31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standards 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:
1 ) 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 the following petition from 232 citizens of Australia:
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.
Increase transport reliability.
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.
Petition received and read.
The Acting Clerk- A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
1 ) Note that legislation establishing plant breeders’ rights in other countries has had serious adverse effects, namely:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs:
The desirability of prohibiting or limiting the use of statutory provisions, including delegated legislation, imposing a burden of proof upon defendants.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, CAAMA, has been refused funding from the Northern Territory Government and that the reason given by the Northern Territory Government is the unwillingness of the Federal Government to contribute to CAAMA funding? In view of the Minister’s expressed support for CAAMA and the support expressed by his colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, can he inform the Senate whether CAAMA is to receive any Federal funding, or is the Minister prepared to allow this allAboriginal broadcasting group to fold up?
– I was aware that the Northern Territory Government had indicated that it did not propose to fund the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association. I was not aware that it had given the reason Senator Ryan indicated in her question; I cannot confirm or deny that. At this stage my Department does not have funds budgeted for CAAMA. However, I had discussions with the Australian Broadcasting Commission the other day. The ABC, in fact, is discussing with CAAMA a proposal whereby it would provide some financial support with a view to CAAMA’s producing programs which would be used on the normal ABC channel. That is a matter which is only at the discussion stage. I would not wish to suggest that there is a commitment at this stage. As I indicated privately to Senator Ryan in the corridor the other day, I have had these discussions and 1 hope to have informal discussions with her further on the point. 1 simply say publicly that that is still my intention.
The CAAMA group appears to be operating quite effectively, lt is presently producing programs under the sponsorship of the Northern Territory Department of Education, I think, which are being broadcast on the local commercial channel. The group is very enthusiastic. I am hopeful that arrangements can be arrived at which will enable it to contribute to Aboriginal broadcasting in Central Australia.
– 1 ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Government any information on the progress of the Campbell Committee report? Is there yet any estimate of when the report, or an interim report, may be available?
– I do not have the information immediately available to me. I will seek to get the information between now and the end of Question Time and let Senator Archer have it.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she was consulted about new and revised procedures in relation to the medical criteria for invalid pensions. If not, when did she become aware that there were new and revised procedures in relation to the medical criteria for invalid pensions and that they were being enforced?
Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLEI will check the records to see what information I can give to Senator Grimes on that matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport been drawn to the declaration made by Mr Keith Hamilton, the chief executive officer of Qantas Airways Ltd, which was presented to the New South Wales Parliament last week and in which he outlines the way in which an officer of the New South Wales Government passed himself off as an officer of the New South Wales Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking and made various threats to the senior security officer of Qantas in order to obtain otherwise confidential flight details about certain Qantas passengers? Are all the statements in Mr Hamilton’s declaration correct? Were these confidential records obtained from Qantas under some improper threat or duress? Is the Minister able to say how and by whom these threats came to be made?
– My attention has been drawn to this declaration which was, of course, referred to in the Senate on 21 August by Senator Puplick when he made a speech which set out the terms of the declaration. That matter was drawn to the attention of the Minister for Transport who has provided me with information on it. I understand that a full report on the circumstances sur.ronding this matter has been submitted to the Minister for Transport by the chief executive officer of Qantas. The report indicates that on the morning of Thursday, 14 August, a telephone call was received by the security controller of Qantas from a Mr Bernard Goldberger, stating that he was from the New South Wales Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking and that he was calling on behalf of Mr Justice Woodward. In that call Mr Goldberger sought confirmation of the date of departure from Australia of Mr Roger Degen, the member for Balmain, who had been specifically mentioned in the commissioner’s report as having left Australia for Manila on 10 April 1975.
A short time later Mr Goldberger again contacted the same Qantas officer, saying Mr Degen had stated in the New South Wales Parliament that he had left Australia on a Qantas flight on 1 1
April 1975. Mr Goldberger reiterated that Mr Justice Woodward required most urgently confirmation of Mr Degen’s statement. The Qantas officer raised the question of privacy and Mr Goldberger responded that should any Qantas records be required an official police request at senior level, with supporting court process, would be made. He went on to say that, in view of what was being requested, he saw no question of invasion of privacy. The information subsequently was conveyed to Mr Goldberger. At that time the Royal Commission in fact did not exist; it had ceased to exist on the previous day when the further report of the Royal Commission was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know also that Mr Goldberger’s employment is as a solicitor with the New South Wales Crown Solicitor. It is a matter of grave concern that a New South Wales crown law officer, acting on behalf of the New South Wales Attorney-General, has misrepresented his position to obtain information for the New South Wales Government for its own purposes.
– I ask a question of the
Attorney-General on a similar matter. Has his attention been drawn to an article in the Australian dated 16 August 1980 in which it was claimed that an undercover Customs agent knew details of a $ 1,000m heroin smuggling deal but was called off the case and the matter was dropped after the officer informed his seniors in the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs? Has the Government any information on this matter? Will the Attorney-General agree to the holding of an independent inquiry into the allegations, as required by the Secretary of the Customs Officers Association of New South Wales, Mr Spanswick?
– The question really should be directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs or the Minister for Administrative Services, who is responsible for the Australian Federal Police. Of course, a joint police task force, involving the Federal Police and the New South Wales Police, is dealing with drug matters arising out of the recommendations of the two royal commissions held into that matter; namely, those of Mr Justice Woodward and Mr Justice Williams. The Senate would be aware of recent statements made by the Prime Minister in another place in which he indicated that the Commonwealth had made proposals to New South Wales in relation to joint police investigations of the Nugan Hand matter. I understand that the
Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has indicated that he has been inquiring into the allegations to which Senator Georges referred. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs for a fuller answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, who no doubt remembers that on occasions I have asked questions relating to the need for the contents of foods to be printed on the labels of those foods so that people who are interested in avoiding ingredients to which they are allergic, or for some other reason, at least may have an idea of what those foods contain. For example, many people wish to avoid salt because of its direct relationship to hypertension. Is the Minister yet able to say when such information will be required on food labels? If not, will she ask the Minister for Health to expedite the matter, as I believe the inclusion of such information on food labels is usual practice in quite a number of Western countries?
– I do recall earlier questions on this matter, but I am not able to provide any information. I will see that the reply from the Minister for Health is expedited.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that the Prime Minister, in considering a date for the forthcoming Federal election, feels that he has been able to make arrangements with the Queensland Premier to enable the Federal election to be held first? Has the Leader of the Government noticed the Prime Minister’s increasing nervousness about the election date? Is that because the Prime Minister fears that the wily Queensland Premier might beat the gun and go to the polls before him?
– Whoever goes to the polls first, the outcome is clear; governments of Liberal faith will win both federally and in Queensland. They will have resounding success. As I understand it, no arrangements have been made between the two governments. The threeyear term of each of the governments moves towards its conclusion at roughly the same time. There has been over the years a need to ensure that there is a reasonable gap between the procedures of a State election and of a Commonwealth election, and that will happen this time as it has happened before. Therefore, there is to be a
Federal election before Christmas, either at the end of November or, alternatively, at the end of October. There is no question of an early election. It is a question only of. whether it will be four weeks earlier or four weeks later, in rough terms.
I can understand the nervousness of the Australian Labor Party in regard to an early election because I have read the comments of its leader, Mr Hayden, on what he and the Labor Party think of the Senate and of the desire of the Labor Party to eliminate the Senate. In regard to the Senate, on 14 August Mr Hayden said:
Because we are committed to its eventual elimination, we must take it seriously . . .
If ever there was a situation of people making double talk to the Australian people, going to the Australian people, and saying ‘Vote for us in the Senate. P.S., we do not want you to know that we want to eliminate the Senate. We do not want to take the Senate seriously. We do not want it as a House of review or a States House; we want to eliminate it’, this is it.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. 1 ask whether it is in order for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to misrepresent entirely the Australian Labor Party’s policy on the Senate, which is that the Senate remain.
– There is no point of order.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I do so because of the growing unrest in Poland at present, where people are demonstrating for some democratic rights and freedoms. Will the Government urge all nations to impose a total - I emphasise the word ‘total’ - economic ban on Russia if that country invades Poland to crush the people, as has previously happened in other countries where Russia has committed so many atrocities in the past?
– The whole of the free world must be looking with considerable concern and anguish at the events in Poland. Those with long memories of that great country, Poland, with its magnificent traditions and magnificent backgrounds of freedom and culture, and of how Poland came forcibly within the Iron Curtain and has been kept there, will share that grave concern at the present and prospective events. As we understand those events, there is the authentic desire of the Polish people, in this case through their trade union movement, to express their desire for freedom. The situation is a very delicate and sensitive one. It is a situation that no government and no people would want to exacerbate by ill-judged talk.
It is true that in the past we have had the tragic situation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics using armed force to maintain its will and its dominance within the Iron Curtain. It would be a disaster for the world at large and a failure of free people to assert themselves if such a situation should eventuate. It is almost too horrible to contemplate. What is needed at this moment is an expression of the people of this world, as they expressed their views on Afghanistan; a polarisation of views of the people of the world, which has been of considerable success in regard to Afghanistan, to bring to the attention of the world the rights of people to proceed with freedom and with dignity; and an expression of the abhorrence the world has for the use of armed force, the military thrust of tanks and guns, by Russia to assert its will. Within that situation, one can only hope that good sense will prevail and that the viewpoint of the free world will be expressed as levelheadedly and yet as vigorously as possible.
– My question, which is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows Senator Young’s question. I ask whether the Government has made any representations to the Government of the Soviet Union about this matter. In the specific terms of Senator Young’s question, if the Government considered a boycott of the Soviet Union as a result of expressed attitudes to events in Poland, would that boycott, in contradistinction to the one the Government talked about at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan, include wool and wheat?
– I am not sure of the answer to the first part of the question because the Foreign Minister is abroad at the moment. I do not know what, in terms of any immediacy, has been transmitted to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I will seek that information and see whether I can get an early reply. My understanding is that the question of boycotts has not emerged as a matter for consideration either in Australia or on the world scene. I remind Senator Button that the terms of the boycott on trade with Russia in the Afghanistan situation were based upon an understanding throughout the free world of the restriction of those goods which are considered to be military goods. That boycott was imposed and was observed by Australia.
– 1 refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the dispute over the Cahill’s Crossing-Oenpelli road in the Northern Territory between the traditional owners of the area, the Northern Land Council, and Queensland Mines Ltd, the mining company concerned. Can the Minister advise what the present situation is and whether agreement can be reached to overcome the dispute now and in the future?
– The dispute is one which is, I think, well understood by the Senate, lt was subject to fairly extensive debate the last time the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act was before the Senate for amendment, lt centred on the concern of the Oenpelli community about what it saw as the excessive use of the road by Queensland Mines. That gave rise to litigation and subsequently to amendments to the Act to ensure that the rights of Queensland Mines to access to the mine could be met.
I am pleased to advise the Senate that subsequently there has been a series of discussions between Queensland Mines, the relevant community and the Northern Land Council not always all together but ultimately all involved. In fact, the first of those meetings took place in Canberra at my invitation. The matter now appears to have been resolved to everybody’s satisfaction. I have had formal notice from the Northern Land Council that the local community is satisfied with the arrangements put forward in those discussions by Queensland Mines, which arrangements, from memory, involved a reduced usage of the road on a percentage basis. I think there was an immediate 20 per cent reduction this year and there is to be a 1 0 per cent reduction in the following year.
This is an encouraging example of the fact that when parties sit down and talk it is possible to solve problems, and I am much encouraged by it. The agreement between Queensland Mines and the relevant Aboriginals includes consultative mechanisms. Obviously at earlier times they were not operating as the parties would have wished, but it is encouraging that over the last three or four months an appropriate solution seems to have been reached.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Earlier this year a team of Australian officials visited the United States to look at the possibility of Australia’s getting its own uranium enrichment plant. I ask the Minister whether the team was sent by his Department and at his request. Why did the team visit centres using only the centrifuge methods of uranium enrichment? 1 ask the Minister also: If this Government is in such haste to build enrichment plants in Australia regardless of general opinion that prices of uranium will fall because of world reaction to the construction of nuclear power stations, why did the team not visit the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in California, the leading centre of United States research into laser enrichment techniques where it is claimed that the laser process has the potential to enrich uranium at a cost of only 2 per cent of that of current methods whereas the centrifuge enrichment process would cost Australia $2 billion and could, with advanced technology, become obsolete?
– I am not sure what group Senator Elstob is referring to. Let me put the matter in perspective. Last year the Commonwealth Government brought together what is called UEGA - the Uranium Enrichment Group of Australia- the members of which are leading people from some five enterprises in Australia, to consider and to make investigations into the matter, to make contact with potential enterprises outside Australia and to report to the Australian Government. UEGA has been proceeding on this matter, lt has a completely wide charter. It is not constrained to consider simply one or another method of uranium enrichment, whether it be gaseous diffusion, the centrifuge method, or, as Senator Elstob mentions, the use of the laser technique, lt is nol constrained in any way. Its inquiries range over the whole of the situation both technically and in terms of long-range future markets. Officers of my Depart ment and I have had a number of discussions with various enterprises throughout the world which want to set up enrichment processes in Australia. The discussions and investigations are proceeding.
Senator Elstob talks about a fall in the price of uranium. What has happened in the world in general is that for a variety of reasons, not excluding the Three Mile Island incident, there has been some withholding of the plans for the development of more reactors. However, France plans to achieve 50 per cent nuclear power generation by 1985. Nevertheless, with the best of goodwill in the world to get as much coal and natural gas on the sea as is possible as an alternative to oil, it will be necessary for the world increasingly to use nuclear power generation in this decade and in the decades ahead. There is something of a lag lime at the moment but undoubtedly a full realisation of this will occur. Indeed, it will bring about a great increase in the use of nuclear power generation for peacetime purposes throughout the energy hungry world.
– Did the Attorney-General in or about August 1 979 authorise the payment of $30,000 to the then proposed Inner Sydney Legal Services Centre? ls this Centre within the electorate of the honourable member for Wentworth, Mr Ellicott, and was the grant made at Mr Ellicotts request? Is this grant unprecedented in legal aid financing in that hitherto all such community legal services have had to prove themselves before securing government funding, whereas in this case the grant was made a considerable time before the doors of the service even opened? Is it further the case that the Centre in question sat on that grant for nearly a year without spending any of it and without delivering legal services, while at the same time numerous other community legal services, actively operating, have been desperately short of funds? I ask the Attorney-General: If all these things are true, what is the reason for the spectacularly advantageous differential treatment that has apparently been awarded to this Centre?
– Senator Evans has raised a very interesting question, lt is a reflection on his attitude to legal aid. The Inner Sydney Legal Services Centre was a co-operative exercise designed by a number of people. It was certainly considerably promoted by my predecessor, Mr Ellicott, who is the local member for the area. The centre was designed to operate in Surry Hills in Sydney. I doubt that any part of Australia is more deserving of legal aid. 1 would have thought that Senator Evans would agree. In the eyes of Senator Evans and the Opposition something is evil about the establishment of the centre because that part of Sydney is in the electorate of my predecessor. The Opposition has adopted a completely irrational attitude to my predecessor.
It is a fact that I approved the granting of the money. I am not sure whether it was $30,000. I will refer to the correspondence for the facts and make sure that full information is given. The figure was of that order. H was anticipated that the centre would begin operating in the past financial year. The matter did not come to fruition at the time it was expected. 1 am not quite sure of the end result last year. I think it is true to say that the money was not spent, but I will investigate the matter further and give a fuller answer to the Senate. I repeat the point that it was anticipated that the centre would be set up and operating. I have absolutely no apology whatever for the fact that I authorised payment of the money to a body which appeared as though it would operate.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In giving his fuller answer to the Senate - which I await rather breathlessly - will the Attorney-General indicate why such obviously differential treatment was given to this centre, whatever the overall needs situation may have been, and in particular whether it has been hitherto the practice of his Department to award large sums of money to services not yet actively in operation when other services are desperately crying out for liquidity funding?
– As I always do, I will pay the greatest respect to the lecture from Senator Evans.
– I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the confidential report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Economic Strategy which has now been released publicly by the Treasurer. I ask whether it is true that with regard to resource investment the report states:
Surveys of prospective investment conducted by the Departments of Industry and Commerce, and Trade and Resources, suggest a sharp rise in resource-based investment during 1981-82 and 1982-83.
The estimated investment in prospect is over $29 billion. I ask whether it is also true that the seven official departments have warned that:
Realisation of the potential investment depends most importantly on maintaining a stable economic environment through firm anti-inflationary policies and on continuing policies conducive to foreign (as well as domestic) investment.
Do these official statements underscore the Government’s insistence on the Budget’s economic strategy to ensure that the $29 billion of investment is not lost to Australia?
– I believe that Senator Teague’s summary of that advisory document is accurate. He could have gone on to say that the document’s overview indicates that the economic strategy policies the Government has been pursuing have been essentially correct and that the main task for the future must be the continued battle against inflation and, therefore, the strict control of monetary policy. Taken overall, the document is essentially a confirmation and commendation of both the policies of the Government in the past and the prospective policies of the Government outlined in the Budget. It is true that the document indicates the enormous potential expansion in resources development in Australia.
It sees that as involving a significant opportunity to increase employment opportunities in Australia, and it makes the point that the handling of the whole of this tremendous potential development must be undertaken to maintain an anti-inflationary and a cool economic situation. It virtually recommends that we should continue on course. Above everything, it says that a main thrust should be a substantial reduction of the Budget deficit as occurred last year and as we have achieved this year.
– I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister particularly about the figure of over $29 billion of investment, about which there have been some public detractors, but which has been confirmed by these seven departments in the document.
– Although I have the document with me, I do not have readily in my mind that it uses the figure $29 billion. I will check that. Nevertheless the figure of $29 billion of potential investment is readily accepted by all those who advise us. Indeed, it is probably an understatement because there are day by day many more approaches to Australia than have been listed. The Labor Party can scoff as it may. Every time the Labor Party attempts to denigrate future investment and development in Australia it is continuing its disastrous policy of trying to bring about further unemployment in Australia as it did in J 973 to 1975.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Prime Minister’s strong attack on the education system in a speech to the Metal Trades Industry Association on Monday amounts to a criticism of the administration of the Minister for Education, Mr Fife, or does it amount to a criticism of the administration of Mr Fife’s immediate predecessor? Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate agree with Mr Fraser’s statement that schools are largely to blame for the current level of unemployment?
– I have not seen the statement but 1 saw reports on the statement. I would need to read it all. I would have thought that Senator Colston would be aware of the Williams Committee inquiry, its very substantial criticism of the existing education system throughout Australia and its criticism of the lack of basic skills. It indicated that some 25 per cent of 14 year olds in Australia were incapable of independent reading and that some 1 5 per cent of children in that age group were incapable of independent figuring. I would have thought that he would be aware that the Williams Committee indicated the need to upgrade the skills of people if they are to achieve employment in Australia. I thought he would be aware of the Crawford Committee and its emphasis on skills, and the Myers Committee and its emphasis on technology. In other words, he also ought to have read and to have been aware of the experience of the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and the objective reports which have shown the need to uplift the young, to put special training into schools to identify those of lower motivation, to upgrade basic skills and to provide transition programs. Happily, these matters, I am bound to say, were recognised at the federal level. New programs such as the EPUY scheme and the transition scheme were introduced. If there is a reflection upon those who administer the scheme, let me simply say that the Williams Committee was surveying a decade of the past.
The education system is primarily a matter in which State governments must propound particular policies. Primary and secondary education is a matter for State governments in Australia. It is for the Commonwealth Government to give a lead. It is interesting to know that the factors which the Williams Committee identified were factors which this Government, of which Mr Fife and 1 were Ministers for Education, identified and gave reforms on, factors on which the previous Labor Government was abjectly silent.
– I ask a supplementary question. I preface my question by saying that it was very encouraging that the Minister informed the Senate that I would be aware of the Williams Committee report. I ask the Minister whether in the light of his answer he is aware of the part of the recommendations of the Williams report which states:
There have been many attempts to explain the very sharp increase in youth unemployment in terms of poor standards of education, a relative increase in award rates of wages for juniors, the high labour turnover rates of young workers, a large increase in unemployment benefit relative to post-tax earnings from 1973 onwards–
– I ask the honourable senator to put his supplementary question.
– This is the question. I am asking the Minister whether he is aware of the recommendation. The recommendation continues: and its effect on the incentives to accept employment in the less pleasant or stimulating jobs, or by some combination of these factors. But the very disturbing increase in youth unemployment from 1 974 onwards cannot be explained in this way.
Is the Minister willing to answer the question that I originally asked, whether he is in agreement with
Mr Fraser that the schools are largely to blame for the current level of unemployment?
– The Williams Committee report, from which Senator Colston quoted, must be taken in context with the overall report. The report identifies a number of serious factors and defects in primary and secondary education which result in a serious lack of basic skills and, therefore, must result in the unemployability of people. What is more, the experience of the various transition schemes is such as to identify that. All the basic skills tests were done by the House of Representatives Select Committee into Specific Learning Difficulties. It made those revelations. That investigation was going on during the time of the Whitlam Labor Government; so the basic skills defects were inherent in the system at that time.
As I have said, I have not read the Prime Minister’s statement. If I am asked whether the lack of basic skills in a number of Australians is significant in their unemployability I would have to say, having had some four years experience as a Minister, that the answer is yes.
– Where are the jobs?
– In reply to the interjection “Where are the jobs?’, I might say that if people look at the experience of those unskilled people who were taken into the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and given two or three months training, they will find that a very large majority of those people were able to secure jobs afterwards and to maintain employment over an indefinite period.
– Can the Minister for National Development and Energy inform the Senate of the latest developments with the Burdekin Dam in Queensland?
– It is the subject of another phoney promise.
– I am sorry to disappoint the Labor Party. I can report very practical progress unlike the Labor Party’s past performance on this matter. As all honourable senators know and as, indeed, the people of Queensland will be especially keen to know, there have been detailed discussions both at the Prime MinisterPremier level and at the officer level, unlike under the Whitlam Government, as to the potential for the–
– They heard that 20 years ago and you have been lying about it ever since.
- Senator Grimes, you will withdraw the reference to lying.
– I am not sure that I did refer to lying.
– You did. I heard you. You will withdraw.
– I am sorry, I said that we have been hearing this for 20 years. That is true. The people of Queensland have been hearing it for 20 years. That is true. The Government has not fulfilled its promise for 20 years. That is true.
– You will not debate my ruling. You used the word ‘lying’.
– Mr President, if you believe I said ‘lying’ I will withdraw it. Senator Carrick needs all the protection he can get.
- Senator Grimes, you will be seated.
– Once again I point out that in the eyes of the public a person making an offence and then being forced to withdraw under the rules of the Senate, cannot be expunging an offence. This goes on day by day.
– Mr President, do you need any advice from him? You do not accept it from me. Why should you accept it from him? He is equal to everyone else in this place and, as far as I am concerned, has no privileges over anyone else in this place.
– I do not need advice from any honourable senator. I shall conduct the affairs of the Senate in accordance with the Standing Orders as I see them.
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. I take it that that does not mean that there is any restriction on the right of any honourable senator, including myself, to make the comments that I have just made; in other words, to draw attention to the existence of Standing Orders and the importance of maintaining proper order in this situation. Mr President, I was not giving you advice at all, but I argue very strenuously that no restriction at all should be imposed by anyone upon the right of an honourable senator to make the kind of comments that I made.
– Comment is quite in order. I will always oppose any inference that the Chair is not abiding by Standing Orders. I am interpreting the Standing Orders, as I see them, to make this place run as smoothly as possible.
– Discussions have taken place between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, both at ministerial level and at officer level, as to the construction of the Burdekin Dam, the financing of the building of the dam and the infrastructure and residual developments. My understanding is that the Queensland Government was keen that the Commonwealth should accept as a principle that it might find its way clear to finance, by way of a grant, the capital cost of the building of the dam whilst the Queensland Government itself undertook the residual and ancillary works. My understanding is that there will be a finalisation of this matter on such terms, which are acceptable to the Commonwealth Government, and that, indeed, we can proceed not only in principle but also in practice. The development of the dam in the future will be a major undertaking for Queensland. It is not a question of promise. It will be a question of a definite undertaking between the two governments. Such an undertaking to build the dam will in no way prejudice the moneys available for the water resources programs. Those funds will be separate from that development.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence. The Minister will recall that some time ago the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence supported a proposal by the Hamer Committee to continue building ships at Whyalla, in South Australia. The proposal put to the Prime Minister at that time, although supported also by the South Australian Government, was rejected. In view of the announcement by the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, that some naval ship construction is to be commenced in Australia and that some other studies are being held into the construction of such defence equipment, will the Leader of the Government ask the Prime Minister and the Ministers concerned to review the Government’s attitude to that recommendation of an important parliamentary committee, having regard to the need, in view of the general international situation, to maintain as much capacity within Australia as is possible?
– I would be happy to convey that thought to the Government. As Senator Bishop points out, the Government has indicated its intention to construct as many of our defence vessels as possible within Australia. Having made that decision, as the honourable senator would very well know because of his interest in this matter, that construction depends upon the special capacities of the various shipyards to be able to undertake the construction. I am equally aware of the problems in Whyalla as they have existed over many years and the need, if it is possible, to alleviate some of those problems. 1 cannot say whether Whyalla lends itself to this kind of construction but I will certainly refer the question to the Ministers concerned.
– I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to reports that the Premier of New South Wales supports four-year parliaments and that a referendum on that subject might be held in New South Wales. With a view to reducing the number of elections and to providing a longer period for social and economic policy planning, will the Federal Government consider a similar referendum in conjunction with this year’s general election- to provide for mandatory fouryear Federal parliaments from some future date, say, for the Parliament to be formed after the scheduled 1983 election?
– In the State sphere, in the Commonwealth sphere and across the philosophies of the various parties there is continuing dialogue and agreement that the threeyear period of a parliament, either State or Federal, is insufficient to conduct the business of the government and that, indeed, there are too many elections in Australia. That view is frequently expressed. I am aware that the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, brought forward that proposal recently. I must say with some cynicism that, after coming back from what I think we all regretted was a lengthy period of sickness and finding his troubles in New South Wales, he has found this matter to be the key issue to report upon and not the troubles in New South Wales. I am not aware of the Government’s intentions as to any proposal for a referendum. I will submit this idea to the Prime Minister as a suggestion. It is not a simple matter because it also raises the ques.ton of the length of the term of the Senate and whether it is desirable for the Senate to have an eight-year term in parallel with a four-year term. Nevertheless, the idea has merit for consideration. I will bring it to the Prime Minister’s attention and invite him to consider it.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware that 27 embassies met under United Nations auspices at Hanoi on 19 August to consider certain problems caused by Typhoon Joe which has seriously affected three million people and caused extensive crop losses in Vietnam. Can the Minister advise whether Australia was one of the embassies represented at the conference? Is the Minister also aware that Vietnam is still supplying large amounts of grain to the starving population of Kampuchea? Can the Minister now inform the Parliament whether his Government is prepared to assist with gifts of cash or goods the people of Vietnam who have been so affected? If the Minister is not prepared to give an indication of likely Government action, will he take the necessary steps to ensure that his Government transfers at least some assistance from Australia to Vietnam through the United Nations?
– The overall attitude of the Commonwealth Government to humanitarian assistance throughout the world is well known. We have a very good record. But the Government has made a very clear statement regarding its attitude to providing aid to Vietnam. It observes, as the Australian Labor Party wishes not to, that at this moment some 200,000 members of the Vietnamese forces are engaged actively in the subjugation of Kampuchea and, indeed, in the destruction of much of its infrastructure and its capacity to produce food. The Government believes that it would be wrong to assist the Vietnamese by providing aid in such a way that they could divert that aid from their ordinary domestic purposes towards military purposes. The Government does not believe that it should, directly or indirectly, support the military adventure of Vietnam in Kampuchea. Having said that - that is perfectly clear - I state that I am not aware of the attendance of representatives of embassies at the meeting referred to.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I regret very much the attitude adopted by the Minister in replying to my question. I take it from what he said that no aid will be given to the three million people who are seriously affected by the typhoon and that, in his eyes and in the eyes of his Government, the three million people concerned will be treated as animals and not as people.
– I said none of that rhetoric. What I said was that 200,000 Vietnamese troops have been causing death, destruction, famine, starvation and sickness in Kampuchea and that we will in no way aid that path, we will in no way aid those people by giving them support so that they can increase their military adventure. That is what I said. If an attempt is made to help in the destruction of people, that attempt will come from those who want to increase the capacity of the Vietnamese to continue and to expand their military adventures. We want none of that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In considering the widespread concern over the provision of effective quarantine measures in Australia, can the Minister indicate when the Government proposes to respond to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources on the adequacy of quarantine measures, which was presented in November?
– I will need to refer that matter to the Minister for Health to see what consideration has been given to the recommendations. I will see that the Senate is advised.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and follows on the answer he gave to Senator Keeffe. I ask: Firstly, is it Government policy that those Vietnamese civilians who obviously now are suffering as a result of natural disasters in Vietnam are not to be assisted by the Australian Government because of policy decisions made by the Government of Vietnam? Secondly, in view of the principle which he enunciated in his reply, that the Australian Government is not prepared to assist Vietnam with any form of aid because of its occupation of Kampuchea, can he tell us why the Government continues to supply aid, including military aid, to Indonesia, which subjugated the people of East Timor?
– What the Government has said is that aid to Vietnam, which indeed would be aid to the Government of Vietnam since it would relieve that Government of its domestic burdens, would enable the Government of Vietnam to convert more of its resources to its military destruction in Kampuchea. 1 said that the Australian Government will have no part of that; the Government will not assist, however indirectly, Vietnam to continue its path of bloody murder in Kampuchea. That clearly is our policy. Senator Wriedt raised the question of Timor. The fact of Timor’s takeover by Indonesia is a matter of the history of the year 1 975 and a matter of the failure of the Australian Government of that time to do anything when the self-determination or the freedom of the people of East Timor might have been–
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. I very rarely interrupt Ministers, but is it not a part of the Standing Orders that answers must be relevant? Whatever point Senator Carrick might have on the history of the Australian Labor Party’s involvement in Timor, 1 put it to you that that was not the thrust of Senator Wriedt’s question. Senator Wriedt simply asked whether the Government is presently supporting the Indonesian Government in military and civil aid. I suggest that any reference to 1973 or 1974, or whatever, is totally irrelevant and not in line with the Standing Orders.
– Answers should be relevant to questions as put; subject matters are not to be debated. I trust that all Ministers at all times - I believe that they do this - will abide by that restriction in regard to replying to questions.
– Nothing could be more relevant to the question than what I am saying because it defines what is and has been the state of de facto sovereignty in East Timor. There can be no direct comparison at all in that regard. The Australian people have provided aid both to East Timor and to the people of Indonesia. I think it is one of the sad things of this world that a political party which failed in the past to do anything should now spend its time attempting at every opportunity to denigrate its nearest neighbour. I am no apologist for that neighbour, but it is a neighbour with massive problems. We ought not to cast the first stone in international relationships. We should be trying to assist in having a stable and healthy South East Asia.
– 1 ask a supplementary question. It is evident that Senator Carrick cannot possibly answer the question and that he is in great difficulty. 1 put the question to him again: Did he not say in reply to Senator Keeffe that the reason the Australian Government will not afford any assistance to Vietnam is that that country has subjugated the people of Kampuchea by military intervention? Is it not an accepted fact that Indonesia has subjugated the people of East Timor also by military intervention? Will he deny that? As he cannot deny that, how can he justify no assistance to one country but continued assistance; including military assistance, to the other?
– The fact is that at this moment an active war is being waged not only in Kampuchea but also on the borders and sometimes across the borders of a neutral nation, Thailand. There is, in fact, right before us active aggression that we can do something about if we in fact stress the need for the solution of Kampuchea’s problems to be the withdrawal of those military forces and the establishment of selfdetermination. That is the reality.
Unhappily, five years ago, when something could have been done in Timor, nothing was done. There is no such reality in Timor. I make the point that the Government has made it clear that it will not contribute development aid to Kampuchea. However, we may contribute to any international aid appeal such as that launched by the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation, if we are asked to do so.
– We are not talking about aid to Kampuchea; we are talking about aid to Vietnam. Have you forgotten?
– I am talking about the development aid that would be sent to Vietnam in that regard. Mr President, the matter is perfectly clear; the whole thrust of the Australian Government’s policy is an endeavour, along with its colleagues in Asia and elsewhere, to bring about a withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea. Sadly, the Labor Party does not want that.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. That was an untruth that was just said by Senator Carrick, and he knows it. It was one of his throw-away statements. He said that the Labor Party does not support the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops. The Minister is a liar to say that. He knows he is a liar. It is a lie, a deliberate lie.
– Order! The honourable senator knows that that word is not permitted in this place. I ask him to withdraw.
– Mr President, if you want a withdrawal, I withdraw. But, with great respect, it is time that that sort of thing was stopped. The Minister repeatedly makes these deliberate throw-away remarks in the Senate. I will not sit here representing the Labor Party with that sort of garbage being thrown around unchallenged.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Although I do not in any way’ believe that what Senator Wriedt said was called for, I accept the fact that the Labor Party wants peace in Kampuchea. Let me make that perfectly clear. I did not intend in anything I said to make any implication that the Labor Party wanted military aggression in Kampuchea. I meant that the Australian Government and the people of Asia are seeking, by the thrust of their recognition and their aid situations, to bring about a withdrawal and, sadly, the Labor Party does not want that. That has nothing to do with the implication to which Senator Wriedt referred. Mr President, I again draw your attention to the fact that there is a deliberate campaign both in the Senate and in the other place to create this kind of situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It concerns the disturbing leak of important sections of the Federal Budget 48 hours ahead of its official release. Will the Minister disclose to the Senate what steps have been taken to discover the source of the leak, the progress to date of the investigations and the procedures the Government intends to take to ensure that such a situation can never arise again?
– I think all reasonable people deplore the fact that leaks have occurred- particularly the serious Budget leak, which was virtually a total leak. The Government has announced that it has set up inquiries. 1 am neither competent nor prepared to state the nature of the inquiries. I shall seek information on the progress of the inquiries and let Senator Watson know.
I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I take a point of order on the suggestion that the Minister has just made. He has taken up nearly half of Question Time and has deprived many honourable senators of the chance of asking questions. I lodge my objection once again to the attitude of the Government in depriving honourable senators on this side of the chamber of getting the call at Question Time.
– There is no point of order.
– During Question Time Senator Archer asked a question about the interim report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System, that is, the Campbell Committee report. I understand that this will be tabled this morning in the House of Representatives and that the Treasurer will make a statement on it. I imagine, therefore, that it will be tabled in the Senate later today.
– Earlier today Senator Button asked me whether the Government had made representations to the Government of the Soviet Union warning against any interference in Poland. The Government has not made any direct representations but Mr Peacock issued a Press release on 2 1 August which, no doubt the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will have fully reported to Moscow. He said:
It is incumbent on all countries to allow Poland to solve its problems in its own way.
Mr Peacock said there was nothing to be gained, in his view, by interference from outside in whatever form. He continued by saying that he was aware that there was much Press speculation about whether the Soviet Union might intervene but that of course such speculation was understandable given that country’s previous record of behaviour. However, he had to say that any attempt by another country to intervene directly in Poland’s internal affairs would be viewed by the Government and the international community at large as a very grave development. That of course, was the substance of my comment today.
– I have received a letter from Senator Button proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to give adequate leadership and direction to the education system.
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 subject of this matter of public importance is:
The failure of the Government to give adequate leadership and direction to the education system.
Since the Fraser Government came to power in December 1 975 there have been very considerable changes in Australian society, not necessarily wrought by the Government - many of them have taken place in spite of the Government - and there have also been changes in Australia’s relationships with its near neighbours. I think those changes can basically be summarised as follows: Firstly, we have become accustomed, as it were, to a continuing high level of seemingly intractable unemployment, especially amongst young people; secondly, we have suffered the first assault, as it were, of the social consequences of technological change; and, thirdly, there have been very rapidly changing relationships with countries of South East Asia, and particularly there have been rapid changes within the economies of Australia’s nearest neighbours. All these things mean that, following the five years which have elapsed, one is entitled to take a different view of the future social and political problems which Australia will face. We will need in particular society which is concerned very much about issues which Professor Ralph Dahrendorf in his famous Reith lectures described as issues of the social reconstruction of human lives, by which he meant that new relationships had to be developed among work, leisure and, as he put it, education. He said that in the remaining years of this century the fundamental problems of democratic societies would be rearranging traditional relationships among work, leisure and education.
In the few minutes available to me I wish to examine the relevance of the education system to all these matters and particularly the assessment of relevance of an education system in relation to the sorts of changes which are likely to take place. 1 argue that the nature and quality of an education system is vitally relevant to a society which is undergoing social change and the sorts of changes which I touched on a minute ago. It is vitally relevant in two respects: First of all, the education system is responsible for training skilled manpower, skilled personnel, for the much more technological society into which we will be moving. lt is responsible for that in terms of the training of engineers, computer scientists and those entering professions which might sometimes be described as the technocratic professions, but, more importantly, it is responsible for training and educating the vast range of a country’s citizens or, more particularly, of a country’s future citizens. A well educated population is one which is best able to cope with the sorts of social adjustments and the social changes which will be necessary in a society such as Australia.
In the last five years there has not been one indication from the Fraser Government that it understands the relationship among work, leisure and education and between education and society, lt has no real understanding that the education system in any sense has relevance to the sorts of questions to which I refer. What we have seen in five years is a system in education of government by inquiry. For two years in the Senate Senator Carrick avoided answering questions by saying: All those matters are being dealt with by the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education, Training and Employment. If you just wait till the report comes out you will have the magic answer.’ Of course, the Williams Committee provided no magic answers. It provided a valuable resource document but on all the issues to which it was meant to direct its attention, such as the rationalisation of the tertiary sector of education, there was really very little enlightenment at all.
We have had a period of government by inquiry in which the Williams Committee has been the classic example. We have had consistent cuts in education funding which stem basically from ideological pressure of the more troglodytic section of the business community on the present
Government. We have had no recognisable initiatives in education except such initiatives as the imposition of fees on overseas students, a sort of gratuitous attempt to circumscribe the activities of the student unions, and some attempts to limit academic leave - a proposal to which I have no particular objection. In the context of no major initiatives of the kind relevant to the sort of things I am talking about these endeavours are really very small minded and small time. Limitations have been imposed on the independence of Government advisory committees on education. I refer, for example, to the Tertiary Education Commission and the Schools Commission. A growing degree of limited access to education has been imposed by the erosion of allowances for students in colleges and universities, and so on. As I said, quite apart from these sins pf omission, which are sins of failure, imagination and leadership, there have been a number of gratuitous interferences in the education system which have had nothing to do with the basic thrust of education policy and leadership.
Of course, the result after five years of Fraser Government is that the education sector is generally depressed. This applies to university research, colleges of advanced education - there has been no direction about the role and identity of such colleges - technical and further education and schools. By far the worst aspect of this Government’s policy over five years has been the sort of bully boy attacks on the education system which in reality demonstrate better than anything else the crisis of imagination and courage within the Fraser Government.
Before I refer the Senate to the most recent statement on education of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I want to say that attacks have never been made on inequalities in education which exist in a very significant and vast extent throughout the system. They have never been made on the question of inadequate quality in the education system. The attacks have followed a certain line. The Prime Minister has adopted the tactic of blaming the education authorities for failures of government. I refer to an article in the Australian Financial Review which gives a report from the speech which the Prime Minister gave recently to the Metal Trades Industry Association dinner. The article states:
A speech yesterday by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, heavily laden with election campaign rhetoric, included an unexpected theory on the reason Tor the high level of youth unemployment - the failure of the school system.
The article went on to say that the Prime Minister’s most unexpected line of argument was an attack on the school system. It stated:
He claimed the Government would not have needed to introduce a school to work transition program had the school system been properly equipping the young instead of placing undue emphasis on academic achievements.
The article quoted the Prime Minister as saying:
I think in a very real sense it (the school system) has ignored the needs of those whose talents lie in different vocational directions, especially those requiring trade training and manual skills.
I think in too many schools, for those who don’t match the academic qualities and standards the schools set, there is a feeling of failure and a feeling of frustration and not sufficient efforts by that school to find something that the student can and wants to do well.
I don’t believe many of our schools today are meeting the kind of standards that they ought to and to the extent that they are not I regard the school system as failing many thousands of young Australians. lt is not a question of young Australians failing at school. When that happens it is the school system that has failed the students.
He went on to refer to what he calls, if you please, the paradox of youth unemployment’. Those comments of the Prime Minister - which Senator Teague denied when I suggested earlier this year that they had been made before by the Prime Minister- are not only cowardly but also stupid. I want to explain why. I should also state that they are typical, because it is a characteristic of the Fraser Government that everybody else in society is responsible for the sins of this society, for its shortcomings and its failings, other than the Government. This is the first government in the history of Australia which has spent $2m - provided in the Budget this year - on advertisements on television explaining to ordinary Australians that if they would only work harder the problems of this country would go away.
When the Fraser Government took power it accepted responsibility for the failings and shortcomings of Australian society, and it accepted responsibility for curing them. It has failed in that responsibility. As Bertolt Brecht once put it in a great quotation about the nature of government in Germany at the time of the Weimar republic:
The government has decided that the people no longer have the confidence of the government. The government has decided to dismiss the people.
That is a very relevant political comment in the context of this sort of attack on the education system by a Prime Minister who specifically accepted responsibility for the omissions and failures of Australian society. Not only did he do that but also he appointed, as we were told this morning at Question Time, the much vaunted Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training in
Australia. One of the things that the Prime Minister studiously ignores about the Williams Committee of Inquiry is its finding that youth unemployment exists in Australia not because of the education system or because of apprentice wages being too high and things of that kind, but because there are no jobs. That is what the Williams Committee said, a finding of impeccable logic which one would have thought would have even got into the skull of the Prime Minister if he were an honest man.
Youth unemployment exists because there are no jobs, yet on Monday of this week we had the Prime Minister saying, contrary to the findings of his expert committee; ‘Oh, no. The real problem in Australia is the schools. They are responsible for kids being unemployed, not the Government. We do not have the responsibility for that sort of thing’. This was in spite of the fact, which he did not mention to the dinner on Monday, that in 1 977 he was saying that unemployment would fall from February 1978 and continue to fall. He was prepared to accept the responsibility then- this courageous, tough Prime Minister. In 1980 he has lost his courage or he is forgetting again what he promised and what he said. The approach adopted in that speech to the Metal Trades Industry Association is cowardly and unworthy of any Prime Minister, whether he be the Prime Minister of Bechuanaland or Bananaland or anywhere else, and it is worse coming from a Prime Minister of a country such as Australia.
The worst aspect of this Government’s failures in relation to education has been its consistent attempt to direct its responsibility for the failures of this country to all sorts of systems, including the education system in particular in relation to youth unemployment. The Prime Minister said that the Government had to introduce the transition from school to work program because of the failure of the schools. I will tell honourable senators why the Government introduced the transition from school to work program in November 1979. It was because, as with everything else in policy stimulation of the Fraser Government, members of the Government read a few opinion polls in November 1979 which told them that the community in Australia was very concerned about the level of youth unemployment.
The Government introduced the transition from school to work program, the Prime Minister says, because of the failure of the schools, lt was not because of the failure of the schools; it was because of the failure of the Government. The scheme was introduced in conjunction with the States. We all know what the State governments think about it, what the Premier of Victoria thinks about it and we all know how the transition from school to work program is working. It is an extraordinary admission of failure that this sort of comment should be made by a Prime Minister. What it represents is a crisis in leadership and a total abdication of responsibility. One can identify the sorts of things that this Government has done in relation to education. There has been no leadership on all the crucial issues that face this country. There has been no recognition of the relevance of the education system and its importance in training and educating young Australians for the sort of society in which they will be living in the remaining years of this century. There has been no response in that regard at all. The response has been one of blaming the system for government failures. That is a shocking record indeed.
Senator Carrick, at Question Time this morning, stated how the Government had acted on all these problems by appointing committees of inquiry. I do not know about the people of Australia, but I am getting sick of committees of inquiry. Committees of inquiry are designed to get the Government off the hook in relation to problems that it cannot handle. When the committees report the Government does nothing about the recommendations. Let us look at the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. It cost $750,000 and took two years to present its report. What happened to the 108 recommendations of the Williams Committee of Inquiry? Fifty-six were referred to the Tertiary Education Commission for further consideration. The remainder of the 108 recommendations were noted. That is what happened to the report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training in Australia.
What has been the Government’s response to other reports, such as the report of the Schools Commission on Girls, Schools and Society, which is now five years old, dealing with the special position of girls in the Australian education system? What has been the Government’s response to that report? The difficulties which girls had, the particular things which were expected of them in terms of the curriculum which they chose and matters of that kind were pointed out. No action has been taken in relation to that report. There has been no response to the report of the Senate Committee on Science and the Environment recommending the establishment of research institutes in Australian colleges and universities. Nothing has happened as a result of that report. What has happened in relation to the numerous reports on the shortages of engineering and mathematical skills in the Australian education system? Nothing has happened in relation to those reports. Of course there are other fundamental issues of the inequalities which exist in the Australian education system in terms of disadvantaged schools and so on and on which the Government has adopted a most parsimonious stance.
Time is limited, but let me say in conclusion that the Opposition asserts its confidence in the value of education to every Australian child. The best education that every Australian child can get, the better this society will be. The Opposition asserts its confidence in the value of training of skilled personnel, particularly in the postsecondary education system, and in the importance to the Australian economy of training of world standard in Australian education institutions. The Opposition asserts its belief that we have had five years of chronic failure in relation to the education system, which is not good enough if we are to live as a society with some aspiration about a better future for the young people of Australia and a better future for the whole of Australian society to which the education system must be vitally relevant.
– The Senate has before it a matter of public importance which relates to giving leadership and direction to the education system. I would have thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Button), when opening on this matter this morning, would devote some of his time and attention to talking about leadership and direction. Instead he seemed to spend a great deal of time talking about every subject other than education, leadership and direction. He paid a great deal of attention to a newspaper article, a persona] attack on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and a whole range of other areas which were not related to education and certainly not related to leadership or direction. In no way did he make a point, let alone prove a point, about charges concerning leadership and direction.
Over the years since the Commonwealth Government became involved in the field of education and in the years since the Fraser Government came into power, there has been a great deal of leadership and direction and a great deal of expansion and diversity of programs. So the whole program of education has been geared to serve the Australian people, to be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the 1980s, and to provide for the widest possible range of people, improved services and improved standards in education. The Government and the party which supports the Government are committed to a wide ranging education policy formulated on a basis which allows the greatest possible degree of equality to prevail. Over the years, the Fraser Government has followed through its various aims to widen the educational opportunity, to maintain and pursue educational quality, to develop educational excellence, to promote freedom of choice in schools and in schooling and to work with the States and the independent schools system. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) pointed out earlier in Question Time today, a great deal of the education budget in this country comes from the States. The Government has also taken on board the special needs of communities within Australian society concerning education, the handicapped, the isolated, the migrant and the Aboriginal child.
Last year Senator Carrick, as Minister for Education, said: . . much effort has also been directed at quality as a goal of our developing policies: at higher standards of teacher education and recurrent training during service; at increasing involvement of local communities in their schools, with more opportunity for people to help to determine standards and content in education for their children; at research into and development of curriculum and of educational means, objectives, evaluation, monitoring and methods of assessment; and at finding answers to the problems and needs of particular groups of Australians . . .
Since 1975 the Commonwealth has pursued all of these policies in a conscientious way. lt is one thing to be able to say this, it is also one thing to report on their progress; but one has to take into account the background against which the Government has been working - the ever present need for financial responsibility which has been a hallmark of the Government and the background of budgetary restraint and financial responsibility which the Government regards as essential to Australia’s economic health. There has been a real increase in education spending and a real increase in educational opportunity, particularly in 1981. In purely expenditure terms the Commonwealth’s direct support for the Australian education system through the Schools Commission and the Tertiary Education Commission will reach something like $2, 141m in 1981. This represents an increase over the previous year. The 1981 funds will be adjusted for movements in costs under the existing arrangements for cost supplementation.
The programs to which I have referred must be considered in the context of overall Australian public expenditure in education, which is expected to grow to $6.5 billion in the 1979-80 financial year. In real terms this represents a rise of more than 6 per cent since 1977. Basically the
Commonwealth has full financial responsibility for a number of areas, particularly the universities and colleges of advanced education, whilst it assumes a topping up role in the States and the Northern Territory as well as in the funding for technical and further education. For technical and further education it provides something like 25 per cent of the total expenditure, and it provides about 12 per cent of the money spent on government schools. In the area of universities and colleges of advanced education recurrent funds for 1980-81 have been determined previously by the Government as part of the fixed triennial arrangements. This means that all these institutions are able to sustain their existing intakes because the recurrent funds have been maintained at a constant level for the triennium. This has led to a stabilisation of enrolments in universities and colleges of advanced education. Total spending in these sectors will be $ 1 ,279m in 1 98 1 .
Looking for a moment at the figure for capital and equipment spending, we see that there has been sound reasoning. The Government has set aside some $82. 7m. This is slightly below the level of the 1980 program, but it has had to be calculated carefully to meet the commitments of the capital projects that are currently in existence. What is more, it will enable a start to be made immediately on new capital projects of the highest priority. The grants made available for capital projects in the past have made possible a very great range of developments and facilities for universities and colleges of advanced education. Since 1976 the Government has provided, or is committing itself to providing, nearly $800m, at the estimated price levels of December 1979, in capital and equipment grants for colleges of advanced education. So the total Commonwealth spending on education for the financial year was $2,570m in addition to a range of other areas.
Turning to the matter of leadership and direction, we have to look at the immediate situation. The Government is giving both leadership and direction and, what is more, giving them in adequate terms. I do not think there is any better source of review in an argument of this kind than to look at the Budget statement made by the Minister for Education (Mr Fife). The statement indicates that total Commonwealth expenditure will grow by 10 per cent in 1980-81 and, in absolute terms, there will be an additional $260m. Major elements in this increase are: Spending on schools is up by $1 1 2m; on universities, colleges and technical and further education, up by $125m; and on student assistance, up by $19m. Education is not only providing for capital grants, recurrent expenditure and research but also very much a social exercise in which attention has to be given to people to help them at a particularly valuable time of their life when education is a matter of considerable importance-
Let us look for a moment at the student assistance program. The Government has given careful consideration to the needs of students and their parents and decided on increases in allowances and adjustments to the means tests for each of the student assistance schemes. I refer briefly to some of these schemes. They include the Isolated Children’s Scheme, a matter of which this Senate has some knowledge as a result of a Senate inquiry; and the secondary allowances scheme. Allowances under these schemes are to be increased by 20 per cent. Living allowances will rise by 10 per cent and the means test will also be adjusted. These changes will come into effect from the beginning of next year and will cost an additional $ 1 9m for the half year and $38m for the full year. Total expenditure on student assistance during 1 980-8 1 is expected to be of the order of $230m.
The Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme provides assistance for tertiary students on a basis of need and bears in mind the costs incurred by parents who contribute to the support of their children during tertiary study. The Government has decided to increase living allowances for 1981 and to adjust the means tests in line with movements of the average income. The Adult Secondary Education Assistance Scheme is another area in relation to which the Government takes into account the needs of people for educational advantages and provides a lead and direction. This Scheme is for mature students who are undertaking their final year of secondary study. The increases in allowances applicable to the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme will also be extended to the Adult Secondary Education Assistance Scheme. Nearly 2,000 students will receive adult secondary education assistance during 1 98 1 . In the senior area of post-graduate awards, the stipends and allowances will be increased for 1981. The Government has taken note of the Williams report in relation to this very important matter. The number of post-graduate awards made available each year will be increased. In 1981, 800 new awards will be provided and about 2,000 post-graduate award holders will receive assistance in 1981.
I refer to the Aboriginal education schemes - the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme, known as Abstudy, and the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme, known as Abseg. These schemes have been particularly valuable as they work in a flexible way to meeting the need for educational opportunities in this area. Living at home and boarding allowances will be increased by 10 per cent in 1981. The books and clothing allowance will be raised by 20 per cent. Similarly, the living allowances payable under Abstudy have been increased by 1 0 per cent. There have been other increases in various areas. Over 16,000 students will benefit under the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme and a further 1 0,000 students will benefit under the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme.
I turn with interest to the situation for isolated children. The Government has heard from the members of the Senate Committee on Education and the Arts and has responded mindful of the problems of families in remote areas and away from educational facilities. The costs have increased significantly in recent years. The special supplementary allowance will rise. The boarding allowances payable under the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme will also rise. There will be adjustments to the means test and the second home allowances payable under the Isolated Children Scheme will also be increased. Something like 20,500 students are expected to be assisted under the Isolated Children Scheme during the 1981 calendar year.
A great deal has been made of the Transition from School to Work Program. I think this is a very important area of education. It takes into account the needs not only of a group of people who are in need of training in skills, technical and further education situations, but also those in apprenticeships, and pre-vocational and preemployment courses. It is hoped to develop what is called the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and to improve services for identifying potential early school leavers. There has been the development of what are known- as link courses involving student participation in programs combining elements of secondary, technical and further education courses. Alongside all of these programs there is the important area of teacher development programs which include both inservice and reorientation programs.
Following through the social aspect of education, there is a proposal for an expansion of the school counsellor service with emphasis on vocational education and guidance services to provide more intensive assistance to those students who might be regarded as being at risk. It is not surprising to note that it is proposed that these services be appropriately extended to parents who may require a particular kind of assistance. The Commonwealth Department of Education sees that in the longer term, as a result of these initiatives, this leadership and this direction, the education system will be not only better geared but also more diverse and provide greater equality of opportunity as we move into the 1980s. Giving attention to this matter of leadership and direction, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his Budget Speech last week drew attention to the allocations for such areas as the Curriculum Development Centre. There will be an increase in activity in the coming year and special attention will be given to mathematics, language development, science policies and Aboriginal education curriculum areas.
I take up the matter of the forthcoming International Year of the Disabled Persons. As a new policy proposal for this year an additional amount will be provided under the Schools Commission’s Special Education Program for extra staff resources which will be required to allow the integration of handicapped children into the normal school system. This will be additional to the ongoing Commonwealth expenditure on the education of handicapped children and will amount to over $17m for 1981.
Governments are now investing more in education than ever before in Australia’s history. At the last reckoning, Commonwealth and State annual outlays on education totalled 6.4 per cent of our gross domestic product. Less than a decade ago the total was only 3.7 per cent. As I said earlier in this year the Commonwealth and State governments will spend $6,500m on schools, universities, colleges of advanced education, technical and further education and financial help for students. That amounts to something like SI 8m a day. I said earlier, and I repeat, that this financial year the Commonwealth Government alone will spend $2,800m - a 10 per cent increase on the amount for 1979-80. That increase reflects the Government’s implementation of recommendations that have come to it from various reports. That increase represents a greater diversity of education and the provision of a greater degree of opportunity for a greater range of people.
All through this area of educational facilities there is leadership, progress and development so that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the educational sphere is indeed one of leadership and direction. Its objective is to promote an equality of educational opportunity for each Australian child, and a -number of programs - I have had time to refer to only some of them - are designed to help achieve this goal and to provide for the Australian Community and the Australian people, whether they be students, post-graduate people, migrant children, Aboriginal children or adults.
Therefore, in this changing climate of the 1 980s there will be growing opportunity and a growing response to the new demands of society as a result of better education, better opportunities for education not only in the school years but also throughout the whole of people’s lives. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s matter of public importance is indeed a matter of public importance. But when he talks about leadership and direction and fails to prove the point that its terms convey, I think his argument falls to the ground. Certainly in the last five years the Fraser Government has provided a great deal of leadership and a great deal of direction in education. Its programs, its increasing expenditure, its response to reports and the diverse inquiries which it is conducting indicate without any shadow of doubt that leadership and direction not only exists now but also are programmed, designed and geared to continue.
– I support this matter of public importance although perhaps for different reasons from those of the Australian Labor Party. Of all the policy areas that have interested the Australian Democrats in the last few years since its foundation, obviously unemployment, the economy and energy problems have been of major concern. They are immediate problems of society which press for urgent solutions and which, indeed, they are not receiving. That is by the way. Beyond these policy areas of prime interest, education has been a major field of concern to us and one in relation to which we have had a great deal of feedback from the community. It is already obvious to us that there is a deal of evidence that most Australians are not satisfied with our educational system for a variety of reasons. Some say that it is not doing its job in terms of simple literacy. They ask that greater reliance be placed upon the old three Rs- reading, . … and ‘rithmetic as they were said to be- so that basic education is achieved throughout the society. We in the Australian Democrats applaud that. We feel that sort of education appears to have failed to some extent in the society, although perhaps nol as much as some of the people who complain would allege.
But the matter goes a great deal deeper thar that. 1 think that the thrust of this matter of public importance- namely, The failure of the Government to give adequate leadership and direction to the education system’ finds its mark. In spite of Senator Davidson’s words, I believe the Government has an apparent basic indifference towards education. That is a serious mater; indeed it is a matter of public importance. 1 suggest that taking a serious interest in leadership and direction is not merely a matter of throwing money at a problem. Senator Davidson gave us an account of various sums of money which the Government has put into the education field. I think a considerable measure of our more obvious problems - our industrial fallback, our increasing inability to compete in manufactured goods with the rest of the world, our terrible and appalling lack of innovation in this society - very much can be traced back to education. That is not a new or original thought; most modern industrial societies recognise absolutely that that is so. Societies such as those in Switzerland, West Germany, Japan and the Scandinavian countries, all of which spend much more money on education than we do, recognise those problems as basic. Education is vital because the ability of a society, or enough of its members, to deal with the world around them efficiently and diligently is a key factor in the very survival of that society. I think that is becoming increasingly understood, perhaps not here but in other parts of the world.
We have a sort of hangover of the Victorian view that education, especially tertiary education, is a luxury - something people have if they can afford it or something that people should have to suffer to gel. In other words, if people do not have enough money to get a tertiary education there is moral value in making it hard for them to get it. I suggest that that sort of charity view towards tertiary education is what informs the Government. The Government, in the national interest, should look at that attitude very long and hard purely concerning a hard economic policy. Not only is it mandatory to have educated people in the twentieth century and increasingly in the future, but also it is essential to have the best educated, most efficient and effective group of professional people, decision makers and technologists, that can possibly be achieved by any methods. I think that the world of the future will require that even more than the world of the present does and the world of the past did. With the technology revolution in society we see a blank, complete failure of huge areas of our present education system which continue to educate people for things which we know full well they will not be required to do in the world of the immediate future - not the distant future but the immediate future. So presumably that group of people will be unemployed. They will be educated sufficiently to give them some expectation in life and to create a feeling of discontent within them. They will not like being unemployed. I throw that thought to the Government for it to make of it what it wishes.
We of the Australian Democrats have been educated to move towards having the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance increased dramatically; indeed, increased above the poverty level. That seems to us to be wholly rational in every respect. In Australia we have a huge infrastructure cost in the universities - hundreds of millions of dollars, I suppose; it could be thousands of millions of dollars. We have huge recurring costs in running expenses, academic salaries and things of that type. In this situation, we irrationally ensure that the majority of the students that all this is supposed to serve cannot work to their full effectiveness because they must spend some of their time working and a lot of the rest of their time worrying about money. They often go short on good food. This actually happens with students; I know some who do. So they cannot do their work properly. Indeed, as a further piece of folly we guarantee by our policies that many students have to drop out half way through their courses. So the enormous amount of money that has been spent on them through the infrastructure, academics and tutors in that time is wasted. I hate to think of the total figure of that waste in the last few years. It would certainly run into hundreds of millions of dollars, if it were costed accurately. It is sheer inefficient waste which derives from a stupid and unintelligent view of education.
As Senator Davidson mentioned, a small budget increase of 10 per cent has been made. I agree that that is good. But it is like the situation I mentioned the other day when I was talking about foreign aid; the increase merely meets inflation for one year. It does not get us any further ahead. There is no merit in it. We will merely maintain for the rest of the year those people who were virtually starving last year. They will go on virtually starving but we will not starve students absolutely; we will not make it utterly impossible for them to go on with their courses. That is all that means.
With a reasonable increase in the TEAS allowance tertiary education would become very much more competitive. Perhaps the Government does not want that; I do not know. It may have its own reasons for not wanting that. Also, the standard of graduates would rise. Surely that is axiomatic. That is a policy which is being followed in many other parts of the world. 1 should have thought that this is what we want to do. We have the infrastructure and we have the academics, although they are terribly demoralised now because of the education policies. That is partly because good students who do not have enough money drop out half way through their courses. I have academic friends who tell me they see this personal tragedy virtually every day. I should have thought that the Government would have sufficient perception and intelligence to realise that it will not increase the morale of academic teachers for them to find a good bright person who might be of great value to this country in the future and then find that the Government has ensured that the student, half way through his course, is frustrated and unable to go on with it. That person, who might be of enormous future value in cold money terms to this country, is then lost to the process. I can assure honourable senators that the lack of morale among academics at present in large measure is due to the Government’s ensuring that that is what is happening.
As a further illustration of a plainly stupid and old fashioned view- I cannot put it lower than that - 1 turn to the financial position of postgraduate scholars. I am aware that a small increase has been granted. The basic allowance has been increased from $4,200 to $4,600 a year in this year’s Budget - an increase of $400 a year. It just compensates for inflation for a bare twelve month period, lt does nothing whatsoever to cope with or attack the basic problem. Young people who go into this sort of post-graduate study are working in research. They are the very front line of our future research effort in the sciences and every other field of endeavour of importance to this society. It is as if the Government is continuing to pursue a deliberate policy in an area involving sums of money which virtually are peanuts. The amount involved is virtually nothing. If we simply cut down on the dreadful ‘be Australian’ campaign which is now running and which is utterly worthless and stupid and gave some of that money to post-graduate scholars we could achieve more for students. It would not even affect that program, the sum of money is so small.
If we did that we might be able to ensure that our future research effort works. But at present the Government seems to be trying to discourage our brightest and best young people and to force them to end their careers either by starving them or by forcing them to go overseas, which indeed many of the best of them are doing. There is no doubt about that whatsoever. Any academic, any head of faculty, will tell honourable senators that. We have a situation continuing in which a young scholar - probably in his early twenties, quite often married and with, maybe, one or two children - by the time he travels backwards and forwards to university and buys reasonable clothing for himself is worse off than a married man with two children on the dole. I put that forward as an absolute indictment. Nothing could support the thrust of the Opposition’s matter of public importance more. Surely a government which cannot perceive that cannot make any claim whatsoever to leadership and direction in the education system.
We have a nation of great potential and huge potential wealth. Either Australians will deal competently with that potential or others will do it for us. If we are to deal with it ourselves we must have the best trained minds we can achieve and quickly. That means providing more money - a lot more money - to all aspects of education. I take Senator Davidson’s point; there has been an increase. It is to be applauded. But it is not enough. It is easy for me to say that, I know. But I think it can be rationalised back directly to the national interest. Unless more money is put into education we will not have the minds that are necessary to cope with the problems of the future and we will virtually turn into a second rate society. This is where leadership and direction by the Government in education is so vital and one would hope that it will think carefully about that.
At the moment the Government is allowing to continue a situation which would cut Australian society back to mediocrity simply by blunting the efforts and reducing the potential of our best minds. I am not so uncharitable as to say to the Government that this is a deliberate carefully thought out policy, but the effect of it will be to hand over the top jobs and the direction of this country and its people to foreigners who are better educated because their governments have enough sense and intelligence to see that they are. We will become then, will we, another Chile, another Argentina, another Uruguay, a compliant, non-educated, non-thinking work force at the disposal of vast multinational corporations who torture the people and who keep them in a virtually slave state. Look at the fate of Uruguay, directly financed by big multinational corporations. Its track record in t his regard is appalling. We do not want that kind of situation, I suggest, in this country. That is a point I wish to put to the Government. Unless it smartens up and gets something done in this country so that we are a more efficient society with better education, that is the sort of fate that may well await us.
There are some points of Democrat education policy which I want to mention at this stage because they are relevant as guides to the Government if it really wants to pursue a policy of leadership and direction in the education field. I remind honourable senators that Democrat policy is derived from Australian citizens through secret written ballot. We believe schools should be community centres; they are buildings, libraries and sports facilities which at present are grossly and wastefully underused and which should be much more integrated with the community. They should be education centres to which people can go at any stage in their lives. Education should not be a process which goes on for 1 5 or 20 years and then ends for life. Any citizen who wants access to education at any time should be able to get it. The system should provide for that. We want much greater emphasis on pre-school education.
It is a blind society which cannot recognise that an individual who can learn a foreign language simply by observation - which indeed a young pre-school child does - is at a stage where the other planks of his future education should be very carefully put into place. If the Government cannot see that, I think it is time it thought about it. Part of our policy is that there should be a very effective provision of child education centres - not child minding centres - because so many mothers now work. Children who need this potential and who are often called naughty because their minds are restless at that stage are subdued and the whole future of their possible education is destroyed.
I turn to the matter of migrants. Australia is a multinational society. The education system should reflect this. Multilingual teachers should be trained and employed to work in schools with high proportions of students whose first language is not English. That is not being done at present, and it should be done. Most tertiary institutions are too small to be educationally economically viable. They should be rationalised, and this could be done by government leadership so that the largest is smaller and the smallest is made a little larger so that we have efficient education in large capital cities and in a series of regional units to serve non-metropolitan people. There are many more problems. This is a large subject, but I must leave it at this stage for reasons of time.
– Papers are presented in accordance with the list circulated to honourable senators, and 1 seek leave to incorporate the list in Hansard.
The document read as follows -
PROPOSED PRESENTATION OF PAPERS
Thursday, 28 August 1980
. The Defence Budget- Text of a statement by the Minister for Defence.
Special Flights by the Royal Australian Air Force - Schedule for the period 1 January 1980 to 30 June 1980. Copies are available from the Senate Records Office.
Family Law Regulations- Inquiry into Costs by Mr Justice Williams.
Human Rights Bureau Directive and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; together with the text of a statement relating to the documents.
Papua New Guinea Superannuation Scheme and the Contract Officers Retirement Benefits Scheme - Report by the Commissioner for Superannuation for the year ended 30 June 1980 - pursuant to section 21 of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Termination Act 1976.
Australian Financial System - Interim Report of the Committee of Inquiry, together with the text of a statement by the Treasurer.
Medical Manpower Supply - Report of the Committee of Officials, May 1980.
Survey into the Information Needs of Migrants in Australia - Summary of Findings, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs relating to the Survey.
Defence Service Homes Corporation - Report for 1978- 79 - pursuant to section 50b of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918.
Industries Assistance Commission - Report on Chemical Products (Part B).
Trade Practices Commission - Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1980 - pursuant to section 171 of the Trade Practices Act 1 974.
Department of the Prime Minister and CabinetAnnual Report 1979-80.
Public Service Board - Annual Report 1980- Pursuant to Section 22 of the Public Service Act.
Advance to the Minister for Finance - Statement of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the the Audit Act 1901 for the year ended 30 June 1980.
Explanatory Notes on Expenditure from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. 1979-80 - Department of Business and Consumer Affairs (Trade Practices Commission).
Motion (by Senator Chaney)- by leave - agreed to:
That consideration of the statement in the Committee of the Whole be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– by leave -I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the Special Flights by the Royal Australian Air Force- Schedule for the period1 January 1 980 to 30 June 1980.
I would like to thank Senator Chaney for his prompt reply by mail to my request last week seeking the tabling of this document. Unfortunately, we have not had it in time to look at it. It will be buried on the Notice Paper and we will not have an opportunity to debate it in the Parliament until we are on the other side of the House. With those remarks, 1 seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave- agreed to:
That the Defence Service Homes Corporation report for 1978-79 be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the reasons for the delay in the presentation.
-by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the Medical Manpower Supply-Report of the Committee of Officials.
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sentor CHANEY (Western Australia-
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)–I seek leave to table a statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) on the tabling of Mr Justice Williams’ report.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
No. 8. I have been inquiring all morning at the Papers Office of the Senate and at the House of Representatives as to where the Human Rights Bureau Directive and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are. I am informed by Senator Georges, who moved, by leave, that the Senate take note of this item, and asked to continue his remarks, that he has the paper; that he got it two minutes ago.
- Senator Chipp, if you wish to make a statement, then seek leave to do so.
– I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.
– I believe I have said most of what I wanted to say. It is serious that in the Senate we take up so much time, particularly on days when the proceedings are broadcast, on matters which are not unimportant but which are far less important than the kind of information of fundamental importance that is dropped on us in the mornings, particularly Tuesday and Thursday mornings. In the past several weeks we have received a list of papers. 1 know that the staff of the Journals, Records and Bills Office do their best to get the reports and papers to senators as quickly as possible but it is not fair or decent to ask senators to debate statements on matters of fundamental importance such as human rights without having seen the statement. For all we know there may well be something quite significant in the statement with the number of violations of human rights going on around the world today; yet we have not even seen it. The debate has been adjourned and the matter has been placed on the Notice Paper. It will never be debated. What can be done about it I do not know. Several honourable senators on this side of the House have complained about the procedure in the past.
– lt is equal treatment for everyone.
– I thank the honourable senator for that interjection. I am very pleased to have Senator Missen and Senator Baume join me on this matter. Whose fault is it? It is certainly not the fault of the Government Whip. Is it the fault of the Executive? ls the Executive now treating this chamber with utter contempt? I raise my voice very strongly against the procedure. If this is to continue for the rest of this session and if matters of fundamental importance - perhaps some may regard them as relatively unimportant and ask who cares, for instance, about the defence budget - are dropped on us with a minute’s notice and buried at the- bottom of the Notice Paper it is not good enough.
– by leave- I rise to speak very briefly about this matter, as I have on many occasions. I am provoked to speak by the interjection of Senator Baume that we are all equal in this situation and that we are all suffering from the same defect. In fact, we are not. Many reports come into this place which are reports to the Parliament, and to the Government. They come in accompanied by a statement from the appropriate Minister, who has obviously had weeks to study the report and who has a considerable staff to study the report. He presents the report and puts down a considered statement.
When I became a shadow Minister in this place at least shadow Ministers were given the courtesy of seeing a report some two hours before it was tabled. IT we could do nothing else at least we could Hag for the Senate, the Parliament and the public in general serious things in the report, parts that should be considered and parts that people should look at. We could draw to the attention of this chamber the fact that the report dealt with something important and should be carefully studied. That practice has ceased and I have complained about it many times. I do not know how many times in the last year, I, as an Opposition spokesman, have received even the courtesy of looking at a report for two hours so that at least I can draw attention to it. I consider that the Executive has been treating the Senate with contempt in the matter of reports. We frequently do not get copies at all. We are told that a copy is available in the Parliamentary Library or that we can get copies in the Journals, Records and Bills Office.
-How do you know your spokesmen have not had a copy of this report?
– We know they have not. We have been seeking a copy. It is a very patchy thing. Sometimes we get a copy and sometimes we do not. The very real difficulty- I am merely taking up the point once again that Senator Baume took up- -is that we are not all equal in this place. Sometimes reports to the Parliament, not reports to the Government or to the Prime Minister, are seen and studied by members of the Executive for weeks before they are presented in this place. They are tabled accompanied by long statements and no one in this place gets a look at them. As Senator Chipp said, they are then buried in the Notice Paper. We are not treated equally. The whole situation is a farce. We have pointed out many times that it is a farce. I do not know what can be done about it.
-They give the reports to the Press before us.
– The Standing Orders Committee has looked at it. I hope it does something. As happened yesterday, the Press in fact received a report 24 hours before we did.
– by leave - Senator Chipp asked me what the state of play was. I took the course that 1 did as holding action. I did so for the simple reason that Estimates Committee C is meeting tomorrow and on Monday, if not Tuesday. It is essential, as Senator Chipp stated, that the material be at the disposal of members of Estimates Committee C so that we can use it as the basis of a probing operation. That was my motive. I say to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) that 1 hope when members of Estimates Committee C assemble tomorrow that they at least will have a copy of this report as a launching pad for certain information they will be seeking in the course of the Committee hearing.
– by leave -I rise now in the hope that we will avoid using a great deal of the Senate’s debating time on this series of complaints. May I make it quite clear to the Senate - 1 am sure it is known to most honourable senators - that the procedure we are following has been unchanged for years. The Senate receives literally hundreds of documents which are tabled. Some are tabled because statute requires it, others are tabled because the Government believes that information should be made available to the public. If the Senate chose to debate these hundreds of documents it could take many hundreds of days in the year. I suggest to honourable senators that if they seriously want more debating time on these matters, the Senate will have to sit for a very much longer period each year than is presently allowed.
– That is not the point and you know it.
– I get a bit sick of these complaints which are made without regard to the facts, lt has been standard practice in this place for reports of this type to be tabled, for senators to seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report and for the debate to be adjourned. The procedure was discussed by the Standing Orders Committee and no change was made. It is open to any honourable senator to take up the matter through the Standing Orders Committee if he believes a better procedure should be devised. I suggest that indignation on a particular day about a procedure that has been followed for many years is not a particularly convincing demonstration of sincerity in these matters.
The arrangements with respect to prior notice, which again have been in operation for a long time, are that ministerial statements for which leave is sought are provided two hours beforehand to the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition Whip, the Leader of the Australian Democrats and, if the statement is in response to a committee report, to the committee Chairman. That procedure is followed to give some notice to those people and to facilitate the granting of leave. A vast amount of material is tabled in the Senate. A characteristically mixed bag of reports has been presented today. It ranges from a statement on defence to the schedules of airline flights which are tabled each session, to family law regulations. It is a very mixed bag of reports which are now available for senators to peruse and which, if it is the will of the Senate, can be brought on for debate at a later time.
I suggest that if there is a genuine feeling of concern by the Opposition, the Australian Democrats or any other senator the matter be referred again to the Standing Orders Committee, which gave long consideration to the problem and which was not able to devise a recommendation which would have changed the practice that we now follow.
– We did not receive the documents that were being tabled today. I still have not received them. That is my complaint.
– My understanding is that when the documents are tabled they are subsequently circulated to the offices of honourable senators. That has been a standard practice. In a limited number of cases - the circumstances are explained specifically in each case - documents may not be available for circulation in that manner and the place where they are available for inspection is indicated. As I recall it, that is usually the Parliamentary Library. If this is a serious matter of concern for honourable senators the sensible course to follow is to ask the Standing Orders Committee to examine the matter again to see whether a practical means of producing a system which is more suitable to senators can be devised.
In concluding I say to honourable senators what I said at the beginning of my speech: If we genuinely want more time for considering committee business, more time for discussing General Business and more time for debating reports I suggest to the Senate that the traditional sitting pattern of the Australian Parliament would have to be varied. The parliaments with which we like to compare ourselves in which more of those things are done - those in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States - spend a greater proportion of the year sitting. It would involve a total change in the pattern which was followed by the previous Government, which has been followed by this Government and which has been followed by the governments of Australia since Federation.
– by leave - For a long time now this argument has arisen in relation to the tabling of reports and documents in the Senate. Senators are not given the opportunity to speak about anything which they are concerned about in those reports. I suggest to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and to you, Mr President, that you take to the Standing Orders Committee a proposition - I thought it had been taken to the Committee and that a ruling was given, but Senator Chaney says that that is not the case - that senators have an opportunity on the day after these papers are tabled to speak about them in the Senate if they so desire. I have been trying to obtain a ruling on that proposition but the person who is seeking it for me cannot obtain it. If the present procedure is to be continued a safety device needs to be built into the Standing Orders whereby no Government senator can move the adjournment of the debate on a report on the day that it is tabled. If that motion is moved it means that no senator is able on the next day to move that the Senate take note of the report and to speak to that motion. That safety measure has to be built into the Standing Orders to protect any senator who may want to speak on a particular matter.
Senator Chaney said that the Senate is in control of the debates on these papers, but that is not quite correct. Each Thursday night it is the Government which decides which reports appearing on the Business Paper under the heading of General Business will be debated. We often find–
– We go straight down the paper, Senator.
– Not always, Senator.
– It is the Senate that decides any alternative.
– Yes, but if the Opposition does not have the numbers, it is the Government that decides what reports will be debated. As we found out in this chamber last Thursday night, some reports were listed under General Business in which senators were not interested and which senators did not even know were coming on for debate. Consequently the Senate folded half an hour before the time set down for the putting of the adjournment motion and nothing else came forward for us to debate. That is a matter that should also be looked at. It is of no use the Minister saying that it is the Senate that makes the decision because whatever party has the numbers in this place makes the decision on everything that takes place.
I ask the Minister and you, Mr President, to look carefully at the Standing Orders to see whether some device can be built into the Standing Orders whereby no senator is prevented from speaking on any paper that is tabled in the Parliament, even if it means bringing the Parliament back to sit for an extra period. Senator Chaney says that it would mean that we would have to sit for extra time. Well, our time is being whittled away, particularly this year. The Parliament rose early in the autumn session and it will rise early again this session. We have been given notice today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) that the Senate will have to sit on the Friday of the first week after the break. I think that telegraphs to us the message that the Senate will rise very early. If we move that the Senate take note of papers today or in the week after the break, that is the last we will ever see of them. That matter needs to be rectified.
I ask the Government to have a look also at the new method it has adopted for the tabling of papers. It is like a milkshake. It is all shaken up; it is all over the place. Why can we not go back to the old system of dealing with papers in the numerical order in which they appear? Then if a senator wishes to move that the Senate take note of a paper he will be able to do so at the appropriate time, instead of our going from the top of the list for the first paper, to the bottom for the next and back to the middle. The new system has brought about utter confusion in the Parliament.
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - by leave - Out of deference to the views which have been put forward I will ask the Standing Orders Committee to reconsider the matters which have been raised. As far as Senator Chipp’s comments are concerned, I will have examined the method of the distribution of papers to see whether it can be improved so that honourable senators can have access to them at the earliest opportunity. With respect to the last point made about the new method we are following in respect of presentation of papers, I suggest that honourable senators give it time to settle down. The objective is to avoid the situation of Ministers having to be on their feet so often, reciting a formula of words which takes up time and achieves nothing. The recording of the list in Hansard and putting it into the hands of honourable senators means that they can see what they want to respond to and then respond. It cuts out some of the Executive’s use of parliamentary time.
– Having heard the discussion on this matter I can assure the Senate that I shall have the matter referred again to the Standing Orders Committee in accordance with Senator McLaren’s suggestion which was taken up by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney).
– I present the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act, together with minutes of evidence and transcript of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave - I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
The report which I, as Deputy Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act, have just tabled concludes an inquiry which has involved 1 5 members of parliament in an extensive study of family law in Australia. It is one of the larger committees of this Parliament. In view of the controversial nature of the material it may surprise observers to learn of the substantial agreement that has been achieved in this report. Although one member of the Committee has added a dissent repudiating the findings of the majority and other members have expressed dissent on particular aspects, there is, nevertheless, strong support within the Committee for the general approach adopted in the report and for the Committee’s major recommendations. In particular there are certain themes that run through the report which are generally supported. Paramount amongst these is the importance attached by all members to the institution of marriage and the importance of family life within marriage. The Committee shares a concern that marriage be supported and that steps be taken to ensure the stability of marriages. In our view there is a role for family law in supporting an ideal and stable view of marriage. It will be seen that the approach favoured by the Committee is that more emphasis be placed on marriage and the obligations that it entails rather than on the deterrent effects of the provisions of the divorce law as a factor influencing the stability of marriage.
Those considering matrimony should be apprised of the responsibilities involved and the consequences that will result from marriage breakdown. As a means of highlighting this approach the Committee recommends that the Marriage Act and the present Family Law Act be consolidated. It could then be more complete as a Family Law Act and would indicate more clearly the intention of relying on the marriage power to support the provisions of the Family Law Act. We take the view that ill-advised marriages and impetuous divorces will be more effectively deterred if the consequences as regards property and other rights upon divorce are known in advance of marriage. Those experiencing marital stress and seeking assistance with their problems should have available to them services that can help them at the relevant time. In chapter 10 we make recommendations regarding these services.
The Committee does not doubt that the family remains the natural and fundamental group unit in society. What is needed is more objective data to assist those responsible for the formulation of policy in regard to the family so that it can be supported adequately to fulfil the role which society expects of it. This understanding of the family is important in respect of many areas of government policy.
The Committee particularly welcomes the establishment of the Institute or Family Studies with its capacity to undertake research. It is considered that the Institute should be provided with every possible assistance to implement a research program which will provide answers to many outstanding questions about the state of the family in Australia.
The Committee concluded that the provisions of the divorce law are not a significant factor influencing family stability and breakdown. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that no change to the grounds of divorce is warranted at present. In reaching this decision some members of the Committee believed that it is still too early to assess the impact of the 1975 reform and that further experience of the operation of the Act is required before a final pronouncement can be made. These members are not fully convinced of the virtues of the single ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. The majority of members, however, believe that experience under the Act so far has vindicated the belief of its original sponsors and that the single ground of irretrievable breakdown provides a rational, practical and compassionate means of terminating marriages that have irretrievably broken down. Other members have added dissent to the Committee’s conclusions on grounds. The focus of attention should now shift to measures intended to prevent marital breakdown which can provide support to couples experiencing difficulties in their relationship.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was speaking to the report of the Joint Select Committee on the- Family Law Act. The Committee believes it should be the objective of society to prevent marital breakdown by the provision of appropriate support to families rather than by enacting laws which lock individuals into relationships which have become intolerable. The report has been carefully structured. It contains two other themes.
Firstly, the report is very supportive of the concept of the Family Court as a helping court which engages, to the fullest possible extent, in conciliation enabling parties to resolve disputes so as to avoid solutions being imposed on them by the order of the court. In this connection we emphasise the importance of bargaining and negotiation between separating couples regarding all aspects of their affairs. It is stressed this process does not involve compartmentalising matters in dispute into custody, property and maintenance.
All of these matters are important in themselves but are inextricably linked together with the past lives of the parties as marriage partners and their future lives as individuals. Neat solutions are not always possible in the tangled circumstances that result from the trauma attendant on the breakdown of a significant relationship. The best hope of the parties and their children for their future happiness and stability lies in the parties resolving issues between themselves. They can be helped to do this by court counsellors who can deal with unresolved emotional issues freeing the parties to make adult decisions about their differences. They can be helped by court registrars conducting pre-trial conferences, preferably in the presence of a legal adviser, so that the possibilities for compromise and agreements can be explored. They can be helped by legal practitioners who discharge their duty to the court in the spirit of the Family Law Act by discouraging confrontation and polarisation. For such a system to operate there is a clear need for the conciliation functions of the courts to be strengthened, and we make appropriate recommendations in this report.
Another theme that has governed our thinking is related to what I have just said concerning bargaining. This is an absolute necessity to ensure that the provisions of the Family Law Act are precise regarding rights. In respect of custody we propose criteria that the Act should contain which we hope will provide courts and parties with clearer guidelines and will facilitate the bargaining process by providing an appropriate legislative backdrop. In relation to appeals we consider that certainty will be aided by our recommendation that the Full Court of the Family Court should be differently composed. We recommend that there should be a panel of 1 0 justices comprising six justices of the Family Court and the Western Australian Family Court as permanent members with four positions rotating between other justices of the Court on the basis of seniority. Full Court benches would be selected from this panel by the Chief Justice.
But it is in regard to property that we consider our recommendations will be most helpful. The provision of the Family Law Act regarding the distribution of property on divorce gave the court extensive powers to redistribute property. The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker and parent was clearly acknowledged for the purpose of participation in the property distribution. Readjustment of rights upon dissolution of marriage gives rise to resentment where a party loses an interest which according to the general principles of property law he or she might have regarded as his or hers. It is the thinking of the Committee that if it is clear that one of the consequences of marriage is that property rights are re-constituted then the bitterness and resentment occasioned by what seems to be arbitrary interference with recognised rights will be reduced.
We have, therefore, recommended that the Government look closely at the possibility of developing a matrimonial property regime, that is to say a set of rules that would operate during and after marriage and would pre-determine the share in various assets that each party should take from the marriage upon its dissolution. We consider that the details of implementing such arrangements should be examined by the Law Reform Commission. Superannuation rights, for instance, should be embraced in such an inquiry. The sharing of these is a matter of great complexity which would have to be carefully examined. The implementation of a full matrimonial property regime ought not to be attempted in the absence of a careful examination from the legal standpoint of the implication for the various State legal systems and its effect on property rights generally. We are confident, however, that the marriage power of the Constitution would support the development of a concept of a matrimonial property regime.
We consider that a step should be taken in this direction immediately with regard to what is, for most people, the principal matrimonial asset, that is to say, the family home. We see no reason why the Family Law Act should not include a provision creating a presumption of joint ownership for the marriage partners in the property identified as the family home, a right of ownership which could be protected by caveat and dealt with as each marriage partner’s property both during marriage and upon dissolution. We accordingly recommend that this be provided in the Act subject to the right of either of the parties to take formal steps to exclude separate property from the operation of the provisions.
Turning to the broader social context in which the Family Law Act operates, great importance is attached by the Committee to the eventual creation of a unified jurisdiction in family law. In 1975 with the enactment of the Family Law Act the Commonwealth moved for the first time to assert fully its constitutional power in regard to marriage and in relation to divorce and matrimonial causes. A departure of some significance from previous practice was the establishment of a Federal court - the Family Court- -to administer the Federal Family Law Act. Early hopes that a unified jurisdiction in family law would be achieved were shattered by the decision of the High Court of Australia in the cases of Russell v. Russell and Farrelly v. Farrelly which, while affirming the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to enact the Family Law Act, qualified the power in two respects. It ruled that jurisdiction in relation to property of the parties to a marriage did not arise until proceedings had been commenced by the filing of an application for dissolution. This meant that the Family Court was inhibited in its power to deal with property disputes between parties who were separated but had not commenced dissolution proceedings. Even more significantly for the administration of the Act was the ruling of the High Court that the Family Court had no jurisdiction over children who were not ‘children of the marriage’. In other words, if one of the children in the family of the separating couple was the child of only one of them, either by a former marriage or was adopted, or the illegitimate child of one but not both of them, then the Family Court had no jurisdiction to make an order respecting the custody of that child. If contested proceedings were to take place, they would need to occur in another forum such as a State supreme court. In extreme cases the possibility existed that parties in dispute over children might be involved in proceedings in the Family Court, in respect of children of both of them, and in a State court in respect of a child not capable of characterisation as a child of the marriage.
The Commonwealth amended the Family Law Act in 1 976 in the light of the Russell decision to ensure that the Family Law Act complied with the limits of the Commonwealth’s powers as enunciated by the High Court. This has meant that the issue of jurisdiction referred to above cannot be re-considered by the High Court. In the Committee’s view the Commonwealth and indeed the State governments have a duty to ensure as far as is reasonably possible that the ordinary citizen is not inconvenienced when his or her domestic problems reach the point of litigation by the technicalities of Australian constitutional law and Federal-State relationships. What the Committee wishes to emphasise is that the results of the decisions in Russell v. Russell and Farrelly v. Farrelly have had grave consequences in this area of the law. In the Committee’s view it is imperative that a solution to the problems that have arisen in this area of the law be found so that the difficulties and hardships that have been experienced as a result of the incomplete jurisdiction under the Act, in the areas of custody and matrimonial property, can be prevented.
This Committee attached great importance to co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. It would therefore prefer to see a solution or solutions to the difficulties of the fragmented jurisdiction in Australian family law that are agreed to by both Federal and State governments and that are adopted in the spirit of mutual co-operation. The Committee therefore recommends that the proposed reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth in the outstanding areas of children and property be proceeded with as a matter of urgency. If agreement of all States proves impossible to procure, the Commonwealth should proceed to enact legislation in this regard on the recommendation of a majority of States.
In the report alternative approaches which the Commonwealth and States might take to achieve a unified jurisdiction in family law are canvassed. It would be possible, for instance, to institute a dual court system with exchange of judicial commissions between State and Federal judges. The Committee considers that the possibility of joint commissions for Federal judges or of a dual court system should also receive thorough examination by both the Federal and State governments. Even if the proposed reference of powers is achieved there will remain certain family law matters within State jurisdiction. It seems desirable to the Committee that even though it may not be possible constitutionally for all family law matters to be subject to Federal legislation the situation should be achieved whereby the same judges hear and determine both State and Federal family law matters. While State family courts may be a means of establishing such a single forum, the Family Court of Australia is in existence. In the Committee’s opinion it would require very grave reasons to recommend the dismantling of the existing Federal court system.
Whatever results from the reference of power, it is recommended that the Commonwealth move to amend the Family Law Act to exploit to the fullest extent its legislative powers with respect to children, the rights of third parties and reintroduction of the original definition of ‘child of the marriage’, lt is considered that the Commonwealth should particularly seek to assert fully its power in relation to matrimonial property. This Committee considers that the Commonwealth will certainly have no other choice but to so legislate if, in addition to refusing the reference of powers, the State will not co-operate in a scheme of dual commissions or dual court systems.
The foregoing leads me to that part of the report concerned with the jurisdiction of State courts of summary jurisdiction, lt was submitted strongly to the Committee by the legal profession and the Family Law Council that the existing concurrent jurisdiction of State courts of summary jurisdiction should be phased out. Other witnesses, however, drew attention to the delays being experienced in certain registries of the court and argued that these delays could be overcome by extending the jurisdiction of magistrates’ courts. At the present time, counselling services are available to courts of summary jurisdiction on an extremely limited basis. Courts of summary jurisdiction are not structured or equipped at this time to conduct pre-trial procedures under regulations 96 and 99. Magistrates have complained that they are not receiving support in the way of the provisions of legal resources such as the reporting services supplied by CCH Aust. Ltd. and Butterworths Pty. Ltd. The Committee considers it essential that parties who by reason of their residence in remote locations or who, for other reasons, must have their matters dealt with in a court of summary jurisdiction rather than the Family Court, should not be disadvantaged in regard to the quality of service they might expect to obtain. Some of these discrepancies could be overcome by ensuring access to counselling and conciliation services. It is considered that this is an urgent matter and should be dealt with immediately.
All proceedings under the Family Law Act should be dealt with by specialist tribunals as envisaged under the Act. The opportunity should also be taken wherever possible to establish courts which can exercise a comprehensive jurisdiction in family law - comprehensive in the sense that the jurisdiction includes State as well as Federal family law matters. State governments may be prepared to confer State commissions on Federal judges and vice versa or to create State family courts like that in Western Australia. However, it is considered that another option is also available. This is for the States to create special courts of summary jurisdiction with the attributes of a family court. Such special courts would exercise the jurisdiction in specified classes of proceedings under the Family Law Act and would also deal with a wide range of family law matters under Stale law. lt is considered that such courts could, in addition to matters arising under the Family Law Act, also deal with such matters as juvenile offenders, adoption and affiliation and the domestic disputes of those in de facto relationships.
In putting forward the proposal the Committee wishes to make the point that family law problems are likely to surface elsewhere than in the divorce court alone. Proceedings in court involving juvenile offenders may often, for instance, indicate a family in trouble. It should be possible for the services of counsellors to become available in such situations. This may lead to later proceedings in the Family Court being averted. It is not sufficient in the Committee’s view, for the therapeutic services provided by the Government to be simply placed in a federal box marked ‘divorce’. If the aim of preventing marital problems and averting family breakdown is to be achieved then services should be available and able to operate on a wide front.
In certain provinces of Canada this has been observed and services mounted accordingly so that they are available over a range of crisis situations affecting families which may not involve, but which may be a prelude to, divorce. The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Philip Ruddock, was able to observe such a system in operation in the city of Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta during a study tour made last year on behalf of the Committee. Clearly, it would not be open to the Commonwealth alone to implement such a system nor in our view would it be appropriate. There are constraints on the power of the Commonwealth to legislate for the activities of State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction. One approach considered by the Committee involves the provisions of section 39 (2) of the Judiciary Act which invests State courts with Federal jurisdiction. The Committee has therefore recommended that the Federal jurisdiction of courts of summary jurisdiction be exercised, in each State by magistrates, specifically named, specially authorised by the Governor-General to exercise such jurisdiction, lt is envisaged that the GovernorGeneral would only authorise the exercise of jurisdiction by magistrates considered by his advisers to be appropriately qualified to exercise the jurisdiction. The Act should be amended to empower the Governor-General by proclamation to confer jurisdiction on identified State courts and in respect of identified elements of the jurisdiction in family law matters.
These courts would have available to them the services of court counsellors. Given the existence of substantial resources available to the States in the welfare area it is nol considered that the counselling service should be provided by the Commonwealth although some court counsellors from the Family Court would be assigned to these courts on an exchange basis. The bulk of workers would be experienced officers within State public services. The Commonwealth would fund the States to provide the services that are provided in matters arising from a Federal law. lt is recognised that the Commonwealth currently funds the States in respect of services provided by courts of summary jurisdiction under the Act. But it is envisaged that the Commonwealth and the States would co-operate to ensure a uniform and consistent level of legal services in domestic relations. This would be done in a similar fashion to the manner in which legal aid services are currently funded. Each State would establish a statutory authority, called the Domestic Relations Commission, to provide the services required. It would employ and deploy staff to the courts and would be responsible for constructing appropriate courts and facilities. It is anticipated that the service would be provided on a regional basis to ensure ready access by citizens, lt would also play a coordinating role in regard to the services provided by agencies providing services in the field of marriage counselling. It would be the responsible funding agency, rather than the Commonwealth, for approving the voluntary marriage guidance agencies. Federal funds for this purpose would be channelled through these agencies. It would be responsible for promoting the services available and providing educative material for media relay so that the range and level of services would be adequately known in the community.
In the report we make numerous recommendations to improve the Family Law Act itself. I will not detain the Senate by dwelling overly on these. In summary we recommend amendments that would enhance the powers of the Family Court in its custody jurisdiction by giving it jurisdiction to declare children wards of the court, to clarify certain terms such as custody, guardianship, care and control which are employed indiscriminately in legislation relating to children, and a number of recommendations which if adopted should strengthen the enforcement powers of the Family Court where children are abducted or court orders respecting children are disregarded. Similarly, in regard to maintenance, we make recommendations which will clarify and improve the provisions of Part Vin together with some very important recommendations relating to the manner in which benefits received by social security clients should be taken into account in determining the liability of their estranged spouses to contribute to their support.
It is the Committee’s view that the obligations to support a dependant should not be transferred to the taxpayer. At the same time it is undesirable that spouses in need of support should be required to pursue often futile maintenance action. We propose that the Department of Social Security take the responsibility for recovering from liable relatives such part of the obligation as they can afford. We also propose administrative reforms that would provide a better framework for the recovery of maintenance. In relation to injunctions we recommend that the Act be amended to empower the court to attach a power of arrest to injunctions, which will assist the police in the protection of women threatened with assault by their husbands.
We have considered the questions of whether the Family Court should be more open than it is and whether a more extensive right to public proceedings of the court should be given to the media. The view of the majority of the members was that the court should be more open and we accordingly recommend that the present situation be reversed- that is to say, there should be a presumption that the court should be open with a power in the court to close the proceedings in appropriate circumstances. It is strongly felt that open justice is such an important element of the administration of our courts that the power to close them should be exercisable only in very grave circumstances. The Committee recognises the right of parties in matrimonial causes to privacy. Accordingly it is recommended that where proceedings are reported the media should be prohibited from using names or identifying the parties to the proceedings. This will enable a better coverage of the work of the court by the Press so that the public will be better informed about this very important area of the law.
The inquiry attracted considerable public interest and the Committee was flooded with submissions concerning the Act and its operations. It would have been possible to have dealt with the matter in a more superficial way and met the original reporting deadline of 31 December 1979. As the inquiry proceeded, however, it became apparent to members that the issues involved were complex and warranted careful attention. Consequently, our report considers the provisions and operation of the Act in considerable detail. This course was largely dictated by the number and quality of submissions we received and the community concern reflected in them. If we were to do justice to the material placed before us and to weigh the merits of submissions made to us in the course of the inquiry, it became apparent that we would need to look at both the detail of the legislation and its administration and the wide social context in which it operates.
The Committee is aware that many people with an interest in the outcome of the inquiry have been eagerly awaiting the Committee’s report. We are also conscious of the anxiety of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to have the report tabled. We very much regret that the circumstances and the need for a thorough examination have necessitated the two extensions of time which have been granted to the Committee by the Parliament. We can only agree with the Attorney in his recent speech in Launceston when he said:
The Committee has an extremely difficult task. In this area of family law there are no easy solutions. No new laws can be made to disguise much less eradicate the human anguish associated with the breakdown of a marriage and the financial and emotional consequences that go with it.
As Deputy Chairman of the Committee, I have presented to this chamber the report, the most substantial part of which is agreed to by the majority of the Committee. In conclusion, I would like to point out that there are several dissenting reports, two of which I am associated with. I have joined with Senator Missen in his dissenting report. In particular I agree with Senator Missen that there has been complete justification for the change to a single ground of divorce in 1975. I agree that many of the problems in this jurisdiction would not have arisen if the court had been properly and fully staffed. I agree that this should be given high priority. If this court were properly expanded and staffed, I believe it would be the body to deal with the wide range of problems that arise in the area of family law. I agree wholeheartedly that the availability of legal aid is of extreme importance if this jurisdiction is to work to the best interests of all people. I agree that the court should remain closed. 1 can see no justification at all in the opening of courts, in a caring jurisdiction, to the gaze of the gutter Press and the sensation seekers.
I join with Senator Coleman and Dr Blewett in a dissent to recommendation 27. This recommendation deals with applications for maintenance. The recommendation allows conduct to be taken into account when the question of maintenance is being considered. We find this inconsistent with the Committee’s finding that the court could not properly rule on the extent to which the conduct of either party brought about the breakdown of the marriage. We feel this recommendation reintroduces faults into the jurisdiction and allows a return to the bad old days when all the dirt that could be found was dredged up and presented in the most lurid terms possible. I commend the report to the Senate.
– I take the opportunity of speaking on the report which has been presented to the Senate by the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. I wish to support in general terms what has been said by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Senator Melzer. The inquiry has been a massive effort by the Joint Committee of the two Houses of the Parliament. It is one which has required detailed consideration over some 15 months. Although it has taken time, I think it is important that consideration should have been given so deeply to the representations that were made, that evidence should have been taken in all States of the Commonwealth and that efforts should have been made to pick up the various problems that have arisen in but four years of operation of the Act in order that we could suggest some improvements. I believe in the report we do suggest some very substantial improvements.
May I say that the Committee has been helped very greatly by the excellent chairmanship of Mr Philip Ruddock, who has taken enormous interest in the whole concerns of the Committee over the period of its jurisdiction. He has worked hard, often in difficult circumstances. One deals with members of the Committee who have different approaches to different aspects of this subject. There is a great deal of public interest and controversy about the questions of family law and divorce. I think he is greatly to be praised for the patience and effort which he has put into the culmination of this effort. I include in those remarks the efforts of Mr Don Nairn and other members of the staff of the Committee who have worked untiringly to achieve the result which 1 think will be worth while in the interests of good Commonwealth legislation. We had difficulties. To take one example, the Institute of Family Studies has only just got off the ground. The Institute was a body which was contemplated on the original 1975 legislation. Now, under Dr Edgar, it is just actually doing work. We lacked the specialised results of research which might have been useful and which will be useful, both to the Family Law Council and the Government, as this Institute really gathers strength in the coming years.
Evident in the report is general unanimity of views on a wide range of matters. It can be said that 12 members of the Committee are in general agreement on the basic report which is before the Senate. Some of us join in dissent on specific items, but we do not want in any way to get away from the situation that there is a great deal of unanimity. In some ways it was amazing and in other ways it was as a result of some compromise and consideration over a long period of various facts which emerged. The report does not recommend any change in the basic structure of the Family Law Act or in the grounds of divorce which is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. I believe this shows the fundamental justification of the Family Law Act and the basic changes which it made in divorce law in 1975. It is a vindication of it and a general vindication also of the work of the Family Court, which has operated with a great deal of distinction since that time. Of course there are critics of the Act, critics of the Court and people who complain that they have been badly dealt with.
One must bear in mind that in four years something like 200,000 divorce cases have gone through this court. There were perhaps 200 individuals who expressed to the Committee, often in bitter terms, their criticism of how they were treated by the Court, their lawyers, someone else’s lawyer, a judge or someone else. One can understand and sympathise with their feelings. Of course one cannot accept the views of one party to litigation; nor can one be satisfied that those criticisms are necessarily just. But, taken overall 200,000 cases handled by this court have shown it to be a very helping and successful court in creating new means of dealing with the family problem.
This report reveals that there are problems in regard to the staffing of courts. We have been rather slow in catching up with the situation and, unfortunately, considerable delays have developed. These faults cannot be put at the feet of the Court but they must basically result from a lack of appreciation of the need for resources which the court would have. It is terribly unfortunate that there are delays and, therefore, time for further bitterness to develop between parties because they cannot get the justice which they seek.
There are two particular themes in this report. One is the further development of the Family Court as a helping court. We have some practical suggestions in that way. On another theme we have suggested the facilitation of bargaining or agreement between the parties and stressed the very need to ensure that parties are brought together, receive advice and have a chance to reach settlement of differences at an early stage. There would be less litigation and less bitterness in the position where a family is inevitably breaking up. A family that is breaking up should have the best possible help from the facilities which society can provide.
As I say, and as Senator Melzer has said, we have many problems of development. The Court should be developed so that it covers the whole country, so that people in country areas have the opportunity of the facilities of the Court. Some of us disagree with the idea of using magistrates courts as a continuing facility in matrimonial matters. We would like to see the Family Court brought to fruition throughout the country as soon as possible. That is one of the differences which Senator Melzer and I and some of the other senators and members have in presenting a dissent from part of this report. Senator Melzer has mentioned a divided jurisdiction exists by reason of the action of the High Court of Australia. We have found that there is a division. There are problems whereby property cannot be dealt with in a satisfactory way at present. Some of the litigation has to go to a State court and some to a Federal court. We have problems whereby children who are non-nuptial, or illegitimate, as the old expression was, have to be dealt with by a State Court. Other children of the family are dealt with by the Family Court. This, of course, is a monstrous situation. The States have had every opportunity to give up a power and transfer it to the Commonwealth. Most have agreed to do so but none have yet done so. It is something which this report points up very strongly. It urges the States, in the interests of children and justice in this country, do something about it without further delay.
In the report there are proposals in regard to property interests. The idea of a matrimonial property regime is a very interesting proposal. Under it people will know what their rights are when they marry. That is something which requires early consideration. Even more immediately there should be a presumption that property is joint property. Such a presumption has prevailed for a number of years in Victoria and could well prevail throughout this country. This is another proposal from the Committee. The proposals in regard to increased counselling and making counselling available at an early stage in matrimonial disputes are other proposals of great importance. The idea is that before there is a long delay there should be pre-trial proceedings in defended suits during which the issues between the parties are considered and, where possible, cured. This is another important issue.
I do not hesitate to mention one of the proposals which will ring a bell with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), who is sitting at the table. It is a recommendation which our Senate Committee made to the Senate in 1974 about the views of a child over 14 years of age being automatically determinant in the custody issue. That has been in the Family Law Act since then, and has not worked well. The Committee recommends, as a Senate committee did in 1974, that that provision should be taken out. I hope that on this occasion we succeed.
As I say, there are a great number of proposals in this report which I do not, for one moment, attempt to cover at this stage. I believe that the study of the report will be very valuable and I hope it will lead to early legislation. As has been mentioned, there are some five dissents included in this report. I hope they will be studied closely. As one who has written one of them, with the support of up to four colleagues, I believe there are at least two issues requiring consideration. One in regard to the magistrate’s courts, on which I do not think we can be satisfied with second best justice. We cannot be satisfied in not extending the jurisdiction of the Family Court to cover everybody in this country. I, therefore, cannot find satisfactory or even constitutionally valid the proposal which the Committee makes in this regard.
Likewise, I have a firm opinion in regard to the controversial question of open or closed courts. Whilst I believe that people who have a private or public right to be in a court should attend, I do not believe that course should be open generally to the public and, worse still, open to the Press. In the past some of the Press has greatly misused the powers it has and used the titillating and scandalous aspects of divorce and matrimonial discord to the embarrassment of parties and children. This should not be allowed. In that I too must dissent, as some of my colleagues do, to the proposal which is made.
The dissenting reports - other colleagues have dissented on specific matters that are of importance - should not be taken as detracting in any way from the fact that the Committee had a great deal of unanimity in, one might say, 90 per cent of the areas of importance in this report. It is important that we recognise that people have different views and attitudes towards the family, divorce and other matters. We hope that as members of this Committee we have listened carefully to the views which are held by a great number of concerned citizens. We hope that we have presented a report which will be of value to the country and which will lead to early parliamentary action to bring it into legislation. With these matters in mind I join in welcoming the report and hope that it will have a very useful public consideration.
– It is not my intention to take the time of the Senate on the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. To read it in full and to discuss it in full would take days. There are some considerations that I need to speak on. Senator Missen raised the question of the open courts. I believe that people have a right to see what happens in a court of law that they may find themselves in at some stage or if they are anticipating that in the very near future they will find themselves before that court. I fully supported the situation that exists in Western Australia, where the Family Court is open. The strange thing we found when we took evidence in Western Australia is that very few people take advantage of that. I think the same would apply elsewhere if courts were open.
However, I think it would be dangerous to relax the provisions relating to the . publication of details of Family Court proceedings. Senator Melzer has already spoken about the Press and the sensationalising of cases that we have seen in the past by the various media. I think it is all very well to say that people should not be identified in any report of the proceedings of the Court. It is also easy for a newspaper to report that a divorce was granted and custody of the children was given to the wife of a public servant who lived in a specific area. Without being too specific it can make it possible for parties to divorce proceedings, and particularly their children, to be identified. I was concerned that that could happen with a more relaxed attitude in relation to those publication issues. My concern was for the children rather than for the parents, although they are entitled to their privacy as well.
The other concern I expressed but about which I was not able to convince the members of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act - nor were they able to advise me that we were able to carry this matter in any way- was the problem of the abduction of children in Australia. Over the past few years we have seen a large number of parents who have been frustrated at the decisions brought down in the family law courts, who feel that they have not had an opportunity properly to present their case and who do in actual fact abduct their children. They have the care and custody of those children - albeit custody taken unto themselves - for some lengthy periods. The child becomes accustomed to that parent. What happens when the parent is eventually apprehended must be quite traumatic for the child.
In the first place, the child is taken from a parent who has had the care and custody over, we will say, some months, and deposited with the custodial parent elected by the court when there may have been no contact at all between the child and that parent for some time. I think that situation must be very confusing to children placed in that situation. They are suddenly brought back into the care of a parent with whom they have had no contact and they are also aware that the other parent, with whom they have had contact, is now under action by another court. It is an extremely difficult situation. I was hopeful that in discussions with the members of the Committee we perhaps could have found some way of declaring an amnesty for those absconding parents so that the threat of contempt of court charges did not hang over their heads. I was hopeful that they might be able to present themselves to the Family Court and have their cases reopened for hearing, perhaps by a different judge if they felt that they had been badly done by in the original hearing by a particular judge of the Family Court, perhaps in a more open court or by an appeal court. But the Committee advised me that this was not possible.
My concern in respect of all the aspects of the subject we have had under consideration now for some lime has been for the problems experienced by the children. As Senator Missen has said, it is very difficult to put an age limit on when consideration should be taken of a child’s wishes. I do not believe that one can say, across the board, that be.cause a child has reached a particular age that child does or does not have the capacity to determine with whom he wants to live and what lifestyle he wants to follow. In commending the report to the Senate I hope that, as Senator Missen has said, we will see brought forward very early legislation that encompasses the recommendations of the Committee in this respect. Such legislation will be of value to the community at large, and I hope that it will be introduced very soon.
– As every speaker in the debate so far has said, the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act was, on the whole, unanimous in its conclusions following the review of the Family Law Act on which we spent so much time. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) has expressed disappointment that we were unable to come down with our recommendations earlier. The number of submissions received by the Committee made that review a very lengthy and detailed procedure. I believe that the time taken has made the report very worthwhile. To have brought down the report earlier would have damaged its quality quite considerably.
The Committee was unanimously concerned about the stability of the family. It recognised that the stability of the family is of paramount importance to our present way of life, a way of life that we prize so highly. We recognised that through the ages many cultures and societies have attempted to take over the role of the family but all have reverted to parental responsibility. Through the ages all governments have constructed laws to protect that family unit. There can be no doubt that the family is the most important influence on the future happiness of the child, and, of course, the future of our country depends on our next generation.
The main recommendation that I believe will affect the majority of families is that concerning the new meaning that will be given to the Family Law Act. The Committee recommends that the Marriage Act and the Family Law Act be consolidated. I believe that that is one of the most important recommendations that the Committee brought down. The Marriage Act will enable us to make the people coming to a marriage very aware not only of the responsibilities that marriage entails but also of the consequences of a divorce and the consequences of that divorce on the children of that marriage. 1 believe that the Committee was primarily concerned about the children.
We were given evidence by at least two psychiatrists of the psychological trauma caused to the child of a divorced couple. While the parents have temporary bitterness or perhaps bitterness over a period of time, the child bears the scars for perhaps the rest of his life. We have recommended that pre-trial proceedings be made mandatory in all disputed cases involving child custody or access. This was an area which I found to be most emotional, and some of the submissions sent to the Committee would bring heartache, I think, to the most hardened of lawyers. 1 will deal with the recommendations that the Committee brought down concerning children. They were that the court should order, where it saw fit, that the child be represented individually. It thought that if the mother and the father could have their own legal representations the court should be able to order that the child be represented in a separate way altogether. In the Act as it now stands the age at which a child can have his or her wish recorded is 14 years. The Committee was made aware very early in the piece that the maturity of the individual child at the age of 14 differed very much. That age limitation has been abolished.
The Committee recommended that fault not be established in ordinary divorce proceedings _ between a husband and wife who have no children. I believe that this is a right and just recommendation. The Committee came to the decision that where there was a dispute over custody certain criteria should be set down for the court to consider. I will read those recommendations because 1 think they will explain the Committee’s concern regarding the child. Those criteria are:
The Court shall lake the following matters into account:
The Committee recommended further:
The Committee recommended the use of open courts. I believe that this also is one of the most important aspects of this issue. We received a tremendous number of submissions from people who were concerned that had their friends been present at the court their husbands or wives, as the case may be, would not have got away with telling falsehoods. Rectifying that situation seemed to me to be one of the most pressing needs for people who felt that an injustice had been done. Under a closed court system other people are not able to help to ensure that justice is done. As Senator Coleman said, we visited Western Australia, where the open court system seemed to work very well. People other than those who were involved in the proceedings were not interested in going to a court just to watch other people’s divorce proceedings. As Senator Coleman said, with there being a prohibition on the media of the use of names and identifying information, open courts will result in justice being seen to be done. The majority of the Committee members indeed favoured an open court system.
I dissented from the report in only one area and that related to the simplified procedure in undefended dissolution applications. This procedure is commonly referred to as ‘divorce by post’. The Committee report states that the real issue is one of costs, both to the State and to the parties involved. That is the fundamental issue with which I disagree. I do not believe that in a divorce finance is the fundamental issue. I believe the fundamental issue is the tremendous social cost to the community, to the family and to the children of that family, and that cost is far beyond any financial commitments. The Committee concluded that measures must be introduced to save expense. Accordingly, it recommended that Australia adopt a system similar to that operating in the United Kingdom under which divorce petitions and decrees can be transacted by the lodging of documents only, the parties to the divorce not being required to appear. I submitted that this procedure must devalue marriage.
As marriage is an institution central to the continuation of our society we must ensure that this legislation, whilst providing for the mechanism of divorce, does not destroy the basic structure. When marriage takes place both parties are required not only to appear themselves before the marriage celebrant but also to supply witnesses to the ceremony, thus making a public commitment as well as a personal one. I believe the real issue is not the financial cost of a marriage ceremony but the formal pronouncement of a new responsibility. Indeed, it is a legal contract- a social as well as a personal contract. Similarly, with the subsequent breaking of this contract the real issue is not a financial cost as stated by the Committee. As I said, I believe the real issue is the seriousness of the social cost to the person, to the family and indeed to the community. It is on those grounds that I based my objection to postal divorce.
Firstly, I believe there is no doubt that the law of the land influences individual and community values. It therefore would be irresponsible of the Parliament to set an example through legislation which failed to endorse a commitment to stable marriage. If all that is required to end a marriage is to fill in forms and post them off. the concept of a long-term commitment to a shared partnership is weakened from the very beginning. Secondly, by not requiring the parties to appear in a court environment, we would reliquish a part of that valuable support service which the Committee believed was so important. That support is available to the parties if they go to court and is essential at the dissolution of marriage. Evidence was given to our Committee by Dr Russell Pargiter, a senior consultant psychiatrist, on the necessity, at the time of divorce, to have a ceremonial end point - if we care to call it that - comparable to a funeral service in order to aid in a healthy recovery from the emotional loss that occurs.
Accordingly, my recommendation is that appearance in court by both parties to a divorce be mandatory; that substitute representation by counsel be disallowed; that the court’s discretion be used in cases where personal appearance is neither practical nor possible. 1 include that last part of the recommendation only because there are occasions when it is not possible for a person to appear in court; for example, in cases when a spouse is in a mental institution or perhaps is. in a country far away and it is not possible for him or her to return for the divorce. I believe that most members of the Committee agreed with the recommendations as they came forward. I hope the Government will consider the recommendation in the report and implement them. I hope the Institute of Family Studies will be able to bring forward the data that not only our Committee but also members of the Family Law Court considered so necessary. I hope the Government will look at the recommendations speedily and make the necessary changes to the legislation.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned. (Quorum formed).
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 9 September at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Chaney)- by leave - agreed to:
That Senators Collard, Martin, O’Byrne and Wheeldon be granted leave of absence for one month, on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to provide legislative authority needed to meet the prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1980-81. At the same time it will, together with authorities expected to be available under other legislation, provide the borrowing authority needed to finance the estimated overall Budget deficit for the financial year.
Honourable senators will be aware that, for many years, there has been legislation for these purposes in the legislative programs of successive governments. In outlining to the Senate the Budget proposals of the government I said that the prospective overall Budget deficit for 1980-81 is estimated to be $ 1,566m. Except in so far as funds are available from accumulated cash balances or other miscellaneous financing transactions, this deficit must be financed by net borrowings. Such net borrowings must, of course, be within proper legislative authority derived from the Parliament. The overall Budget deficit takes into account all relevant transactions of the three separate funds used to record the Commonwealth’s receipts and expenditures. These funds are the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. The amounts which may be paid from each fund are limited to the amounts legally available to it.
Underlying the overall deficit estimated for 1 980-8 1 is an estimated deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of $662m. Details of the current estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund transactions are set out, for the information of honourable senators, in table 3 of Budget Paper No. 4 - Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year Ending 30 June 1981. As payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund cannot exceed moneys available in it, it is necessary either to reduce payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund by charging to the Loan Fund some expenditures normally met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or, alternatively, to supplement the receipts of the Consolidated Revenue Fund from some other source. Appropriate legislative authority is needed for such transfers. The simplest and traditional means of providing appropriate legislative authority is a loan Bill of the type I am now presenting.
This Bill will authorise borrowings for defence purposes in order that defence expenditure, which would normally be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, may instead be met from the Loan Fund. The Bill authorises borrowing for defence purposes. 1 should make it quite clear, however, that it does not authorise any defence expenditures additional to those which have already been authorised by Parliament in Supply Act (No. 1) 1980-81 or which will subsequently be authorised in Appropriation Acts for this financial year. It will simply allow reallocations of defence expenditures between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the loan fund to be made during the remainder of the financial year, following the enactment of this legislation.
In this regard I draw the attention of honourable senators to clause 8 of the recently introduced Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1980-81, which makes that Bill subject to the provisions of the proposed Loan Act. I should also mention that, as borrowings under this legislation will be for the purpose of financing defence expenditure, those borrowings will not require approval from the Australian Loan Council. The Bill includes a specific limit to the amount of such borrowings that may be undertaken. This limit is directly related to the level of defence expenditure which is expected to be made from the date of enactment of the Bill to 30 June 1981. Honourable senators will be well aware that, at this early stage, the estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit is inevitably a qualified one. The actual figure for the year will be affected by presently unforseen developments during the year which could cause departures from current estimates of receipts and payments of the fund. In setting a limit on borrowings for inclusion in the Bill these inherent uncertainties need to be recognised. The limit that has been included is $900m. This provides a reasonable margin over the estimated Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit of $662m. Borrowings under this proposed legislation will be undertaken within the framework of the monetary policy objective referred to in the Budget Speech. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
As foreshadowed in Budget Statement No. 3 and also in the ministerial statement made by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 20 August 1980 on the report from the House of Representatives
Standing Committee on Expenditure into the Australian Industry Development Corporation, the Government proposes with the approval of the board of AIDC, to amend the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1 970 to increase the Corporation’s maximum gearing ratio from 5:1 to 8:1. This means in essence that the Corporation’s borrowings other than borrowings for temporary purposes, would be allowed to total up to eight times instead of five times the sum of its paid capital and reserves. The higher gearing ratio will permit the AIDC to finance its lending and other commitments to Australian industry for the time being without a call for additional capital from the Budget.
The directors of AIDC consider that the original conservative gearing ratio of 5:1 is no longer necessary or even appropriate for AIDC. At the same time, I wish to make it clear to honourable senators that although the proposed gearing increase is not inconsistent with the recommendation on this matter of the report on the Corporation of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure, it does not in any way prejudice consideration of the recommendations of that Committee on this or other matters. As the Treasurer said in the ministerial statement concerning the Committee’s report, its recommendations will be considered together with the recommendations on AIDC of the Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System.
The opportunity has also been taken in the Bill to amend the provisions relating to disclosure of pecuniary interest in the Act to bring them into line with standard provisions which are being incorporated in statutory authority legislation to give effect to the Government’s adoption of the relevant recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Duty and Private Interest (the Bowen Committee). A number of formal amendments are also included. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. 1 seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech rad as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the assistance available to organisations providing Meals on Wheels services. These services form an important part of the comprehensive health and welfare program introduced in the late 1960s to help the most needy and disadvantaged members of our community. The fundamental objective of the programs introduced at that time was to encourage and enable elderly and disabled people to remain in their own homes. Measures which are designed to achieve this objective include: The States Grants (Home Care) Act 1969 which in association with the States, local government authorities, community and charitable organisations provides financial assistance for a range of home care services for senior citizens centres and for welfare officers; the States Grants (Paramedical Services) Act 1969 which assists the States or an approved service to provide paramedical support to aged people in the community; the States Grants (Dwellings For Aged Pensioners) Act 1969 which has now been absorbed into the Housing Assistance Act 1 978; and the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act 1970 which assists approved organisations in the provision of meals for aged or invalid persons.
The Government has significantly expanded the program of assistance for aged and disabled people needing home care services. Allocations for subsidies for welfare officer salaries, housekeeper services, home repairs, gardening, laundry, and other home care services under that States Grants (Home Care) Act have been increased by some $7m or 1 1 1 per cent compared with the expenditure in the 1975-76 financial year. This program is a very important contribution to helping aged, infirm and disabled people to remain independent of institutional care, within their own familiar surroundings, for as long as possible.
Turning to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act, which is the subject of this Bill, senators will know that Meals on Wheels organisations were first established in Australia by voluntary organisations, without Commonwealth aid. Those organisations made every effort to expand the scope of their operations and in 1970 the Commonwealth introduced the principal Act to provide a stimulus to the organisations in this very worthy aim. That the intentions of both the organisations and the Commonwealth have been met, may be gauged from the current scope of the program. At 30 June, 1980, 671 separate services were being funded, involving the provision during the 1979-80 financial year of over 8.35 million meals. The total subsidy provided in 1979-80 was $2.493m. This may be compared with approximately 100 services delivering almost 800,000 meals annually before the legislation was introduced, lt may be of further interest to senators to note that since the inception of the Act, almost 60 million meals have been delivered.
These achievements have been made possible only by the efforts of voluntary and local government organisations. Co-operation between the Commonwealth and these organisations is vital: This Bill does much to facilitate the furtherance of this very real partnership. We know that voluntary organisations are faced with increasing overhead expenditure and although it is still possible to obtain public donations towards the cost of a tangible project such as a building, it is much more difficult to raise community funds to meet operational costs. This Bill will materially assist organisations to meet operating costs; however, the subsidy is not intended to cover the full costs of operation, in recognition of the importance of the continuing contribution from the community itself, and from those who receive meals. The Bill increases the subsidy for delivered meals from 30c per meal where a vitamin C supplement is provided, and 25c for every other meal to 45c and 40c respectively. It is anticipated that these increases will involve additional Commonwealth expenditure of $ 1 .29m in the 1 980-8 1 financial year. Total estimated expenditure for the year is $3. 94m.
As senators will readily appreciate, this program, as well as being of great significance within the community, is most favourable in cost effectiveness terms, and is critical to maintaining people in their own homes. I am sure that all honourable senators will recognise the importance of giving every encouragement for community-based services, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank those voluntary workers who provide their time to make this service to the community as successful as it is. This Bill will further encourage voluntary effort in assisting aged and disabled members of the community to remain in their own homes; an aim which is most appropriate for 1981, the international year of disabled persons. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I move:
I indicate that the Government would wish the Senate to deal with this Bill following consideration of the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 which relates to the mining of prescribed substances on behalf of or in association with the Commonwealth; and to amend the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s borrowing powers under section 30 of the Act. Honourable senators will recall that on 1 8 December 1 979 the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) announced that the Government had decided to divest its interests in the Ranger uranium project and that it wished to accept the offer submitted by Peko- Wallsend to acquire those interests through a new company - Energy Resources of Australia - ERA. The proposal envisaged that the new company would acquire Peko’s interests in the project as well as the interests of the Government. It was subsequently announced that the Electrolytic Zinc Co. had reached agreement with Peko to join ERA. ERA will thus acquire the interests of each of the present joint venturers in the project and the rights to all the production at Ranger. The authority issued under section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act under which the joint venturers carry on operations in the Ranger project area, will be assigned to ERA.
The Government will assign its interests in the project to ERA for a premium of $ 1 25m. Furthermore, ERA will reimburse all past expenditure on the project incurred by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. ERA will meet all future expenditure on the project, including reimbursement of payments to the Northern Land Council and the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account, payments to the Ranger Rehabilitation Trust Fund for rehabilitation of the Ranger project area upon the cessation of mining operations, and reimbursement of payments which the Commonwealth has undertaken to make to the Northern Territory Government in lieu of uranium royalties. In reaching its decision last year to sell its interests in Ranger, the Government recognised its obligation to the Australian public to receive a fair commercial price for a valuable public asset. The price obtained by the Government is a very good price for the Australian public.
In restructuring the arrangements to provide for ERA to take up the interests of each of the present joint venturers in the Ranger project, the obligations which the Government undertook in its agreement with the Northern Land Council pursuant to section 44 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 will not be affected in any way. The Commonwealth Government negotiated that agreement with the Northern Land Council, not as one of the Ranger joint venturers, but as a principal, on whose behalf mining is being undertaken in the Ranger project area. The Commonwealth’s position as principal to that agreement with the Northern Land Council will be retained following divestment. Assignment of the authority under section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act to ERA carries with it assignment of the conditions and restrictions set out in Schedule 2 of the authority, which relate to environmental requirements. Environmental requirements relating to the project therefore remain unchanged.
Additionally, as part of the assignment, ERA under its agreements with the Commonwealth will be required to observe the obligations that relate to environmental and Aboriginal matters binding upon the present joint venturers under the existing Government agreement of 9 January 1979. In short, the terms of settlement between ERA and the Commonwealth do not compromise in any way the Government’s responsibilities to the Aboriginal people and to the environment.
The necessary documentation to assign the Government’s interests in the project has been settled. It is the intention of the Minister for Trade and Resources formally to sign the documents immediately upon the amendments of the
Atomic Energy Act proposed in this Bill coming into effect. This divestment documentation will be tabled in Parliament at that time. Foreign equity participation in ERA is currently under examination by the Foreign Investment Review Board in terms of the Government’s foreign investment policy, the objective of which is 75 per cent Australian equity and Australian control of uranium mining ventures. The companies propose that the Australian public companies, Peko and EZ will hold approximately 61 per cent of the issued share capital of ERA and a further 14 per cent will be offered to the Australian public. In announcing on 18 December 1979 the Government’s wish to accept Peko’s offer for the Government’s interests in the Ranger uranium project, the Minister for Trade and Resources said that a maximum of 25 per cent of the equity capital of the new company would be taken up by major overseas companies, which, as a condition of their participation, would bring with them sufficient sales contracts to ensure the immediate viability of the project. I am pleased to be able to inform honourable senators that this has been achieved and that the result will be of significant benefit to Australia’s export earnings.
Contracts have been negotiated by ERA pursuant to the Government’s uranium export policy with West German and Japanese equity holders. They provide for the sale of approximately 34,000 short tons of U3O8 for delivery over the 15-year period 1 982 to 1 996. The value of the contracts, at average market prices prevailing to date during 1 980, is in excess of $A2,000m and I believe could considerably exceed this figure over the life of the contracts. Contracts with the three German companies, Saarberg-Interplan, Urangesellschaft and RWE were signed in Canberra on 18 August 1 980. The contracts with the Japanese companies, Kyushu, Shikoku and Kansai electric power companies and C. Itoh and Co., have been settled and await formal signing. The contracts provide, as required by the Government and explained in the statement of the Minister for Trade and Resources of 1 February 1979, that deliveries are conditional on bilateral safeguards agreements being in force which provide for safeguards to be applied in customer countries and which meet the Government’s 1977 requirements. Negotiations on bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements between Australia and Euratom, of which the Federal Republic of Germany is a member state, and Australia and Japan are well advanced. In the statement of the Minister for Trade and Resources to Parliament on 25 August 1977, when the Government’s decision to proceed with the development of our unranium resources was announced, he noted that the previous Labor Government recognised the interdependence between Australia and other countries and our responsibilities as a nation rich in energy resources to supply these resources to others. The equity relationship and associated sales contracts represent a milestone in relationships between Australia and two of its most important trading partners, both of whom are heavily dependent on imports of energy resources. The very large tonnages involved demonstrate the importance of nuclear power in electricity generating programs.
As honourable senators are aware, ownership of uranium in the Northern Territory was retained by the Commonwealth on the granting of self-government to the Territory. Operations at Ranger are carried on on behalf of the Commonwealth under an authority issued pursuant to section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act. As I have already mentioned it is proposed that the authority will be assigned to ERA upon assignment of the Government’s interests in the project. In the course of finalising some aspects of the commercial documentation, legal counsel, acting for some of the Australian commercial parties involved, queried whether the arrangements envisaged between the Commonwealth and ERA would be on behalf of the Commonwealth within the meaning of section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act and the authority which it is proposed to assign to ERA Subsequently, representatives of Peko and EZ indicated to the Government the reluctance of some of the commercial parties to finance their involvement in ERA unless there is no doubt that operations to be carried on after assignment are authorised by the authority. In these circumstances, the Government decided to proceed with the amendment to section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act which is contained in clause 5 of the Bill. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the proposed arrangements between the Government and ERA cannot be held to be other than on behalf of the Commonwealth within the meaning of section 41 of the Act and the authority which is proposed to be assigned to ERA.
The amendments relating to the borrowing powers of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission are necessary in order to enable the Commission to raise funds through the issue of bills of exchange and promissory notes in order to continue to finance its contributions to the Ranger uranium project until assignment of the Government’s interests in the project is effected. The necessary amendments to the Act to achieve this objective are contained in clauses 3 and 4 of the proposed Bill. They are similar in character to amendments passed by this Parliament in 1979 and 1980 to widen the borrowing powers of the National Railways Commission and the Australian Shipping Commission. Certain of the State Premiers and the Northern Territory Chief Minister have, on occasions, expressed to the Commonwealth views about the wide range of powers available to the Commonwealth under the Atomic Energy Act. Certain sections of the Act were amended in 1979 to take account of some of these views. Following further consideration of these views the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has informed State Premiers and the Northern Territory Chief Minister and I now wish to inform the Senate - that the Government has decided to undertake a wide-ranging review of the Atomic Energy Act and related matters.
The review, which will be undertaken in consultation wilh the Stale and Northern Territory governments, will review the functions and purposes of the Atomic Energy Act 1 953 and other Commonwealth legislation relevant to nuclear issues. The review will assess the Act and other relevant Commonwealth legislation as an appropriate legislative basis for the promotion, regulation and control of nuclear activities and the development of an Australian nuclear industry. It will also consider possible alternative legislative frameworks. The full terms of reference of the review of the Act are as follows:
REVIEW OF THE ATOMIC ENERGY ACT AND RELATED MATTERS
Terms of Reference
. To review the functions and purposes of the Atomic Energy Act 1933 and other Commonwealth legislation relevant to nuclear issues (for example - the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act 1978, the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, the Customs Act 1901, the Crimes Act 1914, and Regulations thereunder).
To assess the Atomic Energy Act 19S3 and other relevant Commonwealth legislation as an appropriate legislative basis for the promotion, regulation and control of nuclear activities and the development of an Australian nuclear industry, and to consider possible alternative legislative frameworks.
Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the review will take into account:
international obligations including those under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Australia/IAEA Nuclear Safeguards Agreement, the IAEA Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (subject to signature and ratification) and Australia’s bi-lateral safeguards agreements with other countries;
the appropriateness of the present legislative basis for the exercise of Commonwealth responsibilities in relation to the commercial development of an Australian uranium industry and related industries;
the requirements for the regulation, licensing and development of a nuclear industry in Australia;
the implications for national defence and security:
the Government’s decisions on the NERDDC report on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission Research Establishment;
liability and compensation for nuclear damage;
intergovernmental arrangements relating to the transfer of classified technical information; and
implications of the laws of other countries.
To consult as necessary with the States and the Northern Territory on matters relating to the Commonwealth’s responsibilities and obligations which may have implications for them or may require their co-operation, including the possibility of complementary legislation.
To report to Ministers on matters encompassed by the review by 3 1 December 1 980.
The amendments now proposed to the Act in the Bill before the Senate, relate to existing activities under the Act and flow from the Government’s decision to divest its interests in the Ranger uranium project. These amendments can proceed without in any way affecting the scope of the general review to which I have referred. The involvement of the Government in mining projects is contrary to the political philosophy of this Government. The sale of the Government’s interests in Ranger to ERA - whose major shareholders are the original partners in the project before the Labor Government became involved - is consistent with our philosophy. This divestment is particularly pleasing as it also involves one of the largest export sales ever recorded at one time for a single commodity by an Australian company. It marks the advent of Australia as a major supplier of uranium to the world market. It also represents a very tangible and positive expression of confidence in Australia by two of our major trading partners. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– by leave- In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Replacement of operating theatres and surgical wards at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia.
Debate resumed from 20 August, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before beginning my formal remarks on the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 I should pay tribute to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) who made one of his officers available to the Opposition over the last 24 hours in order to enable us to come to some agreement as to the range of amendments that might be necessary in the consideration of the Bill by the Senate. The Bill deals with that tension which inevitably develops between authors of creative works, whether they be novels or journals of a scientific or a professional nature, who wish a fair remuneration for the effort that they have put in, both in creating the ideas within the publication and in seeking and obtaining publication of that work on the one hand, and, on the other hand, those educational institutions which, by way of their library resource centres or by way of teaching wish to make that published material available to as wide a range of students, in particular, or to the general public, as is possible.
Inevitably, there is a tension which has been exacerbated in recent years by the growth of photocopying, a type of technology which has constantly required change by parliamentary institutions in regard to the rights of authors to a fair remuneration for their work. For example, at common law only unpublished works actually had copyright. It was with the development of the printing press that statutes had to be passed to enable an author to have copyright in his published materials. As anyone who has worked in an educational institution will be able to confirm, there is no doubt that this tension exists. The Bill has attempted to resolve it.
When speaking on the Bill earlier 1 said that, in general, the Opposition agreed with the general thrust of the legislation. Having considered the further amendments circulated by the Attorney late last week, I need to say that the Opposition is now confronted with a Bill which would not have been its Bill. It understands that certain compromises, arrangements, understandings or agreements have been reached between representatives of authors and representatives of the major library institutions and educational institutions of Australia, tertiary, secondary and primary, within both the government and non-government sectors. I will come to the specific details in a moment.
On the whole, the Bill is to be welcomed. For example, it makes it clear what shall constitute a fair dealing by a user of materials such as will not attract a breach of copyright or require the payment of remuneration to an author. Under the current legislation it is unclear what might constitute a reasonable use of photocopying facilities by a user of published material without exposing him to the risk of prosecution for breach of copyright or at least the seeking by the author of remuneration. The Bill before the chamber has the merit of setting out certain criteria which may be taken into account by a court in determining whether a fair dealing, not requiring remuneration and not breaching copyright has occurred. For example, the criteria include the purpose and character of the dealing, the nature of the work or adaptation, the possibility of obtaining the work at a reasonable commercial price and so on. This is all helpful. It helps to create an aura of certainty in an area where until now there has been confusion.
The Opposition has misgivings concerning the failure of the Bill to accord with certain recommendations of the Franki Committee, which spent a great deal of time in trying to arrive, as it did in October 1976, al a reasoned statement of what ought to be the balance between authors and users of creative works. Amongst other things, for example, the Franki Committee recommended that a library as an educational institution ought to be able to make six copies of a work when copies could not be obtained within a reasonable time at a reasonable commercial cost. For example, this is quite frequently the situation when a lecturer prescribes a text or a book which, because it is published overseas, is not available within the Australian system within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price and, if it were to be made available in sufficient quantities for the students in a particular course, it would require the expenditure of large sums of money by the library or other institution to obtain copies, especially from abroad. The Franki Committee said that in such a situation the library ought to be able to put six copies on reserve, with the intention that eventually they be destroyed as commercial copies became available, without the payment of remuneration to the author. This would be an interim measure to deal with a specific situation which is probably peculiar to Australia because of its distance from overseas publishing houses.
It appears that there has been an agreement between authors and educational institutions and libraries, which I find hard to credit - I take the assurance of officers of the Attorney-General’s Department that it is the case - that that Franki Committee recommendation need not be pursued within this Bill. Instead, as I understand it, the libraries and other educational institutions have agreed that they will in all cases pay remuneration to the author or at least have their copying of such materials regulated by the statutory licence scheme. I will refer in detail to that scheme in a moment but, broadly speaking, it requires an institutional library to pay a fee to the author of a work which it copies. If no agreement can be reached as to the fee then there is recourse to an independent copyright tribunal to arbitrate on the proper level of fee.
The record keeping or the notation required by the Bill in order to differentiate between copies made under the statutory licence scheme as opposed to those copied under the six free copies provision involves a lot of paperwork. My understanding was that the libraries agreed to operate under the statutory licence scheme if the record keeping procedures were made easier and simpler. It was a trade-off. As I read the Bill as proposed to be amended by the Attorney, such a simplification has certainly not occurred. This is why I have some reservations about dropping the Franki recommendation. For example, where a journal is copied by an educational institution - within libraries mainly journals of a scientific, legal, professional, accounting nature are copied; novels, for example, are infrequently copied - the Bill as proposed to be amended requires that the following information be set out: The International Standard Serial Number in respect of the periodical or publication; the title or description of the article; the name of the author of the article; the volume, or volume and number, as the case requires, of the periodical publication containing the article; the page numbers of the pages in that volume, or in that number of that volume, that have been copied, or, in a case where a page so copied does not bear a page number, such description of the pages as will enable it to be identified; the date on which those copies have been made; the number of copies made; and particulars of such other matters as are prescribed.
Anyone who knows that millions of pages of journals are copied in tertiary education institutions throughout Australia should know that it is certainly no diminution of the work load to require still that such institutions record that quantity of material under the statutory licence scheme. As I said, the Opposition has misgivings about accepting the Government’s decision not to go ahead with the Franki Committee recommendation but we will accede to it on the clear understanding that an agreement has been reached between the authors and users.
There is a further agreement to which we will not give our consent and will oppose. The Franki Committee recommended that a teacher, for teaching purposes, ought to be able to make three copies of a work without infringing copyright or being required to pay remuneration to the author of that work. Once again, as a former lecturer in law and having a responsibility as Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Tasmania for supervising the teaching program, I know that it is very common for a teacher not only in that type of institution but also in any institution to make a photocopy two or three times of a particular work and then, by means of underlining, pasting and cutting - a scissors and paste job - getting the material into a form which aids his teaching. We are not talking about the teacher abusing the right to photocopy in order to make 50 copies available for the members of his class. That would be clearly detrimental to the author’s reasonable claims to remuneration. What we are talking about is the taking of three copies as teaching aids to enable the teacher to prepare his material in the optimum manner possible. That seems to be so reasonable, so ordinary and so common that we see no reason to abandon that recommendation of the Franki Committee. We have been told that the secondary school councils, I think it was, had agreed to the abandonment of this Franki Committee proposal, but we are not persuaded that the agreement went further than the bureaucracy of educational establishments. We believe that teachers throughout the country would be horrified to learn that they could not engage in the normal practice which precedes their giving a lesson on a particular topic. So at the appropriate stage the Opposition will be pressing the Government to allow teachers to make three copies of material which they are presenting in a classroom or seminar situation.
Broadly speaking, the Opposition welcomes the presentation of this Bill in the Senate. As I have said, it attempts to resolve the tension between the authors seeking remuneration and users of their works. We believe that the new amendments probably tip the balance too far in favour of the authors and against the legitimate interests of teaching institutions, but we will accept parts of the Bill. The key that remains - we agree with it - is the statutory licence scheme. Under this scheme an educational institution or a library will, by the making of records and the notation of any page that it copies, enable an author to obtain a fair remuneration for the work so copied. Nothing in the statutory licence scheme disables an author from reaching a private agreement with the educational institution or library involved. For example, he could well negotiate a price for copying which was lower than that which would otherwise be reached before the Copyright Tribunal. On the other hand, of course, he may negotiate a higher price without the need to keep such detailed records, which themselves create expenses and overheads for the institution concerned. My point is that the Bill still leaves that freedom between authors and users in the negotiation of a fair price to the author.
What is no longer possible is the fairly free and common practice - this involves some abuse, it must be said - by institutions in the educational field of the new technology which enables copies to be made so readily and quickly. For those reasons we will be opposing some minor sections of the Bill at the Committee stage. We will seek to enable teachers to make three copies of documents for teaching purposes, but on the whole we will be agreeing with the main thrust of this effort to reconcile the interests of authors and users which have been in dispute for some five or six years.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for the support that has been given in principle to the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act. I think the support of the Senate will go much further than simply an in-principle support in a second reading debate. Despite the large number of amendments that will be proposed by both the Government and the Opposition to this amending Bill, we have been able as a result of discussions between officers of my Department and those working for the Opposition to narrow considerably the differences that may have otherwise appeared to exist between us. I share the satisfaction that Senator Tate has expressed in the work that has been done by our officials in trying to narrow that gap.
In closing the second reading debate 1 do not want to speak at any length upon what is a very technical matter. Although technical, it is of great importance to a great many people. Although it may be a problem for the Parliament to grapple with such technical matters, nevertheless it is part of the responsibility of Parliament to do so and to resolve the very real differences that exist. However, I think the fact that these difficulties can be reconciled as far as possible and in as calm a way as possible is a good example of the way in which the Parliament ought to work. The proposals that we are debating today go back a long way. I was criticised by Senator Button, I think, at the beginning of this debate for mismanagement or something or other.
– lt wasn’t in this debate; it was another one.
– On that night the honourable senator was making some fairly broad accusations. I came in for some treatment by him on this Bill as well. I am glad that he is now withdrawing any suggestion of mismanagement in regard to this matter. The fact of the matter is that there has been a long delay in a formal sense, but that delay has been required to carry out the process of discussion, consideration, reconsideration, reconciliation and whatever, which is part and parcel of the process that I have commended as appropriate in the handling of matters of this kind.
I think it was when former Senator Murphy was Attorney-General that reference was made to the Committee presided over by Mr Justice Franki, called the Franki Committee. That Committee reported in 1 976 to my predecessor. Since that report was presented there has necessarily been a great deal of consultation with and consideration of submissions from the various interested groups. A great number of people are interested in the report. Their interests are, on the face of it, very difficult to reconcile. As a result of further submissions made and further consultations that have gone on since the Bill was exposed for public debate over a year ago, a large measure of agreement has been reached. I suppose that it is fair to say that each side would rather have had provisions that accorded more with its own interests and wishes but some broad consensus has been reached. It is not that an agreement which has been signed, sealed and delivered by the parties can be presented to Parliament and we can say: ‘There it is; everybody is agreed.’ That is not the case. I feel there is a broad measure of consensus that the proposals that are being put before the Parliament by the Government in this debate represent a reasonably fair compromise. Although some people would be happier if the provisions satisfied their interests a little more closely, nevertheless, as 1 said, there is a consensus in general terms that the proposal is fair.
The Opposition has also given detailed consideration to the matters. As I have said, as a result of discussions over the last few days the gap between us has been narrowed considerably. 1 will seek leave at the beginning of the Committee debate to give more details on that aspect. I think that will shorten the Committee debate considerably. At this stage I wish to do no more than thank the Senate for the support of the measure and again to thank all those, both outside and inside Parliament, who have participated in trying to narrow the differences. I hope that, despite the difficulties and technicalities of this measure, we will be able to give it a pretty speedy passage through the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator
Mulvihill) - Is it the wish of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
– I think, subject to the views of the Opposition, it might be easier to take the Bill as a whole. I would like to make a statement generally in relation to the Government’s amendments. Perhaps the Opposition will wish to make a statement about its amendments. 1 have circulated a document headed ‘Government Amendments’ which contains two lists - one headed ‘agreed’ and the other ‘disagreed’. 1 do not know whether Senator Tate has seen that list, but it was the result, I understand, of the discussions we have had. Perhaps I can make a general statement in relation to the purpose of the Government’s amendments. Although there are quite a number of them they cover only a few areas. Many of them are consequential or technical type amendments. I would like to make a general statement and then proceed to deal with the amendments that are in issue.
– I cannot speak with great authority for the Opposition because Senator Tate is far better informed about the amendments thanI am. I think the course proposed is acceptable to us. It might be helpful if I indicated at this stage an error in the Opposition’s amendments. It is not a major matter. I refer to the fourth line of our second amendment, the amendment to Government amendment No. 1 4, which reads ‘to be a profession to which this section applies’.It should read ‘to be a member of a profession to which this section applies’. The third line of amendment No. 10 should read ‘any member of a profession declared by the regulations . . . ‘ The reference in the last amendment should read ‘any member of a profession declard by the regulations . . . ‘ Those three matters, I think, tidy up the drafting of the Opposition’s amendments. I agree with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that agreement has been reached on the nature of the procedure in relation to all other amendments. The
Opposition is grateful for the co-operation of members of the Attorney-General’s Department who were very helpful in this regard.
– by leave–I move the following amendments that 1 have circulated:
– It is amendment No. 2 on the first list which was circulated by the Opposition. As I understand the procedure, when we come to the appropriate stage we will move that and the Attorney-General will then move an amendment to it which deals with its terminology.
– We can do it that way.
– We are facing a rather complex situation. I will be operating from the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 with the amendments as moved by the Attorney-General. The question now is that the Government’s amendments as circulated be agreed to.
– Just for clarification, do you intend to go through the Bill clause by clause?
– No, in an all enveloping operation.
– So you will be taking the Bill as a whole?
– So I should address my remarks to you clause by clause?
– I thought the easiest way of doing it would be to move all the amendments listed as being agreed to and then deal with the ones which are disagreed with individually.
– If the Minister wishes to move his amendments as listed in the left hand column of his circulated sheet, the Opposition would agree that that is a convenient way to deal with those.
– In relation to the matters which are agreed to, what will be the procedure if one wishes to seek a little information? For example, I have a query on amendment 49.
– As I understand the situation now, the question is that the amendments to be agreed to of amendments 1 to 50 be agreed to. We can deal with all these amendments not to be agreed to in seriatim.
– I raise a question regarding clause 49 (1) (b) (i). It relates to a declaration by a member of parliament that he requires a copy for the purposes of research or study. The copy is requested from the person in charge of a library, the principal purpose of which is to provide library services for members of parliament. The member of parliament declares that he requires the copy for the purpose of his duties. As you will understand, whilst we are here within the precincts of the Parliamentary Library, there would be no problems regarding a declaration. However, if we are away from the precincts of this Parliamentary Library and we need, as we frequently do need, copy for parliamentary purposes, will the fact of our distance from the Parliamentary Library prevent us from obtaining the same, or will it be acceptable if an assurance is given that a declaration is being made and is on the way, even though the two documents may cross in the process or the declaration may arrive at the Library after the member of parliament has received the material which he has been seeking? It is important that the relationship is maintained between the member and the Parliamentary Library. I ask the question in my capacity as a member of the Library Committee of some years standing. Those of us who belong to it and who use the Library are very concerned that our freedom of use of material from the Parliamentary Library will not be interfered with in any way. The matter of delay in receiving the material is of crucial importance. I hope one would not be inhibited from using the material for parliamentary purposes by an unnecessary delay. It may very well be that the matter is taken care of in other statements or in the remarks of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) earlier this afternoon. I ask the question because of some personal concern. I would be grateful if the Attorney-General, at his convenience, would respond.
– There is a slight misunderstanding as to the procedure, as is evidenced by the remarks of Senator Davidson. That misunderstanding is quite understandable. We are not actually dealing with the Government’s amendment No. 49 on the list. We are dealing with proposed new section 49 in clause 1 0. Just to clear the air a little, the Opposition does not agree that parliamentarians ought to be required to sign for a copy of material from the Parliamentary Library, particularly when there is added to that the requirement that he or she declare he or she has not had a copy made previously of the same material. As honourable senators know, this practice would be totally unworkable. We use these copiers to copy a piece of material during one parliamentary session, dispose of it and then come back in the next session and require exactly the same material to be copied. When the time comes the Opposition will be disagreeing with proposed new section 49 as proposed in the clause 10 of the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Amendments agreed to.
– I move:
We recognise it is an advance on what was originally proposed in the Bill, but we wish to indicate that the amendment does not accord with what we would have proposed. We would have added as a new paragraph, instead of the definition of handicapped reader’ as is shown in the Bill, as follows:
A person who is functionally illiterate by reason of mental or intellectual handicap’.
After having had discussions with various officers, we do not press that suggestion.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
Section 43 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section:
Amendment No. 14 to clause 8 of the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 restricts the copying for the purpose of giving professional advice by legal practitioners or patent attorneys under proposed new section 43 of the Act to a fair dealing with the work, in accordance with the recommendations of the Franki Committee.
– The Opposition is not happy with this clause. In fact, the Opposition found the reasoning of the Franki Committee virtually non-existent. The Committee merely repeated what might be termed a professional prejudice in favour of the legal profession, enabling it to make copies of, say, judgments in order to give professional advice, but neglecting other areas of professional advice, such as that which may be given by an accountant, or other technical advice such as that which may be given by an architect or a scientist. We found it difficult to understand why there was this favoured treatment of the legal profession or why it ought to be singled out by the Government so that there is a discrimination in favour of those dealing with professional relationships of a legal nature in the community. Therefore, the Opposition moves, in relation to proposed new section 43 (2):
Leave out ‘a legal practitioner or patent attorney’, insert any member of a profession declared by the regulations to be a profession to which this section applies’.
That would give the Government an ability, by way of regulation, to include professions other than the legal profession. So we propose that certain words be left out and certain words be inserted.
– The issue between the Government and the Opposition is simply as to the ambit of this exception to the normal rules of copyright. The Opposition suggests that it be widened to any member of a profession which is established by regulation. The Government is not prepared to accept an amendment widening this area. On the face of it, it is perhaps a reasonable argument that it ought to have a wider meaning, but the position is that a legal practitioner or patent attorney was selected simply because they are likely to be involved in litigation in relation to copyright matters. We strictly limited the provisions to those people for that reason. If they are widened to include other professional people who are engaged, as has been proposed by the Opposition, there will be a further widening of the exception applying to the copyright owners’ rights. As I have said all along the object has been to try to get some sort of a consensus on both sides. Although the Opposition proposal, on the face of it, may not widen the exception very much, I believe and the Govenment believes that widening it to cover any member of a profession declared by regulations would tend to create concern amongst copyright owners and the copyright counsel who represented them. We believe that the need is more likely to arise in the case of a legal practitioner or patent attorney. We would prefer that the matter stay limited in the way set out in the Bill.
Amendment to amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
– by leave -I move:
– Senator Tate has raised a more fundamental issue in relation to the remaking of section 49 of the Act. It might be more convenient if he were to move his amendments.
– Honourable senators will find that the third of the Opposition’s amendments, which have been circulated, relates to clause 10 of the Bill and proposes a new section 49. In other words, it is our intention that so much of clause 10 in the Bill as deals with section 49 be deleted altogether and a new section 49 inserted. What we are saying is simply that the copyright in an article is not infringed when the officer in charge of a library or an authorised officer makes a copy of an article or part of an article contained in a periodical publication or a reasonable portion of a work other than an article contained in a periodical publication for the purposes of supplying that copy to a person. In other words, we feel that as long as no more than one article in a periodical is sought to be copied or, in the case of a work other than a periodical such as a book, as long as 1 0 per cent or one chapter of the book is all that is asked for, a very simple procedure ought to be available so that declarations do not have to be signed by the user, particularly members of parliament. We recognise that where it is sought to copy more than one article in a periodical or a greater proportion than two chapters or 10 per cent of any published work, a mechanism should be put in train which would enable records to be kept and, eventually, a fair remuneration to flow to the author.
It seems to us that all that is needed is a mechanism whereby a person makes a request, whether it be by telex, over the telephone, or in person. Surely it does not have to be in writing and it should not need to be accompanied by signed documentation and declarations - declarations which, I regret to say, will inevitably need to be falsified. People will not admit to the fact that some six months or three months before they in fact took a copy of a work, which copy has been destroyed or misplaced. They will need that copy and will make the declaration accordingly. Of course, the protection is that where it is sought to make such a major copying effort of a work, for example, the librarian has to satisfy himself that there is no alternative means of getting a copy of the work within a reasonable time and at an ordinary commercial price to the potential user.
I think that is all I need say about our proposed new section 49. We take the view that it would simplify and make more accessible published material and in that way tip the balance slightly back towards the user of the material as opposed to the author, as seems to be the emphasis in the Bill as presented by Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I move: pages 8 and 9, Clause 10, proposed section 49, leave out the proposed section, insert the following section: “ ‘49 ( 1 ) The copyright in an article is not infringed by the making by the officer in charge of a library or an authorized officer of a copy of an article or part of an article contained in a periodical publication or a reasonable portion of a work other than an article contained in a periodical publication for the purposes of supplying that copy to a person.
Sub-section ( 1 ) does not apply to the supply to a person of a copy of 2 or more articles contained in the same periodical publication unless the articles relate to the same subject matter. “(3) Where a person makes a request for a copy of the whole of a literary, dramatic or musical work that contains more than a reasonable portion of the work or for a copy of 2 or more articles contained in the periodical publication that do not relate to the same subject matter, an authorized officer of the library or archives may make or cause to be made the copy to which the request relates and supply the copy to the person who made the request provided that:
– The Government is not prepared to accept this Opposition amendment in the broad terms in which it has been moved. Some special questions have been raised in relation to the Parliamentary Library. Senator Davidson wanted to raise those matters and we may deal with them separately, depending upon how the Committee votes on the amendment moved by Senator Tate. His proposal may overcome the problem of the Parliamentary Library but the amendment applies widely and not simply to the Parliamentary Library, even though the Library may be of particular concern in this regard. The proposals contained in the Opposition’s amendment which was moved by Senator Tate would have the effect of widening, against the interests of the copyright owner, the right to copy in a way which the Government is not prepared to accede to for the reason which I have already indicated in relation to another amendment.
There are two reasons for requiring that the request be made in writing. One is that the librarian will not have to be left to make the judgment himself but can rely upon the statements made by the person requesting the copying, which is a great improvement from the point of view of the librarian. The request has to be in writing also so that the copyright owner or his representatives can check up on this sort of copying to see whether, in fact, the provisions of the Act are being observed. They are the reasons the requests are to be made in writing. I believe that the proposals put by Senator Tate would be unacceptable to the copyright interests for those reasons. Therefore, the Government is opposed to this amendment.
The matter of the Parliamentary Library concerns some honourable senators and has been raised by Senator Tate. I believe thai some of the concerns expressed early in the piece by the Parliamentary Librarian or one of his officers have been somewhat modified. I have a document which has been sent with the compliments of the Parliamentary Librarian. It is dated 27 August - yesterday - and I believe goes a great deal of the way to allaying the concerns that members of parliament may have had about this matter. There should be no difficulty in having these documents made available to members at both their electoral offices and Parliament House. The documents can easily be signed. How the matter is actually administered in an urgent case is no doubt something that reasonable common sense will overcome, but I believe that the legislation should retain the principle that copying should be done on the basis of the provision of a written request, which, as I said, is for the benefit of both the librarian and the copyright owners.
Amendment (Senator Tate’s) negatived.
Amendment (Senator Durack’s) agreed to.
– I move:
This is an important amendment because it seeks to delete proposed new section 53C which provides for copying by teachers for the purpose of classroom instruction. Such copies can now be made under proposed new section 53D without most of the limitations currently attaching to such copying and with remunerations being paid in respect of such copying. This is an amendment the reasons for which I foreshadowed in some detail in my opening statement. I do not propose to repeat those reasons.
– For reasons that I outlined in the second reading debate, the Opposition opposes this amendment. The Franki Committee recommended that a teacher or lecturer should be permitted to make, without remuneration and without infringement of copyright, by reprographic reproduction up to three copies of a copyright work or part of a work for the purpose of classroom instruction. The Opposition sees no reason to deny a teacher that ordinary method of preparation of his material in order to aid the process of instruction. That method is very common, as I pointed out. If one is doing a scissors and paste job or organising material in a novel or creative way, it is necessary to have some two or three copies which one can rearrange in order to present to the mind something which does not readily appear in a simple reading of the journal or pages of the document as published by the original publisher.
As I said, that is a common teaching aid. The Opposition believes that it would represent a very minor curtailment of the right of an author to receive remuneration if this Parliament were to allow a teacher to have three copies in order to help his teaching. I can understand the fears of abuse if a limitation of three copies is not placed within the clauses of the Bill. One does not want a situation in which a teacher can make 50, 60 or 70 copies for the members of his class in a way which obviously would be to the detriment of the financial position of the author of the work concerned, but if this limitation is adhered to and is honoured I believe that we will have a situation which is full of common sense. Therefore, the Opposition opposes the amendment moved by the Government.
– I make one point in relation to Senator Tate’s comments: This measure certainly will not stop teachers from making copies of documents, it will mean simply that the copies they make will come within the remunerated statutory licence scheme. The Government felt, on consideration, that the Franki Committee recommendation in this regard was unnecessarily complicated. We are introducing a new form of remunerated statutory photocopying under which people in educational institutions, such as teachers, will be able to make multiple copies of material provided they kept appropriate records so that remuneration might be obtained in due course by the copyright owner if that person takes the steps laid down. All we are saying is that instead of having a special category for this very small number of three copies which may be made by a teacher for classroom instruction, providing a separate right against the copyright owner, under the new scheme all that copying can be dealt with as part of that scheme. That is the purpose of the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– 1 move:
Pages 15 and 16, clause 14, leave out proposed subsections 53D (1), (2), (3). (4) and (5), substitute the following proposed sub-sections: “(1) Subject to this section, the copyright in an article contained in a periodical publication is not infringed by the making of copies of the whole or a part of that article, by or on behalf of the body administering an educational institution -
the name of the author of the work (if that name is known);
This amendment seeks to modify and redefine proposed section 53D in some respects. It deals with copying under statutory licence in educational institutions pursuant to the package to which I referred. Specific provision is made for the copying of both articles and works other than articles. Provision for the copying of articles unintentionally was omitted from the Bill. Provision is made also for copying undertaken by resource centres for other educational institutions, as well as copying for educational institutions for their own teaching purposes. The phrase ‘for the teaching purpose of an institution’ is defined to make it clear that copying previously permissible under proposed sections 53a and 53C will now be able to be done under proposed section 53D.
Specific provision is made for the recording and copying of articles and of works other than articles and the use of the International Standard Serial Number and International Standard Book Number references is permitted in an effort to reduce the burden of record keeping. In addition, provision is made for the computerisation of records when educational institutions wish to do so. The provisions relating to correspondence school copying have been redrafted to take account of the changes to proposed section 53D.
So, as honourable senators will see, this amendment is an important one in the light of discussions which have gone on over the last 12 months because it will facilitate the record keeping provisions. It is proposed in response to a lot of the comments that we have received about the difficulties that the Bill as introduced might have created in relation to this matter. As I said, this amendment is designed to facilitate the record keeping required by the Bill.
– The Opposition opposes this amendment only in the sense that we see it as a strengthening of the statutory licence scheme to the detriment of ordinary users. It seems to us that the Bill, as proposed to be amended, will really tip the balance unduly in favour of authors of works. We understood that, for example, libraries and educational institutions were giving up their claim to the implementation of the Franki Committee recommendation, that six copies of a work should be able to be copied when a librarian is satisfied that the work cannot be obtained within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price, on the understanding that record keeping would be simplified. But in fact one finds in the amendment moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) requirements relating to record keeping which are most complex. For example, when one makes a copy of an article in a periodical publication some nine particulars are required to be recorded by the library in order to enable a true record to be kept. It appears that that is to ensure that the author can be remunerated in a way determined either by agreement or by arbitration before the Copyright Tribunal.
We see in this proposal nothing which simplifies the record keeping responsibilities of libraries. It seems to us that it is quite unfair and unwarranted that there should be this strengthening of the statutory licence scheme to the detriment of users in that it will require them to pay some remuneration rather than their having the benefit of the Franki Committee recommendations. The Franki Committee recommendations concerning the making of six copies without remuneration in the circumstances I outlined was noted as being required because of peculiarities in the Australian situation, namely, that we are a great distance from overseas publishing houses. It quite often occurs that whereas a lecturer or teacher or indeed any user of a library or educational resource may be aware of and may have come across one copy of a publication, it is quite impossible to obtain from overseas sufficient copies to satisfy the people he interests in the work concerned. We are simply saying that the strengthening of the statutory licence system and in particular the requirements regarding record keeping seem to us to be unwarranted.
Amendment agreed to.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, may I clarify a point. I take it that the Opposition’s proposed amendments to proposed new section 53D as printed in the Bill will no longer be relevant.
– No, they are covered in the amendment just passed, are they not?
– I wish to raise some queries about the disadvantages of correspondence schools, or distance schools as some people call them, in comparison with the advantages of ordinary schools. On 27 February I asked a question of Senator Carrick, the Minister representing the Minister for Education (Mr Fife), about how correspondence schools would be disadvantaged by the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2). I have not received an answer yet. As I see it, the correspondence schools or distance schools would be terribly disadvantaged. They do not operate in the normal context of a school; everything that has to be learnt by the student has to be copied and written. In a year 5 English class the subjects come from 50 books. Secondary students who were learning Shakespearean plays got one or two copies and ran off other copies from them. Some of these students are some thousands of miles from centres from where the correspondence lessons are sent. Some students are overseas. I believe correspondence students will be disadvantaged.
A Victorian correspondence school was convicted under a copyright law a couple of years ago. Consequently, the students have suffered because the librarians and the teachers have not sent the lessons out. If this is to be the pattern of all correspondence schools or distance schools, I believe students who live in very isolated areas will be tremendously disadvantaged. I would like the Minister to make some comments so that I can allay the fears of the people from these correspondence schools who raised this matter with me.
– I must apologise for the fact that Senator Elstob has not had an answer to the question which he asked earlier about this matter. The whole basis of the statutory copying proposal is of value to all educational institutions, including correspondence schools, because it facilitates the right to copy for educational purposes and teaching purposes. Having to keep records of the copying is, perhaps, a burden, but the position is that those schools have got that right now which they did not have before by getting permission of the copyright owner. Of course, that permission may not have been obtained in a great many cases. That is what this exercise is about; to protect the copyright owner and to head off what looks like being very considerable litigation in the future between copyright owners and educational institutions over these issues. The correspondence schools will benefit from this arrangement.
There is, though, some provision for the additional work burden that I think Senator Elstob is concerned about. The effect of sub-clause (4) of the proposed clause 53D, without going into the detail of it, is to ameliorate the problem insofar as additional work is concerned. Certainly, the basic teaching material will be subject to the scheme, but additional work which may be required in regard to correspondence courses - I think that is a matter which Senator Elstob has in mind - is relieved from the right to remuneration as a result of that clause. That was always the recommendation of the report of the Copyright Law Committee on Reprographic Reproduction, and we are really implementing the Franki report in that provision. I would be happy to provide further details for the educational bodies and correspondence schools that have raised the matter with Senator Elstob. We will get a statement on how it will work for them. There is some recognition. I am not saying that it does not relieve them entirely, but there is some recognition of the problem which Senator Elstob has raised. I move:
– by leave - I move:
The Opposition simply wishes to enable handicapped persons to have copies of works made for them without needing to justify that copying by reason of giving an undertaking that it was for the purpose of research, study, or self-instruction. In other words, we feel that these people in the community are at a disadvantage, and for that reason they require the special help of an institution, perhaps, in obtaining large print copies of works. We feel that, given their special disadvantage, society should be more receptive to their requests that they obtain such works without the rigors of the Copyright Amendment Bill (No. 2) as drafted.
– Again, the matter comes back to the basic problem which we have with these amendments. The Government believes it has gone as far as it can go in extending the provision for handicapped readers without upsetting the general consensus that it thinks it has for this measure by the copyright owners. For these reasons, I prefer that we confine this extension to the Government amendment and not widen it any further.
Amendments to amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
Attorney-General) (4.56) - I move:
– There is no need to rehash the argument. The Opposition simply believes that no special favouritism or discrimination in favour of the legal profession ought to be shown. Whilst we do not intend expressly to widen the professions which may make copies without remunerating the author of the work they are copying, we believe it is common sense that an architect, scientist or accountant would be in the same position as a member of the legal profession when giving advice. It ought to be provided that regulations can be made to enable him so to do without paying remuneration. I move:
Amendment to amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
– The Opposition in opposing the amendment does so because it does not think that in this situation, particularly when a handicapped reader is concerned, the Copyright Tribunal should be able to award costs as it thinks fit. It is a simple proposition and the Opposition opposes the amendment on that basis.
Amendment agreed to.
Sentator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) (5.1)- I move:
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
Interpretation 195a. (1) In this Part, “officer in charge” means -
in relation to a library - the officer holding, or performing the duties of, the office or position in the service of the body administering the library the duties of which involve that person having direct responsibility for the maintenance of, and the provision of services in relation to, the collection comprising the library.
Use of works and broadcasts for educational purposes “26. Section 200 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) ‘or an appliance capable of producing a copy or copies by a process of reprographic reproduction’ after ‘copies’.”. “26a. After section 203 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted in Part X:
Retention of records and declarations in relation to copies made by libraries, archives or institutions 203a. (1 ) Where, at any time before the expiration of the prescribed retention period after the making of a copy of the whole or a part of a work in reliance on section 49, 50 or 5 1 a by an authorized officer of a library or archives, a relevant declaration in relation to the making of the copy is not retained in the records of the library or archives -
the officer in charge of the library or archives concerned, are each guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding $500.
the custodian in charge of the copying records of the institution concerned, are each guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding $500.
the record is being conveyed from a central records authority of the institution to the institution or to another central records authority of the institution.
satisfies the court that-
Certain institutions may elect to deposit copying records with central records authorities 203b. (1) The body administering an educational institution may, by instrument in writing furnished to the Attorney-General, elect to deposit the records of the institution relating to any copying done in reliance on section 53d and the records of the institution relating to any copying done in reliance on section 53F with the central records authority specified in the notice and, upon the making of that election, the central records authority so specified becomes, for the purposes of this Act, the central records authority of the institution.
Where the body administering an institution makes an election under sub-section ( 1 ) or (2) to deposit the records of the institution relating to copying done under section 5 3d or 53f with a central records authority-
cause the relevant record in respect of each copy of a work or a part of a work made by or on behalf of that body after the election is made to be deposited with the first-mentioned central records authority as soon as practicable after the making of the copy and before the expiration of the period prescribed for the purposes of this sub-section after the making of the copy; and
Where a central records authority is the central records authority of an institution, an election by the body administering the institution to deposit the relevant records of the institution relating to copying done in reliance on sections 53d or 53f with another central records authority is of no effect unless-
Retention of copying records by central records authorities 203c. (1) Subject to sub-section (2), where, at any time after the relevant record of an institution in respect of the making of a copy (including a handicapped reader’s copy) of the whole or a part of a work in reliance on section 53d or 53f has been deposited with a central records authority of the institution under section 203b or 203G but before the expiration of the prescribed retention period after the making of that copy, that record is not in the possession of the central records authority -
the officer in charge of the central records authority, are each guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding $500.
satisfies the court that-
Arrangement of declarations and records 203d. ( 1 ) Where the declarations that relate to the making of copies of the whole or parts of works by an authorized officer of a library or archives in reliance on any of the following sections, namely, sections 49, SO and SI a, and that are retained in the records of the body administering the library or archives are not arranged in chronological order according to the dates on which the declarations were made,
the officer in charge of the library or archives, as the case may be, are each guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding $500.
Inspection of records and declarations retained by libraries archives or institutions 203E. ( 1 ) The owner of the copyright in a work, or the agent of such an owner -
may notify the officer in charge of a library or archives, in writing, that he wishes to inspect -
may, if the notice related to the making of copies of works or parts of works in reliance on section 5 1a, state in the notice that he also wishes to inspect, on the day so specified, the collection of the library or archives.
such of those records as relate to the works of a specified author, on a day specified in the notice, being an ordinary working day of the institution not less than 7 days after the date of the giving of the notice.
such of the records of all institutions of which the authority is the central records authority, or such of the records of a specified institution of which the authority is the central records authority, as are deposited with the authority and relate to the works of a specified author.
the officer in charge of the library or archives, as the case may be, are each guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding $500.
Additional offences in relation to the making and retention of records and declarations 203F. (I) A person shall nol, under section 49, 50, 51a, 53d or 53f. make a declaration or record that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Return of copying records deposited with a central records authority 203g. (1) A body that has made an election under sub-section 203b ( I ) or (2) to deposit its copying records with a central records authority may. at any time, by notice in writing furnished to the body administering the central records authority, revoke the election on a date specified in the notice, being a date not less than 30 days after delivery of the notice to the body administering the central records authority.
*(2) The body administering the central records authority of an institution may, at any time, by notice in writing furnished to the body administering the institution, inform the body administering the institution that as soon as practicable after a date specified in the notice, being a date not less than 30 days after delivery of the notice to the body administering the institution, it intends to cause the copying records of the institution retained by the authority to be returned to the institution.
*(9) The body administering a central records authority shall-
as soon as practicable after receipt of a notice under sub-section (6), cause the copying records of each institution deposited with it-
as soon as practicable after it has complied with paragraph (a), cause a notice to be published in the Gazette stating that it has complied with that paragraph on a specified day and setting out the manner in which it has complied with that paragraph.
Upon the publication, by the body administering a central records authority that is the central records authority of an institution, of a notice of the kind referred to in paragraph (9) (b) in relation to the copying records of that institution, that central records authority shall, by force of this sub-section, be deemed to have ceased to be the central records authority of that institution.
Notation of copies and handicapped readers’ copies 203h. (1) In proceedings against a person or body for infringement of copyright in a work in connection with the making by or on behalf of an institution, of a copy of the whole or a part of that work, the person or body is not entitled to rely on section 49, 50, 51a or 53o as justification for the making of that copy unless, at or about the time the copy was made, there was made on the copy a notation stating that the copy was made on behalf of that institution and the date on which it was made.
A person shall not -
For the purposes of sub-section (1). (2) and (3)-
those sub-sections apply as if references in those sub-sections to an institution included references to that person or body: and
The production, in any proceedings-
For the purposes of sub-section (8). where a record embodying a sound recording of the whole or a part of a work also embodies a sound-recording of a message of the kind referred to in sub-section (3), the message shall, unless the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been embodied on the record at the time the record was made.’.”.
This amendment is a fairly major one. It replaces proposed new sections 203A, 203B and 203C in the Bill which deal with the retention of records, inspection of records and notation on copies. This is necessary because provision is made for educational institutions and institutions assisting handicapped readers to centralise their records with a central records authority. A new provision had to be incorporated to provide for a central records authority and to define its functions and responsibilities. Provision was also made for educational institutions and institutions assisting handicapped readers to be relieved of record keeping obligations in respect of copying under proposed sections 53D and 53F once they had forwarded records to the central records authority.
Records of copying by libraries and archives are not subject to being centralised and are retained by the library or archives making the copy. The keeping of records of copying by libraries and archives have been changed from an author basis to a chronological basis as they do not result in the payment of remuneration to copyright owners and are used simply to check that procedures are complied with.
The records of copying by educational institutions and those assisting handicapped readers under proposed new sections 53D and 53F still have to be sought so that a copyright owner inspecting them is able to do so without reference to the records of copying of other copyright owners. Searches of records by copyright owners are provided for as in the Bill but are modified to take account of proposed new section 53D and 53F relating to the copying at the central records authority where the records have been centralised. The notation on copies has been significantly reduced to the date of copying and the name of the institution making the copy to enable such notation to be made mechanically on copies. This is an important amendment because it is part of the general proposals in the amendments to assist with the keeping of records and the use of the most modern methods of record keeping.
– I move:
The Opposition foreshadows the following amendments:
Page IS, proposed clause 26a, proposed paragraph 203a (2) (d), leave out the proposed paragraph.
Page 16, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203a (4), leave out “or person”.
Page 16, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203a (S), leave out the proposed sub-section.
Page 17, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203b (6), leave out “the custodian and the body administering the institution are each”, insert “the body administering the institution is”.
Page 18, proposed clause 26a, proposed paragraph 203c ( 1 ) (b), leave out the proposed paragraph.
Page 18, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203c (3), leave out “or person”.
Page 18, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203c (4), leave out the proposed sub-section.
Page 19, proposed clause 26a, proposed paragraph 203d (1) (b), leave out the proposed paragraph.
Page 19, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203d (2), leave out “and the custodian in charge of the copying records of the institution are each”, insert “is”.
Page 19, proposed clause 26a, proposed sub-section 203d (4), leave out “and the officer in charge of the central records authority are each”, insert “is”.
Page 21, proposed clause 26a, proposed paragraph 203E (6) (b), leave out the proposed paragraph.
Page 21, proposed clause 26a, proposed paragraph 203E (7) (b), leave out the proposed paragraph.
Page 24, proposed clause 26a, proposed paragraph 203G(12) (b), leave out “ceases to be in the possession or-, insert “is disposed of by”.
All of the amendments which 1 just foreshadowed on behalf of the Opposition, apart from the last one, are consequential on the Government’s agreeing to the amendment I have just moved. I suggest that we discuss that amendment and, if the Government agrees lo it, we will follow with the further amendments. If it is knocked back we will accept defeat gracefully.
Our point simply is that such very onerous duties are placed by this proposed new section on an officer in charge of a library or archive that not only the institution concerned will bear penal consequences should records not be kept in a proper manner, for example, but also the officer himself will be liable to a fine not exceeding $500. That is stated in the very first paragraph that we are dealing with - proposed paragraph 203A (1) (b). The Opposition believes that it is sufficient that the library or archive be responsible in a way which allows it as an institution to be fined up to $500 for an offence and that, as with most firms, enterprises or institutions, that institutional body has its own means of dealing, if it thinks it appropriate, with the officer who may have led to the institution’s being liable to a fine. In other words, we simply say that the institution which the officer serves should bear the brunt of a failure to keep proper records and the employee should be dealt with in a manner appropriate to the employer-employee relationship. We see no need to burden the officer himself with responsibilities that could result in his having penal consequences visited on him.
– The Government is not prepared to agree to the Opposition’s proposed amendment because the provision of penalties, we believe, should apply to people who are operating the system. They have the obligations placed on them and if they do not observe these provisions the Government believes that the penalty should apply to them. We cannot accept the argument that has been advanced by the Opposition that such people should not be subject to the provisions of the Bill.
– 1 just say that the Bill does not propose to deal with the officer who may have been responsible for the failure to keep a record or a sufficient record, lt proposes that the officer in charge of the library or the institution be the person who is liable to a fine. It seeks to place responsibility at the top of the hierarchy of the institution concerned. In other words the Bill, as proposed by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), seeks to place responsibility at the highest personal level within the organisation and not at the level of actual fault within the organisation. Perhaps the Attorney-General’s case would be defensible if the Bill were seeking to deal with the person at fault. It does not; it seeks to sheet home responsibility to a person who, as 1 have said, is in charge of or the custodian of the library or archive. In that sort of situation surely it is reasonable that the institution itself - the head is symbolically chosen by this legislation in addition to the institution - be the only body to bear a penalty for not conforming with the requirements of the Bill.
Amendment to amendment negatived.
– The question now is that the amendment moved by the Attorney-General be agreed to.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, does the Government’s amendment encompass the whole of clause 26A?
– The Government’s amendment No. 43 seeks to insert a new clause 26A, which is a rewriting of proposed new sections 203A, 203B and 203C. Does the Opposition wish to move another amendment to proposed new clause 26A?
– I am just asking how the Government proposes to deal with proposed new sections 203D, 203E, 203F and 203G in proposed new clause 26A. I am just seeking clarification. It is just that the Opposition does not want to be left without an opportunity to move an amendment to proposed new paragraph 203G (12) (b).
– Perhaps you could do that now. Senator.
– Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. I move:
In other words, the Opposition has acceded to the inevitable and is not pressing its foreshadowed amendments which depended on the Government’s accepting the argument that the officer in charge of the library or institution should not be personally liable. We therefore proceed to proposed new paragraph 203G (12) (b). In the Government’s amendment that paragraph reads:
a relevant record that is so deposited ceases to be in the possession of that person or body at any time before the expiration of the prescribed retention period after the making of the copy to which the record relates, the person or body is guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine nol exceeding $500.
The Opposition finds that paragraph objectionable in that it creates an offence of strict liability which may result in a conviction and a fine not exceeding $500. No attempt to discover a criminal intention or negligence on the part of the record keeper is provided for in this paragraph. Simply, if it is found that the document which was deposited is no longer in the possession of the person or body concerned, a conviction and a fine may follow. The intent of the Opposition’s amendment is to insert a requirement that the prosecution prove that the document was disposed of by the person or body concerned. In that way a mental element is introduced which I think may justify exposure to a conviction and fine. There may be any number of reasons which are quite beyond the control of the person or body concerned why a record cannot be found. Those persons could be fire or the criminal action of another body or person. It seems to the Opposition quite unjust that such a person should possibly be guilty of an offence for any criminal activity, negligence or sheer accident that might occur. For that reason, we press the amendment.
– I think there is some partial merit in Senator Tate’s proposal, but I can not go so far as to accept his amendment. Admittedly it limits the provision to disposal of documents by record keepers. I think a fairly strong obligation ought to be placed on the record keepers to take all reasonable steps and so on to keep the records. I know that the obligation on bailees for reward is not a criminal obligation. In this case a small fine is designed to give effect to a high responsibility but, as stated, the provision may be too wide. To facilitate the passage of this matter through the chamber - there are time constraints on the legislation - I will undertake to see whether I can get the provision redrafted and propose it as an amendment in another place.
– That course is acceptable to the Opposition.
Amendment to amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
There are further requirements should a change in his disclosed interests occur. Rather than a codification of the common law which the Attorney-General has presented to the chamber, namely, that where a member of the Tribunal becomes aware that there could be a conflict of interests because of his interests he should make known the potential conflict to the chairman of the Tribunal, the Opposition believes that something much more permanent is required by way of a written register of particulars of interests held by not only the Tribunal member but also members of his family. For that reason, I move:
– As I have said, the Government’s proposed amendments are designed to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Duty and Private Interest presided over by Sir Nigel Bowen. The Government made a statement on the Committee’s report some time ago. It indicated its acceptance of the recommendations concerning bodies such as the Tribunal and said that opportunity would be taken, as it arose in amending legislation, to give effect to them. The amendment proposes the implementation of the recommendations of the Bowen report. The Opposition, in seeking to deal with a similar problem, is doing so in quite a different way and in a way which the
Government believes goes well beyond the recommendations of the Bowen Committee. The Government believes that the proper course is to accept and implement the recommendations of the Bowen report.
Amendment (Senator Tate’s) negatived.
Amendments (Senator Durack’s) agreed to.
– Senator Tate, what is your intention in relation to the remaining amendments?
– I wish to move them separately. According to my list of amendments, the Opposition’s second amendment has not yet been moved. It deals with proposed sub-section 43 (2) and seeks to leave out the words ‘a legal practitioner or patent attorney’ and to insert the words any member of a profession declared by the regulations to be a profession to which this section applies’.
– I have that as Opposition amendment No. 6. I understand that the first amendment for the Opposition extends the definition of ‘handicapped reader’.
– Given the pressures of time, perhaps with the aid of the officers at the table the Opposition could move those remaining amendments en bloc, and deal with the matter in that way.
– The suggestion is that these amendments be taken in globo. Is that acceptable to the Minister?
– I am quite happy to adopt that procedure. I think we have really dealt with the issues in the debate already. I think all of the issues have come out. There is this one point, though, that the Opposition proposed to move an amendment for a definition of ‘periodical publication’, which I indicated I would accept. It seems to be lost. I have an amendment to give effect to it. I do not know whether that is acceptable to the Opposition?
– We need to get the amendments labelled correctly. This is the amendment to clause 5 (j) with regard to periodical publications.
– That is acceptable to the Opposition.
– It is designed for the Opposition to move.
Amendment (by Senator Tate) - by leave - agreed to:
Page 5, clause 5, after paragraph (j) insert the following paragraph: “(ja) a reference to a periodical publication shall be read as a reference to an issue of a periodical publication and a reference to articles contained in the same periodical publication shall be read as a reference to articles contained in the same issue of that periodical publication;”.
Amendments (by Senator Tate) - by leave- proposed:
. Page 24, Clause 23, at end of proposed sub-section 1 82a (3), add the following new paragraphs: “(f) reports of Royal Commissions; or
– For the record I indicate that the Government does not accept these amendments. In the course of this rather lengthy debate most of the issues have been canvassed in one way or another and the Government’s views have been made known. I do not propose to repeat them. The Government opposes these amendments.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows -
The purpose of this Bill is to enact the excise tariff alterations moved in the House on 1 7 April 1980 by Excise Tariff Proposals (No. 2) 1980. Excise Tariff Proposals (No. 2) 1980 increased the excise duty on naturally-occurring liquefied petroleum gas from $14.00 to $41 . 65 per kilolitre. This measure was taken against the background of substantial increases in the price of LPG. Government policies set out by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) on 8 April 1980 explained a comprehensive package of measures designed to encourage the use of LPG as a means of reducing our dependence on imported oil, particularly in areas where LPG has a premium value such as for automotive use. Australia will also be more self-sufficient and hence more in supplies of essential energy requirements if greater quantities of LPG are used in the Australian domestic market rather than being exported.
In accordance with Government policy, the new maximum wholesale price of LPG was reduced to $205 per tonne with effect from 9 April 1980. From that date the wholesale price of naturally-occurring LPG will be linked with the price of indigenous crude oil and will increase by the same percentage as any increase in the price of that oil. That price of ex-refinery LPG will also move in accordance with any such adjustment. These arrangements will maintain an appropriate price differential between LPG and crude oil. The controlled prices will not apply, however, to LPG when used as a petrochemical feedstock in nontraditional industrial uses or for exports. The only exception to the nexus between crude oil and LPG pricing will occur on those occasions when world prices for LPG become lower than the Australian domestic price. In this event the lower export parity price would become the basic price for domestic purposes. Against this background the Government has decided to set a formula to provide an appropriate level of excise collections from the revenue received by producers of naturally occurring LPG derived from fields in production in August 1977. The excise will be set at a rate which is equivalent to 60 per cent of the average wholesale price in excess of $147 per tonne.
The revenue raised from the new excise arrangements is estimated to be $104m in 1980-8 1 . 1 commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
– The purpose of the Delivered Meals Subsidy Amendment Bill 1980 is to increase some payments made available to organisations which provide meals on wheels to the aged and the infirm at home and to the aged in some senior citizens’ centres in this country. The Opposition will move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill because the Bill is in fact a token and it is a totally inadequate recognition of the Government’s neglect in this particular area. Before moving that amendment, I must praise those people, those volunteers, those organisations in ‘ this country who for many years have provided hot and nourishing meals to the aged and the infirm of this community and who have done so with very little assistance from government. Their task has become more difficult with the increasing costs of food and labour and more recently the increasing cost of petrol, both for volunteers and for the paid workers who take part in this service. These people have done a great deal in this area to provide assistance to the aged and to some of the disabled. It is often the only means whereby some aged people who live very lonely lives not only get nourishment but also get companionship. They deserve our support and they deserve better support than they are getting now.
The legislation needs to be seen in the context of our total assistance to the aged in this community, and particularly in the context of the outrageous and misleading claims that this Government has been making about what is done in caring for the old and the poor. The misrepresentations and the travesties of truth in Government statements in recent weeks need to be exposed and need to be demonstrated in this Parliament and outside. I will quote two recent examples. Last week in the Senate the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, told us:
This Government’s reforms and extension of benefits to the under privileged and the disabled are unsurpassed in the history of Federation.
This, as I will demonstrate, is absolute rubbish, as is the claim by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 21 March last when he said:
Over the last five years there has been unparalleled support for the building of hostels and homes for elderly people. Right around the country grants have been provided to expand enormously the provision throughout the community for elderly people, homes for the aged.
This sort of thing is echoed regularly during Budget and social security debates in this country. It is echoed by parrots on the back benches who run along with handouts from the offices of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). They enter straight into the debate without giving these statements any kind of analysis and without being concerned for the truth at all. Before returning to this Bill and particular matters in this Bill, 1 think we should look at the so-called unparalleled provision for the elderly which has been provided. In the Budget statement presented by the Minister for Social Security, which was humourously entitled ‘a Budget for those in Need’ - probably a more appropriate title would have been ‘Crumbs for those in Need’ - the Minister referred to a new three-year program involving expenditure of $225m for aged and disabled persons’ accommodation. Members of this Parliament who remember the last three-year program, with an expenditure of $225m for exactly the same purpose, cannot take this figure too seriously. For those who do not remember it 1 believe it is worth while going through the figures again.
In 1976 the Minister for Social Security announced her first three-year $225m program to provide 15,000 beds. The expenditure was an average of $75m a year. In fact, that three-year program took five years, at an average expenditure of less than $50m a year. Whether the target of 1 5,000 beds as promised was ever reached is not known. I am afraid it will not be known until the question that 1 have had on notice for some months about the number of beds that have been provided is answered. However, last December the Minister again announced a major new threeyear program with an expenditure of $225m. She omitted to mention that in real terms this was, in. fact, a decrease of $110m on the previous program. The previous program, rather than being a three-year program, had ended up being a five-year program. This year the Government aims to expend $52. 5m on aged and disabled persons’ accommodation. Far from this being unparalleled support, as the Prime Minister has stated, in real terms it represents only 46 per cent of the amount of $7 1.6m which was spent in 1975-76, the year of the last Labor Budget.
The truth of the matter is that this Government has cut spending on aged persons’ accommodation by over half but believes, as did another government of similar persuasion many years ago, that a repeated lie will eventually become the truth. The Prime Minister, in his 1977 election speech, again spoke about care for the elderly. 1 suggest that he played a confidence trick on the elderly. He announced: . . new arrangements will be made in 1978-79 for pensioner housing to help (hose who want to stay in (heir own homes and those who want to rent privately in their own neighbourhood.
What actually happened? I refer to an answer to question No. 1800 which is printed at page 2975 of the Senate Hansard of last year in which it was stated that no pensioners had been assisted personally to rent privately in their neighbourhood or stay in their own homes. The answer is that nothing has happened. The Government announced ils program and did nothing about it. Then in typical fashion it blamed the States for nol assisting pensioners in this way when the Government said it would assist pensioners in this way.
Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle announced a new I notice again that the word used is always new’- program of $12m over three years for senior citizens centres. This program in fact is the same recycled program as was announced in 1976 when the $4m a year was worth 47 per cent more than it is now because of inflation. By the time the final year comes along, in 1982-83, that $4m will be worth about one-third of the annual S4m subsidy which was announced in 1976. I might add that it is not a program about which the Government feels any urgency. One local council has complained to me - 1 know it has complained to the Minister- that it has had to wail five years for a small grant of $4,000 to cover some extensions to some senior citizens centres.
The appropriation for home care and housekeeper services will rise this year, but most of these rises are related to the cost-of-living catch-up. There is also an amount of $600,000 for possible new programs. This money and these programs can be developed only if the States and local government equal the amount the Commonwealth allocates. Two years ago this Government halved the subsidy for home care, giving only $1 for every dollar of State government money instead of the $2 for $1 which was provided by the Labor Government. The level of actual spending depends on how local government and State government Budgets can be adjusted and on local government and State government commitments in this area. Some local councils would dearly like to start programs of home care services but, in view of this Government’s retreat from guaranteed support for domiciliary services of all care, these local councils have cold feet; they are not prepared to start something they cannot keep up to a satisfactory standard. They are not prepared to begin funding services for the elderly in their areas and then, because of Federal Government withdrawal of support, either have to cut the funds or slug their ratepayers by increasing rates if the Government again decides to cut out funds. lt is in this difficult, uncertain, fragmentary and unco-ordinated way that support for such services is provided by the Commonwealth Government. This is causing great difficulty in the development of a coherent program of assistance for the aged in this community. Most of the programs depend on matching subsidies, where there are active councils and active or even wealthy organisations. The basis of need is never much considered. It is a matter of how active the council will be or how wealthy are the local organisations which want to get into this area. What this Government lacks and what this Government has destroyed is a working and viable community involvement program - a program like the Australian Assistance Plan - which can tap the resources in the community so that people can assess their own needs and priorities and can be guaranteed some small amount of national funding or assistance to meet those needs.
In the Australian Assistance Plan some 50 projects for the aged and for the elderly in their own homes, about which Mr Fraser repeatedly expresses concern, were axed. Without warning the Government axed the Australians Assistance Plan and put nothing in its place. I am not saying the Australian Assistance Plan was perfect, but this country needs active encouragement of community assistance programs, community development programs, so that people can learn to help themselves and use the goodwill and facilities they have. The 50 projects that went down the drain were modest but were thought out by local people who were willing to help each other. They were thought out in the interests of local people who needed help and were the sorts of programs that were badly needed. Local skills, local goodwill and the framework for mutual understanding that every community needs were totally lost in this community once the Government turned its back on a community-based decision-making network.
– It was costing virtually nothing.
– It cost some $3m. It was a three-year pilot program which was evaluated and considered to be successful. It had faults. No one suggested it was perfect. It was a new initiative and was supported by members on the Government benches when it was introduced. The program was axed without warning at a meeting of State Ministers in Darwin and nothing has replaced it. A lot of goodwill, skills and communication went down the drain.
I would like to mention two further matters in connection with assistance for the aged, particularly domiciliary assistance for the aged, in connection with this Bill. The first matter relates to the domiciliary nursing care benefit, a measure which was introduced to assist people being nursed at home. The Government has increased this benefit in value from $2 to $3 a day in payment. Its value, if it had been indexed in line with the consumer price index, should have been increased to $4.60 a day. Again, we have a token, not a substantial, increase to a payment - a payment that does not make up for the erosion in its value by inflation since it was last increased.
Another matter I mention is the failure of the Government to increase the personal care subsidy to the frail aged in hostels. This subsidy was introduced by the McMahon Government at $10 a week, lt was raised to $15 a week by the Labor Government. Not only has it never been increased since then, despite the alleged concern for the elderly, but there has also been a good deal of confusion and anger at organisations operating hostels because of this failure to increase it. Many believed, and believed very sincerely, that they had undertakings from this Government that after the years of neglect the subsidy would be adjusted to take into account the consumer price index rises since then. Instead, nothing has been done. The hostels are forced to reduce their services they consider necessary for their infirm residents. It is reminiscent of the promise made by the Prime Minister to the miners in central Queensland recently. So much for the so-called unparalleled support for elderly people that the Prime Minister repeats almost daily in the House of Representatives and weekly in speeches outside this place. He repeats himself in an attempt to hoodwink people who have nol looked at this area closely.
Not everyone in the community is ignorant of what has been happening in this area. Welfare workers and welfare organisations are not among the ignorant, they are awake to the Government’s meanness in this area; they are awake to the Government’s abandoning its responsibilities to the elderly. What is more important is that they are awake to the Government’s deliberate misrepresentations of the facts and the manipulation of the figures. We have a good example of all this in this legislation which is before the Senate in this simple Bill, the Delivered Meals Subsidy Amendment Bill. I suppose it is one of the pieces of legislation, one of the reforms, which Senator Carrick claims is unsurpassed in the history of Federation.
What does this Bill do? lt raises the donation to local councils, to the many voluntary organisations in this community, Ibr meals from the 25c it has been since 1974 to 40c a meal with an extra 5c if there is a vitamin C supplement to make that meal more nourishing and effective to the elderly. Since 1974, when those figures were fixed, there has been an 84.2 per cent increase in the consumer price index and, in fact, if food prices alone are considered, there has been an even greater increase in the consumer price index. Taking the consumer price index, there has been an erosion of the benefit for those without vitamin C of 22c a meal and an erosion for those with vitamin C of almost 26c a meal. What we are receiving here is a much smaller increase than even the consumer price index would warrant. I must say, and I am sure most people here would agree, that the figure of 40c for a meal of any type is a rather meagre increase for such a payment, particularly in view of the cost increases to the fine people who do all this good work in the community.
After five years of inaction with no increases in the payment, when local councils, the Red Cross, the Country Women’s Association and the various senior citizens organisations have had to carry all the extra burden of costs, the Government gives 1 5c a meal. As I say, it does not keep up with inflation and it takes no account of the increase in petrol prices, which are vital in this area and which are causing considerable concern to those who rely on voluntary drivers, especially in country areas. Petrol prices have increased 100 per cent since 1974. I have had representations, and 1 am sure most members of this House have had representations, from local councils who are committed to providing meals on wheels for their residents. They are now convinced that the Commonwealth Government, this Government, no longer has that commitment and no longer is willing to maintain its commitment in this area. The Government is giving an extra 1 5c a meal, which is enough, as 1 heard one politician saying the other day, to pay for a couple more biscuits with the meal, without regard to inflation, the quality of the meal offered or the costs to the council or organisations. Most local government authorities provide a meal that they claim costs about $3 to prepare. They cannot charge more than $1 for that meal and many, in fact, charge less. I must suggest that the payment of a 40 per cent subsidy by this Government is somewhere between an insult and a token. One senior council official has put it to me that given the administrative costs required to extract the subsidy from the Government, the whole Commonwealth contribution is hardly worth while.
I will give an example of some of the costs which can be involved. The Preston council has told me that in the five years between 1 974-75 and 1979-80 its costs for meals on wheels went from $40,000 to $178,000. Over the same time, the Commonwealth subsidy went from $19,000 to $20,000; that is, while the cost to the council has risen by $138,000 the Commonwealth has paid only an extra $10,000 to meet it. The Preston council has a salaried service. The Broadmeadows council, which has a volunteer service, is also in difficulties. Its annual cost is $15,000 for salaries, $ 1 5,000 for the meals and $ 1 00 for minor costs. Its income is $3,000 from the Commonwealth and $1 1,500 from the users. The council is up for half the cost of the service; the Commonwealth is up for 10 per cent of it. If the time comes, as the council feels it must, when volunteers will not be available, the council will be left with no alternative but to put up rates to cover this service - rates in what is considered to be a pretty poor area.
I suggest that the Government’s commitment to the needy in this matter is negative. The poorest people in the industrial suburbs need the meals, the poorest councils consider it is a high priority to meet those needs. As a rule, they do not have the volunteers, or the voluntary organisations which are likely to become very active in these areas. Those organisations, whether we like it or not, tend to be restricted to middle class areas and some country areas. The councils provide the staff, the vehicles and the petrol, but the Government is giving them no additional help at all. As I said at the start of my speech, where there are volunteers - all over the country there are volunteers who are giving selfless help and doing a great job in this area - the Government’s petrol pricing policies are causing an increasing difficulty. It is becoming an increasing sacrifice for volunteers to carry on their community work.
We cannot neglect vital areas such as this. We cannot go on having programs which we neglect, raising the expectations of councils and voluntary organisations that we will support them and that we will support them at least to the extent of increases in inflation. We cannot go on letting people down like this or we will destroy the voluntary sector in the community. Because of the very real problems we set up for local authorities we will destroy any interest and any initiative they are willing to take. The Collingwood council recently called the level of subsidy an absurdity. The Opposition believes that the level of subsidy is a disgrace. For that reason I will move on behalf of the Opposition the amendment circulated in my name. It is to be moved in that form because of the nature of the Bill and the fact that we cannot amend the Bill in any way. I move:
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– The Australian Democrats support absolutely the amendment moved by Senator Grimes on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. I find an incongruity in this debate, namely an avowed socialist like Senator Grimes espousing what I regard as true small ‘1’ liberal policy and every member of the Liberal Party being about to vote against what I regard as true small T liberal policy. Is not the small T liberal policy - the John Stuart Mill philosophy - that governments should not behave as big brothers and give handouts to support people entirely? Is not the philosophy upon which the Liberal Party of Australia is founded to help people to help themselves? Therefore, I find a massive contradiction in the way in which every back bencher on the Government side, who I say without fear of contradiction would be opposed to this niggardly and stupid increase, will vote for it and against the amendment moved by Senator Grimes. Such is the rigidity of the party system.
It is also stupid - and my remarks do not apply to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) because I know the constraints within which she operates as a Minister and within the Cabinet; I join with Senator Grimes in criticising the Government - because there is not one senator in this chamber who does not believe that in the long run it is cheaper for the Government and cheaper for taxpayers to keep elderly people in their own homes. If we can keep them in their own homes with domiciliary services, that prevents them from going to the next step which is to enter a nursing home. We know that as soon as elderly people move out of their own environment - an environment in which they have raised children and lived for many years - into the strange atmosphere of a nursing home, their physical and mental health deteriorates rapidly and the next step is to enter a hospital, the cost of which to Consolidated Revenue is astronomical. Therefore, this niggardly kind of increase will virtually accelerate the number of elderly people who go into nursing homes and finally into hospitals.
What is the increase involved? 1 will put it on the record. Since 1 974 it has cost 30c for a meal with a vitamin C content. Now the cost is 45c. Is there any honourable senator on the Government side who believes that that additional 15c is a reasonable figure? Is there any honourable senator opposite who believes that that amount will compensate councils and other bodies which provide delivered meals for elderly pensioners? I would say that not one of them believes that. Yet every single one of them will vote against this amendment moved by the Opposition. The cost of a meal without a vitamin C content goes up from 25c to 30c - a 5c increase. To enable the Government to have this Bill passed this evening I will contain my remarks and my anger by seeking leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Director of the Victorian Council on the Ageing, Ms Anne Fulcher, about which I have consulted the Minister.
The letter read as follows -
BUDGET IS OF SMALL COMFORT TO ELDERLY
from A. Fulcher. Victorian Council on the Ageing
Concern is expressed regarding the limited relief that has been extended to older members of our community in the 1980-81 Budget.
On the favorable side, the following have been promised:
An increase in the delivered meal subsidy from 30 cents to 45 cents per meal; an increase in the domiciliary nursing care benefit from $2 to $3 per day, and an assurance that pensions will continue to be adjusted each November and May in accordance with the relevant movements in the consumer price index.
Areas that have received no attention include:
No increase in the personal care subsidy in spite of a firm recommendation in the ‘Report of the Joint Working Party on Hostel Accommodation’, prepared by the Department of Social Security and the Voluntary Care Association, that this be increased as an interim measure from $1 5 to $28.50 a week;
No increase in the allowable income that can be earned before the pension is reduced. This has remained at $20 for a single pensioner, and $34.50 for a married couple, since 1972;
No increase since 1 966 in the funeral benefit of up to $40 payable to a pensioner who meets the funeral expenses of another pensioner, and $20 where the cost is met by another person.
No increase in the supplementary assistance, which has remained at $5 since 1 974.
People in receipt of pensions urgently need a more humane approach to their ability “to live”, not just “to survive”, the remaining years of their lives.
ANNE FULCHER, Melbourne.
– I conclude by saying that the Australian Democrats totally support this amendment and will vote for it.
(5.59) - This Bill forms part of the Government’s package of Budget Bills. I am unable to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition and supported by Senator Chipp. The Government has brought forward this proposal which increases the subsidies provided for delivered meals. I think the issue is understood by all to be one that provides an additional subsidy for delivered meals to the organisations - there are some 671 of them - which are providing this service throughout Australia. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
That the amendment (Senator Grimes’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6.7 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m. - (Quorum formed).
Motion (by Senator Rae) proposed:
That General Business Notice of Motion No. I standing in my name be postponed until the next day of sitting.
– I appeal to Senator Rae. As he has placed this item on the Notice Paper and quite a number of us are interested in it, 1 believe he should proceed with it.
– Speak up. I can’t hear you.
– That has never been my failing. Nevertheless, I appeal to Senator Rae. The item he placed on the Notice Paper is a very important one and there is a considerable amount of interest in it, although perhaps there is not as much support for the proposition as he thinks. I think the matter ought to be debated. This is not the first time Senator Rae has postponed debate on it; I think it might even be the fourth time. The problem is that, as I anticipate events, there might not be another night on which we debate General Business before the Government decides to hold an election. This motion will then disappear from the Notice Paper. There is another problem: By postponing debate on this matter we will somewhat truncate the business paper for tonight.
– The people on your side who are interested in this knew I was going to move that motion.
– 1 would have thought that the message that debate on this matter was to be postponed would come to me through the Government Whip. Nevertheless, even if I had known I would have protested that it does not help to have the matter postponed. As I said it is an important matter. It should be debated. Postponing debate on it interrupts business listed on the Notice Paper, lt means that we will have to bring on another matter for debate tonight and we may catch a poor senator unprepared, not realising that we might proceed through the business at such a rapid pace. I feel a little guilty because when 1 present my General Business item I will put the motion without even speaking to it. That will make the situation even worse. I hope honourable senators take what I am saying in the best spirit. I suggest that next time the matter is listed on the Notice Paper we debate it.
– by leave- 1 thank the Senate for granting me leave to speak. Let me explain the situation. In no way am I seeking to adjourn debate on this matter for the purpose of avoiding the matter being debated. 1 have found that since this matter was placed on the Notice Paper a very considerable amount of interest has been shown in issues, not only issues contained in the Notice of Motion but also a large number of other issues which are involved, including the whole matter of the future of the Senate committee system, the relationships between the Executive and the Senate and the relationships between the Executive and the committee system.
The subject of the Notice of Motion is fairly broad and a considerable amount of work has been done on it. I can assure Senator Georges and others that papers of a quite voluminous nature have been prepared and considered by some of the people who are interested in this matter. It is my intention that, as soon as possible and with the aid of some prepared papers so that people can consider in advance the matters that are contained in the Notice of Motion and are relevant thereto, the issue will be discussed by the Senate. 1 hope there will be an informed and considered debate which will take up the whole of an evening devoted to General Business so that we can look at where the Senate is going. I think gradualism is the best approach to adopt in this. It is with that in. mind that I seek to stand over debate on the matter, assuring the Senate that a considerable amount of work has been done on it.
– Normally I would support Senator Georges in what he said but I totally accept the explanation given by Senator Rae on this motion. There are 42 pages in the Notice Paper, probably containing 500 or 600 items for debate in this chamber. Without any hesitation, I regard this matter as either the most important matter, or one of the most important matters to be debated in the Senate. If this motion were passed it could change the whole form of parliamentary government as it is known in Australia. It is that important. If Senator Rae, as sponsor of the motion, believes that he is not ready or does not have enough information, or that the people who wish to speak on it have not enough information, I think that is a perfectly valid excuse in this case, when such an outstandingly important motion is involved. I support him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Since this item was placed on the Notice Paper a great deal has happened. Most of the papers which the motion requires to be laid on the table of the Senate have been leaked and, in fact, have already been tabled in the Senate. Also, Senator Rae on behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, which he chairs, informed the Senate last week that the whole matter of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd would be submitted to the Senate Committee for investigation. The leaked documents are not the complete set of documents. Not all the documents relevant to this issue have been leaked or tabled in the Senate. But what I believe is the major portion of the documents has been. When the documents were first leaked my summation of them, publicly expressed, was that they disclosed that an oligarchy had been indulging itself, its friends and its potential critics with dairy industry money for a number of years. I believe that everything that has been disclosed since then has confirmed that basic diagnosis of what had been happening.
In some quarters the notion is being promoted that if a person gets caught with his fist in the till it is all right as long as he puts the money back; then the incident will be closed. That appears to be the attitude of a number of people associated with the dairy industry to the malpractices, the misuse of funds by a wide variety of people, disclosed in the documents which have already been released. The altitude of many people in the dairy industry seems to be: ‘Okay, everything is right now. These practices which occurred in the past are not being carried on in the present, therefore, the whole incident should be buried’.
I submit that that attitude is not good enough. Restitution, in criminal law, of stolen money is not regarded as something which expunges the crime or the initial misappropriation. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) who has not had complete responsibility for this matter, of course - he took over before the initial primary investigation had been completed - has, to say the least, not been helpful in solving the matter.
Twice last year in Parliament and once to me privately he gave answers to questions about the affairs of Asia Dairy Industries which were, if not contradictory, certainly incompatible with each other or not fully compatible with each other.
When questioned again in Parliament this year, on 17 April, as to why he would not table the reports he said that the Auditor-General had advised him not to. That was subsequently shown in the Senate Estimates committee not to have been the case. It was in fact explicitly denied by the First Assistant Secretary to the AuditorGeneral’s Office. When Mr Nixon was next questioned in the House about it he said that the Auditor-General had written a letter correcting his previous answer to the Senate Estimates committee. The letter in question was not produced by Mr Nixon then or since. The only letter which was written in fact explicitly stated that the Auditor-General had made no recommendation to the Minister as to whether the report should be tabled.
Last week, on Budget day- that is no accident; it is highly significant that Mr Nixon chose to do it on Budget day - he made another statement in Parliament saying that all the matters had been cleared up except those pertaining to the expenditure by Mr Webster, the former Chairman of the Dairy Corporation and of Asia Dairy Industries. He has subsequently claimed that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) has given him legal advice not to comment upon or to table any documents relevant to those matters which are still under investigation. If that is true - I underline the ‘if - and if his statement in the House is also entirely true, it means that the AttorneyGeneral’s advice recommending that the amount of information on this matter which is made available to the public be restricted applies only to those matters which affect the expenditure by Mr Webster.
I have been informed by Senator Rae - this is on the record; it was not done privately - in the Senate that of the 31 matters which the Senate committee is to look into, only two pertain to expenditure by Mr Webster. In other words, there are 29 instances which the Senate committee plans to investigate. Even if Mr Nixon was telling the truth in the House, he has received no legal advice to withhold information pertaining to investigations by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Auditor-General’s Office into the misuse of funds in the past. On television last week, Mr Nixon appeared on the program Countrywide. Mr Nixon is inclined to use words carelessly even when he is not trying to cover up, but in this case he was. At any time he is inclined to use words carelessly. His statements are open to varying interpretation because of the imprecise way in which he expresses himself, but the general impression which he gave on that television program was that the Attorney-General had advised him not to make any comments about any of the matters pertaining to Asia Dairy Industries.
What he claimed in the Parliament was that the Attorney-General’s Department had advised him not to make any comments about those matters which were still under investigation; that is, those two matters out of 31 pertaining to Mr Webster. In other words, Mr Nixon was singing one song in the Parliament and another song on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television program, Countrywide. On the Countrywide program he also accused me of quite improperly tabling information in the Senate relevant to investigations which were still in progress, which he said was a quite improper thing to do. I remind Mr Nixon that his comments, if one accepts his evaluation as being accurate or sound, were relevent only insofar as they apply to the two matters pertaining to Mr Webster which are still under investigation. The documents that I tabled certainly contained some information about Mr Webster’s past expenditure, all of which, 1 believe, had previously been published somewhere or other in the Press. So nothing new was disclosed about Mr Webster when I tabled those documents last week. There was information in the extracts that I tabled about a number of other people. There was information in those documents about a number of people, but according to Mr Nixon the investigations into all of those matters are completed.
So if there is any blame to be apportioned, it should not be apportioned to me for tabling information on matters into which Mr Nixon says the investigation has been completed; the fault lies wilh Mr Nixon for not informing the Parliament of the outcome of those investigations. To mention just a few of them, the $5,000 which was apparently improperly received by Mr E. G. McCartney, a director of Petersville and a former director of Asia Dairy Industries; the $10,000 overpayment to an expatriate staff member of Thai Dairies who was not named in the documents; and the identity of Mrs Kent whose expenses in Thailand were paid by Thai Dairy Industries, which is one of the companies in the group; and who authorised the payment of Mrs Kent’s expenditure. Why was it authorised? I know the answer to that question. The payment of Mrs Kent’s expenses in Thailand was authorised by Mr Tony Webster, the then Chairman of the Corporation, because his old mate, Bill Pyle, had asked him to pay the expenses of Mrs Kent, who is the wife of Mr Pyle’s neighbour.
In other words, Bill Pyle was big-noting himself, glad-handing his friends with Dairy Industries money, with connivance and approval of Tony Webster. So that is who Mrs Kent is, and those are the circumstances surrounding that case. 1 happen to know that. I have discovered that from other sources, but there are many other matters about which 1 do not know all the background, and therefore I am not able to disclose to the Parliament information which the Parliament is entitled to have. If, as the Minister claims, the investigation into all those matters is complete, he has the information and he ought to supply it to the Parliament. Some of the people who were either original guilty parties in the malfeasance in this company or who were accessories after the fact insofar as they sought to suppress disclosure of the malfeasance, and still seek to do so, in order to protect their own compromised positions, are running around the country saying privately that this continuing investigation of the company is endangering its existence and is indeed doing a great deal of harm to the marketing of Australian dairy products. I frankly do not believe that that is the case, especially when the people who are peddling that line have a vested personal interest in suppressing the release of further information about the company.
I note that the belief that it is not harming the company was explicitly endorsed at the National Rural Press Club today by none other than the Minister, Mr Nixon. When asked whether the controversy about Asia Dairy Industries was harmful to its commercial future he replied that there was ‘no risk to the operations of ADI at all’. That is what the Minister said about it and that is also what 1 believe to be the case.
There are two villains in this scandal. In this context 1 leave out the Minister, who has compounded their villainies by the series of misleading answers which he has given and continues, I believe, to give to the Parliament. The two principal villains are Ronald Anderson, publisher of Primary Industry Newsletter, and Bill Pyle, Deputy Chairman of the Corporation.
– Mr President, 1 raise a point of order. Knowing that police investigations are taking place, I ask that Senator Walsh not debate matters which could be the subject of those investigations. 1 do not want to do any more than draw his attention to the fact that he may be achieving the opposite objective to that which 1 think he is seeking to achieve, that is, a thorough investigation.
– Have charges been laid?
– No, but the matter is being investigated. It has been announced that it is being investigated. An honourable senator cannot make a charge of villainy in the chamber at the same lime as the police are examining the matter. I hope there will be a consciousness of the desirability of there being a maximum examination by the police.
– What has this got to do with the Standing Orders? What is the point of order?
– If Senator Cavanagh does not know the answer to his interjection he has really wasted his time in this place. I have made the point I wished to make by raising a point of order. I will leave it at that.
– Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I have great respect for the point of view put by Senator Rae but in the 20 years 1 have been a member of parliament I have always been very loth to restrict any member of parliament from talking about anything. In the other place, where 1 served for 1 6 years, it used to worry me that the rule of sub judice was imposed wrongly and falsely on many occasions.
– 1 did not claim sub judice.
– I agree. But, with great respect to what Senator Rae said, we have to be very careful, Mr President, that you do not rule or that a convention is not set upon this place to restrict the right of honourable senators to say anything they please at any time with the exception that if charges have been laid and a matter is before a court honourable senators should be quite guarded in what they say. Without canvassing whether Senator Walsh is right in his allegations, again with great respect to Senator Rae, I say that Senator Walsh has every right to proceed as he is doing, particularly as charges in this matter have nol been laid. If we followed Senator Rae’s objection to a logical conclusion any suggestion of malpractice or a suggestion that an investigation may be held would inhibit honourable senators to an intolerable degree in speaking on an issue which they believe lo be in the public interest. 1 speak against Senator Rae’s point of order.
– Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. Too frequently a point of order is raised because someone opposes the view that an honourable senator is putting. A point of order may be raised only when there is a breach of our Standing Orders. Therefore, Mr President, if you uphold the point of order I will want lo know what Standing Order Senator
Walsh has breached. Senator Rae did not claim that the matter is sub judice. He said only that an inquiry has commenced. There is nothing in our Standing Orders to say that an honourable senator cannot speak on a matter that is the subject of an inquiry. Obviously, Senator Walsh has made his inquiries and is giving us the conclusions that he has reached as a result of those inquiries. A police inquiry may be entirely different. It is another matter. A breach of Standing Orders is the only justification for someone raising a point of order. If a point of order is being taken, we want to know what Standing Order Senator Walsh has breached.
– Conventions can be breached as well, not necessarily Standing Orders.
– As Senator Walsh has frequently said, conventions in the Senate were killed in 1975. They no longer apply. But there is no convention to say that an honourable senator cannot speak on a matter which is the subject of an inquiry somewhere else. The point I want to emphasise is that when someone opposes what someone else is saying he gets the privilege to speak in this chamber by raising a point of order when there is no suggestion of a breach of Standing Orders.
– Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order in support of what Senator Rae said. As I understand it, this matter is the subject of a police inquiry. I believe it is quite proper that Senator Rae should have raised the matter and drawn your attention to it. We have some sort of responsibility to the public. Anything said in this chamber which alludes to a particular matter and which may contribute to the guilt or otherwise of the people involved ought to be regarded as a matter of concern. I support what Senator Rae has said, Mr President and ask you to bear that in mind.
– I wish to speak in response to the point of order.
– No point of order was put forward.
– I want to comment on what Senator Rae said. I do not know what is being investigated by the police. All I know is that the Minister has said that the only matters being investigated by the police are those pertaining to expenditure by the former Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation and Asia Dairy Industries. I do not propose to canvass those matters affecting Mr Webster. The two people I identified - this is a considered statement- as two of the principal villians in this matter are Ronald
Anderson, publisher of Primary Industry Newsletter and Bill Pyle, the Deputy Chairman of the Corporation. As far as 1 know, and certainly if what the Minister stated in the House last week is entirely correct, neither of those gentlemen is under police investigation.
– I wish to say a few words on the point of order. Then I will call Senator Walsh again. I must point out that Senator Rae did not raise a point of order because he fell the matter was sub judice. He made a plea that because of certain circumstances care should be taken. We do not want to restrict debate in this place. Senator Rae made a plea that care be taken in respect of certain matters that are the subject of an inquiry. However, as Senator Cavanagh said, he did not have recourse to any Standing Order. It was nothing more than a plea.
– Mr President, I wish to speak to that point of order. If Senator Rae did not raise a point of order, why did he have the right to speak when another senator had the floor?
– In this place it is happening far more than it should that points of order are being raised only to enable the person to say certain things. That trend has been developing slightly and I want to stop it. A point of order should be raised only when there is a breach of some Standing Order. The only way out of the sort of situation in relation to which honourable senators take points of order is to seek leave to make a short statement.
– I am conscious of what Senator Rae said. 1 do not believe that what 1 have to say should cause any concern. From the information available to me Mr Anderson was not a direct beneficiary of any of the malfeasance except that - this is a vague sort of connection - he was the recipient of a trip financed by Asia Dairy Industries in 1977. His role was that of the principal agent, the most significant agent, in the attempted cover-up.
When the matter was first raised in Parliament, Ronald Anderson’s Primary Industry Newsletter strongly attacked Bill Hayden and then in its pontifical style asserted that PIN had thoroughly investigated the allegations and found that they were without substance. I note that those matters are now the subject of police investigation. Obviously even if we do not know anything else we know now that the allegations are substantial. Readers of Mr Ronald Anderson’s Primary Industry Newsletter, if entirely dependent upon that source of information, have never been informed that anything else was the case. Anyone who was depending on PIN for his or her information would still believe that there was absolutely no substance in the allegations.
I venture to suggest that the fact that the matter is under police investigation will not be reported in Mr Anderson’s Primary Industry Newsletter. If Mr Anderson were to report the fact that a police investigation is under way he would be obliged to acknowledge that his earlier unequivocal, pontifical assessment of the allegations was in error. Given Mr Anderson’s excellent contacts within the dairy industry, it is not conceivable that he did not know at the time he wrote that judgment, which was 5 September 1979, that the allegations were substantial. So 1 suggest that his original totally wrong, and knowingly wrong, assessment of the events will remain uncorrected.
Mr Anderson, of course, has been in trouble with Senator Rae’s Committee - the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations - in relation to material which he has published in his Primary Industry Newsletter. He also attempted to use blackmail to suppress the disclosure of the problems that he had with Senator Rae’s Committee when he wrote a letter to Brett Lane, an agricultural journalist stationed in Canberra, with the Australian Agricultural News Bureau, saying: ‘Dear Brett, This is just a friendly note complaining . . .’ The letter went on to complain of the report which Brett Lane had written of the Senate Committee hearing and which Anderson claimed was factually inaccurate and not protected by privilege. The report that Mr Lane wrote was in fact completely accurate. A good deal of it was a direct quote from the Committee’s proceedings and it was entirely covered by privilege. What Anderson was doing was attempting to blackmail this young journalist in order to suppress the disclosure of his villainies. He continues to behave in that way.
As for Mr Pyle, he has on two occasions - once directly and once indirectly - fed false information to me. On the occasion when he did it indirectly, as it was reported to me, he said that the Labor Party would be well advised not to pursue this matter because in fact the irregularities that had been discovered by the Auditor-General’s investigation were approved by Senator Wriedt when he was the Minister for Agriculture. He said that Ken Wriedt had approved of the duchessing which had taken place because that was a condition of employment demanded by the former chairman before he would take the job. Naturally, as soon as I received that information by letter I went straight to Senator Wriedt who, as I expected, said that there was absolutely no truth in it.
On the next occasion - I can be more certain in this case because the contact between Mr Pyle and me was direct - I was asked by a third party to telephone Mr Pyle and discuss the matter, which I did. I explained to him that all the Labor Party had ever been pressing for was to have the documents tabled in Parliament, which we believed was the correct thing to do. He said to me: That is what we want”. I said: ‘Very well. Will you write a letter to the Minister asking him to table the documents and supply me with a copy?’ His reply to that was that he was seeing the Minister on the following Tuesday - which he was - and he did not want to make a decision on that matter until he had discussed it further with the Minister. 1 rang him, I think on the Friday after his Tuesday meeting with the Minister, to see what had happened and whether he would write the letter. He backed away from the issue. Of course, had he written a letter and supplied a copy to me as requested, we could then have questioned the Minister, asking him whether he had received a communication from the deputy chairman of the Corporation requesting him to table the report. The Minister would have been in the position of having to say that yes, he had received it. He would have found it very much more difficult to justify the non-release of the information that was in his possession. If the Minister had chosen to deny the existence of the letter we would have had a copy to produce to show that either he did not know what he was talking about or he was not telling the truth. Anyway, that was my personal contact with Mr Pyle.
He continues, of course, to blackguard the Labor Party and those associated with it because of the Party’s role in exposing the way in which he has sponged on the dairy industry for a number of years. I do not know what Mr Pyle’s total income from the dairy industry is but I do know of some of it. I know that in the last six months of last year he received in expenses and allowances over $14,000 from United Dairy Farmers of Victoria. I know that as deputy chairman of the Corporation he receives $10,000 a year. I do not know whether as acting chairman of the Corporation for the first six months of this year he received a higher fee than that. He receives sitting fees and allowances and he may, for all I know, have income from within the dairy industry for other purposes. He receives payments from the dairy industry of at least $38,000 a year, not counting allowances for travelling and sitting fees. So he has a vested interest to protect and he does not seem to be very fussy about how he protects it.
An Australian Dairy Corporation car used by Mr Pyle was the subject of a question on notice from Senator McLaren. The car was purchased almost two years ago without the knowledge of the board of the Dairy Corporation. It was used exclusively by Mr Pyle. It appears that after the board found out some inquiries were put to the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister wrote to the Dairy Corporation towards the end of last year telling it that that type of vehicle should not have been purchased, in the first place, and secondly, that the regulations did not permit a vehicle to be used exclusively by the deputy chairman or by any other staff member of the Corporation, which is the way Mr Pyle had been using the vehicle. An answer was delivered to Senator McLaren during the parliamentary recess and it appeared in the Senate Hansard for Tuesday of last week. In spite of the Minister’s having given a directive, Mr Pyle continues to use the car as if it is his private property. It is garaged at his farm.
– Not since last Monday.
– My information is not so recent. I understood he was continuing to use the car up until last weekend. Mr Pyle had the audacity to appear on AM and to say, in effect: ‘I do not care what the Minister says; I will continue to use the car’. Evidently, for some reason or another - assuming Senator Rae’s information is correct - that circumstance has changed. He also said on the same program another fascinating thing. He said:
It’s a pool car that I drive and still drive and if I’m on UDV business -
That is, the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria which, technically speaking, no longer exists -
It’s funded by the UDV and if I’m on ADC business it’s funded by the ADC.
This raises the question of whether at any time Mr Pyle was entitled to use the Corporation car when he was on UDV business. The Minister has not given a satisfactory answer. I refer again to Senator Rae’s piece of information for which I am grateful. It appears that the Minister does not have that information or was not willing to say so at the National Rural Press Club today. The Minister was questioned on the very point of Mr Pyle’s public and implicit repudiation of the Minister’s authority to lay down rules governing the use of the vehicle. When, questioned today Mr Nixon said that he had written to the chairman of the Corporation informing him of the regulations.
It is said by some that what has been described variously as malfeasance or misuse of funds in the past in Asia Dairy Industries was, in the technical sense, quite legal in that it was authorised by the people who at that time were legally entitled to authorise expenditure of ADI funds. I do not know that that is correct, but even if it is it does not constitute grounds for not thoroughly investigating the matter and then releasing to the public the results of that investigation. If people associated with the company in the past secretly authorised payments which though legal in the technical sense were improper, both the dairy farmers and the public are entitled to know and, indeed, have an inalienable right to know, who those people are and whether any of them still occupy positions of trust or importance within the dairy industry. 1 wish to refer briefly to one more matter. It relates to an AM or PM program - I do not appear to have the transcript with me - in which Mr Simon Nasht made further very significant disclosures about past misuse of funds of Asia Dairy Industries. He stated that a former director - who incidentally was Mr E. G. McCartney again - of Asia Dairy Industries was in a position where he was receiving triple payments and multiple commissions on the sale of the same product between initially the Dairy Corporation and Asia Dairy Industries and then the subsidiaries of Asia Dairy Industries in other countries. That was new information to me. I trust and believe that it will be investigated by Senator Rae’s committee in due course. Perhaps more dirty linen is yet to fall out of the cupboard. 1 am glad that Senator Rae has decided to investigate this matter. It is probably a pity that it was not done some time ago.
I also note that had the Minister been more honest from the beginning on this matter much of the discussion which has taken place in the Senate would have been unnecessary and the matter would have been cleaned up long ago. Those who were culpable would have been identified and, where appropriate, removed from any positions they held in the dairy industry and those who were not culpable would have been cleared. I trust that before very long the whole matter will be properly wrapped up.
– I have been involved in this matter through asking questions and by giving notice of a motion last year when Senator Walsh was relieved of his duties in this chamber for 24 hours. I have asked a series of questions in this chamber of the Minister who at the time was representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I asked questions twice last week and this week and have not yet received an answer. I am concerned that notice was given by Senator Walsh concerning the relevant papers on 20 February this year. Six months have elapsed and the papers have not yet been tabled. Senator Rae says that a police investigation was taking place. Senator Rae also knows that as from Monday Mr Pyle was not using the car in question. Senator Rae is privy to information which 1 cannot receive in this chamber by asking questions of the Minister. I am very concerned that a Government senator has information without having asked a question in public in the chamber and yet I have done so and cannot get an answer from the Minister.
– Have you no conception of the effectiveness of the Senate committee system?
– 1 would have thought that under the Senate committee system Senator Rae would not have been able to divulge that information to the Senate until his committee had tabled a report. Senator Rae has said by interjection that the car has not been used by Mr Pyle since Monday.
– You are just proving that you have no idea.
– I am proving that 1 have some idea.
– You have no idea.
– I have some knowledge of the Standing Orders concerning Senate committees. I had to raise the matter last week with one of Senator Rae’s colleagues.
– You are attempting to refer to Standing Order 308 which you know imperfectly. It refers to evidence. 1 am not talking about evidence given to a Senate committee.
– Senator Rae raised the matter of Senate committees; I did not. I said that Senator Rae was privy to information about this car and that I could not get an answer when I asked questions.
– I raise a point of order. I have noticed that on a number of occasions Government senators seem to feel that they can conduct the business in this House by dialogue. If one of us tries to do so we are called to order pretty smartly. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, to rule on that point. Senator McLaren has been interrupted five times by a Government senator.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop) - Senator Rae knows the rules of procedure of the chamber and knows that interjections are disorderly. I remind Senator McLaren that what he says ought to be of a nonprovocative nature so that the business of the Senate can be conducted in peace and harmony.
– I thought 1 was being very quiet. I was not being very provocative to anybody.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest you stick to the subject.
– I am sticking to the subject. 1 raised this matter because of an interjection by Senator Rae when Senator Walsh was speaking. 1 was not objecting to Senator Rae’s interjecting when I was speaking. I am very pleased that what he said about Senate committees is now on the record. It gives some credence to what I said here last week about Senate committees and the way people on them operate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest that you stick to the subject before the Senate.
– I am still sticking to the subject. 1 have not even got fully into it. What I am concerned about is that it is now more than six months since Senator Walsh gave a notice of motion that he wished the Auditor-General’s reports on Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd to be laid on the table of the Senate. But we cannot gel them laid on the table. Senator Rae raised a point of order in relation to this matter. He was told by the President that it was not a point of order. Senator Rae informed the Senate that a police investigation was pending. I venture to say that if Senator Walsh had not raised this matter in this chamber there would have been no police investigation pending. The whole thing would have been pushed under the carpet.
When we have a look at the documents which were tabled in this Parliament last week by Senator Walsh we see that the previous Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, was in receipt of a letter from the Auditor-General under the dale of 3 August 1979. The Auditor-General referred to a letter that he had written to Mr Sinclair on 24 July 1 979. So Mr Sinclair, as Minister for Primary Industry, was well aware of all the things that were taking place in Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd at that stage. Senator Walsh has mentioned these matters in this place on many occasions and has repeated them tonight. The Minister took no action on them. As I said, Mr Sinclair was aware of these matters 1 3 months ago. Why did he not take any action? Senator Walsh has told the Senate on many occasions why Mr Sinclair did not take action, and we all know why he did not do so. Now we see that the present Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Nixon, is carrying the baby when the man who should be under severe criticism is Mr Sinclair because of the fact that he took no action. This matter would not even have been made public if it had not been for the vigilance of Senator Walsh and the way he has continually pursued it. The documents which are tabled are very revealing. I will not take the time of the Senate tonight to speak about them because they are public documents and anybody who is interested can obtain a copy of them.I know that there are other senators here who have business on the Notice Paper tonight that they want to talk about.
On 20 August, Wednesday last, 1 had to rise on the adjournment to put a question. Because of the way in which Government Ministers waffle on at Question Time I was unable to ask my question then. I had to rise on the adjournment to give notice to Senator Guilfoyle, who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, thatI intended to ask questions about the use of a statutory body’s car. The questions arise from information 1 received earlier this session from the answer to a question which I put on notice. I gave notice to Senator Guilfoyle on the adjournment on 20 August that I would be asking a question the next day on that matter. I asked that question on 21 August, and in reply the Minister said:
I will see that the Minister for Primary Industry is also advised of them and will seek information from him in response.
I was asking a question about Bill Pyle’s interview on AM. Senator Walsh has already referred to that. No answer was forthcoming. On 26 August 1 had to ask, again of Senator Guilfoyle, when I could expect to get an answer to my question as to whether this car was being improperly used. If it was being used, as Mr Pyle said, partly for Australian Dairy Corporation business and partly for Asia Dairy Industries business, I wanted to know whether each of those bodies was paying a fair share of the cost of running that car. And here we are on 29 August and still I have no answer. Senator Guilfoyle said:
I will need to refer the matters raised by Senator McLaren to the Minister for Primary Industry to seek advice on them.
It is quite obvious that I am not going to get an answer to my questions. Senator Walsh has been waiting six months to get an answer or to have the papers tabled. We can only conclude that the Government is deliberately covering up this matter. Even though a small portion of the question which has been raised by Senator Walsh is under police investigation, as we have been told by Senator Rae, there are many other areas that have been raised that are not under police investigation. It is the responsibility of the now Minister for Primary Industry,Mr Nixon, to give an answer in public in this Parliament. But what do we see? We are not going to get an answer to this question before the Parliament rises for an election because, as Senator Walsh said the last time he spoke at length on this matter, the Government is sitting on a bundle of stinking fish and it does not want that to be exposed, particularly to the dairy farmers who are paying to have this car run around the country and used for matters other than legitimate business of the farmers, mainly Victorian. They are the people subsidising or paying by way of levy these people who are using these vehicles. They are not only using the vehicles, but as Senator Walsh has pointed out, they have also had overseas jaunts with their families. These matters are also mentioned in the Auditor-General’s letter to Mr Sinclair. They are having a great holiday at somebody’s expense when they should not be doing it. These are the matters to which Senator Walsh and I want answers, and we cannot get answers.
We have a government which got into Parliament at two elections, in 1975 and 1977, on the policy of open government. Now it is sweeping this important matter under the carpet because it knows there are a lot of stinking fish and it does not want this matter to be publicised. It is hiding behind what Senator Rae has said, that there is to be a police investigation. No doubt that is where the matter will rest until the Parliament rises for the election.
– Better open government than open mouths.
– I thought the honourable senator would be the last person on that side of the House who would want to see anything covered up. I have always looked upon him as one of those people who are very critical of anything being done by a government, no matter which government, to cover up some malpractice. No doubt the honourable senator has looked at the documents, the correspondence between the previous Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair–
– In that case I say that he has no right to interject and talk about ‘open mouths’ if he has not looked at the document and seen what is in it. The document is very revealing in regard to the way in which two Ministers of his Government are trying to cover up misappropriations of funds of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd and the Australian Dairy Corporation. I would have thought that the honourable senator would be one of those people to see that these people divulge that information. Let us clean the matter up. It is quite apparent that we are going into another election, as we did in 1977, with a scandal hanging over the head of the Government. In 1977 the then Treasurer was stood down because of land deals in Victoria.
– Utter nonsense.
– It is not utter nonsense; it happened. It is fact. We might yet see the Minister for Primary Industry stood down unless he is prepared in this Parliament to tidy up this matter before we go to an election. I can assure him that Senator Walsh will not be blackmailed by people outside such as Ronald Anderson because he has applied his vigilance to this matter and exposed it for what it is; that is, a misappropriation of funds. This Government, which claims to champion open government, is doing its very best to sweep this matter under the carpet. I support Senator Walsh in his endeavours to get this information tabled before the Parliament rises.
Debate (on motion by Senator Knight) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Knight) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I rise to speak on this question. Senator Walsh apparently has been trying for six months to get the Senate to agree to a motion urging the Government to lay on the table the AuditorGeneral’s report. The normal practice, as this is a matter of General Business, would be for the question of whether the Senate wanted the report tabled to be either carried or defeated by vote. It would be a decision of the Senate. If the Senate requested the tabling of the report there would be some obligation on the Minister responsible to table it. The reason the Government seeks to adjourn the matter is to prevent a decision being made on the question so that there will not be a request of the Minister by the Senate to table an Auditor-General’s report; so the Minister can go to the election without the embarrassment of defying the request of the Senate to table a report.
If this matter is adjourned it will go on the bottom of the Notice Paper. On the proroguing of the Parliament it will be wiped off the Notice Paper and the Minister will never have to face the embarrassment that he failed to table an AuditorGeneral’s report which the Senate requested. This is an attempt to save the Minister from that embarrassment. Therefore I oppose the motion that the matter be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The Minister would not be in an embarrassing position if the motion were carried. The matter would not come on for debate at all. Therefore I move as an amendment:
Leave out ‘the next day of sitting’, insert ‘a later hour this day’.
– I strongly support Senator Cavanagh on this point. I would like to broaden Senator Cavanagh’s argument. He was arguing, I think, in general terms but in particular that the motion standing in the name of Senator Walsh on the Notice Paper be resolved by the Senate one way or another. I totally support Senator Cavanagh on that. I would like to broaden the argument. Sometimes we are criticised or chiacked by Ministers and senators opposite because private members do not take the opportunity of using every second Thursday night to bring forward matters of importance of their own so that the Senate can debate them. I would ask you, with great respect, Mr Deputy President: What is the use of bringing forward these important matters if the proposer of them simply moves a motion, in an empty House, when we are not on air, and then the debate is simply adjourned?
Senator Mason and I, together with other honourable senators, have taken this matter seriously because of prompting from Government senators. I notice that Senator Mason and I have five of the next ten items on the Notice Paper. I am beginning to wonder what the hell is the use of making a speech when there is no response from the Government. Senator Knight has that usual grin on his face. Does he mean by that that it is of no use to do this? I do not like being grinned at. I tell Senator Knight that right now. If he intends to respond to me I ask him to respond in a sensible and sensitive way to the serious point which I am making. I wonder whether it will become the practice that, when every motion is moved on the second Thursday evening, the debate will be simply adjourned by a Government senator. If that is to be the case, what is the use of raising it? After the next motion, which is to be moved by Senator Georges, I want to move a motion on the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances. If this practice is followed I will make a speech, there will be absolutely no response from the Government side and the matter will then be adjourned.
– No, I have something to say.
– I would be pleased if the honourable senator did have something to say, but there would be no response from the Government side.
– It will be adjourned as soon as you finish.
– It would be if the Government could do that. Most of these matters for discussion are headed ‘The Senate is of the opinion that’. The situation becomes a farce if a back bench senator is trying to test the opinion of the Senate and the matter does not even bring one response from a Minister. Admittedly Government back bench senators quite often respond and make good contributions to these debates. If a difficult question that might embarrass the Government is not voted upon, if this device of adjourning it and placing it at the bottom of the Notice Paper is used, I query the wisdom of raising these matters.
– I apologise to Senator Chipp if he was offended by my facial expression. It was not just a grin. My facial expression indicated an acknowledgement of what he was saying. I am sorry that he was offended by it, but the point that he was raising has been raised in this place more than once before. I share his concern in many respects about what happens to General Business in this place, but it is something that we perhaps ought to address our attention to as a Senate. I am often on duty in this place on Thursday evenings when General Business is dealt with. I acknowledge the point the honourable senator made. Of course, the handling of General Business, the question which is before the Chair now and the issues which Senator Chipp has raised tonight are in the hands of the Senate.
I would also make the point that the matter which has been referred to tonight is in the hands of a Senate committee- a bipartisan committee. The matter is subject to investigation by that committee. By adjourning the matter it remains on the Notice Paper. I would suggest that the question before the Chair, as well as the more general issues that Senator Chipp has raised tonight, are in the hands of the Senate. While the matter is subject to investigation by members of this Senate, I believe the course of action that I have proposed is quite appropriate and not unreasonable in the way that Senator Chipp has suggested.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cavanagh’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The statement referred to in the motion was raised quite some time ago. It is recorded on page 253 of Hansard and relates to a complaint made by Senator McLaren concerning the broadcast of Senate Question Time. 1 have a confession to make because I was the one who alerted Senator McLaren to the fact that there was an imbalance in the broadcast of Senate Question Time on 1 3 November 1979. Honourable senators will recall that 1 suddenly took ill and spent some time in the Woden Valley Hospital. Against the doctor’s orders I decided to listen in to the broadcast of Question Time. From listening to the broadcast it appeared to me that there was no opposition and that all the questions were coming from the Government side. The first five or six questions were asked by Government members and responded to in a typical prepared way by Ministers. I was rather incensed by this and I rang Senator McLaren and he raised the matter, and rightly so. Events that day revealed that there is a procedure here that ought to be corrected. When a Minister asks that a question be placed on notice - that happens to us very often on this side - it disappears from the evening broadcast of Question Time in this House. So, on that particular occasion, just a few minutes were allocated to questions by the Opposition and the rest of the time was allocated to questions by the Government. Honourable senators will accept that that is not something that we take lightly.
Nevertheless, statistics given here show that that day was an unusual day. It was also unusual that I should be listening to the broadcast in hospital. What happened that day should not occur again. I suggest that we ought to look at the procedures. If a request is made that an Opposition question be placed on notice, the next question that is broadcast should be one from the Opposition side, not one from the Government side. That would give some sort of balance to the broadcast. I am not of the view that many hold here that no one listens to Question Time in the Senate. Right across Australia political activists and party supporters are very much concerned and listen to broadcasts of Question Time. They obtain a deal of information from the questions and answers given. For that reason there may be 5,000 or 6,000 people listening to Question Time. It is an important broadcast, and I do not think that the Opposition should be disadvantaged as it was on that night. I understand that the matter has been the subject of further question and debate in the Senate and that it has been referred to the Standing Orders Committee. I am a member of the Standing Orders Committee and I will raise the matter at greater length in the Committee.
– It would appear that this question arose because Senator Georges, while delirious on his sick bed, had formed a wrong impression and misled poor Senator McLaren into raising the matter. Quite obviously our sympathies must go out to Senator McLaren, who got the wrong impression and raised this matter. Mr President, your statement of 21 February shows that one cannot form conclusions from what happened on one day. That is the mistake which Senator Georges has made. If one looks at the overall–
– It was a reasonable mistake to make. You should have listened to the broadcast the night 1 did. Look at the record.
– It probably did not help Senator Georges’ recovery to hear so many good Government questions and so few Opposition questions. Nonetheless, Mr President, it would appear from the list given in your statement, that in the broadcast of Senate Question Time on three days there were quite considerable differences one way or the other, but the officers have assured you that on other days the numbers were fairly even, as is more normal. The suggestion which Senator Georges made is not one that ought to be taken too seriously. He suggested that if an Opposition question is put on notice another question should be given to the Opposition.
– I am not saying that at all; I am talking about the broadcast of Question Time.
– Senator Georges says that in the broadcast of Question Time an extra question should be given to the Opposition. 1 suggest that it cannot be done that way. The fact is that one could then might well say that if an answer to a question from one side is relatively short that side should be given an extra question so that the balance will even up. One cannot, of course, even it up in that way. In fact, there will be occasions when maybe the shortest possible questions are asked, but they may involve a fairly long answer–
– That is not the point.
– 1 am sorry but it is the point I am making, and I intend to make it. On another occasion a question may be asked which leads to a very short but very pithy answer.
– I am sorry I raised it.
– Senator Georges may be sorry. I am sorry that he is sorry. Nonetheless, I think the cure he suggested for the matter he raised is not a workable one. It is much better that questions be asked by each side alternately. Thereby on occasions there will be discrepancies between the time spent in broadcasting the questions asked by one side or the other.
– There need not be.
– There may be but there need not be; but on some occasions there will and one expects that they will even out in the course of time. I suggest that the problem which was raised is not a real one and that the statement which you made, Mr President, gave a satisfactory answer to the situation. Perhaps it. could be said that there are other problems in regard to the matter. The length of questions and answers is a matter which, Mr President, you have raised and which others have raised at times. 1 think that if, in fact, the broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament is to be improved and we are to have greater public interest in it, shorter questions and shorter answers from Ministers are called for.
The Opposition’s complaint that the answers are almost like ministerial statements is no doubt one that sometimes has some justification. The long answers cannot be good material to broadcast to the community; they are not of as much interest as other matters. The raising of points like this can only help us in our attempts to improve Question Time. It is one of the few periods which make the Parliament interesting in the eyes of the public. But as to the actual complaint, on this occasion unfortunately Senator McLaren, acting in the greatest of good faith on behalf of a complaint from a sick bed, was indeed misled.
– As I am involved in this matter I would like to take issue with Senator Missen. Firstly, he seems to think that I was sold a pup by Senator Georges. I want to dispute that view. I think this matter goes to show how vigilant Senator Georges is in carrying out his duties as a member of parliament. He was on his sick bed in Woden Valley Hospital and was listening to the broadcast of the Senate’s proceedings. He telephoned his colleagues in this place and pointed out a discrepancy in the broadcast of Question Time. Senator Missen puts up a great argument saying that the figures which you put down, Mr President, on balance even out. But if we have a quick look at those figures we find that they evened out only on the days after the matter was drawn to my attention by Senator Georges. The number of questions balanced out only after I raised the matter in the Senate. I daresay that if I had not raised the matter on behalf of Senator Georges we might have been faced with a situation similar to that which occurred on the day when we lodged the complaint.
We have spoken about this matter in this place on many occasions. Recently we had to ask for the tabling of a document from which a Minister had quoted. When we looked al it we found that it contained a .prearranged question and that the answer had been provided by a Government department. We looked at the document and that was what we saw. I think the last document we asked to be tabled was headed: ‘Suggested Answer to Senator Walters’. I quoted from that document last Wednesday in the adjournment debate.
I am concerned that there is only one day of the week when the proceedings of this chamber are broadcast. If an honourable senator asks on that day a question which embarrasses a Minister he cannot stop the question going to air by saying ‘I ask that the question be placed on the Notice Paper’ because it has already been broadcast. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if Opposition senators ask questions which are embarrassing to a Minister all he has to do is say: ‘I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the Notice
Paper’. When that happens the listening public does not have any idea of what the senator on this side of the House wanted to raise because the question is not broadcast. If the honourable senator puts his question on the Notice Paper it goes into the Hansard record. The senator will probably have to wait a long time to get an answer if it is an embarrassing question.
I think I pointed that out when I spoke on the previous occasion this issue was debated in the Senate. One cannot get an answer to these questions. If an honourable senator can ask a question while the proceedings are being broadcast the public at large knows that the senators they elect are being diligent and doing their job. I think the argument put up by Senator Missen falls to the ground when one sees from the table Mr President has tabled in the Senate that in fact the balance occurred only after I raised that matter in this place on behalf of Senator Georges.
I hope that some action can be taken by the Standing Orders Committee to prevent Ministers from asking on Tuesdays and Thursdays that embarrassing questions be placed on the Notice Paper so that they are not broadcast, lt is a good device for Ministers to use. No doubt it has been used by Ministers of both political persuasions. In fairness to all honourable senators in this place that practice ought to be stopped. If a Minister cannot answer a question at least the question itself ought to be broadcast. 1 think people in the listening audience would get more satisfaction from listening to a question that a Minister could not answer than from listening to an answer given by people such as Senator Webster when he was here and Senator Carrick who has taken over Senator Webster’s mantle of answering questions by way of a ministerial statement. The only recourse open to honourable senators on this side is to ask a supplementary question. That course is not good because it prevents other honourable senators on either side of the House from asking a question. 1 ask that the Standing Orders Committee look al this matter. 1 compliment Senator Georges again for his diligence and devotion to duty even from his sick bed.
– I wish to speak on this matter because I wonder whether it is being referred to the right committee. I doubt whether there is very much that the Standing Orders Committee can do and wonder whether the Joint Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings should look at the matter to see whether some action can be taken to remedy the complaint that Senator Georges makes. I think it is a legitimate complaint but there are two schools of thought in relation to it. Senator Missen seems to think that our proceedings are broadcast for the purpose of making the Parliament interesting to the listening public.
– It is not beyond consideration.
– Some things are beyond possibility. I would have thought that the purpose of broadcasting the proceedings of the Senate was to give to the public a true reflection of what goes on in the House, whether it is interesting or not. If it is boring the public should know that it is boring. It would then be in a position to protest that we should do something in this House. The practice has developed of not broadcasting questions because they are placed on the Notice Paper at the request of a Minister who cannot answer them but who can answer with the assistance of three-page documents every question asked by an honourable senator on the Government side. Surely that demonstrates to the public at large the incompetency of some Ministers who cannot answer questions that they do not have a hand in writing. Surely one of the purposes of broadcasting is to put honourable senators before the public.
– You don’t think we would allow Ministers to write out questions, do you?
- Senator McLaren tabled documents which showed the question that Senator Walters asked and the reply underneath it. If the Minister did not write it, he had consultations in relation to it. Whoever wrote the question - Senator Walters asked it - supplied the answer; the same person supplied both question and answer.
This kind of incident has become so repetitive that the public should know about it. I think it would be a glorious opportunity to show that we have Ministers in this Government who can answer every question for which they have a prepared answer, who can answer those questions in every detail with the assistance of a departmental document, but who cannot answer the simplest question asked by an honourable senator on this side of the chamber. Therefore, Ministers have to ask that questions be placed on the Notice Paper. What a glorious advertisement it would have been if the question which was put on notice the day Senator Georges was absent was broadcast and the Minister’s request that it be put on notice were broadcast! Surely damage - justifiable damage - would be done to Ministers who are incapable of answering questions in relation to their own portfolios. Surely we should have broadcast questions which are asked. Whichever committee deals with this matter, I ask that it considers the matter that the broadcast of proceedings be a true reflection of what happens in this Parliament, whether or not it does damage to individuals. That is the purpose of broadcasting our proceedings. They are not broadcast for entertainment purposes. The sole purpose of the broadcast is to convey to the public how we work in this chamber.
– Senator Cavanagh, as usual, has the bull by the tail instead of the horns.
– It wasn’t that part of the anatomy at all.
– It is a pity that Senator Cavanagh just cannot help getting things wrong. He commented that whoever wrote a question of mine to which he referred supplied the answer. That is entirely inaccurate. I wrote my question.
– And the answer.
– I did not write the answer. I asked the Minister whether he could gel the answer for me.
– It was on the same piece of paper.
– Because I took my question to the Minister’s office, obviously it was typed out from my handwritten question. The person who wrote the question did not write the answer. I was seeking information of a Minister in another place, as Senator Cavanagh is well aware. 1 asked the question of the Minister in the Senate who represented the appropriate Minister in another place. There was no way in which he could have given me an answer to my question. I did him the courtesy of asking him in advance to obtain the information from the relevant Minister in another place. If we are to make Question Time of any purpose in providing information lo the public, that procedure must be allowed to be followed. The Minister in this place cannot possibly know the details of the portfolios of the Ministers in another place whom that Minister represents. I asked for a legitimate answer. 1 believed the question and the answer would be of interest to the public. The information was required fairly quickly. The Minister was able to supply it. Certainly it was not a Dorothy Dix question, as Senator Cavanagh implied.
– 1 do not wish to follow the line of argument Senator Walters followed because I hope we will debate that very matter in this Parliament when we debate one of the reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders. I wish to speak about a table which appeared in Hansard. The very evening that the table was incorporated in Hansard, Mr President, I spoke to you about it. For the benefit of people who might read the Hansard record or my comments tonight in later years I just mention thai it appears at page 253 of the Senate Hansard of 2 1 February 1980.
When I looked at this table I thought of an old saying which once was attributed to Ben Chifley. I do not know whether it was attributed correctly because legends grow as the years pass. He was purported to have said when some statistics were presented to him that there were lies, damned lies and statistics. 1 do not say that the statistics to which I refer fall within that category, but I do believe that they are a faulty measure of what we were trying to examine that day. Before 1 indicate in what way they were faulty, however, 1 just say that I think it probably is rather trivial of us to collect statistics about something which happened at Question Time. I hope that this sort of occasion does not arise again. But if it does, I suggest that the statistics should be presented in a different way from the way in which these statistics were.
The table is headed ‘Broadcast of Senate Question Time at 7.15 p.m.’, with the sub-heading Time taken in the broadcast by questions and answers in minutes (to the nearest half minute)’. Underneath that are listed, for various dates, headings for questions asked by Government senators, Opposition senators, Australian Democrats senators and Senator Harradine. Under each of those headings is shown the time taken in minutes for questions to be asked and the answers to be given to questions from, say, a Government senator or an Opposition senator. That is not a good measure of what we are trying to examine in this Parliament. What we are trying to examine is the number of questions asked by Government senators, Opposition senators, the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine.
If we use statistics on the time taken by the question and the answer, we introduce something quite spurious. The length of time of an answer might boost the total time shown for the Government side or the Opposition side. Indeed, that did happen on 15 November 1979. Mr President, as mentioned in the text of your statement which accompanied that table, that day there were two extremely lengthy questions and answers in relation to the alleged social security fraud cases. I have not looked up those two questions, but 1 presume they were questions asked by an Opposition honourable senator and the answers probably were given by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle). If the answers were lengthy they probably were lengthy due to the complexity of the case the Minister was trying to outline. But because minutes were counted in collecting those statistics, the minutes taken by those lengthy answers were credited to the Opposition honourable senators who asked the question, whereas all those minutes really should have been credited to the Minister who was answering the questions, if those sorts of statistics are to be used.
If we collect statistics like this again, what we should look at are not the minutes taken up by questions or answers or, as in this case, the minutes taken up by questions and answers taken together, but rather the actual number of questions asked. Then - the record for 1 5 November, instead of showing, say, 1 31 minutes, 29± minutes, nil and nil for Government senators, Opposition senators, Australian Democrats senators and Senator Harradine, respectively, would show, say, 14 questions, 1 5 questions, nil and nil. That would give a better indication of the balance of the number of questions which were asked on either side of the chamber. As I said earlier, I hope that the occasion does not arise again when Senate officers are obliged, because of something which has happened here, to take out statistics on Question Time. I think there are more important things to do around this place than that. But if it does happen again, I suggest that we should not work on this minute basis but on the basis of the actual number of questions asked.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Before 1 speak to the motion, may I say that my anger with the Government for not responding to earlier motions moved in this chamber perhaps was influenced by my slight resentment at being imprisoned in this chamber tonight while very important events, 1 believed, would be taking place in the United Kingdom on a hallowed piece of ground. I am somewhat relieved to know that rain has prevented any action there and we are not missing very much at all. Also, I apologise to my friend, Senator Knight, for accusing him of having an inane grin on his face. I withdraw the words inane grin’ and substitute the words ‘beatific supporting smile’. 1 misunderstood his reaction to my criticism earlier. I understand now that he was supporting what I was saying. 1 withdraw my earlier remark.
For a long time the Australian Democrats have been concerned about the financial assistance available to tertiary students. At the outset, 1 say something which at first blush might seem to be something of a cliche. But 1 say this after having served in several governments and having sat in Cabinet several times. When the Minister for Education (Mr Fife) comes into Cabinet with a brief, he is always regarded by other Ministers as a necessary evil. What he produces is looked at as rather an irritating cost. I believe that almost extends now to most politicians. We regard costs of education as almost irritating. We wish they would go away so we could spend the money on something else - one of our other pet things. But 1 believe that attitude has to change drastically if we are to face up to the problems of the future. I believe - this is where the cliche comes in - we have to regard expenditure on education in the future as an investment, and not as an irritation, because of changing factors.
As I said in a speech here the other day, I am terrified of the future of Australia as far as employment is concerned. I do not believe the Government has grasped the significance which the impact of the silicon chip will have on our whole social fabric and our level of employment. I do not believe it has accepted the advice of Lord Hirshfield that within 1 0 years it could produce 60 per cent unemployment. I believe the Government has put too much emphasis on the absurd conclusions of the Myers Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia. I believe massive unemployment will be impacted on the Australian economy over the next 10 years, irrespective of whether Labor wins the next election or Liberal wins the next election. It will be a revolutionary phenomenon of automation brought about by increased technology. If people are to lose jobs virtually overnight, we have to look at education in an entirely different light. We have to look at it in the sense that a tertiary education will have to be applied so that when one job is lost and a human being is displaced, who will have to move sideways, tertiary education will have to take up that slack and be able to re-educate, retrain or redirect that human being into another avenue of work. If we do not do that, amongst other things, then Lord Hirshfield’s prediction of 60 per cent unemployment by 1990 will be a reality.
A society which has 60 per cent unemployment is not a society that can be held stable unless at bayonet point. For that reason I believe, if we are to mouth these cliches, and mean them, and say that tertiary education is to be increasingly important, then we have to look at the realities of whether we are making it possible for adult people lo engage in tertiary education. I know the budgetary difficulties of the Government- 1 am not making a cheap political point - in respect of raising the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance, but what we are doing by the present Government’s attitude to the TEAS allowance is trying to induce adult human beings to continue tertiary education at a sum well below the poverty line, in some cases below the payment which they could get if they were on the dole. We are saying by inference to adult people who want to study full time: ‘Look, it would be financially better for you if you did not apply for a TEAS allowance, lt would be economically better for you if you went on the dole’. That in fact is the situation.
I preface my remarks by that scenario which 1 believe has lo lead to a total difference in the attitude of all politicians of all parties towards education, particularly tertiary education. 1 do not think I would be contradicted if I said tonight that a few years ago education was probably the number one issue in the forthcoming election. It was a hot issue, as honourable senators will recall. I doubt today that education will gain any prominence at all in the forthcoming election, lt will be an issue, of course, but not one as important as it was a few years ago, and I think more is the pity for that. We believe the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme should be set above the poverty line and indexed in line with the consumer price index. That is in our stated policy, voted on by our members. This is in line with our social service policy that all benefits of whatever kind should be indexed quarterly and not half yearly or yearly. The motion 1 have before the Senate specifies that the TEAS allowance should be set at 1 20 per cent of the poverty line, that is 20 per cent above it. In specifying this figure we have taken into account submissions received from student organisations and representatives from my own party who are Students or staff of tertiary institutions who have a particular interest in this area. The figure was also endorsed by the Australian Democrats National Conference held earlier this year and is now committed as Australian Democrat policy.
Before last week’s Budget, the maximum TEAS allowance for a student living away from home was $45. 1 5 a week. The new maximum is about $5 above that, taking the figure lo $49.67, a rise of $4.50 in round figures. This new maximum of $49.67 is still $23.50 a week below the Henderson Committee of Inquiry into Poverty poverty line. lt is $13 below what it would have been if recommendations of the 1975 TEAS review committee had been followed, lt is $4 below the new unemployment rate for a single person. 1 repeat: We are asking persons to go into full time education at $4 a week below the rate of the dole, lt means that a student would be better off if he or she quit the course and became unemployed instead. Only about 8 per cent of tertiary students have been eligible for the maximum allowance, and only 5 per cent of tertiary students have been actually receiving it. To be eligible - this still applies - a student must be living away from home and not affected by the means test which may apply to his or her income, parents’ income or spouse’s income.
Students allowances are means tested according to their parents income, unless the student is one of the following: Over 25 years of age, married or in a de facto relationship, or has supported himself or herself independently in full time work for at least two years. We believe that means test to be unfair. The means test on parents’ incomes has been and still is extremely restrictive. The recent Budget announced that the means test would rise from $9,400 to $10,302 per annum. This is the combined gross income of both parents, after allowing for some adjustments for other dependants. Since this means test is not indexed and adjustments to it have not kept up with inflation, the number of eligible students has been declining. In the year ended 1979 there were 92,500 students; in 1 980, 90,800 students; and in 1 98 1 , an estimated 88,500 students. Only an estimated 1 5 per cent of students have been receiving any TEAS allowance at all. The TEAS allowance, even at the new rate, bears no relation to students’ actual living costs.
The 1978 Melbourne University survey estimated total cost of students as follows: Sharing a house or flat, $70.39 a week; living in a residential college, $83.61 a week; and living with parents, $45.11 a week. In 1979 the Queensland University estimated these figures: Sharing a house or a flat, $70.43 a week; living in a residential college, $57.19 a week; and living with parents, $40.58 a week. In 1979, a survey of 128 campuses showed that lower housing costs in country towns reduced the average in the first category, as follows: Sharing a house or flat, $57.58 a week; living in a residential college, $80.65 a week; and living with parents, $38.36 a week.
How are students expected to live on a TEAS allowance even at the new maximum of $49.67 a week when the estimate for a student sharing a house or a flat is between $70 and $80, or even higher, a week? The official argument put by the
Government is that students are expected to receive parental assistance and/or get part time or vacation jobs. As to the first point, remember that a student receiving a TEAS allowance will have parents at the lower end of the income scale, around the minimum wage level, or perhaps on the pension, or even on unemployment benefit. Is it fair that they should have to continue to provide substantial support for their student son or daughter up to the age of 25? Will they be able or willing to do so? Will they be able to afford it? Is it desirable that a young person of 24 should be dependent on parents in this way? What does this do to the feeling of independence of the student? These arguments also apply to the middle or higher income family where no TEAS allowance is payable and the student must be wholly supported up to the age of 25 years. For some middle income families hardship is involved. Others may be unwilling to support the student. The second argument is unrealistic with present unemployment levels. All employment officers in tertiary institutions report a falling number of jobs available for students. It is unreal in today’s employment market for the Government to say that it is easy for students to do some part time work and earn the difference. Students are unable to find any jobs or they have to accept one with hours which clash with their study program and their academic work suffers.
With all these problems it is not surprising that financial worries rank high among reasons given by students for abandoning and deferring courses. Various tertiary institutions have estimated that financial problems were important reasons for student departures. For example, at the State College of Victoria 60 per cent of students who ceased their course gave financial problems as the reason. At Nedlands College of Advanced Education 31 per cent gave that reason. At Hartley College of Advanced Education 40 per cent gave that reason. It was the most commonly given reason at Rusden State College, one of the three main reasons at the University of New England and one of two main reasons at Bendigo College of Advanced Education. Every withdrawal represents wastage, not only of the time and effort already expended by the student and the staff and of taxpayers’ money but also of human potential. Therefore, we ask the Government to raise the TEAS allowance to a reasonable level above the poverty line and keep it there by automatic indexation. We also urge that the means test be applied only to the student’s own income and not to the parents’ income and that the means test also be indexed. Equitable funding on a pro rata basis should be provided for part time students. The
Australian Democrats totally and utterly oppose the reimposition of tuition fees in any form for tertiary education. The level of student funding should reflect the value which the community sets on education. We must get away from the outdated concept that education is a cost of society. It must be an investment.
In conclusion, let me talk about costs. I know that as soon as one mentions costs people ask: Where does the money come from?’. First we have to accept the philosophy that education is either a necessary investment or an irritating evil. The Australian Union of Students estimates that the higher rate of $86.20, which today is 120 per cent of the poverty line, would cost $8 13m per annum. This is on the basis that a much larger number of students would qualify under a liberalised means test. The Government presently estimates the cost of TEAS at $ 162.8m for the current year. That naked proposal would mean an increase in expenditure of $650.2m. If people said that that was a figure the Budget could not embrace we would regard that as a respectable although not a valid argument. Senator Ryan, no doubt, will correct me but, as 1 understand it, the Labor Party’s education policy is more generous than the Government’s policy but not much more generous. I think it proposes an increase of $8 on the present level.
– It is $8 or thereabouts.
– The allowance would still be under the poverty line; that is our objection. The absolute additional cost would be greatly modified if it were taken in stages by the extent to which the means test would be liberalised and consequently by the number of students who would then be made eligible. For example, if we raised the maximum TEAS allowance but kept the number of recipients at the present level - we are not suggesting that; 1 am saying it just to get an idea of the net cost - the total cost would be somewhere around or slightly over $300m per annum, which is less than double the present cost. It would represent an increase in expenditure from Consolidated Revenue of about $140m per annum.
I repeat that we cannot continue to look at education only in terms of the present day situation. I rate the effect that automation and the silicon chip will have on employment in Australia as a revolutionary phenomenon. It will change the whole fabric of our society. What will a 50-year- old storeman or a 55-year-old accountant do if he is retrenched? They will be some of the first to go. Where will they go for the next 15 years of their lives? One answer is that they must be retrained by tertiary education and be fitted for other jobs to see out their working lives. Will we ask those people, many of whom have responsibilities, to go back to school at tertiary institutions on an allowance which is below the poverty line and below the amount of the dole? Why would they at the age of 55 accept a sum of money less than the unemployment benefit? We believe it is unreal. An entirely new philosophy must be adopted towards tertiary education.
– Unfortunately, the Opposition cannot support Senator Chipp’s motion in its present terms although we recognise the importance of raising the whole issue of Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances in the Senate this evening. I think Senator Chipp has done the Senate a great service by drawing attention in a very detailed way to the difficulties experienced by students attempting to pursue their studies with the totally inadequate level of assistance they are getting under Fraser Government policies. He has also done us a service in drawing attention to the need for an entirely new approach to assistance to people of all ages to undertake further education. His references to the technological revolution and the effects on employment that it is having and will continue to have at an accelerated pace are very well taken. Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, I endorse both the analysis Senator Chipp presented to the Senate tonight and his suggestion that we need an entirely new approach. We need to close the gap between what Federal assistance students are able to get to undertake their studies and what is paid to people on the dole.
However, the Federal Opposition is in a somewhat different position from Senator Chipp and the Australian Democrats. We are the alternative government. We will be forming a government within the next few months. We are not in a position to be able to argue for the ideal situation with regard to tertiary education allowances. Rather we argue for an increase in support which will be feasible given the economic constraints we will face in the next financial year and the vast range of conflicting demands upon Federal funding. Although the Federal Opposition cannot support the specific suggestion of Senator Chipp that tertiary allowances should be payable to a level of 1 20 per cent of the amount set as the poverty line it certainly wishes to see an improvement in the level of allowance. I will outline our proposals. We certainly need an entirely new approach to access to tertiary education by people of all ages throughout Australia.
In the view of the Federal Opposition and, I believe, all students and people interested in education generally tertiary education in Australia is once again becoming a privilege of the rich instead of the right of all people who are able and motivated. This is a tragic reversal of a trend which started after the Second World War with the Chifley Government, was continued, I must admit, under the Menzies Government and was certainly accelerated under the Whitlam Government. That was the provision of Federal assistance to tertiary education so that all people, re. gardless of their economic circumstances, who had the ability and the motivation, could undertake tertiary studies. That is the objective of the Australian Labor Party and I believe that it is also the objective of the Australian Democrats; but it is clearly not the objective of the Liberal Party or the National Country Party which are currently in coalition governing this country.
We have a situation in which to undertake full time studies now a student needs substantial economic support from his or her family. It is the first time for a long time that that has been the case in Australia. It is just not possible any more for a student from a low income family or a pensioner family, however able he or she might be, to undertake full time studies without some form of supplementary income. As Senator Chipp has said, the traditional method that students used to supplement their student allowance was to undertake part time work. But where is the part time work? The part time work, of course, in our present crisis of unemployment, is being taken up by adults who are actually seeking full time employment but who cannot find it and are forced to take part time employment. As well as that, of course, a lot of part time work has just disappeared because of the economic recession which has been maintained and intensified during the period of the Fraser Government.
When we consider specially disadvantaged groups in Australian society, such as Aboriginals, migrants, girls and women - who are still underrepresented in tertiary education - we find that their opportunities to participate in tertiary studies are even worse than the general opportunities of people from low income families. It is an appalling circumstance, and I think one that we would not find in any other democracy, that a person can earn more money by going on the dole than by undertaking tertiary studies. I cannot understand the thinking of a government which allows this situation to continue. I know of many cases- - Senator Chipp has referred to cases tonight, I have them brought to my notice in relation to the various tertiary institutions in my electorate and I hear about them from other tertiary institutions - of students dropping out of full time study to go on the dole because they cannot survive on the allowances they are getting. What sort of policy is that for the future? How can we justify a situation in which a student leaves constructive, useful study which will probably lead to employment and in any case will lead to an improvement in a person’s understanding, autonomy and independence, to go on the dole? This is an intolerable situation and one which the Labor Party will reverse as soon as it is in government.
– How demeaning it must be for the individual to do that.
– lt is heartbreaking for the individual. I have known individual students who have had to make this decision. They have had to give up courses that they enjoyed, that they were benefiting from, that they felt constructive about undertaking and queue up for the dole, lt is an intolerable circumstance and one which a country as wealthy as Australia should not countenance for one instant. As I said, it is a reversal of a trend. Tertiary education was becoming, until the election of the Fraser Government, something which any able person could have access to. Under the Labor Minister for Education, Mr Kim Beazley, tertiary fees were abolished. That was the removal of the final obstacle to enabling people, whatever their ages, to undertake university studies. We have in Australia today, even in this Parliament, numbers of people of the post-war generation who have benefited from the various forms of Federal assistance to tertiary education. 1 am one of them and I am sure that there are others in the Senate. They are people who were born into families of very modest resources, who would have had no hope of going to university if their parents had had to pay fees and if there had been no allowances available, but who were able, because of the existence of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme and other forms of Federal support, to undertake tertiary studies and who are now able to make a contribution to their society because of this. But students today who are in the same situation in which 1 and my contemporaries were in when we left school, students who come from families of modest or low income, are not able to undertake full time studies because the resources just are not available. 1 think this has very serious implications for the concept of equity in our society and for the concept of democratic access to power and decision making in our society. What sort of society is this if the only people who can get access to tertiary education and all the benefits that flow from it are those who come from the top socio-economic groups? It is a very unequal and a very inequitable society that we are heading for. I am not prepared to accept a situation which will lead once again to a society in which all the professions, the senior echelons of the bureaucracy and the top jobs in private enterprise are taken by people who are born into privilege and wealth. Yet that is the situation we will end up with unless there is a drastic and immediate improvement in assistance for tertiary education.
As I said, I endorse the analysis that Senator Chipp has made tonight and I endorse his view that we need to increase this assistance. However, speaking realistically and responsibly as a member of the alternative government I say that we cannot endorse the provisions which .he proposes. The difficulty is that to increase the tertiary education assistance allowance to 1 20 per cent of the poverty line is not feasible in the economic climate. I think it is important to ask exactly what allowance Senator Chipp was referring to in his motion, lt could have referred to one of four allowances. I will just outline them to explain why we cannot at this stage support his motion.
He may have been referring to the maximum allowance payable under the present scheme, namely, that payable to students with independent status or students whose parents have an income of below $10,312. The cost of such an increase as that recommended by Senator Chipp would be $206m. The second possibility is that he is referring to the total TEAS allowance received under the present scheme - that is the allowance paid to all recipients subjected to a means test. The cost of that proposal would be $332m. He may be proposing to make an allowance payable to all students - that is to abolish the means test and to pay the TEAS allowance to all full time students. The cost of that would be $1 ,684m.
– You are sounding like Malcolm Fraser.
– I have no desire to sound like Malcolm Fraser. Senator Chipp is the first person who has ever suggested that. Given the current debate in the post-Budget atmosphere and the accusations constantly made against the Opposition by Government members that we put forward proposals without costing them, 1 am just indicating to the Senate that we have in fact costed the various applications of Senator Chipp’s suggestions. The fourth possibility is that he was talking about making an allowance payable to all full time students but not to part time students. The cost of that would be $854m.
So the differences in the possibilities of the application of Senator Chipp’s recommendation are pretty great. We ask him to be more explicit as to which allowance he wants increased to the suggested level. When it is considered, however, that the 1979-80 estimate for TEAS was merely $l64m and the budget for all tertiary education was $ 1,422m, it becomes clear to us that no government could possibly afford such an outlay, and it would be irresponsible of a Labor spokesperson to suggest it at this stage.
However, there is no doubt that the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme has deteriorated rapidly under the Fraser Government. The most significant problems associated with the current operation of the Scheme are as follows: The inadequacy of its allowance - we have said enough about that tonight; the failure of the Government to increase the allowance; the inappropriate means test cut-off point; the various anomalies of the scheme; and the rigidities inherent in the regulations. The Scheme can no longer be said to promote the principle of equal educational opportunity for all Australians.
In order to revert to a scheme which would promote equality of educational opportunity for all Australians a Labor government would take a number of steps. We would raise the level of the allowance; we would index it; we would liberalise the means test; we would institute an immediate inquiry into the anomalies and the injustices of the scheme; we would investigate ways of reducing the administrative problems associated with the Scheme; and we would examine the extent to which the appeals tribunals discretionary powers should be used.
Raising the level of the TEAS allowance is of fundamental importance. The Labor Party’s immediate commitment, when elected to government, will be to restore the value of the allowance to the 1974 level relative to the cost of living. At this stage the allowance would rise to $54 which is the same as the unemployment benefit for single adults without dependants. This is an important and absolutely crucial first step and will prevent students jumping out of education to go on to the dole because they can get more money. We have already discussed that situation tonight. At least if the tertiary allowance is equivalent to the dole that anomaly will not occur.
– lt is still $15 below the poverty line.
– Yes. I do not pretend for one moment that the allowance will be totally adequate, but as I have said, it is the most we will be able to undertake to implement in the first year of the Labor Government. Having raised the level of the allowance thus far, the ALP will then index it in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. This will at least ensure that the allowance keeps pace with inflation.
If tertiary education assistance is to be allocated according to genuine financial needs a means test must be used. I know that many representations are received from students to the effect that there ought not to be a means test and that all students, regardless of their personal circumstances, should have the maximum allowance. Again, this would be fine in the best of all possible worlds and in the most vigorous and vital economies. It will not be possible to remove the means test in a few months when the Labor Party takes office because of the economic circumstances it will be faced with. We will have to persist with a means test so that those who are most in need get the assistance and those who are least in need do not divert funds from those most in need.
However, under the Fraser Government the means test cut-off point has failed to keep pace with inflation. Many students receive little or no TEAS allowances and their parents simply cannot afford to support them. We are committed to liberalising the means test to ensure that no student is prevented by too harsh a means test from undertaking tertiary education. We are unable to make a more specific commitment at this stage on the level to which we will raise the means test cut-off point due to the unavailability of relevant statistical data. Such data is simply not available to us while in Opposition.
The many anomalies and injustices inherent in the scheme result in many cases of severe financial hardship and, in extreme cases, have prevented students from undertaking tertiary study. On the other hand, some students whose parents can readily afford to support them are currently in receipt of TEAS. A full-scale inquiry is needed to investigate such problems to determine their extent and how they can best be overcome. The Labor Party recognises that even after its modification of the scheme cases may arise which do not completely fit the regulations governing the scheme. It is therefore essential that the appeals tribunal be given discretionary powers to deal with those students whose circumstances are such that severe hardship would result if the Student Assistance Act were rigidly interpreted. A desirable level of discretion for these tribunals must be determined. lt is the Labor Party’s sincere belief that equality of educational opportunity can become a reality only if such changes in the operation of the scheme are implemented, and implemented in the near future. Only then can the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme operate to ensure that hardship or poverty do not prevent a student from taking advantage of the opportunities for further study. This is the original concept.
In conclusion I repeat that the Labor Party welcomes the motion moved by Senator Chipp on this matter tonight. 1 have taken the opportunity to set out the intentions of the Labor Party to take immediate steps to improve the TEAS allowance. Although we will not be able to vote for Senator Chipp’s motion in its present form, I hope that honourable senators will be persuaded that immediate and urgent action on the question of tertiary allowances is necessary.
Motion (by Senator Knight) agreed to:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Knight) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
The Australian Democrats do not want to waste the time of the Senate with a useless division on this point. This matter is of great importance to many young Australians. The Senate could at least have given an indication to young Australians, by vote, of its feelings on the matter. This would be better than a muzzy debate that ends up achieving nothing. The Australian Democrats express regret that no Government view has been expressed in this debate. I think that is rather strange. The many thousands of young people who have taken part in rallies all over Australia in recent months will have no idea of the Government’s view.
– The Government’s view on this matter. I thought, was laid down when it announced the decisions it had taken. I would not have thought that the Government’s view would be any mystery to the students to whom the honourable senator referred. There would be little point in expanding on decisions which have already been announced.
– As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has entered the debate so will I. A motion was before the Senate tonight- presumably the Senate is still one of the two Houses of the Federal Parliamentconcerning a totally different issue from that discussed in the Budget last week. The Australian Democrats, a political party represented in the Senate, moved a specific motion relating to the amount of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance and the means test applicable to it. The Labor Party, to its credit, responded fully and gave its views on the Democrats’ proposal. One would have thought that a Government view would have been put on a proposal affecting hundreds of thousands of students. I simply register the fact that a Government view was not put. The motion was treated with contempt by the Government. The Democrats register their objection to the motion that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. When a motion such as this is put before the Senate by the Australian Democrats we expect the Senate at least to pay the courtesy of defeating it, even if it is defeated by 62 votes to 2; but that has not been done tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
During tours of rural areas of Australia I have found- as you would have found Mr Deputy President- some areas of concern being expressed by people in the country towns. Genuine country people - being one yourself, Mr Deputy President, you would agree with me - must be concerned with the reduction of the rural population, the drift to the cities, the dying small towns and unemployment. Yet we have the anomaly that the quality of life in rural areas should De better. For example a recent survey of elderly people in small towns in Victoria showed that they experienced greater contentment and a greater sense of belonging than elderly people in the city.
In the 1 970s, 75,000 farmers were pushed out of agriculture and 150,000 agricultural jobs were lost. Being a true rural person yourself, Mr Deputy President, you would have experienced the sadness of visiting country towns and seeing young people who were born on the land and who received an education to help put their talents and their labour in to the land being forced out of the rural areas into the cities. To me this move is in the wrong direction. To compound that wrong we have a twisting of the use of syndicates - wealthy syndicates in the cities, the Collins or Macquarie Street farmers, dentists and lawyers. I apologise to you, Mr Deputy President; I do not know the Brisbane equivalent of Macquarie Street and
Collins Street where wealthy people join syndicates to buy farms. These sorts of wealthy syndicates go into rural areas, buy up small farms and create large holdings thus making themselves eligible for Government subsidies, and they use the tax avoidance measures available lo them from that situation. We believe that this is a trend in the wrong direction in two ways.
Because of government policies the trend today is to get big or get out. lt is the small family farm that is disappearing. We believe that one solution could be the establishment of a new fuel growing industry. This could assist in recreating activity in the rural sector. As 1 have mentioned before, surveys have been carried out which indicate that 60 per cent of Australia’s petroleum needs could be produced by growing crops in rural Australia. If one can believe anything that the Premier of Queensland says - and sometimes that is a challenge to the imagination and credulity - one must believe that sugar cane grows profusely and well in Queensland. The amount of arable land in Queensland where sugar cane can be grown can be doubled. Do I take it that this is Senator Knight’s inane smile or his beatific grin?
– It is beatific, if I may say so. It is also amusement.
- Senator Knight no doubt is an expert in rural matters. I refer him to Julian Cribb of the National Farmer and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. They have made a study of this subject. They indicate that 60 per cent of Australia’s petroleum needs could be grown from crops of sugar cane, cassava, sugar beet and like crops. This would produce 120,000 additional jobs in rural areas. If Senator Knight wants to challenge that—
– I don’t challenge it.
– Does the honourable senator wish to speak on this matter? We have been here since 8 o’clock. We have not left the chamber nor has he. It is clear that any member of this Senate can rise to make a contribution on these matters. The honourable senator has chosen not to, but he has now chosen to interject. 1 would welcome his contribution should he care to make one.
– I rise on a point of order. I suggest that the debate be conducted through the chair and that the subject matter be discussed. The cause of all this seems to be that one of my colleagues had the temerity to smile. Whilst I do not think that Senator Chipp would set himself up as being against happiness, I do suggest that he has been very easily distracted from the subject matter before the Senate. 1 would ask you, sir, to ask him to direct his remarks to the matter before the chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not think that is a point of order, but I ask Senator Chipp to observe the usual rules of the Senate.
– May I apologise for offending Senator Chaney’s sensitivities. I ask him to forgive me because a certain event that is happening now in the United Kingdom is making me more cranky than usual. We believe that rural people are also being subjected to certain tariffs which are inflating rural costs. Let me make it clear, as I did in my speech earlier today in the Senate, that the Australian Democrats are not for the bureaucratic laying down or abolition of protection for Australian industries generally. We believe that for employment in Australia to be maintained, the advice of the academics and boffins in the Treasury and the Industries Assistance Commission must be generally regarded as academic advice made from the ivory towers of Canberra. I will listen more carefully to their advice when, during the course of their arguments, they let me know how the 1 10,000 Australians who will join the work force over the next 10 years will be employed.
I refer to those sorts of tariffs which are placed on rural people by certain import duties which do not protect Australian industry at all. For instance, the blanket 2 per cent duty which even harms manufacturing industry by increasing costs of components and raw materials which have to be imported. The Confederation of Australian Industry recently protested on this. There are some tariffs which protect non-existent industries. I refer, for example, to fruit picking machinery. I know of one example of a piece of equipment which costs $67,000. The orchardist wishing to import this machine obtained an exemption or a removal of the tariff under by-law, but still had to pay a duty amounting to $1,268. The orchardist claims that the only Australian made machine existing does not do the same job or anywhere near the same job as the imported equipment. The orchardist also had the expense of sending a Customs agent to Canberra. This is the sort of thing we are doing to rural people, lt seems to be bureaucracy gone mad.
The laser grader, as you would know, Mr President, is used for salinity control, for land formation. A farmer recently paid $15,000 for such a machine. The duty component was $5,000. There is only one company in Australia possessing this laser technology and it does not make a grader. We wonder what the reason for this duty is.
The second part of my motion before the Senate is to encourage localised on-farm energy production. We believe that fuel production in the rural context can be on a large or a small scale. This motion refers essentially to small scale production. We could have a small on-farm industry by which a farmer could specialise to a degree in this type of work and could produce for his neighbours as well. Thus it would be an extra source of cash income to him and not necessarily his only income. Eventually that could be done on a larger scale. Many different technologies, crops and types of fuel could be involved in this. On the smaller scale there is the case of the bio-gas plant using animal waste products. This does not produce liquid fuel for tractors, for example, rather it produces gas for some power requirements, such as for heating or refrigeration. The possibilities of this technology have been explored far more thoroughly in some Third World countries than in Australia because of lack of government encouragement. Sadly this last comment applies to nearly all the agricultural fuel technologies which are being developed far more enthusiastically in other countries. For instance, gasahol, which is a petrol alcohol mix, is almost standard in Brazil where sugar wastes and surpluses are used in this way. Oil seeds as a cash crop could have potential which has not yet been fully realised. Then there is fuel alcohol which can be produced from sugar, grain, cassava and other crops.
I know that the Government has issued a minimum number of experimental licences for farm alcohol power production. I know that the bureaucracy would be terrified of the number of farmers who, if given an open licence to produce alcohol, would produce their own stills. We might have a flourishing sly grog industry and the Government would lose the revenue from excise on alcohol. I do believe that this question is so big and so serious that those sorts of bureaucratic problems should be overcome so that greater encouragement and not discouragement can be given to members of the rural community to increase the small, localised, on-farm energy production. 1 hope that the Senate will see fit to assent to this motion.
– I second Senator Chipp’s motion and I should like to speak to it briefly. As to the first part, I believe that the Government has a responsibility to watch rural costs. We have depended far too much in the past, I think, on the ability of farmers in necessity to be virtually selfsufficient. 1 think it is time that we got to the viewpoint of the Australian Democrats’ rural policy, that a farm should be like any other small business - regarded as viable on the basis of running costs plus a reasonable profit margin. In general terms the cost to this country of primary producers is very low. In fact, primary produce is very low, as anybody who has lived in a country outside Australia knows only too well. The temptation to kill the goose that lays the golden egg on the basis that the goose is pretty resilient and is going to stay alive as best it can on its own resources has probably gone far enough.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– by leave - I wish to make a personal explanation. I am sorry that once again my smile or quiet laughter has provoked Senator Chipp. I do want him to know that once again I was not laughing at him but I think with him, if I understood him correctly. I know that tonight he has carried an enormous burden in this place because of the notices of motion standing in his name. He has had to forgo what many others have been able to enjoy. I also had to forgo that and I have sought pleasure in whatever passing delights have been available to me. On a couple of occasions his comments amused me. I seem to have offended him on both occasions. I was amused by Senator Chipp’s comments relating to Queensland being a good place to grow sugar. I thought he was making those comments in a lighthearted sense and in that respect I was laughing with him. I want him to know that I do take seriously the concept which he has raised of rural energy production. I was not in any way deriding that concept or the subject which he raised tonight. I am sorry that it seems, once again, he has misinterpreted my mood and my facial expression.
– I briefly take the time of the Senate to raise a matter of great concern to the Aboriginal people of East Arnhem land, educators generally and those who are interested in education. I refer to the unexpected closure last week of Dhupuma College which was one of the three Aboriginal transitional colleges in the Northern Territory. I had hoped to raise this matter at the first reading stage of a Bill, but I was not given the opportunity. I do so tonight only because the matter must be raised before the sitting of the Senate is suspended for the recess next week. Before 1 raise the matter perhaps 1 should go into the background for the benefit of those who do not know of it. Dhupuma was opened in 1972 and was one of the transitional colleges recommended by the Watts-Gallagher report, lt was opened in buildings formerly used by the European Launcher Development Organisation, known as ELDO. The reason for its opening was that the college which had already been started at Kormilda, which is well known to honourable senators, was unable to cope with the students who wanted to get in. Parents in the East Arnhem Land area did not want their children to move right into Darwin. They wanted a college which was closer to home.
The college, at the time of its closure last Friday, was catering for a number of groups of students including transitional students, the students who are preparing for secondary education, usually at Nhulunbuy, although sometimes at other places; first year secondary student who are doing the first year of their secondary course; residential accommodation and tutorial assistance for those students who are attending the Nhulunbuy area school; and short courses for older students. Those are the sorts of courses which one would know about - the outboard motor maintenance courses, bookkeeping courses and so on, for the people who were preparing to work on the outstations. In all about 120 studenls drawn from the various communities in East Arnhem Land were taking advantage of the facilities at Dhupuma.
There had been talk of the closure of the college on a number of occasions. Honourable senators may recall statements made in this place after I raised the matter in 1978. I refer to some notes which were prepared by the parliamentary Legislative Research Service. The notes state:
In answer to a question in the Senate on 16 November 1978 the Minister Tor Education. Senator Carrick, said that he had agreed to a recommendation of his senior officer in the Northern Territory Dr Eedle, that the college should be kept open on u trial basis for one more year and basic repairs and maintenance would be carried out for this period.
A little later, in April 1979 - again I am referring to this brief from the Legislative Research Service - it was stated:
A spokesman Tor the Department - that is, the Department of Education - indicated on 1 1 April 1979 that the Northern Territory Division is looking al the situation, holding consultations with the communities and obtaining cost estimates for the buildings. A recommendation is expected to be made to the Minister shortly.
At the beginning of this year there was some discussion about the .closure and parents, teachers and those of us who are interested in education generally were most gratified to hear on 30 April this year a statement by the Minister for Education in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Mr Robertson, relating to Nhulunbuy. Without going into detail, because of the lateness of the hour, 1 inform the Senate that basically Mr Robertson said three things: Firstly, that Dhupuma would be rebuilt in two stages; secondly, that detailed plans would be prepared immediately; and, thirdly, that the new buildings would open in 1983. The second part of the ministerial statement indicated that he would ‘take the unusual step of committing the Northern Territory Government before the Budget to guarantee two things’. They were improved staff accommodation immediately, all on site, and funds to maintain and improve what he called learning accommodation. I assume by that he meant the classroom and workshop facilities at the college. In a third section of the ministerial statement he gave a commitment to consult with community leaders.
All of this was reinforced to me by the principal when I visited Dhupuma last on 2 August this year. Honourable senators will appreciate that we were all reassured and very happy. Imagine then our surprise and our shock when, without warning and without consultation, a statement was made by the Minister in the Legislative Assembly that the college was to be closed. This was reported in the Northern Territory News on 21 August. I quote from the Northern Territory News of that day:
Staff and students at Gove’s Dhupuma College were told this morning the institution would close tomorrow with the last day of the second school term.
The news from the Education Department came without warning, it was claimed.
About 50 staff, including 13 Commonwealth Teaching Service staff and 1 20 students are affected by the shock decision.
Teachers Federation president, Mr Warren Bury, said the decision virtually spelt the end of a school career for many of the students as parents have made it clear they will nol send their children to Darwin’s Kormilda College because of cultural and other reasons.
They (teachers and students) have been given a matter of hours to make a decision on where they go from here, which is ridiculous,’ Mr Bury said.
I’d imagine the parents are totally confused”.
In the same newspaper, the Northern Territory News, on 25 August it was stated:
The shock announcement has caused a furore among teachers and politicians and resulted in the Opposition calling for Mr Robertson’s resignation as Education Minister.
The closure announcement came about four months after Mr Robertson said the college would be rebuilt “from the ground up’.
The decision to close the college was taken with out the promised consultation. It was also taken apparently without consultation with the Education Department because the principal of the college received from the Department the day before the announcement a telegram confirming his appointment as principal for 1981.
Briefly then, what are the results of the decision? I do not think 1 really have to elaborate on these. Let us just imagine how we would feel if our own children were taken out of a school or it was closed at the end of second term without any sort of warning. It is nonsense to say that the students can go somewhere else. The obvious comment is: Where? We all know that under the present education system all schools have a responsibility for their own curricula. Obviously this is different in different areas. Different schools have different curricula designed to meet the needs of the community. It is no good saying that the students could go to Kormilda. Obviously the courses there would be different. Even if they were the same - I am assured they are not - think of the disruption to students, particularly Aboriginal students. I refer to a comment made by the Northern Territory Teachers Federation which was published in the Northern Territory News. The report stated:
Northern Territory Teachers’ Federation secretary, Mr Terry Smith, said: ‘Students are two thirds of the way through carefully designed program at Dhupuma’.
If the children concerned were white, the decision would not have been made’.
The decision was so hastily and secretly made the college principal received a telegram on Thursday confirming his reappointment for 1981.
We also see in the brief from the Legislative Research Service the following comment:
One of the criticisms of the residential colleges found by the Review of Colleges in 1977 was that they could alienate the students from their communities and this would occur even more if the students had to go away to Darwin. The other factor which concerned the Aboriginal communities about Kormilda was that there were too many different tribal groups there. lt would seem to me that this decision has been made with a total disregard for the needs, wishes and aspirations of the Aboriginal students. Another effect which is of particular concern to me is the effect on the credibility of the Department of Education and education generally. I know from firsthand experience that a good deal of hard work has gone into building up the integrity of the Department of Education among Aboriginal people, and in trying to persuade Aboriginal people of the value of education as we see it in the European community. Aboriginal people do not just accept education; they need to be convinced. They need to be convinced that teachers and the system generally are working for their children. What will they think of a system that dumps young people at the end of second term? It is my hope that the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory will place the responsibility squarely where it belongs, that is, with the Government of the Northern Territory. I am encouraged to think that they may do this by an article in the Northern Territory News of 22 August by Galarrwuy Yunupingu. He had this to say:
The Northern Territory CLP Government claims it is bewildered by the lack of support from Aboriginal people during the elections.
It has blamed false advertising by the ALP, bribes and cheating. Everything except the real reason.
We can’t trust them!
Every time a Government minister gets up and talks to Aboriginal people, or about us, there is a pat on the back for themselves about consultation and consideration of people’s wishes.
It just isn’t so! In that letter to the editor Galarrwuy was speaking of mining, but the comments are valid in the present situation. I have mentioned in this place before, and I am sure the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) is well aware of it, that Aboriginal people traditionally will believe one another and they will believe the white person until he is proven to be one who does not tell them the truth. They find it extremely difficult to understand how people can be so facile in breaking commitments. The unfortunate situation is that if one politician does this it rubs off on every one of us here who have some feeling for the Aboriginal people. If we try to build our reputation and integrity, it will be shattered by the action of those who will indicate by their actions to the Aboriginal people that they cannot be trusted.
I have spoken about this matter before. Because of the lateness of the hour I will not dwell on it, but I will mention that I have on a number of occasions drawn it to the attention of the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. I trust someone from his own side of politics may also reinforce this. I cannot think of anyone better to do it than the Minister at the table, Senator Chaney. I remember with great interest the speeches which he made about the integrity of politicians when he was a back bencher. I see no reason why he should have changed now that he has assumed the mantle of Minister.
The third main area of effect is the social situation of communities and the dumping on them in a small area of 100 or more young people without training, qualifications or experience. We all know that unemployment is higher on Aboriginal communities than in other areas. Communities obviously could well do without having these additional numbers of what must be disenchanted and disgruntled young people being dumped back on the communities. This problem has been canvassed here by me and by others many times. I do not think 1 have to elaborate it. lt certainly was reinforced by the comments in the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies report which was presented yesterday. I will read one short section from the report. It states:
This must lead inevitably to a general demoralisation, a vaguely-directed but intensely-felt anxiety which may be expressed in excessive drinking, apparently gratuitous violence, and an unwillingness or incapacity to deal with Europeans, and a withdrawal from public engagement - reflected in falling school attendances, the collapse of any meaningful council activity, desultory work performance and absenteeism. There are also signs of a growing isolationism.
Why then was the decision taken? In the Northern Territory News the Minister is reported as saying:
The closure of Dhupuma College has been forced by rapidly rising costs that have made it the most expensive secondary college in Australia.
The operating costs last financial year amounted to $1.1 million or $ 1 0,800 per student.
The fact is we could send every Dhupuma student to Geelong Grammar and save almost $3000 per child per year even after paying for their air fares.
I will not use Senator Carrick ‘s logic and say that it was what the Minister was suggesting. I am not suggesting for a moment that he would imply that he intended to send the people to Geelong Grammar School. He does not explain why the decision was taken at this time. Dhupuma has always been expensive. When the college was opened in 1 972 we knew that it was to be expensive. Electricity has tobe generated within the college itself. There are distances to be travelled and there is maintenance to the old buildings. All these things exacerbate the situation, but we have known this for eight years. The Federal Labor Government was prepared to carry it, the Federal Liberal Government was prepared to carry it. In April the Northern Territory Government was prepared to carry it. There does not seem to be any reason for this sudden change. The teachers union has its own view on the reason for the closure. As reported in the Northern Territory News the union had this to say:
The decision is entirely political - the people of Nhulunbuy are paying the price for voting for Labor in the last election.
My own view is that it was the immature decision of an incompetent Minister with no idea of values of proper priorities. The Minister responsible for this decision - and 1 find it extremely embarrassing to criticise a colleague from the Northern Territory but we have to look back over the record- is a man who has disrupted his own Department, where morale is at an all time low; a man who has threatened to emasculate the Darwin Community College, that unique insitution in Australia; a man who has set about constructing an unnecessary monument, the Charles Darwin University of the Northern Territory. We cannot help being critical of a man who will build a university in the Northern Territory when every university in Australia has excess capacity. Such a university must be second rate because it will be able to attract only second rate brains either of students or teachers despite what our planning vice chancellor has to say.
Of course we in the Northern Territory would welcome a university if it were a specialised university, if it met the needs of the region in which we find ourselves - one which would make education an export for the Northern Territory by offering courses in tropical medicine, tropical agriculture or whatever the needs are for the area which would attract students from our northern neighbours. But it will not be this. It is quite clear from the statements that have been made publicly that it will be another Murdoch, another Flinders, lt appears that, like everything which the Government that I refer to does, it will be done without adequate consultation of those intimately involved.
The point I am coming to is that black children will be put to the wall while the Government builds an unnecessary and certainly unwarranted monument. 1 put it to Senator Chaney, who is the Minister at the table, that the Federal Government has a responsibility to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. I call on him to intervene to protect those for whom he was given a responsibility as far back as 1 967. 1 call on him to intercede, with support if necessary, to make sure that the 1 20 Aboriginal people do not suffer unnecessary hardship but rather are given an opportunity to advance their education and increase their opportunities. I call on him to do this in the name of humanity, integrity of government and the credibility of education.
- Mr President, I would like to deal with this matter before Senator Walsh speaks. The matter which was raised by Senator Robertson tonight is a matter which has been drawn to my attention during this week. It was drawn to my attention by a number of people including the deputy headmaster of the Dhupuma College, who was in Canberra with a group of students during the week. I am aware of the basic problems which the decision to close the college creates for a number of Aboriginal students and their families. I have made an attempt to gel in touch with Mr Robertson. I have not yet been successful. Either I have been engaged or he has been and 1 regret that. But I will be pursuing the matter with him. Of course, 1 will bear in mind the comments made by Senator Robertson.
In my discussion with Mr Robertson I will not be adverting to some of the comments made by the honourable senator. 1 do not think it will be likely to help solve the matter to accuse Mr Robertson in the way in which he has been accused tonight. Whilst Senator Robertson may never live to regret those words 1 caution him in relation to his comments on the staff of the Charles Darwin university of the Northern Territory who I am sure at some later time will be people with whom he will be associated; he might live to regret having recorded in Hansard his opinion of their second-rate status or ability. In any event, he has raised a matter which 1 accept is of concern to a number of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. For that reason, although it is a matter which is directly within the jurisdiction and control of the Northern Territory Government, 1 have taken an interest in it. I have not yet made the contact that 1 agree 1 should make but I will be doing so.
– 1 wish to bring to the attention of the Senate a grave matter that has for some months threatened public confidence in and respect for the dignity of the national Parliament. I feel compelled to raise this matter so as to lift the cloud of suspicion and doubt that hangs over us all since certain allegations were made about an unnamed members of parliament. On the morning of Saturday, 21 June Australians were shocked to see in the pages of a national weekly newspaper a headline which read: ‘Aussie Tycoon Accuses Federal MP: Asian Beauty Bribe Scandal’. Within days the leading news organs of the country carried details of how respected Gold Coast millionaire and businessman, Mr Bernie Elsey, accused an unnamed Federal member of demanding a massive bribe in return for arranging for a Filipino woman, Angelina Adriano, to slay permanently in Australia.
Early this year Mr Elsey met Angelina Adriano in Manila. He decided to invite her to return with him to Australia but she was refused a tourist visa. Accordingly, Mr Elsey arranged by telephone for a business associate, Mr Tony Drummond, to contact the Federal politician, who was a mutual acquaintance, for assistance in enabling Angelina to enter Australia. A visa for one month was forwarded to the Australian Embassy immediately. No extension was provided, however, and when the time requirement expired, Mr Elsey and Angelina returned to Manila. New efforts to secure re-entry to Australia were unsuccessful. Again, Elsey arranged for Drummond to ask the member for help. He spent over $7,500 in telephone calls for this purpose. The member also telephoned Elsey in Manila. The Federal member promised to arrange a multiple re-entry visa which would allow an extended stay in Australia, but when the visa came through it was only for another one month’s visit. Also discussed with the Federal member was a consignment of local Filipino woodcarvings for sale in Australia. In relation to this importing enterprise, Elsey asked for assistance in obtaining a work visa for a Miss Remebios. known as Remie, Roxas. Two days after Elsey’s return he telephoned the Federal member attempting to arrange for an extension. The Federal member told Elsey to call on him at his electoral office at the Australian Government Centre.
Accordingly at 10.20 a.m. on 23 May 1980 Elsey called on the Federal member. First he was lulled into a false sense of security. He was given the impression that all would be fixed up. But then the Federal member demanded that before he fixed Angelina’s immigration problems he wanted a consultant’s position with Elsey’s company known as Daydream Island Pty Ltd and $200 a week indefinitely. The Press reported Elsey as saying–
- Mr President, 1 raise a point of order. The sub judice rule is well known in this chamber and I have refrained from commenting to this stage. But I believe that Senator Walsh has now reached the stage where he is infringing the rule. I can inform the Senate that in the Supreme Court of Queensland under a writ issued on 24 July 1980 and served on 31 July 1980, in relation to which an appearance has been entered, an action for damages for defamation has been instituted–
– Don’t talk nonsense, ls that the best you can do?
– Mr President, may I speak to you or do I have to listen to some of the garbage? The sub judice rule is well known. In the fifth edition of Odgers’s Australian Senate Practice at page 250 it is stated:
The general rule is that matters still under adjudication in a court of law cannot be brought forward in debate, but the public interest may be held to prevail over the sub judice doctrine. In this respect an oft-quoted decision is that of Sir Frederick Jordan, the then Chief Justice of New South Wales, in Ex parte Bread Manufacturers Ltd; fie Truth and Sportsman Ltd and another . . .
The reference is then given. I believe it is generally accepted that that passage sets out the situation. I shall therefore refer to it. The then Chief Justice said: lt is of extreme public interest that no conduct should be permitted which is likely to prevent a litigant in a court of justice from having his case tried free from all matter of prejudice. But the administration of justice, important though it undoubtedly is, is not the only matter in which the public is vitally interested; and if in the course of the ventilation of a question of public concern matter is published which might prejudice a party in the conduct of a law suit, it does not follow that a contempt has been committed. The case may be one in which as between competing matters of public interest the possibility of prejudice to a litigant may be required to yield to other and superior considerations. The discussion of public affairs and the denunciation of public abuses, actual or supposed, cannot be required to be suspended merely because the discussion or the denunciation may, as an incidental but not intended by-product, cause some likelihood of prejudice to a person who happens at the time to be a litigant.
It is well settled that a person cannot be prevented by process of contempt from continuing to discuss publicly a matter which may fairly be regarded as one of public interest, by reason merely of the fact that the matter in question has become the subject of litigation, or that a person whose conduct is being publicly criticised has become a party to litigation either as plaintiff or defendant, and whether in relation to the matter which is under discussion or with respect to some other matter.
I pause there to say that 1 quote that passage deliberately to point out that this chamber and any House of Parliament within the system under which we operate has accepted that stop writs as such are not a bar to parliamentary discussion. I am not asserting in this case the concept that simply because a writ has been issued that is the end of the matter.
– Just as well.
– I wish to continue without interjection, if I may.
– You are big enough and old enough to handle them.
– Senator Evans would know that even in some of the courts in which he has appeared interjections are regarded as being somewhat unruly and not quite par for the course.
– Let me continue because this is a matter of some not insubstantial concern to the rights and, as I will develop in a moment, the liberty of the subject. lt was further stated:
Under the general rule, but subject to the qualification that in certain cases the public interest may prevail over the sub judice doctrine, the Senate will not permit a debate which, in the normal way, would be regarded, if it occurred outside Parliament, as a contempt of those court proceedings.
It is further stated: . . the Parliament does not ask ‘Is there a proceeding pending at this moment?’, but rather, ‘In all the circumstances, should a debate on a particular matter be permitted at this particular moment?’
As was said by a former President of the Senate:
The prime question I must ask myself is, I think: Is parliamentary debate likely to give rise to any real and substantial danger of prejudice to proceedings before the court? If so, then Parliament must not pursue that path.
Mr President, in taking this point of order my task is to endeavour to indicate to you that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudicing proceedings before the court. If that is so, the chamber should not pursue that path. My first point in relation to the matter to which Senator Walsh has referred and on which he has given a degree of detail is that litigation has been instituted and is proceeding, lt is litigation between two individuals. It could possibly involve an aspect of public interest, but it certainly involves the very significant interests of two individuals. I would like to elaborate on why I say that that is the case. The litigation relates to an allegation involving two people only - I stress, it involves two people only - one of whom has made an allegation, the other in relation to whom an allegation has been made. It is not an allegation which involves a community interest other than in a way in which I will indicate in a moment in relation to people who hold public office. Otherwise, it involves an allegation made by an individual in relation to another individual. The individual about whom the allegation has been made has seen fit to institute proceedings to let the matter be determined by litigation.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President.
– I have a point of order before the Chair now.
– Mr President, 1 do this with the greatest courtesy and respect to Senator Rae, but it is not clear to me and I do not see how it can be clear to the Chair how the writ of which Senator Rae is speaking is related to any remarks made by Senator Walsh. In the course of Senator Rae’s remarks I have not heard between which two individuals the writ has been taken out. I am wondering whether he can pursue the matter without informing the Chair of the individuals to whom he is referring.
– I call Senator Rae.
– Thank you, Mr President. As 1 was saying, the matters involve an allegation by one person- from what Senator Walsh has said to date, that has to be so. The allegation has been made about another individual person - again, from what Senator Walsh has said so far, that has to be so. From what has been said to date, the only other conceivable involvement is of a proprietary company. I waited until Senator Walsh named a company, which is a proprietary company, and which he suggested was in the control of the person about whom the allegation was made, before I raised this point of order. 1 think that before 1 was interrupted I had reached the stage of saying that the matter now is the subject of litigation through the courts between two individuals to determine who will pay. I suggest, Mr President, that whoever pays will pay dearly. That is a matter of significance to this chamber in deciding whether it will enable a debate to continue which could prejudice significantly the proceedings which are taking place in the Supreme Court of Queensland when the price which could be paid could be so high. If the plaintiff wins in this action, the suggestion 1 make and which can be gathered from what Senator Walsh has said so far is that the damages which would be awarded would be very significant indeed. One cannot imagine that in a defamation action it is possible that the awarded damages could be very much higher than they will be in relation to the sorts of allegations which Senator Walsh has started to make. If the plaintiff wins the defendant will be liable to a very high award of damages. Quite obviously, such litigation is likely to be expensive for whoever has to pay the costs. Obviously, the defendant will suffer great loss if the plaintiff is successful.
However, should the litigation which has been instituted go the other way and should the defendant win, the cost to (he plaintiff would be even higher. Inevitably, it would involve loss of office, lt would involve loss of reputation. It would involve the high costs which follow the event which in the normal course of events would be ordered to be paid by the person who loses. It would involve a very high expense. Further than that, almost inevitably, by the nature of the charges, it would lead to criminal charges being made against the office holder. So, as far as this chamber is concerned, the situation is that it has before it a matter involving an allegation made by one individual against another individual which has commenced to be the subject of litigation through the courts, in which the price to whoever loses will be high indeed.
Mr President, my suggestion to you and to this chamber is that one cannot imagine a basis on which you could say that this chamber should consider this matter, with one exception; namely, if an attempt is made by one honourable senator in this chamber to refer to the Privileges Committee of the Senate a matter involving a breach of privilege by a member of the Senate. If it does not involve that, the matter ought to be left to be determined either in another place or in the courts. Bearing in mind the quotations with which I introduced my remarks, which indicated that the public interest should be superior to the private interest and the private right of the individuals to litigate only if there is what legitimately could be regarded as a matter of privilege in relation to this chamber because the allegation relates to a member of parliament, if it is a matter of privilege and if Senator Walsh wishes to move that it be referred to the Privileges Committee of this chamber, I accept that the situation might be different. But if the matter does not involve a member of this chamber and a suggestion that the matter ought to be considered as a breach of privilege in relation to a member of this chamber, I suggest that the private interest, the interest which is encapsulated in the sub judice rule, should prevail. I urge you to rule accordingly, Mr President.
– On the point of order, Mr President, I put it to you that, whatever the other merits of Senator Rae’s argument might be, his argument is certainly not technically well founded to the extent that his suggestion that this debate should be stopped appeared to be based wholly on the application of the sub judice rule. It appears to me, Mr President, that the only conceivable basis on which Senator Walsh could be stopped from raising this matter during the adjournment debate is by the application of the sub judice rule or the convention as it applies in the Parliament. The sub judice rule, as it is understood, as it applies and as it is described by Odgers, as indeed Senator Rae has read out, provides that the Senate will not permit debate of a matter which is potentially the subject of judicial proceedings if, outside parliament, that same debate or discussion would constitute contempt of court; that is, the debate or the statements in question would or might have the effect of prejudicing the course of those subsequent judicial proceedings.
Of course, in Parliament that rule by itself is not an absolute one. It is subject, as Senator Rae again acknowledged, to overriding considerations of public interest. Parliament is not necessarily stopped from discussing something even if that discussion might, outside parliament, amount to contempt and thus, outside parliament, offend the sub judice rule if that discussion is justified by overriding considerations of public interest. But the question in issue here is whether we even get lo first base, whether it is even a case for the application of the threshold sub judice test, the threshold question of contempt, lt is not a question, it seems to me, and I submit to you, Mr President, of the public interest question even coming into issue.
Mr President, I put this to you on the basis, which again Senator Rae acknowledged, that the mere issue of a writ claiming a cause of action in defamation, what is familiarly, colloquially and appropriately named a stop writ, is not enough in itself to bring into play, either outside or inside this parliament, the sub judice rule. That is acknowledged openly by Senator Rae. lt is, of course, acknowledged in the courts of this land that the mere issue of a writ cannot in itself have the effect of making any further discussion of the subject matter of that writ contemptuous of the court before whom the matter is ultimately to be resolved.
If the person against whom the writ is issued or, for that matter, anyone else were to repeat the defamatory matter - if the defendant repeats it, of course, that could have the effect of mounting up the damages that a court might weigh against him - it is perfectly well accepted as a matter of law, albeit not well understood in the community at large, that the mere issue of a writ is not enough in itself to make discussion of the subject matter of that writ bring into play the contempt of court proceedings or the sub judice rule. There is no threshold sub judice question on which one must then consider the application of public interest criteria. So much has in fact been acknowledged by Senator Rae in the course of his speech, and indeed he could hardly do otherwise.
This is not a case from the mere issue, apparently, of a writ where the sub judice questions even arise. Indeed, it would be outrageous, with respect, Mr President, if this parliament were to be denied the opportunity to discuss matters of whatever degree of significance simply by the citizen in question, who might be the subject matter of that discussion, issuing a writ claiming a cause of action for defamation which may or may not be proceeded with. I put to you as strongly as 1 possibly can, Mr President, that bearing in mind the traditions of free speech - even robust free speech, which is traditionally the prerogative of parliament and parliamentarians - Presiding Officers should be very cautious indeed in ruling out an exercise of that free speech, however unpalatable the subject matter might be, and should certainly do so only if there is some absolutely rock solid technical foundation, and that technical foundation is simply manifestly completely lacking here.
– 1 do not wish to canvass all the matters which have been more than adequately covered by Senator Rae. The only additional point which I think worth making lo you, Mr President, about this matter is that on the facts which have been put before the Senate so far, not only does the matter have the qualities which have been outlined by Senator Rae but also the litigation which has been commenced, it seems to me patently, is to be litigation which may well stand or fall on the credibility of the two people involved. On that basis, I believe the Senate should be extremely cautious about entering into a public debate and a public airing of matters which will be the subject of court proceedings and on which views might be formed as to the credibility of one or other of the parties.
I submit to you, Mr President, on the basis of the authorities quoted by Senator Rae, because of the nature of the allegation, because of the fact that it is an allegation which essentially involves transactions between two individuals - transactions which, if proved or disproved, will as Senator Rae has said, have a substantial effect on the parties - you should rule that parliamentary debate is likely to give rise to a real and substantial danger of prejudice to proceedings before the court and the Parliament should not pursue the path which Senator Walsh seems to be bent on pursuing.
– On the point of order, Mr President. I do not want to get involved in the learned legal discussion that my colleague Senator Evans did. My point is far more fundamental. Senator Rae was talking about some writ that he says has been issued somewhere or other. I do not know what that writ is or who is involved in it. He has not given us any of that information. He has not given us any indication. Nothing that he has said can establish that whatever it is that he is talking about is the same matter that I am discussing here. 1 note one further point from what Senator Rae has said. If whatever it is he is talking about has anything to do with the matter that I am discussing, the matter which 1 raised was first published in a newspaper on 2 1 June. Senator Rae said that a writ was issued, I think, on 24 July, if I heard him correctly.
It seems to me to be an extraordinary proposition that someone who has been charged with a grievous offence, as Senator Rae’s comments indicate, would wait for 35 days after the publication in the newspaper with national circulation before taking any further action. I submit that it is unlikely that the matter to which Senator Rae referred is the same matter to which I am referring at all.
– The general rule is that the Chair will not allow references to matters which are awaiting or are under adjudication in the courts, if such reference may prejudice a fair trial. That is the basis of the sub judice rule. This matter, as has been said, concerns two individuals. No names have been mentioned. Senator Walsh has not mentioned names, but he has named a company. It would appear that this matter does concern litigation between two individuals - one individual against another individual. It would be, 1 feel, wrong to have debated in this place, in all fairness to everybody, a matter that may prejudice a fair trial to any individual. 1 would ask you not to proceed, Senator Walsh, with your speech if it could prejudice in any way a fair trial.
– What is your ruling, Mr President?I am not quite clear on it. If it could be established that we are talking about the same matter, that might be relevant, but I am not sure precisely what you have ruled at this stage.
– I rule that you not proceed in the matter to which you were referring, on the grounds that it could do great harm to an individual or in a matter between two individuals. It is not a matter in the public interest as much as it is one which concerns two persons. On that basis I think it is not right that you proceed.
– CouldI ask Senator Rae, then, whether the matter to which he referred concerns a statutory declaration issued by Mr Bernard Elsey on 20 June 1980? It states:
That at 10.20 a.m. on 23rd May, 1980 -
– Order, please!
– Order, please!
– Is that what he is talking about?
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. There could not be a more deliberate flouting of your ruling than what we have just witnessed. It is an attempt to identify and to tie in.
– Order! Senator Walsh, you must not do that because this debate cannot proceed.
- Senator Rae still has not answered the question. The declaration continued: stated to me that he wanted to be appointed as a consultant to my business for a salary of $200 a week for the assistance he said he had given in arranging and extending a visa.
– Order! Senator Walsh, are you continuing? I have ruled that you cannot proceed in this debate if it concerns a matter which could, through debate in this place, prejudice a fair trial, an adjudication in a court which could lead to–
– Mr President, I raise a point of order. This is a matter of large public significance for the future of the Parliament. Because we have had no names and we have not had a context before us to be able to judge the significance of the case - we have had information put before us which is only of a speculative kind - does that mean that a defamation stop writ has been issued? 1 am asking you, sir, with respect, whether the fact that a defamation writ has been issued is the subject, reason and justification for your ruling and that, therefore, any conceivable reference to the subject matter of that writ is in itself enough to stop debate in Parliament? Is that what you are saying? If it is, with the utmost respect, it is a very worrying precedent for the future.
– I adhere to the ruling which I have given.
– I ask Senator Rae whether the case to which he has referred is the same case that I have identified.
– Order! Senator Walsh, you cannot proceed.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I remind honourable senators that the Estimates committees will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. as follows: Estimates Committee A will meet in this chamber. Estimates Committee C will meet in committee rooms 1 and 2 and Estimates Committee D will meet in committee room 6. The committees will continue to meet during the following week.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.23 p.m. until Tuesday, 9 September 1980, at 3 p.m. or such later time as the President may take the Chair.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Remuneration Tribunals Act - Remuneration Tribunal- Determination 1980/1 1 - Remuneration payable to holders of certain public offices - Australian Tourist
Commission and others, together with an explanatory statement, dated 6 August 1980.
Ship Construction Bounty Act - Return, for year 1979-80.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 20 August 1980:
Has the Minister read the allegations made by Mr Terry Bjornsson (vide the Tribune, dated 6 August 1 980) relating to the alleged continuous sexual harassment combined with religious and racial discrimination practices by M. A. Mason and Co., New South Wales; if so, will the Minister ensure that the Industrial Relations Bureau makes an immediate investigation including an interrogation of the manager mentioned by Mr Bjornsson.
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The question of discrimination in employment should be brought to the attention of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation which reports to my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
International Whaling Commission
– On 21 August 1980 (Hansard, page 216) Senator Mulvihill asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, the following question without notice:
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 offshore 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?
The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission has provided a report on the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Commission to the Minister for Science and the Environment. I am informed that a copy of that report has been sent to Senator Mulvihill.
At the 32nd Annual Meeting some significant advances were made in furthering the Government policies on whales and whaling, althought they were not highlighted in newspaper reports. These included:
. The annual overall whale catch limit set by the Commission was reduced from 15,871 to 14,729.
Some 906 killer whales were taken in the Southern Ocean by the USSR in 1979-80, any further killing was stopped.
The killing of sperm whales over 45 feet long by Japan in the North Pacific Ocean was prohibited.
The USA agreed to a phase down of the bowhead whale take by Alaskan Eskimoes.
The Commission agreed to prohibit the use of cold harpoons for commercial whaling for large whales.
Following a resolution proposed by Australia the Commission agreed to consider at its next meeting the extension of this prohibition to the smaller minke whale, a species taken in large numbers in Antarctic waters.
A working group was established to define management principles and guidelines for the complex problem of subsistence catches of cetaceans by indigenous peoples. This will be chaired by the Australian Commissioner.
A sub-committee of the Scientific Committee was established to develop proposals in relation to whale sanctuaries.
Following a motion by Australia there was agreement to provide within the Commission an exchange of information on the protection, general biology and conservation of cetaceans.
With regard to research on whales, the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service is currently funding four major projects. They are a survey of humpback whale populations off the east coast, surveys of humpback and southern right whales off Western Australia, and an analysis of the remaining biological material from the commercial catch of sperm whales at the Albany Whaling Station, which ceased to operate in 1978.
Scientists are not certain what causes mass strandings of whales, such as occurred recently with a group of pilot whales near Seal Rocks in New South Wales. One possible cause is worm infestation of the ears. Many scientists in Australia and overseas investigate this phenomenon whenever the opportunity arises. It is hoped that administrative arrangements under the Whale Protection Act 1980 will facilitate such research.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 August 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1980/19800828_senate_31_s86/>.