31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 95 citizens of Australia:
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index, by this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Adjust all pensions and benefits quarterly to the Consumer price Index, including the “fixed “ 70 ‘s rate.
Raise all pensions and benefits to at least 30 per cent of the Average Weekly Earnings.
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
The present static threshold of $75 per week for taxation purposes be increased to $ 1 00 per week.
A substantial reduction in indirect taxation on consumer goods.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Grimes I present the following petition from citizens of Australia:
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index, by this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Adjust all pensions and benefits quarterly to the Consumer price Index, including the “fixed “ 70 ‘s rate.
Raise all pensions and benefits to at least 30 per cent of the Average Weekly Earnings.
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
The present static threshold of $75 per week for taxation purposes be increased to $100 per week.
A substantial reduction in indirect taxation on consumer goods.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index, by this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle (2 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the Women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian Women as Australian men do not have a National Men ‘s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women ‘s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative “Advisory Council. “.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, MacGibbon (2 petitions), Maunsell and Sheil.
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 1970 to over 10 per cent by 1990 and about 16 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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Withers.
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 Mason.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament in Canberra assembled.
The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
That the right to work without discrimination on any ground including, inter alia, discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex is a fundamental human right;
That it is both the duty and responsibility of society to fully support those denied work and therefore those who are unemployed as a result of society ‘s inability to provide full paid employment should be guaranteed an adequate income without discrimination on any ground, including inter alia discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and /or sex.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray-
That appropriate and adequate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, in employment of individuals under federal awards, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to race, ethic origin, marital status and /or sex.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Withers.
– I give notice that, 10 sitting days after today, I shall move:
That Amendment No. 28 of the Telecommunications (Staff) By-laws, made under the Telecommunications Act 1975, be disallowed.
Pursuant to Sessional Order, I give notice that it is my intention, at Discovery of Formal Business this day, to withdraw Business of the Senate, Notices of Motion Nos. 1 and 2, standing in my name. Pursuant to Sessional Order, I also give notice that it is my intention, at Discovery of Formal Business on the next day of sitting, to withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name for one sitting day hence. I ask leave to make a brief statement.
-The Notice of Motion I have given relates to an amendment of the Telecommunications (Staff) By-laws concerning the dismissal of staff. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has asked for an explanation of this by-law from the Telecommunications Commission, via the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), and today being the last day for giving notice of a motion to disallow the amendment, I have given such notice pending receipt of that explanation to allow the Committee time to conclude its inquiry.
I indicate that, when I withdraw the notices of motion pursuant to the notices of intention which I have just given, I will seek leave to make brief statements indicating the reasons for the notices of motion being withdrawn.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the Senate notes with concern the inadequacy of existing insurance and/or compensation arrangements in the event of a natural disaster and is of the opinion that a joint parliamentary committee should be established to re-examine the whole question of natural disaster compensation funding and that the terms of reference of the committee should be-
to make recommendations on the establishment of a natural disaster fund, the methods of financing such a fund, the guaranteeing of appropriate grants in the event of a natural disaster, and other related matters;
to specify what constitutes a natural disaster, so that the history of doubt and uncertainty surrounding the admissibility of insurance claims in the event of a disaster can be eliminated:
to define the Benefits that should be payable to victims of the various categories of natural disaster: and
to recommend the composition and nature of an appropriate administrative authority to operate a natural disaster scheme, and all related matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. I refer to questions asked yesterday by myself and by Senator Tate concerning the Rundle shale oil development project in Queensland. We queried the suitability of the oil to be produced from that deposit for refining into transport fuels. I ask the Minister whether he recalls quoting a statement by the Prime Minister, which was made on 28 February, in which he said:
Esso’s proposal contemplates that the shale oil products will ultimately be upgraded to a synthetic crude oil for feed stock to Australia’s refineries where it will be refined into normal petroleum products, including petrol.
I refer to the legislation of the Queensland Parliament, namely, clause 8 of the Rundle Oil Shale Agreement Bill 1980. The meaning of that Bill is that the refining of the product to produce transport fuel oils requires judgment on its commercial viability to do so. Is there not a conflict between the Prime Minister’s statement, which claims that the oil will be refined into normal petroleum products, including petrol, and the Bill, which says that that shall be done only if it is commercially viable to do so?
– I recollect those questions. Indeed, I was fortunate shortly afterwards to meet for other purposes both the managing director of Esso Australia Limited and the technical and research vice-president of Exxon, so I was able to pose to them the exchange of question and answer that had occurred in the Senate. Those persons, having the knowledge and experience of the highest technical know-how, advised me that the quality of the crude oil which will come from Rundle oil shale will be equal to the highest quality Middle East crude and will be capable of refinement into a range of products, including gasolene. I repeat that that comes from the managing director of Esso.
– That is only if they put hydrogen into it.
- Mr President -
– At what cost?
– Without the help of the Opposition, Mr President, I repeat that Dr David who, as you may know, is participating in the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science conference, is a vicepresident of Exxon, in particular in the technical and research side. So the first point I want to make is that any doubt as to the ability to do it must be dispelled. The oil will be, in his statement, equal to the highest grade oil from the Middle East. Secondly, Esso said to me the company would not be going into the Rundle business as a co-partner, unless, in fact, the objective were to produce products including gasolene.
I simply make those comments and say that the question of viability is one that the copartners understand from the word go. Nobody in the world has attempted oil shale processing of the magnitude that Rundle is undertaking.
– Why did Anthony pre-judge it?
– I am sorry that in what I think is one of the most exciting potential developments in Australia, there appears to be a tendency to denigrate this project on the part of the Opposition. The fact is that the future of Australia and the future of Australian jobs and the vocations for Australians depend very directly on our ability to produce petroleum energy. One of the main projects is Rundle. I would have hoped that the Opposition would have been urging on the co-partners rather than nit-picking.
This is a great venture involving perhaps $10 billion. It is a project of the order of two, three or four times the size of the North West Shelf. Of course, the co-partners are going into it in the belief that it will be commercially viable, including the refining into gasolene and other products. They are going into it and Esso itself has made it perfectly clear to me that it will do it. Nothing that it has conveyed to me is in any conflict with the Bill itself.
– I ask a supplementary question. I remind the Minister that we are not discussing whether the Government or the Opposition supports development projects in Australia. What we are concerned about is- I suspect that the Minister realises it and that is why he is going around the question- the question of why the Prime Minister in his statement on 28 February did not refer to the issue of commercial viability which is essential under the legislation. Somebody, the companies concerned, the Australian Government or the
Queensland Government, has to make a judgment as to whether there is commercial viability in the further refining of this product. I specifically ask: Why is there no reference to that in the Prime Minister’s statement? Who is to make the judgment about the commercial viability in the further processing of this fuel?
– On a moment’s reflection one would reach the conclusion that copartners do not go into a venture and commit billions of dollars in capital unless they are convinced of commercial viability. With a little reflection one would reach that conclusion on this situation. It will be their risk capital that will undertake this project, plus the massive world technology of Exxon. So the assumption which underlay the Prime Minister’s statement is that the companies are going into this project to prove the commercial viability. Of course, any venture encounters risks along the journey. Dr David, the technical and research vice-president of Exxon, yesterday assured me that the most conservative judgment amongst all his technical advisers is that Rundle is commercially viable through to refining.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Does the Government acknowledge the increasingly loud call by the Australian public to allow Australian air carriers other than Qantas Airways Ltd to carry passengers into and out of Australia? Towards such an outcome, will the Government give consideration, on the one hand, to the merging of Qantas with TransAustralia Airlines and, on the other hand, to allowing Ansett Airlines of Australia to offer both domestic and international flights, thus extending the advantages of the two-airline policy and allowing more flexible and cheaper flights to the advantage of all Australians?
– A number of elements are contained in the honourable senator’s question. With respect to whether the Government acknowledges the call by the Australian public, I think it is common knowledge that requests have been made over a period for the international carriers to be allowed to carry people within Australia. That is a matter on which no final decision has been taken. The question of a TransAustralia Airlines merger with Qantas was examined in the domestic air transport policy review which took place last year. The review committee concluded that there was no compelling reason for the merger taking place and that there would indeed be major obstacles. The committee was of the view that most of the economies which could be achieved by merger could be achieved by other commercial arrangements falling short of merger. In the light of that report the Government has no intention to merge the two airlines.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that by letter dated 5 December 1979 Sir Reginald Ansett wrote to him to advise him of facts which Sir Reginald said pointed to the fact that Mr Rupert Murdoch and/or the News group of companies were purchasing shares in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd in breach of the various offence provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act relating to ownership of television stations? Is it a fact that Sir Reginald called upon the Attorney-General to act to bring a halt to the illegal acts being undertaken by Mr Murdoch and the News group in an attempt to take over control of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd? Is it also a fact that the Attorney-General did not reply to Sir Reginald Ansett ‘s letter? Will the Attorney-General table the letter written to him by Sir Reginald Ansett?
– I recall the letter to which Senator Button referred. The letter dealt with policy and is a matter for the primary attention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I will refresh my mind on the correspondence and the issues raised and consider the question asked by Senator Button.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister able, without refreshing his mind, to answer the question: Did he reply to the letter from Sir Reginald Ansett?
– I would prefer to refresh my mind on the correspondence before answering the question.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the tremendous interest in repercussions that could flow from the Government’s decision on the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the textile, clothing and footwear industries, I ask: What is the earliest date that we can expect a Government response?
– I have no immediate knowledge of the matter. I will seek the information.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that as from Monday of next week the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Darwin will prepare and present its own news coverage instead of simply having a five-minute prelude to the national news? If this is a fact, will the Minister indicate what additional resources, in terms of staff and funds, have been made available to the ABC in that city to enable it to carry out this most desirable service?
– I am not aware of the matter which has been raised by the honourable senator. I certainly welcome it and agree with him that it is a most desirable development. I believe that he, like me, would think it desirable for the Northern Territory if more could be doneincluding through the medium of television- to achieve the same end. I welcome the information that the honourable senator has provided in the question and I will seek from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the information that he wants about the resources which have been made available for the purpose mentioned.
-The Minister for National Development and Energy referred earlier to Dr David. I ask whether the Minister has noticed an item in today’s Press reporting the statement by Dr David to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science Congress in Adelaide in which he said:
By the year 2000 a synthetic fuel industry would produce about nine million barrels of oil a day, and only a few synthetic fuel sources would prove to be major resources- tar sand, heavy oil, shale oil and coal.
Could the Minister inform the Senate what action the Federal Government has taken to expedite the development of these sources of oil for our industry?
-I am aware of Dr David’s submission to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. I was also able to have wider discussions with him on the same matter. He believes, as my Government believes, that it is imperative that synthetic fuel oil be developed not only to make up the difference in the dwindling supplies of the indigenous oil both here and on the world market but also as the one means to restrain the upward surge of prices of the Organisation of
Petroleum Exporting Countries. The general belief by those experienced in this world is that the critical point- OPEC has made this observation in recent discussions- at which OPEC prices will cease to rise is when synthetic fuel comes on the market which is competitive with OPEC fuel.
Everybody must have a keen desire to see synthetic fuel competitive in volume and in price so that we can resolve our problems. The Senate and the people of Australia know that the Rundle partners have repeated that the only reason Rundle will be viable is the import parity pricing of the Commonwealth Government and that there would be no synthetic fuel industry in Australia without import parity pricing. Of course, if there were no synthetic fuel industry in Australia it would follow that there would be no continuous supply of oil or petroleum products in Australia. The Commonwealth Government has encouraged the Rundle undertaking. Discussions are taking place -
– You will make it another Poseidon, if you are not careful. Do you know that?
-I think one of the most disgraceful situations is for Labor senators to interject and attempt to undermine public confidence in the development of what will be vital to the jobs of all Australians. To start denigrating a great risk-taking industry by suggesting that it might collapse is to try deliberately to destroy confidence in something that is vital to Australia. I must reject that. Not only is Rundle on its way and on its lead time target path, but also discussions are currently taking place in Australia by the Japanese on liquefaction of brown coal particularly in Yallourn. The German Rheinbraun company is interested in a similar project. The Exxon organisation is looking at coal liquefaction in Australia. At least two other interests may emerge in the development of shale oil within the next one or two years. This Government is determined that the development of synthetic fuels in Australia will be at a pace that will not only guarantee the production of petroleum products in Australia but also will remove us from the risks of the fuel price rises of OPEC and its fuel import costs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. In view of his having extolled the virtues of import parity pricing, I ask him will the $2 a barrel increase in the price of Saudi Arabian crude announced yesterday, retroactive to 1 April, and the $2 a barrel price increase announced in
February, retroactive to 1 January, be passed on to the price paid at 1 July by Australian refiners of Australian crude? If those price increases are not to be passed on, when will the Minister admit that the Government has suspended until polling day import parity pricing which it asserts must be the cornerstone of any rational energy policy?
-Whatever the inaccuarcies of Senator Walsh, one has to admit that he is consistent in his inaccuracies. One has to give him full marks for consistently being wrong. Let me reiterate that the Government will continue to implement its world parity pricing policy.
-I take it from the keen interest of Senator Walsh that he must be supporting that policy, otherwise he would not be so eager for it to be implemented. Why otherwise would he be so eager?
– Just tell us when.
– With the honourable senator’s encouragement, I will tell him when. Those who know what is going on in the discussions of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries at this moment will know, unlike Senator Walsh, that OPEC has adjourned its meeting for a few weeks in order to seek a formula for long-term stabilising of oil prices in the OPEC world area. They are looking to see whether they can get a formula that will do a couple of things, including giving the OPEC countries a weatherproofing against inflation and Saudi Arabia hopes, some real growth in price, however moderate. They are also facing the fact that they are themselves reducing the volume of oil that is coming on stream. In April there was a decline of some two million barrels in the production of oil on stream from the OPEC countries. The Government will be keenly interested to pause for several weeks to find out what the OPEC decision is in June. Taking that into account and taking the Saudi Arabian $2 a barrel price increase into account, the Government will make its decision then.
The Saudi Arabians have been acting to try to steady down the wild up-movements of prices throughout the world. I believe Sheikh Yamani has set a lead in moderation in this regard, and he is to be commended. One can only hope that the OPEC -
– If he knows that from you he will be very satisfied!
– One thing is certain and that is that he would not regard any commendation from the Labor Party Opposition in the
Senate as commendation. One can thoroughly rely on that.
– I ask a supplementary question. Will Senator Carrick guarantee that the ruling price for Saudi Arabian crude on 1 July, adjusted for freight and quality, will be the price paid by refiners for Australian crude on 1 July and henceforth? If he will not give that guarantee, will he admit that the Government has suspended import parity pricing until polling day?
– First of all, Mr President, that is not a supplementary question at all; it raises an entirely new subject. I also remind you, Mr President, that from the beginning of this session until 1 May, by the technique of socalled supplementary questions, the Australian Labor Party has gained 108 additional questions to the Government’s 10. 1 make that quite clear.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. The Leader of the Government in the Senate is engaging in a grave reflection on your ability to control the House and to rule whether a question is or is not a supplementary one. I and other senators on this side of the House are becoming very sick and tired of the way in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate endeavours to dictate to this House, and particularly to you, the forms that should be followed.
– We have a practice in this place, Senator Georges, that supplementary questions are allowed to be asked, but they must be relevant to the original question and seek elucidation.
– Having said that that was not a supplementary question, I was at pains to say, and I have been at pains to say repeatedly, that the Government is not bound to 1 July at all, but it has said that it will be flexible in its time program. I am always grateful to the Opposition. It so underlines the validity of the Government’s case. I repeat to Senator Walsh that what the Government will be doing is pausing for a few weeks to find out what the OPEC decision is on pricing, reviewing the matter then and making a decision accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is about some material from the Soviet Embassy which was distributed to senators and members last night, apparently not posted to us but deposited here and distributed by officers of this Parliament. That material contains a booklet which was published -
Opposition members interjecting-
– You fellows cannot resist it, can you? That material was apparently published by the Novosti Press Agency in Moscow.
– You would know, Senator, not me. It also came with a Soviet news bulletin published by the Soviet Press office in Canberra.
– I did not get one of those.
– You may have mine, Senator. Has the Minister noted the increasing and unceasing volume of communist propaganda and hyperbole delivered by the Soviet Embassy in Canberra?
– Coming from China? The Chinese caught up with them last week.
– There is someone else who cannot resist.
– Order! When questions are asked, honourable senators should be silent and hear them, and they will have a chance to ask questions themselves.
– Are facilities available to the Australian Embassy in Moscow to disseminate expeditiously the truth about the invasion of Afghanistan and the boycotts of the Moscow Olympics to members of the Soviet Presidium and to the people of the Soviet Union? If not, will the Minister seek reciprocol arrangements to those accorded to the Soviet Embassy in Canberra?
– It is of course patent that there is an increase in the circulation of publicity and propaganda coming from the sources that Senator Lewis has indicated. It is because there is no way in which there can be direct revelations of accurate publicity to the people of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that this Government- and now a significant number of governments in the world- has sought to use the boycott as a graphic way of bringing to them a message that they otherwise would not get. I would have thought that two great world figures, Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov, had in fact martyred themselves in the interests of demonstrating that within Soviet Russia there is no ability to disseminate information, and that in itself is one of the grave threats to world peace.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen reports that what appears to be quite brutal persecution is being undertaken by the authorities in Iran against members of the Baha’i religion, including a report that several days ago seven of them were executed or murdered by the authorities in Iran? Could the Government, through the mission which it retains at Tehran, find out whether these reports are correct and whether members of the Baha’i religion, which has members in Australia who are peaceful, law abiding, good Australian citizens, are in fact being murdered by the regime in Iran? If this is the case, will it take some action to protest to the Iranian authorities about this brutality?
– I have seen the reports, as has Senator Wheeldon. I have not had the chance to verify them. I will certainly take the opportunity to do so. Should it be that there is evidence that they are true, I have no doubt in the world that the Government would want to share Senator Wheeldon ‘s desire that there be a very strong message through the proper sources to the Iranian Government and its people that we deplore what they are doing and that that kind of repression, whether it be of religions or any kind of freedoms, is repugnant to us and to other free people in the world.
35-HOUR WORKING WEEK
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce seen newspaper advertisements placed by officials of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union and designed to coerce union members in their campaign for a 35-hour week? Do these advertisements claim that the 35-hour week would create 250,000 jobs? Is this an accurate statement of the consequences of such a policy or is it pure economic nonsense in that such a policy is more likely to destroy many hundreds of thousands of jobs not only now but also in the future?
– I am one of the fortunate Australians who have not seen the advertisements of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union which, if they are in the terms put forward by the honourable senator in his question, obviously contain nothing but economic nonsense. I understand that even the Leader of the Opposition has indicated his view that it is economic nonsense. I am sure that all senators agree that the introduction of a 35-hour week is unlikely to create employment but rather is likely to destroy employment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Is the Department of Social Security in the process of setting up an industrial intelligence facility to determine those eligible for unemployment benefit when any member of the union to which the recipient belongs may be on strike? Pending the establishment of that system, have regional managers been asked to watch closely the industrial disputes occurring in their respective areas and to take note of persons or groups involved in such action so that adequate information is available to determine claims for unemployment benefit? What methods are these managers to use in collecting such information and what will be seen as adequate information?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI will need to refer to the Department to determine how it is dealing with the matter of unemployment benefit claims from members of unions which are engaged in industrial action. The Department of Employment and Youth Affairs and the Department of Industrial Relations assist the Department of Social Security in the determination of these matters. I will ask the Department what procedures are used to enable the officers of the Department to determine where eligibility for unemployment benefit exists in some of these instances in which industrial action is being undertaken.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by drawing the Senate’s attention to a report just released on the Tasmanian forestry industry which endorses the recommendations of the Callaghan report. In identifying the possible development of wood-using industries on a much wider basis than has occurred in the past, the report points out that it would be an important avenue for the encouragement of long term economic growth in Tasmania. Would the terms of the present Commonwealth-State agreement in connection with Tasmanian native forestry in any way preclude the Tasmanian Government from using Commonwealth funds to assist the immediate expansion and development of enterprises in Tasmania using Tasmanian native woods?
– I would want to check this matter out. My instinct is to say that the agreement ought not to preclude such a matter. That is my understanding. In case there are any technical problems, I will refer the question to the Minister in the other place and seek an answer.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Does the Minister consider it satisfactory for the chairman of a social security appeals tribunal to be the full time member who is seconded from the Department of Social Security? Can the Minister give any reason why the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in Queensland is the only tribunal which has an officer of the Department of Social Security as its chairman?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEThe appeals tribunals have a permanent officer from the Department as a member. They also have a legal member and someone who has been engaged in welfare work. I am not aware of any reason why any one of those members should not be chairman. I could look at the manner in which the tribunals were structured when they were originally set up. I have certainly instigated no changes and I am not aware whether on any other occasion the member from the Department has been the chairman. I will check that and see whether there is any reason why he should not be. He is a full member of the tribunal. He gives continuity to the work of the tribunal. If the members of the tribunal have asked him to be chairman or if some arrangement has been made for him to be chairman, I would on first look see no reason why that should not be a satisfactory arrangement. However, I will give consideration to the matter and communicate further with Senator Colston on it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I refer to earlier questions I have asked him about student association fees at the Australian National University. The Minister will recall that he had indicated that the ANU council would meet on 9 May to consider this matter and a statute relating to it. Has he yet had a report of that meeting on 9 May? Has he seen the proposed statute prepared by the ANU? What has been the outcome on these matters?
-I am aware of the ANU council meeting on 9 May. I understand that the Department of Education has reported to its Minister on the draft statute adopted at the meeting and a draft resolution passed at the meeting.
The proposed statute appears to be consistent with the Government’s intentions as expressed in amendments to the Australian National University Act passed, I think, in December last year. However, my advice is that the Department of Education is seeking advice from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department on whether the draft statute is acceptable in terms of the requirements of the legislation.
– I ask a supplementary question arising from Senator Carrick’s answer. Since the ANU has been extraordinarily tardy in this matter and has discriminated against and acted coercively towards some students at the ANU, will the Government now complete its consideration of this matter?
- Mr President, I take a personal objection to that. I seek the withdrawal of those comments. I am a member of the ANU Council and I take very strong objection to the comments that the Council has been tardy. I am a member on behalf of the Senate and I ask that those comments be withdrawn. I do not think the honourable senator should engage in a vendetta against the ANU in the manner in which he has over the past weeks. That is a personal reflection against me as a member of that Council.
– I can see no personal reflection on you, Senator.
– If Senator Georges takes what I said as a personal reflection on him, I withdraw it because it was not intended as a personal reflection on him. But I do believe that the ANU has been extraordinarily tardy, as I said, in this matter. It has acted towards some of its students in a way that I do not believe is becoming. Therefore I ask: In view of the answer given by the Minister, will the Government now complete its consideration of this statute promptly so that there will be absolutely no uncertainty on this matter when the time comes for enrolment at the ANU in 1981.
– Now repeat your comments in answer to the supplementary question.
-I will take Senator Georges’ advice, which I normally do, because it is helpful to the answer. It is true that the Government regards the belated actions of the ANU as being unduly tardy. The Government believes that because of that certain students have been seriously prejudiced. Therefore, the Government is very keen that this matter be brought to a successful conclusion, and by that we mean that the Government’s intentions within the statute shall be fully implemented and there shall be voluntary membership of sociopolitical organisations and that students shall not be compelled to contribute money to support those organisations. Because it is necessary for this to be clarified quickly I will convey Senator Knight ‘s request to the Minister for Education.
35-HOUR WORKING WEEK
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce a question. It arises from the question which Senator Messner asked. I ask it in the interests of truth and honesty in questions. Will the Minister study the advertisement of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union in yesterday’s Press? Will he indicate to me any wording in that advertisement that seeks to coerce anyone to do anything? Is not the advertisement an open invitation to members of the metal trades union to attend a stop-work meeting? Will the Minister study the advertisement to see whether it refers to Western manufacturing countries where employees in the metal trades have a 35-hour working week and states that if a 35-hour working week were applied to Australia it would create a number of jobs? As the advertisement bases its assessment of the number of jobs that would be created on what has happened in other countries where the 35-hour working week has been adopted, where are the statistics or the authorities that show that such jobs would not be created in Australia?
-Whether I will have time to study the advertisement between now and the end of the session is a matter on which I can give no undertaking to the Senate. I suggest, since the honourable senator seems to be concerned about the issue of a 35-hour working week and its economic effect, that he take the matter up with the Leader of the Opposition.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Health to the industrial dispute that has deprived us of the usual enthusiastic, energetic and packed gallery above and behind the President. Apart from the difficulties associated with the dismissal of some journalists, it has been suggested that health hazards are associated with the visual display terminals that some journalists are expected to operate. I understand that they are concerned about radiation and so on. Has the Department of Health investigated such allegations? If so, is there any substance in them?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI am advised by the Minister for Health that the
National Health and Medical Research Council’s Standing Committee on Occupational Health has given urgent attention to the health implications of the use of visual display units. A draft occupational health guide on the use of screen based equipment has been prepared and is currently the subject of detailed comment before being submitted to the Council for endorsement. I am further advised that the use of screenbased equipment can impose visual and postural strains on the operator, particularly in applications where insufficient attention has been paid to proper adjustment of lighting or to meeting the individual ergonomic requirements of the operator. These strains do not result in any known permanent health effect. No known permanent health effect results from the use of such equipment. As I said, the matter is the subject of detailed comment before being submitted to the Council. When any further information is available, I will see that the honourable senator is advised.
-Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs inform the Parliament when award wages will be paid to Aborigines in Queensland who are employed in the various reserve communities? Can he also inform the Parliament whether the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement has produced any plans to make use of the $417,000 which is likely to remain unused at 30 June 1980? Further, can the Minister advise whether his Department has yet been able to assess the total sum likely to remain unexpended as at 30 June 1980? If this information is still unavailable, is it because of the embarrassing rumour now circulating in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that unexpended funds in the Department may be as high as $ 13m on 30 June 1980?
– I do not think I have any good news for the Treasurer of the sort suggested by the honourable senator. I do not anticipate underexpenditure of anything like $13m in my Department this year. There will be some underexpenditure, but it will be considerably lower than that. In part it is because of underexpenditure of State departments and in part because of underexpenditure by Aboriginal organisations, including organisations in Central Australia, which have not been able to meet the very useful plans that they had. It is a matter of regret for the Government when this occurs, but it does occur with respect to both governments and Aboriginal organisations.
The earlier part of the honourable senator’s question referred to award wages. All honourable senators are aware that this is a matter which is before the Queensland Industrial Court. It is a matter which was brought before that Court I think by the Australian Workers Union. There have been adjournments of the matter since the Industrial Court held that award wages were to be payable under Queensland law on Queensland reserves. There has been a series of adjournments and I understand that that was with the agreement of the parties to those proceedings. Basically, the adjournments have been for the purpose of ensuring that additional information can be put before the arbitration authority. At this stage I am not aware of the precise, up-to-date position but I will seek that information and let the honourable senator have it. As far as plans which have been produced for spending are concerned, I can assure the honourable senator that wherever possible, where there is a shortfall and there are other areas of Aboriginal need which can be met within the appropriations which are provided by this Parliament, the funds are applied.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I am shocked at the Minister’s reply. Is the Minister unaware of the fact that the courts in Queensland are not holding up the payment of award wages to Aborigines on reserves, but that his Government and the Queensland Department are now conducting their third inquiry? It has nothing to do with the Industrial Court. I resent misinformation of this sort being given to a chamber of this Parliament.
– What is the question? I can see no question in that.
-Mr President, I will give an equal reply and suggest that the honourable senator get a hearing aid.
– He doesn’t have to tell lies.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, withdraw that. You are charging the Minister with being a liar.
– I withdraw the word ‘lies ‘ but he does not have to tell untruths.
– That is a qualified withdrawal. You know that it has the same meaning. Withdraw without reservation.
– I withdraw that, but I ask the Minister to give truthful information.
- Senator Keeffe, you must not let an inference remain.
– It is not an inference. He is giving the facts.
– It is an inference. The fact that you say that indicates the correctness of my asking Senator Keeffe not to qualify his withdrawal. Senator Keeffe, withdraw without qualification.
- Mr President, at your request I withdraw but I promise the Minister that I will take the first opportunity to speak on the first reading of a Bill and point out where he is wrong.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that even the most conscientious taxpayer has difficulty obeying the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act because of its complexities? In particular, I refer to the requirement for an employee to fill out an income tax instalment declaration every time he changes his place of employment. I know of a shearer who filled out 55 of these quite complicated declarations during the last financial year, and of a shearing contractor who is required to obtain many hundreds of these forms each year. Incidentally, it was beyond the capacity of the local quite large post office to supply those forms from its stocks. Will the Minister refer this matter to the Treasurer?
– It has always been a matter of concern to me that the taxation forms and the forms that in many cases emanate from government departments appear to be very complex- and, in my judgment, unduly so. It is unreasonable for an ordinary person to be expected to comprehend and to comply accurately with them. I do not know what are the limitations on this matter. I will refer the matter to the Treasurer and ask him to look at it.
– Will the Attorney-General tell the Senate what progress has been made by his Department in developing a new ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory to reform laws relating to rape and sexual offences?
– I can answer that question only in general terms and subject to the qualification that something may have occurred during my absence which I have not yet caught up with. The last advice I had was that there was pretty good progress in this matter. I was asked a question, probably by Senator Ryan, sometime ago and I explained what was happening. I had seen some little time ago one of the earlier drafts of an ordinance on the subject. Work has been progressing, I understand, fairly satisfactorily. In the light of the honourable senator’s question, I will inquire as to the up-to-date position and provide her with a fuller and more detailed reply as soon as possible.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that members of the Australian Army Reserve who are in employment are not required to pay any tax on moneys received from the Army for attending bivouacs and parades? Is the Minister aware that if a person were unemployed he or she would be required to disclose any moneys received from the Army which would be taken into consideration in the payment of the unemployment benefit? If this is so, will the Minister take the necessary steps to remove such anomalies as they are unfair and discouraging to those who are unfortunately unemployed?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEThe first point in Senator Young’s question, I believe, relates to matters that are the responsibility of the Treasurer. It relates to taxation requirements. I understand that the implication in the question is accurate. In regard to the second part of the question, that is, the taking into account of that income in determining the payment of unemployment benefit, in accordance with the Social Services Act that income is taken into account. If there were to be any change it would require an amendment to the Act.
This matter has been raised with me and I am able to say that the matter is under consideration, but until such time as any decision is taken by the Government or an amendment is made the income would still need to be taken into account. Attendance allowances paid to defray costs incurred in attending parades are not regarded as income, but I hope that as a result of the consideration of this matter by the Government some decisions may be taken that would resolve the matter raised by Senator Young.
– I preface my question to the Minister for National Development and Energy by saying that the Opposition is as concerned as the Government about the production of alternative fuels to help alleviate Australia’s transport fuel problem as shown by the presence of three Opposition senators on a Senate committee looking into that problem. Our aim is to clarify the undertaking of the Rundle venturers concerning this matter. Is it not a fact that in public evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources on 2 May the nominee of the Premier of Queensland made it clear that the only obligation arising out of the legislative agreement between the Queensland Government and the developers of the Rundle project is to produce 100,000 barrels of crude shale oil- that is, a type of non-refined fuel oil- by the end of 18 years, which is close to the year 2000? Further- I would be delighted if it were possible- can the understanding reached between Exxon executives and the Minister yesterday as to hydrogenation and refining to meet our transport fuel needs be embodied in a similar statutory agreement?
– I am not directly aware of the evidence given before the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. I do not deny that that evidence is likely to have been given. I can fully understand that it would be given in a greater lead time than the expectation of the partners. The partners, including Exxon, have indicated that they hope by 1988 and certainly by 1990-1992 to be getting something in excess of 200,000 barrels of crude shale oil. I should indicate that yesterday when I pressed that in terms of their production they indicated to me that a small part of that production might be used in the area itself for electricity generation. So, the net figure may not be quite that number of barrels. It would not disturb the general quantum of the argument itself.
I do not see that as being other than the normal legislative attitudes, the normal Government attitudes in providing more generous lead times because of the nature of the project itself and the difficulties that may occur.
As the honourable senator knows- I accept the sincerity of his questions; I do not doubt it- the first step will be to build a single unit. As we learn from that the second step will be to go on adding units. The nature of oil shale processing is such that units can be added in succession. So the speed by which the volume is produced will depend on the quantity and the quality of the initial success. If the venturers can get further ahead in technology in the first attempt they will proceed much faster. I do not know whether there is any thought of embodying any tighter understanding in the legislation. That is a matter for State consideration. I have no doubt that the Queensland Government shares the Commonwealth Government’s sense of urgency regarding oil shale. When I get the opportunity I will talk to the relevant Minister in the Queensland Government and direct his attention to Senator Tate’s question.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Has the Government any authority concerning Australia Post’s placement or removal of street posting boxes? Is any consultation required between Australia Post and local authorities or area users before boxes are removed? If not, what appeals mechanism is available to Australia Post users who find themselves suddenly disadvantaged by the removal of their regular posting facilities? Will the Minister approach the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to request Australia Post to review its policy to ensure greater consideration of its customers?
– This is a matter on which I think many honourable senators and certainly members in the other place receive representations from citizens who are concerned about the loss of a convenient facility. My understanding is that these matters are dealt with by the Australian Postal Commission in a way which is similar to the way in which Telecom Australia deals with public telephone boxes. Guidelines which relate to the volume of usage provide an indicator as to whether a particular postal box will be provided. In other words, if a post box is used for posting only one letter every two months it is unlikely to remain in operation. I am not able to give the honourable senator the precise rules which are applied but I think they are applied with a degree of discretion. The particular geographic problems which some communities have are taken into account. It would be most productive if I sought precise information from the Postal Commission through Mr Staley so that Senator Archer’s constituents can be made aware of the avenue by which they may make representations if they have been inconvenienced by some change.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface I refer to General Business item No. 101- it is a virtual time bomb in the eyes of the Minister- which seeks to set up a select committee to examine the refugee intake, and the numerical multifactor assessment system’s evalution and immigration components. In view of the genuine complexities that exist in relation to ethnic television and the fact that the talents of the Senate have been used to defuse the family law controversy, what will be the Minister’s response if I suggest to him that I am prepared to revise the wording of that item so that it covers ethnic television? I think that my colleagues Senator McClelland and Senator Ryan and also Senator Mason, who have some expertise in this matter, are available to serve on such a committee. I raise that point because the Government has genuine differences on this matter and I do not want it late next week to introduce a motion to establish another committee and leave me floundering. That would make me very irate. What is the Minister’s attitude to the gesture I am making on behalf of the socialists?
– I am aware of Senator Mulvihill’s keen interest in that item on the Notice Paper. It is listed under General Business and, therefore, it is not competent for me as Leader of the Government in the Senate to respond. This is a matter for the Senate to deliberate and to decide upon. The item takes its order of precedence from a protocol arrangement. It is very competent upon Senator Mulvihill to bring forward amendments to the General Business item when it comes on for debate. I suggest to Senator Mulvihill that if there is likely to be some delay in the matter being debated under General Business and if he wants to develop his ideas on either of the matters he has mentioned, he could consider putting his thoughts into a comprehensive letter and addressing it to the two Ministers concerned- the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Then at least he will have conveyed his views. The Ministers no doubt will give genuine consideration to them. If he wishes to direct his letter to me I will make sure that the Ministers and the departments give consideration to the views expressed.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In the light of the offer that the Minister has made to me, could he indicate the problems he is grappling with in relation to the introduction of legislation on ethnic television? The legislation appears to have been put in cold storage until the August session.
– My understanding, which is subject to correction- I will correct it tomorrow if I am wrong- is that that piece of legislation will be introduced before we rise at the conclusion of the autumn session.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, relates to the appointment of judges to the Federal Court of Australia. While recognising that there are no geographical bounds to the jurisdiction of a Federal Court judge, will the Government be prepared to consider appointing judges from Australian capital cities when future appointments are made to those cities that do not at present have Federal Court judges?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is yes. It is a long term policy that a Federal Court judge be resident in each of the capital cities provided, of course, that there is sufficient work. I have already considered the question of the appointment of judges in capital cities other than Sydney and Melbourne. An appointment has been made for a Federal Court judge resident in Adelaide and there is a probability that in the nottoodistant future- I do not want to put a time on itFederal Court judges will be appointed in at least Perth and Brisbane.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy and follows his reply today to the Leader of the Opposition in which he affirmed that Rundle shale or crude oil could provide some refined motor spirit. If Australia is guided on such a course that it is eventually dependent substantially on shale oil for motor spirit, does that not mean in fact that the developers can be indifferent to the final price since they would be in a position to demand virtually any price for their product from the Australian people and perhaps also substantial subsidies at cost to the taxpayer? I am putting major emphasis on the project. In view of those considerations, will the Government now institute an inquiry into all aspects of the costs of the Rundle proposal so that realistic estimates independent of those provided by the developers can be established along with a realistic major production date?
– The answer to the first part of the question is no. Quite clearly the price of any synthetic crude cannot reasonably be higher than the import parity price of indigenous oil. That is the first test. Otherwise communities would use oil which is available on world markets. Secondly, it is not to be thought that oil shale is to be the only source of alternative fuel. We have coal liquefaction on the one hand but, even more significantly, on the other hand, if necessary the use of natural gas. As it becomes considerably more abundant in Australia it can be used either as an extender in methanol, which is a very quick and cheap process, or taken through to gasolene. In that regard the process in New Zealand of Mobil Oil Ltd is under study at this moment. There is also, of course, the produnon of ethanol by biomass. One of the things that the Government is doing is to encourage a variety of competitive forces to come into the market to see who can viably produce alternative fuels at a competitive market price. Therefore, each one of these forces will be trying to produce its product as cheaply as possible. The real test for Rundle is that it produce its product so cheaply that others in the field will not undercut it.
As to the second question, since the first one is not based on fact, first of all there would not be a need for such an inquiry because there would be no such monopoly. Secondly, the costs associated with Rundle at this moment concern matters that are being developed scientifically and technically between the partners and the scientists of the world, and an inquiry would not be useful.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter, dated 1 5 May 1980, from Senator Wriedt:
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64, 1 give notice that today I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The Government’s recognition of the Pol Pot regime as the legitimate government of Kampuchea, in the light of the reprehensible record of that government.
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
The issue which I raise today is the issue of Kampuchea. This tragic country has been pushed out of the headlines recently and, I would think, out of the minds of many people by events in the Middle East. I do not need to remind the Senate that from 1964 until the end of 1972 Australian troops were actively engaged in Indo-China. Those troops were eventually withdrawn, I might add by a Labor Government, almost a decade ago. But we still retain, of course, a very keen interest in what happens in that country. There can be no true stability in South East Asia until there is a thorough settlement in IndoChina. Vietnam remains the key to Indo-China, but since at least 1978 the focus of concern, rivalry and manoeuvre, has been Kampuchea.
There are three points that I wish to make. Firstly, this Government’s policy on Kampuchea is wrong, and by persisting in it the Government compounds its fundamental error. Secondly, I urge the Government to take the initiative and to give a lead and an example in the complex and crucial diplomacy that is now evolving over Kampuchea. Thirdly, I caution the Government about a broader development in its foreign policy which seems to be emerging and of which its policy on Kampuchea is a notable example.
The Australian Labor Party can stand proudly on its record of relations with China. The Labor Party pioneered the recognition of China by this country and the development of cordial and constructive relations with that country, after a generation in which successive conservative governments in Australia had taken the ostrich policy of ignoring the Government of one-quarter of humanity. Labor can speak with authority on our relations with China because it forged them. I shall say more on that later.
A month ago, in a fairly widely reported statement, I urged the Government to reconsider its diplomatic recognition of the Pol Pot regime. As the Senate knows, that regime has been described by this Government as the most repressive regime of modern times. The SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations has used similar language. There has been a stream of Press reports since 1978, and even earlier, which have shown that from 1975 to 1978 the Pol Pot regime pursued in Kampuchea policies of repression, terror and brutality that in fact amounted to genocide. The concensus seems to be that at least one million people of that country were shot, beaten or starved to death in those years by the Pol Pot Government. Many reports, of course, place those estimates at much higher levels. Yet, 1 8 months after it was driven from power, and while it sits in its exile somewhere near the Thailand border, the remnants of that regime are still recognised by the Australian Government as the legitimate government of Kampuchea. It is, in the words of an editorial in the Melbourne Age of 8 May of this year, ‘a black farce’. Indeed, it is more than that. It is an insult to the Australian community. It is appalling that a regime which committed monstrous crimes against its own people should receive official recognition by any government. It is shameful for the Australian people that the Government is associated, through recognition, with the Pol Pot regime posing as a government.
The United States does not recognise Pol Pot. The British Government has withdrawn its recognition. France, which probably knows more about the area than any other country, does not recognise any Kampuchean claimant. But Australia does not recognise Pol Pot only in some technical or tacit way. It actually votes for it in international forums. For instance, in the United Nations General Assembly last year, Australia voted in favour of accrediting representatives from Pol Pot. Moreover, Australia as a nation rejected a sensible and a constructive proposal by India to declare the Kampuchean seat vacant. In explaining these votes, our Ambassador to the United Nations stated that to vote otherwise would be tantamount to endorsing the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea in 1978. That invasion, of course, drove Pol Pot out of the country which his fanatical followers had terrorised and devastated for three years. With all due respect to our Ambassador at the UN, who, no doubt, was acting on instructions from Canberra, the so-called explanation is nonsensical; it is hypocritical; it is devious; and it is lacking in any morality. It also contains contradictions which I shall spell out in a moment.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, has repeated in various places what he says is the explanation for Australia’s continued recognition of Pol Pot, and its votes in favour of that discredited and, I say, still dangerous political and military organisation. Mr Peacock has stated that recognition does not mean approval of Pol Pot. I believe him, but in that case the Government should at least abstain from votes helping Pol Pot or supporting resolutions such as that of India aimed at stripping away its facade of international legitimacy and leaving open for the moment the question of which Kampuchean power group has the right to represent that nation.
Abstention from voting for or against the Pol Pot regime could not possibly be construed as supporting the regime actually holding power in Phnom Penh and most of the rest of the country. I refer, of course, to the Heng Samrin group. It came to power, of course, following the invasion by Vietnamese forces. That invasion has been condemned, and we support that condemnation as an illegal military intervention; at least it did bring an end to an era of terror and despotism that had been imposed on the Kampuchean people by Pol Pot. But, instead of taking an evenhanded attitude, instead of seizing the opportunity of a fundamental change in the Kampuchean situation to change policy, the Fraser Government decided to take sides, and it chose to continue recognition of a mass murderer.
The alternative was not to switch to recognition of the Heng Samrin Government installed by an illegal act of the Vietnamese. The alternative was to recognise that there are at least two contending political forces in Kampuchea, one of them apparently in majority control of the other and to move towards a non-partisan position. This could have been done in one or more of three ways. The Government could support moves to declare Kampuchea’s seat in international forums as vacant, or it could have abstained when votes on Kampuchean issues were called for. Again, it could, while still technically recognising Pol Pot, refuse to vote for that regime to be allowed to sit on prestigous international organisations, or in fact, if it had been more thoughtful and had a more constructive policy, it could have withdrawn diplomatic recognition from Pol Pot. That, of course, is what the British Government did. Such an Australian action could be accompanied by a plain statement addressed to Vietnam, China, the Soviet Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations- they are the nations, of course, that are most closely involved- that derecognition would mean simply that and no more. We could state plainly that we do not approve of the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea. We could also state plainly that we do not recognise and, indeed, reserve political judgment on the Heng Samrin administration which now apparently controls Phnom Penh.
There could be two reasons why the Government has not pursued the sensible course or courses which I have suggested. One reason may be that the Fraser Government has succumbed to an attack of morality. That would be a strange malady for it to suffer from. However, the Government has found no difficulty in accepting the invasion and the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia. The Government also accepted the Tanzanian invasion of Uganda which drove out Idi Amin. It could be described as a sort of mini Pol Pot of Africa. The Government stated in a written answer given in the Parliament last November that Uganda was a special case. I would suggest that Kampuchea is also a special case. Moreover, we are not calling for recognition of the administration in Phnom Penh, that is, the Heng Samrin Government, such as the Fraser Government gave to the administration in
Kampala. We are calling for the derecognition of Pol Pot. To continue to recognise this criminal regime is equivalent to continuing to recognise Idi Amin as representing Uganda. Who would suggest that? As I do not believe the Fraser Government has a bad conscience over East Timor or Uganda which it is trying to assuage by a Simon-pure posture on Kampuchea, we must look elsewhere for the reason for the continuation of this policy of recognising Pol Pot.
I suggest that the reason has four elements. Obviously the obsessive anti-Soviet policy of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is one. Secondly, there has been an alarmingly, uncritical and, indeed, unquestioning support by the Government for China’s attitude towards this question. Of course, that in turn is related to the first point and is part of a general conflict between China and the Soviet Union. As an Age commentator again wrote this week, I think quite correctly, Australia’s enthusiasm for the China line should be tempered. Thirdly, there is the negative attitude of the Government towards Vietnam. Again that attitude seems to be based on animosity involving the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which supports Vietnam and on acceptance of the policies of the Chinese Government which, of course, is at loggerheads with Vietnam. So all those things really tie together. Fourthly- I can see sense in this point at least- the Government is concerned to achieve and maintain good relations with the ASEAN nations, all of which recognise Pol Pot because they see the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea as a dangerous precedent.
Last week the Chinese Vice Premier, Mr Li, during his visit to Canberra had some incredible and unacceptable things to say about Pol Pot. The Chinese have stated them before, but they remain just as unacceptable. Mr Li said it was a myth that the Pol Pot forces had been responsible for mass killings in Kampuchea. In saying this he flies in the face of evidence found acceptable everywhere else. He also said that the Pol Pot forces had made some mistakes- I think they were called administrative mistakes- during their years in power and that these mistakes were now being corrected. That was indeed a strange and unacceptable statement. Pol Pot, no matter how much he may correct his mistakes, is in no position to resurrect the dead. He is in no position to cure the wounds and the malnutrition of the hundreds of thousands of his own countrymen who are suffering survivors of his own era.
My last two points concern Vietnam and ASEAN. This Government made a reasonable start in its relations with Hanoi when it came to office in 1975. After Vietnam intervened in 1978 in Kampuchea against the Pol Pot forces, the Fraser Government switched from a policy of conciliation and aid to one of confrontation. In January 1979, while the Foreign Minister was out of the country, the Government decided to suspend its aid program to Vietnam. It is clear that the Prime Minister saw the VietnamKampuchea conflict as a sort of proxy war in the Sino-Soviet dispute. Thus, there was no doubt on which side he would come down. There was, in fact, a good case for Australia not choosing sides and getting into the argument. Mr Peacock took a more intelligent view than the Prime Minister.
– What is new about that?
-On two occasions in 1978 Mr Peacock stated that the Vietnam-Kampuchea conflict had historical origins and did not arise out of Sino-Soviet rivalry. The answer to Senator Button’s interjection, of course, is that Mr Peacock has the advice of people who are knowledgeable in these areas, whereas the Prime Minister acts purely on his own personal prejudices in all these areas of debate. But Mr Peacock’s view did not prevail. It was swept aside. The Prime Minister chose to take ideological and political sides rather than to act diplomatically and carefully. Missing from this policy was any recognition of what Pol Pot had been doing in Kampuchea. Also missing was any recognition of the complexities of historic relations between that country and Vietnam.
Finally I turn to ASEAN. These five South East Asian countries were naturally critical and concerned about the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea. They had no love for Pol Pot. But the invasion, especially by the strongest nation in their region, was seen as a physical threat and an alarming political precedent, which in fact it was. Now that the shock waves have subsided over the past 1 8 months or so and Vietnamese forces, whilst still in Kampuchea, have shown no inclination to move further, the ASEAN nations are seeking to engage Hanoi in a compromise settlement. Their aim is the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea. Before that is likely to happen presumably Hanoi will seek recognition of the Heng Samrin Government in Phnom Penh and the isolation and disarming of the Pol Pot guerrillas on the Thai border. In our view Australia only exacerbates and prolongs the problem by recognising the one force that has the potential, in itself or as a proxy of China, to prevent a settlement between Vietnam and its non-communist neighbours, mainly the ASEAN States. This is, of course, the Pol Pot regime.
In the view of the Opposition the long diplomatic process of negotiation between Hanoi and ASEAN which now seems to be starting will not be hindered by Australia withdrawing its diplomatic recognition of Pol Pot. At the very least we can cease the policy of voting for Pol Pot in international forums. The latest example of that occurred only last week. In Geneva, Australia voted to admit the Pot Pot delegation to the Assembly of the World Health Organisation. It would be impossible to imagine any diplomatic act more cynical and immoral than that. The spectacle of the representatives of a regime that murdered and starved countless numbers of its own people, sitting in an organisation dedicated to improving the health of the poor and the dispossessed of this world is one I am sure that the Senate will join me in condemning by voting for this urgency motion.
– I am intrigued by the rather curious wording of this motion, which states:
The Government’s recognition of the Pol Pot regime as the legitimate Government of Kampuchea, in the light of the reprehensible record of that Government.
No one disagrees with the view that the record of conduct of that Government is reprehensible. Indeed the Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and Mr David Anderson at the United Nations have repeatedly condemned the barbarism of the Pol Pot Government. There can be only agreement upon that. The Opposition seems still to confuse the issue of recognition and approval. If we were to base recognition of governments on approval of their policies, I suggest there would not be a great number of governments which we would recognise. One of the difficulties, and Senator Wriedt got into this difficulty, is that someone who says that recognition should be based upon morality and accuses others of being hypocritical is in danger of being hypocritical oneself. The Government has always made a clear distinction between recognition and approval. As I have suggested, it has to maintain diplomatic relations with governments whose policies it does not always endorse and which, in fact, it has condemned publicly.
If the criteria for recognition is that we should not recognise those countries whose policies we do not endorse, would we recognise the Soviet Union today? That country’s record domestically in the treatment of its own dissidents and the use of psychiatric hospitals is reprehensible. There are other examples of the almost barbaric manner in which the Soviet Union treats its own people. It has been condemned both by the Opposition and by the Government. The Soviet Union’s policies in Afghanistan are surely reprehensible. Reports come from Afghanistan of genocide and the brutal and barbaric manner in which the Russian forces are trying to crush the Afghan fighters. Atrocities are being committed in Kabul. All these actions are reprehensible. If such policies are the criteria for derecognition surely we should be considering derecognising the Soviet Union.
Vietnam itself has a record which could also be regarded as reprehensible. Uganda was mentioned by Senator Wriedt. We maintained diplomatic recognition of Idi Amin. Surely with the exception perhaps of Pol Pot there has been no more barbaric individual than Amin. I refer again to the Soviet Union. I recall that the Whitlam Government recognised the Soviet absorption of the Baltic states. For years the Soviet Union had a deliberate policy to destroy the national identity of the Baltic states. Presumably, the Whitlam Government recognised the absorption of the Baltic states for political reasons, not reasons based upon morality. I suggest that at the time of recognition of China by the Whitlam Government many of China’s policies were reprehensible. We could have rightly condemned such policies. Whether to recognise a government is a very difficult question when one bases it upon morality. We are not basing the recognition of the Pol Pot regime upon morality. We are basing it on political reasons alone. It is not a legal question; it is a political question.
– Pol Pot is not even in control of the country.
– In response to the intelligent interjection from Senator Walsh I suggest that there is no government of Kampuchea. Heng Samrin is not in control of the country either.
– He is in control of more than Pol Pot is.
- Senator Walsh may think so but even that is questionable. I do not know whether Senator Walsh is suggesting that we should recognise Heng Samrin. If he is we get back to morality.
– That is not true.
– I accept that Senator Wriedt did not suggest that. We must also be aware that the United Nations still accepts the credentials of the Pol Pot regime as the legitimate government of Kampuchea. That situation may well change. The Pol Pot regime is still recognised by 7 1 countries. I must admit that some countries recognise a state and not a government. There are different forms of recognition. Nevertheless, 7 1 countries of the United Nations voted to support the credentials of the Pol Pot regime. That policy remains. In that respect Australia is with the majority of countries.
Australia’s aim has always been to achieve a political solution to the Kampuchean problem. The continuing recognition of Democratic Kampuchea- it is preferable that we should use that expression rather than Pol Pot because it is the government and not the individual that we recognise- has been an important element in trying to achieve this aim. Senator Wriedt made some reference to reports in the Press today of a dialogue which is beginning between Vietnam and the Association of South East Asian Nations. An element in Australia’s continuing recognition of Democratic Kampuchea is the attitude of the ASEAN states themselves with which we have close relations. It is all right for the United Kingdom and others to withdraw support. But, as Senator Carrick said yesterday, Australia’s perspectives of South East Asia cannot be seen from Europe. They are quite different from those of nations which are far away. We are close to the region and are nearer the area of crisis. Therefore, we have a perspective different from that of the ASEAN countries, particularly Thailand, which are most closely concerned.
The ASEAN states believe that for the moment there is political sense in still recognising Democratic Kampuchea. Proof of that are the reports in the Press today of the comments by Datuk Hussein Onn, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, following discussions with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. The reports suggest that there has been some movement in the position between the ASEAN countries and Vietnam following recent discussions in Malaysia with the Foreign Minister of Vietnam. The reports state that on Saturday crucial and very sensitive discussions will take place between Vietnam and Thailand. After all, Thailand is the country most concerned. It is in the most sensitive position. It would be the height of folly for us for political reasons to go against the wishes of Thailand, a country with which we have a close association. Thailand feels that it has an advantage at this time by continuing to recognise Democratic Kampuchea. After all, the people who are closest to the area have to make the judgments. For Australia, a country which is close to the region and which has close relations, to go against the judgments and wishes of the ASEAN countries, particularly Thailand at this time would be the height of political folly.
If some of the reports by observers are true, the recognition of Democratic Kampuchea will be one of the levers which the ASEAN countries, particularly Thailand, will be using to obtain concessions and compromises from Vietnam. If those countries derecognise Democratic Kampuchea, Vietnam as a quid pro quo will either partially withdraw or engage in a phased withdrawal of its troops. At this crucial time when negotiations are starting which may well decide whether there is to be peace or continuing instability in the South East Asian region, a region of critical importance to us, for us to derecognise Democratic Kampuchea would be the height of political folly. No doubt such a move would be seen as a weakening of our support for the ASEAN countries in their critical and sensitive negotiations. We should be thankful that at last there is a faint glimmer of hope. For the time being we should maintain our recognition as much as we condemn Pol Pot for his barbarity. His regime was probably one of the most barbarous the world has ever seen. The ASEAN representatives told Senator Primmer, Senator Mcintosh and me that they know more about Pol Pot than anyone. Thailand says that it knows more than anybody about his bestiality because it is next door. It is not for moral reasons but for political reasons that it sees merit in continued recognition.
Foreign policy cannot always be based upon moral considerations. They are an element, but only an element. When we base our policy on moral considerations we often forget and neglect our national interest. After all, the basis of foreign policy is to protect national interest, above all. It is no good saying that we stood by our moral principles when the burglar is in our house. It is a little late then. The judgment of the Government and the judgment of the ASEAN governments for the time being is that it is in their political interests to continue recognition. In some ways I regret that this debate is taking place because at this time very sensitive negotiations are being held. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-by leave-The motion appointing the Committee on the Family Law Act was first moved by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in the Senate on 17 August 1978. The resolution in paragraph 12 contained provision that the Committee report to Parliament by the 31 December 1979. On 12 September 1979 a motion was moved in the Senate by Senator Coleman to extend to 3 1 May 1980 the time in which the Committee was expected to report. I have now replaced Senator Coleman as Deputy Chairman of the Committee.
The Senate will recall that Senator Coleman is on leave of absence because of illness. I know well her enthusiasm for the work and I know how disappointed she is at not being able to continue as Deputy Chairman.
A further extension of time for the Committee to make its report is to be sought later. I am conscious that it has already been necessary for the Committee to seek an extension. I assure the Senate that this is not due to want of either interest or application on the part of the Committee members. The Committee has undertaken a heavy program of meetings since Christmas and considerable progress has been made. Our deliberations are close to finality. The Committee has under consideration a draft report and we expect to conclude our deliberations in the next few weeks. However, on reflection, the task appeared so formidable that it seemed more sensible to seek some additional time from Parliament. For instance, it would not have been possible for our report to have been printed for distribution until some weeks after tabling, even if we had succeeded in meeting the present deadline. This would have inconvenienced honourable senators and those members of the public interested in the outcome of our inquiry. There was also the possibility that the document, if got together in haste, would be deficient in certain respects. The extra time will ensure the possibility of thorough editorial work on the document.
– What is the time limit? It is an extension of time, is it not?
– I must say that the statement I just put down does not indicate the extended time limit, but as I understand it it will be until the end of August this year- 3 1 August.
– by leave- The report -
– I thought we had agreed to incorporate this statement.
-I would be happy to have it incorporated, but as it relates to a matter which originated in the Senate I should read it. That is the normal practice. I will be as brief as I can. I think its incorporation would breach a principle in respect of matters which originate in the Senate. I am grateful to Senator Georges for his offer.
The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment entitled ‘On the Continuing Scrutiny of Pollution- the River Murray’ was tabled in the Senate on 7 June 1979. The Committee expressed its concern at delays in amending the River Murray Waters Agreement between the Commonwealth, New
South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to expand the powers of the River Murray Commission in respect of water quality responsibilities as approved in principle by the four governments late in 1976. 1 am pleased to inform the Senate, that following a ministerial meeting in Melbourne on 22 October 1979, all four governments have agreed to early action on drawing up a new Agreement which, in addition to expanding the powers of the Commission in respect of water quality responsibilities, will update the 1915-1974 Agreement in general. The Crown Solicitor’s Office is currently drafting a new Agreement for consideration and discussion between the parties and good progress is being made.
The need for co-ordinated management of the river system with regard to water quality, flood mitigation, floodplain management, environmental matters and recreation was also seen by the Committee as being a very important issue. Indeed, the new Agreement now being drawn up will give the Commission a close interest in these matters.
With regard to the co-ordination of action by the States in dealing with problems in the Murray Valley, I also draw attention to a recent report on salinity and drainage problems which was released on 21 December last year and tabled in Parliament on 21 February 1980. In brief, the consultants to the four governments have proposed a co-ordinated plan of action involving the diversion of saline flows away from the river to inland evaporation basins, the lowering of water tables, improved farm irrigation practices, the increased use of dilution flows from evaporation basins under suitable circumstances. The consultants have also recommended that the co-ordination of the plan of action be facilitated by a Commonwealth-States committee. The Senate Committee also recommended that the unanimity requirement for the Commission’s decisions be changed in favour of majority decisions claiming that this would strengthen and enhance the independence of the Commission. This proposition has been discussed with my State counterparts, but agreement is not likely unless and until there is evidence that the current decision-making provisions do in fact inhibit the effectiveness of the Commission’s work.
In sum, the Government acknowledges the importance of the concerns expressed by the Senate Standing Committee. The issues it has raised are all directed towards a more effective management of the River Murray systemAustralia’s most important water resource. Coordination of all aspects of water management as recommended by the Committee is certainly an important means to this end. Changes to the four-government River Murray Waters Agreement are not easy to effect; in fact, the proposed amendments to give water quality responsibilities to the River Murray Commission represent the first substantial changes to the functions of the Commission since the Agreement was signed in 1915. Nevertheless, with the increasing complexity of the river system- not only in matters affecting water quality but also related to land use, urban and irrigation issues- there now appears to be a greater willingness on the part of the signatories to the Agreement to examine closely all factors significantly affecting river management. Given the serious water quality problems which occur from time to time in the river and the increasing salinisation of land in the Murray Valley, it cannot be otherwise. I commend the statement. I move:
– Whilst I recognise the difficulties which confront a national government in this issue, the difficulties which are inherent in the absurd Constitution which continues to constrain what we may do, I must express my disappointment that the Government has not attempted even to come to grips with the real issue which is involved in the salinity of the Murray basin. Every informed person who has looked at this problem for at least the larI 10 years has come out with the unequivocal finding that the major cause of Murray basin salinity, and therefore of water quality, is the extent and intensity of irrigation. Any doubts about that finding- it seems to me there are very few- would be removed if the present Australian Labor Party policy of establishing a research institute on river basin salinity under the aegis of a university were implemented. That would remove any technical doubts which may still remain in some people’s minds. There are, however, few such technical doubts.
The salinity and water quality problem is a result overwhelmingly of irrigation, particularly on the western side of the Echuca-Deniliquin line; the finding in the most recent, Maunsell report. The Maunsell report, which I think was the one referred to by Senator Carrick in the statement tabled in February this year, did not substantially alter the findings. It updated the findings, but it did not basically alter the findings of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey way back in 1970. Yet, 10 years later there is still far from effective action. We are still waiting for an explicit recognition by the governments involved of the problem.
Paragraph 2 of the report lists the findings of the consultants and their reference to diversion of saline flows away from the river to inland evaporation basins. That is true, the consultants did recommend that as the treatment of a symptom. That is treating the symptom, not the problem itself which is overwatering or excess water being poured into the aquifer in much of the Murray basin which is causing the ground-water tables to rise. Obviously, where those groundwater tables are saline, as they are particularly on the downstream sections west of the EchucaDeniliquin line, inevitably that leads to land salination, ultimately sterilisation of much of the land and long before the point of sterilisation serious declines in agricultural production. Of course, near the other end of the river not only Adelaide but also most of South Australia has to contend with the problem of saline water caused by irrigation activity further upstream. Senator Carrick also listed the recommendation from the consultants that there should be improved farm irrigation practices. He made no suggestion that it will actually be enacted. It is, of course, beyond the direct control of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that that recommendation is implemented.
Senator Carrick also referred to increased use of dilution flows in the river. That brings us to a matter which is within the direct control of the Commonwealth Government and draws attention to a very serious contradiction in government policy- rather, I suppose I should say Prime Ministerial whim’ which is about to be enacted as government policy. On 14 April the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced, on the pretext of providing drought relief, a number of changes to taxation laws which were slanted heavily, as always, to favour the rich and to favour those not affected by drought but which in their effect on the allocation of resources were to favour very heavily investment in irrigated agriculture. It is possible for a variety of investments in irrigated agriculture to receive a tax subsidy from the Government equal to 90 per cent of the investment. I am referring to a particular type of investment which qualifies for a 40 per cent conversion allowance as well as qualifying as a tax deduction. This is compounded later by the effects, through primary producers tax averaging, on taxation payable in subsequent years. It is possible to receive a subsidy of 105 per cent of the original investment.
It is unbelievable that even this Government, had it properly considered this matter, would have been crass enough to enact anything which provides an investment incentive or a subsidy of more than 100 per cent of the investment. That is exactly what it has done. The reason that it has done it is that the Prime Minister had a whim on 14 April just before he jetted off to Lusaka in one of his private 707 aircraft. The Government is now stuck with it. Next week I will be inviting the people on the other side of the chamber who claim that they exercise some independent judgment in these matters to defer consideration of the legislation which enacts that subsidy so it can be properly considered and subjected to a proper rationale, and so an estimate of cost can be presented by the Government.
The relevance of this is that the Government talks piously of the increased use of dilution flows while simultaneously it is enacting amendments to the taxation laws which will provide massive subsidies for a particular form of agriculture which will inevitably lead to a serious misallocation of investment funds and will generate demands- let there be no mistake about this- and powerful political pressures for the construction of further large water storages in the headwaters of the Darling River and probably in the headwaters of the Murray River. A consequence of that is that more water will be poured into the aquifers, the water tables, which are causing the salinity problem. Secondly, there will be less river flow to dilute whatever saline load the river will carry. For two compounding reasons the problem will be aggravated. Firstly, more saline water will be forced into the river system and, secondly, less fresh water will be available to dilute it as it moves down to Adelaide and Lake Alexandrina. The Minister stated:
The Senate Committee also recommended that the unanimity requirement of the Commission’s decisions be changed in favour of majority decisions.
Senator Carrick further stated:
This proposition has been discussed with my State counterparts, but agreement is not likely unless and until there is evidence that the current decision-making provisions do in fact inhibit the effectiveness of the Commission’s work.
I would have thought that anyone who has not realised by now that the current decision-making provisions do inhibit the effectiveness of the Commission’s work must be particularly nonperceptive. The Commission and all the State governments involved, with the possible exception of the previous South Australian Government recognise this but the Federal Government does not recognise or spell out the basic cause of the problem. In implicitly rejecting the Senate Committee’s very sensible recommendation that a majority decision be acceptable instead of a unanimous decision, the Government has dodged the issue again. It continues to accept a practice which is a formula for inertia- an administrative arrangement which is almost certainly an unsurmountable barrier to the adoption of any rational program on this matter.
Of course, the most damning evidence of the Government’s incompetence in this area is that while making pious noises it fails to recognise explicitly the fundamental cause of the problem and it is in the process of enacting legislation which cannot fail to aggravate the problem. This is not to say that there is no place for irrigated agriculture in Australia. If there is any argument for it being provided with investment subsidies of the magnitude of 105 per cent, which is what the Government proposes to do, I would welcome an exposition of the justification for an investment subsidy of 105 per cent. I ask honourable senators to contemplate this for a moment: If the Government were to offer the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd an investment subsidy of 105 per cent to construct another major steelworks BHP would not be able to get pen in hand quickly enough to sign the contract.
Why is this industry singled out for extraordinarily privileged taxation treatment and for subsidies of that magnitude? There is no rational reason for it at all. The reason is that the Prime Minister, displaying his well known propensity to meddle in everything that he does not understand, just prior to jetting off to Lusaka announced off the top of his head without any consultation with the Department of Primary Industry, without putting a submission to Cabinet and without getting any costing on it, that this was going to be done. All his toadies who sit opposite in this reputed House of review will probably vote for the legislation, without one word of criticism, probably on Thursday of next week. If they are really willing to have -
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I do not take Senator Walsh seriously but I feel that the expression ‘toadies’ to describe senators on this side of the chamber is an offensive word and ought to be withdrawn.
– It is offensive, Senator Walsh, and I ask you to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I hope that honourable senators opposite prove that the withdrawal is justified next week but I do not have much confidence in that. The Commonwealth Government has problems in this area.
Some of the problems of the present Government are of its own making. I suggest that at the very least it ought to be giving a lead to the States in a frank recognition of the cause of the problem. Until the cause of the problem is frankly recognised by governments we are unlikely to get any sensible policies which may ameliorate the problem. I do not think it can be eliminated. I am very disappointed that the Government has given no indication in this statement that it has any intention of giving such a lead.
– I am grateful to the Government for responding to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment which I tabled on 7 June last year. I express my extreme disappointment at the time it has taken for the statement to be made in the Senate. I appreciate the fact that in the interim there has been a change of Minister in this portfolio, but I do not think that excuses the responsible officers in the Department of Science and the Environment from considering the recommendations of this report and replying within the time frame that was suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said that Ministers and departments should respond to committee reports within six months. I am still waiting on the Government’s response to another report which deals with research and development which I presented to the Senate in June on behalf of my Committee. In my opinion and in the opinion of honourable senators on both sides of the Senate that report is of particular importance when we bear in mind the rapid approach of technological change which is being experienced throughout Australia. That report is very significant and contains a lot of constructive recommendations. I understand that the Government proposes responding to that report in the near future. I hope that we hear that response before we rise for the winter recess.
I make a few brief comments on the document that is before us. Perhaps I will have an opportunity at a later date to expand on these comments in greater detail. I draw attention to the part of the statement of the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) which states: all four governments have agreed to early action on drawing up a new Agreement which, in addition to expanding the powers of the Commission in respect of water quality responsibilities will update the 1915-1974 Agreement in general.
I would like to know at some time whether the Minister could provide the Senate with details of the new agreement. I think it is important for us to be informed. In the next paragraph the Minister said:
Indeed, the new Agreement now being drawn up will give the Commission a close interest in these matters.
That statement is fine and I am pleased to hear it, but I want to know how long it will be before a new agreement eventuates. The history of the River Murray Commission and the Government’s concern about it taking rapid action are not very good. In fact it is only now- eight, nine or even 10 years since the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, which was chaired by my colleague, Senator Davidson, first inquired into the pollution of the River Murray- that we have some response from the four governments concerned. So, I hope that it will not be another 10 years before that agreement is signed, sealed and delivered. I refer now to another aspect of the statement. The Minister said:
This proposition has been discussed with my State counterparts, but agreement is not likely unless and until there is evidence that the current decision-making provisions do in Tact inhibit the effectiveness of the Commission’s work.
Plenty of evidence comes to light if one takes the trouble, as did I along with other Committee members, to tour the areas along the River Murray affected by this severe problem. We certainly heard evidence when confronted with the bitterness of the residents of the Murray Valley. So I find that aspect of the Minister’s statement a little hard to understand. The last paragraph of the statement relates to land use. The Minister stated:
Nevertheless, with the increasing complexity of the river system- not only in matters affecting water quality but also related to land-use, urban and irrigation issues- there now appears to be a greater willingness on the part of the signatories to the Agreement to examine closely all factors significantly affecting river management. Given the serious water quality problems which occur from time to time in the river and the increasing salinisation of land in the Murray Valley, it cannot be otherwise.
This highlights another point that was made by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment in its report on the woodchip industry. The need for some approach by the Federal Government to establish a land use policy is very pertinent to this subject.
According to the Minister’s statement, it would appear that the State signatories to the agreement would be sympathetic to an approach by the Commonwealth to see whether a sensible, proper and appropriate land use policy could be agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States. It is a very serious problem. As we all know and as is so often said, we live in a very dry continent. Much of the continent depends very largely on the waters of the River Murray. As South
Australia relies almost exclusively on the River Murray it is a matter of great concern that everything is done to preserve the quality of the water that is received in my State. For years we have put up with being on the end of what amounts to an effluent drain. I think the proposals that have been suggested in the Maunsell report recently are a step in the right direction. My Committee secretariat is presently examining that rather large document in detail. No doubt we will come forward with another report on the recommendations contained therein. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave- I will confine my remarks to the middle paragraph on page 2 of” the printed statement to which Senator Jessop, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, has already referred. There is a rather bland acceptance of the fact that a State has the power of veto. I think that the root cause of this matter can be likened to the Security Council of the United Nations which is regarded as a pathetic instrument in its efforts for world peace. One power can usually apply a veto on one of the member nations. Senator Jessop referred to the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. Senator Clem Ridley, who is no longer a member of this chamber, expressed the view to me a couple of years ago that he hoped that in the next five years a different attitude would be adopted on this matter. I share the concern of all honourable senators that this little compartmentalisation gives the current River Murray Commission false hopes.
As we all profess to be Australians, it is depressing to me to note the distrust in this area. It is as though one State or its minions are swindling water rights off another State. We know that that is not a fact, but I believe that there should be a more decisive attitude. It seems a regrettable characteristic of Australians that a lot of Australia’s great national feats seem to be spawned out of World War I and World War II. The further we get away from a national emergency the more these insular attitudes appear. I appeal to the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) to suggest to all the States- perhaps in an indirect way at a Premiers Conference- that if they want governments to be more helpful in some ways they have to subordinate their State sovereignty to get the concept of a real commission such as the Committee report visualises.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesMinister for National Development and Energy)- by leave- It is the hope of the Government that the agreement may be finalised in the Budget session. We will work towards that.
– by leave- The Government has given careful consideration to recent expressions of concern that Australian personnel were exposed to high levels of radiation during the atomic weapons test programs conducted by British authorities at Maralinga, Emu and Monte Bello, and to calls for an inquiry into the current health of the Australian personnel involved. To date eight known compensation claims have been received for consideration under Commonwealth compensation legislation in connection with the Maralinga, Emu and Monte Bello tests. Three of these claims are presently under investigation and compensation has been granted in respect of two of the five which have been considered. In one case compensation was granted for a psychological disorder resulting from the aggravation of a pre-existing condition, and in the other case compensation was granted on the grounds that there could have been a connection between an officer’s death from cancer and his exposure to radioactive dust during his duty in connection with the Emu atomic tests in 1953. 1 also understand that during the past decade about six claims attributing the onset of cancer to atomic weapons tests in Australia have been examined by British authorities. In none of those cases have the authorities found evidence of exposure to nuclear radiation significantly above the natural background level or that cancer arose from other than natural causes.
The Government is satisfied on the basis of reports submitted at the time that all personnel working at Maralinga were subject to stringent health procedures and that their activities in the field were strictly controlled and monitored to ensure that they were not exposed to dangerous radiation. On the basis of evidence presently available, the Government is not convinced that the need has been established at this time for a full survey of the health of those Australians who were involved. However, we fully appreciate the concern and uncertainty of many of the Australian personnel who believe that they may have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and may now or in the future suffer resulting injury or disability. The Government will ensure that full consideration continues to be given to all claims for compensation put to it under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act. To facilitate this consideration, persons who are concerned about the possibility of injury having been suffered as a result of involvement in the tests are invited to come forward for interview and, if appropriate, medical examination. In the first instance inquiries should be addressed to the Secretary of the Department of National Development and Energy in Canberra who will direct inquiries to appropriate authorities in the Department of Health, the Department of Defence, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Social Security.
Our inquiries to date have identified only one recorded instance of Aboriginals entering a contaminated area. This occurred at Maralinga in May 1957, involving four persons. After appropriate washing procedures were implemented, radiation safety officials concluded that there was no possibility of any radiation injury having occurred. Nevertheless the Government is investigating allegations that other Aboriginals may have been exposed to radiation in the test areas. Information is being sought on any radiationassociated health problems amongst those Aboriginals. We are also aware that investigations are being conducted by Aboriginal organisations into reports of Aboriginals in the north of South Australia being affected by radiation following the Emu atomic tests in October 1953. These investigations will complement our own inquiries and the Government invites those conducting investigations to advise the Government of any evidence of radiation injury they might find. The Government for its part is conducting a specific review of contemporary records to see what evidence there might be of the incidents reported.
The Government is concerned at suggestions that some Australian personnel who believe that they may have been exposed to dangerous radiation, or believe they know of others who may have been so exposed, may be inhibited in coming forward because of uncertainty as to the present security significance of their involvement in the atomic weapons tests. Their continuing sense of responsibility in this matter does them credit but the particular circumstances of any possible exposure- as distinct from information about the tests themselves- should not be of any security significance. If these persons remain in any doubt, however, they are urged to contact the Department of Defence for advice. In pursuing its investigations into this matter, the
Government will seek the expert advice and experience of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council and of the National Health and Medical Research Council. I commend the statement to the Senate. I move:
– I wish to speak to the motion that the Senate take note of the statement because I think it is necessary to say one or two things. I commend the Government for its policy at this stage of payment of compensation to those people who can prove some ill effects as a result of exposure to radiation during their service at Maralinga. But there is a much bigger question which arises in relation to this payment of compensation. These people are paid under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act, which means that the onus of proof is on the applicant. The figures to date indicate that there is a greater incidence of cancer among those people who worked at Maralinga than in people in other sections of the community. How one proves that the cancer that one may have has resulted from employment at Maralinga I do not know. But it is reasonable to accept, I think, that if the incidence of cancer is out of all proportion there is some significant connection between the employment and the disease. I think greater consideration should be given to the fact that these people were employed at Maralinga and that as a result of their employment there they have had diseases which could arise from an over-exposure to radiation.
Although the Minister’s statement deals with those who were employed at Maralinga and who were on the site at the time, there are other considerations to be taken into account. There may be other people who were outside Maralinga who could have been affected. The question then arises whether they have been suitably compensated or whether compensation should be paid. Even now the Government is considering the situation of a group of Aboriginals at Ernabella in relation to this question.
In Queensland a body known as the Atomic Veterans Association has been set up by exservicemen. This body has been formed by the members of the Queensland branch of the Returned Services League and is now requesting a full government inquiry into the tests. This request is supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Public Service unions, the Australian Council of Churches, Aboriginal groups and politicians. I ask the Government whether, rather than paying compensation or being satisfied with paying compensation to a person who can prove a connection with exposure to radiation, there should not be a full investigation into the possible ramifications of this exposure and who may be affected by it.
The Adelaide Advertiser has published a series of articles in relation to this matter. It has received much information from a resident of South Australia who has always claimed that he was injured as a result of his occupation at Maralinga. He could never get recognition from Federal Government departments until his case was taken up by the Advertiser. I believe he is now receiving a pension from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. As a result of this publicity, letters have been received by the Advertiser from many people throughout Australia who were at Maralinga. These people complain that they have suffered illness as a result of their employment there.
There were seven tests carried out at Maralinga, two at Emu and three at Monte Bello off the Western Australian coast. Nine of those explosions were in the kiloton area, equivalent to the detonation of tens of thousands of tons of TNT. The survey done by the Advertiser on this matter discovered that among those at Maralinga who could have been endangered were Australian and British military personnel, Commonwealth police, civil workers and Aboriginals. They could have been exposed to high levels of radiation. Although it is said that there were only four Aboriginals in the area of Maralinga, I do not know how anyone could police the miles and miles of gibber desert and know who was in the area. Aboriginals periodically go walkabout on tribal land and return to their home country. As this is tribal land, I would say that it would be impossible to police.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was discussing the Government’s attitude to the Maralinga incident. I was referring to the personnel employed at Maralinga. I stated- and I said this generously- that the Government is prepared to pay compensation to anyone who can prove that his present bad state of health is associated with the Maralinga incident. I take it that it would accept proof not on the basis of beyond reasonable doubt but on the basis of probability. But the compensation payments are small. They are not sufficient.
This matter is something about which we know little and it needs full investigation. I lend my support to the Returned Services League in Queensland which has set up the Radioactive
Defence Force, with the support of many bodies, to seek a full inquiry into the ramifications of the Maralinga testing and into suitable payment to anyone whose health may have suffered as a result of those tests. But we do know from the Adelaide Advertiser reports of evidence stated and names given that at least 52 of the 2,000 Australians who took part in the Maralinga test died of cancer and that seven others are living with the disease at the present time. Is this a higher proportion than the normal death rate among Australians from cancer? If it is, should we not have an investigation to establish the incidence of cancer? It may have spread to a further area than the actual area of Maralinga. I state the truth when I say that the cost to Australia and the health of Australians of the development of the British nuclear arsenal is still obscure and that is for reasons relating to security in Australia.
If the Government is sincere, it should release all information so that people are not afraid to speak because of security arrangements. The statement by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) today was that, unless security was involved, there was no reason why people could not disclose to the authorities their sickness and their belief that their sickness was due to the Maralinga test. If there were any doubt, they should contact the Army. I think that there should be an invitation, with a guarantee of immunity, to anyone who knows anything about Maralinga and the dangers to people’s lives to state that information publicly.
The Adelaide Advertiser published the statement of an Royal Australian Air Force corporal who was at the test site between 1962 and 1965. He alleged that Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officers had warned him not to talk about what he had seen after he had said in a newspaper interview that he had helped to bury large amounts of radioactive waste. The same person stated that Aboriginals had wandered freely throught the test site. He further stated that there were six radioactive sites within a kilometre of the Maralinga camp where 800 to 900 personnel were living. Should honourable senators not have the facts on this matter? The Government states that there was only one known incident. Four Aboriginals were cured by bathing and washing off the radioactive material. Here is a man who, for security reasons, is afraid, and who would be prepared to say that there was a large number of people wandering freely through the area. There were 800 to 900 people living in the area affected by radioactivity at Maralinga. Why can he not be given the freedom in the Minister’s statement to state these beliefs publicly and give details of where the incidents occurred.
The radioactive material was not confined to Maralinga. There were many mistakes in the observations, and many mistakes in the forecasts as to where the winds would blow the radioactive clouds that resulted from the explosion. In one incident associated with the Emu test in October 1 953, 45 Aboriginals were enveloped in a rolling black mist for several hours, following an atomic bomb explosion. Within 48 hours, they had uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea. Soon after, a skin rash like measles covered their bodies. The Aboriginals were left too sick even to gather food for themselves and almost starved. This is the incident which Dr T. M. Cutter is now examining. There is not only the Aboriginals’ statement regarding what they term ‘the grey mist’, which they thought was a god’s punishment set down upon them, but also the statement of Mrs E. L. Giles, a former owner of the Welbourne Hills Station in the far north of South Australia which verifies this. She states that her husband and two Aboriginal employees at the station died of cancer some years later. Is this not justification for investigation?
While Dr Cutter has gone to investigate and report, there is nothing in the Minister’s statement to say that there is a claim for them because they never worked on the Maralinga site. I think most people in the Senate chamber will know Jim Lester, from Alice Springs, who has been interested in Aboriginal affairs very well. He is the blind interpreter for the Pitjantjatjara community. He has been blind for many years. We saw the interview with him- he was a pathetic sight- in which he made a statement regarding the time when he was a child, when his people were in hiding from the grey mist and how he looked at it. In fact, he stared at it. He is totally blind today. Whether his blindness is because of exposure to radiation, I do not know.
Another mishap- the third test at Maralingaresulted in widespread fallout over Adelaide and nearby countryside increasing previous radiation levels in the area by 900 times. In Adelaide, the radioactive increase was 900 times the usual level of radioactivity. Should this not be investigated? The Commonwealth, whilst not disclosing the facts, is not ignorant of the facts which are only becoming apparent some 20 years later.
The matter was disclosed at the time in a suppressed report on the tests. The public does not have any knowledge of that report. It was written in 1957 by Dr Hedley Marston a former director of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Division of Biochemistry and a general neutronist. Apparently the original report by Dr Marston was censored when it was first published in a limited circulation scientific journal in 1958. The original copy which is held at the Academy of Science in Canberra contains his full findings. Dr Marstor died in 1965. What was his full report? Although it was censored it was suppressed and we cannot see it. We cannot see its comments on security, the effect of the radioactive material and the effect of the passage of this material across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. We are not permitted to see the report. The official statement from the Government was issued at the time in the names of either Professor L. H. Martin or Professor E. W. Titterton, both members of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee, or in the name of the then Minister for Supply. It stressed that there was no danger to mainland Australia. If that is so and there was no danger, why is Dr Hedley Marston ‘s report still being suppressed today?
– Who was the doctor who made the comment about Maralinga the other day?
– I do not know to whom you are referring. I do know Miss Shirley Allen, a former CSIRO researcher and personal assistant to Dr Marston stated that the news of the fallout over Adelaide was deliberately suppressed. In 1958 the Australian Weapons Safety Committee released a paper which admitted that there had been radioactive fallout over Adelaide and which said that only a small quantity of low activity material settled over South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. That statement was published in the Adelaide Advertiser, but we cannot get Dr Marstor ‘s report. This is the very important aspect. There are still facts which this statement of the Minister does not permit us to view.
In another incident it is alleged that scientists lost a radioactive cloud after the fourth Maralinga atomic bomb explosion on 22 October 1956. The bomb was detonated at five minutes past midnight so as not to offend South Australians by exploding it on a Sunday. Despite intense efforts by Royal Australian Air Force Canberra bombers to track radioactive dust clouds, the missing cloud was not located until several hours after daylight. The cloud which was supposed to travel east from Maralinga and pass away from Adelaide over the Tasman Sea was found moving towards Darwin. That is the incident which the Aboriginals at Ernabella say could have affected them. In another report about 30 Australian soldiers and a small band of technicians were exposed to highly active cobalt 60 radiation while cleaning up Maralinga after the bomb tests of 1957. The soldiers had been equipped with only the basic protective gear, respirator overalls, cloth gloves and metal scoops for the clean-up operation and had not been made fully aware of the task.
These are some of the matters that have been brought to light. I am relying on newspaper reports for these details. The newspaper reports published the names of the 52 people who died of cancer. They published the names of the seven people who are now living, who have cancer and who worked in that area. Only now it has come to light that radioactive material was found to be over Adelaide at 900 times more than the normal dose of radiation. For the Minister to say that there was no further danger resulting from that incident than the radiation we absorb from the earth’s surface at present is not correct. Therefore, we must have some clear investigation. The Aboriginals are deserving of consideration. We must find out whether that incident is the cause of the blindness that one can track from Emu through to the north of Australia and to Darwin. There is more incidence of blindness among Aboriginals- what the medical profession is treating as trachoma- in that area than there is outside that passageway. That is the position. Should not this be investigated?
The Aboriginal tribes from the area have since been shifted to Yalata on the west coast of South Australia. When the Commonwealth made the decision to revert control of the site to the State Government it moved the Aboriginals in the area to Yalata. The mission at Yalata dismantled the materials on the site and took them to Yalata to build sheds and homes and so on at Yalata. The British took the radioactive material back to Britain for disposal. On investigation, they found that Maralinga was still a radioactive area. Watchmen still live in that area. Security guards see that no one enters the area. There is still some danger there. The danger is in the material on the property that is now at Yalata where Aboriginals are living. I suppose that Britain ‘s ability to survive in the future was more important than the lives of a few Aboriginals and the suffering they may go through.
This matter involves not only Maralinga; it is also a question of how careful we should be in the future of atomic explosions and the mining of mineral elements that are radioactive. It is a question of how careful we should be in protecting the shores of Australia. We should have no defence installations and we should take no action that would warrant an adversary’s attack upon Australia with the use of radioactive material. We do not know the damage that could be caused. These are the questions I am raising. It is not a matter of the Government saying to someone that if they can prove their case the Government will pay them compensation. That is the cheap way out. Let us see who suffered as a result of Maralinga and let us see that it does not happen again.
– I wish to speak to the statement put down by the Government, to take up some of the points Senator Cavanagh has raised and to raise some other matters. One of the things that terrify me in this report and in so many of the reports we are getting lately is the air of cover-up. We are told to accept assurances that all is well. We are told that everything is under control and that the procedures we are using are quite safe. We have been told that about things like agent orange, Maralinga and nuclear power. When communities showed concern over matters such as 2,4,5-T they were told that there was no problem, that there was no connection with illness and that there was no connection with genetic damage. When we found Australian Forestry Commission workmen using the material and becoming very ill and it was obvious that this was directly resulting from the chemicals they were using, the authorities admitted that there could be some problem and that they would look into the matter.
When it was alleged here that agent orange was used, especially brewed agent orange was used with lethal quantities of dioxin, the Minister said that Australians were not affected. When he was pressed he said: ‘We did not use it’. When he was pressed further he said: ‘We only used a little of it’. Now we have a full blown inquiry into how much damage has been done to our servicemen by the use of that material. There was strong evidence at the time that it was lethal. Evidence now shows that medical officers knew of the effects at that time and were told to include on the medical records of the men using the material that they had been involved, because they expected to find that the men were affected by it. That was 50 years after we knew about dioxin and its cancer causing property.
Government members have stood up here and told us that nuclear power was safe. They have followed the Sir Ernest Titterton line that it is the safest, cheapest form of energy the world has ever known. Then we had the Three Mile Island incident and all the world now knows that nuclear power is far from safe and that nuclear engineers just do not know how to cope with the problems and they have not been able to cope with them.
We now come back to Maralinga. In 1977 we were told that there were no problems; yet in February 1977 Professor De Bruin in Adelaide was calling on the Department of Defence to give details of any material buried and the possible side effects of the tests. Why was he concerned? He was concerned because he had received an increasing number of reports from people who had worked in the Maralinga area and who were ill. He received an increasing number of reports of contaminated material that had been distributed from the site at Maralinga. But at that time we were told that there were no problems and we were not to worry as the tests had been safe and the people of Australia had nothing to worry about.
Then we found that there was plutonium on the site. At that stage Sir Ernest Titterton said that the tests had been monitored and that there was no plutonium there. Nonetheless, in October 1978 the British arrived and took the plutonium away. We are told that now we are safe. But now we find that a report written in 1957 showed there was widespread fallout but the report was suppressed. As Senator Cavanagh says, Dr Marston a former director of the division of biochemistry of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation- who should have known what he was talking about- put out a paper which showed that the fallout from Maralinga and Monte Bello atomic tests was widespread. The report stated:
Marston and his co-workers provided one facet of a program to monitor radiation from the tests. They collected the thyroid glands of grazing animals from sites which were considered likely to be traversed by plumes from the Maralinga explosions and analysed for the presence of iodine 131.
Despite that report having been written and despite the fact that it was available to the people who were concerned or connected with the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee, in October 1956 Professor Ernest Titterton, deputy head of the Committee, was quoted as having advised the Minister for Supply as follows:
There is no danger of significant fallout outside the immediate target area.
But he had been privy to the report that had been suppressed. At the same time, following the first of the four Maralinga tests, the chairman of the Safety Committee, Professor Martin- later Sir Leslie Martin- said:
There is no possible risk of danger now or at any future time to any person, stock or property.
All dangerous fallout has been deposited and the remaining fallout is completely innocuous. Measurements taken in the late afternoon and during the night . . . by aircraft, and on the ground by mobile units, all confirm the scientists’ predictions that the operation would be carried out with complete safety.
Dr Marston found that the effects of the explosion could be detected in animals grazing in a pen in a band of terrain about 1 ,000 miles wide stretching west to east across the continent. Results from his paper differed markedly from the Press reports at the time. As Senator Cavanagh said, the paper showed that fallout over Adelaide was of importance. It stated:
Fallout . . . from the secondary cloud is not denied but rather described as ‘a southerly diffusion of slowly settling material of low activity detected over South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales’.
That is a long way from the area that Professor Titterton told us was the significant fallout area. The paper went on:
Material in the cloud from the fourth Maralinga tests was known to diffuse and ‘settle over a very wide front to the east of the trajectory’ which passed through the Northern Territory.
The paper stressed that all radiation measurements were of such low activity as to present no significant health risk to humans or livestock.
That may have been of some comfort to Dr Marston but in the 20 years since, more and more research has shown that any radioactivity is dangerous and that continuing radioactivity is more dangerous. An unknown number of people have been affected by this radioactivity.
Other areas in the world have been assured in the same way as Sir Ernest Titterton and Professor Martin and the Committee assured us that we were in no danger. In Colorado, in the United States of America, down wind from the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Establishment people have a substantially higher cancer rate than Denver residents, who were not exposed to plutonium emissions from that plant. In a report in 1979 the Director of the Health Department of Jeffersen County, Dr Carl Johnson, a physician and epidemiologist as well as County Health Director and Assistant Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Colarado, said that he found that men living up to 13 miles downwind of the plant had a testicular cancer rate of 140 per cent higher than would be expected on the basis of cancer statistics for
Denver area residents. He found that the incidence of throat and liver cancer was 60 per cent higher downwind of the plant. He found that the incidence of leukaemia, lung and colon cancer was 40 per cent higher. In this area he found the overall cancer rate was 24 per cent higher than expected in men and 10 per cent higher than expected in women. In an area 18 to 24 miles downwind, the overall cancer rates were eight per cent higher in men and four per cent higher in women.
Dr Johnson said that the higher incidence of testicular cancer in plutonium-exposed men was particularly significant because the scientists employed at Rocky Flats have shown in animal studies that ingested plutonium tends to collect in the testes. Dr Johnson said that on statistics for testicular cancer in the Denver area he would have expected to find 1 7 cases of testicular cancer among men living downwind from the plant. Instead he found 40 cases. The higher cancer rate showed a direct relationship to an increasing concentration of plutonium in the soil. Higher rates of cancer of the tongue, stomach, ovary, brain, pancreas and thyroid were also found in this plutonium exposed population. In 1 957 a fire at that plant resulted in a release of plutonium in amounts 19,000 times the present acceptable maximum set by the Department of Energy. Twenty-two years later cancers are showing up.
In 1956 we had major explosions of atomic bombs on Monte Bello and at Maralinga. The men who were involved in those experiments were not given special clothing and did not take precautions in any way. On record is the evidence of a man who flew one of the Canberra bombers through the resultant clouds several times without wearing any sort of protective clothing. Three years later he found that he had cancer of the thyroid. An engineer who assisted the Canadian engineers on the ground in a radiation detection unit has also given evidence. There was a contamination station. The job of the engineers was to move in and out of the contaminated area bringing materials and vehicles out so that they could be decontaminated or checked. He too found that he was suffering from cancer three years later. He was asked whether he wore protective clothing or breathing apparatus and he said that he did not. During an interview he raised an interesting point. He said that when driving about 1 50 miles from Maralinga he came upon what he described as a fairly large village. His first thought was: ‘Why the hell are we living in tents when we have got a village here’. He realised after going into the village and exploring the buildings that there were signs of contamination, so he left the village. He was later told that the whole village had been abandoned because all of it was to some extent contaminated. Vehicles and other equipment had been left there because they were contaminated. He was asked how many people went to the village and whether it was known that the village existed. He replied:
Well I never knew until I arrived there and when I got back to roadside with the truck and my offsider, I told a couple of people there about the village and I was told it might be an idea to forget it because it had nothing to do with what we were into. But 1 know for a fact now that lots of other people on the odd Sunday would grab a vehicle and fly up there and bits and pieces were being pilfered out of that area, such as electric radiators and refrigerators, a two way radio and various things I can think of that came down from that area.
The men involved at the time were not the only ones who suffered the effects of radiation and who came down with cancer. We do not know how much of the material that was contaminated went out of the area. We do not know where it went or what sort of effects it might have had. In other parts of the world there is evidence that wind borne contamination can cause cancer. We have evidence that material that has been contaminated cannot be used safely by human beings and that it might cause cancer. The report that was suppressed shows that the contamination from the experiments at Monte Bello and Maralinga had much wider consequences than we were led to believe.
Right across the area, in western New South Wales and northern Victoria, people have been concerned about the rates of cancer in some very small settlements in those areas. Nobody knew why in small areas of 2,000 or 2,500 people up to 50 people were suffering from cancer at about the same time. The only thing that connected those people was that they liked working in the open air. They were farmers or gardeners. Some of those people felt six years ago that the cancer from which they were suffering might have had something to do with Maralinga. They pointed out to me personally that the prevailing winds in their area came from Maralinga. When the question was raised with scientists at the time they said they did not think it was possible. They did not think that Maralinga could have caused that sort of contamination. They thought it was more likely to have been caused by chemicals. Now that this report has come to light, now that diagrams show where the material was blown, one cannot help wonder why such concentrated numbers of people are suffering from cancer.
As Senator Cavanagh said, I do not believe it is good enough for the Government to say now that it will have a selective inquiry. It should not say to people: ‘If you feel you have suffered, come forward and we will see what we can do about it. We will see whether some compensation might be paid. We will listen to your story. ‘ That is not nearly good enough. We want a full wide-ranging inquiry into the matter. For one thing we want to know why the report of the Government’s inquiry into the allegations of health effects resulting from atomic weapons tests was suppressed. What has it got to do with security? Every time a problem such as this arises we are told that we cannot inquire into it and that we cannot be told the facts because of security. What about the security of the people who have lived in the area for so long? What about the people who worked there? We will not uncover any extraordinary secrets now by inquiring into the matter. It is old hat. The world has moved past the sorts of atomic weapons that were tested then. Why can we not have an inquiry to show why the report was suppressed? What other material has been suppressed? What have been the results across the country of the fallout from those experiments? Where is the contaminated material? Where did the trucks, shovels and radios go? Who has been working in them and living beside them since because the Federal Government did not care enough to make sure they were buried or taken out of the way. The Government thought that because they were in the outback of South Australia it need not worry about them.
What has happened to the Aboriginal people living in the centre of Australia? What has happened to the men and women who were involved in the area? What has happened to the people who lived in the area. I ask the Government to reconsider the matters it has raised in the statement it has put down today. I ask it to conduct a full and far-reaching inquiry for the sake of the health of the people of Australia. I ask it not to hide behind the excuse of security. I ask that there be no more cover-ups in this area. I ask it to get down to the truth once and for all, of what really happened when we experimented at Maralinga and Monte Bello. I ask it to tell that to the people of Australia and to look after the health of the people who may have been contaminated.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the processing of law reform proposals and to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
On 2 1 April 1977 the Senate resolved that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs should inquire into the processing of law reform proposals. On 10 May 1979 the Senate Standing Committee tabled in the Senate its report entitled ‘Reforming the Law’. The report contains 25 recommendations which cover the following areas: Processing reports of the Australian Law Reform Commission; collection and assessment of Law Reform proposals; co-ordination of the work of Law Reform. These areas were particularly referred to the Committee by the Senate for the Committee’s attention and in outlining the Government’s response to the recommendations I shall treat them under the same headings.
Processing Reports of the Australian Law Reform Commission
The Law Reform Commission, while fully maintaining and asserting its independence, should take into account the likely acceptability of its proposals to Government and Parliament. To this end it should in the course of preparing its reports inform itself in the manner and to the extent it thinks necessary or appropriate by consulting with Government and Opposition politicians and interested community groups. Government and Opposition parties should fully cooperate with the Commission in any steps it may take to inform itself in this way.
In paragraph 2.23 of its report the Committee recommended that:
In paragraph 2,32 the Committee recommended that:
The reduction of the proposals to legislative form also enables both the proponents and critics of the new measures to understand fully the practical consequences of the proposals and facilitates suggestions for amendment to be made either by members of the community or by the Parliament.
As a means of providing, among other things, an effective parliamentary opportunity for the consideration of law reform proposals neglected by the executive, there should be initiated a system to guarantee regular debate of Private Members’ Bills, along the lines of the Westminster ballot procedure.
The next seven recommendations of the Committee form a group designed to speed up the process of considering and giving effect to the reports of the Law Reform Commission. The recommendations are contained in paragraph 2.60 of the report and are as follows:
In this connection the Committee made the following four recommendations in paragraph 3.37 of its report:
Co-ordination of the Work of Law Reform
In paragraph 4.13 of its report the Committee made the following recommendations:
The first three recommendations contained in paragraph 4.32 of the Senate Committee’s report concern the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Those recommendations are as follows:
Committee’s report on page 107 of the report. The main resolution is in the following terms:
That this Conference of Law Reform Agencies, being mindful of the need for greater uniformity in certain areas of the laws of the States and the Territories, unanimously recommends to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General the following procedure with reference to promotion of uniform laws-
1 ) That the Law Reform Agencies acting together from time to time suggest to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General subjects thought to be appropriate for uniform laws.
That where appropriate the agencies also suggest what law reform agency or agencies should on a cooperative basis formulate proposals for uniform laws.
That the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General decide from time to time what subjects are appropriate for investigation, with a view to uniform laws, and by what law reform agency or agencies any studies, working papers, reports and suggested uniform legislation be prepared.
That the agency or agencies to which a project is assigned should maintain close consultation with all other agencies which for their part should so far as practicable provide such advice and information as may be requested by the designated agency or agencies.
5 ) That upon the tasks so allotted by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General having been performed, the Law Reform Agencies acting together then make recommendations to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General as to suggested uniform laws.
The abovementioned procedure is not intended to inhibit in any way the making of individual references by any Attorney-General.
The final recommendation of the Senate Committee is set out in paragraph 4.32 of its report in the following terms:
-by leave- I move:
The report which the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs some little time ago presented to the Senate concerns the effectiveness of the processing of law reform proposals. We receive many proposals for law reform, particularly from the Australian Law Reform Commission, but problems arise because of the difficulty and the delay in the way in which they are processed and proceed in time to become part of the law. The report deals with this matter.
First, it is important to say that the response from the Government deals with a report which has gained a great deal of interest in many parts of the world. The same problem as to the effectiveness with which law reform proposals are processed arises in other democratic countries. It is important for us to consider this matter. Today there can be but a short time for debate because of the approach of the end of the session but I hope the debate will continue in the next session and that we will look into the matter in some detail.
The statement which the Government has made today is what I would describe as a mixed bag. It has some attractive proposals and accepts some aspects of the report. On the other hand, with regard to certain important aspects of the report, I am afraid that it is extraordinarily disappointing. It does not measure up to the needs which law reform proposals have in this community.
I will deal briefly with the three aspects of the Report. Firstly, the Report dealt with processing law reform reports from the Australian Law Reform Commission. There have been a number of those reports in the last five years. At least the statement does point out that two of them have been incorporated into law in the Australian Capital Territory. But seven of them are still under active consideration, so we cannot say that the results of the processing of law reform in this country have so far been encouraging.
The statement made by the Government does support a number of recommendations of the Committee in regard to consultation, in that there needs to be better consultation both with Government departments and with the Australian Law Reform Commission, finding the practicalities of its reports and discussing them in a political sense before they are completed. Unfortunately, the statement rejects the proposals of the Committee in regard to the making available of Parliamentary Counsel to the Australian Law Reform Commission. It is believed that this is something which not only would have encouraged the Commission to bring forward proposed amendments to the law in a form acceptable to Parliamentary Counsel but also would have made available the practical assistance of Counsel while that was being done. It is disappointing that this proposal was rejected.
A third matter in the preliminary part of the statement of the Government involves private members’ Bills. The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs reported that it was desirable that private members’ Bills, where members sought to have incorporated in the law parts of the proposals from the Law Reform Commission, should get some parliamentary time. The Government does not object to this, but there seems to be no positive support for the proposal. The main problem in this area of the Government’s statement is that the central recommendation by the Committee is rejected. There was a series of seven recommendations, but as a whole those recommendations created a system whereby it was proposed that reports from the Law Reform Commission should go to the appropriate committee of Parliament, so determined by the President and the Speaker, and therefore there would be automatic consideration of those proposals by a parliamentary committee. The Committee felt that this was a desirable way in which to ensure that they would be handled, and handled at an earlier stage so that we would not be waiting five years with reports undetermined. Unfortunately, that proposal is rejected. Apparently the Government thinks that this may lead to duplication in that on the one hand the Government will be considering what attitude it will take to the law reform proposals and, on the other hand, so might the Committee. I see no great harm even in that duplication but I would have thought it was not beyond the wit of man for the Government and public servants to be in communication with committees of Parliament and to know which group is proceeding in an active way in respect of implementation. I do not think that this would have caused delay, nor do I think it would have caused any unnecessary duplication.
The Government’s statement draws attention to the nine reports put forward by the Law Reform Commission. It takes a particular example of the criminal investigation report and the Bill which we saw in 1977 but which we have not seen again. It takes the view that the Criminal Investigation Bill perhaps was proceeded with too quickly and consequently aroused some public indignation and criticism. In fact, it aroused some police indignation and criticism and the police organisations were most active in raising objections to that Bill. I hardly think that there has been an excess of speed in the implementation of that report. It seems to me that one of the problems is that when a Bill is withdrawn and delayed, as this one has been, public interest dies; the public tends to lose interest in these matters and to feel it is hopeless when they see that nothing is happening with any great speed. I would have thought the example given by the Government indeed was in favour of the views which the Committee put forward. Therefore, I say that it is disappointing that there has been a rejection of the Committee’s central recommendation on the processing of law reform, although some other considerations are of some value.
There is a much more encouraging note in regard to the second area of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. This relates to the collection and assessment of law reform proposals. In other words, in a country where there is inadequate equipment and expertise, we have a difficulty because people make proposals for law reform but they are not picked up and collated, and are not known. The Government has said that it does see merit in the Committee ‘s proposal that the Law Reform Commission should operate also as a clearing house for law reform suggestions, that it should take this as one of its tasks and should collect and collate these suggestions, and also that it should report annually to the Parliament on these matters. The Government says also that in staff considerations this extra duty of the Law Reform Commission would be taken into account. That is a very encouraging development on behalf of the Government and I am sure it can do a great deal to ensure that law reform proposals are not ignored and perhaps can be implemented.
The third aspect of the statement on the Committee’s report relates to the co-ordination of work on law reform in Australia. The Government assures us that funds will continue to be available to promote the document Reform which the Law Reform Commission produces regularly, which sets out a lot of information about current law reform activities, and also it will continue to fund the Australian Law Reform Agencies Conference. But, when it comes to questions such as the mobility of law reformers, and the fact that there ought to be a better movement around the country of people so that there is more knowledge shared by people engaged in law reform, the Government throws a considerable amount of doubt on the proposal. Indeed, it quotes Mr Justice Kirby in a sense as though he is against mobility. Not for one moment do I believe that he is, and I believe that the statements to which he was attributed- namely, that he is concerned that the taking away of any of his Commissioners would make it more difficult for the Commission to carry out its work- concerns a different matter altogether. We know that the Law Reform Commission is concerned at the lack of staff and the number of references before it. But I do not think for one moment that Mr Justice Kirby can be quoted as being against mobility and the spread of understanding among law reform commissions.
We know that the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General has continued to reject the proposals which have come from law reform bodies, that it should assist in the attainment of uniform law and in declining also what areas of reform should be considered by one organisation or another. We know that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has continued to press this matter in subsequent meetings of the AttorneysGeneral since 1975. 1 am sorry that, in fact, at the moment he can but rely on de facto co-operation between law reform bodies and does not feel it necessary to press further for the implementation of the proposals which the law reform agencies put forward that would have improved the extent to which we develop uniform laws and a better system of law reform in this country. Therefore, a very general summary of the statement made today is that it is a mixed bag. There are some encouraging developments which have come forward in the Government’s statement; however, I regret that a couple of the most major recommendations of the Committee have not met with the support of the Government.
– I rise to speak to the motion to take note of the ministerial response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs with rather less benevolence than Senator Missen was able to muster. This ministerial response deserves to be framed as something of a collector’s item because it demonstrates with absolute and remarkable clarity the obstinate and reactionary quality of this Government, and in particular the attitude of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to law reform. A number of characteristics of that attitude emerged from this document. The first is that the Government clearly regards legal change of any significant kind as being dangerous, and speedy change as being positively immoral. Secondly, it is clear that the Government’s attitude is that it will not act to implement law reform proposals if there is any kind of controversy associated with them, however wrong-headed, narrow-minded, selfinterested or against the public interest that opposition might be. This was, I think, amply demonstrated by that extraordinary passage in the ministerial response which referred to the Law Reform Commission’s criminal investigation report of 1975. Of course there was criticism of some aspects of the Commission’s proposals. There would not and could not be unanimity on a matter as difficult, as sensitive and as far-ranging as that. The Commission itself acknowledged that when at one stage of the report it said that it would be in a sense a measure of how nicely the Commission had balanced the competing arguments- the degree of flack that it got from each of the two sides- because the closer one gets to the middle the more likely one will get bursts of antagonism of equal intensity from the civil libertarians on the one hand and law enforcement people on the other. Indeed that was the kind of reaction that this report got.
The notion that the report needed to be changed- the word ‘needed’ features prominently in the ministerial response- is one that is really quite extraordinary in all the circumstances. It is a demonstration, if one were needed, of the sheer lack of intestinal fortitude of this Government in coming to grips with major socio-legal problems of the kind that that report dealt with. If we are looking for unanimity as being a prerequisite to any kind of law reform we might as well abandon the task as hopeless for a whole range of issues which are manifestly crying out in need of such reform.
A third characteristic of the Government’s attitude to law reform which appears from this document is that the Government and the Attorney clearly do not trust the Australian Law Reform Commission to produce proposals which are technically sound, which are the product of research and investigation, which fully take into account all points of view, both professional and lay, and which in their conclusions amount to a sensible accommodation of different policy perspectives. There is ample demonstration of the Government’s attitude in this respect, again not only in its remarks in the statement on the criminal investigation report but also in the rejection of the proposal to second a draftsman to the Commission on a permanent basis, the insistence on not only the Government’s right but also obligation to second guess in a detailed way everything the Commission does, to reconsider, to reevaluate and to redraft every aspect of every Commission proposal.
Whilst the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs acknowledged that it was not proper to expect or require Law Reform Commission reports to be implemented automatically without any consideration by the Government of their larger political implications or associated policy questions it did, of course, put the view that when we have an agency like the Law Reform Commission there ought to be at the very least a presumption in favour of its reports being accepted except in extraordinary circumstances. The attitude to the Commission that is demonstrated in this ministerial statement is not only on its face insulting to the Commission but also is one that is not in any way made out when one considers the extraordinary reputation for excellence that the Commission, under the Chairmanship of Mr Justice Kirby, has acquired both throughout Australia and, to a very considerable extent, overseas. I find that aspect of the statement regrettable to the extent that the
Commission ‘s achievement and the quality of its performance are downgraded in the way they are in this statement.
The fourth characteristic of the Government’s attitude to law reform which appears in this statement is that it clearly regards law reform as being entirely the prerogative of the Executive arm of government and as involving a decisionmaking process in which the Parliament and its committees are entirely subordinate and, indeed, irrelevant to the business of decision-making on these fundamental questions of adjusting the law to changing social and economic circumstances. The kind of patronising dismissal of the role of the Parliament and its various committees is something that the Attorney-General ought to be ashamed of in this document.
The final point that I think emerges in general terms from this document is that it is absolutely and manifestly clear that the Government and the Attorney have no commitment whatsoever, either in principle or in practice, to the notion of uniform law reform around this country, however rational and desirable this might be in areas like commercial law, defamation, family law, road traffic law and so on where there has been a phenomenon of different rules growing like Topsy and where the need for a rationalisation and a making uniform of these laws is almost universally recognised except by pig-headed States righters, to the ranks of whom the Attorney and the Government have now once again demonstrated their adherence.
It is true that there is a handful of nods and gestures made in the direction of law reform in this ministerial response. A few small bones have been thrown. They always are on occasions like this to create the impression that there is deep down some kind of commitment to something more than a cosmetic attachment to desirable legal change. It is noted with appropriate gratitude by the Committee that the Government has accepted for a start the notion that the Law Reform Commission should be involved in the testing of the water so far as its proposals are concerned in the larger community and certainly should not regard its task as being to generate law reform proposals in total political isolation. The Government has also accepted the proposition that the Commission should consult very closely with bureaucrats who will be involved in the implementation and administration of these law reform changes to ensure, so far as possible, that the report itself will articulate and react to the likely governmental response in this area. For the Commission to act in this way, of course, is essentially a matter, more than anything else, of common sense. I suppose in that respect at least we are grateful to the Government that the ministerial response acknowledges this and does not seek positively to place obstacles in the way of common sense of this kind exerting itself. The Government’s reaction in this respect, might I say, makes all the more remarkable its insistence elsewhere in the statement that everything the Commission produces should be subject to second guessing in a very detailed way by the Executive. On would have thought to the extent that the Executive and the politicians as well as the community at large have been consulted by the Commission and their views embodied in the report it would again be that much less necessary for the Government to reinvent the wheel each time it is presented with a report of this kind and to start from scratch in deciding whether it will accept the recommendations so emerging.
It also ought to be acknowledged that there is a very tentative nod in the ministerial statement in the direction of improving the procedures for the introduction of private members’ Bills and more importantly the debates on those Bills in both Houses of this Parliament. Again this is tempered by the really rather extraordinary statement that it is a matter not for the Government but for the Parliament to decide how much time it will allocate for private members’ procedures. One does not have to be Einstein to appreciate that it is not the Parliament as such that has the control of the parliamentary timetable; it is, of course, the Government itself. What we as a Committee wanted was a commitment from the Government, if it intended to be fair dinkum in this respect, that in its control of the parliamentary timetable it would in the future make far more time available than has been the case for private members’ legislation generally and, in particular private members’ Bills which are picking up and seeking to have legislated into existence those reports of the Law Reform Commisson in respect of which the Government had indicated itself to be somewhat less than enthusiastic and in fact, lacking in intention to do anything or to do anything quickly.
It also ought to be acknowledged that in respect of that part of the report which concerns itself with the collection and assessment of law reform proposals emanating from various sources there has been an acceptance by and large by the Government of an expanded clearing-house function for the Australian Law Reform Commission, it being acknowledged that existing agencies and existing procedures are very inadequate in this respect. I note only that the Attorney’s response in this respect is limited to the Commonwealth ‘s own role. I suppose that is not unreasonable to the extent that the Commonwealth is not in a position to require the States to participate in a clearing-house exercise of this kind. But one would have welcomed some indication in this statement that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and the Government would in fact do their best to encourage the States to participate in a clearing-house exercise of this kind rather than to simply wash their hands of this notion by saying that it is entirely a matter for the States. By and large I acknowledge that that relatively minor part of the report has been accepted, apparently in reasonably good faith.
Then we come to the final part of the report, which is concerned with the co-ordination of the work of law reform generally around the country. Again only the most minor of the Committee ‘s suggestions have been adopted. The Government has said that it will continue to fund the preparation and publication of the Law Reform Digest, which is limping into life. Unfortunately the Law Reform Commission has inadequate resources to sustain that publication but it is being developed. The Government will also fund the journal Reform which is probably the most significant single vehicle that we have ever had for communication of what everyone is doing. I acknowledge that the Government has said that it will continue to fund these kinds of publications and to encourage the continued informal co-operation between law reform agencies. What is missing- I will come back to this in a moment- is any kind of significant commitment to the far more important business of developing formal and far-reaching mechanisms for consultation and for the development of uniform and rational law reform around the country.
Having acknowledged in passing what the Government has accepted, let me focus a little more specifically on what has been rejected by the Government. The Government has rejected all the most important recommendations of the Committee. This is becoming a distressingly oftrecurring phenomenon in this Parliament. I am referring to the way in which committees labour their collective bipartisan hearts only to find themselves confronted with essentially derisory and dismissive reactions of the kind embodied in this statement in response to the major central planks of the Committee ‘s recommendations.
The centrepiece of the Committee’s recommendations dealing with the processing of the reports of the Law Reform Commission was a proposal to speed up the process of implementation of these reports by requiring the automatic reference, once the reports are tabled in this place, of any Law Reform Commission report to an appropriate standing, select or joint committee of this Parliament. This is hardly a radical proposal. The Committee rejected more far reaching and radical ways of speeding up the implementation process. It took the view that by doing this it would force the Executive to respond, if not to the Commission’s report itself, at least to the parliamentary Committee ‘s reaction to it, within some particular time limit. The Committee’s object in recommending this automatic reference to a parliamentary committee was not to create an opportunity for further duplication and delay in the consideration of the reform proposals. Indeed it is disingenuous of the AttorneyGeneral to suggest otherwise in his ministerial statement. The whole thrust of the Committee ‘s report is that duplication and delay of this kind should be avoided.
What the Committee suggested was that if a report is sent automatically to a parliamentary committee in order to get a quick parliamentary response to the basic principles embodied in the Law Reform Commission’s report that parliamentary committee’s response could be taken into account by the Government in reaching its final Executive decision. Moreover the fact that the parliamentary committee had put down some reaction in this way would in turn oblige the Executive to respond, as I said, within a given time scale. At the moment, of course, it has to be appreciated that there is no obligation, moral or otherwise, on the Executive to respond to Law Reform Commission proposals when they are tabled in this Parliament. As Senator Missen said, only two of the nine Commission reports have been implemented so far. For the most part the other reports are still not only waiting to be legislated into existence but also are still awaiting any kind of governmental response- yea or nay.
If reports of this kind are referred to committees and the committees in turn respond promptly with a reaction one way or the other, as I presume they will, the Government is committed under its own ground rules set up two years ago to respond to that committee’s report within six months. I know it is a somewhat naive expectation that the Government will so respond. The fact that the report which is now in front of us has taken 1 8 months to get from the point of being tabled by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in this Parliament to today’s ministerial response is a spectacular counter example -
– Not 1 8 months for this one.
-I am sorry, it is 12 months in the case of this report and 1 8 months in the case of the report relating to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders which will follow the debate on this report. Nonetheless at least this is a start. At least it imposes some kind of obligation upon the Government to do something. At the moment there is no obligation and the Government has demonstrated a very conspicuous unwillingness to demonstrate any good faith.
The second major aspect of our report which has been rejected by the Government- the Government ought to be ashamed of itself, as should Senator Chaney, who has played some part and who it would be thought had some commitment in this area- is the proposal to second a draftsman from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to the Law Reform Commission on a permanent basis. The Committee believed that the case for doing this was absolutely unanswerable and that the case for attaching draft legislation to every committee report was unanswerable. It would clarify all the issues involved and concentrate the minds of reformers on all the problems which might otherwise be overlooked. It would facilitate consideration of the recommendations at all levels, particularly at the parliamentary level. It would speed up the implementation of the report if a decision were made to implement it. No doubt one of the reasons that the Government has reacted as churlishly as it has to this proposal is that it would provide an opportunity for individual members under the procedures for private members’ Bills to have a Bill which they could then introduce into the Parliament in implementation of the Law Reform Commission’s proposals if, as it appears to be so often the case, the Government refused to take up the running on these matters. In the past it has appeared as though the Government has accepted those arguments and has been willing, indeed pleased, to see draft legislation attached to Law Reform Commission reports. In this ministerial response we have seen a significant backsliding from that particular situation. The Government has clearly demonstrated that it is not interested in the attachment of draft legislation to such reports and will do nothing to facilitate it. It is a most regrettable piece of backsliding on the part of the Government.
The final specific area which is rejected in the Committee ‘s report is the area of uniform law reform and the national co-ordination of law reform activity. The Government has rejected two specific proposals- it has rejected them outright- which the Committee brought forward on this subject. First of all it rejected the proposal to upgrade the consultative status and role of the existing litter of Federal and State law reform agencies in accordance with the 1975 resolution of the Australian Law Reform Agencies Conference. Secondly it rejected the proposal to create a secretariat and research resources for the existing Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Both those explicit proposals have been rejected outright by the Government. The point has been made that it was not entirely the Commonwealth’s fault because the Commonwealth raised it at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General but it was knocked back. No indication has been given as to how seriously or vigorously the Commonwealth pressed this claim. I suspect that the Commonwealth was very happy to fall in line with the reactionary attitudes of the States in this respect and not to develop the kind of machinery which would considerably assist the business of uniform law reform in this country.
The Attorney-General said that he will keep under review the Committee’s suggestion in relation to the Canadian and the United States uniformity machinery because that was all that the Committee asked him to do. Of course, the suggestion by the Committee that the United States and Canadian systems be merely kept under review was made in the context of the Committee’s belief, which has proved once again to be naive, that the Government would take seriously the Committee’s less radical proposals that there be an upgrading of the consultative and co-operative machinery which presently exist. Given that the Government has now rejected out of hand any upgrading of that existing machinery, it seems again rather disappointing- to put it at its most mild- that the Government has indicated no willingness to look at alternative machinery of the kind to which our Committee drew attention.
There is no evidence in this response that the Minister or this Government is prepared to take anything seriously that would involve a commitment to law reform action as distinct from simply talk- talk of an amiable, bland, banal and cosmetic kind. That is as far as this Government’s commitment to law reform goes. An absolutely clear cut demonstration of that fact has been given in this response today. I for one am very disappointed with that response.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– by leave- I wish to make a statement on the report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland reserves by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Because of the Government ‘s wish to proceed with the program and because the statement covers 1 1 printed pages, I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard subject only to my reading the final two paragraphs and making a brief explanation on the delay.
The statement read as follows-
On 23 November 1978 the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs tabled its report on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland Reserves.
The Committee concluded that: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act 1978 is within the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth Parliament and the constitutional conception underlying legislation and the principles and structure of the legislation are consistent with the proper responsibilities of the Commonwealth; the legislation is for practical purposes ineffective as a means of allowing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to manage and control their affairs if there is not cooperation between the Commonwealth and the State, since the legislation can be rendered inoperative by the State Government (i.e. by revocation of reserves); most attempts to achieve any co-operative arrangements with the Queensland Government since 1967 have failed and the agreement on local government arrangements for Aurukun and Mornington Island cannot yet be seen as successful or as generally acceptable to the residents; co-operation between the Commonwealth and Queensland is not likely to provide a ‘full and sufficient discharge of Commonwealth obligations to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland ‘ and some unilateral action is likely to be necessary; and some acquisition of property must form part of the legislative scheme and the Commonwealth enjoys considerable flexibility in devising schemes for self-management, incorporating acquisition of appropriate property rights and specifying ‘just terms ‘ in respect of any acquisition.
The Committee recommended that the Commonwealth legislate to ensure that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland are free to manage and control their own affairs, by enacting specific statutes to deal with the conditions prevailing in different communities, determining in each case what acquisition of property (and what compensation) is required. The Committee’s report was debated in the Senate on 5 April 1979 at a time when the implementation of the agreement of 1 1 April 1 978 between the Commonwealth and Queensland providing for self-management for the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities, was nearly concluded. The Aurukun and Mornington Island communities had become local government shires, as provided for in the agreement, in July 1978. Elections were held in the shires on 31 March 1979 and I attended the inaugural meetings of the shires in April 1 979.
The Senate by resolution noted the progress so far made but asked that the Commonwealth give urgent consideration to amending its existing legislation should the April 1978 agreement, Queensland local government legislation and continuing negotiations not provide a vehicle for ensuring self-management for the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities. The Government has not formally responded to the report until now because of continuing negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland relating to the petition by the Yarrabah Council on 30 January 1979 that the Yarrabah Aboriginal community be given selfmanagement. The Council also asked the Commonwealth to negotiate on its behalf Northern Territory-type land rights for the community with the Queensland Government.
In fact discussions are still continuing between the two Governments but, as the Government has undertaken to formally respond to Committee reports, I wish to inform the Senate of progress to date. The requests from the Yarrabah Council raise two separate policy issues: That of self-management by communities resident on Queensland reserves; and that of land rights in the State of Queensland. The dispute about Aurukun and Mornington Island early in 1978 initially raised the question of selfmanagement only. At the time it seemed appropriate and sufficient to deal with this issue through the enactment of legislation confining itself to self-management arrangements. However, subsequent action by the Queensland Government indicated that unless some right to continue in occupation of the land was established the right to opt for self-management could be negated. This is fundamentally the point made by the Senate Committee when it concluded that: . . the (self-management) legislation is for practical purposes ineffective as a means of allowing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland to manage and control their affairs. Legislation in this form may possibly be effective in circumstances of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the relevant State Government, but events in Queensland have demonstrated that the legislation can be rendered inoperative by the State Government where cooperation is lacking (i.e. by revocation of reserves).
In the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island, when the problem of secure tenure of land arose, it was dealt with by agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments. In that agreement the State ‘offered to consult with the Commonwealth Government on the terms of legislation required to provide for selfmanagement’. Queensland also undertook ‘to secure the preservation of the people’s traditional rights, use and occupancy of the land’ by means of a special lease to both communities. In the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island, therefore, the two areas of policy were satisfied. Self-management was provided through a local government structure and secure tenure of land was achieved by the legal mechanism of a lease for 50 years with a right to renew. The Senate Committee said in November 1978 that the agreement in respect of the local government arrangements for Aurukun and Mornington Island:
Since the Senate Committee reported, shire clerks have been appointed in consultation with the communities, elections have been held and local government has operated under the elected Aboriginal councils for twelve months. The Regional Director of my Department in Queensland, as a member of an advisory committee, has attended meetings at both shires on a monthly basis. His reports to me indicate that local government arrangements have provided a real means of developing Aboriginal selfmanagement in the two communities. Establishment of the shires under the Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act has allowed the communities effective selfmanagement within a well established, well respected and clearly set out legal framework. The Act allows the two councils to exercise the normal functions of local government and to control entry to, and residence in, the shires. It also protects traditional Aboriginal hunting and gathering rights. Although the two new shires have experienced the sorts of transitional problems that one would expect in achieving a form of genuine self-management, current indications are that the two councils, with the assistance of the intergovernmental co-ordinating and advisory committee, are handling these problems with increasing skill and self-assurance. The Government is satisfied that to date the agreement of 1978 has been honoured in the letter and the spirit and that the two strands of policy are being carried out.
Since January 1979 the Commonwealth has been discussing with Queensland the requests by the Yarrabah community to which I have previously referred. These discussions have taken place in the context of a greater coincidence of policy between the two governments in the field of self-management. The annual report of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement for 1978-79, although containing numerous passages critical of Commonwealth policy, makes extensive reference to the Queensland Government’s policy of fostering forms of self-management in reserve communities. The report refers to the proposals of the Aboriginal and Islander Commission and amendments to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Acts early in 1979 providing for the incorporation of reserve community councils for the express purpose of permitting them to undertake greater self-management. I quote from the Queensland report:
Councils are legally able to carry out many of the functions provided by the Public Service administration and establish a greater degree of independence and selfmanagement by raising their own revenues, receiving other public moneys and accepting responsibility for provision of services.
The present level of participation by Community Councils ranges across a broad spectrum, with the most experienced and responsible forming a partnership in decision-making with the State Public Service administration. The mutual confidence enjoyed by these Councils and the State Government points to the next step when Councils accept sole responsibility for the provision of selected essential services.
Queensland policy, which discourages ‘hand-out’ or ‘sitdown’ style assistance, encourages Council decision-making powers to be matched by responsibility for the performance of the functions over which it exercises authority, to standards acceptable to the broad society. . . .
The continued development of Community Councils, in terms of experience, maturity, and the active role they fill in day to day affairs, is the logical progression encouraged by State policies.
In summary, Councils have been consulted by the Public Service administration for over a decade; a number are partners in decision-making and have launched their own projects; now provision exists and encouragement is given for Councils to become independent local bodies, responsible for the delivery of essential services.
The Queensland Deputy Premier, Dr Llew Edwards, also referred to self-management when he and I met with the Aboriginal community at Yarrabah on 30 November 1979. He said to the community that: the State Government is anxious to encourage . . Councils to become independent local bodies responsible for the delivery of essential services on reserves.
The Queensland Department’s report and Dr Edwards’ statement might be compared to the statement of the Commonwealth Government’s policy announced in the House of Representatives by Mr Viner on 24 November 1978 when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He said:
In essence, the policy of self-management requires that Aboriginals, as individuals and communities, be in a position to make the same kinds of decisions about their future as other Australians customarily make, and to accept responsibility for the results flowing from those decisions. The issue is one of Aboriginals exercising authority with responsibility.
In advancing this concept of self-management, the Government seeks to open the way to Aboriginals to enjoy the same rights as other Australians who, as individuals or in co-operation with others and in some cases with Government support, make choices as to their lifestyle, decide to have a say in their community affairs, to provide services for themselves, to conduct businesses and to make their own decisions within the la w of the land, recognising the rights and obligations which flow from it.
It can be seen from the foregoing statements that in terms of expressed policies there is little difference in the stated objectives of the Commonwealth and Queensland. The main difference between the two governments is the rate at which the Queensland Government is moving towards the goal of self-management. In this respect Queensland has moved more slowly than the other States. There is no similar coincidence between the policy views of the two governments on the question of land rights. The Queensland Government has stated that its reserves are held in trust while a need for them exists for use by Aboriginals and Islanders, with the Director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement serving as trustee.
The Commonwealth attitude to land rights is reflected in the legislation it passed in 1 976, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. This legislation, like the Bill introduced by the Labor Government in 1975, applies only to the Northern Territory which at the time of the passage of the legislation was still administered as a Commonwealth territory. Commonwealth governments have regarded the Northern Territory legislation as a guide which they would wish States to follow. Provision of some land in the States has been made through the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission which has purchased freehold land and pastoral leases in various parts of Australia, but such purchases have all been on the basis of a willing seller and there has been no attempt to impose land rights on the Northern Territory pattern.
Commonwealth legislation for land rights in the States would of course require compulsory acquisition of land and the States would have to be paid for any land so obtained. The States have made it clear that they would oppose the Commonwealth’s attempting to use its constitutional powers in this way. In each of the States provision is made for land to be available for Aboriginal use and occupancy.
Under the Aborigines Act 1969, the New South Wales Government established the Aboriginal Lands Trust and has transferred to it freehold title to the former reserves in the State. The Trust has full ownership rights in land and in minerals, except gold and silver which remain the property of the Crown. A select committee of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly has been established to review a range of Aboriginal matters, including land and mineral rights. In Victoria, under the Aboriginal Lands Act 1 970, the two former reserves, Framlingham and Lake Tyers, were established as Aboriginal Trusts whose members are all the persons registered as residents. The land is owned by the Trusts in fee simple.
In Western Australia, under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act, reserve land remains in right of the Crown; but the Act establishes an Aboriginal Lands Trust to which the Crown has delegated ‘control and management’ of the reserves. The State Government retains control over entry permits and over matters relating to mineral exploration and mining on reserves. In South Australia, the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act establishes a Trust, composed of Aboriginals, to hold title to and to administer former reserve land transferred to the Trust. Minerals on Trust and reserve land remain the property of the Crown, but Parliament may pay to the Trust any royalties received by the Crown for mining on Trust land.
Legislation is being prepared to vest freehold title over lands in the north-west of the State in a corporate body to be called the Pitjantjatjara Peoples. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act served as a partial model for the original Bill, which lapsed when State Parliament was prorogued last year. The Government of South Australia has announced that it will legislate for land rights this year and is currently engaged in discussions with the Pitjantjatjara Council about the proposals. In Tasmania, no land is at present set aside for Aboriginals. However, the Tasmanian Government has prepared draft legislation which provides for the establishment of an Aboriginal Lands Trust and a mechanism for the transfer to the Trust of freehold title to certain lands in the State. The Commonwealth has co-operated and consulted with the State on this matter. The Commonwealth will continue to encourage the States to ensure that Aboriginal communities have secure tenure of land which they traditionally use and occupy.
The Commonwealth will continue to explore with the State Government of Queensland the various options which are available to ensure secure land tenure for reserve communities. In the case of Yarrabah, the Queensland Government has taken the stance that it will maintain the existing system whereby land is preserved for the use and occupancy of the community as a State reserve. The risk that the reserve might be abolished and the community would thereby lose its traditional use and occupancy has been met by public undertakings given by the Queensland Government through its Deputy Premier, Dr Llew Edwards, that the State will continue the traditional occupancy of the reserve. The State has also indicated that while it does not favour the issuing of a lease covering the whole reserve to the Council, as happened at Aurukun and Mornington Island, it is in favour of granting special leases to people on the reserve for income generating activities such as farming and business and for other acceptable purposes such as housing. It has indicated these leases will be subject to normal processing by the Queensland Government.
While there is a need to resolve with the State what constitutes ‘normal processing’, the Yarrabah Council is now taking on an increasing self-management role. The Commonwealth is providing finance to the Council, in co-operation with the State, to undertake several projects such as beach erosion control, village road works, drainage, improvement of Council Offices and the provision of public toilets. The arrangements relating to Yarrabah are still being worked out and they are the subject of continuing discussions with the Queensland Government and with the Yarrabah Council.
-The statement concludes with a summary as follows:
The view of the Senate Committee that there should be a legislative scheme for each community incorporating acquisition of appropriate property rights was based on the conclusion that most attempts to achieve any co-operative arrangement with the Queensland Government since 1967 have failed and that co-operation between the governments ‘is not likely to provide a full and sufficient discharge of Commonwealth obligations to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland and that some unilateral action by the Commonwealth will therefore be likely to be necessary’. Developments at Yarrabah and at Aurukun and Mornington Island indicate that opportunities for self-management can be provided in co-operation with the State Government. They provide a base for future consideration of ways of promoting Aboriginal selfmanagement in Queensland. The next round of discussions with the State will encompass the issue of self-management arrangements for other reserve communities. As long as there is continuing progress the Government does not regard unilateral action of the sort recommended as the course most likely to advance the welfare of the Aboriginal people of Queensland.
It is the view of the Government that it will best advance the interests of the Aboriginals by working wherever possible in co-operation with the States. It seeks co-operative arrangements without detriment to its own fundamental policy commitment to self-management. That concludes the summary. The fact that this response has not been put down before now has been the subject of some comment and complaint in the Senate. The report was originally presented to the Senate on 23 November 1978. Of course it is now 15 May 1980. That is a longer delay than the Government would wish. However, I point out that the follow-up to this report has been a matter which has received a thorough airing in the Senate on a number of occasions. In fact within the six months period there was extensive debate in the Senate on the motion to take note of the report.
I refer to the debate which took place on 5 April 1979. At that time I was on my way to Aurukun and Mornington Island, hence I was not in the Senate. I was represented in this place by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle who made a speech which is reported at page 1422 of Senate Hansard of 5 April 1 979. 1 draw attention to that speech because it indicates the basic approach which has been adopted by the Government since the report was put down. I make the point merely to underline the fact that the Senate and indeed the public have been aware of the Government’s policy in the area which is covered by the report and of the action which the Government has taken since the Committee’s report was put down. On 5 April 1979 the Senate adopted a resolution with which the Government has concurred. On that date the Senate noted the continuing actions of the Commonwealth Government to ensure effective selfmanagement for Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. The resolution continued: . . in the event of such agreement, legislative action and negotiations failing to provide satisfactory means for self-management, the Senate requests the Commonwealth Government to give urgent consideration to (and advise the Parliament of its intentions in regard to) the amendment of the existing Commonwealth legislation or the introduction of new legislation to ensure effective self-management for the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities, and other Aboriginal communities, pursuant to the substantial powers of the Commonwealth as examined in the Senate Committee ‘s report.
The report simply brings the Senate and the public up to date with the events which have transpired since that time. At least 13 questions have been asked in this place and in the other place. Answers given by the Government make the follow-up quite clear. For example, on 7 June 1979 in response to a question on notice from Dr Everingham, Mr Viner provided a reply which I, of course, provided for him. The reply indicated that the Government was proceeding in accordance with the motion passed by the Senate in its debate on the report on 5 April 1979. If any lesson is to be learnt from this matter it is that when a report is brought down on a matter which involves a continuing area of Government policy it may be that the formal response can be made within the six months limit on the basis that action is proceeding but is not complete. Indeed action in this area is unlikely ever to be complete because the involvement of the Commonwealth in Aboriginal affairs leads to continuing dealings with the various State governments which also have a major responsibility in the field of Aboriginal affairs. Therefore to that extent there is no final response to this Senate Committee report. I think that the few words which I read from the report make that quite clear. The report stated:
As long as there is continuing progress -
And the response suggests that there is- the Government does not regard unilateral action of the sort recommended as the course most likely to advance the welfare of the Aboriginal people of Queensland.
I commend the reply to the Senate and thank honourable senators for their continued interest in the field of Aboriginal affairs. That is not always a comfort to the Government but it is a comfort to the Aboriginal people. It is a reminder to the Government of something which it regards as extremely important, namely, its responsibilities to the Aboriginal people of Australia.
-by leave- I move:
As Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs I desire to comment on the statement made in response to the Committee’s report on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland reserves. The Committee has waited a long time for this statement to be made. I have listened to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, has said in addition to the statement. I am afraid that I cannot understand why this statement was not made within the six months period. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says, this is a continuing matter. This Committee’s report is not just about the current activities regarding selfmanagement by Aboriginals in Queensland.
The report arose from the fact that there was legislation which related specifically to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland reserves, but it went a long way beyond that. One needs to look only at the summary of the contents of the report to realise that a major part of the report- not just the recommendations- deals with an examination of the Commonwealth’s legislative power with respect to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. It made an analysis of the powers involved and stated how considerable they were. It dealt with powers in relation to the acquisition of property, just terms, and matters of that sort and also with an examination of the legislation that was before us in 1 978. In addition to that the report examined the Commonwealth’s legislative alternatives- the various things that it might do. One of the extraordinary things about this statement which the Government has put down today is not what it says but rather what it does not say. It does not deal with the essential matters which are the basis of the report, namely, the constitutional powers and the legislative courses which were suggested. I take it- I trust that the Senate will take it- that from that silence emerges consent, that the analysis which the Senate Committee has made of the powers of the Commonwealth is accepted by the Government.
Most of the statement today deals with what has gone on in relation to self-management, tenure of land and land rights, particularly in Queensland. That, of course, is a separate matter covered in the report. As a major point I say that one must accept from the Government’s failure to rebut anything that the Senate Committee has said that it accepts, in general terms anyway -
– I do not give legal opinions. I am not the Attorney-General.
-The Minister says that he does not give legal opinions, that he is not the Attorney-General. I think we would be very happy to hear legal opinions coming from the Government as a response to the Committee’s report. One must assume that since the Government is well advised in a legal sense, if it found some implausibility in the arguments which the Senate Committee raised, it would not have been too shy to say so.
I wish to comment generally on the matters which were raised in the report in regard to Aurukun and Mornington Island, to which the legislation related. The legislation which was passed in 1 978, as we know and as the report sets out, proved to be defective because of the fact that the Queensland government then abolished the reserves and negotiations and agreements had to be entered into between the Queensland Government and the Australian Government in respect of those matters. In the Minister’s statement today we find the following:
In the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island, therefore, the two areas of policy were satisfied.
That is in respect of the policy of selfmanagement and security of tenure. The statement continues:
Self-management was provided through a local government structure and secure tenure of land was achieved by the legal mechanism of a lease for 50 years with a right to renew.
I do not know whether that is acceptable to everybody. I do not know that a lease for 50 years is regarded by the inhabitants as being sufficiently secure. But no doubt it provides a security that they did not have before being granted that lease.
The statement goes on to speak of the negotiations and discussions which took place, and makes the contention, which might be quite sound, that the operation has worked quite successfully so far as the local inhabitants are concerned. They now have a lease of the land and some security of tenure which may work quite successfully. I feel that when the statement goes on to deal with Yarrabah and the claims which the Yarrabah community have made the situation is much less satisfactory. In that case, we know that there is no overall lease at all but that special leases are to be provided. I am not even sure whether they have yet been provided. But it is said of the Queensland Government in the statement:
I think there is a fair amount of fear as to what is meant by the term ‘normal processing’ and whether one can expect the Aboriginal inhabitants of such an area to be subject to the normal processing which the Queensland Government may see fit to bring about. The statement also says that in regard to this whole matter of selfmanagement there is little difference in the policies of the two governments. The statement acknowledges that the rate of progress has ben slow. One finds depressing the fact that it takes so long to resolve the differences which have arisen in the three communities concerned.
When one returns to the question of land rights, which was a matter dealt with very substantially in the Committee’s report, one finds from the Government’s statement today that a different situation arises. After dealing with the position in regard to self-management, the Government says:
There is no similar coincidence between the policy views of the two governments on the question of land rights. The Queensland Government has stated that its reserves are held in trust while a need for them exists for use by Aboriginals and Islanders, with the Director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement serving as trustee.
I think there is perhaps some understatement in that in the sense that there seems to be a very great determination that Queensland should be so different from all other parts of Australia. This can be seen when one looks at the comparisons set out in the statement in relation to what has been agreed to between other States and the Commonwealth and what the Commonwealth has itself achieved in regard to its own land rights policy applicable to the Northern Territory. It was, of course, in these areas that the questions of the power in respect of compulsory acquisition of land were examined so thoroughly by the Committee and reported upon. One feels that this matter is in no way satisfactorily concluded at present.
A question that arises from the report of the Committee was referred to by the Minister when he dealt in his statement with the acquisition of land. The Committee drew attention to the unsatisfactory state of co-operative arrangements with the Queensland Government since 1967. We expressed the view that they had failed and that co-operation between the governments: is not likely to provide a full and sufficient discharge of Commonwealth obligations to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland and that some unilateral action by the Commonwealth will therefore be likely to be necessary.
I do not think that what follows from today’s statement, which gives an indication of the position to this date, shows that one can move away from the Committee’s statement that we have not yet seen any satisfactory arrangement or agreement on the subject of land rights so far as Aborigines in Queensland are concerned. Therefore, one would support the Minister’s statement that this is, as it were, a progress report on what has been going on. So far as land rights are concerned, there has not been very much progress displayed. One wonders whether the position in Queensland is any different, whether in fact Aboriginals in Queensland ought to be thought of as being in a different situation or as having any fewer rights or any more obligations because they happen to live in Queensland. I do not believe that that is so. I believe that our obligations remain the same, and I think we still have to demonstrate that we have exercised full and sufficient discharge of our obligations to them.
At this stage of the debate I merely want to emphasise the fact that the statement today demonstrates the need for some clarification so that we know where we stand in respect to the powers and scope of the rights of the Commonwealth. But we have not yet heard what the Commonwealth proposes to do in regard to legislation. We have on our records an Act which has proved to be defective. Presumably if we are not able to discharge all of our obligations satisfactorily we will have to consider whether we will amend that legislation or bring in new legislation to discharge such rights effectively. I do not want to go further into that question at this stage.
I trust that this debate will continue and that in the new session of the Parliament there will be an opportunity for other honourable senators to express their views, to compare the statement and the report so that we can see where we stand. I encourage honourable senators to take an active interest in this debate when it comes on again so that this statement will be regarded as a progress report. I hope that the debate will progress into next session so that we have the matter constantly in mind. We have a constant obligation which we accepted by the 1967 referendum, and we cannot lay down that obligation.
-I want to contribute to this debate, although not along the lines pursued by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) or Senator Missen. Senator Missen ‘s contribution was tremendously low-key. I do not quite agree with it even though it is a progress report. In fact, I will have much harder words to say about it than that. I can assure him that, when I was at Yarrabah a week or two back, no specialists had been provided, nothing has been done about the matter, and the situation is as it was 10 years ago. So the so-called progress at Yarrabah is a non-event.
So far as I know, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr Porter, has not been there with the Australian Government Minister on any of the visits that have been made. I doubt very much whether he is prepared to go there because of the resentment shown towards him by Aboriginals, not in this community, but in every other community in Queensland. I am amazed, disgusted and extremely disappointed with the document that has been put down by the Minister which amounts, for all practical purposes, to a repudiation of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the reference that was before it at that time. It is a total rejection of the report. That report took many weeks of painstaking work. It was completed many months ago, and it has taken a long time to come back here for this tiny airing that it is to get this afternoon.
I wish to deal with particular aspects of the report as put down by the Minister. As the report states, it was presented on 23 November 1978. Today is 15 May 1980, and honourable senators are now going to have a very short look at the paper. I agree with Senator Missen that in the next session this matter ought to come back for a full scale debate. The Minister said:
The Committee concluded that: the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act 1978 is within the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth Parliament and the constitutional conception underlying legislation and the principles and structure of the legislation are consistent with the proper responsibilities of the Commonwealth; the legislation is for practical purposes ineffective as a means of allowing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to manage and control their affairs if there is not cooperation between the Commonwealth and the State, since the legislation can be rendered inoperative by the State Government (i.e. by revocation of reserves); most attempts to achieve any co-operative arrangements with the Queensland Government since 1967 have failed and the agreement on local government arrangements for Aurukun and Mornington Island cannot yet be seen as successful or as generally acceptable to the residents; co-operation between the Commonwealth and Queensland is not likely to provide a ‘full and sufficient discharge of Commonwealth obligations to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland ‘ and some unilateral action is likely to be necessary; some acquisition of property must form part of the legislative scheme and the Commonwealth enjoys considerable flexibility in devising schemes for self-management, incorporating acquisition of appropriate property rights and specifying ‘just terms ‘in respect of any acquisition.
The Committee recommended that the Commonwealth legislate to ensure that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland are free to manage and control their own affairs, by enacting specific statutes to deal with the conditions prevailing in different communities, determining in each case what acquisition of property (and what compensation) is required.
So far as the recommendations were concerned, it was a unanimous report. Members of all parties who deliberated and assisted in compiling that report do not disagree with the fact that the Commonwealth has the powers.
On page 3 of the report, the Minister said:
The Government has not formally responded to the report until now because of continuing negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland relating to the petition by the Yarrabah Council on 30 January 1979 that the Yarrabah Aboriginal community be given self-management. The Council also asked the Commonwealth to negotiate on its behalf Northern Territory-type land rights for the community with the Queensland Government.
In fact discussions are still continuing between the two Governments but, as the Government has undertaken to formally respond to Committee reports, I wish to inform the Senate of progress to date.
The requests from the Yarrabah Council raised two separate policy issues:
That of self-management by communities resident on Queensland reserves; and
That of land rights in the State of Queensland.
After many months of deliberation, it was impossible for the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government to reach agreement in relation to Aurukun, to Mornington Island, to Yarrabah or in relation to other claims that have been submitted by Palm Island and Kowanyama. The lengthy debate that took place in this chamber last year in relation to the Aurukun and Mornington Island episodes may have been succesful, as I have said. Colleagues on my side of the House have said previously that we should have made that legislation retrospective- and that was an Opposition amendment- to a date which, I think, was 31 March. That proposal was rejected by the Government. Honourable senators now find themselves in a situation, of course, in which the Premier of Queensland de-reserved- that was the term used at the time- both communities and put them back into focus as Crown land. There is the local government legislation, which the Government seems to accept in toto, which is far short of the land right requirements of Aborigines in Queensland or in any other part of Australia. In other words, the Government lives in daily fear of what the Premier of Queensland might do to it. It lives in daily fear of what Mr Porter, the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland, might do to it. The Government also lives in daily fear of Mr P. Killoran, the permanent head of that Department.
I asked a series of questions here this morning regarding a situation which was initiated by people at Yarrabah who sought to join a trade union and who sought to obtain award wages. For their activities on that occasion they were sacked, and not one finger was raised by the Minister in this House or by the Government in defence of the Aborigines who virtually put their heads on the chopping block. In May last year, an award was brought down giving award wages to the Yarrabah people. I have asked a series of questions in this chamber, culminating, of course, in today’s question in relation to the implementation of the finding that was handed down. It was fobbed off in the first place, even though the Queensland Minister made a latenight trip to Canberra to seek additional funds for the payment of award wages in the various Aboriginal communities.
A committee was set up to look into the situation. It was to report back in three months. That committee report was never made public, and so another one was set up. There has been an ongoing internal investigation. I am not aware that it has ever gone back to the court, as the Minister said in this chamber earlier today. If it has gone back, why has the Commonwealth Government been secret about it? Most of all, why has the State Government been secret about it? I talked to the people from Yarrabah, as recently as yesterday, by telephone. As I said, two or three weeks ago I visited the place and stayed there for a good portion of a day and talked to people. Nothing has been done. They in fact asked me to find out- that was the result of my questionwhat was to be done about award wages.
Again, the Minister has, with some display of political cowardice, caved into the Queensland Government. In this, of course, he was ably supported by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is able to make, as my colleague Senator Walsh, said in this chamber in a previous debate loud noises at Lusaka and look like a champion of the anti-apartheid group, but when it comes to Australia, of course, it is a different story altogether. The Opposition hopes that -
– He caves in to Petersen and Court.
– Well, that is right. There are two experts in the field, Charles Court of Western Australia, and Petersen, both of whom are selling out the blacks in their respective States. That was a major point, as far as I am concerned, and it is something that the Minister, in reference to Yarrabah, should have taken up, but he has not done so. The statement goes on:
The dispute about Aurukun and Mornington Island early in 1978 initially raised the question of self-management only. At the time it seemed appropriate and sufficient to deal with this issue through the enactment of legislation confining itself to self-management arrangements. However, subsequent action by the Queensland Government indicated that unless some right to continue in occupation of the land was established the right to opt for self-management could be negated.
The Senate Committee said: the (self-management) legislation is for practical purposes ineffective as a means of allowing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland to manage and control their affairs. Legislation in this form may possibly be effective in circumstances of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the relevant State government, but events in Queensland have demonstrated that the legislation can be rendered inoperative by the State government where cooperation is lacking . . .
Of course, this is precisely the situation. When the handover to the local government authority in each of the areas took place, I expected a strong statement to come from the Minister. In fact, it was a statement of total capitulation and it was a statement of which any self-respecting Minister of this Government ought to have been totally ashamed. It was a total capitulation to the standover methods adopted by those who led the Government in Queensland. The Minister said:
In the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island, therefore, the two areas of policy were satisfied. Self-management was provided through a local government structure and secure tenure of land was achieved by the legal mechanism of a lease for 50 years with a right to renew.
If that satisfies the Minister, if it satisfies the Prime Minister and if it satisfies Government members, it does not satisfy anybody on this side of the chamber. I would like the Minister to take note of the fact that no Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders are satisfied with that statement either. Later this year when the Government changes, the Australian Labor Party attitude to land rights will be vastly different to what the Minister has laid down in this statement. He is taking a giggling attitude at the moment. He is thoroughly amused at the plight of Aborigines in this country. It gets him into the state where he becomes terribly humorous. He knows that he can push the matter under the carpet and get away with it. He does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to people who dictate to him and tell him what he has to do. The statement continued:
The Senate Committee said in November 1978 that the agreement in respect of the local government arrangements for Aurukun and Mornington Island: cannot yet, as yet, be seen as successful or as generally acceptable to the residents . . .’.
Yet the Minister has the political hide to come into this chamber, put out a document of this nature and say that everybody is thoroughly satisfied. They are not. If he thinks those councils are secure he ought to take a look at a recent statement made by the Minister for Local Government in Queensland which implied that the Mornington Island Council was to be sacked and an administrator put in. The Minister can nod his head until it falls off. That statement appeared in the Queensland Press.
– What has happened since?
– It has not happened yet but the Queensland Minister implied that it could and probably will happen. So the Minister should not kid himself that he is in a secure state of tenure so far as the 50-year leases are concerned. The Minister also stated:
The Government is satisfied that to date the agreement of 1978 has been honoured in the letter and the spirit and that the two strands of policy are being carried out.
What a lot of poppycock! If he can kid himself into believing that thai is the true state of affairs it is obvious that he does not go to communities in Queensland very often. There is some praise in the statement for the annual report of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement for 1978-79. It is virtually a classsified document. In any case, it is difficult to obtain. However, as the Minister is on such friendly, palsy-walsy terms with the Minister in Queensland and the Premier of Queensland no doubt they send him a goldembossed copy of it. The Minister said:
The report refers to the proposals of the Aboriginal and Islander Commission and amendments to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act early in 1 979 providing for the incorporation of reserve community councils for the express purpose of permitting them to undertake greater self-management.
Do we know whether self-management is being carried out? I must say that there has been an improvement in the calibre of white officers employed by the DAIA. There are still many of those officers in managerial roles who tell the Aboriginal councils what to do. There was the situation at Yarrabah, quite recently, where a bogus petition was taken up to try to get the council sacked. Of course, the bogus petition was not successful. Subsequently, the council remained in office even though there was another election. The Minister stated these loving words:
The Queensland Deputy Premier, Dr Llew Edwards, also referred to self-management when he and I met with the Aboriginal community at Yarrabah on 30 November 1979. He said to the community that: ‘the State Government is anxious to encourage . . . Councils to become independent local bodies responsible for the delivery of essential services on reserves. ‘
With very great respect to the Deputy Premier, who is known affectionately or unaffectionately in Queensland as Joh’s little helper, he is not able to stand up to the Premier and does not take any notice of his own executive because he has a marginal seat which he is hanging on to by about a half of 1 per cent. Therefore, he will not ripple the waters anywhere. I am amazed that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this government believes the things that are being said. He went on:
The Queensland Department’s Report and Dr Edwards’ statement might be compared to the statement of the Commonwealth Government’s policy announced in the House of Representatives by Mr Viner on 24 November 1 978 when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
I know that our Minister has a lot of hero worship for Mr Viner. It was Mr Viner who was indirectly responsible for cutting back funds, despite what Mr Ellicott said in November 1975, which led to an increased infant mortality rate in many of the communities in Australia and to a self-destructing increase in unemployment. Mr Viner used to be fond of saying that the members of a community had decided what they wanted done in their community. Of course, an option was put to them. He asked whether they wanted food for the kids or half of one more house in the current half year. In the hope that they might get one more house, the kids went without food or there was not money to provide employment. The new scheme which has gradually been brought in in a number of places and which I understand is to commence on Mornington Island next- I am not sure that it has actually been started because it was deferred- is another way of making the dole money go further. This scheme has been reasonably effective in one community that I know of. In all the others it is just about an abject failure. However, it saves money in a bankrupt government that has to take money from people who cannot speak for themselves. Let us return to what Mr Viner is reported in the statement as saying. He is the man whom Minister Chaney hero worships. Mr Viner said:
In essence, the policy of self-management requires that Aboriginals, as individuals and communities, be in a position to make the same kinds of decisions about their future as other Australians customarily make, and to accept responsibility for the results flowing from those decisions. The issue is one of Aboriginals exercising authority with responsibility … In advancing this concept of selfmanagement, the Government seeks to open the way to Aboriginals to enjoy the same rights as other Australians who, as individuals or in co-operation with others and in some cases with Government support, make choices as to their lifestyle, decide to have a say in their community affairs, to provide services for themselves, to conduct businesses and to make their own decisions within the law of the land, recognising the rights and obligations which flow from it.
When money was made available for the purchase of pastoral leases in Queensland or the purchase of a little bit of land in the township of Ayr so that a caravan park could be built on it to enable two or three Aborigines to earn a decent living, the transfer of title was refused in all cases by the Queensland Premier. He sent a watching brief to every one of his departments saying, in effect, that if any of the Feds went to a community there must be an officer of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement with them to see what discussions take place. In other words, they were put under surveillance in such a way that it savoured of nazism or fascism. A note of everything was being taken by Big Brother.
Of course, Mr Viner is very happy about this. Senator Chaney is very happy about this. They also do not want to see blacks get to the situation where they can make their own decisions. I once heard a very choice description- I will not use the four-letter words associated with it- in relation to Mr Viner. Senator Chaney is rapidly developing the same sort of description in the areas where he probably thinks he is extremely popular. It was said that Mr Viner was a bloke who could smile while a not very complimentary thing was being done to him. A very descriptive word was used. Now Senator Chaney, hanging on his coat tails, is doing precisely what Mr Viner set out to do. He is succeeding in keeping the blacks down. I will quote from one more part of Senator Chaney ‘s statement. He said:
It can be seen from the foregoing statements that in terms of expressed policies there is little difference in the stated objectives of the Commonwealth and Queensland.
What a craven admission to make. If one looks at the 1 976 Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act one can see that it was a pale imitation of the 1975 Act which, with the cooperation of Senator Chaney, Sir John Kerr and Mr Fraser, never saw the light of day as legislation.
– And Barwick.
-That is right. I forget about him. He was the man who wanted to go and live at Lanyon. The statement continues:
The main difference between the two Governments is the rate at which the Queensland Government is moving towards the goal of self-management. In this respect Queensland has moved more slowly than the other States.
Why does the Minister have to be so charitable? Why does he have to go down on his political hands and knees and crawl in this manner to the monstrosities who run this department in Queensland at the political level? It is a disgusting state of affairs because the Queensland Government is not moving at all. The movement of the Commonwealth Government has slowed down totally since 13 December 1975 in relation to land rights and other matters for Aborigines. Now the Minister is leaving the chamber because he has reached a situation where he does not care what happens to his statement in this chamber. His statement goes on:
Provision of some land in the States has been made through the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission which has purchased freehold land and pastoral leases in various parts of Australia, but such purchases have all been on the basis of a willing seller and there has been no attempt to impose land rights on the Northern Territory . . .
Why did the Minister, who is now absent from the chamber, not take the opportunity to criticise Queensland in that area? He went on:
Commonwealth legislation for land rights in the States would of course require compulsory acquisition of land and the States would have to be paid for any land so obtained.
The States have made it clear that they would oppose the Commonwealth attempting to use its constitutional powers in this way.
So we go on softly, softly, as the Minister has softly stolen out of the chamber, unable to take any criticism levelled at him, and of course we get nowhere. In the final passages he states:
Legislation is being prepared to vest freehold title over lands in the north west of the State -
He is now referring to South Australia. in a corporate body to be called the Pitjantjatjara Peoples. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act served as a partial model for the original Bill, which lapsed when State Parliament was prorogued last year.
That was prior to the last State election. Prior to the State election people of all parties in the South Australian Parliament decided that the original Bill was the one which should become law. But with the defeat of the Labor Government and the introduction of the Tonkin Government that now is a bit like the imitation of a Bill that was presented in this chamber in 1976, which allegedly was modelled on the 1975 Labor Government Bill. It takes away many rights that would have been given to the Pitjantjatjara people under the original Bill. I do not see the Minister having anything to be proud of in supporting the South Australian Government under those circumstances. He went on to say:
The Commonwealth will continue to encourage the States to ensure that Aboriginal communities have secure tenure of land which they traditionally use and occupy.
By knuckling under to the Queensland Government and the Court Government of Western Australia, this is the shadow of the sort of support that ought to be coming from this Government. Neither the Minister nor his Department nor the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has the courage to stand up and say to Court and Petersen: ‘We are doing this and you can go jump in the Brisbane River’ or wherever it might be. The Minister further said:
The Commonwealth will continue to explore with the State Government of Queensland the various options which are available to ensure secure land tenure for reserve communities. He goes on to refer to the famous case of Yarrabah, and says:
He goes on to refer to the famous case of Yarrabah, and says:
That is precisely what it is going to do. It will make no concessions at all. The statement that the Commonwealth will continue to explore with the State Government of Queensland is again so much hogwash because there is no exploring going on at all. It is the Queensland Government making the decisions and telling the national Government what it should do. To the great disgrace of the national Government, it does precisely as it is told to do by Petersen and his Government and by Court and his Government.
– That is a bit far fetched.
– It is not far fetched at all. Senator Missen is a person of fairly small Liberal tendencies in this regard and I think he ought to be disgusted with the way his report has been treated. It is disgusting treatment of what I thought was a very good report. The Minister then said:
Developments at Yarrabah and at Aurukun and Mornington Island indicate that opportunities for self-management can be provided in co-operation with the State Government.
This is another act by the Minister of political self-deception. There is not an iota of truth in it. His final words in the disgusting statement brought down in this House today states: lt is the view of the Government that it will best advance the interests of the Aboriginals by working wherever possible in co-operation with the States. It seeks co-operative arrangements without detriment to its own fundamental policy commitment to self-management.
I did not think that a responsible grown-up, who allegedly is a Minister of this Government, could have brought in a statement of that nature in a self-satisfying way. It satisfies nobody except him. It is political self-deception if any member of the Government thinks that the people outside will accept this statement in relation to a very involved report which can have far reaching benefits and consequences in some areas. The statement should never have been presented. I am totally lost for words that would be descriptive enough to criticise what the Government has done in this regard.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
-by leave-I wish to make a brief statement regarding Notice of Motion No. 1 and Notice of Motion No. 2 standing in my name on the Notice Paper. Both of these notices of motion were given as a result of the deliberations of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. They were given on the last available day for giving notice when explanations were awaited from the responsible Ministers, and so as to give the Committee time to consider those explanations and to conclude its enquiries.
The first notice of motion relates to a provision whereby an application may be made to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory for an order to review a decision by the Court of Petty Sessions dismissing an information. As I indicated when I gave the notice of motion, the Committee was concerned that this provision might be an abridgement of the double jeopardy’ rule, the long established principle that a person who has been acquitted may not be tried again for the same offence. The main reason for the Committee’s apprehension was that an identical provision was removed from the Ordinance in 1974, and the explanation which was given for that action at that time was that the provision might be regarded as a violation of the double jeopardy’ rule. The Committee had also received a submission from the Law Society of the Territory expressing a number of apprehensions about the provision.
The Committee has now received from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a lengthy and detailed analysis of the problems raised by the Committee. Notwithstanding the reasons given for the repeal of the provision in question in 1974, the Attorney-General is firmly of the opinion that the provision does not allow an appeal against an acquittal on the merits of the case. He considers that the provision as drafted allows the prosecution to appeal to the Supreme Court only on questions of law. If the AttorneyGeneral’s view is correct, and the Committee is willing to accept, on the basis of the AttorneyGeneral’s letter, that it is the correct view, the provision in the Ordinance does not violate the double jeopardy’ rule. The Attorney-General has also made a detailed response to the matters raised by the Law Society which in the opinion of the Committee answers those matters. The Committee therefore intends to take no further action in relation to the Ordinance, and accordingly, pursuant to notice of intention given this day, I withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in my name.
The second notice of motion relates to the Overseas Students Charge Collection Regulations, which provide exemptions from the charge imposed by the Overseas Students Charge Act. As I indicated when I gave the notice of motion, the Committee had received a submission on the regulations raising a number of matters which appeared to be relevant to the Committee’s principles, and had not had time to consider that submission. The principal matter raised in the submission was the question of whether there ought to be some review of decisions taken pursuant to the grounds of exemption under the regulations. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affiairs (Mr Macphee) has now responded in detail to those matters raised in the submission, and, in particular, whilst indicating his belief that a review of decisions under the regulations is not appropriate, has informed vie Committee that all legislation within his jurisdiction is presently being examined by the Administrative Review Council to determine whether appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal should be provided.
The Committee is content to leave to the Administrative Review Council the question of whether appeals are appropriate under these regulations, and has decided that no further action should be taken in relation to the regulations. Accordingly, pursuant to notice of intention given this day, I withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 2, standing in my name.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business take precedence of General Business after 8 p.m. on Thursdays for the remainder of the present period of sitting.
Motion (by Senator Rae) agreed to:
1 ) That the Select Committee of the Senate, appointed on 1 May 1980 to inquire into and report upon passenger fares and services to and from Tasmania, consist of four Senators, two to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
That the Committee may proceed to the despatch of business notwithstanding that all members be not appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
That the quorum of the Committee be two.
That the Committee elect as Chairman one of the Senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy-Chairman, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
That, in the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, have a casting vote.
That the Committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, to meet and transact business in public in private session and notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives.
That the Committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it; and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings of the Committee as take place in public.
That the Committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the Committee, with the approval of the President.
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, the evidence taken, and such recommendations as it may deem fit; and be expected to make regular reports as to the progress of the proceedings of the Committee and to present a final report as soon as possible.
That, if the Senate be not sitting when the Committee has completed its report, the Committee may send its report to the President of the Senate, or, if the President be not available, to the Deputy-President, who is authorised to give directions for its printing and circulation, and in such event, the President or Deputy-President shall lay the report upon the Table at the next sitting of the Senate.
That the foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
– by leave- As honourable senators will be aware, I am one of the two Senate representatives on the Council of the Australian National University, Senator Georges being the other. This morning at Question Time a question was asked by Senator Knight about the Australian National University. It was answered by the Minister for
National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) who represents the Minister for Education (Mr Fife). In a supplementary question reference was made to tardiness on the part of the Council in relation to its obligations under the Australian National University Amendment Act which passed through this chamber at the end of last year. I refute the suggestion of tardiness.
Any statute which has to be made by the University must be made by the Council. There was never any question that the Council would not carry out its legal obligations as imposed by the Australian National University Amendment Act which became law on 6 December 1979. Since 6 December 1979 there have been only two regular Council meetings, such meetings being held approximately every second month. The Council considered its obligations under the legislation and referred the matter to its committee on student organisations to prepare a suggested approach to those obligations. That committee had consultations with the student organisations and others. There has been a series of consultations with the Department of Education. The legislation itself is far from clear. Its implementation became a matter of some consideration and uncertainty. In fact, it led the Council ‘s advisers on legislation to recommend, as I understand it, that the opinion of a Queen’s Counsel be obtained. That opinion was obtained from Mr D. M. Bennett, Q.C., of Melbourne. That opinion had to be considered in its application to the draft legislation.
The matter was reported to the Council meeting of 14 March. At that time it was indicated that the draft legislation would be ready for the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Council in April and for submission to the Council on 9 May which was the date of the next Council meeting. In fact, those steps have been taken. The draft statute was referred to the Department of Education. That led to a number of meetings with the Minister for Education, which in turn led to the matter being referred to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and his officers. Further legal opinions were obtained. Eventually, the response from the Department of Education to the University in relation to the opinion of the Attorney-General’s Department was received on 7 May, only two days before the Council meeting. It suggested alterations to the draft statute. In fact, the Council made those alterations.
I do not see in that story any basis for an accusation of tardiness on the part of the Council.
This matter has not been the sole topic of discussion at Council meetings but it has taken a tremendous amount of the time of the Council and its various committees since 6 December last year. Associated matters have been discussed over the past couple of years. A relatively simple concept has been made incredibly complex by the legislation which passed through the Parliament. Unfortunately, one of the major effects has been to provide a bonanza to the legal profession and a great headache to the Council and the administration of the University. I believe the suggestion of tardiness was a slight to the Council which, after all, consists of volunteers. They have a major undertaking in administering a $85m budget. It is an undertaking of major significance to this country. Members of the Council devote a great deal of time on a voluntary basis towards that objective. I wanted to take a little time of the Senate to refer to this matter.
Should any honourable senator wish to obtain any further detail about the actions taken by the Council and the sequence of events I will be only too happy to provide that information. I can understand that there might be some frustration on the part of those who wish to see the objective achieved. Perhaps no one is more frustrated than some members of the Council who have been involved in the matter for some time and who have been anxious to achieve a certain objective within the University. I think any suggestion of tardiness is certainly not deserved or warranted, and I refute it.
-by leave- I am grateful to Senator Rae for raising the matter. I objected at Question Time to the reference made by Senator Knight to tardiness on the part of the Council of the Australian National University. I will not traverse again the area covered by Senator Rae. I merely endorse what he said. It is unfortunate that it has been found necessary by the Government to intrude into the affairs of the University. Nevertheless, since it made its decision to do so the University has endeavoured to respond over the past two years in a variety of ways. I clearly recall a number of Council meetings that I have attended. I have been absent for the past two or three meetings for reasons of ill health. The meetings I attended last year took a considerable amount of time in trying to satisfy the needs of the Government.
My view from this side of the chamber has always been that the intrusion has been an unnecessary one. The whole matter originated from the resentment of a small group of students. It has led to a considerable dislocation of the administration of the University. Nevertheless, the University Council and its officers have applied themselves diligently to meeting the requirements of the Government. For that reason I also object to the constant irritation and harassment of the University which emerges in this place. I do not think the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) or the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) who represents him in this chamber can be brought within that criticism. Nevertheless one or two supporters of the Government can.
– I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on the Defence Force Academy and seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
On 12 April 1978, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) introduced a Bill into another place seeking to set up an Australian Defence Force Academy. The introduction of that Bill followed sustained debate, in the country, in defence and academic circles and in political circles. It deserves to be said, in the interests of historical accuracy, that there was at that time very considerable support for the proposal. Moreover, the support was bipartisan in character. Since the introduction of that Bill the debate has continued. The Government has taken proper heed of the nature of that debate. It has identified a number of conspicuous misconceptions regarding a defence academy.
I wish to inform the Senate that the Government has confirmed its intention to establish a defence force academy but, in doing so, has made some important changes to the proposal as envisaged in the Bill introduced in April 1978. Early last month the Minister tabled comprehensive material setting out the arguments in favour of the project which the Government has found compelling. I do not give a further recitation of those arguments.
Two cardinal principles have influenced government thinking concerning the establishment of the Academy. It is clear to ready demonstration that the same two principles influenced the Public Works Committee which considered the proposal. The Defence Force must have a greater proportion of tertiary educated officers than at present. That requirement is inescapable and is not contested. The second principle which the Government and its Service advisers hold strongly is that that tertiary education should be carried out within a military environment. Again that principle is not contested. The military profession is different from other professions because it demands from its officers a total commitment of service to their country; a commitment which involves loyalty, responsibility, discipline and dedication beyond that normally required of the society to which they belong.
It must not be forgotten that the Academy will be training officers to head the fighting services which form the Defence Force in any future conflict. Because of this, the training and education of the service officer is, in its totality, different from that required by the civilian to take his place in one of the other professions. It deserves to be emphasised that such an environment exists at every military academy throughout the world. Of course, a balance needs to be struck between traditional military practices and traditional academic practices. But there is no reason why a military institution cannot be in harmony with academic freedom, nor is there any reason why an academic institution cannot operate with a student population that is under military discipline.
The outstanding example of the practicability of uniting a military academy with academic freedom and with high academic standards can be seen in the co-operation between the Royal Military College at Duntroon and the University of New South Wales over the last 15 years. Those who graduate from Royal Military College, Duntroon, reflect great credit upon those responsible for academic instruction and those who instil and cultivate the necessary military qualities.
There has been confusion as to the real costs of the proposed academy. In 1977 the Government approved a limit-of-cost estimate of $49m for the construction of the Academy. That estimate was based on the standards applicable to university facilities for the academic buildings, and on military scales and standards for military facilities. The basic estimate has held good in real terms and the only reason why the currently estimated construction cost is $63m in February 1980 prices is the movement of prices over the past three years. The operating cost of the Academy is fixed by what would be allocated to a university with similar functions, and by approved military standards.
It is estimated that the Academy will cost $3 3 m each year in current prices, compared with $39m each year if the existing single service colleges were to continue their present roles for the number of cadets required. Clearly this cost increment, and particularly its cumulative effect, would be unacceptably extravagant.
The cost of retaining the present arrangements cannot validly be compared with the cost of the Academy because only at the Academy can cadets receive full degree courses within an effective military environment.
The Academy has been given a place and a priority in the long-term program of defence expenditure, in competition with a long list of demands for other activities and projects. This provision recognises the importance to the longterm interest of the nation of the best possible foundation for the careers of Service officers.
Some critics appear to see the Academy as a first step towards the integration of the Services. In fact, a fundmental requirement of a tri-service academy is that its military functions must fully recognise the unique character of each service. At the same time, because of the basic similarity of the educational requirements of the services, one academy can provide cadets with full degree courses which reflect particular military interests where this is relevant.
I have said that the Government had in mind some important changes to the proposal as envisaged in the Bill. Let me state them. The Government has accepted that the establishment of an autonomous university would be innovative. The Government has closely considered the arguments against such a proposal. The Government has concluded that the requisite university education within a military environment cannot be achieved only by the creation of an autonomous university. The Minister for Defence therefore asked the University of New South Wales if it would agree to explore the feasibility of alternative arrangements which would also ensure the academic integrity of the Academy. The Vice-Chancellor replied on 12 May last to this effect:
Today the University Council received and considered the advice of the Professorial Board on the matters you raised with us. The Board had resolved in favour of the university assisting in the process of establishing the Academy. Council resolved as follows:
That Council, noting the Government’s intention to establish a Defence Academy, approve in principle the establishment of an arrangement whereby the university would ensure the academic integrity of the proposed new institutution, perhaps by the means of its establishment as a college of the university.
During the discussion in the University it emerged that there is general acceptance of the belief that the experiment with the Royal Military College and the Faculty of
Military Studies has been very successsful. The experience we have gained during the last dozen years has convinced me and the great majority of my academic colleagues that it is indeed possible to work co-operatively and fruitfully with both civilian and military officers of the defence system to develop a first-class educational programme for the preparation of Defence Force officers. I am confident that the goodwill and understanding that has been built up during this process and the experience we have gained will stand us in good stead as we proceed to the next important stage. My senior colleagues and I stand ready to continue discussion with you and your officers.
This further demonstration of the University’s willingness to enter into this most important function is gratifying. Of course negotiations will be necessary between the University and the Department of Defence before final arrangements can be concluded.
Recent studies have supported our original intention to construct the Academy on a site adjacent to the Royal Military College, Duntroon. This means that the College, rich in military history and tradition, will remain to be the centre of Army officer development. Similarly the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay and the Royal Australian Air Force establishment at Point Cook will continue to be used for general officer training which does not involve university studies.
The difficulties we face under the currrent single-service officer-education arrangements can no longer be tolerated. At stake are provisions for the very long term to ensure the production of well-equipped officers to lead the nation’s armed Services. Delay must compromise that objective. Therefore the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) is to seek approval for the construction of the Academy so that detailed planning can proceed immediately. Consequent upon the Government’s decision to seek to establish a defence academy in a form of association with the University of New South Wales the Government will, at an appropriate time, withdraw the Bill introduced in April 1978.
-by leave- I move:
It is sometimes said that a rose by any other name smells the same or something like that. I have forgotten the exact literary allusion. The statement brought down by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in the House of Representatives and incorporated in Hansard in this place by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) on what was once called the Casey University, then the Military Academy and now the Defence Force Academy is extraordinary. First of all, it is an abandonment of many of the arguments which the Government advanced previously in relation to this institution. It is a change from those arguments, and a classic compromise which, in fact, is not a compromise in terms of the cost involved. It bears very close examination by this Parliament. The statement by the Minister for Defence contains one or two quite extraordinary passages to which I wish to refer. After reciting the rather extraordinary and bizarre history of this proposal in the early parts of his statement, the Minister goes on to refer to some of the ‘principles’ which have guided the Government in relation to this institution. On page 2 of the prepared copy of his statement, the Minister enunciates one of those principles. He states:
The second principle which the Government . . . hold strongly is that the tertiary education should be carried out within a military environment. Again, this principle is not contested.
I do not know what he means by that. I suppose he is alluding to the difficulties within the Government parties and the variety of rows the Government has had amongst its own members about the extravagence of this proposal. Perhaps that issue was not contested in the party room. Of course, it has been contested in the Parliament. In the course of debates on the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Opposition has questioned this matter and in so doing has raised the views expressed by a number of Service officers about the desirability of tertiary education for military officers being carried on in a so-called military environment. In the Senate Hansard, one will find quite lengthy extracts from letters received from serving officers, who are graduates, who question on two bases the assumptions of this process being carried out in what is called a military environment.
I wish to make some quite subjective comments about the contents of those letters. They were very much to the effect that in the 1 980s one key factor in the consideration of the training of military personnel in a tertiary situation should be the relationship of trainee Service officers to the civilian population. It was suggested that perhaps it was not the right idea in the 1980s to think that serving officers should be segregated from other university students and scholars, and other graduates, into a exclusively military environment. Two reasons were advanced for that. The first, as was put in some of that correspondence, was that serving officers in a normal civilian environment benefit from, in a sense, having to explain their role and function in society, as they see it, as members of the armed services to people who are perhaps critical of that role. The point was made also that civilian students who might be critical of that role, in a rather naive and unbalanced way, had to justify their criticisms in discussions with serving officers and that both groups benefited from that process. The point I make is that it is ridiculous to describe that so-called ‘principle’ of the Government as a principle which is not contested. It is contested and it has been contested not only within this Parliament but within the armed services.
Further down the same page of the Minister’s statement, there is another of these waffly statements. It is said: . . such an environment exists at every military academy throughout the world.
Of course, that has not been the debate within the Australian context. That debate has not been in relation so much to the types of academies which exist in other parts of the world, but about where military officers who have been trained in the military arts should receive tertiary education. In the next paragraph on page 2 of the statement, one finds something that is inconsistent with the previous statements of the Minister and the previous justifications for the Australian Defence Force Academy. The Minister stated: . . nor is there any reason why an academic institution cannot operate with a student population that is under military discipline.
I do not know where the Minister got that view from. He has been putting a totally different view for the last two years. At least it is a refreshing sign of his capacity to adopt to the changing winds of circumstance, to sense which way the breeze is blowing and make sure that he does not get caught in the draught.
There are a number of equally contentious statements throughout the text of this document which indicate its extraordinary sloppiness. In that respect it is similar to all other Government statements on the Australian Defence Force Academy. Mr Malcolm Fraser, the Prime Minister of this country, is quite determined and has been for years to get his way in this issue, in spite of opposition from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works and in spite of opposition within his own party. The basic reason for that is that it is desired to have another prestigious institution in Canberra for the benefit of foreign tourists. There does not seem to be any other justification which has been adequately explained in any of the statements that have been brought down.
I make one or two general comments about the statement in terms of priorities of expenditure in this country. It is absolute nonsense to say that the considerable cost of the Australian Defence Force Academy- $63 m at present estimates, an increase of some $ 14m in the last year or two- comes out of the Defence vote when one is considering priorities in expenditure. Of course it comes out of the Defence vote, but the implication of that statement is that it does not affect any other expenditure priority for which the Government pays. The fact is that it all comes out of the same pocket; it comes out of the pocket of the Government and, more importantly, out of the pocket of the taxpayer. The glib reassertion of the view that one does not have to worry about this in terms of its effect on education expenditure, welfare expenditure or anything else which might be important to the average Australian, because it comes out of the Defence vote, is a glib and silly assertion.
As I pointed out earlier, the arguments for training military officers in existing universities and colleges are both financial and educational. The challenge of justifying themselves in their role as military personnel and the interaction with civilians are the educational arguments. The financial argument is the great deal of space and resources which are available now in Australian universities and colleges because of the so-called steady state in education development- or the no-growth situation- which might be taken up by students in the military forces.
The third point I make is to question the basis of the costing of this military Academy. The statement of the Minister for Defence says that the Academy will cost $33m each year in recurrent costs. One can do a little exercise and take, for example, a figure of 130,000 full time university students in Australia and divide it into the universities’ recurrent budget of $1,1 00m. That is a figure of about $8,000 a year in recurrent costs to keep an Australian student at an Australian university. The Australian Defence Force Adademy will have 1,200 students. If we finance the Australian Defence Force Academy in recurrent terms on the same basis as we finance Australia’s 19 universities then the annual cost should be about $9m, not $33m which is the estimated recurrent costs in the statement of the Minister for Defence.
Of course, one has to admit that the costs of engineering and science courses, for example, are higher because of the maintenance and upkeep of laboratory equipment and things of that kind. As most universities include those facilities an estimated recurrent cost of $33m for the proposed Defence Force Academy is extraordinarily high. It is nonsense to claim that if the military students were spread amongst existing universities and colleges in Australia the cost would be the present cost per head obtained by dividing the total budget by the number of students. The marginal costs would be much less because the students would be using facilities already in existence, already provided and some of which are underutilised.
In connection with the Australian Defence Force Academy, we again as we have done on numerous occasions challenge the Government to provide a full statement on the costs. We ask: Will we now get a full statement on the costs? Will we now get an explanation of the recurrent costs estimate? Will we get an explanation of the capital costs estimate or will we have to go through the process we went through with the Fill aircraft year after year and pursue this in questions and so on in the Parliament? Will we have to go on in the way we have had to do with the High Court extravaganza and other extravaganzas of the Fraser Government in relation to the question of costs for the Casey UniversityAustralian Defence Force Academy?
In relation to the Australian Defence Academy I want to make some points about relative costing in terms of the priorities of the Fraser Government. Let us look at some other areas of government spending and compare them with the $33m annual recurrent costs estimate of this Academy. In capital terms it will cost $63m to build. All these figures are, as I have said, to use a phrase which is endemic of the Fraser Government, a bit rubbery. If one looks at the comparative costs in selected areas of expenditure by the Government one can see what is, in fact, happening in terms of priorities. Let us look, first of all, particularly at the area of education. In the 1 980 academic year capital funding for colleges and universities was reduced from $106m to $89. 6m in December 1978 prices; a cut of $16. 4m, which is half the recurrent costs of running Casey University. Secondly, in special programs covering services and development, education centres and special projects of that kind funds were cut from $20.7m to $ 15.6m; a cut of $5.1 m. Let us look at programs which are vital to the education of all Australian children, not just those who have been fortunate enough to go on to tertiary education. The capital grants made by the Fraser Government in 1980 to government schools were cut from $ 137.2m to $93.2m; a cut of $44m in capital costs. We cannot find $44m to upgrade government schools in this country or build new schools in areas where they are sorely needed.
We cannot find that sort of money, but we can find $63m in capital expenditure for the Australian Defence Force Academy. Look at the position of non-government schools. We see a cut of $6.2m from $32.3m to $26. lm in relation to capital costs. These are the schools which the Prime Minister claimed only a week ago the Government was so concerned to look after.
Other vital areas of need including disadvantaged country area programs, disadvantaged schools in the cities, special education, children in institutions, handicapped children in Australia all need more attention. All these areas were held steady in terms of government funding in 1980. These things- the degree of education, the degree of disadvantage, the degree of inequality in the education system- are very vital to the social cohesion of this society and, in a sense, are relevant to the issues of defence and the capacity of this country to resist aggression of one kind or another and to see itself as a unified country which is capable of responding in a consensual way to the challenges which it will face. More importantly, we should look at the expenditure cuts in the vital areas of research in universities and colleges, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and so on. The National Health and Medical Research Council suffered a cut in real terms of $0.3m from $ 14.3m to $ 14m in 1979-80 prices over 1978-79 prices.
It is an area of concern which Australia should be developing rather than letting languish and an area in which Australia has a unique contribution to make in this part of the world because of the developing countries surrounding us. The same sort of attitude was expressed in government policies in relation to research grants in matters such as marine science, CSIRO and defence science all of which show no growth in real terms. The Bureau of Mineral Resources is yet another example. Its funds are down $0.4m in 1979-80 compared with 1978-79.
All these things illustrate this Government’s priorities. I say quite frankly on behalf of the Opposition that this white elephant, this Australian Defence Force Academy, which is a priority only in the minds of a few of the obsessed in the Government, will come to haunt this Government in terms of the priorities which it has for the Australian people. This Government has the most shonky defence record of any government in the history of this country. Over the last three years necessary expenditure on defence has been over $ 1,500m below government projections. Other areas of priority to which 1 have referred are continually allowed to run down, to languish and build up backlogs of needs in this society.
These needs are of fundamental importance to the future of the country in the long term. That is something which, with the greatest respect, the Opposition does not think can be said for the Australian Defence Force Academy. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill contains a number of individual amendments to the parent Wool Industry Act. The major amendment provides for the return to contributing wool growers of their contributions to the Wool Market Support Fund- a five per cent levy which was initiated by the Federal Labor Government in 1974 to underwrite the wool reserve price scheme. It was understood by most people associated with the industry and certainly by most wool growers at the time and had long been advocated by the Labor Party that this fund ought to revolve after it reached a reserve of $300m to $350m. We welcome the agreement of the Government expressed in this Bill that this should be done. We will therefore be supporting the Bill.
However, although we agree with the major issue we have some reservations about the procedures which the Government intends to follow not only now but also in the future. We accept that because of the paucity of records available directly to the Australian Wool Corporation it is necessary that wool brokers and other wool traders be involved in the redistribution of the 1974-75 wool growers’ contribution in the coming financial year. But since this administrative procedure will necessarily be overseen by the Australian Wool Corporation it follows inevitably that there will be a significant degree of administrative duplication. For that reason we believe that once sufficient information has been collected in the central records of the Australian Wool Corporation- proposed Division 6 of the Wool Industry Amendment Bill provides the mechanism by which such information could be collected- the administration for the redistribution of funds should be transferred entirely to the Corporation. Therefore, I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– The amendment is consistent with the view I have expressed that we recognise that the brokers and other agents must necessarily be involved in the initial stages. But we believe it is possible and preferable ultimately to transfer the administration entirely to the Corporation. I do not know what the Government’s reaction to this will be. It did not receive very much consideration in the House of Representatives. Those honourable senators who vote against this amendment will be voting for the duplication of administrative expenses presumably in perpetuity. That is probably what the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia would like them to do. I dare say that organisation has the ear of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Prime Minister will decide the way in which honourable senators who sit on the other side of the aisle will vote, as he normally does.
I must take to task the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) who introduced this Bill, for the assertion at the end of his second reading speech that adequate consultation had taken place with the industry on this matter. That is a very serious misstatement of the facts. A draft Bill was not made available to members of the Wool Council of Australian until about three hours before the legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives. Even then I think they may have obtained it through irregular procedures. The legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on a Thursday night. It was pushed through on the following Thursday afternoon. I note that this contrasts quite starkly, and for the Government very badly, with the procedures followed by the Labor Government in 1974 when major amendments were made to the Wool Marketing Act.
The Wool Industry Bill of 1974-a major Billwas introduced on 17 July and passed by the House of Representatives on 25 September. In other words 70 days were allowed for consideration and consultation by parliamentarians and by other people interested in the industry. The second BUI to amend the Wool Industry Act to provide for the reserve price scheme did not have that long. It was introduced on 19 November and passed through the House of Representatives on 4 December. It had 15 days for consideration by the House of Representatives. On the other hand, this Government allowed less than one week for the Bill to pass through the House of Representatives. We all know that in the vast majority of cases, contrary to the cant and humbug we sometimes hear about the Senate being a House of review, once a Bill is passed through the House of Representatives it is assured of automatic passage through the Senate.
I should like to refer to the other significant changes in the Bill. Clause 7 of the amending Bill provides that the pre-marketing costs incurred by the Corporation be set as a debit against the Market Support Fund instead of it being taken out of the general administration of the expenses of the Corporation, as at present. In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) said:
Clauses 1 1 and 12 provide the enabling authority for the future matching by the Government, on a dollar for dollar basis,-
That is, of industry contributions to research and promotion expenditure. I certainly do not claim to have any particular aptitude for translating into comprehensible English the language in which legislation is normally written but it is not clear to me whether the Bill provides for a dollar for dollar matching if the Government chooses to do so or whether it makes a dollar for dollar matching of research and promotion expenditure mandatory on the Government. I hope that the Minister will clarify that point either at the end of the second reading debate or during the Committee stage.
I will take up those clauses during the Committee stage but would like to make a few further comments now. The proposal in clause 7 of the Bill to transfer the pre-marketing costs from the account from which it is presently funded and to record them as a debit against the Market Support Fund made a number of wool growers suspicious- they still are suspicious- of the ultimate consequence of that change. They fear that this may be the first step towards a substantial transfer in the current availability of the $300m or thereabouts currently held in the Market Support Fund to the general purposes of the Government. In other words they fear a raid on that trust fund and on other trust funds. Again, I do not feel competent to make a finite judgment on this matter but on the record there is certainly ample justification for the wool grower’s fears. I should like to refer to a letter dated 17 July 1979 by the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, to Mr Ives, the then Chairman of the Australian Wool Corporation, in which Mr Sinclair stated:
It has been the established practice to reserve part of the wool tax receipts to meet pre-marketing-
He was talking about the 3 per cent levy- administrative cost of the Wool Corporation. The amount estimated as necessary for this purpose in 1 979-80 is $3. 3m.
I interpolate to say that I understand that the estimate for next year is $4m. The letter continues:
Having regard to the foregoing funding circumstances, but viewing quite objectively the accounting practices appropriate to the Corporation’s wool marketing activities, I propose that for 1979-80, and in future, the pre-marketing administration expenses be met from Corporation income other than wool tax.
These pre-marketing expenses previously had been met from the wool tax or, more accurately, from the 3 per cent levy- that term is perhaps more comprehensible to the farmers- but will in future be met from Corporation income other than income from the wool tax. That signifies a clear intention by the Government at that time to raid the trust funds. That intention became clearer in a letter of 3 October 1979 from the present Minister for Primary Industry to the Farmers’ Union of Western Australia (lnc). Mr Nixon said:
As to the financing of the Corporation’s pre-marketing administration costs, there does not appear to be a strong reason for requiring growers to continue financing such costs by way of levy on wool sales. The vast bulk of these costs is incurred in pre-sale appraisal work for the purposes of the Corporation’s market support activities -
I understand that that is an accurate claim- and there is obvious logic in having those costs brought to account as pan of the costs of the market support activities.
I think that is more a matter of opinion than of inescapable logic. The letter continues:
Immediately, however, the Wool Industry Act does not permit the costs to be met in this way, and an amendment of the Act would be necessary before the costs could be introduced as a debit against the market support function.
I presume that we now have that amendment. The letter goes on:
There is nothing in the Act which would prevent the Corporation from bringing other non-tax or non-wool trading income into use in meeting the pre-marketing costs, and this course is being followed for 1 979/80.
In other words, the Minister is telegraphing his intention to raid the trust funds. If my interpretation is correct, that raid is recorded in note 1 9 which is appended to the accounts of the Wool Corporation’s annual report 1978-79. The note records the transfer of just over $4m to a promotion reserve fund which, I gather, financed some of the promotion expenditure this year, thereby relieving the Government of its obligation. I do not know whether the fear held by some wool growers that the Government will opt out of responsibilities previously accepted by governments of both sides in assisting to finance wool promotion and research is completely accurate, but the record of the Government certainly provides ample justification for the suspicion. Mr Nixon ‘s letter further states:
As you will be aware, the Corporation, at least for the present, is in a position of substantial funds liquidity, and is well placed to meet the costs in 1 979-80 in this way.
The legislation now before us evidently enacts the Government’s intention which was spelt out by the Minister on 3 October 1979. In both the letters from the present Minister and the former Minister for Primary Industry from which I have quoted the Government draws a distinction between what it calls wool tax income to the Corporation and other income accruing to the Corporation. That distinction is spurious. It is particularly spurious if the dollar for dollar matching requirement, referred to in the Minister’s second reading speech and in clauses 1 1 and 12 of the Bill, is not mandatory. I say that for these reasons. The 5 per cent market support levy and the fund in which it accumulated was exclusively reserved for market support until this Bill was introduced. No administrative costs were taken out of it. Therefore the belief in the industry was that the levy market support was ultimately entirely returnable to the growers who had contributed to it, or at least to the overwhelming majority of growers who could be traced. So that was exclusively reserved for that purpose. The Corporation, for other financial commitments and administration, had to get its current financial needs from the 3 per cent levy, from its reserves or from other income accruing to the Corporation. Substantial income accrues from the lease of wool stores. I think the amount was about $6m in the last year that these figures were recorded.
If the Government transfers part of the administrative costs of the Corporation to the market support fund from those other sources of revenue obviously, other things being equal, more money either contributed by wool growers or accruing as income to the Corporation- which is ultimately, I think one could argue, the property of wool growers- would be available for the Corporation’s other financial commitments. If the dollar for dollar Government contribution is not mandatory the Government can withdraw from its previously accepted financial commitment to promotion and research to the extent that the liquidity position of the Corporation is improved by the transfer of expenditure from the general administration to the market support fund. If the dollar for dollar matching provision- I think that was the phrase the Minister used in his second reading speech- is not mandatory, the question then arises of whether, unless there is a substantial increase in total expenditure on promotion and research, funds will continue to accumulate in those accounts.
I find it extraordinary, especially when measured against the proposition which has just come before the Senate, that the Government is going through this devious procedure just to enable it to welch on a 50 per cent contribution to expenditure of about $4m a year on wool promotion and research. I refer to the statement of intention by the Government to squander what it estimates to be $63, and goodness knows how much ultimately, on this tri-service academy- I think that is the current euphemism for it- this Prime Ministerial whim which has long been dear to the heart of the Prime Minister. However, such an intention would certainly be consistent with the Government’s record.
I have a table derived from various annual reports of the Australian Wool Corporation which lists the contribution from governments and wool growers to research and promotion in each year from 1973-74 to 1978-79. It states the current income to the Corporation accruing from what is now the 3 per cent levy from its reserves and from its other sources of income. What emerges very clearly is that the Government has been financing a smaller and smaller proportion of that expenditure over the six-year period. In 1973-74 the Government contributed over 58 per cent of the total expenditure; in 1 974-75 it contributed just under 57 per cent; in 1975-76 it contributed 43 per cent; in 1976-77 it contributed 41 per cent; and in 1977-78 it contributed 48.3 per cent, a figure which I think is partly due to the low collection of- the levy that year. In the last finanical year 1978-79 the Government contributed 39.3 per cent.
– That is supposed to be the party that is the farmers’ friend.
– That is exactly right. In fact, compared with the Labor Government which has been much reviled by members of the present Government, especially the members of the National Country Party, this Government is picking up a much smaller proportion of expenditure on wool research and promotion. It has not escaped the notice of the wool growers. In a Press release issued on 12 May Mr O’Brien, President of the Wool Council of Australia, said:
The Australian Government has been progressively abdicating its responsibility in wool promotion having provided some 40 per cent of promotion moneys in 1 978-79.
Mr O’Brien of course is correct, and the Government’s action has not entirely escaped the notice of the industry.
If the Government’s intention- as I mentioned before, I hope that these matters will be definitively clarified either in the Minister’s response to this debate or in the Committee stage- is to provide a smaller contribution to wool industry promotion and research in the future, it should have the decency to argue openly and honestly for that proposition and not, as at least a substantial section of the wool growers suspect, amend the Wool Industry Act in a manner which camouflages such a transfer of fiscal responsibility from government back to the industry.
– The principles embodied in the Wool Industry Amendment Bill, as I understand it, are not opposed by the Opposition. The purposes of the Bill are well known. It aims basically to provide for the continuation of the operation of the Wool Market Support Fund and the floor price mechansim. I will not weary the Senate with further comment on that. The Government opposes the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Walsh. It does so on the very respectable grounds, as I remind the Senate that the Wool Council of Australia, on behalf of growers, believes that the reticulation of the refunds as provided for in the Bill is the appropriate mechanism. One of the important things to note, I think, is what the growers attitudes may be.
The arrangement for repayments through brokers and wool dealers was the subject of substantial consideration in the development of the scheme. I am advised that the Australian Wool Corporation concedes that it could not handle the whole operation more cheaply than by using the services of brokers or dealers. Brokers and dealers are strongly opposed to the Australian Wool Corporation dealing directly with their clients on matters involving commercial transactions and relations between brokers, dealers and their clients. Brokers and dealers have extensive detailed knowledge of wool sales involving tax, identification and whereabouts of eligible growers in the thousands of individual transactions annually at issue. They are generally in an excellent position to act as agents for growers. One would therefore not accept the concept put forward by the Opposition.
I turn to a number of points made by Senator Walsh. He referred to the question of government consultation on the Bill. I am advised that there was a process of consultation with the
Wool Council of Australia throughout the period of some three months during which the Bill was drafted. There may be some differences of opinion in relation to individual aspects provided for in the Bill, but the Government was in consultation with the national council as the national body representative of growers. The national council has not insisted that alternative provisions be made in respect of matters such as meeting marketing administration costs mentioned by the honourable senator.
The Government has not altered its commitment to contributing jointly with growers to the funding of wool promotion. As announced in 1977, the Government will determine the amount of its contribution annually and announce it in the context of the Budget. The decision to transfer the Australian Wool Corporation’s pre-purchase costs from being met by wool tax income and to being taken into the trading and profit and loss account has nothing sinister about it. It is a very logical approach.
The question of matching funds dollar for dollar was raised. I am advised that the simple explanation is that dollar for dollar matching is guaranteed by sub-clause (ab) of clause 1 1 of the Bill, which reads: (ab) amounts equal to the amounts from time to time expended from the account kept in accordance with paragraph 68a (a);
If a more complex answer is required, I am advised that the effect of clause 11 (a) of the Bill is that tax receipts only are to be paid into the account described in paragraph (a) of proposed new section 68A. Clause 1 1 (ab) of the Bill provides that there shall be paid into the account described in paragraph (b) of proposed new section 68A amounts equal to amounts expended from the account described in paragraph (a) of proposed new section 6 8 A, the account containing levy proceeds only. Hence dollar for dollar matchings of tax collected after 30 June 1 980 is automatic as soon as the levy revenue is spent.
I make one other comment. An endeavour was made to suggest that the Australian Labor Party, when in office, was more generous in this area. I am advised that when last in office Labor introduced a principle of contributing only 25 per cent of wool promotion costs. The basis of contribution by this Government has been substantially more generous. We reject the amendment. I commend the second reading of the Bill to the Senate.
That the amendment (Senator Walsh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to refer to clauses 7, 10, 1 1 and 12. I do not wish to move any amendments. In regard to clause 7- the debiting of pre-marketing costs to the Market Support Fund instead of the other accounts of the Australian Wool Corporation- it is quite clear that if this is done there will be less money in the Market Support Fund either to support the market, its primary purpose, or ultimately to redistribute to those wool growers who contributed to it. If my understanding about the matching requirements of industry funds under clauses 1 1 and 12 is correctthere is one reservation about that which I will take up when we come to those clauses- the expenditure from the levies struck for wool promotion and research will be reduced to the extent that it is transferred to the Market Support Fund. Therefore, other things being equal, the necessity to collect money from wool growers for promotion and research levies will be reduced. For reasons which I will give in regard to clauses 1 1 and 12,I am still not entirely sure whether other things will be entirely equal.
On the question of consultation Senator Carrick said in reply at the second reading stage that consultations occurred with the national body. I presume he means the Wool Council of Australia. I have a telex from MrO’Connell, who is a member of the Wool Council of Australia, in which, among other things, he says:
Contrary to Minister Nixon’s final statement in second reading speech, the industry has not been briefed on the structure and effect of the new research funding measures.
Senator Carrick might believe that adequate consultation took place with the Wool Council of Australia, but one member of the Wool Council clearly does not believe that. To pursue the point a bit further, when was a copy of the draft legislation made available to the Wool Council?
– The advice I have is that the Government made every reasonable effort to inform growers and to assure them that the nature of the contents of the legislation being drafted was indicated to the Wool Council. As to the question of when a copy was supplied, I must seek that advice. I am told by my advisers that the actual draft Bill was not shown to the Council, but details of the Bill were referred to it by discussion.
– I would like to clarify Division 6 of clause 10, the procedures for the redistribution of the market support funds to the contributing wool growers. There is one point which needs to be clarified. We of the Australian Labor Party clearly agree with the Government and the Wool Council that it is necessary in the initial stages for the wool brokers to be involved in the administration and the repayment of the money. We do not agree, and as far as I know it is not Wool Council policy, that the wool brokers should continue to do that forever. As far as I am aware, the Wool Council has not expressed, at least in public, a view on that matter at all.
The Opposition agrees that it is necessary in the initial stages because only the wool brokers and the other traders have physical possession of the necessary records, but the requirements on brokers, agents and others under Division 6,- proposed new sections 42X, 42Y and 42AB- clearly would enable the Corporation in the longer term to have in its own possession centralisedrecords. The purpose of our amendment- it did not propose to amend the legislation, of course, but just expressed an opinion of the Parliament- was that when that position is reached the administration of the redistribution should be fully transferred to the Wool Corporation to avoid the unnecessary, or what would by then be unnecessary, duplication of administrativeeffort which is entailed in the present arrangements. We recognise that for ephemeral reasons it is necessary to have the wool brokers involved in the repayment of the money.
– At the outset I declare an interest in this matter. For some years I was a director of a wool broking firm in Western Australia. To that extent I have some interest in the matter. I would like to raise two matters. They arise under proposed new section 42 and relate to the revolving fund. The first matter is the confidentiality of growers’ information. I notice that under the provisions of the Bill many penalties are to be imposed for the disclosure of information by officers of the Australian Wool Corporation either to other sections of the Corporation or to other wool brokers. I am reasonably satisfied that that would be a sufficient deterrent for growers’ information not to be divulged to other brokers.
I am not quite so happy about the second matter which is the requirement for the Corporation to establish the method of reporting the wool grower information to the Corporation itself. The wool brokers, particularly the bigger ones, have a very sophisticated method of recording information. If the brokers are asked to transfer that information on to a form designed by the Corporation, without any method of consultation between the brokers and the Corporation, that will place an enormous burden and enormous cost of time and money on to individual brokers just to comply with what might be quite a superfluous requirement by the Corporation. I strongly recommend- I ask the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) for some assurance that the Corporation will- that the Corporation discuss this matter with the brokers to see whether they can come up with some sensible compromise as to the method of reporting the information from the brokers to the Corporation.
– I am advised that if it subsequently became obviously appropriate for the Australian Wool Corporation to operate the scheme entirely, that measure could be provided by amendment to this legislation. However, I understand that all parties agree at this point that the provisions in the Bill are appropriate procedures. As to Senator Thomas’s suggestions, I think they are best accommodated by my drawing the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) to them and asking him to give them earnest consideration.
– My remarks are related to clauses 1 1 and 12.I could not follow the statement which I think Senator Carrick was reading out. He referred to numerous provisions both in the principal Act and in the Bill on the question of the dollar for dollar matching of contributions. The statement was prepared by the Department of Primary Industry and for that reason I accept what he said as being correct. I wonder whether it tells the whole story. If I understand it correctly, it is mandatory for the Government to match on a dollar for dollar basis current tax contributions for research and promotion. It is not mandatory for the Government to match on a dollar for dollar basis expenditure on research and promotion that may be funded either from the Australian Wool Corporation’s existing reserves or from its sources of income other than the wool levy. From memory I think the Corporation receives about $8m from the letting of wool stores. A number of other smaller sources of income are available to the Corporation. My further question is: Would expenditure on promotion and research drawn from those sources be also matched dollar for dollar by the Commonwealth?
The other point I make is that although Senator Carrick did not claim that what I had said about the relative contributions of government and industry to research and promotion expenditure was not true, he implied that. He said that the Labor Government introduced a policy of contributing 25 per cent to promotion. When asked what the contribution to research was he remained silent. If my memory serves me correctly, I think he is correct about the 25 per cent. Nevertheless, the figures I quoted in the debate on the second reading showed a decline in the government contribution to research and promotion collectively between 1973-74 and 1978-79 from 58 per cent to just under 40 per cent. I particularly would like answers to the questions I asked. I hope the Minister can respond.
– I am advised that at present it is not mandatory for the Government to match that contribution on a dollar for dollar basis, although that objective has been followed. As to the second question, I understand that the answer is no. I am advised that the Government took over 60 per cent of the cost of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s operations after the Labor Government ceased to be in office. Therefore, there is a new basis at the moment.
– I am not clear about either answer, but I will not pursue the matter on which the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) has just spoken. I am not clear about the answer to this question: If money is spent on research and promotion from the existing Australian Wool Corporation reserves or from Corporation income other than the wool tax, is it mandatory for that expenditure to be matched dollar for dollar by the Government?
– My advice is that the answer to that question is no.
– I will be very brief in my remarks in the Committee stage. This must be a very interesting and enlightening day for the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) who has so often in this place accused the Australian Labor Party, when in government and now in Opposition, of not having the interests of primary producers at heart. The fact that he has been in charge of this Bill would have been an education for him. He has heard the remarks of Senator Walsh who is a wool grower, he has had the advice of the officers from the Department of Primary Industry and he has read the second reading speech where it is admitted that if it had not been for the floor price plan introduced by a Labor government there would have been disastrous results for the Australian wool industry. It has been said on many occasions that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. That might not be true so much today. However, Australia would certainly not have been riding on the sheep’s back if it had not been for the foresight of Senator Wriedt when he was Minister for Agriculture in introducing legislation of this nature which the Government has now sought to amend and which we fully support.
I say again that this must be a very enlightening day for the Minister. I hope the fact that he has been in charge of this Bill has been a great education for him, that in the future we will not hear Senator Carrick in this place castigating members on this side of the chamber, saying that we have no interest in primary industry and that we could not care less about primary producers. I think this Bill is conclusive proof that we have an interest in primary producers and that when we are in government we legislate to assist primary industry wherever we can. This Bill is clear evidence of that intention of the Labor Party.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29 April on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
-This afternoon I intend to outline how the Government has become so entangled in its own economic policies that it is making it more and more difficult for young people to obtain a job. The word has got around amongst young people that it is now an inevitable fact of life that they can expect no assistance from the Commonwealth Employment Service unless they have first been unemployed for a signficant period.
In the Budget last year there was a significant reduction in the amount allotted for employment training schemes. In fact the amount decreased from $ 122.4m in 1978-79 to $74.4m in the Budget for 1979-80. If one takes into account the inflation rate over the same period, they will see that the reduction of $48m is of even greater significance than the unadjusted figures suggest. A number of schemes share the reduced allocation. The principal ones are the National Employment and Training System, or NEAT as it is called, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, SYETP, and the Education Program for Unemployed Youth. I shall give a brief outline of NEAT and SYETP as it is these two which are causing great concern for many young school leavers. The objectives of NEAT were outlined in the Budget Papers last year. These objectives are: to provide assistance on an individual basis which enables training to be undertaken towards employment in occupations which are in demand; to offset employment problems being experienced by groups of persons by providing specifically designed training programs; and to contribute to the supply of skills identified as being in short supply by the provision of specialised training programs.
Last year’s Budget Papers mentioned that NEAT assistance is provided to eligible trainees undertaking on-the-job, full time or part time training for skills in demand in the labour market. It was also outlined that employers providing on-the-job training receive subsidies towards the wages of those trainees. The Special Youth Employment Training Program provides employment training for the young unemployed who have been out of employment or full-time education for four of the previous 12 months. During the four months of training under SYETP the wages of the employee are subsidised. Despite the reduction in the amount allocated for NEAT and SYETP for this financial year it appears that the funds were greatly underspent in the first half of the financial year. It has been rumoured widely that a great amount of the funds allocated in the Budget has remained unspent. If this is so, it is a scandal. With the lack of employment, especially the lack of youth employment, so extreme, the funds that Parliament made available should have been used and not allowed to accumulate. There now appears to be distinct evidence that the funds have been underspent and that over the past months panic moves have set in to ensure that the year’s financial allocation is expended.
I have been verbally informed that Commonwealth Employment Service officers have been directed to push the employment of people who are eligible for NEAT and SYETP.Certain Commonwealth Employment Service officers have been set targets of NEAT and SYETP applicants who must be placed each week. The CES staff has been informed that the targets are ‘not negotiable’. An outcome of this decision, obviously fed by a need to spend NEAT and SYETP funds before the end of the financial year, is that those who have been unemployed for less than four months have little chance of any assistance from the CES, irrespective of their abilities. One senior CES officer remarked to me: ‘In all my years in the CES I have referred people to jobs on the basis of suitability for a particular type of work. However, I now have to pass over suitable people for others who can qualify for either NEAT or SYETP’. In other words, two groups of people are not getting a fair go-the employers, who would prefer to have the most suitable person referred to them, and those amongst the unemployed who have well developed skills in particular areas but who have not been unemployed for an extensive period. CES service to the public and to its unemployed clients is likely to become no more than superficial if this situation continues.
Few would argue that the long-term unemployed do not deserve to be assisted and given a chance to obtain employment. On the other hand, any program to assist this group should not be spasmodic and should not be turned on for the sake of political expediency. Some CES officers are convinced that they are being forced to make the Government’s training program appear to be a success. They would have no cause for concern about this if others were not to suffer because of the policies they are forced to implement. But the plain facts are that they do have cause for concern. I urge the Government to consider carefully the implications of the current drive to expend its funds in this area. If it is going to be better to all concerned to admit mismanagement with available funds through the financial year, it would be far better to do so. The welfare of the unemployed is too important to be subjected to stop-go programs based on funds which have been accumulated because of months of mismanagement.
-I would like to use this first reading debate of the Wool Tax (No. 1 ) Amendment Bill this evening to make a couple of comments on the latest air fare rise application. Those who heard me speak in this House about a fortnight ago would have heard me defend the efficiency of our domestic trunk carriers and their air fare structure, but the latest air fare rise causes me to express a little concern.
The Australian airline industry has grown up under what has become known as the two-airline policy or the two-airline agreement. This policy has served Australia well. It has allowed both domestic airlines to service a viable market. It has provided a safe and reliable airline system not only on the high density routes between the capital cities, but also all over Australia. Some would say that it has been too cosy a relationship. I will not debate that. There has always been competition. Some people would say not enough, but then again probably more competition than many people would realise. The Domestic Air Transport Policy Review Committee indicated that things should be loosened up a bit. At the beginning of this year we saw two new entrepreneurs take over Ansett Airlines of
Australia. I think the new era of competition was welcomed by those who follow it. But what has this new era provided us with?
– Are you referring to the competition for the liquor cabinet?
– We are about to get on to that. I will go through what this new era has provided us with. First of all, it has provided free drinks in first class. It is interesting to note that the Domestic Air Transport Policy Review Committee found that first class passengers were being subsidised to a certain extent by economy passengers. I am not sure that the restructuring of the fares since then has made much difference. Undoubtedly, the economy class passengers will be paying for the free drinks. As a sop to the economy class passengers hot dinners and fruit juice were provided to them. We then heard of such things as the Ansabox open sandwich. We saw some concessional fare restructuring. Well, now, dear air traveller, in the name of new-found competition you have received all these goodies. I do not think you wanted them. I do not think you need them. I am sure you were not asked about them. I am positive you were not aware of the sting. The sting is that you are to be charged ultimately for them. An application has been made for a 5 per cent fare increase. In other words, you have been conned. I suppose that this is the by-product of the hire purchase society. It is a case of drink now and pay later.
These innovations were introduced by the two entrepreneurs who took over Ansett Transport Industries. It is hard to arrive at a cost for these innovations because the company is pretty close mouthed about it. Industry sources lead me to believe that the cost will be between $4m and $6m which the Ansett organisation hopes to pick up by the traffic it will lure from Trans-Australia Airlines. As a competitor of Ansett, TAA did not take this lying down. It provided similar goodies as well as a few fare restructures of its own. Thus, the two airlines have committed themselves to expend around $10m a year while carrying the same number of passengers. Therefore we are faced with an increase in air fares. Heaven knows what the advertising cost has been to convince people how well off they would be with all these goodies. The airlines are committed to a cost of about $ 1 Om with the same number of passengers being carried. Somebody has to meet that cost.
Unfortunately, the effect of the new innovations does not necessarily stop there. I understand that in the DC9 aircraft there is not enough room in the galleys to carry all the hot meals. Currently 40 per cent of passengers are getting cold hot meals. It will cost money to update those galleys. The average flight sector in Australia is about 830 kilometres. In other words, the sectors on which many passengers fly take a little more than an hour. That means that the hostesses are busy girls in that hour. They are serving hot dinners. Obviously, their workload will come into consideration. It probably will not be too long before extra cabin crew members are sought on aircraft. Under our air navigation regulations the prime reason for employing hostesses is one of safety. They are required to ensure a quick evacuation of an aircraft in the event of a mishap. Now they are being loaded with extra work. They will probably not be able to handle it properly. We shall need more of them which, of course, will be an extra cost.
I submit that the majority of travellers are interested only in going from point A to point B in as short a time as possible and in as comfortable a manner as possible. A cup of tea and a snack with something more substantial for long distance travellers helps to provide that comfort. I do not think that many passengers are interested in an aerodynamic restaurant with charges made accordingly. In any case, the cooking is not up to that standard. Previously I have defended our domestic air fare structure. But if the airlines are to move from a privileged and, as some people suggest, protected position to a new era of competition which will mean increased fares to pay for services, not asked for, not wanted and not needed, the Government will have to look seriously at the applications for fare increases. If it is not prepared to delete the cost of those unasked for services Australia should look for a third service. Such a service could easily be provided by the third level carriers such as EastWest Airlines Ltd, Bush Pilot Airways Ltd and numerous others. The Government will have to look towards giving those airlines permission to import aircraft which will allow them to introduce a no-frills service to bring the two major operators back to reality. Perhaps a no-frills service could be introduced in Australia as it was on routes across the Atlantic. The major international airlines had to look very seriously at their fare structure following the introduction of that service. I ask the Government to look seriously at the applications for fare increases. Failing that, it should look seriously at the possibility of providing a no-frills service so that the people of Australia can use aircraft in the way they are meant to be used, not as aerodynamic restaurants but as the means to move quickly and comfortably from point A to point B.
– I take advantage of the first reading of this money Bill to raise a matter concerning a report that was tendered to the Parliament about a fortnight ago by the Copyright Tribunal on the royalty payable in respect of records generally. I note that the matter is not on the Notice Paper at the moment. Because it appears to me that recommendations are being made to the Government at this stage by the Copyright Tribunal, I feel that I should say something about the matter. Since I have been a member of the Australian Parliament I have always advocated a better use of the skills and talents of Australian writers, composers; actors and performers. In the time that I was a Minister in the Whitlam Labor Government much was done in that respect. I particularly want to see the utmost encouragement given to Australian composers in the recording industry. It is sad to read in paragraph 3.6 of the Tribunal’s report on page xvii that it did not hear evidence from any witness who was making a living exclusively from musical composition. That fact alone is a sad reflection on the lack of encouragement given to people of that ilk. The Tribunal said:
We heard evidence from composers of ‘middle of the road’ music (Mrs Dodd), ‘pop’ (Mr McCainsh and Mr Young), and ‘country and western’ (Mrs Kirkpatrick), each of whom described their work and how they went about it.
Whilst I say that I want to see encouragement given to Austraiian composers in the recording industry, I also want to see the Australian consumers, in particular young people, who purchase records pay royalties that will assist the Australian composers and not the foreign composers. It appears to me from this report that the recommendations of the Tribunal, if implemented, will assist considerably the foreign composer at the expense of the Australian composer. My attention has just been drawn to the fact that General Business Order of the Day No. 285 on the Notice Paper relates to the Copyright Tribunal. Mr President, I assure you that my remarks will take only another five minutes.
– Under Standing Order 419, by proceeding along those lines, the honourable senator is anticipating debate on a matter. He may seek leave to make a statement.
-Mr President, I appreciate the difficulty. I seek leave to make a statement.
– I thank the Senate for its indulgence. If the Australian royalty rate is increased in the manner recommended, it will be to the benefit of the foreign composer, at the expense of the Australian composer and certainly at the expense of the young Australian consumer. The present Australian royalty rate to music publishers and composers is 5 per cent of the retail selling price of records and tapes, including sales tax, and the Tribunal has recommended that that rate be lifted to 6.75 per cent of the retail selling price of records. That is a total hike of 35 per cent. The rate of 5 per cent has been fixed since 1912, but as it is based on the retail selling price of records and tapes, the actual amount paid to music publishers and composers has increased considerably each year due to substantial increases in the volume of sales, as records have become more popular and casettes have been introduced.
It is interesting to read what the Tribunal has to say at page 41 of its report. It is indicated that revenue from tapes increased from $343,000 to $41,1 19,000, an increase of more than 1,195 per cent in a period of 10 years. That shows the astronomical increase in the amount involved. Also, there have been increases in the retail selling price of records and tapes over the years, incorporating the introduction of and increases in Commonwealth sales tax. As the sales tax has increased, the amount of royalty has increased because that is calculated on the net retail selling price. The amount of mechanical royalties paid by the record industry to the music publishers and composers has increased from $1.4m in 1968 to $9.8m in 1978. The greater part of that income is paid to overseas composers, and most music publishing companies are overseas owned or controlled. The recommended increase in the statutory royalty rate from 5 per cent to 6.75 per cent will result in an increase in income to music publishers and composers of approximately $3.5m to $4m but about 80 per cent of that will flow to overseas sources.
The resultant retail price increase will affect the young consumer who is paying more to composers than consumers in most countries, especially the United States of America. In addition, the Australian consumer bears the burden of a luxury sales tax on recorded music. The Australian recording industry is essentially a user of foreign material. About 80 per cent of the recordings released in Australia originate in the United States. The information given to me is that in America, following a long congressional inquiry, the royalty was increased from 2c per track to 2.75c per track in 1978. That means that an American composer is entitled to receive 27.5c for each long playing record sold in the United States when at present he receives 45c for each of his records sold in Australia. If the present recommendation is adopted, that will increase to 61c.
I am suggesting on this first reading of a money Bill that sales tax on Australian composed and performed records should be removed to give encouragement to the Australian composer, and to encourage the Australian consumer to purchase Australian composed and performed records. Also I urge strongly that the Government insists that the quotas on Australian performed music that were imposed on commercial broadcasting radio stations in Australia by the Whitlam Labor Government be continued to be imposed under the Government’s proposal of self-regulation. I thank the Senate for giving me the opportunity to make those few comments.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Deputy President- (Quorum formed). I would like to take the opportunity on the first reading of this money Bill to talk for a short while on the tactical fighter force replacement for Australia. The history concerning the selection of a new weapons system for the Royal Australian Air Force goes back nearly 10 years. The search for this replacement aircraft was reduced to a short list of four aircraft. Last year the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) reduced the number to two aircraft. There is a projection that in October- November 1980 a decision will be taken on the selection of this aircraft for the RAAF. This is a very important decision for Australia. My concern is that there has been no parliamentary discussion on what is really a very important matter. I can understand this in part because it is a very technical decision.
What we are buying is not simply a fighter aircraft; it is a weapons system with all that is entailed in a complex modern electronic weapons system. Quite obviously, the final say must come from the highly informed technical people that we have in the search committee that will make the recommendation to the Government. At the same time it is only proper that the Parliament, exercises its duty as the custodian not only of the public purse but also of the welfare and defence of this country, in some way enters into the discussions as to what sort of aircraft is required before the final decision is made, however imperfect our knowledge might be at the time. Defence is important to Australia. It is very important that we try to learn as much as we can about it so that we can contribute in our small way to the decisions that are made in this Parliament. I am heartened by the approach that the present Minister for Defence has taken in calling for a bipartisan approach to defence. It is heartening to note that on some issues there has been a response from the Australian Labor Party to accept this bipartisan approach to defence issues. I am quite sure that on something like this tactical fighter force replacement aircraft which is of such major importance there will be no problem of party political divisions. I look forward at a later stage to members of the Australian Labor Party contributing to this debate.
The problem is an intensely technical one. I think we can attack this technical problem if we have some basic scientific education. If we are prepared to put some hard work into looking at the numerous technical journals that exist around the world and if we know something about contemporary weapons systems. We can reduce this complex technical argument to some basic characteristics. All systems have basic operational characteristics. It is not really important for us to know what the ultimate sophistication of a system is in manufacturing or in performance terms. What is important is that we try to reduce the arguments to a basic level so that we can understand what a system will do and what it will not do and how the system fits in with the needs as we perceive them for Australia.
– In order to do that, Senator, you need some practical input as well as technical input.
– Yes, but I think we can do it if we do some work. I would like to make a small diversion here because most of the problems that face Australia- problems like the transfer of technology, the technological revolution, the displacement of people from traditional jobs into new jobs- will increasingly come before the Parliament. It is important that in some way or other this Parliament acquire skills that it has not had before- skills which formerly have been related purely to legislative processes and analysis of legislation; hence, the great preponderance of lawyers in both Houses- and develop the technical and scientific skills necessary to examine the problems which Australia will face in increasing numbers in the years to come. It is quite intolerable that Parliament will have to accept advice purely from public servants or from advisers on these technical matters. Somehow or other the Parliament has to acquire this scientific expertise so that new techniques applying to the Australian community can be evaluated by some resident capacity within these chambers. I hope that this discussion tonight makes a start in some small way on the evaluation of what is really a very complex technical problem.
I would like to say that none of the information I will quote comes from classified sources. It has all been acquired from technical journals, from the manufacturers and from various governmental releases, not just the Australian Government, over a period of years.
The importance of this decision to Australia and to this Parliament falls into two clear categories: First of all, there is the military importance of it and, secondly, the financial importance. The military importance, of course, is related to the defence of this country. I must start by looking at the strategic threat which faces Australia. The strategic threat that faces Australia falls into two categories. One category is the major threat of World War III. The second, and more likely threat, is the regional threat coming from minor forces operating in this area. If we are involved in a major threat the whole of the Western world will be involved. The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be our allies. From the point that I am trying to work to tonight, the consideration of the TFF replacement, the only critical tiling from an equipment point of view is that the aircraft we buy must be compatible with that of our nearest ally, which is the United States. Since both aircraft are United States sourced there is no problem in that direction. The regional threat is quite a different situation. In many respects it requires different equipment and from a requirement point of view it has certain characteristics.
The first thing that must be hammered and hammered with great force is that in the event of a regional threat to Australia the most likely consequence is that we will be operating on our own. We cannot rely on the support of our allies so the defence equipment and armaments must really be sufficient for the task. They cannot be subservient or supplemental to the larger force structures of a major ally like the United States or NATO. The second thing I would say about a regional threat to Australia is that the threat clearly will come through the land bridge between Australia and Asia. No one will attack or harass this country by any route other than an approach through the archipelago from the Malay Peninsula through Indonesia to New Guinea and then to Australia. They are not going to come in a fleet of ships out of the Southern Ocean or out of the Pacific. They are not going to fly in in a squadron of aircraft from the Pacific or from anywhere else. It will be a progression down that land bridge. This is important in relation to the TFF replacement.
Clearly, to counter this attack we will need all three Services. Essentially the control of that threat will rest with the Air Force, first of all, to maintain the sovereignty of the air space over Australia and those regions over which we wish to exert power and, secondly, for a strike capacity against the established forces on the land mass, on the archipelago, and to harass their lines of communication and their logistics. This is a task that cannot be done by either the Army or the Navy; it can effectively be done only by the Air Force. We have a requirement both for an air superiority weapon in the TFF and for a potentially strong strike force against ground forces in the land masses near this country. Presumably with this in mind the Royal Australian Air Force requirement for the TFF was written. I have not seen this requirement but it is a reasonable presumption that it concerned manoeuvrability, range requirements, electronic fit and weapons/ ordnance carrying capacity, which would have dealt with the load to be borne and the type of weapons, air to air and air to surface.
The importance of this in a military sense is that whatever selection we make will give us certain characteristics to cope with a regional threat. Those characteristics must be appropriate for the regional needs at present but most importantly they must be able to grow with potential changes in equipment and material through a fleet life that is projected for 30 years. Not only must we have flexibility because it is expected in the 30-year life of this aircraft that it will go through at least one major electronics and weapons refit but the basic fuselage and engine combination must have a degree of robustness and a defence against undue fatigue wear. We must have some understanding that there will not be a very high attrition rate because quite possibly through the 30-year cycle that we want for these aircraft the production line will close down. The aircraft must be capable of some developmental potential.
Another important consideration for this Parliament of course is the financial implications. This purchase has been billed as the biggest contract that has ever been written by Australia. It will cost $1.5 billion or more. No one knows yet how much it will cost because the tenders are not in and they will not be in for some months yet. That is a great deal of money for the Parliament to commit the Australian Government to spending. I would like to put that expenditure into perspective. We intend to purchase 75 aircraft at a rate of delivery of one a month. The purchase will be spread over six to seven years. It will not be an expenditure of $1.5 billion or $2 billion in any 12-month period. The other comparison I would like to make is the comparison between the expenditure on this defence item and the Budget projections for expenditure in the 1979-80 financial year. On education we are spending $2.5 billion, on health we are spending $3. 1 billion and on social security payments we are spending $8.9 billion. That is a total of $14.5 billion in this year alone for health, education and welfare against a projected defence expenditure- admittedly only on one item- of $1.5 billion to $2 billion which will be spread over a period -
– It will be spread over six or seven years.
– As Senator Rocher so correctly says, that money will be spent over six or seven years. Whilst it is important that we recognise it is a big sum, we have to see it in the context of current budgetary expenditure. The two aircraft on the short list are the McDonnell F-18 and the General Dynamics F-16. The fact that those two aircraft were nominated out of the short list of four aircraft has led to the presumption by many people that both aircraft are equal for the task that the RAAF requires. That may be true but it may not be true because one does not have all the information available on which to make a complete assessment. One of the reasons for opening up this matter for debate tonight is that the assumption that both aircraft would satisfactorily fulfil the task may not necessarily be so.
I would like to discuss in basic terms the relative merits of both of these aircraft on the short list with particular reference to their air frame, their engines, their electronics, their ordnance and their cost. I should like to examine first the air frame of the F-16. This is a single-engined lightweight fighter. It first flew in 1972 and was the result of a design study into a minimal technology aircraft. In the late 1960s the F-15 and the F-14 came along. They were aircraft of great size, enormous cost and enormous complexity. They were very capable aircraft and are still the top allied aircraft from an air superiority point of view. But there was such a reaction to the great expenditure in the development of each aircraft relative to costs at that time and to the complexities of them that the United States forces went towards a design study to find out how cheaply and how simply a fighter aircraft, purely for an air superiority role, could be built. The F-16 was one of the design studies and it was a very successful design study.
The aircraft is relatively lightweight by jet fighter standards. It has an empty weight of 15,376 lb with a maximum take-off weight of 35,050 lb. Its method of construction accords with contemporary modern design practices. It uses a considerable amount of composite epoxy graphite fibres on skin construction and load bearing areas, combined with honeycomb methods of fabrication and the use of titanium forgings and milled sections in the fuselage. It is a very light and a very strong air frame. It is a single-engined aircraft, as I mentioned earlier, in contrast to the F-18, which is a twin-engined aircraft. Being a twin-engined aircraft, the F-18 is a bit heavier. Empty, it weighs 20,145 lb and has a maximum take-off weight of 49,800 lb.
The F-18, however, is a later generation aircraft. It is a further development down the path taken by the F-16. It incorporates more composite materials and more titanium structures than the F-16. The aim of this is to produce an aircraft which is both lighter and stronger than an aircraft which uses conventional materials. Although the F-18 developed out of the Northrop design plan similar to the F-16 lightweight fighter it has been built to a United States Navy specification. Therefore, it is much heavier and very much stronger than the original Northrop design because the United States Navy specifications traditionally have tended toward the conservative side from an engineering point of view. It has a very strong air frame. Being produced for marine applications, it has considerable corrosion protection within the fuselage, which for the life of the aircraft that we are looking at is very important, but let me hasten to say that there is nothing inadequate about the corrosion protection or techniques used in the F-16. One of the possible advantages of increased strength as a requirement for carrier landings and the generally rougher life of a navy aircraft is that in the attack role, in the low level mode, the fatigue resistance of the F-18 will probably be quite good. This is important to us because we have had a fatigue problem with the Mirages. The current lighter was built as a European air superiority aircraft and is used by the RAAF in a ground attack role. Their fatigue rate poses a problem. I emphasise that both air frames, the F- 1 8 and F-16, are very strong in absolute terms. They are stressed to nearly 10G. Manoeuvrability is critical with these aircraft. They are both more manoeuvrable than any preceding jet fighter aircraft. Both have their strong points and their weak points. By all accounts there is not much to choose between them for manoeuvrability. It is rumoured that there have been some minor manoeuvrability problems with both aircraft, but it is expected that these can be solved without much trouble as the aircraft are developed.
The next point to look at is the engines in these aircraft. It falls into two categories: Firstly, the argument against the single and twin engine installation; and, secondly, the reliability and performance of the individual engines selected. The old argument between single and twin engines has gone on for most of the life of aviation. If an engine is lost in a single engined aircraft the aircraft is lost. There is not much ambiguity about that, particularly with jet fighter aircraft. They are not amenable to landing in fields or beside roads, and the possibility exists that if the pilot does not get out early he will be lost too. So if an engine is lost the aircraft- which is worth something like $ 15m- is lost. That is important not only because of the individual loss of the aircraft, but also because of the continued capital cost of aircraft while the fleet is in service.
The attrition rate over a 30-year period is higher in general with single engined aircraft than with twin engined aircraft. That can be critically important when production lines close down and forces have to live off” their present stock of aircraft. This has been a significant factor, of course, in the RAAF Mirage fleet. The attrition rate has been quite high. Another thing that is not often recognised with single engined aircraft is the fact that there is usually only one generator on the engine installation and if that generator is lost on take-off the mission must be aborted. All of the electronic kit will not work for very long off the batteries so even a component failure such as a generator or an alternator leads to the mission being abandoned.
The advantage of a single engined aircraft is a saving in the capital cost. The airframe can be built lighter and only one engine needs to be purchased for that aircraft. Presumably, because there is only one engine to overhaul, there is also a cost saving. Of increasing importance at the present time is the question of fuel saving. A single engined aircraft, for roughly the same operational parameters, would expect to use about two-thirds of the fuel used in a twin engined installation. That brings in costs over a fleet life which can be very significant. A twin engined aircraft offers safety and security. If one engine is lost the aircraft will get home. If a generator is lost the aircraft does suffer because of the redundancy of the other auxiliaries and accessories on the other engine which serves the aircraft.
– Whom are you barracking for?
– If the honourable senator listens he will improve his education. The disadvantages of the twin engined aircraft are a higher airframe cost, a higher fuel bill and a higher overall cost. The argument favours the twin engined aircraft particularly because of the Australian terrain, the distances that have to be covered and, presumably, the long over water flights.
Militarily, it is clear that most air forces around the world- French, German, Luftwaffe and Canadian- favour the twin engine installation. I am aware that a United States Navy paper published recently shows that there is not much difference in Navy’s experience with the operation of single as opposed to twin engined aircraft. I have not seen that paper, but I point out that since the United States Navy operates a very conservative design philosophy on their aircraft, it is probably not a true comparison across the board of single versus twin engined aircraft. About the only criticism that is raised against the twin installation by those who favour the singles is that if something like a turbine blade comes loose and is thrown through the bulkhead into the adjoining engine both engines are lost. But that is an unlikely circumstance and it certainly has not been the experience in this country with the Pratt and Whitney TF-30 engines in the Fills. There is no history of engine failure in one engine leading to failure in the other there.
The second point in relation to the selection of engines for these aircraft turns on individual engine reliability. Here we move into an area where some presumptions are necessary. The F-16 has the Pratt and Whitney FI 00 engine which is a superb design on the limits of technology. Pratt and Whitney, of course, are probably the leading engine makers in the world. The company has built an engine right to the theoretical limits of contemporary design. The engine has been used since 1972 in the F-15 and it has had some problems, but I stress that they are much fewer in number in the F-16s both in service in the USAF and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries. I have no doubt that those problems will be cured in the future by the development work of Pratt and Whitney. Since the engine is highly stressed and highly developed the probability is that it will not go on for the time between overhauls of a more conservatively designed engine. It may well prove to be more expensive on overhaul than a less highly stressed engine.
The F-18 is equipped with the General Electric 404 which is again a new engine and which replaces the J79 of which General Electric built over 16,000. Again it is built to contemporary design standards, but its design philosophy was to be five to six per cent below theoretically obtainable limits. It is a very conservatively built engine and while it has not had the time in service of the F100 it has performed very well and the expectation is that it will be both economical and reliable in service.
While I am on the subject of engines, let me refer to reports in the literature that the F-16 has undergone design studies for re-engining with other engines. One of those proposals is to downgrade the performance of the aircraft by changing its engine. In that way it can be sold to Third World countries. The USAF or one of the American forces did a design study on the installation of a different engine, and one must make the presumption that there were some problems in the eyes of the USAF in the fleet life of the F 100. This is important in relation to the fleet life of the aircraft because, as I have mentioned, attrition can be a problem. It is hoped to get 30 years’ service out of the fleet. Engine reliability is a critical factor on the survival of that aircraft.
But the air frame and engine is only a vehicle. Aircraft must have certain performance characteristics, but the heart of the whole system is the electronic fit, particularly the radar fit, in the aircraft. There are many sensors in use today but the pre-eminent and most important sensor still remains radar. The integration of the radar to the weapons system is really the critical thing both from an air to air mode and the air to surface mode.
One of the basic determinants in a fighter aircraft is the size of the space in which the radar can be fitted. Radar depends on its antenna to get its signal out, and in a fighter aircraft the only place it can be mounted is in the nose. The F-16 has a Westinghouse radar which was built for a clear weather day-fighter role for the armament that it carries, which is the Sidewinder infra-red missile. This is a short range missile operating up to a range of about 4 nautical miles. The small antenna which is a consequence of the small cross-sectional area in the nose of the F-16 means that it is hard for the F-16 radar to attain the range that we need. Radar propagation turns on this antenna size. The more energy that is put into it, the more heat one gets.
The radar antenna on the F- 1 6 is an air-cooled rather than a liquid-cooled system, which again limits the power that can come out of it. Also, the smaller the antenna the greater the difficulty there is to control the propagation of the main beam, the forward lobe; the more energy that is put into the forward lobe, the bigger the side lobes which are developed. Once side lobes are developed the equipment becomes prone to electronic counter measures jamming, and false signals come in to the receiver. It is very hard to do much about this when the equipment is of minimal size. The hardware changes present their own problems because, as I have said, there is a trade-off between the antenna gain and the side lobe propagation. To reduce the side lobe the energy in the main lobe must be reduced, but the range over which the radar will operate is thereby reduced.
Conversely, if software changes are introduced to reduce the false alarms which come in from the side lobe patterns, early detection may be compromised- I stress the word may’- because the criteria become more stringent for declaration of a target. This is a critical consideration because at present the aircraft is fitted with Sidewinders. The Sidewinder, being an infra-red weapon, is compromised in wet weather application. The F-16 is not an allweather fighter. It is outranged and outgunned when fitted with only Sidewinders.
The next step from an armaments point of view is to go up to a Sparrow weapon, which weighs roughly 400 lb and which operates over a range of roughly 1 5 nautical miles. It is a semiactive radar guided weapon. The requirements for a Sparrow weapon are, first of all, that the target acquisition for the radar exceeds the range of the missile and, secondly, that there be some illuminator built into the aircraft itself because the missile homes on the reflected radar signals off the target aircraft. The space exists in the fuselage in the F- 1 6 to fit a continuous wave illuminator for a Sparrow missile but it is not provided for on that radar at present. Indeed, no air force in the world operates the F-16 with a Sparrow missile. Without a Sparrow missile the aircraft is not as good as the Mirage which it seeks to replace with its Matra 530 missile which has the ability to operate over medium ranges. More importantly, with the development of the advanced air to air medium range missile- the AAMRAAM- which will operate to about 30 nautical miles, which is due to come into the United States Air Force service in 1 985-86 and which the RAAF hopes to fit to its aircraft towards the end of the century, we need a range for targe acquisition considerably in excess of 40 nautical miles. There are considerable doubts as to how the F-16 radar can be modified to cope with this. Firstly, there are no guarantees that technically that goal can be achieved and, secondly it will involve us in an increased cost of purchase.
In contrast, the weapons system of the F-18 uses the Hughes AN-APG 65 radar which is a new digital radar developed out of the AN APC 63 fitted to the FI 5 which is regarded as being the best air-to-air radar available at present. Not only does it have all the target acquisition factors that we need for the missile fits up to the AAMRAAM, but also it has a whole range of side functions. Basically I estimate that the antenna size of the F- 1 8 is 50 per cent larger than the F-16 which gives it a much greater energy capacity.
– How does it fit into the nose?
– It is a larger crosssectional area, and it has also a liquid-cooled antenna. It has a whole range of extra functions. For the information of the honourable senator, it has good side lobe suppression. Range is no problem with it at all. It has pulse repetition frequencies, in the high, low and medium range. It is suitable for the AAMRAAM. It has a trackwhilescan capacity. It can acquire 10 targets simultaneously and portray eight of them on the cockpit screen. It has a silent track capacity and it has an illumination system for the Sparrow AIM 7F which gives it the contemporary medium range missile. It has very good electronic counter-counter-measure facilities many times the capacity of the F- 1 6, and it has both a ground mapping facility and a terrain avoidance mode. It fills all the requirements that we need at the moment, and it has the capacity to grow and develop. Radar really is what it is all about. The F- 1 8 radar has the capacity today to satisfy our needs and to grow in the future. That is a positive accomplishment. We do not have to be involved in new developmental costs, and we do not have any uncertainties about acquiring that capacity in the future.
I would like to deal with one of the arguments which appeared in the popular Press recently, namely, that if we take the F-16, all we need is some Grumman E2Cs to operate as top cover, as control aircraft, to provide the radar sophistication that the F-16 lacks. That is simply not true. We need the Grumman E2Cs in their own right because of their command capacity and because of their great electronic capacity.
– Can I ask that the honourable senator table those pages of the Pacific Defence Reporter from which he is quoting extensively?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop)- Senator MacGibbon, a request has been made that you table the references from which you have been quoting.
– I will be quite happy to do that when I have finished my speech. The other thing we have to think about is the existence of a Russian aircraft called the Foxbat MIG25A, which is the most sophisticated fighter the Russians have at present. It has also been said that we do not have to worry about that aircraft. But we do have to worry about it in the sense that in 1 0 to 1 5 years ‘ time that aircraft will be available to other nations which are friendly with the Russians, just in the way that earlier Russian aircraft have become available down through the years. It will become a regional threat to us in 10 to 1 5 years ‘ time.
The next thing I would like to look at is the ordnance and surface attack capability. As far as I am aware, both aircraft will carry all of the ordnance that is currently available in the military arsenals at present, including the harpoon.
-Wouldn’t the DC3 do that?
– Not really. It might do for the honourable senator but not for me. The load capacity of the F-18 is slightly greater than the load capacity of the F-16, but it has the advantage that it has a target acquisition capability that the F-16 does not have. It probably has, as I said before, a better fatigue life in the low level role, and it would give us the capacity to mount an effective strike force against any land and sea forces around this country that we might be faced with.
The final point that I should like to deal with is the cost and the Australian industry participation program. The Government has set out that 30 per cent of the cost of these aircraft will be covered by Australian industry participation programs. I have no quarrel with that. The only personal view that I would inject into the matter is that it is more important to go for quality than for quantity. We certainly need to have the capacity to repair aircraft in this country because, as I said before, in a regional threat we will most likely be operating on our own. If we are to repair them, we have to have some manufacturing capacity in the high technology fields. But in the metalworking and composite fields the applications from there to the general community are quite restricted. I would rather see the emphasis put on the development of electronic equipment in the aircraft, because that is what it is all about. There is a much greater application for electronic technology and the spin-offs from that within the community at large. Secondly, we have a specialised regional application. Many things do not work very well in the environmental conditions that we have in Australia- the tropical conditions, the heat and the dust- and there is a great incentive for us to develop and to refine the electronic side of these weapons systems for Australian application. I would rather see the AIP program slanted more towards the electronic field than towards the metalworking field.
Finally, we come to the cost. There has been a great deal of discussion about the cost of these aircraft, which is understandable because they are both undergoing developmental programs, and these are times of high inflation. The important point about this is that it has been said that one is very much cheaper than the other. The only evidence we have is the Canadian contract that was announced three weeks ago. The Press releases stated that the difference in price was only 10 per cent between the two purchases. A Press release of 10 April 1980 from the Hon. Gilles Lamontagne, the Canadian Minister of National Defence, states:
A detailed cost analysis indicated that the overall cost to Canada of purchasing the new fighters and operating them into the next century is virtually identical for the CF- 1 6 and CF-18A. Here again each has certain advantages which balance out in the total picture. The CF- 1 6 uses slightly less fuel, but attrition costs are higher, as I mentioned a moment ago, and certain maintenance costs are expected to be greater.
– What date was that?
– That was 10 April 1980, after the Canadian decision to buy the F-18 was announced. Cost is hard for us to determine, but that is the only evidence we have. What I have attempted to do is to put some of the basic characteristics of these two aircraft before the Parliament. There may well be classified information which materially affects what the final selection should be. But, be that as it may, this is a very important decision which this Parliament has to face later this year, and it is incumbent on us as responsible members of the community, to find out as much about the characteristics of these aircraft and their applications to Australia’s needs, so that we can contribute towards making the correct decision. I table the papers from which I have been quoting.
-My remarks will be less complex than those of Senator MacGibbon, who revealed that, when one engine of a single-engine aircraft fails, the aircraft is unlikely to get home. My remarks will be directed to a quite different area, namely of tax avoidance. I particularly refer to the remarks of Mr Hulme, Q.C., who, on 30 April of this year, said to a seminar that it was quite impossible for the Federal Government to frame a simple statutory provision which would deal with those tax avoiders who are subverting and are undermining the Australian economic and social system. I choose those words carefully because I believe the tax avoiders are the new subversives in society.
They are refusing to contribute money to the Federal Treasury and are thereby preventing the government of the day from providing those social programs which it judges to be in the best interests of the Australian people. Worse, they are creating a sense of unfairness and inequity amongst Australian taxpayers and potential taxpayers in that one feels that one is a mug if one pays the full tax that is apparently due when one knows that people who are on substantial incomes can afford to pervert the best legal and accounting brains of this country to serve their selfish ends and to avoid their contribution to the revenue. It is both in the simple sense of refusing to contribute to the Treasury and in creating this sense of inequity and unfairness that I describe tax avoiders as the subversive elements within our social system.
Even the most conservative commentators, such as Professor Mathews of the Australian National University, have well documented the fact that the burden in income tax has shifted inexorably to the pay-as-you-earn wage and salary earner. The person on the high income, or the small businessman, or the independent contractor is not making the contribution to the Federal Treasury that he or she should be making. In fact, Professor Mathews shows that whereas in 1 965-66 the proportion of tax paid by PA YE taxpayers was about two-thirds- this is speaking of income tax- it now amounts to four-fifths. They are paying perhaps $2 ,000m more than they would if the income tax burden were accepted and shared equitably amongst all those Australians in receipt of some sort of income.
The situation being that many Australians are avoiding their taxation commitments, one has to ask: Why? What excuses do they offer? The first excuse is the absolutely circular one, that the tax rates are so high. Why are they so high? A contributing factor, very obviously, is that the Treasury knows that with tax avoidance it will be several hundreds of millions of dollars down in its expected receipts and, therefore, has to allow for this and raise the tax rate. Tax rates will only come down when there is an acceptance by all income earning Australians that they ought to make their fair contribution to the Treasury. One also has the sporting contest atmosphere that has been generated between the tax gatherer on the one hand and the taxpayer with his bevy of lawyers and accountants on the other hand, in which the Treasurer comes into the House of Representatives every few months and announces that he is going to attack, circumscribe and proscribe one scheme which has been isolated. Back and forth the tussle goes. There is an element of, as I said, a sporting contest in it.
What we want is a strong, clear expression of opinion made by this Parliament, by the elected representatives of the Australian community, saying to the tax avoiders and to the High Court, in equally clear terms, that tax avoidance is as anti-social as tax evasion. Everyone recognises that tax evasion is illegal and indeed immoral, the simple case being failure to declare a source of income. Tax avoidance, I believe, under section 260 ought to be visited with the same sort of stigma because in that section the Parliament attempted to say that, whilst a transaction entered into for the purpose of avoiding tax stands as a legal transaction, and the Parliament does not try to undo the artificial corporate scheme that might have been developed, nevertheless that scheme has no effect against the Treasury and against the legitimate taxation needs of this country. But that section has been so undermined by several High Court decisions, particularly under Sir Garfield Barwick, that we are in a position in which the Commissioner of Taxation finds himself unable to use that section against tax avoiders. Therefore, we need a new section. My plea tonight, in the very short time that has been allotted to me, is that the Government take a robust, even aggressive attitude, towards tax avoiders. I do not say ‘aggressive ‘ in an unthinking way; it has to be a refined, reflective piece of legislation.
– It would be difficult for this Government.
– Well, it has called in several advisers, and I think perhaps they will be able to aid and to fill in the gaps in their political understanding, which I am trying to fill in tonight by telling it what I think is obvious. The Australian community is heartily sick and tired of the presence in its midst of people neglecting, quite deliberately, to pay their fair share to the Treasury and, of course, going further and advertising the schemes in a most notorious way in the dailies and the weeklies of this nation. One might call that a species of subversive literature. I hope that the Government will not falter, that it will continue in its quest for a replacement to section 260 which states as clearly as possible to the High Court that the elected representatives of this country expect that, whilst highly artificial schemes may stand in a legal sense, they should have no effect against the Federal Treasury in its gathering of taxation to service the social and other community needs of this nation.
– I take the opportunity afforded by this first reading debate to speak reasonably briefly on the contribution that the clothing, textile and footwear industries make towards the Australian economy. It is stated government policy that efficient textile, clothing and footwear industries are important and continuing parts of the Australian manufacturing sector. I think it is significant to note that the Government also foresees a growth in manufacturing over the next decade. While recognising this growth we must also be aware that this country’s manufacturing industry is less dependent on tariffs than it has previously been. For example, tariff protection to the manufacturing industry has been reduced by 40 per cent over the last 10 years. That is quite a significant decrease.
However, I am rather concerned about the draft report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the clothing, textile and footwear industries. As we know, the Government has received the final report on everything except the textile component of the clothing, textile and footwear industries. Therefore, within the next month or so we can expect a government response to that report. That response will be very critical to the future of manufacturing in Australia. It will be very critical to the future job opportunities of many Australians, especially those working in decentralised areas. Although the Government regards efficient textile, clothing and footwear industries as significant, important and continuing aspects of Australian manufacturing, if we look closely at the IAC recommendations, they run counter to this policy or philosophy. Therefore, I believe it will be very difficult for the Government, having stated that policy, to come out with an adverse statement. I think it is important to recognise that IAC reports are but one aspect that must be taken into consideration in the many matters that have to come under consideration.
The emphasis in the IAC draft report is essentially on removing quotas and establishing a tariff. Often this tariff is recommended to start at quite a high and, in many cases, an unacceptable rate and to be reduced. A tariff has yet to be devised which is completely immune to matters such as fluctuating exchange rates, differing inflation rates between countries, fluctuations in the price of raw materials, particularly energy reserves, and the effects of dumping which many South East Asian countries in particular indulge in. I think it is significant that no other Western countries use tariffs alone to protect their clothing and textile industries. All Western countries use quantitative restrictions. I submit that Australia is very much a babe in the wood when it comes to protecting its industries.
Over 120,000 people are employed in these textile, clothing and footwear industries. When one takes into account the factor that approximately 1.7 per cent of other jobs are associated by way of service and ancillary industries, that means that a further 200,000 people are indirectly dependent on the textile industries. A number of significant features must be recognised. For example, these industries have a very high component of female labour. They have a very much above average proportion of migrant workers and an above average proportion of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. If we see the demise of these industries and the replacement of them with so-called new super-industries- we have yet to find these replacement manufacturing industries that will take up all these unskilled jobs- where will we place many of the female workers and the unskilled members of the work force?
This is one of the problems ignored in the IAC draft report. It recommends a substantial restructuring of the industries which means that many people will be losing their jobs. In the topmaking industry in the years from 1968 to 1977 the number of persons employed decreased by approximately 49 per cent. In the worsted industry there was a decrease of approximately 66 per cent and in the woollen industry there was about a 55 per cent decrease. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the document from which I am quoting. Its incorporation has been approved by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle).
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. The philosophy of the IAC report is that it is desirable to allocate resources to their most efficient use. When there is an underemployed economy it is inappropriate to adopt such a philosophy. This philosophy has significance only in terms of a fully employed economy with virtually no unemployment. I submit that these are not the conditions that prevail today. It is all very well for the National Farmers Federation, speaking from its peak of affluence, to state that it can foresee a further 500,000 jobs being created if we eliminate protection. I submit that this unprecedented attack from all sectors- from the Rod Carnegies, from companies such as Conzinc Riotinto of Australia and from people like the President of the National Farmers Federation, the Don Eckersleys- is coming from people speaking from the point of view of richness and vast wealth. What are these people doing? They are depriving ordinary citizens working in factories of their livelihoods. I submit that these people are taking rather selfish attitudes.
The contributions of many of the large miners have very little impact on the employment generating opportunities for Australia. What do they do? Essentially, they use foreign made heavy equipment to scout out and to quarry much of Australia’s real estate and sell it overseas in an unrefined state. The foreign exchange capital may be present, but the employment opportunities are certainly missing except for a privileged few. The textile apparel industries are significant employers of labour throughout Australia and makes an especially important contribution in country areas. That is why I find it so difficult to understand why the National Farmers Federation comes out with its sort of philosopy of crucifying people in decentralised areas. The crucify, crucify, crucify complex which seems to be prevalent in Australia at the moment almost reminds one of biblical times. When one looks at the areas from which these calls are coming one must think that indeed a high element of hypocrisy is involved.
I recall receiving letters from the National Farmers Federation asking for substantial reductions in protection. Within three days I get a letter from another segment of the same organisation imploring me to use every possible means to keep out cheese imports from New Zealand. I get very concerned about the hypocrisy of some of these wealthy groups speaking from positions of strength, stating that what is good for them must be good for the rest of Australia.
I wish to submit that the clothing, textile and footwear industries have been substantially restructured, with many employees leaving. Many of those firms who have remained have introduced high technology. The firms that remain must be efficient to survive.
But the IAC has refined this definition. It no longer regards technical efficiency as the criterion. So it does not matter how technically efficient a firm may be if it is not now economically efficient. To be economically efficient a firm must be able to serve a world market. We all know of our low population in Australia and of the dumping attitudes of other countries, many of which deliberately force prices down to secure foreign exchange, and nothing more. But, we have a problem because as companies move to higher technology it appears in many cases that the Government wants to reduce the level of protection. In other words, there will be no reward for the companies investing in high technology equipment because as soon as they do there will be tremendous pressure for their protection to be removed.
It has been stated in this chamber that a return of just over 16 per cent in the Bonds Coates Patons group was an excessive rate of return on shareholders’ funds. But if we examine the statistics we find that the rate of return was lower than it was the previous year. If we look further at the return in relation to the net tangible assets, we find the percentage is only approximately 8 per cent. So a firm such as that would surely do far better investing its money in Commonwealth bonds. On the other hand, if we reconstruct its funds statement we find that there is really very little by the way of adequate funds for it to invest in new machinery. This is one of the problems. Until the Government can give a firm undertaking on whether it wants a textile industry or not, we will be in a situation of hesitancy and a disinclination to invest, and the longer that the firms put off their investment decisions, the harder it will be for the Government to justify the firms’ existence.
It has been stated that the net cost of the textile, clothing and footwear industries to the Australian household is $200. But if we take into account the Customs revenue generated from imports, which can be taken as both a cost and a benefit, we effectively find that this $200 is reduced to $ 165 a household -
– You are double counting.
– No, there is no double counting because one takes into account the Customs revenue -
– You are double counting.
– I am eliminating the double counting which was involved in the $200 a household. When we look at the benefits involved we find a factor of 4 to 6 times the cost. So these statistics of the value generated by the clothing, textiles and footwear industries are such as to justify the continuation of this industry. With over 2,500 plants employing approximately 120,000 people, of whom two-thirds are females, and paying wages in excess of $849m, I submit that this industry is a significant contributor to the Australian economy.
Many of the industries that I have mentioned are located in decentralised areas. What would be the effect on these areas if the Government came down with an adverse decision? The Border Watch newspaper of 8 May reveals that in the small town of Mount Gambier at least 200 jobs will be directly involved. It is so important that special committees do as the Regional Committee for Decentralisation in Victoria has done. It has mounted a tremendous campaign. In fact the campaigns, that have been launched around
Australia to protect jobs, especially in decentralised areas, are unprecedented.
– Like Melbourne.
-Melbourne might be another case, but I am speaking with particular feeling of industries in decentralised areas. In my State of Tasmania, the textile industry could be annihilated if the Government does not provide adequate long-term protection to it. I make no apology for that statement because it is absolutely true. We have problems in Tasmania because manufacturing is a significant contributor to the local economy. We have to recognise that the economy in Tasmania has a very narrow industrial base, so there are very few alternative jobs for people to turn to.
– There are none in Devonport.
- Senator Tate mentions the problem of Devonport. That is a particular case in question. The IAC recommends that cloth under 150 grams per square metre be imported duty free and be replaced by bounty. Such a situation would wipe the heart out of the Tootal organisation. This is one thing that the IAC cannot comprehend. Substantial restructuring, as it recommends, would essentially cut the heart out of many firms. Some of these firms within the textile industry are diversified to some extent, and to cut the heart out of a firm such as Tootal would completely destroy it. There would be a loss of 400 jobs. I am using the factor we mentioned earlier. There would be a significant loss in employment to that area of the State.
The situation is just as critical in Launceston and to a lesser extent in Hobart. The social consequences of dislocation are tremendous. Only last Saturday a former employee came up to me and said: ‘You know, I haven’t had a job for nearly three years. The employment people are not all that interested ‘. He was not the most outgoing person. He was just waiting around, expecting the phone to ring or a telegram to be delivered offering him an alternative job. The IAC says that we should train people for alternative job opportunities, but I submit that there is very little training. No training has been offered to this man, who is, I suppose, in his middle forties. There is no alternative job opportunity.
I feel very deeply for those people who are essentially semi-skilled or unskilled. We must be very careful if we decimate an industry such as this which provides significant employment to the unskilled. What will we do when a great proportion of our work force finds it difficult to aspire to higher learning? We will find a substantial and growing proportion of those seeking to enter the work force with almost no opportunity to acquire job skills. Many people will be almost permanently unemployed. It is one thing to offer an unemployment benefit, but if a person loses his opportunity to contribute something to society he seems to lose his self-respect and to some extent his dignity. Therefore we have to be very careful. When we are considering the effects of restructuring we must recognise the impact that this restructuring has had on decentralised industries.
I submit that Australia ‘s level of protection by world standards, when one takes into account all the factors, is not unreasonable. What are the consequences of lowering protection? For example, the Philippines has a 100 per cent tariff, India has a 100 per cent tariff, South Korea, which is a major threat to the Australian industry, virtually prohibits the import of textiles. The United States uses bilateral restraint agreements with its principal low cost suppliers to restrict the import share of textile and clothing to only 10 per cent of domestic consumption, whereas the Australian figures of imports on a domestic consumption basis are 30 per cent for garments and 75 per cent for woven fabrics. These figures seem very high but the way the free traders talk anybody would think that Australia protected practically all its industry by excessively high tariffs. This is not the case. I think we have to use the benefit of hindsight. For example in 1971 the Swedish Government implemented a plan to phase out the clothing and textile industry over a 10-year period. What actually happened was that within four years the industry virtually collapsed. I submit that if the Industries Assistance Commission proposes in its final report a planned phase down, the phase down will be far quicker than expected. If industries cannot see that they have a future they will scuttle out very much quicker than the academics from the IAC would recommend. This would have disastrous consequences for employment opportunities.
I do not think Australians appreciate the extent to which we import. Australia imports from ASEAN sources $2.14 worth of goods per head of population. Japan imports 25c per head from the same sources and the United States of America imports 63c per head. Clearly, therefore, Australia’s market is more open to imports than most other developed nations. We have had a substantial restructuring. If we are not careful the consequences will be disastrous. I will take one other example. The European Common Market negotiated only minor tariff reductions to enable Asian textiles to enter its markets but the results were quite devastating. Hundreds of people in country towns throughout France, Belgium and Holland became redundant or unemployed. There were substantial bankruptcies in other service industries. As a result many of these towns are now a considerable financial burden to their particular countries. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an article from the Melbourne Herald which reported an interview between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Peter Costigan.
The document read as follows-
On a per capita basis, Australia buys more textiles, apparel and footwear from developing countries than Japan, North America or Europe. “That is a measure … of the openness of our market,” says Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in an exclusive interview.
GOVT HAS TO STRIKE A BALANCE
From PETER COSTIGAN
CANBERRA. - The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, has hinted strongly that the Federal Government will not reduce current levels of protection for the textiles, clothing and footwear industries.
In an interview, he strongly defended the existing levels of protection for the three industries, which he claims are more efficient than many people accuse them of being. “I know of textile firms which have tried to export textiles to low wage-cost countries. They have been told they can ‘t because it is totally reserved for the domestic market, even though they were competitive, “ the Prime Minister said. “ I have known firms which have wanted to get distributors in certain countries and have not been able to do so. That is, in fact a protective device. “These countries have wage subsidies and export subsidies of a kind we have never practised and I hope never will practise in Australia.
“There is other evidence in the quantity of sensitive goods- textiles, apparel and footwear- that we do in fact buy from developing countries. “We buy more on a per capita basis than Japan, North America and Europe, and that is a measure, in a very real sense, of the openness of our market. “So, in this kind of world, there is no way Australia can open markets and say, ‘Everyone else can come in here and sell whatever they can, without any restraints ‘. “That would devastate industries and be quite unfair. So what we do has to be balanced through the Industries Assistance Commission ‘s advice, but that is all that it is. “Governments have to make the decision. We try to take a balanced approach.”
Government departments are now studying the final IAC report on the textiles, clothing and footwear industries and cabinet is expected to make a decision soon on whether or not to continue the currently high tariffs and tight quotas applying to all three.
In addition to his strong defence of the current levels of protection for the three industries, Mr Fraser defended Australian protection levels generally and maintained that there had already been major restructuring of Australian industry in line with the Crawford report. “When you take the totality of protection, I think Australia is one of the lowest protected countries in the world, simply because we have stuck with tariffs and quotas and that is about it. ‘ ‘ he said. “On top of tariffs and quotas, a lot of other countries have embargoes, levies, levelling devices, quarantine arrangements that aren’t quarantine arrangements, and voluntary restraint agreements that aren’t voluntary because if you don’t sign it you won’t be allowed to trade at all. “We just haven ‘t operated in those ways.
“If you are able to put countries on a proper protection ladder and estimate how protected each country is, giving a proper weight to all these devices, I think we would find our markets among the most open in the world. “
Asked about the Crawford report, Mr Fraser said a large portion had already been implemented. “When people talk about restructuring, they often forget the enormous restructuring that is taking place ali the time,” he said. “Take what’s happened in the dairy industry a few years ago- 12 or 15 years ago- there were nearly 80,000 dairy farmers. Today there are about 30,000. That has involved a massive restructuring. “And the same sort of thing has happened in many Australian manufacturing industries, especially, again in the sensitive textiles, apparel and footwear industries. So the market forces cause a restructuring. “Governments get into difficulties when they create policies which prevent those market forces from working. Then your economy gets rigid and you get attached to certain industries which are uneconomic and are not competitive. “So you get capital, labor and government locked into industries through various support mechanisms. That is what has happened in Europe where today they probably have the best part of $25,000 million a year in wage subsidies or export subsidies. “We have not embarked on those sorts of policies and I don ‘t think we should. ‘ ‘
Mr Fraser said there had been “confusion” over recommendations by the Paris-based OECD and the Crawford Report that governments should adopt positive adjustment policies.
He said: “In Australia, those terms have been used to suggest that governments should have policies which say industry should invest, or that people should invest in this industry rather than that, with governments taking a much more interventionist role and the market place having a much less important part to play. “In fact, when the OECD talks of positive adjustment policies, they are in very simple terms saying that governments should keep out- that governments should stop interfering, that governments should allow the market process to work. “When they talk of positive adjustment policies they are saying governments should stop their wage subsidies, governments should stop their special intervention, governments should stop their special cheap money for industries which aren’t competitive, governments should end all the special programs designed to prop up the uneconomic- in other words, let the market forces work. “
– In this interview the Prime Minister came down fairly strongly on the side of protection, whereas the previous day I believe he blew cool winds of despair when addressing the Confederation of Australian Industry conference in Canberra. He said that he felt that it was not really the Government’s place to be involved in restructuring and assisting industry.
I believe that charity essentially begins at home. If we are to have a strong, growing and viable economy we must recognise all the interacting features contributing to the whole of the Australian economy. The clothing, textile and footwear industries have managed to contain their cost increases remarkably well. Their rate of productivity increase has been above the average for all manufacturing industries. The increases in the consumer price index since June 1978, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures at June 1979, indicate that the clothing group increase was below that for all other groups. In the manufacturing industry, the increase in the price index for textiles was 8 per cent, whereas for all other manufacturing it was 15 per cent. I submit, therefore, that the textile industry, having been restructured, is now an efficient contributor to the Australian economy and one which is deserving of continued long term protection to enable investors to invest in modern equipment and at the same time to generate jobs. We must recognise that we will never return to the days of high employment in the clothing, textile and footwear industries. We must recognise that the clothing, apparel and textile industries are related industries. The Government has a great responsibility to ensure a continuation of efficient industries. It should pay particular regard to the problems of decentralised industries. I trust that a responsible attitude towards the employees working in these industries will be taken when the Government hands down its recommendations on the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission into clothing, textile and footwear industries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That the second reading be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Consideration resumed from 29 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That the second reading be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Consideration resumed from 29 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That the second reading be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Consideration resumed from 29 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That the second reading be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Consideration resumed from 29 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That the second reading debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
WOOL TAX (Nos 1-5) AMENDMENT BILLS 1980
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The object of these five Bills is twofold. First, the Bills seek to amend the Wool Tax Acts (Nos 1 to 5) 1964 so as to continue in force without time limitation the levy of 5 per cent on the sale value of shorn wool which is collected in connection with the reserve price scheme for wool. Secondly, amendments are proposed to enable separate rates of tax to be prescribed for wool research and wool promotion respectively within the existing maximum overall levy rate of 3 per cent specified for these purposes. The background to these changes has already been explained in the second reading speech on the Wool Industry Amendment Bill 1980. The 5 per cent levy was introduced at the inception of the floor price arrangements on 2 September 1974, to provide a fund for meeting any net losses on the reserve price scheme. The Market Support Fund was established for this purpose and revenue from the levy is credited to the Fund.
Originally, these arrangements were provided to operate for the 1 974-75 season only. Their operation was extended successively to each of the subsequent five seasons and the present statutory provisions for payment of the levy expire on 30 June 1980. As already announced, it is now proposed to provide arrangements beyond the 1979-80 season and to extend the levy at the rate of 5 per cent. This move will obviate the need for annual legislation in the future to continue the Fund and associated levy. If there is to be no interruption in the collection of the levy, the statutory provisions under which the levy is imposed must be amended before 30 June 1 980.
I now turn to the second change provided for in these Bills. At present wool tax consists of the 5 per cent levy for reserve price scheme purposes and the 3 per cent levy which represents woolgrower contributions towards the financing of the programs of wool research and promotion. It is now proposed that the latter levy be divided into two components, which together shall not exceed the present maximum of 3 per cent. The two components will be prescribed by regulation and will be earmarked respectively for wool research and wool promotion. The present total wool tax of 8 per cent has been in force since August 1975.
All the five wool tax Bills are similar in their text. The Acts which they amend are also similar, but each covers a different wool marketing channel such as auction, direct export et cetera. The need for five separate Acts arises from a constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxes should deal with one subject of taxation only. Opportunity has also been taken in the Bills to replace references to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, an organisation that has been subsumed within the Wool Council of Australia, with reference to the Wool Council of Australia. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
– I will not speak for more than a few seconds on the Wool Tax Amendment Bills. These Bills are passed annually. They extend for another year the life of the levies which are imposed on sales of wool in its various forms to supply funds for the Market Support Fund. Also, in future the industry will be funding a larger component of the expenditure on promotion and research. The Opposition is not opposing the Bill. Indeed, it was a Labor Government which first instituted the Market Support Fund and reserve price in 1974. Senator Wriedt was the Minister for Primary Industry at the time.
One further point worth noting is that, during the first 18 months of the operation of that scheme, the Labor Government at the time provided from Consolidated Revenue some $300m to underwrite what was then the deficit in the Market Support Fund. We were simultaneously abused and vilified by the Liberal and National Country parties for excessive government expenditure. That $300m, being part of that government expenditure, according to the same Liberal and National Country Party politicians was an inadequate level of support for the wool industry. It should be noted also that, as wool prices improved in the post- 1976 period, money has been repaid completely by the industry. Because of that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Government have been able to cost cosmetically improve its Budget deficit position- a matter on which it placed great emphasis prior to its election.
– It has never been more stable than it is today. It should have been done years before.
– Yes. For 23 years the majority of Australian wool growerswere looking for such a scheme but, of course, under Liberal and Country Party governments they did not get one. The implication for the deficit, on which the present Prime Minister placed a lot of importance prior to the 1975 election, and which was not properly understood, was that the operation of this particular plan for the benefit of the wool industry increased the recorded deficit in 1974 and 1975. It has since had the effect of reducing the recorded deficit in the post- 1976 period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 2 April on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
(9.26)- I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to enact the excise tariff alterations in respect of stabilised crude petroleum oil, saccharin, cyclamates and grape brandies, which were validated by the Excise Tariff Validation Act 1979. The first alteration increased the excise duty on stabilised crude petroleum oil from $70.98 to $102.27 per kilolitre with effect from 1 July 1979. This followed determination by the then Minister for National Development of new import parity prices to operate from 1 July 1979, in accordance with the Government’s decision that all Australian-produced crude oil should be priced to refineries at import parity levels.
The second alteration provided for removal of excise duty of $4.41 per kilogram on saccharin and cyclamates with effect from 22 August 1979. This alteration was complementary to similar Customs Tariff Proposals introduced at the same time and implements recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 212 of 4 May 1979 on chemical products (Part A). The third alteration reduced the excise duty on grape brandies from $18.75 to $16 per litre of alcohol with effect from 9 November 1979. This alteration implements the Government’s decisions to enhance the competitive position of these products following consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on grapes and wines and on spirits and spirituous liquors. The duty differential between flavoured and non-flavoured spirituous liquors was also eliminated, both now being subject to an excise duty of $18.75 per litre of alcohol. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
-The Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1980 has four active clauses. It varies the excise applicable to cyclamates, saccharin and brandy. None of those changes is being opposed by the Opposition, but the most important thing that the Bill does is to increase the excise on crude oil from 1 July 1979 to a maximum rate of $16.25 a barrel. Under legislation which is listed to follow this Bill, the maximum rate will be further increased to $22.27 a barrel. The Opposition will be opposing that measure but, because it is tied in with the rest of the Bill, the only thing we can do procedurally is to move a second reading amendment. Therefore, I move:
I am disappointed that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) is not here for this debate because he could learn something from it- assuming that he is educatable. Perhaps that is a bold assumption. The plain fact is that Senator Carrick has been an abundant source of misinformation and misunderstanding on almost every aspect of energy policy, and particularly of pricing policy, for as long as he has had the job. He has achieved what would have seemed the impossible six months ago, that is, he has made the former Minister for National Development look competent.
This Bill was passed by the House of Representatives as far back as 18 March. I do not know why it has taken so long to come before the Senate. It is one of those mysteries about the way the Government organises its program. It is quite unfathomable to me anyway that Bills can remain on the Notice Paper for several months. In this instance the Bill was almost run over by the succeeding Bill which validates the increase in excise from 1 January this year. This Bill was almost overtaken by that one although six months later chronologically it follows this one. It has been laying around for more than two months in the Parliament. In contrast, the Government introduces other legislation and rams it through both Houses in little over a week. I am completely bewildered by that policy, if it is a policy. Perhaps it is not a policy. Perhaps the Government just has no more idea of managing the business of the Parliament than, as its record demonstrates, it has of managing the business of the country.
As we have two Bills chronologically separated by six months but before the Senate on the same day, most of my remarks and the figures I will apply will refer to the present situation in respect of taxes instead of the excises which are actually validated by this Bill because this Bill was superseded on 1 January this year. At present Australian refineries pay $24.70 a barrel for Australian crude oil. The average cost of production for that oil, including the amortisation of capital, is $2 a barrel. The refiners pay just over $6 a barrel and the balance, which is more than $ 1 8 a barrel, is government taxes. The overwhelming portion of that tax is the excise levy which is being validated by this Bill and further validated by the subsequent Bill.
When Mr Fraser became Prime Minister retail super grade petrol was about 1 3c or 1 4c a litre. It is now 32c to 34c or a little cheaper at some discount places in capital cities. The price of petrol has gone up by about 150 per cent. The excise on crude oil at the present rate is producing revenue at the rate of $3 billion a year. That is equal to a flat 16 per cent increase in personal income tax which already stands at the highest level that has ever been imposed in peace time and at even higher, at even more punitive rates relative to the past on the lower income groups. So superimposed on that highest ever level of personal income tax we have this new tax which is equal to a further flat rate 16 per cent increase in personal income tax. That is a rather astonishing achievement for a Prime Minister who promised to end the great tax rip-off. The purpose of the amendment moved tonight by the Opposition is to exclude a portion of that great tax rip-off- the most unfair and unjust portion of it, that which is extracted by the crude oil levy.
The latest survey of household expenditure conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed some very important facts about the distribution of the burden of this levy. The lowest income households in the country happen to spend almost 10 per cent of their income on petrol and oil, compared with an average 3 per cent and just over 2 per cent for the highest income households. In other words, this tax is highly regressive and is particularly regressive for the low income groups in the country which the National Country Party purports to represent. Indeed before the Liberal Party recognised the revenue raising potential of this new Fraser tax the Country Party was eager to secure for its friends- the oil producers- import parity pricing.
So the people in the country who suffer most from the imposition of this levy can thank for their plight primarily the political party which purports to represent them.
As a result of this Fraser tax rip-off the consumer price index has been increased directly in the last 18 months by 4Vi per cent and indirectly probably by 6 per cent or 7 per cent. The Government’s oil pricing policy- petrol taxing policy- is the direct cause of inflation returning to double figures and still rising; of interest rates at record levels and still rising. This is from the man who promised in November 1977: ‘Interest rates will fall by 2 per cent over the coming year. It is a target that can and will be met’. Interest rates are now 2V4 per cent higher than they were when that statement, when that absolute promise, that commitment was given. The reason interest rates are 2lA per cent higher is the Government’s petrol taxing policy. Of course, unemployment continues at record levels as a further side effect of that policy.
What is the rationale for this economic vandalism? Two excuses have been put forward. One is that it will encourage exploration. That falls to the ground because any incentive to explore which could have been provided by pricing was provided in 1975 when the then Labor Government announced that all discoveries of new oil would be priced at import parity. The price at which oil from Bass Strait is sold to Australian producers has absolutely no effect on incentives for exploration. It makes no difference to the price that will be received by Australian producers for new oil discoveries. According to recent historical record, according to the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association, expenditure in this financial year will be $190m compared with $240m in the previous financial year. Neither common sense nor the empirical record provides any support whatsoever for the first rationale for the Government’s import parity pricing policy.
The second rationale is that it is a conservation policy. Recently we have been bombarded by the Government propaganda machine with stories of the alleged success of this policy. It was stated that for a period earlier this year the growth of consumption had slowed down by 2 per cent compared with what it was in the same period in the year before. (Quorum formed). I see that Senator Carrick is in the chamber. I hope he remains because I want to give him a tutorial on what a resource rent tax is and what the effects of it would be because he is obviously badly in need of such a tutorial.
Before the quorum was called I was referring to figures which have been produced and which purport to show that the increase in consumption of petrol has slowed down by about 2 per cent. The figures at this stage are inconclusive. I think it is a matter of common sense- it is certainly not denied by the Australian Labor Party- that the price and consumption are not entirely unrelated. At least in the long term if there are substantial increases in price one can expect consumption to be somewhat lower than it would otherwise have been.
The point, however, is that the minuscule gains in terms of lower consumption which could be achieved by further price increases are far more than offset by the damage which is being done to the economy as a whole by the Government ‘s policy on taxing petroleum fuel. Indeed, as recent events have shown the Government’s policy is in a shambles in this area as it is in every other area concerned with energy pricing. We are told repeatedly by Senator Carrick that import parity pricing for crude oil is the cornerstone of any rational energy policy. When we ask Senator Carrick, as we asked him today, whether we will have import parity pricing on 1 July he will not answer. Six times this year he has been asked: ‘Will the Government on 1 July adjust the price of Australian-produced crude oil in accordance with the prevailing price of Saudi crude adjusted for freight and quality?’ Senator Carrick always dodges the question. The reason he dodges the question of course is that the Government has decided for purely political reasons, for reasons of political expediency, that it will not increase the price of crude oil this side of the election. If it manages to win the election- it does not look likely but I suppose hope springs eternalthere will be a massive increase in crude oil prices on 1 January 1981. Indeed, Senator Carrick gave the show away this morning. He spoke his mind before he had an opportunity at the time to curb his tongue. He said: ‘We will have import parity pricing’. That means that we will have import parity pricing on 1 January if this Government survives the elections. The electorate is again being deceived in the way it has been consistently deceived since 1975. The Government hopes to seduce the electorate into believing that its petrol tax rip-off policy is in a state of suspended animation. It is suspended but it is only suspended until polling day.
When charged with the consequences of his policy Senator Carrick has adopted a number of subterfuges and devices. Most frequently he does not answer the question at all. He waffles on with windy rhetoric and irrelevancies. Occasionally he says: ‘The Labor policy would result in even dearer crude oil because the Labor Party believes in export parity pricing’. He has actually said that. He asserted that Keating and Hayden advocate export parity pricing which of course would make petroleum much dearer. In saying that he demonstrated that he did not know what export and import parity meant as well as not knowing what a resource rent tax is. Import parity pricing is world parity plus freight and export parity is world parity minus freight. To anyone who understands simple arithmetic, it ought to be patently obvious that there is no possible way in which export parity can be higher than import parity. When finally confronted with that Senator Carrick, with an ingenuous explanation concocted by somebody in his Department, said: Import parity is $29 a barrel and the Australian price is only $24.70 a barrel. The export parity for Australian oil, given freight of about $2, is $27 because the world price is in fact $29’. He got his arithmetic right. The trouble was that he admitted that in fact the Government did not have import parity pricing. The only way he could get his arithmetic right was by admitting that the policy that he asserted as the cornerstone of any rational, sensible energy policy did not apply.
His other ruse is to say: ‘Oil will be even dearer if the Labor Party gets into government because the Labor Party will impose an extra tax. The Labor Party will impose a resource rent tax’. That is one of the ways in which he has consistently demonstrated that he has neither memorised the detail nor grasped the concepts in his own policy area. I know that Senator Carrick has great difficulty in mastering arithmetic or economic concepts. I am sorry he is not in the chamber. I hope he will read the Hansard record tomorrow. I hope he is listening on the broadcasting system. For him I will explain again, slowly and as simply as possible, what a resource rent tax is and why it is technically superior in terms of resource allocation to his Government’s levy policy and that technical superiority prevails irrespective of the amount of revenue raised or the absolute level of the tax.
It works like this: The present levy is a tax on output. The essential difference is that a resource rent tax is a tax on profit. This Government’s levy and other minor levies imposed by the Victorian Government average just over $18 a barrel at present. The producers’ price for that oil is $24.70 for a barrel and on average more than $ 1 8.70 of that comes out as tax. That means that the actual price to the producer is $6 a barrel. Let us take the example of a small oil field or one which is approaching the end of its economic life. Let us say that it costs $ 10 a barrel just to get the oil out of the ground. If an $18 tax is applicable, that field will stop producing unless the price of oil is above $28 a barrel whereas if a resources rent tax applied that well would go on producing until the current cost of extracting the oil exceeded the market price of the oil. Senator Carrick possibly will never recognise that reality but he probably will not be the Minister for very much longer.
Even if the Liberal Party remains in power it will have to modify its crude oil taxing policy, its flat rate levy. If it does not modify its flat rate levy a lot of economically recoverable oil will be left in fields as they approach the end of their lives. A further substantial advantage, of course, of a resource rent tax is that it would make irrelevant the present dispute about whether the For.tesque field is new oil or old oil. Esso-BHP claim that it is new oil. The Government for the time being has agreed to that. The geological evidence however seems to point in the other direction. But that dispute would become completely irrelevant because the tax levied on that field would be related to the profitability of extracting oil from that field. Oil would continue to be produced from that field and from all the other fields as long as the marginal cost of production was lower than the market price of oil. That argument, of course, applies to quantum royalties on iron ore, gold, nickel or anything at all.
The economic principle remains constant. What makes it so vital when it is applied to petroleum is that the level of the royalty or the levy is so high. On most oil produced in Australia the levy accounts for three-quarters of the market price. So, while we can tolerate, without a great deal of damage, a quantum royalty which is economically inefficient, which leads to a misallocation of resources and which distorts rational investment and production decisions when it is applied- as it is- to most other minerals, when this level of taxation is applied to crude oil the levy becomes quite intolerable. But even Senator Carrick, whether or not he has the intellectual capacity to understand that economic concept of resource rent tax, ought to know that prices for Australian oil are set by arbitrary government decision; they are set by administrative fiat. The price of Australian oil is and will continue to be whatever the Australian Government says the price of Australian oil will be. Whether we have a quantum levy or a resource rent tax makes no difference. The arbitrary government decision is completely independent. A quantum levy or a resource rent tax may affect the distribution of whatever arbitrary price the Australian Government sets between the public and the producing companies and will affect rational production and investment decisions. A resource rent tax will ensure a more efficient utilisation of resources than any quantum levy. Even if Senator Carrick does not understand a resource rent tax he must know that the imposition of that tax will not force prices up. So he is knowingly misleading the public and the Senate when he consistently asserts that it will.
That is by no means the only issue on which Senator Carrick has displayed a grossly inadequate grasp of his portfolio and /or a culpable unwillingness to supply accurate information to the Senate. He has repeatedly asserted that Australia has the third cheapest petrol in the world. I have a list here which shows that at least eight other countries have cheaper petrol than Australia. On one occasion Senator Carrick said that the information came from his Department. lt had collected figures from all over the world to show that Australia had the third cheapest petrol in the world. That is not true now and it was not true when he made the statement. What is almost true is that at the time he made that statement we had the third cheapest petrol of oil importing countries. In fact we had the fourth cheapest at the time he said it. I have received this information from the Parliamentary Library. I suspect it was ultimately derived from Senator Carrick ‘s Department. So, if I can get accurate information from Senator Carrick ‘s Department, albeit through a third party, I suggest that Senator Carrrick should be able to get it too. He is unable to tell the Senate -
– Give us the figures for New Zealand and some other Western countries.
- Senator Carrrick did not refer to Western countries. He said: ‘My Department has got figures from all over the world and we have the third cheapest petrol in the world We did not and we have not.
– That is an exaggeration.
– He didn’t ‘t say it either.
-He did say it. He said ‘My Department collected figures from all over the world and we have the third cheapest petrol in the world ‘. We did not and we have not. At the time he made the statement we did not have the third cheapest petrol in the world even among oil importing countries. As far as I can determine we had the fourth cheapest petrol. For example, in the Philippines petrol prices are lower. I have a list which uses the exchange rates as at 1 March, the time when Senator Carrick made these assertions. Since Senator Watson is so interested I will read some figures. In Canada petrol was 2 lc per litre and in Indonesia 13c per litre. At this time petrol in Australia was 34c.
– You are not citing comparable figures.
– These figures are based on the most recent available information supplied by the Parliamentary Library. The figures are expressed in local currency and are converted to Australian dollars by the exchange rate prevailing on 1 March which was the time Senator Carrick made these assertions. At that stage petrol in Australia was 34c per litre; in the United States of America 30c; and in Syria 20c. Even in Singapore, with a massive balance of payments problem and a complete oil import, petrol cost only 32c. In Saudi Arabia it cost 3!£c per litre; in the Philippines, an oil importing country, petrol cost 22c; in Mexico 16c; in Kuwait 8c; in Indonesia 13c; in Canada 21c; and so on. I think those figures ultimately came from Senator Carrick ‘s Department. I think it certainly expresses his contempt for the Senate if I can obtain accurate figures from his Department and he cannot.
Senator Carrick is unable to tell us Government policy on future oil prices. Again this morning he could not tell us whether the retroactive $2 a barrel increase announced yesterday by Saudi Arabia or the retroactive increase announced in February or the further increase that is likely to be announced in June will be passed on on 1 July. He does not know that either. He does not know what import and export parity means. He does not know the level of Bass Strait oil production, as demonstrated again earlier in March, or the reasons why production has declined.
– Or Rundle shale oil.
-That is right. I thank Senator Wriedt for the interjection. Senator Carrick asserted in his pontifical style again today that the Rundle partners would not be proceeding with that project unless they knew it would be economically viable. Even Senator Carrick ought to understand that we cannot assess the economic viability of that or any other project unless we know the end price of the product. The Government cannot tell the Senate and it cannot tell Rundle what the price will be of synthetic crude that one day may be produced. A prerequisite to determining economic viability is a knowledge of the end price of the product, and Senator Carrick has not the faintest idea- if what he says in the Senate is to be believed- of what the price of Australian crude oil will be on 1 July, let alone what it might be at some future time if or when Rundle moves into the production of synthetic oil.
For a long time Senator Carrick could not tell us anything about Government policy on liquefied petroleum gas pricing. Finally the National Country Party gave him his riding instructions and he produced a dazzling policy on 7 April which stated that it is the Government’s policy to reserve supplies of liquefied petroleum gas for its premium end uses as a petrochemical Feedstock and as an automotive fuel. That is the Government’s policy according to Senator Carrick. How does it price LPG for various end uses? One might argue that a government which purports to believe in market forces and which adopts as holy writ, so it says, the principle of market forces determining oil prices would not intervene at all and would not, by heavy-handed intervention, tell people not only the price at which they could sell LPG but also that they could sell it to customer A at X price and to customer B at Y price and so on. But disregarding all those philosophical contradictions we have a technical contradiction. The Government says its policy is to reserve LPG for these premium end uses as a petrochemical feedstock and an automotive fuel. So its price for petrochemical feedstock is world parity, export parity- about $250 a tonne. The price for crude space heating use is $125 a tonne. What a peculiar way that is for a government to implement a policy of reserving as far as possible this premium fuel for its premium end uses. The Government sells it for its crudest use at half the price it charges for its premium use, and then it has the audacity to say, not once but every time the subject comes up, as Senator Carrick does, that its policy is to reserve supplies of this premium fuel for its premium end uses. What he does not say- this would complete the factual position about the Government’s policy- is that it sells it for that premium end uses for double the price of that which goes to the crudest of all its possible uses.
An enormous variety of fuels could be substituted for liquefied petroleum gas in crude space heating. But the Government has decided to make it available for that purpose for $125 a tonne, plus freight from the refinery. For what the Government says are the premium uses of LPG for which it desires to reserve it as much as possible, the price is $252 a tonne.
I do not have a great deal more to say on this Bill. As the subsequent Bill covers much the same subject matter, I do not intend to speak on it at any length at all. At the appropriate time I will just rise to indicate that the Opposition is opposing that Bill also.
The reason that the Government adopted that absurd pricing policy for LPG- by using the word ‘absurd’ I am referring to its own stated objectives and stated preferences- and the reason that it stood the laws of the market on their head is, as is usual with this Government, sheer political expediency and, to some extent perhaps, subservience to the National Country Party. It is for exactly the same reason, with less emphasis on the National Country Party, that Senator Carrick will not tell us what the price of crude oil will be on 1 July or indeed at any time thereafter.
– Why don’t you try being nice, just for once?
– If there were some nice people around me, I would. I am very nice to people on this side of the House. The Government lacks the political courage to apply import parity pricing for crude oil now. It does not have the political courage to apply import parity pricing on 1 July, when the next review is due. What it intends to do is to follow the pattern of behaviour established by Mr Fraser in 1975 and in 1977. It intends to lull the public into a sense of false security that the Government’s behaviour will not be as abominable as in fact it will be. There will be no further increases in the price of Australian crude oil this side of the election. But by the end of this year- Saudi Arabian price increases are already in the pipeline; $4 a barrel, which will almost certainly be increased further next month and again quite substantially during the last six months of this year- there will be in the pipeline price increases of somewhere between $8 and $10 a barrel. If this Government is returned, those increases will be passed on on 1 January, and the price of petrol will rise another 6c a litre.
The Government hopes to get away with another massive deception of the public. But reprehensible, if I may borrow a word, though that is, what is even more serious in the long term is that Senator Carrick is in charge of the crucial energy portfolio. Decisions made on energy policy have profound effects on government revenue, inflation, interest rates, income distribution, and of course the general level of economic activity and economic growth. The plain facts are, at least as revealed by his behaviour and in his statements inside and outside the Senate, that Senator Carrick does not understand the mathematical or economic concept of resources rent tax. He says we have import parity but admits implicitly that we do not. He says that the Government is committed to import parity, but he has no idea at all when prices will be adjusted to reflect import parity. He does not know the relative price of petrol in Australia or anywhere else, and he consistently makes dogmatic assertions in the Senate which are subsequently judged to be completely wrong. He does not know what is going on in Bass Strait at the production level, although he pretends that he does. Finally he passes the buck to the Prices Justification Tribunal and blames it for everything that is wrong with the Government’s pricing policy on liquefied petroleum gas.
– Since it is my intention to vote with the Government on this matter, I felt I should make the position of the Australian Democrats clear. We are not particularly happy with the Government ‘s use of the crude oil levy. We continue to support it, although the Australian Democrats do not like high petrol costs any more than other people in Australia do. It is quite natural for Australians to resent the fact that they have to pay these high prices when they go to the petrol pump. It is the fault entirely of the Government. It has been warned before- we warned it a year ago- that the Australian public would see this as an unfair and discriminating tax which applies equally to the wealthy and to the working man on the basic wage, with children, who has to use his car to go on shift work. That has been perceived.
– But you are voting for it, Senator.
– Just let me finish. It is the Government which has painted itself into a corner in this matter. It has done that over the last year by insisting that it will stick on this levy and then rip it off from the people to use it for this astonishing, paranoid, weird preoccupation with the Budget deficit that our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has. Everything has to be sacrificed to that.
I would have hoped that by now the Government or some people on the other side of the Parliament might be beginning to learn that they will not get away with it. They will not get away with it in an election year. The Australian Labor Party has seen the Government’s predicament, and it will exploit it every inch of the way from now until the election. It will gain a lot of votes over it. It will not do the Government any good shilly-shallying over its policy and doing what honourable senators on this side of the chamber have suggested, namely, not putting up the price in the hope that it can slide by somehow until after the election and then put it up. There is an answer for the Government, and the Australian people believe this.
I have mentioned before the surveys that the Australian Democrats do which cover 4,000 or 5,000 people. We ask the people questions. The second point in the survey that we are doing now asks how that money should be spent. The biggest answer to the seven options that we gave the people was that most or all of it should be spent on alternative energy sources. I believe that if the Government had had the brains to realise that if it had been sincere and levelled with the Australian people, if it had said, ‘Yes, we have to pay this huge price because it is right and proper that we should conserve our resources, but at the same time we are doing everything possible quickly to provide you with a guaranteed form of motor spirit in the future’, the Australian people might have gone along with the Government. But it has reached the stage where time is running out for it very rapidly on this matter.
The options were there a year ago, based on established technology and the best advice we could get in the world- from Davy Pacific Pty Ltd which is building methanol plants elsewhere in the world. For $2 5 8m the Government could have got on stream two refineries which would have produced M15 for Australia at something like 20c a litre or less. Those refineries would have been on stream in two or three years time. I would have thought that the Government would have the common sense to realise that it could not expect the public not to know these things. People are better educated these days; they understand that these things are going on.
At this stage, in voting with the Government, I am making, I admit, an act of faith. Will the Government at least see that it has itself in a difficult position economically, politically and electorally over this matter? It has got to the stage where it is seen by the Australian people as having been dishonest over this matter. That is an accurate perception; it has been dishonest over it. The amount of money that is being taken from this huge levy and is being actually used for research into alternative energy resources is less than one per cent of the total. That is not good enough. It should have been 30 to 50 per cent. There should have been crash programs for methanol and ethanol, or from coal to oilalthough I understand there are bad problems in the technology of that in the blocking up of condenser pipes and things of that sort. At least the Australian people would have felt that the
Government was doing something. As I say, it is literally over a barrel.
– My name is not on the speakers’ list. But having listened to Senator Mason, I cannot let this debate conclude without pointing out the double standards of the Australian Democrats. Senator Mason accused the Government of being dishonest and, in the same breath, he said that he is going to support this measure. If he were genuine in his accusations about the Government’s dishonesty, he would oppose this legislation and support the amendment moved by Senator Walsh. I asked Senator Mason a few moments ago whether he was going to speak on the Bill and he said no. Then he hopped up and spoke on it. That is the reason why I speak. We have seen too many instances of this type of thing in the Parliament. We saw what the Australian Democratic Labor Party did. It would criticise the Government but, when the crunch came, it would always vote with the Government on vital issues. It is quite obvious that that is what the Democrats will do whilst they remain in this Parliament. They will go out into the hustings and criticise the Government. They will do the same here. But, when the crunch comes, they will support it on every major issue. We have witnessed that tonight in Senator Mason’s own words.
– We decide what we will support.
– He said that he decides what is important. There is nothing more important in the minds of the people of Australia today than the exorbitant price that they have to pay at the petrol pump.
- Senator Mason said that the Government has done everything wrong, so they will support it.
– That is right. Those are his very words. I am sure that people in the electorate will be very interested to read what Senator Mason has said. I think his leader, when he comes back from China, might be shocked to read his words. Senator Mason criticised the Government, said that it is dishonest, and then blithely said that his party will support it on this measure.
I support Senator Walsh. My remarks will not take very long because Senator Walsh has put a very strong case for the Opposition. Honourable senators have not seen one member of the Government speak in support of the Bill because they know how unpopular this measure is in the electorate. It is only a few days ago that the
Senate passed the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill, and the Government made great play about honouring an election promise, made nearly three years ago, that it would give 2 per cent of personal income tax to local government. How is it raising that revenue? It is taking it off every person who buys a litre of petrol. It is using every petrol pump in the country as a tax office. It is ripping the money off taxpayers and it is handing them back a miserable two per cent. What many people in local government do not realise is that they are not even getting the share that they were promised three years ago. Because of the increase in unemployment, the personal income tax collection rate is decreasing. If the Government honours its other promises, which it has not done yet, to lower income tax, the return will be further reduced. All the time that rate is getting lower and lower, and the Government fools local government into thinking that it is getting an increase in its take. Meanwhile the Government is raking off more and more from every petrol user in the country.
The increase in the cost of petrol does not only affect big business. It is having an adverse effect on people in country towns, such as those who have to drive their children to catch the school bus. They are the ones who are feeling the effects. People who play in or follow country football teams are finding now that they cannot let their children play in football teams because the price of petrol is too high. All of these factors will rebound on the Government. The sooner the people get the opportunity, through the ballot box, to make a decision on what this Government has done, the better off we will all be. If time permitted, I could have said a lot more, but I think Senator Walsh has said enough, in his manner which is always capable, even though he is derided by people opposite. When honourable senators are scoring a point in this place they will always find people opposite say that they do not know what they are talking about and that they are handling the truths carelessly, as we heard Senator Watson saying to Senator Walsh.
If anybody is handling the truth on petrol pricing very carelessly in the Parliament, it has been the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick. That point was forcibly brought home to the Government tonight by the Opposition spokesman, Senator Walsh. If Senator Carrick had any intestinal fortitude, he would have been here tonight to answer the accusations made by Senator Walsh; but of course he was absent. The only time we saw him in the chamber tonight was when a quorum was called, when there was hardly a Government senator in here. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) had to call a quorum to get Government senators in here to support this very Bill. They are so shamefaced about the legislation that they did not want to be in the chamber tonight when it was going through. I hope that, as soon as the Opposition gets an opportunity at the ballot box, the judgment will be passed. I recall well the noises that these people who sit opposite created when the Opposition was in government and it took away a miserable 4c a gallon on petrol in freight subsidies. The present Government senators said that we were crippling country people. But, as Senator Walsh asked: What has the Government done to petrol prices since it has been in office? lt has more than doubled them. If it had the courage now to honour the promises and statements it has made, we ought to be going to world parity prices to bring about conservation and carry that promise out, and petrol would be much dearer now. As Senator Walsh has forewarned the electorate, if the Government is returned to office on 1 January we are going to see another massive increase in petrol prices which will cripple people, particularly those who live in the country areas.
– We heard a somewhat lengthy speech from Senator Walsh on behalf of the Opposition in relation to this measure in which he moved an amendment, the effect of which if carried would be virtually to negate the proposals in the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill. I notice that he did not say anything about a couple of other proposals in it relating to excise tariffs in respect of saccharin and grape brandies.
– We are not opposing that. I did say that.
– I appreciate that he is not opposing those, and the amendment does not do so. But, as I said, the substance of his amendment would defeat the major proposal here, namely, the excise duty payable in respect of crude petroleum. The Government’s policy in relation to this matter, of course, has been explained on numerous occasions; and it seems to be the subject of debate at every Senate Question Time. Senator Walsh has taken the occasion of this second reading debate to reiterate the views which he has expressed on many other occasions and which have been answered on many other occasions by Senator Carrick, the Minister for National Development and Energy. I do not propose to go over that ground again in this debate. I do not think there is anything that I can add to the debate that has already taken place on a number of occasions in the Senate. I think the issues are quite clear. The Government, of course, will firmly oppose the amendment because it has a very strong policy in favour of the excise tariffproposals, implementing its proposal of import parity pricing. The Government hopes that the Senate will support the measures contained in the Bills.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Walsh’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator The Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 23 April, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to enact the Excise Tariff Proposal No. 1 (1980) which increased the excise duties on stabilised crude petroleum oil from $ 102.27 to $ 1 40. 1 1 per kilolitre, with effect from 1 January 1980. This follows determination of revised import parity prices by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) following the official price increase of Arabian light crude oil in December 1 979.
The Government policy in relation to crude oil is that all Australian-produced crude oil should be priced to refineries at import parity levels. This policy was first implemented in the 1978 Budget. Import parity pricing is an essential ingredient of our policy to enable Australia to improve its level of self-sufficiency in oil. The need for import parity pricing has been brought about by the fragility and uncertainty of the international oil supply situation, which has meant that Australia must reduce its dependence on imported oil. This policy has given impetus to the exploration for and the development of oil reserves in Australia. The development and successful exploitation of alternative sources of liquid fuel such as the recently announced Rundle shale oil project is dependent upon maintaining the import parity pricing policy for petroleum from conventional sources.
There has also been a change in consumers’ attitude to the conservation of the world’s fuel and to the use of alternative energy sources such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and electricity. A policy of cheap crude oil would lose the conservation and development benefits which accrue from import parity pricing and would inevitably lead to greater dependence on imported oil. Additionally, our dependence on imported oil would have a detrimental effect on Australia’s balance of payments and the only people who would benefit would be the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Australian producers would then have no incentive to explore and develop oil reserves and the inevitable long term increase in the price of crude oil would be of no benefit whatsoever to Australia or to the Australian motorist. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– This Bill validates the further increase in excise on Australian crude oil which has applied from 1 January this year. The maximum rate is just over $22 a barrel. The facts and arguments which are relevant to the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) are, of course, almost identical to those which were relevant to the Bill which was debated previously. Indeed, the only fact that is different is that the excise is imposed at an even higher rate and, therefore, I suppose the arguments against the Bill are even stronger. However, it is quite clear from the result of the last division that the power of the arguments of Opposition members and the soundness of our logic has not persuaded any senators on the other side of the chamber that they should change their vote in relation to this matter.
– The forces of evil triumphed.
– The forces of reason have little impact on the way those senators vote. However, I have no doubt that there is a great number of senators opposite who would like to see a policy different from the Government’s present policy. In particular, I have no doubt that Senator Puplick, whose career as a parliamentarian will be ending in 13 months’ time, would like to see a very different government policy on this matter to give him just the roughest chance of surviving in the Senate- a chance which he does not have now.
– Don’t give him too much of a chance.
– I do not give him any chance at all because of this policy. Nobody would give him any chance at all while the Government sticks to this policy. If the Government took a different policy on this matter he might have a very rough chance of surviving. He has no chance at all now. I suppose that helps to explain the interest he displayed last night in post-parliamentary sinecures. Obviously because of the voting of honourable senators oppositethey are not amenable to reason- we will not be calling a division on this second, near identical
Bill. I make only one other observation. This is the Bill which validates the collection of a crude oil levy at the rate of $3,000m a year. It is because of this massive Fraser petrol tax -
– How much?
– At the rate of $3, 000m a year. That is the tax rip-off which this Bill validates.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-This Bill validates the petroleum fuel tax rip-off at the rate of $3, 000m a year. This Fraser tax has put the Government in a position where it will be able, if it chooses to do so, almost to eliminate the Budget deficit next year, which is something that it implicitly promised to do the moment it assumed office. But the real irony about the Fraser Government finally achieving what it asserted was an absolute imperative in the days when Mr Fraser was in the Opposition is that the Government is in a position to produce a balanced Budget, not because it reduced Government expenditure, but because it has presided over a massive increase in taxation. The massive tax rip-off which this Bill validates is the reason why the Fraser Government is in a position to produce a balanced Budget next year; if it chooses to do so.
– It is crook.
– Yes, it is crook all right. Although that is the result, the way in which it has been achieved reverses everything which Mr Fraser said he stood for before he became Prime Minister and which ironically, but not surprisingly for anyone who studies his record, he continues to have the audacity to assert he still remains committed to. The reason it can bring in a balanced Budget is the massive tax rip-off, which this Bill validates, which is directed more than proportionately at the lower income groups. ( Quorum formed).
-This Bill raises the same issue as the previous Excise Tariff Amendment Bill did but in respect to a different period.
It simply is validating the excise in relation to petroleum crude for a further period. I do not propose to add anything. The debate has been fully canvassed in the previous Bill. I hope that the Senate will give support to this measure in the same way as it did to the one that was just voted on.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the following resolution:
That paragraph 12 of the resolution of appointment of the Joint Committee on the Family Law Act be omitted and that the following paragraph be substituted:
12) The Committee report by 3 1 August 1980 and any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report. ‘
Motion (by Senator Missen)- by leave -proposed:
That the Senate concurs in the resolution of the House of Representatives contained in message No. SOS of the House of Representatives; and that the foregoing resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 25 March, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Distillation Amendment Bill 1980
The main purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the Distillation Act 1 90 1 to introduce a new class of distilling licence as part of the Government’s initiatives aimed at diversifying Australia’s liquid fuel sources. The licence to be known as an ‘experimenters ‘ licence will authorise the distillation of spirits from any material for the purposes of research into the production of ethanol for use as a fuel for internal combustion engines. The Bill includes a provision to enable the regulations to prescribe the number of experimenters’ licences that may be in force at one time. This is to enable controlled small-scale fuel ethanol production to occur.
The Government is of the view that it is possible that ethanol produced from various agricultural crops at a competitive price could make a contribution to satisfying Australia’s liquid fuel needs. This fuel could have a role as a petrol extender in petrol-ethanol blends containing 10 per cent to 20 per cent ethanol. In fact blends containing up to 15 per cent have been used in the past in some areas of Queensland. In addition to the prospect of commercial production there is already considerable interest in production of this fuel on a small scale for use by farmers. The granting of experimenters’ licences will thus enable the Government to make a realistic assessment of the technical, environmental and administrative problems involved in small-scale ethanol production and to devise the most effective means of control. In a related amendment to the Excise Tariff Act 1901, provision is made for ethanol for use on a farm and as a transport fuel to be free of excise duty. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Excise Amendment Bill 1980
The main purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to make a consequential amendment to the Excise Act 1901 as part of a package of measures designed to encourage research into the production of ethanol for use as a fuel in internal combustion engines. The proposed amendment will ensure that Customs control and inspection powers, for the protection of the revenue, can be exercised in respect of goods levied for excise duty at the free rate. Customs control can currently only be exercised over excisable goods upon which an excise duty is imposed by the Parliament.
In this Bill the opportunity has been taken to repeal Part XIII of the principal Act entitled Settlement of Cases of the Minister’ and to abolish references to King’s and Queen’s warehouses. Administrative use of Part XIII of the principal Act was discontinued in 1974 when the view was taken that the provisions purported to confer upon the Minister and his delegates a power of determination more proper to be exercised by the judiciary. Because the Commonwealth no longer maintains warehouses for commercial operations references to such warehouses in the legislation are therefore redundant. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1980
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Schedule to the Excise Tariff Act 192 1 to insert a tariff item for fuel ethanol. The Bill forms part of a package of measures designed to encourage research into the production of ethanol for use as a fuel in internal combustion engines. Currently, ethanol, if used as a fuel in internal combustion engines would attract excise duty at the rate of $19.25 per litre of alcohol. The proposed new item makes provision for fuel ethanol to be free of excise duty. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax (Repeal) Bill 1980
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to repeal the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Act 1974, the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Amendment Act 1977 and the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Collection Act 1974 to give effect to the Government’s decision to remove the tax on this fuel for automotive use after 27 June 1979. The Government’s decision to remove this tax, which was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 27 June 1979, is part of a series of government initiatives on energy conservation designed to encourage a shift in energy use away from oil to other sources of energy.
I am sure that honourable senators present today share the world-wide concern about the energy situation, oil shortages and escalating oil prices. The impact of world oil shortages has already been felt in this country. Because liquefied petroleum gas has considerable potential for saving motor spirit, it is expected that removal of the tax on this fuel will ultimately lead to 10 per cent to 15 per cent of Australia’s motor vehicles being powered by this alternative source of energy. The removal of this tax will result in a reduction of approximately $700,000 in revenue. However the Government considers this measure to be fully justified in order to alleviate oil shortages. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– One of the Bills in this package, the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax (Repeal) Bill 1980, removes two and one-eighth cents a litre from the existing excise on liquefied petroleum gas for automotive use. The Opposition supports the Bill. I observe for the record that unlike all the other aspects of the Government’s LPG pricing policy this measure is compatible with its stated objective of reserving to the greatest possible extent LPG for its premium uses as a petrochemical feedstock and an automotive fuel. The reduction in the price of LPG used for automotive fuel- obviously this has to be taken in isolation- is in conformity with the Government’s stated objective. Everything else the Government has done with respect to the pricing of LPG is in conflict with its stated objective.
The effect of the other Bills is to remove the excise on alcohol distillation. As alcohol has been distilled mostly for human consumption the excise is presently extremely high. I think it is in the vicinity of $18.60 a litre. This Bill provides the Minister with the right to waive the excise for the distillation of ethanol which is intended to be used as a fuel instead of for human consumption. Subsequent information suggests that only about 50 experimental licences for ethanol production will be issued by the Minister pursuant to this legislation, which I believe to be wrong. It is highly unlikely that anyone will be using for human consumption alcohol that will be produced in this way. Therefore, I see no reason whatsoever why the Government should be limiting the number of licences which are granted. The economics of ethanol production as a petrol extender for internal combustion engines are, on the present evidence and available technology, dubious. But it is safe to say that the greatest potential for the economic production of ethanol is on a small scale on farms where a market is available for both the ethanol and the possible by-products from ethanol production.
I list some of the factors. Firstly, a number of farmers have considerable skills in metal construction and fabrication. Many of those farmers could build at very low cost a simple still for ethanol production. Capital costs would be minimised. The energy input required for the conversion process in a small decentralised plant could conceivably be provided from solar sources or from farm wastes. The raw material for ethanol production could be some type of cereal grain, sugar cane, fodder beet or sugar beet. Any high carbohydrate crop is capable of producing ethanol. Many of those potential raw materials- cereal grain, sugar beet or fodder beet- would leave a high protein residue suitable for stock feed. For a dairy farmer, pig producer or poultry farmer who had a requirement on the farm for high protein residue stock feed, obviously the transport costs would be minimised. Of course, the raw materials and the implicit market both for the primary product, the ethanol, and the residue, the high protein stock feed, could conceivably be available on the farm.
An additional advantage of small-scale decentralised production on farms is that in a large centralised plant the effluent disposal could be a problem. Large quantities of liquid effluent are produced and effluent disposal could pose a significant environmental problem which ultimately would be an economic problem. It is not usually seen in those terms but by common usage a significant environmental problem through effluent disposal could become an economic problem. Such a problem would not apply to nearly the same extent in a small-scale decentralised plant. I do not know whether the Government has a view on this sort of ethanol production. I believe that the policy which ought to be put forward by the Government- it will be put forward by the Labor Party- is that licences ought to be freely granted for ethanol production for this purpose. Whatever future it may have, for the reasons I have enumerated, it is most likely to be economic in the production of the fuel on the farm for use overwhelmingly, if not entirely, on the farm.
I will make a couple of more general comments very briefly. It is important to recognise the limitations of ethanol as an alternative transport fuel. Firstly, there are quantitative limitations. According to a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation study a couple of years ago if all the potential arable land not presently cultivated in Australia were used to produce crops for energy production as well as the processing of present farm and forestry wastes, the net production of energy would be equal to 50 per cent of our transport fuels. That probably sets an upper limit on the technical potential for fuel production in this way. The other limitation is the qualitative or economic limitation. In the United States for example where ethanol is being produced as an extender for motor spirit or petrol, the subsidies payable a gallon of ethanol, not per gallon of gasoholthere is an important difference- vary between 80c and 130c a gallon. More importantly and less clearly recognised is that there is a serious debate in the United States on whether there is any net production of fossil energy from the production of liquid fuel by this process when the raw material is maize or corn as the Americans call it.
It is quite certain that the energy balance sheet would be far more favourable in Australia because our agriculture is much less energy intensive than mid-western corn production in the United States. But it is important to recognise that very substantial energy inputs are required for the production and conversion of energy crops. Nevertheless, we believe that it is something which has considerable potential at least in the limited sphere of on-farm production for onfarm consumption. Therefore, whilst supporting the measure which the Government is proposing, we see absolutely no reason why the number of licences granted should be restricted in the way the Government plans to restrict it. Perhaps the ultimate objective of the Government in this case is to develop substantially at the expense of small producers the technology for this production and ultimately to allow it to be taken over by existing energy companies to develop technology at somebody else’s expense allowing those companies- particularly the existing oil producers and distributors- ultimately to take over the production of ethanol for liquid fuels.
– The Australian Democrats have been interested in the prospect of fuel ethanol for some time. We support the Bills on one level but on another level it worries me intensely because on a number of matters I could not have disagreed more with what Senator Walsh has just said. (Quorum formed). The Australian Democrats would disagree fundamentally with Senator Walsh’s view, which is presumably that of the Australian Labor Party. I will try to indicate Australian Democrat concern in a simple way, by way of analogy. If we were trying to develop a major military aircraft of our own we would not go about it by granting subsidies to model aeroplane clubs. It is reasonable, and interesting, that our farmers want to set up small scale plants on their own farms to produce fuel ethanol, provided they are not too concerned at the real cost of their product. I have had advice from Dr David McLennan, from Biotechnology Australia Proprietary Limited in Sydney, who is the best authority in this country and is regarded as one of the best in the world on this subject, who has said that this is very much a matter of economies of scale.
Before I go into that there is another matter of grave import which has not been mentioned. I hope that the Government does not give experimenters’ licences to any person who wants to make ethanol on his farm without having a good think about the safety aspects of it. Producing flammable liquids is a highly dangerous business and we will have a lot of blown up farmers if we say that anybody who can weld together a piece of equipment can make ethanol. It is a dangerous chemical.
– Rubbish. It is no more dangerous than petrol.
– Of course it is dangerous; it is as dangerous as petrol. If the honourable senator does not think it is dangerous, he should do a little more homework. In any case, when these people make ethanol they will find that it is a flammable liquid in the terms of State Acts. It certainly is in New South Wales and I think that if Senator Walsh looks up the relevant Act there he will find that it is a flammable liquid and it has to be stored in a flammable liquid store. I was concerned with that at one time in a business way, so I know that to be a fact.
The other point is the question of economies of scales. Dr McLennan made that point at a major convention of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation at Surfers Paradise earlier this year. It was reported in an article in the Adelaide Advertiser, which stated:
He told delegates there that small scale production of ethanol on the farm, 3,000 to 10,000 litres a year, would involve a hopeless set of economics. Production costs were simply too high. Dr McLennan was only marginally optimistic that a plant producing 3 million to 20 million litres a year would be economic.
I have spent a day at the Biotechnology factory at Taverners Hill. Some millions of dollars have already gone into that through private enterprise, and some millions of dollars more are yet to go in. It is probably the most carefully developed technology short of nuclear energy. Of course, it involves continuous fermentation. That is vitally important because that is the only way the economics of ethanol can work out.
When developed, that technology makes nonsense of any other method in the world, including methods now being used in Australia and Brazil to produce ethanol. A continuous fer.menter will reduce costs substantially. The experiments and technology now being studied in Sydney also involves optimum yeasts. The nutrient content of yeasts from all over the world is being tested. This is very high technology. If it is regarded as that, eventually it will turn out to be something of use to Australia. Dr McLennan believes that basically plants could produce from 5 million to 500 million litres a year but the optimal size would be about 120 million litres a year. A plant of that size would cost $50m.
I go along with the point of view of Senator Walsh that it would be wrong if this technology fell into the hands of energy companies from overseas which may feel that they want to suppress it. I am sure there is a move to suppress it now. That has become abundantly obvious in every comment, every half-truth and every misstatement that is made, even to the stage that Senator Walsh believes that, on the American experience, there is a difficulty in regard to the energy quotient. I will give him some material which will show that nearly a year ago that was established quite definitely as being no longer the case because of the advances of technology. Certainly that would not be the case in Australia, not only because of our less energy intensive farming but also because of the advances in the actual technology of production and distillation. I believe it would be possible for wheat farmers and others to form grower co-operatives to operate viable plants. If they wish to see ethanol as a useful product for this country, that is the way they will go about it. I express the concern of the Australian Democrats at the idea that particularly ethanol should be judged solely on its performance based on a small on-farm operation. That would be just as logical as basing our possible aircraft production on the performance of our model aeroplane clubs.
– in reply- I am pleased that the Opposition is supporting this measure. It is an important experiment. I have taken note of Senator Walsh’s views on the limitation of licences or the policy in that regard. The reason why the Government proposes to limit those licences is that it is an experiment and there are certain dangers associated with it. However, the Government, as well as all of Australia, will be interested to see how this experiment develops. Future policy will be determined by experience.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– I wish to straighten out a couple of points in regard to the Opposition ‘s view on this matter. Senator Mason seems to be under the impression that we are advocating a subsidy. That is quite wrong; the Opposition is not advocating a subsidy. The legislation in question removes a tax. There is a very important qualitative difference between removing a tax and paying a subsidy.
– You misunderstood me.
-Well, you referred to a subsidy. The second point is that of course methanol is a flammable liquid but it is less flammable than petrol. Petrol is stored on just about every farm that I know of; so there will be no greater dangers in storing ethanol than there is with petrol. On the safety aspects of the production of ethanol, as I understand it, no high pressure vessels are involved. Therefore there is no reason why it should be particularly dangerous. Certainly any factory process which entails the use of very high pressure vessels is not one which can be permitted without adequate supervision and licensing.
Finally, on economies of scale, whilst there are economies of scale in having larger plants there are also substantial diseconomies- the transport of material to and from being the most obvious one, and the waste or effluent disposal being another one. That, we believe, coupled with the capacity for innovation which a substantial number of farmers have demonstrated they have by way of skills in metal fabrication, very often virtually from scrap material, open the potential for the production of a plant at extremely low capital costs. Those advantages, we believe, could more than offset the other advantages accruing through economies of scale with the larger sized plants.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to make some comments this evening about questions that we ask during the question period when we first gather each day. Most senators who ask questions are in fact seeking information. On occasions of course some political questions are asked and these are accepted by both sides. When senators are seeking information they, of course, look forward to receiving an answer. Most senators, when they are looking for factual information, realise that sometimes the Minister cannot answer at the time but hope that he will be able to provide the information later. Unfortunately this year I have been left high and dry on four occasions when I have been seeking some factual information from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I have been told on each occasion words to the effect that the information will be provided at a later date. Unfortunately it reached the stage that on 23 April I put four questions on notice to the Leader of the Government in the Senate asking for the information which had been promised at an earlier time when I had asked the questions without notice at Question Time. One question in particular has prompted me to comment this evening. On 2 April this year I asked a question in relation to de facto wives. I will read the question because it is pertinent. I asked:
My question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister is prompted by a case of a man with a de facto wife being informed that he could not claim his de facto wife as a dependant for income tax purposes; on the other hand, the de facto wife was informed that she was not eligible for unemployment benefit because she was living in a de facto relationship. Do the Taxation Office and the Department of Social Security use different definitions for ‘spouse’ or ‘dependent’? If so, are some people disadvantaged because of the lack of common policy?
Senator Carrick replied:
I am not informed on this matter. I will seek the information and let the honourable senator know.
That was asked on 2 April. By 23 April I had not received the information. I had not received information on a number of other questions asked of the same Minister. So among the four questions I put on notice on 23 April was this one:
Senator COLSTON: To ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister- is the Minister now able to provide further information in relation to Senator Colston’s questions without notice (see Senate Hansard, page 1331), dated 2 April 1 980, relating to the case of a man claiming a de facto wife as a dependant for income tax purposes.
I was amazed today to read in the Senate Hansard for 14 May that Senator Chipp asked on 17 April a similar question on notice. I think that probably what happened was that Senator Chipp heard my question on 2 April, realised by 1 7 April that no answer had been provided and asked a very similar question. The question on notice was:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 17 April 1980:
Is there an inconsistency in the treatment of de facto relationships in that a man supporting a dependent de facto wife is eligible for pensions and benefits at the married rate, but is taxed as a single person; of so, will the Minister take action to remove any such inconsistency.
There is a slight difference in the thrust of my question of 2 April and the thrust of Senator Chipp ‘s question of 17 April. The Senate Hansard for 14 May contains an answer to that question. In some respects the answer to that question answers my question of 2 April. The answer provided by Senator Carrick to the question on notice from Senator Chipp states:
The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Eligibility for social security pensions and benefits and entitlement to income tax dependent rebates are distinct and separate matters controlled by separate policies and statutory provisions. The relevant provisions of the income tax law- the underlying policy of which has remained constant since 1936- apply to all de facto relationships, not only to those where the parties are in receipt of social security benefits.
Although that answer did not provide the full answer to my original question of 2 April it did give some of the information that I required. I think it is a bit rude that, having asked a question on 2 April, having been promised that information will be given to me, not having had a reply by 23 April and putting a question on notice, I then found in yesterday’s Hansard an answer to a question on notice to a very similar question. It seems to me that if that answer could be provided to Senator Chipp, who had asked a question on notice on 17 April, the answer to my question on 2 April when I was promised information, should have been given. I suggest that when senators are given an undertaking that they will be given information that information should be given to them as soon as possible.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question is: ‘That the Senate do now adjourn’.
– You do not even get a reply to your complaint!
-Mr Deputy President, of course what senators say during the adjournment debate is noted and passed on to the appropriate Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following paper was presented, pursuant to statute:
Commonwealth Banks Act- Appointment-M. Djekovic.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 26 February 1 980:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Overseas Investment in Australian Hospitals (Question No. 2598)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 20 March 1980:
Have any foreign companies which had applied for investment in Australian private hospitals subsequently withdrawn their applications; if so, how many times has this occurred and what was the duration of each application.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Two applications submitted to the Foreign Investment Review Board by foreign companies to invest in Australian private hospitals were withdrawn after lodgement. One proposal was withdrawn one week after lodgement and the other about three months after lodgement.
Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled: Headquarters (Question No. 2643)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 5 April 1980:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As a federation of voluntary agencies, ACROD membership includes schools, sheltered employment services, activity and training centres, nursing homes, hostels and professional bodies providing services to handicapped people or concerned with the improvement of their lifestyle.
ACROD has been funded for 13 years by the Commonwealth Government to co-ordinate advice from its member organisations.
There are currently some 550 member organisations and approximately 280 individual associate members and 18 associate organisations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 21 April 1980:
Will the Government immediately provide free genetic counselling for Vietnam war veterans who are concerned about their past exposure to toxic chemicals, and who may wish to start a family in the near future, before any results can be obtained from longer term studies.
– The Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have expressed on many occasions my concern for those families who have had the misfortune to have a child with a congenital abnormality and for those families who, as a result of conflicting reports concerning the possible effects of exposure to herbicides or other chemicals in Vietnam on Australian veterans, are concerned at the prospect that if they have further children, they may not be born completely healthy.
The Government does not wish to pre-judge in any way the outcome of the study which I announced in Parliament on 31 March 1980 into the possible effects of herbicides and other chemicals on Australian veterans who served in Vietnam to be conducted by the Commonwealth Institute of Health. A major task of the study is to determine if such exposure resulted in any abnormalities in the offspring of such veterans.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs does not provide a genetic counselling service within its own medical institutions and any veteran requiring such a service is referred to those services provided for the community at large. I have advised veterans that if they are concerned about these matters, they should approach their doctor and seek advice from him. If their doctor feels that, in the particular circumstances of their case, genetic counselling is appropriate, he would refer them to the genetic counselling services in the same way as he would any other patient he feels is in need of such a service.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 28 April 1 980:
Who are the members of each Social Security Appeals Tribunal, including:
the name of the chairman;
the period for which the chairman has held that position;
the period each member has been a member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal; and
the professional background of each member.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Details of all present members of the Social Security Appeals Tribunals are set out in the table below. There is more than one panel of Tribunal members in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, while in South Australia a second panel is convened when necessary. Each panel comprises three members, one of whom has a background of involvement in social welfare, another of whom is professionally qualified in law, and the third of whom is a full-time member seconded from and independent of the Department of Social Security. A legally qualified member is the chairman of each panel, except in Queensland where, by arrangement within the Tribunal, the full-time member is the chairman. All present chairmen have held that position since the date of their appointment to the Tribunal.
Defoliants and Herbicides
– On 21 February 1980 (Hansard, page 178) Senator Coleman asked me, in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, a question without notice about defoliants and herbicides. I indicated to Senator Coleman that I would obtain information in respect of those matters raised by her which were not covered by in the statement which I made, on behalf of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, later that morning.
There were two such matters: Senator Coleman asked whether a pilot study could be undertaken in the Australian Capital Territory and whether the survey would cover the effects of defoliants other than agent orange.
Both of these matters have since been covered in the statement presented to the Senate by
Senator Scott, on behalf of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, on 1 April 1980. The statement gave the reasons why limited studies, such as a pilot study in the Australian Capital Territory, would not be of any value to the veterans and indicated that the major study was to be concerned with the herbicides used in Vietnam and not just agent orange.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800515_senate_31_s85/>.