30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $21m, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony and Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Prices Index months after prices of goods and services have risen, and that medications which were formerly pharmaceutical benefits must now be paid for. Additionally, that State housing authorities’ waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners grow ever longer, and the cost of funerals increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel and Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
The urgent need for a community owned and operated public access radio broadcasting station to service the mid western suburbs of Sydney and in particular the Municipalities of Ashfield, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Strathfield.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should grant a licence for this purpose to 2RDJ FM Community Radio.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr William McMahon and Mr Abel.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble pet- . ition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That since the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, thereby ensuring best possible use of limited Government resources, as shown by the fact that over 200 community projects have been initiated or funded through the AAP in the Outer Eastern Region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the Report tabled by the honourable the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle in Parliament on the 4 March 1976 and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Baillieu and Mr Falconer.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon and Mr Morris.
To the honourable, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should:
Institute a public inquiry, open to submissions from interested organisations and individuals into:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to take the following action:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: that we support the concept of the optional scheme of Health coverage for all Australians in which they can choose to participate in either Private Medical or the Medibank scheme. we believe that if Australia’s private health funds are abolished a fundamental right of all Australians would be removed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the implications for the Australian Apple and Pear Industry of recommendations to the Commonwealth Government by the Industries Assistance Commission that the Apple and Pear Stabilization Scheme be phased out over a penod of two years. We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Reject the I.A.C. proposals which if implemented will cause destruction and not reconstruction of the Apple and Pear Industry.
Adopt the alternative proposals put forward by the industry to provide a means of restructuring the industry to meet the changes forced upon it by outside circumstances. by Mr Bourchier.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Whereas the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act was passed in contravention of a 1 968 agreement;
Whereas this Act conflicts seriously with Commonwealth Government Policy on Aboriginal Affairs and on Australian equity in multinational corporations working in Australia;
Your petitioners therefore note with appreciation the statements already made on the matter by Government members but humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will also:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Capricomia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take steps to repeal the Metric Conversion Act and restore the traditional and familiar weights and measures.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carige.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that:
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned, citizens of the Commonwealth by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.
That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Keith Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Family Planning Association and similar organisations throughout Australia contribute to the welfare and well-being of a great proportion of the Australian people both in family planning and in an advisory capacity on the prevention and control of social diseases.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that urgent consideration be given to a favourable decision on the continuation of Federal Government finance to enable the activities of the Family Planning Associations and like organisations to proceed unimpaired throughout Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that milk substitutes be restored to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
Criminal Code for the Australian Capital Territory
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we object to the following provisions of the suggested new Draft Criminal Code for the Australian Capital Territory, namely those concerning:
The redefinition of Spouse
Destruction of unborn viable child
Abortion and the lack of provision against bestiality.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will do all in your power to oppose this legislation. by Mr Kelly.
Dockyards in Newcastle
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that50 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and cut unemployment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:.
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Richardson.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. I draw his attention to a
Press report this morning relating to an action by the Governor-General releasing a person on licence pursuant to section 19A of the Crimes Act. Was this action taken on the advice of the AttorneyGeneral? Has any similar person been granted the same patronage or privilege which the newspaper suggests was given here?
-I am very grateful to the honourable member for giving me the opportunity to indicate what happened in this matter. Under section 19A of the Crimes Act, where a person is serving a term of imprisonment for an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, the Governor-General may, if he thinks it proper so to do in the circumstances, grant to that person by writing under his hand, a licence to be at large. The Governor-General, in all cases, acts on the advice of Ministers. In this case he acted on my advice. Even when a Prime Minister is dismissed the Governor-General has to act on the advice of Ministers.
– Or the shadow Minister.
– The new advisers take responsibility for the action of dismissal. I cannot honourable members opposite to know that point of constitutional law. Let us get back to the substance of this question. I emphasise that in this case the Governor-General acted wholly on my advice. This matter relates to a charge against one, Julie Joy Barrett. Honourable members opposite who are trying to interject should treat this matter seriously because the reputation of people is involved. Julie Joy Barrett was charged with 2 offences: One of importing a prohibited import, cannabis, and another of having in her possession a prohibited import, cannabis, under sections 233B(1B) and 233B(1C) of the Customs Act 1901. She came before the District Court in Brisbane and pleaded not guilty. She defended these charges, but she was found guilty by the jury.
She was sentenced by Judge Gibney to 6 months imprisonment from 12 May 1976 and she was due for release, with ordinary remissions for good behaviour, on 26 September 1976. 1 am told that in fact she was released on licence pursuant to the Governor-General’s direction on 16 August 1976.
I am told by my Department that Miss Barrett was employed by Trans-Australia Airlines as an air hostess. She was stationed at Cairns in Queensland. I am told that on 3 June 1975 she arrived at Cairns on board a TAA aircraft which had been on a round trip to Port Moresby. Inside her luggage Customs officers found 4 packets of cannabis weighing a total of 55 grams. In a record of interview the prisoner claimed that she was not aware of the presence of the cannabis in her luggage and that the bag in which it was found was not hers but had been lent to her by a friend. Although she furnished the name and address of the friend, no such friend was found, in spite of extensive inquiries. As the traffickable quantity of cannabis under the Customs Act is 25 grams, her offence attracted the higher scale of penalties under that Act.
This matter came before me as the result of an application by her solicitors dated 29 June 1976. That application was supported by a number of certificates as to her character. One was from a justice of the peace, another from a bank manager, another from a district governor of Lions, another from the principal of a State high school, another from a former member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland, and another from a former Attorney-General dated in 1974. There was a reference from the managing director of a company which was indicating its willingness to employ her and a reference from a person described as a promotional manager. These certificates went to her good character.
I should explain to honourable members that in Queensland parole is not usually directed by the judge, and therefore no assistance is gained from the judge in relation to when a prisoner should be released on parole. Of course, honourable members will be aware of the fact that in many States the date on which parole ought to be first considered is directed by the judge. I am instructed by my Department that in relation to Queensland the practice has always been that when a Federal prisoner has served half the sentence he or she is entitled to be considered for parole. It will be noted that half Miss Barrett’s sentence expired on 11 August and she was released on 16 August. I received no representations other than those from the solicitor, and I think there was a parole application by the prisoner herself. Apart from that, I received no applications from members of parliament or anybody else. I dealt with this matter in the ordinary way. I exercised my discretion in the ordinary way.
Although I did not have it at the time I exercised my discretion, there was in existence a document which came to my Department, I think, on the very day I exercised my discretion. First of all, it included a superintendent’s report which indicated that Miss Barrett was received on 12 May 1976; she was employed on a sevendayaweek basis in the kitchen; during this time she carried out her duties in a satisfactory manner; and the superintendent considered her to be a suitable candidate for parole. That report was dated 3 August 1976. On 10 August the Comptroller-General of Prisons, Mr Whitney, said that he had seen Miss Barrett on a number of occasions at the female prison attending to her duties as laid down by the superintendent of that prison.
He said that her conduct and industry appeared to be very good and she was most respectful at all times. He agreed with the classification committee and the superintendent’s recommendation and recommended favourable consideration of her application. That confirms the judgment that I had formed that this young lady was a person of good character. I know that there have been statements in the Press about it but I refuse to judge people by tittle tattle and innuendo. I do not think that any honourable member would want me to do that. I approached this matter in exactly the same way as I would have approached any other matter.
– There is no new precedent in this?
– There is no new precedent in this case. May I say this:- She was appointed as a civil marriage celebrant by Attorney-General Murphy on 5 April 1 974.
– I think that that was the same day as he appointed Senator Withers.
– No, it was not.
– Or the next day.
– No. It was not the next day. It was on a much later occasion or a much earlier occasion, I forget which. I hope that the honourable member is not jealous of the fact that he was the only parliamentarian appointed, and whilst I am Attorney-General he will be the only parliamentarian appointed. I should indicate to the House that upon learning of Miss Barrett’s conviction on the drug charge I decided to revoke her authorisation as a civil marriage celebrant. I did this by letter to her on 1 7 May 1 976. The conduct of this matter has been completely normal and usual and, I hope, in the highest tradition of law officers of the Crown.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Commonwealth Budget put the State governments in a position where they will be forced to put up their taxes?
– In its earlier discussions with the States at Premiers Conferences the Commonwealth was concerned to make sure that the States would have adequate resources throughout the forthcoming year to meet their responsibilities and to make it unnecessary to the maximum extent for the States to raise indirect taxes at all. It ought to be noted that in the 3 years to December 1975, whilst the Commonwealth Public Service grew by over 40 000 or over 12 per cent, State Public Services grew by over 83 000- by a greater percentage than that of the Commonwealth. There has not been the same move within the States to pursue efficiency in their administrations as has been seen in the Commonwealth over the last several months. As a result of decisions under the new federalism proposals the general revenue payments to the States increased by about 20.9 per cent or nearly $90m more than would have been the case under the guarantee arrangements of the old Whitlam formula. As honourable gentlemen will be aware, the States can spend those funds as they wish to increase their Public Service or to provide additional funds for welfare housing, sewerage or for whatever purpose they like. These funds, which are to be spent utterly at their discretion, have grown most. Funds for local government, to be used at the discretion of local government, have been increased to $ 1 40m or by about 75 per cent, which is a very large increase. We hope that that will make it possible for local government to hold rates at the present level. As many honourable gentlemen throughout the whole House will know, at the moment ratepayers in many parts of Australia are not in a position to bear increased rates.
Overall, taking account of the pre-payment of Medibank adjustments and the fact that there ought also to be adjustments in the Regional Employment Development scheme payments, which the previous Administration phased out, the payments by the Commonwealth to the States will be increased by nearly 15 per cent, which is more than enough to cope with inflation and enough to provide real additional resources. The suggestion that governments should continue to spend more in real terms each year is, I believe, nonsensical. There is as much an obligation on the States to pursue efficiency in their administration to safeguard resources in the interests of their taxpayers as there is an obligation upon this Government. There is no reason at all, in my view, why the States should find it necessary to increase taxes in their forthcoming budgets.
-In the Budget Speech the Treasurer made reference to local government receiving substantially more funds in this financial year. The Treasurer would be aware that is a misleading statement. I draw his attention to page 123 of Budget Paper No. 7. Is the Treasurer aware that the Budget Papers reveal that local government will receive substantially less than it did last year in both real and cash terms? Does the Treasurer agree that local government will be forced substantially to increase its rates and charges to overcome its pressing financial problems?
– I certainly would not agree with the views which were the subject of the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that we came into Government pledged to provide a new deal for local government. We have in fact proceeded to do just that. As I recall the figures, we are providing $140m to local government this year. That represents an increase to local government of 75 per cent. It would dwarf any other increase which has been provided in any other area of Commonwealth expenditure. The sums which the Government is providing, and indeed the basis upon which those sums are being provided, have been welcomed by local government. The honourable gentleman should make some adjustments to his figures, because there were some non-recurring payments made in 1975-76 in the areas of employment relief and so on under which funds were provided to local government. As regards the question of rates and other matters of that type, the Prime Minister has already made clear in the House today that because of the beneficence of the measures the Government has brought down in its Budget, which provide a real increase in funds, we do not believe that local government or the States at large have any need at the present time to be seeking to increase their own charges upon the community.
-Can the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations clarify the current situation concerning secret ballots for union elections, in respect of which legislation was brought down in the last session of Parliament?
-The House will remember that the question of secret postal ballots for the election of all officers of industrial organisations, both of employers and employees, was given considerable publicity during the last election campaign. During the last session of Parliament legislation was introduced to give effect to those proposals. Before that legislation was introduced, in accordance with the undertakings contained in our industrial policy, I held detailed discussions with the peak councils of the union movement and of the employer organisations and received the benefit of their views as to the detail of the legislation. I acknowledge that as a result of those discussions considerable and significant improvements were made to the legislation. Subsequently, on the introduction of the legislation and its passage through the Parliament, it may be remembered I gave an undertaking that the legislation would not be proclaimed until the people affected- the people with whom I had had discussions previous to the introduction of the legislation- had been consulted again to see whether they had any comments to make or improvements to suggest to the legislation. I held those further discussions with the relevant organisations during the winter recess. The employer organisations had no comments to make. The only comment made by the union movement was that the legislation was unnecessary. But no suggestions were made as to detailed improvements.
The Government considers this legislation very necessary. It has the overwhelming support of the Australian people and, from my own experience, I know it also has very considerable support in the rank and file of the trade union movement itself. Consequently the legislation was proclaimed. Subsequent to the drafting of the relevant regulations it came into operation on 9 August. Elections for all office bearers of industrial organisations as defined in the Act will now take place under the provisions of the new legislation.
-I ask the Treasurer Is it a fact that in the recent wage indexation case the Government admitted that the confusing array of health insurance options to be introduced from 1 October would alone have the effect of increasing the consumer price index by 2 per cent in the December quarter of this year? Will he explain to the House how he reconciles such inflationary action with his statement in the Budget speech that the Government’s first priority is the absolute necessity to combat inflation? Since he has also argued that economic recovery will not be possible until inflation is reduced, does he accept that the new health insurance arrangements, stimulating inflation, will also prolong the economic recession?
– The new arrangements which the Government has made in relation to health insurance and the health question generally are designed as one method of furthering its objectives to reduce inflation and not to increase it. Of course there will be an artificial bump in the consumer price index during the December quarter just as there was an artificial dip during last year, for reasons of which the honourable gentleman is very much aware. I think it is a sign of the Government’s bona fides that it has made its position clear before the Australian public and in detail before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I would have thought that the honourable gentleman, as a member of the Opposition front bench, would be agreeing with the Government’s decision in that sense, which we have been at pains to foreshadow well ahead. The new health insurance arrangements are not confusing. They provide the choice which we believe the Australian public requires; they will provide a better delivery of health services. With regard to the way in which they feed into the Budget figures, we will see a winding down of inflation during the period ahead because of the decision in that sense and others taken by the Government.
-The Minister for Transport will agree the Canberra is a very beautiful and fine capital city, but what an airport it has! When will the Government produce plans to update completely, not only for the capital but also for the tourist industry, the present buildings which call themselves the Canberra Airport terminal?
– When the honourable member talked about the Canberra Airport, I first of all thought he was referring to the runways and the facilities for aeroplanes using the airport. So let me dispose of that thought first. The runways and ancillary facilities meet any possible standard desired by civil aviation in this country. They are of the highest standard. But now I turn to the point that obviously the honourable member was making and that is the condition of the buildings. It may well be that the buildings are not as one would desire them, but I remind the House that when I first became a member of this Parliament the building that we had at the airport was what one might describe as an outhouse at the back of a large shed. The present Canberra airport terminal building is a modern facility by comparison. Let me assure the honourable member that I am in no position financially to reconstruct the terminal building at the Canberra Airport. I know that it is stretched to its full capacity on Monday nights and Tuesday mornings when members are arriving, and on Friday mornings when they are departing, but I have to say to the honourable member that for most of the time the facility is adequate. If the honourable member holds a strong view about this he might plead with the Treasurer because the Treasurer is sick of my pleadings on a number of other matters. I have to say also in defence of the air terminal that neither of the airlines has come to me complaining about that facility.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Did the whole Cabinet know what concessions the Budget would provide for the mining and petroleum industries? If not, which Ministers were privy to this information?
– I can understand the honourable gentleman’s interest in a question of this type because if we think back to the manner in which he sought to conduct the affairs of government no one ever quite knew who was in the know and who was privy to the secrets of the nation. More often than not the whole country was privy to what was going on because- I think I can repeat what was said at an earlier stage- his Administration leaked like a ruddy sieve all the time. One thing this Administration has done has been not to conduct its affairs in that manner. The honourable gentleman, of course, would be aware that this Administration conducts its affairs in an entirely different manner. The strategic Budget papers in relation to new proposals for spending go initially to the full Cabinet, then to the full Ministry and all of those matters which concern revenue have traditionally on our side of politics been left to a very small group of Ministers- the leaders of both of the major parties and also the leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate. I do not want necessarily to mention names but if there is no secret about the matter I will give it consideration and perhaps write the honourable gentleman a suitable letter telling him who was in the know.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs will be aware of the loss of life and the damage suffered within the last few days as a result of the earthquake in the Philippines. Will the Minister advise what relief Australia will be giving to the people and the Government of the Philippines in this present disaster, realising the great immediate need for foodstuffs in such circumstances and appreciating our present surplus in dairy products and beef?
– Yesterday the Prime Minister sent a message in the following terms to the President of the Philippines:
On behalf of the people and the Government of Australia I wish to express our deepest sympathies and sorrow for the tragic loss of life and injuries that have been caused by the earthquake in the southern Philippines. Australia stands ready to afford whatever assistance it can within its resources and I should be grateful if you would advise me through the Australian Embassy of your most urgent needs.
We are therefore asking the Philippines Government to indicate to us its priorities in this matter.
Tragically several thousand people have lost their lives and many others are homeless because of tidal waves which followed the earthquake. The earthquake affected an area where Australia is engaged in large road construction, irrigation and agricultural development projects. As I recall, it is the second largest aid project that we have in South East Asia. This has meant that Australian aid teams have been on the spot and have been able to render ready and immediate assistance.
There has been significant loss of life and damage near the project site itself. The Australian team began work immediately after the earthquake. All project work ceased and the team, as I understand it and am advised, is now using heavy equipment to clear the worst hit areas. The leader of the team has bought food which is being prepared for refugees by project personnel. The equipment naturally is being used to clear roads.
I take the opportunity, in waiting for the response from the Philippines, to point out the immediate assistance that is being rendered and also at this stage to commend the humanitarian efforts of the project personnel and their families. I think this is a significant example of Australian assistance to people who have suffered severe deprivation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Does the figure of $ 10.6m, which appears on page 33 of the statements attached to the Budget Speech as the 1976-77 allocation for migrant education, represent the total estimated expenditure on migrant education? If expenditure from general recurrent grants administered by the Schools Commission is not included in this figure, can the Minister state how much is to be allocated for the salaries of special teachers, the purchase of special language teaching equipment and payment for in-service training of teachers under the recurrent grants program? Are there other categories of expenditure on migrant education covered by recurrent grants? If so, what are they and how much expenditure is involved?
– The honourable member has asked for a large amount of detail. I have certain information in my hands at the moment, but I think it would be better for me to refer the matter to the Minister concerned so that he can give the honourable member a detailed reply today.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. It has been asserted that the Budget is a big business Budget. I represent the people of Canberra, where we have no big business. Is this a Budget for people or is it a mere accountancy exercise?
– In its actions the Government has had very much in mind concern for people throughout the total Australian community. Suggestions that the Budget is merely an accountancy Budget not showing concern for people are completely and utterly false. What we did in the Budget needs to be taken into account alongside the measures that were introduced on 20 May. The new system of family allowances, which is helping 300 000 families and over 800 000 children, was and is hailed as one of the most far-reaching social reforms in the history of Federation. In addition to that, personal income tax was indexed on that occasion, again showing concern for people and at the same time establishing circumstances in which future governments will have to be honest if they want to take more funds from the people.
We also have shown that even though there is financial stringency the real levels of spending on education will be increased in this financial year. We have been able to re-establish a rolling triennial program for education planning- a triennial program that the previous Administration utterly destroyed by its financial incompetence. It is worth noting that Professor Henderson who was the chairman of the poverty inquiry drew attention to the fact that massive and unreal government expenditure which promotes rapid inflation does more harm to important groups of poor people than to almost anyone else, and the previous Administration seemed quite unable to recognise that fact.
In this Budget the concern we have for people is shown and the reforms we have introduced have been pressed forward. There will be in the future automatic adjustments to pensions, in accordance with our policy, so that people will be completely protected and payments to pensioners will be taken out of the political arena. The separate property component for the means test is being abolished. There will be an income test only. That will be simpler and more equitable and it will prevent the present injustices suffered by many people who are denied access to the pension as a result of the property component. We have shown concern for handicapped children by increasing handicapped children’s allowances- again in a time of real stringency. It is worth noting that members of the Opposition are not concerned with what the Government has done for people, because in their strange way they have never been able to pursue policies that are really evidence of concern for people; their concern is with their own ideology and nothing else.
We are introducing a housing voucher experiment which might well widen the avenues of housing available to less well off people in the Australian community. It is an imaginative proposal. Its success cannot yet be judged, but it will be followed very closely indeed by the Government. We have introduced special deductions for estates passing between spouses- again a necessary and important reform. In addition to that we have introduced a triennial program to assist handicapped people, making it possible over the next few months and the next year or two to do more for handicapped people than in previous years. We have introduced an imaginative program of $225m to build homes for the aged, and shortly the Minister will be advising people who will be getting their funding in the second and third years of that program so that they can borrow against that Commonwealth commitment and get a greater boost for the construction of homes for the aged over the next 12 or 18 months than has ever before occurred in the history of Australian government. The same approach is being adopted to the construction of senior citizens’ centres. For a period of about 8 months, with one Budget introduced and one other important financial statement made, this is a good record of social reform in the best sense. It is not social revolution, which the Opposition is so concerned about, but it is reform in a concerned way which has at its centre interest for people and the wellbeing of people.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. By way of preface I refer to the Minister’s Press statement of 6 August this year in which he released the Commonwealth Employment Service statistics for July of this year and wherein he alleged that the labour market ‘appears to have weakened’ and that there had been ‘an apparent deterioration in the demand for labour’. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that in original terms unemployment rose by more than 5000 persons and, in seasonally adjusted terms, by 6.2 per cent? Is it also a fact that in original terms unfilled vacancies fell slightly but when seasonally adjusted there was a small rise? Since over the past 20 years the normal pattern during July has been for a fall in registered unemployed and a rise in unfilled vacancies, will the Minister agree that the deterioration is not ‘apparent’ as he claims, but is real, and will he desist from misleading presentation of unemployment figures?
-The first point I make in answer to the honourable member is that when comparing the figures for July of this year with the figures for July of last year it should be remembered at this time last year- I do not want to be held to the exact figure- the numbers employed under the Regional Employment Development scheme was about 30 000. When that is taken into account, in raw terms the number of unemployed in July this year was some, I think, 10 000 less than the corresponding number for the same time last year. Also, in succeeding Press releases relating to unemployment I have continually made reference to the difficulty of interpreting the seasonally adjusted statistics. The Commonwealth Statistician has continually drawn specific attention to this matter and in many of my releases I have quoted his actual words. His concern, I understand, still applies; namely, that there is grave doubt as to whether the seasonally adjusted figures which are coming out now are a reliable indicator of the labour market. Therefore, I have been careful to use the language that I have in those Press releases relating to unemployment because there is conflict in some of the figures which we are getting on the seasonally adjusted and on the raw bases. But what remains absolutely certain- I made this point yesterday- is that the result of 3 years of Labor government lifted unemployment from 136 000 when Labor was elected to 328 000 when it went out of office. A continuation of the policies which led to those figures is an absolute guarantee that the position would get worse.
– Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of reported action by certain unions against individual unionists for working in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment during the so-called Medibank strike? Is he aware that 11 members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union in Ballarat have been fined $20 by their branch for working during the strike? What avenues are available to these persons and to other rank and file unionists in a similar situation?
– I am aware of the situation which has been outlined by the honourable member. It applies to individual people other than those in Ballaarat whom he mentioned. It is a situation which has caused grave disquiet in the community and, of course, great concern to the individual union members involved. Unions have been highly selective and discriminatory in their actions. For example, the Australian Tramways and Motor Omnibus Employees Association in South Australia backed this so-called national strike. But then, to its discomfort, it found that more than half its members turned up for work- more than 600 employees- and public transport services operated almost normally. Realising then that it was totally out of touch with the feelings of its own rank and file members, that union- not surprisingly- took no action.
But other unions or branches of them have taken action. I stress the question of branches because not all the unions that I am about to name now have taken action against their members at the federal level; some have done so at individual branch levels. Unions in that category are the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union, the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, .the Australian Workers Union and the Federated. Ironworkers Association. There may be other unions, but these unions or branches of them have taken or have threatened to take action against their members. The Government views this matter so seriously that I am seeking urgent talks with the Australian Council of Trade Unions on this question. The President of the ACTU, Mr Hawke, has stated publicly that he does not agree with unions taking action to fine their members in this way. I am hopeful that Mr Hawke and the ACTU will use their influence and good offices to get these unions or the branches of them concerned to call off this action against their members.
In the meantime it is important that the union members involved should be aware of their rights. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act refers to this sort of situation in section 188. But, in addition, members who are fined or disciplined under the union rules have rights under section 140 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which provides, amongst other things, that rules of organisations shall not hinder members from observing the provisions of an award. This is of such importance that in order to be quite certain that the information I am giving is accurate, I should like to read from a short note that I have. It states that if a member obtains an order from the court calling upon the union to show cause why an order should not be made under section 140, the applicant can apply to the Attorney-General for financial assistance by the Commonwealth in respect of costs he may become liable to pay in connection with the proceedings. If the Attorney-General is satisfied that it is likely that hardship would be caused to the union member if assistance were not given, the Attorney-General may authorise payments in respect of such costs. The Attorney-General can authorise payment to be made in respect of proceedings either before or after they have been heard and determined by the court.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. I realise that yesterday the honourable gentleman was reluctant or unable to give clear replies to questions on the estimated level of unemployment at the end of the financial year. Nevertheless, I now ask him: Can he say in what month during the financial year it is expected that unemployment will be at its greatest and what percentage or number of unemployed it is estimated there will be in that month?
– The only government which has sought to put this information on the public record and which has been seen to be absolutely and utterly inaccurate in its forecast was the Leader of the Opposition’s former Administration. He will recall the then Minister for Labor and Immigration in another place making absurd forecasts of levels of unemployment which were not helpful or conducive to a dialogue at the time and which were seen subsequently on the record to be subject to utter and complete inaccuracy. There is no evasion in this matter. I say again that Budget Statement No. 2, page 25, makes the information perfectly clear to the honourable gentleman in relation to percentages. As he appeared to be confused about this matter yesterday, even though it is a little tedious to my colleagues on this side of the House who understand it in a clear fashion, I would say that if he looks at forecasts of employment growth which are set down in 2 completely different ways he will see that firstly the Statement says that the average level of employment during 1976-77 as a whole is expected to be 1 to 2 per cent greater than the average level of employment for 1975-76. Secondly, it says that employment over the year, in other words between June 1976 and June 1977, is expected to increase by more than 2 per cent. The forecast for the labour force is given on one basis only. The labour force over the year between June 1976 and June 1977 is expected to grow by 2 per cent at most. Therefore, the labour force projection is comparable only to the employment projection which refers to more than 2 per cent. It is not comparable to the employment forecast which uses the figure of 1 to 2 per cent. In short, the only conclusion which can be drawn from page 25 of Budget Statement No. 2 is that there will be some small reduction in the level of unemployment by the end of the year 1976-77.
– At most.
-Neither I nor Ministers on this side of the House will be drawn into some debate which seeks to pinpoint at a particular time of the year what the figure of employment or unemployment will be in a precise way because the honourable gentleman fell into that trap and lived to regret it. We do not intend to continue government in that form. All I can say to the honourable gentleman is this, and I hope he will accept it in the normal genuine way in which I respond to his questions in this House: If he has a real concern for persons outside this chamber who are today unable to get job opportunities because of what he did to the country in the course of 3 years, let him get up in the community and say, as the Labor Premier of New South Wales has been prepared to say: ‘Let us give the Budget a go’. All of the apparent thrust of what the honourable gentleman has been seeking to do during the course of the past 2 days at question time has been to seek to appear to be the Jeremiah of doom and gloom, despair and despondency. That is not an attitude which will commend itself to the Australian people who are looking for a lead which we have provided. The honourable gentleman might get behind his colleague, the Premier of New South Wales.
– I take a point of order. It is that answers to questions should be short and relevant. I think these sermons should be brought to an end, at your direction, Mr Speaker.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Transport concerning funding for rural local roads in New South Wales. Can the
Minister indicate whether the New South Wales Government will abide by his request that the additional $ 11.3m granted be used for rural roads? In view of the very serious deterioration of rural local roads can he indicate the proportion of that amount which he considers should be used for rural local roads?
-The Budget provides for $ 1 3.5m to go to rural local roads in New South Wales under the Roads Grants Act. In addition to that, of course, out of the $35.5m extra moneys made available by the Government for road expenditure, an extra $ 11.3m is to go to New South Wales. The extraordinary thing about the New South Wales situation in total is that the New South Wales Government claims that under its own legislation it is unable to provide money for rural local roads; that its Act prevents it from doing so.
– It has always been there.
– It has always been there, says Charlie Jones. He wakes up. Where has he been? My predecessor did nothing -
-Order! The Minister will remain relevant to the question.
– This point is very relevant because the honourable member, having woken up out of his sleep -
-Order! The Minister will not argue with me. The question is related to New South Wales roads and I expect the Minister to answer in those terms.
-I will, Mr Speaker. I must point out, though, that the previous Minister for Transport did nothing about it during the 3 years he was Minister.
– That is a he. You are a liar.
-Order! The House will come to order. I directed the Minister to reply to the question directly and to remain relevant, because while the Minister was replying in the fashion in which he was replying he was likely to provoke a response of the kind we now have from the honourable member for Newcastle. I ask the honourable member for Newcastle to withdraw what he said. He knows that he must withdraw. I ask him to do so.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw the statement that the Minister is a liar -
-Order! The honourable gentleman has withdrawn.
– What he said was completely and totally untrue.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He will remain silent or I will have to deal with him. I call the Minister for Transport to continue the answer to the question, and I ask him to remain strictly relevant to the question asked.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It seems to us on the Opposition side of the House that you are giving the Minister the best of both worlds, You asked him twice to be relevant in his answer to the question. He continually provoked the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, until such time as he got the response for which he was looking. You asked the honourable member for Newcastle to withdraw, which he has done. Now you ask the Minister to continue his answer. It seems to me that you ought to make him take his seat; otherwise you are showing a distinct preference for the other side of the House.
– I will overlook the implication in what the honourable member for Port Adelaide has said. It is not correct. I call the Minister for Transport.
– The situation remains that the New South Wales Government claims that under its own Act it is unable to provide funds for rural local roads. This is a question I have taken up with it. I would have thought that it is quite competent to change its own Acts of Parliament. The Prime Minister asked the Premier to make the extra $ 1 1 . 3m for New South Wales this year available for rural local roads because the previous Administration had reduced the level of funds for this category of roads in its allocation of roads resources. I have received a request from the Minister for Transport in New South Wales, Mr Cox, that does not take up the request that both the Prime Minister made and I made to State Ministers at the Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting. New South Wales has asked for a different distribution of the funds so that some of the $1 1.3m will not go to the areas to which we want it to go. I am not going to accede to the request from Mr Cox, the New South Wales Minister. I will be writing to tell him that we expect this money to be made available for this particular category because that State is able to make funds available from its own resources for the other categories. While I am on my feet I ought to refer to Victoria as well.
-Order! It would not be relevant for the honourable gentleman to refer to Victoria. If he wishes to do so he may make a statement later, but I do not want Ministers’ answers to traverse a wide range of issues which are not strictly relevant to the question.
– With great respect-
-Order! The Minister for Transport will resume his seat.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. When a Minister is asked a question a considerable measure of latitude is provided under the Standing Orders as to the manner in which he may respond to the question. The honourable member for Calare has asked the Minister a question relating to rural roads.
– In New South Wales.
– Rural roads are often roads which in one State connect with roads on the other side of the boundary. I suggest that it is within the responsibility of the Minister for Transport to refer to adjacent States as it is his responsibility to refer to any specific State. Also I think it is very necessary that if a Minister has important information which obviously flows from the substance of the question, he should be allowed to provide that information to the House rather than to cut off the question and to confine it narrowly to specifics, for it is often true that the member asking the question might not himself know of the extension which the Minister may wish to provide for the House.
-Does the Minister wish to speak to the point of order?
– No, not to the point of order.
-Then the Minister will resume his seat. I respond to the point of order raised by the Leader of the House. Certainly I would want to allow Ministers to reply to questions using their own discretion as to the way in which they should deal with the questions but I remind the honourable gentleman that normally 45 minutes are allowed for questions. By the indulgence of the Prime Minister question time has now gone for over an hour. In that time a bare 14 questions have been asked, the reason being that Ministers’ answers have been long. There is provision in the Standing Orders and it has been the practice of the House that, instead of giving long answers, no matter how important the information may be, Ministers have the opportunity to inform the House very fully by making a statement after question time. Today the length of the answers has been so great that I felt it necessary to draw attention to that fact. I call the Minister for Transport.
– I was referring to the distribution of funds for roads. I have pointed out the situation as it affects one State. At the ATAC meeting this matter was put to the other States. I regret to say that Victoria has made an application like that of new South Wales which was contrary to the principal suggestion made by the Prime Minister and by me. There have been complaints from local government bodies in that State that the level of funding is too low. When I look at the Road Grants Act in Victoria I notice that $52m is available, $38m of which will be spent on the urban arterial section of road construction. I see that only $4.7m has been made available for rural local roads. So once again I have written to the Victorian Minister telling him that I am not prepared to accept his break-up for the extra $7.5m to go to Victoria. He wants 30 per cent of that, on top of the $3 8m, to go to urban arterial roads.
The facts are that the previous Administration, in working out the Act, reduced the level of funding for the rural local roads sector and the urban local roads sector against the wishes of the Bureau of Roads. That reduction was far greater than for any other section. I have written to the Victorian Minister saying that I am unable to accept this proposition that funds of this nature ought to be made available, on top of the $3 8m, for urban arterial roads, and that too ought to go to local roads.
-My question is addressed to the Treasurer. By way of assistance for the honourable gentleman let me say that the question relates to Statement 2 of the Budget Papers. It is in 4 parts, the first three of which will lend themselves to a very quick yes or no answer. Does Statement 2 project a rate of increase in money supply- broadly defined M3- of 10 per cent to 12 per cent over the forthcoming year? Does the same Statement also anticipate a consumer price index increase of about 12 per cent for the year? Is the rate of growth in real nonfarm gross domestic product projected at 4 per cent? Do these projections not indicate that, if money supply is to be increased to cover cost movements and real growth in the economy, it should increase by IS per cent to 16 per cent and that the much lower rate of increase projectedthat is, 10 per cent to 12 per cent- represents a sharp monetary squeeze for the year?
– If the honourable member for Grayndler had read some of the Press commentaries in recent days he would not have asked the question. If I recall the individual components of the question- obviously I speak from memorythe answer to the first part would be yes, that those broad guidelines are set down, subject to assumptions and qualifications. The answer to the second part is that I am not entirely sure whether the honourable gentleman has read the section correctly and whether he was in fact referring to the averaging process in relation to the determination of price forecasts for the consumer price index. The answer to the third part of the question in relation to growth is certainly yes. However, the assumption that the honourable gentleman seeks to make in asking parts 1 to 3 is entirely without foundation. This Government has a very able record of monetary management, as all people in the money markets will make clear to him if he wants to indulge in a discussion about it.
We have said consistently in recent days that the broad guidelines which are set down will not be accommodating to inflation but will make it perfectly certain to the business community that it will have adequate funds to underwrite economic recovery. I have not seen that target challenged in a way which would need a response in this House. It is clear to me from the discussions that I have had in recent days with people in the money market that they accept the certainty which those guidelines provide. I believe that they will provide confidence. The assumptions which the honourable gentleman seeks to draw are very much the same as those which the honourable member for Adelaide sought to draw when we put down the first guidelines and when he cried ‘credit squeeze’. The honourable member for Grayndler uses less abrasive language but there is a chink of light showing the same thrust, and the assumption is completely unwarranted.
(Mr Hodgman proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister)-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have not yet heard the final part of the question but the honourable gentleman must remember that he is entitled to question a Minister about matters for which that Minister has ministerial responsibility. If the honourable gentleman does not phrase his question in that way I shall have to rule it out of order. (Mr Hodgman continuing to address a question to the Prime Minister)-
-Order! The question is out of order.
– Pursuant to sections 6(5) and 7(7) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 I present a copy of the Remuneration Tribunal’s 1976 Review. This contains determinations or reports on the remuneration of Ministers of State, members of Parliament, judges, holders of offices in the First Division of the Australian Public Service, and holders of public offices.
Pursuant to sub-section 7(7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 I also present determination number 1976/4, which preceded the 1976 Review and relates to holders of certain public offices.
– Pursuant to section 15 of the Universities Commission Act 1959-1974 I present the Universities Commission report for the triennium 1977-1979, together with a statement by the Minister for Education relating to that report.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Schools Commission Act 1973 I present the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1977-1979, together with a statement by the Minister for Education relating to that report.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Technical and Further Education Commission Act 1975 I present the report of the Technical and Further Education Commission for the triennium 1977-1979, together with a statement by the Minister for Education relating to that report.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Financial Support Fund) Bill 1 976;
Psychotropic Substances Bill 1976.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That paragraph (16) of the resolution of appointment of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties be omitted and that the following paragraph be substituted: ‘(16) That the committee report by 14 October 1976 and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to the committee ‘s Report.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian National University Act 1946-1975, this House elects Mr P. M. Ruddock and Dr R. E. Klugman to be members of the Council of the Australian National University for a period of 3 years from this day.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. Both yesterday and today the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- he named me yesterday and I think he actually meant me today when in his fluster he named the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young)suggested I had claimed that an 1 1 per cent to 1 3 per cent- to be accurate, I think he said 12 per cent- projected growth in the money supply was a credit squeeze. At no time have I said that. I have commended on many occasions the figures concerned, and I have commended the fact that such a growth in the money supply would be the correct one. It is true that at the time when the Australian savings bonds were being introduced at 10.5 per cent I drew attention to the fact that that could create a credit squeeze. I have been misrepresented by the Treasurer yesterday and, I believe, today when he meant to refer to me.
– The honourable gentleman has made his point.
– I have received 2 letters, one from the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and the other from the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer), proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 107, I have selected one matter, that is that proposed by the the honourable member for Hotham, namely:
This Parliament’s grave concern at the reported atrocities Of the Government of Uganda against its own people.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
-Before I call the honourable member for Hotham, I wish to remind the House that while there is no standing order of this House, there is a practice of this House and Standing Orders of the House of Commons to the effect that opprobrious references to the ruler or a government of a country with which Australia is in a state of amity would be out of order. I ask the House to understand that the practice will have to be enforced in relation to this debate. Opprobrious references will not be permitted.
– I take a point of order on this matter, Mr Speaker. With very great respect, I have to disagree with you. I am sure that I can assist you to recall an occasion when the Parliament deliberately rejected the proposition that you are putting. You will remember the occasion I think in 1957 or sometime in the 1950s- the Clerk will be able to assist us- when the Standing Orders Committee brought in to this Parliament a recommendation relating to the very thing that you propose. The Standing Orders Committee ‘s proposed recommendation actually did not reach the Parliament because of the opposition to it. Finally, by a deliberate vote of the Standing Orders Committee- it was a deliberate decision- it was decided that the prohibition of which you speak should not be written into the Standing Orders. I fully appreciate the reason for the ruling that you have given or the comments that you have made. I understand the reason why you have done it. This Parliament has deliberately refrained from the prohibition of which you speak, and I respectfully ask that you take into account the deliberate decision of the Parliament earlier on this matter when a proposal such as this was rejected. I know that you cannot remember everything, as I cannot, but I do remember this matter because I was the one who led for the Opposition on the proposition.
– I appreciate the assistance which the honourable member for Hindmarsh has offered. I have no personal recollection of the events of which he speaks. I will have them checked for future reference. I must apply the rules as I see them at the time, and as I see them at this time the proper practice of this House, which has been followed by my predecessors and which I propose to follow today, is to regard as disorderly opprobrious references. I would like the House to understand that it is not easy in all circumstances to know when a reference is reasonable and proper and when it would be out of order because it is opprobrious. The fact is that
I am not willing to allow this House to muzzle itself in any debate, but I think that standards of conduct can be maintained while the House does debate matters. I call the honourable member for Hotham.
– Before you do so, Mr Speaker, may I just -
-Are you taking a point of order?
– Yes. I well appreciate that you cannot at this stage retract from the position which you have taken because you have taken it too firmly to do that, and I would not ask you to humiliate yourself in these circumstances. However, I ask you in applying the ruling that you have just given to have regard for the practice of the House since those events to which I have referred and to be guided by your various predecessors.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was one who joined me in rejecting the concept that no references derogatory to another power with which we had friendly or certainly not hostile relations should be made. He has not hesitated to attack in almost vitriolic terms the government of the Soviet Union. I think, Mr Speaker, when you are listening to the various speakers in this debate you might keep in mind the honourable member for Mackellar and try to recall some of the things he has said over the years.
-Mr Speaker, the letter that I wrote to you this morning proposing discussion of this matter of public importance was not government sponsored; it was entirely my idea. I have received neither encouragement nor discouragement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) or the Government. I think it is fair to say that at the outset so that it is understood that whatever I say now does not necessarily constitute the views of the Government.
A moment ago I felt a great sense of achievement when I saw members of the Opposition rise in their places and support the proposal for a discussion of this matter of public importance. I have written some articles recently saying that this sort of circumstance, in which we as a parliament of free people can be bipartisan in regard to at least some aspects of some issues, does not arise nearly often enough in this parliament. In my parliamentary career I have very rarely found such a sense of revulsion as people are experiencing now, and are informing me of, in regard to the present activities of the people who control the government in Uganda. Although my raising this matter may do very little to alleviate suffering, I ask myself: ‘What are we here for?’ We are here as parliamentarians in a free country representing a free people. If we continue to sit back and watch atrocities being committed against people, no matter what their colour or their ideological views, there is only one thing we can be sure of, and that is that those atrocities will go on unabated. But even if we, in the parliament of a small country of only 13 million people, can, following this debate- particularly if it is bipartisan- send a ripple through the world by means of the international wire services, then maybe other free parliaments will take this matter up, and perhaps the atrocities of man against man will abate a little and this exercise this morning will not have been without value.
This discussion this morning may well set a precedent. When I discussed the matter with my friends both on this side of the House and the other side of the House, some said to me: ‘Why pick Uganda? Why not pick the apartheid policy in South Africa? Why not discuss the people being held without trial in Russia, China, Indonesia or Singapore?’
– And in Malawi.
– And in India.
-And the people in India. We could go on and on. That is a valid retort. But we have to start somewhere. The fact that atrocities are taking place in other countries surely should not stop any of us, and, I hope, some honourable members in the future, taking up these questions of human rights in other countries, if our voices in the Australian Parliament mean anything at all.
I picked Uganda because the situation there is different in principle. The slaughter there is of Uganda’s own people. It is not motivated by ideological, religious or any other reasons by which man can normally justify notorious behaviour. But there is another fact about Uganda. It is a country that apparently harbours international hijackers. I put it to honourable members that no human being who decides to travel overseas by airplane is safe while there are countries and governments that give sanctuary to hijackers. Evidence is on the board about this country with regard to the recent Entebbe disaster. Many of us travel overseas. Together with seven or eight other members of this Parliament I will be fortunate enough to represent this Parliament in the Interparliamentary Union Conference in Spain next month. If by chance I happen to board an aircraft in Europe on which there are a number of Israelis- ordinary, decent citizens and tourists with no political affiliations- then that aircraft in which I am travelling could be immediately endangered by some terrorist who might hijack it, bomb it or cause mass slaughter. The only reason those sorts of hijackers can survive is that governments like that of Uganda give sanctuary to international hijackers. If the peoples of the free world and the parliaments of the free world have any guts at all they will realise that the only way in which to stop international terrorism, such as that at Munich or Entebbe or the other countless acts of international terrorism against innocent people is to stand up and say that they deplore such actions and take positive steps to prevent them. There are ways in which countries such as Uganda can be forced to stop harbouring and giving sanctuary to international hijackers of aircraft, but the fact is that the free Parliaments of the world have not got the guts to take the sorts of actions which would prevent international hijacks.
Uganda became independent in 1962. In February 1966, President Dr Obote came under parliamentary criticism and swiftly moved to protect his position by carrying out his own coup d’etat. Elections had not been held since 1962 but were announced for April 1971. In January 197 1 while Dr Obote was absent in Singapore at a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference -I suggest that it was an act of rare courage for him to leave his country at that time- the armed forces under Major-General Idi Amin Dada seized power. The elections of 1971 were never held; there is no indication that elections will be held in the future. In foreign relations, President Amin was originally friendly with Israel but turned to Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, who agreed to support President Amin if he threw out the Israelis. On 9 August 1972 President Amin gave 50 000 human beings who were Asian by an accident of birth 90 days to get out of the country. He expelled those 50 000 people, without consultation, by 7 November, just two or three months later. Domestically, Idi Amin has made himself an absolute dictator. The erosion of political freedoms has been accompanied by continued economic deterioration. Decrees have been promulgated which effectively placed the armed forces above the law, with full powers of search and seizure of property. They are granted wide powers of detention without trial and power to- and I quote- ‘shoot at sight’. President Amin is the absolute ruler who makes all the decisions himself and who personally executes his orders, including those to liquidate his challengers.
With regard to the atrocities, I refer to a report in the Observer Foreign News Service written by Mr David Martin who has written a best-selling biography of President Amin. The report states:
President Amin, to a greater or lesser extent, personally controls Uganda’s four main killer squads. These are the Public Safety Unit, Bureau of State Research, Presidential Bodyguard and Military Police. He may not order every murder but he is the instigator of the policy which allows these killings.
Today the most feared group in Uganda is the euphonistically named Public Safety Unit (Mu). It was created by President Amin in 1971 soon after he came to power, reportedly to stamp out ‘Kondoism’, the Ugandan name for armed robbery.
The PSU has about 300 members with barracks at Naguru on the eastern side of the capital, Kampala. Within these barracks a former armoury, where in two tiny cells SO inmates can be held, serves as the prison.
Former inmates estimate that on average only three of every 10 people admitted to Naguru survive. One told me that recently during six weeks in Naguru he personally witnessed 22 murders. Several said that after a prisoner is shot another prisoner is ordered to smash the dead man’s head with a car axle until it is no longer recognisable. Then he is ordered to lie beside the victim in the blood and gore.
Several people who have been recently released from Naguru corroborate this account They say that prisoners are continually tortured and that occasionally President Amin visits the prison.
David Martin continues:
The second most important killer unit is the Bureau of State Research (BSR)
Which again is a euphemistic title for something so infamous- which has its headquarters at Nakaero next door to the President’s lodge in the centre of Kampala.
BSR, unlike the PSU, rarely kills people at its headquarters. Rather it picks people up at their homes and businesses and kills them in the bush outside Kampala.
Two of the bureau’s favourite killing grounds are the forest of Namanve and Mabira a few miles from Kampala off the Ginja road. One source, a senior army officer, told me that last year after the killings in the forest became common knowledge, a team of police and army officers Was sent there by President Amin.
The source said he personally counted 500 bodies. Their findings were reported to President Amin but he took no action to bring the killers to court or stop the killings.
Unlike the other squads, the BSR operates both inside and outside Uganda. It has agents in all missions overseas, including London. Exiles on the run have been hunted in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and in London by killer squads from the bureau.
David Martin goes on:
The common denominator between Amin and his killers is that they are either from his own West Nile Kakwa tribe” which numbers only 60 000 or are Nubians and Southern Sudanese. They have little education and despise educated people and institutions of learning.
Beyond that their fates are bound together. While the bulk of the Army are revolted by the killings, which some Ugandans believe could now be over 200 000, the Kakwa and (he Nubians effectively control the keys to the armouries and weapons which would be needed to stage a successful coup or suppress an attempted one.
One could go on with this list of atrocities. I do not think any decent person in the world was not revolted by what happened to an innocent Israeli tourist whom I believe was in her seventies. Mrs Dora Bloch was reportedly pulled out of the hospital in which she was suffering from poisoning. Her body was finally found on the edge of a forest burnt and desecrated.
Students from Makerere University are being hunted like criminals. Eighty were slaughtered in jail and 30 more on a river bank. More than 1 SOO students are in the custody of the police. Their only crime apparently is to have demonstrated against the admission of President Amin’s son to the university. Attacks on businessmen began over the past weeks. Many prominent men with import-export links were arrested and are feared dead.
I conclude by quoting once again from David Martin who probably knows more about this country than anybody alive. It is tragic to hear this man’s words. He said:
Strange as it may seem, this is essentially a good time for Uganda’s President Idi Amin. He is exactly where he most likes to be- on the centre stage orchestrating slaughter.
My final remark is that if men and women in this Parliament and parliaments of the free world can allow a dossier like that to be put to us day after day and remain quiet after a man like Martin says that there is a human being today in another country with whom we do have some relationships orchestrating slaughter, they are not fulfilling their function.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) for bringing this matter to the attention of the Parliament. The honourable member is well known for his advocacy of humanitarian causes. I will be asking the Government to take 2 steps by way of diplomatic action in regard to the Government of Uganda. I do so not only because of what is occurring in that country but principally because no person in the world, as the honourable member for Hotham has said, is safe under the present situation in a country where terrorists can receive not only harbouring but, as we have seen in the Entebbe situation, active assistance in their gross activities. That, of course, includes Australian citizens who travel outside this country. Australians can travel halfway round the world in a few hours and sometimes they are out of sight out of mind, but there is a potential risk to every Australian citizen as a result of the activities of the Ugandan Government.
The situation in Uganda appears to be completely out of hand. As the honourable member for Hotham has pointed out, there has been one of the usual dictatorial attacks upon students which occur in many countries because the ruling dictators always fear those who have some intellectual capacity to understand what the rulers are trying to do to them. People at the universities in Uganda are simply being slaughtered for no reason at all. A quarter of the army is under detention. There are 7000 troops in bases around Kampala who are under detention because President Amin feels that they are disloyal to him. The capital of Kampala is now a ghost town and probably only about 40 000 residents are living there. Transport is almost unobtainable. It is reliably reported that after the Entebbe raid President Amin wanted to attack Kenya and asked his officers to do so. Many of his senior officers refused and he told them to go to their homes. When they arrived there they found themselves under arrest. So what we have is a classic case of a person who has obtained power and is prepared to go to any extent to maintain it.
I want to draw the attention of the House to one important matter. I am greatly concerned that the Press of the world tends not to view the President himself in a proper light. There is a tendency at times to belittle this man who is the President of Uganda; to refer to the fact that he was an army sergeant; to make other belittling references to his intelligence; and more or less to describe him as a creature from the black lagoon. But in fact the reason that he is so successful and dangerous is because his abilities are much more profound than people realise. He was, in fact, one of the first Ugandan officers to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He was one of the very first ‘effendis’ or warrant officers after attending a course in Kenya in 1 959. He was one of the first 2 officers to become commissioned. In 1963 he attended a commanding officers course at the School of Infantry in Wiltshire and he took command of the 1st Battalion with the rank of major. In 1964 he was promoted to colonel and Deputy Commander of the Army. That shows significant ability in his early years. In 1965 he was promoted to Army Commander, it is said to protect him from a financial scandal. During the period in which President Obote was in Singapore a soldier is said to have arrived at Amin’s house to tell him that pro-Obote troops were on their way to arrest him. President Amin quickly reacted rallying the majority of the army and by the dawn of 26 January that year he had taken over. These are not the actions of the buffoon to which the Press refers. These are the actions of a person who is relentlessly pursuing aims of which he himself may now have lost sight. He is relentlessly pursuing power against the people and to an extent against the world. He said recently: ‘I consider myself the most powerful figure in the world’.
What has happened since? There is an abundance of evidence of activities against his own people, including the suspension of political activities decrees and the robbery suspects decree of 1972. The report of the International Commission of Jurists of May 1974 showed evidence of a massive and continuing violation of human rights which suggested a planned campaign of systematic liquidation. Two American journalists disappeared in 1971 after investigating the situation there. They were Mr Nicholas Stroh and Mr Robert Siedle a sociology lecturer. Eventually a judge of the Ugandan High Court found that the Americans had been murdered by Ugandan soldiers. The judge left the country and delivered his report after he had left. The Ugandan Government admitted responsibility and paid compensation, but took no other action. Foreign journalists who have been temporarily detained have described scenes of great brutality and torture. Since 1972 whole villages have suffered from various reprisals. It is said that the President himself, having divorced some of his wives, had at least one of them killed and showed her body to his children. Other reports that have some credibility keep coming through. They are not, as one would think, totally unbelievable. They are based upon credible evidence. The situation is quite appalling. When Mrs Bloch, one of the hostages, disappeared there was no mercy for her. The reports varied between her being found burned outside the city and her being thrown to the crocodiles.
The internal situation is a little more complicated than we sometimes think, because the President has maintained himself in power by a very talented ability to survive. There are probably 3 main reasons for this: He skilfully maintains his manipulation of the Army. He skilfully maintains his killer squads; it is said with some authority that a contingent of one of his killer squads is comprised of Palestinians. There is clear evidence that he assisted the raiders, the hijackers, at Entebbe. He has a paranoid fear of plots against his life and he is always taking extraordinary security measures to overcome them, imaginary or otherwise. His opposition is divided. The pro-Obote forces are suspicious of the ambitions of some of the anti-Amin forces, especially the old Buganda establishment. Obote ‘s old opponents want to ensure that
Amin’s disappearance is not followed by Obote’s return. The question then is whether there can be some hope that internally this man will be replaced.
I want to refer briefly to the question of terrorism as it might relate to Australia. It is disturbing, to say the very least, that the United Nations has not been able to pass a simple motion to condemn terrorism as such. Any person at Entebbe could have been affected. Any Australian could have been at Entebbe. The normal conventions relating to the recognition and derecognition of countries are based principally upon whether the regime is in effective control. It does appear, despite what is happening, that the regime in Uganda is in effective control; so we now recognise that country. Britain has withdrawn its recognition. As far as derecognition is concerned, one normally would look for some specific act against Australia’s interest, such as action against Australian persons. There are still a number of Australians in Uganda- five or tenwho, for various reasons, so far have not seen the need to leave. One would hope that their safety would be ensured. Although no specific Australian interests have been affected, potential interests are affected.
Although it may not be appropriate, in accordance with normal conventions, to remove diplomatic recognition, I urge the Government to do 2 things: Firstly, we as a Government should transmit to the Government of Uganda the strongest possible protest at the potential danger to persons who are hijacked or who are the subject of terrorist actions that are in any way encouraged or assisted by the Ugandan Government or by any other governments. Secondly, our High Commissioner to Kenya, who is accredited to Uganda, should have his accreditation to Uganda withdrawn. That would show in that practical way that this nation totally and thoroughly condemns the actions of the Ugandan Government.
– The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has proposed that the House discuss as a matter of public importance:
This Parliament’s grave concern at the reported atrocities of the Government of Uganda against its own people.
In order that such a proposition may be debated by the House, 8 members have to rise to support it. When Mr Speaker proposed the matter, all members then in the House rose to support the discussion. In fact, it is clear that if this were a proposition upon which a vote could be taken it would be carried without dissent. I will speak very briefly on it. I can support wholeheartedly, on behalf of my Party, the matter proposed by the honourable member for Hotham. I do not propose to speak other than very briefly, for 2 reasons. One is that there are no Ministers in the House. The Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) is not here -
– There are 2 Ministers in the House.
– They have just come in.
– They have not. I have been here for a quarter of an hour. I was talking to one of your colleagues for 5 minutes.
– That was behind the Chair was it?
– I presume that the Minister was talking about the matter which has been on the notice paper under General Business for the last 6 months. I am anxious that my colleague who put it there and the Minister should be able to speak on that matter.
– We have just been discussing arrangements to effect that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I think we are getting a little out of order.
-When I spoke there was no Minister sitting in the chamber. The Foreign Minister was not here. That is, I believe, sufficient reason, apart from the time involved in reaching debate on a matter of General Business which has been on the notice paper for the last 6 months, why I should speak only very briefly in support of the matter proposed.
It is not to be taken that in supporting this proposition as it stands I would be supporting everything that the 2 honourable members who have spoken- the honourable member for Hotham and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil)- have said in support of it. For instance, in particular I would not endorse the suggestion made by the honourable member for St George that there may be some means by which President Amin can be displaced internally. That was the attitude which conservatives adopted and which they hailed when it took place at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Singapore attended by the former President Obote of Uganda. At that time it was thought that the replacement of President Obote by President Amin would be a step for the better. I believe that conservatives now concede, as many other people including those on my side of politics thought at the time, that it was a step for the worse. Conservatives themselves would think it was a case of going from the frying pan into the fire. I do not believe that the Foreign Minister, if he were here, or any other Minister who might speak would endorse such a suggestion. I do not believe that it should come from this Parliament.
There have been references to the hijacking of an aircraft which took off from Tel Aviv and was taken to Entebbe. That is not involved in the matter proposed by the honourable member for Hotham. I have nothing to say on it, other than that I think there is much to commend the proposition that pilot organisations have made, namely, that the most effective way to end hijacking is for pilots to refuse to take aircraft to countries which harbour hijackers. I was not unaware of the circumstances because my wife and I took off from Tel Aviv in a plane only a hour apart from the plane which was hijacked to Entebbe. I do not propose to say more, because I think- I hope that the honourable member for Hotham does not take this as being unduly harsh- it is not in accordance with the amenities of the chamber that General Business day should be pre-empted by urgency motions. My Party, in Government or in Opposition, frequently has been displeased by the terms of some General Business motions, but we have not pre-empted them by moving urgency motions. During my term as Prime Minister the then Leader of the House enabled a vote to be taken on every General Business proposition that anybody moved, and I think they were all moved by members of the then Opposition.
My colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) gave notice on 17 February of a motion to present a Bill for an Act relating to corporations and the securities industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I accept that there are certain reasons for the Leader of the Opposition commenting on these matters but I think that the Leader of the Opposition would agree that this subject is a little wide of the actual subject matter the House is supposed to be debating at this moment. I suggest that we come back to the subject matter.
– I did not take the point that many of the matters, such as hijacking, which have been mentioned, did not arise from the terms of the matter of public importance which refer, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will notice, to the atrocities of the Government of Uganda against its own people! I shall not hold the House long, believe me, but Mr Deputy Speaker I was reading the motion of my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide which states:
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the provisions of the Bill for an Act relating to the Corporations and Securities Industry.
That, at least, I would have thought would secure the support of members of the House. There have been many such committees appointed by the Senate.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I cannot see how this matter can have any relevance to the matter of public imp’ortance under discussion. If the Leader of the Opposition is sincere in his desire to hear the views of the Government on the subject matter of corporations and securities he will conclude his remarks in sufficient time to allow his colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to speak for his allotted half an hour and also some time for me to reply on behalf of the Government.
– I suggest that the point of order raised by the Minister is valid. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that the topic of hijacking could be associated with the matter of public importance. I can understand and appreciate also that the Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to make comment in relation to a matter presented to the House at a time when other business could have been before the House. That was why I allowed the Leader of the Opposition to make some comments. I believe that at this point sufficient comment has been made and we should get back to the original subject matter.
– I would have sat down already but for the Minister’s point of order. I have given the reasons for my not speaking longer in support of the matter of public importance and why none of my colleagues will be speaking to it. We have indicated our support for it. We are anxious to proceed to a debate and a vote on the matters which have been before the House for the last 6 months and which can come on only today and which cannot otherwise come on until the Budget debate is concluded.
Mr NEIL (St George)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), when referring to my words about the situation in Uganda, linked them with the actions of the
Obote coup some years ago as though I were suggesting armed overthrow. I thought I chose words which were neutral and which would not have precluded the resignation of President Amin. I call upon President Amin to resign.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Mr HOWARD (Bennelong-Minister for
Business and Consumer Affairs)- by leave- I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of Notice No. 1 General Business being continued until 1 p.m.
-I move as an amendment to the motion:
Omit ‘ 1 p.m. ‘ and substitute ‘ 3 p.m. ‘
I move this amendment because the Opposition’s time has already been hijacked by Government supporters against all the traditions of this House. I think we are entitled to have at least another three-quarters of an hour from 2.15 p.m. to 3 p.m. in order to discuss the 2 notices that are before us. It is only because the Government does not want discussion of these matters that it has allowed this sort of new procedure to take place and that general business day has been treated in this cavalier manner.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I formally second the amendment.
-The question is: that the time proposed to be omitted stand part of the motion’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
-I would submit that the proper way to put this question is to vote on the amendment. I would guess that it would be defeated. Then the original motion would be carried unanimously.
– In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the question put was that the time proposed to be omitted stand so that in those circumstances voting on the amendment would actually mean that the Government and the Opposition would not have to cross the chamber. The way that question has been put was that the time proposed to be omitted stand. That means that the actual vote being carried in the affirmative means that the time remains at 1 o’clock and is not amended to 3 o’clock. So the Opposition, to extend the time to 3 o’clock, would vote against the motion. If carried in the negative that would mean the time would be extended to 3 o’clock.
– Do I understand that there is no amendment?
-Yes, there is. The proposed amendment was that the time be not 1 o’clock but 3 o’clock. If the House votes that the time proposed to be omitted stand, that means that that time of 1 o’clock stands. To have its amendment carried the Opposition therefore would vote against the question so that the time of 1 o’clock would not stand and would be amended to 3 o’clock. The Chair had decided that the ayes had it. Is a division desired?
Opposition members- Yes.
-The House will divide. Ring the bells. ( The bells having been rung)
-The question is:
That the time proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
Technically this means that the Government is voting against the amendment moved by the Opposition.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock ) .
Majority…… . 52
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, this is an important piece of legislation and the Opposition naturally is disappointed to realise now that supporting speakers will not have sufficient time to take part in the debate. I can appreciate the reasons for the Government’s action, but the curtailment of the debate means that I will have to restrict my remarks.
I turn now to the salient points of the Bill. This is not the first time that this legislation has been before the House. This matter has been the subject of an inquiry by a Senate committee. The Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange was established as long ago as 1970 on the motion of the then Senator Murphy, now Mr Justice Murphy. Its establishment was supported by all parties. It was 4 years before that Committee produced its report, which is known now as the Rae report. We praise the work and effort that went into that report.
We are very concerned about the fact that despite the frequent efforts of the previous Labor administration to introduce this legislation into the Parliament the legislation was always torpedoed and no opportunity was given to put it on to the statute books. We are very suspicious of the fact the Government itself has been prone to be tardy about taking initiatives in this field. The Government has said that it would be better if this question were left to the States. State administrations in 4 States- significantly they have been administrations under Liberal domination- have attempted to pass laws dealing with the same matter. That has happened since the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange and since we first introduced legislation in this House. At least a vote should be taken. All my colleagues and I are glad that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will be speaking to that motion. He may support it; he may oppose it, but at least we should have a vote on it. A contingency motion was given for this day on 5 May by my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). It states:
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
The constitutional position is quite clear. Under placitum xx of section 51 we do have power to deal with financial and trading corporations. I want to make this significant example. Our founding fathers thought it very important, that we have power to deal with bankrupts and insolvents, so they inserted placitum xvii of the same section. It followed, did it not, that they did not want to have border-hopping by people who had failed in business. They wanted a guarantee that there would be some national surveillance, some national opportunity to look at people who might be guilty of fraud and who might be deemed to be the subject of white collar crime. That is what this Bill is about. We have a number of laws in our normal democratic institutions to prevent crime. We have a number of people in penitentiaries who have been guilty of nothing worse than or nothing as severe as we find in the Rae report.
False pretences is a crime, fraud is a crime; it is a crime to misappropriate moneys and to embezzle. All that comes out very clearly in the detailed report of the Rae Committee. This Bill is very effective in that it fills the sorts of gaps that we have now in Federal legislation. Dealing in securities and investment is an economic matter of national importance. It cannot be limited to State boundaries; it cannot be effectively policed by State administration. It also has international complications because a lot of trading is done though the London Stock Exchange and elsewhere. A lot of share dealing in Australia is manipulated and master minded by people overseas. When we introduced this legislation we said it was necessary on a national basis. There is also a need for continuous reform. There has to be an approach to prevent crooks, spivs and all the other names we would like to use in the vernacularpeople who basically are dishonestfrom being able to trade in other people ‘s money and other people’s assets for their own ill-gotten gain and not be brought to book. We want a continual surveillance. That means a compulsory audit, a guarantee that trust accounts mean what they are. The money in the trust accounts belong to the people who own it, not to the person who has the duty of trust. We want prompt and adequate disclosure of all matters, particularly relating to prospectuses and matters where people would be invited to subscribe money.
We want to prevent market manipulation, insider trading, short selling, conflict of interest. We want examination of prospectuses and investigatory prowers. That is the whole gamut of this legislation. Why has it taken so long to be considered? I hope the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) gets a chance to say a few words. I hope he says that the Government will do something. We tried, and this legislation is good, valid legislation. It has been the subject of political opposition. That opposition relates directly to the political philosophy that is closely associated with the Government. It is on the basis that we must not interfere with the private enterprise structure. We are not suggesting this is interference. We are suggesting that what is needed is the guarantee that people are protected from white collar crime and that people who are guilty of that crime are dealt with, as any other criminal would be, and not allowed to continue to trade. We have the spectacle of many people mentioned in the Rae report still actively trading, many still subject to investigation by State corporate affairs commissions which are still involved in this matter.
I want to give high praise to the present New South Wales Attorney-General, Frank Walker, for saying he is very interested in national legislation both at this level and at the companies level. He will table in the State Parliament reports which should have been tabled. He will recommend prosecutions which should have been recommended. For years people have lost millions of dollars by sheer fraud, and no action has been taken. The States do have some legislation. I want to suggest that the Minister might say how good it is. I want to draw the distinction of how bad it is. The Bill gives the Commission power of surveillance and the power to demand alteration of stock exchange rules. The States’ legislation does not have that power. The Bill provides for cancellation of registration. There is no similar provision in the States. Our Bill guarantees that an exchange not operating properly could be deregistered for 2 1 days and certainly indefinitely if the Attorney-General suggests. There is no similar legislation in the States. Our Bill guarantees that officers of the Commission could attend meetings of the stock exchanges. There is no similar provision in State legislation. Our Bill guarantees a licensing requirement of people who are deemed to be dealers. The licence has to be renewed yearly. There is no similar provision in the States.
Our Bill gives power to the Commission to make rules with which stock exchanges and people registered thereto would have to conform. There is no similar provision in State legislation. Our Bill guarantees a register of interests open to the public. Everybody could look at the dealer’s name and at his interests. There is no similar provision in the States. Our Bill guarantees access to the records by members of the Commission. There is no similar provision in State legislation. Our Bill guarantees the forfeiture of directorships after a certain time by dealers. There is no similar provision in State legislation. Our Bill also guarantees that dealers would not be able to act as underwriters in certain circumstances. There is no similar provision in State legislation.
Despite the claim by former State AttorneysGeneral that their legislation was effective it is quite clear that even now it goes nowhere near meeting the problems that this legislation would certainly encompass. I want to make the clear point as was made by the Rae report that there is constitutional power, confirmed by the High Court in the concrete pipes case which was the subject of a decision reported in volume 124 Commonwealth Law Reports at page 468. The Commonwealth has the power; it has the responsibility to use it therefore in the public interest. The economy now is sufficiently integrated to be regarded as the one whole economy, not seven or eight different parts, not like some seven or eight different communities. We are a national Parliament and we have a national economy. We have a national responsibility. The lesson of successive company scandals since 1950 is that closing the stable door now through State administration is not good enough. We need an expert supervisory agency able to wield considerable power, not limited at the State boundaries, not prevented from investigation across State boundaries, not relying on some registrar in another State to suggest he can do the work. Surely no honourable member would wish to quarrel with the proposition that we want to protect Australian’s own investments and interests. This Bill will effectively eradicate such undesirable practices. There are always fools. We are anxious to get the names. It is important that we get them in the right context. The Rae report in chapter 16 states that State administrations really were not able to succeed. There was a need for an Australian securities commission. The report states:
A major purpose of Federation was to create a national economy. The growth of a strong securities market in which funds can be raised nationally to finance capital formation must be regarded as a logical, and presumably, expected result of that objective.
That is the objective of Federation. The report continues:
It is not appropriate that the administrative body of one State should seek to act as a national body. We have seen how it sometimes happens that jurisdiction is thought to lie with a State which is not equipped to handle an investigation within its own province: It follows that this State is even less capable of coping with a national investigation. We are strongly of the view that many of the abuses in the securities markets can only be effectively investigated by a national regulatory authority.
The whole theme of the recommendation, after the Committee heard lengthy evidence, gave a clear indication of the problems as the Committee outlined them. I want to refer to some fundamental matters which no State adminstration itself would tolerate in the normal course. People who act with other people’s money as trustees are bound by laws not to make a benefit out of the trust. They are bound by laws not to make investments that are not secure. They are bound by laws to account. They are bound by laws not to meddle. All they are duty bound to do is to carry out their obligations. This does not happen. We can put it down to the inexperience of stock exchange administration. Page 3.36 of the Rae report deals with members’ bank trust accounts. It says:
We received evidence that . . . trust accounts have often not been properly kept . . . For example, of the six stock exchange firms which failed in Melbourne during the period of our inquiries . . . four showed deficiencies m their trust accounts totalling over $ 1 .5m.
That is an example. That could still happen. The tragedy of State administration is that the disaster has to happen before there can be any investigation, and then it is too late. This Bill guarantees compulsory audit. It guarantees that trust accounts would be looked at, certainly on a.quarterly basis, and that there would be an accounting if there were something in the way of a deficiency. There would be the sanction of registration not being continued.
Many people were mentioned in the Rae report. I want to refer particularly, as an example, to what it deems to be the significance of John T. Martin and Co. There is no need to single that company out as anything special. It was as bad as the rest. The report shows that its activities in relation to companies caused losses to its unwitting shareholders amounting to more than $1.6m. The matter was the.subject of comment by Mr Justice Street, now the Chief Justice of New South Wales, when dealing with a matter relating to that company which came before him. Referring to John T. Martin and Co., he said:
Its deficiencies in observance of proper and honourable dealings as a broker might well have passed unnoticed, had it not committed the cardinal sin of running out of money.
What in the name of fortune are we trying to say- that we should allow this matter to remain without legislative control? The United States of America has had such control for some 40 years, and we need it here. We want action, and there should be action.
Because of the time factor involved now, I cannot say any more, except to urge acceptance of this legislation. It is approved, drafted, clearly well known and researched and has no defects in it. The Government is hiding behind a screen. The claim that it is going to do something now is a mere palliative for further delay. State governments may object, but the responsibility is to the people of Australia, not the self centred people who feel that they know best within their own State boundaries. We have powers under the Constitution which we have a duty to use. A failure to use them means that other people can abuse them; that other people can get away with crime. We should be able to deal with them. It is far too late for us to deal with the bankruptsbankruptcy is our constitutional responsibilitywhen we could have prevented the bankruptcies. That is what should nave happened. Our founding fathers would have expected also that people who have carried on in an improper fashion should not be allowed to continue- and that they are doing.
So I urge, despite all the objections and delay, that we act now. We have a new government, poor as it is, which has always suggested that it would do something in this field. But the speeches of John Maddison and others in New South Wales indicated that it was to be a State preserve, and they got away with it. They masterminded the opposition to this legislation in the Senate and elsewhere. They delayed this legislation for years. They are the guilty men because people such as the Bartons and others have been able to get away scot-free, and it should never have happened. When we see the petty criminal sent to gaol, we wonder where justice is when we see people who have misappropriated millions being able to escape scot-free. I urge this Parliament to approve the second reading and to allow this Bill to become an Act of this Parliament.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak. It is a scandal, an outrage, that the matter cannot be debated fully. What does the Government want to do- protect the spivs and charlatans?
-Order! The honourable member should keep his comments for his speech.
– I will do that. It is a disgrace. We ought to go on until 3 o ‘clock -
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– In the very limited time available, let me say at the outset that a government of the Commonwealth has essentially 3 options open to it in this area: It can leave the question of the regulation of the securities market and corporate regulation generally entirely to individual State legislation or to cooperative arrangements between the States alone. Secondly, as proposed by the Labor Government and repeated today in the remarks of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), it can legislate unilaterally without seeking the co-operation or the assistance of the States. Thirdly, it can adopt a course of action which the current Government outlined in a statement I made on 6 July. That course of action is to seek the co-operation of the States in establishing a scheme which has 2 very essential elements.
The first essential element is that a national regulatory authority be established. If the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and all the other Opposition members who are interested in this subject had read the proposals- I am sure they have, or I hope they have- that were outlined in the statement issued on 6 July, they would have found a proposal for the establishment of a national commission. It will be a commission that will be able to act irrespective of State boundaries, a commission that will be vested with investigatory powers, and a commission which will work through the existing State administrations but which, through being able to give directions to State administrations, will have the capacity to investigate the matters which are of legitimate concern to people on both sides of this House. We do not believe that this is a matter that can or ought to be left entirely to State administrations.
When the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill was introduced in 1974, the Liberal and Country Parties indicated that as an Opposition we supported in principle the establishment of a national regulatory authority. The essential recommendation of the Rae Committee was for the establishment of such a commission. We had very strong reservations about some of the provisions of that Bill, and those provisions have been repeated in the Bill presented by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. He was very busy talking about the bad side of the securities market- I know there is a bad side of it- but what he did not mention, of course, was that one of the provisions of this Bill would give the national commission the right to appoint one of its officers to the board of every company in Australia. That is one of the provisions to which we objected.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith said that this Bill was researched and that it was highly respected. It was not highly respected by the Senate committee that investigated its provisions. I am not referring now to the Rae Committee. I invite the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to talk to some of the members of his own Party who sat on the Senate committee that investigated the provisions of the Bill. What is wrong with the approach of the Opposition? It is not so much that the Opposition wants a system of national regulation but that it wants a system of national regulation to the entire exclusion of the States.
– Hear, hear!
– Exactly. The Opposition wants it to the entire exclusion of the States.
What the honourable member for KingsfordSmith wants is a situation in which a large Canberra based bureaucracy of 700 or 800 officers is concerned with the minutia of every detail of the 390 000 proprietary companies in Australia. He wants a situation which inevitably will lead to months, perhaps years, of chaos and in which we could easily have in Sydney, Melbourne and the other capital cities of Australia parallel State and Federal companies offices. We could have a situation in which a subsidiary of a public company would have to lodge its documents in the State office and the parent company would have to lodge its documents in the Federal office.
Certainly what Australia needs is a system of national regulation of the securities market. It is a proper and appropriate concern of the Commonwealth. But we do not believe that the method proposed by the Australian Labor Party when in government and again today in Opposition is the right one. The greatest contribution that the honourable member for KingsfordSmith could make to the achievement of certain agreed objectives in this area would be to urge the members of his own Party who form the Government of New South Wales to support the proposals that the Federal Government has announced.
-Order! The time allotted for precedence to General Business has expired. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable the debate on the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill to be resumed immediately and to continue for a period of not less than one hour.
I move this motion because I think that this morning the practice of the House was departed from. It is usual on General Business day for Government supporters not to raise matters of public importance. The time allotted for what is and was a major debate was taken up by a matter of public importance to the extent that a totally inadequate time was allowed for the debate on the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. I believe that, in the interest of the operations of the Parliament on future occasions and also in the interest of a fair allocation of time to private members of the Opposition on what is the only occasion on which they can propose positive matters before this House, the time which was taken by Government supporters in pursuing a matter of public importance should be reallocated to the Opposition. A period of one hour for continued debate on that Bill would serve the purpose. I have included the time which was utilised in that period by the Opposition, so I am not seeking restoration of the time that was taken by the division or the argument prior to the Bill being brought on.
– You used the gag if you did not like it.
– Every motion of private members’ business which was proposed in this House during the period of the Australian Labor Party Government was brought to a vote in this House. Where time was taken at the start of private members’ business it was re-allocated by an extension of the period at the end of private members’ business. I think that the matter which was before the House this morning is of great significance. I seek the restoration of the debate because I believe it is very important, especially at this time when the matter concerned could be very relevant as a result of other matters which came before the House this week, that that extension should be granted.
The first speaker who would be involved in the debate would be the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) who was putting forward the Government’s policy or lack of policy when time ran out. I for one believe that it is important to this House that that statement of policy should be completed and that there should be an opportunity for some response from the Opposition on that question. I think that the motion which I have moved will save the House from trauma and disruption in the future and will act to ensure that when private members’ business is brought forward in the future it will at least be given a reasonable amount of time for discussion. The period which was left after the discussion of the matter of public importance was completed was something less than an hour, and the Opposition forwent its full debating time during the discussion of the matter of public importance in order to facilitate the bringing on of private members’ business. I believe that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders should be carried by the House- it rests with the Government as to whether it will be carried- and that the debate should be allowed to continue for the period which I have sought.
-Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I second it.
– This morning we had an extraordinarily long question time. That is part of private members ‘ rights in this place. If the Government seeks to provide additional accommodation for members in that way, I submit that their rights are in no way denied but enhanced. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) took quite a deal of time at the conclusion of his contribution on the matter of public importance to speak about some aspects of the Bill that was before the House immediately prior to the suspension of the sitting. In all those circumstances the Government does not see that private members’ rights have in any way been denied. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has submitted that his Party’s priorities do not accord with those of the Government. We know that full well. We had 3 years of that situation. We do not want to see any more of it. Our priorities happen to be different.
The matter of public importance was raised by a private member, it was canvassed in this House and supported by the Opposition. It is a matter which we feel is necessary for discussion in this place. It is a matter which is as much the right of a private member to raise as that for which the honourable member for Corio now seeks an extension of time for debate. Of course, the suspension of Standing Orders is the only way by which the honourable gentleman can achieve an extension of time. Mr Deputy Speaker, I wondered whether I should have canvassed with you whether it was in order for him to raise it in this manner because we had already decided on a substantive motion that the time at which this House should conclude general business was 1 p.m.
Leaving that aside, in no way do I see it as denying private members their rights that we now seek to move on to Government business. We have had an extended question time. We have had a very extensive, protracted and, I feel, worthwhile debate on the matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). It is a subject which, interestingly enough, was supported by members of the Opposition. The fact that they did not provide 2 speakers was a matter for their own decision, but they supported it. Surely because it was raised by a Government private member as distinct from a private member of the Opposition does not lessen the fact that private members in this place are being given an opportunity to talk on matters about which they feel strongly. We in the Government supported the honourable member for Hotham as did the Opposition. I do not feel that there is any substance whatsoever in the motion that has been moved by the honourable member for Corio for the Opposition. Therefore, the Government does not propose to support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders and proposes that Government business proceed forthwith.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put :
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put.
That the motion (Mr Scholes’) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill is to bring the scale of licence fees payable by commercial television stations back into line with that payable by commercial broadcasting stations. The same scale of fees was applicable to broadcasting and television stations from 1964 until the fees payable by broadcasting stations were increased in 1973.’ At this time the then government decided that the scale for television stations licence fees should be maintained and reviewed in 1975-76 so that the financial effects could be assessed of the phasing out of cigarette and cigarette tobacco advertising, the increase in the Australian content of programs and the introduction of colour television.
The present scale of licence fees payable by commercial television stations has not been altered since 1964. Had the scale of licence fees for both broadcasting and television stations been identical, it is estimated that an additional amount of $533,000 would have been collected in licence fees for the year 1975-76. The new scale, based on anticipated increase in gross earnings by stations, is estimated to increase 1976-77 station licence fee revenue by $624,000 to $5.524m. The new scale of fees payable from I September 1976 are set out in clause 3 of the Bill.
There are 48 commercial television stations in operation. Honourable members might note that the adoption of the same scale for broadcasting and television stations will involve no increase in licence fees by 1 1 commercial television stations including four which were in a loss situation in 1974-75 whose gross incomes for that year were below $0.5m. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will amend the income tax law to remove doubts about the operation of provisions that require foreign residents to pay Australian income tax on royalties derived from this country. For the purpose of these provisions royalties include payments for the supply of industrial know-how and other amounts in the general nature of royalties.
The need for the amendments arises from a recent decision by the Victorian Supreme Court in a tax appeal brought by a Canadian company. The company received substantial payments for the use in Australia of its know-how. It claimed that these payments were not liable to Australian tax under the provisions enacted in 1968 for the specific purpose of subjecting such payments to tax. In the particular case, the Court upheld the company’s claim.
While the legal position may be further clarified by later decisions in the courts, the Government considers that there are strong reasons for putting to rest immediately the doubts that have been shown to exist. Royalties paid by Australian businesses are a charge against the profits of the businesses for tax purposes and it is fair that they should bear Australian tax in the hands of the foreign recipient. If they do not, profits earned in Australia and remitted overseas as royalties bear no Australian tax at all. This situation cannot be accepted as it enables overseas company groups to take profits from Australian activities out of the country free of tax.
For these reasons, the Government has decided to seek amendments which will resolve the legal doubts.
The main purpose of this Bill is, therefore, to re-express the law so as to make it clear, in relation to payments to residents of all overseas countries, that the provisions requiring payment of tax on royalties are to operate in the way intended when the 1968 amendments were enacted. The Bill technically achieves this purpose by directly defining the term ‘royalties’ in the Income Tax Assessment Act instead of defining it by reference to a definition in the double taxation agreement with the United Kingdom. This measure will remove any possible implication that the defined term applies only to payments made to residents of the United Kingdom.
The Income Tax (International Agreements) Act is also being amended to eliminate any doubt that the definition in the Assessment Act has effect for the purpose of double taxation agreements in which the term ‘royalties’ is not defined. By a provision in those agreements, the terms that are not defined are to have the same meaning as they have in the income tax laws of the country applying the agreements. In the 8 years since the provisions now being amended were enacted, no other country that is party to an agreement with Australia has ever questioned that the law operated in that way as regards royalties.
The Bill will apply to income in respect of which an assessment is made after 4 July 1976. That is the date on which I announced that the amendments were to be made. The amendments will not affect the determination of valid objections lodged against assessments made on or before 4 July 1976. A memorandum containing more detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill is being made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide legislative authority needed to met the prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1976-77. At the same time, the borrowing authority it will provide will, together with borrowing authority expected to be available under other legislation, enable the amount of borrowing needed to finance the estimated overall Budget deficit for the financial year to be undertaken. As honourable members will be aware, for many years there has been legislation for these purposes in the legislative programs of successive governments.
In the Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that the prospective overall Budget deficit for 1976-77 is estimated to be $2,608m. Except in so far as funds are available from accumulated cash balances or other minor financing transactions, this deficit must be financed by net borrowings. Such net borrowings must, of course, be within proper authority from the Parliament.
The overall Budget deficit is a comprehensive figure. It takes into account all relevant transactions of the 3 separate funds used to record Commonwealth receipts and outlays. 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 1976-77 is an estimated deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The current estimate of this Consolidated Revenue Fund Deficit is $l,435m. This is after allowing for the charging to Loan Fund of expenditures totalling $827m on capital grants to the States and payments to the States for housing.
It is our intention to propose that legislation to be introduced in respect of these expenditures should, as in previous years, authorise payments to be made either from the Loan Fund or the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Details of the current estimate of the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit are set out, for the information of honourable members, in Table 3 of Budget Paper No. 4- Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure. 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 another part of the Commonwealth’s accounts some of the expenditures normally met from itor, alternatively, to supplement the receipts of the 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 expenditures, 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, but it does not authorise any additional defence expenditures. It will simply allow reallocations between the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund of defence expenditure to be made during the remainder of the financial year- defence expenditures which have already been authorised by Parliament in Supply Act (No. 1) 1976-77 or which will subsequently be authorised in Appropriation Acts for this financial year. In this regard I draw the attention of honourable members to clause 8 of the recently introduced Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1976-77, 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 expenditures, those borrowings will not require approval from the Australian Loan Council. However, the Bill includes a specific limit to the amount of such borrowings that may be undertaken. I am sure that I do not have to elaborate on the point 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 all the developments during the year which cause departures from current estimates of receipts or 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 $ 1 ,600m. This provides a relatively small margin over the estimated Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit of $ 1,435m. Borrowings under this proposed legislation will be undertaken within the framework of monetary policy, to which the Treasurer referred in his Budget Speech. I commend the Bill to honourable members. . Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of capital grants to the States in 1976-77 totalling $452m. This amount represents the grant component of the Loan Council program for State governments in 1976-77 and is equal to one-third of the total program of $ 1356m agreed at the June 1976 Premiers Conference. The Bill also provides for the payment of capital grants in the first 6 months of 1977-78 up to an amount equal to one-half of the 1976-77 amount, pending passage of legislation to authorise grants in 1977-78. Payments authorised under this Bill may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or from the Loan Fund, and appropriate borrowing authority is included. This is consistent with past practice. These grants represent a continuation of arrangements initiated by the Liberal-Country Party Government in June 1 970 which provided that portion of the State governments ‘ Loan Council programs should take the form of interest-free non-repayable grants in lieu of what would otherwise be borrowings by the States. The effect of the grants is to relieve the States of debt charges which they would otherwise have to pay, and the grants accordingly have a substantial beneficial effect on the States’ financial positions. The grants were introduced to help the States finance works such as schools, police buildings and the like from which debt charges are not normally recovered. The States are, however, entirely free to apply these grants as they choose and no terms or conditions are attached to them.
Turning to the details of the Bill, clause 3 authorises the payment of grants to the States totalling $452m in 1976-77, and clause 4 authorises the Treasurer to make advance payments in the first 6 months of 1977-78 at the same annual rate as in the current financial year. The amounts payable to each State are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. Clause 5 of the Bill provides for payments to be made either from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund and clause 9 provides for the necessary appropriation of these funds. The extent to which the payments will be met from Loan Fund will depend in part on the level of Government borrowings during the year, and this cannot be precisely estimated at this point. Finally on the details of the Bill, clauses 6 and 7 authorise the Treasurer to borrow funds in the period from the commencement of the Act to the end of December 1977, up to the total of the amounts of the grants payable in 1976-77 and in the first 6 months of 1977-78. This borrowing authority will be reduced by the amount of any borrowings made before the enactment of this Bill, under the authority of the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Act 1976, which may have been used to finance grants made in the first 6 months of 1976-77.
I turn now to the general context in which this Bill is being introduced. Claims have been made from some quarters that the States are being treated unfairly, particularly by the 5 per cent increase in 1976-77 in the State governments’ Loan Council program of which the grants which are the subject of this Bill are a component. Such claims should be assessed against the following:
This increase follows substantial increases in State Government Loan Council programs in recent years- for example, the increase in 1975- 76 was 20 percent; an increase of 18.6 per cent for 1976-77 in the Loan Council program for the States’ larger local and semi-government authorities which will result in an overall increase in programs for the States and their authorities of $2 15m or 10.0 per cent; the $643.4m or 20.9 per cent increase which the States’ presently estimated entitlements under the new personal income tax sharing arrangements in 1976-77 would represent over the financial assistance grants paid to the States in 1975-76; the overall increase of almost 15 per cent in 1976- 77- after adjustment for advance payments in 1975-76 of 1976-77 hospital funds and non-recurring payments for unemployment relief in 1975-76- in payments from the Commonwealth’s Budget to the States and local government authorities; the fact that this increase of almost 1 5 per cent compares with an estimated increase in other Commonwealth outlays for 1976-77 of 13.8 per cent and follows a number of years where payments to the States have grown much faster than other Commonwealth outlaysincluding 1975-76 where the relevant increases were 30 per cent in payments to the States as against 17 per cent for other outlays; and the fact that, consistent with wishes expressed by the States, the emphasis of the previous Commonwealth Government on specific purpose assistance which was tied and subject to detailed controls, has been reversed with the emphasis now being placed on general purpose untied funds which the States are free to allocate as they choose according to their own priorities.
The States must, along with the Commonwealth, play their part in the battle against inflation by restraint in their expenditures, but the overall picture I have outlined clearly shows that the States are not being asked to bear any undue share of this crucial task. In this regard the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) will be providing further information on overall Commonwealth-State financial relations when he introduces later in the session the enabling legislation for implementation of Stage 1 of the new tax sharing arrangements with the States. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973, as amended, to give effect to the report on remuneration payable to judges made by the Remuneration Tribunal on 21 June 1976 and a subsequent report made by the Remuneration Tribunal on the remuneration payable to the President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Remuneration Tribunal reported that certain alterations were desirable in the remuneration and travelling allowance payable to justices and judges of Federal courts, and of the supreme courts of the Territories and persons who, by virtue of an Act, have the same status as a justice or judge of such courts.
I should point out to honourable members that the salaries payable to High Court judges pursuant to the Bill are only marginally above those paid to supreme court judges in New South Wales and Victoria. Those payable under the Bill to Industrial Court judges and Territory judges are well below those paid to supreme court judges, even though judges of the Industrial Court and the Territory courts share similar status to judges of the State courts.
As well as judges, the offices affected are: Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal,
President and Deputy Presidents of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, President of the Trade Practices Tribunal, Director-General of Security, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, Chairman of the Grants Commission and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
I turn now to the substantive clauses of the Bill. Clause 2 provides that the Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on 1 June 1976. The rates of salary, annual allowance and travelling allowance specified in Schedule 3 will be payable on and from that date. Clause 3 repeals section 13 and 14 of the principal Act and replaces them with one section, section 13. References that I now make are to the subsections of the new section 13. Sub-section (1) provides for salary, annual allowance and travelling allowance at the rates specified in Schedule 3 to be applicable to a judicial or other office specified in column 1 of that Schedule. Subsection (2) provides for payment of additional remuneration and annual allowance to the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal where he is not also the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court or President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The rates of additional remuneration and annual allowance are $ 1 ,000 and $250 per annum respectively.
Sub-section (3) applies the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968 to the President of the Trade Practices Tribunal where the President, not being the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court or President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, dies; or being a judge, of a Federal or Territory supreme court, retires as such a judge; or retires from an office which entitled him to the status of a judge of the Australian Industrial Court. The Judges’ Pensions Act will apply in each case as if the person concerned had been the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court immediately before his death or retirement. Sub-section (4) provides in effect for additional remuneration and annual allowance to be paid to the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal if he is a judge, within the meaning of the Prices Justification Acts 1 973, but is not the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court or President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The rates of additional remuneration and annual allowance are $ 1 ,000 and $250 per annum respectively.
Sub-section (5) applies the Judges’ Pensions Act to the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal if he is also a judge within the meaning of the Prices Justification Acts 1973, other than the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial
Court or the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in certain circumstances. The circumstances contemplated are where the Chairman dies; being a Judge of a Federal Court, other than the High Court, or a Territory supreme court, retires as such a judge; or retires from an office which entitled him to the status of a justice or judge of one of those courts. The Judges ‘ Pensions Act will apply in each case as if the Chairman had been the Chief Judge of the Australian Industrial Court immediately before his death or retirement.
Sub-section (6) provides for payment of an additional annual allowance at the rate of $250 per annum to the senior judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. Sub-section (7) provides for payment of remuneration and annual allowance to the Chairman of the Grants Commission holding office on 1 June 1 976 at the rates of $39,500 and $2,250 per annum respectively.
Clause 4 substitutes a new Schedule for Schedule 3 in the principal Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– -I move
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) foreshadowed amendments to the Australia Council Act in his ministerial statement on the arts in the House on 3 June 1976. The amendments take into account the Government’s stated policies on the arts. They are designed to improve the organisation of the Council, and to correct problems and deficiencies identified by the Council itself as a result of an internal review commissioned from the management consultants firm of McKinsey and Co. They also take account of the recommendations of the Administrative Review Committee.
It is proposed to amend the Act by adding as a function of the Council the provision that it should be the Government’s advisory agency on all matters falling within the areas of its responsibilities. Previously it was not charged with this specific responsibility. The Council will assume responsibility for and administer the public lending right scheme, previously under the control of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, as part of the Government’s aim of rationalising governmental functions.
Council control of the activities of the boards is to be increased. In the past the problem has been that the Council and its executive have carried responsibility for the organisation but have had insufficient authority to control its operations. While the Council will still continue to carry its assistance to different art forms through specialist boards, delegation of powers and functions by the Council to boards will no longer be mandatory. The Council may also lay down rules and guidelines for the boards to follow in the exercise of delegated functions and powers.
To make the organisation more streamlined and manageable, the Council is to be reduced in size from a range of eighteen to twenty-four to a range of fifteen to nineteen. Public Service members are to be reduced from three to two. Membership of the boards is to be reduced from the present range of seven to ten to a range of five to seven, plus chairman, excepting the Aboriginal Arts Board which is to be reduced from the present range of nine to fourteen to a range of seven to nine plus chairman. In future, additional co-option of members will not be possible.
With a view to stabilising the organisation and taking advantage of experience, the terms of appointment for Council and board members will be extended from 3 to 4 years, with provision for renewal for a further term of 2 years. These extensions should compensate for the reduction in size of the Council and boards and allow for the advantages of continuity of service. However, in order to prevent viewpoints from becoming entrenched it is proposed that, if terms of appointment are renewed for 2 years, further reappointment will not be considered until 2 more years have expired.
Two new positions will be created. One will provide for a deputy chairman of the Council- a part-time office- to assist the Chairman and generally facilitate the Council’s operation. The second will provide for a general manager- a fulltime office- who will be the chief executive officer of the Council. The position of general manager will be a statutory office with a 7 year term and the office holder will be an ex officio member of the Council. It is our hope that these amendments will further facilitate the promotion of the arts in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to decisions of the Government which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) outlined in his ministerial statement in the House on 3 June last. In that statement, it was explained that the Australian Film Commission was to assume responsibility for the functions and powers of the Film, Radio and Television Board of the Australia Council, and for the activities and assets of the Audio-Visual Branch of the Postal and Telecommunications Department. The Commission was also to be empowered to provide assistance for independent radio and audiovisual production, as it has in the past for film and television.
The establishment of these new powers and functions for the Commission requires adjustment to the Australian Film Commission Act 1975 to expand the area of reference covered by the legislation. It has been found desirable to adopt a form of words which will include not only film, television, radio and audio-visual activities, but also other forms of presentation of images and sounds that may from time to time emerge from developing technology in the media. Allowance is to be made for the fact that some programs in television and radio are not recorded, but are broadcast live and for the possibility that cinema audiences of the future may be watching pictures of electronic or other origin, rather than films as we know them today.
The opportunity has also been taken in this Bill to revise the legislation in accordance with recent drafting practice, and take account of certain administrative problems arising from the wording of the current Act. I should add that the Australia Council Act 1975 will retain a reference to film so the Council may continue to engage in film activity provided this is ancillary and does not impinge upon the Commission’s responsibilities in this field.
The Government accepts the need for assistance to experimental and developmental film, radio and television. The various forms of support for the study and appreciation of such productions as art forms are also accepted and specifically allowed for in these amendments. I want to make it plain that the Government does not intend that these areas of assistance should be neglected. Overall funding levels comparable with previous appropriations will be maintained, subject only to the restraints that have been applied in all areas of government expenditure.
What is different here is that the development of creative innovation in the various media will work side by side with the development of viable production industries, with one body- the Australian Film Commission- responsible for both. It is evident from recent developments, for example, Picnic at Hanging Rock, that artistic and commercial success are not incompatible. Rather, they complement each other and form part of a continuum.
Today’s art film can be tomorrow’s box office attraction, and the very fact that so many of today’s successful films have been generated out of experimental and developmental programs, if anything, demonstrates the need to ensure continuous contact is kept between artistic developments and the developments of the market place. We are dealing with an art form that has proved to be of interest to millions of people throughout the world. It is short sighted, to say the least, to suggest that, when assistance is provided, it must come from one of 2 boxes- one labelled ‘art’ the other ‘commerce’.
The task of the Film Commission with its new responsibilities will be a challenging one, but it is not really a task of reconciling the irreconcilable. It is a task of ensuring that the benefits derived from work at one end of the scale can flow through to the other, and vice versa. In the field of communication, the tyro has much to learn from the innovator. On the other hand, the artist involved in communication can only derive benefit from the exposure of his work to as wide an audience as is possible. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 3 June last, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) informed the House by way of a ministerial statement of the Government’s policy on the future of its arts organisations and outlined some proposed changes in those organisations. Among them was the decision that the Film and Television School will assume responsibility for training in radio and audio-visual communicationsboth of these areas, as the Prime Minister mentioned at the time, having been previously neglected. The purpose of this Bill is to implement those changes as far as the Film and Television School is concerned. These new functions should complement existing operations in both the full-time and open programs conducted by the School and it is expected that they will begin with the 1 978 academic year.
It is also anticipated that these new arrangements for radio and audio-visual training will be introduced with the maximum of economy consistent with professional standards. I might add that the Prime Minister asked the School to investigate jointly with the Australian Film Commission the feasibility of establishing permanent school facilities at the Commission’s Lindfield studio complex and to report on this study by the end of 1 976.
It is becoming ever more difficult and artificial to put film, television and radio into separate and isolated compartments, for a number of reasons. Technology, for instance, is bringing all 3 media closer together with each using the techniques and technologies of the other. The social impact of the media, likewise, cannot readily be compartmentalised. The people who work in film, television and radio have related responsibilities and share many skills. As the body responsible for training these people, the Film and Television School should logically concern itself with radio and audio-visual techniques. The likelihood is that all 4 disciplines will benefit from simultaneous on-the-spot training.
The economic factor is also important. The Government has a responsibility to young people learning the film and broadcasting crafts to ensure for them at the end of their training the best possible chance and the widest possible choice of productive, worthwhile and fulfilling employment. For people trained in radio as well as in film and television, that choice would clearly be greater. Here too the Prime Minister asked the school to provide a full-scale assessment of actual employment opportunities which may be open to graduates in the foreseeable future.
This is especially true now when radio is undergoing dramatic technological, creative and social expansion. Recent years have seen the introduction of an FM radio service with opportunities for stereo broadcasting not only of music but of drama and documentaries. There has been simultaneously a new awareness of the potential role of radio in education and community affairs. The experiments that have so far taken place in these areas represent only a beginning.
The Film and Television School was established with dual responsibilities, both to the film and broadcasting industry and to education. It is proper therefore that its charter should include audio-visual communications in the light of ever increasing awareness of the importance of sounds and images, either alone or in combination in the process of education. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 1 8 August.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 3 of the Principal Act is amended-
Amendment (by Mr Newman)- by leaveagreed to:
In paragraph (a) omit ‘aboriginals’, substitute ‘Aboriginals ‘; omit ‘ aboriginal ‘, substitute ‘Aboriginal ‘.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Functions of Commission)
-The Opposition opposes clause 4 of the Bill which amends section 7 of the Heritage Commission Act by removing the specific right of the Commission to advise the Minister on expenditure proposals for the preservation of the National Estate in areas controlled by the Australian Government, as well as removing the specific power given to the Commission, on recommendations of the Hope Committee and the Interim Committee on the National Estate, to recommend grants of financial or other assistance by the Australian Government to the States and other bodies for the purpose of preserving and enhancing our national heritage.
While I realise that a valid argument could be made for the deletion of the specific part of the original section of the Act to which this clause relates, on the ground that the Commission could still make recommendations in regard to the types and amount of expenditure, it is not acceptable to the Labor Party. The principal Act embodied all the main recommendations of the Hope Committee. That Committee and the Interim Committee were quite definite about that power being with the Commission. We also believe that this power should be clearly set out in the legislation. We believe this is in the cause of open government. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his second reading speech, indicated the attitude of the Government when he said:
The conservation and improvement of the National Estate does not depend solely or even principally on the expenditure of vast sums of money. It is intended to remove the specific reference in the Act for the Commission to advise on expenditure and grants of financial assistance.
I ask: Why? It is not good enough for the Government to claim that in respect of future appropriations for National Estate purposes the Government will seek the advice of the Commission. It appears to me and to all concerned Australians that the proposal to remove these powers, when looked at in conjunction with the current Budget in which no funds were made available for new National Estate projects, would indicate that the Government is opting out of its commitment to the National Estate.
In the debate on the original Bill last year, the main spokesman for the Liberal-Country Party in the Senate, the newly appointed Minister for Repatriation, Senator Durack, said:
There is no question that although all the expert advice in the world may be available in identifying these places and with all the goodwill in the world regarding their preservation, very little in this regard can be done effectively without the necessary finance.
Senator Durack, the present Minister for Repatriation, when in Opposition, said that it is not much good talking about good-will; we really need finance to put muscle into these proposals. He went on to say:
One of the most important matters in regard to the preservation and presentation of the National Estate will be the provision of finance and that is an area where the States and
State governments have not been able to make the necessary provisions and it is hoped that with the involvement of the Commonwealth Government in this area there will be a much more ready flow of financial assistance.
The last thing I want to say concerns the Liberal and National Country Parties’ own conservation policy. The policy is quite explicit:
The Liberal and National Country Party will take action to preserve the National Estate. The Liberal and National Country Parry would provide funds to the States to assist in the preservation of areas and buildings of historical, social, cultural, ecological and environmental significance.
I set out all those reasons, basically so that Australian Federal Governments, of any political colour, can be seen to administer legislation which positively protects our heritage. If one reads the recommendations of the Hope Committee report, it will be seen that it was one of the outstanding committees of inquiry during the time of the Whitlam Labor Government. It went to great lengths to say that there should be financial support from the Australian Government for the protection of Australia’s heritage. This body, the Commission, should be able to make recommendations about amounts of financial assistance so that something can be done about our National Estate. I am not trying to say that this Parliament, this Government or this Federal Treasury should be the Pandora’s box for solving all the problems of the National Estate. I am saying there has to be financial muscle given to the Commission to make sure its recommendations are carried out. We know that in the long term we need leadership from the Australian Government to try to protect our National Estate. For too long the bulldozer mentality prevailed in this country. Generally a great deal of our National Estate was destroyed during those growth period years from 1950 to 1970 when governments and private enterprise believed in growth for growth’s sake. During that period many of our beautiful natural sandstone buildings in Sydney were destroyed. Now the threat is coming to Melbourne where the bluestone buildings are being destroyed.
The original section 7 of the principal Act was worded in a way which indicated a great deal of thought had gone into it from an impartial committee. That committee worked very hard with the Government draftsman to draft that Act. I believe that this Government is callously and quite deliberately, removing from the Commission the power to make recommendations of amounts that should be spent on the Heritage Commission so that there is no real embarrassment. I would like to quote the statement made by the present Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) when he was then spokesman for the environment. What did the honourable member for Gwydir, now the Minister for Health, say? He said:
It is in times of prosperity, full employment and social security that a population is likely to concern itself with the environment and the National Estate. It is in times of economic disaster and social suffering that a population is more likely to concern itself with its own social survival and to ignore the environment and the preservation of the National Estate.
I am saying quite clearly that the Treasury, which in fact is the bureaucracy running the Government, has been able to influence the Government to take away from the Commission the power to make recommendations on expenditure. The Government does not want to be embarrassed by such recommendations. It wants to spend the money it has on other programs and not on the National Estate. The Minister for Health, when he was the spokesman on the environment, went on to say:
One hopes that there will be a new era in which development at all costs, jobs at all costs and profits at all costs will give way to more sensitive public determination to balance growth, jobs, profits and standards of living against the things of prosperity and the quality of life.
Those are fine words. Now that he is a Minister he has not come into the debate to support the fine words he used when he was in Opposition. As the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development knows, the Government has cut back its expenditure on the National Estate. This year there will be no new expenditure programs concerned with our national heritage.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I intended to confine my remarks to clause 4, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) repeated several accusations that he made in his speech last night. Specifically, they were that the Government is spending nothing on the National Estate this year and that all our thinking and all our policies are dominated by the Treasury. The implication of the second accusation was that that was to the detriment of our policies. I would like to go through a couple of these matters, as well as answering the points raised about the clause we are discussing.
- Mr Chairman, I do not know how tolerant you will be with the Minister. I hope that he does not wander all around the countryside. I know that he missed out on speaking in the second reading debate, but we are now in the Committee stage and we should be talking about clause 4.
-Let me say that I will be as tolerant with the Minister as I was with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-The first point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that no regard at all was being had for the National Estate. He made the same accusations in his speech last night. In fact, I think he talked about the Government having a bulldozer mentality and argued that the Government was deserting its responsibilities to the National Estate. He knows- I repeat this for the record- that nothing could be further from the truth. The very legislation about which we are now talking proves that the Government has a deep concern for the preservation of our national heritage. But there is one important difference: Unlike our predecessors, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we will produce a proper, rational and soundly based plan.
The Government is maintaining the National Estate this year, and the cost is clearly laid out in the Budget Papers- $ 1.35m. But there is more than that. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done us less than justice by not reading the Budget Papers further. For example, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been established and it will be operating on a budget of $lm this year. That is to support its activities. It was only last week that I formally established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
– Who commenced all these things?
– I am not saying that the honourable member did not give us some initiatives in these matters. In fact, I would even go further and say that he was some inspiration. I would readily agree with that. What I am arguing is that the present Government has seized on the initiative taken with regard to the Australian Heritage Commission. We have taken it up and probably will do better than the former Government did because our planning will be better.
An amount of $150,000 has been voted to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. As well, we have decided to assist management plans in the South West National Park to the tune of $75,000. Of course, we announced in May that we are to make $400,000 available to conservation bodies. These are very real examples of how we are concerned with and are protecting Australia’s environmental heritage.
Mr Chairman, if you will allow me a little latitude, I shall deal with two other important aspects of the National Estate about which I think it is important to talk. One is the Glebe and the other is Woolloomooloo. Last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made some very bold and irresponsible assertions about these 2 very important national heritage projects.
- Mr Chairman, if the Minister starts raising the question of irresponsibility I will take a point of order on him.
-The point is that in this debate it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who raised the issue of whether we were supporting and financing the National Estate. These 2 projects are very important parts of the national heritage, as the honourable member pointed out last night. Therefore I think it is important to rebut false accusations made by him.
– Order! The Minister, having made his comment on those 2 projects, might leave the matter at that point.
– I respect your ruling on the matter, Mr Chairman, and I will proceed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made another comment about planning, Treasury control and how money should be spent. He said that he recognised that there was no such thing as a Pandora ‘s box. I agree with that. There is no bottomless pit from which governments can provide funds for every scheme we would like to finance. That is why priorities will have to be determined. That is why we are looking to the Heritage Commission to produce that planning document- the national register.
It is interesting that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should talk about a Pandora’s box now. His attitude seems to have changed a little. On 1 April 1973 he was flying over the Dandenongs, and the remarks he made were reported in the Melbourne Sun on 3 April 1973. 1 am sure he will remember this. He was reported as saying, with a grand gesture of the hand pointing to the ground below him as he looked out the aircraft window, that every home, factory and shop in the area should be acquired by the State Government, demolished and replaced by trees. In the Age of 4 April 1973 he was reported as saying that the Commonwealth Government would compulsorily acquire all private property.
- Mr Chairman, I have to take a point of order because, first of all, the statements are false. A letter was printed in the Age setting out my position. If the Minister wants to quote from that letter, I have no objection; but he is now referring to false reports. The Committee is discussing clause 4, which has nothing to do with the Dandenongs and statements I am supposed to have made in 1973. Therefore I ask that you bring him back to the clause.
– I suggest to the Minister that going back to an aircraft flight in April 1973 is going back a little far and is perhaps widening the debate on clause 4.
– I agree with you, Mr Chairman. I readily admit that the honourable gentleman may have been misquoted. He probably was. There is no question about that. I was trying to draw a comparison by referring to a wellmeaning, maybe even inspired man who got off into Utopian dreams. This is not good enough for the management of a country. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may have had inspiration. He may even have been dreaming of Utopian worlds. We will try to take up what he began, but in a responsible, co-ordinated, rational manner.
As to the allegation about what this amendment does to the Act and the allegation that the Government is trying to undermine the functions of the Heritage Commission by removing its powers to recommend expenditure on programs of preservation and conservation, I suppose it is true to say that the explicit power for the Commission to advise on expenditure and grants of financial assistance for the conservation, improvement or presentation of the National Estate is to be removed. Nevertheless, the Commission has a general power to advise on all measures to protect the National Estate, including the use of grants. When economic conditions permit and when funds are again appropriated for new urgent projects under the National Estate program the Government will be looking to the Heritage Commission for advice on priorities and needs, including those of a financial nature. Therefore, in essence, the removal of the function to advise explicitly on financial assistance for the National Estate is not regarded by the Government as having any real adverse effect at all on the power of the Commission to act vigorously and efficiently in interests concerning the National Estate. In fact I would say more: On the contrary, it will open up the field of inquiry and recommendation in respect of a whole range of measures- planning, legal as well as financialthat are available to protect the National Estate.
-First of all, I think it is important to understand that the moneys recommended for the National Estate during the 3 years of Australian Labor Party Government were not dreams of mine as Minister for Urban and Regional Development; they were recommended by the Hope Committee of Inquiry. Over a 3-year period $ 17.2m was made available. That decision was made on a sound basis, on information that money was needed to overcome the backlog of problems that had occurred over long years of neglect. Honourable members should read what I quoted last night. I will not read it into Hansard again. The Hope Committee found that the National Estate had been downgraded and neglected. The Committee was made up of impartial people. They recommended the $ 1 7.2m.
– I think that I must take a point of order now, Mr Lucock.
-Let me say to both the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, in endeavouring to put forward a case justifying particular action either in supporting or opposing the clause; the Deputy Leader of the Opposition went into matters relating to the Heritage Commission which perhaps were a little broader than the matters actually covered by the clause. I allowed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak in this matter because to a certain degree the clause covers the matter of furnishing advice to the Minister, and I felt that it could perhaps be justified on those grounds. The difficulty now is that the Minister, in arguing on the justification of the Government’s action, replies to matters raised by the Deputy Leader and goes into further matters. If I allow either honourable gentleman to develop this matter further we will have to face a situation where other members of the Committee may come in and widen the debate to almost a second reading debate. That is the problem confronting the Chair.
– I draw attention to section 7 of the principal Act which says:
The functions of the Commission are-
to furnish advice to the Minister, either of its own motion or upon request made to it by the Minister, on matters relating to the national estate, including advice relating to -
action to conserve, improve and present the national estate;
expenditure by Australia for the conservation, improvement and presentation of the national estate; and
the grant of financial or other assistance by Australia to the States, local governing bodies and other organizations or persons for the conservation, improvement or presentation of the national estate;
It might be said- I am not saying it- that I strayed a wee bit in my first 10-rninute speech but I assure you, Mr Chairman, that I intend to stick precisely to the clause and anything I say now will be relevant to it. I am talking about the powers of the Commission to recommend and to do the things required of that body. I said that the powers were given on the recommendation of the inquiry which preceded the Heritage Commission. Many members of the inquiry are now commissioners of the Heritage Commission. They made available the $ 17.2m on their very long shopping list to overcome the neglect which had taken place over the years. The Hope Committee said in its report:
The Australian Government-
That is, of course, the Labor Governmenthas inherited a national estate which has been downgraded, disregarded and neglected. All previous priorities accepted at various levels of government and authority have been directed by a concept that uncontrollable development, economic growth and progress and the encouragement of private as against public interest in land use, use of waters and indeed every part of the national estate was paramount.
In other words, it was saying that the conservative forces of government had for years completely neglected the National Estate. I am saying that now as, in a restricted Budget due to inflation and other matters, it is basically wrong to make available $ 1.35m at this stage. I am sure that the commissioners would recommend a great deal more money. I suggest that the Minister reads the Hope Committee report. I want to point out the importance of the powers of the Commission, as set out in section 7 of the principal Act. The Labor Party stands firm that the principles set out in section 7 should remain in the Act.
– The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) neglects to remember the list of things which I just referred to him that more than adequately show our concern for the national heritage of this country. I utterly reject the accusations that he has just made about the Government’s view of our national heritage. The honourable member has no monopoly on this matter. There are other people, in this Government and representative of this Government, who think just as deeply and fiercely about the things of which he has spoken. I repeat that by this amendment we are in no way restricting the commissioners. As I said a moment ago, we are opening up the power of the commissioners to report and recommend to the Government, whether it be on planning, legal or financial matters.
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause 5 agreed to. Clause 6. 6. ( 1 ) Section 12 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
The purpose of the amendment to clause 6 of the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill which I have just moved is to remove any legal doubt that would otherwise exist in respect of the continuation of the appointment of members of the Australian Heritage Commission. Since the introduction of the Australian Heritage Commission Bill on 4 June commissioners have been appointed to the Commission under the Australian Heritage Commission Act. The provision in the Act relating to the appointment of commissioners will be amended by the Bill currently before the Parliament. This saving provision is introduced to ensure the continued validity of appointments made since the amendment was introduced. The Bill already contains a similar saving provision with respect to the Chairman of the Commission.
-The Opposition is not opposed to the amendment just moved by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, but we intend to oppose the amending clause as a whole. In other words, we stand by section 12 of the principal Act. I seek your guidance, Mr Chairman. Should I make my remarks now?
-I think the honourable member should speak now because he is actually opposing the amendment to the clause as it has been moved.
– The Labor Party opposes the amending clause as a whole, although we are not opposed in principle to the amendment which was just moved and which adds to the proposal to protect the legality of commissioners’ appointments which are now made. The Opposition is opposed to this clause because it believes that representatives of all States and Territories as well as representatives of Australian Government departments should be on the Heritage Commission. Both the Hope Committee and the Interim Committee were quite adamant that it is necessary for the Commission to be comprised of a chairman and up to 6 permanent heads, representing those departments with special environmental or National Estate interests, as well as to have a majority of the Commission comprised of people with special skills and knowledge and representing the various States and Territories. Those people were not intended to be permanent public servants.
The amendment proposed by the Government limits the size of the Commission to a chairman and not fewer than 4 nor more than 6 commissioners. It also allows for up to two of those members to be permanent heads of Australian Government departments. It is obvious that the Government, when making recent appointments to the Commission under the principal Act, did so in the light of its proposed change. As a result of those appointments, States such as Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are not represented on the Commission. It is essential that representatives of those States be appointed to the Commission so that areas of the National Estate which exist in those States, and which in many instances are unique, can be protected properly and the views of the people of those States as well as of their governments canvassed. Last year the then Opposition, now the Government, was quite adamant that all States should be represented on the Commission. In fact, it moved an amendment to the original proposal which stated:
That proposal was put forward in the belief that all States should be guaranteed at least one representative on the Commission. The spirit of the proposal was accepted by the Labor Government, and in fact it was our intention to appoint to the Commission representatives of all States and Territories. The Cabinet of the day recommended that a commission be set up which was representative of all States and Territories, including the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. That recommendation was not ratified by the Executive Council before 1 1 November, when the Labor Government was sacked by the Governor-General.
The Opposition believes that this course should be followed, and hopes that the Government will see the wisdon of it. I ask the Government to give thought to leaving intact this section of the principal Act. Last year the Liberal and National Country Parties appeared to accept the Heritage Commission as a unique and innovative experiment for this country. They recognised that a commission setting out to do what was intended for this Commission must be different in structure from the normal type of commission. The Government now is arguing that a smaller and less representative commission will be a more efficient and more meaningful advisory body. In relation to almost all other areas of government the Labor Party would agree with that philosophy, but in this area it cannot agree. I think that the Government’s attitude to the size of the Commission and its nature shows a basic lack of understanding of the nature and type of problems faced in preserving our heritage.
Finally, probably the most important reason why the size of the Heritage Commission should be left at that proposed in the original Act is that the Commission, by its very nature needs to have representatives of all interests. The Commission must provide an opportunity for advice on the policies for the National Estate that come forward jointly as a partnership between the private and the public sectors. As I said, we conferred with all States. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development knows that his Government has not conferred with all States. I have been informed by my State counterparts in South Australia and New South Wales that they were not consulted in regard to the Government’s appointment of commissioners. I think that the Government should have at least consulted the State Ministers. I have no criticisms of any but one of those who have been appointed by this Government. I think that probably all but one may have been appointed by the Labor Government. I doubt whether the lady from Western Australia who has been appointed would have been appointed by our Government, but my information is that she is very well qualified, that she will do a fine job and that she has the Heritage Commission and the National Estate at heart. I have no opposition to and no criticism of the appointment of David Yencken as chairman- in fact Labor appointed him- or of Vincent Serventy from New South Wales, Professor Mulvaney from the Australian Capital Territory, Margaret Fielman from Western Australia, Professor Blaney from Victoria, or Reg Walker who is a very old friend and a trusted and respected colleague and who is federal secretary of the National Trust. But I have a criticism in regard to one commissioner, Mr E. K. Sinclair of Victoria. Mr Sinclair is known to have been closely associated with the Liberal Party for many years. I believe there should be criticism of that appointment. He was a former editor of the Melbourne Age -
- Mr Chairman, I rise on a point of order. I do not think criticism or praise of the members of the Commission as it now stands has anything to do with this amendment.
– I think I have a right to make a comment. I am talking about the Commission.
-In regard to the point of order, I think that as the honourable member is commenting on the Commission itself the Standing Orders would not prevent him from commenting on certain aspects relating to it, such as the appointment of commissioners.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. There is another aspect in relation to Mr Sinclair. He was an adviser to Prime Minister Holt, Prime Minister Gorton and Prime Minister McMahon. My criticism does not spring from the fact that he advised 3 Prime Ministers but from the fact that he is now a Director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. As the Minister well knows, that company is one of the worst environmental polluters in the nation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think we have 2 questions to answer here. The first is whether the Commission is either viable and efficient as it now stands or whether it would be more viable and efficient if it had 19 commissioners. The second is whether it is representative enough of the States’ interests to be able to do its job. Let me tackle these 2 issues because I think that they are really the crux of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), is talking about. How anybody can come into this chamber and say that a Committee which is trying to make up its mind on policy recommendations to a government will function properly with 1 9 people sitting around a table trying to come to some sort of agreement, the Lord only knows.
I should just like to tell the honourable member that the Commission has now met twice. It is meeting today. The reports that I have had this morning from officers that the honourable member well knows are to the effect that they are extremely pleased with the efficient and expeditious manner in which the commissioners are approaching their job. We are very pleased with the first 2 meetings that the commissioners have had. There is no doubt that a chairman and 6 commissioners meeting together will do a far more efficient job than 1 9 people sitting around a table trying to sort out their minds.
Let me deal with the other view about representation of States. Is this a valid argument? Can the honourable member for Reid really plead to me that somehow or other, because we do not have representatives of each State on the Australian Heritage Commission, something is wrong with it? For example, what particular element of the State would a commissioner represent? In Queensland will we choose a man who knows a little about rain forests or will we choose a man who knows something about architecture? We all know that the vernacular architecture of Queensland is difficult enough to understand.
– Oh, just a minute.
– I am sorry. In Tasmania are we to choose a man who is expert in our national parks? Are we to choose a man who is expert in our flora and fauna? Are we to choose a man who knows a little about Georgian architecture? In other words, what I am saying is -
– What you are really saying is that you do not need anybody.
– If the honourable member listens to me, perhaps at the end he will understand the point I am making. How do we choose a man who will be a representative of a State when we are trying to decide which interest he should represent?
There is another point in regard to State representation. The commissioners could not speak with the authority of the State. Indeed, on occasions they may wish to oppose a State policy. We could find interference in the normal lines of communication between the Commonwealth and the States and a good deal of confusion could therefore result. In any case, just how real is the claim that the honourable member has been making that the reduction in the size of the Commission really destroys its viability? As he mentioned earlier, under the original arrangements there would have been 12 appointments from the private sector. The Government has appointed 7 members from the private sector. Is that such a drastic change? The honourable member has just gone through the list. Among those 7 members there is a wide variety of experience. They range from nature conservationists through to people engaged in national trusts and pre-history. We are quite happy that the representation of the commissioners is wide and sufficient enough for them to do their job.
The honourable member also mentioned consultations with the States. We have set up arrangements already for the commissioners to be able to consult the States and to liaise where they need to do so. Officers of the Commission have already had discussions on heritage matters, for example, with a significant element of local government through the capital cities secretariat. I have personally written to the Chairman of the Commission, asking him to make sure that, in making up his mind and deliberating on matters, he talks to the States as a matter of prime importance before he starts making recommendations. I know also that the Commission proposes to have consultation with the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. In other words, the discussion and the liaison will be very wide. In addition, I have asked the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Association to make sure that he is in close consultation with the commissioners to provide such information as he can in regard to that aspect of their job.
This is a very viable group of commissioners. We are already impressed with the way they are working. They represent not necessarily each individual State; what they represent is an interest that concerns every State. That is why I am absolutely certain that under the Chairman, David Yencken, we will get a great deal of value and some very valuable recommendations.
– I wish these young bureaucrats would brief the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) a little better on the development of and the necessity for our creating an Australian Heritage Commission with approximately 18 commissioners. We examined the situation in France, Great Britain, other parts of Europe and the United States of America. In fact, a similar body in Great Britain has 18 members. But the one that influenced us the most was that in the United States. In the U.S. there was a committee of, I think, 19 members. This committee had representatives not only of a majority of the private sector. It also was composed of permanent heads of government departments. It was necessary to bring in the government because it owned so much of the National Estate.
How many honourable members have seen the beautiful old post offices in country towns and other places around Australia? The magnificent general post office at Shepparton is one that comes to mind. The Postmaster-General’s Department, as it was then known, destroyed it in the name of progress. I wish the Minister would read the Hope Committee report which contains photographs of these buildings so that he can see in a simple form the stupidity, if I can use that word, and the brutality of the use of foolish architecture which was used by the old Department of Works which is now the Department of Construction. This architecture has destroyed many fine old buildings. The Department has put up red texture brick monstrosities next to some of our still lovely old sandstone buildings. As I have mentioned, there are photographs of some of these buildings in the Hope Committee report.
It is for that reason that we are saying that permanent heads of departments should be appointed to the Commission so as to bring the influence of the Australian Government into the thinking process. I know that the Minister has made great strides in politics because, for instance, he has got the eye of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), because he is a boy from Tasmania and because of the need to have all States represented in the Ministry. Consequently he came into the Cabinet. In fairness to the Minister I hear good reports that he has an understanding of his responsibility. But I ask the Minister not to start telling old politicians who have been in this game for a long time how to suck eggs. When the Minister gets to know the bureaucracy he will find that things are being destroyed or created within his own area for which he is supposed to be responsible. Bureaucrats make decisions. This is particularly so in the case of the Army to which, of course, the Minister belonged. Their decisions destroyed many beautiful parts of our National Estate. The National Estate is not only concerned with bricks and mortar but also with nature reserves.
Even though the Commissioners are all good people and I have been advised by people who should know their backgrounds and their disciplines, I understand that most of the Commissioners have disciplines in the man-made environment and not so much in the natural environment. I believe our National Estate would be protected more with the establishment of a bigger commission which included representatives of the Australian Government.
We are not breaking new ground. If the Minister cares to look at the position he will see that the blueprint for the Commission was based on the body that was established to preserve the heritage of the United States. As the Minister well knows, his Government when in Opposition, moved an amendment not only that all States should be represented on the Commission but also that all disciplines should be represented. For that reason I ask the Minister to reconsider retaining section 12 of the principal Act as it stands and not to proceed with his amendment.
– Very briefly, there is no doubt that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) gets off on an harangue, he is away. But the points of his harangues are usually lost. Once again, what all he had to say had to do with what I just said I do not know. We have a Commission. It is an efficient group in number. The size of the Commission will allow the members to deliberate efficiently. If they so wish they can call for expert advice such as, for example, from the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Trust or consultants. The argument that they do not have expertise is nonsense.
Perhaps I could put one argument that might persuade the honourable member. I am concerned about the possibility of 19 people working around a table. The honourable member would know from his days of trying to deliberate with the Labor cabinet made up of 26 people sitting around a table that a meeting of that size could never agree.
Amendment agreed to.
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause 7.
– by leave- I move:
Omit ‘aboriginals’, substitute ‘Aboriginals’, twice appearing.
This is a simple amendment. There should be a capital A for the word ‘aboriginals’ which appears twice in this clause.
-Last night during the second reading debate I commented on this clause, as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) would be aware. I again raise the matter in the hope that I will be able to get some response from the Minister. I refer to the very serious concern that I have about the proposed amendment to section 23 of the principal Act because it will have very serious deleterious effects on the preservation of Aboriginal sites. It is my view that the passing of this amendment would effectively eliminate the protection of sacred Aboriginal sites through federal jurisdiction. I do not think there is any question that that is the case and it appears to be the intention of the amendment. However, I would be very much enlightened if the Minister would let me know the reasons for this amendment being proposed. The amendment removes from the Commission the authority to place on the register Aboriginal sacred sites unless (a) they are already classified under State or Territory Acts or ordinances or (b) recommendations are accepted by the Minister from persons or organisations. Last night I talked more generally about this matter and referred to the fact that other legislation that is before the House, the Northern Territory land rights legislation, will certainly weaken the power of the Commonwealth over sacred sites because it is intended to hand back to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly a prerogative over this matter.
The Hope Committee has been very forthright in its contention that the Northern Territory legislation and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly are quite ineffective in this matter. It said:
The Northern Territory Ordinance is clearly ineffective and needs to be brought with all urgency at least to the standards generally accepted in the States, if not improved on.
It goes on to mention the very bad performance of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and says that under the Ordinance only 6 Aboriginal sacred sites have been declared between 1955 and 1973. Then the Hope Committee went on to make very extensive remarks on the matter I have raised. It said in respect of these sites: that the Australian Government introduce legislation to give uniform protection on a national basis to Aboriginal sites of significance throughout Australia; that the provisions of the legislation be drawn in discussion with the State authorities who have the present responsibility for the conservation and presentation of these sites; and that the Aboriginal people be afforded every opportunity for full and effective consultation throughout the process of drafting.
It seems to me that the clause before us now has entirely the opposite effect to what the Hope Committee has so forcibly put. The Minister shakes his head but I do not think he is shaking his head to indicate doubt of the authenticity of the quotations I have made from the Hope Committee report. The report is in the strongest possible terms and I suggest that the Minister might give me some effective reply. Let me quote a few other comments from the Hope Committee report. It also states:
The time has come, we firmly believe, for the national Parliament to accept the whole of the duty laid on it by the people when, in 1967, they overwhelmingly voted to change the Constitution so that legislation for the benefit of the Aboriginal people could be passed. We have no doubt that this power would allow more comprehensive and effective legislation for the preservation and protection of Aboriginal sacred or other sites, whether of current significance or of archaeological importance.
If the Minister was in any doubt about the Hope Committee’s attitude before having heard that quotation he would be in no doubt about it now. In other words, what I am putting to the Minister is that under his ministerial direction we have an amendment before the Committee which is completely contrary to the expressions of the Hope Committee, the very antithesis of what that Committee has put. I believe that the matter needs some explanation. Some pages of the Hope Committee’s report are devoted to this matter. The report draws attention to the great neglect that has occurred in respect of the preservation of Aboriginal sacred sites, historical sites, artefacts and the like. The report states:
The record of declaration and protection of sites either by the State or Australian Governments has been poor. In 18 years the Australian Government has declared for protection very few of the known sites under its jurisdiction. The situation in the States is typified by this quotation: ‘Hundreds of Aboriginal sites are being destroyed annually (in one State alone) by real estate developers both in urban and rural areas, often unknowingly and sometimes with indifference. ‘
The report goes on in respect of New South Wales to state:
The magnitude of this task is shown by the fact that already in NSW alone 9650 Aboriginal sites of various kinds are known, including 200 sacred/ceremonial tribal sites and 5000 sites of engravings and paintings. The work in all States is far from complete and in States with large populations of tradition-orientated Aboriginals the number of significant sites should prove much greater.
I simply refer the Minister to pages 166 to 17S which have a relationship to the question that I have raised. The essence of what I have put to the Minister is this: Why has he set out with such deliberate intent to reduce further, even to the point of complete ineffectiveness, the prerogative of the Australian Government to move effectively and positively into a matter which has a great deal to do with the preservation of Australia’s heritage? I believe that this clause represents the height of irresponsibility so far as protection of Aboriginal sacred sites are concerned. I should be pleased if the Minister would seek to justify the proposals he has before the Committee.
– I can understand the concern of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) for Aboriginal sites and their protection and preservation. It is exactly the same sort of view as the Government has as well. The reason for the proposed amendment is simply to insert a provision to ensure that the Australian Heritage Commission works through competent and existing agencies of government when considering Aboriginal sites and placing them on the register of the National Estate. It also has the effect of limiting the number of organisations and so on trying to deal directly with Aboriginals. In most States, as honourable members well know, there are already registers of one sort or another on which Aboriginal sites for preservation are already proposed and recorded. The Commission is required under the proposed amendment to consult with those approved and longstanding bodies to take that action. The proposed amendment further provides that the
Commission should act in respect of the entry of Aboriginal sites on the direction of the Minister or on the recommendations of persons or organisations that are approved by the Minister. As an example of that, the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, which is well advanced in its identification and classification of Aboriginal sites, would be one of the institutions on the national level to make recommendations to the Commission. I can assure honourable members that there is no intention to underwrite the ability of the Commission to identify or classify Aboriginal sites.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman)- by leaveread a third time.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals Nos 14 to 19 ( 1976).
The Customs TariffProposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposals Nos 14 to 18 formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices whilst Parliament was not sitting during the winter recess. These changes arise from the Government’s decisions, already announced, on the recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on the following references: Sheets and plates of iron or steel; cellulose acetate flake; hosiery; the aerospace industry; paints, varnishes and lacquers; aluminium and articles thereof. They also arise from decisions on reports by the Temporary Assistance Authority in respect of knitted and woven apparel and orange juice.
Proposals No. 15 also includes tariff changes resulting from the biennial review of the system of tariff preferences for developing countries. Proposals No. 1 9 give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on railway and tramway locomotives, rolling stock, etc.
The effect of this decision is that all goods, with the exception of battery operated locomotives and parts therefor, covered by the report will be dutiable at the rate of 30 per cent. Battery operated locomotives and parts therefor will be dutiable at 15 per cent. These new duties will operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of all changes contained in the Proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
-by leave-This is one of the areas that present some problem to the machinery of Parliament in allowing the Opposition to make a very quick and brief reply to any tariff proposals that come before the House. I appreciate the arrangements made with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) for myself and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) to make very short statements on a couple of the proposals before us. In the short time available to me I want to touch on the question of the preferences to the lesser developed countries.
The changes now before the Parliament operated from 1 July last. They were made by administrative decision and with a minimum of consultation with industry. I want to draw the attention of the Parliament to the words of Senator Cotton, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, before the last election when he said:
A Liberal and National Country Party Government will not reduce or allow to lapse tariffs or other assistance to manufacturing industry . . . without prior report by the LAC to the Government and consultations with the industry concerned.
The Labor Party does not quarrel with the proposition that we should give preference to developing countries. We must foster our trade. We must face up to our responsibilities as a great trading nation. We must assist countries less fortunate than ourselves. But we must also take steps to ensure that this special preference lasts only so long as they are not competitive on our market. Thereafter they should be treated in the same way as all other goods, falling to the appropriate rates of the tariff. We must ensure that there is frequent review of the market penetration by developing countries for whilst we are prepared to assist and even to accept structural adjustment in our own economy we must not destroy our own vital industries in the process.
All these issues are properly matters on which the Industries Assistance Commission should report. All of them are issues on which the views of the industries and the unions alike should be sought. They are not issues to be decided by a few officials. They are not issues to be left by the Minister to the obscure schedules at the back of the tariff proposals. They are issues which we in this Parliament must debate. They are changes which are fundamental to our economy. For the benefit of honourable members I should like to give some illustration of what is occurring with the preferences that we now give to less developed countries. Again, let me reiterate that the Labor Party sees as a singularly important role for Australia, assistance towards the economic independence of the countries to the north of us. But we ought to also look at some of the things that are occurring in these countries such as the relationship between what we determine are less developed countries and perhaps the multi-national companies that are operating in those countries.
I want to relate to the House some of the commodities that are coming into Australia and indicate from where they are coming under these preferences. Fluorescent ballast is imported from India. High voltage transformers are imported from most Asian countries. Calculators, commutators and small air compressors are other items that are imported. A Taiwan catalogue, referring to these small air compressors, states:
Fee Chang’s progressive management has provided its skilled personnel with a semi-automated foundry, tape controlled and high precision machinery equipment and computer controlled process and information systems for the manufacture of a complete line of air compressors.
I do not know whether we can give the same description of our own industry here in Australia but that is the description given to that industry in what we term a less developed country. High speed twist drills are now imported from Asian countries. Power and hand hacksaw blades are now imported from Brazil. There is a list of raw materials which are now coming in from overseas because of our tariff preferences. In some cases we find- as we do with Brazil- that the industry producing some of the items we are importing has been set up by one of the multinational companies. This relates particularly to machinery from Brazil. Brazil has captured the last 2 tenders for bottle-washing machinery in this country. The firm concerned in Brazil is a multi-national German company.
What I am saying to the Government and to industry is that we should have a closer look at the way we give preference to these so-called lesser developed countries to see who is operating the companies in those nations and to see what impact and effect it is having on the employment of our industries and those industries which we may think are essential to our own industrial capacity in the future. I draw the attention of the Minister to these matters and ask that the Government examine them. I suggest that we have a fuller debate later in the session on these questions.
– by leave- I join with the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) in thanking the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) for his co-operation in allowing us to make a statement at this point. I say in passing that I hope to be able to elaborate at some future time on the points raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
At this point I should like to raise the question of the aero space industry. These tariff proposals deal with gliders and aircraft galleys. They really dodge the real issues in the report. Honourable members on this side of the House have been saying that decisions on tariffs must be political decisions. It is for the Government to bite the bullet. It must decide whether it wants a particular industry or not. The best way to achieve that is for the Industries Assistance Commission to examine the matter after the Government has determined the principle. Once again, we have the Government saying: ‘Of course we want an aircraft industry but . . .’.If the Government wants one it must pay the price and the proposal should be put to the electorate at the appropriate time. The Government ought to have the courage to say that it wants an aircraft industry. If it does not, then the Government must say so clearly so that the electorate will know where the responsibility lies.
There are proposals for rationalisation in the IAC report on the aerospace industry. They have some degree of sense out they do not grapple with the real problem. As the industry will now be structured following this report, it will be below survival level. We have heard nothing from this Government other than pious platitudes about the need to stimulate industry. The Government’s reaction belies its words. If high technology, skilled labour and confidence in the future mean anything this Government is turning its face against it. Our defence authorities over the years have said that the defence industries are the fourth arm of defence. The July issue of the Pacific Defence Reporter refers to the way in which this Government has treated the fourth arm of defence. I quote from page 32 of the July issue of the Pacific Defence Reporter. The article is headed Benign Neglect:
In case you think I’m exaggerating, you might like to question how many Ministers involved with the aircraft industry have visited the major contractors since the IAC Report was released last October. As far as I can find, the answer is none.
And in case you think that advice to Ministers has been improved by the proliferation of government organisations concerned with industrial support in Defence and Industry and Commerce, it appears that nobody of Assistant Secretary level or above has visited the aircraft industry or held formal discussions on the IAC Report since its release.
Remembering that the lAC’s first recommendation was that ‘the local industry be involved in the planning process for procurement of defence equipment at the earliest possible stage ‘, the ministerial platitudes about the ‘fourth arm of defence’ should be the cause of acute personal embarrassment.
My personal suspicion is that they’ve relied too much on inputs from their advisers instead of getting the facts direct on a politically sensitive industry.
The article by ‘Daedalus’ in that publication seems to be most relevant.
It is time for the Government to act. The way the aerospace industry is now to be structured at below survival level means that a low cost toolage system will be accentuated- a system in which presses, moulds and so forth are not designed for long runs and a system which leads to inefficiency and gross wastage and needs a more skilled work force. With all the resources of skilled labour now in this industry I am looking to the Government to make an announcement of what it will do for the industry in the immediate future, until such time as reasonable defence contracts can be achieved. Let us hear of the use of the skilled labour to investigate solar energy, to investigate medical electronics which now must be adapted to Australian conditions, and to develop some sort of commuter vehicle for the future. Let us at last hear a positive statement from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs which will give confidence to industry and an assured future to the work force.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to move a motion to discharge certain tariff proposals which were moved earlier in the year and which constitute part of Order of the Day No. 30. These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1976 which has now been assented to.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That Customs TariffProposals Nos 1 to 6 ( 1976), constituting part of Order of the Day No. 30, Government Business, be discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 3 June, on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill is to obtain legislative authority to provide financial assistance to the Government of Queensland towards the cost of construction of flood mitigation works along the Proserpine River in North Queensland. The Bill is the same as the Bill I had the pleasure of introducing as Minister for Northern Australia late last year. The debate on the Bill was interrupted by the double dissolution. The assistance proposed is a non-repayable grant, not exceeding $374,400, representing 40 per cent of the estimated cost of works to protect the town of Proserpine and adjacent valuable sugar-cane farmland from floods of estimated frequency of once in 10 years. The grant by the Australian Government is conditional upon the Queensland Government also contributing 40 per cent of the cost of the works and the Proserpine River Improvement Trust contributing 20 per cent. This apportionment of Federal, State and local authority contributions- 40 per cent, 40 per cent and 20 per cent- is consistent with the former Australian Government’s overall approach to the problems of flood mitigation and, I believe, the approach of this Government.
Members of the House will recall the extremely serious flooding which occurred over extensive areas of north Queensland in December 1973 and in early 1974. Recognising that those disastrous floods demonstrated the need for an adequate approach to flood mitigation in areas likely to be affected in Queensland, the then Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to the Premier early in 1974 proposing that an investigation should be undertaken directed at the whole problem of flood mitigation in Queensland. The then Prime Minister also invited the Queensland Premier to submit a State-wide plan on flood mitigation which could be a basis of consideration for Australian Government assistance. The Queensland Premier in response made clear the Queensland Government’s view that one of the most urgent priorities was a flood mitigation scheme for the Proserpine River.
The floods of December 1973 and January 1974 caused such substantial damage to the existing levee system that it immediately became evident that there was an urgent need for restoration works before the onset of the 1974-75 wet season. Indeed, it was apparent that the damaged levee system could not have contained even a modest river flow in the wet season. The former Australian Labor Government considered the special situation of the Proserpine River as a matter of urgency and a nonrepayable grant of $120,000 was authorised under the Queensland Grant (Proserpine Flood Mitigation) Act 1974 to assist the Queensland Government in meeting the cost of urgent restoration works. It was evident at the time, however, that there was insufficient information available on which to base decisions for construction work and financial assistance for a Proserpine River flood mitigation scheme as a whole. Since then, a detailed investigation of the scheme has been carried out in accordance with national water policy procedures with the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation providing expert advice on the proposals.
The Proserpine area is one of the most important sugar producing regions in Australia. The town of Proserpine and nearby sugar cane farms adjoin the Proserpine River and its tributaries. The town and these farms have been afforded some protection against floods by unlicensed levee banks constructed over the years by farmers. In the main, these levee banks were constructed in an ad hoc fashion without full knowledge of overall hydrological implications or engineering practices. Consequently, these levee banks are susceptible to unpredictable failure. Moreover, floodwaters have been prevented by the levee banks from flowing into extensive natural pondages. The problems have been compounded by low natural river capacity downstream from the town of Proserpine. It is quite clear that, although allowing for completion of the necessary restoration works, the present system of levee banks overall is structurally unsound and inadequate to protect the town and farms. Summed up, assuming no levee failures, the levee bank system is capable only of containing flood flows of an assessed frequency of less that once in three years. It has to be recognised that potential points of failures during future floods are still largely unpredictable. The present situation is entirely unsatisfactory. The town and nearby farms must be afforded a greater degree of protection.
The flood mitigation works for which financial assistance is to be authorised under the Bill are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. Briefly, these works consist of river improvement works; construction, reconstruction and realignment of levees; construction of spillways, overflow structures and levees to divert flood flows together with works on diversion channels; and regrading of a road. The estimated cost of the scheme is $936,000, of which the Australian Government’s contribution, 40 per cent, is $374,000. Construction is scheduled for a period of 3 years. Apart from the value of the scheme from the flood mitigation and safety points of view, it will bring economic and social benefits to the region. It is anticipated that the environmental impact of the scheme will be largely beneficial. The Opposition supports the legislation, and I commend the Bill to the House.
-I support the Bill which is evidence of this Government’s intention to honour the commitment made by the Labor Government before it was removed from office in 1975. 1 respect the Minister for Natural Resources (Mr Anthony) for persevering with this assistance which has been brought to successful fruition in this Bill.
I feel it is necessary to outline for the benefit of honourable members the situation that exists in Proserpine in north Queensland following the cyclone of 1972 and the severe flooding of 1973 and 1974. The Proserpine River is a fast flowing coastal stream which is unique in that it has a faster and bigger flow capacity at its headwaters than exists in its lower reaches. In fact, while it is capable of taking high flood runoffs at the headwaters, this flow is funnelled into a smaller capacity channel which then has the effect of causing overflow from the main channel into surrounding agriculture lands further down the river during floods. In the floods of 1973-74 this overflow of waters extended and entered into the township of Proserpine, which stands adjacent to the river and which has a population of some 3600 people. On the lower reaches it also traverses a great area of agricultural land supplying sugar cane to the Proserpine mill, which in itself stands on the banks of the river.
Over many years farmers on this river have individually placed their own levees into position. Until 1974 the river did not have the advantage of the discipline of one authority to construct compatible levels of levees along the lengths required. As a result, the 1974 floods created great damage within the township and also to the banks of the river. In fact, they extended an overflow breakaway which runs water directly through the surrounding cane lands.
The sugar industry in Proserpine was worth $35m to the area in the year ended 30 June 1975, and $30m in the year ended 30 June 1976, despite the fact that some 80 000 tonnes of cane were left in the field unharvested because of the wet conditions. With a record crop of over one million tonnes of cane in the current season it is expected that the amount of income previously mentioned will be exceeded. From this income is gained the livelihood of most of the population of Proserpine. This income results from the produce of over 200 individually owned cane farms that in the last 12 months have increased in assigned area and production by some 12 per cent. The district has a potential to increase considerably its area and production yet again for future sugar requirements.
The Proserpine River crosses the national highway. In fact, the highway suffered damage and was closed several times in the 1973-74 floods. This closure can be and has been a yearly occurrence. That in itself inhibits the flow of traffic to the adjacent tourist areas of Airlie, Shute Harbour and Cannonvale and the Whitsunday Islands. The tourist industry has great potential as a revenue earner. It is the recipient of much overseas income. Hayman Island, Daydream Island, Long Island and South Molle are all serviced from Shute Harbour and Proserpine.
The amount being allocated by this Bill represents 40 per cent of the cost of the then estimated value of the works to be implemented by the Proserpine Shire River Improvement Trust. The Commonwealth had previously made a grant to the same extent of 40 per cent towards emergency work costing $300,000 that extended the levee banks below the Proserpine River bridge on the national highway. A contribution of 40 per cent is to be taken up by the Queensland Government and a contribution of 20 per cent is to be taken up by the River Trust itself. The Bill indicates that this represents a reimbursement of $374,400 by the Commonwealth to the State of Queensland for the work. It is intended to discipline this fast flowing river under the oversight of one authority- the River Improvement Trust.
As has been mentioned, the Schedule to the Bill sets out the type of work that is intended to be covered by the expenditure of this money. Apart from improvement work it is for the construction, reconstruction and realignment of levees. It will also provide for the construction of spillways which will divert the flows from the Proserpine River into alternative water courses. It will also allow for the regrading of roads to enable the spillways to be inserted in the river banks and for the flow of water to be carried away safely to adjoining areas. Most importantly it will assist water course improvement work on the breakaway channel, which had its flow increased by recent floods.
All in all, the type of work contemplated is expected to remove the flood threat from the Proserpine River in the Proserpine area. If this can be done successfully it will serve to protect the large manufacturing concern of the Proserpine sugar mill, which is capable of a throughput in excess of one million tonnes of cane a year. The capital invested in this manufacturing concern alone is substantial. In addition, the township- the houses, the facilities and the serviceswill be protected from the uncertainties of the north Queensland weather pattern. It has been a matter of concern in north Queensland over many years that the regular flooding of rivers puts the national highway out of action and thus deprives north Queensland of the benefits of the tourist trade from people from the south, particularly over the Christmas holidays. The expenditure provided for in this Bill no doubt represents a recognition of the advantages of having the communications and the highways fully connected at all times and will assist in the substantial tourist trade that can and does exist in north Queensland. The potential for tourism in the Proserpine, Airlie and Whitsunday area could in time make it a rival for the Gold Coast. Good communications will assist in the realisation of this great potential.
However, I would like to alert this Parliament to some of the disadvantages still being suffered in the Proserpine area from river flood waters. The work now scheduled will not complete all the necessary work of protection. Some downstream farmers- five or six in total- still suffer grave disadvantages from the flood run-off going directly through their farms. This has been accentuated to some extent by previous work of a private or public nature. It is urgent that these people get relief from these annual floodings, which in the last 2 seasons have had the effect of reducing their crop potential to less than half of what it should be, with a consequent loss of income to not only themselves but also the district. The estimated total cost of this additional protective work is $300,000 to $400,000.
The other difficulty is that the funds now allocated are based on estimates prepared for this work in 1974 and 1975. They do not recognise the effects of inflation between then and now or the effects of inflation between now and when the work is completed. Unless some recognition is given to the effects of inflation, the difference between the inflated cost and the cost of the scheme currently contemplated, under which the annual interest and redemption on the Trust share of the loans is $53,000, will be considerable. With the effects of inflation, the cost of the venture could rise to $ 1.3m before completion of the work. Without the Commonwealth assistance to cover 40 per cent of the additional cost, the State and the Trust would have to meet the additional cost on the basis of the Trust providing $2 for every dollar provided by the State, and the annual interest and redemption payments by the Trust would increase to $95,000. The Shire of Proserpine would be mainly responsible for meeting this commitment. But, as it has a rateable area valued at only $llm, this additional cost could well be outside the limits of what the Shire itself could bear. For this reason I request that the Commonwealth re-examine the proposal outside of its present commitment to the Labor Government’s promise to assist further in this work and consider both the additions to the present scheme that I mentioned and the question of inflated costs.
I believe that the Commonwealth’s contribution represents a recognition that this Government should assist viable industries to retain their viability. The division of Dawson has proved that it is the food bowl of Australia. It contributes 7 per cent of the exports of our nation in value terms. Only on exports can our economy survive and improve. The Proserpine area, as I mentioned earlier in this speech, has a sugar mill throughput of between $30m and $36m annually and contributes substantially to the export income derived by Australia. We as a government must always be alert to such potential and to the encouragement we can give such regions not only to produce our domestic food requirements but also to supply the export markets for sugar and other products.
We should return development and protective funds to these regions which provide so much of our national income in the way of taxes. Over the last 2 years the sugar industry has paid a substantial tax bill, especially during the 1976 financial year. It still contributes greatly to financial revenue. The residents of north Queensland have provided the best evidence of the success of decentralisation. Working mainly on their own initiative they have pioneered the rich and fertile coastline. They have played their part in the growth of this nation. While being prepared to suffer some of the disadvantages of living away from capital cities and paying a high price for playing their part, these people need to be encouraged in a tangible way. This grant from the Commonwealth Government provides encouragement for the people to remain and to expand the frontiers and industries which they have pioneered. For these reasons I give this Bill my wholehearted endorsement.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (5.16)-The honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) has given the House a pretty full coverage of the situation in the Proserpine River area. I do not think it would be necessary for me to go over the same ground. However, the honourable member mentioned that there is a lot more work to be done. He asked the Government to make further funds available for the continuation of this work. I join him in this approach. I wish to support the Queensland Grant (Prosperpine Flood Mitigation) Bill which authorises assistance to the Queensland Government for flood mitigation works along the Proserpine River in northern Queensland. I believe that we as a nation are not making enough progress in harnessing, controlling and conserving our water resources. Even after listening to the honourable member for Dawson I believe that the only way the present situation in Northern Queensland can be summed up is to say that the floods are just as severe and just as damaging -
– Three years of neglect.
– I shall touch on that in a minute. The floods are just as damaging as they were before Federation. It might be said that the same thing could be said about the drought situation in other parts of Australia. Many honourable members in this House could say that they have had a good deal of experience of both these situations. During my life, I have seen more droughts than floods but since entering Parliament the situation has been reversed. In my electorate I have seen 3 of the most severe floods that that area has ever experienced. This has a big effect on a member. I think it makes him more conscious of the importance of water and more aware of the trauma caused by inefficient control of our waterways. I remember, even as a young boy, the reservoirs in my town being empty. At that time the debate was not about levy banks for controlling floods; it was mostly concerned with how many millions of gallons of water it would take to fill the cracks in the bottom of the reservoir before any water was to be stored there. Water trains came to Broken Hill to supply a township of 30 000 people and to run some of the most prosperous mines in Australia. Fortunately, we have now the pipeline.
I do not want to discuss these things except to say that we see the same lack of planning in many other parts of Australia. No doubt, as pointed out by the honourable member for Dawson, the people in northern Queensland are just as concerned at the worsening of their water problems. I believe that the assistance for this project, by way of a non-repayable grant of $374,400 over 4 years towards the cost of specified works on a 40 : 40 : 20 basis of matching contributions by the Commonwealth, State and Proserpine River Improvement Trust, is little enough.
Every honourable member who recalls the disastrous floods in Queensland in January 1974 and who knows the scarcity of job opportunities during this period of record unemployment would want to see this Bill passed as quickly as possible. But at the same time I believe that we all have a duty to see that flood mitigation is not carried out on a patchwork basis. Not only should the work be carried out on a State-wide basis but also it should be planned in such a way that it will dovetail into a national water harnessing, controlling and conservation scheme. Out of such consideration, following the 1974 floods the Labor Government invited Queensland to submit a State-wide plan for flood mitigation as a basis for Commonwealth assistance. The Proserpine and Pioneer Rivers in northern Queensland and the flood mitigation work in the Brisbane area were submitted for priority consideration.
As was pointed out in the second reading speech of the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony), up to date $2. 65m has been spent on that work. In addition, in 1974-75 $120,000 was spent for the restoration of the flood damaged levee banks along the Proserpine River. Many people in Australia and many people in my electorate know the value of an adequate and secure levee bank system. I point out that this $120,000 spent on a levee bank system will save some hundreds of thousands of dollars in flood damage. In the last few years I have had personal experience of this in Bourke, Walgett and some other towns in my electorate. Those towns that have an adequate levee bank system were saved from hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. Unfortunately in some areas they did not have such a good system of levee banks and the damage suffered by some people was really crippling.
No one who has had experience of flood damage would have been surprised when the Minister said in his second reading speech: … a detailed investigation of the flooding problem along the Proserpine River confirmed the need for an improved system of levee banks to provide adequate protection to the town and surrounding canefields.
They would not be surprised because the same situation applies along most of our river system. I say to the honourable member for Darling
Downs (Mr McVeigh), who mentioned the 3 years of Labor Government, that no one could blame the Labor Government for this situation. As a matter of fact it has been brought about by so many years of Liberal-Country Party Government. In my electorate the only time anything was done about it was when I was able to inform the Ministers responsible for the Regional Employment Development scheme about the situation of the waterways in that area. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the waterways and levee banks. Unfortunately, as we are so often reminded, the Labor Government was thrown out of office and that work stopped.
I believe that, not only from the point of view of Queensland but also from a national point of view, our waterways should be protected. We must rectify the damage done to our waterways during so many years of Liberal-Country Party government. Instead of harnessing and directing the waters of our great rivers and streams, in many cases they were allowed to become obstructed and polluted. If the honourable member for Darling Downs doubts that I can take him out and show him the evidence that is still there. Water is one of our most necessary commodities. The quality and quantity of water not only influence the health and happiness of every person but also determine much of the beauty of our surroundings. An examination of the Proserpine River in times of controlled flow and following a severe flood would convince everyone of this.
If the honourable member for Darling Downs wants to know what the Labor Party did about water conservation he should cast his mind back to the time when the Labor Party started the Snowy River scheme. This was one of the greatest waterway schemes that has ever been initiated in Australia. The honourable member should be ashamed that the Liberal-Country Party Government went out of its way to destroy and disperse the great Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. I believe that there is a need for much more work to be done on our waterways, in my electorate as well as in the rest of Australia. But let us get on with the work in northern Queensland that was planned and commenced by the Queensland Government in cooperation and consultation with the national Labor Government. The conservation, development and management of our water resources must take place within a broader framework, including overall economic, environmental and social planning. There has never been a better time for this work to be put under way. Instead of hiding behind the cry of inflation this Government should be starting such works and should do something to relieve the tragic unemployment situation that we have in this country. I support the Bill.
-First of all, I must say that I am surprised that the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) should be criticising and chiding the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). One thing that the Labor Party failed to realise when in government was that things have to be done gradually and that the progress that is made in any nation has to be undertaken within the resources of that nation and not, as the Labor Government tried to do, all in a few years. Nobody denies that a lot of the projects that were undertaken were quite worthwhile but progress should have been made more slowly. The Labor Party saw the results of its actions when we went to the people in December 1 975.
It gives me pleasure to support the 2 members of the Opposition and my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). In particular I want to make a few comments about the honourable member for Dawson because I was very touched with his knowledge of the subject. Obviously the constituents of Dawson are being extremely well looked after by the honourable member. He obviously has a concern for his constituents. They are well represented. He knows the Proserpine area, as a part of his electorate, extremely well. I congratulate him upon his contribution in this debate.
The subject of this debate, of course, is not very popular. This is a small Bill, but it is very important to the people in the area concerned. Although it represents a total expenditure of some $936,000, of which the Commonwealth’s share is 40 per cent it is important to the people in the township of Proserpine and in the surrounding and adjacent districts. It is interesting to note the history of this project to date because it had its origins, as far as the national Government is concerned, on 13 November 1974 when the former Minister for Northern Development in the Labor Government, Dr Patterson, who incidentally happened to be the former member for Dawson, introduced the Bill which provided $120,000 of Commonwealth money. Their money to be matched on a 40-40-20 basis- 40 per cent to be provided by the Commonwealth, 40 per cent by the State of Queensland and 20 per cent by the Proserpine River Trust Fund. So that has meant that the first stage which has now been completed cost $300,000. As was stated by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr
Keating) this legislation was originally introduced on 30 October 1975 when he was Minister for Northern Australia, but unfortunately was not able to be passed in that session of Parliament due to the double dissolution. So the project has in some respects been slowed down until this Bill was again introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) on 3 June this year. It provides, as has been stated previously, some $374,400 of Commonwealth funds as a non-repayable grant over a period of 4 years. So the total cost of the project is some $ 1 .2 m.
I want to outline some of the work undertaken in the project and the purpose for such work. It will provide, as has been stated by previous speakers, protection for the town of Proserpine and the very rich adjacent cane fields. It is a plan for flood mitigation which was drawn up to give protection against floods to a frequency of 1 year in every 10 years. I think some explanation is necessary, in case honourable members are not aware of it, of what is meant by the terminology of a frequency of 1 year in so many years. For example, if an area has a flood frequency of 1 year in 10 years it means that a flood would normally be expected to occur once in every 10 year cycle. Unfortunately, we find that a 10-year frequency flood can occur perhaps one day and then another 10-year frequency flood will occur in a week’s time, but on an average a 10-year frequency flood will happen once in every 10 years.
Proserpine, which is situated on the Proserpine River, is in a very low lying area, and one would doubt the original wisdom of the establishment of a township on that site. However, it is a fact of life. Proserpine is a thriving township in a thriving district which needs protection. Much damage is done by severe floods to the town of Proserpine and, of course, to the very rich cane lands in its close vicinity. I think it is very important to mention the benefits that will flow to the town’s people, to the shire of Proserpine and to the cane fields nearby. Benefits will flow particularly to the residents of Proserpine in that their very valuable assets- I refer to the infrastructure that is provided in any town or city, such as roads, drainage, kerbing and channelling, parks and gardens, playing fields, water supply and sewerage- are severely damaged by flood waters swirling through the area. So it is important that the levee banks, the channels, the overflows and so forth which are provided for in this work are constructed.
The Proserpine Shire River Improvement Trust is responsible for the preparation of the plans and specifications for this project. It is in fact an autonomous body. I think it is good to see Commonwealth and State money flow to a trust, a local body which has representation from the Proserpine Shire Council. A responsible body of people administer this trust Of course, it should be borne in mind that the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission has to vet all plans and keep a close watch on the progress of the work. It is interesting to note also that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has offered expert advice on this scheme.
The main items to be undertaken in this project are outlined in the Schedule to the Bill. Basically they include the construction of levee banks on either side of the Proserpine River to contain the flood waters and the provision of breaks in the levee banks in order to divert some of these flood waters to some of the low lying areas. I think one such area- the honourable member for Dawson would know this- is Lagoon Creek. Having visited the area on a number of occasions I know of the difficulty that exists in relation to this low lying country. There are some roadworks in progress, and some extension work downstream from the town which is referred to as a breakaway channel. It is important work, and I do not think that we should underestimate the value of the project to the area in terms of the protection of private property of ordinary citizens in our electorates whom most of us do not see affected in this way.
The sugar industry is a very buoyant industry in this country today. It is bringing a great amount of revenue not only to the State of Queensland but also to the country, and many thousands of acres are cleared and prepared for planting in Queensland each year. It is an important industry to Proserpine, and indeed to the whole of the electorate of the honourable member for Dawson. There will be savings of millions of dollars, not only to the local authority but also to individuals in the township and district of Proserpine. The project will also help to reduce the trauma and tension that these people must experience when heavy flood rains fall in the headwaters of the Proserpine River. The project will akron protection for them. There will be flooding from time to time but at least it will be on a much reduced scale. It must be remembered, of course, that floods occur at all hours of the day and night, but these people will receive a certain amount of benefit because the money is being spent and these important works are being carried out.
I want to say a little about flood mitigation, quite apart from this particular project, because it is an important matter in a number of States in
Australia- in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, indeed in some fashion in every State. The devastating floods that occurred in Queensland, particularly in the south-east, on Australia Day 1974- the Minister mentioned this in his second reading speech- cost the people of the State of Queensland, particularly those in the Brisbane area, many lives and many millions of dollars. Severe damage was done in the Gold Coast area in the electorate of the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Robinson), who is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. One cannot underestimate the value of flood mitigation works in terms of the cost in lives and in dollars, as well as the adverse psychological effects on thousands of people who are subjected to flooding. One has to look at the water conservation angle and the flood mitigation component which so frequently is not added to the tops of dams to allow sufficient protection for the people in the districts downstream. Today water conservation, which is most important to our daily lives, is given top priority. Although it is very important, provision should also be made in all the major dams in our catchment areas to ensure that a sufficient flood mitigation component is built in and that that mitigation component remains and is not allowed to be used as further water storage.
I want to mention the Wivenhoe Dam because it is so important in the Brisbane area. The dam will bring considerable relief to many thousands of residents of Brisbane and Ipswich. The existing Somerset Dam, when brought into play with the new Wivenhoe Dam, will substantially reduce the flood risk and the frequency of flooding in Brisbane and Ipswich. In January 1974 there was a flood in Brisbane which was of the order of a one year in 50 frequency. With proper control, once the Wivenhoe Dam is constructed that risk may be reduced to one year in 150 frequency. The Wivenhoe Dam is progressing quite well at the moment. About 70 per cent of the land has been acquired, certain road relocations have been undertaken, the design of the dam is well in hand, and I understand that a minor contract has been let for the foundations. It is important to Brisbane and Ipswich that more flood mitigation work be carried out. Incidentally, the Wivenhoe Dam when completed- and I understand it is scheduled for completion in 1983-84-will have cost a total of some $70m. I am led to believe that that cost will be funded entirely from loan funds. It is interesting to note that the water storage capacity of the dam will be 1.14 million megalitres and the flood mitigation component will be 1.4 million megalitres. This, I believe, is quite significant. As I said earlier, it is to be hoped that that flood mitigation component will be allowed to stay for that specific purpose.
It is interesting also to note that in association with the Wivenhoe Dam there will be what is termed a pump storage hydro scheme. I must congratulate the Co-ordinator-General’s Department in Queensland, and in particular some of its dedicated, competent and experienced men led by Sir Charles Barton, the CoordinatorGeneral, Mr Sid Schubert, the Deputy CoordinatorGeneral, and Mr Don Young, the Regional Co-ordinator (Southern). Those men head an extremely good team of engineers and designed this pump storage hydro system in association with the Wivenhoe Dam. Briefly, for the information of the House, I add that power from thermal stations that cannot be otherwise used in the off-peak periods is used to pump water from the dam proper to a higher storage area. This water is then used during the day-time period to generate hydro-electricity when the demand is greatest. This does not save any coal, but of course these thermal stations cannot be closed down and there is a period when a deal of power that is generated cannot be used for other purposes, and that is usually in the off-peak or nighttime period. This is an effective way in which we are able to generate more power cheaply for use when the need is greatest. Brisbane is eagerly awaiting the completion of this Wivenhoe Dam, not only from the water storage viewpoint but also, and particularly, as I said earlier, from this flood mitigation viewpoint.
Finally, I wish to make particular reference to Commonwealth-State relations because the money provided by the Queensland Grant (Proserpine Flood Mitigation) Bill is a section 96 grant, in other words a specific purpose grant. It has to be remembered by the States that under the federalism policy there will be a lessening of these specific purpose grants. In my view the States have to be kept honest in this regard. They should not expect increased untied grants and still more section 96 grants. Too much Canberra bashing goes on these days. The States are playing their own politics. I believe that this federalism policy will keep them honest. I notice that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who represents the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony), is nodding his head in approval. There will be a day of reckoning for the States. They will get their share of 33.6 per cent of personal income tax collections. They have then to determine their own priorities. This is terribly important because the Canberra bashing that goes on regardless of which political Party forms the national government is to be deplored.
The States have the freedom, the autonomy, that they so dearly want and will do anything to preserve. They have the right to choose their own projects and I am not denying them that right, but they will have to stand by their decisions on projects and accept any criticism or odium that might flow as a result of the selection of those projects. They should not go to the people and say: ‘We are not getting enough funds from Canberra. ‘ Let them be honest to their electors. If a project is not included in their priority list and cannot be undertaken, let them go to their electors and explain the situation and not blame the Commonwealth Government for their lack of finance. The States have to stop bleating about not getting sufficient funds from Canberra for this or that project. The State governments have received increased payments in this Budget of some 21 per cent or $643m over the 1975-76 figure. I think that the Treasurer stated this amount represents approximately $89m more than they would have received under the old formula. In addition, the States have had their Loan Council programs increased by some 5 per cent over the allocations for 1975-76. 1 mention this because it is terribly important. This is a special purpose grant for the Proserpine flood mitigation scheme. I wanted to make the point in relation to Commonwealth-State relations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
BUI read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise financial assistance to New South Wales towards the cost of constructing weirs and associated works on the Namoi River near Wee Waa in the north of the State. Assistance for this project will be by way of a non-repayable grant of up to $2m of which Sim will be payable in 1976-77. The Commonwelth initially offered financial assistance of $2m to the State in 1972, but legislation had not been introduced before the change of Government. The Labor Government confirmed the offer in 1974 on condition that the State conducted a study of the impact of agricultural chemicals associated with irrigated agriculture, mainly cotton, in the Namoi Valley. However, there were lengthly delays in reaching a final agreement. The Bill now before the House relates to the decision of this Government to confirm the offer.
The works to which Commonwealth assistance will apply are listed in the Schedule to the Bill. Briefly they consist of: the construction of 3 weirs on the Namoi River downstream of Keepit Dam: Mollee Weir, 13 kilometres by road below Narrabri with a storage capacity of 3660 megalitres, Gunidgera Weir, 6 kilometres upstream of Wee Waa with a capacity of 1 170 megalitres, and Weeta Weir, 16 kilometres downstream of Wee Waa with a capacity of 280 megalitres; and a stream regulator below Gunidgera Weir, auxiliary embankments and associated works.
Work on the project is well advanced with Mollee and Gunidgera weirs already complete, except for some minor electrical and mechanical modifications and repairs to associated levees. Construction of Weeta Weir is expected to commence in February 1977 and all work is scheduled for completion by September 1977. The estimated final cost of the works is some $5.4m. The State has undertaken to carry out an environmental study into the impact of agricultural chemicals used in irrigated agriculture, mainly cotton, in the Namoi Valley. This study has now been commenced, and the Commonwealth is being consulted on its overall scope. In accordance with the requirements of the legislation, the study program will be subject to the approval of the Mininster for National Resources (Mr Anthony).
The weirs will reduce losses of water by reregulating releases from Keepit Dam and, as an additional benefit, reduce pumping costs of irrigators by the creation of pumping pools. It is expected that the weirs will provide an assured supply of 19 000 megalitres of water annually, sufficient for an irrigated area of the order of 2500 hectares. It is likely that this area will be sown to cotton, coarse grains or oilseeds. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– I present pursuant to statute the report and financial statements of the Reserve Bank for the year 1975-76, together with Auditor-General ‘s reports thereon.
Debate resumed from 3 June, on motion by Mr Ellicott
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition expressed at the outset the view that it regards this matter as being one that will be subject to a free vote. Accordingly I am not putting any positive propositions from the point of view of how the Opposition would debate this matter. However, by way of what the Opposition would deem to be the second reading debate, I propose to mention what I think are the more substantive changes in the legislation.
The original Marriage Act passed in 1961 was quite a substantial and effective piece of legislation. The Act was amended in 1973 and the proposed amendments in the legislation now before us are of some importance. In my opinion the major changes are the abolition of the action for breach of promise; an increase in what might be deemed to be the time factors to prevent hasty marriages; and provisions regarding pre-marital counselling. Clause 2 1 seeks to abolish the civil action for damages for breach of promise of marriage by providing that a person is not entitled to recover damages from another person on the ground of failure to perform a promise, undertaking or engagement to marry. That seems to be in line with the equality of the sexes. Accordingly I would not expect any opposition.
Proposed sub-section 111a(2) makes clear that the reform is limited to the abolition of the action of breach of promise and it preserves any right to sue for the recovery of gifts made in contemplation of marriage. Sub-clause 21(2) permits actions for breach of promise instituted before the day on which the Bill becomes operative to continue notwithstanding the abolition of future actions of this kind. It is interesting to note that the provision relating to the right to sue for the recovery of gifts may attract a view that it is not a constitutional power. The Constitution itself certainly gives us rights to deal with marriage. But ‘marriage’ is the word it uses and one wonders whether actions in relation to the recovery of gifts will be deemed to be actions in relation to marriage. This raises the interesting question of whether we have the power so to legislate under placitum (xxi) of section 5 1 of the Constitution because the power seems to be more related to the property factor.
Clause 16 of the Bill provides for a situation where a minor wishes to marry but consent is refused by the parents. Accordingly the clause provides that a magistrate may consent and bis consent overcomes their refusal. Clause 10 of the Bill seeks to extend to judges the statutory power of magistrates so consenting to marriages. If subclause 3(c) is enacted certain judges of the Family Court of Australia will be able to exercise this new power as well as existing judges- judges of the supreme court of a Territory and certain judges of State courts. More relevantly, clause 10 (c) seeks to add new sub-section 2a to section 16. This will prevent a magistrate or judge holding an inquiry to satisfy himself whether consent should be given to the marriage of a minor unless either he is handed a document certifying that marriage counselling has been given to the minor or he is satisfied that marriage counselling is not reasonably available to the minor. I have been using the masculine in regard to the judge. I should say ‘he or she’. One of the interesting changes is that virtually there will be compulsory marriage counselling when a minor is seeking consent to marriage. . Clause 13 amends section 42 of the Marriage Act. That section requires birth certificates or extracts of declarations as to conjugal status in respect of the persons promising to marry to be produced to the person who is to marry them. Further, section 42( 1 ) (a) requires written notice of the proposed marriage to be given to the person who is to conduct the marriage not earlier than 3 months before the day of the marriage and not later than the seventh day before the date of the marriage. Clause 13( 1 ) (a) of the Bill will substitute ‘one month’ for ‘the seventh day’. I think there will be some discussion as to what is a reasonable time of notice. I foreshadow that there possibly will be an amendment. I envisage that I formally will be putting to the House that we leave the present situation as it is. 1 mention again that the Opposition has a free vote in this matter. There are different points of view as to whether the minimum notice ought to be 7 days, 1 month, 6 months or 12 months, as the Attorney-General said in the course of his second reading speech.
– Twenty years.
-Or not at all, I suppose. The proposal will mean that no marriage can take place until at least one month’s notice is given of intention to marry. Section 42(1) (a) will continue to provide that notice of intention to marry must be given at most 3 months in advance. The reason for the retention of that limitation perhaps is interesting. I do not know why there is a limit on giving notice, but notice cannot be given earlier than 3 months before the intended marriage.
Clause 13(1) (b) is consequential upon clause 13 ( 1 ) (a) replacing the words ‘the seventh day’ with the figure and word ‘1 month’. That subclause empowers a prescribed authority to authorise a marriage even though notice of intention is given later than permitted. We still have the judicial position where discretion can be used. That possibly lends weight to the contention that we should not alter what is there now. Clause 13(1) (c) relates to another document. Unlike the other document required by section 42, this new document is not about the parties themselves; it is a document given by the celebrant to the couple outlining the obligations and consequences of marriage and indicating the availability of pre-marital education and counselling. The form of the document is to be prescribed in the regulations. Again there is emphasis on the pre-counselling position which I think is a very valid exercise of counselling organisations. This Bill is giving weight to that as did the Family Law BUI. It is very important that counselling opportunities be made available. The Bill provides that parties who intend to marry will be given a document indicating what counselling facilities are available. Personally I think that is a worthwhile proposition.
Clause IS repeats the amendments proposed by clause 13(1) (a) and 13(1) (b) in relation to marriages conducted overseas. Section 66 of the Act provides, in relation to marriage overseas, that at least notice again must be given. I think this would mean, if we were to leave the present legislation as it is, that we would be proposing not to approve clause 15. 1 believe that would be the view of the House.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I was outlining the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act. I had indicated that the Opposition regards this matter as one on which its members may exercise a free vote. I do not wish to take up too much further time. I wish to refer briefly to some of the other clauses which are proposed to be adopted and to which I do not think there would be any objection, particularly those clauses relating to the question of void marriages. The legislation proposes that void marriages be denned in the Marriage Act. Therefore there will be no need for that definition to remain in what is now known as the Family Law Act.
There are a number of other incidental amendments, one of which is related to the age at which a person is deemed to be a minor. It is proposed that a minor be a person under the age of 1 8 years. Clause 1 7 of the Bill proposes certain amendments to the section of the Act which authorises State and Territory supreme courts to make declarations as to legitimacy. Clause 17 (b) invests Federal jurisdiction for this purpose in family courts. It also changes the wording of the provision conferring jurisdiction on Territory supreme courts. Existing section 92 (2) of the Act merely confers the relevant jurisdiction on such courts. The proposed section 92 (2) does so to the extent that the Constitution permits. Presumably this is to meet any challenge to the exercise of jurisdiction by judges of Territory supreme courts on the basis that they are not appointed for life and therefore, arguably, may not exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth.
Clause 18 adds 2 new offences to the Act. One is consequential on the new requirement under proposed section 16 (2a) that a certificate signed by a marriage counsellor must be produced before a magistrate or a judge can proceed with an application by a minor for consent to marry. As to clause 22 of the Bill, section 1 1 3 of the Act permits persons who have gone through one ceremony of marriage to go through another to overcome any doubts about the legality of the first. Sub-sections (3) and (4) of section 113 impose conditions on the holding of a second ceremony. Proposed section 113 (4a) provides that any second ceremony is not invalid on the ground of failure to comply with such conditions.
Section 32 of the Family Law Act authorises judges of the Family Court to exercise certain functions under the Marriage Act. It also provides a means whereby only such judges may exercise those functions. This provision will no longer be necessary if other provisions of the Bill are enacted. Section 5 1 of the Family Law Act sets out the circumstances in which a marriage is void. As I have already said, this provision will not be necessary if clause 12 of the Bill is enacted. I have no further comments to make, except that I think there will be some discussion on the proposed amendment to extend the period of notice of a marriage from 7 days to one month. In Committee it is proposed to move an amendment to the effect that the period remain as it is. I think that consequential upon that there will be objection to the proposed amendment to section 66 of the Act.
-The whole purpose of the Marriage Amendment Bill is without doubt to uphold the institution of marriage by instilling in persons desiring to enter into the marriage state a perceptiveness of the obligations and responsibilities of the marriage vows. This is most laudable at a time when the institution of marriage in many quarters is being held up to ridicule and indeed in contempt.
It is sad to reflect that the sanctity of marriage is to a large extent being ignored and that that institution is being eroded and attacked from many quarters. It is particularly refreshing that this piece of legislation is directly aimed at its preservation and protection. I know of no government in the past that has been courageous enough to spell out in bold terms its affirmation of its belief in that sanctity and the Government should be congratulated for doing so.
I belong to that school which believes in the preservation of marriage as it is on the solid foundation that a nation can bloom and prosper. In short, the main aspects of the Bill are designed to forestall the breakdown of marriage. A firm step in this direction is envisaged by clause 9b of the Bill. This clause will allow the AttorneyGeneral out of monies appropriated by the Parliament to grant to an approved organisation under such conditions as he thinks fit financial assistance for the conduct of a program of premarital education. Whilst marriage counselling organisations are already in existence under the Family Law Act, the Bill will permit voluntary organisations that are willing to conduct premarital courses to apply to the AttorneyGeneral for approval and appropriate funding.
Funding for marriage counselling and associated matters has been set in this year’s Budget at $1,905,800 and this, of course, in itself exemplifies the tremendous importance of these organisations in the mind of the Government. It may not be generally known but the fact is that counsellors have been in great demand and my research indicates that they already have dealt with over 2000 new cases. They have been ‘ instrumental in saving many marriages that were destined for breakdown with all the consequential suffering and heartbreak not only to the parents but also to the children who always seem to suffer most in the long term. As I see it, the Bill is intended to avert the breakdown of this institution and it should decelerate the increase in the divorce rate. It is of interest that in the first 6 months of its establishment there have been 32 000 applications for divorce to the Family Court of Australia. The court had already granted nearly 17 000 divorces to the middle of July last and was disposing of over 1000 applications for divorce each week. These are on anyone ‘s say-so alarming figures and I trust that this Bill will go a long way towards reducing them.
However meritorious the provisions may be they will not be used effectively and to their full capacity unless their existence is properly promulgated. I trust that the Bill will see to that. On my reading it seems eminently clear that there is a two-fold thrust; namely, by grants of money to approved organisations for extensive advertising of the courses and, in quite a revolutionary way, by clause 13 which requires an authorised marriage celebrant after receiving notice of intended marriage to give to the parties a document in the prescribed form outlining the obligations and consequences of marriage and indicating the availability of premarital education and counselling. There can be no doubt that numerous persons enter marriage with only a passing thought for its obligations and consequences and without giving it the serious deliberation that it certainly requires.
It may be said that there are marriage celebrants who themselves place little value on or who have scant regard for the marriage vows. This is often exemplified by their celebration of marriage at bizarre rendezvous. It has come to my notice that numerous marriages have been celebrated by these people in sandhills amongst bikie groups where the main emphasis appears to be placed on intoxication. Only recently I heard of a case of 2 people getting married after catapulting from a plane with parachutes and joining hands with the marriage celebrant thousands of feet above the earth. This makes a mockery of the celebration of marriage. No doubt honourable members would know of similar instances.
I trust that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) in the near future will see fit to direct all marriage celebrants that in the performance of their duties a high regard for the dignity of the occasion is imperative and that marriages that emphasise eccentricities in the proceedings rather than the dignity of the occasion will be frowned upon. I say without any equivocation or fear of contradiction that it is high time that these celebrants were either pulled into gear or their authorisations withdrawn.
The concept in clause 10 of the Bill, I say again, must be commended. The old procedure was that a person under the age of 18 years who had been refused parental consent to marry had simply to apply to a magistrate for consent. In practice, because of the nature of their business, in most courts these applications were not usually heard until the end of the day. From my own experience in these courts, the consent was rarely, if ever, refused. In fact no substantial inquiry as to all the underlying factors was ever set in train. I should be most interested to receive some statistical information- I am sure other honourable members would be also- as to the number of these types of marriages that succeeded. In the main they were cases where the girl was pregnant, was horrified at the stigma of illegitimacy and became hellbent on entering into marriage. The stigma of illegitimacy, thank heavens, is almost a non-event in this day and age. Counselling of these young people must of necessity have a beneficial effect and be another stage in the Government’s intention to cut back the rate of divorce. It will be seen that under the new provisions a magistrate will be prohibited from proceeding with an application for his consent to marriage unless a certificate is produced to the effect that the applicant has attended such counselling. However, it will not have to be produced if sufficient reason is given.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) mentioned clause 13 of the Bill and indicated his objection thereto and the possibility of an amendment being moved. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 13(1) provide for the extension of the minimum period for giving notice of intended marriage from 7 days to one month before the intended marriage. As I understand the situation, the Attorney-General has received many suggestions in relation to the period of time. Certain organisations suggested that a period of 12 months would have been appropriate. Of course various other periods were advanced by different interested bodies. But there can be no doubt that prior to this provision being included in the Bill all these proposals with which he was inundated were weighed against the consideration that, in principle, arbitrary restrictions on a fundamental right such as the right to marriage should not lightly be imposed. But in any event, and again alluding to what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith forecast as an amendment referable to the extension of this period of time, I would draw his attention to section 42 (5) of the principal Act. That section refers to the fact that a prescribed authority, if he is satisfied that the circumstances of the particular case can justify his action, is then authorised to solemnise the marriage notwithstanding that the notice has been received later than one month before the marriage. With the greatest respect, I can see no point in such an amendment. It is quite clear that contained within the Act, and I refer to section 42 (5), is an inherent discretion reposing in the prescribed authority to vary that time.
Another clause sets out the ground on which marriage is void. I suggest that this speaks for itself and requires no elaboration from me. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith alluded in passing to the fact that the Bill dealt with the old form of breach of promise. I can say that at long last the archaic action for breach of promise to marry is to be laid to rest. This form of action has long outlived its uselessness. It provided the opportunity for claims of a golddigging nature to be made. The existence of the action created the danger that a person would prefer to enter into an unsuitable marriage rather than face court proceedings. Other criticisms of this form of action have been levied and to these I add my own. It appeared to be hardly logical to award damages on the termination of an agreement to marry and not on the termination of the marriage itself. It goes without saying that the action involved a court in the almost impossible task of fixing responsibility for a broken engagement. Indeed, in New South Wales, Mr Justice Selby suggested that the existence of the action for breach of promise to marry runs counter to the prevailing social attitudes to marriage and preparation for marriage. For example, if the engagement period was to be used as a time during which the proposed marriage partners finally contemplated whether they would enter marriage, no good social reason was served by the threat that if one or the other doubted whether the marriage was likely to succeed and acted on such doubt, he or she could then be subject to legal action.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith also mentioned that he doubted whether the Parliament had the constitutional power to legislate in relation to clause 21 (2) of the Bill. He raised some very interesting arguments to support that contention. As we know, the Parliament has constitutional power to legislate in respect of marriage. Honourable members will see on reading that clause that all it does is affirm the old situation relating to an action for the recovery of any gifts given in contemplation of marriage. It just re-affirms that actions of that particular nature are not affected. I doubt very much whether, either now or in the future, any constitutional question would arise in relation thereto. So it is that I concur with the statement by the AttorneyGeneral that in this Bill there is neither prohibition nor compulsion but persuasion and inducement to people to increase their selfawareness an awareness of each other when contemplating marriage and thereby to make with more prudence and consideration what will be their most important decision. I support the Bill.
Mr ANTONY WHITLAM (Grayndler) . (8.20)-The Marriage Amendment Bill 1976 is an important measure. It is, I hope, a measure which will be considered on non-party lines. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) indicated that that is the way in which members of the Labor Party would be looking at it. There is very little that has fallen from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicot) in his second reading speech, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith or from my distinguished and learned friend, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney), with which one can take exception.
This is a very light Bill. It is a Bill with only 2 elements of any substance in it. It is the sort of Bill for which the Government is sending out to the Public Service departments at this time. It is essentially a lawyer’s Bill. It is to update legislation. It is to do the things that when Labor was in power were being done as a matter of policy. It is a drafting measure. The Attorney-General says that it has 2 elements of substance in it. One is to require celebrants to hand a prescribed form of notice to persons intending to marry and the other is to extend the period of notice one must give before one marries.
The honourable mamber for Kingsford-Smith has indicated in relation to the second of those important elements that he will be opposing it, and so shall I. The Attorney-General said that the Bill was seeking to uphold the institution of marriage. The honourable member for Phillip- in the ringing tones which Government supporters generally bring to the defence of some abstract concept like small business or motherhood- said much the same thing. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that the institution of marriage or any narrow legal definition has defied the description of the draftsman and defied the description of Sir Garfield Barwick when he introduced this legislation initially in 1960. No-one can talk in precise statutorily defined terms about what marriage is. I found it a little distressing that the honourable member for Phillip should see fit to remark upon the fact that occasionally marriages are celebrated in what he described as exotic locations. Somewhat sotto voce the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) remarked about persons who parachute while being married that at least that could be described as a marriage made in Heaven. Suffice to say that I know there is no subliminal message that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) means to convey in this because all these bizarre marriages have been celebrated by ministers of religion and not by the authorised celebrants, the secularists who are so stigmatised in debates, at least in another place, but hopefully not in this place.
The problem with the first substantive amendmentthat is, the requirement that a prescribed form of notice should be given to persons intending marriage- is, of course, that we do not have it before us. In the second reading speech the Attorney-General went on at some length about what a desirable thing this would be and how nice it would be if persons intending to marry had the gravity of the obligations they are about to undertake forced upon them by the State and their attention drawn to the existence of premarital programs run by voluntary organisations. As with so much legislation introduced by this Government, we do not have that form before us now. We do not know what this Government will say about the obligations of marriage. No doubt that form will be produced in some statutory instrument during a recess or while we are away from Canberra.
The suggestion that the stability of marriage depends upon persons being acquainted with what I assume to be the legal obligations of marriage is, of course, a nonsense. It is unfortunately all too typical of what one expects from persons who have lived, as a great number of their constituents have lived, rather sheltered lives. Looking back on the history of this legislation which was first introduced by Sir Garfield Barwick in 1 960, we find that one most extraordinary aspect is the 2 great issues which were discussed at that time by members of this House. One was the issue of legitimation which at least has preoccupied some people now although it is certainly not, as the Attorney admits, one of the substantive amendments which this Bill seeks to effect. The other issue was the age of consent.
Although that legislation was considered as a non-party measure, one of the extraordinary points which seemed to divide persons on our side of the House from those on the then LiberalCountry Party side of the House was the suggestion that persons who have been cossetted in private academies of secondary education and then in universities until they are legally adults, above the age of 2 1 years, should be treated in the same way as persons who have been sent out into the world to earn their living from the age of 1 4 or 1 5 years. It was amazing how this perception divided this House. One of the things that I still find extraordinary is that 16 years later the Attorney-General is promoting what he describes, at least on the surface, as a Government measure, which talks about the stability of marriage being posited simply upon the existence of pre-marital counselling. I have seen in my own constituency and the areas that surround it persons who have experienced marital instability. From that experience I can say one of the greatest causes of marital instability is the kind of social condition which is never addressed in this legislation and on which, even this very week, the Government has turned its back. The greatest cause of marital instability is the prospect of someone entering a marriage without the secure opportunity to remain a breadwinner.
If honourable members who are trying to interject ever find the time to go into a divorce court or what is now called as a result of innovation by the Labor Government, more humanely and decently the Family Court, they will see that it is those real problems that cause marital instability. What saves marriages is access to places such as the Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre in my district, which is always pilloried in the lowest terms by members from the other side of the House. Access to community health programs saves marriages and those are precisely the programs on which the Government is cutting back. Access to supposed middle class values about marriage in a formalistic pre-marital education is so much hokum and will never save marriages in this country. As Government members wrap themselves in this false cloak they will ensure that people go once more into the Family Court, there to fight out their disputes. This attitude is gross hypocrisy.
The other substantive amendment which this Bill seeks to effect is one which I will be opposing, as will the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. The proposal is that the minimum period of notice which intending partners to a marriage should give will be extended from 7 days to 30 days. That is a gross invasion of civil liberties. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) conceded as much himself towards the end of his speech when he said that such restrictions are not lightly to be imposed; nor are they. He said that suggestions are being put to him about the minimum period of this notice being extended. This marriage legislation has been in force, after being enacted by the Federal Parliament, for some 15 years, and I would have thought in this time we could have developed some real research into the causes of what makes marriages go awry and not have to rely on mere speculation or on guesses by essentially well meaning voluntary organisations.
In 1960 and in 1961 when this legislation came before the House, after the disgracefully long period of 60 years, legislators in Canberra grasped the nettle of dealing with this power given them by our founding fathers and a lot of time was spent talking about how the age of consent would affect the prospects of the stability of a marriage. Statistics were produced. Now the Attorney-General comes in with a proposition to extend from 7 days to 30 days the minimum period of notice that needs to be given. He has not produced a single statistic, notwithstanding that in the intervening 15 years the Federal Government has had the administration of this legislation. That seems deplorable. I would hazard a guess that what the Parliament talked about 15 years ago about the age of consent being a much more realistic factor in the prospects of a marriage is still the case and that this question about the minimum period of notice before one gets married is of very little value whatsoever.
Honourable members will be interested to know the position before the Federal Parliament legislated in this area. In 1960 the AttorneyGeneral, Sir Garfield Barwick, sought to put this information before the Parliament. He tabled information which I think bears repeating. The minimum period of notice of intended marriage prescribed by the various State Acts at that time was: New South Wales and Queensland none; Victoria 3 days; Tasmania 7 days; South Australia 10 days; Western Australia where a marriage is to be celebrated in a church under bans must be published 3 Sundays before the marriage or if under notice, a notice must be affixed to the church for 14 days; 7 days notice must be given if the marriage is to be performed by a district registrar. These were the periods stipulated previously. But in New South Wales and Queensland no minimum period of notice was prescribed at all, and whilst I have not had the time to do the research on this, I am sure that in many other jurisdictions under AngloAmerican common law there are no minimum periods of notice prescribed.
It is odd that now this invasion of a civil liberty should be sought to be imposed upon intending partners to a marriage without the kinds of statistics that must be available being produced. I know that many honourable members on the other side of the House have something of a reluctance to have social scientists develop this kind of material for them. This is a relatively simple process and it would be easily available. From the kind of information I put before the House, it appears that not significantly more people in Queensland before 1961 who were married and who had to give no notice of their intention to marry have had their marriages come unstuck than persons in South Australia where, before this Parliament legislated, 10 days notice had to be given. It is odd that the AttorneyGeneral, in concluding his plea for the value of increasing the period of notice and even saying that from time to time he had had suggestions that the period of notice ought to be as long as 12 months, said -
-Who said that?
-The AttorneyGeneral said it in his second reading speech. When he replies he will tell the honourable member whether he said it. One of the things he said was that this measure was designed to stop hasty and ill-advised marriages. There is no one to whom the Attorney-General defers more or whose judgment he better anticipates than the Governor-General of this country. The GovernorGeneral of this country married last year. In an answer to question on notice No. 515 in this Parliament, which related to whether the parties to that marriage had given any notice under section 42 of the principal Act which is now being amended, the Attorney-General said that he did not think this was the kind of information that ought to be made available to the public. He acknowledged then that when persons sought to get married it was their own private business. He acknowledged it then but he does not acknowledge it now in the amendment that he urges on this House. I do not want to flesh out too much for honourable members what that means, but it will be useful to some of them at least if I tell the House that the case of Robson v. Robson, which honourable members will remember was discussed in the first sittings of this Parliament, alluded -
– Only by the Opposition.
-Those honourable members opposite who are interjecting somewhat frivolously during the debate on this serious subject would do better to be quiet. I know something about being married under these circumstances, being married to a person who was divorced. Those records will be available at Ash Street with the other personal records and information that the Liberal Party of Australia keeps if honourable members opposite wish to look at them. The case of Robson v. Robson was an expedited divorce hearing. It was heard on 18 April 1975. 1 do not know whether the lady involved was the petitioner or the respondent, but she remarried -
– Get your facts correct.
– The honourable member for St George can enlighten me. He will no doubt know the facts. She remarried on 29 April, exactly 1 1 days after the decree absolute was made. The person whose judgment honourable members opposite give the greatest credence would not, under the provision that the Government has bought before this House, have been able to remarry. How hypocritical and how typical of honourable members opposite.
– You do not know the facts. Give us the facts.
– Surely he would get special dispensation.
– I must say that the honourable member for Prospect has exhibited once again by his interjection that, for a layman, he has a greater knowledge of the law than has the honourable member for St George. That is, of course, provided for in section 42, whereby a prescribed authority can shorten the notice. Even that shortening of notice is not a public document; it is not a public procedure. In any event it is one, presumably, on which the Attorney-General would never enlighten us. This measure is cloaked in humbug. The idea is that marriage exists as some airy-fairy concept outside the real world. The stresses on marriage are the economic stresses, and the social stresses which this very week every honourable member opposite has sought to ignore. They are the stresses that are placed upon marriage and they are why marriages come unstuck.
– If the honourable member for La Trobe, who is not interjecting but who is at least sighing vigorously as if he has had something to do with an upset marriage, wants to know about this matter he can attend on any day he wishes in the Family Courts of this country and find out. It is not because people do not know about tender caresses and the other physical aspects of marriage which, oddly enough, the Attorney-General referred to in the final paragraph of his second reading speech when he talked about this gross invasion of civil liberties being justified as a persuasion and inducement to people to increase their self awareness and their awareness of each other when contemplating marriage. That could have come out of the passages of a Johnson and Masters sex manual. It is absolute nonsense and rubbish. I hope that on this occasion, which I hope will be a non-party occasion, honourable members opposite will feel -
– They are going to be instructed how to vote.
– It has not been made clear yet whether this is a non-party measure for members of the Government Parties. There is no logic whatsoever in extending the period of notice to 30 days. No one on the Opposition side takes any comfort from marriages breaking apart, but at least I hope that that measure- I think it is clause 13, Mr Deputy Speaker; correct me if I am wrong- will be opposed by a number of honourable members.
– You should know what clause it is.
-Reading legislation is a relatively simple matter. The honourable member will learn to do it after he has been here for a number of years.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Government, and in particular the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), is to be congratulated on introducing this Bill. It is true, as we heard in the diatribe of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam), that the Bill deals with legal matters and cannot deal with all the social problems of the day. It is true that economic conditions and the other matters to which he referred put stresses on marriages. In regard to that, I make 2 comments. He challenged honourable members to divulge their experience in the courts. Let me tell him that for many of my early years at the Bar I spent a fair amount of time in the courts of petty sessions- where the serious matters of maintenance, assault, custody and the like are dealt with- at Liverpool, Fairfield, Campsie and the suburban courts that he would probably have much difficulty in finding if he wanted to get to them. Subsequently I spent some time in the Family Court and, of course, in the Divorce Court. I can give him plenty of examples of the bitterness that is caused in marriages and the problems that arise from the social difficulties of which he spoke. The Bill does what is required as a matter of law to assist in solving some problems and enabling the community at large to see that this Government is serious about upholding the institution of marriage.
The second point I make is that this Bill is consistent with the measures brought down by the Government recently in the Budget and other measures introduced this year. The personal income tax indexation provisions and the family allowances are the greatest social reforms since Federation. The family allowances will strengthen marriages tremendously. They will assist large low income families, and they will do more for Aboriginal families than the moneys wasted by the Australian Labor Party over the last 3 years. They contrast very significantly with the measures in the Budget last year, when the former Government, faced with its own massive incompetence in the management of the economy, abandoned all pretence of reform and brought down the harshest, most unconscionable and most conservative Budget in Australia’s history. It forces half of the pensioners in Australia who earned a little extra income to pay, on average, $3 per week tax. They either had to pay more or had to pay tax for the first time. It was a disgraceful, conservative Budget.
I deal now with the clauses of the Bill. Clause 8 is a very important clause which makes provision for grants to approved organisations, upon such conditions as the Attorney-General thinks fit, to subsidise the conduct of premarital education programs. This is a provision comparable with a provision in the Family Law Act relating to marriage counselling. There is a matter in the Bill that concerns me to some extent. I have had the benefit of making my views known to the Attorney-General. As usual, he took into account all matters put to him. If I appear to ask for his further indulgence to make amendments on a few technicalities, it is in no way contrary to my express affirmation of the intent of this Bill and its major provisions.
The question about the certificate that is to be produced to the court before a young person who has had parental consent refused can be marriedI am referring now to clause 10- requires 2 comments: Firstly, there is no definition of the amount of marriage counselling that is to be obtained. I would have thought that it would be preferable to spell out in some detail whether it should be one session with the marriage counsellor or some other defined period. Otherwise there can be arguments or disputes between persons. Under the Family Law Act it is not necessary because the provisions are clearly based on a conciliatory matter. That Act does not go into detail. It does not have to. I think it would be better to have a spelling out of the amount of counselling.
Secondly, I would much prefer to see the use of the premarital education provisions because there is a considerable difference between premarital education and marriage guidance counselling. Marriage counselling is normally used where the marriage has either broken down or is in trouble. Counsellors are appointed under section 37 of the Family Law Act. They are persons who act in the precincts of the court. They may also come from certain approved organisations. But I think that young people of sixteen to 1 8 years of age or a little older- whatever the age may be- who have to go down to the courts often have fear and emotional trauma when mixing with persons whose marriages have broken down. They are dealt with by marriage counsellors who are normally skilled in dealing with broken marriages. I think this is less preferable than a requirement that these young people receive some of the premarital education which is provided for in clause 8 of the Bill. I understand there are some administrative difficulties. There are said to be problems with premarital education but I think they could be overcome.
I move now to clause 13 to which the honourable members for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and Grayndler have referred. This clause has received the most favourable public reaction. There have been numerous Press reports. I understand telegrams have been received by the Government stating that the extension of the period is an admirable idea as it signifies to the nation the importance of thinking about marriage and of arranging it in a sober fashion and in a sober time space. The period of time is a matter of judgment. I think that one month is reasonable. I do not think it should be much longer because of the 12 months separation period for the eventual dissolution of the marriage. I think the test should be to retain a reasonable nexus or relationship between the 2 matters. Many persons, organisations and churchmen have applauded this measure. What must be remembered is that there are 2 aspects to be considered under section 42 (5) of the Marriage Act. It states:
A prescribed authority may, if he is satisfied that the circumstances of the particular case justify his so doing:
authorise an authorised celebrant to solemnise a marriage; or
where he is also an authorised celebrant and there is no other authorised celebrant suitable to the parties conveniently available, solemnise a marriage himself, notwithstanding that the notice required . . . has been received later than the seventh day before the date of the marriage.
The period will be 30 days or one month under the new Act. All that legal wording simply means is that the period can be reduced. That would obviously be done in the case of servicemen if we should unfortunately be engaged again in war, in the case of persons seeking to go overseas, persons whose parents might be going overseas or about to die or for various other reasons which people may advance to have the prescribed period reduced. No doubt that would be done. Another aspect to be borne in mind- I think it is a tribute to the clarity of the legal thought of the Attorney-General- is that the prescribed authority has to make the decision.
A civil marriage celebrant, or many of the marriage celebrants, would not be able to make that decision. The prescribed authority is the registrar or other certain persons. It is the prescribed authority under the definitions section of the Act. I do not see that that would cause any difficulty. It would mean that an experienced person, a person who would be dealing with these matters fairly regularly, would develop an assessment of the general types of problems which would arise and would have the knowledge and experience properly to put into operation section 42 ( 5 ). It would not be as if the parties were going to a person who had not solemnised a marriage before. I think that section is worthwhile and reasonable in all the circumstances. It has been applauded by the public at large.
One provision that concerns me is the requirement that, before marriage, the authorised celebrant give to the parties a document in the prescribed form outlining the obligations and consequences of marriage and indicating the availability of pre-marital education and counselling. I would still prefer to have the word ‘counselling’ left out. It is with some regret that I support that clause. It is a very sad day when the state has to hand to the individual a document saying ‘these are the obligations and consequences of marriage’ because if people do not have some reasonable appreciation for themselves of what life is all about and what they are getting into, society is really starting to founder. However, apparently it is necessary. I have no fundamental objection to it but I would prefer it if we did not have to do this to people.
I believe that there are only rare occasions on which any man ought to judge the personal affairs of another because it is none of his business or his judgment will usually be wrong, but a judge has to do this in court cases and the legislature has to produce legislation. If this House is taking upon itself the right to tell people that they have to read and be given a document outlining the obligations and consequences of marriage, I believe that this House must decide on the document and settle it. I do not support the position that it will be done later, although I am consoled by the fact that presumably it would have to be tabled at some time and we could look at it. I understand from the Attorney-General that this document will be settled at some later time, that the church people and other groups will be asked to send in their comments and in this way it will be settled. I believe that, if the state is going to intervene, the responsibility is on the state. I think that if there has to be a document it ought to be as simple as possible and it ought to be consistent with the provisions of the Family Law Act.
Section 43 of the Family Law Act sets out the principles to be applied by the courts in the exercise of their jurisdiction. The first principle is the need to preserve and protect the institution of marriage. If those principles were adopted, if the form were to incorporate those principles and if the Parliament were to see that the form was therefore consistent with the Family Law Act then I would be able to accept the position. But I would be wanting to scrutinise this procedure carefully from now on and have a close look at the document. It will be the Parliament’s document that will be delivered to individuals when they marry.
I turn to clause 15. It is good to see that the discrimination between Australian persons and others who are not British subjects has been removed. That is consistent with this Government’s attitude to all members of our society or all persons who are Australian citizens even though they are outside the country at any particular time. According to a memorandum and according to the public statements, clause 2 1 is designed to abolish the action for breach of promise, but it does not quite say that Clause 21 (1) reads
A person is not entitled to recover damages from another person by reason only of the fact that that other person has failed to perform a promise, undertaking or engagement to marry the first-mentioned person.
That is rather technical wording and it is legal wording. There are a number of queries. I would like to think that the Attorney-General has the answer. I am sure he has thought about this in great detail. Firstly, this is a question of contract law and common law derived from our legal system. As alluded to by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, it may not be within section 51 placita (xxi) and (xxii) of the Constitution which refer to marriage, divorce and matrimonial causes and, in relation thereto, parental rights and the custody and guardianship of infants. The mere fact that the promise is to marry does not make it any different, in legal theory, from a promise to give a bicycle or to exchange goods. The question which must arise is whether or not the Attorney-General can be satisfied that it is an incidental provision because unless it is an incidental provision to the constitutional power I would have some doubts whether State law will be affected.
Secondly, I do not think it is correct to say, as the second reading speech claims, that:
The remainder of the provisions of this Bill are of a more technical or formal nature. The virtually obsolete action for breach of promise of marriage is abolished.
It is a substantive matter of law. What worries me is the question of special damages and of possible racketeering. In New South Wales we have always had section 42 of the Evidence Act which provides that an action for breach of promise shall not be successful unless there is corroboration. That has always protected people.
I should like to see an extension to the exception that no action that could otherwise be brought for recovery of gifts given in contemplation of marriage shall be barred because there could otherwise be some implication that we are avoiding the recovery of money spent in anticipation of marriage sometimes in situations fraudulent. We know that sometimes unscrupulous persons introduce one person to another. There are introduction agencies and lonely hearts clubs that sometimes prey on migrants in particular and try to rip them off. I would hope that special damages, not compensation for an affair of the heart or worry or the like but compensation for money outlaid, not necessarily by way of a gift given to the other party, would be covered. It may well be covered in State law in any case, but that needs some consideration.
Those are the main provisions of the Bill to which I wish to refer. This is important legislation and it has received widespread acclaim. Regrettable though it may be, there is no doubt that it is necessary in these times for society in general to provide support for the institution of marriage. This Bill, when passed, will assist to achieve that purpose.
-This debate which is deeply involved with social questions in which the community is interested, has been dominated, and probably rightly so, by members of the legal profession. It has been a legal debate. My contribution shall be from a layman’s point of view. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) expressed amazement at the soaring number of divorces. This was expected when legal costs for divorces were reduced by the Labor Government. The honourable member was formerly an eminent criminal lawyer, a Queen’s Counsel, from Sydney. To members of this House he appeared to be a very frank and outspoken member of the Parliament, but he did not make any reference to the money the legal profession had been making out of the divorces of unfortunate people whose marriages had broken up. In the electorate of Hunter it was quite common for certain members of the legal profession- and there were many- to reef, if I may use the vernacular, $800 off an unfortunate working man in receipt of a minimum or average wage to put a simple undefended divorce through the court.
-That is about $1,000 now.
– Yes, it is about $1,000 now. This was causing many people who could not afford divorces to live separately from their wives, to live under a cloud of mental anguish and torture, and to be social outcasts because they may have had other girl friends.
– They sometimes lived in sin.
– Yes, they sometimes lived in sin. Of course, this does not happen to the Mickey Rooneys or the Elizabeth Taylors. I think Mickey Rooney has had 7 wives, and Liz Taylor has married about four times. I think Eddie Fisher has married five or six times. King Henry VIII, too, had about 6 wives. But they are of the upper crust and it does not matter what they do. But the poor old battler could not afford to get a divorce until the Labor Government introduced more progressive and common sense legislation under the Prime Ministership of Mr Whitlam; we had this matter quickly rectified.
I point out also the astuteness of the AttorneyGeneral. I have looked through this legislation to see whether it contains anything which will solve some of the problems, when they occur, associated with mixed marriages. Oh God, what politician will touch that subject! He will get his fingers burnt and lose votes in his electorate. Oh no! I want to relate to the House a case in point. It comes within the scope of the amendments proposed by the Bill. It is an illustration of the law of the land sometimes conflicting with the law of the Vatican and how sometimes the law is interpreted by the courts. The amendments contained in the Bill remind me of something that happened very soon after I entered this Parliament in 1962. A young couple came to my office in Newcastle. The boy was 1 years old and the girl was 17 years old. They were of different faiths. The girl was from a Roman Catholic family very strong in its faith and the boy was from a family of practising Anglicans. The girl’s parents who were Dutch said to the boy: ‘You are not going to marry our daughter’. They told him straight that he was not to be their son-in-law because he was a Protestant. The young couple decided that they should break away and get married because the girl was pregnant. They sought some advice. They applied to the court for permission to marry. Unfortunately, they went to a solicitor who was of the same faith as the girl and they appeared before a magistrate who was of the same faith as the girl. The case was heard in closed court. I would like the Attorney-General to provide in this legislation for young couples to have the power to decide whether they want their case heard in closed court or in open court, because if that case had been heard in open court I do not think the decision which was reached would have been reached.
The magistrate deferred the case. He said that he wanted some evidence put before him as to whether the boy would be able to maintain his intended wife if they were given permission to marry by the court. The boy produced to the court evidence from his employer that he was a junior signalman in the railways, that he was studying for his examination, that it was anticipated that he would have no trouble in passing those examinations, and that if he married he would go on to the adult wage of a 21 -year-old. Then he was asked by the magistrate: ‘Where will you live?’ He said: ‘My wife and I will live with my grandmother who is living alone in a 5- bedroom house’. So the obstacles put up by the magistrate in relation to income and accommodation were overcome. Then the boy was asked: ‘If the court gives you permission to many, in what church do you intend to get married?’ He said: ‘We have agreed to get married in the Church of England’. The couple never received permission to marry.
I spent 3 hours obtaining statutory declarations from the couple, and I took them to see the State Minister for Justice. I said: ‘This wicked decision by the court is loaded with sectarianism. Can you do something about it? ‘ This young couple could not appeal against the magistrate’s decision. I hope that the Attorney-General, as Australia’s No. 1 legal man, will inform me whether there is provision in this Bill to allow a couple to appeal. Can they appeal? Can they go to a higher tribunal? I understand that if the magistrate rejects the application for permission to marry, that is final and binding. I was able as a layman- not as James, Q.C., but as James the layman- to guide this young couple and advise them that they could obtain another hearing. The hearing is not an appeal but is a reapplication. They applied to a judge to obtain permission to marry.
-What year was that?
– If I told you, you would not know. After the way you have been interjecting tonight I do not think you have a brain in your head.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I would suggest that honourable members on my right cease interjecting.
– The young couple got a rehearing before a judge, and honourable members can imagine the legal expense to which they were put. The parents of the girl engaged an eminent Queen’s Counsel to block the marriage. The Queen’s Counsel raised the point that neither of the girl’s parents had signed the appropriate form necessary to enable the re-application for marriage to be heard. The judge’s hands were tied because of that legal point and he could not give a decision. He was sympathetic and wanted to give them permission to marry but legally he could not do it. So he simply deferred the case and the couple were married within a fortnight of the girl ‘s having the child.
With all the legal humble-bumble that the young couple had to go through, if the girl had not been strong mentally one could imagine her committing suicide rather than having a child out of wedlock. Despite the promiscuity which goes on today in the community, a lot of women suffer great embarrassment at bearing an illegitimate child, and that could have been brought about by the legal humble-bumble the young couple had to go through. For that and many other reasons I am opposing the provision in this legislation for the extension of notice from 7 days to one month. This would prolong the agony that a young couple have to suffer when they are in love, they are going to have a child and they want to get married as soon as possible. This provision would just prolong the agony, and it has been included in spite of the multitude of letters the Attorney-General has received- probably from extremely prudish people- to which he referred in his second reading speech.
When this Bill was first introduced- I am sure the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong- it compelled a marriage celebrant to sight the birth certificates of young couples before a marriage could be performed. I had another case in my electorate of a young couple who were arranging their marriage because the girl was pregnant. The hall was engaged, the orchestra was engaged, relatives and friends had come from near and far. The young couple visited the marriage celebrant who said that because a birth certificate was not available he could not marry them. I arrived home in my electorate from Parliament on Friday night and the father of the boy rang me and said: ‘We have got everything ready. Come over.’ He told me that his boy was getting married but that there was an obstacle and the parson would not marry them because one of them did not have a birth certificate. I asked him where his son was born and he told me that it was in Mount Isa. Had the marriage not been taking place the next day I could have phoned Mount Isa and arranged for the police to send the birth certificate by airmail, but it was 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon and the marriage was to take place on the Saturday. I rang the minister of religion and was able to persuade him.
I asked him whether it would be sufficient if the mother of the girl to be married signed a statutory declaration to the fact that she bore this child on a certain date and in a certain hospital. He deliberated and said: ‘I will ring you back’. To my mind that statutory declaration would be more positive evidence than a birth certificate which could be typed up by a junior typist who could make a typing error in regard to the date of birth. To have the mother make a statutory declaration is a more positive step than requiring a birth certificate. But no such provision was included in the legislation when it was passed in this House. With all the eminent lawyers of this Parliament able to make a contribution in the framing of the legislation no provision was made to the effect that in the absence of a birth certificate a mother could sign a statutory declaration as to the date of birth of the person to be married. I believe that in this latter part of the twentieth century society is looking towards and expecting parliamentarians to act to ensure that as few obstacles as possible are placed in the way of young people wanting to get married and as few obstacles as possible are placed in the way of people wanting to get a divorce. But, as I understand the situation, members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party will vote on Party lines on this matter.
– They are directed.
– As the honourable member says, they are directed. Is it because the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have been downed on previous occasions when matters have come before this
Parliament in which members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party have been given a free vote? On those occasions they did not have the numbers. I believe that that is why they have tied the hands of Government supporters on this occasion. They have said: ‘No, the Government Parties have made a decision’. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) made reference- I believe rightly so; he got no pleasure out of it, just as I get no pleasure out of doing so- to the way in which the law can be twisted and stretched to suit the parties involved if they are people of influence. I cite the Robson case as an example. The then Mrs Robson now Lady Kerr, applied for a divorce on 18 April 1975 and was granted a divorce on 29 April 1975. Such celerity is practically unprecedented.
– What religion was she?
– I do not think religion entered into the matter. Convenience did, and influence.
– What were the grounds for the divorce?
– I would not know; perhaps convenience. I believe and I hope that some honourable members on the Government side will see fit to vote independently and in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the electors they represent. I believe that in voting against a delay of one month for young couples applying to be married I shall be reflecting the wishes of the majority of the electors of Hunter.
– Wrong again.
– I am not wrong. I believe that the Government is making another error in its Budget by increasing divorce costs. Apparently the Government thinks that the working class and the poorer section of the community on low wages are not worthy of the concession provided for them. Of course the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) has had some experience in this regard. I think he has been at the marriage barrier two or three times.
– Three times.
– Three times. I do not think his divorces would have cost him as much as divorces have cost some of my unfortunate constituents. In the light of the case in Newcastle to which I referred, I would like the AttorneyGeneral to make provision in the Marriage Amendment Bill for young couples to have the right of appeal against the decision of a magistrate. It upset me to learn that a person’s religious beliefs would not allow him to administer the law in accordance with the oath he took. I understand that a magistrate or judge takes an oath to administer the law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will. That is the true meaning of the interpretation of our judicial system. I respect our judicial system. It has its faults but no judicial system is perfect. I believe that our judicial system is pretty clean, compared to what goes on in other countries. But there is still injustice in our courts. For example, recently, bail was granted to a man accused of murdering a bank manager. I hope that the truth comes out in that case.
– Tell us about that.
– The honourable member can have the legal people on his side of the House tell him about that case. They know more about it. I hope that the judicial system will be purified of the shortcomings it has. I believe that straight, honest speaking by politicians in this Parliament can make a great contribution to do this than anything else.
– I am told that prior to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), entering Parliament, he was a marriage counsellor in the Hunter Valley. I am told also that the history of marriage in that part of Australia would indicate that his counselling was frequently wide of the mark. The honourable member presented himself as an ex-marriage counsellor and a lay man. I speak as one of the few in this Parliament who have not entered into the state of matrimony. That does not really make me any wiser than the rest. But it is obvious that when the Family Law Bill was enacted in the Parliament about a year ago, contrary to the suggestion of the previous speaker, it required the support of honourable members on both sides of the House. There are members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party who voted for the enactment of the Family Law Bill, as did members of the Australian Labor Party. It is just as correct to say that members of the ALP fought vigorously against the enactment of the Family Law BUI as did members of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party at that time. So there is little point in the honourable member for Hunter claiming praise for the changes in family law legislation which have come about in recent times.
The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1 959 preceded the Marriage Act of 1961. The Family Law Act of last year precedes this BUI, the Marriage Amendment BUI. I compliment the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) for introducing this Bill during the closing stages of the last session to enable members of the Parliament to go out into their electorates to ascertain the views of the population in relation to the amendments which it proposes. I know that many honourable members on this side of the House, including the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Ml) and myself, wrote to people in our electorates, mainly to the clergy, to see how they felt about the changes that were being proposed by the AttorneyGeneral. I am pleased to say that in the vast majority of cases the reaction has been most favourable. The previous speaker laboured the point about what happens to the young couple when the woman has fallen pregnant and they have to wait a month to be married. That very argument and the point raised by the honourable member underlines the fact that he did not fully understand the Bill. It is a pity that the honourable member for Hunter is not listening because he is about to learn. The Bill contains a provision that if a couple wish to marry in a shorter time than one month they can apply to a Registrar of Marriage and the Registrar of Marriage can allow that couple to marry that day, the next day or anytime later.
– Take your hands out of your pockets.
-Well, get your hands out of your ears because you have not been hearing much for a long, long time, my friend. You will not learn very much if you sit in this place and listen to the honourable member for Hunter as a mentor and an assistant. The previous speaker indulged in a lot of trifle about the month’s wait. He spoke about the tragedy and turmoil which would fall upon the hearts and shoulders of the couple he dragged up from 1962.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) on his insistence in these tough economic times that the amount of money set aside for marriage counselling should be increased from the Australian Labor Party’s allocation of $ 1.6m to $1.9m. Guess which parties introduced this initiative in the 1960s? They were the Liberal and National Country parties. We have kept pace.
– Tell us about your free vote? Tell us how they have told you to vote.
-Look, my friend, you asked me what happens to the free vote. The Liberal Party is of one accord on this subject. We all think exactly alike. We believe that this is a vital and necessary measure. Whilst we in the Liberal Party are allowed to exercise a free vote this is one of those measures on which we stand as one in supporting the Attorney-General.
In conclusion I would like to make a couple of quick suggestions to the Attorney-General. I do so as a result of suggestions I have received from people in my electorate to whom I have written asking opinions. It is not proper for me to name in this place the individuals who responded. However, there is one suggestion which should be taken into account. I received a letter dated 1 7 August on my desk today from a Queensland gentleman. The letter refers to sub-section 13 ( 1) (c) which concerns the giving of a document to a couple outlining the obligations and consequence of marriage and availability of premarital education. This person suggests that when this document is drawn up by a committee the Christian churches should also have representation. My friends on the other side of the House should not become too excited. The person who wrote the letter is not suggesting a domination by the Christian churches. He is simply suggesting that there should be representation. I do not believe that this is an unreasonable suggestion when we consider that so many of the marriages of this country are conducted within the Christian churches. This person, like many of those others who have written to all honourable members, suggests that couples should be engaged for a period of at least one year before they are allowed to marry. With great respect, I re ject that type of suggestion.
Whilst the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) went totally the other way he was partially correct when he suggested that many people who decide to marry will marry come what may regardless of a requested waiting period.
– And repent at leisure.
-Not having entered upon the glorious state I do not know of what the honourable member speaks, I will contemplate it at my leisure.
– You are pretty eligible.
– I agree with the honourable member. This is a very serious debate and I regret that some of my colleagues on the other side of the House have injected a degree of frivolity into the subject. I congratulate the Minister particularly on removing the provisions relating to breach of promise. How pitiful it was when the jilted male or the jilted female set out to seek some financial redress because a prospective partner had decided not to go ahead with a marriage. That provision was something belonging to the 18th century and the 19th century. That the Minister has decided to remove it from our statute book is indeed a grand tiling. I congratulate the Minister and trust that, even though he has had a questionable history in the area of law reform, divorce, marriage and so on, this new display of vision will continue in all areas.
-I want to deal only with one part of the Bill, namely, the proposal to extend the period of notice of intention to marry from one week to one month. We delude ourselves if we think that will make any significant difference in the degree of breakdown of marriage. Marriage breaks down for a variety of reasons. I do not think delaying the decision to marry by an additional 3 weeks will make a great deal of difference to that breakdown. I think it is more likely to reduce the incidence of marriage itself. I suggest to honourable members that they should think seriously about this type of change. Sometimes people find themselves in certain circumstances and wish to marry in a reasonably short time but do not wish to go through the trauma of the courts. They will now be faced with the position that what could have been not obvious becomes obvious. Other people when they decide to live together would prefer to marry.
I do not think we should underestimate the degree to which the marriage vows have been debased in some parts of our society. I think the proposal to extend the period of notice of intention to marry is more in tune with the previous century.
– Everyone seems to think that there is something wrong with the previous century.
-I understand the remarks of the honourable gentleman from the National Country Party, but some honourable gentlemen from the Liberal Party would feel more comfortable in a previous century. After all, they are having great difficulties getting into this century and are being led backwards fast. This is a serious matter. A change is being proposed very much in line with slogans or hopes than with reality. Something is being changed for no real reason and it is more likely, I suggest, to cause harm than good.
– That is not so.
– The honourable gentleman obviously thinks he knows everything, but I do not think he knows what he is talking about on this occasion. A month or a week is a very short time in which to decide what one will do in a lifetime. As the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) pointed out, if some honourable gentlemen were to take the trouble to talk to some of the deserted wives and supporting mothers who are being covered by our social welfare system, they would find that a lot of marriages break down through pressure of economic circumstances and through other pressures which have nothing to do with the period for which couples knew each other before they were married. Breakdown has no relationship at all to the knowledge of a partner that can be obtained in that period. It is almost ludicrous to suggest that a person who has been divorced previously should then have to wait an extra 3 weeks before he can remarry so that he can find out about the manner in which marriage operates. It may be that the Government would do better to bar these people from remarrying altogether. Certainly there is no substance in a suggestion that such a person would benefit by counselling or by delaying for a further period of three to four weeks a marriage into which he has decided to enter.
The most unfortunate thing about this Bill is the decision to make it a party measure. For some years in this Parliament these sorts of measures have been non-party measures. I think it has been made a party measure for the basest of reasons, and that is in order to facilitate the passage of the Bill through this House.
– That is why it is a free vote.
-As of when?
– As of before this debate started. I personally told them.
-That is not correct, and I suggest that the honourable member knows that it is not correct. If he had listened to his Deputy Whip he would have heard him acknowledge in his speech S minutes ago that it was not a free vote. I find that disappointing. In looking for a reason I have to say that during previous debates when free votes were taken the track record of the Attorney-General was not terribly good in respect of voting on the side that won the division. I do not know whether he was right in his general attitude, but I do not believe that he is right in this matter. I believe that this is a matter on which the Parliament would do well to decide as a Parliament what it considers best, rather than for it to be decided on behalf of the people of Australia by a government.
– in reply- Let me say at the outset, to make it quite clear, that as I understand it there is only one question that is really in dispute and that is the question relating to the period of 7 days or I month. Let me make it quite clear to those who sit behind me that they may vote according to their conscience on this matter. Indeed, that has been clear from the beginning. I invite them so to do. If they wish to cross the floor when the amendment is put, then in accordance with our Party’s position that will be a matter for them and nobody will be concerned about that because they will be voting according to their conscience. That is how it ought to be.
In the second reading speech I made the general purpose of this Bill quite clear. In the Family Law Bill we attempted to deal- I believe we did so in a very realistic way- with the community attitudes towards divorce. We sought to review the law on divorce and to implement in that Bill the will of this Parliament. We had a very interesting debate last year. It is regrettable that so many members who are here now were not members of this House then. It was a debate in which we all shared, which went on for some weeks and in which we were conscious- both sides agreed; I am not talking now on political party lines- of the need to underpin the institution of marriage. Indeed, we went so far as to put into the Bill- the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) was not a member of this House at the time- one view about marriage. Section 43 (a) of the Family Law Act says: the need to preserve and protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life;
That is a decision of this Parliament.
– Tell us about -
– The honourable member who is interjecting voted for that. That is the definition that we adopted. The honourable member for Grayndler of course said that we had never attempted to put down in words what marriage is. We adopted our traditional view of marriage.
The honourable member for Grayndler tonight seemingly was trying to take up the cry of Brave New World. He tried to avoid his middleclass background. I thought it was very noticeable that the occasion tonight so far as he was concerned was a family affair, and if I can speak of that particular marriage, it is one of a union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life, and he is the issue of it. If the honourable member tried to eschew his middle-class background tonight and say that marriage depends on economics he eschewed the marriage of which he is the issue because it is not based on that at all. He said it depends on something to do with the clinic in Leichhardt or the like. Marriage is not that at all and he knows full well that it is not. This Bill was laid on the table in May and the purpose of that was to let everybody in the community say what he wanted to say about it. That was a very democratic thing to do. We wanted to get community attitudes. We got some community attitudes. A few groups supported the view that the honourable member put but most of them applauded, if I may use the expression, the amendments in this Bill.
– Who, for instance?
– I am just trying to help him.
– You are a great help. Most of them applaud the amendments in this Bill, including the one in question. It was never said that by extending the period of notice of intention to marry from 7 days to 28 days or one month that it would have the effect of suddenly getting rid of all divorces or solving all marriage problems, but the fact that there are still one thousand applications for divorce in this country every week is a serious fact to comprehend because on statistics, as I understand it, when we take into account Western Australia as well, and it is not included in those figures -
– Because there is a State Family Court there. Taking that into account I understand that the result is that there are more divorces in this country at the moment than marriages and that is a very serious fact to contemplate for all of us in this Parliament. Therefore there is a need to underpin the institution of marriage. When the matrimonial reforms were introduced in the late 1950s and early 1960s their purpose was assisted by the introduction of voluntary counselling provisions, and it is well known that Australia leads the world in marriage counselling. We are a country that has attempted to put funds into voluntary marriage counselling in a way, proportionately to our population, that other countries have not done. So we lead the world in this field. Of course, as honourable members on this side have mentioned, this was the result of initiatives taken.
This year we are increasing our grants to voluntary marital organisations from $1.6m to $1.9m. That is a very substantial increase and indicates the concern of the Government to underpin the institution or marriage. What I have described as the most significant part of this measure is that we are giving grants for premarital education because whereas in the past we have tended to concentrate on the parties during the marriage, this Bill tries to underpin the attitudes of those entering marriage. So we will make grants to enable pre-marital education courses to be adopted. If honourable members have studied the Budget they will have seen that in this current year we have provided an amount- - not a large amount, but it is a start- of $50,000 that will be used later in the year to make grants for pilot schemes for this purpose. If I may say so, that is the most significant part of this Bill. Not many honourable members have mentioned it, but I want to stress it again.
I said earlier that I did not believe for one moment- I do not think I ever suggested it- that by increasing the time for giving notice of intention to marry from 7 days to one month we would suddenly solve all problems. However, this proposal emphasises the fact that those entering marriage ought to think more carefully about it and about the obligations of marriage. If they do they are more likely to have a more lasting marriage. That is the theory behind it. As I said, public opinion that has come to the Department on this matter and from people quoted in the Press, has generally applauded the provision. I do not want to go right through the examples. There are views from bishops of churches, both Catholic and Protestant, marriage guidance organisations and from individuals. Some churches say that the requirement should be 3 months instead of one month. The tendency is generally the other way. One example that perhaps to some extent goes the other way is from a woman from Victoria. I will not mention her name. She said:
This change will not prevent unhappy marriages.
If that is the broad proposition one can accept it, but if it means that some young people will not contemplate a little longer before they get married that is not an acceptable proposition. Father Bernard- I will mention his name because he is one of the leaders in pre-marital education in Australia- in a telegram said:
This change of no effect unless pre-marital counselling available.
Pre-marital counselling will be available. The Director of the Marriage Guidance Counsel in one of the States said that the provision would not make much difference. I shall quote a view in favour of those who oppose the provision. One view states that the provision ‘is placing another restriction on peoples lives’. I shall not go through all the views. I do not want to delay too long. The bulk of the views support the amendment. In some cases they suggest that the time be longer than one month.
Let us look at a particular matter. Some honourable members seems to want to escape it all the time. The fact is that a prescribed authority in one case and the marriage officer in the other- as provided in section 66- according to the circumstances of a case, can shorten the time if he or she wants, to one minute. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) mentioned the case of a girl who is about to have a child. That is an obvious case. It is already dealt with in the Act. The prescribed authority, as defined, can shorten the time and say: ‘I shall marry you now’. The honourable member for Hunter raised a few legal points and asked for my assistance. I shall try to give it to him. First, in relation to a birth certificate, an applicant does not have to have his birth certificate if he wants to get married. If he has lost it he need not worry about it; he can make a statutory declaration because the Act so provides. The other question the honourable member asked me related to whether an applicant could appeal. He can appeal against a magistrate’s refusal to grant consent to the marriage of a minor where the father and mother do not give consent. Indeed, there is a provision in the Bill that will allow an appeal- if this Bill goes through, as I am sure it will- to the Family Court of Australia. So there is every right of appeal for a full re-hearing in the matter. Therefore I can tell the honourable member for Hunter that people ‘s rights are well and truly protected. They are protected, if I may so with respect, even in relation to the amendment that I understand that he intends to support which says that we should not adopt the clause which extends the time from 7 days to 1 month.
I do not want to delay the House for too long but other matters were raised in the debate. The honourable member for Grayndler said that what we needed was research into what makes marriage go awry. I think that is what he said. May I say that in the Family Law Act there is provision to set up an Institute of Family Studies. If the honourable member looks at the Budget he will find that $80,000 has been set aside to establish that institute in the second half of this year.
– How much?
– The sum of $80,000. He will also find an amount of $25,000 set aside to establish a Family Law Council. Those institutes could have been set up last year. They could have been set up by the Labor Government last year but that was not done. The result is that we have been delayed for this long. To get to the real point, and it is the real point, there will be an institute in this country which will do the sort of things that the honourable member suggested and its establishment will be the result of the combined will- not the Labor Party will, but the combined will- of this Parliament as expressed in the Family Law Act. The honourable member spoke a great deal about civil liberties. I regret very much that tonight in this House he again brought up the question of the GovernorGeneral’s marriage. All I can say to the honourable member is: never let a man -
– Is he above the law?
– The honourable member spoke about civil liberties. If there is one thing that ought to be private in this country it is a man’s marriage but in recent months, honourable members opposite have consistently sought to drag this matter before this Parliament. One thing I would like to say to the honourable member is this: Never let a man drag you so low that you begin to hate him. That is exactly what people like the honourable member for Grayndler are doing. I repeat: Never let a man drag you so low that you begin to hate him. That is exactly what the honourable member is expressing towards the Governor-General of this country. Every honourable member on the Opposition side of the House needs to think about that matter. That was the belief of that famous man Dag Hammarskjold. He had an idea about life which honourable members opposite might well adopt. When honourable members opposite get up in this House and talk about civil liberties, the rights of the individual and not being middle class they should think of the right of any man in this country. Think about that. I assume that the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) went overseas, had his holiday and was told when he came back: ‘Now look, lay off the Governor-General.’ What did we see tonight? He came into this House, sat alongside the honourable member for Hunter and listened to his son take over the role of the dirt slinger. I hope that for the sake of the honourable member for Grayndler in politics he does not continue in that fashion. That is all I can say.
Now, let us get on to another subject. We are going to receive some new amendments tonight and I just want to quietly and shortly explain to honourable members that these amendments are purely formal and are matters of no great debate.
One of them, for instance- it is really the only matter of substance, I would think- brings into the Marriage Act the definition of domocile that is in the Family Law Act. In other words, it will bring the Acts into line. There are other provisions which introduce formally into the Marriage Act amendments that were made through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act last year. The purposes of those amendmentsperhaps I should refer to them now to save time later- are purely formal. I do not think they will trouble honourable members.
I wish to refer to one final matter and that is the document that is troubling some people. It troubled the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), if I recall correctly. I listened very carefully to what he said. I also listened very carefully- as honourable members will have observed- to what the honourable member for Grayndler said. I am very conscious of what each of these honourable members has said about this Bill. May I say that in the formulating of this document every member of the House- indeed of the Parliament- is welcome to make whatever suggestions he wishes. I am also prepared as Attorney-General to invite honourable members along on a non-party basis to discuss the form of this when I get it in a draft. Let me assure honourable members that it is not my intention for one moment to lay down what I simply regard as the obligations and consequences of marriage. The purpose is not to be moralistic. The purpose of it, firstly, is to explain to young people what the basic obligations and consequences of marriage are and, secondly, to tell young people where they can get pre-marital counselling. Honourable members opposite can get all worked up about that on the grounds of civil liberties if they like but it is not the State attempting to be moralistic.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to. Clause 2.
This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.
– I move:
The purpose of this amendment simply is to enable the Act to come into force on varying dates, depending on the sections. I think the purpose of it will be apparent to honourable members.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Section5 of the Principal Act is amended:
– by leave- I move:
At end of clause add the following word and paragraph: ; and (d) by adding at the end thereof the following subsection: “(4) In ascertaining the domicile of a person for the purposes of this Act:
The first amendment simply omits the word and’ and the second amendment introduces the concept of domicile that is in the Family Law Act.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 12- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 12a and 12b.
Motion (by Mr Ellicott)- by leave- agreed to:
After clause 12, insert the following new clauses: “ 12a. Section 33 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) and substituting the following sub-sections:
A Registrar shall not remove the name of a person from a register under this section on a ground specified in paragraph (d) or (e) of sub-section ( 1 ) unless:
he has, in accordance with the regulations, served on the person a notice in writing:
stating his intention to do so on that ground unless, not later than a date specified in the notice and being not less than 21 days from the date of service of the notice, the person satisfies the Registrar that his name should not be removed from the register; and
informing the person that any representations made to the Registrar before that date will be considered by the Registrar;
he has considered any representations made by the person before the date specified in the notice; and
the removal takes place within 14 days after the date specified in the notice.
Where notice is served on a person under sub-section (2), that person shall not solemnize a marriage unless and until:
he is notified by the Registrar that the Registrar has decided not to remove his name from the register;
a period of 14 days has elapsed from the date specified in the notice under sub-section (2) and his name has not been removed from the register; or
his name, having been removed from the register, is restored to the register. ‘. “ 12b. ( 1 ) Section 34 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted: 34. (1) An application may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of a decision of a Registrar made on or after 1 July 1976:
refusing to register a person who has applied for registration under this Division; or
b ) removing the name of a person from a register in pursuance of section 33.
For the purposes of such a review, the Tribunal shall be constituted by a presidential member alone.
The reference in sub-section (1) to a decision of a Registrar includes a reference to a decision of a Deputy Registrar of Ministers of Religion given in pursuance of subsection (2) of section 27. ‘(4) Where the Tribunal sets aside a decision refusing to register a person or a decision under section 33 removing the name of a person from a register, the appropriate Registrar shall forthwith register the person, or restore the name of the person to the register, as the case requires. ‘(5) For the purposes of the making of an application under sub-section ( 1 ) and for the purposes of the operation of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 in relation to such an application, where a person has made application under sub-section ( 1 ) of section 30 for registration under this Division and, at the expiration of a period of 3 months from the day on which the application was made, the person has not been registered and has not been notified by the Registrar that his application has been refused, the Registrar shall be deemed to have decided, on the last day of that period, not to register that person. ‘. “(2) Notwithstanding the repeal of section 34 of the Principal Act, the provisions of that section continue to apply in relation to a refusal to register a person, or the removal of the name of a person from a register, that took place before the commencement of this section. “.
1 ) Section 42 of the Principal Act is amended:
- Mr Chairman, as foreshadowed in my second reading speech, I move:
Omit paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-clause ( 1 ).
The purpose of the 2 paragraphs which we seek to omit from sub-clause (1) is to substitute ‘1 month’ for ‘the seventh day’. I do not wish to delay the Committee. I do not intend to discuss the advantages of this provision as they were outlined in the debate which took place earlier. This legislation when introduced in 1961 was based on what we might call a non-party philosophy. The basis for the provision that we are now considering is that 7 days would be a sufficient period for the purpose involved. In my view, that provision was related more to giving adequate notice to enable a celibrant to organise the necessary details than to suggesting that this would be the minimum period required for the parties to get to know each other.
I really do not wish to say any more than that. Those who have spoken in this debate tonight have sought to indicate the reasons why marriages can break down. Marriages certainly do break down. The purpose of this amendment is to require that 7 days notice be given. The Government proposes to extend that period to one month. From the point of view of assisting a marriage to survive longer than it normally might, we cannot see any real merit in that suggestion. The causes of the breakdown of marriages are in no way related to an additional 2 1 days notice, which is the difference between the Government’s proposal and the existing provision. The basic issue is whether the parties to a marriage really understand what they are doing and how long they have known each other. Certainly there can be problems where people are under the age of 18 years. That is covered in another section of the Act. Such people would need to obtain consent.
It follows, does it not, that if people really respect their partners in life, really understand why they are marrying, love them, and appreciate the basic tenets on which they have been raised, giving 7 days notice of intention to marry rather than one month, as was the case from 1961, will not in any way lessen the chances of a marriage breaking up. As the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has said, this provisions could be altered to one minute. I think that we must get away from the legalisms involved in this issue. We should be concerned with the fundamentals of how people can live together, how they should be encouraged to live, and support family life and all that that stands for. I do not believe that what the Government proposes assists that objective in any way. For those reasons, I have moved my amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
That the paragraphs proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
– Order! The honourable member for Sydney crossed the floor after I appointed the tellers. It does not matter a great deal in the circumstances whether the honourable member for Sydney has a specific attitude in regard to this clause. I point out that there is one difficulty that confronts me. If I allow the honourable member for Sydney to cross the floor after I have appointed the tellers, at some stage in a vital vote concerning perhaps the future of a government, what happens? It is all right for members to say: ‘Ah! ‘ on the point I am trying to make.
– On a point of order-
– There is no point of order. I am giving a ruling on a particular instance relating to the Standing Orders. In the circumstancesthis is the point I want to explain the Committee- because it has been indicated that it is a free vote and because there was, I think, some justification for a degree of confusion, I am prepared to allow the honourable member for Sydney to remain on my right and to cast his vote. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not in any way establishing a precedent that can be used and stated and commented upon to a future Chairman of Committees.
– We have no objection to your decision.
– I am gratified to hear from the honourable member for KingsfordSmith that comment which supports the action I have taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause IS (Notice of Marriage).
– I formally say that to be consistent the Opposition opposes this clause, but in view of the last vote we do not intend to ask for a division.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 27- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– by leave- I have 3 amendments which propose the insertion of 2 new clauses and 2 amendments to the Schedule. The part of the Schedule to be amended states:
Sections 2 ( 1 ), 5 ( 1 ) (definitions of ‘authorized celebrant’, ‘magistrate’, ‘marriage officer’, ‘overseas country’, ‘prescribed authority’, ‘recognized denomination’ and ‘the commencement of this Act’), 8 (2), (3) and (4), 9(l)(d), (0 and (g), 10, 12(2), (3) and (4), 13(1) (a), 14(1), (2) and (4), 16(3) and (4), 19(1), 21 (2) (b), 33 (4), 42 (5), (7) and ( 10), 45 (3), 46 (2), 48(2), 50(3), 52 (definition of ‘proclaimed overseas country’), 54 (b), 58 (2) (a), 61 (4) (b) and (c), 68 (1), 73, 76(l)(b) and (2), 77(2), 80(3) and (4) (a) and (b), 83 ( 1), 85 (4), 95 (3) and (4), 96 (2), 98 (2), 99, 101,102,104,105,106 (a), 111(1), (2) and (3), 1 12 (4), 113(1), (4) and (7), 1 15 (2), (3) and (4), 117(1) and (2) and 120 (c), (e), (0, (g) and (h).
After clause 27, insert the following new clauses: “28. (1) At any time after this Act receives the Royal Assent and before the commencing date, regulations may be made under the Principal Act as amended by this Act as if all the provisions of this Act had come into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, but regulations so made shall not take effect before the commencing date. “(2) In this section, ‘commencing date’ means the date fixed by Proclamation under sub-section (3) of section 2. “29. The Schedule to the Administrative Appeals TribunalAct 1975 is amended by omitting Pan XX. “.
In the Schedule, omit from clause 2, “33 (4),”.
In the Schedule omit from clause 6-
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 June, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr ELLICOTT ( WentworthAttorneyGeneral) Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Amendment Bill and the Extradition (Foreign States) Amendment Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Crimes (Internationally Protected Persons) Bill and the ancillary legislation- the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Amendment Bill and the Extradition (Foreign States) Amendment Bill, which relate to offences which would be deemed to be offences under the principal Bill- follow from an international convention, namely, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents. That Convention was signed by Australia in December 1974. It will not come into force until 30 days after 22 nations have ratified or acceded to it. I understand that at present 17 nations have ratified or acceded to it. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) in his second reading speech on the Crimes (Internationally Protected Persons) Bill has stated that the United States and the United Kingdom intend to ratify the Convention. As a matter of interest, countries which have already ratified it include Canada, Denmark, Sweden and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The provisions of the Convention are virtually a schedule to the Bill which is now before the Parliament. Honourable members will have the benefit of looking at this piece of legislation. It has a series of Articles with a preamble indicating the nature of the Convention.
Article 1 defines who are internationally protected people. The question of crimes against such people is defined in Article 2. The main provision in the Convention is Article 2. It requires each state which is a subscribing party to the Convention to make the intentional commission of certain actions crimes under its domestic law punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature. Honourable members will notice the emphasis on the words ‘intentional commission’ and ‘grave nature’. In fact, they are extremely serious crimes which nobody would tolerate, namely, murder, kidnapping or other attack upon the person or liberty of an internationally protected person; attack to a lesser extent which is less serious on premises; an even lesser offence at this stage such as the threat to commit any such attack; an attempt to commit any such attack; and an act constituting participation as an accomplice. Honourable members will see that the main emphasis on the gravity of the offence is in the first series of crimes, namely, murder, kidnapping or other attack. That would be a matter of concern in any state.
We can get into difficulty as to whether there is a real intent when we deal with a threat. I shall say a little more about that as we develop the debate. At the outset I say that the Opposition naturally supports the Bill except in one significant matter which requires a minor amendment. As we were in government when we subscribed to the Convention it follows that we would not dare to suggest that it is not in order to proceed with this Bill. We deplore international crime or crime against people who are of international repute just as we, of course, deplore all crime. I draw attention to some of the factors in clause 8 which relate to offences. I foreshadow that we propose to move an amendment to clause 9 which relates to defence to prosecution. That amendment relates to the matter of intent as we deem it to be defined in Article 2 when compared with the way in which it is defined in this legislation.
I do not want to delay the House to any great extent in relation to this matter but there are a couple of matters to which I think we should draw attention. Clause 10, which is to come into operation on royal assent, has the effect that the only persons who may be charged with an offence under the Act, until the Convention enters into force in Australia, are those who are alleged to have committed the offence in Australia. Jurisdiction over offences committed outside Australia is to commence only when the Convention enters into force in Australia. Clause 8 deals with offences under Article 2. As I said, they relate to the very serious crimes of murder or kidnapping.
Then we come to lesser crimes. These are described in the sub-clauses to clause 8. A point which has been brought to my notice relates to these other offences. The question is: How would one define a threat? The offence of threatening to commit some other offence is not normally described in those terms in Australian law although a threat may, in some cases, constitute an offence. Because of this it is submitted that there is not any existing body of law to assist in determining whether the offence has been committed. In other words there is no objective test to indicate what is a threat within the meaning of this clause which we admit adopts the article. There is nothing to indicate how serious such a threat must be or how likely it is that the person making the threat could actually commit the offence. The word ‘threat’ in sub-clause (4) would be likely to have the same meaning as ‘threat’ in article 2 of the Convention. But there is no definition of ‘threat ‘in the Convention.
Paragraph 1 of article 13 permits disputes concerning interpretation between the States to be arbitrated or, if this fails, to be referred to the International Court of Justice. I express no opinion as to whether we would have to wait for that to happen. We now say that the offence of threatening to commit any of the offences is to be an extradition crime for the purposes of the extradition Act- the ancillary Act- and this will certainly create some difficulty. There is one further matter in relation to threats. The maximum penalties for offences in sub-clauses ( 1 ), (2) and (3) of clause 8 range from 7 years to life imprisonment but the penalty for a threatening offence is an undifferentiated 14 years. A person gets life or down to 7 years’ imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offence but in the case of a threat there is a blanket undifferentiated penalty of 14 years which means that a person who threatens to commit a violent attack is in theory likely to be subject to a term of imprisonment twice as long as that for a person who actually commits an offence. I just draw this to the attention of the Attorney-General because there appears to be some inconsistency in the penalties which are meted out to those who are deemed to be guilty of a threat and those who are convicted of an offence.
Article 2 requires that the intentional commission of the acts against people of less status be made crimes. As drafted, it is not clear whether this requires knowledge of the status of the person, but it is arguable that it does. The provision in clause 9 of the offence of not knowing and having no reason to suspect this status, rather making knowledge or reasonable suspicion of the status an element of the offence to be proved by the prosecution, would appear to make the Bill stricter than the Convention requires. In borderline cases it may be very difficult for an accused person to prove that he had no reason to suspect the status of a person. As you can appreciate, Mr Deputy Speaker, the onus of proof shifts to the accused once we are dealing with clause 9 of the Bill. It will be a good enough defence if he says ‘I did not know that the person was an internationally protected person’ or ‘I did not know the position of the status of the property’. That will be a good defence because it will show that there was no intention in accordance with article 2. But we seem to have watered that down and weakened the defence by saying ‘and had no reason to suspect’. So one could well envisage somebody saying ‘I did not know’ and the prosecution saying ‘You should have known that the person with whom you were allegedly involved was a person who was internationally protected’. I think that that is far too wide and far too heavy a burden. Accordingly we propose to move for the deletion of the words ‘and had no reason to suspect’.
I do not want to delay this debate because we have had a lot of other matters mentioned this evening in other debates and I know that the Attorney-General is anxious to proceed with this measure. I have indicated that we support it. In fact we adopted the Convention when we were in government. But I have raised the matters which I think are of some concern. I referred to clause 8 and the excessive penalty for threats as against the penalty for committing an offence. As I have indicated, we are not at all satisfied that, when the onus of proof falls on the accused person under clause 9, he not only would have to say that he did not know but also would have to prove that he had no reason to suspect. That is wider than the Convention permits..
There is one other matter that relates to the ancillary extradition legislation. I am assured, and I know it is valid, that extradition could be sought ostensibly on the basis of a crime when it might be a political exercise. In other words, somebody might suggest that extradition procedures should take place because he would like to have a person extradited but in reality that might occur because of political activities. I am happy to know and applaud the fact that the Attorney-General has a discretion in those extradition matters.
I note that there is a little difference in the wording of the respective sections of 2 extradition Acts- the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966 and the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966. There is certainly provision for discretion in section IS (1) (a) of the Extradition (Foreign States) Act but in section 12 (1) of the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act there is no provision for discretion. I invite the Attorney-General’s attention to those particular matters. The hour being as it is I shall say no more except to reiterate that we support the Convention and applaud the legislation, and wish it a speedy passage. We do urge the Attorney-General to look at the matters I have raised, and we would welcome his support of the amendment I propose to move.
– in reply- I feel that I should say something in answer to what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) has said. Concerning penalties, there is an attempt in clause 8 to deal with the differences between the various offences. The offence of threatening attracts a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 1 years.- The other punishments are much more serious. Where an attack causes death, the penalty is imprisonment for life. In other words, the Government takes the view that these provisions do provide a satisfactory system for imposing adequate penalties for particular crimes.
The Government can not accept the suggested amendment to clause 9 which would leave out the word ‘and had no reason to suspect’. The offence has 2 elements- on one hand, kidnapping and murder which involves mens rea or criminal intent, and, on the other hand, whether the person involved is an internationally protected person. Clause 9 is directed to the latter. If an amendment of the nature suggested were made to that clause, all the defendant would have to do would be to get into the witness box and say: ‘I did not know that he was an internationally protected person’. Having in mind the types of people who would be likely to commit this sort of crime, if I may suggest that, such an amendment would provide an opening for such people to escape conviction for the particular serious crimes. Therefore we could not accept such an amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8- by leave- taken together, and agreed to:
It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this Act if the defendant proves that he did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that the person in relation to whom, or in relation to whose premises, accommodation or means of transport, the offence is alleged to have been committed was:
– I move:
Omit ‘, and had no reason to suspect, ‘.
I understand what the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has said but I still press the point that we are dealing not only with murder or kidnapping but also with a threat or an attempt to commit an attack. Honourable members will notice that the wording of clause 9 relates virtually to what might be termed the less serious offences, that is, offences other than murder or kidnapping. There would not be too much doubt about murder or kidnapping being a crime. I do not know that it would be good enough for a person to say that he did not know. The question I have to put to the
Minister rather forceably is that a person, using the Minister’s own argument -
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976, I shall report progress.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was making the point that the Attorney-General believed that a person saying that he did not know would be an adequate defence to serious crimes. But I do not think that would make any difference. It would be wrong to suggest that because a person had no reason to suspect he could go ahead with murder or kidnapping. What I am trying to suggest is that the onus of proof shifts on to the defence. There has to be the intention to commit the act, and that in itself perhaps is a weakness in the Convention. Nevertheless, it is written into the Convention and it certainly relates to the less serious crimes to which the legislation itself refers and which the clause specifies. I refer to that part of the clause which reads: . . . that the person in relation to whom, or in relation to whose premises, accommodation or means of transport . . .
It is felt that we are going outside the Convention in saying that the person, whether or not he knew, will be deemed to be guilty if he should have had reason to suspect. In other words, perhaps the weakness is not with the AttorneyGeneral’s Bill so much as the Article itself which says that there has to be an intentional commission of the act I do not know that a person, once he has murdered somebody, would get out of the consequences by saying that he did not know. However, I think the clause is probably more related to the point of view of extradition than to our own penalties, because I still believe that such a person is guilty. However, it is suggested that once a person has gone into the witness box and said that he did not know, in the terms of that Convention- that is the way in which the legislation is drafted- he might then find that that is not good enough because of other evidence which suggests that he should have known even though he did not know. In other words, I am speaking of a case in which extraneous evidence is introduced by other people which indicates what he should have known. Therefore his defence falls to the ground and it leaves the defendant in a very difficult position indeed. I put more weight on the lesser crime because one finds it difficult to talk about the heinous crimes mentioned in sub-paragraph 1 (a) of the Article. But if one is dealing with threats or attempts or acting as an accomplice then one is dealing with the lesser crime. In my view, we would be meeting the obligations of the Convention if we put the matter on the basis of not knowing. Accordingly, I press the amendment.
– I repeat that there are 2 elements in these offences. Whether we are dealing with a threat, a straight-out murder, a threatened murder, or a threatened kidnapping, it does not really make any difference. There are just 2 parts to these offences. One is that the person either murders or threatens to murder; the other is that the person who is the victim is an internationally protected person. It is in relation to the second part that clause 9 is relevant and, I think, has to do with the question of whether the person either knew or ought to have known. The idea that a person ought to have known is a well known concept to both our civil law and our criminal law. There are many instances- I will not go to them- in the Trade Practices Act, the Foreign Takeovers Act and other Acts where there are less serious offences in relation to which the 2 concepts of knowing or ought to have known, or ought reasonably to have suspected, etc.- they are put in different ways- are used. Therefore we do not propose to accept the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 June, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 June, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Services of the Australian Capital
Territory- Ex-servicemen : Death
Motion (by Mr Ellicott) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I rise to speak very briefly tonight in the time available to me about canned meat as a foreign aid item. This issue has received considerable attention by the interested canners and by the interested primary producers and meat producers, particularly in regard to providing this commodity for Australia’s foreign aid program. I understand that preliminary discussions held between these people and officers of the Department of Primary Industry have revealed that, although Australia has previously indicated to the World Food Program of the Food and Agricultural Organisation in Rome Australia’s ability to include canned meat in its pledges, this proposal has been received with an apathetic attitude and that is where the matter stopped.
Because of the importance of the proposal both to the Australian livestock industry and to the meat canning industry, one of the top executives of the National Meat Canners Association recently visited Rome. In company with Australian embassy officials, that executive had discussions with officials of the World Food Program. This visit proved most successful. The officers indicated that the usage of canned meat could feasibly be increased from 5000 tonnes per annum, to say 15 000 tonnes per annum provided it was included in a program running from 3 years to 5 years. The acceptability of canned meats as an aid commodity item was recognised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation. The type of canned meat most suitable for inclusion in the World Food Program- it could reasonably be assumed that this would apply also to other avenues of aid- is beef luncheon meat with cereal and with a beef content of 70 per cent. In simple terms, on current cost indications, it could be expected that the f.o.b. cost to the Government would be in the vicinity of $lm per 1000 tonnes of product.
It is appropriate to mention that during the discussions in Rome the point made by the Australian officials and accepted by the World Food Program officials was that canned meat was the only practical way of giving meat as an aid item and that, whilst meat protein costs 4 times as much as wheat protein, meat protein contains 5.7 times as much lycine, one of the essential amino acids, as wheat protein. Therefore a combination of the 2 products represents an excellent nutritional package. Those interested in the industry believe this point to be most significant, bearing in mind the current problems concerning wheat production.
At a time when there is an over-supply of both cattle and canning capacity, and bearing in mind the recently announced increase in total aid of $49m to $400m per annum, it would appear to be to Australia’s advantage to make an increased commitment to supply canned meat under its contributions to all foreign aid programs. It is possible that a stockpiling of product to cover future commitments could be a worthy consideration. The benefits to the Australian meat and livestock industries in general would far outweigh any negative considerations.
I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) supports this proposition because it could help the depressed cattle producers at the present time and at the same time help the canning industry. I commend this proposition to the attention of the Minister.
– I rise tonight to bring to the Parliament’s notice a thoroughly mischievous and misleading Press release issued by the Council of Social Services of the Australian Capital Territory on Wednesday 1 8 August. I do so not to be offensive but because I am sincerely hurt and dismayed that an organisation such as this, which I have supported and helped, appears to be adopting a partisan attitude quite out of keeping with the friendly and helpful attitude I have experienced in the past from its officers and member organisations. The release speaks of Budget matters, praising some and criticising others. I am not at liberty to debate those matters tonight but I am at liberty to debate other matters which the release canvasses. These matters relate to Government policies already implemented in Canberra.
I do not wish to hide the truth. Canberra has been asked to pay its way. Special privileges we have had during the years when it was necessary to induce people to live in Canberra have been removed. The people of Australia have asked that the Canberra community should no longer be offered a preferred position without regard to their incomes. We have been abruptly asked to face the realities of an economy that has been brought to its knees by the previous Government. This partisan and misleading Press release makes this extraordinary claim:
The determination of the Government to make Canberra pay has resulted throughout this year in some fairly ^discriminate measures that have resulted in penalising the poor rather than a redistribution of resources.
We have increased interest rates and rents in Canberra. There have been the normal sort of increases in charges that other communities in Australia have experienced. However, as the Council is well aware we have done this on the basis that the poor will be eligible for probably the most generous rebate system in this country. The measures undertaken have been directed to remove anomalies, not to increase them. The Council must know that the resources of Australia are severely limited at this time and we have the unenviable task of ensuring that those scarce resources go to those most in need. This is in line with the recommendations of the Henderson inquiry.
I have personally gathered information from housing commissions and housing trusts interstate and I have found that the provisions for government welfare housing in Canberra are in line with or better than those in the States. We have taken over hostels from the Commonwealth hostel administration and established a range of government accommodation in Canberra from the low cost with rental rebate of $8 a week. We have provided a new house to the women’s refuge when we found the existing accommodation to be inadequate. I have personally negotiated for the Woden community services group to be provided with an occasional care centre built at a cost of almost $250,000 plus an operating subsidy of over $28,000 plus assistance from the Woden traders of $2,000 per annum. We have ensured that Canberra gets it fair share of the new funds for aged persons’ accommodation. On every front our measures in the area of social welfare have assisted the disadvantaged.
The Press release in question claims that there has been a cutback in this community’s standards of living. The people of Canberra have a standard of living second to none in Australia. We do have disadvantaged people and this Government cares for them. To suggest that they have been singled out is absolute nonsense.
Earlier today the Prime Minister answered a question outlining the trial blazing national social reforms we have already implemented. I refer any person who accepts the facile points raised by the Council to that statement by the Prime Minister. The very Council that criticises us has received a $7,000 increase- that is an increase of 34 per cent- in its funding from the Government. As one who has supported this addition strongly, and one who has supported an 87.75 per cent increase in social welfare funding in the Australian Capital Territory, I felt obliged to rise tonight to answer this partisan and propagandist statement.
– The Brisbane Courier Mail reported in the last few days a claim by a learned Queensland University Reader in Pathology, Dr K. Donald, the fact that 10 per cent of death certificates listed the wrong cause of death. To many people this may just be an interesting fact. However it concerns me because many widows of war veterans have claimed that their husbands have died as a result of war caused injuries but when they have appealed to the Repatriation Board, later the Repatriation Commission and then the Entitlement Appeals Tribunal in each and every case the Board, the Commission and the Tribunal has alluded to the cause of death as listed on the death certificate and has ruled out the widow’s claim to be treated as a war widow. If there is a 10 per cent error as claimed by Dr Donald, the Reader in Pathology at the Queensland University, surely it would be far better for the Minister for Repatriation (Senator
Durack) to direct the Board, the Commission or the Tribunal to refer to autopsy reports, when autopsies were conducted, rather than regard the death certificate as the document to determine eligibility.
Many might say that 10 per cent is a small percentage. I am not one who subscribes to the belief that just because a man served his country his widow, upon his death, should automatically become entitled to a host of benefits, but I do believe strongly that if a man’s life span is curtailed as a result of war service his widow or the children who are left behind are entitled to every advantage, every benefit and every protection. As far as I am concerned, if a 10 per cent error is possible surely the Minister for Repatriation should issue instructions that this error component be taken into account when deciding eligibility.
Mr SULLIVAN (Riverina)’ (10.59)- I draw the attention of honourable members to a program to be shown on television by the Australian Broadcasting Commission tomorrow evening. I think it is called Alvin Purple. I would not like to pre-judge this program but I ask honourable members to watch it tomorrow evening in order to form an opinion so that next week, if the program is offensive, we can debate the matter in this House and if necessary launch a very serious attack upon the ABC.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Further to the information supplied in answer to my question No. 5434 (Hansard, 31 May 1972, page 3423) relating
to subsidies paid under the Home Nursing Subsidy Act, will he provide similar information for the year 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74 and 1974-75.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to Tables 1 and 2 hereunder.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A lower connection fee also applies when an existing subscriber or a new applicant takes over an existing service on an ‘in place ‘ basis. These fees are:
In addition, applicants who are located beyond the distance for which the Commission provides line plant at its own expense are required to contribute towards line plant costs.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The policy regarding recovery of costs is that stores which are in stock and required to save life and property in an emergency are made available through appropriate channels generally to support State/Local Government authorities and normally no charge is made at this time. After the emergency ceases some items are returned or replaced by the receiving authority e.g. New South Wales replaces sandbags issued on a one for one basis. Where stores cannot be recovered charges are raised against the receiving organisation but in some cases charges are waived.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760819_reps_30_hor100/>.