31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received through His Excellency the Governor-General from the Governor of the State of Victoria a certificate certifying the choice of Laurence William Neal as a senator to fill the vacancy in the representation of that State caused by the resignation of Senator the Honourable James Joseph Webster. The certificate will be laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
The Clerk then laid on the table and read the certificate of election ofLaurence William Neal for the State of Victoria.
Senator Laurence William Neal made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
- Senator Neal, I congratulate you, warmly welcome you and wish you well.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) left Australia on 14 March to visit the United States of America and Canada to have discussions on energy matters. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) will act as Minister for National Development and Energy, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) will act as VicePresident of the Executive Council and will represent the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in this chamber, and I will act as Leader of the Government in the Senate and will represent the other Ministers normally represented by Senator Carrick until his return on 24 March.
I also inform the Senate that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) left Australia on 16 March to visit the Middle East. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) will act as Minister for Trade and Resources until Mr Anthony’s return on 3 April. I also inform the Senate that the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) left Australia on 8 March to visit Geneva to attend a conference to discuss an alternative site for the Olympic Games. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) will act as Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the
Capital Territory until Mr Ellicott ‘s return on 24 March.
– by leave- I move:
Although we have a government of tourists as well as a tourist Prime Minister, clearly there are special reasons for Senator Carrick ‘s absence from the Senate. For the past three weeks of sitting he has consistently misled the Senate on matters directly pertaining to his ministerial responsibility. He is running away from a censure motion, just as another Minister did 18 months ago.
– I take a point of order. I object to the words used by Senator Walsh when he said that Senator Carrick has misled the Senate.
– That is a personal reflection.
– I will withdraw the words if that is necessary. Senator Carrick ‘s behaviour in the Senate in relation to matters directly within his ministerial control has been such that he is facing a censure motion. He is running away from the censure motion in conformity with the precedent set 1 8 months ago by another Minister who, when he was in trouble, concocted an excuse to go overseas on a tour. That Minister ultimately had to face the music, and so will Senator Carrick.
– I think that Senator Walsh’s motion needs to be dealt with immediately. Senator Walsh alleged that Senator Carrick has run away- I think that was the phrase he used- from a censure motion. No notice of such a motion has been given. Whatever Senator Walsh or his colleagues may imagine is not something of which we should be expected to take notice. Senator Carrick ‘s visit to the United States of America to have discussions on energy matters has been arranged for some little time. I do not have the exact details of when it was arranged. It was certainly arranged before we were last here. I have known for some time that he would be away. There cannot be any suggestion that he suddenly decided to go away. That is the answer to the matters raised by Senator Walsh.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the motion. Since no one has taken the opportunity to seek leave to continue his remarks, the debate is still open.
– Where is Senator Keeffe today?
-Senator Keeffe is not a Minister responsible to this Parliament nor is he part of the government of the day. I would like to extend what Senator Walsh had to say. Now three Ministers will be out of the country at one time. When one recalls the criticisms made of the Australian Labor Party Government, one is entitled to make a few caustic remarks about the continual travelling overseas of Ministers of this Government and about the way in which they conceal that travel in the various estimates which come before Senate Estimates committees. It is about time the Government appreciated that the problems are very much Australian problems to be solved here and not overseas. It would be far better if the three Ministers concerned were to be facing the Parliament. We have a situation also where there are now four Ministers in the Senate responsible for the record of the Government. I say, with some concern for their welfare, that they have to carry an exceptionally heavy load. But one must support Senator Walsh’s remarks about Senator Carrick. He has baited us and, although perhaps he has not misled us, he has certainly been guilty of giving a considerable amount of misinformation to the Senate, for which he needs to answer.
– That is your judgment.
– Well, it is our judgment, of course. Our judgment is that he misinformed the Senate on a number of occasions. Now that is a little more gentle than saying he misled us. I know from experience that one cannot use the word ‘misled’ and get away with it, as Senator Rae will possibly remind me. But Senator Carrick has been responsible for making statements to this place for which he should be here to answer, and he is not here. I am not going to seek leave to continue my remarks. I will leave that for someone else to do.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– I present the following petition from 41 citizens of Australia:
To The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned quadriplegics and severely disabled and concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the financially disadvantaged ‘The Disabled’ are being continually burdened over many years and now ask redress. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should request that:
Social Security payments be calculated to take into account the cost of surgical appliances and other items which are used daily for normal personal health, care and activity by Quadriplegics and persons with similar disabilities.
Mobility allowance or a petrol allowance be paid regardless of place of residence to cover part of the cost of using a motor vehicle. A motor vehicle is the only practical means of transport and this cost falls very heavily on Quadriplegics and persons with similar disabilities on limited incomes.
Exemption of sales tax on new motor vehicles and parts granted to severely disabled persons who are at home and receive a pension.
Domiciliary nursing care be increased from $2.00 to $4.00 per day or alternatively a nursing home allowance equal to half the invalid pension be paid to a spouse or attendant, per week, who gives daily care to a severely disabled person.
In support of the claims we draw your attention to:
Survey of Quadriplegia N.S.W. No. 1 1977
Department Social Security Canberra
Rehabilitation in Australia, Royal Commission Report
Justice Woodhouse and Mears 1 974
Law and persons with handicaps: Justice Bright. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Rocher, I present the following petition from 100 citizens of Australia:
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 the proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people over 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1 970 to over 10 per cent by 1 990 and about 1 6 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for self-provision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
Remove contributions paid by the taxpayer to superannuation funds from the rebate system and make them a separate deduction from assessable income.
Allow as such deduction amounts necessary to provide the individual with a reasonable retirement benefit as defined from time to time by the Commissioner of Taxation.
Remove life insurance premiums paid from the rebate system and make them a separate deduction from assessable income also.
Allow such a deduction to take the form of a flat rebate of 20 per cent of life insurance premiums up to a limit of $2,500.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
The Deputy Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth-
That currently discrimination in provision of work, in appointment to jobs and in promotion exists in Australia on particular grounds including, inter alia, grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status, pregnancy and/or sex;
That currently discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits is exercised against particular groups of individuals- in particular, against married women.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of individuals under federal awards, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, 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 sex and/or marital status.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
To the Honourable the President and Membersof the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that the 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 every pray. by Senator Missen.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that on 30 January this year the Prime Minister, in Washington, offered the United States of America use of Cockburn Sound near Perth as a major aircraft carrier base? Was any assessment made before making the offer of the risk of the Perth area becoming a prime nuclear target in war? Was the Minister for Defence aware that the offer was to be made at that time?
-When the Prime Minister was in the United States of America at the time referred to by the honourable senator he had discussions regarding ways in which Australia might be able to assist the United States directly. The measures discussed were the use of staging facilities, the use of the naval base at Cockburn Sound, including home porting of United States naval units, and support from our repair and maintenance facilities. These matters are still under consideration by the United States defence authorities, who have not put any specific propositions to the Australian Government. Senator Button referred to the assessment of risk. That matter would need to be considered if any specific proposals were made in relation to the matters raised in discussion by the Prime Minister. As to the question of the knowledge of the Minister for Defence at that time, I will have to refer the matter to him and ask for his response.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. The main point of my question was to ask whether the Prime Minister made such an offer. The answer seems to be yes. In view of the answer being yes, I repeat the second part of my question. Was there any assessment of the risk before the Prime Minister made this offer to the United States Government, or was itj ust another matter off the top o f his head ?
– I have already indicated that the question of risk would be taken into account. Whether it was taken into account at that discussion or just prior to it I do not know. I will refer that matter to the Prime Minister. I have indicated that the matters of risk that have been raised by Senator Button would certainly be considered before any final arrangements were made. I emphasise that in a situation of threat matters of risk are always involved, and they require assessment in the light of the nature of risk to Australia and to the world.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and refers to the Freedom of Information Bill, debate on which was adjourned by this chamber while the Bill was investigated by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. That Committee reported to the Parliament on 6 November last year. Does the Government attach great importance to the implementation of effective freedom of information legislation within the life of this Parliament? When will the Government’s response to the Senate Committee’s report be available so that debate on the Bill may continue?
– Since the report was tabled in the Senate in November last year a great deal of work has been done by officers of my Department in particular and by me in relation to the report and a response to it. That work has been substantially completed by my departmental officers and I have now settled the form of recommendation I will be making to the Government in regard to its response to the report. I cannot say just when the Government will be considering the recommendations I have made, but it is certainly the intention that the Government should consider the report and respond to it during this session. I hope that there will be an opportunity for debate on it in this session, but at this stage it is a little difficult to say when that will be possible. It will depend on the nature of the legislative program and the progress made with it. Certainly it is intended that the Government’s response to the Senate Committee’s report should be made during this session.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to the guidelines used in her Department for the lodging of income statements by people in rural areas who receive unemployment benefits. I ask the Minister: What instructions have been given to offices and have these instructions in relation to this matter been changed recently, particularly those instructions concerning the distance from offices and conditions which exempt people from lodging such claims? My question is prompted by the fact that a 59-year-old man living 25 kilometres from the nearest office of the Department of Social Security where there is no public transport has been refused unemployment benefit because he was unable to lodge his claim in person.
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI will need to make inquiries in the Department as to whether any changes have been made recently. I will see whether I can have an answer for Senator Grimes before the end of Question Time.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware and concerned that after adequate trials, the three telephone book system for Tasmania is still proving costly and wasteful and provides no advantages to the users? In answer to questions asked two or three years ago the then Minister promised a review after a reasonable period. Does the Minister see the period of trial now as reasonable? Will he undertake customer research to confirm the general desire for the previously used, tried, proved and preferred system involving one book only?
– I understand that this matter was raised by Tasmanian senators in about 1 978. They saw the Minister for Post and Telecommunications then and discussed this problem with him. I assume that is the discussion referred to by the honourable senator in his question. The difficulties in the way of giving the answer that the honourable senator wants are that the information which has come to hand since that time seems to indicate that there is not a very substantial demand for the consolidation of the three books into one. The attitude of Telecom Australia is also affected by the fact that the estimate of the cost of combining the three directories is that the cost would rise from about $0.85m for the present directories to about $ 1 . 85m with the consolidation.
The statistics on this matter which have been made available to me are quite interesting. A recent traffic dispersion study of Tasmanian calls shows that fewer than four calls in 100 in Hobart are made to outside the immediate area. Three subscriber trunk dialling areas are involved. Each book covers one STD area. Four calls in 100 from Launceston and Burnie subscribers are to areas outside those covered by the local directories. So relatively few non-local calls are being made. In addition, even though that is the case, the number of calls per service made to directory assistance in Tasmania is the lowest in Australia. Notwithstanding the three telephone books, in fact fewer people are seeking directory assistance in Tasmania than anywhere else. One would have thought that if there was substantial inconvenience caused by the present format the reverse would be true.
The other factor that is influencing Telecom is that in 1971 when the three book arrangement was brought in, 68,000 other area books were supplied to subscribers. The following year the number dropped to 30,000 and currently there are even fewer. So in fact the number of subscribers requesting books has dropped away. My further information is that remarkably few representations have been made about this matter. The Tasmanian Tourist Council has been making representations but there have been few other complaints about the matter. Currently there are no plans for further customer research although Telecom is constantly monitoring community acceptance of its directories. It regards the present situation as indicating that there is good community acceptance of the Tasmanian arrangement.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, refers to the proposed downgrading of Darwin Airport’s rescue and fire-fighting service to category 7. 1 note the opposition to this move expressed by both major parties in the Northern Territory and by the union involved. I ask whether, given the increase in traffic last week occasioned by the industrial situation in New South Wales, the Minister will reconsider his decision. He will be aware that the equipment and personnel provided under a category 7 rating could not handle an emergency such as might be associated with the use of Darwin as an alternative port for large aircraft.
– Honourable senators will no doubt remember that recently Senator Kilgariff asked me a question relating to a similar matter but without the additional factor that Senator Robertson has raised today of the diversion of aircraft due to industrial troubles. My recollection of the information which I had before me at the time of Senator Kilgariff’s question and which I put before the Senate was that the manning of Darwin is in accordance with established international standards relating to the volume of traffic of an airport. I pointed out at that time that there are other airports in
Australia, including international airports, with a lower rating and hence a different standard of fire prevention service than Darwin. The honourable senator has, however, raised an additional factor in his question. I will refer that to the Minister for Transport to see whether that does affect the rating system and, more importantly, whether it does affect the actual safety situation at Darwin. I will let the honourable senator have a further reply when I have more information.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of the Federal Aviation Administration’s proposed training rules for pilots which require a pilot of a commuter aircraft to have at least 10 hours time on type before operating commercial flights with a single-engine aircraft, 15 hours for a multiengine piston aircraft, 20 hours for a multiengine turbine aircraft and 25 hours for a turbojet aircraft? Is he also aware that the new regulations require the pilot to have at least 100 hours of time on type before operating commercially under instrument flight regulations without a co-pilot? Is the Department of Transport presently studying the requirements for pilots of commuter aircraft within Australia? Will the Minister advise the Senate of the rules which apply when practicable? In particular, can the Minister advise the Senate of the hours on type of the pilot of the aircraft that crashed recently in Sydney?
-The matter which Senator Townley has raised is no doubt of interest to all honourable senators as, I suppose, no other group in Australia uses commuter aircraft more frequently. I do not have the detailed information that he has requested. I will have to seek it from the Minister. Through the Minister, I will advise the Senate of the rules which apply. I will also get answers to the other points which have been raised by the honourable senator.
– I am very worried about the reply given by Senator Durack to the supplementary question asked by Senator Button when Senator Durack stated that risk is involved in operations such as the one at Cockburn Sound. Therefore I ask Senator Durack, as the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Did the Prime Minister recognise the risk involved, which, in this day and age, could be an atomic risk, to the city of Perth and did he believe that the benefits to be obtained from offering the base to the Americans justified the risk of an atomic attack on the city of Perth?
– I said in answer to that question that an assessment was made by the Prime Minister in relation to this matter before the discussion in Washington which was the subject of Senator Button’s question. I will refer this matter to the Prime Minister for his answer to it. I have provided the information I have in relation to the matter. The Senate is entitled to have that information provided by him. I was not present, of course. I will seek to get that information from the Prime Minister himself. I have nothing further to add to what I have already said.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer him to the comments of Dr L. R. Smith of the Australian National University’s health research group in a discussion paper of October 1 978 regarding the collection of statistics in respect of the health problems suffered by Aboriginal children. Will the Minister comment on Dr Smith’s claim that Australia stands alone among Western countries in not collecting routine official statistics which would document the health of its indigenous minority on a national basis? Is it correct, as alleged by Dr Smith, that there is not a single health area in which Aboriginal statistics are available on a national basis? What are the reasons underlying this apparent lack of precise data? Does the Minister agree that the unavailability of statistical data has made the possibility of effective intervention, either clinical or preventive, virtually impossible? Does he also agree that without it there has been no means of assessing the size and nature of the health problems of Aboriginal communities and no means of evaluating the success or otherwise of such programs as have been implemented? What action will be taken to remedy this situation so as to ensure that appropriate medical treatment for the health problems of Aboriginal children can be implemented?
-The Dr Smith referred to by the honourable senator in his question was engaged by the Depanment of Health to collect available base line statistical information in relation to Aboriginals to enable the development of comprehensive Aboriginal health statistical information on a national basis. Unfortunately, until this time Aboriginals have not been separately identified nationally in vital statistical collections. I think that really answers the last part of the honourable senator’s question. Action is being taken to try to remedy the deficiency that the honourable senator raised in his question and the engagement of Dr Smith is a part of that action. I agree that we do not have these collections. I am not able to say that they are available in all other countries which have an indigenous minority.
The lack of uniformity of legislation and other health reporting systems throughout Australia has prevented the presentation of Aboriginal health information on a national basis. In fact, in some places there has been a failure to keep any records on the basis of racial origin. Of course, at times that has been seen as a matter of principle. I think it is only recently that there has been a deal of pressure, including pressure from Aboriginals, towards having that separate identification so that more complete statistics can be developed. Aboriginals progressively are being identified in various health indicators. For example, hospital morbidity information is being collected in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales and South Australia. However, the information which is collected is not uniform. Endeavours to increase the availability of this information on an Australia-wide basis are proceeding.
I do not altogether agree with the third part of the honourable senator’s question, which was in terms of the unavailability of statistical data making it impossible to have effective intervention. No doubt that has been a problem but, at the same time, health services are being provided for Aboriginals throughout Australia, often by Aboriginals and I think that most observers would say that those services certainly are contributing to Aboriginal health. In the absence of the sorts of statistics to which the honourable senator has referred, it is difficult to be precise about the extent to which existing measures are improving Aboriginal health. Our concern about this is reflected in part by the program effectiveness review which is currently under way and which is examining Aboriginal health programs in which the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Health and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are all involved. Whilst there are difficulties in assessing progress, I think that most people would say that some progress is being made.
There are also problems in Australia where Aboriginal communities have environmental conditions which certainly are not conducive to good health care. Quite apart from the matter of statistical deficiencies, there would be general agreement that those environmental deficiencies are an important factor in any lack of progress. The point is that some effort is being made- Dr Smith is a pan of that effort- to overcome the statistical difficulties to which the honourable senator has referred. His appointment is a part of a series of things being done in an attempt to improve what everybody agrees is a quite unsatisfactory Aboriginal health situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Workers in the Government Printing Office in Melbourne believe that they are printing call-up papers for young Australian men and women. Is the Federal Government having any papers printed that could be used for this purpose?
-I think that several weeks ago Senator Lewis asked me whether the Government was contemplating national service or conscription. I indicated very clearly, and I re-affirm, that the Government has no plans for any national service, conscription or call-up in the sense in which Senator Melzer now asks her question. I have no knowledge of what papers are being handled by the Government Printing Office in Melbourne. There may be a perfectly obvious explanation for the papers referred to. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Defence.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: With whom does responsibility rest for determining whether cruise ships meet acceptable public health standards? Is the Department of Health aware of reports in the Canadian Medical Association’s journal in 1978 that up to twothirds of a sample of cruise ships failed to reach acceptable public health standards, although apparently the situation improved in the following year? What is the situation with regard to ships visiting this country? What obligations devolve upon travel agents to advise prospective passengers on the state of health on the passenger ships on which their clients will travel?
-I understand that responsibility in respect of insanitary conditions favourable to the spread of communicable disease found on vessels while in Australian ports rests with quarantine officers appointed under the Quarantine Act. Senator Baume referred to a report relating to Canadian ships. The Department of Health is aware of that report. Inspections for insanitary conditions are undertaken on every ship visiting Australia. Conditions vary, but in general they are regarded as satisfactory. Occasional deficiencies are encountered and when that occurs the master of the ship is required to rectify the inadequacies which have been found. In answer to the last part of the question, I state that the Department of Health is not aware of any obligations on travel agents to advise prospective passengers of health standards on passenger ships. I will seek further information on that for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. By way of preface, I refer to an event which occurred on 7 March when I, in company with Senator Puplick, heard the Prime Minister pledge that in accordance with world conservation strategy, Kakadu National Park would be placed on the world heritage list and that the Coburg Peninsula wet lands also would be given a special world rating. I now ask the Minister: As we often look to the United States of America for inspiration, does that pledge by the Prime Minister mean that the Government will adopt the principles followed by the United States in respect of Alaska, under which both the President and the Minister for the Interior have decreed that 96 million acres of land will be permanently off limits for any mineral exploration whatsoever? As the Prime Minister has now gone on record eulogising Kakadu National Park, does this mean that no mining whatsoever will be undertaken in the area, as envisaged in the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry?
– I am not aware of the pledge to which Senator Mulvihill has referred. It must have been made at an event at which he was present. I will refer the question to the Prime Minister and seek his answer.
-I ask the Minister a supplementary question, Mr President. I do not think that the Minister quite got the thrust of my original question. One-third of Alaska is off limits for mining and mining is permitted in two-thirds of the State. I am really asking whether we can have the same ratio of land use in the Northern Territory under Federal powers.
-I think that the honourable senator is really repeating the question which I said I would refer to the Prime Minister.
-Is the Minister for Special Trade Representations aware of reports by Mr Ian Russell, a well-known Queensland businessman, President of the Queensland Confederation of Industry and leader of a recent trade mission to South East Asia, that Australia ‘s trading credibility is being damaged by reports of industrial strikes in Australia? Will the Minister indicate whether the Government has received adverse reports from overseas customers in the wake of the crippling strike by storemen and packers in the wool industry?
– I am interested in the honourable senator’s question. It is perfectly normal that industrial unrest in Australia or, indeed, in any other country must be of concern to nations with which we have close trading and commercial contact. Of course, the nations of South East Asia are no exception. They would express concern at anything that might jeopardise the reliability of Australia as a supplier, just as Australia would express a similar concern if supplies that were imperative to it were jeopardised from whatever cause. I note the comments of the honourable senator. I am sure that the Government and the Australian people in general are well aware of the problems that confront us as a supplier to significant nations to the north and elsewhere around the world.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that with aid from World Vision the Vietnamese authorities in Kampuchea have reopened the Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd plant in that country and are supplying free reconstituted milk to the indigenous population? What interest does the Australian Dairy Corporation still have in this plant? If it has any interest, what role, if any, is it playing in the provision of commodities and /or personnel?
-I note the question by the honourable senator. I do not have detailed answers to the matters raised. They are important matters. I shall refer the question to the appropriate Minister for an answer.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs will be aware that there are now four vacancies on the National Youth Advisory Group. As none of the current members of the group are from Tasmania, will the Minister consider filling one of the vacancies with a Tasmanian to enable the youth of Tasmania to be adequately represented?
– I was not actually aware that there were four vacancies on the National Youth Advisory Group. I am pleased to have that fact drawn to my attention by Senator Watson. It is usually the Government’s policy to endeavour to have all States represented on advisory bodies. I understand that no Tasmanian has been on the body mentioned. I am sure that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs will certainly give consideration to the appointment of a Tasmanian representative. I will refer the question to the Minister. I am sure that he will take note not only of the question but also of the fact raised in it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that many Telecom employees in South Australia are opposed to the free advertising given to the ANZ-Bank of Adelaide by way of a slip inserted in their pay packets headed ‘ANZ-Bank of Adelaide. The great new team have got together with Telecom to help you ‘, followed by reasons why employees should have their pay cheques credited to that bank? Can the Minister give the reasons for Telecom’s entering into such an arrangement and why the people’s own bank, the Commonwealth Bank, has been overlooked by Telecom?
– I am pleased to advise that, thanks to Senator Bishop, the Government has no control over this matter. He, I think, is responsible for the very fine work of establishing the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I suggest that the honourable senator might firstly await the reply which I will seek from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who will in turn have to seek a reply from Telecom. In the meantime, I suggest that Senator McLaren vent his spleen on Senator Bishop.
– Has the Attorney-General noted Press reports resulting from a recent outburst in Adelaide by Mr Justice Staples in which he blamed all and sundry for the current wool dispute? As Mr Justice Staples is a central figure who would seem to have some responsibility for this controversy, does the Minister consider it appropriate for Mr Justice Staples to make such extraordinary statements about this case?
– I am aware in general terms of the speech that was made by Mr Justice Staples in Adelaide last night. Indeed, I happened to hear an excerpt from it on the radio program AM this morning. The Minister for Industrial Relations, who is responsible for the administration of the relevant Act, has sought a full transcript of the speech. I do not know whether he has yet had time to consider it, but I know that he is concerned about it. He will be giving the matter consideration. Until he does so and has a response to make, I do not want to say anything about it.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services seen a report that a large advertising agency which conducts business in Australia is calling on all advertising agencies that do work for the Commonwealth under the Australian Government Advertising Service arrangement of payment to inform the Government that, at the beginning of the next financial year, their terms of business for Commonwealth work will be the same as those for any other client? Is the Minister aware that the advertising agency concerned does defence recruiting work for the Government and that it is a 100 per cent foreign-owned agency? Did the former Minister for Administrative Services in the Fraser Government make a statement that it was Government policy that, where creative ability was considered to be at least equal, preference of engagement would be given to Australianowned agencies? Is that still Government policy? If so, will the Minister ask the Australian Government Advertising Service to review the work being done for the Commonwealth by all foreign-owned advertising agencies, especially any matter concerned with the defence of Australia?
– The honourable senator’s question covers a whole range of matters. I do not have information on those matters immediately to hand. I shall refer the question in full to the Minister concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to a media release dated 13 March relating to the launching of an Australian wool symbol. I ask:
Firstly, does this action have the support of the Australian Wool Corporation? Secondly, is the use of the symbol to be policed by the Australian textile manufacturers; if not, by whom? Thirdly, is it the intention of manufacturers who use the symbol to use also the well-recognised Woolmark? Fourthly, does the use of this symbol indicate a departure from the previous policy of the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Corporation of promoting wool products without distinguishing in which country the wool is produced?
- Senator Thomas asked me a question as the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I will refer the question to the Prime Minister. However, I think it is probably a matter which is directly within the area of responsibility of the Minister for Primary Industry. I will certainly refer the question to that Minister as well.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. It follows the question on legal aid which I asked him in the previous sitting week of the Senate. Is the Attorney-General willing to say that the South Australian AttorneyGeneral was made aware of funding being available for the South Australian Legal Services Commission to open new regional offices? Is he willing to say that discussions on this matter were held between him and his Department and the South Australian Attorney-General? Did the South Australian Attorney-General refuse a possible offer of Commonwealth funds to the South Australian Legal Services Commission for the purpose of establishing new regional offices? If a possible offer of funding was made, is the Attorney-General willing to say why it was refused?
– As I think I said in my answer to Senator Elstob ‘s previous question, I had discussions with the South Australian Attorney-General and the South Australian Legal Services Commission when I visited Adelaide early in February. I discussed with the South Australian Attorney-General the general question of funding of legal aid in South Australia, including the establishment of regional offices. I do not think it is appropriate for me to say what was the South Australian Attorney-General’s response. Such a question should be addressed to him in his own parliament. But let me say that at no stage was an offer of funding made by the Commonwealth Government. As I thought I made clear in my previous answer, it has not got to the stage of the
Commonwealth Government offering the funds for these offices. They are matters which have to be taken into account in the Budget context. All that I have done up to this stage is to consider representations that have been made, particularly by the South Australian Legal Services Commission, in relation to this question of regional offices and I have sought the views of the South Australian Attorney-General. These are all part of the general discussions that take place in regard to formulation of policy.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport seen claims in the recent issues of the Bulletin that responsible officers of the Australian Shipping Commission or the Australian National Line are aware of the practice called ghosting, whereby members of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia collect multiple pay packets for non-existent workers? Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether the Government is completely satisfied that no officer of the Australian Shipping Commission has connived in this practice or has failed to take effective action to prevent this practice and to ensure that no fraud is perpetrated against the revenue? If it is found that any such officer has connived in this practice, will the Minister ensure that such officer is dismissed from the Commission or from the ANL?
– I did see the article which has been referred to by the honourable senator. Although I have not given it the close study that it no doubt deserves I am familiar with the general allegations which are contained in it. The Minister for Transport has asked the Australian National Line to report fully on the allegations made concerning the Line, its management and its officials. Many of the allegations in the article relate to criminal activities. If there is evidence to support those allegations the proper course is for those matters to be referred to the police authorities for investigation. If there is evidence which goes beyond that and which involves governments, the Commonwealth will discuss the matter with State governments and take appropriate action. The General Manager of ANL has rebutted the allegations in a letter to the Bulletin. He has provided the Minister- who provided mewith a copy of that letter. Since it may be of interest to honourable senators I suggest rather than read it- it is approximately a page and a half in length- that it might be incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows:
The Editor The Bulletin’ 54 Park Street Sydney, NSW 2000
There appeared in the edition of your magazine of March 19, 1980 an article titled ‘How the Government condones waterfront graft’.
I have had investigated the allegations contained in the article that ANL is making ‘ghosting’ payments to painters and dockers employed by the Line in Melbourne. Those allegations are simply not true. The Line has secure and detailed procedures relating to work payments to all its employees, including painters and dockers. According to our records, wages payments have been made to painters and dockers for hours actually worked and to those persons who have performed that work.
Insofar as the photographs accompanying the article are concerned, the actions depicted are simply and innocently explained and do not support the construction attempted to be placed on them.
Contrary to your allegation, ANL management does not condone criminal activities by any of its employees. If anyone can produce to the Line substantiated evidence that fraud or criminal activities are taking place over which the Line has control or responsibility, we will take strong and immediate action to see that such activities cease. I would also suggest that such evidence be immediately placed in the hands of the Police.
It is a pity that the Line was not given the opportunity prior to publication to reply to and correct the many inaccuracies that are contained in the article. We repeatedly requested that we be afforded that opportunity, but this was denied us. The only prior advice we received on the content of the article was that some portions of a previous draft were read over the telephone to Mr Welch for comment. That earlier draft appears to have been substantially changed prior to publication.
In relation to the quotations attributed to myself and Mr Welch, to the best of our recollection these were made in a different context and in any event are not accurate of what either of us said.
We will be taking these matters further in another forum, but I would be obliged if you would publish this reply in your next edition for the benefit of your readers.
Yours faithfully, J. L. MORGAN General Manager
– I should say that the Government would be most concerned at the sorts of allegations which have been raised and we will be very interested in seeing the full report which has been requested by the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister able to answer the question that I asked Senator Carrick on 4 March relating to the ANZUS Treaty. The question was:
Is it true that the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, made certain statements to two visiting American newspaper executives,
Mr William Randolph Hearst and Mr Kingsbury Smith, national editor of the Hearst newspapers, which were published in those American papers on 26 February and reported in the Melbourne Age of 3 March? Did the Prime Minister state or imply to those two gentlemen that he considered any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea to come within the meaning of the ANZUS Treaty and that our military co-operation would be, to quote the Prime Minister, absolute? If so, does this mean that he has committed Australia to join the United States in some or any military action in those regions? If the Prime Minister has decided on such a vital and far-reaching reinterpretation of the ANZUS Treaty, why has the Australian Parliament not been informed?
Has the Minister a reply to that question from the Prime Minister?
– Yes, the Prime Minister has supplied me with the following in answer to the question asked by Senator Chipp on 4 March. The Prime Minister’s response states: . . I do not discuss matters dealt wilh in Cabinet. With regard to the other questions raised by the honourable senator there should be no misunderstanding. During an interview with two American journalists on 20 February I noted, in answer to their question whether Australia would assist if United States forces in the Indian Ocean were attacked and needed help, that this was a hypothetical question and that circumstances would need to be taken into account. I took the opportunity to reaffirm that Australia would meet any commitments under ANZUS absolutely, and I expected the United States would meet any commitments under ANZUS. When the question of ANZUS ‘ application to the Indian Ocean was raised, I referred to Australia’s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean: reference to this geographical fact does not carry the implication suggested in the honourable senator’s question.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 448, 1 move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate from giving the Senate a complete answer to Senator Chipp ‘s question asked on 4 March, and in particular the commitments which the Prime Minister of Australia has made this year to the United States of America concerning defence arrangements.
I move this motion because this is not an unimportant question. 1 speak to the urgent necessity mentioned in Standing Order 448. It has been alleged in at least two newspapers that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has reinterpreted the meaning of the ANZUS Treaty to include the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. It is reported that he has promised that our military cooperation would be absolute. On any interpretation of the English language, that means that the Prime Minister is reported as saying that he has committed Australian troops to defence arrangements with the United States in the Indian Ocean and in the Arabian Sea.
– Order! Senator Chipp, I have listened to what you have been saying but I believe you are out of order for this reason: The Minister can reply to questions put in this place in the manner in which he thinks they should be replied to. That is the prerogative of the Minister, and always has been. Therefore, at this stage you are out of order in moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders in respect of a reply given by the Minister. He replied to the question in the way that he wished.
Senator CHIPP (Victoria- Leader of the Australian Democrats)- May I speak to your ruling, Mr President?
- Mr President, I accept the logic of your ruling, but I have waited 13 days to get an answer to a question of grave importance. I have not got an answer, even now. The Standing Orders, as you very rightly say, do not force a Minister to answer in any particular way. What I am proposing to do by moving my motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is to clear the decks entirely so that the Minister representing the Prime Minister, who is at the table, can give an answer. Under the Standing Orders, as you rightly say, he is precluded from so doing if that is his choice.
I am not talking about some piffling thing. I am talking about an alleged commitment by the Prime Minister of this country of Australian troops in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Neither were encompassed under the ANZUS Treaty. If the Prime Minister has given a personal and private commitment to the President of the United States, or even to visiting newsmen, that the ANZUS Treaty no longer means what we believed it to have meant, but means something different and more far-reaching, surely the Senate is entitled to know. If some Standing Orders preclude a Minister telling the Senate what the Prime Minister really said or really committed us to, those Standing Orders ought to be temporarily suspended to allow the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate to tell us the position. Mr President, I see some validity in your ruling, but surely Standing Orders must be suspended to allow the Senate to get information on this matter.
-I wish to support the remarks made by Senator Chipp for somewhat different reasons to those he advanced. Standing Order 448 simply provides that in cases of urgent necessity any Standing or Sessional Order of the Senate may be suspended on motion duly made and seconded without notice. We have had this debate in the Senate before, but I put it to you, Mr President, that all Senator Chipp has to establish is a question of urgent necessity which he has done, if I might say so, by the fervour of his rhetoric, if by nothing else.
-You are taking the urgency out of it at the moment.
-I am not, Senator. What you said, Mr President, was that a Minister is entitled to answer a question in any way he likes. Normally, in circumstances where exchanges take place in Question Time, senators would have redress in terms of asking further questions or supplementary questions about an answer a Minister has given. However, this is a different situation. The answer has been in suspension for 13 days now. A question was asked not just by Senator Chipp on 4 March but also by myself on 6 March. In both cases, it was indicated to Senator Carrick that at that time the questioners regarded the matter as of some importance and urgency. Only today an answer has come back which in no way deals with the substance of the questions which were asked. In those circumstances, it is submitted that this is a different situation from the one upon which you have pronounced, Mr President. In terms of the Standing Order, the matter should be put to a vote of the Senate, provided Senator Chipp ‘s motion is duly seconded.
– At this stage may I say that Senator Chipp accepted my ruling in respect of the immediacy of the matter before me, which was that Ministers may reply as they wish to questions. I point out to Senator Chipp that he has the forms of the House at his disposal to bring up matters for discussion by way of motion. In that way he could meet the situation he is aspiring to meet in this way today.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. With due respect, I believe that there are three Standing Orders in the book of Standing Orders which refer to the suspension of Standing Orders. One is Standing Order 448, which states:
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded, without notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators.
With respect, a decision on whether or not Standing Orders are suspended should be made by the Senate and not by you, Mr President. Senator Chipp has duly moved the motion -
– Which Standing Order are you talking about?
– I am talking about Standing Order 448. We are trying to suspend Standing Orders. I put it that the motion should be put to the Senate and not be the decision of the President. Senator Chipp has given his reasons, and I believe that if the motion is seconded we should vote on it.
-Mr President, I am a little at a loss to understand where we are at this point. A matter was raised by Senator Chipp in which you gave a ruling. We should not canvass the ruling you have given. If your ruling is to be dissented from, the proper procedure should be followed. Senator Chipp has made some criticisms of your ruling, but he did not move any dissent from it. Therefore, at this stage that matter is closed.
– I rise on a point of order. What is the proposal? I understand that a motion has been moved, but I am not sure whether it has been ruled out of order. I am taking a point of order that the motion ought to be ruled out of order if you have not done that as yet, Mr President. The motion is to suspend Standing Orders to enable a certain thing to be done. Standing Order 448 enables, on urgent necessity, which must be shown, some Standing Order- that is preventing something happening- to be suspended. We are not preventing anything happening.
– Try Standing Order 66.
– No. If a question is not answered satisfactorily, there are many procedures that can be taken in this chamber. Motions of urgency and so forth can be used where one is not satisfied with an answer given by a Minister. But the Minister is not being stopped from doing anything by any Standing Order whatsoever, as I understand the President’s ruling. I do not know whether the President has gone on to rule that the motion is out of order, but I submit that it is out of order because it does not seek to suspend any Standing Order. No Standing Order has been shown which prevents a Minister or any honourable senator from doing anything at this time. As there is no Standing Order that is sought to be suspended, I submit that the motion is out of order.
– You are making a farce of the suspension of Standing Orders.
– The honourable senator can move a motion, he can move an urgency motion and he can do all kinds of things. Senator Chipp is raising this matter in Question Time and of course this debate is stopping other honourable senators from actually asking their questions and trying to get their information. But there are plenty of processes, as Senator Grimes knows, which Senator Chipp and others can use. What, in fact, Senator Chipp has done is to move a motion to suspend an unknown standing order. There is no standing order which prevents in any way the answering of any question.
– I raise a question in relation to what Senator Missen has said. Obviously we follow Standing Orders and the Standing Orders state that questions are to be asked at a certain time. We have traditionally permitted an hour for the asking of questions. Therefore, no one can interrupt the asking of questions unless we alter that procedure. The way to do that is to suspend Standing Orders and not proceed any further until such time as we have decided the matter. Two questions arise. One is the matter of urgent necessity. Senator Chipp has asked for 1 3 days and Senator Button has asked for some other period for an answer which has not been received. If that situation applies to everyone we cannot complain about it but Senator Chipp points out that this is a matter of urgent necessity. It relates to the possible absolute committal of Australian troops overseas.
It is too urgent a matter to leave until some future discussion can take place in conformity with Standing Orders. This is the very reason why Standing Order 448 exists. The honourable senator considers the matter as an urgent necessity. Whether it is a question for the Senate to decide. I respectfully suggest that we ought not to decide by an absolute majority. The Standing Order containing that provision was overthrown as ultra vires of the Constitution by a decision of this Senate.
– I point out again that Question Time is a time for honourable senators to ask questions and to receive answers but it is not a time for debating matters. As I said before, if the honourable senator wishes to debate matters there are other procedures which he may use to achieve his objective.
- Mr President, surely, as a result of what you have said, it would be in order for Senator Chipp to move suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent him from receiving an answer to a question at the end of Question Time.
– You should be able to do it in Question Time.
– Not necessarily. There is a point, which may be in support of what the President has said, that Question Time is essentially for the asking of questions and the receiving of answers. If there is any question as to the answer being received, that matter can be raised at the end of Question Time. I am asking whether it would be in order for Senator Chipp to move his suspension if he gets the call at the end of Question Time.
– The freedoms of this place are such that if an honourable senator rises he will receive the call for a certain purpose. As Senator Grimes mentioned to me before, it is not for me to decide nor would I think of deciding matters which should rightly be determined by the Senate. But Question Time is not the time for bringing in this sort of matter when other procedures are available which the honourable senator can act upon to achieve his objective. That is all that I am saying. I have ruled that it is desirable for the honourable senator to bring the matter up not at Question Time but in a form in accordance with our Standing Orders. That completes this discussion.
– I shall very quickly add to an answer I gave to Senator Puplick because I think I may have been unfair to the Australian National Line in not indicating that the letter I incorporated in Hansard earlier amounts to a denial of the allegations that were made in the article referred to. People will not see this letter until Hansard is produced tomorrow and I would not wish the answer to be incomplete in the sense of not saying that the ANL has already written to the Bulletin denying the allegations made.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. As many representations are being received regarding the reuniting of East Timorese families in Australia, can the Minister advise of the present situation and progress being made under the family reunion program? How many more Timorese are expected to arrive in Australia under the present arrangements? If necessary, will the Government also negotiate a further family reunion program? Can the Minister also advise the Senate of the situation in regard to the East Timorese accepted under the reunion program obtaining exit permits in Jakarta to come to Australia and whether difficulties are being experienced by them? Finally, having in mind that the AustralianIndonesian relief programs in East Timor are reportedly now achieving good results, can the reunification of Timorese families be completed as an indication of the good faith and liaison that is now being developed between the Indonesian and Australian governments?
-I understand that in July 1978 agreement was reached with the Indonesian Government to accept, under family reunion arrangements, a total of 625 East Timorese spouses, dependent children, fiancees and aged parents of evacuees living in Australia. I am advised that a total of 289 East Timorese who were included in this list have now arrived. This figure does not include approximately 100 persons who have been accepted for family reunion from East Timor under normal policy provisions. The Minister states that the program has not proceeded as quickly as he would have liked. It is unfortunate that there have been seemingly unnecessary delays in the issue of exit authorities. The fact remains, however, that this is a matter for the Indonesian Government.
The Australian Government is continuing to discuss with the Indonesian authorities procedures under which the reunion of those still in East Timor seeking to join their relatives in Australian can be expedited. An Australian immigration officer is attached to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and applications from Timorese are processed by him. A number of Timorese who have been granted visas for Australia are presently in Jakarta awaiting approval from the Indonesian authorities to depart. Six of this group are on the agreed list. Whilst the Government shares the concern of the Timorese community about the delays in the agreed program, there would appear to be no ready justification for considering another family reunion program that would go beyond the present arrangements.
-I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether the Western Australian State Government has given any indication as to whether it is prepared to follow the report by the Western Australian Museum concerning sacred areas on Noonkanbah station and to refuse permission to Amax Exploration (Australia) Incorporated to drill in an area recommended by the Museum to have protected area status under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act.
– I think honourable senators would be aware that the dispute has been going on at Noonkanbah for some time. Indeed last July, I think, there was litigation involving the matters raised by the honourable senator and a temporary injunction was granted, which was subsequently discharged, preventing Amax from going on to certain sites and drilling. There have been a couple of areas of concern in the matter. One is the question of the protection of sacred sites and the other is the protection of the community. Over the last week or so a number of statements have been made by the Premier in relation to both of those areas. In them he has indicated the State Government’s commitment to protect identified sites and to protect the community. I have been urging the Aboriginals to make their position clear to the State Government so that those undertakings can be met and honoured.
As far as the precise point raised by the honourable senator is concerned, that is a matter which I have discussed with the Premier in the context of what is to happen if there is no agreement as to just what are the sites and so on, and who will be the identifying agent. The Premier’s advice to me is that the Western Australian Government will respect the sacred sites which the Museum has identified. That is the most recent information and advice that I have from the Premier of Western Australia.
-On 28 February 1980 Senator Rae asked me. as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the following question without notice:
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications indicate what stage has been reached in relation to the consideration of providing to northern Tasmania access to the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio second channel program? Does the Minister agree that this could be obtained relatively cheaply by relay of either the Hobart or Melbourne second network broadcast?
I have been provided with the following response from the responsible Minister:
To date the establishment of the second network of the national broadcasting service has, as a matter of policy, been confined mainly to the capital cities of Australia. Consideration is currently being given to the establishment of a second regional network in country areas, however, there remain technical, policy and economic issues to be finalised before detailed planning can commence.
In regard to the honourable senator’s specific inquiry concerning the possible relaying to northern Tasmania of either the Hobart or Melbourne second network broadcasts, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications advises that landline charges would represent only a small percentage of the establishment costs associated with such a proposal. The major problem would relate to the heavy capital expenditure involved.
– On 20 February last, Mr Speaker and I informed the Parliament that a tender had been let to a firm of consultants to identify areas where the use of information technology, in relation to the Parliament’s information systems and services, would be feasible and cost effective. Honourable senators will recall that the study is in two stages, the first of which will produce an overall plan covering the current and expected information services of the Parliamentary departments.
To accomplish this first task in the most effective manner, the requirements of senators and members are the consultants’ primary consideration. Accordingly, a letter will be sent to honourable senators today asking that they either complete a short questionnaire or, if they prefer, attend a personal interview with the consultants. As this study has the most far reaching implications for the Parliament I ask honourable senators to devote a few minutes of their time to indicating their needs and expectations for information services by either completing the written questionnaire or attending an interview.
-Arising from a matter raised by Senator Chipp at Question Time, I now move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Button moving a motion: That the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Durack, requests the Prime Minister for real and complete answers to questions asked by Senator Chipp and Senator Button by Thursday, 20 March 1980.
In order for Standing Orders to be suspended, it is necessary for me as the mover of the motion, to establish what the Standing Order describes as an urgent necessity. To do so, I have to refer to the substance of the question which Senator Chipp addressed to the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) on 4 March. Senator Chipp stated:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, a member of the Cabinet. Is it true that the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, made certain statements to two visiting American newspaper executives, Mr William Randolph Hearst and Mr Kingsbury Smith, national editor of the Hearst newspapers, which were published in those American papers on 26 February and reported in the Melbourne Age of 3 March? Did the Prime Minister state or imply to those two gentlemen that he considered any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian sea -
I emphasise ‘ and the Arabian sea ‘-
To come within the meaning of the ANZUS Treaty and that our military co-operation would be, to quote the Prime Minister, absolute? If so, does this mean that he has committed Australia to join the United States in some or any military action in those regions? If the Prime Minister has decided on such a vital and far-reaching re-interpretation of the ANZUS Treaty, why has the Australian Parliament not been informed? Was the Minister at any Cabinet meeting where this re-interpretation of ANZUS was discussed or introduced by the Prime Minister?
Senator Carrick answered that it was not his practice at Question Time to deal with matters discussed inside Cabinet. He said that the rest of the questions were appropriately addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Senator Chipp then asked this supplementary question:
I am disappointed that Senator Carrick should take so lightly a question containing such a heavy concept. This is not just a point-scoring exercise. This is about a statement in the Melbourne Age that the Prime Minister did re-interpret the ANZUS Treaty to include the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Will the Minister do better than he did before and ask the Prime Minister to answer those two specific questions and will the Minister report back to the Senate so that the Senate may debate the issue if there is any substance to the story?
Senator Carrick replied:
I certainly did not take the question lightly. As to the four questions concerning the Prime Minister, I said that I would direct them to him and seek his response. I will so do. If the Prime Minister gives a response that I can present to the Senate, I shall be very happy to do so.
Senator Chipp, following his question, wrote to Senator Carrick on 5 March indicating to Senator Carrick as Leader of the Government in this place that from today, 1 8 March, he would pursue that question. I am informed that today he has sought an answer to that very important question which he has asked. I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that, on 6 March 1980, I asked Senator Carrick a somewhat similar question. I asked:
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 asked the Minister: What will this absolute commitment entail? How does he see Australia’s present defence resources meeting such an absolute commitment? I also asked 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?
Senator Carrick answered that a question had been asked on that recently and said:
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.
That was on 6 March. He continued: 1 shall add Senator Button ‘s additional request to that, and seek an answer.
Today at Question Time, Senator Chipp was handed a bit of paper purporting to be an answer from the Prime Minister. Senator Durack read that answer to the Senate. I will read it again because it is in respect of a matter which is so important to the security of this country. This is the answer which the Prime Minister gave:
As the honourable senator knows, I do not discuss matters dealt with in Cabinet.
With regard to the other questions raised by the honourable senator there should be no misunderstanding.
That is a statement of impeccable common sense, if I may say so. He went on to say:
During an interview with two American journalists on 20 February I noted, in answer to their question whether Australia would assist if U.S. forces in the Indian Ocean were attacked and needed help, that this was a hypothetical question and that circumstances would need to be taken into account. I took the opportunity to reaffirm that Australia would meet any commitments under ANZUS absolutely, and I expected the U.S. would meet any commitments under ANZUS. When the question of ANZUS’ application to the Indian Ocean was raised, I referred to Australia’s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean; reference to this geographical fact does not carry the implication suggested in the honourable senator’s question.
This is a very important matter. The sorts of commitments which the Prime Minister makes on overseas trips or when talking to foreign journalists in Australia are matters which are vital to the security of this country, to the foreign policy of this country and, of course, to a wide ranging number of defence issues. In that answer the Prime Minister makes no reference whatsoever to any suggested commitment which he might have made in relation to the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea. He makes no reference to the question of any consultation with ANZUS partners about any commitment which we might make in respect of the Indian Ocean. As I understand it, these were the key points in Senator Chipp ‘s question. They were certainly key points in the question I asked. The Prime Minister refers to Australia’s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean as if it has some relevance to the question of Australia’s commitments under the ANZUS Treaty.
For those sorts of reasons this sloppy, evasive answer really compounds the felony of making silly commitments to American journalists if that, indeed, be the position. It ought to be a matter of vital concern to the Senate and this Parliament that the attitude of the Prime Minister on these matters be clarified. Of course it is in the context of the Prime Minister’s saying to this Parliament and to the people of Australia in January and February of this year that events in Afghanistan were the greatest threat to world peace since 1945 that Senator Chipp ‘s question and my question to a lesser extent become very important.
– A world war three days away.
-Yes, a world war three days away. If that sort of assurance by the Prime Minister is in fact correct this matter becomes of vital concern to the Australian people and the answer to Senator Chipp ‘s question and to my question become matters within the Standing Orders of urgent necessity not only to this Parliament but also to the people of Australia as a whole. It is for those reasons that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders has been moved. The motion calls upon Senator Durack as Minister representing the Prime Minister in this place to provide a real and complete answer by Thursday, 20 March- not just half an answer- to the very important questions which have been raised. The motion gives the Prime Minister three days to reply. Coincidentally, it is exactly the same period which the Prime Minister predicted would elapse before the third world war was upon us. It is in the same context that the motion gives the Prime Minister three days in which to reply to the debate which has taken place. This matter is of equal importance.
– I second the motion and will speak briefly. I would like other senators to involve themselves in this matter. I thoroughly support the motion that Senator Button has moved. I invite Government senators to support it also. No pan of the motion should preclude Government senators from voting for the suspension of Standing Orders. The motion is simply a request for Senator Durack to ask the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to answer the questions by or on next Thursday. It is an urgent matter and it conforms with Standing Order 448. Some Government senators may agree that we should extend the ANZUS Treaty to include the Indian Ocean. Some Government senators may believe we ought to make an absolute commitment to military co-operation in the Middle East. If that is their view, I respect them for it; I would disagree with them but I would respect them for having a view. Surely Government senators are entitled to know whether the Prime Minister made that commitment to two newspaper executives. One can lead on from that to ask: If he made it to two newspaper executives did he make it to the President of the United States? I believe it is vitally urgent that the Senate be given that information.
It is highly significant that the Prime Minister in his answer which I received today did not deny that he said he had committed troops to the Arabian Sea. There is no denial at all. If he did not make that statement to the two American journalists, why does he not deny it? He did not deny that he said that our military co-operation would be absolute. If he did not say that, why does he not deny it? In my understanding of English absolute military co-operation means going the whole way in the Middle East, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. For this reason I believe that those senators who might agree with the Prime Minister’s commitment or lack of commitment as well as those who do not ought to know the facts. I am becoming very concerned, as are Senator Button and, indeed, Senator Wriedt who asked questions on the role of the Office of National Assessments in this situation, that we are not being given answers. Why should we not be suspicious? In an article in the Melbourne Age of 31 January datelined Washington, Creighton Burns, not a left wing untrustworthy radical, states categorically:
Australia’s offer to play a more active role in patrolling and surveillance in the Indian Ocean will also be on the table, at least in principle. That offer, announced by Mr Fraser on January 9 as pan of Australia’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan, was actually made before the Soviet invasion.
That is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. To me that is an incredibly significant statement for our man in Washington to make. Was Mr Fraser ‘s offer of absolute military co-operation made to the Americans before Afghanistan was taken? Clearly, if Mr Creighton Burns is to be believed, the offer was made before we were three days from another world war. I believe that we are entitled to know what the Prime Minister has committed this nation for. For that reason I strongly support Senator Button’s motion. It simply requests Senator Durack to ask the Prime Minister to confirm or deny the allegations made against him in the newspaper and repeated in my question. It is a simple matter. It would not be difficult for the Prime Minister to say, if it is the truth: ‘No, I did not mention the Arabian Sea; no, I have made no commitment to the Americans concerning a reinterpretation of ANZUS ‘. That is all that we are asking Government senators to support by way of this motion.
– The Government opposes the motion to suspend Standing Orders. It is a rather curious motion. It calls upon me to make a request to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I would have thought that there were probably other ways of achieving that purpose, if it is really necessary, than the method adopted. My view is that it is unnecessary to submit the matter further to the Prime Minister as is sought by this motion. On the other hand I am certainly prepared to take note of further questions that may be raised in the course of the debate. Ministers in this place do not ignore the views that are expressed or the requests that are made by honourable senators. Constantly at Question Time we undertake to obtain further answers and information. If it appeared to me that as a result of what has been said in this debate there is a case for further amplification of an answer I certainly would be prepared to seek it. I object to the implication that it is necessary to suspend Standing Orders to get an answer which I believe was provided by the Prime Minister today.
The gravamen of this issue is the question that Senator Chipp asked. I will not read the whole question again. Senator Button has read it once. On 4 March Senator Chipp asked this question:
Did the Prime Minister state or imply to those two gentlemen -
That is, the American journalists- that he considered any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea to come within the meaning of the ANZUS Treaty and that our military co-operation would be . . . absolute? If so, does this mean that he has committed Australia to join the United States in some or any military action in those regions?
That is the question to which the Prime Minister has replied. It relates to the application of the ANZUS Treaty to the Indian Ocean. A written reply has been provided by the Prime Minister to Senator Chipp. I read out that reply in answer to a further question he asked today. The Prime Minister said:
When the question of ANZUS’ application to the Indian Ocean was raised I referred to Australia’s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean; reference to this geographical fact does not carry the implication suggested in the honourable senator’s question.
That seems to me to be perfectly clear. The Prime Minister is saying that the drawing of the implication from his statement that he had committed Australia absolutely to the assistance of any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea as coming within the ANZUS Treaty is not justified. The Prime Minister has gone further than was required. He could have answered the question in simple terms or with one word, but he said that when the question of the application of ANZUS to the Indian Ocean was raised he referred to Australia’s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean. But that does not mean that Australia has given an absolute commitment to military activity in any part of the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea. The question was framed in extremely wide terms. It refers to any military activity in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
– But he is alleged to have said it.
-The Prime Minister is denying that he said it. Honourable senators should look at the whole of his answer. He said:
During an interview with two American journalists … I noted, in answer to their question whether Australia would assist if US forces in the Indian Ocean were attacked and needed help, that this was a hypothetical question and that circumstances would need to be taken into account.
The Prime Minister made no commitment, absolute or otherwise, in answering a question as to whether we would assist US forces being attacked in the Indian Ocean- presumably any part of the Indian Ocean. I thought that the Prime Minister made a very cautious and careful response to that question. His answer continued:
I took the opportunity to reaffirm that Australia would meet any commitments under ANZUS absolutely and I expected the US would meet any commitments under ANZUS.
The geographical area of ANZUS is not specifically defined in the Treaty. The Treaty defines specific obligations with regard to contingencies in certain areas, namely, the metropolitan territories of the partners and the Pacific area. There has never been any suggestion that the Treaty applies differently to different parts of Australia’s metropolitan territory. The Prime Minister was pointing out something that I would have thought all Australians would have been perfectly aware of. Certainly Western Australians are well aware of it. He said that virtually one-third of Australia’s coastline is adjacent to the Indian Ocean. Is it being suggested by the Opposition or by Senator Chipp that there is doubt as to whether the ANZUS Treaty would apply to Western Australia because it borders the Indian Ocean? If the Treaty applies to the whole of Australia- undoubtedly, it doesobviously there has to be some commitment to areas of Australia which border the Indian Ocean. That, as I understand it, is all the Prime Minister is saying. When the Prime Minister was talking about obligations under the ANZUS Treaty he referred to Australia’s location adjacent to the Indian Ocean. He said that we would expect America, under its commitment to ANZUS, to provide consultations and whatever else is necessary under that Treaty in relation to the defence of Australia. That includes the whole of Australia. It applies to the part of Australia bordering the Pacific Ocean as well as that part bordering the Indian Ocean. Senator Chipp ‘s question referred to any military activity in any part of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The Prime Minister specifically said that that implication cannot be drawn from the statement he made. I do not believe that there is any justification for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable me to take the further steps which are outlined in Senator Button’s motion. I trust that the Senate will reject it.
– I wish to speak in support of Senator Button’s motion that Standing Orders be suspended to enable Senator Carrick, Senator Durack or whoever cares to carry the can for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to give a proper answer. Senator Durack ‘s defence rests on the assertion that the Prime Minister was answering a hypothetical question, the question being whether, if United States forces in the Indian Ocean were attacked, Australia would go to their assistance. Of course such a question is hypothetical, but that is not the issue. The issue is perfectly clear from the questions of both Senator Chipp and Senator Button of a fortnight ago. The Prime Minister was reported to have stated that any military activity in the Indian
Ocean, the Arabian Sea or the Persian Gulf came within the ambit of the ANZUS Treaty and that Australia would respond accordingly. The issue is not whether the Prime Minister answers hypothetical questions; it is whether the Prime Minister said what he has been reported to have said. The Prime Minister’s answer does not come to grips with that simple question.
The vague references to hypothetical questions and implications with which the answer Senator Durack put down on behalf of the Prime Minister earlier today is riddled do not come to grips with the central issue. Either the Prime Minister said that military activity in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean comes within the ambit of the ANZUS Treaty, as he was reported to have said, or he did not say it. It is about time the Government gave us a definitive answer on whether the Prime Minister said that. I have a great deal of sympathy for Senator Durack in this matter. In the absence of any unequivocal denial that the Prime Minister said that the ANZUS Treaty covers any military activity in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, we will assume, quite justifiably, that the Prime Minister said it. I have no doubt that he did. That happened during the period when he was grandstanding around the world and baying at the moon, perhaps trying to compensate for his own lack of military record when, he was of prime military age during the Korean War. Instead of going off to fight the communists, the Russians, the Chinese or whoever happened to be the enemy of the day, as he is always so keen on forcing , coercing or inducing someone else to do, he decided to go to Oxford and get a third class degree. Perhaps he was trying to compensate for that. If that is so, let us know. I have a great deal of sympathy for Senator Durack and Senator Chaney, who looks as though he is about to speak, in trying to defend the indefensible. In the absence of a denial, we must take it as a fact that the Prime Minister said that the ANZUS Treaty covers any military activity in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
– Where did you ‘fight?
– I have never conscripted anyone else. I have never been Minister for the Army. I have never been of military age during a war that I supported. Where did Senator Baume fight? As the Prime Minister did he sat out the whole of the Vietnam war here in Australia as a member of the Liberal Party. His contribution to the War was to join the Liberal Party and support the conscription of somebody else to fight it. That is exactly the same as the contribution of the Prime Minister, and of Mr Lynch and Mr Peacock. They were Ministers for the Army. All of them were of prime military age. They conscripted somebody else to go off and stop what they asserted was the downward thrust of China. I suggest it is most unwise for Senator Baume or for anyone on the Government side to ask a question like that.
– I just wanted to know where you fought, Senator, that is all.
– I was never of military age in any war that I supported. Of course I could throw the war back. Senator Baume supported the war in Vietnam providing someone else did the fighting which is precisely what the Prime Minister did. So I suppose it follows logically that the honourable senator will stand with the Prime Minister on this issue too. Many people would have had quite valid ethical objections to the Prime Minister’s grand-standing around the world and attempting to drum up support for a khaki election so that he would not be judged on the issues that he said were crucial in a domestic election, like inflation, interest rates, unemployment and ministerial propriety. Those are all the issues which, in 1975, the Prime Minister said were of crucial importance to Australia. He does not want to be judged on any of those matters because his Government has a very sad and sorry record on all of them. In this grand-standing tour of the world the Prime Minister was trying to drum up support for a khaki election so that he could escape the judgment of the electors on all those other issues. Many people had ethical objections to that situation right from the beginning, and properly so. But we now find that what the fellow was doing when he was baying at the moon and indulging his delusions of grandeur overseas, is potentially or actually positively dangerous. He is reported to have committed Australia to getting involved in any military activity, which includes any member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation alliance, in the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean. That charge stands until such time as it is explicitly, unequivocally denied.
His Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), in a remarkably equivocal, ambivalent statement last week both denied that the Prime Minister had said that and then conceded that in fact he had offered home port facilities to United States warships in Cockburn Sound. This concerns me particularly as a West Australian, because anyone who knows anything about this balance of terror, this reciprocal bluff that the super powers play, knows that an attack on a US military base inside the United States would without doubt evoke the maximum response from the United States, directed at the Soviet Union itself. An attack on a peripheral American base, howeversay at North West Cape, Pine Gap, or at Cockburn Sound, if the United States accepts the Prime Minister’s invitation to establish a base there- will not evoke a counter attack from the United States directed at the Soviet Union itself, but at some peripheral Soviet base somewhere else, perhaps in Somalia.
In other words the possibility of a nuclear attack being launched against a United States base in Australia is very much greater than the possibility of a nuclear attack being launched by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics against a United States base in the United States itself. The two super powers are happy or are willing to exchange pawns as it were in this game of reciprocal bluff. An attack on a United States base in Cockburn Sound, which incidentally would take out the city of Perth as well as 70 per cent of the population of Western Australia, would be the American pawn. A Soviet base in Somalia or some similar location would be the Soviet Union pawn. It is not just a question of this man attempting to escape the judgment of the electors through this attempted diversion of a khaki election. The physical survival of the city in which I and 700,000 other Australians live could be at stake unless something is done to control this man’s excesses.
I assume that someone from the Government will follow my speech. Let us hear nothing about hypothetical questions. The question is not hypothetical. The question is: Did the Prime Minister say that any military activity within the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean comes within the ambit of the ANZUS Treaty and that Australia’s commitment under that Treaty would be absolute? This debate arises because the Prime Minister, in his typical furtive style, has failed to report on any of these matters to Parliament.
– The honourable senator asked that nothing hypothetical be said. I therefore move:
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Button’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 14(1) of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 I present the sixth supplement to the twenty-fifth report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on the operation of the Act for the period 1 July 1972 to 30 September 1972 dealing with the final actuarial examination of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 16(2) of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973 I present the seventh report of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority dealing with the general administration and working of that Act and of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948, other than Part III of the Act, for the year ended 30 June 1979.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1920 I present a report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport 1978-79.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1 947 I present the annual report of the Australian Egg Board 1 978-79.
-by leave- I move:
I want to take a few moments of the Senate’s time to remark on the activities of the Australian Egg Board and on how the Board is made up. The Commonwealth Government has a representative on the Australian Egg Board, the commercial enterprises have a representative, the employees in the egg industry have a representative and each of the State marketing boards are also represented. These representations make up the complete personnel of the Australian Egg Board. Eggs have been discussed quite frequently in this chamber in recent times. More importantly, they have been discussed in recent months because of the controversy about the surplus of eggs in the Australian Capital Territory being marketed outside the Territory.
We know that a monopoly enterprise is operating in the Australian Capital Territory. Some of the egg surplus in the Territory is being marketed in New South Wales at a price that undercuts the price set by the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. This has caused quite a few problems. I will not go into that matter today because I am very happy that the Australian Agricultural Council, at its last meeting, made a decision that there would be no increase in quotas for the monopoly enterprise in the Australian Capital Territory. I remind the Senate that the New South Wales producers have to carry the burden of finding overseas markets for a great percentage of the present Australian egg surplus. I am very happy to read in the report that our egg surplus is gradually declining due to the hen quota system which is in operation. I, as an expoultry farmer and egg producer, hope that that egg quota system is never done away with, in the interests not only of the producers but also of the provender millers and the consumers.
The report about which I am now speaking gives the figures for frozen egg export shipments from Australia. New South Wales had to export 5,573 tonnes of frozen eggs in the 1978-79 export year, which amounted to 46.79 per cent of the total egg export from Australia. New South Wales also had to export 113 tonnes of egg powder, which amounted to 53.50 per cent of the total exports of egg powder. The absolute total of exports is broken down to give the figure for the export of shell eggs. New South Wales producers, through the Australian Egg Board, had to export 10,913,000 dozen eggs, which amounted to 45.17 per cent of the total exportsHonourable senators can see that eggs marketed out of the Australian Capital Territory in New South Wales are creating quite a problem for the people who are responsible for finding a ready market for the eggs that are produced.
At this stage I am not going to say anything more about the controversy that is raging. At the present time I think that it has been laid to rest because of the actions of the Australian Agricultural Council at its last meeting. But knowing some of these people who endeavour at all times to white ant the ordinary marketing system, I am of the opinion that this matter will rear its ugly head again at the first opportunity. If it does, I will rise to protest in the Senate. At this juncture I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1957 I present the Commonwealth Police Force annual report 1978-79. Although that Act was repealed on 19 October 1979, it seems appropriate for me to table, for the information of honourable senators, the annual report on policing matters in the Commonwealth sphere in order to preserve their continuity. The next report will be that of the Australian Federal Police to be tabled after June this year, in accordance with the requirements of section 67 of the Australian Federal Police Act 1 979.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of all or several of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) read a first time.
(5. 1 1 )- I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Amendment Bill 1980
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to give effect to the Government’s decision to extend the operation of the Bounty (PolyesterCotton Yarn) Act 1978 until 31 August 1981. The Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Act 1978 provides assistance to the manufacture in Australia of polyester-cotton yarn by means of a bounty scheme, providing for the payment to eligible manufacturers of a bounty of $1.15 per kilogram on yarn consisting of a mixture of polyester and cotton fibres, in which the polyester fibres are not less than 50 per cent by weight, being single-fold combed yarn not coarser than 20 tex with at least one ply of 10 tex or coarser. The extension of the operation of this scheme is being made as an interim measure pending consideration by the Government of the final report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the longer-term assistance needs for the textiles, clothing and footwear industries. That report is expected to be received by the Government in March 1980.
In deciding to extend the operation of this scheme the Government was conscious of the need to give at least 12 months advance notice of the policy of assistance that is to apply to these industries so as to assist future planning of operations by importers, retailers and manufacturers. During the extended period of the scheme the amount available for payment of bounty will continue to remain at $600,000.I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Amendment Bill 1980
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Act 1 979 to continue the bounty scheme under that Act for a year from the date of royal assent, but at a reduced rate of $20 per kilowatt of the power output of the engine incorporated in the prime mover of a rotary cultivator, hoe or tiller. The limit on the amount available for payment during that period is also to be removed. The Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Act 1979 presently provides assistance to the manufacture and sale for use in Australia of self-propelled pedestrianoperated rotary cultivators, hoes and tillers. This bounty is payable at the rate of $40 per kilowatt of output of the engine incorporated in the prime mover of the above implements having an Australian content of not less than 60 per cent and the amount currently available for payment of bounty is limited to $60,000 in each 12-month period.
The Bill reflects acceptance by the Government of a recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission, contained in report No. 227 of 4 October 1979 entitled Certain Engines not exceeding 7.64 kW; Rotary Cultivators; and Tractors having a power of less than 15 kW, that bounty continue to be payable for a further period of 12 months at a reduced rate of $20 per kilowatt of engine power. In its report the Industries Assistance Commission concluded that the bounty should be regarded as short-term assistance only so as to avoid its being seen as a permanent means of assistance and, as such, influencing production and investment decisions.
The Government has accepted the recommendation of the Commission that the rate of bounty be reduced to $20 per kilowatt of engine power because import duties on the major component, that is, the engine, have been reduced with effect from 24 November 1979 from 45 per cent to 40 per cent. This rate will be further reduced to 35 per cent with effect from 24 November 1 980. Additionally, increased tariff protection has been provided to this industry because import duties on pedestrian-operated cultivators have been increased from 22 lh per cent to 25 per cent with effect from 16 January 1980. Provision of the short-term assistance is considered by the Industries Assistance Commission to provide local manufacturers with the opportunity to make any adjustments to production considered necessary in the light of changing market patterns. Additionally, no significant effects are expected to arise from adoption of the proposed assistance levels in respect of rotary cultivators. It is expected that the cost of the revised scheme in a 12 month period will be approximately $20,000. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Bounty (Drilling Bits) Bill 1980
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to implement the Government’s decision to provide additional short-term assistance to Australian manufacturers of cemented carbide drilling bits with diameters greater than 105 mm which are produced and sold for use with percussion rock drills in Australia. Current assistance is by import duties of 6 per cent general, 2 per cent preferential. Following advice and recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 224 of 19 September 1979 entitled ‘Short Term Assistance to Certain Bits of Cemented Carbides’, the Government decided to accord assistance by way of a scheme providing for payment of bounty scaled on the basis of bit size, ranging from $40 for bits exceeding 105 mm but less than 127 mm in diameter, to $160 for bits of 203 mm diameter and above, providing that the Australian content of the bits exceeds 50 per cent.
The bounty, which is payable from 1 October 1979, is intended by the Government to provide short term assistance to Australian manufacturers pending an examination by the Industries Assistance Commission of the long-term assistance requirements of the industry to be included in its report on cutlery, industrial knives and hand tools. That report is expected to be received by 30 June 1981. Because of the short term nature of the proposal, the Bill includes provision for the scheme to terminate on a date to be fixed by the Minister and published in the Gazette, and for the amount available for payment of bounty not to exceed $ 1 50,000 annually. Based on 1979 values, the amount of bounty claimed in a 12 month period would be approximately $30,000. However this is likely to rise as the market expands.
Honourable senators will be interested to note that when the reference was first sent to the Industries Assistance Commission the Australian industry producing these bits was experiencing depressed sales and a declining share of the market. This had resulted from the historical market situation, where local producers did not manufacture larger size bits because of a limited demand. However, between 1976-77 and 1978-79 the Australian market for these bits expanded by about 30 per cent. There was also a shift in demand from the smaller to larger sizes with over 90 per cent exceeding 105 millimetres in diameter. Local manufacture of the larger bits has developed with negative effective tariff protection and consequently imports have supplied about 85 per cent of the Australian market.
The short term assistance will allow the Australian product to be more price competitive with imports which, combined with product development, should enable the Australian industry to increase its output and market share. This will provide an opportunity for this recently established industry to realise its potential, presenting Australia with an opportunity to develop an area of high technological and industrial competence, with export possibilities and the possibility of expansion from hard rock drill bits into exploration bits. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to repeal the existing provisions for the filling of Senate casual vacancies for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory by by-election, and to provide new procedures for the filling of such vacancies consistent with those presently provided in the Constitution for the filling of Senate casual vacancies in the States.
Honourable senators will recall that Section 15 of the Constitution was not amended to take account of the import of the introduction of proportional Senate representation until the referendum of 1977. As amended, it provides that a casual vacancy for a senator representing a State shall be filled, where possible, by a member of the same political party. Implicitly recognising the role of party representation in the Senate, it provides further that the replacement senator shall serve out the remainder of the departed senator’s term, not simply until the next general or Senate election. Like the original section 1 5 it provides that the selection shall be made by both Houses of the State parliament voting together.
Although the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act provides that the same electoral procedures be followed as in the States in the election of senators from the Territories, section 9, which deals with the selection of senators to fill casual vacancies, fails to provide for the continuity of party representation. Rather, it provides that a casual vacancy for a senator representing a Territory, if it is to be filled before the next general election, may only be filled by holding a special election.
It may be argued, since the costs of conducting by-elections in a Territory would be far less significant than in a State, that the present arrangements for choosing senators to fill casual vacancies from the Territories reflect the basic reasoning behind section 15 of the Constitution as originally adopted. It does not, however, reflect the importance of party continuity in Senate representation. It also maintains an apparently unnecessary inconsistency in the methods by which senators may be chosen in the States and Territories. To overcome this inconsistency and lack of assurance of party continuity, this Bill provides that: In the case of the Northern Territory, the choice of a replacement senator will lie with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. If the Assembly is not in session, a pro tern appointment will be made by the Administrator.
In the case of the Australian Capital Territory, the choice of a replacement senator will lie with the Senate and the House of Representatives sitting and voting together. If Parliament is not in session, a pro tern appointment will be made by the Governor-General. As with replacement senators for the States, a casual vacancy for a senator representing a Territory will be filled, where possible, by a member of the same political party.
As the status of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly can be said to be comparable to that of a State parliament, the Constitutional provision concerning a Senate replacement for the Northern Territory has been adopted directly in this Bill. However, since the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly has neither legislative nor executive power and having regard to the results of the referendum held in 1978 where Australian Capital Territory electors said that, in effect, they did not see that body having anything resembling the status of a State parliament, it seemed more appropriate to provide that theselection of a replacement senator for the Australian Capital Territory lie with the two Houses of Federal Parliament.
The requirement that the replacement senator be of the same political party will operate only when the retiring senator was, at the time he was elected, publicly recognised by a political party as being an endorsed candidate of that party and publicly represented himself to be such a candidate. The replacement of senators who were elected as independents will not be affected. If the person who has been chosen as a replacement ceases before taking his seat to be a member of the party to which the former senator belonged, he will be deemed not to have been chosen or appointed- unless the reason why he ceased to be a member of that party was that the party itself ceased to exist. The Government would hope that this Bill will be supported on both sides of the chamber. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
– I bring up the report on the financial accounting and audit provisions of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill 1980.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That consideration of the Report be deferred until the reading of the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill 1980.
Debate resumed from 5 March, on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill; in fact, we support it. However, I have a couple of questions which I hope can be answered when the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) replies. The purpose of the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1980 is to authorise borrowings of up to $3m for the States of South Australia and Western Australia for commitments originally entered into nearly 30 years ago under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. It is stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) that the purpose of the advances from this Government through the States to the settlers is for working capital and acquisition of stock, plant and equipment. That rather puzzles me in that I thought the acquisition of stock, plant and equipment would have been completed many years ago. I hope that in reply the Minister will be able to give some explanation as to why advances are still required for those purposes. I am not sure just when the last settler was placed on the land, but it was at least 10 years ago and probably nearer 20 years ago.
As we all know, the post- World War II War Service Land Settlement Scheme was not an unqualified success, or successful in all areas. One of the more absolute failures with which I am familiar, because it happened in Western Australia, was the attempt to establish a number of tobacco-growing farms in the Manjimup area, which ultimately had to be abandoned for both agricultural and economic reasons. Anyone who has looked at this scheme in relation to the previous War Service Land Settlement Scheme, and indeed government-sponsored land settlement schemes in Australia in general, would have to agree that at least it was considerably better thought out than its predecessors and has been far more successful than most, if not all, other government-sponsored land settlement schemes over the last 100 years. Far too many of them were the product of fairly woolly and undisciplined thinking rooted more in physiocracy than economics, a desire to maximise the number of people resident on the land and cultivating it as a moral objective, instead of paying due heed to the types of crops which it was proposed would be grown and to whether the area of the farmsthe most important factor of all- was adequate and of sufficient size to be economically viable.
We support the Bill. I do not think there is need to say any more about it. I hope that the Minister or the departmental officers can provide an explanation as to why, at a distance of a couple of decades from the placing of most of the settlers on the land, further advances are required for the acquisition of stock, plant and equipment.
(5.19)- We thank the Opposition for its support of the Bill. As has been said, the purpose of the Bill is to authorise borrowings to fund credit facilities for soldier settlers under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. The moneys will be applied mainly for the extension of credit facilities in the States of South Australia and Western Australia in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1952. Senator Walsh raised a question with regard to advances for stock, plant and equipment. I am advised that, as he has surmised, these are now most unusual. It would be most unusual that an advance would be sought for this purpose. However, the provision has never been removed from the scheme, and accordingly we continue to refer to it in any documentation that applies to any funds that are appropriated for it. All the moneys provided for in this Bill are expected to be used to provide carry-on finance for settlers. It is a provision which comes within the Bill, and in any documentation reference is still made to all of the provisions that were comprehended by the scheme. As Senator Walsh has surmised, it would be most unusual if this were required. I think that answers the point he raised, and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 28 February on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In the second reading speech of the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) he stated that the Bill has a specific purpose. When one looks at the Bill itself one finds it difficult to appreciate whether, in fact, this Bill will realise the objectives which the Government claims it is seeking. Ever since the Commonwealth became the principal tax gatherer in Australia, of course, there have been areas of conflict between the States about a proper disposition of federal funds. The establishment of a Grants Commission, as amended in more recent years, in the post-war years was designed to provide a formula by which the States would get a share of Commonwealth revenue. It was designed also to top up where necessary the inadequacies of the formula, taking into account the level of development in the States and the geographical differences that exist between the States. So the purpose of the Grants Commission was to have somewhat of a levelling objective in relation to Commonwealth funds to the States and the Territories. The Commonwealth grants legislation became the instrument for realising certain social objectives within the Australian financial system.
However, the Opposition submits that this is a sloppy piece of legislation. It does not clearly set out the aims of the Bill. It does not say what it means and it does not mean what it says. To that extent, we believe that the debate opens the way for the Government to take whatever decision it wants without reference to the legislation which we are now debating. According to the Government spokesman, the purpose of the Bill is to give the Commonwealth Grants Commission a reference to inquire into aspects of public financing within the Australian Capital Territory. We believe that that objective is not realised. The Bill contains only two important paragraphs, the remainder being consequential or machinery amendments. It would seem that even the legality of those two paragraphs which the Bill seeks to establish is open to question. We submit that amendments to an Act must be within the ambit of the original or principal Act. That ambit is defined or determined by the title of the Act itself. The title of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 as amended reads as follows:
An Act to establish a Commonwealth Grants Commission to make Recommendations concerning the Granting of Financial Assistance to the States and to the Northern Territory in certain circumstances.
I emphasise that the title refers to the States and to the Northern Territory. The title does not mention the Australian Capital Territory or any of the other Commonwealth Territories. I also make the point that when the amending Bill relating to the Nothern Territory was introduced by this Government the words ‘Northern Territory’ were introduced and were included in the long title. I understand that there is a difference in terms of what might well be the local authority, in terms of local government and the status of the authority in the Northern Territory visavis the authority in the Australian Capital Territory. However, it would appear that some argument could be raised about what is in the Australian Capital Territory definition and about some restrictions in carrying out the functions spelt out in this Bill.
The Bill we are debating specifically concerns inquiries into public financing of the Australian Capital Territory. Such inquiries are clearly not within the province of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Nowhere in the original Act, in the debates thereon or in practice has there been any precedent for the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s carrying out the function which it is proposed it should carry out in respect of public financing of works and services in the Australian Capital Territory. To that degree we feel that there are deficiencies in the Bill. I notice that the Minister for Special Trade Representations is at the table and I appreciate the difficulties he has. I am not sure, owing to the multi-purpose roles that our Ministers in the Senate are currently carrying out, whether in fact he is representing the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), whether he is the Minister in charge of the Bill or whether, in fact, he is the Minister responsible as designated in the recent ministerial re-arrangements. Nevertheless, whichever Minister is going to handle this Bill, I ask him to reply in this debate as to whether we of the Opposition can be assured that what we are saying is not correct. The amendment that the Opposition moved in the House of Representatives and which I propose to move at the Committee stage of this Bill will then not be necessary.
The Act appears to restrict the ambit of the Commission in carrying out its functions vis-a-vis the Australian Capital Territory. If that is correct, the Opposition would have some criticism of the way in which the legislation was drafted. If this is not the case, perhaps we can be satisfied by an explanation from the Minister. We also think that the Bill is inadequate not only in substance but also in spirit, for the Bill proposes that the Commission upon reference to it by the Minister be empowered to inquire into matters relating to the financing of works and services in the Capital Territory with the rider that these works and services must be similar to those provided in the States by State or local government bodies and semi-government authorities. I submit that it is a very wide franchise to give the Minister that interpretation. One could argue, for example, that the current works programs in respect of road construction in Canberra might in some respects be similar to works carried out by the local government authorities, say, in New South Wales. But one could argue and have a case put to the High Court of Australia that the Bill goes far beyond what would be regarded as the responsibility of a local authority in one of the States as distinct from the works that are being carried out currently by the National Capital Development Commission. So that rider or that authority that the Minister has is pretty farreaching in terms of whether it comes within the ambit of this piece of legislation.
There is a much more restrictive form of wording than that which empowers the Grants Commission to examine State or Northern Territory finances. I recollect, for example, that when the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act of 1973 was being debated and there was some suggestion that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should have some jurisdiction over what funds should be allocated to the States all hell broke loose. There was a tremendous outcry from the States righters that we were interfering with what was regarded as the normal function of the State jurisdictions and that we had no authority to inquire into whether they were spending their funds in a satisfactory fashion, whether the funds were being applied in such a way as to suit the whims of certain members in certain regions for the purpose of their reelection to public office, whether the funds were being misapplied and whether financial resources were being properly distributed or otherwise. So one finds it somewhat difficult when one sees this sort of thing creeping into this piece of legislation in a backdoor way. We accept that the right to examine State or Northern Territory finances is largely a necessary result of the fact that the Australian Capital Territory is being regarded as a non-self-governing body. Canberra’s total finances are gathered together in a purely notional accounts system. The Australian Capital Territory has no separate budget as such and the elected representatives of the Territory do not control the purse-strings, so that many of the decisions which are made in respect of works and services are carried out by the bureaucracy. Perhaps that would be the best way to describe it. I do not say that in any way detrimental to those who are charged with that responsibility.
The Opposition does not accept the proposition that any Grants Commission inquiry into Canberra’s financial affairs should examine only aspects of that financing relating to what are normally State or local government functions. The Australian Capital Territory has a unique, proper and respected place in Australia, containing as it does the national capital. 1 think it speaks volumes for governments over many years that Canberra has developed in such a favourable way, providing its inhabitants with works and services which have no parallel in Australia. That objective has been achieved in the ACT by many millions of dollars being spent by government to enable this national capital to fulfil its national functions. I make no criticism of that. Therefore, to look at local and State government activities only, without examining Commonwealth responsibilities towards Canberra as distinct from the functions that are carried out at local government level, is a somewhat futile exercise. Surely all are parts of the whole. I cannot imagine any Government senator disagreeing with that. Should one section not be examined, the remainder cannot be seen in perspective. We need to look at the total picture if we are to carry out a proper examination of the situation in Canberra.
Let me give a specific example. The Commonwealth Government and its authorities do not pay rates as such within the Australian Capital Territory. That is a sore point and a bone of great contention in the States. Those of us who have served in local government know that it is a very big bone of contention that the Commonwealth Government does not see fit to pay rates, particularly in areas where there are large Commonwealth instrumentalities. In recent years we have seen some statutory bodies making ex gratia payments. The Commonwealth Bank is one that comes immediately to mind because it is a trading organisation. I can assure honourable senators that there is still a lot of feeling that other ratepayers are in fact subsidising many areas in which there are large Commonwealth Government operations or instrumentalities. Canberra is a case in point. It has a special relationship to what I have been saying. The Commonwealth Government and its authorities make a contribution to the municipal accounts for general services, water and sewerage services, because of the peculiar way in which Canberra operates. But these contributions have never been anything but voluntary, and remain unchecked insofar as being fair or otherwise in the circumstances is concerned. Perhaps the time has arrived for that situation to be more regularised rather than being seen as a purely voluntary contribution. If that situation were to change, I am sure we would have the masses of
Canberra marching on Parliament House. If that voluntary act, as a principle, were to be changed at the whim of some government- perhaps Senator Knight would not be able to prevail upon his Government in those circumstances -we would have an entirely new political ball game in the national capital.
The Government pays no general rates for municipal services on its millions of dollars worth of property in Canberra. In lieu thereof the Commonwealth contributes $2. 9m towards expenditure on municipal services- again a matter on which there is no clear definition. That is only 1 1.9 per cent of the estimated expenditure on municipal services. Until this year the Government’s contribution was just $2m, which was only 9.3 per cent of the estimated expenditure. It is questionable in the extreme whether the Government owns only 1 1.9 per cent of the rateable value of land in the Australian Capital Territory and whether it receives merely 1 1.9 per cent of the worth of the municipal services that are provided in Canberra. Of course, that principle applies to both the water and sewerage rates. We are dealing with some important principles.
Estimated expenditure and receipts on water and sewerage services are calculated, and the Commonwealth contributes 15 per cent and 14.4 per cent respectively of the expenditure on each budget. Once again, no independent check has been applied to determine whether these ersatz rating procedures are adequate or accurate. I do not know how they were plucked out of the air. I have heard some criticism of Mr Justice Staples about plucking something out of the air. It seems to me that these figures have been plucked out of the air in a similar way. In fact, procedures are so poorly organised and dominated by the Federal Government that on the same day as the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) announced that there would be a Grants Committee inquiry into these matters he also announced that rates in the Australian Capital Territory would rise on average by 14 per cent, which I understand means an increase on average of something like $43 for each ratepayer in the Australian Capital Territory.
There has been some criticism of the decision of the New South Wales Government, in its desire to keep charges down and maintain some impact on the rate of inflation and costs, to limit local government rate increases in New South Wales to 10 per cent per annum. Any council which finds that it has to go beyond that requires the special consent of the Minister for Local Government to do so. This represents a 40 per cent increase in rates above what is regarded as a maximum in New South Wales. That has occurred at a time when property values in Canberra are stagnant or falling alarmingly. Anyone who knows about the property market in the national capital will know this. I suppose there would be many estate agents and property valuers, as well as ordinary citizens who are wishing to dispose of their homes, who would attest to the fact that the bottom has fallen out of the property market in Canberra. At a time when property values are falling drastically, and the value of property is the basis upon which rates are established, we find a higher than average increase being made in the rates to be paid by the citizens of Canberra. It is an increase which is considerably higher than the acknowledged rate of inflation about which this Government claims to be concerned and which this Government wants to keep under double figures. It is close to 40 to 50 per cent above the normal inflation rate. That has come about primarily as a result of this Government making decisions about its own contributions towards the various functions that are carried out by the Commonwealth and by the local authority, the Legislative Assembly, in Canberra.
Under the proposed Bill, it does not appear that there will be a true evaluation of Canberra ‘s accounts. The Bill does not give the Grants Commission specific powers to examine Commonwealth finances within the Australian Capital Territory or, indeed, powers to examine Government charges and imposts such as those represented by municipal rates. Similarly, the Commonwealth refuses to add to the notional Australian Capital Territory municipal accounts the 1.75 per cent of income tax receipts which is available throughout the remainder of the nation for local government purposes. Of course, honourable senators heard Senator Carrick refer to this matter at great length from time to time when he was the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs and was involved in Commonwealth-State relations. Senator Carrick was very eloquent about what a contribution this would be to local government finances.
Of course, honourable senators know that it was the Whitlam Government which, for the first time in Australian history, made direct contributions to local government out of general revenue. That was a very important breakthrough for local government in all States of the Commonwealth. It was something that had been fought for by local government since 1949 when it became apparent that it was wrong to expect the average citizen, who was becoming a property owner and ratepayer, to bear the whole financial burden of providing community facilities at the local government level. These facilities were enjoyed by the population at large and therefore the population at large had to make a contribution through taxation revenue. In 1949 that became the policy of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and it was not until 1973, in the Whitlam Government’s first Budget, that a direct contribution was made to local government. That situation was continued in the 1 974-75 Budget and the present Government has seen fit by legislation to make contributions based upon a percentage ratio of 1.75 per cent.
There is no reference to that aspect of the matter in this legislation. Surely that factor ought to be a part of the consideration of the Parliament. Are we saying that the people in Canberra are different from the people anywhere else in Australia? Of course, they are not. That is another one of the deficiencies of the legislation. Clearly, what I am saying is that the public funding of the Australian Capital Territory deserves a full and proper inquiry, not a restricted inquiry as is suggested by those who support this legislation. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory called for a Grants Commission inquiry as long ago as 1973. Seven years later- showing that the wheels of industry grind ever so slowly- we have finally a piece of legislation that goes only one part of the way; it only takes a very tentative step towards what was the recommendation of that Parliamentary Joint Committee.
For many years the principal newspaper in Canberra, the Canberra Times, has been editorialising for just such an inquiry. There has been a lot of public debate about it and there have been many requests from the elected representatives of the people in Canberra. For many years people have been pushing for an inquiry so that we know clearly, precisely and definitely the reasons funds are made available for the proper functioning of our national capital. An inquiry should not be restricted in the sense that it will not deal with the whole ambit of costs to the citizens within the Australian Capital Territory. In fact, the citizens of the Territory are entitled to know what are the cost factors and funds, and what they are called upon to pay.
Many people in Australia believe that the people of Canberra have been mollycoddled or featherbedded in respect of the facilities they have. Canberra, the national capital, is entitled to special attention, special funding and special arrangements, and it ought to be recognised that its function has shown the value of a planning authority, the advantages of having land previously publicly owned and of being able to determine the rate of planned development in such a way as to avoid a lot of the speculative procedures which have characterised the development of Australia ‘s major cities. However, I must admit that in more recent times conservative governments, which from time to time have made decisions on these matters in Canberra, have to some extent lifted the veil on that and have tended to retreat to the old market forces principle which has been to the detriment of many of the citizens of this great national capital.
The citizens of Canberra should know all about the financing of their city. In every local government area in Australia every ratepayer receives in his rate notices each year an estimate of income and expenditure and of what the councils’ projects will be for the following year. Rate payers can have freely available to them the accounts and the system by which the municipal authority, or the city council as it is known in some States, operates. There are no ifs and buts or qualms about it; it is a public issue or debate and the documents are available. It is a system that ought to be available to the citizens of Canberra. The national capital ought not to be treated differently. If in its wisdom the Commonwealth wants to make funds available beyond the norm, we ought to be able to say so and be able to defend that in the belief that it is part of an objective strategy that is suitable for our national capital. Yet, the Governments stops short of doing just that. The Government appears to be hamstringing the only possibility for such a full inquiry. Without the amendment that the Opposition wishes to move, that inquiry will fall far short of the objectives that I have suggested are desirable.
The possibility of having an inquiry should not be put at risk by restricting its terms of reference. I believe that the legislation now before the Senate ought to be withdrawn and redrafted specifically to allow such a widespread inquiry and also to remedy the omission of the Australian Capital Territory from the title of the Act. The legislation proposes that a reference to the Grants Commission may be provided only by the Minister for Administrative Services. That comes as somewhat of a surprise. Given the nonselfgoverning nature of the Australian Capital Territory, this seems to be an unfortunate but perhaps unavoidable state of affairs. The Opposition accepts that it is at this time that that problem exists. However, it is only at the whim of the Minister that any inquiry will be wide-ranging, or that there will be any inquiry at all. I hope that in reply to the assertions I have made the Minister for Special Trade” Representations will answer some of the questions that I have posed on the ambit of the terms of reference contained in ‘the Bill.
I ask the Minister also to repeat the statement that was made last August by one of his colleagues, that there would be a Grants Commission inquiry into the public financing of the Australian Capital Territory, and to give an assurance that such an inquiry will have the widest possible terms of reference. I believe that that statement, which the Opposition would have, been glad to support, is not realised in this legislation. I would like the Minister to assure honourable senators that the inquiry will be all embracing and that it will report to the Senate before the Parliament considers the next Budget. Before the inquiry is convened, its proposed terms of reference should be circulated to enable public debate. Surely the Government would have no objection to consulting the State authority in Canberra- I prefer to call it a State authority- on what it considers the terms of reference should be. In my opinion, the terms of reference should permit the fullest possible analysis of Commonwealth financing under the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act.
If that suggestion were accepted, we would have no qualms about this piece of legislation and the Government would have the support of the Opposition. But, on the basis of the debate on this legislation which took place in the other House, one can conclude only that the Government is not prepared to consider any suggestions made by the Opposition on how best this procedure ought to be undertaken. To that extent, we are forced to take the step of moving at the Committee stage such amendments as would permit the carrying out of a full public examination of all public financing in the Australian Capital Territory. After all, the people of the Australian Capital Territory are substantially Public Service orientated and are therefore capable of evaluating their self-management responsibilities. These matters ought to be looked at a bit more carefully by the Government. They ought not to be pushed aside, as tended to happen in the House of Representatives with the large majority the Government has in that chamber.
It is claimed that the Senate is a States House. For fewer than half a dozen years the Australian Capital Territory has been represented in this chamber. We ought to give to this House of review an opportunity to review this type of legislation in a manner which would provide the widest possible type of information and opportunity for public debate on the manner in which Canberra is administered by the Commonwealth and the manner in which its finances are arranged with contributions from the ratepayers and the Commonwealth. If we were to inquire into the financing of all the works and services in the Australian Capital Territory in that way, I am sure a bipartisan approach would be adopted in this place on what should be the proper functioning of all the works and services in the Australian Capital Territory. I ask the Minister in his reply to answer some of the points of contention which we have with the Government, many of which we believe arise from deficiencies in the Bill and many of which arouse considerable concern in the Canberra community about aspects of this legislation which go only part of the way towards enabling a proper evaluation of the administration of the city of Canberra to be undertaken.
– I support the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill 1979. I join with Senator Gietzelt and other speakers in the debate on stating that this is a timely piece of legislation which will bring about a review of the financial structure of the Australian Capital Territory. I say that the legislation is timely because, in the last few years, the Territories that come under the responsibility of the Federal Government have started to move politically and administratively, as can be seen by the situation in the Northern Territory. I believe that it is important, particularly as it has been requested by so many people, that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should now be able to review the financial structure of the Australian Capital Territory and make recommendations on it. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has a long history. It was set up, I think, in 1933. This Bill seeks to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973. As we know, the Commonwealth Grants Commission performs three basic functions. The first of these is to inquire into and report upon applications by States for special assistance, which is defined as financial assistance for the purpose of making it possible for the States concerned, by reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below the standards of other States.
As I indicated, this Bill is an amending Bill. The Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act came into being on 1 July 1 978. At the request of the Northern Territory Government and the people of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth Grants Commission was asked to participate in reviewing and planning the financial structure of the Northern Territory. This did not happen by accident. In fact, at one stage it was considered that the bureaucracy of the Federal Treasury would undertake the main review of the situation for the Northern Territory. Of course, the people of the Northern Territory, having had long experience of the frustrations of dealing with a bureaucracy so far away, were very concerned that they should not come under this form of investigation into their resources. They specifically asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to ensure that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should have this responsibility. We saw the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act amended in the Parliament to enable this to happen.
The Grants Commission reviews the per capita relativities on which tax sharing assistance to the States is based. Also, from time to time, it advises on the percentage distribution between the States for local government tax sharing assistance. The Commission has very wide powers. In its third report in 1936 it stated the principles to apply in the assessment of the need for grants and they continue to apply now. It stated that special grants were justified when, through financial stress from any cause, a State was unable efficiently to discharge its function as a member of the Federation and that the grant should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States. I think that we covered that matter a little while ago.
It is of interest to note, when looking at the background of the legislation, that it is actually the people and interested groups in the Australian Capital Territory who have requested this amending legislation. We have seen repeated calls by the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly and other interested bodies, such as the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations at the Australian National University, for the finances of the Australian Capital Territory to be subjected to an independent assessment. Questions have been posed. For instance, to what extent do the residents of the Territory pay their own way in respect of those State and local government type services which are provided in the Australian Capital Territory by the Commonwealth Government? Are there any special advantages or disadvantages peculiar to the Australian Capital Territory which affect the cost of providing those State and local type services? Is the relative severity of State and local government type taxes and charges paid by residents of the Australian Capital Territory- for example, rates, stamp duties, et cetera- greater or lesser than those paid in the States?
As I said, it is very heartening to see that the people of the Australian Capital Territory are taking an interest in the financial set up of their area, admittedly a small area. I think that much good can come out of this. Perhaps Senator Gietzelt sees more in the legislation that concerns him- of course, he has that right- than I do. The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) said in his second reading speech that the residents of the Australian Capital Territory are required to pay municipal rates and State-like taxes in a manner similar to those paid by the residents of the rest of the nation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– Let me refer again to the payment of municipal rates and State-like taxes in the Australian Capital Territory to which I was referring before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. The second reading speech states:
The Commonwealth in determining the recovery of costs incurred in the provision of services to the residents of Canberra has regard to State practices in determining the level of local and State-like fees and charges.
As I said before, I believe that this statement provides an answer to the concern expressed by Senator Gietzelt. It also draws attention to an important point. This amendment is unique. It changes the role of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The purpose of the Commission has been to investigate State and Northern Territory financial structures and so on and to make a comparison of them within the State system. Because the Australian Capital Territory has not accepted the responsibility of self-government as the Northern Territory has done the Commonwealth is still responsible for local government and State-like functions. The amending Bill- I guess there is nothing wrong with it- provides for the Grants Commission to be directed by and answerable to the Federal Government. The Grants Commission will advise on how it sees the financial functions of the Australian Capital Territory. As the people of the Territory have declined to take further responsibility, the Territory will be used, I think, as a measuring point against the standards of the States and the Northern Territory. Let me refer, once again, to the Northern Territory situation and to a submission that was made by the Northern Territory to the Grants Commission. The Commonwealth Grants Commission in its first report in 1979 stated:
In its main Treasury submission the Northern Territory claimed that, as a result of a number of factors and circumstances, it suffers disabilities in raising revenue and in providing services; these would justify a grant of special financial assistance to enable the Territory to function at a standard not appreciably below the standards of the States.
It goes on further to state:
Secondly, it said that the Territory suffers disabilities in the provision of services by reason of the economic environment, diseconomies of small scale, dispersion, remoteness, physical environment and population characteristics. Each of these disabilities was claimed to entail a high measure of needs.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission has a very real purpose in bringing about a standard in the Northern Territory that can be compared with the various States. Its purpose in the Capital Territory could be, perhaps, different. Perhaps it will be looking at the other end of the scale and finding that the standards in the Australian Capital Territory are much higher- as would be expected- than those of the States. The question will arise as to whether the Capital Territory should continue to be financed as at present or whether it should be cut back to the standard of the States. That is what I think will happen, but I for one do not believe that that should be the case. In this regard I take up the cudgels for the Australian Capital Territory even though I come from a Territory which is much more remote. We have always looked perhaps rather enviously towards the federal seat of power.
– But as Territories we have certain fraternal interests.
– Nevertheless, I support Senator Knight in regard to the outlook of the Grants Commission towards the Australian Capital Territory. I believe all Australians should be proud of the Federal capital. While we perhaps look rather enviously at it I think it should be a matter of pride that the Capital Territory, the seat of power of the Federal Government, is kept to a very high standard so that we can hold our heads high when it is compared with other national capitals. I support the legislation and look forward to the first report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the Australian Capital Territory with considerable interest. We will probably find it most controversial, but that will not necessarily harm the capital. I think it will make a true comparison with the standards of other parts of the country. At the same time the Federal Government, which has put the Grants Commission in a unique position through this legislation, should be aware of the standards that are most necessary for the Capital Territory.
The report may point out, too, that the people of the Australian Capital Territory should pay higher rates.
– I thank Senator Kilgariff and Senator Gietzelt for their contributions to the debate on the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill 1979. The purpose of the Bill is to enable references of inquiries into matters relating to the financing of works and ‘Services in the Australian Capital Territory to be considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was referred to at some length by Senator Gietzelt. He explained its operations. The Grants Commission inquires into and reports on the need of States and the Northern Territory for special assistance. The objective of this exercise is to equalise in some measure the standards of living or the way of life in various parts of Australia. It reviews the per capita relativities on which taxsharing assistance is based. In the third place it advises on the percentage distribution between States of the tax-sharing assistance to local government. The reputation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is high. It is held by the Australian people to be a body of independence and strength and a real contributor to the financial circumstances as they are distributed in this country. Such a body is required by this legislation and, I believe, by the people of the Australian Capital Territory to inquire into the circumstances that govern the financing of works and services in the Territory. The Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly is a strong and clear supporter of this move by the Federal Government.
It is probably worth while sparing a moment or two in this debate to look at the unique character of the Australian Capital Territory. It is a part of Australia which has a number of dissimilarities to the States and the Northern Territory. The Capital Territory, of course, is peculiar in the composition of its people. About 60 per cent of the people in the Capital Territory are Commonwealth Government employees. Consequently, such revenue earning areas as payroll tax are not applicable in a very large degree. At the same time, because Canberra is the national capital it reaches, achieves and receives the plaudits of the Australian community for being a little more than just another city. Canberra has developed to the extent that it represents a little more than just another city because of its capacity and nature as the capital city of Australia. It has a very high standard of communication. It has vast and beautiful parks and gardensfacilities which are a credit to it and to Australia.
In mentioning these things I make the point that the cost of upkeep of such a place clearly would be significantly less if it did not reach for and accept standards such as it does, standards which 1 believe are necessary for a city of its nature. On the other hand, of course, we have to recognise that the mere fact that Canberra is a garden city and is the national capital makes it a considerable attraction to tourists from within Australia and without. That the city attracts a very significant number of visitors is, of course, a plus for its commercial enterprise. There are greater responsibilities on the Australian Capital Territory for being what it is. At the same time, the Australian Capital Territory’s attraction to people outside probably brings in added revenue.
A method needs to be generally agreed upon for deciding the financial obligations, capacities and needs to cover the works and services of a city such as Canberra. That is exactly what this amendment Bill is all about. It seeks to give to the Commonwealth Grants Commission the job of investigating the financial needs of the works and services in the Australian Capital Territory. That the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission be tabled and made public is acceptable to the people in the area and outside it. It is only with that sort of summary of the financial needs of the works and services in the Territory that the people who live in it can make a realistic judgment as to their ability, desire and determination to become ultimately a selfgoverning entity. The Australian Capital Territory has no separate fiscus. It is, therefore, somewhat different to all the States and the Northern Territory. As I have already said, this legislation has been referred to the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly and has received the acceptance of that body. The Bill has also been approved by the Grants Commission itself as an appropriate piece of legislation to fit the circumstances. It has been approved by the Treasury, the Department of Finance and the Department of the Capital Territory. In other words, it seems to have a considerable degree of approval from a wide group of authorities.
There is no need to add a great deal to the words that I have spoken but I think I should refer to one or two matters that were raised by Senator Gietzelt. 1 have the feeling that he at least partially approved of the legislation before us. His criticism of it seemed to be criticism purely of degree rather than of basic intent. He was probably straying from the real objective of the legislation. The legislation intends to develop the situation in which the financing of works and services will become the province of the Grants Commission, an independent body which will make such financing public for everyone concerned to see and to analyse. The Parliamentary Counsel had received notice of the proposal to lengthen the title of the Act on a previous occasion and he considered that the title of the Bill was quite in order. One other matter to which Senator Gietzelt referred- of course it is true- is that citizens are entitled to know the costs for the financing of their city. That sort of material is available. The purpose of this legislation is so that people will know what the costs are. Its purpose is to appoint a body whose specific operation is to analyse the costing, the financing of the works and services over a very wide range in the Capital Territory.
Senator Gietzelt says that we should remedy the omission of the Australian Capital Territory from the title of the Act. But it is not appropriate that the Australian Capital Territory should be in the title of the Act because it is not the financing of the Australian Capital Territory so much as it is the financing of the States and the Northern Territory. That is the crux of the problem. It is a report on the financing of the works and services of the Australian Capital Territory. I need only further say that the Bill was the result of a proposition put by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott). Senator Gietzelt was concerned quite properly that the terms of reference may not be wide enough. The terms of reference that apply to the financing of the works and services of the Australian Capital Territory are extremely wide. The terms will ultimately be laid down, by agreement between the Minister for the Capital Territory, the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay). The terms of reference therefore, by nature and by design, will be extremely wide. I believe that this piece of legislation will fulfil a very necessary function for the Australian Capital Territory. It is well received in the Territory and it should be supported by this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I suggest that perhaps the three amendments, which are probably in the process of being circulated, be dealt with together because they express the principles stated by the Opposition during the second reading debate and they are consequential one upon the other. Therefore I seek leave to move the three amendments together.
– I move:
The second amendment refers to the ‘receipt and expenditure of public funds within’ and the final amendment refers to ‘receipt and expenditure of public funds’, including aspects of public finance, whether of a type normally provided or collected by the Commonwealth, State or local governments, either together or separately. The suggestion that we should incorporate receipts and expenditure instead of works and services is in my view and the view of the Government a more restrictive circumstance. It is on that ground that I find it not possible to accept the amendments that the Opposition has moved to this Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
Consideration of Report of Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Order! As I understand it, this Bill was referred to a Committee. The Committee has reported back, and that procedure replaces the Committee of the Whole. Any discussion on the report can now take place on the motion that the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations be adopted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No. Honourable senators can talk about the Bill on the motion for the adoption of the report.
– It may be appropriate if I speak briefly to the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. Debate on that or any other matter then can proceed from there. I indicate that this is the first occasion on which the Senate has made use of the sessional order relating to the reference of Bills to a Senate legislative and general purpose standing committee. Basically the report is self-explanatory and requires little elaboration. The Committee has not recommended any amendments to the financial, accounting and audit provisions of the Bill, which were the provisions referred to the Committee for its consideration. The evidence we received was unanimous that the new provisions should cause no problems for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission and should result in no delay in the preparation of its financial statements and the presentation of its annual reports to the Parliament.
To elaborate on that point, it was refreshing to find that there is a statutory authority which has reached an advanced stage in the conversion to commercial accounting. The Commission indicated that when that conversion was first imposed on it, in 1 96 1 , it went through the same sort of trauma that a number of other statutory authorities have been through during the conversion period. In fact, presently it is doing what this Bill will now require of it. All the parties involved were unanimous that there should be no problems. Therefore, it is my personal view that in future we can expect the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories ‘ reports and financial statements to be presented on time. There will not be any of the problems which on other occasions have been used as excuses for reports of the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian National Railways Commission and numerous other statutory authorities being delayed for years.
– They would be taking a great risk if they were late now, wouldn’t they?
- Senator Puplick says that they would be taking a great risk if they were late now. We have received assurances that there will not be any problems, and we firmly believe, and report to the Senate that that will be the situation. We recommend in the report that for similar provisions relating to authorities the second reading speeches should contain an explanation as to their effect. If I may elaborate briefly on that, it has been pointed out on a number of occasions that problems can arise where changes to accounting standards are imposed without adequate consultation and consideration. Where such amendments are proposed, if the second reading speech refers to the fact that there has been consultation as to how the provision is likely to work then I am sure that both the Parliament and the public could be assured that the matter has been given adequate consideration and that there should be no problems.
The Committee also recommended that negotiations on the new form of accounts for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories should commence immediately upon the enactment of the Bill and be completed by 1 July 1980. The evidence was that there was no reason why that should not be possible. When the new accounting provisions start at the commencement in the next financial year, the approval of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) to the new form of accounts will have been obtained and there will not be any other reason for delay. Our investigation also disclosed that the financial statements of authorities such as CSL might not disclose the full resources or be commercially comparable. I pause there to refer to the fact that the rental being paid by CSL- an amount of $123,000 in respect of 33 acres of land at Parkville, an inner city area in Melbourne, together with a number of buildings- could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a commercial rent. The suggestion was made that there is the matter of the national interest aspect of the operation. My view is that where there is a reduction in rent because some national interest function is being fulfilled by an authority, then the full rent ought to be charged and shown and the national interest subvention made separately so that, so far as possible, commercial comparability can be obtained. The Committee indicated in its report that it will pursue this matter in the context of a general inquiry into statutory authorities and will keep the Senate informed of future developments.
There are two other aspects which we refer to in the report. One is the provision in relation to superannuation, which is still uncertain. It is referred to in note 17 to the annual report and financial statements of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It is quite possible that, if provided for on the basis recommended for statutory authorities who are not going to have to pay out as liability for inflation adjustments arises, they should be paying approximately $ 1 m extra a year. If they paid another $ lm a year of provision for superannuation they would, far from making a profit, be making a loss. The other point is that they do not pay rates. Where the Commonwealth is operating a commercial undertaking in competition with other commercial undertakings there are two aspects of the question as to whether rates ought to be charged and paid. The reason statutory authorities do not pay rates is that the land is owned by the Commonwealth. Land is leased under an informal lease arrangement to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. As it remains owned by the Commonwealth it is not subject to municipal rates. If rates were charged the amount payable in respect of that area in Parkville would be very high indeed. One wonders whether it is fair to the municipal authority which provides services and needs an income to enable it to -
– Are you going to apply the same to churches?
- Senator Grimes says that you can apply the same to churches. Let me talk about commercial undertakings owned by the
Commonwealth. I think I can limit my remarks to that at the moment. The Committee at this stage does not have a reference to inquire into the situation in relation to churches and the financial accounts of such bodies. Where there is a need for some commercial comparability, where there is a price fixing function and a market function being undertaken by a Commonwealth-owned authority, it may be that it would be preferable for full rent and full rates to be payable by that authority and that any necessary subvention to cover the national interest undertakings of the authority be made by way of separate provision.
The Committee considers that the inquiry has been a most useful exercise and that it has demonstrated that the Senate committees can examine Bills both expeditiously and without any significant delay in the parliamentary program. Consideration of this Bill was delayed from the last day of sitting to this day. We consider that a worthwhile precedent has been set and we recommend that the procedure be used in future for reference of Bills to these committees where, for purposes such as this, there can be a speedy investigation. We believe this is a thorough report in which the Senate and the public can be assured that the changes being made will not create problems adversely affecting the operation of the undertaking and in which the review function of the Senate can be seen to have been carried out in a way which can, as we develop the process, I believe, reflect credit on this chamber. With those comments I commend the report to honourable senators. There are some 29 pages in the report. I have not tried to summarise them other than in a very brief way. I can indicate only that the Bill has our blessing with the undertaking given by CSL and others responsible that this time there will be no misunderstandings, no hold-ups and no delays in the presentation of financial statements and annual reports.
-This is a new procedure to all of us and I believe it is the first time it has been applied. I wish to address my remarks to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill. In passing I merely make the remark that I hope the day comes when committees such as the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, chaired by Senator Rae, take as much interest in the financial accounting of some of the private corporations in this country as they are taking in some of the quasi public ones.
– It took a fair interest in some of them in relation to securities and exchange.
-The Committee took a fair interest in relation to some of them but not enough interest. If we are going to have such an obsessive interest in useful publicly-owned authorities and it leads to our taking a greater interest in some of the private corporations in this- country I have no complaint. Fortuitously the delaying of the consideration of this Bill for a week by its referral to this Committee has emphasised the point of the Opposition ‘s support for this legislation through something that has happened this week. It has emphasised the very real need for the strengthening of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and for the widening of its ability to take part in the pharmaceutical industry in this country. As well as broadening the capacity of CSL to produce non-biologicals, as well as strengthening the board of CSL and tidying up some other matters the Bill, in fact, goes some way to ensuring that we have a viable pharmaceutical industry under the control of people in this country and under some control of the Parliament of this country.
I realise that Senator Townley ‘s rather idiosyncratic views on what he saw as creeping socialism are not in accord with this belief, but I gather that other government senators in fact agree with it. Of course, this has been emphasised by the fact that during the last week or so Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd, a multi-national pharmaceutical company, has been trying to take over F. H. Faulding and Co. Ltd, an Australian pharmaceutical company. In doing so it intends and it makes no bones about its intention, to remove the jobs of 100 workers in Adelaide and to sell part of Faulding ‘s warehousing capacity to another international pharmaceutical company. This will make the situation worse than it is now where, I believe, some 96 per cent of pharmaceutical manufacturing in this country is in the hands of foreignowned companies. Faulding and CSL, it is understood, had a joint takeover offer for the Fawnmac group of companies, another group of Australian companies, which were purchased by the Whitlam Labor Government.
This is a serious situation and, fortuitously, it just happens to demonstrate the importance of this legislation. Australia cannot and should not be dependent for its pharmaceutical manufacturing, for vital industries such as this, on the whims of overseas companies, be they in the United States of America, Switzerland, Holland, Britain or anywhere else. We should not be in the position where a decision made overseas can result in 100 people in Adelaide suddenly losing their jobs. Such a decision would be of considerable embarrassment to the Premier of South Australia who, of course, proclaimed and was elected not so long ago on the promise that he would preserve the industrial base in South Australia and that he would preserve the jobs of South Australians. He has had not success in doing so since his election.
Therefore, that emphasises the fact that we support the legislation. The Government proposed the legislation. Senator Townley may see it as creeping socialism. Senator Townley may not be concerned about the state of ownership of the pharmaceutical industry in this country. Senator Townley may not be concerned about the jobs of people in Adelaide or anywhere else in this country. I repeat that our support is reaffirmed for a national pharmaceutical industry, a base from which we can produce vital bioligicals and non-biologicals and a situation where we in this Parliament can directly or indirectly influence the anti-competitive tactics which are so often used by the multi-national pharmaceutical companies that have dominated the industry in Australia for so long.
-I rise purely to repeat a couple of comments that I made the other day. Perhaps before doing that I should reply in part to some of the kind remarks Senator Grimes made about me just a moment ago.
– A pleasure.
-He says that it was a pleasure and no doubt it was to him. But I do not take any heart in the fact that Australia’s drug production is, to a large extent, in the hands of overseas companies. I do not take any heart from the fact that a British company is trying to buy out F. H. Faulding and Co. Ltd, a company with which I once dealt to a very large extent. I do not like to see anybody’s job going down hill. The thing that worries me about allowing the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission to go into competition with the overseas drug companies, which admittedly produce most of the drugs that are sold in this country, is that I feel that by doing so we are just bringing about their exit from this country a little earlier.
I do not think anybody would say that the profitability of the overseas owned drug companies has been very large over the last 1 5 to 20 years. They have not had high profits. I believe they are now reaching the stage where they will leave this country and establish their production centres in areas such as the Philippines or Singapore where they will receive some assistance in operation and they will have stability in the work force. That,I think, will be the time when we will see a number of jobs disappearing from this country, when the big companies which were mentioned the other week move out of production in Australia. Make no bones about it, CSL has wanted for many years the powers that we are now giving it. It has wanted to get into this area of production of tablets, capsules and things of that nature almost since the end of the Second World War. I feel that somebody should say what I said the other day, that is, that if the Labor Government had brought in this Bill when it was in power, I am quite convinced that the Senate, with a Liberal Party majority, would have rejected it, and now we of that party have brought it in ourselves.
If we look at the financial situation, which is quite well detailed by the report on the financial accounting and audit provisions of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Bill prepared by the Senate Standing Committee on Financing and Government Operations during the last 10 days or so, we will see quite a few anomalies compared with the situation for ordinary companies with which we are supposed to compare CSL. A public listed company, for instance, would have to show that it has a reasonable amount of assets, such as land. It would have to pay rates, it would have to make the right superannuation contributions. I am not quite sure what all these extra amounts would come to but I think I heard correctly when I heard Senator Rae say that if the CSL had to include those amounts in its financial statement it would not be showing a profit. That, unfortunately, is true of so many of the qangosquasiautonomous national government organisations- throughout this country. They do not operate on a profit; they are not efficient. If we look at the history of England we will see that nearly every time the government there has stuck its finger into the mixing bowl, whether it be medicines, airways or whatever, it has not come out profitably. In some cases a government should do things in the national interest, but I do not believe that it is necessary for the Government to move into the area of giving CSL this power. I think somebody should speak out against it, and I am doing that.
For the sake of the completeness of the record, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard paragraphs 4.6 to 4.24 of the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
The document read as follows- 4.6 CSL are given wider borrowing powers under the amendment Bill. They will now. with the Treasurer’s permission, be able to borrow from sources other than the Commonwealth (under the proposed section 34a). They will also be able to invest funds more freely. (Under a proposed amendment to section 36. ) These are the standard provisions currently recommended for commercial authorities by the Department of Finance. 4.7 Any additional borrowing and investments will of course be shown in CSL’s financial statements. The Committee makes no comment on this aspect other than to note that CSL stated in evidence that they will welcome the increased financial flexibility provided by the extended powers. 4.8 The proposed new section 34B of the CSL Act provides that:
The Minister, after consultation with the Commission-
Before making or amending a determination under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to a financial year, the Minister shall take into account, in addition to any other relevant matters-
The Commission shall, in the conduct of its operations, pursue a policy directed towards making, during each financial year, profits sufficient to enable the Commission to pay to the Commonwealth, out of those profits, an amount equal to an amount representing the percentage of its capital determined under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to that financial year.
This is the standard provision relating to dividend policy currently recommended by the Department of Finance for commercial authorities, with an additional reference to the national interest’ activities of CSL. 4.9 The dividend which is eventually paid to the Commonwealth will of course affect CSL’s financial statements. The profit and loss statements will influence the level of dividend and the payment will be reflected in the balance sheet. The Committee has no comment to make on the dividend policy as such, because this is outside the terms of reference of our review. However, we wish to make the following comments on the determination of the dividend insofar as it affects CSL’s financial statements.
Land valuation 4.10 CSL’s main buildings are situated at Parkville in Melbourne on about 33 acres of land owned by the Commonwealth. This land is in fact the most important of the assets in the custody of CSL which were referred to earlier. Because CSL does not own the land, its value is not included in the
Fixed Assets’ listed in CSL’s balance sheet for 1978-79. The Committee notes that this fact alone lessens the comparability of CSL’s balance sheet with that of any similar public listed company. The balance sheet of a public company would normally include an item of valuation for such an important asset as the land on which the company’s main buildings are located. If the public company does not own the land, but leases it, then the rental will be included in the profit and loss statement.
Superannuation 4.20 Note 17 to CSL’s 1978-79 balance sheet reads us follows:
Superannuation Contribution Contingencies
Following the introduction of the Superannuation Act 1 976, it is estimated that the Commission is incurring some liability due to the indexing of pension benefits. On the other hand, the Commission has an entitlement to a share of the surplus payable to employers resulting from termination of the old Fund. The net effect of these changes cannot be determined at this stage. ‘
This is another aspect of the CSL’s financial statements which appears at first sight to be unsatisfactory to the Committee because it does not disclose CSL’s full financial position. 4.21 CSL stated in evidence to the Committee that it had established a contingency fund of 15 per cent of the salaries bill for those of its employees who come under the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. However, as the note above explains, this provision may not be sufficient to pay the pension benefits when they fall due. The question therefore arises as to the extent of this unforeseen liability. 4.22 The Committee understands that other statutory authorities apply a higher percentage of their wages bill as a contingent superannuation provision, some as high as 25 per cent. If the real liability of CSL for superannuation payments is in fact 25 percent of its wages bill and not 15 percent, this would represent an additional amount of approximately $ I million in current terms. Moreover, the liability has been accumulating since the introduction of the Superannuation Act in 1976. As the note to the account indicates, an unspecified share of the surplus from the old fund will be payable to CSL at some time in the future which could then be set against the outstanding liability. 4.23 However, the Committee wishes to make the point that CSL may be incurring a very significant and growing superannuation liability the extent of which is not specified in its financial statements. We do not wish to make any further comment on this subject in this report. If the situation is common to other statutory authorities it is obviously an important matter for us to investigate under our responsibility for the general oversight of authorities. 4.24 These three issues- CSL’s use of Commonwealthowned land, its non payment of local government rates and its treatment of its contingent superannuation liability- all affect CSL’s financial statements and hence the determination of its dividend under the proposed section 34b. They exemplify the difficulty of divorcing the consideration of an authority’s accounts from a consideration of its financial policy.
– In conclusion, I see the time coming, because of this Bill, most probably directly because of this Bill, when some of the overseas based drug companies will leave this country. If they are selling drugs to this country and they are based out of Australia, we could find them saying that we will have to pay $x for a particular tablet or capsule and if the national health service or whoever is wanting to get that drug is not prepared to pay that amount we will not be able to get it. I would much prefer to have seen CSL remain as it was. If we needed to make some minor amendments to cover the situation that other speakers have mentioned, I would have preferred that. I certainly think that the doubling of the number of commissioners- from four to eight- is an unnecessary extension of the membership of this qango
– In rising to speak on this matter, I recall to mind the discussion that took place when it was last before the Senate. That was the occasion on which I first raised a point about the stage at which a matter should be referred to a committee for consideration. Honourable senators will recall that when this matter was last debated Senator Rae raised a point about whether the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission had the accounting ability to bring into operation the new accounting system. By way of interjection I asked him why it should not, because the new accounting system is not to come into operation until 1 July of this year. If in March the Parliament instructs an organisation to introduce a new accounting system and says that it must operate from 1 July, it should not be left to the Senate to worry about whether that organisation has the ability to do so. It is an instruction from the Senate and the organisation has to follow it.
– That instruction was given to the Wheat Board in 1974 and it has not yet got itself sorted out, nearly six years later, and we want to make sure that that situation is not repeated.
– Apparently we have done nothing about destroying the Wheat Board for not carrying out the instructions of the Senate. We have permitted the Wheat Board to become a greater authority than the Senate. But I do not think that that is a reason for referring the matter to a Senate committee and getting it to see whether that body has the ability to do what the Senate says it should do. I think the instruction was given three months in advance to enable CSL to prepare its accounting systems. I think this is explained in the conclusions contained in paragraph (b) of Chapter V of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Relations, which reads:
The parties involved in the determination of the new form of CSL’s accounts should commence negotiations as soon as the Bill is enacted and conclude them before it comes into force on 1 July 1980.
That is merely instructing them to get their house in order so that this accounting system may be introduced. Many of the questions that I have raised could possibly be answered by Senator Rae, but each honourable senator is limited to one speech in the second reading debate, and Senator Rae has exhausted his rights in that regard and cannot reply to my remarks. We are discussing the Committee’s report and the Minister for Special Trade Representations may not find it appropriate to reply to the debate so far. If at some point in the Committee stage it is thought advisable to refer something to a Senate committee and if the matter comes up for discussion we could then have an interchange of speakers and the problems that worry us could be answered by either the Chairman of the Committee or the Minister. We now find that in the Committee ‘s conclusions it is stated:
When introducing a Bill which relates to the financial, accounting or audit requirements of a statutory authority, the Minister should include in the second reading speech a description of the effects of the provisions.
The adoption of the second reading speech puts no compulsion on the Minister to comply with the Committee’s recommendation. It is not an expression by the Senate of what it believes is or is not right. I will be interested in the reply of the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) to see whether he, or the Government, accepts this. Perhaps the Minister will give a description of the requirements on a future occasion when there are such requirements for auditing or accounting. In regard to Senator Townley ‘s contribution to this debate, at no time was the matter referred to the Committee for the purpose of deciding whether the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories should carry on as a Government enterprise or whether it should be handed over to private industry. It was agreed that it should continue as it is and there only remained the question of accountancy. Therefore, the question of whether private enterprise might sell up and leave, and we would be charged extra, does not arise. That is not a part of the Bill.
-If I may interject, the Committee did not purport to enter into that subject.
– I know that. Senator Townley was just off the track, as perhaps he might be when making up some prescriptions. Possibly there is no need to say it, but I think that it only shows that there is some dislike of Commonwealth enterprise when compared to private industry.
– There is a conflict of interests, too.
-There may be a conflict of interests because one is interested in private enterprise. Another of the Committee’s conclusions states:
CSL’s financial statements do not disclose the full extent of the Commonwealth’s contribution to its activities in relation to the use of land and the non-payment of rates nor do they indicate the extent of the superannuation liability. These factors will affect CSL’s profitability and hence its pricing policy and share of the market.
I wonder whether honourable senators were discussing in this Bill the question of profitability.
– Proposed new section 34B of the Bill is the financial provision in relation to the determination of its profitability and therefore of the Commonwealth’s subvention. That is what it is directed to.
– Although the recommendation did not seem to provide that it should be included- it points out that it should not- if it is included and if it is shown not to be a profitable venture then if not by Bill but by some other action the Commonwealth has to decide whether we should maintain an interest in the venture and subsidise it by Commonwealth funds. The Committee’s conclusions continue: lt may be advisable for the Commonwealth to be specifically named in the title of CSL ‘s patents.
I have no comment on that. The conclusions go on:
The Committee considers that the inquiry has been a most useful exercise. We believe we have demonstrated that the procedure under Sessional Order No. 9 is workable and that Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees can examine Bills expeditiously without any significant delay in the parliamentary program.
That has been done. What the Senate said before the Bill went to the Committee is what the Committee found. The Committee has the procedure and it has received instructions to account for that procedure. There seems to have been a glorification, or a justification, of the Committee. It has achieved nothing in regard to this whole matter and it apologises for that. However, the matter was not delayed and the report was brought down during the last week of the parliamentary recess. In its summary, the Committee states:
The Committee considers there will be no difficulty in implementing the financial, accounting and audit provisions of the Bill. All the parties involved agree . . . We recommend that: The second reading speech for similar provisions should explain their effect; negotiations on the new form of accounts should commence and be completed by 1 July 1980 . . .
In regard to similar provisions in all Bills, again I ask the Minister whether he will indicate whether the second reading speech, as the Committee requests, will contain provisions explaining the effects expected from the new form of accountancy. If that is done then possibly the Committee’s consideration of this question has been of some value. I would not like to get the Senate into a position where it thinks that things have to go to the Committee so that it can put into operation what Parliament has directed it to put into operation. I do not see any value in what the Committee has done on this occasion. But that was a parliamentary decision and it has been accepted. The matter went to the Committee. The Committee has come back with its report. I stress that there should be some statement in second reading speeches when it is proposed that there be some alteration in the system of accounting. This is not a motion for the adoption of the Committee ‘s recommendations. Where can we get some indication that the Senate approves of those recommendations or that the Minister will adhere to the recommendations in the future? I leave it to the Minister.
-When Senator Cavanagh said that the procedure adopted precluded me from being able to reply to him, he was not adverting to Sessional Order No. 9, clause 7 (c), which states:
In these proceedings, the same right of speech and time limits shall apply as in debate in Committee of the Whole.
That means that anybody can speak. In brief, I wish to reply to Senator Cavanagh in the hope of being of some assistance. Senator Cavanagh has missed one point in relation to the provisions in the Bill, and that is that whilst the Bill is directing that commercial accounts should be kept- as well as a number of other provisions- the form is to be approved by the Minister for Finance. There is still an Executive act to be undertaken and what can happen and what has happened on a number of occasions in the past, is that there have been lengthy delays and misunderstandings when the Parliament has said that the accounts shall be kept in a particular general form. The organization then sets out to do what it believes is in compliance with what Parliament has directed, and when it has completed its accounts for a year it submits them for approval by the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance. It is then said: ‘No, we think that they should be in some other different form’. Then there can be a situation where somebody has to go right back through the accounts for a whole year and possibly it can be found that the primary documents are not available to enable the accounts to be rewritten, or that all the accounts have to be rewritten. Once that situation arises accounting staff are taken off current accounting and are put on to rewriting. There are extra costs and delays, and the sort of mess to which the Committee has referred on pages 3 and 4 of its report.
– Is that because we are not clear enough or because somebody else is -
– It is because the form of accounts which should be approved is left undefined. I believe that the main function which the Committee undertook was to get the parties together to ensure that each of them had the same idea of what the provisions required by the Parliament in the amending Bill in practice would amount to. The fact is that, after each party heard evidence given by the other party as to what that party believed the amending legislation would mean, each party gave an assurance to the Committee that it was ad idem as to what would be involved as far as Commonwealth Serum Laboratories’ accounts were concerned and indicated that, therefore, there should be no problem at all in obtaining in advance approval from the Minister for Finance to the form of the accounts so that before 1 July, when the new system came in, approval would be given to that form of accounts.
In the past that has not tended to happen. In fact, in a number of instances investigated by the Committee the process has taken years. By way of interjection when Senator Cavanagh was speaking I referred to the situation of the Australian Wheat Board. In that instance, amendments were made in 1 974 and in 1 980 we still do not have -
– But it seems that it hasn’t got the capability of knowing what is required.
– What the Committee has suggested in previous reports is that people have not adverted early enough to what is required. Once the mess which I mentioned is created, it becomes cumulative and gets worse. We have delays, such as the three year delay with the Australian National Railways Commission while it waited to get matters determined in an attempt to sort out how to produce its accounts. That is a delay of three years with a body which last year received a capital and operating subvention of in excess of S80m from taxpayers’ funds. That is a fair amount of money, yet we have waited for three or four years to get some form of accounting from that body using that amount of taxpayers’ funds. A period of 3lA years is involved with the Canberra Showground Trust. I do not think it has reported since it was created in 1976.
-I agree with you, but I think the fault is in the organisation.
– No, that is where I disagree with Senator Cavanagh. It is in the form in which the Parliament is imposing the requirements that uncertainties can be created because the detailed form is not specified in the legislation. It is provided that the form shall be approved by the Minister for Finance, which leaves at the end of the legislative process a degree of uncertainty which has to be determined by negotiation.
The view put forward by the Committee to the Senate in this report is that it is important that, before the legislative process is completed, the parties are ad idem as to what the change will mean so that we do not have a situation such as that which occurred with the Australian Housing Corporation, for which amending legislation was introduced in, I think, 1 974. The Act came into operation in the fifty-first week of an accounting year. It imposed an entirely new accounting standard on the Australian Housing Corporation, which then had to go back and rewrite its accounts for the previous 51 weeks. The delay was very considerable. Again, the mess- I use the term deliberately- which was created delayed the efficient functioning of that organisation for a considerable period. It caused the withholding of information from the Parliament and the public while the Corporation sorted itself out. Those are avoidable delays which, if the Parliament ensures that what it is imposing is workable, can be avoided.
– Do you say that it should be explained in the second reading speech?
– Yes. What we are saying is that it should not be necessary every time for a committee to look at this issue but rather that the second reading speech should advert to the fact that consideration has been given to this aspect, that the parties concerned do understand what the new procedures will be and how it will work, that there is the capacity to introduce the new system and that it will work from the commencement of the next financial year or from whatever date has been agreed upon. We do not say that this procedure should be adopted every time. But in the light of the messes we found, we believed it was desirable in this case to look at the situation. Nothing was stated in any of the second reading speeches to indicate how the new system would work or whether it would work. What we wanted to see was a workable arrangement to make sure that the new system would not cause undue delay. We were assured by each of the parties involved that that would not happen. I, too, now look forward to receiving a response from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle), either now or in due course. But I expect that there should be no problem at all when preparing second reading speeches for legislation seeking to impose this sort of change in accounting standards to make some reference to how the new system will work. I think it is a matter of form. I think there is a general awareness now of the problems that have been created and attention is being paid to this issue. All it requires is that that is reflected in the detail of the second reading speech. I trust that that can be implemented fairly simply.
– I desire to say a few words on this report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories legislation, which was referred to the Committee last Thursday. Having had a quick look at the report I am very pleased that nowhere could the Committee level any criticism at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. We find that the Committee stated in its conclusions:
The Committee considers that there should be no problems for CSL in satisfying the requirements of the new provisions and therefore we recommend no amendments to the provisions.
In the summary of the report we find that CSL has proven to be quite capable of handling its own affairs in the interests of Australian citizens. As Senator Grimes said, we are very fortunate to have an organisation such as CSL which cannot be handed over to private enterprise, as we find that F. H. Faulding and Co. in Adelaide is to be handed over. As a matter of fact, the interests of Fauldings will be sold. I will quote from the Adelaide Advertiser report on the sale of that company. It will be sold to a foreign company eventually and its expertise will be lost to Australia. We see also that 100 jobs will be lost in South Australia. I am very pleased that, despite the fact that some honourable senators speaking to the legislation last week in the Senate were very critical of CSL and were of the opinion that private enterprise would be far better equipped to handle the pharmaceutical industry which comes within the province of CSL, the Committee has come back with a report which completely exonerates CSL and pays due credit to it for having sufficient expertise to enable it to handle its own affairs.
I was a bit unhappy to hear Senator Townley ‘s remarks when he talked about the Government sticking its fingers into the mixing bowl in respect of medicines and prescriptions. We all know Senator Townley ‘s thoughts on medicine and particularly on prescriptions. I have never heard Senator Townley object to receiving a government subsidy for the prescriptions that his pharmaceutical enterprises have dispensed to the general public. He does not like government bodies such as CSL producing pharmaceutical products. Probably, to his way of thinking, they are operating at the expense of private enterprise which are in the business only to make an exorbitant profit. CSL is there to give a service to the community and I think everybody is proud of the work that it does.
I commend Senator Grimes for the matters that he raised tonight on the sale of Fauldings in Adelaide, which is going to shift its base to Melbourne with the loss of 100 South Australian jobs. They will not be put in jeopardy but will be lost immediately the company transfers. The Adelaide Advertiser states:
Glaxo is a United Kingdom-based international company employing 30,000 people with world wide sales of its prescription medicines, health foods, veterinary products and surgical instruments totalling $ 1 ,000m a year.
Glaxo said it would sell the Faulding wholesaling operations, the largest part of the South Australia group’s operation, to the Swiss-owned Zuelling group.
There we have a statement from Glaxo that it will buy up Fauldings in South Australia and will sell it to a Swiss-owned group. All those jobs in South Australia are in jeopardy. We find that those 100 employees at present employed by Fauldings in South Australia are setting up a fund to try to fight the case to have Glaxo reverse its decision. Knowing the way private enterprise works I think that the employees are fighting a lost cause. During the last State election in South Australia the present Premier, Mr Tonkin, in my view falsely criticised the then State Labor Government for allowing industry to be encouraged away from South Australia and for the loss of jobs. Now that he is in government he is allowing the very same thing to happen for which he wrongly criticised the South Australian Labor Government. It is happening under his nose. What is he doing to prevent it? He is doing nothing. He says that he will have talks with Fauldings. He ought to be passing legislation in the Parliament so that the industry can remain in the State for the benefit not only of the whole of the State but also the 100 employees who have given sterling service to the company in the many years they have become employed.
South Australians are very concerned because under the Tonkin Government South Australia has the highest rate of unemployment of any State in Australia. This is happening under the leadership of a man who said that his first job in hand if he became Premier would be to reduce unemployment and to stop industry shifting away to other States. The reverse is happening in both instances. We are losing industry to other States because of his mismanagement, and also because of his mismanagement the unemployment rate is escalating rapidly. I conclude by saying that I am very pleased that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has found that CSL is a very worthwhile enterprise and is very capable of handling its own affairs. I express the wish that CSL will remain as it has for many years and that no legislation is ever presented to the Parliament to cause the benefits which it gives to the Australian community to be whittled away and handed over to private enterprise.
– in reply- It remains for me very briefly to summarise the views that have been put by honourable senators who have participated in this debate tonight. I shall certainly draw the attention of the Government to the concern expressed by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Rae. It is pleasing to find that those two senators are, in Senator Cavanagh ‘s words, in agreement. There seems to be a consensus of approval in the chamber tonight for the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I observed from Senator Cavanagh ‘s remarks that he felt that some statement should be incorporated in second reading speeches where a change to the accounting method is involved.
– That is the Committee’s recommendation.
-This is the Committee’s recommendation for which Senator Cavanagh has indicated his concern and approval. There should be consultation among the authority concerned, the Department of Finance and the Auditor-General’s Office when changes in the accounting method occur. I have noted the comments of the participants in the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, as reported, agreed to.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations)For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr MacKellar) relating to the report.
- Senator Scott, do you have a statement?
– It was tabled with the report.
-I seek leave to move a motion.
The report which the Minister has just brought down has been described as the report of the Williams inquiry on drugs. That simply means that it is a report of a royal commission the presiding judge of which was Mr Justice Williams. The Government received the full report on this matter on 1 5 January this year, two months ago. The report runs to several volumes. I am sure that not many people in the Government and not many people in the Opposition could claim in any sense to be familiar in detail with the report.
The remarks I want to make are basically addressed to the sloppy statement which was put down with the report and which we have of course all had a chance to read. I said that this report reached the hands of the Government two months ago. In that period of gestation the Government has conceived this very limp response to a very important document dealing with the question of drugs in Australia. The statement brought down tonight is an indictment of the present Government whose members have clearly been paying far too much attention to matters other than the serious problem of drug abuse in Australia. In this report, Mr Justice Williams has provided a national strategy for the combatting of the drug problem in Australia. The Government’s response, as I have indicated, is nondescript and ill-considered. Clearly as a result of newspaper reports the Government has again been put in the position as it was late last year of having to make a rushed response to a report and to make it public without careful consideration.
Honourable senators will recall that the interim report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs which recommended the disbanding of the Narcotics Bureau for its incompetence and because some of its members were passing information to drug syndicates was delivered to the Government on 18 September 1979 and finally saw the light of day when it was made public on 6 November 1979, again after a series of newspaper disclosures regarding the contents of the report. In what must be considered one of the most irresponsible acts of any Government in the history of Federation, the Government guillotined in the House of Representatives on 1 7 October last year amendments contained in the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) and also the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill which followed from the publication of that report. These Bills were very important in terms of civil liberties issues. They gave much wider powers to an organisation- I am referring to the Narcotics Bureau- which the Government knew from its own Royal Commission report was incompetent and corrupt. I refer the Senate briefly to the interim report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs to the Commonwealth Government in September 1979.
– Where were the allegations of corruption?
-I am coming to that. Page one of the interim report on the Narcotics Bureau states:
The Commission has obtained a picture of drug trafficking in Australia from its consideration of evidence contained in some 24,000 pages of transcript and 990 exhibits. It is the considered opinion of this Commission that:
The Narcotics Bureau is not a highly efficient enforcement agency.
Increases in arrests, prosecutions and seizures of drugs have often occurred with little or no Narcotics Bureau assistance.
Some of the largest seizures in recent years attributed in the media to the Narcotics Bureau have in fact occurred without any real assistance from the Narcotics Bureau.
There is considerable and increasing distrust of the Narcotics Bureau among other other law enforcement bodies. For some years past relationships between the Narcotics
Bureau and COMPOL, especially at the top levels, have been bad but now relationships between the Narcotics Bureau and State police are bad in many places.
Within the judicial system, generally speaking, the Narcotics Bureau’s reputation for efficiency is lower than that of State police forces. The Bureau spends too much time defending itself and its image.
The Senate will recall that at the time that interim report was being debated there were a number of discussions about allegations made by people who were subsequently murdered. I think that the Wilsons were two of the people involved. It may well have been because of the circumstances which surrounded the publishing of the interim report and the allegations against the Narcotics Bureau that Mr Fife was removed from his job as Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and, unhappily for the children of this country, vested with the portfolio of education. The statement which was tabled tonight shows that nothing is changed by virtue of the new Minister’s assuming the business and consumer affairs portfolio. This can be seen from the very scant nature of the initiatives the Government proposes to take as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The statement discloses no positive government support for the national strategy proposed by the Royal Commission. The first part of the statement is devoted throughout to proposing what the Commission referred to as a national strategy. The Government has not adopted the national strategy proposed by the Royal Commission. The statement reads:
The Prime Minister has written . . . suggesting that the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence . . . might provide an appropriate forum for initial discussion of many of the recommendations in the report … the Royal Commission’s recommendation concerning the establishment of a national system of forensic science laboratories … be discussed in the Commonwealth/State Ministerial Police Advisory Council.
The inaugural meeting of that Council is to take place in June. This is another example of a government which makes vast noises and a tremendous hullabaloo on issues such as this. When it is called upon to deliver the goods in terms of a positive response it produces a most feeble -
– A mouse.
-As Senator Tate put it, it is a mouse that roars. If I might embark on another analogy it could be described as a further example of the Afghanistan syndrome.
– You are letting your imagination run riot.
-I am not letting my imagination run riot. If I am testing the honourable senator’s imagination, I apologise. If he had to exercise his imagination he would probably have to go to bed suffering from fatigue. This is another example of a government which makes a great fuss and hullabaloo about such things. When the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill and associated Bills were before the Senate, when fundamental issues of civil liberties were involved, the drug situation in Australia became the most important problem facing this country in the rhetoric of members of the Government. All the noise and hullabaloo was invoked in order to justify incursions into the civil liberties of Australian citizens. Now, when the Government is asked for a genuine response to the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs we get, as Senator Tate so eloquently put it, an example of the mouse which roars.
The second point I make about this statement concerns coastal surveillance. Again I refer to Afghanistan and all the noise that was made about that situation by Government members. They developed, I hope not to Senator MacGibbon’s discomfort, the Afghanistan syndrome, as I call it. In spite of all that we said about our response to that problem, the situation of coastal surveillance in Australia has developed to an appalling stage under the present Government. The Royal Commission appointed by this Government has saved some of its more scathing comments for the state of coastal surveillance in Australia.
I commend to honourable senators the passages of the Royal Commission’s report in connection with coastal surveillance. Let me summarise some of the things which the Royal Commission had to say about this Government’s policies on that matter. It said that Australian coastal surveillance was found to be ‘inadequate and misdirected ‘ allowing considerable potential for smuggling, that surveillance of Sydney Harbour is neglected and haphazard, and that the extent of the problem is evidenced by a total of 109 unidentified sightings of aircraft in the last two years. This is happening under a government whose Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has offered Cockburn Sound as a naval base to the United States. The Commission said that the majority of detections that occurred were considered quite fortuitous- one could say that they were made by accident or by good luck- or as a result of unrelated information given to coastal surveillance.
The Commission estimates that in the past three years $4,500m worth of drugs entered Australia with less than 10 per cent being detected. It said that 30 per cent of the illicit drugs imported into Australia were dumped off the coast and that Australia ‘s Customs fleet is in a parlous state. The word ‘parlous’ is the Royal Commission’s word. The Commission noted that smugglers had ‘little to fear’ from the Customs fleet. Again, Senator Tate’s analogy comes to mind. On one occasion a Custom ‘s launch broke down 83 times travelling from Eden to Brisbane. At no time did it get closer than 14 miles to the ship is was shadowing. Customs launches are not designed for patrol on the east coast, south of Cairns or on the south or south-west coast of Australia. So much for the drug traffic into those areas! The Commission said that the Sydney Harbour Customs fleet cannot even go through Sydney Heads except in still, millpond conditions. Again, those are the words of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs. The Commission said that no patrols are carried out off the New South Wales coast between Tweed Heads and Gabo Island with the exception of Port Stevens, Newcastle and Sydney harbours.
– It sounds like the Navy.
-Senator Douglas McClelland has put a horrifying thought into my mind. The Royal Commission said that it was only in 1977 that Customs launches for the first time in Customs history had travelled the full length of the New South Wales coastline. In Governor Phillips ‘s day I recall that they used to do it in whaleboats, rowing. But in the history of the Australian Customs the full length of the New South Wales coastline has not been traversed. The Royal Commission went on to say that there are 2,039 air strips in Australia within range of Bali, Dili and Port Moresby. While there are 2,000 light aircraft in Australia capable of flying to South East Asia and landing on unprepared strips, there are 24,000 people licensed to fly them. That is a tragic indictment of this Government’s efforts in relation to this question of coastal surveillance.
– With respect, it goes back beyond just this Government. It is an historical fact of long standing.
-Yes, I agree with that. But I tell the honourable senator that a Liberal government has been in power for 27 years out of the last 30. Any period he would like to choose, we will debate with him. But that is a fact. The Liberal Party has been in government for 27 years out of the last 30. After all the honourable senator would concede that the problems that resulted in royal commissions and things was much noised about in the last year or two when the Government wanted to introduce the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill and so on. I am concerned about the response when the Government is confronted with a real situation. As I said, Senator Lewis, it is an example of what we on this side of the chamber would call the Afghanistan syndrome. There were many roars about the matter but not much to back it up. This statement now before the Senate is further evidence of the procrastination on the part of the Government when it comes to proper drug enforcement.
We find no statement of intent to commit major funds to upgrading any of these facilities to which I have referred. Rather we find that the Government feels that the recommendations of the Commission in relation to organisation of coastal surveillance are in accordance with the underlying philosophy of the present Australian Coastal Surveillance Organisation. That is presumably the historic philosophy which Senator Baume espouses. Failing to recognise the problem as contemporary, Senator Baume describes it as an historic one. Insofar as the Royal Commission makes other recommendations which would in any sense involve the spending of hard cash on coastal surveillance, we find that the recommendations will be taken fully into account in the major review of civil and coastal surveillance arrangements to be undertaken in 1981.
Like the motor car industry and like everything else that is difficult the problem is put forward for consideration in 1981. When we consider how we sat in the Senate with the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation and listened to the beating of breasts on the other side of the chamber about the importance of that legislation and the urgency with which it had to be passed because this was a government of strong men of action, we see this feeble response. Words fail me when I try to describe the feeble nature of this response to the finding of a royal commission particularly set up to deal with this problem. So it is all put on the long finger, if I can use a colloquialism, until the year 1981. Perhaps there are too many other matters to deal with in 1980. Why are these recommendations not capable of earlier recommendation? We have been waiting long enough for them. We are entitled to expect, from a government which seems to perceive itself as a government of action of some kind, that there might be some earlier action. But does the Government not now consider this to be a high priority area? I said that in many senses this was a most disappointing, feeble, miserable and rotten statement that has been made by the Minister. Let us look at the question of law enforcement as it is dealt with in the statement.
A most disturbing aspect of the statement is the sort of nice little slide that is made from the Royal Commission recommendations for the establishment of a national system of criminal drug intelligence centres. Instead the Government has adopted an approach of establishing a National Criminal Drug Intelligence Centre, a concept which was agreed on with that natural selfserving interest which possesses all human beings at times by, of all people, the police commissioners of Australia on 3 and 4 December 1979. That is the approach which the Government has adopted without, it would seem, any critical analysis of the views of the police commissioners and without any critical analysis of the possible demerits of the Royal Commissioner’s suggestions. So there is a slide and a rejection of the Royal Commission suggestions without any assessment of the views of the police commissioners on the other hand.
I did want to refer the Senate to the proposal in relation to the National Criminal Drug Intelligence Centre suggested by the Royal Commission. That can be found in Book D of the Royal Commission report, on page 42. It sets out there in some detailed form a chart explaining the nature of the Centre. It is discussed on the opposite page and the operational requirements and the function of the proposed Centre are set out. That is not dealt with in the report brought down by the Government in any detail whatsoever and a concept which is vital in a sense to the nature of the Royal Commission report is just skipped over blithely by this Government in the statement which has been brought down. If the purport of this statement is that the National Criminal Centre would operate with the same sort of structural basis and with access to the same information as the proposed National Criminal Drug Centre then it is a horrifying statement that the Government has made. What is suggested is a centre dealing with drug crimes and importation of drugs. That has been changed by the Government into a centre dealing with crime generally which will have access to all sorts of information. This is justified on the basis that drugs are involved and this is a frightening concept in almost Orwellian terms.
I think the Government, far from putting this matter off until 1981, will probably put off until 1984 the introduction of this particular concept.
It is quite frightening. The statement on the question of law enforcement displays no clear philosophy towards the problems of complaints against police and other matters relating to the privacy of the individual and civil liberties while at the same time condoning the implementation of a super police body with access to all the resources of the State and the international community to be focused against the individual. I would have thought that this is a very frightening concept for people like Senator Missen, who devoted so many years to matters of civil liberties, freedom of information and the chairmanship of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. It is a very frightening concept that is so glibly sneaked in in this statement. It is deplorable that a statement of this nature, condoning as it does the action set out above, should come into the Parliament with nearly three sentences only devoted to the problems of preserving the rights of the individual and dealing with complaints about police.
A further matter of concern is that this statement recognises the new arrangements by which the Federal Narcotics Bureau’s functions have been absorbed by the Federal Police. It states that this has occurred with the Bureau of Customs continuing to exercise its preventative role at the Customs barrier. I refer the Senate to what I said earlier about customs surveillance and the standard of customs equipment and so on. I briefly refer the Senate again to the question of the screening of incoming passengers to Australia in relation to drugs. Before the Royal Commission evidence was given that incoming passengers at Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport have been peaking up to 12,000 passengers an hour and that they were moved through so quickly that only cursory searches were made. Passengers wait up to 35 minutes to collect baggage, but the average search time is 47 seconds. All this was given in evidence to the Royal Commission. Evidence was given that an extremely competent officer would need at least half an hour to make a thorough and routine search. There was a lot of evidence about loopholes, bypassing line barriers which were not constantly manned and insufficient baggage checks. Cruise ships were not often checked because they were regarded as low risk. All these matters were given in evidence to the Royal Commission and they are matters which should be adverted to in connection with the so-called preventive role of the Bureau of Customs at the customs barrier.
Despite the evidence the Royal Commissioner had collected on the deplorable state of surveillance of incoming passengers and goods, this statement contains no indication of any government intention to improve the situation at all, particularly by better staffing. That is put off again until 1981. This is not a matter for cooperative action, as suggested, with the States. The Government must surely refute the Commission’s findings or immediately do something to remedy the situation which the Royal Commissioner found. Instead there is no response at all. It has to be recognised that the statement does not show how the Government will remedy the situation. That is in effect an indictment of the Minister or whoever is responsible for preparing this very sloppy statement.
There are three other matters that I want to refer to which the Royal Commissioner touched on and which have not been referred to in the statement made by the Minister. Firstly, I refer to the question of telephonic communications in relation to the interception of drug traffickers. I draw the Senate’s attention to the Commissioner’s findings on this matter which totally support the attitude which was put by the Opposition in relation to the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Bill in the debates which took place in the Senate on that Bill last year. I cannot at the moment refer the Senate to the exact section of the report. I think the appropriate section appears at page 43 of Volume D. There are two other matters to which I wish to refer. The Royal Commissioner recommends that police have powers to examine taxation returns and a variety of matters in connection with taxation. There is no response from the Government on that issue. It neither accepts the Commissioner’s recommendations nor rejects them. We do not know from the Minister’s statement what the Government’s attitude is to that question of taxation. What is so frightening about the statement is that the Government has gone along with the notion of setting up this super police intelligence bureau which will presumably have powers to look at anybody’s tax return in the absence of any statement from the Minister to the contrary. It is an extraordinary situation and again indicative of sloppiness in the preparation of the ministerial statement.
The other matter relates to doctors and drugs. I refer the Senate to page D 109 in Volume D of the report. I do not want to go into any detail on that, but it relates to the question of doctors prescribing drugs. Let me take one example which will be familiar, I think, to the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare and which is, of course, of common concern amongst parents in Australia- the drug mandrax, commonly known amongst kids as mandies. It is stated on page 109 of the report:
The drug methaqualone, or Mandrax, or any other preparation of which methaqualone constitutes a part, should be absolutely prohibited from importation into Australia, and its use or possession after 30 June 1980 should be absolutely prohibited in any part of the Commonwealth of Australia.
That is what the Royal Commission had to say about mandies. What is the response of the Government to that question? There is no response at all. We do not know whether the Government agrees with that view, but the Government, in a report of this kind, should surely have accepted the Royal Commissioner’s view or rejected it.
– They referred it to a committee.
– That may be a piece of esoteric knowledge that the honourable senator has, but it is not within my knowledge. I am talking about the statement which the Government brought down. It should have said in the statement that it has referred it to a committee, because that is a matter of concern to anyone reading the report. Senator Chipp ‘s interjection, of course, ties in with the whole question of the delay. The Government has had two months to produce a response to this report. It has known for two and a half years that it was coming. The report makes 246 recommendations as part of a national strategy to combat the growing drug problem in Australia. This statement by the Minister shows that the Government has failed totally, after all the rhetoric we heard last year, to come to grips with this report. The Government appears totally unwilling to give any degree of national leadership to respond to what is said to be a national strategy by the Royal Commissioner or, indeed, to give any finance in some of the areas I have mentioned- coastal surveillance and things of that kind- to initiate such a national strategy.
The former Minister, Mr Fife, who presided over this area with disastrous ineptitude, has been shunted sideways, and the matter is now left in the hands of a new Minister who makes this extraordinary response to a most important report. It was said earlier that the Narcotics Bureau and the police forces were infiltrated by people who were involved in drug trafficking. When one reads this statement one might almost think that some of the people who wrote it have been infiltrated in the head by some of the products of drug trafficking, because this is a sad, sloppy document for a government to produce in relation to a very serious matter.
– At the beginning, I ask the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) to contemplate incorporating the statement of the Minister for Health (Mr McKellar) in Hansard. Senator Button did not seem to be inhibited by the fact that he was speaking to the report and not to the Minister’s statement which is not on the record in the Senate. I believe that a report that -
– I did ask him to do that.
– I am sorry. The report took two and a half years to complete and comprised 1,700 pages. The Government’s reaction to the report ought also to be incorporated in Hansard so that it can be seen, and I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
REPORT OF THE AUSTRALIAN ROYAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO DRUGS
Statement by the Honourable M. J. R. MacKellar, M.P., Minister for Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister
On IS January the Prime Minister announced that the Honourable Mr Justice Williams had transmitted to His Excellency the Governor-General the Report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs.
The Report was also transmitted to the Governments of the four participating States, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, and it has also been made available to the Governments of New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory since it covers matters which lie within their jurisdiction.
The Commonwealth has been in close contact with the participating States with a view to co-ordinating the tabling of the Report in the respective Parliaments. Because of the profound importance of the subject matter, the Report is being tabled at the earliest possible date, today being the first occasion since the Report was received by governments that the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania have been simultaneously in session. The Parliament of Western Australia is to reconvene at a later date following the recent election in that State.
The Report consists of some 1,700 pages in five volumes and a confidential annex.
In accordance with the wishes of the Royal Commissioner, the Government does not propose to make public that confidential annex.
The Report deals comprehensively with the drug problem in Australia.
It covers drug use and abuse, law enforcement, treatment, education and controls.
It recommends a national strategy to deal with the drug problem.
National Strategy- Commonwealth/State Co-operation
The Government supports the concept of a comprehensive national strategy on drugs.
It notes, however, the Royal Commission’s observation that this will succeed only if Commonwealth and State Governments and agencies co-operate.
The Royal Commission Report has concluded that any strategy to limit the abuse of drugs must embrace all drugs, including alcohol and tobacco.
The Government notes also that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, in its report entitled “Drug Abuse in Australia- An Intoxicated Society?” makes a similar plea for a national strategy to address the problems of alcohol and tobacco. There is therefore a need for coordinated action in the handling of matters covered by both these reports.
A separate statement is being made on the Senate Committee ‘s Report.
The Prime Minister has written to the State Premiers and to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory suggesting that the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence (NSCC), which has existed since 1969 for deliberation amongst the various Commonwealth, State and Territory bodies participating in the administration of drug laws and control, might provide an appropriate forum for initial discussion of many of the recommendations in the Report, as well as related reports such as the Report of the Senate Standing Committee to which I have just referred and the reports of the Royal Commissions established by NSW and SA.
In his letter to the Premiers and the Chief Minister the Prime Minister has also suggested that the Royal Commission ‘s recommendation concerning the establishment of a national system of forensic science laboratories, which the Government supports in principle, be discussed in the Commonwealth/State Ministerial Police Advisory Council, the inaugural meeting of which is being planned for June.
The Government supports in principle the establishment of a national system of criminal drug intelligence centres, as recommended by the Royal Commission.
All Commissioners of police in Australia met in Canberra on 3/4 December 1979 and agreed to participate in the establishment of a National Criminal Intelligence Centre, with regional units in each State.
All police forces believe that drug intelligence should not be separate from other criminal intelligence because of the relationships between drug operations and crime.
A report on the establishment of a National Criminal Intelligence Centre was considered at the Commissioners of Police conference in Hobart earlier this month. A steering committee comprising the Commissioners of Police of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Federal Police, and chaired by Sir Colin Woods, has been set up to look at the further necessary steps required to bring the Centre into operation.
The Government has decided, so far as this lies within the powers of the Commonwealth, that there be no relaxation of the present Australian prohibition on cannabis.
Clearly this is a matter for the closest consultation with the States and the Northern Territory and the Government believes that discussions should begin as soon as possible between relevant officials.
The Government agrees, in principle, with other recommendations in the Report relating to health matters. Some of the recommendations concern matters that are already in train or are the subject of Commonwealth/State consultation.
For example, those proposals relating to strengthening controls over medical prescriptions for drugs of dependence, the use of heroin in medical practice and improvements in the collection and monitoring of data on drug abuse and drug movements in the legal trade are all matters which are currently under examination by the National Standing Control Committee.
Consultation with the States on these matters will be given impetus by reason of Mr Justice Williams’ recommendations, and appropriate proposals in the Report can be taken up initially at the next meeting of the NSCC.
Major items which it is proposed to include in the talks relate to a proposed national strategy on drug abuse, including setting up the proposed national network of Drug Information Centres.
Another important element of the proposed national strategy which will be examined in consultation with the States is the value of providing uniform Drugs of Dependence Acts in the States and a complementary Commonwealth Act, and the feasibility of its early implementation.
I remind honourable members that the Government acted, in November last, on the principal recommendations in the Interim Report by the Royal Commission which related to the disbanding of the Narcotics Bureau and the transfer of functions to the Australian Federal Police, with the Bureau of Customs continuing to exercise its preventive role at the customs barrier.
In this Report the Royal Commission has reaffirmed the views expressed in its Interim Report.
Other progress in the law enforcement task was made even before the Royal Commission reported.
Following an initiative by Mr Justice Williams and the NSW Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Woodward, a joint task force comprising members of the NSW and Australian Federal Police Forces, including five members of the former Narcotics Bureau, is operating in Sydney.
All information and intelligence records of the AFP, including the former Narcotics Bureau files, are available on request to any State police force.
The National Drug Enforcement Officers Course at the Australian Police College, Manly, has been reviewed in line with’ recommendation 58 of the Royal Commission Report and the question of additional courses is being examined, bearing in mind available venues and availability of specialist lecturers.
Two Intelligence Analysts courses were conducted at Manly in February.
One was for AFP members and the second was for State police officers.
The Course was specially designed to improve analysts’ capabilities and further courses will be provided to meet additional needs.
The Royal Commission has foreshadowed a further detailed Report on its proposal for uniform drug trafficking legislation.
When that Report comes to hand, priority will be given to its consideration and implementation, in consultation with the States.
Complaints Against Police
With the creation of the Australian Federal Police, an internal affairs unit, commanded by a Chief Superintendent, has been formed to investigate complaints against AFP members. State police have increased staff in similar units.
The Government is also considering the enactment of legislation substantially implementing the Law Reform Commission reports on complaints against police to provide procedures for the handling of such complaints.
In the meantime, consultations are taking place between the AFP Commissioner and the Commonwealth Ombudsman as to the role of the latter under the Ombudsman Act 1976 and in relation to certain aspects of the proposed new legislation in matters affecting AFP members’ actions.
Those recommendations of the Royal Commission which refer to arrangements for civil coastal surveillance imply centralized co-ordination, optimum use of the existing assets of participating authorities and regular reviews of requirements, programmes and systems in the light of changing circumstances.
These are in accordance with the underlying philosophy of the present Australian Coastal Surveillance Organisation.
Many of the recommendations reflect established practice in arrangements for civil coastal surveillance.
They also indicate, however, areas for improvement, particularly in the further consolidation of the resources which support Australia ‘s civil coastal surveillance effort.
Where these recommendations are not capable of early implementation, they will be taken fully into account in the major review of civil coastal surveillance arrangements to be undertaken in 1981.
Australia has for some years directed a concentrated effort towards South East Asian drug producing and transit countries.
It has co-operated with the United Nations in trying to promote alternative occupations and products.
It took the initiative at CHOGRM in 1978 in establishing a continuing Commonwealth regional body to keep this issue under examination.
Equipment has been provided to some countries and Australia has provided training in intelligence, field procedures and the use of dogs.
In the period 1 978-79 to 1 980-8 1 Australia will contribute $700,000 to the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control for development assistance in anti-narcotics projects, and the Australian Government has recently approved a proposal for $250,000 worth of enforcement aids, including training for Thailand.
The exchange of information and forensic data has been a long standing priority as it is integral to drug intelligence.
Exchange has taken place for some time on information relating to the availability and traffic in illegal drugs in South East Asia.
Mr Speaker, it is clear from what I have said that the Commonwealth is taking its responsibilities in the fight against drug abuse most seriously. The decision in 1977 in concert with the States to establish the Royal Commission indicated the Government’s concern at that time with the drug problem. It acted promptly last November on receipt of the royal Commission’s Interim Report in disbanding the Narcotics Bureau and transferring its functions to the Australian Federal Police, which has now become the Commonwealth’s principal agency in the drug field.
The last session of Parliament saw the passage of amendments to the Customs Act which conferred additional powers considered to be necessary in the fight against drug abuse.
Now, major recommendations of the Royal Commission’s report have been accepted in principle. -They represent an on-going commitment of the strongest kind to a program of action that will be pursued in the short term with the utmost vigour in consultation with the Statesand that will not be allowed to languish in the longer term. The decisions announced point the direction in which the Government is determined to go.
As consideration indepthofthe Royal Commission’s recommendations proceeds, further decisions will be taken by Government and announcedtotheParliament.
I believe the States fullyshareour approach and are inspired by the same resolve as ourselves to combat the drug problem in Australia. Their co-operation is vital. Their concern is shown by the fact that within the last three years they have all instigated Royal Commission inquiries into drug problems. The moment is therefore propitious for a joint and co-ordinated effort by all Governments. The opportunity should not be lost.
With a common resolve, I am optimistic that we can achieve progress against the public health problems that drug abuse has presented us with, andagainst the predators, both inside and outside Australia, who seek to exploit the weaknesses of some Australians for profit.
I wish to place on record, Mr Speaker, the appreciation of the Commonwealth Governmentforthe major contribution made by the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Williams, and for the way in which he has. carried out this important national task; and to express also theGovernment’s thanks to all those who have assistedMr Justice Williams in his inquiry and in the production of this major and important Report.
-My approach will be different to that of Senator Button. I will not direct the thrust of my argument to criticising the Government so much,although I share many of Senator Button’s criticisms ofwhat I regard as a pathetic reaction to the report. Rather, my criticisms will be largely of theRoyal Commission of Inquiry into Drugsitself.Ibelievethat the thrust of the reportisalittleshortof a. disaster. It will make only a minimal contribution to the problem of drug abuseanddrug trafficking in Australia today. It is superficial-It has not gone into the realities of the question-.Isay it is a disaster or a tragedy because ofthe incredible expense and time that have; beenspent on producing a document of such superficiality. I say that having received the report at8o’clock tonight and having spent the last twohours. trying to absorb it. Therefore, if any of mycriticismsare unfair to the Commissioner and to thepeople who worked with him, it is. because of lack of preparation and I apologise.
There are some points in “the report which I commend I commend therealistic way in which Mr Justice Williams-discovered and criticised police corruption. Thosefindings and recommendations, which appearon page D99, are to be commended, and.theythrow into rather pathetic relief the reportof Mr Justice Woodward. When the Williamsreport and the
Woodward report concerning police corruption are compared, one would think that the two men were reporting on drug abuse in two different countries. It is quite extraordinary. I commend Mr Justice Williams for his recommendations Nos. 66 to 75, which appear on page D99.I also commend him for the recommendation on page D101, to which Senator Button referred, that medical practitioners, when approached by a person requesting narcotic drugs, be obliged to obtain the following information: whether that person has used narcotic drugs within the previous six months; the names and addresses of any medical practitioners and/or institutions which have provided that person with treatment within the previous six months; and the circumstances of any such use.
Here I agree absolutely with Senator Button. He did not mention this point, but surely it is a significant, sensible recommendation of Mr Justice Williams to which we could well have looked for response from the Government. It could well have said in this statement: ‘Yes, that is something on which we are taking action’. Honourable senators who last night had the privilege, if I can use that word, of seeing Willesee at Seven would have learned of the monstrous way in which medical practitioners and pharmacists are prescribing drugs- essentially the drug tuinal- to known drug addicts in St Kilda and Kings Cross, and then learned that there is no law to prevent those medical practitioners and pharmacists from so prescribing. One would have thought that Mr Justice Williams should have gone even further and recommended something practical. I commend him on the intelligence-gathering aspects of his report. I also commend him on some aspects concerning the treatment of drug addicts. On page D 105 he states that specialised training should be instituted in the field of drug dependence for the treatment of drug addicts. Here again, however, the naive aspects of Mr Justice Williams strikes out. In recommendation 1 36 on page D 107 he states:
Recognising the importance of attracting drug users in the early stages, facilities such as information centres, drop-in centres and outreach programs should be encouraged.
I do not know whether Mr Justice Williams has ever been on the scene as it is called, and discovered the uselessness of having a drop-in centre where people can call in for a cup of tea or to read a magazine. A drop-in centre for those kids, who are so disenchanted, so isolated from the rest of the community, already on the drug path, is not a realistic proposition. They are sorts of kids who parade through the streets of St Kilda, Kings Cross, and other known drug areas in Australia. Senator Button would probably find issue with me on the question of access to tax records. On page D 1 1 5 Mr Justice Williams suggests that the Income Tax Assessment Act should be amended to give greater power to the Taxation Commissioner to enable discovery of drug syndicates through the tax mechanisms. I commend Mr Justice Williams for that recommendation.
– It is on a court order.
– It is on a court order -
– I do not think that Senator Button disagrees with you.
– I am sorry if I misrepresented him. After a quick reading of the report, that is all for which I can commend Mr Justice Williams, and there are a great number of criticisms I could make. Strangely, the first relates to recommendation No. 1 on page D89, where it sticks out very proudly that one of the achievements of the Williams Commision is that the Narcotics Bureau was disbanded. The Commission certainly destroyed that organisation in one fell swoop. As I have said before, and I will not weary the Senate by repeating it, the Commission has destroyed the only efficient drug enforcement agency in the nation. Then the report says something that worries me. Recommendation No. 2 on page D89 states:
An option be given to all members of the Narcotics Bureau to remain with the Bureau of Customs or to join the Australian Federal Police on terms at least equal to those presently enjoyed. For this purpose it may be necessary to relax police entrance qualifications, e.g., stature, age.
I know that statement to be untrue. I know of several former senior members of the Narcotics Bureau whose efficiency and integrity have never been challenged and who were informed in an unmistakable manner that they could apply to join the new Australian Federal Police, but that it would not be worth their while to do so because their lives would not be worth living. I do not know whether Mr Justice Williams knew that or whether he received an undertaking from the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, but I do know that statement to be totally untrue. When one reads such a categoric statement one tends to doubt the rest of the report. I was rather amused to see that he recommended that the Narcotics Bureau be destroyed and that this magnificent body, the Australian Federal Police, take over narcotics enforcement. Yet on page D97, recommendation 48 contains this rather quaint remark:
No time should be lost in arranging for the secondment of officers of the Australian Federal Police to the drug or other appropriate squads of State police forces to permit them to acquire expertise in drug law enforcement.
That seems to be a tacit admission of what I said a few months ago in the Senate was my concern, that for a period of 15 months Australia will be virtually without any expertise in the enforcement of drug abuse laws.
– He thought that was better than the Narcotics Bureau.
– He did. It is an admission that there is virtually no expertise in the Australian Federal Police at the moment and that no time should be lost for the secondment of officers. I wonder what the drug syndicates are doing while those seconded officers are being trained? I turn now to the question of cannabis. I believe that there has been a gigantic cop-out, a disgraceful cop-out, by Mr Justice Williams on this matter. I believe that it shows a disgraceful lack of courage when this Government puts in the Minister’s statement that it totally supports Mr Justice Williams’ recommendation that no change whatsoever be made for 10 years to the laws relating to cannabis. This man sat for two years and produced 1,700 pages setting out his findings. God knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars this amounted to. Is that all he can come up with on cannabis- that no change be contemplated, that there be a moratorium, as he quaintly puts it, for 10 years?
I know that much evidence was given to Mr Justice Williams that the simple possession of cannabis is a criminal offence; that it is closely associated with the heroin industry; that the syndicates which sell marihuana in many cases are the same as those which sell heroin; that a tactic is to dry out a city of cannabis and then to flood it with heroin; that every time that happens there is a massive increase in the number of children who experiment with heroin: Yet this man recommends that nothing should be done about this matter for 10 years! To me that is a gutless recommendation and there has been a gutless reaction by the Government: The report admits that between 5 per cent and 9 per cent of Australians use cannabis. A rough calculation would be that 20 per cent of adults- one in five- have used or do use cannabis in some form. Yet it says that those people, one in five of Australia’s adult population, who are persuaded that their social lubricant is to be some form of cannabis sativa, must regularly commit a criminal offence for the next ten years.
Honourable senators who have heard me speak rather equivocally on the question of cannabis in the past might notice the stronger line I am taking on this question. I do so knowing the political penalties that might attach to me. I am not necessarily stating the views of my political party; on questions of conscience we believe that policies should not be determined but should have the individual conscience vote of each member. I now say that it is time we removed the penalties attached to the drug cannabis sativa from those penalties for more dangerous drugs. As the Commission said, it is time we looked at the stark figure that between 80 per cent to 90 per cent of Australians drink alcohol; I think the statistics show 70 to 80 per cent of women and 80 per cent to 90 per cent of men drink alcohol and that 250,000 Australians are alcoholics. In my estimation, that is 20 per cent of adult Australians are alcoholics or, to put it more explicitly, have an alcohol problem.
The known third largest killer of the human race, alcohol, is mentioned and its problems are acknowledged. Yet, from my reading of the recommendations, the report does not suggest one area where the advertising of this known third largest killer of the human race- to quote the World Health Organisation statistics- should be restrained. On this other drug, cannabis, to which no such charge that it is anywhere near the third largest killer of the human race can be laid, we are to have a moratorium for 10 years. It even canvasses a case -
– It is not a moratorium. He wants the law to continue to be enforced for 10 years.
– He calls it a moratorium, which I think is a rather quaint term for it. Cases that I have brought before me and I am sure all honourable senators have constantly brought before them, concern young persons who have determined that their social lubricant should be cannabis or tobacco. They may grow one plant in the back yard and be dobbed in by a neighbour. The police are then bound to inspect, to raid and to enter the premises. Those persons can be charged and convicted of a criminal offence which will debar them from becoming a lawyer, an accountant, a doctor, a member of Parliament, a public servant, a teacher or whatever. I ask whether that is the kind of justice for which we look to a royal commission. I have detected some form of hypocrisy in the Commission’s recommendations. On page D98, after taking that hard line against cannabis, the report recommends on training law enforcement officers that:
Training programs on the application of the criminal law to drug abusers should’ be developed and- continually reviewed. They should encompass: a fresh emphasis on discretion when dealing with minor offenders and the relatives and friends of drug abusers;
It recommends a fresh approach on discretion. On the one hand the Royal Commissioner is recommending no amendments to the law on cannabis for 10 years. Yet he is saying that when policemen are being trained they should be discreet in pursuing minor drug offenders. To me that is one of the most gutless comments I have ever read in a report. As the Commission did not have the guts to define a minor offence and then to say what is the penalty for it, it is putting the onus not only on police or on law enforcement officers but also on the people who train those officers to say, ‘Turn a blind eye to these sorts of minor drug offences’.
– It opens the way for corruption.
-I thank Senator Tate for his interjection that it totally opens the way for minor and massive corruption in our law enforcement agencies. I am critical too that the Commission did not have the big thinking to at least adopt the concept of a pilot scheme for legalising heroin for heroin addicts. I have advocated this idea elsewhere for many years and for many months in the Senate. Why do we not try the British concept? I know that it failed in many areas but I believe after a study of it in 1972 that it failed because of bad administration and for other reasons. The logic of the situation is that when known heroin addicts are diagnosed by a medical practitioner as having a massive addiction to the drug heroin, why not prescribe doses under supervision for a limited number of those people to see whether they are helped or their addiction can be diminished.
People throw up their arms in horror and ask: Are you advocating heroin on the national health scheme at taxpayers’ expense to heroin addicts?’ Yes I am, but not nationwide. If we are to grapple with this problem of heroin addiction, let us try a pilot scheme here and there under controlled measures. If a child is attending a medical practitioner or a clinic where he or she is administered with diminishing doses of heroin at least there is a fighting chance of rehabilitating that human being from that addiction. The other course is a one-way path to further and heavier addiction, to death or disease. The Commission, which dismisses that view out of hand, states:
Other persons argued that if the prohibitions of the criminal law on drug possession were removed, there would no longer be any part for drug trafficking syndicates to play. The Commission does not accept that this would occur. It would be necessary, before the criminal element disappeared, for the illegal drugs not only to be made legal but also to be made freely and cheaply available to all who wanted to use them.
That is a pack of rubbish. Mr Justice Williams is saying that for the British experiment to succeed heroin would have to be available at the local friendly pharmacist. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the present Bankruptcy Act so as to create a common investment fund, to provide for a more equitable adjustment of the rights of both debtors and creditors, and to improve the administration and effectiveness of the Act. The Bill is the result of a comprehensive review of the Act in the light of judicial decisions on the existing legislation, submissions from, and discussions with, various outside bodies before and after the introduction of the Bill in the other place on 20 November 1979, changes in related fields of law and in social attitudes, and developments in bankruptcy administration overseas. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) has also had the benefit of comments from State AttorneysGeneral on aspects of the Bill which touch upon the administration of State laws and the duties of State officers such as sheriffs.
The Review of the Bankruptcy Act
This present review of the Bankruptcy Act took as its starting point the comprehensive review of the Bankruptcy Law of the Commonwealth by the committee that was chaired by the tate Sir Thomas Clyne, the then Federal Judge in Bankruptcy. The approach of the Clyne Committee, an approach which this Government endorses, was set out in paragraph 7 of its report as follows:
The need for a bankruptcy law, based upon firm and long established principles, is not, the Committee believes, in dispute. It is accepted by the community that when a debtor has reached such a position that he is no longer able to pay his debts in full and there is little prospect of his being able to do so, his property should be made available, through a trustee, for distribution amongst his creditors on an equitable basis; and that, after all his property has been so made available, he should, if his financial difficulties have been brought about by misfortune rather than dishonesty or extravagance, be released from his liabilities and be given an opportunity to re-establish himself with as little delay as possible. The Committee equally believes that there is need to provide for the punishment of bankrupts who are dishonest and to safeguard the community against the early release of such persons from their liabilities and from the close supervision provided by the bankruptcy law.
Following that review by the Clyne Committee, the Parliament passed the Bankruptcy Act 1 966 which came into operation on 4 March 1968. Since coming into operation, the Bankruptcy Act 1966 has proved to be generally satisfactory. However, as a result of our experience with its operation, the Government would now like to remedy a number of deficiencies that have been found to exist in it and to make a number of other changes that are considered necessary. A detailed explanatory memorandum on the changes that are contained in this Bill has been circulated to honourable senators. I would, however, like to mention, for the benefit of honourable senators, some of the more important of these changes.
Establishment of Common Investment Fund
Firstly, the Government proposes to establish a Common Investment Fund in order to recoup part of the cost to the taxpayer of the trustee services now rendered by official receivers. Some idea of the increase in these costs can be gained by comparing the shortfall of revenue over expenditure in the administration of the Bankruptcy Act. In 1969, the shortfall was $242,560. In 1979, the shortfall was $2,090,440. While the level of bankruptcy fees is being kept under review, it is considered that the shortfall in revenue could not easily be reduced by an increase in fees. Because of this the Government considers that the proposed Common Investment Fund is the best means of further reducing the cost to the Government of administering the Act. The Bill provides for the creation of a Common Investment Fund and all trust moneys held by the proposed official trustee on account of bankrupt estates will be treated as a common investment fund for the purposes of investment. The interest from these investments will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund in order to offset the cost to the Commonwealth of the trustee services it provides in relation to those estates. It is estimated that, in a normal year, this interest should increase the revenue from the bankruptcy administration by about 33 W per cent over current receipts. The Government believes that this proposal, which is in line with a long standing practice in the United Kingdom, will not significantly alter the return received by most creditors from what they would have otherwise received. In addition, moneys in the fund will, in certain circumstances, be deemed to have earned interest for the benefit of the person or persons entitled to share in the distribution of those moneys. The proposed Fund will not, of course, apply to trust moneys held by private registered trustees.
Facilitation of Administration
Secondly, there are a number of amendments to facilitate the administration of the Act. The rapid increase in the number of bankruptcies has severely affected the efficiency of bankruptcy administration. While the increase does appear to relate, in part, to a decrease in the social stigma attaching to bankruptcy in contemporary society, the main reasons stated for bankruptcies are still, in the case of non-business bankruptcies, the over-use of credit, unemployment, and adverse litigation and, in the case of business bankruptcies, lack of business and management skill, training or experience, lack of sufficient initial working capital and the economic conditions affecting industry throughout Australia. A review of staffing levels and the introduction of automatic data processing systems should, to some extent, alleviate the administrative problems brought about by this increase in bankruptcy throughout Australia. In addition, we are now seeking to amend the Act in a number of ways so that it is more practical and economical to administer and more in keeping with modern business practices. In approximately 70 per cent of estates it is now taking at least two years to realise the assets and distribute proceeds to creditors and this period of time is growing longer. The proposed amendments, combined with adequate staffing support, should result in substantial reduction in the time taken to finalise estates, a consequence which, I am certain, will commend itself to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber.
One of the more significant of the amendments that will facilitate administration is an amendment which changes the name, and extends the present property holding functions, of ‘The Official Receiver in Bankruptcy’, a corporation constituted by all the official receivers. This corporation will now be known as the ‘Official Trustee in Bankruptcy’ and it will take over the trustee functions presently exercised by the official receivers themselves in respect of the estates of bankrupts and deceased estates. These amendments will remove the problems that can arise because of the present separation of the legal entity holding the trust property from the person performing the trustee functions. I would mention also that the Bill will enable unnecessary meetings of creditors and public examinations to be dispensed with. The experience of both official receivers and registrars in bankruptcy is that in many bankruptcies neither a public examination nor a meeting of creditors is necessary. These amendments, which will greatly simplify administration, give official receivers and registrars an amount of discretion to dispense with both the first meeting of creditors and the public examination of the bankrupt in appropriate cases. The conferring of these general discretions render unnecessary the existing statutory provisions which provide for such meetings and examinations to be dispensed with in the case of bankrupt estates deemed by the court to be small bankruptcies.
Legal and Social Changes
Thirdly, there are a series of amendments to take account of legal and social changes that have occurred since the present Bankruptcy Act came into operation in 1968. In particular, the Government has decided that the amount necessary to found a creditors petition for the sequestration of a debtors estate should be raised from $500 to $1,000. The present figure of $500 has remained unchanged since the present Act came into operation on 4 March 1968 and, other considerations aside, needs to be amended to take account of changing money values.
One of the most significant social changes is the increasing attention that is being paid to the problem of rehabilitation of the honest but insolvent debtor who has been unable to cope with our modern consumer credit oriented society. The Government has carefully examined the various competing considerations including the need to protect the interests of creditors, the need to ensure an expeditious and comprehensive administration of the bankrupt estate and the need to ensure that dishonest bankrupts are punished. Following this examination, the Government has concluded that the qualifying period for an automatic discharge from bankruptcy should be reduced from five years to three years, with an appropriate adjustment for persons who are already undischarged bankrupts immediately before this amendment comes into operation. However, I assure honourable senators that the Bill does contain provisions to ensure that the public interest is adequately protected. To avoid abuse of these new provisions it will still be possible for objections to be lodged against the statutory discharge of any bankrupt.
The provisions according priority to particular classes of creditors have also been examined. On 13 September 1979 1 outlined the Government’s response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs concerning priority of Crown debts. 1 indicated then that the Government has decided to abolish all remaining Crown priorities in the Commonwealth sphere, except in relation to tax instalment deductions and withholding tax on dividends and interest remitted overseas, and to seek the abolition of all remaining Crown priorities in the State sphere. The amendments necessary to give full effect to this decision in respect of bankruptcy matters have been incorporated in this Bill.
The Government has also decided that the priority extended to a claim for wages will be increased from $600 to $1,500 and the present upper limit of $2,000 on the priority for a claim for workers’ compensation will be removed. In addition, a person advancing moneys for the payment of wages will be entitled to the same priority to which the employee who receives the benefit of the advance would have been entitled if his wages had remained unpaid. These amendments will bring bankruptcy law generally into line with the corresponding provisions relating to the treatment of wages in corporate insolvencies. The amendments also accord with the minimum action considered necessary by Commonwealth and State Ministers for labour in their 1972 resolution on the priority to be accorded to the payment of Commonwealth taxes and charges as opposed to employee entitlements in insolvency proceedings.
The protection that is currently given to the proceeds of certain assurance policies in the hands of a bankrupt has been extended. There will now be excluded from the property of the bankrupt that is divisible amongst his creditors, proceeds of certain assurance policies which are received by a person within 12 months before he becomes bankrupt. These changes are seen essentially as an interim measure pending the completion of a proposed review of the Life Insurance Act 1 945. In the course of that review the Government intends to examine the whole basis on which assurance policies and annuities are excluded from the property that is divisible amongst the creditors of a bankruptcy. Depending on the results of that review further amendments may be required.
Andrus said he ‘deeply regretted’ the action but felt it was necessary to protect 40 million of the acres that would be included in comprehensive 100-million-acre legislation spelling out land use for nearly one-third of the nation’s largest state.
Development restrictions in the Andrus order are harsher than those in many parts of the pending Senate bill, the interior secretary said. Andrus suggested that people in Alaska who are displeased by his action ‘address their cards and letters to their two United States senators’.
Sens. Ted Stevens, a Republican, and Mike Gravel, a Democrat, reached agreement with environmentalist colleagues last week to bring the bill to the Senate floor no sooner than late July.
Andrus said he was pleased that the bill, passed in a stronger version by the House last spring, was scheduled for consideration. But he said he was ‘very concerned that the lateness of that date will lead to a stalemate in the closing days of the 96th Congress, just as happened to its predecessor in 1978’.
Andrus said his action would ‘make it very clear to everyone that this is the deciding year for this legislation,’ which President Carter calls his top environmental priority.
Carter declared 56 million acres of Alaska wilderness as permanent national monuments in late 1978, and Andrus ordered protection for another 52 million at that time, together accounting for most of the land covered in both Senate and House bills.
Andrus’ earlier order was only for three years, but his action yesterday extends that two decades for the 40 million acres unless Congress over-rules him, a development he said is not going to happen ‘.
Andrus said the other 12 million acres ‘will probably also be withdrawn this year’ unless Congress acts on the big bill.
Stevens has said the Senate bill should be passed as ‘the best we can get’ for those in Alaska who want to decide how their state will or won’t be developed. Gravel has fought all versions of the preservation bill and was largely responsible for killing the version that came close to passage near the end of 1978.
Both senators were in Alaska yesterday and were unavailable for immediate comment.
-I also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an article from the New York Times dated 20 February 1980 headed Andrus to the Rescue’. This article again refers to the Secretary of the Interior in the United States.
The article read as follows-
ANDRUS TO THE RESCUE
By John B. Oakes
Some day- at least 20 or 30 years from now, when the names of their present Senators have long since been forgotten- the people of Alaska will probably be erecting a monument to the man who has saved Alaska from itself but who couldn’t be elected dog-catcher of Anchorage today.
The man is Cecil D. Andrus of Idaho, United States Secretary of the Interior. In a dramatic move a few days ago. Secretary Andrus- undercutting a tricky political maneuver or Alaska’s two Senators- placed under long-term Federal protection 40 million acres of Alaska’s finest federally owned wildlife, scenic and natural-resource lands.
Mr Andrus ‘s order will stick until such time as Congress gets around to deciding on its own what to do about these particularly important wildlife and wilderness areas-a task in which it has miserably failed so far. Twice in the past two years, the House has approved legislation providing a reasonable compromise between environmental and economic interests. But the Senate Energy Committee, under the guidance of Alaska’s developmentally-minded Senator Ted Stevens, has for two years in a row torn this bill apart without offering anything remotely acceptable in its place.
The present version of the Seriate committee’s bill could hardly be worse if it had been written in the headquarters of the Mobil Oil Corporation. For example, it would open to immediate oil exploration- and thereby destroy the integrity of- the Arctic National Wildlife Range, calving ground of Alaska’s greatest caribou herd and an area whose oil potential, despite propaganda to the contrary, is economically dubious. Since practically all (95 percent) of Alaska’s major potential oil-bearing lands are already available for exploration, there is no need to invade and destroy this particularly fragile ecological area.
The committee’s bill is a thoroughly bad measure, selling itself partly on the scandalously misleading pretense that it could in some way alleviate the energy crisis. The bill would also leave half of incomparable Admiralty Island open to logging ( for export to Japan ), contrary to both the needs and desires of the native population- and ruinous, to no legitimate purpose, of one of the world’s unique forest and wildlife areas.
Bad as it is, if this bill were brought to the Senate floor with ample time for considered debate and amendment, it is conceivable that a reasonably acceptable measure could emerge, especially after conference with the House. However, that’s clearly not what Alaska’s two Senators want. In their continuing war against effective Federal protection of Alaska lands, they managed a few days ago to obtain postponement of Senate debate on the committee bill (and environmentalists’ proposed amendments) for at least five months. Why? Obviously to delay Senate action until the last possible moment and then to try to railroad the committee bill, or something worse, through Congress in the frantic preelection rush, or, as Senator Mike Gravel did in 1978, prevent any bill at all from passing before the end of the session.
As soon as Secretary Andrus learned of the GravelStevens delaying maneuver, he issued his permanent withdrawal order for the 40 million acres, pointing out that his move was just “an insurance policy.” The Secretary noted that, if the Congress did eventually approve a measure that the Administration could accept, his withdrawal order would be nullified. But if, once again, Congress failed to act, those 40 million acres would remain safe from untrammeled exploitation. Unfortunately, they do not include some of the most threatened areas of southeastern Alaska, which ure not under Mr Andrus ‘s j jurisdication
Also protected, unless Congress decrees otherwise, are the 56 million Alaskan acres that President Carter has already added to the national park and monument system. Even with these set-asides encompassing some ( but by no means all ) of Alaska’s most ecologically and environmentally significant lands, more than two-thirds of the state’s 365 million acres will continue to be wide open for exploitation and development.
Senator Gravel, who more than any other individual bears the onus for Congress’s failure to enact an Alaskan-lands bill in the last two years, outdid himself in distortion when he alleged that Mr Andrus ‘s action signaled to environmentalists that “they don’t have to compromise; they’ll get everything they want.”
It is in fact the environmentalists of House and Senate who have constantly beat a retreat in the effort to reach a reasonble compromise with Alaska’s would-be exploiters.
Secretary Andrus, and through him President Carter, has now sent an unmistakable message to the Senators from Alaska: (f any more compromising is going to be done from now on, it is the Alaska development and exploitation lobby, so well served by them, that is going to have to do it.
-I thank the Senate. The point I am trying to make is that if the United States is able to keep at bay in Alaska the massive multi-national companies which are interested in natural gas, uranium or any other essential commodity, I see no reason why we cannot do it in the Northern Territory. I will certainly await with interest the answer from the Prime Minister, in view of the recent fateful Press conference when he referred to international conservation goals.
The other matter to which I want to refer in a limited form is the dilemma which confronts the Federal Government in relation to the attitude of the United States to the intake of kangaroo products. I know that it can be argued at the outset that with the advent of more scientific grazing and better waterhole facilities in some areas there has been a considerable increase in the kangaroo population, but I think the convervationists still have a certain wariness about quotas being increased for kangaroo harvesting as some of the rare species may be engulfed in any excessive shoot-outs. I am prompted by the Kangaroo Protection Society to inquire into the visit by the United States biologist, Dr Anderson, as to his operations in New South Wales, whether he was accompanied by a Dr Wilson, in what capacity the other officer accompanied him, what parts of New South Wales or other States did the United States representative visit, and under whose auspices was he present. I say in fairness that the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson) did assure me that Dr Anderson was here at the instigation of the United States Government and that no Australian authority with an axe to grind was sending him into the field. I do know that conservationists had some reservations as to whether Dr Anderson was being set up in that he was being sent into areas where there would be an excessive population of kangaroos in the hope that that information would be relayed to the United States and then we could have the six States considerably increasing their kangaroo quotas. I do not want to say any more on that. I feel that the Minister may be able to give us some information in relation to Dr Anderson ‘s itinerary.
There are two other things that I should like to raise: Firstly, when does the Government expect to get a further response from the United States Government in relation to this matter? Secondly, and it is a matter of equal importance- I did get this information from Senator Webster in the latter days of his reign here- is it a fact that whatever quotas were fixed for this year will remain the same. I understand that there would have to be a meeting of the six State Ministers responsible for wildlife conservation, looking beyond June, to set future targets. I say quite frankly that I am fairly confident that most of the States would abide by the decision already taken, but to me Queensland is the State with the question mark. I have no confidence whatsoever in any of its Ministers.
– I wish to raise in the adjournment debate a matter involving an Australian citizen of Vietnamese origin. Because this matter is still the subject of negotiations between the Australian Government and the Government of Vietnam, I will refer to this constituent simply as Mr D. He is in every way, I think, a model Australian citizen. In January 1974 he arrived in Australia from Vietnam as a Colombo Plan student. He took up a position studying at the University of New.castle in New South Wales. In February 1 975 he returned to what was then known as Saigon to spend four weeks with his family. Having completed that period there he returned to Australia to continue his studies at Newcastle.
In May 1 975 he sought permission for his wife and children to join him in Australia. This was agreed to by the Australian Government, and letters of authority were issued for the wife and children to travel to Australia. However, it was not possible for any action to be taken to give effect to those letters of authority before the closure of the Australian Embassy in Saigon, which took place in the middle of 1975. By the time things had settled down somewhat, in late 1977, Mr D. then found that the Australian Government’s policy had changed and so that the letters of authority were no longer being used and appeared to be no longer regarded as valid. He was therefore in the position that it appeared to him that the permission that had been granted by the Australian Government to his wife and children to join him in Australia could no longer be given effect to. Since that date he has sought to get permission for his wife and children to join him in Australia.
I do not dispute the difficulties that are involved in this case, but two things have arisen since that date. The first is that on 21 May 1979 Mr D. became an Australian citizen. The second is that his case was taken up, and taken up with a great deal of vigour,; rjy the department of education at the- University of Newcastle. He has received enormous support from members of that faculty- from the dean, Professor Laura, from the professor of education, Professor J. B. Biggs, and from twoXenipr academics, Dr J. M. Wood and-feefessQr -Theodore MacDonald. In fact, Professor MacFjQajald visited Ho Chi Minh City in January. ‘o£ftu1ryear. While he was there he spoke to officiais”o£pe;Vietnamese Government about this case”, “The Vietnamese Government officials.indkated some willingness to allow Mr D’s family-jso-come to Australia provided that the Austrairafl^^r^Vernment indicated again clearly that it Was^j$rer>ar.ed to receive Mr D’s family as welcome^>e>m;anent residents in Australia. .v C”
I have had -the “opportunity of discussing this matter with ihe “Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Macphee. Mr Macphee has indicated to me that he”k~ prepared to indicate to the Vietnam authorities- .that, notwithstanding the earlier administrative decision not to continue with the practice-of issuing and recognising letters of authority . he-‘is prepared in this case to recognise the continuing- validity of those former letters of authority which had previously been issued and whktiT understand apply not only to Mr D. but also^tolatjeast one other Vietnamese family resident- ^r^Australia. Further, Mr Macphee is pr’epare4 trjxqmmunicate this to the Government of -Vietnam- through the appropriate channels, whic£Hiflderstand would be those established within thV Department of Foreign Affairs. To this, .extent, I hope that the Vietnamese authorities’ will be prepared to allow Mr D’s family to come to Australia to join him, given the fact that the ‘Minister, Mr Macphee, is now prepared to indicate that Mr D’s family would be welcome as permanent settlers in this country.
However,- 1 wputd. like to pay some tribute to Mr D. for his patience- and willingness to pursue this matter in the proper channels, despite the high personal bpst that Jias been involved to him in so doing. He “was parted from his family but nevertheless was prepared to “make representations and to seek toJiavetfris matter resolved in the proper fashion through the offices of the Government and without resort to many of the other tactics that have been used from time to time. I would like also to pay tribute to the members of the Faculty of Education at the University of Newcastle who have assisted and advised Mr D. in this matter, and to my colleague in Newcastle the honourable Virginia Chadwick who is a member of the New South
Wales Legislative Council, and who has been helping in this case.
I want particularly to draw the attention of new arrivals to Australia to the real value that accrues to them by virtue of their taking steps to become Australian citizens at the earliest possible time. By and large it is because Mr D. has become an Australian citizen that he is now able not only to claim but also to demand action to be taken on his behalf by the Australian Government to bring about his family reunion. The Australian Government has indicated that it is prepared to recognise the continuing validity of the letters of authority previously granted. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, to whom I am also very grateful for his sympathetic consideration of this matter, has indicated that he would be prepared to make the necessary communications to the Government of Vietnam so that that Government will now respond in a sympathetic fashion to the request of Mr D’s family that it be allowed to leave Vietnam and to join him in Australia.
I believe that lessons can be learned from this particular case. Firstly, regardless of past history between the two countries it is still possible for family reunions to take place involving persons who were formerly residents of Vietnam. Secondly, they and all others who are interested in the difficulties of family reunion should be encouraged to work through the channels that exist and through their local members of Parliament on both sides of the chamber. Thirdly, the value which is to be accorded to the decision made by new arrivals in Australia to avail themselves of the opportunity to become Australian citizens at the earliest possible stage is something that should not be overlooked.
I hope that, given the decision and the support which will be now given to Mr D ‘s application by the Australian Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, we will be able to sort out this matter in a satisfactory fashion with the authorities in Vietnam, and that we will be able to add to Mr D. the other members of his family and so have yet another great addition to the Australian community and to the working life and community of the city of Newcastle.
– I wish to draw to the attention of the Senate a matter that in fact has been settled but which, in its own way, is significant enough to be brought to the chamber’s attention, thereby being placed on the public record. I refer to a matter which first came to my attention through an article in the Canberra Times on 9 March. It referred to William Young- Private W. F. Young- who served with the New South Wales Mounted Infantry in South Africa during the Boer War. The article pointed out that his grave is in the cemetery of StJohn ‘s Church of England in Canberra but that it was in a state of advanced deterioration and disrepair and that nothing was being done about it. The Canberra Times article was appropriately entitled ‘The soldier that Canberra forgot . . . ‘.
As background information, I point out that William Young was born in1877 on his father’s farm on part of the site of what is now the city of Canberra. He joined the New South Wales Mounted Infantry apparently late in1899 and left for overseas service in January 1900. He was involved in action in South Africa but became ill with what the writer of this article referred to as the insidious enteric fever. He was later repatriated and died of that illness, after his return to Australia, on 1 7 August 1900 at the age of 23. He was buried in the cemetery of St John’s Church of England in Canberra but despite his overseas service his grave was not maintained by any official authority. The writer of the article to which I have referred made clear in one paragraph why this happened. He stated:
The Australian War Graves Commission cannot help. Its writ does not extend to Boer War graves. The Federal Government can do nothing. He was a member of a Colonial force and he fell before Federation. The N.S.W. Government can do nothing. He lies in Federal Territory.
To have something done about the grave of an Australian- in particular a New South Welshman- who served in the Boer War was a problem of very considerable administrative complexity and resulted to a significant degree in the deterioration of the grave. As a result of that article I took up the matter with the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) to ask whether something might be done about it. He pointed out in a letter to me today some of the problems involved in the situation which had prevented official authorities doing anything about Private Young’s grave. Also in his letter he points out that he understands that the maintenance of the graves of the few Boer War veterans who died on their return to Australia prior to the end of that war has not been an issue with the Australian war graves authority, so it would appear from that that this may well be the first case of this kind where the particular situation that affected Private Young has applied. Because of the administrative difficulties referred to in the article in the Canberra Times, it seemed that an impasse had been reached and that it would be difficult to get any authority or group which might be able to do something about the grave of this Boer War veteran to do so. The Minister, in his letter today, had the following to say about that:
I am happy to inform you now that the facts-
That is, the facts in the Canberra Times article- have been investigated and confirmed, and as a special case only, Private Young’s grave will be repaired and maintained by the Office of Australian War Graves with the other war graves in St John ‘s Cemetery.
Despite the complexities referred to in this article and the fact that no official body had been able in the past to do anything about Private Young’s grave and memorial, it now seems that the Office of Australian War Graves will repair his memorial and in the future will maintain it with other similar graves and memorials. I understand that Private Young’s name is inscribed in the Australian War Memorial and also in the war memorial at Queanbeyan, so in that way his service has already been recognised. I think that what the Minister has done is also, in a difficult situation involving the service of Private Young, a proper recognition of the fact that in his own way and in his time he did his duty as he saw it. I think that what has been done now is a proper recognition of that. Secondly, I think that it indicates a welcome flexibility in administrative processes when such recognition can be accorded to Private Young in that way by the Minister and by the Office of Australian War Graves.
– In respect of the matters raised by Senator Mulvihill on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I state that I have a copy of the itinerary which was followed by Dr David Anderson. In a moment I shall seek leave to incorporate that in Hansard. My advice from the Minister for Science and the Environment, Mr Thomson, is that the itinerary was Dr Anderson ‘s own and was arranged by him, although he was provided with assistance by the Department of Science and the Environment in the form of advice on how to get to the places he wanted to visit. But that Department did not determine his movements. Mr President, I seek leave to have a copy of that quite brief itinerary incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows- 5 and 6 March: Dr Anderson had discussions with Mr Thomson and head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service 7 March: Western Australia (exact area visited not known) 9 March: Cobar, NSW 10 March: Brewarrina, NSW (Overnighted in Charleville. Queensland) 1 1 March: Sturt National Park, NSW; Akaroola, NSW 12 March: Port Augusta, SA: Menindee, NSW.
- Senator Mulvihill raised a number of other matters which I will refer to the appropriate Ministers for consideration and reply. With respect to the other matters raised on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I think that I can do little more than to note them. In respect of Senator Puplick ‘s comments about the possible immigration of a family from Vietnam, I can only join with him in saying that I hope the efforts which have been made will be successful. I will draw his comments to the attention of the appropriate Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Australian National University Act- Statutes- No. 135 - Academic and Ceremonial Dress Amendment No. 7
Commonwealth Banks Act- Appointment- L. I. Foote.
Defence Act- Determinations- 1 980-
No. 3- Flying Allowance.
No. 4- Flight Duties Allowance.
No. 5- Unpredictable Explosives Allowance.
Defence Amendment Act- Interim DeterminationsStatutory Rules 1 980 Nos 33, 34, 35, 36.
Lands Acquisition Act- Statements (two) by the Minister, describing land acquired by agreement under sub-section 7 ( I ) of the Act, for specified public purposes.
Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) ActRegulationStatutory Rules 1980 No. 38.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Regulations 1 980- No. 2- ( Motor Omnibus Services Ordinance ).
Superannuation Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 37.
Trade Practices Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 39.
Senate adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 March 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800318_senate_31_s84/>.