27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The House met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair, and read prayers.
Mr John DavidJess made and sub scribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of La Trobe, Victoria and Mr Henry Basil Turner made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Bradfield, New South Wales.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered a message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honourable members in the Senate chamber forthwith. (Mr Speaker and honourable members attended accordingly and, having returned)
Bill presented by Mr Gorton, and read a first time.
– I have to report that the House this day attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, when His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of the Parliament. The Speech will be included in Hansard for record purposes. (The Speech read as follows):
Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives:
You are assembled at this Second Session of the 27th Parliament to consider and decide on matters affecting the security and growth of the Australian nation, and matters concerning the welfare of the citizens who constitute that nation.
This year we commemorate the discovery of Eastern Australia by Captain Cook, two hundred years in the past.
Now we turn our eyes to a future which, more than ever before, is rich with the promise of achievement if we have the will to achieve.
It is therefore fitting that this year Her Majesty The Queen, and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by their children, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness The Princess Anne, will visit us. They will be warmly welcome in this country.
My Government will continue to support the principles of the United Nations and seek in that way the establishment of enduring peace amongst al) nations.
But in a world still torn by tension and by conflict we must also look to our own defences.
A comprehensive statement on Australia’s defence policy will be made to the Parliament in the early days of this Session by the Minister for Defence.
This statement will outline the attention being given to the longrange strategic policies which will best serve Australia’s security. And it will indicate the priorities to be given to the development of selfsufficient and versatile forces to support those policies.
New proposals will be made for the Defence infrastructure, and for new equipment in the years ahead.
Meanwhile the acquisition of the fighting equipment, which was announced in the last Budget, is proceeding. Investigation into the construction of a causeway to the naval facilities to be built in Western Australia has begun, and construction on the development of Learmonth airfield in Western Australia will shortly start. The strength of the Australian Permanent Forces, which was 83,794 at the end of 1969 is expected to increase to 86,500 by June. Legislation will be introduced to provide a uniform code of discipline for al) three Services.
The strength of our industrial base is of vital importance to our defence. My Government will continue its general policy of encouraging the development of new capacity in industry and has specifically allocated $3. 2m for the design of an Australian light twin engined utility aircraft, including the manufacture of two flying prototypes by the Government Aircraft Factories.
In keeping with our aim to achieve enduring peace my Government believes that aggression must be seen to be unsuccessful.
Australia will therefore continue, in cooperation with the United States of America and other countries, to assist the Republic of Vietnam in its struggle to repel aggression and allow its citizens to live under a Government of their own choice.
My Government will continue io give military and economic assistance to the Republic of Vietnam and will continue its Civic Action Programme.
My Government is glad to note that the increasing capacity of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves has already permitted the withdrawal of some Allied Forces. Should the future situation permit a further substantial withdrawal of troops - beyond those announced by President Nixon on 16 December 1969 - then in consultation with the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and the Government of the United States, some Australian troops will be included, at some stage, in the numbers scheduled for such withdrawal.
My Government deplores the continuing threat posed by North Vietnam and strongly supports the continuing efforts which are being made to achieve a just and lasting peace through negotiation.
Turning to our near North my Government, at the invitation of the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore, will continue to station forces of all three Services in those two countries after 1971. My Government believes that this continuing Australian presence will be seen as a contribution to the security of Malaysia and Singapore and to stability, progress and cooperation in South East Asia.
My Government believes that our defence aid, which includes approved programmes amounting to $4Sm, and the gift of ten Sabre aircraft to Malaysia, is a real contribution to the defence capacity of both countries.
My Government will take steps to advance Papua and New Guinea further along the road to self-government and eventual independence.
My Government does not believe that an arbitrary date for independence of Papua and New Guinea should be set by it, even against the wishes of the people of the Territory and it will not do so.
But my Government does believe in constant advancement towards selfgovernment. Consideration of major changes in constitutional arrangements for self-government should await presentation to the Territory House of Assembly of the Report of the Select Committee on Constitutional Development, which is at present inquiring into this matter.
My Government will, however, take early steps to introduce new arrangements within the scope of the present Papua and New Guinea Act.
This will result in Ministerial Members accepting full day-today responsibility for their Departments instead of sharing that responsibility as at present with a Departmental Head. The Ministerial Member will be responsible to the Administrator’s Executive Council.
The scope of the responsibilities of the Administrator’s Executive Council will be enlarged and additional powers will be transferred to that Council, and to Ministerial Members who form a majority of that Council.
The procedures by which the Territory Budget is framed will be changed so that elected Members will have a greater voice in the actual drafting of the Budget.
The Territory of Papua and New Guinea is developing economically and will in the future develop faster.
But the level of local savings in Papua and New Guinea is low and finance for major development projects comes predominantly from outside the Territory.
Because of this the Administration has in the past acquired - for future disposal to the people of the Territory - substantial equity holdings in certain enterprises, notably the Bougainville Copper Project and the New Britain Oil Palm Project.
My Government now proposes to ask the Territory House of Assembly for legislation to establish a statutory corporation to acquire equity in major investment projects in the Territory.
This new institution would have a close link with the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank and its principal functions would be to take up shares in appropriate enterprises and hold them for future disposal to the people of the Territory, to underwrite local share issues, and to establish unit trusts or investment companies.
My Government will, this month, introduce a new scheme for practical, down to earth training of Papuans and New Guineans in Australia, in areas of training not available in the Territory.
In doing this my Government will seek the co-operation of private organisations, private enterprise, and State Governments so that the scheme may be a human and economic success and, through the training provided, help Papuans and New Guineans to accept greater responsibilities in both private and government activity in their own country.
Turning now to internal matters my Government believes that economic growth in Australia has continued strongly.
Thus in the year to the September quarter 1969 gross national product increased by 11.7% and the indications are that this strong growth rate is continuing.
Full employment has been maintained and considerable expansion has taken place. Commerce and industry- apart from some rural industries - is prosperous. Pressures on costs and prices, though strong and persistent and requiring close attention, have for the most part been kept reasonably under control.
The Australian economy, moreover, has demonstrated a new resilience which has enabled it to weather problems created by droughts, and by international financial stresses.
My Government will follow policies aimed at broadening the economy and further developing the Australian nation.
These policies will require, among other things, an increase in labour and in skills.
To this end overseas training techniques are being studied and, in co-operation with the organisations of employees and employers my Government will formulate procedures to retrain employees displaced by technological change.
A training scheme for married and single women who, for domestic reasons have not previously been employed, will be set up. Special studies will be made into the problems and the rehabilitation of persons who, for a variety of reasons, have tended to be classed as unemployable.
Discussions are taking place between the National Employers’ Organisations and the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Government in an endeavour to develop more effective means of avoiding and settling industrial disputes within the framework of the Conciliation and Arbitration system.
My Government has instituted an enquiry into Australia’s future needs in postgraduate education in management and will legislate to provide the funds necessary to ensure that there are adequate facilities in Australia for post-graduate education in business management of the highest quality.
Financially, last year was marked by international financial crises but it was also a year of achievement in international financial co-operation which my Government believes will provide a greatly improved financial foundation for world trade in the period ahead.
In keeping with Australia’s contribution in this field my Government will introduce legislation to increase Australia’s quota in the International Monetary Fund, and my Government will also proceed with the negotiation of new double taxation agreements and the revision of existing agreements.
Legislation will be introduced to extend the authority of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to provide export credit insurance facilities for Australian exporters to Australia’s external Territories. This will improve the competitive position of Australian exporters.
The Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967 will be reviewed during 1970-71 and the scope of complementary measures for a comprehensive and integrated programme to foster Australian industrial creativity and efficiency will be explored. So that manufacturers may plan ahead their activities in this important area, the Government’s future programme of assistance will be announced well before the present legislation expires in June 1972.
Many Australian investors need an immediate income from their investments. They therefore provide money for development in Australia at fixed interest. In order to provide an opportunity for such investors to participate at their choice in the equity of Australian development, my Government will introduce early legislation conditionally to restore to companies the income tax deduction for interest paid on notes which carry the option of being converted by the holder into shares. Legislation will also be introduced to provide estate duty relief for estates of deceased primary producers.
My Government will legislate to amend the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1958 in relation to the requirements for the endorsement of cheques credited to the bank accounts of payees. It will also legislate to amalgamate the Excise Act 1901-1968, the Distillation Act 1901-1968, and the Coal Excise Act 1949-1968 into a single statute and to incorporate certain provisions of the Spirits Act 1906-1969 in that statute or in the Customs legislation.
The progressive income tax scale and other aspects of the taxation system which affect particularly the lower and middle income earners are being closely studied to enable fulfilment of my Government’s aim to put before Parliament specific provisions for relief in the next Budget.
To enable Australian trade to fit more conveniently into the international mould, my Government will present legislation to establish a Metric Conversion Board, so that a programme for conversion to a metric system of weights and measures may, in consultation with the States and community groups, be put in hand.
My Government reaffirms its belief that a tariff policy of providing adequate protection to economic and efficient Australian industries has been the basis for the sound and vigorous development of secondary industry in Australia.
However there is a need to re-examine from time to time the administrative machinery under which protection is provided and an investigation will be made to see if there is scope for improving the procedures for the handling of certain types of tariff cases.
After the close of this financial year new financial arrangements will need to be made between the Commonwealth and State Governments.
The bases for such an agreement were put forward at the Premiers* Conference held on 26th February and officers of the various Governments will shortly engage in initial discussions on them.
These bases of discussion will be the proposals of the Commonwealth to assume progressively responsibility for a share of existing State Debt, to reduce the future growth of State Debt by providing each year to the States, as a non-repayable grant, some money which would now be provided as a loan, to review the present base for revenue grants, and to review the present betterment factor by which revenue grants grow annually.
In adopting this course my Government is giving expression to its belief that there is a need for an increase in the financial capacity of the States.
Further, at the unanimous request of the State Governments, my Government will introduce legislation which will have the effect of enabling the States to receive the revenue from receipts duty which they would otherwise lose as a result of the High Court Judgment of 19th February.
As further indirect assistance to State finances, the relevant ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory will be amended to allow the recovery by the States of death duties imposed on assets held in the Australian. Capital Territory by the estates of deceased persons domiciled in a State.
I turn now to Primary Industry -
My Government will continue to work actively with representative organisations to grapple with the problems facing primary producers.
The Drought Bonds Scheme, which became operative last November, has provided a new line of defence against the financial burdens of drought, and financial assistance by my Government to drought affected farmers in Queensland will amount to about $15m in the current financial year.
Under the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act 1968 arrangements were made for the Australian Wheat Board to borrow, on Commonwealth guarantee, up to S624m from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to enable advance payments to growers delivering wheat to the 1968-69 pool.
Because of lower sales of wheat the Board will be unable fully to repay the borrowing by the due date. My Government will therefore introduce legislation in the immediately following sitting days to enable the Commonwealth to meet its guarantee by making a loan of up to $300m to the Wheat Board.
My Government will also introduce legislation, in support of legislation by State Governments, in order to make fully effective the wheat delivery quota plan of the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation; and to give the Australian Wheat Board discretionary powers to sell wheat in Australia, for other than human consumption, at concessional prices.
In further recognition of the needs of the wheat industry my Government has decided that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will collaborate with the Australian Wheat Board in establishing, operating and maintaining, a laboratory to conduct research into grain storage problems.
To help the wool industry my Government will introduce legislation to halve the present levy on wool growers for research and promotion and to increase its own contribution to an average of $27m annually. This is approximately double the present contribution.
In addition my Government will make arrangements to assist the marketing proposals of the Australian Wool Industry Conference for the 3 year period to 1972-73. This is estimated to cost over $7m annually.
My Government has striven to obtain the maximum possible share of the United States market for export of meat from Australia. As a result Australia was able, towards the end of 1969, to export an additional 14.8 million lb of meat to the United States of America, over and above the originally agreed level of 505 million lb.
My Government will continue its efforts in this field, and is at present negotiating with the British Authorities to maintain Australian beef exports, and to safeguard Australia’s rights and interests, in the United Kingdom market.
My Government is also supporting the State Governments in a national campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis from Australia’s cattle herds. It is estimated that over the triennium to 1972 $4m will be provided for this purpose. -In October 1969 my Government concluded a new domestic sugar agreement with the Queensland Government. Legislation to ratify this agreement will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.
My Government will introduce legislation to ratify the agreement reached between the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for the construction of the Dartmouth Dam. Legislation will also be introduced to establish the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.
My Government will over the next 5 years provide$100m for new proposals under the National Water Resources Development Programme. The new programme will cover proposals for flood prevention and flood mitigation works, and for small dams supplying particular districts and groups of farmers.
My Government has already allocated $ 12.8m of this $100m towards the cost of an irrigation project in the Bundaberg Region of Queensland.
Legislation will also be introduced to provide funds to help finance the construction of a new power house in Central Queensland at Gladstone. My Government believes that this power station will result in the construction of an aluminium smelter - possibly the biggest in the southern hemisphere - and in other industrial development. It will be a concrete example of decentralisation and it will add to the export earnings of the nation.
To assist in reducing our dependence on imports of forest products my Government will continue to give substantial support to the development of Australia’s forests and forestry. Long term loans estimated at $4.8m will be provided to the States for this purpose under the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act 1967.
In order to provide amenities to those engaged in work in remote areas my Government will continue its policy to extend television coverage and low powered national relay stations will be established in a further thirty-eight remote areas of the Commonwealth.
During the life of the Parliament the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will begin construction of a nuclear power station in Commonwealth Territory at Jervis Bay.
My Government recognises that much of the Northern Territory is heavily dependent on sea transport and that the establishment of modern port facilities will be vital to the region’s further economic growth. My Government therefore proposes to undertake major new works at the Port of Darwin, including the construction of a new container and general cargo berth in the existing port area, a bulk port facility at East Arm and a new small craft facility at Frances Bay.
My Government proposes to set up a Bureau of Transport Economics to analyse the economics of transport in Australia. Further, because it is clear that the costs of sea transport will greatly depend on the ability to use new and larger ships my Government proposes that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers meet shortly to examine and co-ordinate plans for port development.
My Government will continue with the standardisation of railway lines in Australia. Early legislation will be introduced to enable the construction of a standard gauge railway from Port Augusta to Whyalla and as soon as an agreement is reached between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments, Parliament will be asked to approve the construction of the line linking Port Pirie to Adelaide.
My Government will continue to provide the climate and conditions which will encourage the maximum development of all sectors of Australian industry by private enterprise.
It believes that the development of industry on the scale and with the efficiency to compete in world markets is the cornerstone of national growth.
For this aim to be achieved a strong and continuing inflow of development capital from overseas is imperative.
My Government has made it clear that it prefers those who supply overseas capital for these purposes to provide the opportunity for partnership to Australian capital. This is now increasingly occurring. Australian partnership in development is growing.
My Government proposes to take a step designed to help that growth.
At present foreign firms are able to raise vast sums overseas at fixed interest for major development and expansion in Australia.
Australian companies, lacking the investment appeal abroad of large international companies, have been, in general, unable to tap those sources of funds for themselves, and often accept a smaller stake in development in Australia than they otherwise would.
My Government will therefore ask the Parliament to legislate during this Session to establish an Industry Development Corporation.
The purpose of this Corporation will be to borrow, predominantly overseas and at fixed interest, from the sources at present tapped by foreign enterprises.
My Government believes that this Corporation will help bring about greater Australian participation in the ownership of our developing nation.
My Government has examined the presently unresolved legal question as to which Government is entitled to exercise sovereign control over the resources of the sea bed off the Australian coast to the outer limits of the continental shelf.
At present, the various State Governments claim sovereign rights in respect of such resources from low water mark to the outer limits of the shelf. The Commonwealth believes that, except for internal waters as they existed at Federation, it has sovereign rights in this area.
It is the view of my Government that it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved. In order that this may happen, my Government will ask the Parliament to pass legislation to assert and establish what the Commonwealth conceives to be its legal rights.
This legislation will not affect the existing agreements between the Commonwealth and the States concerning off-shore petroleum.
My Government will introduce legislation forthwith to establish an Institute of Marine Science at Townsville, and to establish an Anglo-Australian Telescope Board to erect a 150 inch telescope at Siding Spring.
My Government has agreed to a programme of extended wild life research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Indus trial Research Organisation in Northern Australia and a wild life research laboratory will be established at Darwin.
Legislation will be introduced to finance the Commonwealth’s share of establishing a fourth school of Veterinary Science at an Australian University.
A Royal Commission will be established to enquire into the question of damage which might be caused to the Barrier Reef through drilling for oil.
Special grants will be made for educational research and $250,000 will be provided by my Government in 1970-71.
The present programme of unmatched capital grants for construction of Teacher Training Colleges totals $24m and will expire on 30th June this year.
My Government will introduce legislation early in this Session to authorise a further similar three year programme to the value of $30m.
My Government is at present cooperating with the States in a nation-wide survey of educational needs at the primary and secondary levels, and for teacher education including in-service training.
My Government will introduce early legislation to pay pensions at standard rates to married couples who have lost the economies of living together; to authorise subsidies to organisations providing meals on wheels; and to provide capital assistance on a 2 for 1 basis to approved institutions training handicapped children.
Early legislation will be introduced to improve and extend the scheme of compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1969.
Legislation will also be brought down this Session to give effect to the scheme for the preservation of superannuation rights - the so-called portability of pensions - which was announced in the Parliament on 25th September last. The arrangements will apply, after the passage of the legislation, on and from 1st January 1970.
During this Session legislation will be introduced to improve the health scheme.
My Government will introduce legislation to provide substantially increased medical benefits, based on the concept that medical benefit payments are to be determined by reference to the fees most commonly charged for medical services. This, and other improvements to the scheme, will require increased insurance premiums from individuals and increased subventions by the Commonwealth.
My Government has also decided that the major recommendations of the Nimmo Report should be accepted and will introduce legislation to this end. Those recommendations dealing with matters for which the Commonwealth and States have joint responsibility remain to be. the subject of negotiation with State governments.
The Minister for Health will make a full and detailed statement to the Parliament on these matters early in the present Session.
My Government has decided that families on low incomes should be helped to meet the cost of health insurance by a graduated subsidy designed to pay the full cost of health insurance for families with incomes not in excess of the average minimum wage, and part of the cost of meeting health insurance for families whose incomes are little in excess of the average minimum wage.
Measures will be introduced directed towards simplification of the procedures of health insurance funds, the more effective employment of their financial reserves, the maintenance of their management expenses at reasonable levels, and the improvement of their operational efficiency and economy generally.
The increases in the traffic in drugs is a matter of concern to my Government. Ministers of my Government have conferred with State Ministers on this problem and steps are being taken to co-ordinate the activities of Commonwealth and State law enforcement agencies.
My Government proposes, after further consultation with the States, to introduce legislation to establish a National Institute of Criminology, financed by the Commonwealth, to carry out research and provide training for officers engaged in the prevention of crime.
My Government also proposes to introduce legislation to reduce delays in the hearing of proceedings for divorce and to reduce the cost to litigants. This will be done by enabling State Courts of intermediate jurisdiction to hear certain undefended divorce cases and to simplify procedures for the enforcement of maintenance orders granted in another State or Territory.
My Government will introduce legislation immediately to amend the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-1967 to raise the permissible limit on the value of a house from SI 5,000 to $17,500, to liberalise other aspects of the scheme and to provide that, if a credit union meets the conditions which will be required, savings deposited with that credit union will qualify for the purposes of homes savings grants.
My Government will continue its policy of fostering Aboriginal initiative, will use the special capital fund which has been set up to assist in this task, and hopes that during the lifetime of the Parliament any remnants of discriminatory legislation against Aboriginals will be eliminated.
International tourism nowadays is big business. A decade ago it brought Australia approximately SI 6m. In 1969 it brought Australia approximately $120m.
The Australian Tourist Commission, established by the Government in 1967 to encourage the flow of visitors to Australia, believes this can be raised to $300m per annum by 1975, if certain development programmes are adopted.
The Government recognises the vital role of the States and the industry in any programme of tourism development and the Commission works closely in co-operation with them.
My Government has already demonstrated its willingness to foster and develop Australia’s performing arts. An Interim Council has been appointed to investigate and report on the establishment of a National Film and Television Training School. My Government will now immediately introduce legislation to establish a statutory corporation to promote the production and distribution of Australian-made films of high quality. An amount of $lm will be provided as initial capital for the corporation.
The policies I have outlined will necessitate a substantial programme of legislation.
For some time my Government has been deeply concerned at the delays in preparing legislation because of the shortage of experienced Parliamentary Draftsmen.
The prompt preparation of legislation is the basis of effective parliamentary Government and so that such preparation may be expedited my Government proposes to establish by statute an Office of Parliamentary Counsel and to take administrative steps which it is hoped will lead to the availability of such experienced draftsmen.
And now, as we enter this new decade of opportunity for Australia, I leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties in the faith that Divine Providence will guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of Australia.
Motion (by Mr Gorton) agreed to:
That a Committee consisting of Mr Brown, Mr O’Keefe and the mover beappointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament and that the Committee do report at the next sitting.
Address-in-Reply: Acknowledgment by Her Majesty the Queen
-I wish to inform the House that J have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following communication in connection with the Address-in-Reply which was agreed to by the House in the first session:
I desire to inform you that the AddressinReply which you presented to me on the 25th November 1969 has been laid before Her Majesty the Queen.
It is Her Majesty’s wish that I express to you and Honorable Members of the House of Representatives her sincere thanks for the loyal message to which your Address gave expression.
Governor-General 9th December 1969
Sitting suspended from 3.57 to 5 p.m.
Mr WHITLAM presented from certain residents of the State of New South Wales a petition showing that unless shooting for commercial purposes is stopped the red kangaroo, the world’s largest marsupial, and other species of kangaroo will become as extinct as the dodo of Mauritius; that due to the vastness of this State, the few fauna wardens available are unable to enforce legislation designed to protect various species of native fauna; that Australia owes it to the world, posterity and its own tourist industry to preserve its unique animals which have developed over the centuries in this country. The Australian Tourist Commission estimates that in 1967 the sum of $90m was spent by visitors to this country.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will ban the shooting of kangaroos for commercial purposes; ban the export of products made from kangaroos; establish a Commonwealth Government body to co-ordinate, establish and administer laws concerning the protection and when necessary, destruction, of Australia’s native fauna by persons educated for that role, on a national basis.
Petition received and read.
Mr LUCHETTI presented from certain citizens of New South Wales a petition showing that ex-servicewomen who enlisted during World War II have been discriminated against in the interpretation and administration of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1962; whilst on enlistment they were prepared to serve in any area; and exservicewomen who did not actually serve outside Australia are at present debarred from war service homes rights.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate action to grant war service homes rights to all wartime ex-servicewomen.
Petition received and read.
Mr DOME presented from certain professional engineers who are electors of the Division of Cook a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the Professional Engineers Case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Ser? vice which were announced before, the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment: that recent statements made at .the Australian Workers Union conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the Professional Engineers Case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably, lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Petition received and read.
Mr CROSS presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; -(b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inequalities; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvements come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of preschool opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
Mr GRASSBY presented from certain citizens of Australia a petition requesting that the Federal Government make sufficient funds available to the State Government so that much needed and vitally necessary improvements can be made to the schools in this area and to all other public schools in New South Wales. Specifically, it is requested that the Federal Government make funds available to: (a) erect a block at West Wyalong High School that includes manual arts, music, art, senior study and storage rooms; (b) erect a new West Wyalong Primary School; (c) erect an assembly hall which is stage 3 of the High School and which could serve both schools.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate steps in this matter.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Will the right honourable gentleman give an assurance that his Government supports the sanctions against Rhodesia approved by the Menzies and Holt Governments, by all Commonwealth countries, by all Australia’s allies and neighbours, and indeed by virtually the whole United Nations, and that it will especially work with Britain for the success of those sanctions? Will he also give an assurance that his Government will not support or facilitate any private member’s Bill to reproduce Rhodesian legislation in this Parliament?
– I think the policy of the Government in the matters referred to by the Leader of the Opposition is perfectly well known. It has been announced in this place and it has not changed. I would add to that, in case the Leader of the Opposition has forgotten, that we have indicated we support sanctions but would not support the use of force. I would like that to be understood. In regard to the second part of his question, it seems to me entirely hypothetical. I have not seen or heard of a private member’s Bill along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. If a private member’s Bill comes up it will be considered according to its content.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question and I refer to the passage in the Governor-General’s Speech in relation to the Government’s intentions to introduce legislation to allow portability of pensions retrospective to 1st January 1970. Can the Prime Minister advise me whether Captain J. P. Stevenson, who has submitted his resignation to the Royal Australian Navy, will therefore be entitled to receive his pension entitlements?
– The legislation referred to, as I think the honourable member will see, will give a right to all public servants employed by the Commonwealth and all officers employed in the Armed Forces to retire after having served the required number of years and to take with them the pro rata pension to which they are entitled according to the number of years which they have served. This would not be as great a pension as it would be had the full term of service been carried out in either the Public Service or the Services but would be in the terms of the legislation as presented the proportion of pension which the number of years served would suggest. That being so, then Captain Stevenson, amongst others, would certainly be entitled to that. The legislation must first be passed. But when it is passed, all those who have retired in the categories I have mentioned after 1st January 1970 will get the benefits of the Bill.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. 1 refer the honourable gentleman to mine explosions in Vietnam in which nine Australian soldiers were killed and fifteen wounded. I ask the Minister: What mine detection devices were used by the units in these operations and what training had these units been given in the detection of mines? I further ask the Minister: Is he satisfied that equipment and training are adequate to prevent the decimations of Australian units?
– I recall that there were detailed questions relating in particular to the barrier mine field in South Vietnam which were answered in detail in August last year. The honourable gentleman is now referring to the regrettable losses which have been sustained over the last 10 to 14 days. The details of training were given to the honourable member. I am satisfied with the training which is given and the equipment that is used by the Australian Army for mine detection. These losses were sustained in the Long Hai hills area which, as the honourable member will know, is above the plains of the lower part of South Vietnam. It is essential for the security of the region that Australian troops enter this region to ensure the security of the local inhabitants. The incidents were regrettable. I am satisfied that the techniques used were correct. I am satisfied that the troops approached their task with the proper degree of security and attention that was required of them. 1 am not belittling the losses that were sustained over this period but I am endeavouring to put my mind to the question that the honourable member has posed and therefore my short answer is: Yes, I am satisfied with the training. If the honourable member wants any further information in relation to actual techniques I will be happy to supply it to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Further to the reply that the Prime Minister has just given to the Leader of the Opposition, can the right honourable gentleman give a firm assurance that the Australian Government has no intention of changing* its policy of not recognising the Smith regime as the legitimate government of Rhodesia?
– Constitutional responsibility for Southern Rhodesia resides in the United Kingdom Government. We have always accepted that position. For this and other reasons we have not recognised the Smith regime in Southern Rhodesia and we have no intention of changing our policy.
– I direct a question to the right honourable Treasurer. Has the Government any plans at all to alleviate the burden of high interest rates on the community? I noted none in the Governor-General’s Speech. Is the Treasurer aware that the crushing burden rests most cruelly on the middle and lower income groups of our country, adding to the cost of housing, local government rates and so on? Is he aware that some local government authorities are paying interest of up to 8% and more for their money, this rate deterring them from carrying out urgent community development projects? If the Government is bereft of plans in this area of great need will the Treasurer please tell the House why the Australian Labor Party solution outlined before the last federal election cannot be adopted in this sphere as it has been in so many others?
– Before I call the Treasurer I would like to draw the attention of all members to the fact that question time is a period in which to seek information based on fact. Matters which are hypothetical are out of order. Questions which have long prefaces or which give information are just two examples of questions which are out of order. However, the honourable member has asked this question and I have allowed it to go through as it is his first question. But I would remind all honourable members that to frame questions correctly they should refer to the book prepared by the Clerk some time ago entitled ‘Business and Procedures of the House of Representatives’, which gives fuller information than I have given.
– First of all, I must thank the honourable member for that slight bit of promotion which he gave me in the early part of his question.
– Right honourable?
– Yes. Fortunately, in Australia we do have what is, relative to the rest of the world, a very low structure of interest rates. Fortunately also, so far in this respect we have been able to sever our economy very largely from overseas influences. The honourable member might be interested to know, incidentally, that on our current reserves of foreign exchange Australia earns somewhat over 8%. The general structure of interest rates is, of course, a by-product of the forces at work in the economy. By issuing sufficient quantities of money it is always possible to keep interest rates low. Looking back to the early post-war years, one can see that disastrous damage was done to the Australian economy - this persisted for many years - by the policy of the Australian Labor Party at that time of forcing long term interest rates down to 34%.
– We won the war on that policy.
– The right honourable member for Melbourne has made the curious remark that he won the war. I recollect that at the time certain Prime Ministers of his own persuasion had in him a mighty weight to carry on their backs in order to pursue the war. An interest rate like that could of course be attained again by using the printing, press. I do not think that the Australian Labor Party has enunciated that in so many words, but that is the implication of its policy in regard not only to interest rates but also in other directions. At the present time we live in an inflationary era. Inflation is worse overseas than it is here. While the tremendous demand for investment funds persists and while the pressures on wages and incomes are still there it will be extremely difficult to control interest rates. In other words, they are a by-product of the operations of the economy, and any government which devotes its whole economic policy towards fixing interest rates at a certain level will get the economy into a great deal of trouble.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport advise the House whether he is aware of the maritime accident off Thursday Island early today?
– I have some knowledge of a maritime accident today, but it is insufficient for me to be able to make a statement to the House at this stage. However, I will be doing so at the first opportunity. I am able to say that a vessel called the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ was involved in a collision with a submerged object about 2 miles east of a place called Ince Point on Wednesday Island in Torres Strait early this morning. As a result of this collision the forepeak of this 58,000 ton Liberian registered vessel was damaged. There has been some oil spillage, and at present there is an oil slick some 6 miles long and about li miles wide spreading north westward from the place where the vessel is now anchored, about 6 miles off Ince Point. At this moment the ‘Leslie J. Thompson’, another Ampol owned tanker, is in the region. The oil is being pumped from the Oceanic Grandeur* into the ‘Leslie J. Thompson’ and it is hoped that the process of transferring the oil from one ship to the other will be completed in the quickest possible time. In the meantime the Queensland Department of Harbours and Marine and my own Department are co-operating to ensure that adequate detergents are flown to the area by the Royal Australian Air Force. As soon as it is possible for me to make a full and detailed report to the House on the progress of this oil slick and the measures being taken to contain it I shall do so.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question. Taking the hint, Mr Speaker, I will make my preface brief. I refer to British migration, which has long been of great strength to our total migration programme. Is the Government concerned at the recent downturn of assisted migration from Britain? What are the factors responsible for this downturn? What is being done to generate a greater flow of British settlers to this country?
– According to my recollection, the number of British settlers who will arrive in Australia this year under the United Kingdom-Australia assisted migration programme is at least 68,000, which is slightly fewer than the 73,000 for the previous year. However, this figure should certainly be assessed against results over a wider period of time as there have been considerable fluctuations in the intake of assisted British settlers over the past decade. The right honourable gentleman queried the reason why there has been a fluctuation during the present period. This, of course, is a most complex situation which does not lend itself to simple elaboration, but if one assumes that the pull factors, that is, the conditions in Australia, have remained constant, some of the factors which have influenced British thinking in relation to the downturn would be marginal improvement in economic conditions in Great Britain, the prospects of Britain’s entry .into the European Economic Community, a very good summer in Britain in 1969 and the difficulties which many British people who wish to come to this country are experiencing in selling homes quickly. Certainly the Government is concerned at any diminution in the assisted migration programme from Great Britain because British migration has been, and we would wish it to continue to be, the cornerstone of our immigration programme. I can assure the right honourable gentleman and the House that we are most vigorously prosecuting our migration programme in the United Kingdom to ensure a greater flow of British settlers to this country. We need more British settlers, and as an indication of the positive steps which have been taken I would instance these facts: In the first place, the number of regional offices has been expanded over the years. There are now seven regional offices and my understanding is that a further office will shortly be opened; in the second place, our administrative machinery in London has been kept under constant review. I point also to the fact that there has been a major uplift in our expenditure on funds on television advertising and general printing in Britain, and that we are providing additional resources, by way of counselling, to professional workers and single men and women. So in summary I say to the right honourable gentleman and to the House that we are determined that migration from the United Kingdom should continue to be the cornerstone of our total immigration programme and that steps are being taken to realise this objective.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy: Firstly, how many Service patrol boats does Australia possess at the present time and, secondly, having regard to the vast area to be patrolled, will the Minister use his undoubted powers of persuasion in an effort to have more patrol boats provided as early as practicable?
– There are currently in operation twenty vessels which undertake patrol operations. These vessels are distributed around Australia; some of them are based in Sydney, some are based in Darwin, and some are based at HMAS Tarangau, Manus Island. I can assure my honourable friend that the undertaking of surveillance patrols, the maintenance of sovereignty visits and all the attendant problems that are reasonably related to patrol activities are very much under review, and 1 can also assure him that I and the Government are endeavouring to see that there is a consciousness in the Australian people as to how effectively and how vigorously these patrol activities are carried out.
-I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Did the Government reject the Premiers’ proposals for a share of income tax revenue, and did the Government also disapprove of any proposals for them to levy State income tax? Is the Constitution silent on the question of income tax for the very good reason that that tax did not exist at the time of Federation? In order that the views of the Australian people can be obtained, will the Government authorise a referendum asking the following questions: 1, Are you in favour of State parliaments being retained in their present form? 2, If the answer to 1 is yes, are you in favour of the States receiving a fixed proportion of income tax?
– I think the honourable member, if he had bothered to read the newspaper reports of the Premiers Conference or the transcript of the Conference, which was held in public, would scarcely have needed to ask the question he has because be would have got the answer from such reading. We pointed out to the Premiers the difficulties involved and inherent in transference of income tax to State governments and proposed a number of other means by which State government finances could be assisted. I will again not repeat what was said in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech but refer the honourable member to that Speech, because there these alternate methods of assisting State governments are clearly set out. I believe that he is right in his assumption that the Constitution is silent on the question of income tax, but I would point out to him that there have been High Court cases on the subject of the right to levy income tax and that the High Court, as the legally and properly constituted interpreter of the Constitution, has brought down judgments which have led to the present situation. The answer to the third question is no.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I ask him: What action is being taken to bring to an end the disastrous strike by postal workers which is designed to bring chaos-
– Pay them more money.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid has been interjecting continually since he sat on the front bench this afternoon. I ask him to restrain himself. Would the honourable member for Bennelong commence the question again?
– I ask the Postmaster-General: What action is being taken to bring to an end the disastrous strike by postal workers which is designed to bring chaos to commercial activity and great distress to the people of Australia?
– Perhaps I could first of all make a brief explanation in relation to this issue. It has been suggested in the news media that the problem arose out of the Arbitrator’s decision to give to certain classifications of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union a rise of between $1.0 and $91 and also out of the fact that a 6.6% increase which had been given to motor drivers and to certain work areas had not been passed on to this particular group. The APWU lodged a claim in relation to these classifications in December 1.968. The first decision, which was an interim decision, was given in January 1969. A further decision, which was a consent decision, was given in July 1969. The Arbitrator’s decision was the third in relation to this claim. The three together represent in the broad area an increase of from 8.6% to 10.5% in the wages of these classifications. I say that because I believe that this matter has been put out of perspective so far as the public is concerned.
As to the question which the honourable member asked, today there has been consultation between the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, the Public Service Board and representatives of the Post Office. The conclusion late this afternoon was that it is believed that because the request in relation to the 6.6% increase was made at a very late stage in the Arbitrator’s hearing, there is some justification for looking at this situation. It has been agreed that they will endeavour to take this aspect before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and will, at the same time, recommend to the union that normal working be resumed. I think it has to be said that the APWU will’ take this recommendation back to its members. I hope, and I believe that every honourable member hopes, that it will be accepted by the members of the APWU and that we will get back to normal operation within the Post Office and have the mails moving again to the advantage of the Australian community.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which refers’ to the International Labour Organisation Convention 107 concerning the protection and integration of indigenous and other tribal and semi-tribal populations in independent countries, which Convention Australia has not ratified. 1 ask the right honourable gentleman: Does the Convention provide, inter alia, ownership rights for indigenous peoples over land that they traditionally occupy? ls the failure of the Government to ratify the Convention related to its refusal to grant land ownership rights, within the meaning of the Convention, to Aboriginals? Will the Government immediately set up a joint committee of inquiry of this House to investigate the most effective and equitable means of providing land rights for Aboriginals in Australia?
– The matter of the ILO Convention referred to has not previously come under my attention. It would probably be a matter for the Minister for External Affairs to study and no doubt he can answer the first part of the honourable member’s question after that, should the honourable member seek that information from him. The answer to the second part of the honourable member’s question is that I would not undertake to set up a commission of the kind he suggests.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to the Government’s proposal of 2 years ago to provide S25m through the States to assist in the reconstruction of Australian dairy farms. Have any of the States except Western Australia, which has agreed to this proposal, indicated if and when they will agree to this important means of assisting the dairy industry?
– The long drawn out negotiation has not been without its difficulties, but there are now encouraging signs. I am fairly confident that an agreement will be reached. However, I would like to qualify that comment by saying that I have said this before. At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Sydney in February it was agreed that the officers of State departments involved in this matter would get together in Canberra on 12th February to discuss the difficulties that the States saw in the scheme and to unravel some of the misunderstanding that had arisen. The Prime Minister contacted the Premiers and the meeting was arranged and held. Much good came out of the meeting and at the moment the matter is in the hands of the State governments for them to iron out some of the minor areas of disagreement that still exist. I would like to point out, however, that we drew up a draft document of agreement with Western Australia so that it could implement the scheme. This document was then circulated to the other States and it is being examined by the various State officers at the moment. I hope that in the very near future the difficulties will be ironed out to the satisfaction of all parties.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Can he advise the House how much the Australian Government invested in the military base at Terendak in Malaysia in construction and associated costs? What is to happen to that investment of Australian taxpayers’ money now that the base has been abandoned? Can he say that this investment will be used to offset the high rental that the Malaysian Government is demanding for Butterworth air base, in which we also have substantial investments?
– This question should properly have been put to my colleague the Minister for Defence. I cannot give an answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question. From the top of my head 1 could not give the figures to him. In the last part of his question he raises a matter that is currently under negotiation and the Minister for Defence, I am sure, would be able to give the information to him. If he wishes to draw inferences in relation to the stationing of our troops in Malaysia, as newspaper reports that I have seen suggest he does, or from the fact that Terendak is a very fine establishment that could be and is at present being used by the Malaysians, I would remind him that in the short term the problem of positioning our own troops has been solved and that our long term involvement in the area and accommodation for our troops will be dealt with by the Minister for Defence.
– May 1 also answer the question?
-Does the honourable member wish him to do so? I would agree to that course being followed.
– There is one allegation that has been made by the honourable member not only in this House but outside it which, I think, should be corrected. He has said that the Malaysians are demanding a high rental for facilities at Butterworth. This is not true. It has also been denied by Malaysian officials. I think that, from the honourable member’s experience in Malaysia, Mr Speaker, he should understand better than he apparently does the attitude that the Malaysians have to our presence there and understand better i he attitude that the Singaporeans have to our presence there. 1 would like to quote from one editorial appearing in a Malaysian newspaper which had something to say about earlier remarks of the honourable member. One Malaysian newspaper - a Kuala Lumpur newspaper - doubted that Mr Morrison ‘because of his experience in the region could genuinely feel that there was any unfriendliness towards Australia on the part of the Malaysian Government or people’. The editorial described the Morrison allegations as ‘cheap tactics’ in a ‘domestic affair’ and regretted the reference to Malaysia in that context.
I think that it has become quite clear that the honourable member is seeking to use his background of alleged responsibility in this area to try to cast doubts on the defence arrangements which have been made between the countries concerned and to try to lead people to believe that there are substantial difficulties between ourselves and the Malaysians or the Singaporeans. This is not the case.
– Does the Minister for Social Services recall my constant campaigning during the last Parliament on behalf of mothers who give birth to twins? Will he assure this Parliament that he will view this matter with great concern in order that justice may be given in baby bonus payments?
– Indeed, I do recall - I hope it is not with any personal prospects - the interest which the honourable member has shown in this question. It is a matter of policy. I can assure him of my sympathetic understanding of his difficulties.
– Is -the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the grave uncertainty, disquiet and concern of the growers of green peas for canning and freezing in northern and north western Tasmania because of the threatened, intended unscrupulous breaking of a 4-year contract entered into last year between Gordon Edgells Pty Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Petersville Ltd, and the Executive of the-
-Order! The honourable member well knows that notice must be given of a question critical of the character or conduct of other persons and that if notice is not given such a question is completely out of order. If this is the type of question that the honourable member wishes to ask, 1 suggest that he put it on the notice paper.
– I could not ask the question without mentioning the two contracting parlies.
-Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will resume his seat.
– The Prime Minister may recall that, when he first took office, by question in this House I drew his attention to the widening of the gap in our economy between secondary and primary industry and asked whether he would cause investigations to be made with a view to giving primary industry by price support on exports the same financial advantage as that enjoyed by secondary industry through tariff protection. I now ask: Did the Prime Minister take any action in this regard and, if so, with what result?
– Mr Speaker, I am sure that this and other matters concerned with the welfare of primary producers of this country were very carefully considered by the Minister for Primary Industry and indeed by the Government generally since there are, as the honourable member would agree, many advantages enjoyed by primary producers which the other sections of the community do not enjoy. I am talking of taxation concessions and matters of that kind. Having said that, that is not in any way to be taken as indicating that there is not a difficult situation in some sections of primary industry. Indeed, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicated that the Government would, in conjunction with the primary industry organisations, seek to help primary producers in the future as they have helped them in the past I would not undertake to do what the honourable member suggested, and that is, I gather, to pay a bounty on the export
– Price support.
– I thought that was a bounty. If it is not referring to a bounty then I am not answering the question he asked. I would not undertake to do that by whatever name it were called - that is, a bounty on some exports.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the increasing pollution of Sydney beaches by untreated and undertreated sewage? Is he aware that the authority responsible for sewerage has indicated that the submarine outflow system required to free Sydney beaches of sewage pollution will not be in operation befo’re 1990 due to the impasse in Commonwealth and State financial relations? Will the Prime Minister act urgently in this matter and make a grant available to New South Wales so that Sydney’s beaches may be free of pollution.
– I have had my attention drawn to the fact that Sydney beaches have been damaged and polluted in the way referred to by the honourable member. I believe that this has come about primarily as a result of a deliberate policy adopted by the previous Labor Government in New South Wales, which quite deliberately indicated, and is on record as quite deliberately indicating, that they wished to dispose of their sewerage by this means and not by treatment. I would be glad to draw the honourable member’s attention to that. I have not at this stage myself read any special request for assistance in that direction but 1 did some time ago have a communication from the Premier of New South Wales who indicated that he hoped that the New South Wales Government would be able to receive better treatment at Loan Council meetings, for example in order to enable this work to correct mistakes made by the previous Labor administration to be brought into being. I hope and think that the measures taken to relieve that State and other States, or the measures being discussed to relieve, it of some of the burden of debt - measures being taken to prevent that burden of debt growing - will enable the State Government to tackle this problem more rapidly than they have been able to do in the past. It may be that 1 will get a specific request; it may be that in the last day or so one has come in, but if so I have not seen it.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Is it correct that wheat quotas as they are presently being allocated will, in the very near future, force a large number of the smaller farmers to abandon the wheat industry? Could the quotas in fact eventually bring about a situation in which approximately one third of those now in the industry will be obliged to seek other means of livelihood? Does the Minister favour such a situation on the ground that even before quotas one third qf the industry was uneconomic? Finally, if the Minister does not favour the situation which appears almost certain to develop, what action has he taken or does- he intend to take to protect the interests of the small genuine wheat farmer against speculators and professionals?
– Anybody who has been associated with the expansion that has taken place in the wheat industry in the past 5 years must be well aware that wheat growers were heading for very serious trouble unless they expanded their market outlets. This situation became very obvious to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which is the supreme body of wheat growers in Australia. Facing up to the enormous problems, which were almost impossible to resolve, the Federation decided on a quota proposal, which needed the backing of the Commonwealth for financing the first advance and which needed the support of all State governments for implementation. The fundamental purpose of the quota proposal was to try to protect the traditional wheat growers and the small wheat growers who did not cause this problem and who had not expanded their production to a great extent during the past 5 years. The way in which the quota system is administered is a matter entirely for the States. The actual determination of quotas, and the method used, varies from State to State. I will not allow anybody to interpret a quota scheme as being against the small grower and the traditional grower. The objective is to protect those people.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House of the approximate cost of repairs to HMAS ‘Parramatta’ resulting from the collision it had recently with a Manly ferry in Sydney Harbour? How long will the ship be out of commission undergoing repairs? Was there any damage at all to the Manly ferry?
– I will deal first with the honourable member’s last question. I understand that no damage was done to the ferry. I am not aware of any time fixed to carry out the repairs to HMAS ‘Parramatta’. I have seen a figure of some thousands of dollars relating to the repair of HMAS Parramatta* but that figure would be a highly speculative one at this stage. I would like to observe to the honourable gentleman and to the House that I think it is a pity that some people are endeavouring to apportion or to lay liability upon one or other of the vessels. Both vessels are now the subject of boards of inquiry and for my part I would hesitate very much indeed to say where liability should rest. I will make inquiries to see whether I can get a definite figure for the honourable gentleman as to the cost of the repairs and the time involved. I will supply the information to him at the earliest opportunity.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he can indicate to the House when the microwave system between Western Australia and the eastern States will be operational?
– I think the honourable member asked me a question about this matter during the last session. I informed him then that there had been considerable delay in receipt of essential equipment from, the United Kingdom. My understanding and expectation is that the system will be completed by the end of June. I remind the honourable gentleman that during the Christmas period the Post Office leased some twenty-four channels on the satellite system between Sydney and Perth so that Western Australian people would not be disadvantaged because the microwave system had not been completed. Those channels would cost the Post Office at the rate of $55,000 per annum per channel.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by referring to his statement to the House last year on the question of the price of crude oil. Will he, in the exercise of Commonwealth sovereignty over the sea and resources of the Australian continental shelf, as defined by Barwick C.J. in his recent judgment in Bonser v. La Macchia, fix fair and reasonable prices at the well head in Bass Strait for natural gas produced in Commonwealth territory? Will he act to retain for and restore to the Australian people full control of and benefit from all areas in Bass Strait in excess of those necessary to yield a reasonable return to current developers? Will he act to provide interstate pipeline transmission of natural gas by public ownership and control and resolve the present discreditable deadlock in its supply to New South Wales?
– The Commonwealth Government and the State governments have entered into an agreement concerning petroleum resources in the sea bed. That is an agreement which has been given legal force and the Government does not propose to run out on the agreement as it has been made. The legislation to which the honourable member referred, the future legislation, will not - and I tell him this again - affect the arrangements made between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government on the question of petroleum from the submerged lands. In reply to the second part of the honourable member’s question as to whether the Commonwealth would construct a pipeline to convey natural gas from Melbourne to Sydney, this would be a matter for the States, not for the Commonwealth. I believe that the two State govern ments concerned and the people who will be building the pipeline are in negotiation at the moment as to the construction of that line. I believe that it is best that it should be left to the States to arrange with private enterprise for the construction of such a pipeline and that that will prove cheaper for the people of New South Wales in the gas they get.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. The Minister for Defence was reduced to quoting an editorial from a local English language newspaper in Malaysia. I would like to point out that no Malaysian leader has ever made such charges against me.
House adjourned at 6.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700303_reps_27_hor66/>.