australia a bad name. The red tape is quite interminable. By the time that the Public Service has protected the eligible person from himself- it treats most of the eligible people as complete dolts- and from disreputable builders, thieving real estate agents and shyster lawyers everybody is round the twist.
– Including yourself.
– Yes, including shyster lawyers. Public servants, with all due respect, then start protecting themselves, their superiors, their Ministers from parliamentarians such as Senator McLaren who goes along to Senate Estimates committees and asks the most inane questions and then comes into this chamber and makes senseless criticisms of the Public Service, as he did this morning over the VIP flights. I am sure that he does it for no purpose other than that he thinks he will get a headline from the Press Gallery. The Public Service in Australia gets a bad name because of the red tape involved. I can understand that the Public Service has run into problems in the past and has come up with programs to avoid the problems in the future. It has to protect itself from people like Senator McLaren and from all sorts of things. The result is interminable red tape and delay.
I now turn to a report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure. In 1978 that Committee conducted the first in-depth examination of this scheme since it came into operation in 1919- about 60 years ago. The Committee recommended an optional scheme. The eligible person could either obtain a loan of $ 1 5,000 or could obtain a cash grant for a much lesser sum. Perhaps the Committee went too far in its report. It worked out a formula by which the cash grant could be calculated. The Committee came up with a figure of about $5,500. The Committee did not come up with a proposal like that put forward by Senator Gietzelt to pour some more money into the scheme. Senator Gietzelt thinks the problems can be fixed by spending the taxpayers’ money. The Committee said that the scheme was good and there was much in its favour, but there was an alternative- a cash grant. It is not unreasonable to make a cash grant.
It is possible to calculate the current cash value of a long term low interest loan. In other words, instead of borrowing $ 1 5,000 for 32 years at 4V4 per cent a person could take $5,500 in cash now and be just as well off. The amounts could be balanced out. The Committee did not say that a person had to do one thing or the other. It suggested that the eligible person make up his own mind about whether he wants a cash grant or a long term loan. It is not difficult for people with the right qualifications to calculate the amount of the cash grant. Actuaries in insurance companies are doing it every day of the week. This Committee probably went just too far by actually making the calculation for the Government and presenting it in the report. The Committee, in my view, should have left the calculation of the amount to the Government. The cash grant would be an advantage over going through all the rigmorale of getting a first mortgage for $ 1 5,000 and then getting a second mortgage for, say,$14,000.
It would save the need for temporary finance because, as soon as eligibility had been established, the applicant would know that at settlement of his purchase or on completion of his building he would be able to get $5,500 in cash. It would cut expenses on valuations which would not be necessary. It would cut the legal fees of the Defence Service Homes Corporation because it would not be involved- let us hope it would not get itself involved- in the legalities.
It would cut out the high interest rate on the second mortgage because the fellow concerned would be able to go along to, say, a savings bank and say: ‘If I borrow from you I can give you a first mortgage. I am not stuck with a second mortgage with someone else. I have $3,000 which I have saved and $5,500 from the Government and I want a first mortgage for the balance’. In many cases that person would get that loan. That would save all the mucking about that goes on when an application for a loan is made. Because it would be an optional scheme it would not deny the people who wanted to continue with the arrangement which exists under the present Scheme; in other words, they could take out a loan.
That is the recommendation made by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure in its report of May 1 978, which was published as Parliamentary Paper No. 144 of 1978. It is clear that the proposal would cost the Government no more than the present arrangements. In fact, in the short term it would assist the Government’s cash flow because, instead of its advancing $15,000 to each eligible person, the advance to that person in the initial stages would be only $5,500. So from a cash flow point of view there would be some savings. I do not suppose that the savings would be very great when the Government is advancing about $ 100m each year on this; still, it would save some cash flow. In the long term that saving would not be made because, on the actuarial calculations, it would balance out.
There would be one other enormous advantage, namely, it would reduce the cost of administering the Scheme because ultimately the staff might be able to wither away. A marxist principle might be involved. At the date of the presentation of that report, the staff engaged in defence service homes work totalled about 1 ,000 people. It is my understanding that the staff of a building society with a turnover of about $100m is about 150 people, about one seventh of the staff engaged in defence service homes work. So one can anticipate that there would be substantial reductions in the number of staff involved in that job. After all, the issuing of a loan for 32 years guarantees that someone in the organisation concerned has to remain there for 32 years collecting the money. In addition to that, we pay the Australian Postal Commission $1.6m every year just to collect the money from the borrowers under this Scheme.
That was the kernel, the most important part, of that recommendation of the parliamentary Committee. But what happened to the recommendation? The Government turned it down flat. It absolutely rejected the recommendation out of hand. One would think that if the Government was going to turn down such a brilliant idea it would do so for very good reasons. Let us hear what the Minister, Mr McLeay, speaking on behalf of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) had to say about the matter. He is recorded at page 3378 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 23 and 24 November 1 978 as stating:
Perhaps the most innovative and challenging proposal put forward in the 60 years existence of the scheme is the Committee ‘s fourth recommendation … to allow eligible persons to choose to receive either a housing loan or a cash grant . . .
So the Minister recognised that it was perhaps the most innovative and challenging proposal put forward in 60 years. He went on to say:
The Government is attracted to the principle of offering a range of choices wherever possible so that persons concerned may make their own judgments as to which option is most suitable to their particular circumstances. However, it is not prepared, for a number of reasons, to adopt the recommendation put forward.
We have heard all the praise, apparently now we will hear the reasons. The Minister went on to say:
It is difficult to equate the value to borrowers of the current loan in terms of a cash grant, and to see how relativity between loans and grants could be maintained under an optional grant scheme.
That was the ‘reasons’- is was plural- given by the Minister for rejecting the recommendation. With all due respect, I cannot understand how that could be put forward as the reasons for rejecting the recommendation. He said:
It is difficult to equate the value to borrowers of the current loan in terms of a cash grant . . .
But surely it would not be up to the Government to do that; the actuaries could make the calculations, then it would be up to the borrowers to make up their minds. If they thought that the cash grant was too low- say it was only $5,000-they would not take the $5,000; they would take the full loan. It is a matter of freedom of choice, which is what my party stands for. Yet we are saying that it is difficult to equate the value to borrowers of the current loan in terms of the cash grant. Of what relevance is that? The Minister then appeared, on the face of it, to give a further reason. He said:
Further, as a matter of principle, the Government cannot accept the proposal by the Standing Committee to hypothecate to grants under the Defence Service Homes Scheme any administrative savings that might be achieved in future by the introduction of a grant option.
What does that mean? I puzzled about that. I worked out that what the Minister was saying was that if one were to read the Committee report very carefully one would find that the Committee stated that administrative savings would come through in due course because less staff would be involved and perhaps the Government might pass on those savings in some way to people applying for cash grants. The whole proposal did not stand or fall on that simple proposition. That was just an extra thought which was tossed in by the Committee, just as it worked out for the Government what the cash grant might be. Yet the Minister used that as a matter of principle for rejecting the proposal. Glory be! I just do not understand how that could be a reason for rejecting the proposal. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that the Minister said that there were reasons- I stress it was plural- for rejecting the proposal. I do not know what the other reasons were. I have read the rest of his speech. It does not give any other reasons.
It seems to me that here is a classic situation of the Parliament, through one of its committees, outlining to a Minister a sensible way of saving money, a way which ultimately might involve cutbacks in the staff of that Minister’s department, but certainly a way not only of saving money but also of saving an enormous amount of mucking about, red tape and nonsense which surrounds these types of applications. What happened? This vital matter was submitted to an interdepartmental committee. The Minister referred it to his public servants, who were involved in cutbacks any way. Then, somehow or another, it was referred to an interdepartmental committee consisting of other public servants outside his Department. Public servants from all federal departments were apparently looking at this proposal. One does not have to be a Rhodes scholar to guess what their advice was.
The whole problem was that it was a good idea. That was what was wrong. Anyone who has ever tried to promote a good idea knows that happens to it, not only in the Public Service but also in statutory authorities, communist countries, socialist countries and big business. If a person has a good idea he has to be terribly careful about the way he tells people about it. I recommend to all businessmen and public servants that they get a copy of a book called ‘Up the Organisation’ by an American by the name of Robert Townsend. It was published in 1970. Unfortunately, the author died shortly after it was published. The book is an absolute bible on business organisation. One chapter of it states:
If you discovered how to eliminate air pollution for $1.50 per state, the worst way to accomplish it would be to announce your discovery. You’d be amazed at how many people would oppose your scheme.
The author finished that chapter by stating:
It’s a poor bureaucrat who can’t stall a good idea until even its sponsor is relieved to see it dead and officially buried.
(4.46)- I thank the Senate for the debate which we have just heard on the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill. The two honourable senators who have spoken have talked on subjects which are wider ranging than the Bill before the Senate. They have given us views on many matters. Senator Lewis spoke of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Expenditure. He read some parts of the Hansard record of the debate on those recommendations in 1978 and raised certain matters. I wonder whether it occurred to him that in the proposal he put forward he might have been suggesting an increase in the size of the Public Service. He suggested that there be a range of choices. I do not know whether he is familiar with what we call savings clauses. They mean that those who are doing what they are doing or getting what they are getting still do so or get it. The choices that are offered sometimes mean that a wider range of service is available and perhaps a new unit has to be set up to implement the new proposal. Senator Lewis may need to look a little more closely at what seems to be a good idea. Perhaps some of his remarks reflected those of someone who once said that the world fears more than anything else a good idea.
Let me refer to the matters that were raised in the amendment moved by the Opposition. That will cover most of the points that were brought forward. The Government is not able to accept the amendment. I remind the Senate that the Bill before us gives effect to our decision to adopt certain recommendations of the Standing Committee on Expenditure. We ought to remember that the recommendations introduce a freedom of choice for beneficiaries in the selection of a house insurer. They also revise the long title which has been referred to. Other amendments have been brought forward. The most important of these is the removal of a number of restrictive lending conditions. The Opposition in its amendment indicated some of its objections to the Bill and the disquiet it has for some of the proposals in it.
The first part of the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt is about the strengthening of the Defence Service Homes Insurance Scheme as a viable Government agency to cover the homes of beneficiaries. I am not able to see clearly what would be required by that amendment. As has been mentioned in the debate, this Scheme has operated since 1919 without any government support. At the time of the annual report of the Defence Service Homes Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1979, its total assets exceeded $7.5m. Its free assets- that is, the excess of assets over liabilities- were not only greater than the requirement of the Insurance Act but also greater than the minimum recommended by the Insurance Commissioner. Therefore, the strengthening of the Scheme as proposed in the amendment does not seem to have a sound basis, given the facts to which I have just referred.
The second part of the amendment relates to the waiting period. It was pointed out that the waiting period ought to be overcome. I recall that in August 1975 a waiting period of 11 months was introduced by the then Government. That period has not been reduced; in fact, it has been increased. This draws attention to the fact that funds which are required for defence service homes are budgetary considerations. They need to be considered in the context of competing responsibilities of government. Since August 1 975 the waiting period of 1 1 months has increased. I am not able to say when that period will be able to be removed or reduced. It is a mechanism to restrict expenditure on capital programs to keep it within the funds that are available through budgetary measures. This is one mechanism that has been used since 1975 when other responsibilities need to be taken account of. It is always under consideration at the time of providing funds through the Budget discussions and in other ways.
The third point in the amendment relates to a government backed guarantee so that mortgage funds can be acquired at reasonable rates. I also find it difficult to sustain that part of the amendment, either in the debate or in its own context. It must be remembered that major lenders for housing, although lending at very high levels, are unable to satisfy all the calls on them for loans. In this situation it is hard to see how the issue of government guarantees for defence service homes would be a practical measure to assist applicants for loans unless they were to receive a special priority to the detriment of other customers of the lending institutions. Previous attempts have been made by governments to apply selective measures- for example, in the area of housing loans. Many of the difficulties were realised when it was attempted to put some of these proposals into effect. For the reasons I have mentioned, the Government does not accept the amendment of the Opposition. I note that honourable senators have raised some matters which have ranged beyond the Bill itself but which have shown their interest in the maintenance of a strong defence service homes program.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) to consider the question that was posed by the Returned Services League when the Government decided last year to get rid of the batches of land which were being held for the purposes of the Defence Service Homes Act. I think that in my own State land worth $2m was for sale. The RSL decided to ask the Government, if the Government decided to sell the land, whether the money received from the sales could be used to shorten the waiting period or reduce the interest rates which have been referred to by Senator Gietzelt. I would like to know whether that matter was considered and, if so, what was the Government’s reply.
– (Victoria- Minister for Social Security) (5.55)- I recall the matters that were raised by the Returned Services League and I am seeking advice as to the outcome of the discussions that were held. I am advised that the proceeds from the sale of land goes into the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth. The Government was unable to take the decision that funds raised in this way could be used to reduce interest rates.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Margaret
Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Davidson:
That the Senate take note of the report. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 21 February, on motion by Senator Archer:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
-Mr President, on 18 October last year and again last week I was saying that while many of the 108 recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Publications were accepted, the more important recommendations were rejected by the Government. Essentially my comments are supported by Senator Archer and Senator Mcintosh in their statements on the presentation of the Government’s response. I must say that I am puzzled by the rejection of many of the significant recommendations. Since 1964 there have been numerous inquiries into the activities of the Australian Government Publishing Service, both of a parliamentary nature and departmentally. I think it is fair to say that many of these queries, not the least the one to which I now refer, found significant problems associated with the Australian Government Publishing Service.
The Government’s response to one of the Committee’s reports would suggest that little is wrong with the activities of the AGPS and its structure. I refer to two factors in this regard. The first is that the Committee found that the Government Printer was hampered unnecessarily in the carrying out of his duties because of his direct ties to the centralised authority of the AGPS. This was brought out in evidence to the Committee by the former Government Printer, who now resides in Victoria as the Victorian Government Printer, and in evidence given by the present Printer. The Government’s response has now enabled the Printer the flexibility to carry out his operations to my satisfaction and the satisfaction of the committee. The AGPS is a very large factory employing many hundreds of people and has extensive capital equipment. The Committee thought that the AGPS, because of its commercialised activities and the buoyant product which it produces, namely, publications, should not be overly hampered and tied to a bureaucratic structure.
The Committee recommended that certain independence be given to the AGPS to allow it to carry out its functions in a more effective manner. For example, recommendation 49 stated that the AGPS should devote greater attention to increasing wholesale sales to retail outlets. The Government’s response stated that special promotional efforts to increase such sales would cause operational difficulties with present levels of staffing. If the AGPS is to sell publications, to my way of thinking, it should be allowed to sell publications freely and to its advantage in a market situation, and to justify its existence within a responsible trust account structure.
There are many other factors to which I should like to refer, but I fear that the effort would be wasted. I conclude by referring to the first recommendation of the Committee which I read in full:
That at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, a Resolution be agreed by both Houses of Parliament similar to the following:
That the Government Printer be responsible to the Presiding Officers for the printing of all Parliamentary publications and be provided with the necessary resources to meet Parliamentary printing requirements. That at all times, the Government Printer give priority to Parliamentary work.
The Government responded as follows:
The Government believes that the Government Printer is an agency of the Government, not the Parliament. It observes that the longstanding arrangements with the Presiding Officers for the printing of parliamentary publications have proved satisfactory. The Government Printer allocates priorities during parliamentary sittings to ensure that the documents required for Parliament are produced within the required times. The Parliament will appreciate, however, that there will be circumstances when the Government Printer would need to give priority to urgent Government printing. The Government also believes that it would be preferable for parliamentary as well as departmental publications to continue to be arranged through the AGPS Publishing Branch.
Mr President, I am disturbed by this statement in which it is admitted that the Government sees its way clear to nominate its own priorities which may be above those of the Parliament. I am disturbed that while the Government recognises the long-standing arrangements between the Presiding Officers and the Executive for parliamentary printing, it states that the Government Printer is a full agent of the Government and not of the Parliament. I believe that this is an admission which was quite properly drawn to the attention of the Government by the Presiding Officers in their submission last year. It is an unfortunate statement and if left unchecked would, under certain circumstances, be an unjustifiable interference in regard to the printing of parliamentary publications.
I am left with two last hopes on the matter which I have raised. The first is that the drawing up of an appropriate charter of responsibilities as recommended by the Committee will resolve many of the difficulties facing the AGPS. The second is that the Publications Committee, because of its ongoing role in this area, will continue to have a positive and constructive influence in this important area of government activity. As I said when last I spoke, the Committee has spent many hours investigating this matter. I believe that the Committee, which as honourable senators would know was comprised of members of both sides of this House, delivered a report to the Government which was fair and equitable in all instances. I do believe that the Government should look further at the situation of the AGPS. I believe that it is in the interests of this Parliament that this should be done and that was the unanimous decision of the Committee. I ask that the Government take heed of what I have said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8 November 1979, on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– Firstly, the Senate ought to examine how this reference came to be dealt with. It was a petition tabled by Mr Bill Wentworth in the House of Representatives, and it was referred to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on 6 December 1977. That reference read:
The Status of Soviet Jewry- whether or not Jews in the Soviet Union are the victims of adverse discrimination in citizenship, in rights to religious practice, in rights to publish, communicate, travel, emigrate and organise.
That reference was widened on 18 October 1977 to read:
Human rights in the Soviet Union bearing in mind Australia ‘s support for the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Final Act of the Helsinki Agreement.
In 1977, as a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, it was my opinion that this matter had to be dealt with by the Joint Committee because it had been referred to us by the House of Representatives. But apparently this was not the case. If I had known that then I probably would have opposed the reference being heard. But, subsequently, I became a member of the Sub-committee that dealt with that reference and I found it to be an extremely worthwhile experience. I am glad, in fact, that the reference was given to the Joint Committee. It was a unique opportunity to meet and to hear some very dedicated and courageous people. I shall refer briefly to a few of those people.
Pastor Grivans was a Lutheran pastor who served 1 6 years in Soviet corrective labour colonies. Pastor Grivans was permitted to emigrate to the West in 1977. Mr Victor Kalnins was a Latvian journalist and dissident who, in 1962, received a 10-year sentence for political activity. He was persuaded to emigrate to the West in 1978. Mr Leonard Plyushch was a Ukranian mathematician and dissident who was detained in a Soviet psychiatric institution from July 1 973 until January 1976 when he was permitted to leave for the West. Interestingly enough, Leonard Plyushch still describes himself as a marxist. Professor Voronel was formerly a Soviet scientist and a leading figure in the Jewish nationalist movement in the USSR until he was permitted by the Soviet authorities to emigrate to Israel in 1976. 1 think it was a unique committee which in Australia was able to obtain evidence from and to question people such as these I have mentioned. It is an extremely comprehensive report. A massive amount of work has gone into it. Senator Wheeldon, who sits on this side of the chamber, has dealt with the report in great detail. I do not intend to spend the amount of time that he did dealing with the report, but I wish to touch on a few aspects of the report.
Firstly, I shall talk about some of the criticisms that have been made of the sub-committee. Some of the criticisms were that the Embassy of the Soviet Union in Canberra was not able to be persuaded to give evidence, the Socialist Party of Australia, which takes a very pro-Soviet attitude, was not persuaded to give evidence, and a number of Australian friendship societies with the Soviet Union did not give evidence. Perhaps I can understand why those bodies did not make submissions. But I do not think the Committee should have been criticised because one has only to read the report to realise that we gave all these people a number of opportunities to give evidence to us. Further criticism was: Why did the Committee deal with one country only- a superpower at that- and were we not interested in human rights in any other countries? The Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in fact has been interested in human rights in a number of countries. One has only to look at the report of the Committee on the Middle East to see that we dealt with human rights. One of the subcommittees I am on at the moment is dealing with Southern Africa. We will certainly be dealing with human rights in that report.
We were questioned as to why we were dealing with a super-power. I asked myself: Do these super-powers have some exclusive rank? Surely the Soviet Union and the United States represent different ideological positions in the world. They represent different political systems. Both try to impose aspects of their political systems on other countries. Therefore I think it is crucial that we have the right to examine and criticise both of the super-powers. However, I must say that it is much easier to gain information on human rights in the United States of America than it is in the Soviet Union. That does not mean to say that there are not breaches and denials of human rights in the United States. In 1 977 I visited the United States. I particularly went to see somebody whom I regarded as a political prisoner, the Reverend Ben Chavis. At the time he was in the State penitentiary of North Carolina outside Raleigh. There is no doubt that he is a political prisoner who is being denied his human rights. I would agree with Andrew Young, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, who said that there are many hundreds of political prisoners in the United States.
– What is he in for?
– It is a complex matter. He has been accused of taking part in a plot to blow up a court house. There have been numerous petitions to President Carter about the matter. My understanding is that it is a case where the local authorities in North Carolina are being completely unjust and the federal authorities do not seem to be taking what I consider to be the right attitude to the case. But the important thing, of course, was that I was able to see him, that there was access to him and that a group of us were able to talk to him and to receive information about the particular crime that he has been accused of.
Another criticism of the Committee that I would like to answer is one that we frequently encountered when we spoke to diplomats or representatives from Warsaw Pact governments. The criticism was usually framed in the form of a question that asked: ‘How would you like it if another country set up a committee to inquire into the massive unemployment in Australia, or the treatment of some of your ethnic minorities or, how would you like it if another committee was set up, for example, in the Soviet Union, to inquire into the way in which you treat your Aborigines?’ My reaction to that, of course, was to say that I believed that I would welcome the setting up of such a committee. I think it is a good thing if people from outside our country seek to criticise something that they believe we are doing wrong. I believe that the success of the Amnesty International movement is largely due to the fact that even the most dictatorial regimes are sensitive to sustained criticism on grounds of principle. On this point I think it is worth while looking at the fact that the Socialist International, a body with which the Australian Labor Party is affiliated, and various European trade union movements have been able to have some success in getting prisoners in Eastern European countries released.
– And liberated.
– Is that right? Another important aspect of the report deals with Australian foreign policy. It would be fair to say that we have concentrated on the British Commonwealth and on the United States. Yet a large number of migrants who have come to Australia from overseas have been isolated, especially on foreign policy issues. This report gave a number of individuals and organisations representing the Jewish, Baltic, Slavic and Eastern European communities and organisations the opportunity to participate in a very important foreign policy issue. I think it is important to realise that a very large and significant section of Australia’s population is now concerned with human rights in Europe. I want to deal briefly with some of the recommendations in the report. There are 65 recommendations in the report and, quite obviously, one could not go through them all tonight.
Recommendation 5 of the Committee calls on the Government to, wherever possible, have the Australian Embassy in Moscow send observers to Soviet political trials. The Committee also recommended that the Soviet Government be requested not to circulate in Australia or on Soviet cruise ships in Australian waters literature which contains the type of anti-Semitic materials that I will quote. This material was contained in a pamphlet that was available at certain Soviet trade missions in Australia and also was circulated on cruise ships that called into Australia. The pamphlet read:
Once the Jewish money-lenders and tax-farmers had accumulated their millions, they become bankers, industrialists and owners of monopolies. United by their religious beliefs and business interests, the Jewish servants of the golden calf- the Rothchilds, Hirchs, Kuhns, Loebs, Lazaruses, Soloveitchiks, Ginsburgs and hundreds of other uncrowned kings of business- turned into an international bourgeoisie. Their contacts were not limited by the boundaries of their respective ‘homelands’. Their ideal was unlimited sovereignty in the world of capital. They gave birth to Zionism. Zionism then came to embody the basic traits of the ideology and practice of imperialism: expansionism and aggression, racism and hatred of mankind, hostility to the working-class and the national-liberation movements. It became the enemy of peace, socialism, democracy and progress.
The Zionist leaders sought to further their idea of expansion by placing their agents in the governments of other countries, as well as in their press, and public and cultural organisations. A global Jewish conspiracy? No, simply a program of action by the Jewish bourgeoisie dictated by its goal as a class.
That is a sample of the sort of material that was made available on Soviet cruise ships. I do not think that anybody would seriously think that Australians on Soviet cruise ships would bother to read such propaganda, but it was available. It is a sample of the racist propaganda available. It is published with the official sanction of the Soviet Government. As one can see it is barely different from similar publications put out by extreme right wing groups in many countries or by the nazi or fascist governments of various European countries in the 1930s and 1940s. Australia should at least register its protest by banning entry to Australia of such literature, except for the purposes of scholarship study.
Many of the other recommendations of the Committee deal with opening contact between citizens of other countries and Soviet dissidents. One such recommendation is recommendation 35, which calls on the Australian Government to request the United Nations Secretary-General to utilise the United Nations offices in Moscow to allow the distribution of United Nations publications on human rights. The Committee also recommended that the Australian Government apply democratic pressure to Soviet authorities to allow freer emigration from the Soviet Union. In line with this, the Committee also called for Australia’s democratic representatives to raise human rights issues in the diplomatic and United Nations forums. Another proposal that is aimed at encouraging communication between the people of the Soviet Union and Australia is recommendation 64. It recommends that Australian and Soviet newspapers arrange reciprocal exchanges of articles on human rights. Given the Australian Government’s present position, I think that that would be impossible at the moment.
I want to deal also with the boycott of the Olympic Games. The Committee dealt with that issue before the current situation arose in Afghanistan. Numerous human rights groups in Australia wanted Australia to boycott the Games. They believed that dissidents would be rounded up and expelled from Moscow; they thought that the Soviet Union would fear demonstrations and would therefore carry out this sort of program. They felt that the Games would be used for political purposes and to further the communist system and the communist cause. I think it is equally fair to say that other groups within the Australian community that coame before the committee took an opposite point of view. They felt that this would be an ideal opportunity for people from non-communist countries, including Australia, to make contact with the Russian people. They believed that a campaign on behalf of the dissidents could be carried out in Moscow while the Games were on. They felt that it was possible to demonstrate in some way the feelings that they had about the way the dissidents were being treated in the Soviet Union. The Committee heard evidence to this effect.
The situation at the moment is that Australian tourists are cancelling their trips to Moscow. They will miss the Games because of the Australian Government’s stand. It has cost hundreds of tourists a great deal of money. The unfortunate part of this matter is that the Games were only a very small part of the package tours that Australians were taking to the Soviet Union. That opportunity to meet the Russian people will be lost. I do not believe that we should boycott the Olympic Games. As I said the other night in a debate on Afghanistan, I do not think that it is a Soviet sporting event. It is not the Soviet Games. The Olympic Games belong to the world. If we question the political systems of the countries that are running the Olympic Games we may as well scrap them completely.
The United States of America will hold the next Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Will the Americans use the Los Angeles Games to advertise capitalism? Will they use those Games to talk about the United States’ modern technology? Will tourists to the United States be shown the very best examples of American capitalism? Of course they will be. Nobody could blame the Soviet Union if it took the same stand over the Olympic Games in Moscow.
– The Americans already did that at Lake Placid.
-That is right. One of the important things about that is that people from the United States of America and the Soviet Union- people with different ideological stances- were able to meet at Lake Placid and hold a successful Winter Olympics. The Committee, in dealing with the Olympic Games, said in recommendation 62:
Rather than attempt to influence a change in the venue for the 1980 Olympics, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government (in conjunction with other governments) try to persuade the Soviet Government that the USSR would be seen in a more favourable light if large numbers of its political and religious prisoners were released from prisons, labour colonies and psychiatric hospitals before the Olympic Games.
The USSR should also be encouraged to make a favourable gesture by allowing further substantial increases in emigration before the Olympic Games, including about 2,000 ‘Refuseniks’ most of whom have been waiting for many years to emigrate. Because of the Australian Government’s stand on this issue, that recommendation is impossible to implement at present. Perhaps the most important recommendation of the whole report is recommendation 65, which says:
The Australian Parliament can contribute to the furthering of human rights not only in the Soviet Union but in all countries where serious violations of human rights occur. It is recommended that the Australian Parliament establish a Standing Committee on Human Rights to report on serious violations of human rights in any country, including Australia. The magnitude of such a task should not deter such a committee from examining, in turn, the situations in those countries where there have been the most serious violation of human rights.
Of course, there were objections to that recommendation. Senator Sim, Senator Young, Mr Shipton and Mr Short in various degrees opposed recommendation 65. 1 reject their criticism. I do not believe that in that recommendation Australia was setting itself up as a pinnacle on human rights. Rather I think that we were trying to give a lead to other governments. Time and time again history has shown that governments which survive politically by the suppression of their citizens eventually become unstable. As in the case of Vietnam, and most recently Iran, the long-term strategic consequences of maintaining a blind eye to the shortcomings of one’s allies in terms of their treatment of dissenting citizens can be just as disastrous as having no allies at all. I do not believe that our allies should be immune to criticism. If we are to examine human rights we have to examine them all over the world and of particular interest to Australia is human rights in the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and human rights in situations such as those that occurred in Timor. It is no good ignoring human rights in those countries just because we trade with them or just because they happen to be anti-communist.
I believe that if we do not support recommendation 65 we might as well scrap the whole report because, if we do not set up a standing committee on human rights, when people look at this report in years to come they will see it as some historical report that at the time was seen to be part of anti-Soviet propaganda that was going through the Australian Parliament and the people. It is unfortunate that the situation in Afghanistan occurred afterwards but if we reject that recommendation, if we do nothing about establishing a standing committee on human rights, when we look at this situation in the future we will see this report to be part of an anti-Soviet campaign that was being waged in Australia at that time.
There was also criticism of the report by other members of the Committee- Mr Armitage, Dr Blewett and Mr Scholes, three members of the Australian Labor Party in the House of Representatives. They said in the last paragraph of their criticism:
We would reiterate our view that based on the substantial evidence available the civil rights or certain groups, especially minorities in the Soviet Union are seriously infringed and fall below that which should be expected in any civilised society. This view, however, does not in anyway alter the fact that a report to and on behalf of the Parliament of Australia should be able to point to a total and comprehensive inquiry as evidence of the authority of its findings and recommendations.
The nature of this inquiry and the resources available to the Committee for such inquiries, make this impossible and this reduces the authority of the report so presented.
I think that is perhaps a legitimate criticism, but in reply to it I will quote from a letter that came into the possession of the sub-committee today. It is from Professor Kamenka who is Professor of the History of Ideas Unit, Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. In writing to the secretary of the Committee he states:
The Editor of the respected Review of Socialist Law, published in co-operation with the Documentation Office for
East European Law of the University of Leyden, has accepted my suggestion that I append some references to your Committee’s report, Human Rights in the Soviet Union to another review he had earlier commissioned from me.
I enclose a copy of the review I have sent him which should appear around June or so, when I shall send you a copy of the printed version.
May I take this opportunity of congratulating you and members of the Committee on this Report, which seems to me a splendid one in presentation as well as substance and deserving of international attention?
I do not want to read out the full review that he is giving to the Review of Socialist Law, but the last paragraph, I think, is important when one sees the criticism from those members of the House of Representatives. He states:
Given the comparatively slender resources the Committee was able to draw on, the Report is an excellent piece of work.
There are two other items to which I shall refer briefly. The first is that apparently this Government was told that members of the Subcommittee would not be welcomed on a parliamentary delegation that was being selected to go to the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, members of the Sub-committee were not informed of that, and no members of the Sub-committee, I believe, from the two sides of the Parliament, nominated for that particular parliamentary delegation.
– That is correct.
– It is correct. I believe that this information was passed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department passed that advice on to the Government. If that is the truth, and if a delegation went in the circumstances that members of the Sub-committee were not welcome in the Soviet Union, then I believe it is a disgrace that the parties were not told first. I believe it is a disgrace that the delegation then continued to go. I am not a person who has been anti-Soviet. I have been to the Soviet Union on two occasions. I think that I understand very well the deep concern that the Soviet people have over interference from outside. I have a tremendous regard and respect for the people of the Soviet Union. One only has to read a book like Nine Hundred Days by Harrison Salisbury on the siege of Leningrad. One only has to do what I did and go to the Leningrad War Cemetery, on the outskirts of that great city, and see plots where the unknown dead from that siege and from the battles that took place are in groups of 50,000, for as far as one can see. There are 500,000 in that war cemetery. One only has to see that situation to realise the tremendous price that the Russian people paid in the last world war for their freedom. It has been estimated that in that struggle 20 million people lost their lives. I think that because of that it is all the more tragic. Despite these massive sacrifices, it is necessary for us, the members of a committee of the Australian Parliament, to report on the serious denials of human and civil rights that undoubtedly still exist in the Soviet Union.
-I rise as the only Government member in the Senate who participated in this Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. My participation was in a sense rather belated. I did not become a member of the Committee until the second half of 1978, by which time the Sub-committee’s deliberations were well under way. However, I did have an opportunity to participate in a number of hearings and certainly to participate in the preparation of the report.
I will make one very quick comment on one aspect of the report and then, I hope, dismiss it. My point relates to an aspect that Senator Sibraa chose to raise and that is the question of the recommendation that the Sub-committee and the Joint Committee made in relation to the Olympic Games, since I am a signatory both as a member of the Sub-committee and as a member of the Committee. I was equivocal on the subject at that time. By the time we had finished hearing the evidence and considering the report, we were in a position of considerable conflict of evidence and opinion from those who had a particular interest in the Olympic Games in Moscow, as to whether it was a good idea for free countries such as Australia to send a team. There were arguments advanced on both sides, and they have been outlined by Senator Sibraa. Senator Sibraa in his speech came down on one side. I must say that, as he was outlining the two arguments, he was rather more convincing in his summary of the first argument which was not the one he agreed with. But Senator Sibraa can answer for himself on that. I was one who was uncertain in my own mind at the time of the report as to the merits of any boycott. I had seen it advanced both within the Parliament and without, and since one particular group which had a particular interest in it, that is the groups representing the Australian Jewish Community, were themselves divided on it, there was no clear consensus there.
– Not much.
– I will accept Senator Missen ‘s comment, but I repeat that there were groups representing the Australian Jewish societies which put both points of view. I could not say whether it was a 50/50 division. I could not come to any firm conviction myself on which was the wiser view. Nevertheless, I recently stated in this place my present views on the matter of an Olympic boycott and I stand by those views absolutely. I went from the position of being undecided to decided because of subsequent actions of the Soviet Union. I have said in the Senate that in my opinion it would take a great deal indeed to persuade the men in the Kremlin to realise that the free world cares about its actions. Clearly, just sending athletes and tourists to Moscow in order to perhaps talk with people and maybe impress opinions on them is not going to get the message through to a country which will send an army to invade another nonaligned, neutral, independent country. That is all I want to say about the Olympic Games.
I believe that when Senator Wheeldon spoke in the Senate on 8 November in presenting the report, he made an excellent speech. It reads somewhat defensively but I do not think that was the spirit in which it was given. If one understands that there was a minority report, that the report was criticised by officers of the Soviet Union, and that there was a rather quick response within the Soviet Union on matters relating to Australian domestic policy, then I think one can understand that certain things had to be said in Senator Wheeldon ‘s speech. He said them very well indeed. I would not try to repeat them, nor do I think it is necessary to repeat what Senator Wheeldon said as a defence of the Committee ‘s activities. The question of whether there should be an on-going committee examining human rights in other countries was, of course, a very difficult one for the Committee and the Subcommittee. My own feeling is that there should be no bar to such a committee, but I think that there are certain criteria by which such a committee should decide which countries it was going to examine, if indeed it decided it was going to examine any countries.
The point that Senator Wheeldon makes very strongly and very clearly in his speech of 8 November is that the Soviet Union claims certain things for itself. It also plays a very particular role in world politics. It is, as Senator Wheeldon says, an evangelical government which claims it has a certain righteousness and claims to be correct. It also claims that it has a right to intervene, interfere- to preach, if you like- in other countries about the purity and perfection of its own system; not only a right, but an obligation to do that. Having taken upon itself that right and that obligation it must not fear in return some examination of its own internal policies. Secondly, it is one of the super-powers, and every country in the world has to care about the attitudes of those who govern the super-powers and their systems of government.
The United States of America is just as much a matter of our concern. We have a right to be concerned about things that happen within that country and within the government of that country in that same context. If there were any such committee, I think there are a few simple criteria which could be set down for it in relation to any other country it might care to look at. The countries in question, of course, would not need to be super powers in the sense that the Soviet Union and the United States of America are, but we would not want to see such a committee bogging down in trivial enquiries. I do not think there would be that risk because members of the committee would value the resources of whatever committee they belonged to and their own resources- of time and effort- to make sure that they did not divert into trivia. In fact, they would look at countries whose behaviour and attitudes on these matters were ones which mattered to other countries.
The report is a very lengthy one and nobody can quibble about that. Reading the dissenting or minority report, whatever one wants to call it, I must say that the thing that emerged to me most strongly was the complaint about resources available to committees of the Parliament. That is a complaint that is made over and over again by committees and individuals in this place. Nobody would dispute that. But while there are practical limits on the activities and resources of committees of this Parliament that does not in any way take away from the evidence which was presented. I do not believe that it in any way takes away from the report which was presented. The report is a long one and it provides very useful information. That information is brought together in a form which has not previously been used in Australia. It is an objective document. The point should be made that it is bipartisan. No exception is taken to the great mass of material in the report and the recommendations that are made by the Sub-committee. So they stand unchallenged, at least by the members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, and that ought to be established. I do not want to fall into the trap of sounding defensive in speaking to the Committee’s report simply because a couple of people made some rather minor criticisms of it, but those things at least I think ought to be said.
The report deals with a large number of aspects of human rights in the Soviet Union. It deals with things that I think we tend to take for granted in a free society. If we are born into or brought up in a free society so many things can be taken for granted. The danger of that is that sometimes we do not prize them as highly as we might. Therefore it is always instructive to look at societies which do not have those same freedoms and those same rights so that we can guard our rights and our freedoms ever more jealously. Perhaps also, in criticising other countries, we shall draw to our own attention the defects in our own society, or the dangers in terms of incomplete protection of human rights in our own society. So there does not have to be a sense of piousness in this. Nevertheless the Soviet Union, I believe, when examined by objective criteria, which we and that country would claim to be important in the conduct of human affairs, falls down very badly.
I will not canvass all the aspects of the report because they are set out in detail. It would not be reasonable for me to try to cover all of them in the time available. A number of aspects covered in the report have been raised in other contextsfor example, the question of cultural and linguistic rights in the Soviet Union. There are many excellent books, texts, documents and testaments on the limitation of cultural and linguistic rights among Soviet minorities. Moroz, who was released from the Soviet Union in April last year in the celebrated release of five dissidents, has written a number of books which have been published in the West. They are excellent documents. He is a Ukrainian who has commented at length on the suppression of the Ukrainian culture and the Russification of the Ukraine. When I read some of his writings I was forced, as an Australian, to wonder whether there were important parallels that we in this country ought to be drawing between the suppression of the Ukrainian culture and some of the things that have happened to Aboriginal culture. I wonder whether there is something we ought to observe and learn from the cries of those who have been brave enough to protest in those areas where cultural rights have been suppressed, something very important indeed for our society.
The suppression of cultural rights of minorities is therefore well documented. I do not need to go into great lengths about them but I recommend that part of the report to those who care about the Australian society. A critical examination of that suppression is damning of the Soviet authorities and of the communist philosophy, and the implementation of the communist philosophy within the Soviet Union. We should not think that cultural suppression is unimportant. Indeed, I think it goes to the core and heart of the human existence, as does also the question of freedom of religion which is covered at some length in the report. I do not intend to comment tonight on the latter because I think a large number of groups in our society are sufficiently and actively concerned about the question of freedom of religion- they make available information on the subject in other countries- to ensure that we have a very active and very significant lobby within the Australian society on this question.
The question of the rights of citizens as against the State is to me a central issue- the question of our attitude and philosophy towards political systems; the question of whether a citizen has any rights as against the State or whether the State derives its rights from the citizens. One of the things that democracies like to boast about themselves, if they claim to be democracies of the type that we consider to be democracies, is that they operate under the rule of law.
– Such as in Queensland.
– It operates under the rule of law through the courts. Nobody can deny that. Every citizen in Australia goes to court knowing that it will be -
– Very ungallant.
- Mr President, I would not like this debate to be diverted by trivia so I am trying to be fair about interjections. Every citizen in Australia goes to court knowing that there is a law, that they have a right of a full defence, that the courts are open and that they have a chance of acquittal. The point that the report made is that, within the Soviet Union, of those who have been charged with political offences nobody has ever been acquitted. That is the ultimate damnation of their so-called rule of law.
When the report calls for attendance at trials by representatives of the Australian Embassy in Moscow it does something very important. I do not think members of the Sub-committee or the Committee underestimated the reluctance with which members of our Embassy in Moscow would approach such a task. I do not think we underestimated the fact that that is not normally a day-to-day consideration of members of our embassies in cities overseas. Nevertheless I do not think the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Government should underestimate the importance of that activity by members of our Moscow Embassy. I do not know what sort of report we could expect from them. Perhaps we could expect only a factual report but that in itself would be something. Diplomats do not as a general rule consider that they ought to involve themselves in those sorts of activities. They do many other valuable things but by and large the role of the diplomat is to smooth over the wrinkles and to make easy things which might otherwise be difficult. It might appear that by making that request we were trying to make life difficult or relationships a little more difficult than they might otherwise be.
However, the central question of the attitude of the Government of that super power, the Soviet Union, towards the rights of its own citizens must be seen to be important to us because that government’s attitude towards the rights of its own citizens can be reflected in its attitudes towards the rights of citizens in other countries. A government, a regime, which does not value its own citizens’ rights, the right of a human being to think, to speak and to be heard, whether right or wrong will not value them in the citizens of other countries.
The question of anti-semitism, that is, discrimination against the Soviet jewish community, was the matter which brought the Subcommittee and this report into being. I imagine that we in the Western world recoil with particular horror from governments which pursue antisemitism as a government policy. We do so because we have as much information as it is possible to have on the ultimate effect of an antisemitic regime. We have the comparatively recent, in historic terms, experience and evidence of the holocaust in Germany. Those who value human life, let alone human rights, recoil in horror from the facts which are documented for us on that subject. I suppose we are particularly sensitive when a great power is pursuing what appear to be essentialy similar policies towards the same ethnic and religious group.
It is a fact of history that the Jews have been particularly persecuted. One would have hoped that the ultimate conclusion- Nazi Germany- of allowing that attitude to be pursued by a government has been proven. We know what horrors it can lead to. Therefore, we are right to recoil from this particular discrimination. The report points up with particular clarity the tragedy of governments which pursue a discriminatory policy towards their own nationals on the basis of cultural or religious beliefs.
That catalyst led the Sub-committee into looking more broadly at the question of cultural or religious minority groups in the Soviet Union. The investigation was restricted in the sense that I do not think any committee could expect to have the unlimited resources which would enable a totally exhaustive examination of that sort of problem in a very large nation. Nevertheless, the important point is that the information and the evidence which was presented to the Subcommittee some of it new, corroborated other documents and books that have been written on the subject. The Sub-committee brought together in an entirely consistent way the information which had been presented as criticism of the Soviet Union in the past. Importantly, all the evidence and the submissions are public. That is part of the parliamentary system and part of the strength of the democratic system. Everybody who had a care in the world had the opportunity to make a submission. When a submission was made on the subject it became public fact that a submission had been made. Everybody had that opportunity. There was no suppression of any point of view. The Sub-committee’s approach, as we understand it, could not have been selective. It might seem a little redundant to state that in the Senate. Honourable senators understand the operations of our parliamentary committee system; but not all others may.
The evidence which was presented, nevertheless, was important in that it was essentially consistent. It corroborated, as I have said, earlier testimonies on criticisms of human rights in the Soviet Union. It brought together in a unique way an objective and bipartisan report. There are a number of things that I suppose we in our society, as I said earlier, take for granted and react to with particular horror when we see them exercised in other countries. One is the use of psychiatric hospitals for political dissidents. Again, I shall not go into detail on this topic. I mention the matter in passing. There are many familiar subjects like that in the report.
However, I would like to dwell on one final critical point. It has earned a lot of attention from those who have commented on the report and those who have commented on the general question of human rights in the Soviet Union. I refer to the freedom to communicate. In our society we take so many things for granted. We turn on the radio or television news in the evening as something which is part of our daily life. To us it is just an information service that we do not think about very much. It satisfies our curiosity on a number of matters. We take the buying of one- or ten- morning newspapers as a matter of choice. We can have none, one or ten. We do not question the existence of those newspapers. To examine a society which does not allow freedom of communication, to have the opportunity, perhaps, to experience at first hand the effect of the denial of the freedom of communication, is to understand how totalitarianism can be extended.
– Have you been to the Soviet Union?
- Senator Georges asked me whether I have been to the Soviet Union. I am a member of the Sub-committee. As I indicated when Senator Sibraa was speaking, I have not pressed for an opportunity to go to the Soviet Union. I was not one who attempted to exercise that right. I have, however, visited other communist countries. I have witnessed the system. Central to the system is the lack of freedom of communication.
– That is rubbish.
– If Senator Georges is willing to give leave for my speaking time to be extended I will elaborate for him. Senator Georges is well known for wanting to thrust his views on others whether or not it is convenient or, indeed, even legal. That is Senator Georges ‘ right. I have certain rights and I intend to exercise them this evening. One is the right to talk about the effect of lack of freedom of communication of views. I expected Senator Georges to agree with me. I have defended the rights of others to communicate their views in a society with which he has clashed. My views are on the record. Senator Georges knows them. If he is still curious he can read them in the Senate Hansard.
I want to pursue the matter. When people spend time in a country in which the reports in newspapers and on radio and television are those which the government chooses to make available they understand how basic news and communication are to the currency of human ideas. By watching news on television in Australia we see things which happen in other cities, other States and other countries. The viewing of these programs gives people ideas. It gives people ideas about what is good and what is not. It gives people a yearning for something better and a revulsion for something worse. Just by making that information available, not necessarily with comment, people who have had their critical faculties developed at all by means of education can observe a lot. I believe that is terribly important in the formulation of ideas and in the promotion of democracy. If people read newspapers which carry only the equivalent of our ministerial Press releases- of course all of us know that is a dreary exercise because we are required to read them all- they would realise that the ideas and views which are being put to others who are not personally involved in the process would be extremely limited.
The protection of the freedom of communication is extremely important. The Soviet Union does not allow within its borders printed material which criticises any aspects of the government activities. When we read Pravda we know that we are reading what is. in effect, a ministerial Press release. This, in itself, is the ultimate damnation of the system. It is important when we look at the end effect, and that is documented in quite some detail, on members of a society who cannot communicate freely either one with another for fear of betrayal or in writing or visually in the mass media, to realise its central significance. It is from the denial of that freedom that many other denials of freedom come. It is possible to practise to promote anti-semitism. It is possible to believe that a large number of people can be persuaded without protest that an anti-semitic view is right and ought to be put.
– Twenty million of them died defending the Soviet Union.
– I am really puzzled by the Opposition this evening. I would not have thought that members of the Opposition would have taken exception to anything that I have said. The honourable senators who have interjected this evening have made many speeches on the subject of human rights. Nothing I have said is inconsistent with the views that they have put repeatedly in this chamber.
– Yes, but-
– I did not come in here to argue with Senator Georges; I rose to make some comments on the report. Senator Georges can make his own comments by all means. No one is denying him that right. I would like to use the right I have by virtue of the recognition of the Chair.
I said when I started my final remarks that the central point of free communication is important. This report brings together and communicates to others the denial of that right. The denial of other rights of freedom of religion, the denial of cultural rights, the denial of the right to have views and to protest, to question, to promote different views from the orthodoxy, all come back to the central denial of the right to communicate. The report is very readable. I hope honourable senators will read it. I hope that it will stand as a reference document in many areas. In certain areas it must be a reference document for some time. I have much pleasure in associating myself with the Sub-committee and with the report.
-I have great pleasure in taking the opportunity to speak on the report of the Sub-committee on Human
Rights in the Soviet Union, which is a subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I do not speak as one of the members of the Sub-committee or as a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, but perhaps I can speak with slightly more freedom by reason of that fact. I certainly have watched with a great deal of interest the development of the report and the examination which led up to its preparation. I think that we can all join in the pride which the Committee and the people who produced the report must feel. I believe that it is a truly distinguished document, a finely produced report; one which is very clear, which contains a great deal of factual material and which will serve for a long time as a useful guide here and abroad on matters relating to the Soviet Union.
I certainly watched the activities of the Subcommittee when I was chairman of the Amnesty group in the period when evidence was being taken and I noted the distinguished people who were called from abroad to give evidence before the Committee. They certainly included people who had every reason to know what was going on. The material I have includes the transcript of evidence, over 1,000 pages in length, which formed a very important basis for the recommendations which the Committee was able to bring forward. I made a small contribution to that evidence but, as I said, the Committee really did have before it some very valuable people from abroad, people who lived in and experienced the Soviet Union and the practices of that country and who, I think, were able to give excellent evidence to the Committee.
I believe that the report has been received overseas with a great deal of satisfaction and delight. That it came from Australia, which is a country so far removed from the Soviet Union, indicates how widespread our interest is. We are not close to the Soviet Union, but at the same time we have shown that our interests are not narrow and that we are concerned with important issues of human rights. I agree with honourable senators who have asked: Why the Soviet Union? Certainly it is a country which sets itself up throughout the world as having an important part to play in the world. From time to time it makes declarations on human rights and endeavours to tell other countries how to practice their way of life. Consequently, I think it is a country which must be watched by all Western countries to see how it is developing.
I believe that the report has value, firstly, in the investigation which was undertaken. Even if the Sub-committee had not produced a report, the fact that the investigation took place, that people came here to give evidence and that witnesses to the Committee went around Australia and were heard by many audiences was valuable. It permitted a spreading of knowledge which I think was valuable. But apart from that, we have the report which, as I have said, provides a valuable collection of facts concerning a matter about which people often do not know. They hold a certain view that some very unpleasant things go on in the Soviet Union. But people in Australia generally are fairly uninformed of the details. They now have an opportunity to clarify their doubts.
The report will be important also if it leads to action being taken. That will lead me in the remarks I made tonight to talk mainly about the recommendations which the Committee has brought forward, some of which have not been mentioned already. I believe that if we debate and carry the motion, which is merely that the Senate take note of the report, that should be only the start. Surely, we should go on from that and ensure that the recommendations are put into effect. I hope that the Government’s response to the report, which I do not think has been made yet, will indicate an intention to make a substantial effort to carry out the recommendations which the Committee has brought forward.
Tonight I say this about the actions of the Soviet authorities: We have heard of their insistence that no members of the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence should be sent in a delegation to the Soviet Union. Of course, that is outrageous, but it indicates, not unsurprisingly, the attitude of those authorities who are determined that not too much information about what is going on is to get out to the Western world.
– Is there any evidence of that?
-Yes, I believe so. The Chairman of the Sub-committee, Senator Wheeldon, nods his head to indicate that that is so.
– What did you expect?
– I would expect no more than that, of course.
– I suppose we will allow the Soviet Union to send a delegation to us to examine our human rights! That would be absolutely crazy.
-It is all right for Senator Georges to say that; he must try to defend the indefensible in any situation. But really it is not surprising to me that the Soviet Union did what it did. But the fact is that we know what it has done. Members of that Sub-committee now join me in that group of people who no doubt are known as unacceptable- certainly we are persona non grata- to the Soviet authorities. I do not know about that, but I should think that they probably have joined me in that.
- Senator, I am not trying to score a point, but given that that is true and it is outrageous, is it not equally outrageous that the Government did not inform both political parties of that injunction?
– Yes, I think it is outrageous that the parties did not know about that. I think that that ought to have been known by them. They should have known that when they were deciding whether they would send people on a delegation. That point has been made here tonight and I agree with it. But the fact is that that happened. The fact is that the Soviet Ambassador was given every opportunity, as were other persons, to come before the Committee and refute the evidence given before it. Much of the evidence given before the Committee was given in public. It was known that evidence was being given but the Soviet Ambassador chose not to give evidence. Therefore, I do not think much of the Embassy’s repudiation of the Committee’s report. I do not think much either of the dissent of three of the members of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Sub-committee, who complained that there was not enough evidence to give a balanced account. The account cannot be entirely balanced if some persons choose not to give evidence and not to refute evidence. One can only do one’s best with what one has. I will come to that again when I speak on the recommendation of the Sub-committee with regard to the setting up of a committee and the views held on that subject.
There is a lot of material on this issue, not only the material contained in the transcript of evidence, but also other material which no doubt was known to members of the Committee. We know that, as mentioned by the Sub-committee in its report, material coming out of the Soviet Union included the Samizdat and other chronicles of current events. These are carefully produced, mainly by Amnesty International, from material which comes out from the Soviet Union recording, as it does, year after year the activities, the difficulties, the imprisonments and the trials of dissidents and other persons who in the Soviet Union are standing up- very often hardly known to the rest of the Russian peopleand are silently trying to do something for human rights or for their rights with regard to religion and cultural issues. There is a lot of documentation.
Only today I have been reading what I find to be an excellent account of the story of Father Dimitri Dudko. He is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, not one of the dissident churches which perhaps have suffered the most attack. That man, who has become a very well recognised preacher and religious leader in the Soviet Union, has gone through a great deal of trouble. He has been taken away from Moscow and sent to the outskirts. In fact, at one stage he was run over by a heavy vehicle, apparently not by accident, and for some time was refused treatment in hospital. But he has managed to struggle on and, therefore, continues to preach and to gather around him people he can talk to about the simple, important moral issues of the day in the Soviet Union. He is just another example, of which there are many, of people in the Soviet Union who are working quietly and very often in an unrecognised way for rights which we accept here as being everyday and ordinary.
Already tonight reference has been made to a number of the recommendations made by the Committee. I will not go over in any detail those which have been mentioned. For example, there are the important recommendations with regard to immigration and encouraging immigration from the Soviet Union. There is also a recommendation concerning the United Nations documents and what the United Nations organisations ought to be encouraged to do to spread the knowledge of the various covenants and human rights documents inside the Soviet Union. There is also, of course, the recommendation contained in paragraph 48 of the report in respect of the matter of psychiatry, which we know has been a damnable activity of the Soviety authorities for a number of years now. Fortunately it is being picked up by psychiatrists in other countries. The recommendation states:
It is recommended that the Australian Government give consideration to seeking the establishment of a permanent, independent, international organisation to inquire into the abuse of psychiatry for political purposes.
I certainly applaud that recommendation. I trust that we will take very active steps to see that that is done. Recommendation 50 states:
It is recommended that the Australian Government make every use of appropriate opportunities to:
give full support for the principles contained in the Final Act of the Helsinki Agreement.
That is not an Act to which we are bound. We are not signatories. But we have said that we applaud the various undertakings which the 35 powers at Helsinki agreed upon and which unfortunately the Soviet Union has so flouted since. The recommendation calls on us to join other democracies in protesting against repression in the Soviet Union and its failure to comply with the Agreement and to seek the release of people imprisoned in the Soviet Union for the very reason that they have tried to bring to their own country knowledge of its own laws, obligations and undertakings under that pact. We must do something as a country in that respect. Recommendation 58 states:
It is recommended that in the course of bilateral discussions or negotiations with the USSR, the Australian Government take the opportunities that arise to state its disapproval of Soviet breaches of human rights. Similarly this can be done by individual Australians during cultural, academic and scientific exchanges with the Soviet Union.
Those people could do a lot more than they have been doing in the past. When they meet their peers in their own professions they ought to make clear the attitude we hold on this subject.
– They do and they are able to.
-Some of them do. The honourable senator says dogmatically that they do. I will not be dogmatic and answer him by saying that they do not.
– You have been dogmatic for the last 1 0 minutes.
– I am not being dogmatic. I am referring to the clear and firm recommendations of the Sub-committee. If they sound dogmatic to the honourable senator, I am sorry that he thinks that they are so. I am saying that we could do more. Many people go overseas to look around. I make this point not as the chairman of the parliamentary branch of Amnesty International- I no longer hold that positionbut as the vice-chairman. Although it is a little irrelevant at this stage, I mention that Mr Barry Jones is now the chairman of the parliamentary Amnesty group and Mr Barry Simon is the secretary. They are both members of the House of Representatives. Senator Ruth Coleman and I have retired to the position of vice-chairmen. Because of my connection with Amnesty I know that many people go abroad, enjoy a nice holiday and look at the things that are pleasant. They do not take with them their own culture and beliefs and make any effort to promote their ideas when they are abroad. They could well do so.
Paragraph 60 recommends that in the United Nations our representatives should raise human rights issues. This is important in relation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights of which we are a member. That body is not nearly good enough. It is too slow in going about the job of investigating the complaints which come before the world. We need to be more radical and dogmatic in relation to those matters at that Commission.
– Do we have a permanent representative on the Human Rights Commission?
-I think we do but I am not quite sure whether it is always the same person. We certainly have permanent staff there who report regularly. I believe that other recommendations of the Committee are excellent. I wish to make a comment on the issue which has been slightly divisive tonight. I refer to recommendation 62 relating to the Olympic Games. For a couple of years now I have been carrying stickers on my cars stating ‘No Soviet Games without Human Rights’. I believe that the case for a boycott of the Olympic Games was made out a long time ago. It has been accentuated in recent times by the Soviet action in Afghanistan in the Olympic year but I believe that the case was always there. I indicated by interjecting on Senator Martin that I believe that most of the people in the Jewish community also hold this view. Eighteen months ago I addressed a rally in Melbourne of about 1,500 people, mostly from the Jewish community, and they unanimously urged the boycott of the Games. Since the Soviet Union was given the Games it has gone further and further into the mire in relation to the actions it has taken against those people who have been trying to defend human rights. We know by recent example that people will be taken out of Moscow during the Games and that they will suffer because the Games are to be held there. They are people who want to defend human rights in the Soviet Union.
I turn to another recommendation which I believe is of great importance in regard to this matter. Recommendation 65 states that a standing committee on human rights should be established. I recognise that some members of the Sub-committee have dissented from this recommendation. I for one cannot stand with the dissent. The dissenting views are set out on page 161 of the report. Senator Sim and Senator Young have both said:
While accepting that the denial of human rights in any country is to be deplored, inquiries by the parliament of one country into the affairs of any other country have implications which can be detrimental to external relations with countries which have different political systems, traditions, cultures and attitudes.
I have heard that view expressed so often. I have heard it every time we have managed to get our government to make a complaint to Singapore, Malaysia or any other country. Of course we will receive a reply that the matter is an internal affair. Relations may be upset. The things that we have been doing in the last few years may upset relations with Indonesia. But that is no reason why we, as one of the few democracies in the world, should not proceed to investigate. The last recommendation of the report suggests that our investigation should go way beyond the Soviet Union and the position in that country with regard to human rights. It means that having investigated so deeply the position in one country, a committee of the Parliament ought to be established to investigate violations of human rights which arise in various countries and which are of relevance to our foreign relations with those countries.
Mr Short also had reservations with regard to this recommendation. He said:
Although I concur with the obvious sentiment behind this recommendation, I consider that such a committee rarely would be able to gain access to all the information and witnesses who would be necessary if the Committee were to conduct its investigations in a professional and useful manner.
So what? Of course it will not be possible to get access to all the information. That will never happen. But unless we pry for information and unless we provide a forum for investigation we will not get anywhere. Just because we cannot be 100 per cent successful is no reason why we should not go ahead and try to get as much information as we can on the subject and thereby inform the Parliament ant the people of Australia about it. I believe, therefore, that the dissent has been misconceived and that the recommendation is a good one.
I believe that while we have in the Parliament an organisation such as the Amnesty group which, of course, would be able to work with such a committee, suggest and supply witnesses and co-operate with the working of such a committee, it is desirable that there be a committee of the Parliament which has an immediate concern for human rights. It would not be able to raise the matter in all countries. It could not take up more than a fraction of the instances of violations of human rights throughout the world. But it could take up those which are particularly relevant to Australia and which concern us. In such cases our foreign policies might well be mistaken because we have not taken sufficient notice of the human rights component of such policies. I have come to the conclusion not only that the report is a fine one which deserves the commendation of the Parliament and close consideration by members of the public, but also that its recommendations should be brought into effect. But it also wants to see and ought to see its recommendations brought forward and brought into effect. I will certainly do what I can to urge that at every opportunity and chance I have. I therefore congratulate the Committee and those who have taken part, including the Secretary of the Committee, who is here and who has been so dedicated to its work. I believe that this Parliament owes it to that Committee to see that its recommendations are brought into fruition.
-I cannot bring into this debate the eloquence of Senator Wheeldon or the glibness of Senator Martin and the preciseness of Senator Missen. But I will attempt to bring some balance into this one-sided debate. For some time now honourable senators have been engaged in what I consider to be a very selective exercise against one country, the Soviet Union. Can I say at the outset that I support recommendation No. 65, which Senator Missen supports, which calls for a parliamentary standing committee on human rights. I would have thought that the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence would have been in effect that standing committee on human rights, that it would have been looking at the human rights of persons everywhere- not in a particular place but everywhere within Australia, within the nations to the north of us, within the nations in the American Zone-
– Yes, of course, the Islam nations and the European nations. The Committee, had it broadened its reference, would then not have been subject to the accusation which I now make, that it was selective and is selective. Those honourable senators who have spoken on it are selective. If we had established the committee that is recommended we could look at the human rights of not only groups of people but also of individuals. We could look at the human rights of the person who has been in a wheel chair in front of this place for some days, a person who has suffered deprivation and whose only means of transport and accommodation have been taken away from him. We could look at his human right to exist with dignity. But we have not allowed ourselves that privilege, nor have we allowed ourselves, by this exercise, to look at the human rights of the many people who have been underprivileged in this country. In fact, the blacks-
– They are not excluded.
-But you have excluded them. The honourable senator has been selective and he can be accused of that selectiveness. I find this exercise, because of its very nature, to be highly questionable. That a debate that can only be described as an active debate of antiSovietism can go on for so long amazes me. Let us look at the difficulties facing the nation which honourable senators have investigated and questioned from afar, the nation it brought witnesses from afar to testify against. As the minority report said, it was hard to come to a conclusion because there was no balancing evidence.
– Whose fault was that?
-The Committee must have recognised from the very start that it would not get and could not get an invitation from the Soviet Union to investigate the human rights of its citizens, just as we would refuse, just as South Africa would refuse-
– Do you believe, therefore, that the inquiry into southern Africa should not proceed unless representatives of the South African Nationalist Party come before the Committee?
-South Africa would refuse the honourable senator access to that country for that purpose, just as we would refuse the South Africans access to this country to investigate the rights of our Aboriginals.
– So therefore you are saying that there should be no inquiry in South Africa?
– If the honourable senator had engaged in an inquiry which covered South Africa as well as the Soviet Union he would have been in balance, but he was not.
– There is another inquiry into that.
-Let us take a look. Well, is there one? Is the Sub-committee investigating that?
-Then let us have the standing committee.
– You are always learning.
-Yes, perhaps I am learning. Perhaps I would say that honourable senators are much more justified in looking at the position in southern Africa.
– We are.
-Well, honourable senators have more justification to look at that country because the basis of deprivation of human rights in South Africa is clearly and definitely colour.
-On your principle, we ought to abandon the inquiry into southern Africa unless we can go back to the Soviet Union.
-Let me get back to the Soviet Union. Recognise exactly the situation in which that country finds itself and recognise the difficulties that face it in achieving those rights which honourable senators so rightly defend. It is a nation which we have encircled and beseiged. It is a nation which is under constant threat.
– You tell that to the Hungarians and the Czechs.
– And the Romanians.
-Yes, of course, the Afghanis, the Romanians, the Hungarians and the Czechoslovakians. If honourable senators could just understand that the closer we encircle the Soviet Union the more we drive it to that sort of action. Make no mistake about it, the exercise in which honourable senators engage takes us closer to encircling the Soviet Union and forcing it into a tighter situation. Progress towards easing the rights of individuals in the Soviet Union has been considerable over the last 20 years. The horrors of Stalinism have somewhat faded.
– Tell that to the people in the Gulags.
-The procedures, the freedom and the access to communication which Senator Martin said the Russians have is much greater now than it was before. Access to the Soviet Union by peoples from the West is much easier. The influence which they bring to bear is considerable and cannot be denied. But we are forcing Russia back, and further back, into a situation where it finds it difficult to relax that beaurocratic supervision over its citizens -
– It is our fault!
– The honourable senator should understand the difficulties which the Soviet Union faces. I will not accept, although I do understand, the actions that have been brought to bear on those who have opposed the limitations upon the freedom of expression in the Soviet Union. I understand the reasons for those limitations. I understand because I believe that the Soviet Union is under constant pressure. It is encircled and we are part of that encirclement.
– That is what Hitler used to say about Germany. Isn’t it just the same?
– If the honourable senator is endeavouring to impress upon me that the societies which existed under Hitler and the society which exists in the Soviet Union at the present time are one and the same then we have no common basis of understanding. My view is that the Soviet Union has progressed tremendously towards establishing the right of its citizens to live free of poverty, unlike that wretch who is outside at this present time and who will sleep on the cold pavement. At least the Soviet Union has taken its people from a feudal state to a state where there is a reasonable expectation of life, of employment and of cultural achievement.
– But that is not the point, is it? The point is that both had the feeling that they were surrounded. You are saying that that is the same, are you not?
– I am saying that the Soviet Union and its people are paranoic about the fear of extinction, just as the Israelis are in the situation in which they find themselves.
– Tell us why they wiped out the Crimean Tartars then if there is cultural expression?
– I would say that that would be in the same period that I spoke of before. The Stalinist period has passed. If we are to go back in history, let us just look to the north of Australia where recently a race of people was substantially exterminated. We allowed this to happen in East Timor, did we not?
– Why not condemn them on the same basis instead of making excuses?
– Let me say that progress has been made from the point mentioned up to the present time. What this investigation does is to set the progress backwards, to put it in reverse.
– So we shut up, do we?
-No, I am not suggesting that you do that. I am merely suggesting that any sort of comment or criticism should not be selective. What we have allowed ourselves to do in this place is become selective and one-sided. We are caught in a trap that we cannot in any way support the Soviet Union without being considered to be anti-semitic. It is a crazy situation in which we find ourselves. The position of the Jews in the Soviet Union is one for sympathy and it is one that invites criticism. But within the Soviet Union there has been considerable progress towards those very things that senators opposite complain about.
– You must tell the Czechs about that.
– I would suggest that those honourable senators who are able to should visit the Soviet Union when the opportunity arises. They should be part of a delegation to the Soviet Union; indeed, part of a delegation to any nation. But I suggest that they go to the Soviet Union if they are so concerned.
– I could not get there.
– I do not know why the honourable senator could not get there. I cannot understand why he could not get there.
– I will tell you. I brought out some documents. They will never have me back.
– I understand. The honourable senator went to the Soviet Union and brought out documents and the Soviet Union will not allow him back into the country.
– That is right. They were documents showing what they were doing to freedom in the Soviet Union.
-Senator Missen at least made an attempt to go to the Soviet Union, and on the basis of his own experience he is consolidated in his views. I have been to the Soviet Union. On several occasions I have passed through it. I have attended conferences there. I have found much there to criticise, but I have also found much there to support. I have found that the people have reached the position in which culturally they are much in advance of us. Culturally they have achieved more and no doubt physically they have achieved more than most countries and possibly that is the basis of our objection to the Olympic Games.
– At what cost?
-At what cost? I would say it is not so much the cost; the price which has been paid is the considerable advancement of the people of the Soviet Union.
– You still have not said what the cost in loss of dignity and liberty and human life has been.
– I think the honourable senator is talking rubbish. With all its limitations, there is more dignity and morality in the Soviet Union than there is in our own society and in many Western societies.
– Well, why don’t you go and live there?
-Oh now, Senator! That is an odd remark for an honourable senator to make. I do not live there because I believe that in my own environment much can be done to achieve and even surpass that which I have described.
– Even in Queensland?
– Even in Queensland, because in Queensland we have certain advantages over the southern States in regard to the quality of the environment.
– They tell me that the environment at Breakfast Creek is pretty good these days too.
– I suggest to the honourable senator that the Soviet Union has its bureaucrats and the Soviet Union has its Bjelke-Petersens.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Senator Georges, are you addressing the Chair?
– Yes, I am addressing the Chair and I thank you for your patience and your courtesy, sir. I have been drawn into this debate by the one-sidedness of the contributions made here tonight. I notice my colleague Senator Wheeldon looking at me with a smile. I know it is difficult to resist his advocacy and his argument; nevertheless in spite of all that skill he is wrong. ( Quorum formed).
I have been assisted by the interjections but I should not have allowed them to interfere with what I have to say. All I am suggesting is that if we undertake any such exercise again, let us make certain that it is not selective. Let us make certain that it is not highly coloured by our own particular philosophies. Let us make certain that we do not in any way, by our attitudes and lack of understanding, make it much more difficult for the nation we criticise to reach the point that we hope it will reach. I think it is far better for us to be voicing our objections not by way of opposition to the limitation of rights of human beings, not by investigation. We should be doing it by way of communication, by exchange of views on the various bodies on which we are represented overseas and on which the Soviet Union is represented also. We should be attending their conferences, and we should be prepared to put our point of view.
Without inciting honourable senators to further interjection, I want to say that some of the conferences available for participants from Australia are conferences which may appear in the final documents to be one-sided. Within the workshops of those conferences there are exchanges of views which would amaze some honourable senators.
– Which conferences are you talking about?
-There is a variety of conferences. I might even suggest a couple of peace conferences and there is the exchange of cultural conferences. In those conference workshops with delegates coming from afar, perhaps from Australia, there are points of view exchanged and there is a confrontation of ideas. It was interesting at one conference to see the confrontation of ideas between the Romanian state and the rest of the Soviet states and to hear the Romanian criticism in relation to the attitude being taken by the Soviet Union against the People’s Republic of China. It was also interesting to hear just how critical the French delegates were because they raised the question: How could a peace conference be held in Moscow when the Soviet was inflicting limitations on the rights of citizens? That criticism was made in Moscow. It was not made elsewhere. The point was raised there that it was a contradiction to hold a conference relating to peace in Moscow while the citizens of the city were limited in their rights and their liberties.
It would seem from listening to this debate tonight that no such thing happens in the Soviet Union. There is a confrontation of ideas. There is self-criticism. It does not emerge as well as we would like; nevertheless it is there. As to the limitation of freedom of expression, if people in Moscow want to go to the races they can. If they want to buy a raffle ticket they can. If they want to see the Last Tango in Paris they can. I was quite amazed when I was there to find that one can do that also.
– What about if you want to campaign against the Government?
-It is possible to campaign against a candidate. One has to face one ‘s electors. There is a one-party system in the Soviet Union, but there is also a one-party system in Queensland. Several one-party systems are doing very well in Africa. There are one-party systems in other places, thanks to the imbalance in the electoral system. We have had a one-party system here for quite some time. There are limitations to the system. Those limitations have to be talked about, but they should not be exposed to a continual stream of heavy criticism, shall I say, spiced with venom. That is what we have had in the last two or three sessions in which we have debated this report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 15 November 1979, on motion by Senator Rae:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I need not detain the Senate for very long on this matter because the report now before us from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations is essentially one for the information of the Senate rather than one containing substantive recommendations at this stage. It is one of the on-going series of reports from this Committee which involves an examination of the operations of statutory authorities in this country.
In essence, the report now before us does three things. Firstly, it specifies a categorisation of the numerous statutory authorities which were identified in the first report of the Committee and it divides then into three broad categoriesbusiness authorities, primary industry authorities and non-business or administrative advisory and adjudicative authorities. The significance of this classification is that it will form, at a later stage, the basis for an exercise by the Committee on specifying the appropriate degrees of accountability which should attach to different classes of statutory authorities. No doubt that categorisation will require further development and further refinement by the Committee. Indeed, as a result of this second report, a number of submissions have been received from authorities in these various categories as to how they ought to be described and classified. This is very much an interim report at this stage and is a matter on which the Committee will further report to the Senate.
The second item this report contains is a summary of the financial activities of Commonwealth statutory authorities with an analysis of their effect on the economy as a whole. This is essentially a report which was prepared by two senior academics- Dr Weston and Mr Townes of the Latrobe University. It is a very significant and heartbreaking contribution to the literature the significance of which speaks for itself. The third item contained in this report is some preliminary material, some preliminary recommendations or thoughts of the Committee, on the subject of the financial accountability of Commonwealth statutory authorities and some preliminary suggestions as to the appropriate contents for an annual reports Act to be passed by this Parliament. The subject matter of this section of the report has been further developed in the third report of the Committee which has been subsequently tabled.
In my view the work of the Committee is important and useful, not only to this Parliament but also to the country as a whole. A number of matters remain to be considered by the Committee. They relate particularly to the justification for the establishment of statutory authorities as distinct from proceeding by way of the more traditional departmental organisation and other more specific mechanisms and procedures associated with that accountability, all of which remain to be considered and which will be considered by the Committee as it proceeds in its task.
The only other point I would make at this stage in reference to this report is one that I made a few weeks ago on the occasion of the tabling of the third report of the Committee and that is that there appears to have been quite a degree of misunderstanding or misstatement by the media as to the nature of the particular exercise being conducted by this Committee and its implications. There has been a tendency towards what I have already described as a lurid overdramatisation by the media as to the role and influence of statutory authorities in our community and in the economy. It is a characterisation of the Committee’s work which has not been entirely discouraged by the present Chairman of that Committee, Senator Rae, who has his own views as to the proper limited place of statutory authorities in our economic universe. But it is a view of statutory authorities which is certainly not shared by the Australian Labor Party members of that Committee.
We- as I have said previously, in this respect I speak also for my colleagues Senator McAuliffe and Senator Douglas McClelland- take the view that, as members of a party which is committed to the further development of the public sector as being the most equitable and efficient way of delivering various forms of social good, it is entirely proper that we should ensure that that public sector and its agencies are themselves efficient and accountable to this Parliament and to the public as a whole. We do not regard our obligation as being to engage in any kind of vendetta against the public sector as such, any kind of program of assassination as to the good character of these authorities. Rather we see ourselves as engaged in an exercise in improving their efficiency and accountability. As I have previously indicated, I do not resile in any way from the conclusions which have been formulated and expressed or the data which has been accumulated in any of the series of statutory authority reports so far, but I most strenuously dissent from some of the characterisation of those reports and their implications which has been expressed in the media. Over and over again we have seen editorials and other comment suggesting that qangos, as they are described- quasi-autonomous national government organisations- are taking over the public sector, taking over our economy.
– -Qangas are the females.
– I acknowledge the superior Latinity of my colleague opposite. Qangas, qangos, qangae or qangi, to use the respective plurals, are phenomena which have long been with us in the operations of the Australian Government. I hope and my colleagues on this side of the chamber hope that they will continue to be with us for a long time. Equally, we hope that they are phenomena which will operate in an efficient and accountable fashion. I submit to this chamber that the kind of report which is emerging from the Finance and Government Operations Committee and which is embodied in the second report of the Committee before us tonight, will be a useful contribution both to the understanding of these agencies and to bringing them properly under public control.
– I rise to discuss this matter as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I note the comments that my co-member, Senator Evans, has made regarding the Committee. Indeed, this particular report, the second report, was a most important one in that it established for the first time a comprehensive list of some 260-odd authorities which have the auspices of the Commonwealth Government and which have a direct involvement in the affairs of every one who lives in this nation. The great revelation, I think, that has come from the Committee’s investigations is that in fact these organisations have an effect on all of us which most people have never dreamt of. In fact, their involvement in the economy, quite apart form their regulatory role, means that they have a very extensive role in terms of actual manipulation of dollars through the financial operations of the Australian network. We find substantially an effect which may or may not have social results which are good or bad for the Australian community as a whole. We, as a committee, so far have been in no position to be able to judge the effects of the particular operations of these organisations, simply because there has not been sufficient data available to establish their real effects in the community.
I believe the Committee is undertaking a most valuable function in seeking to establish the exact position and role of these organisations in the community. I, for one, feel that there is a long way to go in the Australian context to establish the exact effect of these organisations on the financial operations even of our banks, on the way in which these organisations deal in property- especially real property- in the Australian context and in the Australian economy, and on the way in which they use legal powers which are conferred on them by this Parliament, and which are not necessarily properly followed through, investigated and accounted for to the Australian Parliament, in such a way that the social good may or may not be properly served. The essential point which the report seeks to make is to establish accountability for the operations of those quasi-autonomous national government organisations or qangos.
The situation which presently exists is that there is not necessarily a proper means by which these organisations can deliver reports in a standard fashion which is readily understood by the community, and particularly by parliamentarians, in such a way as they can then interpret them properly and make sensible decisions about the future direction of government. It is that which we are seeking to achieve through the extension of the annual reports Act suggestion, which is incorporated in this particular report, and in other ways so as to establish standardisation, in the first place, of reporting on financial matters, and, in other ways, so as to ensure that there is a proper, comprehensive understanding of the legal powers of these various bodies. I was somewhat disappointed to hear Senator Evans speak of the publicity which has been given to the reports of the various committees, in some way implying that it was part of some sort of witch-hunt of the public sector. I hope that Senator Evans does not believed that the Committee exists in order to try to establish a more efficient public sector so that the Australian Labor Party, if it ever comes to power- heaven forbid that it will again- will have a very efficient public sector which it will then be able to exploit for its own purposes.
– That is exactly it- openly acknowledged.
-That is probably Senator Evans’s objective, and I am glad to hear him acknowledge it. Nevertheless, the point is that it is in the interests of all of us that resources be allocated properly in this economy and that they be allocated to the areas where there will be the most benefit for all Australians. That, of course, is the objective of all of us on the Committee, and indeed of all honourable senators, no doubt. Senator Walsh has not taken a great interest in this particular matter. We can understand that he has a particular view with regard to the public sector which may not be shared so greatly by his own colleagues, it being more to the extreme of most of them. Nevertheless, let us assume that the role that will go forward from this Committee in promoting various aspects of the activities of statutory authorities should and will obtain the widest publicity. The reason is that it is necessary for the Australian public and the Australian community at large, which comprise the great democracy that we have in this country, to understand the effects of these organisations. We should ensure that we, as parliamentarians, exercise our proper rights and proper duties over ensuring that there is proper accountability from what amounts to an autonomous, public, statutory authority, which, without that sense of control and accountability, is a law unto itself. Consequently, it can direct itself against the public interest if it so considers.
I think that is a danger of which all of us should be aware. It is something which, through the public media and through the way in which we are developing an awareness of these problems in Australia, ought to be encouraged. Certainly, for Senator Evans to take the point that he has, namely, that in fact this is a glory hunt on the part of individuals such as the chairman, Senator Rae, or, alternatively, that it is part of a witch-hunt against the public sector, is indeed wrong. We ought to be mature enough to appreciate that we have to see a thorough-going, efficient public sector and that in fact the Committee is performing a useful role in encouraging public interest in the public sector and a proper form of public accountability for what is an essential function of government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 November 1979, on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-This report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances was set down on 19 November and was not debated in any way on that occasion. It is the normal report which the Committee gives after six months of a session as to the work which has been done and the particular features to which the Committee wants to draw the attention of the Senate. The report deals with quite a number of separate matters, and I do not propose to proceed to discuss them at any length or to debate them. But I hope that members of the Senate will read the report. I think there are a number of matters of principle in the report which call for a response from the Government and also for determination by the Senate in regard to procedures. In the report we mention the changes in the Committee’s powers which were made during the year by the Senate and which mean that we are now investigating all matters, all instruments where they are legislative in character and require scrutiny by the Committee.
We raise in the report the problems that arise in regard to the statutory provisions which exist for the disallowance of ordinances and the fact that there are differences that arise in different Acts of Parliament. There is inconsistency in the way in which they are phrased. We set out the various aspects which we believe should exist in the provisions for disallowance and which we believe should be common and should be standardised. I do not propose to set them out. They are set out in the report. I believe that it would be desirable if a standardised system were adopted by the draftsman so that we had the same useful features arising in all Acts.
We also draw the Senate’s attention to the suggestions which the chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission has made to the Committee, that in its scrutiny of delegated legislation it should give particular attention to the need for provisions, where appropriate, to compel authorities to notify persons of the rights and duties which are granted or imposed by the legislation. One of the problems is that people do not know their rights. It is possible for authorities to be much more informative by writing to individuals and telling them what their rights are so that they may take some action. We intend to adopt the suggestion that the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission has made. We certainly will have regard to this matter in our scrutiny of delegated legislation. We consider this can be done under our existing rules.
In the report we also deal with and we make some comments on the power which is often given in relation to a person ‘s entitlements which may be altered by regulation. There are some difficulties in this extensive power being granted by the legislation. We have also raised in the report the consideration of draft legislation and the possibility that- this has been adopted particularly by the Minister for Home Affairs- the Committee will be asked to consider draft legislation.
This happens a good deal in Great Britain. It may be efficacious if the Committee on occasions were shown the legislation when it is in draft form. Consider the alternative when there is a notice of disallowance of a regulation. The regulation may be disallowed three months later and people’s rights are altered at that stage. That is often to the great disadvantage of the many people concerned. The submission of draft legislation to the Committee may be a useful development. The Committee is certainly happy toassist in this way.
In addition to this we proceed to make comments in regard to the Evidence Amendment Act. We believe that amendments should be made to it. The Judicial Review of Administrative Acts also gives rise to concern. In addition to that, there is a general tracing of the major areas that have come before the Committee over the six months. Where regulations were found in our view to be defective, on the whole arrangements have been made by the Ministers concerned, after correspondence and discussion, which we believe have achieved effective results. So these days it is seldom that a notice of disallowance is brought before the Parliament and finally debated in the Parliament. Sometimes it is necessary for the Committee to give notice, because of the shortage of time, when negotiations have not been completed with a Minister. Very often these notices are merely given by way of a holding operation so that when negotiations are completed the notices can be withdrawn. The report sets out various regulations and describes the changes which were made.
I think the only matter I ought to draw to the attention of the Senate is the outstanding undertakings by Ministers. This has been a rather common difficulty over the last few years. When we have received undertakings or amendments and have withdrawn the notices we no longer have power to take any action in the Senate. The time has gone. Therefore, if the undertaking is not carried out promptly we have a considerable problem. There has been an improvement in this regard. Most of the undertakings that were given to the Committee last year were carried out with commendable promptness. We listed the position in our sixty-sixth report and we merely say there are still some undertakings where there is some delay but the position certainly has improved.
I think they are the major matters which I should draw to the attention of the Senate but I hope that the members of the Senate, particularly those who take a close interest in the development of subordinate legislation, will read this report. This year we hope to have a meeting of committees from various parts of the world that are carrying out a similar function. There is an interest in many parliaments in the development of the control of subordinate legislation. Consequently we hope that the members of the Senate- they are not here in great numbers this evening to debate the report- will nonetheless read the report and bring to the Committee and to the Senate their views on the matters which we have raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on the Adequacy of Quarantine
Consideration resumed from 20 November 1 979, on motion by Senator Thomas:
That the Senate take note of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Tax and Wine and Grape Industries- Ministerial Statement
Consideration resumed from 20 November 1979, on motion by Senator Walsh:
That the Senate take note of the statement. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Australian Defence Procurement
Consideration resumed from 22 November 1979, on motion by Senate Bishop:
That the Senate take note of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reports on Scrutiny of Bills and Delegation of Parliamentary Authority
Consideration resumed from 22 November 1979, on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on the New International Order- Implications for Australia
Consideration resumed from 19 February on motion by Senator Sim:
That the Senate take note of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Review of Select Committee Report on Air Pollution-Ministerial Statement
Consideration resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Employment of Musicians by the Australian Broadcasting Commission- Ministerial Statement
Consideration resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reports on Scrutiny of Bills and Delegation of Parliamentary Authority
– Thank you, Senator Missen. Senator Evans may seek leave to make a statement.
– I raise a point of order. I am frightened that we will get to General Business No. 13 unless Senator Evans bats on until 10.30. Frankly, I confess it is my fault for not being prepared. I did not think we would reach it tonight. It is such an important matter that I wonder whether some arrangement can be made if we do reach it tonight. Could it be postponed?
– We recognise that there is a great deal of interest in General Business No. 13. If it is to be called on before the time for the adjournment perhaps we could adjourn at that point. It would then be first Order of the Day under General Business after those matters dealing with reports.
– I seek leave to make a statement. It will be somewhat less well organised than it might have been had I appreciated that we may have reached this item tonight.
– I thank the chamber. I wish to say something on the Government response to the report on the scrutiny of Bills of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. It is a particularly disappointing response to what was in many ways a path breaking report and set of recommendations by the Senate Committee. I regret to say that the response demonstrates once again a degree of hypocrisy on the part of this Administration in relation to human rights matters. The Government has rejected on numerous occasions the concept of a Bill of Rights for Australia on the ground that Parliament can be relied upon to protect individual liberties, that the maturity, the wisdom and the self-restraint that we display as legislators are the only guarantee that is necessary for the protection of individual liberties in this country.
The Government, furthermore, seeks to bolster the role that individual members of parliament play by establishing a Human Rights Commission which is regrettably, however, a body without powers, without teeth and without personnel and essentially is of a cosmetic character. It is put together in this way on the basis that any more substantial institution or any more rigorous mechanism for the protection of human rights is unnecessary given again the role of the courts and the role of this Parliament. The Government is constantly referring, in every context in which it comes up, to the role of this Parliament as the ultimate protector of civil rights as being the excuse, the justification, for not having more substantial guarantees of individual liberty whether by way of a Bill of Rights or an effective mechanism for the enforcement of such rights as we already possess.
The unanimous report from the Senate Committee carefully makes out the case for saying that these existing parliamentary procedures, this existing reliance that has traditionally been made upon the Parliament, are, in fact, illfounded, and that the Parliament cannot be relied upon to pick up and protect those rights of the individual which are so often put at risk by the detail of legislation which comes before us. The Committee report systematically and carefully draws attention to the deficiencies in our parliamentary system in this respect but we find, when confronted with this and with the Committee’s recommendations that seek a way through this dilemma, that the Government rejects those recommendations out of hand. The Committee report points to those all too familiar phenomena about the way in which this parliamentary institution works. The report points to the rush of legislation which occurs particularly at the tail end of sessions. The report points to that further well-known failing of the insufficient time we have for considering, scrutinising and evaluating the detail of legislation before it comes into this chamber.
The report draws attention to the lack of opportunities to think through the implications of legislation and the detailed clauses, in particular, of legislation the effect of which may not be at all obvious on the surface. There is a lack of opportunity to think through those clauses before we are put into a position of passing judgment or voting upon them. The report draws attention in a very detailed and systematic way to those very familiar inadequacies of our system and goes beyond that to recommend a system which could apply in the future to make meaningful the notion of parliamentary scrutiny.
The report makes a number of recommendations designed to do a number of things. It seeks to improve the legislative process by recommending the creation of a joint committee of the Parliament whose function would be to scrutinise Bills and to advise the Parliament when there is reason to suppose that critical or particular rights might be infringed. The report carries a set of recommendations which are carefully designed in the way in which they are set up so that they do not interfere with the Government’s legislative program. The response of exSenator Webster, the then Minister for Science and the Environment, suggests, I think regrettably, that the institution of this kind of system may well have serious ‘implications’ for the Government’s ability to actually implement and get through the Parliament its legislative program.
– Has the Minister reported on this?
– The Minister has reported. It is the Minister’s very negative response that we are now debating. We are debating the ministerial suggestion that this report ought not to be implemented. The mechanical reason why I say the Minister has specifically rejected this report and indicated the Government’s refusal to implement it is that the Minister takes the view that it will unduly interfere with the Government’s capacity to implement its program.
Without going now into all the elaborate detail of the Committee’s report, I make the point that the position has been very specifically taken into account by the Committee. The procedures suggested by the Committee would mean that no significant hindrance, interference or delay would be caused to the Government’s program; rather the Committee would have to operate to quite tight deadlines and its function essentially would be confined to that of flagging for the attention of this chamber matters which ought properly to be drawn to our attention.
A classic example of the kind of thing this Committee could do would be what Senator Hamer did as an individual legislator for us in the context of the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill which we have been debating this week. He scrutinised the legislation that was before us and noted the undue reliance on Executive authority so far as the determination of projects being subject to the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act was concerned. He noted that there was no opportunity for parliamentary disallowance of any such Executive determination. He brought that matter before this chamber and moved an amendment accordingly. That was one example of the legislative process at work in an efficient way. It was an example of an occasion when a lapse, a derogation from individual rights, was in fact noticed, debated and corrected by this chamber. The very conspicuousness of that legislative exercise we went through this week under the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill is in itself a demonstration of how rarely and how infrequently that role is in fact performed by us as legislators. It is a demonstration by its very rarity of the inadequacy of our existing procedures which do not ensure the picking up in any formal or institutional way of matters of this kind. It is left rather to the initiative of hard pressed individual legislators to bring about the changes that are necessary in legislation of this kind.
The further criticism that seems to be embodied in the ministerial response to this Senate Committee proposal is the very concept that a joint committee for the scrutiny of legislation would be an interference of an inappropriate or indefensible kind with the prerogatives and privileges of the individual houses of parliament. This, of course, is a proposition that was very explicitly and clearly articulated by some members of this chamber when the report was tabled. I recall Senator Rae in particular being very obstreperous and very chauvinistic indeed about the powers, privileges and the self-image of this chamber in that respect.
What is worrying about that kind of response, what is worrying about that kind of chauvinism, that kind of self-centred attention to the prerogatives and privileges of individual chambers, is that it fails to give sufficient attention and sufficient importance to what in my mind is a much more significant consideration: It is not the question of the Senate’s rights on the one hand or the question of the rights of the House of Representatives on the other hand; it is rather the question of this Parliament’s rights and what is helpful to good government in this country. Might I suggest that the reasoning of the Committee- the evidence we took and considered on this matter- led us inexorably to the conclusion that the only way in which we could get a proper and considered evaluation of legislation coming before this Parliament in a systematic way- given that some Bills come first into this chamber and some Bills go first into the other chamber- was in fact to have a joint committee. We came to the conclusion that that was the streamlined way of doing it, that was the sensible way of doing it, that was the way which would best be calculated to ensure that provisions which were intrusive upon individual liberty were picked up, were noted and were dealt with, in the first instance by the chamber in which the Bill was first introduced.
The Government and the Parliament have had an opportunity to create a new procedure which, like the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances which was initiated back in the 1930s, could well have become very much the envy of Westminster parliamentary systems around the world. What was suggested by the Senate Committee was a unique innovation, something which was not just borowed or stolen from the procedures of other parliaments but something which was a carefully thought out response to a perceived problem, a perceived weakness, in our procedures and something which, although unprecedented elsewhere, was in the view of the Committee an attractive way of solving a problem which most of us, in our more honest moments, would acknowledge exists.
It is obvious from the Government’s response to this report that the opportunity has been blown; that the Government, for all its huffing and puffing about the desirability of protecting human rights, is just not willing when the chips are down to lend its assistance to the creation of a body which would genuinely serve that purpose. The Government is happy, it is delighted, it is like a pig in a farmyard, when it comes to creating institutions such as the Human Rights Commission which will serve no conceivable utility, which are purely cosmetic and which are purely showpieces. But when it comes to a chance of creating something which would do something to preserve, enhance and protect human rights in this country, which would improve parliamentary procedures, which would give meaning and reality to that myth to which we for so long subscribed- namely, that we as legislators do protect human rights- when it comes to doing something substantive, something real, something concrete and something meaningful, this Government is found wanting.
I and the other members of my Committee find it a crying shame that the Government has responded so obtusely, so reluctantly and so negatively to this initiative. That is a matter of great regret. I am not sure that anything can be salvaged from the report now. It may be that if the Committee goes back and has another look at the matter and reformulates the proposition in terms of suggesting the establishment of a committee of this single chamber, that may be enough to satisfy some of the chauvinists around the place and may be a less alarming beast as far as this Government is concerned and one which, accordingly, will be acknowledged and accepted. But it would be a less alarming beast, a much less effective protector of civil liberties. It is highly unfortunate that this new initiative, this innovation, this creation of an agency to give real meaning to the parliamentary protection of civil liberties has been abandoned and rejected by this Government. It is something which I think, when the truth and the character of this rejection become better understood and more widely known, this Government will long continue to regret.
-by leave- I raise again an important issue which I spoke about when the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs relating to the scrutiny of Bills was presented to the Senate. Debate on that report was subsequently adjourned. Following that, Senator Hamer sent a circular to politicians indicating his attitude on the matter and his regret that a recommendation contained in the report had not been adopted. I spoke of that report last evening. I stated at the time that I did not favour the establishment of a joint committee, not because I hold a chauvinistic attitude concerning the Senate, but because I have worked on one joint committee and I would never work on another one. I think that for it to be a joint committee would destroy the capabilities of a parliamentary committee to do what that committee would be required to do, namely, to look thoroughly into legislation. Therefore, last night I supported the establishment of a Senate select committee to inquire into the matter. I did so only because the present situation has arisen because honourable senators have not been carrying out their duties.
As we saw last night, one honourable senator did carry out his functions. As Senator Evans mentioned, Senator Hamer moved an amendment which sought to remove a situation in which parliamentary control could be infringed. That amendment was adopted. We find this occurring repeatedly with legislation, although last night we corrected the anomaly. The same question arose today with, I think it was, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill. That Bill was referred to a committee- why I do not know- for it to examine the accounting machinery of the CSL. I cannot understand Senator Rae’s argument in favour of referring that Bill to a committee, as its provisions will not come into force until 1 July. But our referring that Bill to a committee stopped me from being able to point out at the Committee stage of debate on the Bill that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories can operate only with the approval of the Minister.
In the second reading debate on that Bill today Senator Baume gave a mistaken justification for referring that legislation to a committee. What is more, he claimed that if it were desired to extend the powers of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories that would be done by way of regulation, which the Parliament would have a right to reject. That is not so. Obviously the honourable senator was mistaken. It would be done by way of a ministerial determination. Perhaps we will have to look at this legislation when it comes to the Committee stage. My only appeal, whether it is right or wrong, is that if the Government has rejected the recommendation of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, then for God ‘s sake let us look at the legislation without referral to a parliamentary committee. Let those who would serve on such a parliamentary committee do the job without being formed together as such a committee.
– I take a point of order. Mr President, in order to keep this matter on the Notice Paper would it be in order to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the restoration of this item to the General Business section of the Notice Paper so that it would be an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting?
– I suggest that on the next day of sitting you give notice of a motion to put this matter on the Notice Paper. I think that would be the neatest way.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to seek from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee), an amplification of two aspects of our immigration policy. As Senator Carrick is in the chamber I cannot resist drawing to his attention again General Business Order of the Day No. 169 in relation to the creation of a Senate committee to study one or two facets of immigration policy. That is something on which he knows my views. The first matter I want to deal with relates to several reports that have emanated from the diligence of an outstanding Sydney Press reporter, Susan Molloy, who is the ethnic affairs reporter of the Sydney Morning Herald. The reports deal with some aspects of racketeering in relation to documentation giving tradesman status to South Koreans. In a report this morning Susan Molloy implied that the amount of money involved for the principals is over $ 1 m.
I raise this matter tonight because it concerns the Refugees and Special Programs Branch of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Eight or nine months ago I and several of my colleagues in the House of Representatives named several solicitors and travel agents who were involved in certain racketeering methods. Senator Carrick, who is a New South Welshman, would be aware that one travel agent has now been prosecuted by the State travel agents’ registration board. This indicates that we were on the right track although in that case the people exploited were Latin Americans. That case proceeded slowly. I know that the Government had to take joint action with the State government. But there is some difficulty in relation to the case mentioned by Miss Molloy. Some South Koreans have been accepted by the Australasian Society of Engineers. They are working at Cockatoo Dockyard. Their case for permanent residence is being examined.
The Minister, who is familiar with our work pattern, will know of the intake of skilled tradesmen in the Middle East. One of the chaps I have in mind whom the ASE has sponsored had worked in South Korea and gone to Iran as a metal tradesman. Because of the turbulence in that country he came to Australia. I do not envy him his problem. He was asked to produce a police certificate. It is very unlikely that he will get it in view of the recent coup d ‘etat in Seoul. At the same time, it is doubtful whether a migrant worker in Iran could get such a certificate when one considers the turbulence in that country. I believe that the Government should accelerate its investigation of the allegations that have been made. With the best intentions in the world, some of the trade unions in Sydney have referred cases to members of the Federal Parliament from New South Wales. The sooner we know who the black sheep are among the lawyers and travel agents the better. Otherwise there is a cloud over everybody. We can complain to the Refugees and Special Programs Branch of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs about a certain solicitor or travel agent latching on to a case but we never seem to hear the outcome of any investigations.
I do not want to give the wrong impression. In cases where it has been proved that a tourist has been exploited, I know that successive Immigration Ministers have acted reasonably. They have even sent some cases to the Committee on the Determination of Refugee Status. However, I believe that the investigations into the case that has been pursued by Miss Molloy should be accelerated. I would not have raised the matter tonight if the Senate were sitting next week. The people who are racketeering should be heaved out. I ask the Minister to endeavour to see that a more definite response is given to the series of articles that has been written by Miss Molloy. I have referred to her in this fashion because she is one of the people who have probed into the matter. Since Chistmas there has been another manifestation of these irregularities in Western Australia. A number of migrants from South Korea were supposed to be panel beaters, yet they did not have the trade qualifications. I ask the Minister to expedite a public announcement on the outcome of the investigations into this racket.
The other matter I raise concerns a Press release by the Minister. The file number is 21/80. The Minister stated that a special task force was being sent to Vienna to assist in the processing of applications from eastern European refugees. I have said before that the intake of refugees should be subject to much closer parliamentary scrutiny. Unless an even-handed policy is adopted, some ethnic groups get very irate. With some justification, they feel that they have been neglected. I know from the debate on last year’s Estimates that our staffing situation in Vienna is much larger than that in other places. We are told that people go to Vienna if there is some turbulence in eastern Europe. I know that it was thought that expansion by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics might put pressure on two eastern European countries. That has not happened but I will not give a discourse on the matter.
It seems extremely curious to me that most of our large refugee intakes in recent times have had the imprimatur of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In the past the United Nations has assisted Australia, the United States and Canada to categorise refugees, whether they be from Lebanon, Chile or Cyprus. As the Minister would well know, since the turbulence arose in South East Asia most of our energies have been directed to that area. I am curious about the sudden upsurge in staffing in Vienna. I know that there have been instances of the need for that, such as the Dubcek era in Czechoslovakia and the situation in Hungary, but I am mystified about why we have had to beef up our staff in Vienna. If the Minister could tell me that there has been a considerable amount of border hopping I would accept that although, apparently, we are doing our own thing. We are not enlisting the help of the United Nations to see that other countries take their share of refugees at this time.
I have harped and harped about this matter. If the Minister were to tell me that people from one or two eastern European countries went to Vienna and sought succour from Australia I would not cavil outright. But I say again- I have said it many times in this chamber- that I am mystified about the reason we have not sent a similar task force to Latin America. If we take the reports of Amensty International as an evaluation of the situations in the Argentine, Uruguay, Chile and, to a lesser degree, Bolivia and Peru, we know that the circumstances in those countries are identical with those in eastern European countries. If our aim is to assist people who suffer from political duress we should also help people from Latin America. I know the dilemma that the Government faces. If an Argentinian went to the Australian embassy in his country he would not be deemed a political refugee. He would have to go to another country.
I am certain that honourable senators would find that people from neighbouring countries come to our embassy in Santiago, Chile, asking for assistance. That situation could be reversed elsewhere. I know for a fact that Australia is getting more people in this way. There are Latin Americans surfacing in the trade unions in New South Wales and Victoria who came here three years ago on the run, having obtained a tourist visa in another Latin American country. They have been a little timid about claiming political refugee status but they have been here all this time. I will be fair and say that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has given them a DORS Committee evaluation. I am waiting on a decision from the Minister on the case of a Bolivian. The Minister would know that not so long ago there was an insurrection in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, during which people with strong trade union backgrounds had to take a run across the border. Some of their relatives who had to come to Australia three years ago are in the same situation as the refugees.
I am trying to tell the Minister that if, as indicated by this Press release, we are sending a task force to assist East European refugees, I believe, to be evenhanded, that there should be a parallel force looking at trade unionists and other activists in the Argentine, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. I say this for a very important reason. I think that anyone here, even the Minister and his predecessor, admits that there is a limit to the number of political refugees that we can take. Within the ambit of that figure I know that the number of people to whom we would give sanctuary from Latin America- we have done it with Chile, Argentina and Uruguay- is an infinitesimal percentage of our overall intake. I will probably have an opportunity during the Estimates Committee hearings to probe the Press release of the Minister about East Europe a bit more.
I sincerely believe that over the next few weekends the first thing that the Paraguayan, Bolivian, Chilean and possibly other Latin American communities will say to me is: ‘What about a similar venture in our country?’ I think it is a very reasonable request. I do not see a large number of people being included. Often it is the people who lead resistance who are the targets. I conclude on this note: Perhaps the Minister can indicate what his intentions are in the future if we are going to be doing these independent refugee trawling operations. I do not say that disparagingly. I would like to believe that we help the Latin American continent which, on Amnesty International evaluation, has continuous political suppression.
– Tonight I wish to raise an issue that I have brought before the Senate several times in the past 1 5 months. I refer to the increasing ownership of Australian private hospitals by American companies seeking to make profits within the
Australian health system. I am motivated particularly by an article from Michael Smith in San Francisco that appeared in the Melbourne Age on 25 September 1979. It is entitled ‘Hospital patients at a premium’. The article states:
Book into the Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas on a weekend and be in the draw for a free $4,000 cruise.
At the Orlando regional medical centre in Florida, enrol in a physical fitness program where you can use a running track and get specialist monitoring of your diet and exercise progress. Just keep the place in mind when you need a hospital bed.
More American hospitals are turning to blatant spruiking for patients to keep their beds full. Full-page newspaper advertisements and television commercials are being used to lure the nation ‘s sick.
Hundreds of America’s 7,000 hospitals have hired marketing men and started campaigns to attract businesses.
Some health officials claim hospitals are offering doctors leased cars, paid holidays and even cash commissions in return for patient bookings.
America, like Australia, has too many hospital beds. The falling birth rate has dried up a significant section of demand for hospital beds. So many hospitals are competing with each other for the available patients that closures of private hospitals are inevitable.
Hospitals once frowned on marketing, advertising and promotion, but now these are the tools they use to stay in business.
Worried health officials believe the impact on health costs could be enormous if the campaigns create artificial demand. But nothing can be done to stop a private hospital marketing its services.
Americans are expected to spend $229,000 million on health care this year and the spending is rising at about oneandahalf times the rate of inflation.
Programs to cut the expense will be a feature of the coming Presidential campaign. But meanwhile hospitals are having an open spending season for business survival.
In recent years ambitious hospital administrators have been blamed for part of the cost spiral, for buying too many of the sophisticted new medical machines that can cost up to $1 million each.
Every hospital wanted the latest equipment even though there was limited demand in each geographical area. Hospitals realised that if they couldn’t offer doctors the equipment they wanted they would go somewhere else. No hospital can survive without the doctors who admit the patients.
Now hospitals are courting doctors in new ways to keep them in their own wards and operating theatres. A Dallas hospital spent $ 1 2.5 million on a building to provide doctors with low-rent offices, an exercise club, three restaurants and a hotel. The 200 doctors who have rooms in the building now admit more than half the hospital ‘s patients.
The extra costs eventually find their way on to the patients’ bills. But the hospitals that keep their beds full will be the ones to survive the coming crunch.
On Tuesday I received an answer to Question No. 2024 that I had placed on the Notice Paper on 9 October 1 979. We now have some details on the extent of multinational investment in our hospitals. I will use the name of the parent American company. The Hospital Corporation of America has received foreign investment approval to purchase nine existing Australian hospitals and it is planning or building four more. The off-shoot of Hospital Affiliates International has bought two and is building two more while American Medical International has bought two hospitals. The names of these hospitals, together with the number of beds and categories of beds, that is medical, surgical, et cetera, will be found on pages 536 and 537 of Hansard of Tuesday, 4 March. I point out that already these three firms own over 1,000 hospital beds in 13 existing hospitals with six more hospitals to be built.
The Nationwide program on this subject on 5 June last year referred also to National Medical Enterprises. I have no information on its investment in Australia but I have been disturbed by the approval given to Commonwealth Industrial Gases to acquire a 25 per cent interest in the President Private Hospital in Sydney. As this company, which is 59 per cent owned by British Oxygen Company Holdings Limited, is also involved in the manufacturing and marketing of medical gases and medical equipment, I am making an appeal to the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) to treat this matter much more seriously than he has been because the desirability of such vertical integration in the health care field is very questionable and needs thorough investigation. There is a danger that business criteria will be more important to such owners than medical criteria. All these companies have shareholders who will be wanting a good return on their capital, not only from the actual hospital itself but also from the ancillary businesses. In America they are also into pathology and advanced technology. Both of these areas are costly and susceptible to over usage. In Australia the ultimate cost is borne by the taxpayer. No private patient pays the actual cost of any extensive medical and hospital treatment.
The Minister, in his answer to my question, has acknowledged that there are too many hospital beds and that there is over usage. In fact he has revealed that the previous Minister for Health wrote last year to all State Health Ministers requesting that new beds should be approved only in exceptional circumstances until the Jamieson Commission of Inquiry had reported to the Government. The previous Minister backed away from his responsibility in this area and ignored his power to influence decisions through the Foreign Investment Review Board. He passed the buck to the States and said that he had no legislative authority to prevent these foreign companies from entering the private hospital industry here. What son of advice did he get from his Department? Surely the Department of Health should have looked at the whole question. If it and the Minister had opposed this new trend in Australian hospitals on sound health economics criteria, surely the Foreign Investment Review Board would have taken notice. The Board must, under its charter, refer each application for entry of foreign capital to the relevant Minister. I am asking that the new Minister look more closely at his powers.
I might mention in passing that I noticed in the newspapers that one of the small group of top American businessmen to attend the luncheon that the Australian Consulate in Los Angeles arranged for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his recent overseas trip was the President of American Medical International. As the new Minister for Health was also present, I would imagine that some lobbying was done. I would hope that the new Minister for Health would look at the long term implications of such foreign investment in Australian hospitals. It is also to be hoped that the Jamieson Commission of Inquiry into the Efficiency and Administration of Hospitals will assess the long term implications of having our hospitals run for private profit and ultimately controlled from overseas. What may be acceptable in some areas of the economy is surely not to become the pattern in social institutions such as hospitals.
It is rather surprising that there has been almost no public debate on this subject. It seems that most people do not know that big business backed by big money has been buying a steadily increasing chunk of the private hospital sector in Australia. I repeat what I said earlier about the largest of these which is the Hospital Corporation of America. Its move into Australia is part of the company’s stated plan to develop foreign markets in case the United States Federal and State governments apply controls which could severely limit the profitability of their domestic hospital investments. That is stated quite bluntly in an interview with one of their principal directors, Dr Thomas Frist Junior in the Journal Modern Health Care of August 1978.
We must ask ourselves whether we want our hospitals run by companies whose primary concern may well be the interests of their investors. Do we want the inequalities of the American system of medical and hospital care, and do we want our hospitals undertaking wasteful advertising and slick salesmanship?
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) is here, and I realise that he is a very busy man, but I hope that he will understand the urgency of the Government’s looking closely at this matter. Someone mentioned the Forsyth Saga at an earlier stage. This seems to be a saga that I am continuing, but the foresight that I am seeking will be to the advantage of Australia if the Government examines my suggestions closely.
- Mr President, before we reassemble in the Senate the observance of Commonwealth Day will have taken place. For personal and public reasons T would like to make reference to it. For some dme now there has been an observance on the second Monday in March in recognition of Commonwealth Day. All of the 40 member nations of the Commonwealth have by proclamation agreed to this day which this year falls on Monday 10 March. The nature of the Commonwealth is well known. It is a somewhat strange alliance of nations bound together not by geography but by history. While some may have questions regarding its relevance in a modern international society, it is true that in practical terms the Commonwealth of Nations has done a tremendous amount in the international sphere to promote the ideals of co-operation and good relationships between nations.
In realistic terms the Commonwealth Secretariat in London promotes and organises a wide range of programs designed to establish and confirm these good relationships. The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation is just one of these activities providing opportunities for students, trainees and others to receive scholarships and technical experience. In our own sphere, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a major international organisation with members throughout the world and each of them representing parliaments and legislatures with their particular relationships to governments. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association recently completed a successful conference in New Zealand and a report on this conference was tabled in the Senate this week. The debates related to the substantial issues of our time. These included the east- west and north-south gulfs and methods of practical assistance to developing countries. In addition, the Commonwealth of Australia branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is active in this region of the world through its programs of seminars, conferences and study exercises. It also promotes exchanges and various items of assistance throughout the Commonwealth countries in Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific.
This week we received from the Headquarters Secretariat of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, London, from Sir Robin Vanderfelt, the Secretary-General, a message conveyed by the chairman of the Central Executive of the CPA. He at present is the Honourable Ripton Macpherson, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Jamaica. I quote from that message:
Within the Commonwealth, there is continuous wideranging inter-governmental co-operation in such areas as education, health, youth, law and various forms of technical assistance. It is, however, the special responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to actively encourage the growth and development of appropriate Parliamentary systems within the Member states of the Commonwealth.
Later on the message continues:
This strong sense of community continues through parliamentarians providing leadership in the pursuit of new cooperative relationships.
Of the 40 member states of the Commonwealth, 22 are republics. A few have their own sovereign, and in 14 the Queen is head of state. However, all of the 40 members of the Commonwealth recognise the Queen as a symbol of the free association of peoples and as such the head of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a growing organisation. It is the oldest association of states on earth and Commonwealth Day, on Monday, 10 March, is an occasion to give recognition to its work and its worth. As a result of my own personal association and experience in Commonwealth matters, I am glad to make these references to the Senate tonight.
– I apologise to the Senate for keeping it at this late hour, but I shall be very brief. I rise only to place on record that on 1 6 January I wrote to the Minister for Science and the Environment, Mr David Thomson, concerning the proposed transfer of a division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to Hobart from Cronulla in New South Wales. In that letter I sought from the Minister an assurance that the recommendation of the executive of CSIRO would not be subject to any political pressure to ensure that it was in fact not transferred to Hobart but to some other place.
I did so on the basis of a letter which the Premier of Victoria wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser) on 8 January in which he sought support from the Prime Minister, and therefore the Government, for the relocation of that division of CSIRO in Melbourne rather than
Hobart. Despite the fact that I wrote to the Minister on 16 January, I did not receive any acknowledgment or any reply to my inquiry until 4 March. I add that by coincidence there was a Press statement by another member of this Parliament concerning this matter on the very day that I received the reply from the Minister. I will dismiss that as being coincidental. I place on record the fact that I waited seven weeks before the Minister made any reply to my letter, but by a remarkable coincidence another member of the Parliament issued a Press statement on the matter on that very day.
Briefly, it is quite obvious that the Government is under some pressure to influence the decision of the CSIRO executive in the transfer of this facility from Cronulla in New South Wales to Hobart. I hope that the Minister, in his wisdom, will not bow to that pressure because from the information available to me the CSIRO has looked extensively at this issue and has determined, in its judgment, that that division of the CSIRO should be transferred to Hobart. I hope that the Minister and the Government will see fit to ensure that it is in fact transferred to that city.
– I, too, apologise for keeping the Senate but it will be for only a moment. I wish to discuss certain arrangements relating to the entrance for visitors to Parliament House, particularly the entrance by the front steps leading into Kings Hall. I make no comment on the security arrangements which are thought to be necessary and which have been provided. It seems to me that an undue burden is presently placed on the attendants at the front steps in that as visitors approach those steps the attendants have to race down to them, block the people coming up the steps and then scramble back up, and as their backs are turned another group of tourists or visitors approaches those steps and the attendants scramble down again. It is a situation which I think places undue strain on those attendants.
It seems that it would be a simple matter if some signposts were provided of a modest and moveable type, such as those that stand at the entrance to our lobbies, directing visitors to the understairs entrance. At the moment there is a small lit panel near the understairs entrance, but it is not seen by people approaching the major stairs leading into Parliament House, which normally visitors expect to use to enter Parliament House. I simply ask that those responsible for these arrangements take a look at the situation with a view to relieving the attendants of what seems to be an unnecessary burden. I think this is particularly necessary as we approach more inclement weather in the Budget sitting. We are here only for the Budget sittings, but those attendants have to be there right through the middle of winter. It seems to me that it would be helpful if such signposting were provided for them.
– There have been five contributions to this debate tonight. I refer firstly to the two main matters raised by Senator Mulvihill. The first concerned a Korean case. My advice is that this is currently the subject of court proceedings and it would be improper to comment publicly on the matter. I understand that the action arises out of allegations that certain migration applicants in Korea falsely claimed to have certain trade training and produced false documentation to substantiate that claim.
The second matter Senator Mulvihill raised related to a task force to Vienna. My understanding is that the decision to send a task force to Vienna was primarly a response to a substantial increase in the numbers of eastern European refugees being granted temporary asylum in Austria. The numbers in Austria in early 1980 were 60 to 80 per cent greater than those in that country one year earlier. Australia, in common with other refugee resettlement countries, is anxious to encourage countries of temporary asylum to continue to provide such asylum to newly arriving refugees. The Austrian refugee task force, through expediting the resettlement of refugees currently in Austria, will assist that country’s asylum for refugees who might arrive over forthcoming months.
Australia has provided, in its 1979-80 refugee program, for some refugees from Latin America. However, it is reported that the existing staff of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Buenos Aires and Santiago are fully able to process all refugees interested in settling in Australia. Indeed, the numbers coming forward are few. It appears likely that not all of the places provided in this year’s program will be taken up. It would therefore have been a serious miscalculation of scarce staff resources to have sent a task force to Latin America rather than to Austria. That is my understanding.
Senator O ‘Byrne raised matters regarding the assertion that there is a heavy and growing investment of American capital into private hospitals and ancillary services in Australia. I have no specific knowledge of the matter. I will bring the matter to the attention of my colleague the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar). I thank Senator Davidson for his recognition of Commonwealth Day and his appropriate words. Indeed, I received a letter from you, Mr President, drawing my attention to this matter. I understand that in another place the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made an appropraite acknowledgment.
Senator Wriedt raised a matter regarding the Commonwealth Scientific Investigation and Research Organisation. The whole matter is entirely new to me. I am not aware of the details at all. I will seek out the reasons for the assertions made by Senator Wriedt and see whether I can get him a reply. I have pondered on Senator Tate ‘s comments. I believe there is a need for those approaching Parliament House to have a clear understanding that if they are visitors they must go to the subterranean entrances. This, of course, is a matter for the Presiding Officers. I have no doubt, Mr President, you have taken those remarks on board.
– I would like to inform the Minister and Senator Tate that this matter of adequate and appropriate entrance signs has received and is receiving consideration. At the moment it is a matter of determining what will be the most effective signs to use. The matter to which the honourable senator referred is receiving our consideration at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.8 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 18 March 1980, unless otherwise called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
Has any action been taken to place Moreton Island on the National Heritage list.
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 am advised by the Australian Heritage Commission that it advertised its intention to enter Moreton Island on the Register of the National Estate in the Commonwealth Gazette of 17 January 1978
A number of objections have been received on the Heritage Commission’s intention to list Moreton island in the Register of the National Estate and these are currently being evaluated by the Australian Heritage Commission. It is expected that these submissions will be considered by the end of July 1980.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
– The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Statistics on Birth Deformities (Question No. 2432)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 27 February 1 980:
Have any public funds been allocated to Father Glover’s Retirement Villages and Accommodation, 552-554 Malvern Road. Prahran, Victoria: if so, what amounts.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am advised that the Department of Social Security has not provided funds to Father Glover’s Retirement Villages and Accommodation.
Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking in New South Wales
– On 7 November 1979 (Hansard, page 1968) Senator Cavanagh asked me, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, a question without notice, concerning criticism contained in the report of the New South Wales Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking about the lack of co-operation given it by the Narcotics Bureau.
The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Procedures were established by the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales to facilitate the exchange of information between Commonwealth and State sources relevant to the Australian and New South Wales Royal Commissions. Within the framework of these procedures cooperation was maintained between relevant Commonwealth departments and authorities and the New South Wales Royal Commission on a wide range of matters.
With regard to the instance raised by the honourable senator, the then Federal Bureau of Narcotics liaison officer in Bangkok was instructed to assist where possible with arrangements for the visit by the Royal Commissioner and his stall’ to Thailand, lt was considered, however, that as the officer’s role in Thailand was of an operational nature, briefing on Thai policy in the narcotics field generally would more appropriately be provided by a Foreign Affairs officer of the Embassy in Bangkok, and this briefing was in fact provided.
The Royal Commissioner has acknowledged the assistance he received and the benefit he derived from the discussions he had in Bangkok.
Towards the end of November last year the Royal Commissioner paid a further visit to Thailand and the Commonwealth was happy to be able to facilitate his travel and discussions in that country.
Health Tax Stamp
– On 19 February 1980 (Hansard, page 14), Senator Walters asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning a health tax stamp on packets of cigarettes as a means of raising funds for medical research.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
There are presently no specific proposals under consideration by the Government relating to the introduction of an additional excise or tax on cigarettes as a means of raising funds for medical research.
However, 1 can assure the honourable senator that the Government is aware of the harmful effects of smoking. My Department will continue to support all action against smoking and the promotion of non-smoking as the norm, in an attempt to reduce the very high health care and social welfare expenditures that result from smoking.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800306_senate_31_s84/>.