31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 1 0.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 96 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 movementof the Consumer Price Index. By this and other means your petitioners urge that action to be taken to:
. Adjust all pensions and benefits quarterly to the Consumer Price Index, including the fixed 70s 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 as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present two petitions from 317 and 267 citizens of Australia respectively, as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in order to: lower transport costs; boost tourism; improve defence; increase transport reliability and generally assist northern development
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should: urge that the Federal Government proceed immediately with the construction of the Alice Springs-Darwin railway.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petitions received and first petition read.
Oil Drilling at Noonkanbah
– On behalf of Senator WalshI present the following petition from 651 citizens of
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 Aboriginal land rights, religion, sacred sites, and culture are being threatened and denied by the Western Australian Government which is denying the Noonkanbah Community the right to consider and negotiate the Amax Mining Company’s proposals by bringing in police to intimidate Aboriginal people and by instructing the Western Australian Museum to allow drilling on sacred sites at Noonkanbah.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government honour its responsibilities to Aboriginal people according to the spirit of the 1967 Referendum vote giving the Commonwealth Government power to intervene in State affairs where Aboriginal matters are involved; that it take action to ensure that the Noonkanbah community have the right to engage in full negotiations with the Western Australian Government and Amax Company without intimidation and with sufficient time and information to consider the proposals and with a Commonwealth Government presence in order to ensure fair-dealing; and that, the Commonwealth Government ensure that the administration of the Aboriginal Heritage Act by the Western Australian Museum is not tampered with by the Western Australian Government for political expediency against the spirit of the Act and the wishes of the Aboriginal people who have entrusted their culture, their religious objects and law to the Museum.
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, therefore humbly pray that the Senate will fulfil the intentions of the 1967 Referendum.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 88 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’ 70s rate.
Raise all pensioners 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 as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 209 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’ 70s 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 as in duty bound will ever pray.
The Acting Clerk - Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the Women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Primmer.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We, the undersigned.
Being concerned citizens of Australia and of the world
Noting widespread violations of fundamental Human Rights around the world
Observing that Australia has taken a leading role in the United Nations Commission for Human Rights
Being aware that less than 40 per cent of money raised by Amnesty International is remitted outside Australia
Urge the Government to support Amnesty International in a practical way by permitting donations to it to be deductible from income for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
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. pregnancy, marital status, sex and /or sexual preference is a fundamental human right: and
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, sex and/or sexual preference, or pregnancy.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That appropriate and adequate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, in employment of individuals under federal awards. and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployment benefits to all persons without regard to race, ethnic origin, marital status and/orsex.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Lajovic.
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 as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Colston, Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, Lajovic and Mulvihill.
– Has the Minister for National Development and Energy had an opportunity to read the annual address by the Chairman of Western Mining Corporation Ltd, Sir Arvi Parbo, in which he suggested that in certain circles the significance of the mineral boom in Australia was being vastly over-exaggerated? Does the Minister have any idea what those circles in which the exaggeration is taking place would be? I particularly refer him to the answers which he gave me at Question Time on 29 April this year and to the undertakings he gave on that occasion to list the number of foreign companies which had indicated to the Government that they were interested in investing in Australia. Can the Minister now give me an answer to that question of 29 April? Does he agree with the assessment of the Chairman of Western Mining Corporation?
– 1 have not seen the text of the address. Therefore 1 am unable to comment on it. Australia, due very substantially to the energy hunger of the world outside, will undergo very considerable - indeed enormous - expansion of its energy resources and of its minerals in the years and decades ahead. The International Energy Agency has pointed to the need for countries such as Australia very rapidly to increase development of their energy resources. For example, at the moment Australia exports six million tonnes of steaming coal a year. We are being pressured to raise that to some 34 million tonnes by 1990 and, if possible, to 1 20 million tonnes a year in 20 years time. Clearly that is an enormous pressure. I repeat that the International Energy Agency has set this as a target which, even if achieved, would still leave the world energy hungry if the great countries such as the United States of America, South Africa, China and ourselves were to do these things.
We also, of course, will experience enormous expansion of our natural gas, particularly that from the North West Shelf. We will experience significant expansion of uranium development. On top of that Australia is developing into one of the great aluminium producing countries in the world. We now export 280,000 tonnes a year. Within a few years we will be exporting 1.3 million tonnes, and not much further down the track we will be exporting up to two million tonnes. The countries of the world are also inquiring of Australia whether they can combine with us in joint ventures to use both our minerals and our energy on the spot to develop Australia. A list of both energy projects and other projects for development in Australia in the years ahead has been published. Some of those projects will not eventuate but many more will be added to the list. If I have not, in fact, responded to Senator Button by way of a list, I will look at his question of April and lel him have an answer to that.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of that answer I wonder whether the Minister concedes that it is likely that Sir Arvi Parbo had him in mind.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and also to the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations. The question is about the construction of the Omega navigation station in Gippsland, which I understand to be the last link needed for the worldwide Omega navigation system. 1 ask: Is it a fact that construction has been held up now for some four months because of an alleged demarcation dispute on the site? Can the Minister say whether there is political motivation in the dispute? Can the Minister tell us whether the Government intends to take any action to ensure completion of this construction as soon as possible?
– I have seen reports about the demarcation dispute on the Omega site and have read of the delays, but I have not had any direct information from the Minister for Transport on the matter. I will have to seek information for the honourable senator and let him have a reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs whether it is a fact that the Government has cut by 27 per cent funds to the Shepparton and District Youth Support Group. Is it also a fact that overall unemployment in the Shepparton area is 9.6 per cent and, among persons in the 15 to 19-year-old age group, 23 per cent for males and 37 per cent for females? If so, why has the Government made these cuts?
– I do not have details about a matter in the area which is referred to by Senator Primmer. I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. People of the isolated areas of Australia, such as those from the Northern Territory who forwarded to the Senate the petitions that were presented last Tuesday, have been heartened by the Budget statement that the Fraser Government is to initiate a public inquiry into the zone allowance and presumably all costs relating to the outback. This, of course, could also relate to such matters as rental subsidies in those areas. Is the Treasurer able to give more details as to the likely timing and terms of reference of the public inquiry?
– I have a copy of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech as it relates to an inquiry into the zone allowance. In that Budget Speech of the night before last the Treasurer announced the Government’s decision to establish a public inquiry to examine in detail the costs and other disabilities of living in remote areas and to make recommendations on possible changes to the present system of the zone allowance. The Treasurer said that he would announce the terms of reference and composition of the inquiry as soon as practicable with a view to that inquiry’s reporting prior to the presentation of next year’s Budget. The Treasurer has confirmed that he will announce the terms of reference and the composition of the inquiry as soon as possible. I acknowledge Senator Kilgariff’s keen interest in this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to a report which appeared in the Courier-Mail of Wednesday, 20 August, in which it was staled that the Liberal Deputy Premier of Queensland told the Opposition that he was ashamed of the way in which the Federal Government had handled the central Queensland coal miners’ tax issue. Has the Deputy Premier of Queensland conveyed his reported loss of patience with the Federal Government to the Prime Minister or the Treasurer? What action is the Government taking to end this dispute which is costly to the miners and to Queensland?
– I am not aware of any such statement by the Deputy Premier of Queensland. I do not think we rely on alleged newspaper reports in that regard. I think everybody would be concerned to bring about an honourable and just solution to the Blackwater dispute. The fact is that the interests of all Australians must be considered in this dispute. The taxation conditions administered by the Commissioner of Taxation have been applied to many thousands of Australians over the years. Those people have responded and have paid that tax over the years under governments of various philosophies. The question is: What is equitable for the miners in this situation? Discussions are going on. I do not wish to say anything to exacerbate them. I hope there can be an honourable solution to the problem which will make perfectly clear to all Australians that the principles applied will be applied with justice to all Australians and without exception.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and concerns also the contentious issue of section 26(e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Does that section of the Income Tax Assessment Act ensure that various fringe benefits arising from work done, whether as an employee or otherwise, do not escape taxation? If such fringe benefits were not so taxed, could that open up a huge field for artificial schemes of tax avoidance? Are the Government and the Opposition united in seeking to obliterate such artificial tax avoidance schemes? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will continue to fight artificial tax avoidance schemes? As presently Mr Bill Hayden is encouraging tax avoidance by seeking the repeal of section 26(e) of that Act, will he explain this to him in order to gain his support for such a policy?
– lt is a fact that section 26 of the Income Tax Assessment Act provides that, when fringe benefits are provided in supplement to wages, they should be recognised as being part of wage benefits and that a formula be provided whereby equitable taxation is paid upon those benefits. I repeat that throughout Australia some tens of thousands of Australian people over the years have been subject to that section of the Act and are paying the appropriate tax. If indeed the principle is right and fair for one group of people, it should be applied without fear or favour to all groups of people. It is true that this Government is keen and I believe–
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. The Minister is giving policy statements in answer to questions but there has been a contradiction in the Minister’s answer to this question. He has just told Senator Colston that he wanted a just and fair conclusion to the dispute and would say nothing to exacerbate it further. Now he is saying that the people involved should pay the same as others. There is a complete contradiction in the two answers. One is a prepared answer and a policy statement; the other is an answer to an Opposition senator. Can we get some consistency in the Minister’s reply?
– I call the Minister.
– Senator Messner asked me a question with four sections. He asked whether section 26 of the Income Tax Assessment Act sought to include fringe benefits in wages in a formula for taxation. I replied that that is so. 1 also said that it is applied very widely to a substantial number of people in Australia and that there is equity in making sure that it is applied fairly to all. It is equally true that failure to administer that section equitably could lead to tax avoidance. Certainly this Government has taken major steps, in the interests of the millions of wage and salary earners who are ordinary taxpayers and who pay their tax without avoidance, to try to eliminate tax avoidance. We are seeking to provide a solution to the situation which is equitable to all and which in the end eliminates or mitigates avoidance.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, lt follows the matter which I raised on the adjournment last night. In the Minister’s reply to my question on notice No. 2811 of 1 4 May concerning the provision of a car to the Deputy Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation, Mr Bill Pyle, it was revealed that the car was supplied on a basis which contravened the Government’s directions on the provision of cars to statutory authorities. 1 now ask the Minister: In view of the fact that on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program AM this morning Mr Pyle admitted that he still has the car, will the Minister consider terminating Mr Pyle’s appointment under section 8 of the Dairy Produce Act which provides for the termination of appointments ‘by reason of misbehaviour’? Further, will the Minister lay on the table all documents pertaining to this matter?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI recall that last night Senator McLaren raised some matters and referred to the question to which he has again referred this morning. I relayed to the Minister for Primary Industry the matter that was raised in the Senate last night on the adjournment but I have no further information at this stage to give to Senator McLaren. I have noted the further matters raised by him in his question this morning. 1 will see that the Minister for Primary Industry is also advised of them and will seek information from him in response.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the concern of the various Caledonian societies in Australia about the extremely high rate of import duties on kilts, jackets and Scottish accessories? As these items are essential for members of these societies to pursue their interests in Scottish traditional culture and the preservation of the history, folk lore, music and dancing of Scotland, and particularly as I am a member of the Royal Caledonian Society of South Australia, will he consult with his colleague with the object of removing what I regard to be an unnecessarily high imposition which is rather costly to members of these societies?
– I have been aware over a lifetime of the significant preoccupation of the world at large with the nature and peculiarity of kilts, but not as to sales tax on kilts or jackets. The matter has therefore come to my notice for the first time. I am keenly interested that the Scottish people should have any injustice or inequity rectified if that is possible. 1 will therefore invite the Treasurer to look at this significant question to see whether the Caledonian crisis can be mitigated.
– I ask a supplementary question. I did refer to import duties.
– I am sorry. That is true. I referred to sales tax quite wrongly. The subject related to import duty. I will have the matter looked at.
– Was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs involved in any discussions with any Ministers of the Western Australian Government prior to the departure of the recent convoy containing the drilling rig to Noonkanbah? Has the Minister had any subsequent discussions with any Ministers of the Western Australian Government? If so, who initiated them and what was the outcome? A statement issued from his office in March this year, following discussions with Premier Court stated:
The rumor that the company would enter the property without notice and with police protection - caused great consternation. lt is good that the Premier has put that rumour to rest.
Would the Minister agree that the recent events in Western Australia served to demonstrate the blatant hypocrisy of the Western Australian Government in the matter of Aboriginal affairs?
– I have been involved in discussions with the Western Australian Government intermittently over a period of about 12 months with respect to Noonkanbah generally. I am not sure whether Senator Coleman is asking me whether I was involved in the discussions about the departure of the drilling rig or generally.
– Yes, I am.
– I see. I have no recollection of any specific discussions about the drilling rig’s departure from Eneabba except that on one occasion I remember raising the matter with Mr Jones, the Minister for Resources Development, Mines, and Fuel and Energy, when newspaper reports stated that the State Government was seeking drivers for a convoy. Mr recollection is that 1 raised the matter in the context of discussions that were then taking place between the community and Mr Ernie Bridge. I raised the matter to suggest that publicity of this sort was unlikely to assist the negotiations which were being fostered at that time, a view which Mr Jones shared with me. As far as I can recall, that is the only specific discussion that I had on that issue. As to any discussion since the rig was transported, I have had discussions but they did not relate to the use of the convoy or the transport of the rig.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the recent statements that the Government may not allow TransAustralia Airlines to purchase the Airbus aircraft. Is the Minister aware that, if the order is cancelled, TAA will lose at least $25m and perhaps be sued for another $ 180m? Is the Minister aware that if the order is cancelled Airbus Industries will have no trouble in selling the aircraft? For his information. Airbus Industries is about twice as big as the Boeing company. Does the Minister realise that it could well be 1985 before a new order for similar aircraft could be accepted by Airbus Industries? Finally, will the Government say yes or no about the aircraft to counter the adverse feeling which is developing within TAA staff?
– This question should properly be directed to my colleague Senator Chaney who represents the Minister for Transport.
– As I indicated in the Senate yesterday, the question of the Airbus purchase is receiving consideration from the Government at the moment. The matters which have been raised by the honourable senator are no doubt relevant to the consideration which the Government is giving to the matter. I will refer all the points raised by the honourable senator to the Minister for Transport so that he can ensure that any relevant matters are considered before a final decision is reached.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I follow up the question asked by Senator Messner regarding section 26(e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Perhaps the Minister did not realise that he was implying in his answer that the miners in Central Queensland were endeavouring to avoid the payment of a tax which was being paid by thousands of Australians. Is it not a fact that in 1978 or thereabouts we amended section 26(e) to provide certain conditions, certain guidelines, for people in isolated areas who might suffer hardship from that isolation? Is it not a fact that under the guidelines established in section 26(e), the Government could exempt miners and other people in isolated areas from payment of tax on subsidised housing and other fringe benefits without in any way abolishing section 26(e)? ls it not correct that under the guidelines established in section 26(e) by the change to the Act the taxation commissioners can use their discretion and not charge any tax? Why has the Government, through the taxation commissioners, not used its discretion in this way and brought to an end a very costly stoppage, a stoppage which is costly not only to the miners involved but also to the nation as a whole?
– In neither of my replies did I intend to imply or indeed imply that the miners were seeking avoidance. What in fact is happening is that the miners have had a dialogue with the Government over several years now regarding the tax that should apply. The history of the dispute is that in 1978 the coal miners expressed in very strong terms their discontent with a proposal by the Commissioner of Taxation to assess for income tax the value of coal fields housing provided at highly concessional rents by their employers. The Commissioner proposed to assess the value of an average home of the kind occupied by the coal miners at about $25 a week reduced by the amount paid in rent. As the rent paid in most cases was $5 a week this would have meant that the majority of miners would have been liable to pay tax on about $20 a week.
At that time the Government undertook to carry out a careful and detailed review of the relevant provisions of the income tax law which in substantially the same terms had been in force and applied since 1915. Following that review the law was amended in April this year to require that a number of specified criteria be taken into consideration by the Commissioner in measuring the value of subsidised housing provided for employees. Those amendments effectively reduced to $1 5 a week the taxable value of housing occupied by miners at a weekly rental of $5 a week. When this was communicated to the representatives of the combined mining unions the miners went on strike and declared that they would not pay any tax at all on their housing benefits.
Following discussions between Ministers and representatives of the combined mining unions the Government accepted a further proposal put forward on behalf of the miners and agreed to add a further criterion to those contained in the April amendments so as to discount still further the taxable value of a housing benefit in any case where an employee living in a remote area was not paid a locality allowance for living in that area. The Government agreed also to change the law to give further weight to traditional arrangements under which employers have commonly provided housing for their employees and also to phase in over three years the tax liability on the coal fields housing. These further concessions would reduce the taxable value of housing occupied by most of the miners to $1 1 a week. With the phasing-in over three years, that would have meant that for most of the miners concerned, whose incomes are about $25,000 a year, weekly tax on the housing in 1980- 81 would have been $1.69, rising to $3.37 in 1981- 82 and to $5.06 in 1982-83. Despite these further liberal offers by the Government which provided a very generous base on which to end this regrettable dispute, the miners have remained on strike.
An important principle of the income tax law is at stake. Employees who receive the whole of their wages in cash should not be taxed substantially more heavily than those who receive part of their remuneration in a non-cash form such as the provision of homes at low rentals or rent free. The amendments already enacted and the further concessions that the Government has been prepared to make will preserve that principle whilst ensuring that the coalminers will be treated very generously indeed. It is almost beyond belief that the coalminers, in the light of the concessions that the Government has already been prepared to make, can still seek to justify a continuation of their industrial action.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the guidelines already established and included in section 26(e), is this dreadful stoppage necessary when it involves such a piffling amount? Why is it not possible under section 26(e) as it now stands to exempt these people and people placed in similar situations from paying the tax?
– For the simple reason -
– Order! The honourable senator should ask his question.
– Somebody asked me a question and I will answer it, Mr President.
– Order! No debate is allowed. Senator Georges, put your question.
– The guidelines have given exemption in these areas for so long. Section 26(e) was altered to identify exactly those guidelines. For what reason are we now in a position where the Deputy Commissioner and the Government are trying to impose a petty tax - that is what it is - and not exercising the discretion which would enable them to find a way out of the stoppage?
– I repeated in detail the need for equity in the application of the taxation laws. The taxation laws provide for and are being enforced with regard to tens of thousands of Australians living in circumstances similar to those of the coalminers. Those Australians under section 26(e) pay their tax. In discussions over several years the Government has made very significant concessions to the coalminers. But the Australian people want laws to be enforced without fear or favour so that our laws will have the same impact on all sections of the population. This is exactly what is happening.
– I refer the Minister representing the Treasurer to a report on the broadcast program AM this morning which related to a disabled person in Adelaide who claimed that he was unable to obtain tax concessions on the maintenance of his wheelchair which he required for his existence, his employment and his income. Does this situation exist in the legislation at present? If so, will the Minister examine circumstances such as these to see whether some relief can be provided, especially to disabled and handicapped people who are prepared to work and who are not content with pensions and allowances? As we approach the Year of the Disabled Person, will the Treasurer take some urgent action on this matter?
– I did not hear that item this morning on AM. I will seek a transcript of the program. 1 will peruse it and bring it to the attention of the Treasurer. This Government’s reforms and extensions of benefits to the underprivileged and the disabled are unsurpassed in the history of Federation.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs concerns the violation of human rights in South Korea and in particular concerns Kim Dae Jung who is presently on trial for his life. The Minister will know that this matter has raised the anxiety of thousands of members of the Christian church in Australia who have been actively engaged in support of fellow christians who are imprisoned in South Korea in the same plight as Mr Kim Dae Jung. I ask the Minister: ls the Foreign Minister prepared to make a statement of concern over this matter, thereby aligning Australia with the United States of America, Japan, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, France and West Germany, which countries, I understand, have already made such a statement?
- Senator Chipp was good enough to indicate that he proposed to ask me a question on this subject. I was able therefore to get some specific information which I now provide. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is aware of the concern expressed by church members and other Australian citizens about the situation of Mr Kim Dae Jung and other persons, including a number of clergymen, who have been detained in South Korea. A number of people have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and he has replied indicating the Government’s concern about developments in the Republic of Korea.
The honourable senator will recall that on 22 and 23 May I on behalf of the Minister answered questions asked by Senator Lewis and on that occasion set out our concern about the general situation in South Korea. As regards Mr Kim Dae Jung, Reverend Moon Ik Hwan, Reverend Cho Hwa Soon, Reverend In Myong Jin and others, our concern that they receive fair trials was made known by our Ambassador in Seoul to the South Korean Foreign Minister as early as June. This concern remains. Mr Kim Dae Jung has now been brought to trial. Hearings began in Seoul on 14 August. Mr Kim has in the past been a strong candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Korea and recently resumed his role as an important opposition leader. Following civil unrest and the public rebellion in Kwangju he was arrested and charged with sedition and violation of laws relating to national security and foreign exchange control as well as violation of martial law decrees. The Embassy in Seoul has sought to observe the trial and an Embassy officer was able to do so on 20 August.
In my reply to the questions asked on 22 and 23 May about this situation I noted that the ROK was going through a difficult period of political development and that this caused us great concern. We naturally want to see developments in the ROK follow a democratic path in the interests of the people of Korea because we ourselves are a democratic country and because we think that course is the most likely to bring about lasting stability in the ROK. I emphasise that we value our growing relations with that Republic. We admire the efforts of the Korean people to improve their circumstances. We remain concerned that developments in that country do not reduce the security or stability of the region, or the goodwill which Australians held towards the Republic and its people.
– I ask a supplementary question. 1 thank the Minister for that comprehensive information, but it does everything except answer my question. The question I asked was: Will the Government, through the Foreign Minister, make a statement of concern over this matter as has already been done by the United States, Japan, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, France and West Germany? If the Government will not make a statement of concern on this matter, why not?
– I expressed considerable concern in my reply, but if Senator Chipp is asking for a public statement in a formal way I will refer that to the Minister and seek his views on it.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry advise whether the State or Federal governments have the prime responsibility in the matter of plant breeders’ rights? Which States have so far given an indication of preliminary support or preliminary opposition for the proposition?
I am advised that as this is basically a matter involving production it is essentially a matter for State governments. The present proposition that the Commonwealth bring down legislation arises because State Ministers of Agriculture, through the Australian Agricultural Council, have previously unanimously agreed that there should be a plant variety rights scheme. The States have been unanimous in this view and the relevant industry organisations have also supported the concept of a plant variety rights scheme. Up to the present no States have been opposed to a scheme of this kind. The present position with regard to the scheme is that at the latest meeting of the Agricultural Council in Brisbane on 4 August this year Ministers acknowledged that there was considerable concern in the community about the proposed scheme. As a result, the Common wealths intention is to introduce legislation in the autumn session of Parliament next year, and the legislation will be allowed to lie on the table until the Budget session next year to allow for public discussion and debate. 1 point out that the Commonwealth has no vested interest in introducing a plant variety rights scheme. The Agricultural Council will consider the proposed legislation at its August meeting next year before it is proceeded with in the Federal Parliament. As the Minister for Primary Industry has stated previously, if the Agricultural Council then decides that it does not want to proceed with the scheme, the Commonwealth will not take the legislation through the Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security or perhaps to the Attorney-General. I ask the Minister: Has she seen in the Press the many reports that the Greek Government is proceeding in Greece against citizens in Greece in regard to offences allegedly committed in Australia against her Department? Can the Minister inform us what is happening in these cases, what part her Government, her Department or officers of her Department who have recently visited Greece are taking in such cases, if this is occurring, and what assistance is being given to the Greek Government in what I consider to be an unusual situation?
– I will deal with that question because I think it more appropriately should be directed to me. The position is that I am aware of the matters which have been raised by Senator Grimes and which have caused some concern. I have given consideration to them and have raised the matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to make a statement about the matter at the moment.
– It is very serious.
– I know it is serious, but 1 am taking action in relation to it. I do not think it would be appropriate at the moment for me to say what that action is because there are relations between governments, and so on. I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs to see whether there is anything I can say at this stage in relation to the matter.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. 1 do not want to interfere with any sensitive arrangements that the Minister is making. Can the Minister confirm or deny that the Australian Government is taking part in such a court case, and did it take any part in initiating such a court case?
– No, we certainly have not taken any part in initiating it. I simply said that I am aware that these proceedings have occurred. The circumstances which led to their occurring are matters to which, as 1 said, I have given consideration. But certainly we have not- - in the sense that I think Senator Grimes intends - initiated them.
– Or are taking part in them?
– Or are taking part in them. But of course there may be a question as to whether we have to take some part in them in relation to what has happened.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that the Traffic Accident Research Unit in New South Wales had been investigating the development of devices to prevent drunk drivers from starting motor vehicles while the Government of New South Wales considered the moral, political and personal issues which might be raised by their use? ls the Minister aware that the Government of New South Wales has now decided not to support the technical development of a particular device code named Boris or of any other similar devices which might prevent drunk drivers from starting motor vehicles and causing injury on New South Wales roads? In view of the refusal of the New South Wales Labor Government to involve itself in this vital project, will the Federal Government consider whether its funds can be made available lo develop devices whose use might cut down the present carnage due to drunk driving on Australian roads?
– The honourable senator asked a series of questions on a matter in which he has shown some interest in the past. The committee of which he is the chairman brought down a report entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia’ in which there was a recommendation which was agreed to by the Government - that Commonwealth and State governments should support the research into and the development of mechanical devices to deter drink driving. 1 have some information on the matters raised by Senator Baume. It is my understanding that the Traffic Accident Research Unit in New South Wales has been involved in investigating the development of devices of this sort and that it has been involved in looking at something called Boris which apparently involves having some mechanism which will measure breath alcohol. There are some difficulties about this, apparently, because of the frequent need to recalibrate the instrument. One could imagine that it would be fairly unsatisfactory if the instrument produced varying results and one was not able to drive one’s car when one was sober. I do not have any specific information on the point which Senator Baume raised in his question as to whether the Government of New South Wales has now decided not to support the technical development of that device. That is a matter on which I am not able to assist him.
As far as the Commonwealth is concerned, there is an involvement through consultation both with New South Wales and Victorian agencies, and it is the view of the Government that the Office of Road Safety would be able to participate most productively in this area through an evaluation of the more promising devices, whether they are developed in New South Wales, Victoria or elsewhere.
– I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister undertake to ask the Office of Road Safety whether it could ascertain whether the information I have is accurate, namely, that the Minister in New South Wales has indicated that the Office will not proceed further with the development of the appliance Boris?
– That is an extremely reasonable request. As I indicated. I do not have that information at the moment, but I will certainly seek it from the Office.
– I direct a question in two parts to the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment. Firstly, when will we get a report of the proceedings of the International Whaling Commission deliberations in London, particularly to ascertain the forces of good against the forces of evil in the various delegations, how they voted and what was the ultimate policy that developed in relation to quotas? Secondly, at the local level, since Australia proclaimed its 200-mile off-shore zone, what work is it doing in relation to whaling research, in view of the recent episode at the Seal Rocks region of New South Wales where a group of pilot whales was involved in what is known as suicidal beaching, to ascertain the motivations for this decimation of the species?
– 1 have not seen any formal report on the proceedings of the International Whaling Commission. My recollection is that I have seen some newspaper reports which suggest that Australia has not achieved its objectives as yet. The objectives were clearly stated earlier this year and, I think, had the very strong support of Senator Mulvihill. I will ask the Minister whether he can give a more specific reply. I will also have to seek information from the Minister about any research which might be done. Senator Mulvihill might be cheered to know that a whale was seen off-shore in Perth just a week or so ago, a most unusual occurrence there and perhaps a sign that the change in policy is already bearing fruit.
– I wish to -draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in my Gallery of the Honourable J. Naupa, the Minister for Transport, Communications and Public Works in the republic of Vanuatu. We lender to you a warm welcome to this chamber.
Honourable senators - Hear, hear!
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. 1 refer him to this morning’s leading editorial in the Melbourne Age entitled ‘Trees belong on farms’ which dealt with the need to encourage Victorians to provide greater care for their trees and forests. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the activities of the National Resources Conservation League, a voluntary body which distributes a million trees a year? Is the provision of trees perhaps part of the answer to a large aspect of land salinity problems? Will the Minister undertake to look at some new form of tax assistance to encourage reafforestation, particularly in Victoria?
– The Government is very aware of the problems of salinity that are facing rural industries in Australia. Indeed, a particular section of the Income Tax Assessment Act, section 75a, already allows the writing off over 10 years of the cost of drainage work, including the control of salinity. The question of controlling salinity is a complex matter. Various suggestions have been made concerning action which the Government ought to take on the matter. Senator Neal has raised one aspect, an interesting one, which is currently the subject of government study. Officials are examining the various matters, including the question of taxation assistance, to control salinity. Any new forms of assistance to control salinity will be examined in the context of the Government’s consideration of this study. 1 will direct the Government’s attention to the question.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government regards the freight equalisation subsidy being paid to Tasmania as constitutionally legal. If so, in what way would the payment of that subsidy differ in constitutional terms from a recent proposal to subsidise air fares to Tasmania?
– I think 1 can put it only this way: I have no reason to doubt the constitutional validity of the freight equalisation subsidy scheme involving Tasmania. Opinions may have been expressed in my Department in relation to it. 1 am not aware of the question having arisen but naturally before proposals of this kind are introduced they are normally considered by my Department to discern whether there are any constitutional problems in relation to them. I have also not had occasion to give consideration to the other proposed scheme. I will do so in the light of the question Senator Wriedt has asked.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I remind the Senate that I asked a question yesterday concerning the 25 per cent increase in Telecom Australia charges imposed on Perth’s Channel 9 television station for its use of the microwave link with other States. This increase seemed to discriminate against the Western Australian station. Has the Minister any further information on the matter?
– I am pleased to be able to congratulate the honourable senator on the success of his representations. My advice is that, following the representations made by the television station and various members and senators, Telecom Australia has given urgent and sympathetic consideration to the views put by STW Channel 9 and has decided to limit the overall increase in television bearer charges to Western Australia to the general figure of 10 per cent of that applying to other routes. This preserves an average price per kilometre for the use of television bearers between Perth and Adelaide which is approximately half of that per kilometre between Sydney and Melbourne. I think that acknowledges the difficulties of distance which afflict Western Australia and which were referred to by the honourable senator in his question yesterday. I am happy to be able to advise the Senate that the matter has been dealt with to the satisfaction of the representors.
– ls the Attorney-General aware that in the House of Representatives on Tuesday of this week, in reply to a question concerning the failure of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Tony Staley, to take action on apparent breaches of the Broadcasting and Television Act, the Minister said that if a breach was not remedied by agreement, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal could contact him. He then said:
In the light of that statement by his colleague, is the Attorney-General prepared to revise his answer to me of the same day in which he claimed that breaches of the Broadcasting and Television Act were the responsibility of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications?
– I am aware of the statement Mr Staley made in another place about the ultimate responsibility of the Attorney-General. In answer to the second part of Senator Ryan’s question I say that I am not prepared to revise the answer I gave. There is no reason why I should, for the reason 1 have stated over and over again. Nothing Mr Staley said contradicted the fact that the Minister administering the Act has the primary responsibility in regard to the investigations of breaches of it and in relation to what procedures he may wish to take in relation to it. The question of the involvement of the AttorneyGeneral in these matters is a complex one and it probably requires a fairly lengthy statement from me. lt depends upon the circumstances of every case. But I think it probably is true to say that the Attorney-General has an ultimate responsibility in regard to these matters. 1 have no difficulty whatever with the statements which Mr Staley made. I think it was in answer to a question about this matter which 1 was asked at the end of the sitting of the Parliament in May that I said that I regarded the matter as hypothetical. I think it was Senator Evans who asked–
– That is right.
– Senator Evans asked me where the buck stopped, or something to that effect - one of his usual fancy phrases, with an American overtone or undertone as well. I said then that it was a hypothetical question and that I did not propose to deal with it. 1 have given the matter quite a good deal of thought, lt might surprise Senator. Evans to know that I think about questions that he asks me. This issue may well raise some major problems about the role of the Attorney-General. The fact is that this question in relation to the particular case is still hypothetical. I have said over and over again that the matter is wilh the Tribunal and I will not consider taking any steps on the matter until that Tribunal reports and we can see the final picture. Certainly the decision on the primary question of the investigation and the decision as to what action is required to be taken should be taken by the Minister administering the Act involved. Obviously, the Attorney-General may well be asked for advice on these matters.
– You were.
– He may be asked by the Minister administering the Act. Of course the Attorney-General may decide whether proceedings ought to be instituted because of the state of the evidence, and so on. As I said, Mr Staley expressed the view that the Attorney-General held an ultimate responsibility, and I accept that view.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. In light of the AttorneyGeneral’s references to a hypothetical question, I ask: If the Tribunal finds that there has been a breach of the Act, will the Attorney-General prosecute?
– That is a completely hypothetical question and I do not propose to answer it.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, ls the Minister aware of reports that the head of the Conservation and Agriculture Branch of the Department of the Capital Territory has suggested that Lake Burley Griffin could be in a state of serious decline, that it could turn into a swamp and that to reverse the process might cost millions of dollars? Is he aware also of a proposal for a commercial carp fishery on Lake Burley Griffin which might help to overcome this problem? What action is the Government taking to ensure that the condition of Lake Burley Griffin does not deteriorate further? Will a detailed study of recent claims about this pollution be undertaken?
– This is going to be good. Are you going to read it?
– Just to put Senator Georges’ mind at rest, I have been provided with notes in anticipation of a senator’s being interested in asking such a question. The Department considers recent reports in the media in relation to this matter to be unnecessarily overdramatised. The Department considers that there are serious problems in Lake Burley Griffin associated wilh the rapidly escalating carp population, a large population of a fish parasite known as lernaea, which apparently is better known as anchor worm, and increasing enrichment of the waters as a result of continued inflow of nutrients from urban and rural sources. The Department considers that these problems are exacerbated by lack of flow through the lake resulting from obstruction of water upstream from the Googong reservoir and the possibility of remobilisation of toxic heavy metal sediment from the bed of the lake.
The Senate will be relieved to know thai the Department does nol consider that the lake is likely to become a putrid swamp. The Department is undertaking a range of actions designed to circumvent a further deterioration of the aesthetic and environmental quality of the lake. It is examining techniques for reducing both the nutrient load entering Lake Burley Griffin and that contained within the lake. It is continuing to examine potential techniques for reducing the carp population by the use of predatory fish, predatory birds and mechanical removal. The Department is aware of proposals for a commercial carp fishery on Lake Burley Griffin but has not been able to proceed with any such scheme for the safe removal of carp without adversely affecting populations of desirable species of other fish, platypus, water rats or aquatic birds.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It arises out of the Government’s decision to withhold approval for Trans-Australia Airlines to purchase the European Airbus. Apart from furthering the Government’s policy of placing TAA at a disadvantage in competition with Mr Murdoch’s airline, is the Minister aware that as the Airbus is significantly quieter than the aircraft ordered by Ansett Airlines of Australia any decision to cancel or withhold the Airbus order will condemn the people of the electorates of St George, Barton, Grayndler, KingsfordSmith and Cook to a continuing and unacceptably high incidence of aircraft noise?
– I think the honourable senator is gilding the lily somewhat when he says that the Government is pursuing a policy to place TAA at a disadvantage. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I commented yesterday, the Government approved the purchase of these aircraft by TAA in advance of its competitor being in a position to decide what aircraft it was prepared to use. In fact TAA was in a position of advantage. That was fair enough because it had made that decision.
Most honourable senators who have any understanding of Australia’s trade position, in particular the position of our rural industries, will understand the widespread concern in this country about the restrictive policies of the European Common Market. We are in an odd position where the European Common Market imposes restrictions on important exports of ours. One of the things which the Government has under consideration is whether some form of counter action by the Government is warranted as a means of achieving a better trade situation for Australia’s export industries. On behalf of the Minister for Transport and the Government I give the clearest possible assurance that there is no wish on the part of the Government to place TAA at a competitive disadvantage. 1 am sure that will be one of the matters which will be taken into account in the consideration of this matter.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I take a point of order. If I remember correctly, Senator Carrick undertook yesterday to supply me with an answer to my question about the increase in the price of oil from large fields. Is no such answer available?
– I may well have undertaken to do that but I was not aware that I undertook to do it today. I will look up the Hansard. If I did undertake to give a reply today I will endeavour to respond speedily.
– I have received a letter from Senator Grimes proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The Government’s continuing failure to prevent the fall in living standards of low income families.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by sessional order having risen in their places -
– The Opposition raises the matter of the appalling living standards of low income families once again in the Parliament because of the failure of the Government to take positive action in the Budget sufficient to relieve the plight of the low income families which we have been concerned about for so long. Ministers frequently make broad and sweeping statements about their concern for the state of the family and of the income levels of families in this community, but we feel that their actions never match their words. Amongst the more esoteric statements in recent times was one made by the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, in response to remarks by the honourable member for Gellibrand, Mr Willis, in another place on 2 1 April this year. Referring to family allowances, the Minister stated:
They were an initiative of this Government, and one of which we are very proud. They have greatly assisted families and family life for which this Government stands in philosophical terms.
The Opposition asks the Government to stand for the family, not only in philosophical terms but also in economic terms, by putting some of the money where its philosophy is and not just to throw crumbs and words to the families of this community in such a general and impractical way. The groups which members of the Opposition including me are particularly concerned about are the families with very low incomes; the families of the unemployed; single parent families; and the families of pensioners, both invalid and aged. All those families have had their standard of living badly affected in the last five years. All these families have been affected badly by the actions of this Government. 1 will give some examples of the difficulties faced by some of these groups and the reasons their difficulties increase. Pensioners and beneficiaries in this country receive an allowance for their children. The amount was raised to $7.50 a week in November 1975. In the present Budget - which gives the first increase since then - there is an increase of $2.50 to bring the allowance to $10 a week, which is an increase of 33-1 /3rd per cent. Between 1975 and the present the consumer price index in this country has increased by 55.7 per cent. Food prices alone have risen by considerably more than that. The result of this inflation has been an erosion of the allowance for pensioners’ or beneficiaries’ children. The erosion of this benefit is $4.18 per child a week. The increase of $2.50 by the present Government still leaves a deficit of some $1.68. Due to the rate of inflation between 1 975 and now the amount of $1.68 per child a week makes a deficit of $87 per child a year in each family. This does not take into account the fact that in the last five years annually this amount has been eroded and the amount lost has been accumulating each year.
Another benefit which is available to underprivileged people in this community is the guardian’s allowance which is paid to single parents.
Since October 1969 it has been $6 a week for children under six years of age. Since October 1965 it has been $4 a week for children over six years of age. The inflation rates since those times have been 182 per cent and 206 per cent respectively. The guardians are certainly not compensated for by the increase in the Budget of 33 per cent from $6 a week to $8 a week in the benefit for those wilh children under six years or even the 50 per cent increase from $4 a week to $6 a week for those with children over six years. Again we have made payments to underprivileged people which have been eroded by inflation and which are not compensated for by anything done by the present Government.
Family allowances present an equally depressing picture. They were introduced in 1 976 with an enormous fanfare. They have remained unchanged since then despite a CPI increase of 47.4 per cent. Food price increases have been considerably higher- over 50 per cent. In some States the figure is 60 per cent. The family allowances were initially described by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as the single most important reform in the Australian welfare system since Federation. One thought at the time this was a fairly exaggerated statement in view of the fact that since Federation the age pension, the widow’s pension, the unemployment benefit and other benefits have been increased. This was a typical picture of bluster and exaggeration by the Prime Minister in 1976. By 1977 he had mellowed somewhat. In the election campaign the bluster was modified to say that the introduction of the benefits was the most important innovation of the decade. So the Prime Minister’s judgment of this change had come down a little. Similar remarks were made at the time by honourable senators opposite. I remember Senator Peter Baume making the remark that this was the first recognition of the work of the woman in the home. The woman who was looking after a child was worth $3.50 a week, lt was some recognition. lt was pointed out at the time by other members of the Opposition and by me that if these payments were to mean anything, if they were truly to replace the tax rebate for children that they largely replaced, they would have to be increased annually; there would have to be compensation for inflation. But in the light of the Government’s attitude to public expenditure at the time - it has the same attitude now - we could not see the Government increasing those allowances. We suspected that they were in fact a gimmick introduced to avoid indexing the tax rebate for children which was then in existence. We said so. We pointed out that we had grave suspicions about how fair dinkum the Government was in introducing these benefits. We were right. This is what has happened. The benefit has been eroded as a result of inflation since it was introduced. For one child the erosion, the loss to families, has been $1.66 a week, for two children it has been $4.03 a week, for three children it has been $6.87 a week, for four children it has been $9.72 a week and for five children it has been $13.04. For low income earners, for people dependent on pensions and benefits, this is a considerable drop in income. For the low income earner with a number of children who is outside the social security system apart from the receipt of the family allowance, this is in fact a great drop in income. If added to the drop in value of the guardians’ allowances and the drop in the allowance for the children of pensioners or other beneficiaries, this is a grievous burden for those who rely on benefits from this Government and any other government in this country, lt has not been at all compensated for by the budgetary changes this year.
The difficulties do not end with the erosion in the value of these payments and the failure to compensate for that erosion. The Government’s taxation policy in the last five years has resulted in the relative position of low income families being eroded by the changes made by the Government in 1978 and by the changes announced in March this year to apply from 1 July. At that time I had incorporated in Hansard and 1 shall seek again to have incorporated in Hansard a table prepared by the Parliamentary Library Statistical Service, lt draws attention to the fact that under the present system low income families - working families on low incomes with children, those in receipt of unemployment benefits, those in receipt of pensions and those in receipt of single parent benefits - are in most cases below the poverty line, will remain below the poverty line after taxation changes and their relative position below the poverty line after the taxation changes in July will be worse than it was before. Except for the single parent family with one child these families again will not be compensated sufficiently by the changes in the present Budget to bring them up to the poverty line. The feature of all these families is that the more children they have the further below the poverty line they get. The small changes made in this Budget have in fact assisted in only a minor way a very small group of people who have low incomes and only one child.
If we add to the income difficulties of these people other things that have happened in the last five years we have a very grim picture, I suggest. In that time the universal health insurance scheme has been abolished. This has left the unemployed and the families of the unemployed who get no pensioner health benefit card without automatic health cover. In fact, they have to seek public health care, if this is available, and it is frequently not available. Also, in other circumstances, they must seek what is, in fact, charily from a doctor who will declare them as disadvantaged. These people have lost the automatic access to universal health insurance which they had before.
On top of this, if we add the fact that the supplementary rent allowance of $5 a week has again not been increased since 1975, despite a 60 per cent intiation rate since then, we find that the poorest of these people, the people with very little added income on top of their benefits, the people in rental housing, particularly those in private rental housing, are further disadvantaged by a failure to increase their rental allowance and by a halving of the amount of expenditure on public rental accommodation available in this community. We have, indeed, a very grim picture. We have people whose income is inadequate, whose access to health care in this country is inadequate or costly and whose access to housing is not only inadequate but also costly. They receive no compensation for that situation. Other isolated groups have even further burdens. If they belong to families which contain an unemployed child under the age of 1 8, as in fact more and more do - more and more families in the great western suburbs of our metropolises have two generations of unemployed- these people are in the situation where their unemployment benefit has remained at $36 a week since 1975. Its value has been eroded by 62.6 per cent or $23.60. The small increase that they will be able to earn under the new income test will be of little benefit to them, apart from anything else for the fact that there are just no jobs around.
The Government claims that it wishes to help those in need. We suggest that if it really wishes to help those in need it should look to these low income families, these people who are in fact behind the eight ball in this community. The Government should stop making decisions which increase payments to those who are not in need by tax changes - those who pay more taxes - the benefits of which assist those who earn more rather than those who earn less, lt should stop taking the cheapest way out, for instance in the income test on the unemployment benefit, it should not raise the allowable income but should increase the taper within very limited means for those who are able to find part time work. The Government is not giving the less able, the poor, the social service beneficiaries and the pensioners in this community a fair go. If they have children, they are not getting a fair go at all. We suggest that their children deserve a better deal. We suggest that their children deserve a better future and a better opportunity to advance themselves in the community.
We have had a Budget which offers, in the words of the Treasurer (Mr Howard), no hope for an improvement in inflation, no hope for improvement in the unemployment situation and marginal changes which benefit a very few members of the community. Those people whom it benefits it benefits inadequately compared with their relative position. There are those who seem to believe that the answer to the problem is merely to index and to increase, for instance, the family allowance. I and the Opposition point out that to increase and to index the family allowance or just to compensate for inflation from the time that allowance is introduced would result in an expenditure of $496m - more or less $500m. It would result also in a considerable proportion of those funds going to those who are, in fact, not in need. Out of such an increase the pensioner with one child, the unemployed person with one child and the low income earner with one child would receive only $1.66 a week. With three children such a person would receive $6.87 a week. The person on a high income would receive exactly the same increases. For those on low incomes the increase would be inadequate, still leaving them well below the poverty line. For those on high incomes, for the wealthy in the community, such an increase would be meaningless. 1 suspect- and I believe that many on this side of the House suspect. - that $500m is not beyond the capacity of the economy.
The revenue which was lost to the Government, which was forgone by the Government, in July this year by the tax changes amounted to $600m and this year the oil levy has increased revenue by some $ 1,000m. One would have thought that to pay a fair amount of that money to families who were disadvantaged in the community - disadvantaged in every way, not only by income but also by increases in transport costs, petrol and food costs which result from that - was possible.
We still need to concentrate on the poorest group; we still need to attack their problems not only of income but also of access to health and housing. and of improving the environment in which they live. For this reason we believe not only that the present changes in the Budget are inadequate but also that we should direct funds to those in need. For this reason we presented an alternative, and we continue to present that alternative. We present the alternative of an income support scheme which will be aimed at those who are in need and those on low incomes and which will, in fact, not dissipate funds throughout the community to those who are not in need.
We aim at a policy of increasing the access of these groups in the community, to health care through providing access to health insurance for the long term unemployed, providing health insurance for the children of our community and providing health insurance for a greater percentage of the aged in our community. We recommend a third prong to such a policy of providing in this community increased expenditure on housing which will provide low cost, low rental accommodation to make up for the fact that in the last five years expenditure in this area has in fact halved while costs have risen considerably. Costs of land and buildings have risen considerably and interest rates on housing have continued to rise.
I hope than when we get into government and see the sort of revenue situation that this Government has created out of its oil levy that we can have a general increase in the family allowance and we can concentrate some expenditure on the low income groups. One suspects that we, like anyone else who should be concerned about these families, would want to concentrate initially on assisting these people who are in trouble, who have been in trouble for years and who will get further into trouble under the present economic policies that this Government has. We believe
that not to give the children of these families the opportunity to live a full social life and to have full opportunity to advance themselves in the community is wrong, uncivilised and unjust. To neglect them in the way they have been neglected in the last five years is a disgrace. To introduce proposals such as the family allowance in a cynical electioneering way and then to neglect such a proposal for five years and to allow it to erode in the manner it has been allowed to erode in the last five years is to raise falsely the hopes of people in the community and then to dump then in an unmerciful way, an action which we believe no civilised government should take part in. It is for that reason that we presented the alternative we did, but we implore the Government to look again at its proposals.
We make no excuse for re-introducing this subject. We will continue to do so as long as the Government continues to neglect these low income families in the community. We will do so again and again to bring before the community the fact that a Government which claims, in the words of Mr Robinson, to have some philosophical interest in the family has, in fact, no practical or economic interest in the family at all. Our case rests for the present but we will continue to press it. In doing so, I seek leave, as I failed to do so earlier in my speech, to incorporate in Hansard the table produced by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library on poverty lines and income.
The table read as follows -
– I thank the Senate.
(12.0) - Senator Grimes has raised for discussion a matter of public importance. He speaks from the luxury of the Opposition benches. What we have heard proposed today will need some costing so that we can say to the people of Australia just exactly what is the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party about who will pay for the schemes that have been suggested. We heard about an income support scheme. We then heard about a general increase. We have heard of almost every other policy under the sun. Perhaps as I move through the remarks that I wish to make in response I will be able to place some figures on some of the things we have heard proposed and 1 will promise some other figures on the statements that have just been made.
Senator Grimes has tried to ignore what has occurred in welfare achievements in the live years of Fraser Government Budgets. He might try to forget those achievements, but the community will not forget. In those five years total spending on social security has almost doubled to $10 billion. The achievements include the payment of most pensions and benefits at record levels in relation to the average weekly earnings. They include the family allowance reform which provides cash assistance directly to mothers and to others who did not benefit from child rebates. They involve increased support and a rationalisation of the payments to sole parents, greatly increased funding of welfare services, the creation of children’s services to a much wider degree and the development of administration to be responsive to the needs of the community.
Just two nights ago I outlined the main features of the Budget for this year which in particular addressed itself to increased allowances paid for the children of pensioners and beneficiaries, to handicapped children’s allowances, to the relaxation of the income test for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries, to indexation increases in pensions and benefits, to increases in rates for recipients of the unemployment benefit, to the fringe benefit extension to sickness beneficiaries and other things which were mentioned in the Budget by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and also later by me.
But what we do need to understand if we are seriously to address ourselves to questions of this kind is that the income available to families is affected not only by welfare payments but also by taxation levels, by tax thresholds and deductions for dependants. None of these things has been mentioned or is seriously taken into account in any of the statements that have been made by the Labor Party. Mr Hayden, in his family income supplement paper, has completely ignored the heavier taxes which would have to be borne by families to pay for ALP election promises. Let me illustrate this. There are currently some 5.7 million income tax payers. Every billion dollars of election promises is likely to cost each of these taxpayers on average about $3.50 a week or $175 a year. Two billion dollars of election promises have already been stated by the Labor Party, and these can be catalogued. They would cost about $7 a week or over $350 a year for every taxpayer in Australia, and most of them belong to families. Of course, most low income families would be lucky to get $1 or $2 a week through the family income supplement scheme that Senator Grimes has mentioned. In other words, the taxpayers would pay $7 more in tax and they might get $1 back.
If the ALP wishes to direct assistance to those dependent on income security schemes this could be done more easily and efficiently through the current scheme of allowances for the children of pensioners and beneficiaries rather than through the ALP’s complex and anomalous family income supplement scheme. The benefit for all children of pensioners will increase by $2.50 under this Budget. All pensioners and beneficiaries with children will get this increase, not only those who would meet the income means test under the ALP family income supplement scheme. Nonpensioner and beneficiary families can be assisted in a number of ways. An income tested supplement to the family allowance is one option, and that is the option that has been put forward by the Labor Party. But if that option were to be seriously considered there would need to be much more careful research to avoid the complexities, anomalies and inequities of the ALP scheme as it has been outlined. There are ways in which we could assist families if we had the extra resources to do it without imposing on the families themselves an additional burden to enable us to provide those benefits.
I address myself to the scheme that has been outlined by Senator Grimes and Mr Hayden and point to the major problem of it; that it has been constructed on a faulty basis and a faulty analysis of what has happened to families in recent years. For instance, when Senator Grimes talks about assistance for pensioner and beneficiary families he conveniently omits the continuing benefits these families receive as a result of the family allowance scheme. Pensioner and beneficiary families have benefited from the automatic indexation of the basic rates of pensions and benefits and from the family allowance reform and they will be further assisted by the 1980-81 Budget. To put this in perspective I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard three tables, one showing the levels of assistance for pensioner and beneficiary families with children relative to average earnings in December 1970, December 1975 and estimated earnings for December 1980; the second showing the levels of assistance, including fringe benefits, for supporting parent beneficiaries and sickness beneficiary families in December 1975 and December 1980 and the third table showing the estimated increase in disposable income of different sized families on the minimum wage between December 1 975 and December 1 980. These tables have been prepared in my Department.
The tables read as follows -
As 1 said earlier, the family income supplement scheme is based on an incorrect analysis of the assistance that is given to families and the presentation by Mr Hayden has been most misleading. No allowance is made for the extra taxes which would have to be raised by families to pay for the proposed increases in benefits and most children would receive very little or nothing from it. Mr Hayden has already conceded that two out of five children would not benefit from it. As 1 indicated earlier, many of those who do qualify would get only $ 1 or $2 a week. The scheme would impose a harsh income test and create poverty traps for pensioners and low income families. The family income supplement income test would overlap the pension income test, the fringe benefit income test and the personal income tax system. It has a number of serious anomalies which would cause inequities between categories of persons. For example, it discriminates against the low income family with two members in the work force.
In summary, it is a good thing that the ALP family income supplement scheme could probably never be implemented. The Australian people just do not fall for these schemes. They do not vote for parties which they think are vote catchers or which put out electoral bids which would cost taxpayers money in order to support the schemes. 1 do not believe any government would ever implement a policy which is so fraught with complexities, anomalies and inequities as this one that has been proposed by Senator Grimes and Mr Hayden. On the question of who would benefit from the proposal, there are comparatively few non-pensioner families with an income below the $8,000 limit for the maximum entitlement. The minimum wage in 1979-80 was
The ALP’s family income supplement scheme proposes the expenditure of some $267m. I mentioned before the cost of every $2,000m in electoral promises of the ALP. In this context 1 need to ask whether this $267m proposed in the family income supplement scheme has priority over the $500m that was mentioned yesterday morning by Mr Hayden on the AM program when he talked of raising all levels of pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We need to know the list of priorities if we are talking about assisting families, including pensioner families, and we need to know just what is the catalogue of cost of the schemes that are being spelt out day by day as shadow Ministers or the Leader of the Opposition mention their proposed electoral bids. about $6,600. Even a single income minimum wage family had an income, including the family allowance, of over $8,000 last year if it had five children. Average earnings for 1979-80 were about $12,900. The most a family on average earnings could therefore expect from the supplement scheme would be $1 a week per child. If a family had more than four children no supplement would be paid; that is for the family on average earnings of about $12,900. The family with two parents working full time is most unlikely to get any benefit at all from this family income supplement scheme. Only if both parents received the bare minimum wage in 1979-80 and if there were no more than three children would such a family receive even $ 1 a week per child. So much for women who are working in the factory to supplement the family income; so much for the working wife; so much for the migrant family with both parents working. The benefits from this income supplement scheme would not go to the people who should be entitled to benefit.
But from my own point of view, from my own ministerial responsibility, I have to ask how the pensioners would benefit from this family income supplement scheme. Some maximum rate pensioners would not be entitled to the maximum supplement because their income exceeded $8,000 last year. For example, a married pensioner couple with three children, and with only $20 private income between them, would not be entitled to the maximum supplement. That is lower than the income test that the Government uses to provide a maximum pension.
A widow with three children would lose the maximum entitlement to the supplement if her private income, taking last year’s figures, was only $70 a week. Some income tested pensioners would miss out on the supplement altogether. For example, invalid pensioner couples with two or more children would lose their family income supplement entirely before their pension was phased out under the pension income test. That is why I say the basis on which the scheme has been constructed is a faulty basis. It is one which does not do the things which Mr Hayden and Senator Grimes said that it would when they had the flurry of introducing this brand new policy of a family income supplement scheme. Where there are income tests, those who are involved with social security matters know that there are always problems.
Certainly, a significant proportion of the representations 1 receive from pensioners and beneficiaries relate to complaints concerning the effect of income tests. Income tests are an important means of directing money to those most in need, but income tests should be easily understood and should avoid sudden death reductions in assistance and harmonise with other income testing arrangements carried out in the social security system and in the income tax system. The proposed Australian Labor Party family income supplement scheme fails on all three counts. Senator Grimes, in a recent article, recognised the problem of income tests. He said:
It is important to rationalise the system of fringe benefits and income tests to remove some of the more invidious aspects of the current income security system.
It seems to me ironic that this family income supplement should impose a very harsh income test and should fail to rationalise with income tests on pensions and fringe benefits and with the personal income tax system. It has many invidious aspects, as illustrated in some case studies that I have had prepared. The first example I give is that a small rise in income can deprive the family of a substantial amount of money. A family with four children which had an income last year of $10,000 would receive this year a supplement of $12 a week. A family with four children which had an income last year of $10,001 would receive an income supplement of only $8 a week. So they would have $ 1 a year extra in their annual income and they would lose $4 a week in their family supplement under the Labor Party’s scheme.
Larger families may receive lower levels of supplement than smaller families with the same private income. A family with four children which had private income last year of $8,900, with the existing family allowance - their total income was just under $10,000- would be entitled to $12 a week supplement. For a family with five children which also had private income last year of $8,900, their family allowances would take their total income to more than $10,000. Their supplement would be therefore only $10 a week, $2 a week less than that of a family which had the same private income and one child fewer. That is the anomaly I was talking about when I raised this matter earlier. Unless a scheme is constructed sensibly, unless it takes account of the best ways in which to test these matters, it produces anomalies and inequalities and sells something to the people that they will not receive.
The harsh income test nullifies extra earnings over ranges of incomes. Take as an example a man who has three children and who earned an income of $7,850 in one year. If he earned an extra $151, the family would end up worse off; his wife would lose $156 in her family income supplement. Pensioners would face even more overlapping of income tests. A widow with three children and with private income of $60 a week, under current circumstances, would lose $5 a week in her pension if she increased her income by $10 a week. She would also pay an extra $1 .60 in income tax. This seems to me to be a matter of some concern. 1 have used these examples to show that, under Senator Grimes’s scheme, in the last case I mentioned, the person would lose an additional $3 a week in her family income supplement and would be left with 40c out of $ 1 0. 1 f Senator Grimes gets the Library or anywhere else to compile some of these schemes for him and do some work, for goodness sake let them put them on some construction that will not produce the inequalities, the anomalies and the other things that I have pointed out, and let them take account of what I have said in regard to who is to pay for these matters if they are to go to families. Families will bear the additional burden of the cost of schemes to redirect in some philosophical way something that has not even been constructed properly. 1 move:
That the business of the day be called on.
– 1 oppose the motion.
– The question is that this motion be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Division required, Mr President.
– The motion has been put. Senator Harradine, you did not call for a division at the time. The matter is closed at this stage.
– I propose a minor procedural change in the presentation of papers, which I want to stress to all honourable senators will in no way limit their rights to speak to any of the papers but will in fact cut the time taken by Ministers presenting them. This has been made known to the Opposition. I therefore move:
That papers are presented in accordance with the lists circulated to honourable senators.
Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate the list in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– By way of explanation, it now follows that any honourable senators who desire to seek leave to comment on any of these papers, are perfectly free to do so as they have always been.
– I wish to speak on a point of order. I want some further explanation as to how this exercise is to be implemented. Under the old system a senator would seek leave to move a motion and then either speak to the report or seek leave to continue his remarks later. Will honourable senators have to do this en masse in respect of every item we are interested in and then be allowed afterwards to seek out the ones we wish to make some remarks about, or are we to be prevented from doing that in the first motion?
– There will be no change as regards procedures. Honourable senators will have in front of them the list. In this case it contains 50 items. They would simply rise in their place and say: ‘As to number so and so, I seek leave’. All that will have happened will have been a very considerable saving of time on this side of the chamber.
– There is no inhibition on the rights of any senator to seek leave to take note of a paper.
– I wish to speak on a point of order. The point of order is your ruling in regard to Senator Harradine’s rejection of leave.
– That has been concluded, Senator Walsh. You cannot go back to that.
– Have the papers been tabled, Mr President? As I understand it, Senator Harradine refused leave to have them incorporated.
– 1 misunderstood you, Senator Walsh.
– Let me clarify this matter. I presented the papers. That has been done. That required no action at all. I then sought leave to have the list incorporated in Hansard, and that was refused. That does not militate in any way against the ordinary procedure now; the papers having been presented, the ordinary processes of this chamber then proceed.
– My understanding was, as the Leader of the Government has explained, because of the number of papers involved - some 50 - that this motion is to facilitate the procedures. I thought I had properly explained this to my colleagues, but apparently not. I think we can sort it out now. That list was to be incorporated so it would go into the record. Leave was to be sought to deal with the group as a whole. That would not have prevented any honourable senator from seeking leave to move that the Senate take note of any of the papers. 1 suggest - and I think it is generally acceptable - that leave should be sought again.
– I wish to raise the same point as was raised by Senator Georges. Apparently these arrangements are made between the
Whips. This particular matter was discussed with me, but the arrangement that apparently there was to be one person from each side to speak in the urgency debate was not discussed with me. It is either one in or all in. 1 refused the leave on that basis.
– As has been stated, there is a list which has been tabled. That list is in front of honourable senators now. The procedures normally followed for the presentation of papers can now be proceeded with. Any honourable senator who desires to speak to, say, item 7, item 1 or item 1 2 can do so. This proposal has been entered into to expedite the workings of this chamber. There is no ulterior motive other than expedition in the handling of the business.
– by leave - 1 move:
That the Senate take note of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia.
In some ways the Opposition welcomes the publication of the report of the Myers Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia because it is some recognition of the importance of the issues involved. For a variety of reasons which I intend to put to the Senate, we do not regard it as a very satisfactory document. I will come back in a few minutes to the reasons for saying that. Many of the deficiencies of the Myers report relate to the deficiencies in the terms of reference. Having said that, 1 will refer to some of the issues with which it deals. I want to do so by making some points which are drawn from the report.
I preface those remarks by saying that Australia today faces a very serious problem of restructuring and updating its industrial base to provide new jobs and to develop an up to date economy under the control of Australians. In some industries this will inevitably mean the use of new technology but, at the same time, there is a very deep concern within the community over the loss of jobs. In past years the tertiary sector, as it is sometimes called, has taken up employment lost from the primary and secondary sectors. Because of automation and other technological changes particularly in the tertiary or service sector, this uptake of jobs and employment can no longer be relied on. I think that is an important point which, in a sense, the Myers Committee touched on only fairly superficially because it was not a matter to which its attention was directed by the terms of reference of the inquiry.
Secondly, I make the point that the report acknowledges that reduction in job opportunities does occur as a result of technological change. I think it is very important to point that out because it has been the consistent rhetoric of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that technological change does not relate to loss of job opportunities. What we are in fact talking about, of course, is an exercise in semantics. There is very little evidence in Australia that jobs have been lost by people in existing employment as a result of technological change, although there is some evidence of it. What we have to be more concerned about is the fact that jobs are not in any sense being created. One can think of all sorts of areas, the classic example of course being the opportunities which are no longer available for aspiring youths who want to be petrol pump attendants. There is no more graphic illustration of a loss of job opportunities as a result of new technology than that one which confronts a motorist every day now when he buys petrol. That is the most obvious and simple example.
The report clearly acknowledges that a reduction in job opportunity is occurring as a result of technological change. Where I believe the report is on very shaky ground - again because the terms of reference did not require the Committee to look at this question - is the fundamental question of the creation of new jobs in new industries as a result of new technology. Even in that sense the report in no way shows that technology can compensate for job loss. The Prime Minister and the Government can no longer maintain, as they have done in the past, that there is no problem about this issue.
Thirdly, the report argues very stongly the importance in economic terms of new technology in terms of export competition and so on. However it gives absolutely no guidance on the question of how technology should be introduced. The terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry were inadequate. Australia needs to ensure that technology brought into this country by, for example, multinational corporations is available to all sections of industry and is properly controlled. To illustrate what I mean by that one could very well look to the quite classic and outstanding example of Norway, which encourages multinational capital to come into Norway for the development of oil resources, in particular. But Norway lays down one very clear guideline about the introduction of multinational capital for the development of Norway’s oil resources. That guideline is quite simple: The engineering infrastructure of development will be provided by Norwegian companies.
The consequences of that guideline in just 10 years have been that Norway has become a net exporter of oil industry drilling equipment and all the infrastructure, the engineering equipment, needed for the development of an oil industry. Thousands of Norwegians are engaged in that industry. Norwegian companies are making, I would think, very substantial profits out of the development of that engineering infrastructure. We are a little timid in the sorts of guidelines which we provide for multinational corporations, overseas corporations, developing Australian resources. Honourable senators would have seen in the newspaper recently references to Japanese companies saying that they do not want to deal wilh governments when they come here. They want to bring with them the package of not only resource development but also technological innovation. This is a matter which governments should be examining if they have the intellectual spine to do so.
Fourthly, and most importantly, the Myers report acknowledges for the first time that serious problems of social dislocation arise from technological change. It makes recommendations about those issues which it describes as a social safety net. I just make the simple point that the very limited recommendations which the Myers Committee report makes and describes as a social safety net have been operating in overseas countries, particularly in European countries, for up to 15 years for exactly the same reason. In that regard I refer the Senate to the European Industrial Relations Review issues of April and May 1980. In the April issue it discusses dismissal and redundancy payments in 10 countries and sets out all the proposals which those countries - the western European countries - have in relation to notification of the introduction of technological change, procedures for handling redundancy problems and the involvement of the state in terms of labour inspectorates taking part in negotiations about the method of introduction of technology. The second issue deals with what are called ‘collective dismissals’ in ten countries. I refer the Senate to the opening paragraph of that article, which stales:
In most Western European countries, planned dismissals of groups of workers for economic reasons must be preceded by a period of consultation with employee representatives and public authority notification and (in some cases) authorization. The workers involved may also be entitled to special statutory payments, made only for dismissal on economic grounds. In some cases such payments are tied exclusively to a collective rather than individual dismissal situation.
The sorts of countries dealt with are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece and so on. The point I make about that is that in this country we are confronted with a real and I think different problem of technological change because we are 10 to 15 years behind the sophisticated economies of Western Europe and the United States of America in the movement of labour from the primary sector to the secondary sector, to the socalled tertiary sector. We have a very real and different problem here when technology, particularly the technology of computers is biting hardest, in the tertiary or service sector. In 20 years we have done nothing in this country to arrive at anything like the same sort of system which I have referred to and which operates in those various European countries. 1 take up one or two other aspects of the report which seem to me to be important. The Myers Committee was possessed, as a lot of people in this country are, by something which one might call the ‘technological imperative’; that is to say a feeling of panic almost, a feeling that we must be up there with the rest of the world, we cannot afford to fall behind for a moment, any new piece of technology is good enough, let us grab it and get on with it. With the greatest respect to the Committee, it just does not grapple with that problem in an intelligent and sophisticated way. The Committee stated in its report:
All countries and virtually all organisations visited recognised the benefits to be gained at the national level by encouraging technological change. In no case was government proposing to discourage technological change.
The questions to which the Committee did not address itself were, by way of example: Are there not, in fact, some forms of technological change, particularly at a time of high unemployment, which would be more or less desirable than others; are there some forms of technological change which would be more or less employment generating than others? Those sorts of questions are not addressed in the Myers Committee report. Technological change is treated as an abstract good thing and its adoption is seen to be almost compulsory, as it were. The Committee does not actually use the term ‘technological determinism’, which can be and has been described by my colleague, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) in the House of Representatives, in these words: ‘If you can you must’. What the Committee really talks about in its report is how human beings must adapt to technological change rather than the other way about.
– In Good Work he suggests that we should change the whole technological base. He says that we should be looking to a simpler and more direct technology.
– He says the same in the other book too. I agree with Senator Knight. I am just referring to the three criteria that Schumacher put forward in that book on what I think he called ‘technological assessment’. I do not want to be distracted by the major argument of Schumacher’s book because, as Senator Knight will appreciate, it is something which is fairly hard for us to grapple with in this context. But I think he puts an important argument.
– It is not dealt with in that report.
– It certainly is not dealt with in that report. I just wanted to draw attention to the sort of notion of technological imperative which is implicit in this report. I put it to the Senate in this way: There are certain industries in Australia, and there should be certain new industries in Australia, which as far as possible should be based on high technology, particularly Australian technology. But certain other matters are involved, such as the need for a sophisticated communications system in a modern economy in which technology and the technological imperative really apply. I think it is important that those things happen. I am not persuaded, for example, that it is necessary for a country like Australia to have cash dispensers on every street corner because one large company is very concerned to sell technology in Australia. I cite that as an example of what seems to me to be a job displacing piece of technology which is not either socially or economically necessary or desirable. How one makes judgments between these various aspects of technology is a very difficult question.
– I agree with that, but how can you stop them?
– Fortunately, the company to which I referred described the Australian banks as being very conservative and not amenable to that suggestion, so I suppose if we cannot stop it in the Senate perhaps the banks can.
– That is a fond hope.
– It is indeed. I just draw attention to it as a problem on which value judgments ought to be made. The other criticism 1 make of the Myers Committee report is that it is completely silent on the matter of the present high level of unemployment in Australia, a problem which is exacerbated by technological change. What the Myers Committee really says - 1 sympathise with it - is: ‘That is not our problem’. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister cannot say that; that is his problem. The Government, in looking to a reaction to the Myers Committee report, has to take that into account.
Honourable senators will recall that only last year a Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations got the chop. His crime was intellectual honesty when he pointed out that 1 10,000 people would constitute the net increase in the available work force every year for the years of this decade. He pointed out that more than one million extra people would be added to the potential Australian work force in this decade as a result of school leavers joining the work force. I recall that Mr Street pointed that out and was pretty summarily removed from his job as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. That is something which cannot be avoided. I suppose the Myers Committee was in the happy position of being able to say that it was none of its business. But it is the Government’s business in the light of any response it might make to this report.
The next point I make about this report is simply this: The Myers Committee report represents a contribution - I think it is a pretty limited one - to the debate on technological change and what a society like ours should do about it. It addresses itself as governments have not been prepared to do to the social consequences of technological change. It is my belief - I am sure that other people share this view- that there is chronic anxiety in Australia about technological change. People who are presently employed ask: Who will be displaced next as a consequence of technological change?’ That is one aspect of their anxiety. The other is, who will lose his job next as a result of the policies of the present Government. They are the two aspects of anxiety in the work force. I will give a strange example. I remember talking to a pregnant woman a few months ago. She said: ‘I am worried about what my child will do’. That is an extraordinary example of anxiety from a young woman in that situation.
The Myers Committee is quite clear that technology displaces existing jobs, quite contrary to the views of the Prime Minister. We cannot have a rational discussion about technological change and technological innovation in a society which is nol prepared to face up to the social consequences of it, a society which has said, as we have to date, that it is not a real problem and that somewhere, some place, some day new jobs will be created which will solve all these problems. That is another version of nirvana. 1 will not debate the details of the Myers Committee comments on this issue. The very real importance of those comments is the pointing out that in the European countries to which I have referred before new technology is introduced it has to be the subject of lengthy consultation with the employees likely to be affected. It has to be the subject of lengthy consultation with employee organisations. It has to involve the protection of the State in terms of labour inspectorates, departments of labour and so on in consulting with employers and employees as to what the nature of the technological change will be and what effects it will have on lifestyle, employment and so on. Without that sort of mechanism we cannot have a rational debate in a society like this about an issue such as the effects of technology on jobs. Further, we cannot have a rational debate about this issue in a society which says: ‘If a new piece of technology is introduced in this business you are out and society will do nothing more for you than provide you with unemployment benefit at an abysmal level’.
Technology is seen in Australia as being like smallpox; it can strike anywhere and the results can be economically disastrous for the victim. That is how technology is seen in the Australian work force at the moment. The reasons for that are that no methods are provided by government, first of all for early warning systems and consultation about the introduction of technology, and secondly, no social remedies are provided in terms of guaranteed minimum income and so on. As I said, this makes technology like smallpox. It is a subject about which people are increasingly anxious and concerned, lt is not a subject about which the Government has not had ample warning. Page after page of the Crawford report on structural adjustment and the Jackson report on manufacturing industry stated to the Government: ‘You have to bring the work force in this country into the second half of the twentieth century. You have to consider the conditions under which people work. You have to consider consultation with employees, industrial safety and early warning systems. You have to consider social safety nets’. Knights of the British realm such as Sir Roderick Carnegie, and Jackson, signed the Jackson report which said all those things. Not a tittle of notice of that report has been taken by this Government. Nor has a tittle of notice on these issues been taken of the Crawford report. They were relatively early reports on this issue.
The Department of Labor, as it was called, brought out an important publication five years ago on the subject of living at work. It pointed to the conditions under which people worked in manufacturing industry in Australia, particularly women, and the sorts of things which concerned them about their employment, their anxieties about future employment and so on. All these things have been the subject of pigeon-holed government reports for five years. The Myers report comes along as yet another warning. One would have hoped that even this Government might take some notice of it.
I said earlier that the countries of western Europe are decades ahead of Australia in grappling with these issues. They provide consultative procedures and social mechanisms for dealing with those people who are displaced. As 1 also said, there is a lot of semantic rubbish about whether technology replaces jobs. Perhaps it does not replace people who are fortunately in existing jobs but it will remove many jobs for the 1 10,000 net additions to the work force in each remaining year of this decade. One million people in all will be affected by that problem.
I will deal with another issue which the report takes up. It is an issue on which the ideological blinkers of the Fraser Government have fallen forward a little further than usual. It relates to union amalgamations, which the Myers report goes out of its way to deal with very specifically. I sat in the Senate in 1 974 and 1 975 when the Labor Government brought legislation into the Senate which would have facilitated the process of amalgamations. The Opposition in 1974 and 1975 rejected that legislation in the Senate. Why did it do it, contrary to the wishes of employer organisations and unions?
– They were troglodytes.
– It did so because of its troglodytic - 1 am borrowing an adjective from Senator Walsh - view that small unions are necessarily weak unions and therefore it is better not to allow them to amalgamate as they would cause more trouble than ever. It is a very blinkered and silly view. That is what the Liberal Party did when the Labor Party was in government. It stopped that legislation on two occasions. Ever since it has done nothing about this issue in spite of the fact that even employer organisations are concerned that something ought to be done about it. We have a standing joke with overseas sophisticates. We have about 300 unions in
Australia. West Germany has 16. If we want to make comparisons of economic growth, employment or inflation with the peers of the Western world we do it with countries such as West Germany and Sweden, lt is because they have had the imagination and good sense to tackle some of these fundamental issues of labour relations that they are in the position in which they are in today. This Government is not prepared to do that, lt is prepared to tell Helmut Schmidt that the Australian Government’s view is that West Germans should not go to the Olympic Games and other very important, crucial issues to the people of West Germany! I am sure that they greatly benefit from our advice on those issues! Let us look for a change at what we might learn from them.
A very obvious example in the context of this report is union amalgamations. We have 300 unions in a country with a population of 14 million. That is ludicrous. The situation remains largely because of the blinkered view of the Fraser Liberal-National Country Party coalition both in opposition and in government.
– There are 1,500 employer organisations negotiating directly with organised labour.
– Yes, Senator. I am grateful for your esoteric knowledge on this subject. The same point applies. In connection with the introduction of technology, the relevance is that if we are to be able to negotiate on a sensible and rational basis with informed organisations of employers and employees we have to be able to do it in an industry and not with 26 bits of an industry, such as the car industry. It has to be done in an industry and on the basis of resources which are available to both unions and management. It has to be done on the basis of frank discussion and disclosure and with the interests of the work force in mind. 1 have never known a government in the history of the Western world since the time of Torquemada that takes less interest in the condition of the work force in its country than the Fraser Government. If nothing else gets through, other than the recommendations of the Myers Committee on the question of the provision of social mechanisms and consultative mechanisms to handle technology, that will have been a major achievement of the Myers Committee.
This is a disappointing but a very important report. We would very much urge the Fraser Government, in the remaining time available to it, to take, as the report recommends, a test case to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to lay down minimum standards of consultation prior to technology being introduced.
We would like to see the Fraser Government adopting the recommendation and initiative of income maintenance schemes for anyone adversely affected. Such schemes have existed in other countries for many years. We would like to see the Government act on the need for the provision of a social safety net, as the Myers Committee recommends. It was tragically disappointing to hear the comments of the Prime Minister, with that degree of political expediency developed to an art form, in relation to the publication of the Committee report. He said: ‘Yes, this endorses my view that we need technology’. That is all he really said about the report. He said nothing about the social issues involved, the need for social safety nets, the need for consultation or about the Government taking a test case to the Arbitration Commission as was suggested. All he had to say was that all these issues are dependent ‘on labour force and community understanding and acceptance’. This is a great cop-out on the part of the Fraser Government. In its advertising campaigns it blames the slaves out there for its faults, ‘lt is all your fault because you are lazy and do not work hard enough’.
– Or ‘You do not spend enough’.
– Yes. Now the Prime Minister says that the Myers report on technological change is to get the people out there in the labour force to accept and understand what technological change is all about. It is a glib and idiotic response from somebody who has never worked in a normal job in his life. He has never punched a card in a clock. That is something that is very obvious in everything the Government does in relation to the morale of the Australian work force, lt is not an adequate response to the report of an important committee, inadequate though the report might be.
– Listening to Senator Button I felt rather sorry on two counts. Firstly, I felt sorry that there were not more honourable senators present to listen to such a fine speech. I congratulate him on it. It is one of the finest he has made. Secondly, I felt sorry that an issue such as this was not debated while the Senate was on air because I regard the question which Senator Button has just canvassed, and which is covered by the report of the Myers Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change, as one of the two most vital problems facing Australia and the world at the moment. The impact of technology on employment on a whole social fabric is one which is allegedly dealt with in this report. The second problem is the seeming inevitability in the mind of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of a third world war in which the young people of Australia will play a part. Senator Chaney frowns. I wish the reason for his frowns could be explained. The Prime Minister has already predicted two dales when a third world war will break out. I do not believe he is saying these things for political reasons. I think it is even more dangerous. I think he sincerely believes in the inevitability of a third world war and that could have all the dangers of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I would regard the subject matter covered by the Myers report as one of the two gravest problems facing Australia and the world today. Senator Button says that people look at technology as though it is smallpox. 1 agree with him. In fact I would have thought people fear technology and the advance of technology more than they fear smallpox. Therein lies the tragedy because our so-called sophisticated, intelligent and well-educated society ought to be looking at the advances of technology with great expectations, with joy and pleasure, because it should be that vehicle which allows the human race to cast off those tedious, mind-destroying and souldestroying jobs, lt should be a vehicle by which the human beings in this world should be able to have more leisure and to take part in those activities which enhance the mind, the body and the soul. As Senator Button says, instead of that, technology has brought a black cloud of fear over all people who fear their future livelihood will be affected, lt was to a problem of this magnitude that the Myers Committee was asked to direct itself. I have used several descriptions of the report which border from catastrophic to disastrous. Sometimes I am guilty of using language which is a little more colourful than is necessary.
– 1 thank the honourable senator for his interjection. He is always helpful. I cannot understand how so many allegedly welleducated people who sat for so long, spent so much money and came up with such rubbish and such non-conclusive and non-helpful recommendations. Let me not be the only critic of it. I know that Mr Ashley Goldsworthy, who is the present Chairman of the Melbourne World Computer Congress Organising Committee, vehemently criticised the $1.5m report as a plethora of rather facile and non-productive suggestions. A newspaper article on the matter states:
Bui after the first four paragraphs, Mr Goldsworthy slates the Myers report as ‘little more than a superficial primer on the vexed problem of technological change’.
Mr Goldsworthy said one of the saddest deficiencies in the report was the committee’s failure to give the due weight to the fact that today’s technology is far more revolutionary than evolutionary.
That is the point which the Myers Committee did not grasp. Lord Hirschfield, a person who was given a life peerage by the British Government for his services into the study of automation and its impact on employment, stated in March in a series of lectures which were held in Australia that, because of the silicon chip, by the end of this decade, 1990, the amount of goods and services being produced today will then be produced with 10 per cent of the work force. That is a devastating prognosis. Whether one accepts that is beside the point. Here is a person recognised as being a world expert. What does that mean if it does not mean that in 10 years’ time - 1990 - unless we take a new direction and unless we have the consultation that Senator Button spoke about, all the goods and services now being produced will be done by 10 per cent of the work force. He went on to predict an unemployment rate in Australia at that time, if the moves that Senator Button suggests do take place, we could have 60 per cent of the work force being unemployed. A society with that rate of unemployment cannot be held to be stable unless it is held that way at bayonet point.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was discussing the Myers report on the effects of technology on the work force. I described it with such expressions as ‘a disaster’, ‘a catastrophe’ and ‘a great disappointment’. Rather than having only my comments on the record I shall quote from a much more reliable and perhaps authoritative source, the Australian Financial Review, the leader columns of which, I must say, in recent years are becoming more Liberal or Liberal right wing. In fact, I might say in passing that I find them backed by logic and good reasoning.
– Almost more democrat, you could say.
– They border perilously closely to Malcolm Fraser’s philosophy. That is what terrifies me. An article discussing the Myers report is headed: ‘Destination nowhere’. I will make a few quotations from it. It states:
There is little evidence of any serious research underlying the committee’s conclusions. There is no evidence in the report of any productive analysis of the problems of technological change.
Senator Button referred to this matter in his fine speech. The article continues:
Indeed, the neglect of important issues is so glaring as to be culpable.
It goes on:
There is not a single reference in the main report of the committee to any of the work which has been done by, for example, the impact project of econometric modelling (in which several government departments and agencies are participants) on the implications of technical change for the economy as a whole. Why not?
It goes on to state:
The Myers report, by ignoring this whole area, condemns itself to vague platitudes.
It also touches the subject on which Senator Button spent considerable time. It states:
The economic arguments of such critics are usually naive in the extreme–
These are the critics who say: ‘Let us stop technological change’ -
And easily disposed of by appeal to economic analysis and economic history. But the committee has made no extended analysis of the objections to technological change, and has therefore grossly neglected the very important educational function which it could have performed.
Senator Button said that a technological imperative had impacted itself on the Myers Committee before it started. Senator Button canvassed the following question: Should we not be looking at technological advances that are not socially desirable? He was kind enough to allow me to ask by way of interjection: ‘How do you do that?’. I am in great sympathy with his wish to stop some forms of technological change but I cannot be persuaded that it is in the power of governments to prevent that change even if they wished to do so. lt is like that famous kind trying to hold back the waves. Over lunch I thought about whether my interjection during Senator Button’s speech was fair. I remember that Senator Webster, by Government regulation, made an interdiction in relation to this matter. He made it an offence punishable by law to import a 12-inch ruler with the old imperial measurements. To anyone who wants to import a ruler the Government has said: ‘You are committing an offence punishable by law.’ So maybe governments have the power to stop or to hinder technological change but I wonder to what extent it would be practicable. The Australian Financial Review goes on to say:
The report’s chapter on the economics of technological change would do little credit to an undergraduate economics student, let alone to an expensive committee of ‘experts’. Once again it is necessary to ask, where is the research? What on earth was the committee doing all that time?
This is rather heavy stuff from a responsible newspaper reporting on a committee that spent $1.5m of taxpayers’ funds. The article goes on to state:
No doubt all this will have to prove that the new technology is indeed job creating.
To conclude, the leader states:
Instead, the committee has preferred to waste its time, and our money. The job of establishing the case for technological change in detail remains to be done.
Here we have a report, as I said at the opening of my speech, which covers one of the two massive problems facing Australia and the world - the effect on employment of technological change and the concept of the Prime Minister about the inevitability of a third world war. 1 am grieved to hear that the Government proposes to gag this discussion as soon as I conclude. I note, in case Senator Ryan does not get the opportunity to tell the Senate, that she has a burning desire to address the Senate on this question. She wants to make a contribution but will be forbidden from doing so. The Government Whip will say: ‘Oh, well, this will be placed on the Notice Paper and will be debated later’. But those of us who have been in this place for some time know where it will go. It will be about item 247 on the Notice Paper and will never be debated again. I deplore this sort of practice. Here is something that is absolutely vital, I believe, to the survival of our society as a stable society and this Parliament is not allowed to debate it in any true form.
Senator Button gave a couple of examples of how technology can make jobs disappear. He gave the example of the self-serve petrol bowsers. He gave the example of the automatic machines that have been installed in banks. Let me add a couple more for the record. When one goes into many radio stations in country areas today it is almost like walking into a ghost studio. There is virtually no one there except the engineer, who operates the computer that plays the records, tells the time and reads the news. One can find examples of this all over the nation. Let me give a frightening scenario of something I saw recently in a semidocumentary. Let us say that a leading executive or a politician wants to dictate a letter. Let us take the case of a politician with all the resources that senators do not have - some member of a government. He wishes to direct a letter to 1,000 newspaper editors around the country. He wants those letters to be personally addressed, personally typed and personally signed.
All he has to do is pick up an instrument - a microphone - and simply tell the computer through that microphone: ‘This letter of five paragraphs is to go, personally addressed, to the editors of 1,000 newspapers covering industrial relations, rural affairs, health and whatever’. The computer immediately signals to the address system and the names and addresses of those editors fall out. Then 300 typewriters start typing personal letters with the personal addresses at the top. They commence ‘Dear Mr so-and-so’ and are signed ‘Yours sincerely’. The letters are then stacked into piles as papers in a printing press and a claw comes down from the top gripping a wet felt pen and one by one every one of those thousand letters is signed personally: ‘Malcolm Fraser’, ‘Susan Ryan’ or whatever signature it is. Then they are folded, put into envelopes, stuck down, sent through a chute, put through a franking machine and sent on a conveyor belt into a chute and into the post box. Within a period of about one hour that act of writing, individually signing and posting 1,000 letters has been done with the total absence of human hands.
– Who made the machines?
– Well, if Senator Sheil believes that the amount of human power needed to build those kinds of machines is equal to the number of jobs it displaces, his philosophy is flying in the face of almost every expert opinion that I have seen on this subject. Before the suspension of the sittings I quoted Lord Hirschfield who was given a life peerage for his work in this area and who said that by 1990 the same amount of goods and services being produced today will be produced by 10 per cent of the work force needed for today’s production. The point that Senator Button and I are trying to make is that this is a revolutionary not an evolutionary problem and one which should demand the attention of the whole Parliament. In recent times there have been three reports - from the United Kingdom, France and West Germany - which were conducted independently of each other. Each of these inquiries was asked to report what effect automation or the silicon chip would have on employment in the clerical industries in the next five years. Each of those three reports, independently of each other, reported that 33 per cent of jobs would disappear in those industries by 1982 - that is, in three years not five years.
What can be done to stave off this situation which I say, following on what Lord Hirschfield said, will present a society with a 60 per cent unemployment rate at the end of the decade, a situation which cannot be held stable unless at bayonet point. Senator Button quite properly stated - I agree with every word that he said - that this matter will demand consultation between employers and employees. I add a third category. Governments will be vital to those sorts of discussions and consultations. One could think of some bandaid cures for this developing situation such as reducing immediately the pensionable age from 65 to 60. Is there any honourable senator who believes that, even if we have good economic policies from a government, whether it be Liberal or Labor, we could even return to the halcyon days of 1.5 per cent unemployment? Those days are gone, not because of bad economic policies by either the Whitlam Government or the Fraser Government. Unemployment is a chronic ill the extent of which is manifested in unemployment figures. That action would cost the Government almost nothing because the additional money it would have to pay in pensions would be more than compensated by what it would save in dole payments. Indeed, the Government would be receiving taxes from those people now on the dole. That would balance the budget.
What we are advocating is not compulsory retirement at the age of 60 but at least voluntary retirement on behalf of those who wish to retire at that age. We would like to see a discussion among the union movement, employers and government on more part time work. I believe that, in this area, the trade union movement would need to look at some sacred cows such as the eight hour day and penalty rates on part time work. In the last recess I spoke to many trade unionists who have been painted as left wingers, militants and whatever. I found a remarkably reasonable and reasoning attitude among them towards looking at those sacred cows. These trade unionists want a reciprocal kind of attitude from employers and from the Government so that these sacred cows can be acknowledged. We would like to see this Government or the next Government, whatever complexion it might be, give some sort of consideration to a whole new direction, in fuelling of motor vehicles in Australia.
I will quote a recognised reputable source - I am sure that Senator Walsh would agree with my description for once - in Julian Cribb the news editor of the National Farmer who recently did a survey, I understand, in conjunction with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This piece of research indicates that we could produce, within four years, 60 per cent of all our petroleum needs from crops we grow in Australia from renewable non-polluting sources- sugar cane, cassava, sugar beet et cetera. That will provide 1 20,000 jobs in rural Australia. Yet if honourable senators saw the Four Corners program a couple of weeks ago and noted the incredibly valuable research being done by Aussie battlers to find alternative sources of oil, they must have been as disgusted as I was to know that this Government is giving those people virtually nothing to assist them in their research and development. Damn it, one of them had to be funded by some Arabs who own oil wells in order to be able to continue his research and development. 1 ask: Why does this Government not give encouragement to those Australians who believe that we can get petrol from alternative sources in Australia and thus provide massive opportunities for jobs in rural Australia? ls it because this Government has some commitment to oil companies? ls it - and 1 ask this question sincerely - because oil companies give such massive funds to the joint parties controlling this nation so that they are reluctant to put any funds from the petrol excise levy into proper research and development? The Government sometimes quotes figures on the amount of money that it gives to research and development into alternative fuels, but the massive proportion of that is used for research into and development of fossil fuels and to assist oil companies to provide further fuel from fossil fuels. However, as I said, these are bandaid approaches. 1 believe - 1 am totally persuaded - that unless we are to have a situation by 1990 where we have a society of haves and have nots - if Lord Hirsch field can be believed–
– We’ve got it now.
– I thank the honourable senator for his interjection. But he ain’t seen nothing yet as to what the situation would be if we had a 60 per cent level of unemployment in Australia. That is a situation that is too terrible to contemplate. If these experts can be believed and if we do nothing about it and continue the confrontation tactics that are now being employed that is the situation we will have. Jobs may disappear entirely and I have not been persuaded on any other solution to this possibility other than the introduction of a shorter working week. If there are to be too many people for too few jobs, the number of working hours has to be reduced so that everybody who wants to work in Australia can have that opportunity. In saying that I am not advocating, and I do not believe that the Labor Party will be advocating, that immediately we say: Right, 40 hours’ pay for 35 hours’ work, right off’. I believe that would fracture the economy, cause inflation, raise costs and cause more unemployment. I am saying that with this technological change unit costs must be reduced all the time which means that profits must necessarily increase.
A situation where there can be a shorter working week to the satisfaction of all can be achieved by negotiation and by sensible consultation, as Senator Button suggested. Let me give a couple of examples. Mr John Siddons, the executive chairman of Siddons Industries Ltd which employs 1 ,500 people and who is a member of my party - I am proud to have him - has achieved a shorter working week by direct negotiation and consultation with the people in his work force. They work a nine day fortnight. The men are working 37i hours a week. The men are happier. They have one long weekend every second weekend. His firm’s productivity has increased. Profits are increasing and absenteeism has almost disappeared. That has been done by negotiation. Yet what has Mr Fraser done? Without being personal I am highly critical of his action. As soon as this question was raised, he said to employers: Stop negotiating. No deals. If you dare to do a deal with the trade union movement or your workers I will dob you in to the Prices Justification Tribunal and you will be disadvantaged’. To me this is exactly the wrong direction in which the Government of the day should be going, lt should be encouraging consultation between employers and employees so that this solution can be achieved.
In conclusion, let me paint a scenario as to how I believe negotiation can take place. I have put a considerable amount of time into the economics of this. To make the conversation easy, let us assume that we have a consultation between the Government, the bosses and the workers’ representatives. I use those terms to simplify the explanation. Let us assume that somebody suggests to the workers’ representative: ‘For a start will you work 38 hours a week and receive 39 hours’ pay?’ He says to the workers’ representative: That is a good deal for you because you are working two hours a week less and you are getting an hour’s pay for which you don’t work’. The workers’ representative says: ‘That is fine, but just a minute. We are taking home one hour’s pay less in our pockets. Our purchasing power has been reduced by an hour a week and that is not acceptable to us’. That is a fair argument.
Then the Government can come in and say: Right, we will reduce the marginal rate of tax, sales tax, or tax in some other area to take that purchasing power up to what it was before you received the one hour’s pay less a week’. The workers’ representative will say: ‘That seems fair. We have reduced working hours and our purchasing power is roughly the same’. Then one turns to the bosses’ representative, and he says: ‘Look, that is a nice little sweatheart deal you have done over there with the workers. What about me? 1 have to pay these fellows one hour a week for which they do not work. My costs will go up’. Then the workers’ representative says to the Government: Can’t you reduce payroll tax to assist the employers for paying that hour for which they are not being paid? Can’t you remove Division 7 from the Income Tax Assessment Act? Can’t you reduce company taxes to that extent? If that happened the bosses’ representative would have no reason to object to a shorter working week.
Somebody might then interject: ‘Where is the money coming from to reduce the taxes for workers and the bosses?’ We have done our figures on that aspect and we find that because of the extra people those moves would bring into the work force millions of dollars in dole payments would be saved, additional revenue from those people who would then be paying taxes would be generated and, in fact, on that basis, on a rough calculation, the Budget would be $100m a year better off and the Governnment would not have to bear the social cost of so many people being on the unemployment benefit.
I am worried about the future in this area. As I understand it, all we can look forward to is further confrontation. The trade unions will make some demand, the employers will say that they will not move an inch, there will be strikes, there will be dislocation, the political parties will get involved, as Mr Fraser has already indicated, and say: ‘There will be no deals, otherwise I will dob you in’. Where will we be? Will we be any further along the track by the middle of this decade? If we have to rely on the sort of garbage that is contained in the Myers report - it tells us nothing - God help us.
Motion (by Senator Baume) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, there is no way that question can be put without a quorum being present in the Senate. 1 draw your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed).
– Before the calling of the quorum I had moved:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– 1 raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. During the discussion this morning it was not my understanding that in debating these matters a gag would be applied. We had a lengthy debate on the procedures that would be adopted to deal with these reports. We have had debate this morning and this afternoon - it was started by Senator Button and carried on by Senator Chipp - on one of the most important documents to come before this Parliament, and likely to come before this Parliament, in the course of this session.
– An important issue.
– Vitally important. We heard two excellent contributions on that matter. We are now going to have the gag applied. 1 think Senator Ryan has indicated that she wishes to speak. What are we going to do? Are we going to gag the debate? That was not the understanding. I put it to the Government that there are many very important matters on which a number of honourable senators in the chamber will want to speak, ls this what is to happen on our third sitting day? lt will be an exhibition of total unreasonableness on the part of the Government to interrupt debates which obviously are fundamentally important to this Parliament. What are we going to do? Is this to be the pattern we are to experience for the rest of the parliamentary period?
– I wish to speak on the point of order that has been raised, Mr Acting Deputy President, lt is most unfortunate that Senator Wriedt has intervened in this way. A well-established routine for the tabling of papers has been practised over the months and years, and that is that a senator seeks leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the paper. That is essentially a General Business motion which is moved by a private senator. Debate on the matter is then adjourned. That has been the normal procedure. It then appears on the Notice Paper for discussion at an appropriate time as General Business. What is being done today is no different from what has been done week by week, month by month. These protestations that this is some departure from the norma! procedure or that it is in any way not consistent with the Standing Orders are simply not correct. The assurance that was given today was that if people wished to move motions to numerous items on this list the normal courtesies would be be extended, as they have been. There has never been any suggestion that the debate that takes place on motions moved by individual senators under Presentation of Papers would be the full debate on General Business items. I believe that the Government has been reasonable in what it is doing in this regard. It is now a quarter to three. The day has been taken up with a matter of public importance. We have now gone on to a debate on one of the papers. We are nowhere near the situation where we can start dealing with Government Business. I believe there is no substance to the point of order, either in terms of the Standing Orders or in terms of reasonableness or fairness.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner) - I do not uphold the point of order.
That the motion (Senator Peter Baume’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move:
I do nol seek to speak to the motion at this point on the understanding that this motion together with four others will be debated cognately as the first item of Government Business later this afternoon. I refer to the three substantive motions relating to approval for the project under the Parliament House Construction Authority Act and the Parliament Act and a motion to take note of the report of the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House that 1 understand will be moved later. On that understanding, I will not proceed now. I simply seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - 1 move:
That the Senate take note of item No. 8, United Nations General Assembly - Report of the Australian Delegation on the Thirty-fourth Session 1979.
This report deals with the Australian participation in the General Assembly of the United Nations in the latter part of last year. 1 take this occasion to draw the attention of the Senate again to the position in which Australia has placed itself by continuing to recognise the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea. In the debate in the United Nations the Australian delegation showed a position, especially in the speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), which I believe most Australians would have accepted; that is, that every effort should be made to assist those people in Kampuchea who have been affected by the events in that country and the conflict. But as a nation we find ourselves in an incredibly stupid position. Despite the enormity and the cruelties of the Pol Pot regime the Prime Minister of this country (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is taking the same dog in the manger attitude as he has taken in relation to a shorter working week about which Senator Chipp was talking earlier. Because of his own personal hang-ups he is putting this country into a position in which it looks utterly ridiculous on the world scene. His own Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock, has recommended to this Government that it not continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime, and if the truth be known half the members on the Government side support Mr Peacock. It is typical of the attitude of the man who is the Prime Minister of this country today that his own personal hatreds supersede the interests of this country.
It is utterly deplorable when murderers such as the Pol Pot people continue to receive the support specifically of Malcolm Fraser, the Prime Minister of this country, when he knows that the more intelligent and the more enlightened sections of his own Government are strongly opposed to the continuing recognition of that regime. One cannot help but wonder about the motives of Mr Fraser in doing this. Even in Queensland the other day, Mr Anthony, in addressing a National Country Party conference or a Liberal Party conference - it would be very hard to tell between the two of them there - nominated as the first reason for our continuing support for the Pol Pot regime that we could not afford to offend China, ls that not incredible? These people who only a few years ago were telling us that the Chinese were going to come down here and destroy this country, literally eat us - all those big red arrows were coming down - are today saying on a fundamental issue in world affairs that we cannot afford to make an intelligent decision because we might offend China. The position we have come down to is just unreal. This is the type of mentality being pursued by the Prime Minister of this country.
The Senate will have an opportunity, of course, to debate this matter before we rise, but let the Australian people realise the dog in the manger attitude of the Prime Minister, the manner in which he is allowing his personal views to dictate the policy of this country in respect of this matter and also how he came a cropper on criticising Australian athletes and trying to bully them into not going to Moscow. He was putting thousands of dollars a year into his own pocket from the wool he was growing on his own property and selling to the Soviet Union. It is no good arguing; he has been challenged a dozen times to say it. He will not deny it; he is still doing it and he will continue to do it while he can get away with it. That is the style of the man, as can be seen from his confrontationist altitude over the 35-hour week that was referred to earlier. That is Mr Fraser through and through. I take the opportunity again to draw to the attention of the Senate and, I hope, the Australian people, the utter contradiction of the man and, of course, the manner in which he is nol prepared to listen to the advice of his own Foreign Affairs Department advisers and the more intelligent elements of his own Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
I indicate that I shall be moving similar motions in relation to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park - Zoning Plan for the Capricornia Section; and the Kakadu National Park - Plan of Management. I shall speak briefly to each of the three matters. They are matters of concern.
– Speak to them one at a time, Senator Mason.
– Do you wish me to speak only to the first one, Mr President?
– 1 will speak simply to the first and reserve my right to speak to the others at a later stage.
– One of the problems here, of course, is that the senator has reserved to himself the right to speak to three papers on this occasion. That means he could exclude someone else from speaking to a particular paper. I suggest that we deal with them one at a time. Then there will be no confusion, and someone else may get the call.
– I agree with you Senator Georges. Senator Mason, it is better that you take the first one only, as you have sought leave to take note of it.
– I preface my remarks by saying that the presentation by the Government of these 50 papers - all important, and some highly significant - on one day of sitting, I believe, indicates the cynical and undemocratic way in which the Senate is being manipulated. I think it is a fair statement thai any situation in which such an enormous mass of business comes forward on one day can be regarded only as cynicism, if indeed it is not gross inefficiency. I cannot see that any other construction is possible.
I refer particularly to page 7 of the document Development Co-operation and Australia’s Program of Support for Social and Economic Development of the Third World’. Here we see aims and objectives. It appears that our aid has steadily increased by some $50m a year in recent years. This, perhaps, is no more than we ought to be doing and probably a great deal less. It is another instance of that insidious situation in which we appear to be getting results only in the situation in which we are keeping up with inflation. I think this is something that happens constantly; lines on a graph, representing figures, appear to rise. They look good, but in fact nothing more is happening than the normal erosion of the values represented by inflation. It is much better to look at a series of figures represented by a flat line because that shows the truth of the matter.
I am a little concerned about the way in which aid is being allocated. I particularly question some of the material listed in the graph on page 72, Statistical Information, table 1, Australian Development Assistance, bilateral, financial year ended 30 June 1979. It appears to me that very large sums are going to relatively affluent South East Asian nations and we are not doing very much for countries which perhaps need that aid very much more. I think the figures, when one looks at them, tend to confirm that opinion. Malaysia got nearly $5m in 1 978-79, and it got more than $6m the previous year. India, with all its problems, and its enormously increased higher population, got less than $4m, whereas two years before it had been given over $7m, which is paltry enough, 1 think, for aid from one democracy to another democracy in one of the few Asian countries which are still struggling to remain a democracy, which has the world’s second largest population and in which there are gross problems of the worst kind, including mass starvation of children and others. Those kinds of problems do not exist in Malaysia. I do not believe our aid to that country should necessarily be cut, but a much more accurate assessment of the needs of other countries should be made by contrast. If one feels that Australia is giving aid to Malaysia and not to India because Malaysia is a lot closer to Australia, one should look at the case with regard to Burma. Burma is one of the rice bowls of South East Asia, a relatively prosperous country. It has problems, but note the problems do not begin to approach those that India has. Burma is, of course, contiguous to India, it is in the same general South Asian area. It got more than $8m. So actual geographic location and propinquity to Australia do not seem to have any kind of real rationale.
The lion’s share, as always - more than half the total - went to Papua New Guinea. No one objects to that, least of all the Australian Democrats, but I think that means that we have to look at the overall figure as something which is revealed as being very paltry indeed from an affluent and highly developed country, considering the problems of the world. 1 refer honourable senators, if they have not already seen it, to an excellent article in this morning’s Canberra Times reviewing the survey of the President of the US called ‘Global 2000’. When honourable senators read that I think they will realise that for all of us in this world time is running out very rapidly. We cannot allow a situation to continue where we feel that the years will go by, that somehow our affluence will continue and that somehow, although no action is taken by us, things will improve. The thing that probably influences government and, possibly, community viewpoints most on this matter is the feeling that somehow we can be a lifeboat and that we do not have to do anything for these people. I suggest that for those people a day of reckoning is coming because there is no way in the world that we can permit a situation in which the affluent nations go on ignoring their responsibilities any longer. That document, Global 2000’, is a very carefully considered assessment by experts from all over the world of just what the world will be like in a mere 20 years.
It made my blood run cold. I believe it should be a signal to this Government that it should, apart from the affluent nations of South East Asia, apart from the sheer zone of influence philosophy which seems now to inform our foreign aid, consider that there is now a vast mass of humanity which is getting into an increasingly parlous situation. Illiteracy is increasing; in most cases life expectancy is falling again; the old tropical contagious diseases are about again; and the world has dropped back a lot in the last 20 years and will drop back further. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to move a motion in regard to this paper. I am at somewhat of a disadvantage because of the way in which the papers have been presented. Senators are looking at one another to see who is going to rise to move a motion that the Senate take note of a certain paper.
– I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
I note that this report for 1977 is three years late in being presented to the Senate. 1 believe that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, of which Senator Rae is Chairman, is dealing with this matter. I will not speak about it because 1 think it is in good hands. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the Fishing Industry Research Committee annual report for 1978-79. 1 seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the Australian Fisheries Council resolutions of the ninth meeting of the Council for 1 979. 1 seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - 1 move:
That the Senate take note of the report by the Trade Practices Commission on price discrimination in the petroleum retailing industry.
This report was superseded or jettisoned before it was even tabled in the Parliament. The major findings - of course, well publicised at the time in the Trade Practices Commission’s report was that no unfair discrimination was practised against different classes of retailers by the oil distributing companies. 1 do not know when the Commission collected that evidence or where it collected that evidence. At the time the report came out very clearly price discrimination of the type that the Commission said did not exist was being practised in Perth. The official wholesale price was 3 1 .6c a litre. Of course, petrol was being discounted by the companies to various retailers by varying and not fully known amounts. The Shell company’s official price at that time was 31.6c a litre. There were three Shell service stations within half a mile of my office where petrol could be bought retail at less than 30c a litre. In other words, it would have been cheaper for some retailers of Shell fuel - if they could have obtained it this way - to have had tankers filled up from a bowser at a Shell service station than it was to buy it from the Shell company. I believe that similar relativities applied with other companies at that time. 1 do not know whether the Commission collected ils evidence before those practices were adopted, or whether the Commission did not probe very deeply. But what the Commission asserted was not happening very clearly was happening at the time the report was originally released, lt is possible from other information I have - at least I do not think Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has made any secret of this - that the future allocations of Australian crude, which are normally quite substantially below the marginal cost of imported crude, will be affected by the sales volume market shares of individual companies until the end of September. In other words, it is possible that companies are losing or not trading profitably on some of their sales in order to mainlain their market share and thereby their future allocations of relatively cheap Australian crude oil. The losses on some of those sites are probably being cross-subsidised by higher prices on other sites and, in particular, by higher prices in the country.
As I said, the report has been superseded by the appearance of further Government action. The relevant Minister instructed the Prices Justification Tribunal to inquire again into redistribution and retailing practices and specifically instructed the Tribunal - this is the important point - to determine the degree, if any, to which the officially set wholesale price incorporated an allowance for company investment in retail sites for interest and amortisation of company investments in retail sites. That is terribly significant because if there is, or ever was, an allowance in the wholesale price of petrol for company investments in retail sites it is quite clear that the companies’ retailing activities were being cross-subsidised by the wholesale price. There is not and never was any justification for any allowance in the wholesale price for capital or for any other expenditure incurred by the companies in their retailing activities. 1 presume that even a Minister in this Government would not have given such an instruction to the PJT unless he had good reason to believe that, in fact, such an allowance was incorporated in the present price or had been incorporated in the price in the past. Presumably there is or was such an allowance, which demonstrates the farcical nature of the alleged supervision of pricing in recent years.
If the companies have been able to sell to the PJT a proposition as shonky as that and get away with it, it is obvious that the regulation and supervision of petrol distribution in Australia have been grossly inadequate, lt is an area in which, in spite of the very clear recommendations of the Collins Royal Commission on Petroleum - I think it was the third report, which was released in 1 976- this Government has consistently refused to take any action, lt has explicitly refused on a number of occasions to take any effective action, lt is now, because it is looking down the barrel of an election, attempting to generate an illusion that it is taking action in this area. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– I never thought that I would accuse Senator Walsh of being kind, but 1 think that today he has been extraordinarily kind to the Trade Practices Commission. 1 would question very gravely the competence of the Trade Practices Commission following the disgraceful report that it has brought down on price discrimination in the petroleum retailing industry. If there had been no price discrimination, I do not know of any other reason why 800 private enterprise Aussie battlers went bankrupt in two years. Blind Freddie, if one may use that expression these days, would know that they were put out of business deliberately and overtly by the action of the oil companies using the weapon of price discrimination. As Senator Walsh has said, allegedly this report has now been superseded. Again I think he was being kind. Admittedly an instruction has been given to the Prices Justification Tribunal but that does not fill me with great confidence.
As Senator Walsh has demonstrated, for so long the Prices Justification Tribunal has rubber stamped applications by the oil companies for an increase. As Senator Walsh said. 31.6c is the wholesale price granted by the Prices Justification Tribunal. As I understand it, the basis upon which the oil companies sought that wholesale price was that they could not sell petrol at a wholesale price less than that and still make a reasonable profit. Yet, from the day after that increase was granted, the same petrol has been retailed at one or two cents below the wholesale price. That does not inspire me with any confidence in any government’s request to the Prices Justification Tribunal to rectify a situation or to bring the facts of the matter to the surface.
Finally, I refer to the alleged promise of the Government to introduce legislation which is now known as the Garland package. Unlike the various automobile chambers of commerce around the country which have made euphoric statements about this, I still am not persuaded that that legislation will bring justice to independent retail operators. I will not be satisfied, neither will the Australian Democrats be satisfied, if anything less than the Fife package of 31 October 1978 is introduced. I ask the Senate, when and if that legislation is introduced, as has been promised, to have a good look at what the Government actually promised in October 1978 and what in fact it has brought in before the general election.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
This document is a statement by the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) dealing with the Budget details in relation to education. I want to make some comments about that statement. First of all, I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that, according to the Budget, the total expenditure on education is to be increased by 10 per cent. Of course, that would merely keep expenditure on education in line with the rate of inflation. But if one looks at the guidelines for education which were brought down in May, which seems to be a more honest statement of events and of the facts, one sees that the expenditure suggested for education is given in constant prices. We find that total education spending has risen, in December 1979 prices, to $2,1 36.6m for the 1980 academic year and to $2,141 .8m for the 1981 academic year, which represents an increase in constant prices of 0.25 per cent. That is a lot different from what was claimed in the Budget, when the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) glibly stated that the increase in education expenditure was 10 per cent.
When one consults Budget Paper No. 1 one finds at page 69 a further statement in relation to educational expenditure, showing that item of expenditure as a proportion of total Budget outlays. We see that under this Government the percentage of government outlays made on education in 1 978-79 was 8.7 per cent. It declined in 1 979-80 to 8.2 per cent and in 1980-81 to 8 per cent. That area of expenditure and the area of social welfare are the two areas of Commonwealth expenditure which have indicated a steady decline in the last three Budgets.
This statement by the Minister for Education contains a number of items which usually fall within the Budget context and which have been singled out for attention. First of all, the student secondary allowance is to be increased by 20 per cent. The Opposition welcomes that increase. It could mean two things: It could mean, as the Transition from School to Work Program of this Government also portrayed, that there is a desire to keep people at school so that they will not appear in the unemployment figures; or, on the other hand, in a more charitable sense, it could be described as a recognition of the fact that our retention rates in Australian secondary schools are bad by international standards and that a socioeconomic situation caused those poor retention rales. One would ask further why there is to be an increase in the secondary allowance compared with an anomalous increase of 10 per cent in the level of the tertiary allowance.
In the area of allowances for parents of isolated school children, the Government again has given a welcome increase to the basic boarding allowance for the children of parents living in remote areas. Some of the consequential allowances have been increased also. 1 point out that this is the first rise in assistance to isolated school children since 1 977. By the end of the 1 980 school year the value of allowances to parents of isolated school children will have been reduced by 28 per cent since 1977. The increase which the Government is making in this Budget goes no way towards restoring the 1977 value of the isolated school children’s allowance. As I have commented in the Senate before, it is extraordinary that the National Country Party, which has so much influence on this Government in so many bizarre ways, appears not to be interested in the education of isolated school children and has done nothing to ensure that the value of this allowance, which was introduced by the Labor Government, is restored.
I have canvassed before the suspicion that there is a dreadful terror in the hearts of National Country Party members that if better education is provided for country school children it will put the National Country Party out of business because those people will not vote for the National Country Party once they have received a better education. That might be the reason; 1 do not know. But it is an extraordinary indictment of this Government that this has been allowed to happen. I point out that, in an education program announced by the Opposition a month or so ago, the rationale for raising the allowance to $700 was to restore its value in terms of purchasing power. There is no rationale for the decision of the Government other than perhaps a desire to appease electorally the concern and anger of the parents of isloated school children.
This isolated school children’s allowance and the treatment which has been given it illustrates the basic differences between the carefully costed proposals of the Opposition in relation to education and the Government’s costing proposals. I draw the Senate’s attention to an article which appreared in today’s Daily Telegraph which draws attention to the totally false costing which the Government has been given in relation to the tertiary education assistance scheme proposals of the Australian Labor Party. What is happening is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is calling for’ costings by the Public Service of proposals of the Opposition in relation to a variety of policy areas. It is quite clear from a document which has been made available to us that those costings are false. That is happening in the area of education and in the area of unemployment schemes, including the job creation schemes. It is quite clear that wild and exaggerated figures are floating around and are floating more specifically off the top of the head of the Prime Minister in relation to the costing of the Opposition’s proposals.
– That is an assumption.
– No, it is not an assumption; it is quite clear that that is so. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Viner, put on the Labor Party proposals in respect of job creation schemes a costing totally different from that which the Prime Minister put on them. In relation to education, specifically the tertiary education assistance allowance, the Prime Minister has been advised that the costing of the Labor Party proposal is $85m, compared wilh a true costing of $30m. The costing given to the Prime Minister is quite a wrong costing. There is unanimous agreement that it is a wrong costing. Thai is a very serious situation for a government to get itself into. I very much regret it. The Government is making false costings on these matters. If it cannot agree, for example, on the value of the mining developments which are to take place in Australia - it is $29 billion or $18 billion depending on which Minister is speaking - of course, its figures are not to be believed, which does not surprise me in the slightest. I merely provide evidence of that in relation to the education costings which have been made.
In respect of the proposals put forward by the Opposition in relation to education and the Commonwealth’s role in education there is one very simple principle about the provision for student allowances. Their value in terms of purchasing power should be restored to keep pace with the rampant inflation which is now taking place under the Fraser Government. The Government’s response- it would have made no response al all if the Labor Party had not first put out its figures and suggestions about what should be done about student allowances - is a handout one. The Government has said: ‘We will buy off that section by giving a small sum there, we will buy off that section by giving a sum here and we will buy off that section by giving another sum there’. This was all done by a government presided over by a Prime Minister who says that he is not concerned about buying votes. There is no logic or rationality behind any of the Government’s propositions, only a vague, electoral, political judgment as to what is needed to keep people in the electorate quiet. It illustrates the twin failures of this Government. It has not arrested inflation, neither has it kept up support for the needy and community services. If it had got inflation under control as promised perhaps it could have been forgiven for throwing away these little sums of money, which have no rationality in student allowances, welfare pensions or anything else. It has not done so and people have been given a handout as well as high inflation.
I referred a minute ago to the error made by the Government in costing the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. One might ask why public servants are being used at this stage to cost Opposition proposals. Why is the Public Service being used for these political purposes? To save time I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a copy of a document from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet which sets out a costing of the Labor Party’s election proposals which I say is demonstrably wrong and false.
– Is leave granted?
– No. I have not been given the document to study.
– I will put the question again when the Minister has seen the document.
– How many millions does it come to?
– The costing is wrong by $55m.
– ls it only $1 ,945m?
– It is $55m wrong out of a total of $100m. That is a pretty good effort. The honourable senator should look at the document. If it is not incorporated in Hansard he can read it in the Daily Telegraph if he is so interested.
– They are different figures to the ones Viner used.
– That was another matter. The honourable senator has reminded me of it. He is quite right. Different figures again were used in the costing of job creation programs. What is clear from the document is that the Government has mixed up the 1981 spending with the third-year spending proposed by an alternative ALP Government. Most of the figures in the document are incorrect. The figure that the Government should have arrived at for the total expenditure is $101 m. I point out that this is in December 1977 prices. The proposal involves a real increase of nearly 5 per cent in education expenditure, contrasting with the Government’s real increase of 0.25 per cent. That also is contrary to what is stated in the Budget. The Minister for Education, not costing education expenditure at constant prices, referred to a 10 per cent increase in that expenditure.
The education statement announces a welcome increase in spouse and children’s allowances under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme and a liberalisation of the means test. The latter is only to be expected, lt goes up only by the increase in average weekly earnings during 1979. The outside earnings allowed to students who are in receipt of TEAS payments are put up to $2,000 from $1,500. That means a student can now earn $2,000 and still receive the full Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance. That is to be commended, 1 suppose, in some ways but the proposal creates new inequities between the student who can get employment and the student who cannot, who has to rely on the basic allowance. If the Government were bent on the course of increasing the capacity of students to earn outside the scheme, as it clearly was, it should have increased the amount to $3,000 in order to restore it to the 1 974 level when that level was set. For a government which talks a lot about initiative and enterprise, it is strangely curious that it has gone about doing it in this way.
The liberalisation of the means test under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme means that a larger group of students will be accommodated and will be able to obtain the benefits of the scheme because of the alteration of the means test cut off point. The Government has raised that means test cut off point to the 1979 level of average weekly earnings. Again, there is no rationality about that decision. The 1979 level of average weekly earnings is not relevant to the situation of a family in 1980. In 1975 the means test cut off point was 102 per cent of average weekly earnings. Prior to this modest increase it was 79 per cent of average weekly earnings. There has not been much improvement. Such improvement as there has been has very little rational base. Again, it is an illustration of the handout mentality.
There are increases in the level of the adult secondary education assistance scheme and the Aboriginal study grants scheme. These are also welcome. The Government is to be commended for making increases in respect of those schemes. There is an increase of $420 in the level of postgraduate awards. That level needs to be increased to about $6,500 to allow for inflation and tax movements since 1977. The Government has not done that. Last year in the Senate I tabled an analysis showing the deterioration in the level of the post -secondary award allowance. That analysis was never challenged by the Government. 1 simply make the point that these allowances should be treated as questions of principle. The principle involved is that the purchasing power of those allowances, which were set according to a rational basis, should be restored. To do that the Government would have to increase the allowance for post-graduate award holders, some of the brightest young graduates of tertiary institutions in this country, to $6,500 a year rather than to roughly $4,700 a year to which the present increase takes it.
The Government has again seen fit - I find that surprising - to raise in the Budget context the school to work transition policy as through it were some magnificent scheme solving many social problems in Australia. The rate at which State authorities have been able to develop programs under the so-called transition from school to work program has varied greatly. There has been a lot of trouble with the States in regard to this program, lt has been regarded as something of a con, if 1 can use the colloquialism, particularly by the Hamer Government in Victoria. I refer to a briefing paper to the Hamer Government representatives for the Premiers Conference of 1980. The paper begins with these words:
The School to Work Program as it stands is ill-defined directionless and would tie up the State in terms of educational priorities and funding even more than such programs as the Schools Commission Program did.
That is the introductory note to the briefing to the Victorian Government representatives at the Premiers Conference in relation to the school to work transition program. On 8 May of this year the Premier, Mr Hamer, wrote to the Prime Minister about the transition from school to work program, drawing attention to a number of difficulties and a number of anomalies. The anomalies which arise fortify the suspicion that the school to work transition program was developed for one reason - that is, to try to keep kids in schools to keep the statistics for the youth unemployed lower. One suspects, cynically and sadly, that is the basic rationale of the transition from school to work program.
If one enters the transition from school to work program in the technical and further education sector, one may sit beside a student who is getting the tertiary education allowance; one may sit beside another student who is getting apprenticeship wages; one may sit behind a student who comes under the Education Program for Unemployed Youth Scheme. All those students, with the exception of the one under the school to work program, would be in receipt of an allowance.
The person who comes under the school to work transition program may sit there for a few weeks before he says: ‘What am 1 getting out of this?’, lt is easy to understand why he asks the question. The answer is nothing. That is an extraordinary anomalous and ridiculous situation which the transition from school to work program has drifted into.
A number of criticisms of that very interesting program may be made. The same program has been announced seven times by the Fraser Government since November last year as though it were a new invention. Every time the Government sees youth employment figures it announces a new transition from school to work program. It is the same one. Only $4. 5m has been spent by the Federal Government on it so far. That is a very sad piece of rhetoric designed to throw a smokescreen over the unemployment situation and to cloud the situation as far as young school leavers are concerned, lt is a tragic and cynical exercise that the program has not been developed in a much more sophisticated way.
There is an issue which I wish to mention which came out of the statement of the Minister for Education. That is the question of handicapped children. Honourable senators, even those on the Government side, will probably remember that in 1977 the Prime Minister, in the course of his election campaign, made very specific promises about what he would do for handicapped children in Australia in terms of education. He intended to equalise the burden on parents with a child who was not handicapped in any way with the burden which was placed on parents with a handicapped child. That was one of the big goes in the 1977 election campaign, together with the Save the Whale program and one or two others. The whale has been saved, but nothing has been done about handicapped children. Only after the Prime Minister has been constantly reminded of this, in the 1980 Budget, does he make some sort of token gesture towards the problems of assistance to handicapped children in the education system.
Of course, what has happened in those years is simply this: In 1 975 some 900 teachers were being trained, under Schools Commission programs of the Labor Government, to educate handicapped children. Those programs for the teachers of handicapped children have declined by 42 per cent under the Fraser Government. The situation in both government and non-government schools today is that teachers are being asked to deal with the problems of handicapped children and are saying again and again that they are not qualified to do it. In the non-government school sector the figure for teachers who say they are not qualified to deal with handicapped children is 60 per cent. They have had no training to deal with very difficult situations in regard to handicapped kids.
The Department of Social Security and the Schools Commission have argued for five years as to which authority should be responsible for the education of handicapped children. Should it be the Schools Commission or should it be the responsibility of the Department under the welfare provisions of the assistance to handicapped persons legislation? In a seminar situation 1 asked the Minister for Education what the Government’s intention was about the problem and who should be responsible for it - the Schools Commission or Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle’s people? The Minister replied that he had something in mind, but he would not let us know what it was. His problem is that Senator Dame Margaret has something else in mind. When one asks him about this he says it is a matter for the Prime Minister to decide. In five years no decision has been reached on that elementary and fundamental question of concern to the parents of handicapped kids. Of course, recent surveys show that they constitute a very significant proportion of kids at Australian schools.
The educators are concerned that handicapped kids should not be pushed into ghettos but that they should be treated as normal kids in a classroom situation. No real steps have been taken towards the provision of those services in Australia. One could say that we have a mining boom on our hands; the price of petrol is going up; it does not matter about handicapped kids; we can forget about those problems. It is strange that no other country of equivalent economic sophistication, such as the United States of America or the countries of western Europe, feel that they can and will forget about problems such as the education of handicapped children. It can happen only in this country. It is an indictment on the Government of this country, the educational authorities of this country and on the absence of government leadership in relation to these issues. 1 would like to say, in summary, that the Government’s initiatives in relation to education in the Budget were stimulated by Opposition thought on the subject. Nothing would have happened if the Australian Labor Party had not put forward very firm proposals about what it intended to do in relation to education. The response is tepid and lukewarm. It is merely an attempt, without any rationality, to buy a few votes here and there and to say: ‘We will keep the country parents quiet with this little bit. We will keep the parents of handicapped children quiet with another little bit’. There is no indication, in rational terms, when one looks at the increases in funding in education by the Government, as to why it is done. No efforts have been made to restore the value of allowances or to deal with the problems which have been identified by educational authorities. It is a feeble pre-electoral mess which is shameful in terms of an assessment of what is needed in education. There is very little of any significance in the government guidelines which were brought down in May. There are minimal increases in expenditure, a total lack of leadership on important educational issues and a hope, perhaps, that the education system will just go away.
The education system, of course, is vitally relevant to a rapidly changing society, a society which will face many conflicts and many difficulties in terms of social dislocation in the remaining years of this century. If our schools and educational institutions are not now being encouraged to be competent to deal with the sorts of questions and issues which will arise when the people in those institutions become adults, the social dislocations in this country will be greater than one can even anticipate now. The education system is not being asked by this Government to respond to the challenges of the future which this country undoubtedly will have. If anything is involved in the notion of leadership it is simply the notion that one should look ahead and try to plan the future so that the systems of this country will respond to the need to grapple with the problems which arise. That is not happening in the field of education. It is a source of great regret. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
- Senator Button, I refer to your earlier request for an incorporation. That matter has been looked at by the AttorneyGeneral.
– Leave is not granted. The document sought to be incorporated appears to be a confidential document. I do not know whether it is a proper document. I do not know whether Senator Button can vouch for it. I imagine that he cannot. It is claimed that it has been leaked. It is a confidential document addressed to the Prime Minister. It would be for the Prime Minister or, indeed, any Minister who has the custody of a confidential document to make decisions about whether it should be incorporated. I am not prepared to agree to its being incorporated.
– I rise to a point of order relating to the refusal of leave. 1 remind the Senate that in 1975 Mr Fraser was able to table a stolen document from the office of the then Treasurer, Mr Hayden. If it was good enough for the Prime
Minister when he was in Opposition to table a stolen document it is quite in order, in my view, that the document now in question be incorporated in *Hansard. * seek leave to speak on the subject on which Senator Button spoke.
- Senator Button has sought leave to continue his remarks. We will defer to his side of the chamber. 1 will then call Senator Peter Baume to make a statement.
– 1 am sorry, but if Senator Button does not seek leave I will seek the call.
- Senator Button, will you withdraw your seeking of leave?
– I shall, Mr President.
– If he withdraws 1 will seek the call.
- Senator McLaren wishes to speak on the same subject.
– I understand that, Mr President, but that is not acceptable. I ask you to call from alternate sides of the chamber, if that is in order.
– I did not see the honourable senator on his feet. I will follow that practice. I always do. If an honourable senator is on his feet I will call him.
– 1 am reluctant to say that we have to get to the business of the day. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - On Tuesday, 19 August, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) put down a statement about Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd. That statement indicated that the Auditor-General had revealed certain deficiencies in the financial and managerial control of the company and that the matter had been examined by a committee of the Australian Dairy Corporation. The Minister claimed that action has been or is being taken to rectify the deficiencies. However, he did state that the appropriateness of certain expenditure by the former chairman of the company is being examined and certain matters arising out of that examination will be reported to the Australian Federal Police for further investigation. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and
Government Operations looked at the operations of Asia Dairy Industries in 1977 following some expressed concern over alleged irregularities. After preliminary investigation and after receiving certain assurances as to the steps being taken the Committee decided to defer further action but to maintain a careful watch on events.
The situation has now arisen where a series of documents have been tabled in the Senate which are part of the Auditor-General’s report and correspondence between the Auditor-General and a Minister of the Crown and the Auditor-General and the previous chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation and Asia Dairy Industries. Other information has also been obtained by the Committee. 1 now wish to inform the Senate that the Committee at its meeting yesterday reviewed the situation and resolved that on the basis of the material which is so far available further investigation into the affairs of Asia Dairy Industries is warranted. The Committee proposes therefore to proceed with preliminary but relatively detailed examination of Asia Dairy Industries and the Australian Dairy Corporation, which is the parent company of Asia Dairy Industries, and other joint venture operations, to establish whether the material so far presented to this Parliament warrants the Committee’s undertaking a public inquiry into the operations of Asia Dairy Industries and the Australian Dairy Corporation and their responsibilities to this Parliament. The Committee believes that there may be important lessons relating to the operation of Asia Dairy Industries and the need for a proper accountability which arises from this case. The Committee will be conscious of the fact that a police inquiry is being undertaken. I will report to the Senate the results of the Committee’s examination as soon as possible.
– by leave - I note with some satisfaction the statement which Senator Rae has brought down. I wish to make a few comments on it and in particular on the reference to the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations is conscious of the fact that a police inquiry is being undertaken. I assume that the Committee envisages that that will place some constraints, if not on the matters that are being investigated, at least on the matters which it can subsequently publicise. I understand that point. I would, however, ask the Committee to note that, according to the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) issued on Tuesday, the only police investigations being carried out are those which refer to the only outstanding matter - the appropriations of expenditure by the former Chairman of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd and the Australian Dairy Corporation. So all the other matters which were revealed in the document extracts which I tabled in the Senate last Tuesday and from other sources to which the Committee may have had access are not the matters, according to the Minister anyway, which are the subject of current police investigation.
– There are 31 specific items for investigation, of which only two are the subject matter of police investigation, as I understand it at the moment. Does that help you?
– Thank you. I had not heard those figures previously. I note the Minister’s statement that the Federal Police are investigating items of expenditure by the former Chairman.
– Why do police investigations stop another inquiry? There is no prosecution.
– 1 said that they might stop the publication of the results of the inquiry until the police investigations or their consequences are finalised, but only in relation to those matters which directly concern Mr Webster. The information about Mr Webster’s misuse of funds, upon which the police inquiry has finally been authorised or requested by the Minister, was known at least as early as 3 August last year to the Minister for Primary Industry at the time. Notwithstanding that knowledge, Mr Webster was allowed to remain as Chairman of the Corporation and Chairman of Asia Dairy Industries until his resignation became operative at the end of December last. Normally one would expect that the chairman and general manager of a statutory authority about whom evidence of misuse of funds had been supplied to the Minister would have been asked to stand down from his position at least until after the allegations had been cleared up. But, of course, the Minister at that time was in no position to chastise or stand down anyone just because he had his fist in the till. In allowing that Minister to remain a Minister, in allowing a compromised Minister to remain in office as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did at that time, he opened up further possibilities of malfeasance within the authority because a compromised Minister cannot discipline a compromised chairman.
The present Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Nixon, has given a series of misleading answers in the Parliament about this matter. For that reason also 1 welcome the preliminary inquiry which the Chairman of the Committee has forecast. I will welcome even more a full public inquiry where witnesses are subpoenaed and evidence taken on oath. A series of misleading answers were given by the present Minister in reply to questions in Parliament and outside it. I will not go through them all in detail. Chronologically, on 15 November last, he said that the practices were no longer relevant. On 22 November, he said that he would not make the report available because it was a sensitive commercial report which should not be made public. In reply to a telegram from me on 5 December he said that he could not release the report until full consideration had been given to the question of further action being taken consequent upon the reports. By 1 7 April this year, when the Minister was again questioned he said that the Auditor-General had advised not to table the report until all the investigations had been completed. That matter was taken up in the consideration by the Estimates Committee. The First Assistant Auditor-General stated that he had no knowledge of any such information, any such advice, having been given to the Minister. He stated that he would have expected to be aware of such advice had it been given.
Mr Nixon was questioned again about that aspect in the House of Representatives on 14 May. He referred to a letter written by the Auditor-General’s Office to the Chairman of the Estimates Committee where the matter was investigated. Mr Nixon said:
I regret that I do not have the letter with me, but I understand that since that date the Deputy Secretary -
That is, from the Auditor-General’s Office: has written to the Leader of the Government in the Senate informing him that the Auditor-General had advised the Minister for Primary Industry that a precedent would be created, or words to that effect, and that there was therefore an obligation on me as Minister not to table the correspondence and the reports that had flowed between the Auditor-General’s Office and me and my Department. I have been totally consistent and, as usual, totally accurate and truthful on this matter right throughout.
Those who look at the Minister’s series of answers on this question might query that last sentence.
I will deal specifically with his claim that the Auditor-General’s Office had written a letter to Senator Carrick. Mr Nixon stated: . . that there was therefore an obligation on me as Minister not to table the correspondence . . .
Presumably the letter to which the Minister referred was not addressed to Senator Carrick; it was addressed to the Secretary of Senate Estimates Committee A. No other letter has been produced anyway and it says no such thing, lt sets out the precedent, the normal practices, governing what Auditor-General’s reports must or may be tabled, the broad distinction being that Auditor-General’s reports on the accounts of
Government departments must be tabled under the Audit Act. Written into legislation which sets up a statutory authority usually is a clause which states that the accounts shall be audited by the Auditor-General and shall be tabled annually in Parliament. Special reports may or may not be tabled al the discretion of the Minister. This matter comes into the category of special reports.
After explaining that fact, the AuditorGeneral’s Office in the letter to Senate Estimates Committee A said:
The facts are that the Auditor-General informed the Minister of the general practice or convention associated with the tabling of such reports as outlined above but no recommendation was made on whether or not the report in question should be tabled.
Despite Mr Nixon’s assertion that he has been totally truthful and totally consistent throughout this matter, on four occasions he gave conflicting answers. On the final occasion he still insisted that the Auditor-General advised him that it would be improper to table the report when the letter from which I have just quoted clearly shows that the Auditor-General gave no such advice.
In his statement yesterday, the Minister referred, as I mentioned, to the police investigations into expenditure by Mr Tony Webster, the former chairman. He has refused to answer any questions about the other misuses of funds, disclosed in the documents which 1 tabled, and perhaps other instances which may be available to other people. I go through just a few of them. Has the $5,000 payment to Mr McCartney been paid back? If it has not been paid back, what is the current state of investigations into it? The Minister’s statement says implicitly that that matter is finalised. Has Mr McCartney paid back the $5,000? If he has not, why not? Has the $10,000 overpayment to an expatriot employee of Thai Dairy Industry Co. in Thailand been paid back? If not, why not? lt appears that payments for medical expenses in Indonesia were triplicated, nol duplicated. What has happened about that? Has any recovery been made?
The directors of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd were also employed as consultants by Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd. There are numerous references to gifts. To whom were these gifts made? By whom were they made? For what purpose were they made? There is the question of transfer pricing arrangements and its effect on Thai taxation laws. Who is Mrs Kent, described in the Auditor-General’s documents as appearing to be ‘just a tourist’? Is the Mrs Kent in question, as 1 have been reliably informed, the wife of a neighbour of the present Deputy Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation?
What is the result of the investigations into the loans which were made apparently improperly to employees of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd overseas? Have the loans been recovered? Similar questions arise again about the apparently unauthorised borrowings by Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd overseas. I stress that none of those specific points to which I have referred - Senator Rae said he thought there are 31 or 29 that do not concern matters currently being investigated which concern Mr Webster, and there are the other 20 or thereabouts which are apparently known to Senator Rae - has been answered by the Minister. The Minister said: ‘1 cannot talk about the investigations into Mr Webster’s activities because they are the subject of police investigation’. But there is no reason, from the Minister’s own statements, to justify his failure to disclose the other approximately 29 instances of apparent misuse of funds.
I make a final point in this respect. I will not say this is a misuse of funds but it is still very significant, especially politically. 1 have just been handed a copy of an extract from the Asian Wall Street Journal which carries a story headed: ‘Australian Affiliate Failed to Pay Thai Withholding Tax, Report Says’. It reports that Mr Wallace, a member of the joint committee of investigation, has long been or was for a long period the representative of the Department of Primary Industry on the Australian Dairy Corporation. The report stated:
Al Wallace, head of the dairy division of the Australian Department of Primary Industry, confirmed in Canberra that the report is substantially true, although I believe it’s been blown out of all proportion.
Mr Wallace was unable to disclose the amount of tax that wasn’t paid. ‘We just don’t know at this point’, he said.
Here we have another instance where one of Mr Nixon’s own officers is on public record acknowledging that tax which ought to have been due has not been paid. The Minister has given us no explanation on that matter.
The documents which 1 tabled - the same information might have come to Senator Rae from different sources - show that a payment of $1 .5m was made from product funds to the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation in 1978 on the approval of the then Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that the report also refers to a number of other payments having been made to the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation which apparently was a surprise to the Auditor-General but those payments are not quantified. What appears to have been the major payment of $ 1 .5m has, I understand, been invested in a trust account, the income from which is devoted to paying the operating expenses of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. No government announcement has ever been made of that transfer of funds. 1 believe in this case the Government is implementing at the very least a policy of compulsory unionism. It is funding an industry organisation from product funds earned or obtained by a statutory authority; that is compulsory unionism.
There is a case to be put for compulsory unionism. 1 do not necessarily say that it should not have been done in this instance, but propositions were put to conservative governments in the 1960s for similar procedures to be followed with respect to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. For example, one proposition was that a small deduction be made from wheat payments to be used to fund the Federation. The government of that day rejected that suggestion. I would normally expect that of the present Government, although its performancce is rarely consistent with its rhetoric. But if its rhetoric is to be taken seriously at all, 1 would expect the natural preference of the present Government to be against compulsory unionism. Indeed, it has specifically legislated to stop the type of funding arrangements which it brought in through the back door for the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation; it has legislated to stop those funding arrangements for student bodies in Territories under Commonwealth control. On the one hand we have a Government which, in a public manner and with a very high profile, legislates to end funding a student union by a compulsory levy, but one year before, through the back door, without telling anyone, publicly anyway, the Government was doing the opposite; that is, it was funding a dairy farmers union with conscripted funds. 1 think we are entitled to know at the very least, what the other payments of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation were and we are entitled to an explanation of why the Government has never made any statement to the public about that being done. I am told that a number of people in the dairy industry knew about it, and it is pretty clear that there would be people in the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation who knew about it, but none of the agricultural journalists to whom 1 have mentioned this matter - that would be six or seven agricultural journalists at least - had ever heard of it either.
Late though it is, 1 welcome Senator Rae’s announcement. It seems to me to be fairly clear now that there is enough evidence- no thanks to the Government, but thanks to other people - on the public record to justify a public inquiry. I hope the Committee will reach that conclusion and will subpoena witnesses and take evidence on oath.
Very importantly, the Committee’s investigations and reporting on its investigations should not be constrained by anything other than the current police investigations into Mr Webster’s activities which are a very small component of what is known at this stage about the misuse of funds within this subsidiary of a statutory corporation.
– by leave - I move:
The report of the Study Group on National Assessment of Educational Progress examines the use of national assessment programs overseas as a result of an overseas visit by the relevant committee in order to determine whether such programs should be introduced into Australia. These programs are supposed to enable evaluation of the education system to take place. There has been much talk in the Senate about the need for qualitative considerations in education, the need for examining the situation of the three Rs, et cetera; and programs of national assessment have been considered in the light of those comments.
This report concludes that such programs should not be developed in Australia because they are expensive; there is a limit to what can be done by quantitative tests; one cannot measure the overall value of education; such tests have strong influence on skilled curriculum; the interpretation of the results of such tests is difficult; and the national assessment of educational program scores gives no guidance as to how to improve educational achievement.
So there is a general warning against the value of these national assessments. But the report does recommend that national tests of general literacy be carried out and that such tests that already exist in relation to the problems of illiteracy be improved. The Committee takes the view that these tests of literacy would be useful because literacy is fundamental to all areas of curriculum and, therefore, will not influence the choice of curriculum in schools, it can be tested without bias to particular organisations and can be relatively accurately measured. Page 33 of the National Assessment of Educational Progress report lists additional aspects of literacy which should be tested. There was a general disagreement as to whether numeracy should be tested at all. There are also recommendations as to how to improve the assessment processes in relation to educational standards. The report concludes:
The Study Group believes that these tests would provide a useful public evaluation of certain basic activities in Australian schools which would not pretend to be a substitute for wider accountability. . .
The Government must ensure that this does not become a substitute for genuine measures of public accountability of the education system. I have just referred to that report in passing because it is relevant to the Evaluation of the Education Program for Unemployed Youth, lt is relevant also to an unpublished survey of the Schools Commission which was reported on in the Sydney Morning Herald of 31 July this year. I do not want to read that newspaper report in detail but I wish to mention the major parts of it. It says:
A major Schools Commission report, which finds that recent school-leavers believe their secondary education was largely irrelevant and a waste of time, says that this is a powerful argument’ for changing the direction of secondary schooling.
Most school-leavers surveyed by a Commission team said there was too much emphasis on academic subjects, such as science, theoretical mathematics, English literature and foreign languages.
This distorted and devalued everything else, the angry school-leavers said.
The report goes on to make a very alarming finding, namely, that 40 per cent of the products of Australian secondary schools who showed up in this survey expressed extreme dissatisfaction with their school education, and that included not only people who were unemployed but also university undergraduates, college undergraduates and those who are engaged in post-secondary education of one kind or another. Forty per cent expressed concern about the relevance of school curricula and things of that kind. That is an interesting figure because it correlates pretty much with the figure given by Professor Karmel, the Chairman of the Tertiary Education Commission in his Radford Memorial Lecture earlier this year in which he made the point that the school system in Australia, particularly the high school system - the academic school system - caters only for about 65 per cent of its clients and that the education provided in that system for the remaining 35 per cent is pretty irrelevant to their needs, concerns and future employment prospects.
I mention that in the context of the Committee report on National Assessment of Educational Standards. It is also relevant in another way to the summary report headed ‘An Evaluation of the Education Program for Unemployed Youth’ provided by the Commonwealth Department of Education. I make the point that anything that improves the employability of young Australians is to be encouraged. I think it is fair to point out that the EPUY scheme does not increase the number of jobs which are available. What we are doing is sort of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic and shuffling around the groups of people that are unemployed and are looking for jobs. Contrary to many prognostications, comments by Ministers in the present Government and pontification about the relevance of the education system to employment capacity, one of the major findings of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, which is studiously ignored by senior Ministers in the present Government, is that unemployment among young people exists because there are not jobs and it is not fair to blame the education system. That is a finding of impeccable logic. It is in that context that a program like EPUY, for all its value, can be seen only as a pretty inadequate band-aid scheme. The Government has often enough said that ultimately only more jobs is the answer yet it refuses to do anything about backing any form of job creation scheme and on the evidence seems disinclined to take any measures to revitalise Australian manufacturing industry. The report on the EPUY program at page one states:
So in a sense they are very much in that group to which the Schools Commission survey referred and to which Professor Karmel referred in his Radford Lecture. Of course it is laudable that these educational initiatives have been taken. We also have to look at it not in an isolated way but face the problem that there is a very real shortage of skilled people in Australia. We have the incredible situation of industry talking about bringing in skilled people from overseas in the 1980s when we have this great reserve of young Australian unemployed. If the EPUY scheme does anything to help the alleviation of that problem then it is to be commended. On page 5 of the report are set out a number of quite laudable objectives of the scheme in terms of employability of those who go through it.
The conclusions of the summary report on the effectiveness of the EPUY scheme are set out on page 28. They are important conclusions and they are stated in terms of educational strategy. The points are made that a significant number of participants in the scheme have negative attitudes to education, their interests are of an applied nature rather than of an academic nature and the program has provided for experimentation and has provided a unique opportunity to examine school curricula in terms of the needs of school leavers. So in a very real sense the program is relevant to the national survey results contained in the other report, the survey on the value of the National Assessment of Educational Standards, and very relevant to the Schools Commission report on reactions among young people to their school education which are summarised in the Sydney Morning Herald article as being irrelevant and a waste of time.
I should draw attention to page 1 3 of the summary report on the EPUY scheme which refers to the communications problem which I believe all governments have. I am not criticising the Government in this regard. The EPUY scheme is known to only 33 per cent of its client group. That is, only 33 per cent of the kids who have left school and are unemployed have ever heard of the EPUY scheme. I think that is an unfortunate situation which is consistent with a problem of relatively low educational standards and it is a problem for people who are in need of assistance from this type of scheme. These people are generally unaware of what is available by way of a scheme of this kind.
With regard to the response of the Government to the matters raised in the evaluation of the EPUY scheme, I just draw attention to the fact that in the recent Budget the allocation for the EPUY scheme has been held steady. It is up by $0.3m from $3. 7m to $4m which is only keeping pace with inflation. So it would seem that the Government sets a limited value on the program. Even in that context I think the program has much to be commended in terms of the assistance that it is giving to some kids and the sorts of considerations which are dealt with in the report. In contrast with the increase in the EPUY allocation the vote for the secondary allowance scheme has been increased by 20 per cent and the allocation for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme has gone up by 20 per cent. One cannot help wondering whether the object is to keep the unemployment figures low rather than to assist the unemployed to obtain employment skills. I also draw attention to the very real need for more publicity for the EPUY so that a greater proportion of the client group will understand what in fact is made available by a scheme of this kind. In general I commend the program and the manner in which the summary report has been prepared and presented but of course it is inadequate in the present economic and social context. As 1 said, it is just a band-aid to try to solve a problem of much greater magnitude which the Government seems reluctant to tackle. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of item No. 43-1978-79 annual report of the Australian National Railways Commission.
I have some remarks which I want to make about the report. The figures that are in the report pertain only to 30 June last year. On page 6 under the heading ‘Chairman’s Review’ the Chairman states:
Costs were controlled by a policy of staff reductions through natural attrition and by rationalisation of services. Many operations and services have been analysed by examining them in the light of both the present and future environment.
Great concern is being expressed in South Australia at present that the Australian National Railways Commission, at the behest of the Government, is to close the Adelaide-Gladstone railway line, a country railway line. Of course, that was proposed during the life of the past State Labor Government of which Mr Virgo was the Minister of Transport. In no circumstances would Mr Virgo allow that country service to be closed unless the terms of the agreement which was entered into by the Whitlam Government and the State Labor Government for the takeover for the South Australian Railways was agreed to, and that is if ANR or the Federal Government wished to close any country lines, or any lines whatever, and a dispute arose between the State Government and the Federal Government, the matter had to go to an arbitrator. Mr Virgo insisted all along the line that before any of these proposals by the present Federal Government to close country rail services could come about they had to go before an independent arbitrator.
Unfortunately for the people who live in the country there was a change of government in the State in September last year, and it appears that the present Minister will not agree to go to an arbitrator. But there is one very revealing thing that arises out of this, this year being a Federal election year. 1 quote from the State Hansard of South Australia of 14 August. Mr Wilson, the Minister of Transport, in reply to a question from one of his colleagues who represents an electorate which embraces the Gladstone line, said:
I have received a reply.
That is in response to a question asked about the closure of the line. He went on to say:
In answer to a question from the member from Goyder, I think last week, I informed the House that, upon receipt of the letter from the Federal Minister for Transport informing me of the reduction in rail services on the AdelaidePeterborough and Adelaide-Gladstone services, I wrote to my Federal colleague requesting that the cessation of services be deferred so as to enable the State Government to investigate whether an alternative service could be provided, and whether the State Government should object, under the railways transfer agreement, to the cessation of services. I am pleased to inform the member for Rocky River that I received a telex yesterday from the Federal Minister for Transport which states that the cessation of services will be deferred until the end of this year.
So the inference is quite clear; the Federal Government wants to close the line, but, because of the political consequences, it has conveniently deferred any decision until after the Federal election. But the other very alarming feature to come out of that answer given by Mr Wilson was that he would ask the Federal Minister whether he should enter into a dispute. Of course, he is handing over all rights of the South Australian Government to a government which has insisted that those country lines be closed instead of taking his own initiative, as did Mr Virgo, to protect the people who live in the country areas of South Australia by fighting tooth and nail to see that no country lines are closed, and, if the Government still insists, to take it to an arbitrator. Mr Wilson is not prepared to do that. He is prepared to ask the Federal Minister whether he should enter into a dispute, and then, because of the advent of the coming Federal election, he says that an agreement has been reached to defer any decision until after the Federal election.
The closure of these lines is a matter of great concern not only to railway employees in South Australia but also to the farming community which uses these services. I have spoken on railway matters very often in this chamber and at public meetings about the policies of the Government in wanting to close country services. With the railway employees and the farming community in South Australia 1 share the concern that any proposal is afoot to close these country services. As I pointed out before, if these lines are closed the roads there now are not adequate to carry freight or to carry heavy loads of superphosphate and grain. The Federal Government, of which I hope to be a member as soon as this election is held, will be faced with requests from the State Government in South Australia for funding to construct bigger and better roads to carry these great transports which will be carting the grain and the superphosphate. This closure of the line will cause many people to be out of work. That is of great concern to me. With regard to the people who could be out of work, further on in the review, the Chairman said:
In the last twelve months the number of people employed fell by 863 due to natural attrition.
That figure is to the end of June last year. Goodness knows by how much the number of employees has reduced due to natural attrition in the 12 months from 1979 to 30 June 1980. lt would probably be alarming. That, too, is of great concern to railway employees and their families. Tailem Bend, a town which is not very far from where I live and which was one of the main towns servicing the railway in South Australia, where the big running sheds were, has practically become a ghost town as far as railway workers are concerned. This is of great concern not only to the railway workers themselves but also to the small business people who have set up business in Tailem Bend over many years. They are suffering because of the drop in the work force and in the spending power of the people who remain there.
That matter brings me to the spending power of the railway workers. At page 28 of this report, under the heading ‘Industrial Relations’, the Chairman makes mention of the campaign by employee organisations to achieve parity of wage rates with the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales and talks about this being the major industrial issue of the year. If we look at his complaint that there have been industrial disputes, we can see why these disputes occur. On page 8, under the heading ‘Facts at a glance’, the Chairman talks about the number of employees at 30 June 1979. The total number was 12,178, the average number of employees being 1 2,676, with a total wage bill of $143,754,000 and an annual average remuneration to those people of $11,341, which works out, on a quick calculation, at $2 1 8 a week for each person employed by ANR. Of course, we know that the average wage in Australia at present is in the vicinity of $248. We see by looking at this report that the people who work in the railways are getting an average wage of $218, about $30 a week less than the average wage. Is it any wonder that railway employees are entering into industrial disputes to endeavour to get some justice?
We must also take into account that, when we are looking at the total number of employees and the total wage figure, included in that figure would be the very high salaries of the executive personnel such as the Commissioner, I understand, and all of the people who receive some remuneration from ANR. So it is quite possible that many people in the ANR system would be in receipt of an income of about $150 to $160 a week. A lot of them are living in very remote places on the Nullarbor Plain and places such as that. Yet people on the Government side are ever ready to complain and to criticise members of the work force when they have to go on strike to achieve some wage justice. As I have said before, I support these people when they have to resort to strike action lo receive some justice, lt is very revealing and very helpful when we get a document like this tabled in the Federal Parliament, which sets out the figures, where people can stand in their place and repudiate some of those statements made by people opposite who unfairly criticise workers who are asking for some wage justice.
Another matter concerns me. Under the heading ‘Mechanical Engineering’ on page 20, the Commissioner said:
In addition, 20 iron ore hopper wagons which operated on the North Australian Railway prior to its closure were lengthened and converted to grain hoppers for use on the narrow gauge Eyre Peninsula lines.
Last week, in the company of some of my colleagues, including the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), 1 visited the Eyre Peninsula. We saw some of those vehicles being renovated for use on the Eyre Peninsula line. Those vehicles were brought to Australia when the Northern Territory line was first constructed and put into use. If ever we wanted any conclusive proof of what this Government’s thoughts are on railways it is in the report in black and white where the commissioner talks about the closure of the Northern Territory line. 1 have referred to that on many occasions in this Parliament by way of interjection when Senator Kilgariff, a senator for the Northern Territory, has presented petitions to this Parliament calling on the Government to construct an all-weather railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin. I always remind him that as soon as the Government of which he is a supporter came to office in 1 975 one of its first actions was to close that line in the Northern Territory so that we have no railway line at al! in the Northern Territory. 1 had a close look at the Budget Papers which were tabled in this place on Tuesday night and there is no mention at all in them of any finance being made available in the next financial year to carry out even a survey for a line from Alice Springs to Darwin. 1 think that is a tragedy. As I have pointed out to Senator Kilgariff on many occasions, including when he gave evidence before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory when it was inquiring into constitutional reform for the Northern Territory - 1 was a member of that Committee when we were in government - along with the other people who gave evidence before that Committee, a long line of Liberal-Country Party governments have failed to put into operation the legislation which was passed and which is known as the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910.
We are now at the stage where members of parliament are receiving correspondence from Mr Paul Everingham, who is the leader of the governing party in the Northern Territory. 1 think it would be of interest if I read his letter into Hansard. Mr Everingham has suddenly woken up and is repeating what my colleagues and I have said over many years - that the Northern Territory Acceptance Act should have been put into operation. This letter is from the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Government in Darwin. It is not dated but it arrived in my office on 1 August this year. The letter is headed ‘North-South Transcontinental Railway’ and states:
I would like to bring you up to date wilh progress on the proposal to finally complete the transcontinental railway from Adelaide to Darwin.
As you may be aware, construction of this railway began in 1878, but by 1929 the southern link extended only as far as Alice Springs, and the northern link went 4S0 kilometres from Darwin to Larrimah, leaving a gap of 900 kilometres in the middle of the northern half of our continent.
And that is where construction stopped.
The Federal Government closed the Darwin-Larrimah section of the line in 1976, a closure which must be counted as a loss to the Northern Territory and the entire nation.
This is despite a clause in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1 9 1 0 which states that on transfer of the Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth, the Federal Government would . . . ‘construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the Northern boundary of South Australia proper’.
In a statement issued almost 70 years ago, in March 1913, the Department of External Affairs said . . . ‘The Government is confident of an immediate commencement with the construction of this important development and strategic national work’.
That statement still holds true today. In fact, if that work of national importance had been carried out 70 years ago. South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory would be a lot better off today. People and development have historically followed railway lines. In South Australia’s case, the extension of the railway from Alice Springs to Darwin would create thousands of jobs and inject tens of millions of dollars into the State’s economy. A conservative estimate has put the trading loss to South Australia caused by the lack of adequate transport links to the Northern Territory at $70rn a year. A railway feeding locally manufactured goods all the way to Darwin and returning cargo originating from South East Asia and landed across Darwin wharf would turn that figure from a straight loss to t substantially higher trading figure.
Initial surveys for the completion of the Transcontinental Railway have now been carried out, the project has been costed at approximately $380m, and its cargo connection with the vast markets of Asia, the land-backed wharf in Darwin Harbour, is under construction. This Federal Government seems to be prepared to honour the promise of 1 9 1 0.
That is what Mr Everingham said in his letter. I repeat that he said:
This Federal Government seems to be prepared to honour the promise of 1910.
He went on to say:
Last year, Mr Keith Smith, the Chairman of Australian National Railways, said the undertaking of the biggest railway development in this country in more than 60 years made sense, but it would need: ‘A national act of faith’.
I seek your support at this time, when that act of faith can at last turn the century-old dream of Northern development into practical reality.
The letter was signed by Paul Everingham. I have been putting that point of view ever since 1 became a member of the Senate. Mr Everingham has only now woken up to the fact that the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910 has never been honoured. As a matter of fact if we look back in history we would realise that .we would not have even an all-weather road in the Northern Territory from Alice Springs to Darwin if it had not been for the action of the Curtin Government during World War II. It was under Labor jurisdiction that that road was constructed. That is the only communication in the Northern Territory now. As I said earlier, this Government tore up the only railway line that was in the Northern Territory. That is the problem we are faced with. I suppose that Mr Everingham now wishes that he had not sent that letter out. He says in that letter:
This Federal Government seems to be prepared to honour the promise of 1910.
As 1 said a few moments ago, there is nothing in this year’s Budget, not even a dollar, to do anything about constructing a line from Alice Springs to Darwin when the line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs is completed. 1 am very proud of the fact that the Whitlam Labor Government commenced the construction of that line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs. I am very proud of all the people who worked on the construction of that line because it is about 1 2 months ahead of schedule. That again gives the lie to those people who continually lambast the work force of this country and say that people do not do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. That accusation cannot be levelled at the people who work in the railways in this country.
The other disturbing factor about what we are faced with now with an election coming up is contained in an article which appeared in the Canberra Times of Monday, 26 May. There is no name on the article, lt just says ‘By a Political Writer’. Apparently this person is also off track in the same way as Mr Everingham. The article commences by saying:
Proposals for the construction of an all-weather railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin are expected to be among several “cards up the sleeve’ the Government hopes will help it retain control of the Senate in the general election later this year.
It may be that that announcement will come during the election campaign. The people who live in the centre of Australia will not be fooled by such an announcement; they want to see something in concrete figures. I do not think any of them have forgotten the statement made at Alice Springs during the 1977 election campaign. Mr Sinclair made the statement that if the Fraser Government were re-elected it would set up a special fund to construct the Stuart Highway. What I am saying is a statement of fact. He said that. Of course we know that it never eventuated. That was one of the major promises which affected the people in the Northern Territory and which was never honoured. Therefore, if Mr Fraser says during the election campaign in the next few weeks that he will make money available to construct an all-weather railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin the people who live in the Northern Territory and the northern part of South Australia will view that statement with very great suspicion. The article went on to state:
The Department of Transport is preparing preliminary survey studies of the route since the instruction late last year that the long-sought rail link be examined.
The instruction followed the completion of the detailed survey of the new Kingoonya-Alice Springs link now nearing completion.
The article went on to speak about the allweather highway which I have already mentioned. That highway was built by a Labor government. In the last paragraph the article states:
It is expected that plans for the full-scale survey of the Alice Springs-Darwin railway will feature heavily in Government strategy to ensure that it retains one of the two Northern Territory Senate seats in December.
I think that is another mistake in the article because the election will be all over long before December and we will be back in government. The last sentence in the article states:
The potential of such a link in the economic development of the Northern Territory and its job-creation possibilities will be heavily stressed.
I have not taken too much time of the Senate to refer to that report. The matter I have raised is of great importance to the people in South Australia who are concerned, that is, the farmers and the railway workers, about the potential closure of the Adelaide-Gladstone and AdelaidePeterborough lines if by some mishap this Government is returned to office after the election. That will happen because of the weakness of Mr Wilson, the State Minister for Transport.
Also, the people of the Northern Territory are concerned about what has happened after all the promises that have been made and after the forecast made by Mr Everingham, the Chief Minister in the Northern Territory Administration, that this Government will honour its promise. He should nol have used the word ‘promise’ because it was embodied in legislation in 1910, in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, that a railway line ought to be constructed from Port Darwin to Port Augusta. It has not eventuated. I conclude by saying that if Mr Fraser makes those promises during this election campaign they will not be believed by the people of the Northern Territory, lt may well be that we will see borne out the fears expressed by the political writer of the Canberra Times, when he stated in an article of 26 May that, instead of Mr Fraser’s holding one of the seats for the Northern Territory, that seat would be handed over to a Labor government. I seek leave to continue my remarks later, Mr President.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - -1 move:
That the Senate lake note of the statement on Budget matters by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
This statement by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) deals with increases in payments to veterans and in the amount of money lo be made available under the Defence Service Homes Scheme. 1 wish to say how disappointed I am that yet again the Government has not seen fit to allow the women who were members of the defence forces during the war to be eligible for loans from the Defence Service Homes Scheme. They are denied home loans under that Scheme because they did not go abroad. What no government in Australia so far has been willing to accept is that these women had no choice. They joined the defence forces perfectly willing to serve wherever they were sent, but public opinion and government practice was such that women in the defence forces were not to go abroad. Some even had their bags packed and were waiting on the wharf and their units were returned to base.
Because they were in the forces they freed men to go abroad and to join the defence forces in various areas. Those women carried out all the duties that were asked of them and carried them out with great distinction. They moved into areas where women had never worked before. They showed that women are as adaptable, as strong and as clever as men; in some ways much more clever, much stronger and much more adaptable. Those women are now approaching an age when they need security. Security is most important lo them. Not very many of them need this assistance from the Government. They are not asking for a handout from the Government; they want a loan.
Very often they cannot get loans because they are women. Despite what is said these days about women’s lib. and women having a freer go in many areas, still many lending institutions, many banks, will not allow women to borrow money unless they have a male to sign a guarantee for them. In some instances they cannot get a loan because they cannot afford the high interest rates. They need all the help they can get. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs stated:
The Government has been aware for some lime that the maximum loan available under the Defence Service Homes Scheme has not been adequate in terms of ils contribution towards purchasing a home at today’s prices.
The Government acknowledges that at today’s prices the cost of purchasing any sort of a home is very high. Women who are in the defence forces now are eligible for such a home loan. I am asking that the Government do justice by people who were willing to sacrifice all when their country needed them. I am asking the Government to show what a really grateful country will do for people who gave when they were asked to give.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move:
The report of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council on radiological safety and future land use at the Emu atomic weapons test sites resulted from public disquiet at the outcome of the atomic bomb tests which were held in Australia in 1953. After reading the report, the final report in the series, I feel that as much disquiet should be felt now about the Government’s lack of action since the tests as was felt about three years ago when the public first became aware that we had a problem. Little information was given on the matter in 1953 and getting information out of the Government since then has been like extracting a tooth.
This report covers a very narrow field in that it covers the small Emu atomic weapons test sites. What I and other people in the community would like to know is when the Government plans to give us some real information about the problems which arose at the time and the steps which have been taken since to deal with the problems. What people are afraid of and what I am afraid of is that the Government is attempting to cover up a problem yet again. This seems to be a deliberately obscure report. People in the community are afraid of the cover up because so often in the past they have been told that things are safe, that the Government has dealt with the problem, or that there is no problem to deal with, when over and over again we have found that there was indeed a problem and that the Government had not done anything about it. lt is not so much what is contained in this report, but rather what is not in the report, that is disturbing. The same Council which put down this report is the Council which investigated the situation al Maralinga and told us that all was well. But when it told us that all was well at Maralinga it did not mention the Marston report. I remind the Senate that that report was written by a Dr Marston a former Director of the division of biochemistry of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. He should have known what he was talking about. He put out a paper which showed that the fallout from the 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.
The report stated that Marston and his coworkers concluded from results of the complete survey that: . . extensive areas of Australia have been contaminated and some of the more heavy precipitations occurred on terrain situated over I SOO miles from the site of the explosion in ureas more or less thickly populated.
That report was written at the time of the Maralinga explosion, yet when the report of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council was presented it stated that there were no problems at Maralinga or arising from Maralinga. Despile that report written by Dr Marston people of the calibre of Professor Ernest Titterton, who represented the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee, advised the then Minister for Supply, saying:
There is no danger of significant fallout outside the immediate target area.
One would have thought that once the Government knew of the existence of the Marston report it would have sought a much wider and stronger report from the Ionising Radiation Advisory Council or from a committee which was able to extend the area of investigation. At the same time as Sir Ernest Titterton was advising the Government and the Government was advising us that there were no problems, the Chairman of the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee, set up to oversee the atomic tests made in Australia, Professor - now Sir - Leslie Martin, was saying:
There is no possible risk of danger now or at any future time to any person, stock or property.
That is not what Dr Marston said. Professor Martin continued:
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.
At the same time he told us that the operation would be carried out with complete safety he admitted that aircraft would be flying through the area taking measurements. One does not have to be a professor to understand that the men flying the planes could then have been in danger. Twenty-five years later the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick, said that a normal Lincoln crew of seven members and about 80 aircrew would have been subject to decontamination procedures such as repeated showers after each flight. During British nuclear tests in Australia during 1952 and 1953 a total of 21 Royal Australian Air Force Lincoln aircraft flew through or tracked radioactive clouds on at least one occasion. The Minister was answering a question asked by Mr Uren about allegations by a former RAAF wireless operator that he flew through radioactive mushroom clouds to collect dust samples and had not worn protective clothing on the first occasion.
We were told that the operation was completely safe and that there were no problems. Twenty-five years later we are told that men without any protective clothing flew through radioactive cloud collecting samples. We have an innocuous report from the Ionising Radiation Advisory Council stating that there are no problems and that we should not worry. Who will start to worry? How many people were involved in those atomic tests? How many flights were made through the radioactive clouds? Why was no protective clothing worn by the men who flew through the clouds’? What sort of follow-up has been made by the Government to ascertain the health of the men who were subject to radioactivity? Why does the Government not take responsibility for the health of the people involved? When will somebody say: ‘Yes, a mistake was made. People have been hurt and we accept that there should be responsibility’. Dr Marston’s report has been buried for 20 years. It has never been officially acknowledged by the Government. He pointed out that material from the cloud from the fourth Maralinga test was known to diffuse and settle over a very wide front to the east of the trajectory which passed through the Northern Territory. He pointed out that 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.
The Government may be able to take some comfort from the fact that the Council said that there are no problems but we have found in the 20-odd years since Dr Marston wrote his report that any radioactivity is harmful, and the dust from the tests may have been terribly harmful for people. In other parts of the world dust from areas is now being found to cause terrible problems. Downwind of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Establishment, the Health Department of Denver, Colorado has found that people are suffering a very high degree of cancer. Men living up to 13 miles downwind of the plant have testicular cancer rates 140 per cent higher than would be expected on the basis of cancer statistics in other parts of the Denver area. It has found that downwind there is a 60 per cent increase in the incidence of throat and liver cancer. Downwind the overall cancer rate is 24 per cent higher in men and 10 per cent higher in women than would normally be expected.
Where did the dust from Maralinga and Emu Plains go? Where is it going at the moment? Where has it gone in the 20-odd years since the tests were carried out? Has the Ionising Radiation Advisory Council investigated matters such as that? Has it investigated the areas downwind of the weapons test sites? Has it investigated the areas that the plumes drifted over after the weapons were tested? The report points out that contaminated material is still lying on the surface, lt has been there for 27 years. Where has the material blown to? The report pointed out that a perrson would have to stand in the area that is still contaminated for about 14 days before he could expect to be hurt by it. But material has been blowing off the site for 27 years and nobody has even bothered to find out who has breathed in the material, who has swallowed it and what damage has been done. If no damage has been done we will all be very pleased and relieved but for goodness sake let us take some responsibility for finding out whether any damage was done.
When the Government investigated Maralinga it was pointed out in the report of that investigation that material was stolen from Maralinga. A good deal of material was left in the village that was highly irradiated. Groups of people had gone to the village specifically to take away from the site things such as refrigerators, engines and parts thinking that they had a bargain and that they were getting something for nothing. They may very well have got something for nothing. Some sort of cancer or illness may well have arisen because they have been sitting cheek by jowl with irradiated material for 23 years since. Governments are supposed to be caring bodies looking after communities. It is time that this Government took up the line of investigation and found out whether people have been harmed by this material. The Government at the time had a responsibility to see that people were not hurt and that they did not take away irradiated material. Never mind now about putting plaques and signs on the site saying ‘Do not stand here’ or ‘This a highly irradiated area’! The Government should follow up on the plumes of material that blew away from the test sites. It should follow up on the men who worked there to see whether they are still of good health. It should follow up on the highly irradiated material that was removed from the sites.
It is no wonder that the community worries about news items stating that the Japanese are coming to Australia to see whether we will take their atomic waste. On the surface we would say that because nobody knows how to deal with atomic waste no responsible government would even look at the idea. But we have had examples of governments being quite irresponsible. They have allowed atomic weapons to be tested in Australia. They have done precious little about safeguarding the community from the aftermath. When we hear that the Japanese are sending a group to Australia to ask us to accept their atomic waste we worry. We have been given no reason to believe that we will be privy to the negotiations that will take place between the Japanese and the Government. We have not been given any indication about whether the Government will agree. If the Government does agree we do not know whether it will tell us that we will accept the waste in Australia. There is no answer to the problem of storing atomic waste. It is acknowledged everywhere that it is a very real problem.
We worry that the Government might see this as an incentive to buyers. Australia cannot sell its uranium. 1 know we were told that uranium would make Australia’s future and supply about 200,000 jobs and that the world would beat a path to our door to buy it. We know that one real contract has been signed since 1972. Ideas are floating around that we might sign other contracts but no more uranium has been sold. Nobody particularly wants our uranium. We have put a tremendous amount of investment into uranium mines and we are not getting a return. We have a product into which we have put a lot of money and we cannot sell it. It is easy to say to potential buyers: ‘We have an incentive for you. You buy our uranium and we will take your waste’. We then start to get some sort of return on the thousands of millions of dollars that we have invested in this uranium. When one sees how little concern the Government has shown about events that happened 25 years ago, is it any wonder that today we worry that the Government will accept the waste and then to countries such as Japan, France, Britain and the United States of America, which are all having problems with waste - they are having problems with their communities which do not want reprocessing to be carried out on their soil because it is dangerous and nuclear weapons to be produced on their soil because it is dangerous - it will say: ‘We have the uranium and the space. Why don’t you do it here?’ We can be sure that we have sold our uranium and, therefore, are getting a return on our investment.
Will we offer to take over the waste from Japan? Will we offer to take over production of the dangerous elements as well? The Government will say: ‘There is no indication that we will do that’. But this is a government that has yet to explain why it has not taken up the Marston report that it allowed to be buried for nearly 30 years. The report stated that the people who worked on the atomic weapon sites and half of Australia were endangered by the result of those tests. The Government has done nothing about that report. It has not followed up the very real problems that arise when one reads it. The Government has not explained to the Australian people why they were lied to at the time when they were told that it was absolutely safe. The Government has brought down this report, but I ask the Government urgently to seek out the people who may have been or are being contaminated as a result of those tests and to take responsibility for their health and their future.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned. (Quorum formed)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
by leave- I move:
The Australian Democrats applaud that at least a beginning has been made to a plan to protect one section of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian Democrats also applaud the principle of public consultation in such an important matter which I hope and expect will continue. The basic point which I wish to raise relates to section (f) (iii) on page 23 of the report which basically defines the uses of the Park ‘A’ Zone and particularly its use for recreational, sporting and other activities. This definition states:
Presumably that is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The definition then refers to:
During two visits to the Great Barrier Reef area recently 1 had occasion to talk with a relatively large number of tourists from many parts of the world, all of whom expressed disappointment in one aspect of the Great Barrier Reef. Some of them had travelled thousands of miles to see it. Those people were disappointed that the standard of the underwater observatories was not good. With all respect to the people who run them, they are not. They set up expectations which they are not able to fulfil because to provide something of that type, which would show the Great Barrier Reef as it should be shown in the best possible way, would represent an investment of many millions of dollars.
At this point I suggest that perhaps there should be one more observatory and perhaps it may be considered as a project of government, perhaps later to be run by private enterprise, but initially to be financed by government on a scale where all three significant levels of depth of the reef could be seen by people coming from all over the world. It might be fitting for this country to consider that as a long term project to mark the bicentenary of the nation. The Great Barrier Reef is regarded as perhaps the attraction in Australia that is best known overseas apart from kangaroos and kookaburras. People want to come here and see the reef. 1 think it behoves us to provide something that is worth seeing. I merely wish to make that point in relation to the zoning plan which I otherwise thoroughly approve and have no objections to. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
As I have on numerous occasions, I express concern that, with all due respect to the management which is planned for Kakadu National Park, the Government resolutely refuses to emulate the
President Carter concept that when a national park is gazetted it is forevermore off limits for any mining: which may be undertaken. Honourable senators who have followed the debates in the Senate and the House of Representatives in the United States of America on the carve-up of Alaska would know that although it was argued that a number of hectares would be set aside from any type of mining activity, it was agreed the whatever acreage is set aside no mining would ever take place, whether it be for natural gases, coal and so on. I say that while bearing in mind the accepted energy crisis that we face.
To substantiate the fact that this is not a Utopian concept, 1 think we should consider what occurred in New South Wales in the early and mid-1960s. We were told by certain limestone interests that if we did not accept mining in the Colong Caves region our cement industry would collapse. 1 know I am speaking now in the national Parliament, but we were told that the industry would be moved to Tasmania. Some of us resisted the suggestion. Limestone deposits were found in New South Wales away from the Colong Caves. I am not canvassing the argument about the future of uranium extraction, but I do say that two or three beachheads were accepted in the recommendations of the Fox report. I suppose one could go back to Marshal Petain and the 1914-18 War. I will not cite him in relation to World War 11, but in World War 1, talking about the battle of Verdun, he said:
They shall not pass.
That line expresses my thoughts. When we seek to have the Kakadu National Park listed on the world heritage list, I cannot see why the Federal Government cannot do it in a complete form and say: ‘Forever more there will be no mining’. 1 have challenged the Australian Mining Council representatives at various gatherings and they have just sat there mum. Mining companies usually emblazon their reports with the Australian flag and tell us what great Australians they are. I think we know how they have whinged and cried about the cessation of sand mining on Fraser Island by the Dillingham Corporation. The same thing applies to any mining organisation. I agree with Sir Charles Court about the obsession with uranium extraction in the Northern Territory. He says we ought to look elsewhere. Leaving aside my party’s distinct reservations about safety, we believe that when the technological breakthrough is made to enable us to go ahead, mining should be taken away from the national parks. In other words, surveys should be done elsewhere. On one memorable occasion when an Estimates
Committee was considering the environment estimates 1 raised this matter with Senator Carrick, as he will recall. He said: ‘Well, it will be virtually a case of continuous agitation to hold the line’. Despite the mining projects we are committed to at the moment with Ranger and other organisations there is no doubt that the appetite of members of the mining lobby is insatiable. They will want more. If we have to satisfy that appetite, the safeguards that my party espouses should apply, and there should not be violation of a national park.
I refer again to the last communication I received from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I am not trying to be disrespectful to Senator Kilgariff, who represents the Northern Territory and who happens to be absent from the chamber, but the fact of the matter is that the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Paul Everingham, is hardly in my book a democrat. In fact, he is a complete autocrat. In the last paragraph of his letter the Prime Minister spoke about having faith in the good sense of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. There is no doubt that members of that group are lackeys of the mining lobby. There is no other name for them. I have no confidence in them whatsoever. Only Federal law will be effective in protecting the national parks.
In conclusion 1 simply say that nobody objects to the salient points in the management plan but I believe that it will always be subject to these raids by mining groups. I say to the Government that although it may try to bask in the limelight of international environmental glory for including the Kakadu National Park on the world heritage list nobody has been able to convince me that some mining lobby will not claim that in the Kakadu National Park, the Cobourg wetlands reserve or some similar area there is a mineral that can be found nowhere else and that the Government will get a quick dollar if the mineral is extracted. My answer to the mining lobby is that Australia is a massive continent. If the mining interests search elsewhere, as we forced the limestone miners to do, they will be able to have their cake and eat it too. It is on that basis that I make a further appeal to the Government to stand fast and firm against the depredations of the mining lobby.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to present a report with respect to Logica Pty Ltd. Honourable senators will recall that on 20 February last Mr Speaker and 1 announced that Logica Pty Ltd had been commissioned to undertake a planning study for the information systems and information services of the Parliament. The study, which commenced on 3 March and concluded at the end of May, culminated in the formulation of an overall plan which was presented to Mr Speaker and me in the form of a two-volume report late in June. As part of the continuing commitment to keep the Parliament fully informed of progress in this area I now lay on the table a copy of volume 1 of the report, which summarises the major features of the overall plan. Volume 2, the detailed report, foreshadows a wide range of options. At this stage there is no commitment to all or any of the systems described in the report, which is at present being carefully examined and evaluated within the parliamentary departments in accordance with the program outlined in the February statement.
Copies of volume 1 are currently being distributed to the offices of all honourable senators. As I indicated, I am in possession of the full report, lt is a voluminous work. A reference copy of volume 2 is available in my office, should any senator wish to examine it. Might I mention in tabling this paper how gratified I am at the response of honourable senators to the consultants’ request that they participate in the survey of information needs. There is no question that as a result of the contributions or honourable senators the consultants gained a great appreciation of the needs of senators and of the Parliament as a whole.
– by leave- 1 move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– With the permission of the Senate, before moving motions, might I just indicate a procedural arrangement which I think has been informally agreed upon. I will proceed to move three motions. I think Senator Evans in the course of events will table some documents. Altogether there are five procedures. With the concurrence of the Senate, it is suggested they form the subject of one cognate debate. 1 think that is the understanding. Therefore 1 now seek leave to move a motion in connection with Order of the Day No. 1.
– For further clarification I might indicate that, as 1 now understand it, the five motions which will be before the House are the three substantive motions under the Parliament House Construction Authority Act and the Parliament Act to be moved by Senator Carrick, plus a further motion to take note of the fifth report of the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, which 1 understand was moved by Senator Chaney. The fifth motion, one that I moved earlier today, is to take note of the report of the Parliament House Construction Authority. They are the five motions. The only other paper 1 will be seeking to table is the final report of the assessors. Perhaps I can do that later.
– A concurrent debate has been proposed. Is that agreed to?
– My suggestion - I think it is agreed upon - is that we go through the procedures and then have one cognate debate. I therefore seek leave to move a motion in connection with Order of the Day No. 1 .
– ls leave granted?
– Before leave is granted, Mr President, may I rise? The Australian Democrats have no objection to the five questions being debated cognately but I would like it to be understood that, as has been the case from the beginning, we oppose the construction of a new Parliament House. We have said so; we have recorded that in the Senate. May I speak by leave for just a moment? I just wish to speak on the same basis as Senator Evans has spoken.
– You must not debate the matters at this stage, Senator Chipp.
– I am not debating them. May I seek leave to make a statement not exceeding two minutes?
– 1 have before me at the moment a request by the Minister for leave to do certain things.
– I raise a point of order. I do not want to be vexatious. Parliament has decided that a new and permanent Parliament House will be built. There is no question of a debate that it shall not be built. This is a procedural matter related to one thing - the building of the new Parliament House. Many opportunities are available to Senator Chipp if he so desires, in other forms of the House, to express this view. But it would not be relevant to this debate to put a view that the Parliament House should not be built. 1 seek your tolerance, Mr President, lt is important that in a reasonable compass of time these measures be finalised tonight so that they can go to another place. If Senator Chipp wants to put his views otherwise, he can, of course, use the other forms of the House.
– I am simply trying to help the Government. If the proposals are debated cognately, that form of consideration will make it difficult for us to register our objection. All I want to do is to write into the record now that we object to this proposal. That will then permit the five matters to be debated cognately. We do not want a division on this question but if the Australian Labor Party or the Liberal Party want a division oh this aspect we will be happy to accommodate that desire. To save the Government time in the Senate all I do now is to state categorically that the Australian Democrats are opposed to the construction of the new and permanent Parliament House. I will be making remarks pertinent to that, as Senator Carrick invites me so to do later.
Consideration of House of Representatives message No. 532.
House of Representatives message:
That, in accordance with the provisions of Section 8 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the House of Representatives -
declares the preparation of a detailed design of Parliament House (including specifications and tender documents) to be a declared stage in the design of Parliament House for the purposes of that Section; and
declares the preparation and excavation of the site of Parliament House to be a declared stage in the construction of Parliament House for the purposes of that Section.
– 1 move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the Senate. -
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of the resolution agreed to by the Senate.
The terms of the motion that I have just moved are consistent with the resolution transmitted to the Senate yesterday in connection with this matter. Section 8 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act requires a similar motion to be moved in the Senate. I commend the motion to the Senate.
Under your guidance, Mr President, I propose to move two other motions. Then we may debate the subject matter of the three motions cognately. If that course is agreed upon, you could later put the motions separately. I will move them now and Senator Evans will respond with his own tablings. There will be a cognate debate. Then, Mr President, you may put the motions separately.
– Does that proposal meet with the approval of the Senate? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– That being so, Mr President, I turn to the next matter. I move:
That, for the purpose of sub-section 8(2) of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1 979, the Senate
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of the resolution agreed to by the Senate.
I further move:
That in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 the Senate approves the proposal contained in the report of the Parliament House Construction Authority presented to the Senate this day for the construction on Capital Hill of a New and Permanent Parliament House.
I do not propose to speak to the motions. The Senate and the Parliament have previously accepted the construction of Parliament House. These are procedural motions. I commend them to the Senate.
– I propose to speak to the motions. At the outset I will table the final report of the assessors for the Parliament House design competition, which report is dated 25 June 1980. Also I will seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard. Might 1 say that this report was distributed to all members of Parliament during the winter adjournment. The documents relating to the first and second stages of the design competition have been tabled previously. This report will complete in that sense the parliamentary record. This report contains a full description of the competition process and the reasons of the assessors, of whom I was one, for choosing the winning design. I therefore table that document and seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
TWO-STAGE DESIGN COMPETITION PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
Assessors’ Final Report
Sir John Overall (Chairman)
Leonard Stevens 25 June 1980
1 Early in the first stage of the assessment process, the Assessors determined that the building selected to house the Australian Parliament on the Capital Hill Site would need to satisfy four general criteria, which we identified in our first report as follows:
Environment and Siting 3.5 Capital Hill forms the apex of the Parliamentary Triangle and is therefore the focal point of the major radial road pattern. As a consequence, the form and shape of the new Parliament building had to be designed to take account of these natural and manmade elements. We were looking, furthermore, for a design which in doing this, responded sensitively and imaginatively to the overall order and geometry of the Walter Burley Griffin plan for central Canberra - which not merely reinforced the apex constituted by the Hill, but which reflected within itself some of the larger themes inherent in the Griffin plan. 3.6 We believe the winning design, number 177, accommodates these concerns superbly, and with a degree of success that no other entry in the competition even began to approximate. Like Griffin’s plan, the winning design is a building of firm, clear geometry, not rigidly imposed on the terrain but sensitively adjusted to it. This design is not a monumental structural superimposed on the Hill. It derives its strong presence by merging built form with landform. The successful synthesis of these two essential elements has resulted in a design that is at once natural and monumental. 3.7 The land axis has been the generic ordering theme of developing Canberra, a line around which all subsequent design has evolved in circular and radial directions. This scheme not only recognises and completes the land axis but also allows it to visually extend beyond Parliament to the surrounding hills. The geometry of the plan accepts, moreover, the radiating road system and in doing so allows the Parliament to register visually from a distance as a simple element gradually revelaing its complexities as one approaches. The building form visually extends these views beyond to the distant landscape, perpetuating the Griffin ideal of the domination of landform 3.8 The winning design does nonetheless recognise the fact that the Capital Hill site has an apex, and one that demands some reinforcement if the design scheme is to ultimately secceed. The more or less transparent mast structure supporting the National Flag is a simple and imaginative solution to achieve the visual climax required. This marking of the apex of Capital Hill successfully fulfils the intent and purpose of the original Canberra plan. 3.9 There is one further point concerning the relationship of the new building to its site at the apex of the Parliamentary triangle which perhaps ought to be made. The merging of built form with landform, together with understated monumentality, that the winning design achieves, will not only allow the provisional Parliament House to continue to exist without conflict, but will also clearly accept the Griffin notion of a more intense occupancy of the triangle - that is to say the establishment within it of a visually integrated series of buildings architecturally reinforcing the land axis.
Symbolic and Architectural Identity 3.10 We described above the symbolic and architectural identity which we believed the new Australian Parliament House should possess in the following terms: “The building must express in a symbolic way the unique national qualities, attributes, attitudes, aspirations and achievements of Australia. It must at the same time express an architectural identity, integrity and prominence consistent with its surroundings and the significance of the Parliament House.” For any design to accomplish all - or even most - of these things is something of a tall order, but again we believe that the winning entry has come much closer to total success than any of its competitors.
1 8 We believe that design number 1 77 admirably satisfies the criterion, spelt out above, that ‘the building must provide a physical environment which will permit all the users of Parliament to efficiently and comfortably perform their divers duties’, lt provides clearly and rationally defined areas for the main building elements, delineates efficient and economical circulation systems to link them, and at the same time creates stimulating and relaxing working, recreational and public spaces for all of Parliament’s multiple users. 3.19 We were supported and encouraged in this respect by the conclusion reached by the Competition Steering Committee that the functional efficiency of design 177 was ‘very good’, and moreover that in comparison with the other four Finalists, ‘this scheme stands out in functional efficiency”. This too was the view of the Technical adviser who assisted us in assessing functional matters. We are in no doubt that the winning design not only stands up successfully against the functional requirements specified in the brief, but is also, by a large margin, the most functionally efficient of the Finalists’ entries. 3.20. The winning design takes note of the functional layout of the provisional Parliament House, which has been strenuously tested and much developed in its evolution since 1927, and improves upon it. It features, as does the existing Parliament House, a basically horizontal three-level working layout, but one in which the key elements of the building are so well located and co-ordinated in relation to each other that the massive increase in usable space which the design embodies is not accompanied by any significant new physical burdens on the building’s residents and visitors. The same cannot be said with nearly as much confidence about the other Finalist entries, in particular designs 45 and 201, and, to a lesser extent 234. Nor do any of the other entries, with the possible exception of design 1 39, have the basic clarity and coherence of the winning design. 3.21 Among the most significant features of design 177, from a functional viewpoint, are that:
Engineering Feasibility and Cost 3.23 The preliminary designs submitted by the winner provide a satisfactory basis from which final detailed design solutions can be developed. 3.24 The building is mainly constructed of reinforced concrete using readily available materials and well established building techniques for which there is no shortage of skilled labour. The structure should be simple, efficient and durable. The dominant flag supporting framework is constructed of stainless steel tubes and poses no significant problems for final design and construction. Preparation of the building platform will lead to substantial excavation on the top of Capital Hill, which is later replaced by the built form to above the existing level. Although much of this removed material is rock, no serious problems are envisaged in preparing the site for the building and later landscaping. 3.25 A total energy plan has been outlined by the winner. This includes a realistic approach to energy conservation which is in accordance with current practice. The basic source of energy is electrical with a management system designed to make optimum use of all forms of energy available within the building. Provision has been made for installation of solar augmented heating systems should these become economically viable. 3.26 The external traffic system around Capital Hill does not require to be altered significantly to accept the New Parliament House. Internal circulation is adequately provided by the proposed Parliament Road and the land bridge to the Parliamentary Triangle. Satisfactory provision is made for access to the site by the local public transport system. Parking and access for users and visitors is adequate, much of the parking being underground, but some further attention may need to be given to the access to the forecourt for both ceremonial and other occasions. 3.27 The whole complex is regarded as being readily buildable within the given time. The proposed system lends itself well to ‘fast-track’ design and construction which can proceed simultaneously in a number of building areas with possible advantages for the economic completion of the project. 3.28 Each of the Finalists was required to submit ‘a broad order of costs’. The Competition Conditions provide that ‘the basic economy of the design will be an important consideration in the judging of all submissions’. Of the cost estimates actually submitted by the Finalists, design number 177 was the one which most closely matched the target in the design brief, viz $151m at May 1978 prices. The Gross Project Cost claimed for design 177 was $156,417,000, which was lower than all (and markedly lower than most) of the comparable estimates in the other submissions. 3.29 The Assessors relied not merely on the cost computations supplied by the Finalists but had all estimates checked by an independent cost planner to ensure their basic credibility. In evaluating the results of this check we noted that the Brief estimate of $ 1 5 1 m was based in Stage 1 on a building area of 58,000 square metres together with ancillary site and approach works and associated fees, whereas the final brief for Stage 2 upon which the Finalists were required to prepare their designs in fact set a building area of 60,294 square metres. 3.30 In the result we are as satisfied as we can be at this stage that the competition winner’s cost estimate is generally credible and realistic, and that there will be no really significant increases upon the brief figure as the building proceeds. Many elements in the design 1 77 estimate are subject to detailed confirmation, and it may be that on further investigation and analysis, in consultation with the architect, there will prove to have been some areas of underestimation. Balanced against this it must be noted that several significant optional’ features of the design - for example its location of most parking spaces underground - represent excellent value for money. 3.31 lt is impossible to be more precise in costing at this stage of the evolution of the design of the building, lt will now be necessary for the Parliament House Construction Authority to be sure that the winning architect and the Authority cost consultant confer as soon as possible on the cost elements.
Origins of the Competition 4.1 The history of this competition began in 1913 when an international competition was announced for the design of a permanent Parliament House in the then new national capital. This was first deferred and then cancelled due to the World War. Following the war, a decision was taken to construct a provisional building which was designed to last for 50 years. This building was completed in 1 927 but has required numerous extensions to fulfil the objective of housing the Federal Parliament for 50 years. 4.2 In 1965 a Joint Select Committee of Parliament was appointed to consider the need for a new Parliament House. In its report to Parliament in 1970, the Committee recommended that the project should proceed, and to facilitate this, recommended the establishment of a ‘client’ committee which would liaise with the planning authorities and the parliamentary authorities. The Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was established in 1 975 to represent the client in all matters concerned with the planning, design and construction of the building. 4.3 In its first report to Parliament in March 1977 the Committee recommended that the building should be completed for occupation by 1988 - the Bicentenary of European settlement in Australia. Following discussions with the National Capital Development Commission and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the Committee reported to Parliament in May 1978 that, to achieve the target completion date of 1988, a two-stage competitive selection process should commence no later than November 1978. 4.4 On 22 November 1978, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser, announced in Parliament that the project would proceed. He made, among others, the following points:
The new Parliament House which is now to be built will take its place amongst the other great buildings which symbolise our culture, learning and system of justice. lt will be the centrepoint of modern Canberra, the peak of the Parliamentary triangle, the hub of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, a place in which the affairs of the nation can be conducted in a more efficient way . . . lt is fitting that both Government and Opposition should concur in their views on the construction of a House which symbolises our unity as a nation, which is an expression of our joint pride, faith and confidence in Australia’. 4.5 To ensure that the project would go ahead efficiently, a new statutory body was created known as the Parliament House Construction Authority. The Authority is charged with the design and construction of the new Parliament House. Its first action was to set in train the design competition recommended by the Joint Standing Committee and approved by the Government.
Organisation of the Competition 4.6 Following over two years of extensive and detailed considerations in conjunction with Parliamentary officers and officers of the National Capital Development Commission, the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House approved a comprehensive statement of client requirements to form the basis of the competition documents. 4.7 This client information, together with the Competition Conditions approved by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, a description of the functioning and operations of Parliament, and information on the site, constituted the first stage competition documentation. 4.8 Early in 1979 the Parliament House Construction Authority, as Promoter, acting after consultation with the Joint Standing Committee and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, appointed a panel of six Assessors to advise on the conduct of the competition, to adjudicate at the conclusion of both the first and second stages and to select the competition winner. The Assessors are:
Sir John Overall (Chairman); CBE, MC, LFRAIA, FAPI, FTPIA: Architect and Planner; Foundation Commissioner, National Capital Development Commission; Member, Parliament House Construction Authority.
Mr John Andrews ; B. Arch (Hons) (Syd.) M. Arch (Harv.) LFRAIA, FRAIC, RIBA, FAIA (Hon); Architect; Chairman of the Architecture and Design Panel, Visual Arts Board, Australia Council.
– BA, LL.B (Hons) (Melb.), MA (Oxon); Barrister; Labor Senator for Victoria.
Mr I. M. Pei; B. Arch (MIT), M. Arch (Harv.) FAIA, RIBA, Academician AAAL Architect, New York.
Mr Barry Simon; MP, LL.B (Melb.); Liberal MHR for McMillan.
Professor Leonard Stevens - BCE, M.Eng Sci (Melb.); Ph.D (Cantab.); MICE, FIEA; Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Melbourne. 4.9 On 5 April 1979 the Competition documents were tabled in Parliament and the Parliament House Construction Authority, as Promoter, was authorized to proceed with the competition. On 7 April 1 979 the Promoter invited architects to participate in a two-stage competition to select the designer for the new Parliament House, to be constructed on Capital Hill, Canberra. The competition was open to any person or association of persons, any one of whom was registered as an architect in Australia or was an architect who had applied for registration under the laws of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia on or before31 May 1979. 4.10 Mr J. D. Fowler was appointed as Competition Registrar, responsible for the administration of the competition, for ensuring that anonymity and confidentiality were maintained and for compliance with the Competition Conditions. Mr Fowler will submit a comprehensive Registrar’s Report to the Parliament House Construction Authority al the conclusion of the competition. 4.11 During the preparation of the competition material and throughout the competition, the Assessors were kept duly informed on administrative arrangements for this competition and received a wide range of historical and background information on other relevant competitions. During the period between February 1 979 and J une 1 980 the Assessors had 1 8 formal meetings quite apart from the two assessment periods, to consider the terms of the competition brief, to monitor the administration of the competition, and to decide on the criteria and methodolgy for the adjudication. The full panel of assessors, including Mr I. M. Pei, who flew to Australia from the United States for this purpose, sat almost continuously for seven days between 1 October and 8 October 1979 to assess the Final Stage of the competition, and for six days between 18 June and 25 June to conclude the Second Stage Assessment.
5.1 The task in the First Stage of the Competition was to select from the original entrants ten prizewinners and, from these, five Finalists who would proceed to the Second Stage. 5.2 A total of 961 architects from 28 countries registered for the Competition before the closing date of 31 May 1980. Registrants were sent a comprehensive package of competition information including:
Competition Document in two volumes:
Plans of the site at various scales;
Aerial photograph of the site;
Coloured slides of views to and from the site;
Administrative documentation. 5.3 The First Stage Submission Period closed on 31 August 1979, and 329 entries were received. The entries were displayed for assessment in a venue with access restricted to the Assessors and the Competition Registrar. The Assessors are satisfied that the recording and display of entries was done in a manner which ensured that full security and anonymity were maintained at all times while at the same time providing each competitor with a fair and reasonable opportunity to be selected as a prizewinner. 5.4 On 26 September 1979, the Assessors met for two days to familiarize themselves with the material which had been submitted. Formal assessment commenced on 1 October 1 979 and there followed an intensive period of assessment which concluded on 8 October 1979 with the selection of ten prizewinners, and from these, five finalists to proceed to the second stage. 5.5 The quality of the first stage submissions was mixed, ranging from exciting and stimulating designs through to some of considerably lesser quality. The ten entries selected as prizewinners covered a wide range of design solutions, for which the architectural profession can be justly proud. The five prizewinners chosen to proceed as finalists were those who, in the opinion of the Assessors, had not only demonstrated the quality identified as essential to the ultimately successful design, but whose designs showed the greatest potential for development in the second stage. We made a deliberate decision to choose, as finalists, five quite different kinds of design solutions rather than two or more variations on any one solution in the hope that we would be presented when the time for final decision came, with the greatest possible diversity of developed solutions from which to choose. 5.6 The Assessors provided the Registrar with the competition numbers of the ten prizewinners and finalists and asked him to open the sealed envelopes associated with each selected entry. In the presence of a Justice of the Peace, the Registrar opened the sealed envelopes and revealed the names of the authors of the selected entries. The Registrar then examined the competition declaration and undertaking forms, announced to the Assessors the names of the Prizewinners/Finalists and declared that they were each eligible to receive a prize of $20,000. Only the Registrar knew, and will know until the conclusion of the Competition, the relationship between the names of the Prizewinners/Finalists and the entries which they submitted. 5.7 The names of the Finalists and other Prizewinners were announced on 8 October 1979, and reported to Parliament on the following day. They were as follows:
5.8 The Assessors provided each Finalist with a confidential report explaining the criteria upon which judging had proceeded and would be carried out in the second stage. Some reference was also made to common design problems which clearly emerged in the first stage. 5.9 Following the selection of the prizewinners, the first stage designs remained confidential and were dismounted, packaged and stored in a high security area by the Australian National Archives until the conclusion of the competition.
Documentation and Briefing 6.2 Three additional volumes of briefing material, comprising in total some 980 pages of documentation, was supplied to the five Finalists at the commencement of the Second Stage. 6.3 To further brief the Finalists on the functional aspects of the brief, and subsequently to advise the Assessors on the functional efficiency of the designs finally submitted, a Competition Steering Committee was appointed in accordance with the Competition Conditions. It comprised:
Joint Chairmen -
Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke, KCMG, President of the Senate
Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden, KCMG, QC, MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Sir Bernard Callinan, CBE, DSO, MC, Chairman, Parliament House Construction Authority
Senator the Hon. F. C. Chaney, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Mr L.K.Johnson, MP
Mr N. M. Macphillamy, Member, Parliament House Construction Authority
Hon. R. I. Viner, MP, Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs
Senator H. W. Young.
In performing its task, the Committee was assisted by functional advisers from the Parliamentary Departments, the Prime Minister’s Department, representatives of the media and officers of the National Capital Development Commission. 6.4 The Finalists were brought to Canberra for two weeks in November 1979 and were briefed by the Construction Authority, Competition Steering Committee and National Capital Development Commission. The role performed by each of these bodies was as follows:
During their visit, the Finalists were given tours of Canberra, the site for the new building and the Provisional Parliament House, and given opportunities to discuss the accommodation requirements with senior officers of the Parliament.
Second Stage Assessment 6.5 The submission period for the second stage of the competition closed on 23 May 1 980. To provide each Finalist with an equal amount of time in which to prepare his entry, each was able to lodge the entry at any location authorized by the Registrar.
Submissions were lodged, in all cases on time, with Australian Government officials in Canberra, Melbourne. Sydney, London and New York. 6.6 In order to enable the Competition Steering Committee to advise the Assessors on the functional efficiency of the submitted designs, submission material as specified in the Competition Conditions was mounted in a secure location in Parliament House for viewing by the Committee. Before the material was viewed by the Committee, the Assessors assured themselves that only the functional aspects of the building were displayed. The Competition Steering Committee and its advisers then conducted a detailed assessment of the functional efficiency of each design and prepared a report for consideration by the Assessors. The report was confined to functional considerations and did not in any way reduce the Assessors’ responsibility to select the competition winner. 6.7 The Second Stage Assessment commenced on 18 June 1980 and was conducted in a secure location in the Academy of Science, Canberra, where the drawings, models and reports of each Finalist were displayed for assessment by the Assessors. During the assessment period, which concluded on the morning of 26 June 1980, when this report was conveyed to the Promoter, complete security and confidentiality was maintained under the direction of the Competition Registrar. Security guards were on duty 24 hours per day and no one was admitted except on the express authorisation of the Registrar. Complete anonymity was also maintained in that each design continued to be identified simply by number, and the Assessors remained unaware of the identity of the particular architect or firm submitting it. 6.8 In the course of this assessment, the Assessors were assisted by a total of 19 Technical and Construction Advisers covering the following specialist areas:
Each of these Advisers signed an undertaking that they would not disclose any competition material and would not discuss the matter among themselves except with the express permission of the Assessors. 6.9 Following an introductory meeting on 9 June 1980, the Assessors met with the Technical Advisers and Construction Advisers in separate groups on 19 June 1980, where they were given selected material on various submissions. The Advisers were asked to consider the designs to confirm compliance with the brief and to identify any problem areas. The Advisers individually reported to the Assessors on 23 June 1980. 6.10 The assessment process carried out by the Assessors over the eight day judging period involved intensive analysis and discussion of the plans, models, photographs and reports submitted by each Finalist, and of the reports made in writing by the Competition Steering Committee and orally by the Technical and Construction Advisers. Each entry was measured against the assessment criteria previously established, and in particular by reference to a series of such specific matters as function, security, integration with the Canberra central plan and landscape, engineering aspects, traffic, cost analysis and buildability within the time frame limitations imposed by the Competition Conditions and the 1988 completion date. 6.11 Following an exhaustive (and exhausting) review of all factor’s the winning designer was selected. As stated in part 3 above, the Assessors are unanimously of the view that one submission, number 177, best satisfies the stated criteria and, therefore, recommends that the architect of that design be declared the competition winner. 6.12 In compliance with the Competition Conditions and agreements, the Chairman of the Assessors will provide the Chairman of the Authority, at the Press Conference on 26 June 1980, with a sealed envelope containing the number of the selected design. The Registrar will have five sealed envelopes with the number of one Finalist printed on the outside of each and the name of that Finalist sealed inside. The Registrar will provide the Chairman of the Authority with the appropriate envelope when the number of the selected design is revealed. The Chairman of the Authority will announce the name of the winning designer and that will be the first time that anyone, with the exception of the Registrar, will know that designer’s identity.
1 The Assessors wish to record their appreciation to:
Sir John Overall (Chairman)
Senator Gareth Evans
Barry Simon, MP
Professor Leonard Stevens 25 June 1980
I, JOHN DUNBAR FOWLER, Competition Registrar appointed by the Parliament House Construction Authority as the Promoter for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, hereby certify as follows:
Dated this 26th day of June 1980.
JOHN DUNBAR FOWLER
On Thursday 26 June 1980 at 10.40 a.m. the Chairman of the Panel of Assessors, Sir John Overall, advised the Competition Registrar that the Assessors had unanimously selected design number 177 as the winner of the Parliament House Competition.
The Chairman of Assessors thereupon handed to the Chairman of the Parliament House Construction Authority, Sir Bernard Callinan, an envelope identified only as number 1 77 containing all relevant particulars relating to the nominated architect and the firm of architects with whom he is associated. lt was announced that the nominated architect in competition entry No. 177 was Richard Thorp and the firm is Mitchell Giurgola Thorp, Architects.
The Competition Registrar then opened the remaining four envelopes, identified only as Nos. 45, 139, 201 and 234. The relevant particulars announced by Sir Bernard Callinan were as follows:
Design No. 45 - Nominated Architect: John Bickerdike. Firm: Bickerdike Allen Simovic
Design No. 139 - Nominated Architect: John Denton. Firm: Denton Corker Marshall Pty Ltd
Design No. 201 - Nominated Architect: Chris Waite. Firm: Parsons and Waite, Architects
Design No. 234 - Nominated Architect: Col Madigan. Firm: Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs International Pty Ltd
All of the proceedings here described were conducted in the Becker Theatre at the Royal Academy of Science in Canberra, ACT before Members of the Parliament House Construction Authority, the Assessors, Members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, the President of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, members of the media and other invited members of the public. 26 June 1980
– I suppose that it was too much to expect that the reaction to the design chosen by the assessors would be absolutely unanimous and universally rapturous. Nonetheless it is extraordinary just how close to unanimous the approving reaction to the design has been - by the Press, by the public, by the architectural profession both here and overseas and by, as I read it, the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament on the Government and Opposition sides who, of course, not only have to live in the new building, but also have to carry the can for the cost that is involved.
As one of the six assessors judging the design, and the only one representing the Senate, 1 must confess that I breathed something of a hugh sigh of relief when the design was greeted with this reaction. I shared that relief with my colleagues whose names I should now mention: Mr Barry Simon, the other parliamentary representative, the honourable member for McMillan; Sir John Overall, the chairman of the assessors; Mr I. M. Pei, a very well known international architect based in New York; Mr John Andrews, an equally well known Australian architect; and Professor Len Stevens, Engineering Dean at Melbourne University. This panel demonstrated an outstandingly able collection of talents, if I might say so, and was a group of men with whom it was an absolute pleasure to work. They, too, certainly shared my relief at the nature of the reaction that the winning design has received.
The task of judging the competition, which occupied many weeks of work over the last 12 months, especially during the first stage of the judging in October 1979 and then the second stage in June 1980, whilst it was an enormously stimulating and exciting one and certainly one of the most fascinating experiences of my life, was a very difficult one in the sense that an enormous responsibility did weigh upon us in choosing between the 329 entries for this building - the future national home of Australia’s Parliament and Government. It is a measure of the achievement of the winning design by Australian architect Richard Thorp working as he was in conjunction with the very well known American firm of Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp that our task as assessors ultimately came down to a fairly straightforward one in the sense that this design was outstandingly ahead, in the final analysis, of its closest rivals.
The complexity and the difficulty of the task confronting the designers of this building should not and cannot be underestimated. Let me indicate some of the problems that are associated with putting together an acceptable design for a building of this kind. They include, firstly, the functional issues. This new building will not really be able to be described simply as a building; it is more like, as I said on other occasions, a small city. It is a complex of five major components - the two Houses of Parliament, the Executive, the Press and the public, containing as it will when the building is complete and ordinary sitting days are in progress, something like a resident population of 3,000 people together with its estimated and anticipated flow of visitors through the building of more than one million each year.
The documentation for the designers in terms of articulating the nature of the components, the functions and the space that had to be incorporated in the building occupied some 980 detailed pages. An exhaustive and brilliant task was done in the preparation of this material - I will mention this again later - by the National Capital Development Commission and the team working on it, together with the Joint Committee of the Parliament. The design not only had to accommodate all these different functions in some fashion but it also had to be a workable building, one providing for speedy communication around and between all its various components, especially, of course, to the chambers. It had to produce this workable functioning in a pleasant working environment - one which had plenty of space and, more particularly, plenty of light so as to provide satisfactory working conditions for this enormous resident population.
The building had to satisfy not only functional requirements but also requirements going to its symbolic and architectural identity. It was not good enough for any such building, whatever its basic efficiency, to have only the aesthetic appearance and appeal of a large factory; it had to have some real architectural class consistent with its status clearly as Australia’s most important public building. Moreover, it had to have, if humanly possible, some quality which made it unique, distinctive and peculiarly Austraiian. Again, it had to have a symbolic quality which is appropriate to our character as a democracy; a political environment in which people rather than institutions are regarded as of pre-eminent importance. Further, the building had to respond sensitively not only to aesthetic, symbolic, functional considerations of these kinds but also to its site and its environment. The Walter Burley Griffin town plan for Canberra, in which this building was to be located as one of the key focal points, is justly world famous, and it was important that the integrity of that basic town plan for Canberra be preserved.
Capital Hill, on which the building had to be located - it is quite a prominent physical feature of the landscape- is the focal point of the Burley Griffin town plan particularly insofar as the inner triangle is concerned. Capital Hill is the apex of that Parliamentary Triangle and the design had to accommodate the role of somehow marking the apex without at the same time overwhelming everything else in the surrounding landscape, lt had to pick up, if humanly possible, the other features of the Burley Griffin triangle- the mall sweeping down to the lake and the two avenues,
Kings Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, stretching out on either side to form the long arms of the triangle.
Siting problems were also associated with the circular road system existing around Capital Hill. A further siting problem which is of acute importance in getting a credible design was the problem posed by the likely future retention of this existing Parliament House. The problem posed by the continued existence of this Parliament House for any designer can hardly be overstated, as becomes apparent if one stands across in the area of the Australian War Memorial on the other side of the lake and looks across at Capital Hill with this Parliament House stretched out as a solid white block underneath it. One of the assessors, I. M. Pei, described the problem of locating a building on Capital Hill sitting over the top of that existing white Parliament House as creating something which could, unless very well handled, look like ‘a man with two hats’ because there is a sea of greenery all around and all one could see is two buildings perched one above the other. So an acutely difficult problem for the architects to solve was how successfully to integrate the building into that environment.
The fourth major problem which set the basic parameters within which the designers had to operate was to create a building that was buildable within the constraints imposed - that is, firstly, a 1988 deadline and, secondly, a requirement that the cost of the whole project be kept to a reasonable level. Clearly, that ruled out at the outset the kind of technology that was involved, for example, in the construction of the Sydney Opera House with its enormously innovative concrete shell construction. For all practical purposes, it also ruled out the use of building techniques involving monolithic concrete construction of the kind that was involved in the construction of the High Court of Australia and the National Arl Gallery wherein there is no real possibility for the simultaneous construction of different parts of the building; in using that method of construction the thing has to proceed as a whole, thus causing a fundamental delay problem. That was a clear, further set of constraints here, given the inappropriateness of there being anything like that.
The success of the winning design of the firm of Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp is that it really did resolve all of these problems in a remarkably effective way. The building is one of striking elegance and simplicity, lt is architecturally unique and innovative in the shapes and forms employed. It represents a subtle development, I suppose one can say, of the emerging post-modern architectural tradition, lt is a building which, architecturally speaking, solely in its own terms, is unquestionably in world class.
Another thing about the winning design is that it brilliantly resolves the problems and challenges which are imposed by this site and the total environment of Capital Hill and the Parliamentary Triangle. The building is integrated into Capital Hill rather than being superimposed like a wedding cake on top of it. It does not sit clumsily or stridently in any way on top of the hill as so many of the less successful designs obviously did. 1 might add in parenthesis there that it is certainly not accurate to say that the building is somehow buried into the hill as a number of people have tried to assert. That is a caricature of the situation as can be readily understood, if one looks at the three dimensional models of the design. It is apparent from them that there is to be an awful lot of glass and light in the walls constituting the internal spine of the building, and there are a number of skylights throughout the areas over the top of that central spine. In fact, it will be a very open and light working environment.
The other way in which the building solves the siting problem, of course, is by the use of its two very prominent sweeping curved earth ramps which pick up the lines of Kings, Commonwealth and Adelaide Avenues, and thus sit the building remarkably well into the basic town plan. A further feature of its success in coping with the siting problem was the way in which the facade of the building, the curved wall comprising the entrance vestibule, picks up, by the nature of its design and in particular by the window patterns and the whiteness of it, some of the basic aesthetic themes of the existing Parliament House below it. As a result, the building, when viewed from across the lake, integrates excellently with the existing Parliament House and does not jar in any way by virtue of its juxtaposition with it.
A further aspect of the building which makes it so successful is that it does, I believe, and the assessors certainly believe, have a symbolic quality which is appropriate to a building of its importance and function. That is partly expressed in the Australian flag, which will form so conspicuous a central feature of the winning design. I suppose it is partly expressed also, if one chooses to see it in this way, in the boomerang metaphor of the two big curved walls which form the central structure. More important, symbolically speaking, is the openness and accessibility of the building. The fears that so many people had that this would be a palace or a fortress sitting up there on the hill which would be remote and inaccessible from the people have been totally unfounded in this design. Indeed, in one paragraph of the assessors’ report we said:
So far from the new Parliament House glowering down, forbidding and inaccessible, people will walk and children will clamber and play ail over its roof!
The reality is that the way the design has been put together people will be able to penetrate right into the heart of the building and will nol feel in any way excluded or intimidated by it. That is a very fine accomplishment for a building of this inherent grandeur, I suppose one might say, given the obvious nature of the function it is to perform.
On the question of function, again it has to be said that this design has been very successful in resolving the enormously complex problems of linking together in an acceptable way for the people working in it the different functions that it performs. The building readily divides itself into its basic components in such a way that each part of the building - the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Executive and the public areas - has its own address as it were. It will be very easy to have a sense, which is often not the case in large and complex buildings, all the time of knowing where you are in relation to other parts of the building and to see some coherence about it. It will, as I said, clearly be a building which will be pleasant to work in in all parts of it because of the enormous extent to which light will penetrate it and the extent to which there will be effective working space in that sense. In security terms it poses no problems. Nor will it, because of the way it is designed, mean that in this security conscious age a multiplicity of security hurdles will have to be overcome as you move your way around the building, and that goes both for the public and for residents of the building.
Because of the way it is designed, it minimises as much as possible the time it takes to get to either chamber from any part of the building. It is calculated that it will take a maximum of four minutes travel time to make the connection. I must add that I share with many senators and members the hope that by 1988 our lunatic preoccupation with division bells and being able to get to the chambers in time to participate in divisions, so as to disrupt for tactical purposes the Cabinet and other business that is going on around the place, will not be necessary and that to that extent this design constraint will not need to have been solved as efficiently as in fact it has been.
– Hear, hear!
– And I say that in the knowledge of course that we are still very likely to be in government by 1988. This building is readily capable of expansion in all the ways that it needs to be capable of expansion because experience has shown that however far-sighted you think you are in the creation of a building there are bound to be - here we are talking of a span of centuries which is the anticipated life of the buildingincreased needs in the future. The way this building is designed it will be capable of that expansion. lt is a building which generally speaking is functionally far more successful than the designs of the other entrants in the competition. I understand that Senator Young, who was on the competition steering committee which had particular responsibilities for reporting to the assessors on the functional efficiency of the floor plan of this and the other finalists’ designs, will re-enforce that assertion. Some problems still remain to be resolved in the detailed working out of some components of the building but I think everyone is very confident that none of these problems is of any magnitude and certainly none needs delay the final working-drawing stage and the moving of the building to construction.
The final thing to be said about the success of this design is its buildability. lt is a building which will employ very conventional materials and techniques. Basically it is a straightforward reinforced concrete building which lends itself to fast track design and construction, as the construction industry terminology has it. In other words, it is a method which enables various parts of the building to be designed in detail and structured simultaneously rather than having to be built up layer by layer. As a result there seems to be no doubt at all that the 1988 target can be met. There are just no hidden traps associated with the construction techniques proposed to be employed in this building of the kind that can play havoc not only with timetabling but also with budgets.
Many more things can be said about the winning design. Most of them are said in more detail by the assessors in their own report, which I have already tabled and incorporated in the Hansard. At this stage I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard two further documents which describe some of the architectural and design features of this building. I refer to two papers prepared for the Architecture and Design Panel of the Australian Council respectively by Peter Muller and Jennifer Taylor. Both papers were prepared at the last stages of the assessment process. They were given some circulation but 1 think they deserve wider circulation.
FOR THE ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN PANEL OF THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL
THE WINNING DESIGN AND THE GRIFFIN PLAN
PETER MULLER M.ARCH. B.E.
Griffin conceived of Capital Hill as being the true centre of Canberra, the physical and symbolic centre of the Australian Nation. Like spokes of a wheel, wide tree-filled avenues radiate outwards from this centre, each one being named according to the State capitals towards which they point in true compass direction.
In other words, these slate avenues represent the democratic concept of having direct power links between the slate parliaments and the central federal authority. A series of concentric circular roads duplicated the central position and represented the relationship between the Commonwealth and the Empire.
Griffin’s most important concept for the National Area of Canberra was the vast Parliament Triangle defined by Constitution, Commonwealth and Kings Avenues wilh Capital Hill at the apex. Bi-secting and passing through this triangle and Capital Hill is his great Land Axis. The construction of the Houses of Parliament at the apex of this triangle would bc to consolidate and to create the reference point for all future development about the Land Axis within the Parliament Triangle, right down to the Lakeside.
Griffin was divided about what form of structure should bc placed on Capital Hill. He was absolute in his desire that it be the most important structure in Canberra. In his original report attached with his competition submission there is a diagram requiring Parliament House to be placed on Capital Hill, but for various reasons he rationalised, as an American, that Capital Hill should be reserved for the most important building of the nation- the Capitol, the place for the people. He considered that our parliamentary system with its two Houses of Parliament created a duality difficult to symbolically place at one central point and that the Houses of Parliament should lie below the place of the people as a reminder that Parliament is to serve the people.
He resolved this conflict between importance of physical structure and symbolic representation by moving the Houses of Parliament forward and envisaging a vast monumental building of simple purpose to be erected at the centre.
Modern Canberra has fairly well maintained Griffin’s original concept for the National Area, except for the intrusion of vehicular traffic of metropolitan proportions. Griffin’s plan was for this area to be for local traffic and provided bypass road systems for through traffic.
The problem to design the Houses of Parliament on Capital Hill is immense, lt must relate to all of the radial approach avenues. It must relate to the vast Land Axis with the added problem imposed upon the composition by the decision of Parliament to retain the existing Parliament Building. The new building would appear to sit on and grow out of the old building when viewed from the North side of the lake.
How do you design a building which satisfies Griffin’s philosophical requirements, expresses the informality of the Australian character with sufficient formality and dignity, is sensitive and complimentary to the shallow contours of Capital Hill and is seen from everywhere wilh provision for expansion.
The winning design is brilliant in its simplicity and in its respect for Griffin and his symbolic concepts. The people can stand at the centre, al the highest place, ‘above’ their elected Parliament. The aerial plan view exactly picks up the ‘tridimentional’ system of forms shown on Griffin’s original design, and the system of huge ramps as extensions of the main avenues which then visually sweep up and over the buildings is a stroke of urban design genius. The great Land Axis is also unhindered by structure and allowed to visually extend to the southern hills as intended by Griffin.
None of the other designs came anywhere near to resolving the urban design aspects with such clarity and simplicity.
Having spent two years to help set up the functional criteria for the Parliament House Competition and the impact it would have upon the urban scene. I became somewhat sceptical about the possibility of ever finding even one solution to an extremely difficult and complex problem. To have been given this solution makes us truly ‘The Lucky Country’.
FOR THE ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN PANEL OF THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL
JENNIFER TAYLOR B. ARCH, M. ARCH, ARAIA
The winning entry of the competition for Parliament House of Australia holds promise to emerge as one of the landmark buildings of its time, lt is conceived in an unhesitating fresh and vital spirit that places it beyond the multi-faceted confusion of the search for style that characterised the architecture of the late 70’s. lt presents a dynamic spatial exercise involved in the dimension of town planning, and carries the lines of its walls, ramps, and malls convincingly into the radial geometry of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for Canberra.
The building is not fettered by the dictates of orthodox modernism, nor is it affected by the contrived mannerisms of much recent work. Rather, it freely expresses in a clear and comprehensible language a continuity with the past and aspiration Tor the future. With its symmetry and formal use and disposition of traditional elements it restates the recognizable order of monumentality. while the sense of openness and freedom in its outreaching forms, that override that order, speak of the democratic structure of the society to which it is a monument.
The building, to be sited on the top of Capital Hill at the apex of the Parliamentary Triangle, bestrides the major northsouth land axis but allows it to pass through and over the architecture to the suburban areas to the south and theoretically beyond across the nation.
Convexed curved walls sweep outward from the central spine and subtly allow grass swathed ramps to visually extend the four principal diagonal avenues of the city plan to the apex of the composition. Here, the focal point for Australia is denoted, not by an imposing structure, but by the gigantic flag representing all aspects of the Nation.
Australia is a land of space and sun and the spirit of the place emerges in the expansive nature of the scheme, and the dynamic uninterrupted passage of the axes that sweep over the building. The stainless steel structure of the flag pole outlines a sky filled cupola and the glazed central roof allows the sun to enter the heart of the building. The area directly beneath the flag is the hub of the design. Here is placed the Members Hall the only space commonly shared by all Members of Parliament. The next level is a public mezzanine overlooking the Hall below. From these two areas that unite the Parliament and the people with the Parliament the flag above can be seen.
One of the major achievements of the building lies in its ability to make a significant mark in the landscape and at the same time refrain from the use of overpowering scale and domination over the individual close at hand. This it achieves by the outsweeping arcs of the two major defining walls, the fracturing and spread of the building down and over the extensive site, and the submergence of the central spine under the ramps contiguous with the landform. Typical of the attempts to make this an un intimidating welcoming building is the reduced scale of the entrances and the modulated treatment of the transitional spaces into the complex.
The large curved walls that rise beyond the full height of the building are explicit as the generating elements of both the architecture and planning. They stabilize and anchor the building, yet at the same time generate its dynamism. The walls divide the design into three major sections and are uniformly punched along their length with layered square openings that establish a linking visual continuity. They hold between them the central meeting places disposed in a progressional sequence: the Vestibule, the Foyer, the Reception Hall and the Members Hall. The Executive component formally concludes the building to the south. In this manner the design solves the problem of placing two major buildings on the crest of a hill.
The existing Parliament House stands on the main axis below the site and the arc walls of the proposed design generously frame the earlier building and echo its formal arrangement in the segmental freestanding facade of the main entry vestibule. The visual merging of the two buildings is furthered, as when viewed along the land axis, the new appears to subvert itself to the old, by allowing the old to read as the portal to the new.
To achieve the proposed land and building massing of the scheme, the smooth transition from the existing surrounds, and the easy gradient of the ramps, substantial earthmoving will be required. This is regrettable, but it appears unavoidable as the building’s low profile relies on setting it down in the site and reconstituting the landforms to envelop the crest and leave it full of visible architectural forms.
Much of the success of the solution comes from an appropriate symbolic and functional placement of the principal components. The cross axis is terminated to the west with the Senate Chamber and to the east with that of the House of Representatives. On ceremonial occasions, as tradition demands, the doors of the two chambers can be opened to allow the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to face each other along the connecting malls and across the Members Hall. Within the two legislative enclaves defined in the arcs the individual units are treated as connected pavilions in the gardens, thus achieving close knit yet independent groupings that retain a familiar scale.
One of the major achievements of this scheme is the difficult resolution of an extremely complex program into an immediately discernible pattern of organisation. This arises through the establishment of a heirarchical order that extends from the four axial placed entrances which are the first points of contact with the building, through the pivotal role of the legislative chambers and culminates in the sole primacy of the flag. Combined with this are the clearly established relationships of the grouped secondary spaces that contribute lo the logical and coherent totality. The distribution of space also allows the expansion of the building without detrimental effect on its functional and symbolic integrity.
Also appropriate is the use of repeated simple architectural elements in the everyday work areas. These increase in their numbers and visually demanding effect as the spaces they enclose rise in significance.
The problem posed by the limitation of controlled circulation through the building, that required the distinct division of public, general use, and executive access, has been resolved with apparent ease. Through the simple means of level separation the public, with minimal constraint, gains contact with the process of Government without interfering with the operational efficiency and security demands of the building.
Equal clarity is apparent in the pedestrian and vehicular paths to the forecourt and entrances. The only apparent significant planning problem comes from the uncoordinated access from the building to the grassed and paved slopes of the reconstituted hill and thus to the crowning point under the Hag pole frame.
As presented, the interiors of the major spaces lack the imaginative simplicity that is one of the qualities of the overall concept, and appear to resort to disappointingly stereotyped means to achieve a sense of occasion. Yet, for the most part the building successfully avoids trite gestures of obvious reference. The introduction of a sculptural frieze that appears on the upper walls of the Vestibule is welcome, and hopefully a further integral merging of the arts will be forthcoming. As might be expected, the building takes itself seriously, but perhaps some humour would be welcome at times to relieve, and through opposition emphasize, the nature of the business at hand. Again as expected, the design still contains disturbing unresolved factors, such as the heat generation and reflection from the large curved glass walls of the Galleries, and the Hag pole’s supporting structure that is not smoothly integrated into the architecture, and so remains a little uneasy in its somewhat precarious position.
The proposed use of night illumination is not adequately documented in this scheme. The location of the site on the highest point of the central basin offers the potential to not only proclaim its place, but to enliven the Canberra skyline. But these are matters for future development.
The building is of concrete construction, externally clad with precast panels inlaid at specific places with facings of Australian marble. The base and copings are of granite, and architectural hardware in the ceremonial areas is of stainless steel. The landscape adjacent to the building is treated as smooth surfaces interrupted by avenues and clumps of large trees. Towards the perimeter of the site the existing mass tree growth is retained and reinforced.
While the designer has adopted a responsible position regarding energy usage, the building relies on conventional methods and exhibits little attempt to deploy a progressive approach to passive systems for which the site appears imminently suitable. This highlights what could be a disappointment of the solution, in that it is not, as yet, adventurous in the technical sphere so frontiers in the use of structure, materials, and services are unlikely to be extended.
The selected design for Parliament House is broadly conceived, yet its essence lies in its fundamental simplicity. It presents not a sterile geometry, or a studied Palladianism, or a straight-jacketed Baroque, but a balanced design, in part contained and controlled, and in part free and willful, that seems appropriate for this place and time. This highly intellectual solution is significant not only for its successful translation of the meaning of the Land, the National, and Parliament into architecture, or for its sympathetic and skilful integration into the Griffin plan, but for its proposition for an architecture containing both dignity and humanism, envisaged with the confidence and competence we feared we had lost.
Jennifer Taylor has published and lectured extensively on Australian and Japanese architecture. She is senior lecturer in Architecture at the University of Sydney.
– The one aspect of this design in respect of which the assessors were unable to give more than fairly rudimentary attention was the question of cost. We said in our report, on the basis of the best advice that was then available to us, that although we thought the estimate of the winning architect was generally speaking realistic and credible nonetheless we did anticipate an increase. Paragraph 3.30 of the assessors’ report reads:
Many elements in the design . . . estimate are subject to detailed confirmation, and it may be that on further investigation and analysis, in consultation with the architect, there will prove to have been some areas of underestimation.
In a subsequent paragraph we went on to say: lt is impossible to be more precise in costing at this stage of the evolution of the design of the building, lt will now be necessary for the Parliament House Construction Authority to be sure that the winning architect and the Authority cost consultant confer as soon as possible on the cost elements.
Of course since the winning design was announced the consultation and analysis process has taken place. The Parliament House Construction Authority has been engaged in the last few weeks in very detailed and elaborate analysis of the likely cost of this building and it has come up with a figure - it is in the report which was tabled today - of $220m at 1978 prices. Although I cannot pretend that I would not have preferred that the Authority’s revised estimate came out closer to the original estimate of $ 1 5 1 m, 1 do put it quite strongly to the Senate that this increase ought not to be regarded with shock or alarm or as in any way presaging further massive increases in the building cost over lime apart from those associated wilh the ravages of inflation. It appears, after looking at the analysis by the Authority, that the increases in question are all capable of ready explanation and defence.
It may be as well if I spend just a few minutes explaining to the Parliament what the nature of those increases has been, why they are as they are so that this not very well understood feature of the present exercise will be better understood. I spend time on these matters because I think they are of fundamental importance and they have been the subject of enormously lengthy debate in the Parliament in the past, ll seems appropriate that some understanding at least be had of the issues involved. A couple of aspects of the cost increase need to be explained. The first aspect is the size of the gap between the original estimate of $151m, which was widely canvassed as being the projected construction cost at 1 978 prices, and the $220m which the Authority has now come up with as the projected realistic outside figure.
I think a couple of preliminary points in explaining this gap need to be understood. The first is that in retrospect it seems as though that original figure of $151m was somewhat understated. It, of course, was put together on the basis of a purely notional building rather than any actual design and was put together on the assumption of a 58,000-square-melre city office block. Really, in retrospect it seems the kind of building rates appropriate to the construction of an office block of reasonable quality were simply run together, and that was the figure that emerged, lt has become apparent subsequently that different kinds of efficiency factors, to use a technical expression, are involved, and, inevitably, the degree and standard of finish involved in the very large public areas of this kind of building are such as to make the use of the office block analogy not an appropriate one. The other preliminary point that ought lo be made is that the $151m was, in any event, slightly in error- to the extent that it was based on a design brief of 58,000 square metres, and the final design brief that went to the architects in the second stage of the competition was up to 60,294 square metres, which meant that a more accurate base figure should have been $156m or $ 157m rather than $151m.
Moving beyond those preliminary points to the more detailed and obvious reasons for the substantial gap between the $151m and the $220m, the basic explanation- there are several of them is the increase in usable space which the designers of the winning design incorporated into their building. They in fact came up with a building which, when properly measured, amounted to 69,000 square metres, that is, 8,700 square metres above the final brief. That, incidentally, was no more than any of the other designs, lt seems that all of them felt the necessity to expand in various ways upon the very tight limits imposed by the actual formal brief. The particular areas where the usable space was most expanded in this respect were the refreshment and dining areas, particularly for the public but also for others in the building, which amounted to some 8,000 square metres; some increase in the central circulation area, 2,700 square metres; increases in the basement loading dock area - quite substantial 2,500 square metres; and another 2,500 square metres Ibr increased internal circulation, that is corridors and such like, within particular components. The reasons for those increases vary. Some of them were simply as a result of design considerations, they felt necessity for there to be some larger volumes of space, particularly in the public areas than those provided for in the brief. Others were to accommodate future expansion because of the difficulty, given its location within the whole complex, of subsequently providing for expansion and the necessity to build it into the building at this stage. Other reasons, again, are that it appeared that, as a result of closer working analysis, the design brief may have understated the need for space in some circulation respects.
All in all, those increases in usable space account for some $29m of the projected increase. Associated with those increases in usable space, particularly in the public areas, it has been estimated that the necessity to produce a higher quality of finish appropriate to such public places will result in an additional $5m. lt has been calculated further that the designers’ opting for a system of underground parking for the building, which was not specified in the original brief but which has been universally accepted as both aesthetically and technically a most satisfactory solution to the traffic and parking problems associated with this new building, accounts for something like $18m over the original brief. The provision for the installation of various kinds of energy-saving devices amounts to another $4m, and the final substantial figure is $13m which is anticipated very carefully by the Construction Authority to be the extra cost involved in the really quite massive excavations of earthworks and the reinstatement of earth that is involved in this design.
There is no magic about this item. What has happened is that this is a design which, as I have said and as everyone has noted, is integrated with the hill rather than being perched on top of it. One result of that is that one has to slice off the lop of the hill rather like a boiled egg in order to put the building on it and then to reinstate the various degrees of earthworks around it in order to accomplish the final design result. All of this means that infinitely more excavation and reinstatement has to take place than was originally contemplated, and that is the basic reason, when honourable senators add all those points up, why the figure is now as it is.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m. -
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That General Business orders of the day be postponed until after the further consideration of Government Business Order of the Day No. 1 , Government Business Notice of Motion No. 2, Government Business Order of the Day No. 1 3 and General Business Order of the Day dealing with the Parliament House Construction Authority and the building of the new Parliament House, provided that at 8.30 p.m., if these matters not be resolved, General Business orders of the day be called on.
–To conclude what I was saying on the subject of the cost of the new building 1 think the only other matter that needs to be adverted to is the difference between the winning architect’s own basic assessment of the cost of the building at $ 156.4m and the final figure that has now been set by the Parliament House Construction Authority, namely, $220m. Again there are a number of explanatory factors which make that a not unreasonable difference perhaps despite first appearances to the contrary. The basic point that needs to be made, apart from the normal phenomenon of architects’ optimism when it comes to costing matters, with which most of us will be privately familiar, is the fact that the winning design, as indeed was the case with all the finalists’ entries, was put together in a very great hurry. The reality was that the winning design team just did not have the opportunity to do the careful quantification of space, materials and, indeed, building rates that was necessary to get a precise costing of the task in question. That problem for them was magnified by their presence overseas rather than in Australia with a close familiarity with the current construction scene. I think that is the primary reason which is generally understood and accepted for the cost differential.
The only general point that remains to be made about the cost of this building is that it is not unreasonable and not unanticipated that a building of this magnitude and importance will be an expensive project on any analysis. However, I think it can be said with some degree of confidence in the light of the very detailed analysis that has now been done that the $220m that has now been identified very much represents the outside parameters of what the building is likely to cost.
– Don’t you believe it.
– I suppose the only things that are certain in this world are death and taxes. I would not want to be held too closely to this proposition in the years ahead. The point is that there is not hidden in this building traps of the kind that were so obviously apparent in major projects that have got out of hand in cost terms - in the case of the Opera House, the technology of the shell construction, and in the case of the High Court of Australia, the personality of the Chief Justice. There are just no traps of that kind. I think it can be assumed, and it is being assumed by everyone, that this building will progress rapidly and easily to fruition, lt will be expensive but the cost will be spread over a long period. There are a number of countervailing benefits which, of course, one must take into account, not least the fact that it will save the Canberra construction industry from falling flat on its face after the completion of the High Court and the Australian National Gallery, which otherwise seemed likely in the absence of future major projects. More obviously still, the other countervailing benefit is that it is just a cost that it is necessary to incur if the Australian Parliament is to move out of its present hopelessly inadequate building which was of course designed and built as a temporary building some 50 years ago.
The final matter to which 1 want to advert briefly is the competition process and the people who were involved in that. I simply say that I think the conduct of the competition for the design of this building has been a credit to everyone associated with it. lt has demonstrated against those who are very sceptical about the competition process that a properly conducted competition is indeed capable of producing a quite outstanding building. Credit is undoubtedly due to the winning architects for all the reasons that 1 have tried to identify. They have produced on any view a magnificent design. I think a great deal of credit is due also to all the other competitors, particularly the finalists, who between them produced a variety of fascinating solutions to what was an almost overwhelmingly difficult problem. I think a considerable degree of credit is due also to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House presided over, as it was, by yourself, Mr President, and Mr Speaker, lt worked very hard for many years to get the design brief into shape and to assist the National Capital Development Commission in producing documentation for this competition, which has been universally regarded within the architectural profession both here and overseas as being the best briefing materials ever prepared for any kind of competition of whatever magnitude, lt has been a marvellous achievement. I particularly want to identify in that respect the contribution of the key officers at the National Capital Development Commission - Mr Paul Reid, Mr John Eglington, Mr Geoff Baker and in the earlier stages particularly Mr Greg Deas, who have served this Parliament very well, admirably indeed, and in a thoroughly expert and conscientious fashion over a long period. On an occasion such as this I think that input, which tends not to be otherwise acknowledged, ought to be brought into the open.
The Parliament House Construction Authority deserves credit which is proper for the formal organising body. In particular, I finally want to identify the personal contribution of Mr Ian Fowler of that Authority, who acted as the competition registrar with a degree of efficiency and integrity that is really quite splendid in what was a sensitive and very difficult task. I am grateful to the Senate for its indulgence in allowing me to speak on this matter, with which 1 have had such a close personal association in recent times, lt is, moreover, an occasion which represents a real watershed not only in our architectural history but also in our political history. 1 believe that everyone associated with the development of the new Parliament House project or the concept of it both inside and outside this Parliament has shown a breadth of creativity and imagination, and in the case of the politicians also a degree of political courage, which deserves to be adverted to. We have a splendid building. All that remains to do is to build it. I hope that the Senate accordingly will give a speedy passage to these motions before us tonight that will mark the decisive first steps in setting this process in train.
– I simply place on record the Australian Democrats’ opposition to this series of motions. To be specific, we would be voting no on Notice of Motion No. 2 on the Notice Paper authorising commencement of work on the new Parliament House. We are on record, and will continue to be on record, as opposing the concept of a new and permanent parliament house. 1 know that there would be a temptation for people to say that we are being small-minded about this, that we are not capable of seeing into the future and that we are not thinking on a big scale. I hope honourable senators can be charitable enough lo accept our view that it is, in fact, a question of judgment whether a sum of money of such a magnitude could well be expended better in Australia on other projects over the next eight years, lt is simply a question of judgment. To allay any thoughts that we might be doing this for political purposes, as at least one Liberal senator has suggested, we do not propose to make any fuss about this. I do not propose to make any Press release about this speech tonight or about our opposition. If the attention the Press Gallery normally gives to our speeches is any indication, this matter will not find its way into the news columns. But if that honourable senator who did say that we are doing this for political purposes wants to test the matter, he can call for a division on this matter. We will not mind being two against 62 in this place, lt is not an unusual position for me to find myself in. I simply wonder at the naive yet sincere attitude of Senator Evans about the cost—
– One can be naive and sincere at the same time and I believe Senator Evans is both when he says—
Senator Cavanagh And optimistic too.
– And optimistic too indeed. I believe the honourable senator is both when he says that the cost of this building will remain at about $22 1 m. Already we have been given to understand that the cost would be $151 m. In less than six months the cost has jumped to $221 m, an increase of $70m. I place on record that I am prepared to wager with Senator Evans that the cost of this building will exceed $ 1, 000m. A small amount of money can be put in a locked box and opened eight years from now. It can then be given to charity if I am right. That is where the question of judgment arises: Can this Parliament appropriate $ 1,000m - one billion dollars - over the next eight years in a better way? We believe that it is unjustifiable expenditure to house an institution and a group of individuals - members of parliament for about 80 to 85 days and nights a year. We wonder about the size of the proposed building, which is four times the size of the present Parliament House; not that this Parliament always does or, indeed, always should pay regard to public opinion. I conducted an extensive survey on this matter of voters taken at random. I found that something like eight out of 10 voters are totally opposed lo the concept of a new and permanent parliament house.
– That is nonsense, lt was a very selective survey.
– 1 will answer the interjection made by Senator Evans so that it will be incorporated in Hansard. I find the interjection offensive because Senator Evans said that the survey was nonsense. It is not nonsense. I conducted it on the scientific sampling of several electorates without pressure being placed on people. That sample of something like 500 people showed that eight out of 10 people are opposed to the proposal. Senator Evans might well be right in saying that it was too small a sample. But its results certainly were not nonsense.
I shall say a few brief words about the design. I congratulate Senator Evans and his team on the way in which they handled the design competition. Like him, I am amazed and pleased that there is no controversy about the design, lt is almost a miracle that we have an artistic creation about which there is not controversy. Thank God we were saved a controversy similar lo thai which surrounded the yellow peril in Melbourne and other creations of art which have been suggested from time to time in Australia. I say this in sadness rather than anger: Australians are very funny people; when we want something really great, something really big, we develop a sort of selfdefeating urge to say we cannot do it in Australia, we have to go overseas for it. That is where my dilemma lies.
If we are to build a new parliament house, should we place a geographic limit on creative talent? My instinct says no, we should not. On the other hand, I say to myself: Surely to God in
Australia we have the artistic talent among the architectural profession to build a new and permanent parliament house for the Australian Parliament. I am not persuaded that the person behind this plan essentially is an Australian architect. I am acquainted with the fact that the young Australian involved is associated with an incredibly big architectural firm of the United States of America. Now we have a massive incongruity: We Australians have this goddamned city of Canberra, designed by an American, and now the new parliament house is designed and perchance will be built by Americans. I just wonder why we cannot have more confidence in our own ability.
I say in conclusion that not Senator Evans, not the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick, nor anybody else to my knowledge has given any indication of from where the vast amount of artistic and technical talent needed to get the present design to specification stage, wilh working drawings and whatever else, will be drawn. A massive number of different skills and different talents will be involved. I run through just a few of them: Draftsmen, civil engineers, structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, interior decorators, landscape architects and a whole host of others. Will they simply be brought out here en masse from the United States, or will Australians in those professions perform those tasks? I mentioned those six or eight professions as they are now plagued by unemployment. Massive numbers of young Australian architects and building surveyors are now unemployed. Will there be some control over employing them?
– I gave you the answer before dinner. Own up and acknowledge it.
– Senator Evans gave the answer before dinner. Does he suggest that that is good enough for this Australian Parliament? Does he have the authority to give me an answer? If he wants his answer read into Hansard, I advise the Senate that he gave me the answer that something like 230 people will be involved, 1 0 of whom will be American. He made no mention of that in his speech. I was waiting for him to do so. I just hope that when the final decision is made to build this structure more consideration will be given to the quality and capabilities of Australian builders and we will not have to hawk this damned thing overseas so that an overseas person can build it.
– I wish not only to speak on the report but also to give my full support to it. I hope that the Senate likewise will receive the report. A lot of work on it has been done progressively by the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, which was established in March 1978. Since then it has met every week that the Parliament has been sitting, and sometimes when the Parliament has not been sitting, to have discussions with all of the people who will be involved in and will work within the new building in order to ensure that we do not make the mistakes that have been made in many other major buildings which have been built throughout Australia. We are dealing with a structure that will be the centre of Australia; in other words, the new parliament house for this country.
I was a member of the steering committee for the new parliament house, which was established to look into the functional aspects. You, Mr President, and the Minister for National Development and Energy, Senator Carrick, were also members of that committee. We examined the detailed plans of the final five competitors. Having studied those over a period of two days, we came to a unanimous decision that one design was outstanding compared with the rest. We then reported to the selection steering committee, of which Senator Gareth Evans and Mr Barry Simon were members. We had our fingers crossed. We had nol seen the designs, nor were we in a position to have had any discussion whatsoever with any members of the selection steering committee. 1 emphasise this point: Our job was purely to look at the functional aspects of the final five architectural plans submitted. By a stroke of very good fortune not only was our selection in our steering committee unanimous on the functional aspects but also, when the selection steering committee produced its final recommendation, which also was unanimous, it chose the building, the design for which we agreed was the best from a functional point of view. 1 go one step further. I listened to Senator Chipps remarks tonight. I have been delighted with the response throughout Australia to this proposal, with the way in which the people of this country have accepted the final choice which was made by the selection committee for the new and permanent parliament house. More than this, I think the people of Australia are aware also that it is time that this country had a new building, a significant building, for the Parliament. Many people are aware that the present building, nice as it is, is too small and too inefficient to handle the capacity of the crowd which lives in it and unfortunately the great numbers of people who have had to move out of this building because of insufficient space within it.
Having said that, 1 extend my congratulations, perhaps with biased thanks, to the selection committee for making a good choice, with which I was delighted. I also give credit to the participants who were involved in the overall competition. Over and above that, tribute must be paid also to the officers within this Parliament and those without this Parliament who did so much work on this. I refer to the personnel from the National Capital Development Commission who over a period of years did so much work and gave such great assistance to our Joint Standing Committee in the progressive stages and the programming that took place. Without them 1 am certain we would not have finished up with the good result that we have today.
Finally, I give my thanks again to the Parliament House Construction Authority. 1 wish it well. We have competent men on that authority. I have every confidence that they will look after the interests of the Parliament and the country in the construction of the new and permanent parliament house. I look forward to the day when this building is completed. 1 am certain that it will be a building worthy of this country and the Parliament and that it will be willingly and gladly accepted by the people of Australia.
-I wish to say a few words in this debate, not because 1 was closely associated with the decisions made recently but because, as a member of the Joint Committee of the New and Permanent Parliament House, I have seen the work that has been done by others and I think we ought to make some reference to it. lt seems to me that in considering the new parliament house there is a case for our not being little Australians tonight. I am glad that the competition was open to a wider field than just Australia. I recognise that Australians will get a lot of work from the building of the new parliament house. It will be useful from that point of view. I am glad that we looked at a wider field. 1 am glad about the way in which the designs were chosen. The final decision that has been made by the selectors is an excellent one. lt is a very exciting concept for the new and permanent parliament house.
It is no good saying that Parliament House is a building that people occupy for 80 or 90 days a year. That is not the concept of Parliament House. The Parliament is a matter of interest to most Australians. There is no doubt that many more will visit the new parliament house. One of the things that have greatly influenced the increased cost is the extra space required for the public not increases in space for members of parliament or Ministers. The cost relates to extra public space and circulation and better facilities with regard to the parking of cars and so forth. These things have justified the new and realistic assessments of value. 1 hold the view that it was an exciting contest and an exciting decision, one which I think will very greatly interest the people of Australia. My experience is that people are very pleased with the result of the contest. In fact, they are looking forward to the construction of this great building for Australia. Apart from that, I do not think that any reference has been made to the fact that two members of the Parliament have played a particularly arduous part in the work which has been done in recent months. I refer to Senator Gareth Evans and to Mr Barry Simon, the member for McMillan. We know that they have spent an enormous amount of time. I suppose that in a sense they are now almost qualified architects. A couple of architects have quickly developed in this House.
– We will hold them responsible for the cost.
- -Senator Georges should not be jealous. He may hold them responsible. Two members of parliament have done a fine job and spent an enormous amount of lime on the work which was done. They have fully played their part in the development of what I think has been a very good job. 1 think we should pay tribute to the work of these two members of parliament and thank them for the services they have done to the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
1 ) Thai, for the purpose of sub-section 8 (2) of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1 979. the Senate
authorizes the comencement of work on the following declared stage in the design of Parliament House, namely, the preparation of a detailed design of Parliament House (including specifications and tender documents): and
authorizes the commencement of work on the following declared stage in the construction of Parliament House, namely, the preparation and excavation of the site of Parliament House.
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of the Resolution agreed toby the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 the Senate approves the proposal contained in the report of the Parliament House Construction Authority presented to the Senate on this day for the construction on Capital Hill of a new and permanent Parliament House.
Debate resumed from 1 9 August on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Senate take note or the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) requesting that Senator Collard be discharged from further service on the Standing Committee on Education and the Arts and nominating Senator Neal to be a member of that Committee, and requesting that Senators Martin and Collard be discharged from further service on Estimates committees A and E respectively and nominating Senators Watson and Thomas to be members of those committees.
I have also received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) requesting that Senator Ryan be discharged from further service on the Select Committee on Parliamentary Appropriations and Staffing and nominating Senator Robertson to be a member of that committee. I have received a further letter from Senator McLaren requesting that he be discharged from further service on the House Committee
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- -by leave - agreed to:
Standing Committee on Education and the Arts- Senator Collard
Select Committee on Parliamentary Appropriations and Staffing- Senator Ryan
Estimates Committee A- Senator Martin
Estimates Committee E- Senator Collard
Mouse Committee - Senator McLaren
Standing Committee on Education and the Arts- Senator Neal
Select Committee on Parliamentary Appropriations and Staffing- Senator Robertson
Estimates Committee A-Senator Watson
Estimates Committee E- Senator Thomas
House Committee- Senator Melzer
Motion (by Senator Carrick) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964, the Senate elect Senator Baume and Senator Robertson to be members of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies on and from 21 August 1980 and that they continue us members for a period of three years from that dale.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present a report on the proposals for variations to the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs, 70th series, together with extracts from the minutes of proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement relating to the report.
The statement read as follows:
The report on the 70th series is the first of three reports on changes to the city plan which the Committee expects lo present during this session of the Parliament. There are four items contained in this series and all but one provoked a public response. The first variation deals with the realignment of the extension of Ellenborough Street in Kaleen to the Barton Highway. The proposal before the Committee was for the re-alignment of part of the proposed extension. The Committee has recommended approval of the variation to improve the intersection with the Barton Highway so that the extension of Ellenborough Street could in fact proceed. In doing so the Committee has commented on the effects of the increased traffic which will be generated by the link with the Barton Highway on certain residential streets. According to the National Capital Development Commission an estimated 9,500 vehicles will use the Ellenborough Street link each day.
A number of measures were suggested to reduce the adverse effects of the increased traffic in residential areas, including the closure of one street, Spigl Street, which links Kaleen and Giralang. The Committee has acknowledged the problems that could arise but does not feel that at this time the closure of Spigl Street is justified. This should be subject to reconsideration and assessment after the Ellenborough Street extension has been in use for some time and traffic flows have been established. The Committee has also suggested that residents and others who are likely to be affected by closure should have an opportunity to express their views on the future of Spigl Street. The Committee also suggests that when Ellenborough Street is connected to the Barton Highway, traffic control measures be introduced where necessary to ensure that the resulting traffic flows do not unduly inconvenience residents.
The other variation which provoked public interest was for a road to provide access to 45 medium density units to be constructed in Yarralumla. The proposed units will form the first stage of the residential development adjacent to the old Canberra brickworks. A number of Yarralumla residents expressed concern about the effect of the increased traffic on the residential streets. The traffic to the proposed residential development would use the same street, Bentham Street, as visitors to the Royal Canberra Golf Club. The Committee has approved the variation since it will bring new develoment to one of the older suburbs of Canberra. The Committee has also referred to the proposed construcion of stage 1 of the Yarralumla tourist road which, if constructed, could be the access road to the Royal Canberra Golf Club, thus diverting golf club traffic from residential streets. However, there is as yet no firm decision on the construction of this tourist road.
The Committee has also approved a variation relating to the High Court of Australia. It involves the modification of an existing alignment by adding to the city plan an access road to the High Court carpark as well as adjusting the road reservation to provide a property boundary. The adjustment of the High Court boundary will overcome an encroachment by the High Court building onto the existing road reservation. However, this does raise questions as to leases for such national institutions, and the use of public footpaths. The Committee has sought further advice from the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) on these matters.
The final variation involved the deletion of a lane in Civic to make the site available for possible future commercial develoment. The Committee also approved this variation.
– Pursuant to section 81 of the Reserve Bank Act 1959,I lay on the table the annual report of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report thereon, for the year ended 30 June 1980. For the information of the Senate, 1 advise that the Presiding Officers are required to present the report after 6 p.m. to enable the Bank to comply with certain special requirements concerning distribution of the report.
Report on Drug Problems in Australia Government Response: Ministerial Statement
Debate resumed from 19 March, on motion by Senator Peter Baume:
That the Senate lake note of the statement.
– On 16 July 1980 a report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of a comment made by Mr Ray Whitrod, one of the more outstanding members of the Australian police force and former Police Commissioner in Queensland. The report started as follows:
Federal and State politicians have failed to give enough support to police investigating organised crime syndicates dealing in drugs, a former Queensland Police Commissioner, Mr Ray Whitrod, said yesterday.
They have ‘weakened in their resolve’ to combat organised crime and have withdrawn their support of policy when they were ‘getting too close to the bone’, many times in the past, he said.
The item which appears on the Notice Paper this evening relates not only to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia’ but also to item No. 249 on the Notice Paper which is the report of the Royal Commission into Drugs under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Williams, the debate of which was adjourned earlier this year. It is my intention this evening to confine my remarks to one aspect only of the drug situation in Australia - that is, the relationship between the drug syndicates, the increasing use of drugs in Australia and political corruption in Australia.
The royal commission, under Mr Justice Williams, in Book A, page A 199, dealt quite squarely with the question of corruption of public officials. On that page the commission indicated its concern that allegations had been made about senior members of the Narcotics Bureau, the police, Customs officers and people involved in the Australian postal service who had played some role in terms of facilitating the importation of drugs into Australia. On several occasions the royal commission- its report is before us this evening - was at pains to indicate the connection between general illegal behaviour and the levels of political and organised corruption in Australia which are necessary if the illegal drug trade is to flourish. On page A347 it will be seen that the commission stated: lt will be apparent from the foregoing that the evidence received by the Commission establishes that the illegal importation and the illegal production and illegal trafficking in drugs are engaged in both directly and indirectly by persons who engage on an organised basis in other illegal activities both related and not related to drugs.
On the following page the Commission stated:
The money and power of organised crime was increasingly used to infiltrate and corrupt legitimate business and labour unions and to subvert and corrupt the processes of government.
I repeat the words ‘to subvert and corrupt the processes of government’. On page A353 of the report His Honour said:
There is no doubt that the illegal importation, illegal production and illegal trafficking in drugs is engaged in, both directly and indirectly, by persons who engage on an organised basis in other illegal activities both related and not related to drugs.
Dr Alfred McCoy, who is one of the most distinguished and learned writers on the subject of drug trafficking and the international drug community, was interviewed on a Broadband program on 17 July 1980. Dr McCoy, talking about corruption in the drug trade, had this to say:
Police corruption is talked about a great deal and whenever any of it comes out it’s good news, the media always hops on it and they’re pilloried and the investigations are forced so that we hear about it. But in fact I think on the scale of things police corruption is far less significant over the long run than political corruption because ultimately the police have to respond, the police are appointed by the political structure, police corruption cannot survive without political corruption.
Dr McCoy, in his book entitled Drug Traffic - Narcotics and Organized Crime in Australia, indicates the five necessary conditions for an illegal drug market to flourish and prosper. He states:
Neither Chiu Chow export operations nor the Sydney distribution networks could have been successful if Australia had not had the five basic requirements any society needs to sustain the mass marketing of heroin: (I) a reliable source of supply, (2) a potential group of consumers, (3) a tradition of political tolerance for some sort of organized crime, (4) a modicum of police corruption, and (S) an informal alliance between the drug syndicates and some influential leaders of established political parties, senior public servants and skilled professionals.
It would be my intention this evening to devote my remarks towards the fifth point - the informal alliance between the drug syndicates and some influential leaders of established political parties. The point was made some time ago in Bob Bottom’s book entitled The Godfather in Australia as follows:
In Australia, with criminal influence in both legitimate business and trade unions, the manipulation of politicians and government machinery is also a fact.
It is that manipulation of politicians and of the political machinery that will detain us for a while this evening. The problem specifically relates at the moment to the growth of the heroin industry in Australia. Bernard Delaney, in his book entitled Narc!, makes the point that contrary to the belief that the drug problem has only just come upon us it has, in fact, been developing not just over the last couple of years but since the middle of the 1960s; that too many people in the appropriate areas fail to read the signs; they fail to learn from what happened in other parts of the world. If people believe the problem is simply a small one, let me quote from David Hirst’s book entitled Heroin in Australia. The book states:
New South Wales health authorities estimated that there were 1 0,000 addicts in that Slate alone.
That is, 10,000 heroin addicts in the State of New South Wales alone. They are people who are ultimately condemned to a slow, lingering and painful death. Not only will they, their friends and families suffer, but also enormous profits will be made by the people who have directly contributed to their death. The Sydney Morning Herald of today’s date reported another $3m drug haul in Sydney of seven kilograms of cocaine. This is nothing new. The city of Sydney, where I live - I regard it as being one of the great cities of the world - is fast assuming some of the proportions and aspects of the city of Chicago in the 1930s. The degree of lawlessness, the unsafety of the streets, the degree of crime and corruption, the taint of corruption in the police and the incredible level of political corruption in the State of New South Wales need to be understood and exposed. In 1974 Mr Justice Moffitt was appointed by the New South Wales Government to be a royal commissioner to inquire into certain matters relating to allegations of organised crime in clubs in New South Wales. On page 1 36 of that report, which is now six years old, His Honour said:
That there be a frank and drastic review of the methods of investigation of organized crime of overseas and local origin and that particular procedures be established appropriate to this as a special class of crime.
Let me just indicate the classes of crime which are in Australia and are related to Australia in the last couple of years. I wish to talk for a few moments about the loss of life, not of the addicts, but of those involved in the illegal drug trade - the murder of those involved in the trade. In September 1972 at Oxford Falls the body of Jan 0’Truba was found mutilated. He was a wellknown local drug pusher. In December 1975 the body of Maria Hisshion was washed up off North Head. On 15 July 1977 Donald Mackay was last seen alive in the city of Griffith. In November 1977 Greg Ollard and Julie Theilman disappeared in Melbourne and are believed to have been murdered. In March 1979 the mutilated body of
Harry Lewis was washed up on the beach at Port Macquarie. In May 1979 the bodies of Douglas and Isabel Wilson were found at Rye in Victoria. In June 1979 Margaret Ann Clayton was found murdered in Fitzroy. In June 1979 Margaret Bell was found murdered in Auckland.
In October 1979 the mutilated body, the handless and toothless body, of Christopher Martin Johnstone was found in a pit in Chorley. Christopher Martin Johnstone was a New Zealander - Mr Asia, the head of one of the great criminal drug syndicates throughout South East Asia, with extensive connections with many of the persons whom 1 have already named as being victims of murder, and a person well known to the authorities both in Australia and in New Zealand. That is a list of the 1 1 known cases in the last couple of years of people who were engaged in the business, some of whom have met their end. Perhaps, in that they were drug pedlars they met their deserved end. Nevertheless they met an end which ought to be of concern to people in Australia.
The commission of inquiry under Mr Justice Williams is not the only commission that has looked into the question of drugs. I propose, because this is a debate on two drug reports on drug problems in Australia, to talk about the other commission and the two reports of Mr Justice Woodward. Mr Justice Woodward, appointed by the New South Wales Government to look into the question of drug trafficking in Australia, produced two reports. The first was a fairly staid report which sought among other things to throw cold water on the idea that organised crime was the principal force behind the drug scene in Australia. A second report resulted from the reopening of the royal commission because of allegations made in the Parliament of New South Wales about the subject of political corruption. The royal commission has now in fact changed its lack and states that organised crime in Australia and people who are named in the report are major factors in the promotion of the drug trade. The National Times of 17 August, analysing this change, stated:
The second and final report of the NSW Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking headed by Mr Justice Woodward, tabled in the State Parliament last week, represents a distinct departure from the commission’s report tabled less than a year ago.
Thai report virtually ignored the role played by organised crime in the NSW drug trade. This time the commission has put on record the links between organised crime and drug-trafficking.
The Bulletin of 26 August stated:
In all the political fuss surrounding the tabling of the second report of the NSW royal commission into drug trafficking, the wider implications of the report have been overlooked. That is that the new report represents a significant about-face by the royal commissioner, Mr Justice Woodward.
His original report, tabled in the NSW Parliament in November, 1979, tended to dismiss any involvement by entrenched organised crime syndicates and particularly derided suggestions of a United States mafia presence.
Now Mr Justice Woodward acknowledges that his second inquiry, prompted by questions in parliament about the first report, ‘has thrown new light upon the persons involved in drug trafficking and the structure of drug trafficking.’
We will come to the persons involved and the changes in structure in just a moment, lt is important to understand the responsibility that lies on every member of a parliament, be it a Federal or a State parliament in Australia, to ensure that in the first instance the finger of criminal suspicion cannot be pointed to the law-makers themselves; that on the Caesar’s wife principle those who are involved in making the law about drug abuse and are responsible for the enforcement through the appropriate authorities of the laws about drug abuse should themselves be utterly above reproach and utterly above suspicion. In New South Wales that proposition cannot be sustained. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to ensure the reopening and the widening of the inquiry undertaken by Mr Justice Williams and to require him to look at the question of the involvement of public officials and politicians with the drug trade in Australia. Let the pieces fall where they may, let the pieces fall on either side of the political spectrum; but lel those who are tainted be named and be dealt with. I intend this evening on the basis of evidence before the royal commission and elsewhere to name some of those people and to place on the record the request that they be investigated either by Mr Justice Williams’ royal commission or by the establishment of a national crime commission.
I turn therefore to the further report of the Woodward Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking. I turn to the evidence relating to Roger Degen, a member of the New South Wales Parliament. I accept the assurances given by Mr Degen in the Parliament that when the royal commissioner said that Mr Degen travelled to Manila on a particular date in the company of: particular person in fact the royal commissioner was in error. However, I intend to come back to the way in which, by the misuse of power and the misrepresentation of an officer of the Department of the Attorney-General and of Justice in New South Wales records were obtained from Qantas Airways Ltd under threat, and to ask what the responsibility of the New South Wales AttorneyGeneral is in that matter. I shall come back to that matter in due course. In relation to Mr Degen, a person booked for consorting with known criminals, the royal commissioner had this to say:
In any event I do not accept that a Member of Parliament cannot perform his duties representing Balmain or any other area without consorting with known criminals and persons of unsavoury reputation.
The commissioner went on to state on page 85:
The manner in which Degen co-operated with Sinclair in general is a matter for concern.
The Sinclair in question is William Sinclair, who is now in gaol in Bangkok on massive charges relating to drug smuggling. The royal commissioner went on to say at page 87:
I should also not part with Degen’s evidence without referring to the deceptive way he described his relationship with Evans when he made representations on Evans’ behalf to a Minister of the Crown.
He went on to say:
This makes it clear that Degen was acting simply as a tool of Sinclair . . .
The commissioner said of Degen:
He was also most misleading in the way he dealt with his association with Stanley Smith.
That Stanley Smith is Stan the Man, named by the Premier of New South Wales as one of the most notorious and vicious criminals in the whole of New South Wales. As honourable senators would know, a motion was moved in the New South Wales Parliament seeking the expulsion of Mr Degen. The following headline appeared in the Daily Telegraph: ‘MP a Liar Says Drugs Judge’. An article of an earlier date was headed ‘MP Did Favours for Criminals’. The position of Mr Degen in the Parliament was debated by the Parliament, which resolved on a party line vote that he should not be censured and that his seat should not be declared vacant. A couple of days later up popped yet another member of parliament, Mr Lew Johnstone, the member for Broken Hill. Having sat through the whole debate about Degen’s trip to Manila, he suddenly came up with the admission that it was he. Johnstone, who accompanied the person named to Manila. The person named was Mr Poolman –named by the royal commissioner for his unsavoury and criminal associations.
The situation is as follows: Mr Johnstone, the State Labor member for Broken Hill, travelled to Manila with Mr Poolman, who the royal commissioner clearly identified as being involved in the drug trade, and a Mr D. Dunn, who was also criticised by the royal commissioner and known to be associated with illegal gambling in Wollongong. All of them were on flight QF 276 on 10 April. All listed on their departure cards the same Sydney telephone number as their home contact - the Slate member of parliament and two known criminals. All collected their tickets on the same day from the same travel agency. On the following day, 1 1 April, Mr Degen travelled to Manila with a Mr R. Smith, the alias for Martin Olsen, prostitution boss in Manila for Lennie Mcpherson, Mr Big of Sydney. Mr Degen travelled to Manila with this person who was using an alias and who runs this prostitution business in Manila on behalf of a well-known Sydney criminal. The five of them - three criminals and two members of parliament- spent their time together in Manila. What were they doing there? Mr Degen says that he was on holiday. Mr Johnstone does not say what he was doing. But they knew the persons with whom they were travelling and they knew what the royal commission knew about the persons with whom they were travelling.
– You have not answered the question and said what they were doing there.
– I propose to come to that in due course. If the honourable senator contains himself he will find out what his New South Wales colleagues were up to. I turn now to another matter which was raised by both Mr Justice Williams and Mr Justice Woodward. That is the extraordinary firm, the extraordinary merchant banking operation, known as Nugan Hand. Nugan Hand must be one of the most unsavoury corporate organisations in Australia. One of its principals is now missing. The other of its principals is now dead. The Coroner believes that the cause of his death was suicide: there is reason to doubt that. This organisation and its principals appeared before Mr Justice Woodward and he questioned them about the illegal transfer of funds between Sydney and Hong Kong.
The Royal Commissioner had as a witness Murray Stewart Riley, a former policeman now in gaol on drug related charges, who gave evidence that he had been informed that Nugan Hand offered a facility to transfer funds from Hong Kong to the United States of America. This was denied by the Nugan Hand people but the denial was not accepted by Mr Justice Woodward. He says:
I am certainly of the view that there has been sufficient evidence put before me to raise serious misgivings as to the group’s involvement wilh criminals and to justify a full inquiry into its affairs and the parts played therein by Nugan and Hand. 1 call next upon the Government to establish the mechanism to investigate the breaches of currency regulations. Reserve Bank regulations and other banking regulations involved in the procedures of Nugan Hand. Nugan Hand is important because the web of criminality and the questions of criminality come in once again. They come in again in this fashion. Let me read from the Sunday Telegraph of 27 July 1 980:
Sensational new developments in a police investigation could link the violence and political scandals wracking innercity ALP branches wilh organised crime and drug rackets in Australia.
And Commonwealth police suspect there is a connection between the near-fatal bashing of NSW Labor MP Peter Baldwin and some individuals involved in the multimilliondollar crash of the Sydney-based Nugan Hand merchant bank.
The article goes on to describe, for instance, a well known former football player in Sydney by the name of Pittard:
But it was not as an investor that the money market knew Denis Pittard.
Rather it was as a broker extraordinary, using his assertive talents to drum up business for the ailing bank.
We know from the Sunday Telegraph article of: luncheon held for five or six people which cost $500 at one of Sydney’s most exclusive restaurants, the Pavilion du Pare, the bill being picked up by Mr Pittard. Present at the luncheon were the Town Clerk of Marrickville, Bruce Gardner, and the Mayor of Marrickville, Alderman John Harrison, who has since been charged by the police in New South Wales with the criminal falsification of Labor Party records. He was taken into custody and charged. This was prior to or during the period when Marrickville Council was investing money in Nugan Hand; but that is not the serious point. The serious point is that also present at that meeting were two members of the Federal Parliament, lt may well be that those members of the Federal Parliament were there simply in a social capacity. But that is something best established by proper judicial inquiry.
The national crime commission is a body that 1 believe should be established because there are a number of weaknesses in the existing situation for the investigation of drug offences in Australia. Mr Justice Woodward, speaking at a function I believe in Melbourne, indicated as reported in the Australian on 1 August 1980 that:
The light against drug trafficking has been hampered by wasteful competitiveness between law enforcement agencies supposed to be working in the same cause’, Mr Justice Woodward said last night. 1 believe that there is a necessity and Mr Justice Williams in his Royal Commission report deals in Volume B on page 179 with the necessity, to establish a criminal drug intelligence centre which will co-ordinate drug activities and drug investigation activities and indicates the necessity to have some central mechanism for the investigation of drug offences in Australia, for the collection of information and for the dissemination of information, eventually leading to the prosecution and conviction of people involved in that situation.
Mr Justice Woodward was disappointed that he lacked the power as the royal commissioner in New South Wales to do some of these things. The Melbourne Age on 1 August reported:
The New South Wales Royal Commission on Drug Trafficking did not have adequate powers to investigate fully about drug dealers, Mr Justice Woodward said in Melbourne today.
Mr Justice Woodward said that although the commission’s powers exceeded those of law enforcement agencies, the commission was not well designed to undertake the role of investigator.
The article goes on:
He said that he has asked the New South Wales Government to extend the powers of the commission so that he could enter the premises of people suspected of growing marihuana in Griffith. But the Government had not been able to meet the request.
Here is a royal commissioner, who asks for greater powers from the Government that established his position, in order to pursue his investigations into drug offences. The Government says that it is not able to give him that power. Clearly we need a national body that does have the power to undertake that sort of investigation.
I believe that what I have said about the levels of corruption is also borne out by one other comment made by Dr McCoy. Dr McCoy in his book says:
Summing up the 1977 statistics on various organized crime enterprises reveals a total estimated turnover of $2,2 19m, almost equal to Australia’s national defence budget for that year - SP bookmaking ($ 1,420m), casino gambling ($650m), poker machine ‘skimming’ ($90m) and narcotics ($59m). Bribes to senior police and politicians from illegal casinos alone amounted to $1 .4m in 1974-75.
The politicians who have taken any part of that money deserve to be exposed and dealt with. It does not matter where they come from, which party they represent or who they are. But the necessity to have the national wherewithal mentioned by Mr Justice Williams in his report and by Mr Justice Woodward in his report to establish some national body which can investigate all aspects of drug related criminality in Australia is now becoming pressing. We have had a situation that I have described about the relationship of various people in political parties with those known to be active in the drug scene. The meetings in Manila, which is a significant source of the entry of illegal drugs into Australia, need to be investigated because 1 believe that is what the April meetings were all about. The details of those meetings are important and the details of the travel arrangements are important. Mr Keith Hamilton, the Chief Executive of Qantas Airways
Ltd, at 9.25 a.m. on Thursday, 21 August made a statutory declaration in these terms:
In the New South Wales Parliament today, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Mason, said:
The fact is, Mr Speaker, that although Mr Goldberger was seconded to the Royal Commission, the Royal Commission did nol exist on Thursday 1 4th August.
By any definition, that Commission ceased to exist the previous day, when the Deputy Premier tabled the further report of the Drugs Royal Commission in this House.
This is a serious matter, since the information would not have been given to the New South Wales Government for its own political purposes and was only handed over under threat of subpoena from a Royal Commission acting under powers of habeas corpus.
That Royal Commission, as I have said was non-existent at the time of the request.
Misuse of power by the Attorney-General is nothing new and, in fact, it is the normal practice of his administration of the law in this State.
This is an Attorney who, in relation to the matter of Nugan Hand—
-Order! I remind you. Senator Puplick, of Standing Order 418. The honourable senator must not use offensive words against any member of this place or another place, against this Parliament or another parliament or against any member of this Parliament or another parliament, I refer the honourable senator to that Standing Order.
– I withdraw any unparliamentary words. I was, however, quoting from the Hansard record of the New South Wales Parliament, As I have said, if there is any problem, I withdraw any imputation. I said in relation to the matter of Nugan Hand that here was a group of persons, a company, a banking structure, in relation to which a New South Wales royal commissioner has said: ‘This should be investigated because of its probable breaches of the law’. The Attorney-General of New South Wales has been allegedly set up by somebody in Nugan Hand over a Swiss bank account. It is amazing that the Attorney-General in New South Wales is pursuing an investigation into himself.
When I say that we need a national crime commission or I say that Mr Justice Williams’ power should be extended to look into these allegations, into these unsavoury practices, I do so because it would avoid a situation in which a Minister of the Crown is required to conduct an investigation into allegations which involve himself. There should be a mechanism, judicial or otherwise, by which to investigate such things. He could, for instance, investigate why it was that the public of New South Wales was told of this set-up only on about 20 August when, in fact, the Attorney-General of New South Wales had written to the Swiss bank claiming that he was a victim of the set-up some time on or about 20 May. He had not bothered to inform the people of New South Wales for three months of this set-up that was underway.
It is important that those breaches of the Federal law, which involve such matters as immigration as in the Wainwright case, that involve possible breaches of the currency regulation such as Nugan Hand, that involve possible breaches of the taxation legislation, such as the comments made by Mr Justice Woodward about the Balmain Welding Company and other companies be capable of being investigated speedily, completely, and impartially by a national crime commission or by a national royal commission dealing with the question of drugs which has all of the powers and resources available to it to undertake such an investigation. Mr Justice Williams has said that we need this sort of thing, Mr Justice Moffitt said in 1 974 that we needed this sort of thing and Mr Justice Woodward said we need this sort of thing. We have a situation in which Australia, and New South Wales in particular, faces an epidemic of heroin addiction, the destruction of a large section of its predominantly younger population by the most vicious dealers in death and narcotics ever seen in this country. That level of corruption can exist only if there is a concomitant amount of both police and political corruption that allows it to exist.
The taint of political corruption which arises because of the activities of the drug people in Australia needs to be exposed, lt does not matter who ends up being exposed. What is important is to have the national independent machinery to bring this about. I believe the Government’s clear responsibility in the light of the Woodward Royal Commission and the Williams Royal Commission is to deal with these investigations of possible breaches of Federal law and to deal with levels of corruption which are apparent. The first responsibility in this regard at the moment lies squarely with the Premier of New South Wales. He has the responsibility as Premier to see that investigations either by his own State royal commission or his State police force, or whoever it happens to be, are conducted into allegations made about State politicians, about his own political party, about Peter Baldwin, about Marrickville, about Leichhardt, about the preselections, about the people suspended and their connections, and about their being booked as people guilty of consorting and all the rest of it. Those matters need to be investigated in New South Wales.
This thing goes wider than New South Wales; it goes wider than Australia. It needs the sort of national impetus which I have called for this evening, lt is only if we permit political corruption to remain at the level that it is at the moment that we will assume a responsibility for the death of tens of thousands of the victims of the illegal drug trade in Australia. 1 believe the Government now has a clear responsibility to act quickly and decisively.
– lt was not my intention to enter this debate until 1 heard Senator Puplick speak. I noticed in the course of his remarks that it was the President himself who drew Senator Puplick ‘s attention to Standing Order 418, which says:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives—
I emphasise this part of the Standing Order - and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I was going to take objection under that Standing Order to what Senator Puplick has said. I decided to let him go to see whether he added anything new to this air of sensationalism that is going around Sydney and that is being encouraged on the political grapevine. But what he said was merely a rehash of all of the things that we have read in the Daily Telegraph, the Bulletin and the Daily Mirror and all of these newspapers that are seeking sensationalism. I did not hear him say that one of his colleagues in another place, Mr Aldred, has been collecting information on crime activities in Victoria and that the Deputy Premier of Victoria, Mr Thompson, has been saying that so far as the Victorian Government is concerned these matters are in the hands of the police. He did not mention one thing about any State other than the State of New South Wales and the great city of Sydney.
I am suggesting that Senator Puplick’s intention was not to express his concern and his abhorrence at the drug trade, but merely to make sheer political capital for his own personal gain at the forthcoming election. I f Senator Puplick is prepared to say outside this place anything he has had to say in this place by all means let him say it. I suggest to him that he listen to what the Minister for Police and Minister for Services in the New South Wales Parliament said today in response to questions that were asked of him at Question Time in the New South Wales Parliament. Mr Crabtree said that it was the New South Wales Government that established the Woodward Royal Commission, that the Woodward Royal Commission reported to the Government and that Government tabled the report in the Parliament. Certain accusations were made again in the Parliament and it was the New South Wales Government that reopened the Woodward Royal Commission.
– A Labor Government.
Labor Government. But Senator Puplick mentioned something that happened in New South Wales in 1973 or 1974. What was done in 1973 or 1974 in reply to the allegations that were made at that time and what sort of government was in office at that time? Might I say that in respect of the Baldwin affair the New South Wales Government, irrespective of the political matters that are involved, has said that in the interests of justice it will be referred to the police for inquiries to be made; and the police are conducting those inquiries. If Senator Puplick or any of his colleagues have anything that might add to or assist the police in those inquiries I suggest they make their accusations to the police authorities. Senator Puplick’s coming into this Parliament and levelling accusations and charges or making imputations against Mr Degen and Mr Johnstone, the member for Broken Hill and the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, Mr Walker, is one of the most contemptible and one of the lowest things that I have seen in this Parliament. He does not have the courage to say these things outside where he is not protected by the privilege of this Parliament. If he is not prepared to do even that I suggest he go to the police authorities in New South Wales to make a statement so that they can further investigate the matter.
Incidentally, he mentioned the fact that two members of the Federal Parliament were supposed to be at some function at which a prominent international footballer was in attendance, yet he did not have the courage to say who those two members of the Federal Parliament were. He leaves an imputation against every member of this
Parliament. If he wants to name anyone, let him get up and name him so that every member of this Parliament can defend himself. I think Senator Puplick is interested not so much in overcoming the drug problem as he is in raising the matter for sheer political advantage and gain. I believe the Parliament of this nation should show the contempt for him that I have shown.
– I rise very briefly to endorse the remarks by Senator Douglas McClelland because this evening for the first time 1 have come to lose my respect for Senator Puplick. I am sure he has lost the respect of this side of the House and maybe of some members on the Government benches also because in a cause with which we can all agree, namely the need to root out any police or political corruption involved in the sustaining of a trade which does destroy our young people in particular, he has sought to bring into this chamber quite unsubstantiated allegations the context of which 1 by interjection drew attention to in the course of his speech and to which Senator McClelland has drawn attention.
I made a note of at least three allegations. The first was, of course, the reflection on the integrity of the Attorney-General of New South Wales. Senator Puplick clearly suggested that the first law officer in the State of New South Wales might bring such undue pressure to bear on the Corporate Affairs Commission that it would be disabled from making a proper judgment as to the validity of a document purporting to issue from the Attorney-General to a Swiss bank in order to establish banking facilities in Switzerland. That I find to be a completely slanderous statement and one to which the President himself drew Senator Puplick’s attention. Senator Puplick then defended himself by saying that he was only quoting from the Hansard record of an equally unscrupulous attack in the New South Wales Parliament.
Secondly, he made remarks about members of the New South Wales Parliament. 1 think they were Messrs Degen and Johnstone. Senator Puplick said they had gone to Manila. He did not know for what purpose but said: ‘They knew the company that they were keeping’. I interjected at that point and said that Senator Puplick should outline that purpose rather than leave a completely unsubstantiated slur in the air.
As I have said, it is all in the context of political corruption’s sustaining of drug trafficking. I make no comment on whether those members of parliament were involved in such corruption. It may be that a proper investigation will enable this Senate to make a judgment as to that. But my interjection was that this should be substantiated, that the purpose that Senator Puplick had in mind ought to be outlined to the Senate. He said he would do so later in his speech. He did not do so. He merely said that the Manila meetings need to be investigated. Senator Puplick said: ‘I believe it was to do with drugs’. That is the sum total of his substantiating the purpose of these two members of the New South Wales Parliament in going to Manila, if indeed they did go to Manila, in the company of known criminals.
– Let him give the information to the police.
– Exactly. If that purpose is known to Senator Puplick, then let him place that evidence in the proper hands.
I turn to the third note I made. As Senator Douglas McClelland also pointed out, having painted a picture of political corruption, having talked about the possibility of deals being done under cover of meals in particularly posh restaurants - I think Senator Puplick named the Pavilion du Pare in New South Wales - having set that scene where corrupt dealings may be made in social settings, he said: ‘Two members of the Federal Parliament were present at such a social function, maybe only in a social capacity but that might best be established by a judicial tribunal’. He left that in the air and went on to some other remark of an equally slanderous nature. As Senator McClelland has pointed out, that leaves a very serious allegation against every member of this Federal Parliament unless those two members are named, if Senator Puplick has the courage to do so. His courage would really be tested of course by his naming them outside this chamber.
My remarks are merely in quick response to what 1 thought was a most disgraceful performance by Senator Puplick in taking advantage of the very real concern of this chamber, which has been expressed on many occasions, at the fact that our youth are constantly being drawn into a semicriminal drug culture where they are alienated from their families, from society and particularly from law enforcement authorities. This whole Senate wishes to respond on their behalf. We want to build what the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare called a society which is not a drug ridden society. Society is becoming drug ridden. Senator Puplick has taken advantage of that general concern of this chamber to make serious unsubstantiated allegations against members of another parliament and against members of this Parliament, and for that reason I consider Senator Puplick to be condemned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report of Public Works Committee: Government Response
Debate resumed from 1 April, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
– I am pleased to take this opportunity to continue my speech on the subject of the proposed Australian Defence Force Academy. I will speak briefly because I made the points that were principal to my arguments when I spoke previously. I have no intention of repeating them but some new aspects have come forward since that lime which I believe ought to be stressed. The first is the question of cost. Like the new and permanent parliament house we discussed earlier today,the Australian Defence Force Academy seems to the Australian Democrats to be yet another manifestation of the determination of the Government to devote money in huge quantities to new and grandiose buildings and institutions. The bizarre and tragic thing about this situation is that these sorts of things are being imposed on a nation which has been made miserable, a nation in which millions of its citizens have been plagued with personal problems as a result of bad government. On a reasonable estimate, because of unemployment more than 500,000 people are facing blank walls of despair threatening not only their financial positions but also their morale. It seems to be fashionable now merely to accept that position.
We heard the Treasurer (Mr Howard) say the other day quite cheerfully at the National Press Club that he could not see any way in which unemployment could be improved this year, yet he is the Treasurer of a government which is prepared to spend literally billions of dollars on some manic building programs, mainly in Canberra. This is happening at a time when people in this country who not only bear the burden of ill health also have increased financial worries created by the methodical wrecking of Medibank by this Government. One would have thought that rather than try to build new buildings all over the place the Government would have thought it had a tiny responsibility somewhere to repair the ravages to the Australian community, to try to do something for the millions of Australians who are facing these terrible dilemmas from which they cannot extricate themselves. Surely that is the point, that they cannot extricate themselves. It needs judgment and decision in this place, lt needs action to make these things happen, lt is a cause of great despair to the Australian Democrats and, no doubt, to other people on this side of the Senate that we have again instead this sort of situation.
One could add to the miseries of the nation the worries of thousands of small businessmen and women, all tightening the bell, if not worse: perhaps experiencing the destruction of their reasonable aspirations with the increasing numbers - vast numbers - of bankruptcies in this country. These, I should have thought, were the things which it was the responsibility of the Government to correct, and it could do so if it wished. This, to me, is the most wicked and destructive aspect of this kind of project which is continually being put forward to the Parliament. In totality, if one looks at the position carefully, on realistic costings, billions of dollars will go instead to projects which will do little or nothing to provide new wealth for this nation. I believe honourable senators should not console themselves- I refer lo Senator Evans among others in this instance- by saying that building anything at least provides work for the building industry. One might say we could build a long avenue of columns, such as other builders in the past, in medieval times, have done. Perhaps we could have 50,000 statues between the new and the old parliament houses. This would provide employment, but to what purpose? None whatsoever. The fact is that the same amount of work, and possibly more, would be provided through more useful and constructive projects. I marvel especially at the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to these things when it should know better than anybody else the despair and the degradation that is caused in this country, particularly through the burden of unemployment.
This military academy is part and parcel of a vast imperial design, as far as we can see it, to build another Rome, complete with temples lo every possible kind of god in Canberra.
– A Taj Mahal.
– A Taj Mahal. I heard only yesterday on some radio program that now we are to have a national museum in Canberra at some particular cost. This will add to the High Court, the National Gallery, the new and permanent parliament house, and the military academy. When one looks at the total cost of these things, the total drain they are on the nation, one can see that they are quite appalling. To me, they represent a gross and unforgivable misdirection of government in this coutnry. Why? Why is there this urge on the part of the Government lo build expensive buildings? If one looks at the history, one can see that there is nothing new about it. lt is a typical aberration of the autocrats. One can look at it from the Khmer kings of Angkor Wat lo mad
King Ludwig of Bavaria. They all had this feeling that they had to perpetuate their puny reign of office by building monstrous buildings. It did not matter what it cost. Somehow the society would be grateful to be compelled to contribute, willingly or not, to these great buildings.
I had a very strange feeling when somebody said during the previous debate on the new and permanent parliament house that the people of Australia were looking forward with eager anticipation to the completion of the new parliament house. I am quite sure that the 500,000 unemployed people would have many preoccupations other than that, although 1 think they would be not in the least inclined to be interested or to be concerned in the construction of that building. In fact, I know from talking to a number of them - these were people that perhaps Liberal senators have not yet spoken with - that that is the last thing that they want. They want work and the work that could be provided by new enterprises that could be built in this country. That, Mr Acting Deputy President, is the Australian Democrats’ major objection to this military academy.
The $63m, when I come to look at the Minister’s 1 5 May speech, was the estimate in February 1980 prices. We have to look very carefully at these figures these days because, like the new and permanent parliament house, we have to accept the idea that the price will go up a cool 50 per cer.t in a matter of a few months. A mere $70m or so. In this case we could say that when they really got down to it - Senator Evans and his architectsand had a really good look at it, then, of course, it would not be $63m, it would be closer to $10Om Even that is only an estimate. We know these estimates go up and up and up and up. ls this academy necessary or even desirable for other reasons? The Australian Democrats dispute that too. The Australian Democrats have the hope that citizens of Australia may, in future, like the people of Switzerland, come willingly to wish to be a part of this country’s defence forces as reservists. I think this is a stage of development which will come when the idea is finally removed from the public imagination, as indeed it should be, that military service in peacetime can be compelled on a free country by some form of conscription. That nightmare has not yet left this country, and I suggest that until it does we will not have a situation like healthy societies have, such as they have in Switzerland where citizens are proud to bear arms, where they take their rifles home with them on the weekend and polish them. Those people are members of a free society which introduced the idea of military training on themselves. I suggest that is the only way that that could happen. Are we to help this by encouraging a military elite? I would have thought not. It would be the best way not to encourage that kind of healthy situation in society. I would think that that would be encouraged by free interchange at all levels of service officers with the community at large. It is particularly important that service officers in training should be able to mingle with other members of the community and come to undertand the community at the most impressionable time Of their lives; when they are young, when they are idealistic and when they are going to university. This is no the time to take them away, to shut them up in a specialist academy and train them to be a kind of elite, a kind of special group, which is different from the rest of society. ls that the Government’s intention? I would have liked to have thought that it was not so, but when I look at the speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) at the time, it is full of statements of that kind. The Attorney-General staled:
The Minister then stated:
It certainly is contested by us. The statement goes on:
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.
I find it an absolutely preposterous statement that we should consider that there is to be a group of guardians, a sort of military elite, who are to sei themselves standards of loyalty, responsibility, discipline and dedication, alien to and different from what is common in the community itself.
– It smacks of Chile at the present time.
– Indeed it does. I will come to that point in a moment, Senator. Loyalty to whom? Responsibility to whom? Discipline to what end? Dedication to what ideal? What this speech says to us is that they are to be dedicated to a narrow concept which is bred into them and trained into them in a specialist military academy. I think when one looks at specialist military academies in Indonesia and in various other countries, in South American countries particularly, they are the notorious creations of dictatorships or would-be dictatorships. Perhaps their most significant achievement is a military academy of just the type which is proposed to us. Free nations are better off without that kind of thing, and I suggest we are far better ofl” without it here. So there is no question of our getting it or needing it, even if it cost us nothing, but of course it will cost us a large amount of money, lt is to be done in style, like everything else, lt will have money poured into it. That has been made abundantly plain.
What about the present situation? The Minister later mentioned, rather to my surprise, as an argument for his own case, that the co-operation of the University of New South Wales with the Royal Military College has been very successful. The Vice-Chancel lor stated:
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 education program for the preparation of defence force officers.
I should have thought that was a description of the status quo. It is. That is what has been happening. I have known young officers who have been at the University of New South Wales. 1 have had them in my home. My daughter goes to that university. They are learning things and they have said to me that they have and that they like the opportunity of being there as future guardians of the freedom of this country. In every possible sense, it is right that they should mingle with other young people in society.
– A good cross-fertilisation.
– Yes, an excellent crossfertilisation which would make them understand the community and its needs. In a time of need in this country when some mad autocrat wants lo impose his view on us, those men will know to resist that mad autocrat and that it is against the law and good order of this country to encourage him. But granted a military academy it will be another matter. A military academy will do ils best to turn young Australians training as military officers into some kind of blue ant brigade which will do as it is told and who will be loyal to that institution and the people who run it. That is not what we want. We do not want the Strangelove academy. It does not have a name yet but I call it that now - the Strangelove academy. I think that name will stick to it if it ever comes into being and with good reason. We want military officers with a reasonable community orientated style traditional to this country. In my experience the present system has worked very well. Let us stick to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Tourism in the Australian Capital Territory
Debate resumed from 16 April, on motion by Senator Knight:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– Of course, this matter was extensively dealt with in my tabling statement, which outlined the inquiry conducted by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory into the future of the tourist industry in the national capital and also in the statement made in the House of Representatives by the deputy chairman of the Committee, Mr Ken Fry. I would like now simply to refer for the record to a few matters relating to that report, lt is now and 1 think will be, in the future, of considerable importance to the development of the national capital. One of the reasons that the Joint Committee was asked to conduct an inquiry into the future of the tourist industry was that it is seen as an area for major development in the future. There is some controversy about the number of visitors to this city. Indeed there is some controversy about the very definition of ‘visitor’ or ‘tourist’, lt is generally accepted that in the vicinity of 2 million people visit the city as visitors or tourists in the course of each year and that number now seems to be growing again after having levelled off. Obviously an industry that attracts those sorts of numbers to this city offers considerable scope in the terms of business and employment opportunities for the national capital.
It is not unusual that in the course of a parliamentary inquiry measures are taken partly in response to that inquiry and stimulated in part no doubt by proposals put in public hearings to a parliamentary committee. For example, in this case one of the ideas put to the Joint Committee in the course of hearings was that the Australian Capital Territory Tourist Bureau should have offices elsewhere than in Canberra. Most State tourist bureaus, commissions or departments of tourism have public relations or information offices in a number of other capital cities throughout Australia and in some cases, of course, are directly represented overseas in offices established by State governments. This does not happen for Canberra though it does receive a good deal of publicity through Australia’s overseas missions, via Qantas Airways Ltd and by other means by virtue of the fact that it is, of course, the national capital. Nevertheless, it was felt, and its was put lo the
Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the course of its inquiry, that the Tourist Bureau in Canberra should have some representation elsewhere in Australia to expand its efforts in bringing people to the capital and publicising Canberra.
The obvious first choice for such an office was and is Sydney because it is the major centre of population in Australia and it is also the major gateway for international visitors. This was put to the Committee and long before the Committee had reported an office in fact was opened by the Government in the centre of Sydney. That office is already playing a significant part in the development of the tourist industry in the Territory and in the promotion of Canberra in Australia’s major centre of population and point of arrival for international visitors. 1 add that one of the recommendations made by the Joint Committee is that consideration should be given to opening such offices elsewhere in Australia to assist with the development and promotion of the development of the tourist industry here and the promotion of the national capital as a tourist destination for Australians and also for international visitors who may be entering Australia through ports other than Sydney, such as Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and, of course, Brisbane. The Joint Committee recommended that the next such office might best be opened in Melbourne as it is the second major population centre in Australia and the second major port of entry for international visitors.
In the course of this week’s Budget for this financial year a number of measures were announced that in fact respond directly to that report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. One of the recommendations the Committee made was that a good deal more should be put into funds for promotion of the national capital as a tourist destination. In fact, funds for promotion have been increased from $1 15,000 last year to $225,000 this financial year, which is almost double last year’s amount. I have no doubt that there will be further scope for increasing funds for promotion but that is I think a very important beginning, lt gives some proper recognition at this stage to the need for more effective and perhaps in many respects more professional promotion of the national capital around Australia and beyond, lt is only with adequate resources that the people responsible in this area will be able to provide more effective and more professional promotional material.
In addition, the announcement that the Government will proceed with the new airport terminal in Canberra is also relevant to the Joint Committee’s report. In this year’s Budget there is $60,000 for works at Canberra Airport. But I think it is generally conceded that Canberra Airport, for a national capital, is little short of a disgrace and is inadequate for the number of passengers now arriving in and departing from Canberra. It is also inadequate for the number of international visitors who come to this city. Of course, in inclement weather it is, to say the least, terribly inadequate. In this year’s Budget a commitment is given to construct the new airport terminal which was recommended by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
I mention finally that very substantial funds are provided in this year’s Budget- as 1 recall, it is $325,000 - for the Canberra Development Board to further its efforts at bringing private industry and investment to the national capital. There is little doubt that a good deal of that, in one way or another, will be associated with the tourist industry and there will be spin-offs in many areas for the development of the tourist industry in the ACT. I think that also ought to be recognised as a contribution in this year’s Budget to the development of the tourist industry in Australia’s national capital. 1 hope that the Australian Capital Territory Tourist Bureau or whatever body in future controls, administers and develops the tourist industry in this Territory, will open an office in Melbourne in the not too distant future. The Joint Committee also suggested that a commission be established to administer and develop the tourist industry in the Territory rather than the existing Bureau. I will not go into that matter in detail at this point except to say that I hope that that commission or the Bureau in the not too distant future will have an office in Melbourne through which to carry out and extend its activities. In addition, as I have already indicated, I hope that in the not too distant future even more resources are available for the promotion of the national capital as a tourist resort. I hope that even more resources will be available for promotion both within Australia and internationally so that Canberra increasingly will be placed on the agenda for international package tours. I hope it will be promoted by the various promoters, including our institutions and agencies, such as Qantas Airways Ltd and the Australian Information Service, to attract international visitors to the national capital.
In passing I make the point that the Joint Committee expressed some disappointment at the nature of the displays available in this Parliament House, lt suggested that those displays really are not up to standard and that they might be more effective in explaining the operations of the Parliament and the work of its members. We hope that perhaps special attention will be given to that in the development of the new parliament house so that Australian citizens visiting Parliament House- I make the point that roughly 600,000 people visit this Parliament each year - will be able to go away with a much clearer idea of how this Parliament works and what its members are doing. The honourable member for Canberra, Mr John Haslem, has made a number of suggestions on how this might be done. For example, people who visit this House feel some uncertainty when they come into this chamber at a time such as this and see one senator speaking and very few other senators in the chamber, lt is difficult for people to understand that many members might be attending party meetings, or other committee meetings, meeting constituents, working in the library, or preparing speeches. Most of them probably are listening to this debate, but it is very difficult to explain that to visitors.
– Shall I test it and call for a quorum?
– Perhaps we should call for a quorum for the gallery some time. It would be helpful if those things could be explained. For example, the honourable member for Canberra, in his usual innovative style, has suggested that we should have a theatrette in which to show a film to people who have been in the chamber to indicate to them that, although not many members of Parliament might be in the chamber, the other members are still performing parliamentary functions. I give that simply as an example of what might happen and of what might be kept in mind particularly when thinking of the new parliament house. As we all know, the expenditure of funds on this building must now be restricted in view of the fact that so much by way of resources will be going into building the new and badly needed permanent parliament house.
The Joint Committee mentioned just a couple of other matters. One was the need to improve access roads to Canberra. Most of the visitors who come to Canberra - I think it is in the vicinity of 90 per cent of them - come by road. Many of the access roads, including King’s Highway and Hume Highway, are not adequate. The Joint Committee suggested that there should be a means for the Commonwealth to assist, perhaps through consultation with State governments, in upgrading those access roads to the national capital, be they from the north, the south, the east or the west - to the snow, to the coast, to the west or lo Sydney.
Another matter mentioned by the Joint Committee was the need lo establish Canberra more firmly as a symbol of Australia’s federation and national unity. We believe that that would follow, for example, from more effective promotion and also from some of the suggestions I have made about what might be done in this Parliament House. Similar action might be taken elsewhere to help Australians in particular but also others who visit this city to appreciate what the Government and its advisers do, how they do it and how they serve the community.
Finally, 1 simply point out that the Joint Committee’s report was tabled in March this year. Under the existing rules the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) and other relevant Ministers will be required to respond to that report next month which will be six months after the tabling of the report. 1 understand that the Minister for the Capital Territory hopes to be able lo respond within the six-months period or not loo long thereafter. The Joint Committee will look forward to his response to see what further measures the Government has in mind to implement the many recommendations made by the Joint Committee in its report on tourism.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Sixty-ninth Series of Variations
Debate resumed from 17 April, on motion by Senator Georges:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Annual Reports Referred to Committee
Debate resumed from 22 April, on motion by Senator Mulvihill:
That the Senate take note ofthe statement.
– My recapitulation on this subject will not be lengthy. I think that the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment did attempt to nudge the Government in relation to its presentation and construction of certain reports. One matter that bears repetition is that of the format of certain reports which deal with land acquisition under the fauna conservation legislation. In those reports we seem to be given a diagram and very little else. I believe that those reports should be fleshed out. When a grant for the acquisition of land is made to a State the report should contain an explanation of the type of habitat the land is needed for.
The other matter I want to deal with concerning government reports is my belief that a number of departments are extremely lagging in their approach. 1 refer particularly to the Industrial Relations Bureau. I believe this has been a recurring theme in employment and industrial matters. In the next week or so we will face the duties associated with Estimates committees. Every time we do this the reports from the departments and organisations of a number of key portfolios are very slow in coming. I do not wish to canvass debate on this, but the schedule for the sittings of Estimates committees announced by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) probably is a much tighter schedule than we have had in previous years, lt will make a mockery of effective Estimates committee proceedings if some of the key reports are not available when the Estimates committees meet. 1 know that I harp on the Industrial Relations Bureau. When the changing of the guard, as it were, came about and the IRB was formed, some of us wanted a Commonwealth arbitration inspectorate report. We got it in a mixed form. We were told that that was because functions in the IRB were being consolidated.
A host of reports is involved. There is nothing more exasperating, not merely in an election year, than to (ind, when examination of the Estimates has just about been completed, that some of the reports have just arrived. In this age of technological change in the printing field, I see no reason for our being unable to step up considerably the transmission to the Senate of those reports. I think the rest of the comments made in the report result from an in-depth study. I know that some progress has been made, but I always believe that a litmus test is applied to the timing of presentation and construction of reports when those reports have to be used in conjunction with the scrutiny undertaken by Estimates committees.
– I raise a matter which I intended to raise if we debated the matter relating to the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders. I wanted to speak at length in that debate, but I can now use the occasion of this debate on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment to express my concern at the way in which the Chairman of that Committee is using the Committee for political purposes.
– That is nonsense.
– When 1 read the extract I have of a newspaper article Senator MacGibbon might change his mind.
– I’ve been at all the meetings of that Committee. That is nonsense.
- Senator MacGibbon is not aware of what I am saying. When 1 have quoted from this Press release perhaps he will hold a different attitude about what 1 said, namely, that the Chairman of that Committee does use his position as chairman–
- Senator, it is necessary that you bear in mind the requirements of Standing Order 418 with regard to saying anything offensive.
– Yes, Mr President. I will quote from the article and use Senator Jessop ‘s own words. The article which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of Friday, 20 June 1980 is headed: ‘New threat to river: Jessop’, lt is written by the science writer, Barry Hailstone, lt states:
Expansion of irrigation in NSW could lead to increased salinity in the River Murray, Senator Jessop said yesterday.
Senator Jessop said that on 19 June. 1 will not quote the whole of this news item. I am concerned about only one part of it. Senator Jessop is quoted by Mr Barry Hailstone as saying that his Committee was preparing a report to the Federal Government which recommended salinity control measures which would involve spending more than $75m in five years.
Perhaps Senator MacGibbon can tell me in the absence of Senator Jessop whether in fact his Committee has discussed that matter and whether it is compiling a report recommending to the Federal Government that it expend $75m over five years. Can Senator MacGibbon answer me and say that the Committee is actually doing that? I know he cannot because I have spoken to other members of the Science and Environment Committee. That matter is not even before the Committee. It has not been discussed. No report is in preparation to be tabled or printed. Even if it were, under the Standing Orders of the Parliament, no member of any standing committee of the Parliament is legally able to divulge publicly what is in a report until it becomes a public document by its tabling in the Parliament.
– But the report was presented on Murray River salinity.
– No report was prepared which recommended the expenditure referred to in the newspaper article. Senator MacGibbon has just said that a report was prepared and tabled in the Senate. Of course, on 20 June when this statement was made the Senate was not sitting. The Senate sat this week. No report has been tabled in the last three days recommending to the Government an expenditure of $75m on salinity control.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order under Standing Order 418. I find the behaviour and utterances of the honourable senator offensive to the chairman of a Senate standing and legislative committee. The Science and Environment Committee prepared a report last year on the salinity of the Murray River. I think it is a gross exaggeration by the honourable senator lo claim that the Chairman of that Committee exceeded his authority in any way al all. 1 ask the honourable senator to retract and be silent.
– Imputations or inferences against any honourable senator are not allowed under the Standing Orders.
– I am not casting any inferences. I am quoting from a statement by the Chairman. I think I made that perfectly clear. I have no intention of retracting.
Senator MacGibbon 1 raise a further point of order. Senator McLaren is quoting from an article in a newspaper by a journalist. I have forgotten the reference he made. That is not a point of law. He is attacking the character of the Chairman of the Science and Environment Committee. That is a very serious matter. He cannot hide behind what a journalist might have said in some newspaper. That is not evidence in any way.
– Anything which another person has said which is not within the ambit of that which is allowed in this place cannot be quoted in this place. Even though another person uttered those words they still retain an expression which an honourable senator finds offensive in respect of a colleague. Senator MacGibbon has taken offence. Senator McLaren, will you retract the inference which was inherent in what you were saying? It was an attack on the integrity of a chairman of a committee.
– 1 did not think that I attacked his integrity. All I did was express my concern that the Chairman of that Committee could put out Press statements about a committee report which has not yet been tabled in the Parliament.
– -Have you seen his Press statement?
– I have seen the article.
– That is not his Press statement.
– It is what he is quoted as saying. If Senator Jessop comes into the Parliament next week and says to me that he did not make that statement I will retract what I have said. In the meantime, I shall contact Mr Barry Hailstone. Either he has printed a misleading and defamatory statement or Senator Jessop has made a statement to the public which is incorrect. I know the Standing Orders. I had occasion to run foul of them myself once in the Parliament when the Labor Party was in government. I quoted some words that were said at a committee meeting but the person who said them denied that he had done so. I was threatened with being taken before the Privileges Committee. That did not eventuate. Senator MacGibbon, in asking me to retract, cannot say to me that any report has been tabled in the Parliament, or is in preparation by the Committee of which he is a member, which recommends to the Government an expenditure of $75m over five years for the control of salinity in the River Murray. I only wish it were. I would support it. Senator MacGibbon cannot say that a report to that effect has been tabled or is in preparation to be tabled. I leave it at that. 1 will take up the matter next week if Senator Jessop says to me that I have misled the Senate and defamed him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Australian Representation Overseas Government Response: Ministerial Statement
Debate resumed from 22 April, on motion by Senator Georges:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– This report has been responded to by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). Members of the Committee -for example, Senator Sibraa, the Chairman and I - have raised some issues in relation to that response. Some have been dealt with, others have not. I make the point that since this matter went onto the Notice Paper the Government’s response has been received. There are those of us who feel that some areas in it were not entirely satisfactory. Those are being pursued. Therefore, al this stage the matter is well down the track from the position when the report was first tabled.
– This item on the Notice Paper indicates that I am to continue the debate but I merely wished to place the matter on the Notice Paper so that it could be debated. Since no one wishes to speak to the matter 1 certainly do not wish to add anything. We have reached the end of the business listed on the sheet for today. I suggest that as one, two or three people wish to speak on the adjournment we move the adjournment and allow those who wish to speak to state their cases. If the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) who is in the chamber agrees we can move to the adjournment at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I rise because of the comments and the suggestion which Senator Georges has made. 1 do not know how long this session of the Parliament will be. I am always concerned when any suggestion is made that would, in any way, whether for good or bad motives, deprive us of senators’ business time. Tonight, for reasons which the Senate thought appropriate, we delayed the beginning of the General Business debate. We did so to complete some parliamentary business. Towards the end of the last session of Parliament we passed motions to allow Government Business to take precedence over General Business. From listening to rumours in the community I think the same thing could happen again. I am concerned that we have an opportunity tonight to discuss a number of orders of the day which people have been waiting to do. I understand Senator Georges’ point that there are people anxious to speak on the adjournment and that some senators who may wish to speak are being sought. But if we finish the debate on General Business early tonight it may be very difficult to debate General Business on many other occasions. 1 notice that SenatorKeeffe has arrived in the chamber. I am just concerned that while we have the opportunity we should continue with as many matters of General Business and Orders of the Day as we can.
– by leave - It is fairly obvious that because of a variety of factors we have completed the business contained in the Order of Business. I think it is quite unfair to proceed beyond Order of Business to the Notice Paper because quite a number of honourable senators are not prepared to commence other matters, although the Order of Business does indicate that we will do so if we complete the business. I do not think it is possible to go back to the business that we by-passed today - that is, the debate on the Estimates committees - because we agreed to take that matter up next week. Could I put to the Government Whip that we should take advantage of the progress which has been made today. We should be satisfied with it and should take into consideration the fact that the Senate Estimates committees - no matter what the Opposition wants or desires - will sit during the recess week. Let us take the opportunity of allowing the adjournment debate to proceed. We have, 1 think, three speakers on the adjournment debate who could take us right through until about 10.45 tonight. I think we should be satisfied with that. 1 do not think the Government Whip’s intention is to take us through until 12 p.m. I put the case - I do not want it to be held against me; I doubt that it will be - that we should proceed to the adjournment debate.
– by leave - We have made progress on the Orders of the Day. As Senator Georges has said, a number of matters have been dealt with. Senator Baume drew attention to other items which are still ahead of us. 1 think that is understood by everyone. In view of the comments of Senator Georges, and taking into account Senator Baume’s remarks, I shall move that the Senate do now adjourn.
Motion (by Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a number of matters in this adjournment debate tonight in relation to the Noonkanbah issue in Western Australia. I do not intend to go into all of the matters, but 1 do intend to raise some of those that I think are important which are perhaps being hidden from people in the eastern States of Australia. 1 believe a number of wrongs have been committed by a number of people, including Ministers, the Western Australian Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner of Transport. I do not include police officers at this stage because it is pretty normal that they could be seen to be obeying orders of either the Police Minister or the Commissioner of Police.
I want to talk about the activities of the Police Commissioner for a moment because honourable senators will remember that this is the same Police Commissioner who frequently speaks on law and order issues and then completely disregards ordinary regulations when it suits his purpose. This is the same Police Commissioner who, at a police graduation ceremony in March this year, warned the police cadets that the real criminals - I am using his words - in our society are the protesters and demonstrators, not to mention the strikers. His remarks are contained in a publication of the West Australian of 29 March. It is generally regarded as a conservative newspaper, as honourable senators would know. The article stated:
Police Commissioner Leitch told the graduates that they were entering an era when strikes, protests and demonstrations were prevalent and even accepted by some people as a democratic right, with virtually no concept of responsibility, decency and the civil rights of the public generally.
He said: ‘Unfortunately, this anti-social behaviour will probably continue and even worsen, and with this continuance or further deterioration of standards the role of the police will become increasingly difficult’.
The Premier, Sir Charles Court, not to be outdone by his Police Commissioner, warned those same graduates that the most dangerous enemy they would face was the political or social activist. He said that these people were evil. Those comments, naturally, were severely criticised by a large number of West Australians. Even the conservative West Australian wrote an editorial on the matter. On 2 April, under the heading ‘Voice of protest’ the editorial stated:
The Premier and the Police Commissioner deserve the public criticism they are getting for their joint attack last week on the voice of protest. Their remarks to police graduates were unfair and inflammatory, almost frightening in their unqualified conservatism.
I remind honourable senators that this is a very conservative newspaper. The article continues:
Sir Charles Court’s use of the word evil to describe political and social activists was particularly ill-advised. And Mr Leitch’s comment about strikes, protests and demonstrations suggested intolerance of the principles of democracy. lt was ludicrous for the Premier to tell tomorrow’s policemen that the greatest enemy they would face was the political or social activist. As recent physical attacks on the Prime Minister have shown, there are people in the community who protest violently and who must be forcibly resisted. There are also those dedicated to the undoing of the nation’s democratic structure. But it is a huge leap from elements of that sort to people at the other end of the activist scale who simply disagree with certain things governments do - people, for example, who think that Amax Petroleum should not be drilling on Noonkanbah station, that passenger trains should be running between Perth and Fremantle and that Section 54b ofthe Police Act is unnecessarily restrictive. Right or wrong, they are not evil people; they are merely concerned citizens.
Even in the distinction he allows between genuinely concerned people and those whom he alleges make use of them. Sir Charles cannot lay down the broad brush of admonishment. Contrary to the view he expressed, there are people genuinely concerned about social and political issues and who do not lose sight of the needs and interests of the total community. lt is precisely those needs and interests which such people are seeking to serve.
Sir Charles speaks ofthe total community and Mr Leitch of the silent majority as though there is a vast amorphous section of the population that is never in conflict with governments and never needs to listen to individuals motivated by conscience or inventiveness. What a poor world it would be if the total community’ had won out against history’s long succession of lone reformers - the opponents of slavery, child labour and all the other inequalities and injustices we now recognise for the social evils they were.
Honourable senators may have noticed that the Police Commissioner referred only to those protesters and demonstrators as being criminals. He is not reported as having expressed any concern that Western Australia has one of the highest rates of unsolved corporate crime in the nation. He is not reported as having expressed concern that we have unsolved murders on the books in the State, some of which date back many years, or as being concerned for those women who are raped; those children who are bashed; the people who suffer at the hand of criminals or even the high number of prison escapees. He simply expressed the view that the real criminals in our society are the strikers, the protesters and demonstrators.
Whilst he constantly appears in the media in Western Australia as a mouth for the Government, talking about law and order issues, what do we find is his role in the Noonkanbah invasion? That is the only name for it. It is an invasion and an assault on the dignity and the pride of the Yungngora community and the Aboriginal people as a whole. We do not find the Police Commissioner’s role as one of law and order but rather one of confrontation and hostility, lt is a role which could be said to border on the law breaker rather than the law enforcer. I question the role of the Police Commissioner, Mr Leitch, as 1 question the role of the Commissioner of Transport and the Police Minister in the whole debacle at Noonkanbah. In the first instance I believe we have a right to question how new number plates were issued to the people who elected to drive the convoy of trucks to Noonkanbah. We have been told that those new plates were issued as a matter of protection and that they were issued to the Commissioner of Transport through the Road Traffic Authority. I do not question that they were. That is the only place registration plates can be obtained, but I question why they were issued. I question why those few individuals were selected and permitted, perhaps even given the right, to have a privilege that is not extended to other people in the community. For instance, we were told that the trucks were being issued with new plates so that the drivers could not be harassed at a later stage. I would suggest that any number of people in the community could consider that they could be harassed. Very few people in this place or in the other place could not quite justifiably say that at some time they were being harassed by members of their constituencies.
– Not by the police.
– 1 am not talking about the police. The police are not suggesting that the harassment of the drivers was going to be by the police. They are suggesting that the harassment was going to be by other people. That is why it was necessary to issue the drivers with a separate set of plates. I put it to the Senate that when someone registers a motor vehicle in any State he is issued with a set of registration plates and there is a regulation which provides that he display that set at all times. In fact, 1 imagine that if someone endeavoured to get a replacement set he would have to provide some evidence that the original set had been stolen or that he had lost them. He would probably be required to sign a statutory declaration to that effect or to produce the plates in such a damaged condtion that we were able to establish that they were not legible. But for the Noonkanbah convoy the Road Traffic Authority was only too happy to provide the 45 or 54 trucks - I am not sure of the figure; there have been a number of reports about the number of trucks in the convoy - with separate plates.
The second question that arises is whether in fact even those plates were attached to the vehicles. A number of people in the community have raised the question of whether there were registration plates both at the front and at the rear of the vehicles. In the television film that I saw and in the newspaper photographs that 1 saw I did not discern any number plates at all except in one case. On the one occasion that I did I would say that a deliberate attempt had been made to mask that plate. That is breaking a regulation that applies in all States. As I have already said, when a person registers a vehicle he gets a set of plates that are supposed to be on view, attached to his vehicle at all tiimes. Yet this massive convoy otrucks carrying a drilling rig goes thousands of kilometres to the north of Western Australia in company with some 14 police cars. One might suggest that in view of that fact they were being encouraged by the police to break those regulations. I question whether that is a blatant disregard for regulations on the part of the Commissioner for Police and those people in our society who are supposed to be the upholders of the law. What would happen if at any time a private motorist endeavoured to drive his or her motor vehicle with the number plates either partially or wholly disguised? I do not think I would get to the end of the block before I was told to have the matter rectified. But here we find that the drivers of a large number of very large vehicles were able to do so.
As I said, we saw this police convoy, which was presumably acting on the orders of the Commissioner of Police. One newspaper report suggested that he was even in the convoy. He has acknowledged that he thought it was a right and proper thing to do either by his silence on the matter or by his consent to the issuing of these plates and the possible disguising of these plates on the trucks. We have already heard, as 1 said earlier, that this Commissioner of Police said that the most dangerous element in our society comprises those people who disagree with governments’ decisions and demand the right to say so. I might just say from a personal point of view that freedom of speech is not an easy thing to come by in Western Australia, as I found a few weeks ago.
Tonight I question the role that is being played by Mr Rick New. I do not think we need to study his role too deeply. I do nol think very many people in Western Australia were surprised lo find that he was involved in this warlike activity. His attitudes have been well known in Western Australia for a long period. He is anti-unionist; 1 think he would, if he had the opportunity, exploit his labour, and he has endeavoured on a number of occasions to set up strike-breaking organisations. Of course, the one which is now operated by Mr Don Thomas is really Mr News organisation and everybody is well aware of that fact. The Australian Financial Review of 8 August gave ils reading public the following information:
Mr New has been prominent in a number of attempts to set up organisations opposed to unions and to establish a strikebreaking group.
In the same article the Minister for Mines, Mr Jones, is quoted as having said that the yard of the Midland Brick Co. - that is the yard controlled by Mr Rick New - had been used because it was convenient. I suppose that it would be very ‘convenient’ to have property controlled by a unionhating, strike-breaking person when operations of this covert nature were being undertaken. The Minister, of course, claimed that the convoy had left at night so that the drivers would have the maximum daylight hours for loading the rig. That raises another question in my mind. When that convoy was on its way north, were the drivers abiding by the laws that say they must not drive more than 14 hours out of 24 hours? They were starting at daylight in the north of Western Australia. I would suggest that that would be about 6 o’clock in the morning. The television film that 1 saw late one evening showed the trucks in the convoy arriving at Noonkanbah with their headlights on, which would suggest that it was after dusk and may well have been as late as 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night. So perhaps even that regulation was being disregarded.
The Minister went on to say that there was nothing secretive about the operation. I would suggest that that is a gross distortion of the truth. lt was a secretive operation. It had to be, because there was strong opposition throughout the community to the proposed drilling on Noonkanbah. The damage that has been done will not be forgotten by the majority of people in Western Australia in their lifetimes. It certainly will not be forgotten by the Aboriginal communities. It is interesting to note that in the newspaper comment and the television comment throughout Australia not one section of the media has suggested that it was a right or proper thing to do.
The harassment of the Yungngora community goes back quite some way. Honourable senators might recall that in 1970 or perhaps in 1971 members of the community left the property Noonkanbah when it was being managed by white people who had no concern, no consideration and, perhaps one could say, very little understanding of the Aboriginal lifestyle. They then went into another remote community at Fitzroy Crossing. I call it a remote community because it is extremely difficult through communications to establish that one is part ofthe Australian community when one is at Fitzroy Crossing. This group of Aboriginals went to Fitzroy Crosssing and became fringe dwellers. They were not quite acceptable to the other communities there because they had no land. There was a hotel at Fitzroy which was a very convenient place for the Aboriginals to go to get drunk if they had the price of a drink. Then, from memory, in 1976 - the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) might like to correct me at a later stage- the Federal Government gave them back Noonkanbah, their land, their property.
The Aboriginal community has done a quite tremendous job in trying to make a go at running this pastoral station. They are running cattle; I think they are self-supportive for something like four months of the year; they have kept their community together; they have got rid of the problem of alcohol that developed to a very large extent when they were at Fitzroy Crossing; and they have returned to a lifestyle that they enjoy and that they can cater for. Many people in that community - I have spoken to a number of them over some years now - can remember when their parents were shot by white people. They can remember when the laws of the State allowed white people to take their children away from them and when it appeared that the very bodies which were supposed to be affording them some form of protection - that is, the State and Federal government departments and instrumentalities that were set up for their benefit - were in actual fact letting them down and acting more against their interests than in them. Of course, there is bound to be in a situation like that some resentment of or perhaps some apprehension about people who are there to enforce the law.
I have mentioned in this place on a previous occasion a particular police officer who, I felt, was taking advantage of his position and who really did not have an understanding of the Aboriginal. That situation has now been resolved. I firmly believe that a majority of police who work in areas where there is a large proportion of Aboriginal people in the community have a positive understanding and a positive consideration for the difference between their life style and ours. At the same time there is nevertheless a certain amount of apprehension when a black person is confronted by a white person particularly if the white person is in uniform. The uniform denotes authority. Because the Aborigines are not accustomed to their own law enforcers walking around in uniform or dressed in any manner which is different from that in which they dress, they find this a little bit frightening.
I wonder whether members of this chamber can understand just what that situation must have been like for those people of the Yungngora community who were concerned that their rights were being disregarded. They had believed that true and meaningful negotiations were taking place and they suddenly found themselves confronted by a veritable wall of authority. Honourable senators will remember that, a few weeks prior to the drilling rig having left Perth to go to Noonkanbah, a water drill had already been taken there. A cyclone wire fence with a razor wire topping had been installed. The Aboriginal community in the main is not accustomed to having wire fencing around any part of its property. The Aborigine likes to have the feedom to move quite freely from one part of his property to the other. The Aborigines suddenly found themselves confronted by this wall of authority. They were suddenly told that 45 or 50 trucks with a police escort were coming to Noonkanbah to instal the drilling rig. They were, naturally enough, concerned as I was concerned. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs expressed his concern as did people in large numbers in Western Australia. I can imagine that a large proportion of that Yungngora community felt sheer terror because the people did not know what was to happen when the rig got there. I imagine that they felt they had a right to protect their land. I am not talking about sacred sites or sites of significance. If honourable senators would like to speak on that matter, I think 1 can speak as knowledgeably as most other members of this chamber on that subject. 1 could speak, for instance, about the museum reports that have not been issued.
In fact, when I tried to gain a better understanding of both points of view, putting the Aboriginals on the one side and the Government on the other, I wrote to the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mr Grayden. In his years in the Federal Parliament he expressed on a number of occasions his concern for the Aboriginal community and a knowledge of the community and the lifestyle of the Aboriginal. I wrote to him and said that in order for me to better understand the situation I would appreciate his releasing three reports on Noonkanbah to me. He informed me some weeks later that they were not available for distribution but that, if at any time the regulations prohibiting the distribution of these were lifted, he would be certainly only too happy to let me have them. As he is the person responsible for these reports and he is the only person who can release them, I found that more than a little disconcerting. I felt that we were not quite on the same wave length. I endeavoured to ring him on a couple of occasions, but he has made a particular point of not being in. 1 was concerned at the maps that were published in some of the newspapers. 1 was concerned for a number of reasons because I fell that there were particular sections of a report of that nature that perhaps the Aboriginal community would not like to have made public. I am not talking about this concept of land as we think of it - that is, the Europeans’ societal attitude that perhaps we adopt that we have to own our own quarter acre. A farmer might want to own 200 acres, 2,000 acres or 200,000 acres. Perhaps this is best explained for those people who did not see the final episode of Parkinson in Australia last Saturday by something that was said by Bishop Witt, the Bishop of the North West, who put the matter much more explicitly than I could ever do. He has the control of the largest diocese in the world and has a great knowledge of the black people. Perhaps the way he put it is the right way to put it. He was talking about a situation a few years ago when he had moved or been partly responsible for moving a whole group of Aboriginal people from one fairly run-down area into another area where they had plenty of hunting, fresh water and everything that they would need. I apologise to Bishop Witt if I misquote him by a word or two. One of the old men came to him and said: ‘This is all very nice but I have to go back to my old land’. The bishop said: ‘You know, I am a bit surprised. Why is this?’ The old man said: ‘1 just have to go’. A younger member of the community said to him: ‘You don’t understand. He has to go back. His grandfather died there. His father died there. He wants to die there. You think you own the land; we think the land owns us’. I think that is the whole problem, the crux of the Noonkanbah dispute. The Western Australian Government believes that it controls the land; the Aborigines know that the land owns them. It is a very simple issue that could be decided equally as simply.
I am not forgetting the role that Amax (Exploration) Australia Inc. has been playing in this whole sad and sorry affair. According to today’s West Australian newspaper, Amax would happily withdraw from Noonkanbah but the State Government will not allow it to do so. lt was issued with a mining permit which required it to fulfil the obligations of that licence to the State government by, I think, last November. At that time, of course, a matter was before the courts, lt just was not possible to fulfil that time scale and so an extension of time was granted which, I understand, expires this coming November. My purpose in rising on the adjournment is to express my personal concern that the Western Australian Government is so determined to go ahead on Noonkanbah. Even though Amax has offered to go to another site, the Government has said that it would not consider it. In fact, ‘I will quote just a few sections from an article in today’s West Australian about a discussion with Mr Hawke and the senior vice-president of Amax Petroleum, Mr Arthur Rees. It reads:
Which is the other side of Fitzroy Crossing, where it was scheduled to drill next year.
As late as yesterday afternoon, -
That is, Wednesday, 20 August -
Mr Rees had assured him that Amax would be happy to drill on Gogo to allow the Noonkanbah dispute to be settled.
But the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, would not consider the alternative site, and would not grant the company a licence to drill, he said.
Amax had asked Sir Charles for his attitude, and it was totally intractable so the company did not see any value in making a formal application to drill on Gogo now.
Sir Charles’s attitude made it obvious that it was not oil exploration that was the prime objective.
Drilling on Gogo would suit Amax, would suit CSR Ltd, Richter Drilling and the Federal Government.
Mr Hawke said that in discussion with the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, he had been assured that the Federal Government wanted the Noonkanbah drilling settled by negotiation.
But Senator Chaney had referred him lo Sir Charles, who did not seem to want this.
Mi Hawke was angry about remarks made by the Minister for Resource Development, Mr Jones, who had indicated that the 18 drillers who had banned work at Noonkanbah, had been given misinformation.
We have seen this assault on the Aboriginal people in Western Australia. We have seen the activities of the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner for Transport. In fact, last week it was my unfortunate pleasure to see the gyrations of State Ministers in the Legislative Assembly. If anyone is interested I have proof copies of the debate that ensued on a motion of urgency put forward by the Labor Party. 1 am sure that there would be some expressions of concern on the Government’s benches if Government senators were to read them.
We were fortunate that there was not a bigger problem than we had. It was possible that accidents could have occurred with very heavy trucks running in convoy and with police escorts clearing roads and clearing people off roads. Quite frankly, I was astounded that someone was not injured. There was a report of a journalist being almost run down by a police car while he was trying to film a particular incident. We have seen the total intractability of the Western Australian Government. We have read the statements made by Senator Chaney - a very moving statement was made by Senator Chaney - and his predecessor, Mr Viner, a couple of weeks ago. In yesterday’s newspaper we saw what the Aborigines really want out of Noonkanbah. I firmly believe that the only way to settle the matter is for the Federal Government to enact legislation which gives the Yungngora community the protection it needs. Then there can be negotiation with the Federal Government; it is obvious that there will not be negotiation with the State Government. Until the Federal Government so enacts legislation there will be confrontation, confusion and heartbreak for a very fragile community.
– I do not want to detain the Senate for any great length of time, but I want to make reference to the tax on the subsidy paid on miners’ homes, particularly those in the central district of Queensland. I am prompted to do this by the fact that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) today in reply to questions raised by Senator Georges put down in fairly hard terms what the Government proposes to do. He was supported on a previous date by two of the
National Country Party senators in this chamber, Senator Collard and Senator Maunsell, both of whom live in country districts and both of whom ought to have more compassion for the difficult circumstances under which many people in these areas are required to live. Many people work in remote areas because of some of the concessional housing arrangements that are provided either by governments or by private firms. If we take it on a small scale, the little house that stands on the farm may be used by the one employee on the farm. Consequently, these are some of the attractions that encourage people to live in remote areas.
Much of this argument has been based in the Blackwater area. 1 want to quote a couple of paragraphs from a story by Steve Ricketts which appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph of 1 5 August 1980. The article reads:
Blackwater, the geograpical centre, of the Central Queensland coalfields, has become the focal point of the strike.
The strike office is located here; it is the largest town in the coal fields area (with nearly 8,000 people it is the fifth largest inland town in Queensland); and there are four mines in the immediate area employing nearly 2,000 men.
The article continues:
For them the worst part of the strike is over. Now there is no turning back.
The miners, protesting against the Federal Government’s proposal to tax company-sponsored housing, say they are in a position to stay on strike indefinitely.
Another section of the article makes reference to those who are supporting the striking miners:
Pensioners on the south coast of New South Wales; iron ore workers in Western Australia; oil refinery workers in Victoria and mining company staff members in Central Queensland are among those contributing to the miners’ strike relief fund.
A miner named Mr Don Boyd who lives in Fay Street, Blackwater, states succinctly his attitude to the whole dispute. He says:
He is referring to those people who are critical of the striking miners - believe we are raking in the money and that this more than compensates for the isolation.
The average wage of a mine worker in Central Queensland is not $25,000 as the mining companies would have you believe - $ 1 6,000 gross would be more like it.
When you take into account costs out here you realise why subsidised housing is necessary to get workers here.
Some of these workers have now left the town for good.
But they are in the minority.
This miner has a wife who has some health problems, so his task is even worse. I refer now to an article which appeared in the Australian Financial Review of 8 August 1 980 written by Dr
Anne Summers. I do not propose to read it all, but I propose to refer to some of it. The article reads:
This lime last year the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, visited the district and, armed with a statement issued by the Treasurer announcing a modified means of collecting the tax, told the men they ‘could sleep light at night’.
In other words, Mr President, this time last year a series of untruths were told in this area in relation to the collection of the tax. The article continues:
The Canberra journalists travelling with the Prime Minister heard him say that the men would not have to pay tax on their housing.
His words were reported in the Age on June 15 and in the Australian Financial Review on the same day.
The Prime Minister’s press office, unusually, given its passion for recording and transcribing every word Mr Fraser utters cannot find the transcript of the Prime Minister’s impromptu Press conference outside Rockhampton Town Hall on Wednesday, 13 June.
Indeed, the index book to the Prime Minister’s interviews does not even record the fact that the interview took place.
David Barnett, the Prime Minister’s press secretary, puts this down to ‘a failure in the system’ but less charitable associates of the Prime Minister talk of all records of the interview being destroyed.
In any case the miners firmly believe that Mr Fraser assured them that they would not be taxed on the assessed market rentals of their houses. This is one of the major reasons for their intransigence.
Their belief receives some reinforcement from a letter they received from Mr Fraser dated 26 July 1979, and addressed to Mr Andrew Vickers, president of the Central Queensland Combined Mining Union.
In a key paragraph of that letter the Prime Minister said, The government has carefully considered the implications of these long-standing arrangements for taxpayers in relatively remote or isolated areas and is reluctant to see them substantially disturbed’.
That phrase is important in the context of what I am saying in this brief contribution to the adjournment debate. I say that the story that was told at that time was in fact true. Today and yesterday many miners in the central Queensland region have been collecting statutory declarations to attest to the accuracy of the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on that occasion. 1 make this public accusation that in fact those records were destroyed in the Prime Minister’s office. I am not saying who destroyed them. But they contained the truth of the situation and they have been destoryed
The recent visit by both the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) to the central Queensland coalfields bordered on the idiotic. I am told by a responsible representative of the miners’ organisations that they had not done their homework before they went there. Their answers to questions were idiotic. In fact, they were totally unable to cope with the questions posed by intelligent mining union representatives who endeavoured to question them.
I now refer to the Australian Financial Review of 14 August 1980. I want to quote in full the letter to the Editor which appears on page 1 1 of that newspaper because the author of it is none other than Mr David Barnett, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary in Canberra. It will bear out what I said: that there was a destruction of documents in the Prime Minister’s office relating to those promises made. This is part of an on-going dishonest election campaign to make the little people pay for the financial shortcomings and economic misplanning of this Government. The letter begins:
Sir, Your reporter Anne Summers points out we do not hold in the press office a transcript of the Prime Minister’s comments to journalists at Rockhampton on June 13, 1979 (FR, August 8).
That is the one I referred to a moment ago. The letter continues:
But it is wrong to imply this transcript was destroyed in some deliberate way. The tapes were overlooked and then lost.
There were not recordings of secret occasions, but his ontherecord comments to journalists.
Miss Summers now stales the Prime Minister told the miners in June last year that ‘they could sleep tight at night’ and that they ‘would nol have to pay tax on their housing’.
And I add my word; those are the exact words that the Prime Minister used on that occasion. There is documentary evidence for it and that evidence would be available to the public of this country today if somebody in the Prime Minister’s office had not dishonestly destroyed the records of all those statements that were made. The letter continues:
The thrust of this report was that Mr Fraser had given the miners assurances there would be no taxation on the value to them of the company housing.
This was not the case. The Prime Minister made it clear that the statement by Mr Howard on June 13, would take into account remoteness and lack of alternatives.
But he also made the point the situation was complex, with implications for situations in other than remote development projects.
As Miss Summers’ own report at the time shows, the issue was whether tax would continue to be due on the full value of subsidised housing.
On June 1 5 Miss Summers reported:
Mr Fraser had tried to defuse a confrontation with mining unions by announcing at Rockhampton on Wednesday that the Government would amend Section 26 (E) of the Income Tax Assessment Act so that people in remote areas paying nominal rents on company housing would not have their full market value classed as income’.
Might I say that when this amendment to the taxation legislation was going through this chamber and the other place earlier this year the same sorts of assurances were given by the Government but we now find ourselves in the situation in which not only are the Prime Minister and the Treasurer demanding their pound of flesh from people who live in subsidised housing but also they are repudiating the things that they said this year and last year. Mr Barnett goes on to say:
She also reported the miners’ deputation at Blackwater told journalists after their meeting wilh the Prime Minister that they had ‘grave doubts that we will not be lumbered with some kind of tax’.
And they were of course justified in taking that view. Mr Barnett continued:
On the same day the Melbourne Age quoted Mr Coffey, a union spokesman, as saying: ‘He told us we could sleep tight at night -but would’t give any direct guarantee”.
As is made clear in these reports which were published after the Prime Minister had talked to the miners at Blackwater, the miners did not draw the conclusion that the Treasurer’s announcement the day before, or the Prime Minister’s comment, would lead to the complete abolition of all tax liable on their housing.
Miss Summers also cites a paragraph from a letter by the Prime Minister to Mr A. Vickers, chairman of the Goonyella and Peak Downs Combined Unions Committee.
Senator Collard came in and said that they were not entitled to any sort of subsidy at all. Senator Collard of course ultimately hopes to be reelected as a representative for this area. The letter from David Barnett continues:
Let me cite a further paragraph from this letter: ‘You will appreciate that while the Government’s decision does not alter the responsibility of taxpayers to include the value of fringe benefits in assessable income, it does ensure that this provision in the Act operates in a practical manner having regard to the many and varied circumstances which it is intended lo cover’.
The most complete report of the Prime Minister’s comments last year was given by the ABC after he spoke to reporters in Rockhampton on June 13. This report, which was available lo Miss Summers, said: ‘The Prime Minister said in Rockhampton this morning he expected the Treasurer to announce today a decision on the tax on subsidised housing rentals in remote areas.
That is contrary to what the Prime Minister had said earlier. The tapes of that record, as I said earlier - and 1 repeat - were deliberately destroyed in order to ensure that there was no record of statements made by the Prime Minster and/or the Treasurer who, incidentally lost his Budget this year. That Budget was not lost from the Treasurer’s office; it was lost on a direction from the Prime Minister’s office because of the other blatant political scandals that were facing this country coincidentally. I make the accusation that it was lost to create a smoke-screen to cover two other scandals that were facing this country - the reinstatement of a Minister and the resignation of a Minister. The letter from David Barnett continues:
Mr Fraser said there would be changes to the Act taking into account location, remoteness, alternatives and options open lo the people concerned.
That is what we were told in this chamber and in the other place earlier this year - that these things would be taken into consideration. They have not been taken into consideration at all and this heavy hand is now above everybody with some sort of incentive to work in remote areas because of the possibility of obtaining slightly cheaper accommodation. Mr Barnett continues:
The Prime Minister said following concern expressed about the issue a year or more ago the Taxation Commissioner had not applied the present laws because the Government was examining the matter.
It is not even a mirror job any more because thousands of workers are on strike and they will stay on strike because the decent honest people in this nation including employers, company organisations, trade union members and pensioners are supplying the very muscle to keep that strike going, and so they ought to keep it going. I have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting it publicly and commending it to the people of this country. I continue to quote from the letter:
He said it was remarkably complex to put the matter right.
Mr Fraser said no one would want a situation where there were rental concessions to company directors in pent-houses in Melbourne and Sydney.
He was asked if there was justification for rental concessions in remote areas of Australia, including the central Queensland coalmining region.
He said: ‘lt is in a remote area, but there has been a traditional situation also in the primary industries where remoteness applies and where there is often no alternative but to take an employer’s house if somebody wants a particular job and we certainly would not have wanted that situation upset or altered, -
Why did he change his mind? The letter continues: and I think there is a responsibility to encourage people to move out of the capital cities into remote parts of Australia that aids and assists development. The amendments that the Treasurer will be foreshadowing will be designed to achieve that”.
That letter was signed by David Barnett who echoes the voice of his master and who probably was the person responsible for assisting in the destruction or the loss of the tapes. I go on a little further. I referred to the cover-up over the Budget Papers that were lost as a political smokescreen. The other day we saw a gentleman outside with his head in a garbage tin and a cameraman trying to get a photo. People thought it was the Treasurer looking for his second draft Budget in a garbage tin outside Parliament House. In another place my colleague, Mr Ralph Willis, the Opposition spokesman on economic affairs, on 9 July said:
The Government should immediately scrap its policy of taxing housing subsidies for employees working in remote areas.
The imposition of a heavy additional tax burden on such people is completely unwarranted and inequitable, and is provoking serious industrial disputation. The Section of the Income Tax Assessment Act on which the Government is basing this action has been there since 1 936-
Contrary to what some people are saying when they are trying to justify the action of the Government, it was not put there by a Labor Government. We are not particularly saying that this should be taken out because there are penthouses and other tax dodges, but we are saying that we should not be hitting the little people. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) can shake his head until it falls off but it will not make him look attractive. If he wants to be a part of the bludgeoning process that is killing the miners, the industrial workers and the police over the question of additional taxation burdens and the blocking of school teachers from going to remote areas he ought to go to live in the Kimberleys to find out how difficult it is to live in these circumstances. I am amazed at the inhuman attitude he is adopting to the small people of this country. He was supposed to have come into this chamber as a small T liberal. His small T liberal has now reached the stage that the T is bigger than that which is applicable to people like Mr Butler from the organisation that is strongly supported by Mrs BjelkePetersen in Queensland. On 10 August Mr Willis, in a further Press statement said:
The stand-off in the immensely costly dispute on the Central Queensland coal fields is a product of extraordinarily inept action by the Fraser Government.
The intensity of feeling amongst the coal miners is understandable in the context of their having been deceived by the Prime Minister and misled by the Treasurer.
Not only have they been deceived, they have had blatant lies told to them about the possibility of alterations to the taxation Act by amendment this year and last year, which is now repudiated publicly by this so-called democratic Prime Minister and by his inept and hopeless Treasurer. The Prime Minister specifically promised the miners at Blackwater, Queensland, last year that they had had nothing to worry about. Furthermore, when the legislation amending section 26(e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act was put through the Parliament earlier this year, the Treasurer gave the distinct impression that a tax would not be payable in industries where there was a longstanding arrangement for subsidised housing to be supplied to employees. Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that the people in the coal towns of Central Queensland feel a very deep sense of grievance at the Government’s current attempts to apply this tax. 1 will not cite the whole statement, but I include this paragraph. Mr Willis stated:
To resolve the dispute, the Government should agree not to enforce the tax against workers in remote areas.
Why should we be deceived in this chamber? Why should we be deceived in the other chamber? Why should we be told blatant untruths and distinct lies in both chambers in relation to this sort of thing?
– Order! Senator K ee ITe you know that is not becoming.
– Mr President, 1 am not using the word ‘lie’ in the way that you have prohibited it in this chamber. I am not referring to a particular person. I am saying that the Government as a group is doing this sort of thing. It is telling lies to the public, hoping that they will be absorbed in the political emotion that goes on preceding all election campaigns. But why should we pick on these sorts of people? It is a clear case of depopulation of the remote and arid areas, not only of the State of Queensland but also all of Australia. We try to encourage people to populate these areas. This Government does not want it done. It is most anxious to make sure that the country is owned by people who are not Australians. I think that is borne out fairly well in Queensland where a very large amount of the country is now owned by foreigners. I am glad that Senator Carrick has come into the place because he has carried on this travesty of dishonesty so far as this Government is concerned.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you made a personal accusation against the Minister. Please withdraw.
– Insofar as it offends, Mr President, I withdraw it, but I want to make the point clear that this Government has a responsibility to the people of Australia, not to the people of other countries where it is placing its responsibilities. Most of all it has a very intense responsibility to the people who live in remote areas. This will not be the final appeal because the miners will not go back to work. They are determined to keep this campaign going. They have the sympathy of the Australian people and it is time that people like Senator Carrick had enough brains to wake up to it.
– We had a couple of speeches on the adjournment, and I will respond briefly to both of them, although very briefly to Senator Keeffe. I say ‘very briefly’ because I think his speech was extravagant, and its extravagance made it almost unworthy of reply. The speech on tax which was made by Senator Keeffe hinged on his earlier remarks that the Government had some on-going campaign to make the little people pay. It appears to me that the Senator has lost sight of the realities in Australia when he classifies miners who are part or the well-off working people of this country as little people who should be specially protected against the payment of tax. The fact is that section 26(e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act has been amended to try to make sure that the difficulties that such people have because of the remoteness are taken into account, and the principles of 26(e) are principles which go to general equity between taxpayers. It is all very well for Senator Keeffe, in my view quite cynically, to make this sort of play in what he has described as this pre-election period. If we were talking about benefits for other people whom he does not regard as potential Australian Labor Party voters he would be in howling cry against them as tax dodgers and all the rest of it. 1 think his speech is really one which requires very little consideration. His extravagance is demonstrated in his use of the word ‘scandal’ to cover the resignation of the Minister who has publicly indicated that he wishes to spend more time with his family - a view which has growing attractiveness to me when I have to sit and listen to adjournment debates of that sort- and the reinstatement of another Minister who has been acquitted by the court, having stood down from office when he was under accusation. The third extravagance which 1 think demonstrated the value of his speech was when he said that I was somewhat to the right of Eric Butler. If he said that outside this House, he would probably cop a writ from Mr Butler and me. 1 think a more serious speech was made by a senator from Western Australia, Senator Coleman, who expressed her concern about matters occurring in Western Australia. She referred to a number of articles which I have had published over the last few months, one singly in April and one in conjunction with Mr Ian Viner. They have set out at some length my views on this extremely complex situation. I do nol wish to repeat those points here; they are on the public record and I am sure they are available to all senators and indeed to members of the public, particularly in Western Australia. I would like in response to Senator Coleman to express some personal concern at what 1 see as the increased polarisation in the Australian community which I regard as quite unhealthy. We do not live in a very crowded country, lt is our good fortune to have a large and prosperous country with a relatively modest population. Even in those circumstances, if we are to have a peaceful society, we require compromise. We require people to accommodate to each other’s interest. We require respect for varying views within the community. All of those things are, I think, quite fundamental and I believe we also need a preparedness to hold back in the face of contrary opinions and to show moderation. These are all values which 1 think are important if we are to have a decent country. lt is true that Western Australia is a developing State. 1 think in that State there is a premium on energy and the general development ethos, and that is a very important element in a State which is represented by Senator Coleman as it is represented by me. Of course, one of the challenges we face in Western Australia is to ensure that the process of development can be carried on in a way which ensures reasonable accommodation of the different interests in that State. It is certainly true that the development which is likely to occur in northern Western Australia may impinge heavily on the Aboriginal communities, both socially and spiritually, and that is a matter which requires, 1 think, the most careful attention of governments. In the recent article Mr Viner and 1 set out at some length the sort of machinery which we saw as being necessary if those interests are to be successfully accommodated.
The Noonkanbah matter is one which has been noteworthy for a lack of compromise. My own attempts to achieve compromise at Noonkanbah have been totally unsuccessful. Some would say, perhaps, spectacularly unsuccessful. I believe there has been a lack of that readiness to compromise which is essential if we are to achieve reasonable solutions. We would not get a solution by taking over the land and putting it in the name of the Commonwealth if, following that, there was not a readiness to come to some agreement. That by itself would not achieve any solution al all. So I see a missing element at Noonkanbah which would not be replaced by unilateral Commonwealth action. The basic facts are really agreed. It is a pastoral lease; it is open to mining. Even the Opposition agrees with that, subject to the protection of the community and to the sites of particular traditional significance, which we commonly call sacred sites. That is common ground even with Yungngora community which has agreed that Noonkanbah should be open for mining subject to protection of particular areas.
One might say: ‘What is all this fuss about?’ I suggest that those who wish to be better informed refer to an article which appeared in the West Australian newspaper of 2 April 1980 written by Professor Berndt which described in a very clear way the concept of areas or zones of influence and their significance to Aboriginal people and explained that such areas are in fact areas which are open to use and which ought to be the subject of negotiation. He puts forward an explanation which 1 think is consistent with the view which has been advanced by the Commonwealth - that this is a matter which could and should have been settled by negotiation. To gel that one needs both sides to be prepared, and that has been a problem in this dispute, as I said before.
A number of points were made by Senator Coleman and 1 will refer to them very quickly. She referred to expressions about evil activists in Western Australia. I am familiar with the comments to which she referred and I presume that the speakers were referring not to the holding of varied opinions, which is, of course, fundamental to our society, but to those who take those views to the extreme and who either misrepresent the position or take action which is against the public interest. There is nothing wrong in Western Australia with being concerned about the destruction of forests. We have a fragile ecology and it is in the interests of all Western Australian citizens to see it preserved. There is something wrong with blowing up machinery which is used for wood chipping. That is taking one’s concern to a level which is unacceptable. It is that sort of extremism which 1 am sure honourable senators on both sides of the chamber would wish to see damned. There is nothing wrong with arguing that the law should be changed but I suggest that in Australian society, which has a very high degree of personal freedom, there is perhaps too much readiness to assume the burden of breaking the law to demonstrate disagreement with it. 1 think that is an in extremist position which can seldom be justified in Australia, where there is, in fact, a high degree of civil liberty. I refer to a matter which has been of great concern to Senator Coleman. I cast no doubts on her sincerity in this matter; 1 simply pose questions about the approach. Take the matter which she mentioned of public assembly. In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Australian Labor Party proposed to enact in the Human Rights Bill and which we proposed to enact in the Human Rights Commission Bill, the right of peaceful assembly is recognised, but it goes on to state:
No restrictions may be place on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safely, public order . . . the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
All 1 say is that Article 21 of the Covenant demonstrates the complexity of even that simple right which is asserted so strongly by Senator Coleman. I believe that something we should be very careful about is this preparedness to disregard the law and to demonstrate our objection to it even though there is really little or no restriction on the ability of people both to assemble and to make their views known.
The honourable senator made a great deal of play with the matter of Noonkanbah. I can say only that 1 am quite sure that the people of Western Australia would be extremely anxious to avoid the imposition of penalties by trade unions on individual trade unionists who have breached a trade union view on a non-industrial matter. Whatever sympathy one has for the cause which is being defended by the trade unions in a particular area, I think the bulk of the people of Australia and certainly the bulk of the people of Western Australia would oppose the use of trade union power to prevent people from gaining their livelihood. I am sure that that is what really lies behind the provisions which were entered into covering the licensing of the truck drivers.
There are only two other matters 1 want to mention and 1 apologise for holding the Senate back. Reference was made to Mr Rick New being anti-unionist, and 1 heard Senator Coleman to say that he would exploit his labour if he had the opportunity. I do not know Mr New very well. I have met him once or twice. But the reputation he has certainly is that he is not very keen on the trade union movement. But as far as his reputation is concerned, his labour is devoted, and works very well in his interest. Again I think that sort of reflection on Mr New is one which, as far as I know, is not justified by the facts and it is a reflection which ought not be made in this place.
The last thing 1 wish to say is that 1 certainly accept the expression of personal concern which has been made by Senator Coleman on the general position of the Yungngora community. 1 loo have expressed the concern of the Federal Government about that community. It is noteworthy that since its return to Noonkanbah in 1976, the community has substantially rebuilt itself. Whatever the outcome of the Noonkanbah situation which we have all been following over recent months, I am sure it is the united wish of honourable senators that the community should continue its very successful reconstruction and development, that the school which it has run so successfully, the pastoral enterprise it has mastered so well, the housing program which it is currently planning and the general discipline which it maintains within the community will all be maintained so that the progress of the last five years will be added to rather than lost.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.6 p.m.
The following papers were presented, by Command of His Excellency the Governor-General:
Chrysotile Corporation- Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Slate of New South Wales relating to Financial Assistance to Subsidize Mining Operations of Chrysotile Corporation of Australia Pty Limited at Barraba, NSW, dated 13 June 1980.
Commonwealth Fire Board–
Annual Report, for year 1978-79.
Statement by the Minister for Administrative Services the Hon. J. E. McLeay, relating to the Report.
Department of Education- Annual Report, for 1979.
Discrimination in Employment and Occupation- National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation - Annual Report (Sixth), for year 1978-79.
Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation- A labour market analysis- -Report by Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, dated July 1980.
Fawnmac Group Annual Report and financial accounts of the Fawnmac Group of Companies, for year 1978-79.
Industries Assistance Commission- Reports-
Apples and Pears, dated 28 March 1980.
Asbestos, dated 30 October 1979.
Coaled Paper for use in the Production of Carbonless Copying Paper (By-law), dated 17 July 1980.
Copper and Certain Copper Products (Including Removal of Export Control), dated 24 March 1980.
Perfumery, Cosmetics and Toilet Preparations, dated 7 May 1980.
Polymeric Plasticisers and Certain Polyester Polyols, dated 5 May 1980.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear -
Exchange of correspondence between the First Assistant Secretary, Industries Assistance Division, Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, and the Secretary, Industries Assistance Commission, relating to the Report.
Report - Parts -
A: General, dated 29 April 1 980.
B: Textiles, dated 30 April 1980.
C: Clothing, dated 28 April 1 980.
D: Footwear, dated 24 April 1 980.
E: Headwear, dated 23 April 1 980.
F: Foundation Garments, dated 24 April 1 980.
G: Hosiery, dated 24 April 1 980.
H: Carpets, Carpeting, Etc., dated 24 April 1980.
National Training Council - Annual Report (Sixth), for
Northern Territory - National Estate - Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Northern Territory of Australia relating to the National Estate (1980), dated 8 April 1980.
Office of National Assessments- Statement by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser, dated 19 August 1980.
Rules of Precedence at Intersections - An examination of alternatives for Australia - Report by Office of Road Safety, Department of Transport, dated April 1979.
Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and the Commissioner for Superannuation - Interim Reports, for year 1978-79.
World Administrative Radio Conference, Geneva, Switzerland, 24 September to 6 December 1 979 - Final ActsVolumes I and II.
Statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the Hon. A. A. Staley.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800821_senate_31_s86/>.