30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
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 Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and prohibit the export of uranium until perfectly safe methods of final disposal for radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe, clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their efforts to secure a fair share of the world ‘s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Hodges, Mr Peter Johnson and Mr Jull.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry, Mr Les Johnson and Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
The Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel state governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1 972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin and Mr Antony Whitlam.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry and Mr Haslem.
Symphony Orchestra 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 the Hunter Valley Region respectfully showeth the lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500,000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
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:
Schools Commission in their Report for the Rolling Triennium 1977-79.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howard.
To the Speaker and the House of Rerpesentatives 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 Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. Tlhe humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That support and continuance of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is essential, for it is a vital component of the musical life of Tasmania.
Your petitioners pray that the Government will vigorously maintain its past support of the Australian symphony orchestras, and in particular the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodgman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of the Burrendong Arboretum Association respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this
Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Government’s programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKenzie.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Whatever our ideology in the sight of God, we, as a nation are politically, economically and spiritually sick and in need of healing. We, the undersigned, are Christians, and as such recognise the Bible as the word of God, and in 2 chronicles 7: 14 we are told ‘If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land. ‘
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Members in the House assembled will- designate a Sunday of your choosing as a ‘national day of prayer for the healing of our nation’ and to have the day and date of this event published in the daily press.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
Dockyards at 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 that 50 000 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 buud 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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Federal Government to restrict aid to multicultural education unfairly and disproportionately disadvantages students in New South Wales Catholic schools.
We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do therefore humbly pray the Commonwealth Government:
That, pending the increase or redistribution of funds in a more equitable manner as per section 5.6 of the Report of the Australian Schools Commission 1977-79, emergency interim Australian Government financial assistance be offered to those New South Wales Catholic schools, with large numbers of students of migrant background, that had anticipated assistance for 1977 as per precedents established in previous years.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Stewart.
-I draw the attention of the Attorney-General to my questions on notice relating to alleged uranium price fixing and action being taken under the United States antitrust laws. Is the Minister aware that subpoenas were lodged in the Supreme Court of New South Wales last Tuesday week? I am led to understand that requests for the collection of evidence of this nature for foreign tribunals would be regulated by the practices and procedures of relevant State courts. Has the Minister considered taking legislative action similar to that taken by the Canadian Government last September where it approved a regulation under the Atomic Energy Control Act to prevent removal from Canada of information relating to this matter? Can the Minister state what effects the action being taken under the United States anti-trust laws will have on his Government’s uranium policies? Finally, can I get an answer to the questions that have been on the notice paper since 8 September?
– There has been, I understand, what is called a letter of request filed in the Supreme Court of New South Wales which seeks evidence, including documents and oral evidence, from Australian companies which are interested in uranium mining. I think the request originates from a suit in a court in the United States. The honourable gentleman is quite correct when he says that this is regulated by some procedure of the New South Wales jurisdiction. I think it is called the foreign tribunals evidence procedure. A procedure is laid down. This matter raises significant questions. For instance, there is the question as to whether in international law the United States anti-trust law does not travel too far because the anti-trust law of the United States not only extends to residents and corporations of the United States but also touches nonresidents. The serious question is raised by some people as to whether it does not go too far. Another question arises out of the fact that the Australian Government does have considerable power to fix, under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations, the terms and conditions upon which uranium, if it were exported from this country, would be so exported. The matter of whether such evidence should be produced is under consideration at the moment. I will see whether the answers to the questions which the honourable member has placed on notice can be expedited if they are not already on the way.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware of Press reports that he has initiated an inquiry into the allegations made by MajorGeneral Stretton? Can the Minister tell me the nature and extent of the inquiry? Will he make available the documents presented to the Government yesterday?
-This is the first question that I have been asked in this House concerning Major-General Stretton. As a consequence of that I would have thought it strange that the word ‘inquiry’ would be attributed to me. I have not used the word ‘inquiry’ in connection with Major-General Stretton at any time. The word inquiry’ has not come from my lips. I hope there is no ambiguity about that. Yesterday my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, was asked a question on this matter. I will read to the House what the honourable senator said. He said:
The Minister for Defence advises me that he has read the book -
That is, Major-General Stretton ‘s book- and the official reports on the subject. It is the Minister’s opinion that there are undeniable conflicts between the book and the reports. He has put to study all criticisms made by Major-General Stretton.
I repeat that for the benefit of honourable members:
Killen- has put to study all criticisms made by Major-General Stretton.
The Minister went on to say:
The Minister has no intention of seeking to hide anything arising out of the book or the reports. It is undeniable that there are lessons to be learned arising out of cyclone Tracy. The Minister himself, when in Opposition, raised several matters in a question in another place in relation to the procedures adopted in Darwin following the cyclone.
I want to give to the House and to the country an example of the sort of conflicts I have in mind. I leave it to the quiet judgment of honourable gentlemen as to whether there are conflicts. Let me give 2 illustrations. On page 27 of the book Major-General Stretton says this:
I had no ministerial authority. My own Minister, Mr Barnard, was incommunicado at a holiday resort in Tasmania and I had to deal with his private secretary in Canberra.
Yet in his official report to the Parliament, tabled in this House, the General observes:
The national emergency operations centre was activated and the defence force alerted at the direction of the Minister for Defence.
If a man is incommunicado, how is he going to alert anything? That is one conflict. I will pass on to give another one. At page 158 of the book, after making allegations regarding one unit, the General concludes with this sentence:
I came close to being ashamed of the Service I love so much.
Yet in paragraph 13 of his report, the General observes:
The 3 branches of the defence force played a major role in the relief operation.
I would have thought that if he came to the state at which he was ashamed of the Service he loved, he would have said so in his official report. That was the place to state it. The General would know that if the Crown presents an indictment against a person charged with some offence and within the Crown case conflicts of that nature arise, any counsel worth his salt will be on his feet saying to the judge: ‘I ask your Honour to take a certain course- to direct the Crown prosecutor to return the indictment and to enter a nolle prosequi’.
I confess to the fact that I am mildly prejudiced in this matter. I cannot say that I am disinterested because I placed 24 questions on the notice paper concerning cyclone Tracy at the time. Hindsight is the best of all sight, as we know. We learn from experience. But I tell the House this: I sought during the crisis to get a man into Darwin. I think that he was the manager at the time of Tickle Industries. It so happens that Tickle Industries provides 80 or 90 per cent of the food distributed in Darwin. I could not get a permit for that man. I reacted predictably, as all honourable gentlemen would know. I had a word with a person in the national emergency headquarters. Knowing the delicacy of the feelings of honourable gentlemen I will spare them the language that I used. However, I asked in these questions which appear at page 275 1 of the Hansard record dated 22 May 1975:
Did the Organisation . . . at about 1800 hours Eastern Standard Time . . . have the telephone number of the office of the officer in charge of the Department of the Northern Territory?
The reply recorded in Hansard is: ‘No’. The next question goes on to ask: Did the organisation acquire the telephone number? If so, how did they get it?
The reply came back:
At 1800 hours EST on 31 December 1974 the then telephone number of the permit-control officer in Darwin was passed to the duty officer in the National Emergency Centre -
– I rise to order. My point of order concerns the length of the Minister’s reply. I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker, on this matter and your guidance. In view of previous rulings which you have made in regard to the length of replies and the amount of question time taken up by them, it would be preferable for the Minister to make a statement to the House about this matter so that it can be debated.
-The honourable member for Banks is on sound ground in terms of the purpose of his intervention but he is otherwise on unsound ground because there is nothing in the Standing Orders which enbles me to require Ministers to restrict the length of their answers. However, I am sure that my friend and colleague is about to bring his answer to a conclusion.
- Mr Speaker, I wish I could retain you as my turf adviser. I apologise to the House for speaking at length- it is not my usual form- but the reply goes on to say that it was Mr D. J. Killen, M.P. who gave the National Emergency Headquarters at Darwin the telephone number. Honourable members can imagine that I was rather cross about that. We have all learned from cyclone Tracy and I have put to study- not an inquiry- by the Department all the criticisms which have been made by MajorGeneral Stretton and when that study is complete I will ensure that the House is appropriately informed.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and I remind him that in his election policy speech he claimed that only under a Liberal-National Country Party government would there be a return to business confidence. I ask the Prime Minister Does the persistent fall in share prices in all industries, including rnining, since Budget night, and the continuing outflow of private capital in recent months support his claims, or do they suggest that both local and foreign investors have lost all faith in the ability of his Government to manage the Australian economy?
-This time last year business investment plans just were not being made. No new investment projects of any major importance were being undertaken. The Treasurer has given figures of approvals to the Foreign Investment Review Board throughout the course of this year which show that as a result of the last Budget there has been overwhelming confidence expressed by business and financial circles in the thrust of that Budget in meeting Australia’s present problems. One of the difficulties which the Government has to surmount is the kind of utterly irresponsible statement made by a former Treasurer. Whether it was designed or was a slip of the tongue it has the same effect and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should put some questions to that former Treasurer so that his responsibility in this matter can be properly assessed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Minister aware that the principal legal officer of the Perth office of the Aboriginal Legal Service has recently stated that the Service has been required to curtail its development program substantially, because of limited financial resources? To what extent, if any, have these limitations impaired the quality of Aboriginal legal services in Perth, in other parts of Western Australia and throughout Australia? Can the Minister inform the House of the present position regarding funding of the Aboriginal legal service? Finally, can the Minister assure the House that the status of the Aboriginal Legal Service in Western Australia and in other States will not be reduced with the establishment of the proposed State legal aid commissions?
– I can provide the honourable gentleman with the information he requires. The relationship of Aboriginal legal aid to the legal aid commissions which my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, proposes to set up in the various States is quite clear. He has made it clear, and it is the Government’s policy, that Aboriginal legal aid will maintain its independence. The necessity for that has been recognised by a great many people who have studied the deficiencies in the provision of legal aid to Aborigines in the past.
For example, Professor Sackville acknowledged in his study of law and poverty the necessity for a special service to satisfy Aboriginal needs.
I point out for the honourable member’s information that in fact there will be an increase in funding for the Western Australian service this year. The amount provided will be roughly $590,000, as against the $540,000 provided last year. As well as that there is some carryover from last year’s funds. That will enable the service either to expand its existing setup or to establish new offices in some of the remoter parts of Western Australia. I might add that the increase for Western Australia has been as a result of a rearrangement of funding as between the different services throughout Australia. Overall, the same amount of funds will be provided this year as was expended last year- $3,746,000. For the information of honourable members, might I give some short statistics. Based on last year’s -
– I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that he is answering just the fourth question asked in 20 minutes. I am not singling out the Minister in particular, but at that rate the number of opportunities to ask questions that will be available to back bench members of the House will be very small. Is the Minister asking for leave to incorporate a table in Hansard?
– No, Mr Speaker. I was just going to give 2 figures, if I might, and then conclude. On the basis of last year’s performance, approximately 53 000 cases were handled by Aboriginal legal aid services throughout Australia at an average cost of $70 a case.
– I wish to inform the House that we have present in the gallery today members of the United States House of Representatives International Affairs Committee, led by Mr Thomas Morgan. On behalf of the House, I extend a very warm welcome to members of the Committee.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question. I recall that it is 6 months since he announced the formation of a working party to examine the problems of Aboriginal unemployment, including the impact of unemployment benefit payments on Aboriginal communities. I ask: When did the Minister receive the report of the working party? As the problem of Aboriginal unemployment is, in his words, ‘especially severe in rural areas’, when will the Government be announcing initiatives as a result of the recommendations of the working party?
– I cannot recall at the moment the precise date that I received the working party’s report. I shall ascertain it and let the honourable gentleman know. I believe that it was about July.
Since then my colleagues the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Social Security and I have met. A submission to the Government is being prepared by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. I expect it to be to hand shortly. The matter of the payment of unemployment benefit is one which has particular difficulties. We do not want to put Aborigines in the positon that they must work to get unemployment benefit because, as the honourable gentleman will appreciate, that is really a non-sequitur. What we want to do is to see that money goes into communities which will finance worthwhile projects and can employ those Aborigines who cannot obtain employment at the present time. I expect the submission to go to the Government fairly shortly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. In view of the growing discontent amongst petrol resellers in various parts of the country at the effect of wholesale price discrimination, particularly in favour of ACTU-Solo, can the Minister give any indication as to when the Government will announce its decision on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Petroleum?
-The honourable member will be aware that in recent weeks I have responded to a number of questions on this subject. I am aware of the concern felt by a number of honourable members about the problems of this industry. The inter-departmental committee has reported on the subject and I hope to be in a position to make recommendations to the Government very shortly. Before doing so, however, I would like the opportunity of some consultations with parties involved in the industry. I intend to do that before I finalise my recommendations because the issues concerned are very complex. It would be unwise to make final recommendations to the Government until I have had an opportunity of full consultation with not only representatives of the independent resellers but also representatives of the oil companies.
-Order ! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will not interject. He constantly does so and he is wearing my patience very thin.
– I paid particular attention to statements made in the run up to the election in the United States by President-elect Carter as to economic measures which he may or may not be taking. The honourable member will well understand that any judgment about those comments as to their application in world economic events must be held over until such time as decisions are being taken in that country.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Have Opposition members in the House frequently stated that economic conditions in Australia are -
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to ask the Treasurer about statements by members of the Opposition. If he seeks an answer as to facts or an explanation of policy he will be in order but if he asks the Treasurer to comment on statements by members of the Opposition he will be out of order and I will ask him to resume his seat.
– Thank you. Have some members of this House frequently stated that economic conditions in Australia are worse now than when the Labor Party was in government just over a year ago? Are those statements grossly misleading and have considerable improvements been effected?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. A question must not be argumentative or suggest an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I believe that the Treasurer is long past those days when he used to multiply monthly figures by twelve or quarterly figures by four to get horrendous annual results. I think he has now learnt to compare like with like.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question and not make a commentary on the Treasurer’s mathematics.
– I wish to draw the Treasurer’s attention to some figures in the September issue of the Reserve Bank’s Statistical Bulletin. The Statistical Bulletin contains an index which relates the Budget deficit at the end of August to trading bank deposits at the end of May. It is a guide to M3, the volume of money. It shows that for 1976 the ratio is the highest on record. I simply ask: Does this not show that he is being no more successful in controlling M3 than those whom he traduced in the past?
– The quick answer is no.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– The facts are perfectly clear. In the Budget Speech -
– Frank Crean -
– The honourable gentleman might learn something if he listens for a moment.
– You too could -
-Mr Speaker, I do not think I will bother to answer the question.
-That was the day’s best answer.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent. There was a call of a very bad word. I think I know where it came from, but I cannot be certain.
– It was the call of an Australian dog and that is what the Treasurer is.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
-I warn the honourable gentleman that if he persists in calling out such words and using offensive terms to honourable members, and then withdrawing later, only for the purpose of getting in the point he wants, he is misusing the forms of the House and I shall have to deal with him.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. What is unparliamentary about calling the Treasurer a dingo?
-The House will come to order.
- Mr Speaker, you know as well as I do -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– . . . that it is a well known Australian term used when someone does not have the courage to answer or to deal with a matter.
-I ask the honourable member for Newcastle to withdraw and apologise.
– I withdrew and I rose to a point of order.
-The honourable member repeated the word. I ask him to withdraw again.
– I withdraw again but I ask you to answer -
-I name the honourable member for Newcastle.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the honourable member for Newcastle be suspended from the service of the House.
-The question is that the motion be agreed to.
- Mr Speaker, is it possible to speak to that motion?
-No, it is not.
A division having been called for and the bells being rung-
-Mr Speaker -
-Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to take a point of order?
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Newcastle has hitherto had an unblemished record as a member of this House for 18 years this month. In such a period there have been very few members who have not been suspended. The honourable member for Newcastle never has been. In those circumstances, and particularly as his offence on this occasion took place while he was taking a point of order, I suggest that the vote might be called off or that the honourable member might be given an additional opportunity to apologise.
-I am prepared to request the mover of the motion to withdraw it, but this is the second time that I have had to deal specifically with the honourable member for Newcastle. The honourable gentleman seems determined to make his point regardless of the rules of the House or the wish of the Speaker. If he does wish to make an apology and to give an undertaking that he will obey the rules of the Chair and the Standing Orders, then I am prepared to intercede with the Leader of the House. But unless there is an absolute apology, an absolute undertaking to obey the Standing Orders, the matter will have to proceed. Is the honourable member for Newcastle prepared to give an undertaking in those terms?
– In view of the point of view my Leader has put forward- although I would just correct one point and say that I have once been suspended -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will correct nothing.
– I will not tell you what it was for, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The division will proceed.
The House divided.
-Order! While the division is being counted, I might mention to the honourable member for Newcastle that although he has not been suspended before, neither have I suspended anybody before. Also I might draw -
– That is a credit to me from a pompous Speaker
-I remind the honourable member for Newcastle that the suspension for a first offence is 24 hours but for a second offence, 7 days.
– You are running the show; your are mismanaging the Chair.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The honourable member for Newcastle is suspended from the services of the House for 24 hours.
- Mr Speaker, due to the long clean record of my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle, and taking his previous good conduct into consideration, is it within your power to extend to him the provisions of section 556a of the Crimes Act and restore him?
The honourable member for Newcastle there
-The Treasurer felt it necessary to resume his seat because of interjections from the Opposition. Does he wish to continue the answer?
– I rise to order. The Treasurer, when he resumed his seat, said that he would give no further answer to the question. He has subsequently been given some considerable time to look up bis brief -
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– He now has knowledge of this matter and wishes to make a statement on a matter on which he refused to make a statement before and which caused the suspension of the honourable member for Newcastle because it was after that event that the offence took place.
-Order! Does the Treasurer wish to answer the question?
-Mr Speaker, I will answer the -
– I move: “That the honourable member be not further heard’. He does not need to make a fool of himself; he was built that way.
-Order! Why is it that the third Thursday of each sitting period is a day on which the House is in a state of disorder? I call the Prime Minister.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
-I present pursuant to statute the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1976.
Motion ( by Mr Lynch )- by leave- agreed to:
That this House, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1908, authorises the publication of the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1 976 and that the paper be printed.
Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Shipping Commission Act 1956 I present the annual report of the Australian Shipping Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
-(Gwydir-Minister for Health)For the information of honourable members I present the report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport during the year ended 30 June 1976, including those matters on which the Minister for Transport is required to report pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1 920.
-(Gwydir-Minister for Health)For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped for the year ended 30 June 1976 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Social Security relating to that report.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
States Grants (Universities Assistance) Bill 1 976. States Grants (Universities) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.
States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Bill 1 976. States Grants (Advanced Education) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.
States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Bill 1976.
States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 976.
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill 1 976.
States Grants (Schools) Amendment Bill 1976.
-I present the eighth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 30 November next at 2. 15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
Bill presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this important Bill is to provide Australia with a national companies law. The Bill recognises that the formation and operation of companies are matters of national significance to which State boundaries are largely irrelevant. A great deal of frustration has been caused to the business community by the necessity to comply with 8 different pieces of legislation- one in each State as well as those of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This Bill will remove the source of that irritation. No one would deny the importance of company legislation today. Increasingly business is conducted through companies whose activities affect not only their shareholders but also the public in general. At the time of Federation the law of bankruptcy was thought to be of such national importance that it should be within the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is important that the same Parliament should, to the extent of its powers legislatively, recognise the enormous increase in the importance of companies.
This Bill has 2 great aims, the first uniformity and the other the recognition of the need for legislation to keep abreast of constant developments in the area of company law. At present company law reflects neither of these aims. It is neither uniform nor capable of reflecting constant development and the need for change. The uniform Companies Act was a product of several years of consultation between Attorneys-General of the Australian Government and of the States. Iti 1961 substantial uniform legislation was passed in each separate jurisdiction. However, it was soon evident that the uniform legislation could be administered differently from one jurisdiction to another and that it was unable to cope with the constant need for amendment. This Bill recognises that the goal of uniformity through State legislation is largely illusory. There is only one method of achieving both uniformity and the ability to adapt speedily to ever changing circumstances; that is by the Commonwealth fully utilising its constitutional powers in order to enact a unilateral national companies Act.
While the constitutional position is not wholly certain it is fairly clear that section 5 1 placitum (xx.) of the Constitution does allow the Commonwealth to enact a national companies Act. A whole new era of interpretation of that placitum began with the decision of the High Court in what is known as the concrete pipes case in 1971. In overruling the earlier case of Huddart Parker v. Moorehead, the High Court made it abundantly clear that section 5 1 placitum (xx.) was to be interpreted liberally in line with the basic tenet of constitutional interpretation spelt out in the engineers case. The general point to be made at the outset in dealing with the corporation power must now be seen in the light of the concrete pipes instruction by the court to read its terms ‘broadly and not narrowly’- as Mr Justice Menzies said at page 5 1 1 of the Commonwealth Law Reports of 1971- and not ‘in any narrow or pedantic manner’- as the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, said at page 490. Section S 1 states:
The Parliament shall . . . have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: (xx.) Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limit of the Commonwealth:
Some might argue that the words ‘formed within the limits of the Commonwealth’ denote an anterior existence precluding the Commonwealth from making laws with respect to the incorporation of companies unless the incorporation is incidental to some other power. That is, they would say that corporations must be formed under State or Territory laws and not under the Commonwealth corporations power. In this they would derive some judicial support from statements made as far back as the Huddart Parker case and in the bank nationalisation case. However, these statements were not in any sense part of the basis for the decisions in those cases and they preceded the important recent decisions in the concrete pipes case and what is known as the St George County Council case.
The Opposition concedes that this argument cannot simply be dismissed. However, it does not appear to be a widely accepted view. The better view seems to be that the words ‘formed within the limits of the Commonwealth’ are used merely to distinguish home grown corporations from foreign corporations. Sir Garfield Barwick suggested as much in the St George County Council case. The word ‘formed’ does not necessarily import the past tense. Mr Justice Stephen in the case Mikasa v. Festival Stores stated that the past participle often applies equally to the future as to the past. This has been contended also in an article by Frankel and John L. Taylor in volume 47 of the Australian Law Journal. Honourable members will note also from clause 22 that in drafting this Bill reference has not been placed solely on the corporation’s power. Full utilisation has also been made of the trade and commerce power, the banking power, the insurance power and the territories power.
There is no basis for denying the Commonwealth Parliament the power to provide for the incorporation of companies under these powers. The High Court case of O’sullivan v. Noarlunga Meat Ltd, the second New South Wales airlines case and Redfern v. Dunlop Rubber gave the Commonwealth wide powers over trade and commerce. That power extends to matters preparatory to such trade as is specified in section SI, placitum (i.) of the Constitution and to matters where interstate and intra-State trade are not clearly separated. A National Companies Act would not be susceptible to challenge under section 92 of the Constitution. It can thus be seen that the Commonwealth has wide powers to enact a comprehensive National Companies Act, including provisions for incorporation. There is no need for equivocation or timidity. This Parliament has the power to enact a National Companies Act. It has the duty to use those powers in the interests of the people of Australia to ensure that we have the best possible companies legislation.
Of course, the Bill does far more than provide for the incorporation of companies. It is a Bill concerned with the structure of companies and with matters of internal management. It deals not only with the incorporation of companies, but also with the rights, inter se, of their shareholders and with the liquidation of companies. It is complementary to the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1976 which deals with the external conduct of public companies affecting the interests of the investing public. There is a close interdependence between those 2 Bills. That other Bill is still before the House. I turn now to deal with some of the provisions of the Bill. I should stress once again that its main provisions deal with uniformity and the capacity to meet changing circumstances. The aim of this Bill is not wholesale reform of company law. Many of the provisions under the existing law are sound. They have been developed in the light of experience. It is not our intention to discard any of the provisions in the existing law without good reason.
The existing law in the form in which it appears in the Companies Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory has been adapted so as to make it suitable as a piece of national legislation. The changes which have been made in the process are as a result of our own and overseas experience. The Bill also takes account of the provisions of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1976 and the recommendations of the Eggleston Committee which have not yet been implemented. The essential differences between this Bill and existing legislation are that the provisions in this Bill will operate nationally on an Australia-wide basis. All companies, other than those incorporated in another country, will be deemed to be incorporated in Australia instead of in a particular State or Territory. State boundaries will be irrelevant. Companies will not need to register as foreign companies or to lodge documents with a separate administration. There will be an end to the jurisdictional problems which have bedevilled investigations and prosecutions and in this regard one can only advert to the recommendations of the Rae Committee which clearly showed that there was a necessity for uniformity in company legislation because it was impossible to have adequate investigations when those investigations were limited to State boundaries and subject to State investigatory procedures. The Rae Committee said that there was an essential need to have an ability to investigate across State boundaries, to have uniformity of experience and facilities and that there should be a national investigatory power.
Most companies in Australia, both existing and future, will be covered by this proposed legislation. The small minority of companies beyond the constitutional reach of this Parliament will continue to fall under State and Territory company legislation. Of course, the State Parliaments will be able to make these companies subject to national legislation should they wish to do so but in any case the national legislation will effectively control practically all companies of commercial significance. The responsibility for administering the proposed legislation is to be vested in a Corporations and Exchange Commission and provision has been made for this in the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. Proprietary companies, all of which are outside the scope of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill, will be covered by the present Bill. The accounting requirements in the National Companies Bill are specifically directed to such companies and they are not as stringent in some respects as the corresponding requirements for public companies in the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill.
The distinction that has long existed between a company’s memorandum of association and its articles of association is to be abolished. Under this Bill there will be a single document for a company and it will be the company’s rules. This change, which will make for brevity and simplicity, recognises that much of the reason for having separate memoranda and articles of association has ceased to exist. Of course, some rules will be alterable only in certain ways.
Another change relates to the powers of a company. At present the powers are limited to those set out in detail in a schedule subject to any modifications in the memorandum of articles. This causes inconvenience when a company finds that it needs a power that is not listed and, to avoid difficulties, companies tend to spell out long lists of powers in memoranda and articles. The Bill removes the need for this by providing that a new company will have in the furtherance of its objects all the powers of a natural person.
Corporate directors will not be permitted. The practice of having such directors has not been common but it has been resorted to on occasions such as when one company is a subsidiary of another and the holding company appoints itself managing director of the subsidiary as a method of maintaining complete control over it. The trend in other countries is to require all directors to be natural persons.
Another change of importance requires a prescribed minimum paid up capital to be held by a company before it is able to commence carrying on business. This should help prevent the proliferation of under-capitalised companies which are prone to get into financial difficulties. The standards of integrity and care required of a director are indicated with more precision and in an objective manner. Directors will need the approval of a general meeting before disposing of the business undertaking of a company. There are provisions which recognise that companies have a social responsibility. These provisions authorise directors to have regard to the interests of employees, the effects of the company’s activities on the environment and the interests of the community. The existing law is unsatisfactory in that it permits directors to have regard to those matters only to the extent that it coincides with the interests of the shareholders to do so. A reduction of capital will be possible without the costly procedures of obtaining the confirmation of the court where the company has no creditors or all the creditors have consented to the reduction. This is a sensible reform which will facilitate greater freedom of action for companies while maintaining the protection of creditors.
Winding up provisions have been clarified and brought into line with corresponding provisions in the Bankruptcy Act. Among other changes provided for in the Bill are: Firstly, the circumstances in which remedies are available to minority interests are widened and extended to debenture holders; secondly, a share in a company which is held in trust for that company will not carry voting rights; thirdly, a company will be required to keep a register of options to acquire securities in a company; fourthly, a company will be required to keep a register which will enable a check to be made on multiple directorships.
The Bill is of great importance. It recognises that business in this country is increasingly being conducted by companies on a national basis. It recognises that Australia cannot afford the cost of having 8 different company laws. It is a Bill which fully utilises the powers of this Parliament in a most important area of law. I am well aware that the Minister for Business and Consumer
Affairs (Mr Howard) is having discussions with the States in this important field. I am also well aware that the Labor States would willingly give powers to the Commonwealth in this field. They would refer those powers. However the Minister is in the very difficult situation of finding that States such as Queensland and obviously Western Australia will not give him those powers. I know that the Minister is hoping that he can get some uniformity in this field but I very much doubt whether he can. As one who attended the recent Constitutional Convention in Hobart I would be surprised if the Queensland delegation of the National Country Party would agree to any change at all. In fact, its view would be that Queensland is an independent State and is not subject to any national surveillance. I also very much doubt whether the Minister would get cooperation from Western Australia.
The business community these days, as is highlighted by the many problems which have arisen and was highlighted by the Rae report, does not have to worry about crossing State boundaries when dealing in trade and commerce. It does not have to worry about it when dealing in communications, banking procedures and the like, but it does have to worry about it technically when it comes to the law. As I said during the course of my submission in support of this Bill, how contradictory it is to think that we have to deal with a person who is bankrupt on a national basis but cannot deal with a company in a similar position in the same way. Look at the difficulties which have arisen because of people virtually being denied opportunities when they find that a company which has defrauded them is in another State. This is the tenor of what is happening. The intelligence of the High Court is now coming strongly to our aid as a result of the concrete pipes case clearly indicating that we must not be too narrow and confined in our interpretation of those words drawn by the founders of the Constitution. It is important that we give them a broad interpretation when dealing with corporations and not be placed in this pedantic and stupid situation of saying that we cannot cover this particular matter.
The Opposition encourages the Government to be bold and ambitious in this area and to enter the field because if it is going to rely on State agreement, and I have said that I do not see any chance of this, it will get the lowest common denominator of agreement. The Minister and the Government will have to accept the lowest mean that the States would agree to an I do not think that they would get even to that very low level. The States are very conservative and may never agree at all. The Minister is anxious to say: ‘I have a very good proposition in mind. I have a piece of legislation which will guarantee that if I alter the law here it will be deemed to alter the law in the States’. However, that is only if the States agree in the first place to the Minister introducing such a law. We can foreshadow many constitutional difficulties as to whether such an alteration would be deemed to apply when there has been no reference of powers. Why should we get into those difficulties when people could take the point that what the Minister is talking about is still subject to a State power in respect of which he has no right to legislate and there has been no reference of power?
As the Minister knows from dealing with this sort of matter, when we involve ourselves in interstate and intrastate interpretations we can get into what is called an impossible dichotomy between State and State and States and the Commonwealth, and the High Court has been trying to work out what finer points can develop from such a dichotomy. We want this position clear. If the Minister wants to rely on the States he will have to rely on some rigid provision that the States will agree to and may well rescind from time to time depending on changes of government. I think the Minister would welcome the opportunity to have a reference of powers because he could then legislate in this field.
It is quite fair for the States to say that they can take them back at some time. I know that Queensland again would say that one must never refer any powers because one may never be able to take them back. That was Queensland’s conventional stance a few weeks ago on another matter. I point out to the Minister that there was no matter at the Constitutional Convention in Hobart to which the Queensland Government’s delegation agreed- not one. Queensland even said no to the first item on the agenda, which related to giving a vote to people of the Northern Territory in any referendum. With that sort of stance, I doubt very much whether the Federal Government is going to get any assistance. Queensland seems to think that the Federal Government has all the money and all the power and that it is not going to give anything to Queensland. Queensland conveniently forgets, of course, that it gets more than its fair share of the tax revenue. The same situation applies in respect of Western Australia. We are now seeing Press reports that Queensland is even thinking of seceding. As Quebec has been so successful in a referendum, I can well envisage Mr BjelkePetersen being encouraged to do the same thing in Queensland.
What about trade and commerce in Australia? What about national development? What about all the problems that were highlighted by the report of the Rae Committee. Effective legislation is needed in the field of commerce in this country. I am encouraging the Federal Government to get into that field. I think companies would do the same. They do not want to have shysters and crooks manipulating companies and using State boundaries to do it- and that has happened. They do not want to have stock exchanges which will not properly regulate the securities industry. Is it any wonder that investment is so scarce these days when there is not the continuity or integrity that is necessary to guarantee to the people who do invest that justice will be done.
Look at the investigatory powers of the States. I am not being critical of them as such; I am being critical of the time factor involved in looking at the operations of companies. Years go by and nothing happens. States are still wondering about certain companies that have carried on activities within their borders. Shareholders are still waiting for reports and are still trying to work out what sort of action can be taken. This would not happen in the national field. There would be too much pressure to ensure that there was more experience and more expedition. There would be less political influence. The whole spectrum would be wider. Shareholders would be encouraged to move across the State boundaries in relation to companies and would not try to limit their activities, as they do now. We would then have directors who are more attuned to their national responsibilities. We could then have, if you like, delegation back in a branch structure, but certainly controlled on a national companies basis.
As we have said, this is part and parcel of an effective control of the national securities and exchange activities. If it is fair enough for banking it ought to be fair enough for insurance which is developing in that way and certainly ought to be under this corporate structure power. The founding fathers felt the need to refer to this power. I am fortified in this endeavour by the more recent decisions of the High Court on how we can effectively deal with corporate legislation.
This is a Bill of major importance. It is a Bill that would have been introduced by the previous Labor Government. It was ready for introduction at the time of that Government’s dismissal. It will be recalled that prior to 1 1 November we had already introduced a proposition in relation to a national companies and securities and exchange industry, which was, of course, delayed and then rejected. It never became law. We tried again earlier this year. I think that we gave notice at the first meeting of this Parliament in February that we would introduce these measures. The procedures of this House are such that we have to do this seriatim over a period of time. Now, after almost one year, we find ourselves getting to this Bill. It shows how difficult it can be if we have to rely upon an Opposition to prod a Government into action.
I know that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has been doing good work in trying to encourage the State governments to help him. I advert again to the fact that that is not going to be the solution. He can certainly try as hard as he likes but it would be far better for him to take the reference of powers that are now being offered to him by some States. There are three of them at least. That would be a breakthrough. I think that might encourage more activity than now obtains from having frequent meetings.
The Minister will have noticed that people engaged in the field of security investment are concerned. The intelligent directors of companies are concerned and the intelligent managers of stock exchanges are concerned. They can see that it would not be some centralist bureaucracy, that it would not be something that intervened in private matters, that it would not be something that detracted from State administration. It would be something that would give them added strength. It would guarantee that stock exchanges had a national standing. It would guarantee that companies had a national standing. As I have said, it would facilitate the form of registration and there would not be the suggestion that because a company is incorporated in one State and has to be in another it is deemed to be a foreign corporation there.
No matter how one tries and no matter how much rhetoric is used one does not get continual uniformity in State legislation. The position changes from time to time. Some of the issues even become issues at election time. It follows, then, that incoming governments are prone to change legislation. Therefore the uniformity is lost. If it is left to the national parliament that parliament can change in the course of its powers only one set of rules. If one puts the situation on the basis that the Minister hopes to put it, that is, change the rules here and have them adopted or accepted elsewhere, one runs into the difficulties that I have mentioned. Firstly, the States may not agree. Secondly, there could be a lot of doubt as to their constitutional validity. For those reasons
I strongly urge the Government to accept this legislation and I commend the Bill to the House.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. I congratulate the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) on a very erudite speech, which he commenced by taking us through the constitutional basis of this legislation. I think that it is probably important that I should repeat why it is that that is necessary. So often in this Parliament we have members of the conservative Parties denying that they have any opportunity to influence events because there is no constitutional power in this Parliament. For many years that was probably the accepted view of the legal profession. But, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has made perfectly clear, it now seems unquestionable that this Parliament does have the authority to legislate on this subject. As he said, the Government has exhibited a considerable degree of timidity in relation to this subject, particularly in relation to its proposals for companies and securities laws.
The Parliament should legislate for a national companies Bill because of the terrifying situation that exists at the moment as a result of the mishmash of State laws. Very few people who have been concerned with the direction or management of companies would not be aware of the tremendous amount of paper work involved simply in complying with the different laws of the 6 States and the 2 internal Territories. In fact, it seems to many people that the only reason for these laws continuing in existence is to provide employment for provincial offices of lawyers and accountants. If one goes to an accountant’s office in one of the smaller States and looks at the notice board outside of it one is amazed at the number of companies of which it is the registered office. This no doubt provides a nice little income for some of those firms. But the purpose of companies legislation ought to be something more than simply providing employment for a few professional people.
Apart from that side of this subject, considerable difficulties have arisen as a result of the lack of uniformity between State laws- not simply in the wording of the legislation but, most importantly, in its administration. Earlier this year I had occasion to draw the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) to the very difficult situation that had arisen where the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales was taking a different view of what was a true and fair profit from the corporate affairs body in Victoria. The 2 largest States, the 2 centres of commercial activity and the 2 States which have the most sophisticated and best equipped companies offices to administer legislation could not agree on the interpretation of identical words in the statute. This was, of course, an impossible situation for the companies which had to comply with that legislation. It meant that in accounting for their profits from one subsidiary they had to take a different view in one State from that which they took in another State.
One of the most extraordinary things when we talk about the need for national companies legislation in this country is that nowadays hardly anyone in the States or even in the conservative Parties in this Parliament refers to the interstate Corporate Affairs Commission. I think it has been conceded generally now that that body is an irrelevance, that it has had no beneficial effect whatever in either the administration of uniform company laws or in the creation of more uniform companies laws. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith said, what started out in 1961 as legislation which was at least identical in wording is now nothing like that in wording or, especially, in administration.
What has been the reaction of the Government to this difficult question? It is difficult simply because it only requires the will to put into this Parliament a piece of comprehensive legislation which will provide for the regulation and management of companies throughout Australia. The question is not a new one; it is one which has been debated a great deal in the public Press over the last few years. The Rae committee which inquired into the securities industry pointed up the need for national companies Legislation. There has been a debate in all areas of commercial life over a number of years about this. It is not something in which the Government would not be able to move relatively quickly. When Parliament was dissolved last year there was a piece of legislation almost identical with that which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has introduced today already before the Parliament. The question is not a new one. We had to wait until July this year before the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs produced his proposals. I am afraid that I have to be somewhat less generous than my colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith was in talking about the efforts of the Minister to introduce a degree of uniformity into companies laws in this country. The very design of the proposal was deficient and I think has been recognised as such by every recognised authoritative commentator on companies law in Australia. The proposal that we should, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith said, have a uniform law which is reached as a result of the lowest common denominator of agreement between the Federal Government and the States is not satisfactory. It is not only a way that will never allow the laws to be amended quickly as they may need to be from time to time but it certainly ensures that the most conservative view in the most conservative States will always prevail.
Let us look at the time frame on this matter. This Government now has been in power for over a year. When it came to power the question of uniform companies legislation or national companies legislation had been subject to debate for at least two or three years before that by all interested persons. It took until halfway through this year to develop a set of proposals and those proposals were, and are, half-baked. The discussions that proceeded about them with the several States have been conducted in an amazingly casual manner. The Minister told the Parliament just this week that having had discussions with several State Ministers last week he now proposes to talk to them at least by mid-February. By that time it will have been another several months since this matter was introduced by him and, of course, it will have been over a year since the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith placed notice of his Bill on the notice paper. This really is an extraordinarily casual approach. On the time frame of a Parliament that is permitted to a Labor Government we are already more than halfway through the government’s life. It seems that a Labor government gets only 18 months of a parliament, at the most, to bring in its legislation, but this Government has now taken nearly a year and it proposes to take another 6 months casually discussing the subject. The subject will not wait.
I want to refer in some detail to the unsatisfactory nature of the proposals of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The first thing to be said, and I expect the Minister is even realising this now, is that they are impractical because they will not be agreed to by the States. If you look at the more responsible States, not simply those under Labor administration but also those like Victoria where there is at least some willingness to compromise on these questions, you will see that they do not agree to the proposal the Minister has put to them. In New South Wales the Government has pointed out very clearly that it believes that this subject requires national legislation which should be complete, comprehensive and all-embracing. That is a firm position taken by that Government. At the same time it has indicated that if it is the only thing that can be done, if that is all that can be achieved, then of course it will co-operate with the Federal Government and the other States but it has made it quite clear that the proposals do not go far enough to solve the problem. The Premier of New South Wales, commenting on the proposals of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, had this to say and he referred particularly to the Rae report:
In this we are supported by the Rae Report which, in relation to a proposal for a joint Commonwealth-State action, came to the view that such an arrangement ‘would seriously endanger the ability of the system of regulation to adapt speedily to ever changing circumstances and standards’.
I think that that situation has been borne out since the Premier of New South Wales said that and it is based very much also on the experience of company administrators in his State. If honourable members look at Victoria and if we can believe the newspaper accounts of the discussions last week that the Minister had with the several Ministers, that State proposes still that the State should police company activity; that whilst it may concede to the Federal Government some role in legislation and administration in relation to the securities industry it proposed that corporate activity be controlled by the States. For several of the reasons which I have given already that is just not good enough. The States have a lamentable record of administration of existing company laws. They have also shown very little creativity in developing new laws to deal with new situations. Above all the administrators of companies have been bedevilled by the lack of uniformity between the States, not simply in the wording of legislation but in its administration. For that reason the proposal of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs that the bulk of administration of company law should remain with the States contains a fatal flaw. It is one that would be remedied by the provisions of the Bill introduced by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
This Bill proposes a national system of regulation so that there can be no doubt by any administrator of any company whether he or she is complying with the law. It hardly needs restating, as the honourable member for KingsfordSmith put it, that people in Queensland and Western Australia and people who do not even live there but have commercial activities there, have to put up with most reactionary and conservative administrations. Both of them have evinced no willingness whatever to co-operate with this conservative government in Canberra in relation to uniform company laws- not simply with a Labor government in Canberra but with a conservative government. The position will emerge, clearly, that in States like Queensland you will have a corporate haven where the laws will not only be more relaxed in relation to the management of companies but the administration will be less competent and less adequate. One only has to look at the experience in the United States to see that companies will shop around between different jurisdictions to incorporate companies in the State which provides not simply the most economical way of administering a company- that would be a legitimate objective- but which allows the company to go about its business without proper supervision.
It is quite clear, and it must be becoming clear to the Minister, that this will be the result of his proposals. They will not be accepted by the States. Even if they were they would be quite inadequate. The fact that the administration will be left to the States seems to me to evidence more of a concern for the tenure of civil servants in company offices in the several States than for the implementation of effective national laws in relation to companies. During the last stock exchange boom it was no accident that the companies which had the worst management were quite often incorporated in the smaller States where the administration of the laws was not up to standard. I do not need to instance the companies as they will spring readily to mind. This was because, no doubt, the administrators of the company laws with the best will in the world do not have the expertise. If we cannot justify putting on people with expertise because there are not many companies to administer we will not have access to that kind of expertise. This position arose particularly in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. It will continue until we have effective national companies legislation.
The proposals of the Government for joint Federal-State action are inadequate. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs is coming to realise it. He is proceeding about his discussions with the States in what I regard and what I think many people outside the Parliament regard as an extraordinarily casual way. Persons involved in the direction and management of companies ought not to have so much of their time taken up simply filling up over and over again the same forms to file in different States. Having filled them up they find that different State officials interpret those forms in different ways or they do not agree about the way in which those companies report their profits. The only way that problems can be solved and the only way in which we will get from the point of view of internal management of companies much greater efficiency and from the point of view of the public much more honest and responsible management, is to have national companies legislation. The Bill introduced into the House by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith provides such a framework. It deserves the support of honourable members in the House and I commend the Bill.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– The Government will vote against the second reading of the National Companies Bill not because all the objectives of the legislation are not the objectives which the Government might share, not because there is not a very compelling need in this country for a greater level of uniformity and not because I am in total disagreement with a number of the arguments which have been advanced by both the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitiam). I agree with quite a number of the arguments which have been advanced. The reason the Government will vote against the second reading is that at this stage the approach which is fundamental to the introduction of this Bill is not in conformity with the policy option which the Government is currently pursuing in negotiation with the States. I appreciate that the honourable member for Grayndler finds it rather dilatory that a Commonwealth Minister over a period of 4 months has not been able to secure the agreement of the States. He chastises me- as he is entitled to do- for not having got on with the job.
I think in doing that he reveals that he still has a great deal to learn about the processes of government. Indeed, I admit that I have a great deal to learn about the processes of government. This is an area which has been occupied by the States ever since Federation and which, by the force of the arguments of the honourable member for Grayndler, is a very fundamental to the commercial life of Australia. To anticipate that one can reach agreement with the States, in what is a very significant change in the arrangements as between the Commonwealth and the States, at 2 meetings and in the short period of 4 months is being a little unrealistic when one thinks of the long time which has been involved in other areas of Commonwealth-State negotiations. The Commonwealth proposals were announced on 6 July. The response at that time to those proposals was mixed. Some believed that the proposals were timorous. I think that was the word used by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. Others believed there were such gross impracticalities in the proposals that they would not operate. But there was also a considerable body of opinion which recognised that the approach being taken by this Government, given the enormous complexity of this area, was very practical and realistic. It was an approach which, in a very effective way, reached a compromise between the competing claims of national regulation and uniformity.
I cannot dispute the force of the arguments in favour of those against the legitimate concern which is felt in many areas not only in Sydney and Melbourne but also, perhaps even more, in the less populous States. This legitimate concern has been expressed about the prospect of one government having total control over corporate regulations in Australia. If one listens to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and the honourable member for Grayndler one is led to believe that the commercial community in Australia is crying out for total and absolute Commonwealth control over the minutiae of this whole area without any qualification and without any safeguards, checks or balances about the possible abuse of that power. Although there is a very strong feeling in the commercial community for uniformity there is a very strong belief that the frustrations of having to comply with differing State requirements and with the expenses involved are matters which ought to be eliminated. Mixed with that feeling is also concern at the prospect that with one government having total control over corporate regulations without any checks, balances or safeguards, at some time in the future there could be legitimate concern in that area. It is because of these considerations and also out of consideration to the approach which this Government has adopted to cooperative federalism- I was pleased to hear the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith acknowledge the benefits of the new federalism as far as Queensland and Western Australia are concerned- that I was delighted to hear the honourable member say how well off those States are under the Government’s proposals. I am glad to hear this ringing endorsement of the new federalism which -
– They do not recognise it.
-I am not talking about what the States said. I am talking about what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith said. Those were his words. He said that they had never been better off. I thank him very much for supporting the successful approach of the Government in this area. The Government’s proposals are an attempt to bring about the desirable level of uniformity and of national regulation in those matters which are truly national. At the same time the Government proposes to accommodate some of the concerns of which I spoke earlier and also accommodate the very simple fact that despite the shortcomings of which the honourable gentleman spoke there is a very considerable expertise in corporate regulations at a State level in this country.
I invite the honourable gentlemen who have argued that we will solve all these problems by transferring everything to the Commonwealth in one hit to bear in mind that the degree of expertise in administration in this area in, for example, New South Wales or Victoria is far greater than anything which is immediately at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government, be it a Commonwealth Government of our persuasion or of a Labor persuasion. There is nothing intrinsically magical about having a national administration as far as the expertise of the people is concerned. There is no reason why, given a removal of the constraints of having to deal with different jurisdiction, State officers, acting under effective cooperative legislation cannot perform very effectively and be responsible officers.
Having said that, I should like to deal with a couple of the specific matters involved in the Opposition’s approach. In effect, the Opposition is saying to this Parliament that there are no constitutional problems involved in this area, that the Commonwealth has such a totality of power that even if there are a few areas not covered by the Commonwealth that does not matter and they will be picked up by the State legislation. I would not be so bold as to assert that the constitutional position is as clear as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith thinks it is. So far as the advice given to the present Commonwealth Government is concerned, there is no doubt that the Commonwealth’s power in this area is quite extensive. Equally, there is no doubt that that is a factor which the Government still has very much in mind in its negotiations with the States. Nonetheless, it is quite unreal to assert simply that it is possible to solve all the problems of differing jurisdictions, to solve all the complexities of companies having to operate across State borders simply by passing this Bill and its companion Bill which was introduced by the same honourable gentleman earlier this year, and that as a result of passing those 2 Bills there would be no problems.
If one accepts the force of the argument put by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith about the attitude of certain States, one must then recognise that if what he is saying is true the sort of action the honourable member has in mind would immediately invite and provoke a constitutional challenge. Far from moving from a situation of great confusion and lack of uniformity, as the honourable member sees it, into a situation of tranquility and peace, there would be far more confusion and concern. The situation could arise where companies would feel that they had to comply with the differing requirements of both Commonwealth and State legislation in the same area. Naturally, those sorts of considerations impel any government approaching this matter responsibly to try to secure the co-operation of the States. We have put certain proposals to the States. We believe that certain essentials are involved in this area and we are not prepared to make concessions which would water down those essentials. But there are enormous political and commercial advantages, and I believe there could also be enormous legal advantages, in trying to secure the type of cooperative arrangement which is inherent in the proposals we have put forward.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Grayndler say that my proposals have been criticised by every competent or recognisedI am not sure which word it was- commentator on company law in Australia. I am not aware of any of the individual people and he did not refer to any of them. I am conscious that the proposals have been criticised by some people. I am equally conscious that the Government’s proposals have been publicly welcomed by representatives of stock exchanges in Australia and by representatives of other business organisations in Australia. They have been publicly welcomed as proposals which are realistic and which will, if accepted by the States, go a very considerable distance towards solving the fundamental problems existing at the present time.
The Government does not regard the interstate corporate affairs arrangement as being a sufficient response to the need for greater national legislation in this area. The Government does not believe that the Commonwealth’s role in this area must be confined to the role of a mere agency for the Territories. A proposition to that effect is absurd because it would mean that if, for example, the Northern Territory became a State and the Australian Capital Territory achieved internal self-government, the Commonwealth would have no role. The Commonwealth does have a very distinct national role in this area. It is a role which flows very directly from the fact that the capital markets of Australia operate irrespective of State boundaries. The trading operations of many companies in Australia, certainly the major companies, operate irrespective of State boundaries. Essentially, we are dealing with a national market and it is therefore necessary to have a national response. It is equally true that of the 390 000 to 400 000 companies incorporated around Australia, about 90 per cent are proprietary companies and of that 90 per cent the overwhelming majority carry on business in only one State. I accept completely, and it is implicit in the Government’s proposals, that a company which is trading across State boundaries ought not to be in a situation where the attitude of the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs in New South Wales is different from that in Victoria, but surely one cannot apply quite the same approach when looking at a family business which is simply carrying on its operations in one suburb of Melbourne or Perth or Sydney. As honourable gentlemen who spoke for the Opposition know full well, the great majority of companies incorporated in Australia, so far as numbers are concerned, are companies which do not trade nationally. They carry on their operations within the boundaries of one State.
I think there is enormous merit in trying to establish a scheme which embraces within it a de facto division of responsibility between Federal and State administrations where a national administration is concerned essentially with the national aspects of the operations of companies and of the capital market and where existing State administrations in appropriate cases are utilised by that national administration in the performance of its national responsibilities. But in respect of regulatory matters affecting proprietary companies, certainly in those areas where a business is carried on in one State, in the great bulk of routine administrative work for companies I see merit in the existing State administrations carrying on those operations.
Much reference was made during the speeches of Opposition members to the Rae report. I have just 2 things to say about the Rae report. The first is that the author of the report has publicly supported the Government’s approach in this area. The second is that the essential deficiency which the Rae investigation established- a very essential deficiency- was the incapacity of individual State administrations to act in respect of activities which went across State boundaries. Fundamentally, that meant that the most important reform needed in this area was the establishment of a national body capable of acting irrespective of State boundaries. There is nothing at all in the proposals of the Commonwealth Government to prevent that situation from coming about. Our proposals do involve the establishment of a national corporations and securities commission. Our proposals do involve a situation where all the necessary power needed to enable that body to act irrespective of State boundaries will be given to that body. My advice is that the Commonwealth’s proposals are within constitutional power and can be given effect to if they are accepted by the States. I believe that if our proposals are accepted by the States and if they are implemented, then essentially we will have given effect to the fundamental recommendation of the Rae investigation. We will have satisfactorily provided that national administration which is so necessary to act irrespective of State boundaries.
This is a very complex issue. It is an issue which involves at the outset, so far as we are concerned, trying to reach a political agreement between the Commonwealth and the States regarding a co-operative approach. We have put proposals to the States which we regard as proper, which we regard as very reasonable, and which we regard as involving the States in a very full sense in both the administration and the reform of the law. I want to make it quite clear to the House that the Government has made a very definite policy decision, that it has certain national responsibilities in this area, that those responsibilities cannot be adequately discharged unless there is a large measure of Commonwealth involvement. We do not intend to retreat from that decision. The decision has been taken. We believe that it can best be given effect to by the approach we have adopted towards the States. But I wish to make it quite clear that in negotiating with the States it is constantly our situation that this problem can be solved only by an adequate level of involvement and responsibility on the part of the Commonwealth.
The only other point I wish to make concerning the substance of the Bill which has been introduced by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) is that, as I understand it, this Bill is, in effect, precisely the same as the Bill which was about to be introduced prior to the dissolution of the last Parliament. I think the House should know that this Bill was prepared without any consultation at all with the State governments. It was prepared without any meaningful consultation with the business community of Australia. In other words, the most fundamental piece of commercial legislation that we can have in this country, that is, the basic statute to regulate company behaviour, was, I understand, prepared without any meaningful consultation with either the business community or State governments.
I think this indicates why the approach that was adopted by the previous Government towards matters such as national companies legislation and regulation of the securities industry was greeted with such scepticism, concern and in some quarters, criticism by people in the commercial community. The former Labor Government, in its whole approach to this matter, particularly when it was the concern of former Attorney-General Murphy, exhibited a disregard for the concept of effective consultation in this area. It is little wonder that great suspicion and concern were felt in many sections of the commercial community with regard to this legislation. It is a very important policy objective of this Government and, in particular, an important policy objective of myself, to bring about an effective system of companies and securities industry legislation in Australia which involves a greater level of uniformity, which involves a national body capable of acting in appropriate cases in respect of national matters, which preserves the effective role of existing State administrations and which contains, I think, a desirable level of co-operation and consultation between the Commonwealth and the States.
I believe that, notwithstanding the inevitable difficulties of negotiating with States, irrespective of the political colour of the States or of the Commonwealth Government of the day, there are prospects that our proposals can be and will be accepted by the States. They are a genuine attempt to provide both a politically acceptable solution to this problem and a genuine attempt to provide a solution which will cause a minimum of disruption, confusion and delay to the business community of Australia. This is a very important consideration with regard to this particular matter. Therefore, whilst many of the objectives of legislation of this nature are objectives that the Government shares in common with the views expressed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and whilst the Government is committed to greater uniformity in this area and a greater involvement by the Commonwealth Government, for the reasons I have outlined the approach at this time by the Opposition is fundamentally at odds with the approach that the Government has adopted to this matter. It will therefore be the intention of the Government to vote against the second reading.
Motion (by Mr Howard) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 27 May, on motion by Mr Giles:
That the House condemns the previous Government’s economic mismanagement which has caused hardship and misery to a high proportion of those involved in rural industries.
– I shall continue my speech on my motion which states:
That the House condemns the previous Government’s economic mismanagement which has caused hardship and misery to a high proportion of those involved in rural industries.
I intend to leave aside such matters as the Australian Labor Party’s policy when in Government in respect of exchange rates and tariff cuts, both of which made in the short term exporting industries less competitive on overseas markets. Rural industries prior to the advent of the Whitlam Government were in fact primarily export orientated. Many are not now and probably will not be again. This points to the disastrous economic management which may yet result in a vital loss of export earnings to the nation in the future. If these industries are not missed as export earners in the future, it will be because of the advent of large export earnings from the mineral sector. I suppose we should give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the temporary respite afforded rural industry by the superb mess made of the mineral industry in its turn by a previous Labor Minister, even if his actions did set back the total economy of the nation by at least 3 years. Who can forget his remarks about ‘ hill-billies ‘?
Rather than debating his actions, the European Economic Community policies, tariff movements and exchange rates, I wish to concentrate on cost movements that were the direct responsibility of the last Whitlam Government. It is no little wonder that a State such as Tasmania, with its important rural sector, has said that it does not require Mr Whitlam ‘s presence in the run-up to the coming State election. Statistics show that in the previous 10 years the percentage of gross national product at factor cost decreased by 37 per cent in rural industries and 13 per cent in manufacturing industries which is a measure of the inheritance that we as a Government now have from the previous Administration
Rural industries have felt this massive downturn to a far greater extent than any other of the 11 major sectors mentioned in the statistics. Today one does not look at Woolloomooloo, Port Adelaide, Fremantle or Footscray for evidence of poverty. One looks at Gippsland, the Brigalow, the Huon Valley and the Goulburn Valley for this evidence. One does not look at the manufacturing areas- one looks at the more poverty stricken rural areas. This year the Bureau of Agricultural Economics forecasts a downturn of farm income of 19 per cent in money terms and 27 per cent in real terms. The major reason for this is the inflationary effect of cost inputs into the rural sector. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a compilation by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, ie: an index of prices paid by farmers.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– These statistics are important because anyone who reads my speech in the future will be able to perceive from the chart, that I will not have time to read in full, the fact that the consumer price index over the 3 years 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76 shows, for instance, increases of 1 3. 1 per cent, 1 6.5 per cent, and 13.1 per cent respectively. But by far the majority of the farm cost inputs show a considerably greater increase than this. Might I mention one or two of them. The percentage movement in the cost of fertilisers for the 3 years I have mentioned were 13.8 per cent, 130.8 per cent and 17 per cent. In the case of fuel the increases were 5 per cent, 1 9.8 per cent and 30. 1 per cent. Increases in the cost of replacement parts were 7.3 per cent, 2 1 per cent and 20.2 per cent. In the case of machinery they were 10 per cent, 26. 1 per cent and 23.5 per cent. These cost inputs are the principal reason why we find such poverty in rural areas today. The farmer does not have access to an arbitration commission or a wage fixing authority. He does not have the capacity to increase his own end price. In fact, his share of the retail price is decreasing as the years go by. The farmers ‘share of the retail price of beef in 1 97 1 was 60 per cent. In 1976 it was 37.2 per cent. One can look at the implications that the farmers’ share of the price of bread has on the wheat industry. The same situation, with small variations, applies in respect of butter. In 1955-56 the dairy farmer received 82 per cent of the retail price of butter. But this percentage is down to 40 per cent today. The same general picture can be seen in respect of wool, lamb, canned fruits, and wheat, looked at in terms of bread. It is important to note that, because the percentage return received by farmers has been such a sore handicap, the rural sector has tried wherever possible to increase productivity. This has been very difficult. The history of the efforts of farmers in Australia to increase productivity is well known. Statistics prove it has been difficult to achieve. Farmers have had to cut input costs, including wage costs. The table that the House allowed me to have incorporated in Hansard makes that plain. The picture in many areas is that farmers who perhaps have had some help, temporary or permanent, over the years now have none. In war service land settlement areas farmers are trying to act as one-man operators frequently at the age of 50 years or more. Certainly, as members on this side of the House will know, they are showing signs of strain and it is problematic how long they can continue working the farms.
Farmers have also had to substitute labour for capital. The big problem has been to find capital which is cheap enough to serve their purpose. The actions of the previous Government principally forced this type of thinking in both the manufacturing sector and the rural areas. If wages are too high in relation to end prices there is no way one can continue to operate any type of labour-intensive enterprise. Throughout the nation people are moving towards the use of capital and capital plant as a substitute for labour in their enterprises. It is for that sort of reason that the Government parties are determined to force plans for a rural bank. The requirement for capital, particularly long-term capital, to allow rural industries to exist profitably makes that need quite clear. Other industries by comparison, have the capacity in some areas to increase prices and their workers have a wage-fixing authority to protect them.
I am not at this stage armed with figures on freight costs but this of course has been another area in which costs to the rural sector have increased to an appalling extent. In the case of all the increases I have mentioned today the prime influence has been inflation and its effects on costs and inputs. It might be important to compare the average weekly wage without overtime in America with that in Australia. In Australia in 1971 average weekly earnings were SUS99.34 and in 1975 they were SUS205- an increase of far more than double in 4 years. In America, by comparison, the average weekly wage was SUS125.7 in 1971. This rose to SUS161.04 in 1975. Those figures show that in export areasand this is especially so in the rural sector as my words have signified today- our competitiveness is decreasing. There is no way without a steadying of costs in which the many industries which affect our livelihood can be competitive in the future. I think this points to the real damage in the 3 years by the Labor Parry. I moved this motion some months ago now. As the months have gone past one could think on the one hand that the point of the debate has become less important. In fact I doubt that the Government realised the gravity of the situation as it emerged.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The time allotted for precedence ibr General Business has expired. The honourable member for Angas 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.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
In this Bill provision is made for Australian ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological- Biological- and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. A copy of the convention is contained in the Schedule to the Bill. The Geneva Protocol of 1925-for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare- to which Australia became a party on 22 January 1930, prohibits only the use in war of gases and biological methods of warfare. It does not prohibit the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of such biological weapons.
The present Convention which is designed to fill this gap was the outcome of difficult and complex negotiations, the 26-nation Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva and in the United Nations General Assembly. Resolution 2826 (XXVI) of the United Nations General Assembly, commending the Convention to Governments, was co-sponsored by 40 countriesincluding Australia- and was adopted by 1 10- including Australia- to nil. The Convention which was opened for signature on 10 April 1972 has been signed by over 112 countries including Australia and so far 48 of these have ratified it. The Convention is now in force and the three depository States, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, are actively encouraging all signatory nations to proceed to ratification.
The objective of the Convention is to eliminate biological weapons. The Convention marks a new and significant step in the field of disarmament as the first measure aimed at eliminating an entire class of weapons. It will not only prohibit the production of biological weapons but also will oblige States’ parties to destroy any existing stocks. It should however be noted that the Convention and indeed the Bill now under consideration do not inhibit the use of bacteriologicalbiological agents and toxins for prophylactic protective or other peaceful purposes.
The Convention is directed primarily towards the obligations of States, but each State which is a party to the Convention is obliged to take measures to prohibit and prevent persons apart from States from engaging in the activities forbidden by the Convention ‘within the territories of such state, under its jurisdiction or under its control anywhere’. Since Australia at present has no statutory provision corresponding to that obligation, this Bill has been introduced to satisfy the requirements of the Convention. The main purposes of the Bill are to approve the ratification by Australia of the Convention as provided for in clause 7 and to implement the obligations that Australia will assume under the Convention. The Bill also provides for necessary procedures for forfeiture and seizure, and for expert analysis of any item or substance that may be subject to the provisions of the Bill.
Article IV of the Convention provides that each State party shall take any measures necessary to prohibit and prevent the development, production, acquisition or retention of any of the items or substances referred to in Article I. As the English text of the Convention is set out in the Schedule to the Bill, I need not detail the provisions of Article I or indeed the other requirements of the Convention. It is, I think, sufficient to say that clause 8 of the Bill creates in Australia offences that give effect to Article IV of the Convention and provides penalties that take into account the grave nature of those offences. Clause 9 provides for the forfeiture and seizure of substances or articles developed in contravention of clause 8. Clause 10 contains necessary procedural provisions for the conduct of prosecutions for offences against the Act. All offences under the Act are made indictable offences and no proceedings are to be taken for an offence without the consent of the Attorney-General or his agent.
Clause 1 1 ensures that State courts shall have jurisdiction with respect to these offences in accordance with the Judiciary Act 1903, but, except in the case of trials on indictment for offences committed in a State which, by section 80 of the Constitution, must be heard in the State where the offence is committed, this clause permits the State courts to exercise jurisdiction without regard to the limitations imposed by the Judiciary Act as to locality of the offence. Clause 12 of the Bill recognises the need, with respect to the type of offence to be created by this legislation, for specialist evidence as to the analysis and examination of substances. The Bill alone authorises the making of regulations specifying procedures to be followed in the storage and disposal of articles produced in contravention of the Act and in providing an opportunity for any person charged with an offence to have a sample of a substance for independent analysis.
Honourable members should also note that the Bill is expressed to have a wide area of operation. It extends to every external territory, as well as to the States and internal territories, as dealt with in clause 4. It will apply to acts done by Australian citizens outside Australia and the external territories, as dealt with in clause S. Clause 6 provides that the Act binds the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or of a State. I will conclude by saying that this Bill represents Australia’s participation in the first significant step by nations toward international disarmament and I commend the Bill to the House.
Bill (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) 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 is designed to give effect to Government decisions in regard to the licensing, regulation, planning and administration of the Australian broadcasting system. It also relates to the restructuring of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and a revision of certain of its relationships with the Public Service Board. In a statement to the House on 23 March 1976, I called for a review of broadcasting having in mind a number of major deficiencies which had become widely recognised over recent years. At this stage in the development of our broadcasting system, there is the need to redefine the responsibilities of the Government and its instrumentalities in broadcasting matters, and to update administrative procedures. Still further, there should be greater opportunity for both public and industry involvement in broadcasting development and a revision of planning, licensing and regulatory processes so that they are more in accord with today’s conditions.
Much of the present broadcasting legislation is also very much outmoded and is not suitable to accommodate the emerging public sector of broadcasting. Consequently, the Government decided in April 1976 that an inquiry should be undertaken by the Postal and Telecommunications Department. The inquiry has now been completed and its report, which has been referred to as the Green report, was tabled in both Houses of the Parliament on 9 November 1976. So far as the structure of the broadcasting system is concerned the Government has decided upon a number of major changes. The first two of these cover the disbandment of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the establishment of an Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. The Tribunal will be a ‘quasi-judicial’ body with powers to hold public inquiries into the grant and renewal of licences in the commercial and public sectors. Powers of the Tribunal will also extend into such matters as the setting of standards of broadcasting practice, alleged breaches of licence conditions, or any aspect of broadcasting referred to it by the Minister. It will also assume the present Ministerial responsibilities to grant, renew, suspend or revoke licences as well as impose conditions on licences, or impose penalties.
The Tribunal will ultimately be granted all the powers presently available to either the Minister or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in the administration of ownership and control provisions applicable to broadcasting licences. The grant of these powers to a separate independent statutory authority will substantially reduce the possibility of political involvement in the licensing process. It will extend the functions of the Tribunal beyond those previously exercised by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It will be required to license public as well as commercial stations, and to hold public inquiries into the renewal of licences. The legislative amendments required to fully implement the decisions of Government in the licensing area are quite extensive. It has not been possible for Parliamentary Counsel to complete all of the necessary drafting in time for consideration in this session of Parliament. As an interim measure, therefore, this Bill is designed to establish the Tribunal, specify its membership and transfer to it the Control Board’s present functions and responsibilities with regard to licensing and public inquiries.
In addition, and also as an interim measure, the Tribunal will, under the provisions of this Bill, assume the responsibilities of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in administering the present standards of broadcasting practice. The Tribunal will be directed by me to hold a public inquiry into the concept of a greater degree of self regulation’ by the industry itself as proposed in the report, based on minimum standards to be determined by the Tribunal. The Tribunal will also recommend whether the national sector should conform to such standards. The public will thus have the opportunity of expressing its view whether the ABC should be subject to the same minimum standards of broadcasting practice as the commercial and public broadcasters. Should the Tribunal find that the community favours more autonomy being given to the broadcasters by allowing them to develop and largely administer their own codes of programming and advertising practice, the Tribunal would then withdraw from the day-to-day administration of standards. It would examine only those significant matters of standards or regulation referred to it by a representative body of the broadcast operators, such as the Broadcasting Council designated in this Bill.
It should be mentioned at this stage that the present programming and advertising standards as administered by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, are considered by the broadcasting industry, much of the public, and even by the Board itself, as being outmoded and antiquated under today’s conditions. The early establishment of an Australian Broadcasting Tribunal will facilitate the machinery and procedures for any move toward more appropriate or flexible form of regulation which may be considered desirable following full public discussion and debate on this issue. As far as the planning functions are concerned it is important to stress that these relate essentially to the improvement of, or extensions to, the physical services of the system. They do not relate to any form of program planning, which is the responsibility of the operators themselves. The department would be concerned only with the programming spectrum provided through the national, commercial and public sectors of the system. This will be for the purpose of establishing whether new services should be planned to provide for special interest, minority or alternative forms of programming which are not currently being provided.
Planning the physical development of the Austraiian broadcasting system is properly a matter for government as it is closely related to its overall communications policy, and its current responsibility for the management of the radio frequency spectrum. Planning therefore involves the translation of the Government’s strategic broadcasting policies into priorities, and in accord with the availability of resources. It is a 2-part process, as planning provides an important input to policy formation, and is also an essential element in the detailed implementation of policy. The Department already carries out an advisory role to the Minister on broadcasting matters. The Government has therefore decided that it is a logical extension of this role for the closely associated planning processes to also be undertaken by the Department.
In addition, it is the view of the Government that appropriate machinery and procedures should be provided for a regular form of industry consultation on planning matters so that each sector of broadcasting will have an opportunity to comment on plans drawn up by the Department. This will be facilitated by the establishment of the Broadcasting Council provided for in this Bill.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Council will be made up largely of representatives from the national, commercial and public sectors of broadcasting. All plans prepared by the Department will be submitted to meetings of the Council as standard procedure. Each sector of the industry will, therefore, be fully informed of the planning proposals, and have the opportunity to debate and record its views on the planning issues involved. This is a major step forward and it is hoped that, by this process, more informed judgments on future plans will be possible.
I emphasise that the Council is not an executive body with power to take decisions on planning. It is consultative only. Some critics apparently see it as having authority to take decisions affecting the ABC and lessening the present powers and independence of the Commission. Let me emphasise again that the Council will have no such power to make decisions in respect of the ABC’s role and policies. It will also be a responsibility of the Department to administer the technical standards as approved by the Minister in relation to the technical equipment and operation of broadcasting and television stations. Its technical staff will also detect sources of interference with the transmission or reception of station broadcasts or telecasts. This latter responsibility is already carried out by the Department on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Associated with these functions, the Department will also conduct the necessary examinations as to the competency of persons to operate the technical equipment of broadcasting and television stations. Two new provisions have been included in this legislation which relate to the composition and staffing of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
It is considered that as the ABC is a national service provided through a large networking arrangement to all States throughout Australia, that there should be at least 6 commissioners to represent people from different States. At present there is an imbalance of State representation with some States having no representation at all. It is well recognised that there are widely differing programming needs by people located in the various regions throughout Australia. We believe that State appointments will provide for more positive representation of those needs. The existing legislation also provides for at least one commissioner to be a woman. Having regard to the high interest which is being taken in the improvement of programs for children as well as those of more specific interest to women, and also the fact that considerably increased attention is being given to the social consequences of broadcasting, it has been decided to increase the minimum number of women on the commission to at least two. This is not to say, of course, that additional women who have the qualifications, skills or experience which would enable them to make a valuable contribution will not be appointed to the Commission.
The Bill provides for the full number of Commissioners to remain at nine and any new appointments which become necessary, will be made in keeping with the revised composition of the Commission, as I have outlined.
As a result of this legislation, the Commission will also be given greater flexibility in its staffing arrangements. In future the creation or reclassification of positions within the Commission, and the determination of salaries or salary ranges, will no longer require the approval of the Public Service Board where such positions involve salaries below that of the lowest level of the second division. The Bill also provides for a joint consultative committee which will set up formal consultative machinery to facilitate the greatest degree of co-operation between the staff and management of the Commission. I emphasise that the Government expects this machinery to be used regularly by members of the Commission, its management and staff, and cognisance taken of the views expressed. Two other provisions of the present Act requiring ministerial approval for contracts entered into by the Commission where they are in excess of $100,000 have now been relaxed to require ministerial approval only where they are $250,000 or more. These matters are in accord with Government’s policy to provide the Commission with greater autonomy in the management of its daytoday operations. It is thus the very opposite to some critics who interpret our decisions as leading to greater government interference in the ABC.
One of the important new provisions in this Bill is that which will permit the licensing of public broadcasting and television stations under the Broadcasting and Television Act. At the present time these stations can only be licensed under the inadequate provisions of the Wireless Telegraph Act. Finally, the Bill covers a number of transitional provisions relative to the transfer of the functions and powers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Matters of property, instruments, agreements, proceedings, rights, liabilities and the like to which the Board was a party before commencing day are specified in terms of the manner in which transitional arrangements will apply. These transitional provisions are also extended as necessary to cover the amendments made to the principal Act in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Appointments made to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Broadcasting Council between the time of royal assent to the new Act and commencement date, will not have effect before 1 January 1977. There is also provision for the making of all necessary regulations under the principal Act as may be required by the amendments of the new Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill to amend section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 is to omit from sub-section 3 a direct reference to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to the future application of sub-section 106 (2) of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942. The amendment is a machinery one which deals with the accounting period on which broadcasting station licence fees are to be assessed. It is consequential upon the structural changes to the Australian broadcasting system dealt with in the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill to amend section 6 of the Television Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 is to omit from sub-section 3 a direct reference to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to the future application of sub-section 106 (2) of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942. The amendment is a machinery one which deals with the accounting period on which television station licence fees are to be assessed. It is consequential upon the structural changes to the Australian broadcasting system dealt with in the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
One of the most important foundations of the parliamentary system of government is the political neutrality of the Public Service. While public servants, like all other Australians, are entitled to their political opinions, they are expected to serve all governments equally without regard to the political composition of the governments. Any incoming government is entitled to expect that it will be able to deal with the Public Service on a basis of complete confidence in its political impartiality. One of the best safeguards of the political neutrality of the Public Service is a system of appointment- particularly of appointments to senior positions- which minimises the possibility of appointments for purely partisan reasons and inceases the chance of making the best possible appointment. A government may, of course, wish for good reason to appoint a person not recommended by due process. The Government believes that if such an appointment is made an incoming administration should not be forced, through permanency, to retain the service of the appointee. In November of last year, I announced that a Liberal-National Country Party Government would introduce procedures designed to ensure that due process is followed in the appointment of permanent heads of ministerial departments. I indicated in broad terms what those procedures might be. A detailed study of the matter led ultimately to the scheme incorporated in this Bill. The study also covered procedures for statutory full time civilian appointments. I will return to these a little later.
This Bill is concerned with the principles and procedures to apply in relation to the appointment of persons as permanent heads of ministerial departments. Our approach is that, in conducting its own special role in making appointments, the executive government must give special weight to the integrity of the Service, and in particular to the well-established principle of appointment on merit. In addition, the processes ought to be such that, so far as possible, the best available persons are appointed as permanent heads, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the Service as a whole. The new statutory procedures for permanent head appointments place primary responsibility for the competitive nomination in the hands of the Chairman of the Public Service Board and a committee comprising him and at least 2 permanent heads. The appointments which have been made by this Government to the position of permanent head have been made in conformity with the principles behind the legislation, without the setting up of the formal committee. All subsequent appointments will be made in accordance with the procedures set out in the Bill.
It will be the function of the Chairman and the committee to bring forward, for consideration, the names of persons considered suitable for appointment to particular positions of permanent head. The basic elements of the nomination procedures to be followed by the Chairman and the committee are set out in proposed section 54A. The process will commence when a vacancy has occurred or is about to occur. The Chairman will convene the committee after consulting with the Prime Minister on the membership. The procedures will also extend to possible consequential vacancies. The procedures will ensure that the names of suitable candidates from within the Public Service are brought to notice, while also enabling the nomination of persons from outside the service. The Chairman will be authorised to consult- or authorise a person on his behalf to consult- other persons concerning possible suitable candidates. As a normal course, persons consulted would include the Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet- if he is not a member of the committee- and, as appropriate, the retiring permanent head.
The reports from the Chairman and the committee, including lists of suitable candidates, will be submitted to the Prime Minister and the Minister concerned. If at this point the Prime Minister so requests- after consultation with the Minister and, conceivably, other Ministers- the Chairman will arrange for the position to be advertised and revised reports submitted in due course. The Prime Minister or the Minister concernedprior to or following advertisementmay also request the Chairman and the committee to reconsider their reports to determine whether any names should be added to the lists.
Any such additions will, of course, be entirely at the discretion of the Chairman and the committee. At appropriate stages in the process.the Prime Minister and/or the Minister concerned may interview some or all of the shortlisted candidates.
I must stress at this point that nothing in the Bill will prevent the appointment, as permanent heads, of persons not nominated as suitable candidates by either the Chairman of the Board or the committee. However, in that eventuality, certain special provisions will apply. Firstly, such an appointment will be for a fixed term not exceeding 5 years, with an eligibility for reappointment. Secondly, the appointment will, in the circumstances outlined in proposed section 54(9)- in effect, in the event of a change of governmentbe subject to termination by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. This approach means that a government will be able to appoint people not short-listed by the committee. Where a government chooses an appointee whose nomination has not been endorsed by due process, that government will not be able to place any continuing obligation on an incoming government, and there will have been no lasting breach of the competitive merit principle on which the career Public Service is based.
The Bill ensures fair treatment for persons appointed for a fixed term when their appointments come to an end, whether through exercise of the termination power, expiration of the period of appointment, or on abolition of the particular office of permanent head. The person who was already an officer before being appointed as a permanent head is entitled to be re-appointed to an office in the service, or may elect to retire. If he retires his retirement will be deemed involuntary for the purposes of the Superannuation Act and will thereby attract the level of benefits applicable to that situation. The person who was not previously an officer is also deemed to have retired involuntarily for the purposes of the Superannuation Act. If the appointment has ended through exercise of the termination power or abolition of the office, he is also entitled to any compensation previously determined by the Governor-General at the time of his appointment.
Provisions are included in the Bill which will require notification both to the appointee and on public record, of tenure arrangements concerning particular appointments. Retention of the title, permanent head, could be regarded as inappropriate in view of the fixed term arrangement that will be possible under the Bill. This is something we will be looking at in the context of consideration of the report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. Any change will be reflected in future legislation. The BUI will not significantly change current arrangements for First Division appointments other than to offices of permanent heads of ministerial departments. The permanent heads of parliamentary departments will continue to be appointed on the recommendation of the Presiding Officers. Other First Division appointments will be in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Board.
When I made the initial announcement last year concerning this legislation, I also stressed the need for positive personnel policies, including movement of permanent heads to different positions so as to open up new challenges for them, an executive development program and a system of succession planning. Introduction of the procedures incorporated in this legislation will assist in the development of such policies. The Public Service Board has recently introduced an executive development scheme directed to men and women in the senior levels of the Third Division who have the capacity to undertake higher administrative duties and who require further experience in practical and theoretical aspects of administration, policy advising and management. There are also relevant recommendations of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration that are currently under examination.
I mentioned earlier that procedures have also been developed in relation to statutory full time civilian appointments. Whilst these are essentially administrative guidelines, designed to ensure that there is consideration of related appointments across the area of Commonwealth Government civilian administration, they are closely related to the present Bill. I would like to take the opportunity to outline them briefly, thereby putting on public record the procedures which this Government will follow. Initiation of action is a matter for the Minister concerned, who would normally consult his permanent head and, as appropriate, the retiring official, as well as any others he wishes to consult. Where the position to be filled by the Government is an executive one responsible to a governing body, the Minister will obtain the views of the governing body. The Minister will also ask the Chairman of the Public Service Board whether he wishes to submit any names.
After consultations which would normally include discussions with the Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to identify possible candidates from inside and /or outside the Public Service, the Chairman will indicate to the Minister the names of any persons he feels warrant consideration. If he feels it important to overall arrangements he will so inform the Prime Minister. The names suggested could include that of the existing incumbent, subject to his availability for reappointment. If this process does not achieve somebody who is regarded as suitable the Minister after consultation with and approval of the Prime Minister, could arrange for the position to be advertised. In that event, the Minister will, with the approval of the Prime Minister, convene a committee which will include appropriate officials and outsiders of relevant backgrounds, under the chairmanship of a person approved by the Prime Minister. After interviews as appropriate, the Chairman of the committee will submit to the Prime Minister and the Minister concerned on behalf of the committee a short list of suitable candidates. At this stage or, if desired, earlier the Prime Minister and/or the Minister may interview some or all of the candidates, irrespective of advertisement, a committee may be established on the basis previously outlined. I think that it is most unlikely that the positions would be advertised. I believe that suitable candidates would be found by any government before that stage. But it is mentioned in relation to permanent heads and statutory authorities for the sake of completeness.
The Government believes that the procedures established by this Bill will further strengthen the operation of the system of parliamentary government in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks to amend the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act 1967 by extending the life of that Act to 1 July 1977. In introducing this Bill I take this opportunity, Mr Deputy Speaker, to make to the House a further detailed statement on the Government’s attitude to future arrangements for the stevedoring industry and to tell honourable members of the future course that the Government wishes to see taken in this connexion.
Honourable members will recall that in my second reading speech on a Bill to amend this Act on 6 May this year I made a similarly detailed statement. That statement indicated the Government’s approach. It might well have been styled stage one of a total operation. The statement I am now making reports on progress and introduces what I might term stage two. On 6 May I discussed at length the reasons which prompted the Government to adopt the approach that I then outlined and so I do not propose to reiterate that thinking now. However, my statement outlined 3 years of special concern to the Government:
Measures aimed at securing cost restraint.
Measures to protect the interests of the staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
Measures to overcome the problems of the industry as had been identified in the report presented to me by Mr Justice Northrop.
Moreover, I said in May, and again I repeat it, that provided the industry can develop a suitable framework within which solutions to major problems can be found, the Government will relinquish its regulatory role through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority provided that there are suitable arrangements to cope with the following particular problems:
Continued efforts to reduce the workforce.
Satisfactory arrangements for recruitment and redundancy of waterside workers to cope with the fluctuating requirements of the labour force, including the question of a supplementary labour scheme.
Adequate distribution of and transferability of labour.
Improved industrial relations and dispute settlement procedures.
Effective participation in the industry of ‘user’ interests and other bodies.
Satisfactory funding arrangements.
I shall now deal with the developments that have taken place since my statement of 6 May. I place particular emphasis on protecting the well-being of the staff of the ASIA. I can now tell the House that a total redundancy arrangement has been settled with the unions concerned. I indicated in May that costs associated with this industry were of special concern to the Government. I placed emphasis on the importance of the role of the
Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission in providing scrutiny as to these matters. As honourable members will be aware, the PJT is currently conducting a public examination of prices charged in the industry. The PJT is currently examining these matters as to Patrick Operations Pty Limited and Seatainers Limited. The Trade Practices Commission is examining matters associated with wharf handling and stacking charges.
These inquiries are not yet completed and so I do not want to speculate about their outcome at this stage. However, I am pleased that they are being undertaken and, as I said to the House in May, in light of the impact costs in this industry have on all sections of the community, it is proper that such costs should come under surveillance to ensure that prices set are fair both to the supplier and the consumer. This surveillance is now taking place in this industry for the first time. The Government views the current examinations of the industry as positive means of protecting community interests. I would add that the Government is watching the current proceedings with very great interest and what emerges will be taken into account in the Government’s final considerations.
Since May, I have had extensive discussions with employer and union interests. I have also talked with various special interests, including the Australian Shippers Council, the bulk handling operators, the Association of Australian Port and Marine Authorities, the Australian National Line and the Broken Hill Pty Company Limited.
All parties to the industry and the Government are agreed that the present level of the workforce in the industry isin excess of that needed for effective operational purposes. Since May I have given this matter special attention. The precise extent of the surplus is not agreed upon by all parties, but I am of the view that it is in the vicinity of at least 1200 men. However, I would not wish to be tied down to this number or any other number at this time. As I will indicate a little later on, my present concern is to ensure that positive action is taken to reduce the surplus significantly and as quickly as possible. When the process to achieve this gets under way, we will be closer to determining the final figure than we are now. The fact remains, however, that the cost impact of the surplus labour as reflected in the Authority’s expenditure on idle time, is currently running at some $400,000 per week or $20m per annum.
Existing redundancy arrangements have failed to attract sufficient volunteers to leave the industry and under no circumstances can the Government condone a situation which results in such high and unwarranted expenditure. Nevertheless, I can tell honourable members that, as a result of efforts I have encouraged, the labour force in the industry has already been reduced by some 300 men this year. So, I shall want the parties to confer, immediately, to secure a further significant reduction in the workforce quickly. I am proposing to the parties that they consider arrangements which would enable immediate separation of those surplus waterside workers in the 60 to 65 age group. This could reduce the labour force by about 500 men. I shall be suggesting to them that they then turn their attention to surplus numbers in the lower age groups.
I am pleased to be able to tell honourable members that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has agreed to make available a member of the Commission to chair the discussions between the parties. The costs involved in reducing the labour force will be borne by the industry. The precise manner in which they will be borne will depend on the overall arrangements decided upon for the industry. We have now reached the point at which stage two in developing new arrangements for the industry, in detail, can get under way. I am proposing to the parties that they enter into discussions and come up with a plan developed down to fine detail. This plan would need to cover such matters as the progressive transfer of responsibilities from the statutory body and present for the Government’s consideration how the industry will manage its own affairs. Senior officers of my Department will participate in that conference and they will have broad views to put to it on my behalf as to such matters as:
Provision of genuinely effective means of adding labour to and removing it from the workforce.
Creation of circumstances to allow allocation and transfer of labour between stevedores.
Development of special arrangements such as supplementary labour units to meet the fluctuating requirements of the ports.
Improved industrial relations proceduresperhaps more importantly the continuing use of the procedures that presently exist but which appear to be used too infrequently.
Methods whereby the interests of smaller ports are protected- where the industry as a whole does not subjugate the needs of these ports to those of the major ports.
Consultative arrangements to allow all relevant interests to have an effective voice in the industry ‘s affairs.
One particular matter to which I shall be giving attention will be the special position of those companies involved in bulk handling operations and as to which there are particular provisions in the stevedoring legislation. The concept of those provisions will need to be preserved and I shall be considering how best that might be achieved when the Government comes to consider the detailed arrangements which I expect the parties to the industry to develop. Assuming our expectations are realised, the Government will want to give opportunities for interested parties to have a voice m the industry and so it envisages the setting up of structures which will allow for consultation at a national level between the industry and a wide range of other parties, including governments. I also envisage a national management body for the industry and a management body at the port level.
I emphasise that the precise nature and functions of these bodies need to be left flexible at this time so that final details can be worked out with the parties in the national discussions to which I have just referred. This is consistent with our aim of working with the industry and placing responsibility on it towards development of the totality of new arrangements. I intend that the national discussions should take place under an independent chairman. I am currently engaged in arranging this in consultation with the parties. I now turn to the question of future funding arrangements in the industry. Honourable members will be aware that the present arrangements rest upon a levy imposed under the provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act. If the industry is to manage its own affairs such an arrangement will no longer be necessary. However, it can be expected that the industry will need to introduce funding arrangements of its own. My present thinking is that these may require some statutory backing. I shall be taking this up with the industry in the very near future. Needless to say, the Government will need to be satisfied with the nature of the final arrangements entered into in this area. My department will be engaging a consultant to work with it on this particular matter. There will be opportunities for interested parties to talk with him.
As I indicated at the beginning of this speech, we are entering stage 2 of a very long and complicated exercise. I am pleased to say, however, that we are making progress. This is in no small measure due to the fact that this Government has taken a positive approach to the future of relationships in this industry. The discussions and developmental work that will need to be done now could not be finalised before the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act expires on 3 1 December 1976. Thus, the Bill now before the House proposes a further extension of that Act to 1 July 1977. What I have now said to the House is consistent with the attitude I expressed on 6 May and it is now for the industry, the Government and other interested parties to combine together to work out matters in detail.
Before I finish I want to say something about the impact on the staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority of what I have just told the House. I have already reminded honourable members that a redundancy agreement exists with the unions and the provisions of this are designed to protect the staff of the Authority in the event that the Authority may be abolished. Moreover, as provided in staff rules of the Authority, the staff of the Authority has been given 6 months initial warning of likely retrenchment. When I made my statement in May and the Parliament extended the life of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act until the end of December this year, it was envisaged that by that time new arrangements for the industry would have been worked out and that, therefore, the initial warning to the ASIA staff about likely redundancy would not have to be extended. However, as will be clear to the House, the Government has viewed the whole matter as being one of such seriousness that decisions about it are not to be rushed but approached in a measured and deliberate way. Unfortunately, this can create uncertainties for the staff of the Authority as to their future. I am very conscious of this and I propose to have early discussions with the unions whose members are employed by the Authority in an effort to allay any uncertainties and to confirm the arrangements that already exist with the unions. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, before you call the next order of the day- I shall delay the House for a couple of seconds- I point out that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) brought in a very important piece of legislation a few minutes ago. I am informed that copies of the second reading speech are not available to honourable members in the House. The House will go into recess for several days under a motion which has already been carried.
That means that honourable members will not have copies of that second reading speech available for some days. I draw the attention of the House to this matter. I think that where legislation of considerable significance comes into the House, honourable members should have copies of the second reading speech available at the time of delivery.
-I say to the honourable member for Corio that that matter does not come within the jurisdiction of the Chair. It is a matter for the Ministerwhoever that Minister is- who makes the second reading speech.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence on this matter.
-I say now to the honourable member for Banks that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has asked the question which I know is exercising the mind of the honourable member for Banks. I feel that in this circumstance, with notice of legislation before the Chair, that the comment of the honourable member for Corio has been made and noted. I feel that the matter should finish at that point.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill seeks to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956 by repealing the provisions of that Act which establish a scheme of long service leave for waterside workers. This Bill is a companion to the Bill to amend the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act and in relation to which I have outlined to the House the Government’s course of action towards developing new arrangements in the stevedoring industry. It is the wish of the parties to the industry that long service leave for waterside workers should no longer derive from the Stevedoring Industry Act but from an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In the Government’s view this is consistent with the overall trend in the industry for several years now.
Thus, the Government is prepared to accede to that wish and provided that an award is made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission consistent with the Commission’s principles as to long service leave the proposed change will come into force. The Government also proposes in this Bill to remove the existing statutory limit on the extent of borrowings by the Authority. The existence of a limit in the legislation is not consistent with the more or less standard provisions of statutory authorities generally. It is not yet clear to what extent the Authority will be able to finance from its existing cash resources the costs involved in the immediate future of the redundancy measures I have already outlined. The proposed removal of the borrowing limit provides the Authority with the option of seeking additional short term borrowings should this be necessary. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill would extend the life of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Amendment Act 1975 to 1 July 1977. The Bill becomes necessary as a result of the Bill that I have just introduced to extend the life of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is similar to the Navigation Bill 1975, which lapsed with the termination of the 29th Parliament. Because of the Government’s recognition of the rights of the States, however, legislation regarding off-shore industry vessels and collision regulations has been excluded from this Bill. All honourable members would agree that the States have a substantial interest in both offshore industry vessels and collision regulations. It was the Government’s view that in accordance with our policy the States should be able to discuss their interests with the Commonwealth before any legislation was introduced. I have therefore given the States this opportunity principally through the forum of the Marine and Ports Council of Australia.
This Bill contains sets of amendments for several specific purposes as well as a number of miscellaneous amendments. Because of the complexity of the subject matter of the Bill, explanatory notes on the clauses are being circulated for the information of honourable members. The Bill contains several important amendments which I want to outline briefly to the House. The first such group of amendments concerns the limitation of shipowners’ liability. Clause 34 of the Bill gives effect to the International Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships, 1957. This Convention came into force internationally in 1968, but the relevant law in Australia still consists of the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1 894 and 1 900 of the United Kingdom. One of the main practical effects of this group of amendments is to increase the amounts to which a shipowner will be able to limit his liability, unless he is held to be actually at fault himself, in respect of claims arising out of the specified occurrences to which the Convention applies. The existing very low limits of about $20 per ton for personal claims and $11 per ton for property claims provided for in the Merchant Shipping Acts are to be increased to the equivalent of the Convention limits- about $ 1 89 and $61 per ton respectively. Even these limits are quite low and the Government is participating in work being done in IMCO- the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organizationto increase these limits and generally update the Convention.
In giving effect to this Convention Australia, like a number of the European shipping countries, will at the request of the Austraiian States exercise the option provided for in the Protocol of Signature to exclude the application of subparagraph (c) of paragraph (1) of Article 1 of the Convention. This means that shipowners will not be able to limit their liability m respect of damage to harbour works, or for wreck removal. At the same time as Australia gives effect to this Convention, it will absolve shipowners from liability in respect of certain property claims set out in the new section 338 of the Navigation Act. New section 59a, however, will prevent shipowners from limiting their liability for claims by crew members serving under Commonwealth articles of agreement. This was sought by the unions, and is also a practice followed by many maritime nations.
Another main group of amendments relates to visiting British ships . Part II of the Act deals with crewing matters, and until recently was in line with similar provisions in the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act, with both laws applying to a visiting British ship whilst in Australia. The United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act has recently been very substantially changed and it would create administrative problems for the master and crew of a ship and the staffs of mercantile marine offices, who administer the relevant provisions of the Navigation Act, if those provisions were to continue to apply to such ships. The Bill makes the necessary adjustments in this regard. These are explained in the notes on clause 5 that have been circulated.
An important feature of the Bill, because of its positive contribution to safety of life and property at sea, is the legal effect given to the ship movement reporting scheme that was introduced following the loss of the Blythe Star. This scheme has been operating on a voluntary basis for some time. The scheme ensures that positive action is taken to search for a ship in the Australian search and rescue area if more than 24 hours have elapsed since the ship last indicated that all was well. It will also, in the event of a ship being in distress, enable the Marine Operations Centre of the Department of Transport to know immediately what ships are in the area and which of these would be best suited to assist in the emergency. In addition to improved safety, the system brings about significant economies in the use of search and rescue resources by providing a datum on which to concentrate a search in the event of a ship becoming overdue. It appears that no such legislation exists anywhere else in the world. Australia is therefore leading the world in this important development. Information about the system has been circulated to members of IMCO, where it has aroused considerable interest. In addition, Australia has proposed to IMCO that a uniform ship movement reporting system should be an integral part of any internationally-agreed search and rescue plan. Details of how the scheme works in practice are given in the explanatory notes on clause 23.
The other subject involving a group of amendments is that of historic shipwrecks. An Historic Shipwrecks Bill for the protection of shipwrecks of historic significance in the Australian territorial sea was introduced in the Senate by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) on 20 October 1976. that Bill will empower the Minister for Administrative Services to declare particular shipwrecks and related relics of historic significance to be ‘historic shipwrecks’, thus bringing them under the protective provisions of the legislation. This necessitates related amendments to Part VII of the Navigation Act dealing with wrecks and salvage. The Historic Shipwrecks Bill requires the finder to give notice of his discovery and does not prohibit salvage operations until the wreck is declared historic, at which stage strict controls come into effect. The finder may acquire salvage rights under the Navigation Act, the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Acts, or at common law before the wreck is declared historic. Clause 26 of the Navigation Amendment Bill therefore provides that various provisions of the Navigation Act that deal with wreck and salvage matters do not apply to a wreck from the time that it is declared historic and while it remains so declared.
As salvage rights or liabilities under the Navigation Act acquired before a wreck is declared historic are to be preserved, clause 26 also makes express provision for this purpose. It will be open to a person whose proprietary rights are affected by the operation of the Historic Shipwrecks Act to claim under the compensation provisions of that Act. Clause 29 ensures that, for reasons of safety of life and navigation, the provisions of the Navigation Act giving the Minister powers regarding removal will still apply to any wreck, whether declared historic or not. The Minister is not to exercise any of those powers unless it is necessary to do so for purposes of safety or environmental emergency. Another clause ensures his powers to deal with oil pollution threats arising from damaged ships continue unrestricted.
The remaining amendments can best be classified as ‘miscellaneous’. Some of them are of a purely drafting or machinery nature and are set out principally in Schedule 5. Others, which are of more importance, are explained in some detail in the notes that have been circulated. One important amendment extends the references in the Act to the owner of a ship to include a reference to the operator, except in a few special circumstances. This is to ensure that where a duty or liability is imposed by the Act on the owner in cases where the owner is only remotely concerned with the operations of the ship- for example, if he has executed a bare-boat charterresponsibility for ensuring that that duty or liability is discharged is imposed on the person who is directly concerned with the relevant operations, as well as on the owner. Conversely, a benefit conferred on the owner will also, in appropriate cases, be available to the operator.
Another amendment is to empower the Minister to make orders in relation to detailed technical requirements to be applied under the Act, so that such requirements can be quickly implemented, or varied without delay, in the light of ship casualties, equipment failure investigations, or technical developments. The Bill also includes a number of provisions relating to the engagement and discharge of seamen and certain of the conditions of their employment, mainly to cater for modern developments in the industry. Apart from prescribing penalties at appropriate levels for newly-created offences, the opportunity has been taken, where sections are otherwise amended, to update some maximum monetary penalties for existing offences against provisions of the Act and regulations and to increase some general penalties. Other penalties will need to be brought into line later.
I might point out that this Bill does not purport to effect a general revision of the Navigation Act. This will be a matter for consideration in the light of the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Maritime Industry. As I indicated at the beginning of this speech, the Bill now before honourable members is very much in line with the Navigation Bill 1975 except that it omits 2 important aspects- aspects, however, which I think are rightly omitted until such time as I have reached agreement with my State counterparts on how we should cover these matters legislatively. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to a decision of the Government which will remove from the political arena the important question of the fees to be paid to pharmacists for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits to members of the public. This Bill will bring to an end the acrimony that has developed over the years between the pharmacists and successive Governments. This will be to the lasting advantage of the smooth administration of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The Bill will achieve this by providing for the establishment, as a separate entity, of the Joint Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Arrangements. It provides that the Chairman may determine the manner in which the Commonwealth price to pharmaceutical benefits is to be ascertained and that his determinations shall have the force of law. In essence, this means that the Chairman will have the ultimate responsibility for deciding what remuneration will be paid to pharmaceutical chemists in respect of the pharmaceutical benefits supplied to the public through them and that his determinations will be binding on both the Government and the Pharmacy Guild.
Under the National Health Act as it now stands the Minister shall make such determinations after consultation with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Since 1964, consultation has usually been through the medium of the Joint Committee which the then Minister for Health established administratively for the purpose. Although the Minister for Health receives the advice of the Joint Committee he has not been bound to accept it and this has in recent times led to disputes with the Pharmacy Guild. After lengthy negotiations with the Guild, the Government has agreed that, because of the importance of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to Australians generally decisions on the remuneration of pharmacists in respect of that scheme should be made by an independent authority.
The Joint Committee to be formally established by this Bill will consist of a Chairman who shall be a Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and 8 other members. Four members shall be nominated by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the other 4 shall be officers of the Public Service. The Chairman will be empowered to make his determinations after the Committee has had an opportunity to consider the matter. He will be bound to make his determination in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations if the Committee is unanimous. If the members disagree, he may inform himself in such manner as he thinks fit, and then finally determine the matter. The power to determine the conditions subject to which the payments will be made by the Commonwealth will remain vested in the Minister. These conditions relating to the supply of pharmaceutical benefits are, in the main, routine administrative procedures which are best handled this way. The Minister will, however, be empowered to request a report on the matter from the Chairman of the Committee if he so wishes.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has over the years proved of inestimable value to all Australians and the Government is determined to ensure that it continues in a viable form. Determination of chemists’ remuneration is an important factor in the continued viability of the Scheme. An independent authority to determine these aspects should ensure greater co-operation, and, through that, an improved Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme can result. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill gives effect to the Government’s proposals for a new home savings grant scheme, which were announced in a Ministerial statement delivered in the Parliament on 3 1 March by the late Senator Ivor Greenwood who had done so much to bring the new scheme to fruition. The purpose of the home savings grant scheme, when introduced in 1964, was to help young married couples obtain their first matrimonial home, by authorising payment to them of tax-free grants to supplement their own savings. It was later expanded to provide assistance to young widowed or divorced persons with dependent children. The purpose of this Bill is to authorise a new home savings grant scheme, to apply to a broad range of people without limitation as to age or marital status.
The limitations of the present scheme- that applicants must be married or widowed or divorced with dependent children and under the age of 36, that migrants must have lived in Australia for 3 years; and that the value of the home must not exceed $22,500- have all been discarded. Married couples who do not obtain home ownership until after they reach the age of 36, and single people, young and old alike, will be assisted under the new scheme to attain the security that owning one’s home can provide. The requirement under the present scheme that migrants live in Australia for 3 years before they qualify for a grant is removed, and the minimum savings period will be reduced to 12 months. Honourable members will be aware that the Homes Savings Grant Act Amendment Bill has been passed by the Parliament in this session.
The purpose of that Bill was to make some improvements to the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964. That Act will remain in force to permit the payment of grants in 1977 and subsequent years to persons who contracted to buy or build their homes no later then 31 December 1976. The Bill which is now before the House provides for grants to persons who contract to buy or build their homes after 3 1 December 1976.
The Bill provides that applications for grants shall be made jointly by all the persons who enter into the contract to buy or build the home, and their spouses. If both parties agree, a person who has entered into a contract may be joined in the application by his intended spouse, thus preserving the situation under the existing Act whereby engaged couples may apply for a grant. Under this Bill, a grant may be paid to an engaged couple on application, but under the existing Act the grant is not paid until marriage. To be eligible for a grant, each of the applicants must be Australian citizens, or have permanent resident status. They must be at least 18 years of age, but a spouse or intended spouse who is younger will also be eligible. A person who has owned a home in Australia before, or who has received a grant under either the new or the current schemes, will not be eligible.
The Bill, although separate and self-contained follows the philosophy of the current Act and borrows many of its provisions. The provisions of the current Act, whereby a person affected by a decision of an officer of my Department may appeal to the Secretary, are retained. The Bill provides in addition that appeals against the Secretary’s decisions may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The forms of acceptable savings which are specified in the current Act are repeated in the Bill now before the House. They are deposits with savings banks, except savings bank cheque accounts; fixed deposits with trading banks; deposits and shares with building societies; deposits with credit unions; and moneys paid towards the purchase of land or the construction of a home. They do not include moneys borrowed.
The maximum grant provided for in the Bill is $2,000, which is payable on a $1 for $3 basis in respect of the total acceptable savings held 3 years before the applicant contracts to buy or build his home, plus the amount the applicant saves during the 3 year savings period. There is a limit of $1,200 in respect of the increase in the applicant’s savings in each 6 months in the savings period, but excess savings in any period may be applied to offset decreases in savings in a subsequent period. Where there is more than one applicant, the savings of the joint applicants are aggregated and treated as though they were the savings of one person. It will be for the applicants jointly to determine to whom the grant will be payable. For savings periods of less than 3 years- that is, where the applicant held no acceptable savings on a date 3 years before the date of the contract to buy or build the homethe current Act provides no reward. This Bill provides a maximum grant of $667 where the savings period is at least one year, and $1,333 where the savings period is at least 2 years.
The Bill provides that savings periods shall not commence before 1 January 1976. Consequently, during 1977 the maximum grant payable will be $667. Grants of up to $1,333 will become payable from 1978, and the full $2,000 grants will become available from 1979. As a concession to those people who were not holding their savings in the acceptable forms at the time the scheme was announced on 31 March, and to give them time to convert savings not held in the acceptable forms, the ministerial statement undertook that savings held at 31 May 1976 would be deemed to have been held since 1 January 1976, and the Bill gives effect to that undertaking.
Honourable members may recall that the Home Savings Grant Act 1964 provides that grants under that Act are paid from the National Welfare Fund under a special appropriation. The Government has decided that grants payable from I July 1977 under the new home savings grant scheme will be funded by way of an annual appropriation. This step has been taken solely for the purpose of enabling parliamentary scrutiny of home savings grant expenditure, and is not to be construed as implying any intention on the part of the Government to limit the level of expenditure on grants. Since the Appropriation Acts do not provide for funds for grants to be paid under the new scheme in this financial year, the Bill provides a special appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in respect of grants payable up to 30 June 1977 only.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in the 12 years of operation of the current home savings grant scheme, more than 360 000 grants have been made to assist people to acquire their first homes. I confidently expect the new scheme to assist a far greater number, and to be of real and continuing benefit to the people of Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11 November, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The function of this Bill- the Roads Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976- is to amend the National Roads Act 1974 and the Roads Grants Act 1974 by allocating to the States an additional amount of financial assistance totalling $35. 8m for the current financial year. The Government’s decision to grant this supplementary assistance, which partly offsets cost increases in the current year, was first announced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his mini-Budget on 20 May. In line with the low priority accorded transport expenditure by this corrupt conservative Government the amount of $35. 8m to be appropriated is less than one-quarter of the cost escalation adjustment of $ 157m recommended by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for 1976-77.
Despite the pleadings of State Ministers for Transport at the forty-sixth Australian Transport Advisory Conference held earlier this year for a substantial cost escalation grant to offset the ravages of high inflation and record unemployment fostered by this Government, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has acted as an apologist for his Cabinet colleagues by supporting the provision of only $35. 8m for cost increases in road construction and maintenance. It is a pity for the transport scene in Australia that the Minister does not apply some of that same vigour and inflammatory approach that he displays in his union bashing exercises instead to his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that transport in the States gets a fair share of national revenue.
Although the Opposition does not oppose the Bill, I will at a later stage in the debate be moving an amendment to the Bill in its present form. As has become usual with previous transport matters, the Minister has sought to misrepresent the true position in relation to funds being provided by this Government for roads. In his statement issued on 20 May 1976 following the Treasurer’s mini-budget of the same date, the Minister, by referring to cash outlays, sought to give the impression that including the $35.8m in this Bill, a total of $453. 5m would be available for road construction and maintenance this financial year. He compared this figure with an amount of $413.5m for 1975-76 and sought to show that $453.5m was an increase of $40m for this year. It was another paltry exercise in figure juggling as he neglected to point out that this corrupt Government had asked the States to defer claims on road funds of $20m for 1975-76 until 1 July so that the cash payments of $20m would show as a cash outlay in 1976-77. The facts are that $433.5m was appropriated for 1975-76 and the same amount will be appropriated for this year, as is correctly shown in the Budget Papers.
In real terms- that is after allowing for inflationthe available funds for roads this year have been reduced by 12 per cent, or one-eighth. The apportionment of the $35.8m provided for in the Bill is as follows: Additional grants in respect of, firstly, maintenance of national highways in Queensland, $2m-and that is the only provision for national highways; secondly, construction of rural arterial roads and developmental roads shared amongst the 6 States, $13.83m; thirdly, construction and maintenance of rural local roads shared among the 6 States, $ 16.37m; and fourthly, construction of urban arterial roads which is shared by Queensland $1.6m, South Australia $lm and Western Australia $lm, giving a total of $35.8m.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Bureau of Roads had recommended that $ 157m be made available to the States this year by way of financial assistance to offset cost increases. The provision of $35. 8m in this Bill is 23 per cent of the amount that the Bureau recommended. Under the circumstances, this is a quite inadequate provision. It is pointless for the Minister to claim that State Ministers for Transport were consulted on this matter. They were told by the Minister that they would get what they would get and that was that. That was the extent of the consultation. At the Australian Transport Advisory Conference meeting last March the transport Ministers strongly emphasised the difficulties they were facing and called for the linking of road grants to the consumer price index. But that request was to no avail.
Increases in road costs are in the main beyond the control of the States. Increases in the price of bituminous products flow from international market prices. But this Government has chosen to ignore the plight it is creating for road construction authorities by providing only 23 per cent of the cost escalation grant recommended by the Bureau of Roads. The Government’s action is in keeping with its past record on transport funding. We only have to look at the Hume Highway to see the result of 23 years of Liberal Party and National Country Party neglect of road planning and road funding. The 1 975 Bureau of Roads report stated:
That the national roads program should have the highest rate of growth of any of the road programs as this area of expenditure has been relatively neglected in the past and there is a large backiog of work to be overcome.
I recall that in an earlier debate of this nature this year the Minister made the point that the amount being provided for national highways was much greater on a percentage basis than was being provided for other categories. On that occasion I think the House decided to delete from the program that had been approved by the previous Minister for Transport a sum in excess of $6m. That amount of money has been diverted from the national highways program to other programs.
The Whitlam Government did much to remedy the problems created by the neglect of previous conservative governments. No government in a mere 3 years could have solved all the problems in our road system which were brought about by 23 years of maladministration by previous Liberal-Country Party governments. Let us look in more detail at the recommendations of the Bureau of Roads in respect of New South Wales. The Bureau recommended an inflation adjustment for New South Wales in the current year of $56.4m. New South Wales desperately needed and expected at least $32m. Under this Bill it will receive $ 11.3m or 20 per cent of the Bureau’s recommendation. That 20 per cent is even less than the Bill’s total provisions expressed as a proportion of the Bureau’s total recommendation. I ask the House to contrast the miserableness of the Government’s proposal with the very reasonable inflation adjustments made under the Whitlam Government. In February 1975, an additional $30m was made available at the request of the Premiers for the year 1974-75. The Hayden Budget of last year provided $64m for 1975-76. This was legislated for last April.
Road construction and maintenance is a major employer of labour both in country and urban areas. Road funds are an important item in most council- rural and urban- budgets. The Government has created a financial problem for local government in Australia by providing only $35. 8m in this Bill. The Minister is tinkering with the problem by intimidating State Transport Ministers into giving a larger share to rural councils. Reference to Hansard will show his attempts to stand over the Victorian and New South Wales Transport Ministers earlier this year.
– Successfully, too.
-The Minister says he was successful in standing over the State munsters. That is in keeping with his nature. I take the opportunity of welcoming the Minister into the chamber. This is the first Bill, in a succession of, I think, four, for which the Minister has seen fit to pay the Parliament the courtesy of attending. But for the Budget Estimates it is some considerable time since the Minister has deemed the Parliament important enough to participate in a second reading debate. He or his Government still do not deem Parliament important enoughhonourable members have heard me raise this matter a number of times- to supply adequate information in relation to legislation brought before this chamber. That, after all, is part of the new government by regulation rather than by legislation as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced a fortnight ago and which was decided on by Cabinet on 9 October. I sincerely welcome the Minister. I hope, for the Parliament’s sake, that he will take the debate seriously. I do not mind his personal slanging; that is part of his style and the way he operates. I ask him to respect the forms of the Parliament and the rights of the Australian people to know what this Government is doing and why it is doing it. We are entitled to factual and specific information to support the legislation which the Government wants to go through the chamber.
I return to the matter of local councils and the proportion of road funding as part of their budget. The Opposition recognises the importance of road funding to rural councils, but robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a solution. Bleeding off road funds from urban councils to rural councils will create more unemployment and more difficulties in urban areas. The answer to the problem is to give adeqaute funds to the States to enable the road programs to go ahead and for the maintenance programs to be carried out. We have a conservative Government in office with a National Country Party Minister in charge of the roads pork barrel. The Country Party is renowned for its past record of buying votes with road funds without regard to the human consequences and tragedies that flow because our road systems are inadequate. The report of the Bureau of Roads in this respect said that 93 per cent of the length of the Hume Highway was below design standards for a national highway. That is as the result of 23 years of conservative government. Even the Whitlam Government could not have allowed it to deteriorate to that extent in 3 years.
These problems and the ones within our roads system are of long standing and are the result of a lack of planning in the past and a lack of proper priorities by conservative governments. If this Government was really concerned about local government it would not have reduced total federal assistance to local government this year by 30 per cent. In the Budget it reduced the total federal assistance to local government in its various forms from $272.5m as provided in the Hayden Budget to $ 195m- a reduction of 30 per cent. But there is a deeper reason for the small amount provided by this Bill, and that is the Government’s economic policy of enforced stagnation of the economy, expanded long term unemployment and a reduction in real wages. We should be looking for the reasons behind this Bill. We should not be looking at the amount of work that needs to be done and not at the kilometres of roads that need to be maintained, upgraded or built, but at the policy of the Government in ensuring that there is a record level of unemployment and that there is a reduction in real wages.
Unfortunately the safety standards of our roads will remain deficient. More people will lose their lives and be injured because of a political decision of this Government. What the Government wants to achieve with its political objectives is a return to Depression days with more people outside the gate. One recalls the incidents at Rothbury in the Hunter Valley and the circumstances that existed in the 1930s. I again bring to the Minister’s attention that when he has a scale of priorities such as this it does not matter how he and his colleagues want to hound young unemployed people; the conservative Parties in this country ultimately will reap the social whirlwind from the crop they are sowing. It does not matter how much they hound young unemployed people and how much the Prime Minister says that life is not meant to be easy. I do not believe that most people expect life to be easy, but certainly most people expect to have an opportunity in life to achieve their desires or ambitions. In this Bill the provision of finance is an important way in which the Government could have given a stimulus to the economy, could have created expanded job opportunities and could have created an upturn in the economy. The funds provided in the Bill are wholly inadequate to offset cost increases being incurred by the States in their road programs this financial year. I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the second reading of the Bill the House is of the opinion that the Bill fails to provide adequate financial assistance to the States for cost escalation in the current year’.
I turn now to the importance of road programs in the national transport scene and to future funding of road programs. Transport in all its aspects -sea, rail, road and air- is a major component of our economy. Some 10 per cent of gross national expenditure relates to transport; 6 per cent of the workforce is employed in the transport industry in one form or another- that is more than 350 000 Australians. It is important in a federation such as ours with vast areas and with population spread mainly on the seaboard with a sparse scattering through the interior that transport have a very strong voice in the economic management of the country.
Transport decisions have very important effects on other industries and on other aspects of our economy. Transport planning and transport expenditure ought to have a major priority in any federation. The major problem looming for the future in respect of transport and particularly in respect of roads is the intentions of this Government towards road funding. Earlier this year the Minister at an ATAC conference of Transport Ministers talked about future means of funding road programs in Australia. Unfortunately no more has been said of what is to happen. At the present time the State governments are bewildered as to what are this Government’s intentions for the financial year beginning 1977-78. The current triennium for road funding concludes on 30 June next year. There is a very long lead-in time involved in road construction. Decisions have to be made upon where roads ought to go. There are decisions to make on what roads ought to be upgraded or improved. Firstly, that has to be done at local level, then at State government and Federal Government levels where necessary. Then there has to be the budgeting of funds and an application and approval of funds. In many cases, this will be followed by the calling of tenders for work or for the supply of materials. All of those things mean that there is a very long lead-in time involved in road construction.
It is vital if we are to have continuity of employment in the workforce associated with roads and road maintenance that the States know the position as soon as possible. The triennium concludes on 30 June next year. The States should have been informed up to 12 months ago of what the Government’s intentions were for the next period- that is the period after 1 July next year. We have heard a great deal about so-called federalism which I choose to define as coercive federalism because it means in effect -
– What did you say?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will explain to the honourable member for Sturt what the policy of his Government represents. It is coercive federalism. If he has any doubts about this, I suggest that he talk to some of the State Transport Ministers and learn. The honourable member heard his own Minister speaking at the table here a few minutes ago. He told us how he successfully stood over the State Transport Ministers. I cannot give the honourable member any better proof than that in reply to his interjection. That is the definition and operation of coercive federalism. What I fear is that the Government has in mind a certain course of action. I do not believe that the Minister would give any indication of it. It would be unlike his character to make an explanation during this debate. What I and some of the State Transport Ministers fear the Government proposes to do after 1 July next year is to make bloc grants to State treasuries and then leave it to the State governments to apportion what money they will spend on education, health and transport. I think possibly that is alien to the Minister’s nature. I know that such a proposition is opposed by his own department. But it is the kind of policy that has been promoted by the present Government, particu.larly by the Prime Minister.
It is defined as federalism. I call it coercive federalism. In effect, it is an answer to a federal politician ‘s dream. It means relieving the Federal Parliament and the Federal Government of the responsibility to make difficult decisions, to decide difficult priorities. If this is to be the case, the States ought to be told now. If there is to be a new triennium and a continuation of amended existing arrangements, the States ought to be told that now. But all the signs I see and all the interpretations I can make of statements by the Prime Minister lead me to the opinion that what the Government has in mind is to make bloc grants on an annual basis from 1 July next year. A special meeting of State transport Ministers with our Federal Minister for Transport has been called for 3 December. Such is the state of consultation that this special meeting has had to be called to enable State Ministers to try to ascertain from this Government what it proposes to do in 7 months time. I do not know whether we will obtain any result from that, but surely this is the place and the time, late as it is, for the Government to be laying down what it proposes to do in financing road construction in the future.
Let us move a little away from that subject to deal with the apparatus behind road funding and road programming. I want to refer specifically to the future of the Bureau of Roads. As announced earlier this year, the Bureau of Roads is to be amalgamated with the Bureau of Transport Economics. The Bureau of Roads Act 1964 is to be repealed and the Bureau amalgamated back into the department. Already from all around Australia objection is coming from local councils and motorists’ associations to this move by the Government. It is a further move to secrecy, to close off the access of the community, including councils, members of the general public and motorists’ organisations. This point was put very strongly by the motorists’ organisations from all the States to the Bland Administrative Review Committee. This was another secret inquiry whose report is so good it cannot be tabled in the Parliament. We do not know about the recommendations of that Committee.
The Government does not place a high priority upon roads and a high priority upon community input. Its attitudes towards transport must be such that the members of the community -Mr and Mrs John Citizen who use our roads, trains, buses and aeroplanes- have an increasing opportunity to say something about the decisions that are being made in respect to the services they pay to use. The Bureau of Roads since 1964 has performed an excellent job in laying down financial policy or making recommendations upon financial policy for road programs to Federal governments. The Bureau has won wide acceptance from all levels of government and, most of all, from the community. To disband or abolish the Bureau and to make it part of the department, as the Minister proposes, is a retrograde step for road users, for all motorists and for local government authorities. I urge the Minister to reconsider that decision and to leave the Bureau of Roads in its amalgamated form as an independent statutory authority. There is an alternative. The Bureau of Transport Economics could be amalgamated with the Bureau of Roads into an expanded independent authority. The Opposition believes that this is the proper course to follow.
A further matter to which I wish to refer relates to road funding and the difficulty that will be created from a national economic management point of view because the Government has indicated its future course on road funding is that of integrated transport management. The Liberal and National Country parties stated in their policy speeches that they believed in integration of transport modes by rail, road, sea and air. But it is pointless to have a policy like that if your Prime Minister is promoting a view to the effect that the States should be left more and more to themselves. Urban roads were among the matters referred to by the Prime Minister at the Premiers Conference last February. They were cited as among those activities that would best be left to local government. If the policy to be followed by this Government means that funds are to be handed back to the States and the States left to decide priorities, we will have all sorts of cat fights within State governments as well. We will see not only an abandonment of a planned move towards proper and efficient co-ordination of public expenditure upon various modes of transport. We will also see develop then cat fights within State treasuries. State Transport departments will be trying to obtain priority within their State treasuries.
Let me make the position very clear to the Government. So far as the New South Wales Government is concerned, it would prefer to see a situation in which there is a continuation of specific purpose grants. It would prefer to see a continuation of legislation similar to that brought in under the Whitlam Labor Government- the National Roads Act, the Road Grants Act and the various categories of roads or programs. They may not be in such a specific form but that State favours a continuation of funds made available under section 96 of the Constitution specifically for road purposes. Irrespective of the fact that I understand the representatives of the committee in Victoria are meeting in relation to transport- I think that the Queensland committee also has been instructed by its government to press for the bloc grants I spoke about earlier- I want it made quite clear that there are States which prefer and strongly desire that the section 96 system of specific purpose grants for transport be continued.
The integration that I mentioned earlier of transport expenditure is a vital issue so far as our Federation is concerned. It is pointless just to refer to transport as being important, to complain about transport and blame the unions for the problems in regard to it. The major problems of transport are problems that developed between 1949 and 1972 because of a lack of coordinated planning. A return to a stop-go kind of approach to transport funding will be a return to the same situation. There will be more of the same lack of policy we had until 1972 which brought about duplication and triplication in modes of transport and complete severance of transport faculties in some areas. The responsibility is now with the Government not to play politics with transport, not to use road funding as a means of increasing the number of unemployed, and not to give State governments 23 per cent of their proper entitlement for cost escalation grants in the current financial year. It is up to the Government to see that transport gets proper priority and that is the Minister’s responsibility. I do not think he was here when I commented earlier, but I will repeat it for his benefit, that to make sure that transport does get the kind of money that is needed I wish he would use on his Cabinet colleagues some of that vigour and inflammatory approach which he uses on unions. I have expressed the Opposition’s attitude earlier and it is outlined in the terms of the amendment. I commend the amendment to the House.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-We have just heard the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) present to the House a totally illogical argument about the Government’s new federalism policy. He criticised that policy as being coercive. I want to bring to his attention what to reasonable men is a proper and correct definition of ‘coercive federalism’ and for that purpose I draw on a quotation from Professor Mathews in which he pointed out that ‘coercive federalism’ was a style of government marked by centralisation of power, unequal bargaining strength and the distortion of the priorities of lower levels of government. In a recent speech delivered in Canberra the Chairman of the Grants Commission, Mr Justice Else-Mitchell said:
Had there not been a change of government 12 months ago it is probable that the stage might have been reached where, as Chief Justice Latham had said in the first uniform taxation case, the States would have lost if not their political independence a large measure of their capacity to initiate their own policies.
Having criticised this Government for its federalism policy, the honourable member for Shortland went on to advocate a continuance of the coercive use of section 96 grants which grew a great deal under the Labor Administration to the point where those grants rose to represent some 50 per cent of Commonwealth transfers to the States other than loans. In our federalism policy we indicated that we were concerned at the manner in which section 96 grants dominate the revenue of the States. We acknowledged in that policy that many of the existing section 96 grants are now a part of well established and universally accepted programs within the States and that moneys for such programs could be transferred to general purpose revenue reimbursement and ultimately absorbed in the States income tax revenue or in local government income tax revenue. In the case of grants for roads we have a classic illustration of where this process of absorption could and should be applied. I emphasise that the process of absorption does not merely mean giving to State or local governments a responsibility to fulfil road programs and leaving them to find the financial resources. What ‘absorption’ means is the replacement of a tied section 96 grant with general revenue grants sufficient to enable the lower levels of government to carry out the functions which have been transferred to them.
Turning to the roads program, roads representing 10 per cent of section 96 grants and 3.99 per cent of income tax or 4.64 per cent of total Commonwealth funds provided to the States. Many of these programs are now running in such an established fashion that it is appropriate for the Government to seriously consider the transference from section 96 provisions into general revenue grants. I am pleased to note that in a number of departments responsible for section 96 grants there are working parties and I believe that one is operating in the Department of Transport. I await with keen interest the outcome of its investigations. I trust that it will examine in all seriousness the Government’s federalism policy and, with real determination, make decisions that will devolve responsibility and revenue resources on State and local governments.
It is sometimes argued that because there are spill-over effects a road going through one municipality or passing through one State cannot be effectively constructed and designed as part of a total network without adjoining areas being taken into account. Of course that is true but it is no reason for decision making on roads to be totally centralised. Under a federal system of government it is important that the various levels of government acknowledge the fact that there are these spill-over effects and that they occur no more significantly than in the case of roads. It is important that in doing so each unit of government should not think that it is being efficient within its own area if it disregards the effects on other areas. There is a danger that ‘each unit of government will think it is being efficient but the totality of decision will be inefficiency’. However, local government and the States recognise this fact and so long as they do have just as much capacity to determine appropriate road programs as the Commonwealth Government.
I believe that the Bureau of Roads 1975 report on roads in Australia should be re-examined. That report was handed down towards the end of last year. It was prepared at a time when there was a centralist government in office and the report failed to take account of the federalism policy. This document should be sent back to the Bureau of Roads or its successor with a request that it be re-written to take account of the Goverment ‘s federalism policy. What it did was merely take account of the financial arrangements that were operating at the time it was prepared and in every aspect failed to identify the significant element in the federalism policy, that is, that each level of government which is responsible for a part of the program should have the revenue resources available to it to enable it to implement that part. In a recent report on local government in Australia and New Zealand, the UnderSecretary for Local Government in New South Wales, Mr J. T. Monaghan, said:
Theoretically there is something to be said for channelling all such assistance through one local government assistance fund.
I believe that the working party that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has set up to look into the question of funding of roads should give serious consideration to whether the funds now going to local government, including those funds being made available for roads, should go through one local government assistance fund. I see no reason why the local government Grants Commission within the States could not be given the responsibility of distributing the general revenue funds and those that might be block granted or earmarked in a general way for expenditure on roads. The reports of such local government Grants Commissions could and should take into account the recommendations of a body like the Bureau of Roads. But, insofar as local government has now come to accept as part of its regular income the grants it receives under the roads program, I think local government could be better served in the long run by having those revenues coming as part of its general revenue linked as a proportion of income tax.
The joint study into local government financing itself recommended that it would seem appropriate to undertake a complete review of the system of grants to local authorities in Australia with the view to establishing a more systematic and co-ordinated approach. It had in mind the lack of co-ordination that now exists in the provision of funding for local government through general revenue grants and through the provision of road money. Road money is now, for many shires and councils, part of their established revenue and, insofar as it is so established, it is a classic illustration of a Section 96 grant for a program eminently suitable and appropriate to be absorbed into the general revenue of local government.
The same also can be said of many of the programs relating to roads within the States. Indeed, under the framework of the then centralist socialist Government, the Bureau of Roads did consider as one option in its recommendations the possibility of the Australian Government financing only its own road program and suggested that if that were the case adi that the Commonwealth need do would be to provide 18.8 per cent of the total road funds. What the Bureau there failed to do was to identify the fact that if there were to be that transfer of responsibility to local government and the States there would have to be a transfer of revenue so that the States and local government could meet their new responsibilities. I believe that transfer of general revenue should take place and I urge the body examining this matter to study this proposal most carefully. It may be that in the short run, however, the process needs to be a phased one from a specific grant through some form of block grant arrangement which requires the States and local government to spend money on roads and prevents them from substituting those resources for their own funds which they then spend on other areas. I believe that as the roads agreement comes up for examination it is essential that those who work upon it do so against the background of the Government’s federalism policy, which is designed to pass decisionmaking priority determination down to the State and local government bodies.
– I have been an enthusiastic viewer of a fascinating battle that is being fought by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) with his opposite number in the State of New South Wales. It is a battle that I hope the Federal Minister is going to win. It is a battle on which he so clearly is in the right and about which the proposals he has put are so clearly the proper proposals that I believe it would be most unfortunate if he were to fail in his endeavours. His endeavours are on behalf of the local councils of New South Wales. The Federal Minister has been endeavouring to do the right thing by the councils that have been, in effect, starved by the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Government has rejected a very reasonable proposal put forward by the Federal Minister that State financial assistance be given to local government for its rural roads programs.
Many questions have been put to the Minister in this House and the Minister has quite clearly indicated that he believes that it is only right and proper and, under the federalism proposals, which already have been discussed here today, evidently in keeping with the co-operative federalism supported by the Government that the State governments contribute something to local government for local government’s road programs. Mr Cox, the New South Wales Minister for Transport, has rejected the Federal Minister’s suggestions and in fact has been very difficult to get on with about how the extra $ 11.3m in Federal money being allocated to New South Wales for roads should be distributed in the country areas. In fact, the State Government wanted to grab most of it for its own main roads operations. Of course, the residual amount that would then go to local government simply would not be enough to sustain the essential work that is required in the country areas.
This seems to be a typical example of the Australian Labor Party’s attitude that the rural areas do not matter a damn. That policy- those attitudesare clearly reflected in both the previous Government’s attitude to the rural areas and, of course, the attitude of the present Labor Government in New South Wales. There is a massive concentration on the more dramatic expenditures, such as the expenditure on the Hume Highway. I must say that I am very grateful to see a large amount of money being spent in my electorate on the Hume Highway. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the Minister for allocating half, I think, of the total amount of money to be spent on the Hume Highway this year to the electorate of Macarthur. But the facts are very serious when one takes into consideration the obstructionism in terms of assisting the rural sector, where there are many centres that are far flung from each other, where the road is in fact a vital means of communication, where other systems of transport are not available and where the road is the link between people in the country.
It is interesting that the 1975 report of the Bureau of Roads recommended in recommendation 101 that the Australian Government should request the New South Wales Government to make appropriate contributions for rural local roads under the control of local government authorities. That report was presented in 1975, when a different government was in power here. I believe that the report is a very sensible one. I wonder how a Labor Minister for Transport in this place would be now responding to the obstructionism of the Labor Minister for Transport in New South Wales. There is a clear need for this money to be directed to local government.
Of the $1 1.3m provided by the Federal Government to New South Wales, $6.63m is to go towards the State’s expenditure in rural areas, leaving only $4.67m. That alone is probably not enough. That is what we have recommended. Mr Cox, of course, is reluctant even to allow that level of funds to be spent among the local councils.
The fact is, of course, that we do not have the power to direct, nor should we have the power to direct, the State Government how to distribute this money. I agree with the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) that federalism should in fact mean a withdrawal of even some of our existing powers of direction and that we should leave it to the good sense- in this case the absence of good sense- of New South Wales to direct where the money should go. But the fact is, of course, that, left to themselves, governments like the present New South Wales Government have not done their bit- it may well be that previous governments in New South Wales have not done as much as I believe should have been done- for the rural people of New South Wales. For example, the Bureau of Roads has advised that the States themselves overall, throughout Australia, increased their outlays on roads at an average rate of only 8.7 per cent per annum from 1970 to 1975. This means, in fact, that they did not keep pace with inflation over this period. That means that the amount spent on roads in real terms has been declining on these kinds of roads compared with a 16.4 per cent growth in total State budget outlays.
Apparently the States no longer consider that maintenance of roads at this level is an important function. I suggest that one of the reasons this has taken place is because of the intrusive role that the Federal Labor Government played in giving the States the false impression that the States could abrogate their responsibilities because of the paternalistic, oppressive, centralist role which was being played in Canberra. I hope the recognition that this Federal Government is trying to do the right thing is widespread. I hope there is widespread recognition of the failure of the New South Wales Government to contribute at all to local councils in the State. In fact it is something which should be changed. It is true that the State legislation does not allow the New South Wales Government to make these contributions to local government but there is nothing to stop that Government from changing the legislation. I believe it is only right and proper that that legislation should be changed. Let us face it, that Government does have a responsibility for local government. Local government in fact comes under the legislative control of the State of New South Wales and I think it is quite disgraceful that it should continue to duck for cover in this area.
In conclusion may I commend the Minister for Transport in this place for what he has achieved. There is no doubt that this Government has increased the total amount of funds provided over that provided by the Labor Government, which regrettably was here for 3 disastrous years, by $7. 15m to $5 1.52m or 26 per cent. That is $820,000 above the level recommended in the report by the Bureau of Roads. No one can say that this Federal Government is ducking its responsibilities, that it is not meeting the objectives set, and quite properly set, in the report commissioned by this Government’s predecessor. It is important to recognise, when we hear the Opposition spokesman on transport complaining about lack of money and saying that not enough is going in this direction, that this Government is exceeding the target set and in fact is endeavouring to do the right thing by the local councils in New South Wales, which concern me in particular, whereas a Government of his political persuasion in New South Wales is still refusing to meet its responsibilities to improve and maintain the roads in that State through the proper authorities, the local government authorities. I commend the Minister in this chamber for what he is doing and I wish him well in his continuing battle with the State Labor Minister in New South Wales. I trust that Mr Nixon will triumph over that kind of adversity.
-It is likely that I am the last speaker in this debate and I am very conscious that there are other issues on the notice paper of this House, particularly the debate on the defence statement. Therefore somewhat reluctantly I shall make my remarks brief. This issue of roads is an extremely important one and I look forward at some other time in this House to speaking at greater length on the critical situation of roads, particularly the situation we must face up to in future.
I think honourable members would be well aware that there has been a change in the administration of road grants funding by the Commonwealth. Under the previous Act, the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, there was an inbuilt multiplier effect of, I think, 5 per cent which provided a continuing basis on which local government and the State governments could ensure that road funding was forthcoming. That Act cut out in 1973-74 when a new Act was instituted to take effect from 1974-75. Whilst it is worth noting that Federal road funding throughout Australia continued to increase at what could be called a satisfactory rate, and total road funding for a State like New South Wales also continued to increase at what would be considered a satisfactory rate- it kept pace with inflation- I draw to the attention of the House the fact that this was not the case with some road categories.
It certainly was not the case with rural road categories, both rural arterial roads and rural local roads. In fact with the implementation of the new legislation by the previous Government funding for the 2 rural categories headed for a disastrous decline. That decline was even more seriously reflected in rural local road funding than in rural arterial road funding. If honourable members could see these graphs that I have here they would see that there was quite a dramatic turn-around in funding. In fact there was not only a very real decline; it fell well below the level that it would have been if the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act had been continued and its 5 per cent increment had been continued. This is yet another example of the attitude of the previous Government and the previous Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). I could hardly regard his performance today as being honourable. It was indicative of his Party’s attitude towards the plight of people in rural areas.
– I take a point of order. I think it is improper that an honourable member of this House should refer to another honourable member of the House, in his absence, in the way that the honourable member for Calare has done. I ask that you ask him for a withdrawal. If he has something to say he should say it in the presence of the honourable member.
-I would not think that this is a case for a withdrawal but I advise the honourable member for Calare to desist from references of that sort.
– One of the greatest problems that resulted was the inflationary increase in road building and road maintenance costs. It was considerably higher than the overall level of inflation we experienced during the previous Government’s regime and during this Govern-., ment’s regime. Some indices of road costs have been increasing by 1 5 per cent, 20 per cent, and in some cases 25 per cent a year. Other consequences of the disastrous cutback in funding under the new legislation introduced by the previous Government are well illustrated now by the problems of unemployment that local shires and municipalities are now experiencing. We know of examples where they have had to stand down staff. I understand that as a result of those decisions some shire councils are in even more serious circumstances, such that they may not have the capacity to maintain roads.
The cutbacks that we experienced in the 1974 legislation have resulted in increased transport costs following the deterioration of road surfaces. We have seen increased safety risks, particularly with school children in buses. Of course, this has been totally contrary to the whole thrust and development of decentralisation in country areas. It also has affected some of the industries which supply the materials used in road making and the materials and goods used for road hardware and road furniture. The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads did point out that there is a considerable cost benefit return for investment in roads.
I now turn to the provisions of this Bill. This is the second time that this Government has firmly committed itself to restoring the level of road funding, to getting over the disastrous level that we experienced under the previous Government. The first measure that it introduced in this respect on coming to power was to provide an additional $64m for the 1975-76 program. This legislation provides an additional $3 5. 8m for the current year’s program. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) has dwelt at length on the problems which are being experienced by our Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in this House and by his counterpart in New South Wales. I believe it is high time that the States took on their responsibility for rural local road funding and stopped trying to hide behind the supposed excuse that their legislation does not provide for them to do so.
I have had people say to me that the Minister for Transport in this House is not fully aware of how serious the conditions are of our rural local and arterial roads. I remind honourable members that from my experience some of the roads I have been over in the electorate of Gippsland are undoubtedly the worst in Australia. I recommend the Suggan Buggan road, the Omeo Highway or the road down over McKillop’s Bridge. I think it is not at all relevant that people say that the Minister is not aware of the plight of local councils and municipalities in relation to road financing. He is aware of how serious the economic situation of this country was when we took government. We cannot turn around and rectify those examples of neglect overnight. The situation will be restored. I encourage the Minister and support him, in conjunction with the honourable member for Macarthur, in ensuring that the Commonwealth plays its rightful role in association and agreement with the States and that the States also play their rightful role in the whole area of road finance.
-in reply-I thank the honourable members who have taken part in the debate today. After hearing the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) speak I am reminded of how easy life must be m Opposition. He has moved an amendment which states:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the second reading of the Bill the House is of the opinion that the Bill fails to provide adequate financial assistance to the States for cost escalation in the current year ‘.
That is an extraordinary amendment. Let us have a look at the history of this legislation. The Act was brought into this House by the Australian Labor Party Government and it provided for a 3-year program. I shall cite some figures on urban arterial roads. The Bureau of Roads recommended that $460m be made available. The Labor Government gave $355m. In relation to rural arterial roads, the Bureau of Roads recommended $257m but the Labor Government gave $105m. On rural local roads, the Bureau of Roads recommended $200m and the Labor Government gave $156m. I think that puts in proper perspective the sincerity of this amendment and just how much the Opposition means when it moves amendments of this nature. When the Labor Party was in government it simply failed to do what honourable members get up and talk about today. Another point of interest which ought to be made is that only one member of the Labor Party spoke on this roads Bill which again demonstrates the Labor Party’s real lack of interest in roads matters. I think that that explains the paucity of the Opposition’s interest when it can provide only one speaker.
I come to some detail. Today I attended a meeting of some 200 local government councillors. It was an interesting meeting. I wish the shadow Minister for Transport, as he is portrayed, could have been there to listen to some of the comments. I shall cite some figures which affect his own State and which were introduced by the Labor Government. In 1974-75 the Bureau of Roads recommended that $2 1.3m be made available for rural arterial roads. The Labor Government made available not $2 1.3m but $ 1 1 .2m. In 1 975-76 the Bureau of Roads recommended $26.4m and the Labor Government gave $9.7m. In 1976-77 the Bureau of Roads recommended $29.2m and the Labor Government gave $8. 8m. Is it any wonder that I had to attend a meeting of 200 local government councillors today and explain to them why it was that they were unable properly to finance their roads? We add to this situation the fact that in New South Wales the State Labor Government does not give one cent to local roads. We can see from this the poor position in which the local government authorities find themselves in New South Wales. That brings me to another point. The honourable member for Shortland accused me of using coercive federalism.
– You admitted it.
-I did not admit that at all. What I said was that I had been successful with the State Ministers. Let me come to that story. All States but Victoria and New South Wales agreed with the proposals we put to them in relation to this legislation. The Victorian Government had been saying for a long time that there were not enough funds for local councils in rural areas. State members of Parliament were going around the countryside blaming the Commonwealth for that fact. When we announced that we were giving an extra $35.8m for roads, of which $7.5m was for Victoria, I said that the $7.5m would be in addition to the roads funds and the roads programs already announced in Victoria. But apparently it was in the minds of those who run the roads authority in Victoria to swallow the $7.5m by extracting $7.5m of State funds and leaving the total figure the same. But I was not prepared to accept that. If that is called coercive federalism, then I am guilty of coercion in that way because the Victorian Government had been saying that there were not enough funds in total terms available for local rural roads. I wanted to see that the $7.5m was in addition to that amount. The Victorian Government saw reason after some difficulty; nevertheless, it saw reason. That is my explanation of the Victorian situation.
Let me come to the New South Wales position. The New South Wales Government does not give one cent to local government authorities for local roads. The Government has legislation which prevents it from doing that. Mr Cox, the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Minister for Highways, has written to me saying that he will not change the legislation to allow New South Wales to give money to local governments for local roads as they ought to be able to do that out of their own pockets. In Mr Cox’s proposals to me he wanted 30 per cent of those funds for urban arterial roads. I find that in Sydney he is busy selling off land which was previously acquired for urban arterial roads to finance his subsidy of the rail transport fares. That is what he says he is doing with the money.
On the one hand he is selling off land which was acquired for urban arterial freeways and on the other hand he is asking me to make more funds available for urban arterial freeways. The man is totally illogical. There is no sense to him.
– Who provides the money in the first place?
-That is right. It was Commonwealth funds in the first place. So I say to Mr Cox that this does not seem to me to be fair. It seems to me that as the previous Government reduced the level of funds to rural arterial roads and rural local roads and as the Commonwealth Government is seen to be totally responsible for funding local government authorities, the extra $ 11.3m ought to go to local government authorities. That seems to me to be a normal, rational proposition.
-The trouble with the honourable member for Shortland is that he is a conspiracy man. Everything he sees is a conspiracy. He suggests that the Government is hiding information or it is not doing that; that it is appointing secret committees. I know the honourable member comes out of the Newcastle area where conspiracies are the order of the day. But he happens to be in the national Parliament. If he cannot grow physically, it is time that he grew in stature, at least a little, so that he can leave the conspiracy bit behind. Mr Cox, the Minister for Transport, has not yet responded to my last request. I say now to Mr Cox that the $ 1 1 .3m will not be paid to New South Wales until I know what is to happen to it. This Parliament has a right to know what is happening to the funds. Mr Cox has not yet responded and we will wait until he does respond.
– That is what I said.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Shortland has said quite enough. I suggest that he restrain himself.
– The honourable member for Shortland raised one other matter, that is, the amalgamation of the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Bureau of Roads. I am able to inform the House that yesterday the Government agreed to the proposition that those bodies be amalgamated, and I have here a Press statement which I can read to the House if necessary. A lot of emotion has been engendered about this proposed amalgamation by some vested interests who do not wish the amalgamation to take place, without proper care and thought being given to what they were doing. The fact is that the amalgamation will lead to a better body, much more able to judge the whole of the transport scene in Australia and at the same time still provide for the national Parliament and for those who were interested reports on roads needs which they have provided in the past. Nothing will be lost by the 2 bodies being amalgamated. Indeed, a lot will be gained because members of the Bureau of Roads will be able to expose their thinking to other members of the new amalgamated organisation and hopefully they will come to even better judgments than they have in the past, I say quite frankly that I look forward to working with the new amalgamated body. I am sure it will give better service to local government authorities throughout Australia in respect of roads and in respect of the many other areas on which governments have been assisted over the past few years.
The honourable member for Shortland, in his conspiracy fashion, put out a Press statement on 14 November. He called for an Australia-wide study to be undertaken into the transport industry. Obviously he has not been doing his homework properly, and he ought to confer with the honourable member who was retired from the House this morning for some reason or another.
– He didn’t appoint his relatives to jobs, did he? You cannot say that about him.
-Order! The honourable member for Shortland will not interject. He has made his speech. He should let the Minister finish his speech in peace and quiet.
– What the honourable member is saying is that not enough studies are being done on the transport industry in Australia and he has called for an Australia-wide study. The Bureau of Transport Economics has done an enormous amount of work on transport problems throughout Australia. All those reports have been made available, but the honourable member for Shortland obviously has not been bothering to read them. The studies have been done on a very broad and wide-ranging series of subjects. Indeed, they have added considerably to the depth of knowledge of transport problems in the States for both State authorities and for the Commonwealth. Unbeknown to the honourable member for Shortland, the studies have been very widely accepted by State authorities, and the Bureau of Transport Economics stands high in the minds of State transport authorities. This Bill makes provision for an extra $35.8m for roads. Of course the Government would like to do more. If the Labor Government had left the economy in reasonable shape we would have done more.
Let me turn to one other matter which the honourable member for Shortland raised. He complained that the State authorities should have been in a position 12 months ago to know what was going to happen next year in respect of roads grants. The simple truth is that the Bureau of Roads report was not presented until 15 December 1975. Unlike the honourable member for Shortland, what I have done with that report is send it to the Australian Transport Advisory Council Ministers- the State Ministers- for their consideration. They have had the report for some months, and a special meeting of ATAC will be held in the next couple of weeks to discuss future road legislation. For the honourable member for Shortland to come into this House and say that the States should have know about this 12 months ago again indicates that he does not know what he is talking about. I thank the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) for his contribution, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). Those 3 speakers at least made very sensible contributions to the debate.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill 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 Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purposes of these Bills, the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill 1976, the Apple and Pear Export Charge Bill 1976 and the Apple and Pear Export Charge Collection Bill 1976, are to provide for the imposition and collection of levies on the production and sale in Australia of apples and pears and a charge on apples and pears exported from Australia. These legislative proposals give effect to the recommendations of the
Australian Apple and Pear Growers ‘ Association for a new basis of financing the activities of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation.
The Corporation- prior to September 1974 the Australian Apple and Pear Board- has derived its funds from a charge on apple and pear exports. With the steep decline that has occurred in the export trade, particularly in apples, the Corporation is lacking the necessary financial resources to carry out adequately its functions, particularly those related to development and promotion in the Australian domestic market. Given that the great bulk of production is sold in the domestic market, the Apple and Pear Growers’ Association has proposed, and the Government has accepted, that in the interest of equity all growers should contribute financially to assist the activities of the Corporation. Honourable members may recall that proposals were before the Parliament, at the time of the double dissolution last year, for the Corporation to be financed from the proceeds of a levy on bearing areas of apple and pear trees. The apple and pear growing industry, having reconsidered this proposal, has confirmed its original view that it would prefer the levy to be based on the quantity of fruit marketed, both in Australia and overseas.
This Bill and the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill 1976 respectively, provide for the imposition and collection of levies on fruit marketed in Australia. As provided for in these measures, the rates of levy will not exceed 6c per box for apples and pears sold for consumption in fresh form, 60c per tonne for juicing fruit and $1.40 per tonne for processing fruit- other than pears for the production of canned fruit. Since growers delivering pears for the manufacture of canned fruit are required to pay levies under the terms of the Canning-Fruit Charge Act 1959 for the purposes of the Australian Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee, they will be exempt from payment of the levies to be imposed, under the terms of the current proposals, in respect of canning pears. The Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee is responsible for the conduct of promotional arrangements within Australia on, inter alia, canned pears.
The Apple and Pear Export Charge Bill 1976 and the Apple and Pear Export Charge Collection Bill 1976 respectively provide for the imposition and collection of a charge on exports of apples and pears. The rate of this charge will also not exceed 6 cents per box. Provision is made for the operative rates of levies, in respect of all leviable classes of fruit, to be prescribed by regulations made after recommendations of the
Australian Apple and Pear Growers’ Association have been considered. In this connection I mention that the Government has accepted the Association’s recommendation that the rates of levies to apply from the commencing date of the legislation, that is, 1 January 1977, should be 5 cents per box for fresh apples and pears, whether marketed in Australia or exported, 50 cents per tonne for juicing fruit and $1 per tonne for processing fruit.
In general, the liability for the levies rests with the producers of the fruit. However, in order to reduce the number of collection points, and thus the costs of administering the scheme, the responsibility for remission of the levies to the Commonwealth will, for the most part, be placed with selling agents, processors, quantity purchasers and exporters who, however, are being given the authority in law to recover the payment from their supplying growers. To further economise on the costs of administration, certain exemptions will apply. These will be in respect of fruit sold direct by growers at the orchard or at roadside stalls, or used by the grower himself for juicing or processing purposes, if the relevant quantities do not exceed 500 boxes per annum, or such other level as may be prescribed by regulations.
Generally, the levy is payable 28 days after the end of the month in which the fruit was sold, processed or exported. An exception to this rule will be in the case of a grower who sells small quantities of fruit to minor fruit retailers or direct to consumers by retail at the orchard or roadside stall. In these circumstances the levy is payable by 28 February after the end of the year in which the sale was made. The application of the rates of levies proposed by the industry from 1 January 1977 is expected to provide the Corporation with an annual income of around $850,000. This compares with the Corporation’s income of about $250,000 per annum from the proceeds of the existing charge on exports of apples and pears.
These Bills are designed to ensure a firm financial base for the Apple and Pear Corporation, which has a vital role to play in assisting the industry in the face of problems which have developed in recent years, resulting in a severe cutback in the volume of apples moving to export markets. The additional funds to be placed at the disposal of the Corporation from the new levy arrangements will enable it to make a more positive contribution towards market development, particularly on the domestic scene. I might add that the industry has, unfortunately, been in quite a parlous plight. The industry itself feels that part of the solution to developing future market arrangements lies in strengthening the role of the Corporation, and I am quite sure that this legislation will facilitate that objective. I am confident that there is a place in Australian horticulture for a viable apple and pear industry, and I believe that the Corporation will become more significant as a focal point for the industry’s reorganisation and adjustment. It is imperative, however, that its financial support be assured if it is to fulfil its objectives. I further add in that regard that each of the producer organisations has said to me that it strongly supports this legislation and the levy that is part of it. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
As honourable members will be aware, I have covered the purpose and the main substance of this Bill in my second reading speech on the first of the bracket of Bills dealing with proposals for a new basis of levying apple and pear growers to provide the funds of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
As honourable members will be aware, I have covered the purpose and the main substance of this Bill in my second reading speech on the Apple and Pear Levy Bill 1976.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
In the same manner as the Apple and Pear Export Charge Bill 1976,I have covered the substance and the purport of this legislation in my second reading speech on the Apple and Pear Levy Bill 1976.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purposes of this Bill are twofold. Firstly, it authorises appropriation to the accounts of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation of moneys equivalent to those received by the Commonwealth from the proceeds of the levies to be collected under the provisions of the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill 1976 and the Apple and Pear Export Charge Collection Bill 1976. Secondly, the Bill provides for the annual report and financial statements of the Corporation to be presented to the Minister, for tabling in Parliament, on a calendar year- in lieu of a financial year- basis.
This change is desirable, having regard to the fact that funds to be derived from the levy scheme outlined in my second reading speech on the Apple and Pear Levy Bill 1976 will flow to the Corporation from the seasonal marketing pattern for apples and pears on a calendar year basis. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11 November, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure concerning this legislation. I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill and the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put in regard to each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-There being no objection I shall allow that course to be adopted.
-The Opposition is not opposed to these Bills. I should like to make some remarks concerning the provocation offered by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) when he spoke a few minutes ago; I shall be very brief. He accused the Opposition of not putting up speakers. It is not the practice of the Opposition to put up speakers merely for the sake of speaking. The Opposition has taken the attitude that members of the Opposition will speak on Bills which we consider important dealing with those areas in which we feel we ought to be expressing a view. However, we do not believe that it is in the interests of the Parliament or of the people merely to spend time speaking to Bills which concern procedural matters. If it is the wish of the Government that we put up more speakers, we can do that and thus delay the legislation and the rising of the House. The actions of the Opposition throughout the year have been to speak, when necessary on those matters, and on that legislation which is important to us.
The Customs Amendment Bill is one of the matters which concern the rules of origin in the one-half area content whereby certain powers are being vested in the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) to be operated by his Department, which can be earned out, perhaps, without the information being passed on to the Parliament. There have been occasions when complaints have been received from industry about being left in the dark in relation to actions that have been taken by the Department without the Parliament being notified and, subsequently, without interested parties outside the Parliament being notified. I would have thought that whilst we agree, particularly in the case of Papua New Guinea, with giving the Minister discretion to waive the one-half rule, it is perhaps appropriate on occasions when that power is used for the Parliament to be notified. We have no objection at all to encouraging this discretion to be used in order to see that the economic independence of Papua New Guinea may be assisted. I just make those comments. Perhaps the Minister can take them into account when the discretionary power is used. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition I put it to the House that we have no opposition to the Bills.
-I rise to support the Bills. I do not rise simply to take the time of the House in idle chatter or because a government speaker is the next speaker to receive the call. I would like to refer specifically to the second reading speech of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) wherein he states that action against trafficking in narcotics and the possession of narcotics illicitly imported still remains a function of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. Narcotics are responsible for the greatest human tragedy that this country and the world has seen. I am sure that I would be joined by most honourable members and concerned Australians in predicting that in a few short years unless something is done to ensure that the import of illicit drugs to this country is cut off, we shall have a tragedy which we shall greatly regret. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Bureau of Narcotics is not doing its job. Quite the contrary. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Bureau of Narcotics and its officers on the job that they do. Their job is not easy because those who would illicitly import drugs into this country are dealing in a multi-million dollar empire and their ways and means are devious. In most instances they use innocent people or those within their organisation who have little or nothing to lose but a lot to gain.
The front page of last night’s Daily Mirror carried a simple headline which referred to a real tragedy. The headline stated:
Smoking pot at 13 . . . shooting heroin at 16 . . . dead at 18.
This is the story of a young boy with a lot to live for who at 13 years of age was introduced to pot and graduated to the big scale at death. His death was brought about by people throughout the world who nave found a wonderful way of making money. I refer to trafficking in heroin, marihuana, hashish, LSD and cocaine. I do not know whether honourable members have any idea of the current value of the illicit drug, heroin. At the moment heroin in 0.2-gram capsule form sells for $40. On that basis a kilogram of heroin is worth $250,000. That is a lot of money. The size of the product is not very large but it can cause so much death.
Seizures this year from 1 January to 31 October of heroin alone amount to 10 806 grams. This was almost 11 kilograms and the estimated market value is $3m. The 1 1 kilograms of heroin confiscated or seized was in pure form. However, the dealer and the pusher do not sell the heroin in that form. They like to adulterate it. They like to put various additives with it to increase its value. As it passes from one hand to another it goes into an adulterated form. Information that I have suggests that it can be adulterated up to a ratio of 10 times to one but that on average the ratio would be four or five to one. So this year 50 000 grams or more of adulterated heroin could have found its way onto the marketplace at a market value of $ 10m.
I have spoken about the value and quantity of heroin. But what about the doses? About 250 000 doses of heroin could have been obtained from the quantity I have just mentioned. Some of the 250 000 doses could have been available to my children, to the children of all honourable members and to children and adults throughout this country. I am concerned about this problem. I am not standing here in this House as some sort of fool pushing a wheel barrow. I stand here as a member of this place who has an opportunity to make the people of this country and honourable members aware of the seriousness of this problem. Illicit drugs are a multi-million dollar business that deals in death.
I would like to refer again to the story of Jamie McGrath, the boy who smoked his first joint of marihuana at 13 years of age. The father of this boy is concerned because he has lost a son. He is concerned enough to devote time, effort and financial resources now to setting up a rehabilitation centre to help young drug addicts. I hope that the people of New South Wales, particularly those in Sydney, will get behind Mr McGrath and help him with this project. It is not a matter of catching the importer of drugs; we have a responsibility as a Commonwealth government as much as the State governments to ensure that a proper rehabilitation program is provided for the poor unfortunates who become addicted to narcotic drugs. I believe that Mr McGrath will go throughout his life helping the unfortunates to have a future. Every day I read newspapers which carry headlines such as ‘$250,000 in drugs ‘ and ‘ Four on charges ‘ or I read how $ 1 m worth of drugs has been seized. As a matter of fact, $3m worth of drugs was seized at Ashfield, which is in my electorate, just 3 short weeks ago. This sort of occurrence indicates that something has gone wrong with society.
There seems to me to be a certain acceptance of drug taking today. There seems to be some degree of unawareness of the real problem. It is true that the problem is heroin, cocaine and LSD. But over one ton of hashish has been seized this year and surely that is where the problem is beginning. I am not a medical expert. Maybe marihuana has no harmful effects. But the fact is that an 18-year old boy who started smoking marihuana died from using herion
– He started on mother’s milk.
– I think that the honourable member, being a medical practitioner, would agree that if a 13-year old boy is introduced to marihuana, and if he becomes addicted to that drug and then goes to a harder drug because he finds that he gets no pleasure from the first drug, he has started on the road to destruction not from mother’s milk but from marihuana.
I hope and I pray that the Government will introduce measures to fight this problem. I am confident, having had discussions with the Minister, and he in turn having had discussions with State Ministers, that the Government will introduce measures that will seek to remove from society those people who would seek to bring into this country and to deal in drugs of addiction. It is not a simple case of imposing a monetary fine. It is not a simple case of placing someone in prison. Let us go further and take the property of the people involved. Let us remove the wealthy assets that they have accumulated over the years with the massive profits they have made. The sum of $100,000 is not much to be offered to bring heroin into this country; $10,000 is not much to offer someone to bring in marihuana. It is a multi-million dollar business.
I again remind honourable members and the people who are listening to this broadcast that narcotic drugs and drugs of addiction kill. They do not provide life. They do not provide a future for those who take the cursed things. They provide death. We have a responsibility. As I nave said before in this chamber, I will do all I can to ensure action is taken to apprehend and to punish those who bring in drugs. Also I want to be able to help and have others help the poor unfortunates who have been addicted to drugs through these dregs of society.
-Obviously nobody in the House would defend drug trafficking. None of us have really come up with any sort of intelligent suggestion of what ought to be done. We have discussed increasing punishments, attacked the traffickers, made highly emotional statements and alleged all kinds of connections between one thing and another. These attitudes will not solve the problem. I am not sure that the problem can be solved. In many ways people get hooked on these drugs as an alternative to other things. These are the people who cannot face up to the pressures of society. Some people say that this is due to modern living, although it was going on for a long time before the alleged pressures of modern life came to the fore. People m some countries are addicted to some of these drugs and there seems to be very little pressure on them. I refer to subsistence farmers living in the countryside. We just do not know what the specific pressures are.
I do not want to get into any lengthy argument, but I would like to raise a couple of points. Firstly, it is obvious that the present laws in the sense of preventing addiction are not working. Secondly, we do not really know why people become addicted. The South Australian Government, under Premier Don Dunstan, has I think during the last week or two set up a royal commission to have a proper look at the drug situation in Australia. As far as I know there has been no royal commission previously on this matter. There have been what would correspond to our royal commissions in the United States. I think there was something called the President’s commission of inquiry. There was certainly a royal commission in the United Kingdom. I am not sure that those inquiries have come up with anything particularly brilliant. We have to keep on trying. We have nothing to lose, so to speak, by having another commission and listening to people who think they have some sort of solution.
I came into this debate rather unexpectedly after listening to the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), who, I think, in all good faith, adds to the problem by glamourising- he in no way supports drug trafficking- and emphasising the amount of money involved. In a couple of sentences he spoke about a $250,000 haul, a $ 1 m haul, and a $3m haul. I do not believe that sort of money is really involved in this activity in Australia. Even if it is we should not talk about it as it attracts people. Let us be perfectly candid about people’s attitudes to crime and money in this society and probably in most societies. A significant number would be prepared to do anything if they are offered enough money.
– That is why the penalties have to be increased.
– People are prepared to murder others allegedly for $5,000 or $10,000. We will not do anything more to drug pedlars or to people involved in drug traffic than we do to murderers. Obviously that is not the solution. As I have said before, we have to stop the Press, the media, parliamentarians and other people who sometimes like to get cheap publicity by speaking of the large amounts of money involved. Some people, such as reverends, make their speeches on Sundays- that is the time when reverends make most speeches anywayprobably because less news is available for Monday morning newspapers and Sunday night radio and television. The amounts of money involved are fictitious. I have asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) who is in charge of this legislation questions on this matter.
If, when a person was being prosecuted for bringing heroin into the country or for having drugs for the purpose of sale and prosecutors said that 10 grams or 40 grams were involved the story would not get a headline. Quite often witnesses talk about $500,000 or $lm worth of drugs, the implication being that anyone who gets into that sort of racket can make a colossal amount of money and that if he gets away with it once he will never have to do it again. Let us face it, many people, if they thought that with one highly immoral and criminal action they could make that sort of money, would be tempted to have a try, especially when it is remembered that only a small percentage of criminals get caught. The odds are pretty good. People will invest at much shorter odds to win much less money at race courses.
I appeal to the Minister to instruct his departmental prosecutors and to Ministers in charge of State police forces to instruct their officers not to go along to court stressing the huge amounts of money involved. Evidence should just be given of the actual quantity of drugs involved. After all, the value is fairly fictitious. Obviously it must vary from week to week and month to month. Maybe demand is fairly steady- possibly it is increasing- but obviously supply must vary from time to time. I have never been involved in this activity, obviously, but it seems reasonable to me that the value that is placed on a haul by the police or the customs agents is a fairly arbitrary figure. It is a figure which is calculated on the basis of the whole amount being sold at top retail price.
I have not been in court when one of these prosecutions has taken place. I do not know whether the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) is coming into this debate. He may be aware of what happens in the courts and whether there is any cross-examination by counsel for the defence when the prosecution states that large amounts of money are involved. I do not know whether such amounts are ever questioned, and it is pointed out that really only a much smaller amount is involved. My objection is not to try to protect the people who have been prosecuted. My aim is to deglamourise this business.
Let us face it: Whether we are talking about film stars, people who conduct radio sessions or people who are involved in crime, our society and our news media love to exaggerate the amount of money involved. They talk about $100,000 and $200,000 contracts for radio and television personalities. Just as such talk attracts people to the entertainment profession, which is an honourable one, it will also attract other sorts of people to the drug trade if they see headlines about the huge amounts of money involved. There is no need for it. It is not necessary for any other purpose than to obtain headlines in the newspapers. There is no point in it. It is obviously not true. I cannot see any positive argument in favour of mentioning these sorts of amounts apart from obtaining publicity. I am talking about the positive aspects of the situation from the point of view of avoiding the drug trade and attracting people to it. If it were emphasised continually to people that the total amount any individual may make is very small-probably that is not the case with the people who are in charge of the racket- in the pushing and smuggling of the drugs and that their risk of apprehension is relatively large, I could see some point in such publicity. It would discourage people from getting involved in the drug trade.
However, I urge the Minister who is now at the table, and his counterpart Ministers in the States who have something to do with advising the prosecutors in the court cases, to try to changeperhaps over a couple of years- the sort of publicity that is given in these cases. At least let us see what happens. Let us have no publicity about the matter or at least no publicity about the huge amounts of money. By all means, if newspapers think it important enough and it will impress people- but I doubt it- let them carry the headline to the effect that 75 grams or whatever the quantity of drugs may be was confiscated in a haul. But I suggest to honourable members that newspapers would not consider that newsworthy because people would not know what 75 grams of a drug constituted. Therefore, fewer people would look at the newspaper and think that there was a lot of money in it. They would not think: ‘ If somebody makes me an offer when I come back from Bangkok -
– Yes, it could be Bali. People will not agree if somebody offers them what they consider to be some huge amount to bring back drugs. Obviously, I have no objection to this piece of legislation. I am speaking to the general workings of the narcotic drug Acts. I urge the Minister once more to consider my suggestion.
-The Narcotics Drugs Amendment Bill proposes to transfer certain responsibilities to the Department of Health, those responsibilities relating in all cases to licit drugs. My purpose in speaking for a few minutes is to express the hope that the Bureau of Narcotics and the Minister foi* Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) perhaps will now be permitted to devote even greater effort to dealing with the illicit drugs. There is one most dangerous aspect of the attitude towards drugs at the moment. Unfortunately, it is promulgated by people in positions of responsibility. For instance, with the insanity abroad in Queensland at the moment, we may even see the full moon affect those who legislate to a point at which possibly they will distribute marihuana.
Let me state one or two facts. These are facts. They are not based on emotion. They are based on experience over a period of the last 6 to 8 years during which I have had an opportunity of seeing something of the drug scene, not only in this country but also, for a period of 3 months, in the city of New York. It is perfectly obvious. Honourable members can ask anyone who is a drug addict, or who has been one, about the position and they will be told: Marihuana is not addictive in that your body screams for it in a physical sense. However, what it does is to bring about an apathy because its user is not getting the lift that marihuana does bring. As my friend, the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), pointed out so explicitly, that newspaper headline to which he referred has aroused more comment around the House and elsewhere than any newspaper report that has appeared for a long time.
I would make a statement with complete conviction, although again I take the risk of incurring ridicule by that outstanding and magnificent newspaper, Nation Review. God help me if it ever praises me. The kiss of death would be given in a third dimensional way. The point is that there is always the possibility of graduation to the heavy drugs by anyone who has used marihuana. It will be said: ‘OK, the statistics show that 90 per cent’- I am pulling this figure out of the air- ‘of those who have been using marihuana graduate to the heavy drugs’. However, it may be said also that that is 90 per cent of about 5 per cent. That is a very weak sort of an argument. The fact is that of that S per cent who used marihuana, 90 per cent did go on to use heroin.
– That is not true.
– I said that I pulled that figure out of the air. My friend, who is distinguished in many areas, apparently has not a great capability in mathematics. I wish to refer to a recent finding by the narcotics section of the World Health Organisation. If this is not true, the World Health Organisation might as well be disbanded. I believe that its narcotics section operates on statistics from all parts of the world. It contains some of the world s greatest expertise. It has now been shown conclusively that the habitual- let me make that clear- smoking of marihuana has some very clear side effects. One of these is that women’s reproductive organs are affected to a point at which monstrosities can be produced. The reproduction facilities in young men are limited to a point at which there are no further facilities. Thus, a young man can take his choice as to what his recreations will be. I can assure honourable members that these findings have been proved fairly conclusively. However, this is the appalling side effect: It has been proved conclusively that there is a real possibility of the creation of cancer cells.
The sad part about this- it has been perfectly projected in the House today- is that honourable members opposite some day will have to face the condemnation of the people because they have accepted the proposition that marihuana is harmless. Let them go and explain their attitude to the father of that young boy mentioned in the newspaper article. Let the womenfolk strongly associated with the Australian Labor Party who time and again promulgate that marihuana use is harmless tell that to the father of that lad whose drug problems started with marihuana. Let them tell the World Health Organisation it is a lot of hogwash that there is the remotest possibility of cancer cells being created. While these dangers of the drug pusher exist, these men and women in public life who promulgate the smoking of marihuana should be put away for the rest of their lives. That may sound like a very broad statement. If honourable members have seen what I have seen of the drug scene- I wish I had more time to expose it in the House- they would be entitled to become a little hot under the collar in relation to these matters.
I will conclude my remarks as I began. I would hope that the Minister and his splendid and superb Bureau of Narcotics- I have seen its officers in action- now that the responsibilities for controlling licit drugs have been taken away from the Department, will to an even greater extent do everything in their power to apprehend these vicious criminals who are responsible for the wrecking of lives and the creation of half people. These people- the pushers primarily- must be put where they belong. They should be put in gaol for life. If there is capital punishment iri any overseas country concerned, good luck to them. They can take the extreme penalty. Naturally, we all support the Bill. We hope that with this new arrangement there will be greater power and muscle in the hands of the Minister and his Department.
. However, I understand that he did refer to my State of South Australia. I do not know where he got his information about the alleged distribution of marihuana in that State but what I can calmly do is set out the facts. Even the President of the South Australian Pharmacy Guild, as did the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) earlier in this debate, has drawn attention to the fact that the present measures being used to combat the spread of drugs in our community are not working and that those who seriously want to overcome this problem- I assume that that applies to every member in this House and the vast majority of the community- would be well advised to look at measures adopted elsewhere and seek even the introduction of more committees of inquiry in order to try to find the proper method of overcoming this very great problem.
The problem, of course, does not involve only marihuana and harder drugs. It also involves the drug alcohol and the spread of that form of drug taking in our community which is itself an increasing problem. I am proud of the fact that the South Australian Labor Government has taken an initiative in this field within the last week by announcing the setting up of a royal commission. I have no doubt that the royal commission will use the evidence which the Senate committee in recent years has gathered and I hope that it will take into account the work of the Council of Civil Liberties in South Australia and the views of the President of the Pharmacy Guild of South Australia. There is an alternative method of overcoming or at least reducing the harms of drug taking which was suggested in both those quarters: It is that drug takers should be registered and treated as people who are ill rather than as criminals and that by such registration maybe we can reduce the incidence of this harmful practice. I repudiate the sort of talk we have heard from the honourable member for Kennedy, as it has been passed on to me, to the effect that there is someone in political life in my State or elsewhere who is seeking to increase the problem. If anything, marihuana is a middleclass problem. Probably there are many more people in the middle income group suffering from it than in the lower income group but this is not something that would affect the sort of the cure I have mentioned.
As shadow Treasurer I have responsibility for one of the 3 Bills before us. I notice that the Government Whip has suggested that I was not listed to speak in this debate. I certainly was on the original list of speakers and I apologise to him if we are delaying the House. However, I assure him that I will not be too much longer. I was drawn to my feet by some of the outrageous statements, which were passed on to me, apparently made by the honourable member for Kennedy. These 3 Bills are consequential to the signing of the Papua New Guinea Trade and Commercial Relations Agreement. The Opposition supports all 3 Bills. The Agreement provides a basis for economic co-operation in the interests of both Papua New Guinea and Australia. Trade is essential to the development of both countries. Fortunately the resources of Australia and Papua New Guinea are generally complementary and provide a mutually satisfactory and non-competitive basis for trade. However, this is not entirely so.
The list of exemptions on the schedules to the Agreement under the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill 1976 is longer than would be in the interests of Papua New Guinea. Some goods which might be traded in the future are excluded from the Agreement reducing the potential value of the Agreement to Papua New Guinea. This is also contrary to the long-term interests of Australia because self-reliant development in Papua New Guinea and reduction of its dependence on Australian aid depends on expansion of Papua New Guinea s overseas markets. The Australian Government could have been considerably more generous in the negotiation of this Agreement in view of the high trade imbalance between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Such good sense would have encouraged economic development in Papua New Guinea in the long run without substantially affecting the interests of Australian industry. To the extent that there would be any cost to Australian industries, structural adjustment assistance should be made available.
The interests of the wider community of consumers would have benefited from this arrangement had it been more generous. There have been some criticisms of the Agreement in Papua New Guinea. Some honourable members might have noticed a report of what Mr John Kaputin said. However, this criticism seems to miss the point. The aim of the Agreement is to provide a stable and co-operative structure for trade between our 2 countries. In particular it ensures access to Australian markets for goods produced in Papua New Guinea. The Agreement is not designed to provide better access to Papua New Guinea for Australian goods than for those of any other country. It is simply a modest and mutually satisfactory way of encouraging trade between our 2 countries.
Australia has a unique responsibility to encourage development in Papua New Guinea. This encouragement must be completely unassertive and non-directive and must continue until at least the end of this century. It is essential that the Papua New Guinea people be entirely free to choose their own development but this does not relieve Australia of the responsibility to be a facilitating agent in that process to the extent desired by Papua New Guinea. The agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea is the essence of these 3 Bills and I merely wanted to devote myself to that aspect. I was encouraged to mention the other matter only because of the way certain honourable members emotionally and, I believe, inadvisedly used this House as a vehicle to put forward views on drugs which would have been better kept to themselves. The Opposition supports these Bills.
– I thank the Opposition for its support of this legislation and also Government speakers who contributed to the debate. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said that the trade agreement could have been more generous. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who I understand to be the Opposition spokesman on overseas trade matters, was not of that view when he spoke for the Opposition in response to my ministerial statement, though it is not unusual to have differences of opinion on the front bench of the Opposition even on matters that are normally regarded as bipartisan. I would have thought that trade with Papua New Guinea, given the unique relationship to which the honourable member for Adelaide rightly referred in his speech, would have been of such a nature as to prevent the honourable member from trying to score a mere debating point by saying that the agreement could have been more generous. Any trade agreement can be more generous for either participant but the fact is that under this trade agreement total duty free entry is accorded to products of Papua New Guinea coming into Australia. On the other hand, Australia’s position with regard to entry of our goods into Papua New Guinea is limited to most favoured nation treatment; in other words, we are at no advantage over any other third nation.
There inevitably has been some reference to the drug problem in Australia during this debate and I want to quickly respond to remarks made by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). He made a suggestion which he has made to me before about undue publicity being given to the value of drug seizures. I will have the matter investigated and will positively respond to what the honourable member has said but this is only one side of the argument. It could be said that anybody who is of the character likely to become a drug trafficker would probably find out the value of such trafficking irrespective of whether that information appeared in a daily newspaper. I should not think that the mere suppression of the value of drug seizures and sales would of itself prevent people who had a disposition to engage in drug trafficking from getting involved. Nonetheless, I accept that it was a very genuine concern that was put by the honourable member for Prospect and I will respond to it.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide asked that the House be informed of any discretions exercised under the free trade agreement. I will take that on board and see whether it is possible for some arrangement like that to be made. It was a very legitimate request on his behalf. There is only one other comment that I would like to make on the general drug question. I think all speakers have shown how widespread is the concern in this House about this matter. I would like to respond to the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) about the Narcotics Bureau. It is composed of an outstanding group of officers within my Department. The Bureau has an extraordinarily difficult job to perform. We have an extraordinarily large coastline. We have a large number of points of entry into this country. Often the Bureau has to strike a difficult balance between the civil liberties of the innocent citizen and strong pressure on the part of the community to have effective surveillance methods for the interception of the people who are trying to smuggle drugs into
Australia. I should hope that those who are minded to criticise on the occasions when perhaps searches should not have been undertaken and so forth would bear in mind that the surveillance of this particular problem is extraordinarily difficult and that the Bureau is charged with a very difficult job. I would not want the opportunity to pass by without recording my personal appreciation and that of the Government of the job that the Bureau is doing at the present 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 Howard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 November, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
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 Howard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
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:
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I wish to make a brief reply to the remarks earlier of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). He made the point strongly that marihuana was potentially dangerous, saying, I think, that it caused cancer, affected women’s ovaries and did all kinds of other things that might possibly attract headlines. There is very little evidence that it does this to any significant extent. I am not suggesting that people ought to smoke marihuana. I oppose the use of any of the drugs which affect people ‘s state of mind. The only point I do make is that it was particularly hypocritical, coming from the honourable member for Kennedy, who very strongly supports the rnining and use of uranium, in relation to which the same sort of allegations at least have much more scientific basis than the allegation about marihuana. I emphasise again that I am not supporting the use of marihuana. But it is particularly hypocritical for a person like the honorable member for Kennedy to come into this chamber and make statements of that sort.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1976. Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill 1976.
Debate resumed from 4 November, on the following paper presented by Mr Killen:
Australian Defence-Paper, dated 4 November 1 976- and on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the paper.
Upon which Mr Hayden had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the white paper of the Minister for Defence presented to the House this day, entitled Australian Defence ‘, be referred to the Standing Committee on Expenditure so that the fiscal implications of the proposed program, especially in relation to its effects on other programs and its requirements for additional revenue collections, can be investigated and reported upon and that such report be available to this House not later than the last sitting day of this House in March 1 977 ‘.
-When this White Paper was presented to the House it was almost like going into a new era in our history because there had been very little debate recently on the subject of defence. It has been many years since we have seen a White Paper, Green Paper or any other paper presented to the House on defence. Hence it was gratifying and relieving to the great bulk of Australians to learn, firstly, that a White Paper had been tabled and, secondly, that those who prepared the White Paper had gone about the subject in a businesslike manner and a manner of extreme responsibility to the nation and had produced a quality document. I wish to comment on one or two matters relating generally to the White Paper. Firstly, there was no witch-hunt. I think that was greatly appreciated by the House generally. There were no recriminations. I commend the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) for this aspect of the White Paper. While on the subject of commendations may I say that the Minister and his civilian and uniformed staff have done a magnificent job in producing such an analysis of the subject of defence as it applies to this nation.
One of the first points that strikes one upon looking at the White Paper is that the matter of self reliance is stressed. If one were to compare our situation now with what it was, say, 10, 12 or even 15 years ago I suppose one would see that there has been a dramatic change. That change is based on 2 matters. The first is that we no longer think in terms of forward defence. We no longer think of fighting an enemy 1000 or 10 000 miles away. We know now that any engagement that may take place or any emergency that might be created if there were a threat to this continent would be in the country itself. Hence we have a completely different aspect and concept of defence. This is based very greatly on the matter of self reliance. Various theories have been offered and submitted as to how long we would have to hold this country before we would receive the assistance of a powerful ally. The period has varied from one month to 6 months. All sorts of opinions have been offered on that matter.
However, one or two facts have emerged. I refer firstly to the recent operation which was called Kangaroo II. One of the lessons learned from that operation, as the Minister pointed out not so very long ago in answer to a question in this House, was that when it comes to professionalism in the three branches of our Services we do not have to play second fiddle to any country in the world. This evidence came out very clearly in the Kangaroo II exercise. There were one or two aspects of this operation that appealed to those of us who had the privilege of being involved, to some extent at least. One was the manner in which the joint operations worked out. It was quite splendid. I think that we can now accept that concept. The other was the performance by the field hospital. I would like to pay particular tribute to the field hospital. I think that its contribution to the operations, which were indicative of the situation that would exist in the case of an emergency, were absolutely superb. I would say that it was at least equal if not superior to any similar operation of its kind in the world.
It is interesting to note the accent which this Government has put on defence. People say that one should look to the pocket when you want to see the strength. In the 5 years 1976-77 to 1980-81 estimated expenditure will be $ 12,000m. No doubt the House will recall that when the Minister for Defence made his statement to the House after the Budget he pointed out that he had secured this sum of $ 12,000m and said that it would be in terms of real money. That is another aspect which should be considered.
I notice that in the White Paper there is an accent on the fact that ground forces have to be sustained over long distances. I have noticed, in consultation with the people who study these matters, that the authorities are quite concerned about transport, about the roads which would make possible the sort of transportation that becomes necessary in times of an emergency. It was stressed that the present road system would be quite inadequate. It was said that existing highways such as the Flinders Highway and the Stuart Highway would have to be brought up to a much higher standard if they are to stand up to the sort of transport that they would be required to carry. No doubt in future considerations this matter will be taken into account.
Another point of view preferred around the country at the moment is the necessity for additional air bases. The matter of additional air bases was mentioned in one of the submissions made to me and the group I had the privilege to serve with on the Government parties defence committee. It is rather appalling to note that at present we have an air base in Townsville with limited capabilities and that we have another base with perhaps somewhat greater capability at Amberley. Then we have a huge vacuum until we get to Darwin. I am sure that as time goes by this situation will be remedied. There is also the matter of the dispersal of ordnance and the sustenance of an army or an air force as well as our naval forces to cover our coastal areas. We must think of the dispersal of our ordinance and our logistics. When we consider the present situation it leaves a lot to be desired.
Technology is one matter that is stressed in the White Paper. It points out that although we may consider the present concept of defence and may work out all sorts of approaches to our strategy, all these things could become obsolete in future warfare. This argument could be applied time and again. Today we have the Leopard tank but the Swedish tank is regarded as having tremendous capability. The Swedish tank may be camouflaged more easily because it has a lower turret and so on. One could go on for ever with that argument. I would say, as one who had a little to do with the examination, trial and eventual order of the Leopard tanks, of which I think we will have 101, that they will be a force to be reckoned with. It was gratifying to note that the Minister acted expeditiously to bring forward the delivery of these Leopard tanks. As far as I know, many of them already have been unloaded and are in operation in this country.
Turning to advances in technology, we have been told of the bomb which can sink an aircraft carrier costing $ 1,000m. We have to give serious consideration to our capability, having regard to our financial and technical resources, of playing an effective part in new generation warfare. The White Paper deals specifically with this subject and therefore is a fairly complete document.
The subject of the deployment of our forces brings me to the question of manpower. One of the things in the White Paper that I found particularly gratifying was the accent again given to the Army Reserve or, as we knew it, the Citizen Military Forces. I know from my discussions with the Minister that he regards the Army Reserve of particular significance. I was at a function yesterday and was exhilarated to observe the reaction of the Minister’s senior officers to this matter. When one examines the history of the wars in which this country regrettably has been involved it is quite easy to discern that much of the fame, if I might use that word, much of the magnificent reputation earned by Australian soldiers was earned by the Army Reserves or whatever they might have been called in those days. Hence the Army Reserve is an extremely important body when considering our future defence. I refer not only to the Army Reserve but also to the Navy and Air Force reserves. It is gratifying to know that the Minister does have this matter m mind.
Turning now to the capacity, capability and size of that Army, I suppose that if we had unlimited manpower and unlimited finance we possibly would think in terms of 10 divisions as one well known professional officer stated. Well, we would like to think in terms of 10 divisions but what we do think of is a new balance. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stressed this matter yesterday in addressing the function I referred to. He pointed out that although we do not want to reduce our manpower, that we want it to reach the strength we desire so that we can deal with any emergency we have, we also have to think of weaponry in a new generation of world warfare and the necessity to protect our coastline by means of the technology available to us. I was interviewed recently about one aspect of the Kangaroo II exercise in my part of the world. A young reporter asked me how we could possibly defend a country like this. I suppose one could look at the matter in that way if we are going to be faced with some great invading force but as the White Paper points out threats of wars and invasion do not just happen overnight. Warning lights go on and we are able to take the necessary steps for our defence.
I would like to conclude on what I think is an extremely important note. The committee which I have the privilege of chairing regards this matter very seriously and hence we are having this debate. I suppose if we examine the time allotted to this debate and related it to the time available for other Bills we have had a fairly generous bite of the apple but the important thing is that we have to send out a message to this nation, loud and clear, that the responsibility for the security and defence of this country, and dealing adequately with it, falls on its citizens. It is gratifying to note that there is a growing awareness of this fact. I am sure honourable members on both sides of the House would agree that every member of this House has to get across to the Australian public the message that each and every one of them is involved in our security. The economic prosperity and stability of this country would be pretty worthless if we were not in a position to defend it adequately and did not have the desire to defend it adequately.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bryant) adjourned.
-by leave- I wish to announce measures being taken to effect a major re-shaping of elements of the central Commonwealth departmental machinery. The changes are essentially designed to provide for more effective management of the business of Government, and to strengthen the Government’s decision making processes. Particular emphasis is being laid on improving capacity to service the Government’s requirements for forward planning, priority setting and the strategic planning of Government initiatives. Given the complexity of modern democratic government, and the comparatively short term which Commonwealth governments are allowed between elections, it is crucial that there should be more orderly and effective scheduling of Government business through the various stages of research, objective setting and policy formulation, program design and the evaluation of program effectiveness.
The new arrangements involve separation of the financial management and control activities of the existing Department of the Treasury from its role in broad economic policy analysis and advice to Government. For the future, the financial management and control functions will be performed by a newly created Department of Finance. The new departmental arrangements are designed to help make more manageable the heavy work load of economic and financial expenditure management which necessarily falls to the Treasurer and senior officials. In addition, it will be possible under the new arrangements for more concentrated attention to be given at the departmental level to the functions of financial budget management and the development of forward estimating, as well as to the analysis of economic issues and the formulation of economic strategy proposals for consideration by Government. Outline statements of the functions approved for the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance are available. I ask leave to incorporate them in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statements read as follows-
The Department will be responsible for advice on or administration of: economic, fiscal and monetary policy. Its main responsibility will lie in the field of general economic management and it will be involved m a continuous assessment of current and future economic conditions and the provision of advice on appropriate policies including those relating to resource allocation. These policies include: budgetary policy- matters relating to expenditure, revenue and deficit/surplus and means of achieving overall budgetary objectives. monetary policy- matters relating to the control of the money supply, official interest rates, etc. taxation policy- matters relating to the structure and level of taxation in relation both to budgetary needs and effects on resource allocation. incomes and prices matters- providing advice on trends in income and price levels and on their bearing on broad economic objectives. external economic relations- i.e. matters relating to external financial and economic policy issues, including the balance of payments, overseas reserves, the working of the international economic and monetary systems, Australia’s role in international financial affairs, Australia’s membership of various international organisations Commonwealth/State financial relations including the provision of financial assistance to the States and local authorities and the sources of State and local authority revenue. matters relating to the raising, redemption or conversion of Australian Government loans in Australia and overseas, administration of the Financial Agreement and the
Gentlemen’s Agreement, and the operations of the National Debt Commission. financial and economic aspects of policy matters concerning the structure and functioning of the banking system and other financial institutions in the Australian capital market, Australian capital investment abroad, exchange control, coinage, and aspects of company law bearing on company structures and financing. matters relating to foreign investment in Australia.
This Department will be responsible for advice on, or administration of:
The Public Account (Consolidated Revenue Fund, Trust Fund, Loan Fund), which also includes prescribing rules for central and departmental accounting within the requirements of the Audit Act and other related legislation; research into management accounting techniques, accounting policy and arrangements, operation of Commonwealth accounting system.
The collection, preparation and financial analysis of forward estimates of departmental expenditure;
The preparation of Appropriation Bills.
The general oversight of the finances of departments and authorities financed from the budget.
Participation in evaluations of the effectiveness of expenditure programs in meeting Government determined objectives.
Financial evluation of expenditure proposals and programs in the field of social services, veterans’ affairs, health, education, housing, immigration, science, recreation, arts and culture, aboriginals, the environment, employment and Australian Government employment;
Financial evaluation of expenditure proposals and program relating to air, land and sea transport and internal and international communications, assistance to manufacturing, mining, rural, fishing and tourist industriesfor example, by way of reconstruction schemes, payment of bounties and subsidies and assistance to research and promotion.
Financial aspects of the legislation and operation of statutory authorities of the Australian Government;
Financial evaulation of expenditure proposals and programs relating to defence, budgetary aspects of the Defence Five Year Rolling Program, and Services pay and conditions, defence works, civil works and related programs, foreign aid and mainland and external territories.
Financial evaluation of expenditure proposals and programs relating to urban and regional development, irrigation, transport and other developmental projects.
General and life insurance.
– As a result of a decision by the Cabinet this afternoon, Sir Frederick Wheeler is to be recommended for appointment as Secretary to the Department of the Treasury. I explain that situation by indicating that the Public Service Board has advised that the easiest way to encompass this is, at the appropriate time, by abolition of the Department and the creation of a new Department of the Treasury. That is the only reason why that recommendation comes forward again. Mr R. W. Cole, presently the Australian Statistician, is to be recommended for appointment as Secretary to the Department of Finance. The President of the Executive Council has indicated his agreement to the announcement of these recommendations in this form. My colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), will have ministerial responsibility for the new Department of Finance. As Treasurer, he will also retain responsibility for the Department of the Treasury. This will help to ensure proper co-ordination of the activities of both departments. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) will be an additional Minister Assisting the Treasurer. Formal action will be taken to give effect to these changes within a short period.
In association with those changed administrative arrangements, there will be a strengthening of the existing resources available to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for the evaluation of the effectiveness of Government programs. Regular evaluations will be undertaken of major sectors of Government services. Where appropriate these evaluations will be followed by detailed reviews and the development of modified or new programs. The Government has also taken steps to develop further already established capacity within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to advise the Government on forward programming, priority setting and the strategic planning of Government initiatives. The intensified policy and program assessments which will thus be possible will be closely associated with accelerated development of the forward estimates system. The closest coordination will be maintained between relevant areas of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Departments of the Treasury and Finance. The Government is convinced that the new arrangements will assist it materially in dealing effectively with the major issues which currently face Australia. Careful consideration has been given to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration headed by Dr Coombs, to the work of consultants which reported to the Royal Commission on relevant aspects and in particular to the report of the Royal Commission’s Task Force on Economic Policy
– Why did you ignore them?
-The honourable gentleman obviously has not read the report of the Task Force on Economic Policy. In deciding the nature of the new arrangements, the Government has been aware of the differing expert views which found expression through the Royal Commission regarding the appropriate central administrative machinery which should be developed. The Government’s decisions also reflect the outcome of its consideration of the reports of the Administrative Review Committee, which emphasised the importance of improved financial and program planning and control. The range of approaches to improving the organisation of the Government’s administrative resources which these various reports have canvassed has been of great value in helping to stimulate and clarify thinking in this respect.
-by leave- The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has just disclosed his latest hasty and ill-conceived response to the worsening economic situation under his Government. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch), who has shown himself incompetent in managing one economic department, is to be rewarded with two. The Prime Minister tells us that one of the reasons for these changes is to make more manageable the Treasurer’s heavy workload. We can sympathise with the Treasurer in his current burdens. It is difficult, however, to see how his load will be lightened by giving him responsibility for an extra department in addition to the one he has now and expecting him to co-ordinate them both. Last Sunday week the Government announced the creation of a mysterious and highly questionable Department of Productivity. In so doing it added one more department to the mass of existing departments concerned with industry. Now it is adding one more department to the mass of departments concerned with economic policy. There are, in fact, now to be no fewer than 9 federal departments involved in economic and related issues. We are not told which is to be the supreme department, if any; we are not told which is to co-ordinate the work of the others.
The Government has created this new bureaucracy by the simple expedient of splitting the existing Treasury in two. There are to be 2 departments, 2 hierarchies, 2 bureaucracies, 2 sets of policies and responsibilities, but only one Minister. What we certainly will not be getting after all this cosmetic surgery is a department responsible for the long term setting of priorities. That is the urgent need at the moment and the urgent need for the future. Such a need was recognised by the Coombs report which my
Government commissioned. Such a department was specifically recommended by that report We had a right to expect that the Government would act on that recommendation or at least acknowledge it. It has rejected the advice of the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. It has given us no reasons for doing so. The Prime Minister mentioned that careful consideraton had been given to the Coombs report. He gave the misleading implication that that report provided some justification for this decision. It does not.
The Prime Minister also told us that the decision reflects the outcome of the report of the Administrative Review Committee- the Bland Committee. The House has no way of knowing what the Bland Committee recommended or the arguments it advanced since its report, like most others commissioned and received by the Fraser Government, has not been published. The only report made public on these questions advises against the course the Government has taken. The Prime Minister spoke truly, if clumsily, when he said in reply to a question yesterday:
This Government is not in the habit of acting upon a published report.
He can say that again! The Australian Labor Party sees the need for a new department to give advice on long term economic priorities. Our platform provides for it. The Coombs Royal Commission recommended it. I myself promised it in a statement made on 18 October. We believe there is a clear need for expert, full time guidance for Australian governments on the country’s major economic problems and future directions. If anything has shown the need for such a department it is the floundering economic policy of this Government in the past 12 months and its total inability to follow through the first signs of economic recovery, apparent a year ago. Instead we are given a proliferating bureaucracy and a shabby piece of typical Liberal window dressing which adds nothing new to the range of advice available to the Australian Government.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
-In debating the White Paper on Defence which the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) brought down a few weeks ago, I wish to refer the House to what was said in the introduction:
The first responsibility of government is to provide the nation with security from armed attack and from the constraints on independent national decisions . . .
The statement continues:
This White Paper sets out the Government’s position in this respect It states the Government’s estimates of the circumstances that . . . could jeopardise Australia’s security.
I do not think that the Paper does that. If the Opposition has a complaint about it, it is that perhaps there is not enough precision in the White Paper. It way well be that the state of our national affairs and international relations are such that one cannot be precise, and I am prepared to admit that. I am prepared to say that it is time for an open-ended debate in which both sides of the House and the nation itself can take a close look at what this is all about and make some consequent decisions in the more distant future than today.
One ought to say now that there is a remarkable change in the Government’s position from that of the last few years. No longer do we hear of threats from the north. No longer are there battle cries resounding around this building with talk of the surging hordes up there which are going to descend upon us and demands of conscription and everything else. That is a big improvement. If one reads the Paper carefully one will see this point made quite often: No longer are we going to rely so absolutely on our great and powerful friends. But there is the constant theme that we have a new and special relationship with Indonesia. Unfortunately, the theme of the past continues with the reference to the Indian Ocean. I think that is overstated and can only confuse the debate.
I hope that my colleagues on this side of the House will take up some of the general issues about equipment and so on which are raised in the Paper. At this stage of the debate I wish to make it clear to the House and to the rest of the nation that the consistent attacks upon the Labor Government’s defence policies are quite erroneous. The attacks are good political ploys but completely ignore the facts of the situation. The facts are that the Labor Government set the defence forces of Australia and the whole defence establishment upon a very solid course of progress. Although we were not responsible for buying the FI 1 1 aircraft, the Cabinet of which I was a member finally had to make the decision whether to proceed with it or not, and we did so. Whether the Fill is the most appropriate aircraft for us could well be open to doubt, but there is no doubt whatsoever that in acquiring it we gave the Air Force a pretty effective set of teeth.
I come now to the Leopard tanks. We ordered 63 of them in April 1974 and 34 more in August last year. That was another Labor initiative. We ordered two of the Perry class patrol frigates back in 1974. We ordered 8 new Orions, 12 new
Hercules and Rapier missiles. Something which seems to have passed unnoticed by the recipients themselves, if one takes any notice of their election voting habits, is that the Labor Government gave the servicemen of Australia a completely new deal. In 1974 we put $330m into new equipment and $2 80m in 197S. I think this White Paper refers to something like $2S0m, and that is going to be spent on Labor initiatives. I think that the record ought to be kept straight. In its 3 years in office the Labor Government took very effective steps towards the maintenance of an effective defence capacity in this country.
I should like to address myself to what I call the defence problems. We have now reached a stage where it is an intellectual rather than a strategic exercise. We have to find out where we are going, what it is all about and what is the new defence environment and foreign policy environment. We have to look at the nation in various ways. We have to overcome the national inferiority complex. We have to understand now that the world looks at this part of the planet in a different way. The Timor exercise has shown that the rest of the world will leave us to make our own decisions. They are not going to bother over much about what goes on in this part of the world. So Australia is challenged to think for itself, probably for the first time since about 1910 or 191 1 when the first Labor Government established new defence priorities and new defence policies. We now have to think for ourselves. Fortunately, we can take our time about most of it. We can take our time about the kind of equipment that we need in this environment. We can take our time about the answer to the challenge; it is a completely new challenge. No longer can we look at a situation where we are going to be part of a regular scheme of international conflict in which we supply one part of the forces in one part of one of the theatres. We have to look at Australia as a continental theatre, as a nation facing a challenge on its own, perhaps being very much on its own and having to be very selfsufficient. I do not think that the Paper answers those questions. I do not think it even poses them strongly enough for the general reader.
While we are taking our time about decisions in relation to aircraft and other forms of equipment, we have to maintain the continuing establishments. We must keep industry at the stage where it can continue to supply the Australian forces. We have to keep the people who are concerned with defence, whether m a civilian capacity or in the forces themselves, on the alert and ready, properly equipped mentally and in every other way, so that they know they will not be left behind in any great change. The first question we have to ask ourselves is this: what is Australia’s capacity to be self-contained? I do not think this is spelled out enough in the Paper. Perhaps we do not know enough about it. I have always believed, and I have said it here many times, that Australia underrates its own capacity to do for itself, both in the construction of equipment and in relation to defending itself. This country has a very large industrial base- the ninth or tenth largest in the world or thereabouts. In some areas we are quite significant, and even in such things as the automotive industry we are ninth or tenth in the world.
It is part of the continuing theme of Australian conversation to look at our defence forces and underrate them. We are inclined to overlook the fact that in sheer numbers we may not be so very large, but in the actual equipment which is available to our defence forces, by comparison with the equipment of most of the other nations of the world, and I exclude the very large nations, we are well able to look after our own. Perhaps the next stage of the Paper ought to spell out this question more emphatically so that the community can turn its mind to it.
We have to look more emphatically at our own immediate environment. Our largest neighbour of course is Indonesia. The Government has chosen to make our relationship with Indonesia pre-eminent in both its foreign affairs and its defence policies. I do not think we can rely upon the Government of Indonesia, nor do I think we need to be unduly afraid of Indonesia, but we do have to ask ourselves what we would do if Indonesia’s next step were to do something about Papua New Guinea. Let us presume that Indonesia considered the situation in Papua New Guinea to be so unstable that it was a threat to them, and from what Indonesia has said about Timor I can imagine it doing that. What would Australia do? How would we prepare for that? We have never faced up to the fact that we ought to be able to take part in United Nations operations.
Could I just examine for a moment some of the problems involved. In relation to the equipment problem, what is the score at sea? A continuing debate is going on throughout the whole system of international defence about what is needed at sea. What is the best thing to have at sea? Basically, I regard the question of discovering submarines in the waters off Australia, as I suppose would most people, as a scientific problem, one to which we have not found the answer but one to which Australians on the whole have been able to attend with as much success as anybody else. In the course of this debate I would like to pay a tribute to the Australian defence science and its ancillary services in private industry with regard to the capacity to challenge and take up some of these issues. There is, I think, a very great under-considered strength in the Australian scientific base which ought to be given more money, more resources and more capacity to research these issues.
With regard to sea defence, we do not know what the equipment ought to be. Should we have more carriers of the sort of HMAS Melbourne”! Should we take up the opportunities that are available to implement the use of vertical take-off aircraft, such as the Harrier? I doubt whether we have applied ourselves enough to this debate. I have no doubt that this debate has been going on pretty thoroughly within the defence Services but, in the final analysis, defence is a question for the whole community. I turn to the provision of equipment. How many of anything do we want? Let us consider for a moment the question of tanks. Australia has purchased over 100 Leopard tanks. There would be sufficient for, I think, a bit more than a regiment plus reserves and things of that nature. Should we go ahead and start to manufacture our own tanks and build the number up to the 500 or 600 mark? Should we hold our industry available to do something about this matter? Is it possible to keep industry ticking over in such a way that at a given moment it has 6 or 12 months notice in which to produce these items? We are not sure.
One of the great difficulties concerning this debate is the tendency of Australians to say: ‘Oh, it is too expensive. We ought to buy them overseas’. Of course, it is not possible to buy 400 or 500 tanks overseas off the shelf like that. The same thing, I think, applies to aircraft. My own feeling is that we are showing a tendency to try to procure too much sophisticated weaponry. If we look at our environment within 3000 miles of Australia, we see no country with aircraft which would be able to take on even the Mirage. In fact, I do not suppose that there is anything that could take on the Mirage effectively. There is certainly no force within 3000 miles of Australia, as my colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) pointed out, which could land on Australia’s shores. I suggest that the time has come for an open-ended debate. I feel that as far as equipment is concerned Australia should hold the line. If it means retaining the kind of equipment we have rather than taking expensive new steps to acquire some of the highly expensive specialised or fighter aircraft, we should hold off. I am not sure whether it is possible to continue with the equipment we have for another ten or 15 years but industry could probably continue to manufacture some of this equipment. It is important for Australia to reserve the capacity by keeping the people at work.
I have been a member of a sub-committee in the last few months which has been looking at these factories. I make a plea to the Government to take steps to keep them in effective continuing work. There is no way in which we can hold Australian workmen on the job if they feel they are not doing something that is worthwhile. At the present time, I would say, the greatest challenge we face in the field of defence is to maintain the industrial base and its capacity to take up the strain when we want it to and when we decide what is to be done.
I make one final plea for a continuing and more effective study of the reserve capacity of Australian forces which lies in the civilian community. I do not think we have adequately recognised for many years the potential strength in the civilian base, or the importance of it. It we are talking about small wars, the regular forces will be adequate but if we are talking about a major war- the Armageddon, one might say- then, of course, that means a total mobilisation. We have done little enough to retain a reserve base in the community in such a way that we can deal with a potential war or take up the capacity of the Australian community. I close with the comment that we under-rate Australia’s capacity. I think we must concentrate more on developing selfsufficiency in every part of the defence area and put a lot more faith in the civilian capacity of Australia to support a defence effort.
-The publication 2 weeks ago of the Australian Defence White Paper gives rise to this debate on Australia’s defence capacity, which provides a few minutes for each member to give brief views on defence preparedness and expenditure. Going back to first principles we might well ask the question: Why have defence? I pose this question because of the arguments that one hears frequently in Australia and in this chamber. Obviously, Australia sees defence as a form of insurance against threats or situations leading to threats when our diplomatic effort, as we understand it, breaks down. There are, of course, many types of threat to Australia’s interest. There is always the possibility of great violence to our country, havoc, isolation by physical means or invasion. However, we must not always envisage defence in situations of the last resort. There are also lesser threats. I refer to threats of violence, disputes on boundaries, disputes on boundaries of the seabed, use of narrow waters or dangerous confidential situations leading to threats. On a lesser scale there are situations or threats leading to threats to sovereignty short of violence, infringement of territorial waters, of future maritime economic interests, such as fishing, mining, espionage activities, infringement of our coastline by smugglers, illegal immigrants and so on. Of course, activities under that last category are going on now but in any case it is necessary for Australia to have a capacity to deal in some measure with all 3 of those types of threats or situations leading to threats. The category of total violence, is, of course, the hardest of all against which to prepare. Nevertheless, it presents to Australia the greatest danger and it cannot be ignored.
No one can easily foresee what threats or nature of threats might be made in future but history has shown that unpreparedness leads to disaster. The future, is, of course, unknown but the testing of motives of other countries is part of our diplomatic effort and our defence effort. We try to discover what are the motives of our neighbours and of countries that might affect our interests. We try to discover whether their motives are pure and friendly or whether, perhaps, their governments are looking for opportunities to breach our sovereignty if they had the opportunity or whether they are prepared to take us on anyway. We will never get the full answer to that question so it is absurd not to have a substantial defence preparedness.
There are many people, it seems, in this country and in countries of our allies who want to believe that there is really no possibility or probability of a threat to this country or to their countries. But they avoid arguing what the position would be if their estimate were wrong, if indeed a situation developed leading to a threat. Obviously, defence preparedness strengthens the hands of our diplomats in bargaining and dealing. Significant defence forces in the modern world is important to their stature and as a backing to their diplomacy. We certainly live in a dangerous and rapidly changing world. We live in a world where technology is such that it can take 10 years from the time it is decided to build a ship to the time it can fire its guns in anger. It takes 7 years for an aircraft and 10 years, I believe, to train an officer. These lead times demand that we prepare for situations which, in a basic way, we cannot foresee. The cost proposed by the Government is $12 billion over the next five years. It leads us inevitably to problems of financing. We often hear arguments raised in this House about the number of schools and hospitals that could be built if expenditure on defence were not undertaken. The logic of that argument is that we should have no defence or a negligible defence and it really only has to be stated for its absurdity to be seen.
The amount of expenditure allocated to defence depends to a great degree on evaluations by the defence group and then the Government of the most likely situations and threats to Australia. Honourable members are, of course, aware of a number of the defence needs. Many arguments have been made and papers have been written in respect of this subject. I do not propose to get into that argument. I am not expert enough to do so and I dare to suggest that no honourable member is. So what is the Parliament’s role? I believe that it is our duty to keep ourselves acquainted with the arguments from both sides on what capacity we have, what we may need and what we could gain. It is certainly necessary for us to review continuously whether judgments that have been made are the correct ones and the ones on which we should rely. We must also see that we get the best value for the money that Parliament votes. We must see that the defence force is as effective as possible, and I interpose that Parliament has not, in my view, succeeded in those objectives so far. It is also necessary for us to encourage the defence forces and to contribute as much as we can to raising their morale.
– You are putting us to sleep.
– I cannot help the honourable member’s lack of interest in and antagonism to this matter. I propose to complete my speech without his help. Parliament can review but it cannot in fact decide on desirable equipment purchases and the size of forces. Decisions on these matters must be the result of examination and feasibility studies by those who are expert in the field. But, as I have said, Parliament has an overall appraisal role.
It was notable that the Opposition spokesman on defence, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), when making a few comments when the White Paper was presented, suggested that his main interest was the cost of defence. Although he did not emphasise any antagonism to the report, one was left with the feeling that he was pretty half hearted about it. The conclusion is inevitable- the Australian Labor Party does not want all of this money spent; it wants a good deal less spent and it is not prepared to build up the defence forces to a higher level.
– I told you what we spent when in Government.
– I am prepared to say that the honourable member is an exception. But I am giving my judgment on Labor’s attitude. Money is not spent on defence for pleasure; it is spent because defence is essential. So we must face the question of whether the expenditure is too great or too small. Too small an expenditure on defence is irresponsible to the people of Australia; too much can greatly weaken Australia’s economy and the logistic support of the defence forces themselves, particularly if those forces are engaged for a protracted period. What is the right balance is a question that Parliament has to consider. The Government has made its judgment on this matter. In my judgment an expenditure of $12 billion over the next S years is a bare minimum. I believe that when we read the lists of equipment that is necessary for replacement and extension we should provide, and I hope we do provide more. I say that the economy can afford more, particularly in the third, fourth and fifth years of the program.
The equipment necessary is vastly different in every way to the sort of military equipment in use in World War II and in the 1950s and 1960s. I believe that few people understand what this rapid increase in technology means in strategic and tactical terms. But certainly it is our duty to try to understand some of it. The implications are unclear, even to experts in this country. But we know that the cost is great, although apparently there are some worthwhile weapons to be obtained for which the cost is not tremendous.
It is the fashion to deride defence preparedness, and to exaggerate likely threats to this country. But there have been many wars and we have yet to see enough time go by to convince us that there will not be more. I believe that there needs to be a long peaceful period to convince us that our responsibility would be to reduce defence expenditure. We have heard a certain amount of talk recently in the House about detente. But I ask the House what are the realised advantages from the policy of detente and the agreement in Helsinki to Australia and the Western world? What has happened as a result of that diplomatic effort is a weakening of will in the countries of our allies and ourselves to keep and renew a defence capacity. Many knowledgeable and experienced people whom I know in the U.S.A., Europe and Australia are sad and, in some cases, outraged, at views expressed which they believe exaggerate the threats to our country and to the Western world. But there does arise the danger that by meeting that exaggeration they contribute towards a feeling by the people of these countries that we can lower our guard and spend less than we need to and that we can be less prepared than we need to be. If a significant attack did come to Australia- for our children and their children may that never be- the cost to humanity and the cost to nationhood would be far far greater than any economic sacrifices we could make in the years to some. The defenceless have so far in history suffered the most.
-The White Paper presented by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on 4 November sets out -
– Four November?
-It is a day of the month, if the honourable member did not understand. The White Paper sets out in fairly great detail the general philosophy of the Minister and, I presume, the Government in regard to defence matters. The Paper contains a number of matters that I believe the Minister or the Government ought to explain to the House. I also believe that the White Paper makes presumptions in some areas, which are just that- presumptions- and could well have some examination from a defence point of view as opposed to other points of view.
– Would the honourable member like to pot the black?
– That is a presumptuous statement.
-I do not know whether we need to have clowns in the House. But if the honourable gentleman wishes to proceed in that way on a serious subject and continues to treat it so jovially that is his business. The White Paper firstly mentions new equipment. I do not think that anyone would question that the defence forces need new equipment. I do not think that anyone would question that levels of equipment far higher than the Minister has outlined are desirable. I do not think that anyone will suggest that those levels of equipment can in fact be obtained because there are balancing factors in any area of activity. What we would like must be balanced against what we can have. In this case obviously the defence forces cannot have what they would like; they can have what the Government can at any given time afford.
This brings me to the first point that I want to make in respect of the White Paper, and that is what the Government can afford. The Minister and the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), who was the last speaker from the other side of the House, have both indicated an amount of money which is to be expended in meeting the requirements of the White Paper on defence. I think the amount is $12 billion. It works out at about $250 per head of population per annum; that is, about $5 a week per taxpayer.
In presenting a program such as this and remembering that continuing suggestions are coming from the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the tax burden will be in fact reduced and not increased, I think some explanation of the financial background to the defence White Paper should be made to the House. I do not accept that that is the responsibility of the Minister for Defence. His responsibility is to put forward the Government ‘s program on defence. I think the Treasurer should come into the House and inform us what the forward expenditure means in budgetary terms. It is fairly evident that if this expenditure is to be met with a reduced or a consistent tax base, other substantial cuts in expenditure will be required in order to fund the major section of the program. After all, funding is what it is all about in the long run. What you buy you must pay for.
The second thing I question is the way in which the report skates over two of the basic requirements of defence. One must remember that when a defence force is required no additional planning can be undertaken. The first proposition which I think ought to be discussed and examined fairly deeply by the Department of Defence is the capacity of Australian industry and technology- this is mentioned in the White Paper but not in any depth- to meet war time emergency requirements of maintaining a defence force. In recent years there has been a gradual decline in design capacity in almost all sections of Australian industry.
– Especially under the Labor Government.
-The matter is serious. The honourable member obviously feels it is a joke. There is a very serious decline in the capacity for design in Australian industry. Scientific backup is declining and major industries in Australia are fast degenerating into production line operations. In a defence situation first class design capacity, especially at an industrial level, is absolutely essential.
The Australian defence aircraft industry has for a number of years been limping from one crisis to another. There has been talk of rationalisation, amalgamation and various other programs over a considerable period. I remember having discussions on this matter when the honourable member for Curtin was a Minister. I remember discussions taking place under both governments at various times. It seems that the major defence aircraft industries are prepared to talk about amalgamation when they do not have orders and when they need something to prop them up. They become very disinterested immediately they have some work to do. The long term future of the industry very much depends on that problem being resolved and some guarantee of continuity of participation in the provision of our military aircraft in the future from Australian sources.
At the moment part of the industry is being maintained by making windows for aircraft and by making small sections of aircraft. We have at the moment a very high degree of skill within portion of that industry as a residue from the manufacture of highly sophisticated fighter aircraft which have only in recent years ceased to be produced from our aircraft factories. They are skills which would be vital in any defence emergency to this country. They are skills which require maintenance and continual renewal. The skills are already in existence, if the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), who has been seeking to interject, wants to know. The skills will decline very rapidly if they are not used in the manner for which they were developed; that is to produce and work on sophisticated military aircraft.
The Nomad project is keeping part of our aircraft industry alive. It is not a highly sophisticated military aircraft. The skills required m that area of production are quite different from those which would be required in a defence emergency. I think it is proper to put before the House, when considering a defence White Paper, the absolutely essential proposition that no amount of armed forces, no amount of equipment and no amount of military skills can maintain a defence force in the field unless it is supported by highly skilled persons able to quickly produce, maintain and repair military equipment of the most sophisticated type. I think it is also important that we should understand that not only in the aircraft industry generally but also in the electronics industry Australian design and development skills are rapidly disappearing. It is no longer economic for the electronics industry to design and produce primary goods of Australian origin. Imported design is cheaper and more economic. I think it is fair to say that what was a very substantial industry- it was one of the world leaders -is in decline within Australia. In a defence situation the electronics industry would be crucial. I think it is important that surveys be undertaken of our capacity to meet needs which may occur.
The Minister sets out what he sees are the possible needs. We may agree or disagree on them, but defence is about a lot more than just soldiers in the field. A soldier in the field needs supplies. I think those of us who have taken the trouble to read about some of the last days of the Second World War will be aware of the tremendous damage which was done to the German forces because of an incapacity to supply themselves.
The defence White Paper envisages the purchase of a considerable amount of new equipment. A great deal of that equipment is to be purchased and designed outside Australia. I hope that when an aircraft is chosen similar arrangements will be made to those which were entered into relating to the Mirage. The Mirage was built under licence in Australia. This maintained Australian skills and an aircraft was produced which was admirably suited to Australian conditions and which was capable of being modified by highly trained Australian craftsmen. The planes were delivered on time and in general had a better reputation as aircraft than those which were built m France, the country of their origin. Prior to that, the Sabre and the Canberra were substantially produced in Australia as military aircraft. Those skills are fairly deep-seated, but would be very quickly lost.
I make one other comment in this area. One of the unfortunate things about production of defence equipment relates to guided missiles. Australia has produced a number of military missiles. To date, despite substantial sales, there has been little benefit commercially to the industry because orders for production have been stilted. I think that the Treasury is most likely to blame for that and not the Department of Defence. For instance, 420 to 4S0 Jindivik units have been produced, but there has never been a production run of more than 12 units at any given time. The Nomad aircraft project is suffering a similar Treasury domination. We are not able to produce the aircraft with a sufficient material flow in order to gain the benefits of mass production or semi-mass production. In fact, the orders are not bad but they would be far better if we could produce the aircraft to sell rather than sell the aircraft to produce. Unfortunately, that is a non-commercial operation which is being forced on that industry.
The Opposition would hope that defence could be an area in which a proper and rational approach from both sides of the Parliament could be achieved. I believe that I have spoken about an area in relation to which serious thought has to be given. It is usual in defence debates for people to talk about soldiers, airmen or military equipment. If a defence emergency arises, the soldiers, sailors and airmen- the trained personnel who will be available- will perform as they are expected to perform. But they can perform only as well as the back-up services the country can provide to them will allow. I suggest that these back-up services are in decline. They are not as available as would be necessary in a defence emergency. I think that as a serious consideration the Minister for Defence and his department should be looking at the preparedness that Australian industry has to meet a defence requirement.
-The Government is to be congratulated on the production of the White Paper on defence. It provides a reasonable, realistic assessment of the basis upon which we can plan for the future. There are 2 matters to which Opposition members have referred which I reject, even though I believe they are sincere in their views. I reject the concept that we have time to prepare. I assert that we may not have time. Nobody can predict the future or choose with certainty between the 2 alternatives. But the emphasis must be placed upon the fact that we may not have time. Secondly, I reject the concept that a country, for the purpose of defence, must spend what it can afford. I assert that this country must spend what is reasonably necessary as a bare minimum to provide for the security of the nation. Any other approach is in direct conflict with what is stated in the first sentence of the introduction to the White Paper. It states:
The first responsibility of government is to provide the nation with security.
Therefore, it is the first priority of the Government. The White Paper is the culmination of this year’s activities by the Government to reinstate defence to its true position in the Australian political and social scene. Throughout the year the Government has shown the necessary political will. The leadership has been given to the community. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and his assistant Minister, the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), are to be congratulated. They have done what is required of them. Together with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), they have been instrumental in providing the drive that obtained the money which is so vital to the future development of our defence forces. They have shown a degree of leadership to the forces. The have encouraged members of Parliament to go out amongst the forces and to attend exercises to show to the Australian community that members of the Government- I know that members of the Opposition have done this also- are vitally interested in the welfare of the Services.
We have seen during this year that the defence forces themselves have proved themselves in exercise Kangaroo II and in other exercises. Certainly, there are lessons to be learnt. But the performance of the forces on those exercises has shown that Australia can have great pride in the performance of its servicemen and in the current state of our forces. The White Paper has set out the equipment procurements that are to be undertaken in the near future. It has set the basis for a most valuable debate in the community. But it is absolutely vital that we do not forget that this is the commencement of the real decision making process. The task now is for the nation in general, but in particular for the Department of Defence- the defence planners- to give us now the decisions that are required to put the nuts and bolts into those parts of the White Paper which do not go into detail. In particular, we must amplify any areas of the strategic assessment which are necessary to give clear guidance to the forces. We must continue to amplify the point of self-reliance because this nation is to be substantially self-reliant in the future. We must continue to amplify the types of potential threats that this country might face- the various levels of threat from the low level to the high level. We need to work on our doctrines to produce the new concepts that are necessary.
There are some gaps in the White Paper. The current requirements for defence capabilities are set out, but we do not have the force structure established. The most vital and urgent task is to settle the force structure. Then we can start to purchase properly for the force structure that we ave determined upon. Then we can start to put our doctrines into effect and enable everyone to get on with the job. The other thing upon which, in my view, the White Paper could be a little more specific is the time tables for equipment procurement. I understand that some of the decisions which are obviously very important will not be made for some time; for example, I refer to the actual fighter aircraft replacement and the establishment of the requirements for the tactical transport replacement. A number of tactical transport aircraft are well known throughout the world. Those requirements probably could be set out in the very near future and a decision could be brought forward quite quickly. I suggest that it is vital that we now develop the timetable and a plan for the all-round defence of Australia within our strategic assessment. We must settle the force structure. We must look at the types of concepts that other countries apply. I think that the best approach is to look in broad terms at two of the concepts adopted by the Swedes. Firstly, there is the doctrine of deterrence. We must ensure that we are able to deter any potential aggressor. We do not seek the offensive. Australians are not a warlike people. But if required, we are a fighting people and we will deter any person who attempts to interfere with the territorial integrity of this nation.
Secondly, we must look at the doctrine of the marginal force of the aggressor. No aggressor can apply to this country any more than a specified percentage of his resources because he is committed elsewhere. The Japanese were never able to allot a substantial force to Australia compared with those that they had in Burma and China. We must realise that we can do a lot with a little but nothing with nothing. If we have a balanced, reasonably sized, efficient force structure and the equipment to go with it upon which we can expand, we will be able to do a great deal to make the price of entry into this country by an aggressor absolutely prohibitive. Our force structure must be based around a proper maritime and air strike capability. We have to decide how many squadrons of aircraft we want and how many ships we want for particular jobs. Our land defence forces ought to be based around one regular division and 2 reserve divisions. They may not operate necessarily in accordance with their divisional structure all the time. Obviously, we need highly mobile task forces as subsidiary elements. We obviously need a presence in the east of Australia, in the west of Australia and in the north of Australia. We need a presence there with forces that can respond quickly and can move very speedily to deal with small scale eventualities or can be the basis of build-ups for large scale problems. We also need naval forces that are mobile and that are able to cover all those areas. The force structure is an important task. We must continue also to exercise and to train the forces as they now stand.
There is a great deal we can do if the purse strings are opened just a little to ensure that the forces are active, that we do not run out of petrol going out the front gate so preventing troops reaching training areas and getting on with the job. The recent Kangaroo II exercise has shown that we can exercise at a high level. We must learn from those exercises the importance of communication, electronics and radio equipment. All these lessons must be collated and for relatively small sums of money we can provide the equipment on which the forces can train. The Germans trained on cardboard tanks. Guderian and his fellow generals developed their doctrines on most primitive equipment and then when their war came they got their equipment into order and were able to put their doctrines into practice with great effect in the early stages.
We must retain key personnel and ensure that our skilled people in the forces are able to continue their vital roles. We must look for more training areas. The Americans benefited from the Shoalwater Bay exercise as much as we did because they have a limit on training areas which they can use and which are so large and extensive as to allow that type of training. We should be looking around Australia to purchase tracts of land at reasonable prices on which we can train. The British have to send some of their forces to Canada for reasonably large-scale exercises because they are limited in this regard in Europe. We must look towards a further study of the joint force concept, including command and control and, most importantly, we must look at logistics because I doubt that exercise Kangaroo II could have been carried off in the north-west of Australia. For example, there are very few rail flat-tops which could transport tanks or heavy tractors and the like. We could have a tremendous problem with water supply. We have insufficient roads, railways and ports and these go with the development of the nation. They are not solely related to defence. They assist us to develop this great country to what it should be.
We must look at technology and be prepared to purchase the precision guided weapons which will be necessary and in the far future we must look to those technological advances which, albeit costly, will give this country a sensible anti-nuclear system. There are, for example, potential energy sources such as lasers which the Americans have very much in the embryo stage. The Japanese are experimenting with some types of electronic counter measures and the like. These would be expensive but we must coordinate with the leaders in the world in these spheres so that we can get in on the latest technology so that if the worst ever occurred we would have some means in the far future of deflecting missiles which might be aimed at this country. At least we would let the people realise that there is some way in which this can be done.
We have to look at all the details of equipment procurement. I suggest that we need a small amount of the best equipment which the core force can use but also a larger amount of second line but good adequate stock equipment because there is no substitute for numbers in some circumstance. If we are to have a 200-mile economic maritime zone we will need a reasonably large number of ships to control that area. However we need a small and effective amount of very high technology equipment. The core force has to be able to train on it and expand and have the gear available with which to expand. Undoubtedly the figures I have suggested for a land force would enable that expansion.
The reserve must be tied in with the total force concept. No Australian conscript should ever have served in Vietnam and the reason conscripts did was that the Army reserve was not capable of commitment as units. I do not say that that was the sole reason. Many individuals from the reserve served and some subsidiary units served, but in general the Government was unable to commit the reserve. A full effort must be made to ensure that the reserve is brought up to strength and is given the equipment, training and the necessary wherewithall to be activated if need be. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) recently spoke to the Army reserve and I am sure that his speech gave it great heart. The legal obstacles to the use of the reserve in certain circumstances are referred to in the White Paper and the sooner we get a debate on it, the sooner we get employers coming to the party, the sooner the Government subsidises employers for the extra time young men might have to take off from work the better. Young men nowadays will be asked by their wives not to forsake their annual holidays to go into training camps. They will take a couple of weeks extra a year and forsake the lathe or the assembly line. We must ensure that the reserve is given a full military aid to the civil community role. We must ensure that industry is given full support and in this regard I agree with what the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) have said about industry. I am on the same parliamentary committee as the honourable member for Wills.
It is absolutely vital that our electronics and design facilities m particular are operating, that the skills are maintained and that we build our industries and their defence capability. In doing that we will help build this nation. It is also vitally important that we do not neglect research and development because in that field we are going to provide for ourselves the potential to fulfil the equipment needs we are going to have to keep in the game, and the price of staying in the game is high. If the international situation deteriorated this country could become the biggest sore thumb in history. People do not always go to war when they are ready, certainly not when they are willing, and very often not when they are able; it is usually when their political masters send them or an enemy dictates that they should. It is vital that we recognise the fine role of our soldiers, sailors and airmen and that we have a combined foreign, domestic and defence policy that is integrated to plan for the future. A timetable and plans must be developed as soon as possible. Then this country will be defended by its people under any circumstances.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fry) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is a relatively short one. Its purpose is to enable the Government to make orders in situations in which they appear to be needed to ensure that documents in this country are not able to be produced to courts or tribunals in other countries. There are provisions to directly prevent this from being done and there are other provisions to prohibit persons in this country from taking any action which might lead indirectly to that result.
The immediate need for this Bill has arisen out of certain legal proceedings that are being taken in the United States of America under the antitrust legislation of that country. The operation of the Bill, however, is not confined to matters arising out of those proceedings. The United States proceedings relate to arrangements alleged to have been made for the marketing of uranium in 1972. There are, in fact, several proceedings pending in relation to those arrangements. Claims are being made that the United States anti-trust laws have an operation outside the United States to an extent which is beyond what is generally conceded in international law and beyond what other countries are presently prepared to concede in relation to the pending proceedings.
I shall indicate briefly the nature of the proceedings that have been instituted in the United States. First, there is a grand jury inquiry to establish a case for criminal prosecution of the parties alleged to have been involved in the marketing arrangements. Secondly, civil proceedings claiming treble damages- which could be of the order of some $7 billion- have been instituted by Westinghouse Electric Corporation against 29 United States and foreign uranium producers including 4 Australian companies. Thirdly, proceedings have been instituted against the Westinghouse Corporation by 16 United States utilities in respect of the non-supply of uranium under contracts entered into with Westinghouse, and Westinghouse is resisting those claims on grounds that involve allegations of contraventions of the anti-trust laws by the uranium producers. Finally, and perhaps for present purposes most urgently, letters of request have been issued to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in connection with the last mentioned proceedings. These letters of request seek the taking of evidence from persons in this country and relating to documents located here.
In all of these proceedings, claims are being made that the anti-trust and related laws of the United States have an extremely wide operation outside the United States. Our own Trade Practices Act does, of course, apply extra-territorially where relevant conduct is engaged in by bodies corporate incorporated or carrying on business within Australia or by Australian citizens or persons ordinarily resident within Australia. But the claims that are being made for extra-territorial operation of the United States laws go further than this. They go so far as to assert that persons who are not United States nationals or residents or persons carrying on business in the United States are subject to those laws by reason only of some economic effect of their conduct.
Claims of this kind have been made on previous occasions and have been resisted by other countries. In particular, such claims were resisted by the United Kingdom in 1964 in connection with an attempt by the United States authorities to regulate shipping between the 2 countries. Legislation was enacted to ensure that the United States claims would not be effective. I refer honourable members in this connection to the Shipping Contracts and Commercial Documents Act 1964. In connection with the present dispute concerning uranium, Canada has recently made a regulation indicating that it rejects the jurisdiction being asserted by the United States authorities as an unjustified invasion of its sovereignty. This is substantially the purpose of the Bill that I am now presenting.
The provisions of the Bill are directed at the protection of documents that are located in this country and with the conduct, in certain circumstances, of persons who are Australian citizens or residents. The legislation will not operate in all circumstances but will depend upon orders being given by the Attorney-General. Clause 4 of the ill sets out the circumstances in which the
Attorney-General may act. In short, the AttorneyGeneral will need to be satisfied that documents are being required by a foreign court or tribunal in breach of the principle of international law or comity or that the making of an order is necessary for the purpose of protecting the national interest. The Bill is not confined to documents or evidence relating to uranium, but the legislation will be available to be used whenever the need for it may arise in other contexts. It will be available also in relation to countries other than the United States. Orders may be made in respect of classes of persons and classes of documents.
Insofar as the current United States proceedings relating to uranium are concerned, I can inform the House that I am satisfied there is a need to make orders under the proposed legislation and I will be taking actionin this regard as soon as the legislation has been passed. Any contravention of these orders would, of course, be viewed very seriously by the Government.
As I have already indicated, this legislation has particular relevance to certain letters of request which may already have been made to the Supreme Court of New South Wales and there is, accordingly, a need for this legislation to be passed as a matter of urgency so that the necessary orders prohibiting the production of evidence to that court can be made and applied in those proceedings. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. The Opposition is aware that, as the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) has said, certain proceedings have been initiated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of VirginiaRichmond Division, and that, as a result of those proceedings, a letter of request dated 21 October 1976 has been issued to the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Accordingly it follows that this is legislation of a very urgent nature. We recognise the immediate need for the Bill. It appears that an American company is trying to use American laws to break contracts entered into outside America and this is not what we would favour. We express the view that companies in an open market situation which enter into contracts with their eyes wide open as to their obligations should not then go back and try perhaps to negate their obligations under the contract by using their own laws. This seems to be somewhat of a tactic adopted by the Westinghouse Corporation in this case.
If the American company in question were permitted to obtain evidence by court order to evade its contractual obligations in these circumstances similar contracts under agreements for the supply of commodities also would be dishonoured. We do not concede that the United States anti-trust legislation should apply to the extent that is being claimed in relation to these agreements. We agree that the claims that have been made in respect of the pending proceedings go far beyond that which is internationally recognised at present. In fact we as a Party, like the Canadians, do not support certain aspects of the American anti-trust legislation, particularly in relation to underdeveloped countries. We uphold and support commodity producer associationsfor instance, in bauxite, copper and iron ore. On 15 September last the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is recorded in Hansard as having said:
A significant development in recent years has been the growth of commodity producer organisations. Australia has joined 3 producer associations (those for bauxite, copper and iron ore) but has made it clear that, whilst seeking to achieve fair and reasonable returns, it will not be a party to any form of international blackmail in resources trade.
It is well known, and it can happen to the detriment of developing countries, that a powerful nation can stockpile and then destroy the market of a developing country by releasing the stockpile at a time when it would lose its market because of that release. Therefore no developing country has any assurance as to a stable price for its commodities.
Australia believes in fair dealing. We do not want to have this play by powerful influences in the company structure whereby they can affect a market by stockpiling and then suddenly releasing the stockpile. These fluctuations occur throughout the world. We as a Party are quite prepared to go along with orderly and reasonable marketing, particularly where it is assisting developing countries. In this case we make the point that the American company obviously understood what it was doing because we can point to a fair amount of evidence back in 197 1, not the least of which was a report in the Australian Financial Review of 20 October 1971 under the heading ‘U.S. blow to Canadian uranium’, which reads:
The Americans have decided to continue to bar foreign uranium for domestic use, despite earlier indications that the restrictions would be lifted by 1 973.
At the same time, the commission said it would dispose of U.S. stockpiles of uranium- a move that would overload an already saturated world market and further depress prices.
It follows, therefore, that the Canadians had to take certain action recently. I am aware of a statement made by the Canadian Minister for Energy on 22 September 1 976 in which he said:
During the early 1970s the Canadian Government tried to elicit consumer nation support for the uranium industry and its dependent mining communities which were suffering from an over-supply and low price situation. The problems were compounded by the United States policies, which closed the large United States market to foreign uranium and at the same time moved uranium from the United States Government’s stockpile into the international market through conditions imposed on foreign uses of United States uranium enrichment facilities. Concurrently United States corporations were competing aggressively for sales outside of their protected domestic market.
The Canadian Minister went on to say:
Given this background it is not surprising that Canadian material called for by the United States subpoenas contains information in respect of activities approved and supported by the Canadian Government. Clearly this must be regarded as an issue of sovereignty. The Government is therefore moved to prevent the removal of such documents from Canada.
The only point I wish to take up in the course of a legal discussion on this Bill concerns clause 4(2), which indicates that the validity of any action taken by the Attorney-General in the exercise of what I would deem to be his discretion, shall not be the subject of any challenge in any court. It relates basically to clause 4(1), which says that the Attorney-General shall exercise his powers where he is satisfied. I understand that the Attorney-General would exercise those powers only where he is satisfied. I take no umbrage at that. Just in the legal sense, we must bear in mind that there are a number of decisions about the way you can say that you are exercising a discretion. Having said it, that is as far as you can go. At times it does create a position in which you cannot be exempt from litigation. You cannot just say, because this has been said in a Bill, that you have exercised your discretion and therefore a court cannot look at what your discretion is. I think a particular expression was conveniently used in the Communist Party dissolution Bill when Fullagar, J. as he then was, was discussing the question of discretion. He said that you cannot say that because the Attorney-General deems a thing to be a lighthouse it therefore is a lighthouse. It is a question that the court may examine because the Attorney-General’s view of a lighthouse might be different from what the court deems to be a lighthouse. That is a very topical way of saying what is involved in this matter. Courts are prone to say that if this sort of legislation has in it wider than normal powers they can come in.
I have no doubt that the Attorney-General has satisfied himself as to what he has done here. I noticed that he referred to a British Act, the Shipping Contracts and Commerical Documents Act of 1964. The British had to pass that in similar circumstances to protect themselves against, again, the United States companies in the antitrust position. However I do not quite see a similar provision there that would mean that this discretion would be exempt from judicial discussion. Having made those points and realising the urgency of this legislation as well as the fact that there is a lot of other business before the House I simply say that we support the Bill.
– I only want to ask a couple of questions and I am not going to enter into the legalities of this matter. There are 2 issues involved about which I would like some explanation from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). One is the question of extra-territorial immunity and the other is the question of exports. Can the Minister enlighten me? As I understand it, this Bill will give immunity to individuals and, perhaps, corporations in Australia. However, an individual getting off an aircraft in San Francisco is still wide open to being issued with a subpoena.
I want to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) about the issue of uranium. We believe that a material such as this ought to be contracted for only through a government marketing authority. If we are going to give immunity within Australia to individuals and corporations we can do that totally only by setting up a government to government marketing arrangement. While supporting this legislation, I ask the Attorney-General in addition to impress upon the Government that if immunity and complete national sovereignty are to be given effect, then the real way to do so is to ensure that any marketing of uranium in the future, or any other material for that matter but particuarly uranium, is done on the basis of a government to government contract.
-Am I to understand that this legislation is to proceed through the House forthwith and into the other place without proper consideration? I make it quite clear that I might agree with this legislation or I might not but I do not agree with the procedure and I will tell the House why. We are putting into the hands of people who last year broke every tradition in the book, who stole power in this country against all the traditions of parliamentary government, the right to refuse in courts to produce documents and all the rest. However that is by the way and I would not have said it except for interjections from honourable members on the Government side. The fact is that here we have a complicated piece of legislation which I do not claim to understand. I know full well that the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) has no idea what it is about. Over centuries we have designed the way in which parliamentary business should be handled, particularly matters which determine people’s rights and freedoms, so I do not think that we ought to do this. There could have been earlier indications to members of this Parliament that this matter was coming on and if it is so urgent we could have been issued with a memorandum earlier in the day. Honourable members of this Parliament represent one of the few parliamentary institutions in the world that is basically democratic in its processes and democratic in its elections. They ought to remember what democracy is all about.
There are several issues that I do not follow. If it is true that courts in America need some evidence that is in this country to protect some process of the law which we would recognise there, why do we not co-operate? I do not think this mystique of sovereignty is all that important. I recognise, and I take it that this is recognised in this legislation, that there are forces at work in this world that transcend the power of governments; that the International Telegraph and Telephone Company, General Motors, and other large corporations based in Europe, Japan and America are able to manipulate world affairs and defeat governments.
-I suppose the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) was elected to this place because the people in Western Australia -
– You make these assertions but do not prove them.
-I refer the honourable member to history. The fact is that this legislation will, perhaps, allow these people to continue to do as they have been doing. I am not sure. It is all very well to sit here and allow this matter to proceed with undue haste just because we have been approached by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), to allow that course to be adopted, but there are countless pieces of legislation dealing with the social advantage of the people of Australia which are not being proceeded with. They are held up for weeks on end. Therefore I want a better explanation. I am not going to call for divisions or anything of that nature. Only on two or 3 occasions since I was elected to this House has legislation of this order been brought in and there have been requests for it to be rushed through. I might say that I objected on those occasions. After all, this Bill hands great authority into the care of the Attorney-General. As I understand it from what my colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) said a while ago this Bill relates to power to prevent the courts doing something that would be possible under State Acts. Is that the case?
– The courts of other countries, not ours.
– Wait a bit. I am asking for information. If the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) knows all about it he can make the next speech and explain it. Is it a fact that this Bill aims to prevent the passage of documents or information as a result of a request to a New South Wales court?
– To another country.
– Wait a bit. Is it a request to a New South Wales court?
– Well who made the request? That is the case, is it not? Is it or is it not?
– I will explain in a minute.
– What was the request?
– Sit down and let the AttorneyGeneral explain.
-I will not sit down until I have had my say. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) has attempted to sit me down and stop me having a say all the time he has been here but he has not been successful yet.
-I suggest that the honourable member get on to the substance of the Bill. That might be more helpful.
-How can I get to the substance of a Bill of this complicated nature which was handed down only a few minutes ago? There was not even a copy of it on my desk. The attendant had to go and find one when I asked for it. May I put these questions to the Attorney-General: Is it a fact that this is as a result of a normal process of law by which requests are made to the courts to require somebody to produce documents? Does the Bill relate to a request to a New South Wales court to do that? Will this. Bill allow the Attorney-General to exercise authority over the processes of the New South Wales courts in this regard? If so I do not know whether I object to it or I do not object to it but it certainly does not follow the general procedures of new federalism and everything else. The Attorney-General will be exercising this great authority. With proper respect to the honourable gentleman, the fact is that what happened last year gives me great concern about the way people will exercise power and authority if they get the chance to do so. Therefore I put those questions to the AttorneyGeneral. To those honourable members who are listening I just put this point: We must not allow these things to happen; we have to find a better process. We must not allow legislation to go through which permits extraordinary authority to lie in the hands of one person, even though that person is a Minister. Nor must we allow legislation to go through which inflicts the heavy penalties which I see are proposed in the Bill or which will possibly prevent the proper application of court power in other countries against some of the great forces in the world. We all know that these forces are pretty hard to handle.
-We realise that at certain times it is abundantly necessary for the Government to introduce legislation of an emergency nature. I do not think the House would ever dispute that in emergencies this is necessary. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has put a quite simple point of view that whereas all of us are equally willing and agreeable to assist the Executive, we understand and hope that on other occasions the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) will take the necessary steps to see that the House can be informed. The penalties involved are very serious. We are dealing with extraterritorial legislation and therefore the matter is not one which the House should or could treat lightly. This evening we were in the middle of a debate on defence matters. It has been adjourned because the Attorney-General felt it was necessary for the Parliament to get this Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Bill through in probably 20 minutes.
I must admit to the nation and to myself that I had never seen this Bill until it was put on my desk. I would be quite uncertain whether I should pass the Bill but knowing the AttorneyGeneral and the Government and knowing what the Government wants to achieve I, as a backbench member, will accept it. This matter concerns a most important thing, that is uranium, and it concerns the courts of New South Wales. Out of courtesy and as a member of the Parliament of this nation I am surprised that I am asked to vote, or not to vote, on a matter of this nature. Nevertheless, knowing the AttorneyGeneral and knowing that this Government would do nothing improper or would not ask honourable members -
– Do not be hypocritical.
– That is a joke.
– Honourable members opposite can say what they like. A case is coming up shortly in another court. Do not make any comments because we do not know what will be said in the court in Queanbeyan about conspiracy. But I will certainly agree with what the AttorneyGeneral has put in his short explanation and which I am prepared to accept. I hope that on another occasion honourable members will be allowed to examine legislation of this sort and will be allowed rather more than S minutes in which to pass it.
– I shall ask a couple of questions of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) because I am in the same position as nearly everybody else in the House. We have been handed the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Bill which gives quite sweeping powers, apparently, to the AttorneyGeneral without giving any real explanation. I refer to clause 4 ( 1 ) (a) which states: 4.(1) The Attorney-General shall exercise his powers under this Act. . . where he is satisfied that-
Who will make a decision as to whether the jurisdiction is exercised in a manner not consistent with international law? A more important provision is clause 4(2) which, in effect, puts the Attorney-General beyond any challenge in any court. I do not believe that that ought to be possible. I hope that courts will rule clause 4 (2) out of order, if my interpretation of the clause is correct. I remind the House that it reads:
The validity of any exercise, or refusal of the exercise, of any power of the Attorney-General under this Act is not affected by, and shall not be subject to challenge in any court by reason of, any failure to comply with the provisions of this section.
We are told that the Attorney-General will do only certain things and that we ought to accept them because he will do them only under a particular section. Then we are told that his action cannot be challenged because it is beyond the power of that clause. As I understand it the Attorney-General can do almost anything because he cannot be challenged on that point. I would like to get some explanation. After all, the Attorney-General in his speech, if I remember correctly, referred to certain proceedings being taken in the New South Wales Supreme Court on 2 1 October. That is nearly a month ago. Why rush this Bill through tonight? If it is as important as all that, surely the Attorney-General can make an application in the New South Wales Supreme
Court, if the matter comes up next week, to have a stay of proceedings. I am sure it would be granted if the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth intervened. I would like to get some explanations which have not come out about the Attorney-General being able to exercise this power without having any restriction imposed on him by any court of this country.
-In reply-The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) raised a question about clause 4 (2). He was concerned about its effect on the validity of the Act. He put forward the official view of the Opposition. Clause 4(2) will not, in my view, affect the validity of the Bill when it becomes an Act. Clause 5 of the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Bill is sustained by the external affairs power. Clause 4 of the Bill is designed to direct the mind of the AttorneyGeneral to the basis upon which he ought to move under clause 5; that is to say, he should not move under clause 5 unless he is satisfied of one of two things. The first matter is that the foreign tribunal is exercising or proposing or likely to exercise powers etc. not consistent with international law or comity in proceedings relevant to matters to which the laws of the executive powers of the Commonwealth relate.
– But his discretion is absolute.
-I ask the honourable member to wait just a moment. This particular matter relates to the actions of certain companies in. relation to uranium which may be exported. It also relates to people or companies which have no business or any residence in the United States. The view is that that goes beyond what is proper at international law. That is a principle to which I referred in an answer this morning. The other basis for this matter is that the national interest may, in certain circumstances, require that certain documents or evidence be not made available and may not be made available, not to an Australian tribunal but to a foreign tribunal.
Clause 4(1)(b) so provides. The AttorneyGeneral has to be satisfied of either of those matters. Needless to say, clause 5 could operate and be valid without clause 4 being in the Bill because clause 5 is sustained, as I have already said, by the external affairs power. Clause 4 is designed merely to direct the mind of the Attorney-General in relation to these matters. It is important, where the national interest is involved, that the decision of, one hopes, a responsible Attorney-General in this matter will not be subject to challenge because questions about national interest are matters which are peculiarly for the executive to determine. Therefore, all that is being asked of the Parliament is that it commit to a responsible Attorney-General- one hopesthe discretion in this regard. That is the purpose of clause 4.
Clause 4 (2) is a provision which goes as far as this Parliament could go to render the discretion of the Attorney-General not subject to challenge by a foreign government, a foreign tribunal or a foreign company. It is there to protect the decision. After all, the decision of the AttorneyGeneral of this country is in relation to a particular matter. This clause is not designed m some way to take away from the rights of Australians or Australian companies. It is a clause which is designed to protect Australia. That is what it is about, and I should have thought that it would have appealed to the sense of nationalism of the honourable member for Wills. I was suddenly troubled when I saw him get to his feet and start criticising this provision. I thought that for once he had lost his sense of nationalism.
There is only one other matter with which I have to deal and that is a matter raised by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) relating to whether this Bill, when it becomes law, would have the effect of operating on a person who is taken on a plane at San Francisco, say, under a subpoena from a United States court. It would not, and the simple reason for that is that at international law we could not ourselves interfere with the jurisdiction of a United States court and one would not purport to do it directly within the jurisdiction. But we can affect what happens in Australia and we can affect what happens in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In conclusion, I simply say that the reason for urgency, and I would not have brought this matter before the Parliament had I not been satisfied of the need for urgency, is that this Bill is needed to become law if it is to operate in Supreme Court proceedings which, as I understand it, could come on before this Parliament resumes on Tuesday week. I apologise to honourable members for the fact that time ordinarily given has not been given, but I ask them to bear with me and with the Government and to accept our assurances in this regard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I suspect that the only person on the
Government side who understands this provision is the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), and I am afraid that I think he has misrepresented the effect of this measure. When he talks about the national interest being served by this kind of legislation he could very well be right, but the fact is that the only way in which evidence for foreign tribunals is ever taken in this country is in our domestic courts. One of the National interests which we would want to have served is the ability for parties in proceedings started in this country to be able to issue commission rogatoire to foreign countries to have evidence taken here. It is quite clear that this kind of legislation will result in reciprocal legislation not being available in other countries.
The Attorney-General may be aware- he ought to be aware- that there is legislation not dissimilar to this in the United Kingdom. My recollection of it is that it has been used several times in order to avoid companies in England having documents subpoenaed in United States anti-trust proceedings. When it happens, the Secretary of State in the United Kingdom does not have the kind of authority which is given here in clause 4 to the Attorney-General but has to make a statutory instrument wherein he prescribes certain documents as being, for the purposes of the legislation, documents which will not be subject to the usual letters of request in an English court. That kind of procedure provides the sanction that we should be looking for here because it could be disallowed by a vote in the Parliament. It would provide a real supervision of the Attorney’s very wide powers under clause 4. 1 am surprised that the Attorney-General does not make a much better case than he has. His calling on feelings of nationalism and patriotism he knows is not correct. He knows that this provision will lead to other countries denying our courts the opportunity to issue commission rogatoire in similar proceedings or in dissimilar proceedings, particularly those relating to corporate crime. I think the Attorney-General should address himself to this question in a more serious fashion.
-Could I come back once more to my point in relation to clause 4 (2). I do not dispute the sincerity of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), but I am not satisfied. I want to protect people. I am not happy that we should pass legislation which provides, as sub-clause (2) does, that the Attorney-. General can act in a certain way which cannot be challenged in any court. The sub-clause does not just refer to a foreign court, as the AttorneyGeneral implied. The actions of the Attorney-
General cannot be challenged in any Australian court. They cannot be challenged by any State Attorney-General or by anybody else. The second point made by the Attorney-General is that we ought to be supporting this Bill because, if I understood him correctly, it will protect Australian citizens from being exposed to foreign legislation. Clause 4 (2) reads:
The validity of any exercise-
That is fair enough- or the refusal of the exercise, of any power of the AttorneyGeneral under this Act is not affected by, and shall not be subject to challenge in any court . . .
So there is no protection for the Australian citizen; the opposite is the case. There may be an Australian citizen who would be entitled to protection under this legislation. Earlier, clause 4(1) states:
The Attorney-General shall exercise his powers . . .
It does not state that he may exercise his powers, it states that he shall exercise them. Then it states apparently that he can refuse to do that and that refusal cannot be challenged, even though it is in the interests of an Australian citizen that the Attorney-General ought to be challenged, that he ought to be exercising his powers. The Attorney-General said that he hoped no reasonable Attorney-General would do anything contrary to that. I am not one of those people who has complete faith in Attorneys-General, past or future. I will not comment on the current AttorneyGeneral. Surely this Parliament does not want to give absolute powers, powers which in this particular instance cannot be challenged in a court of law or by anybody in Australia, and that acts both ways,in relation to the exercise of his powers or his refusal to exercise his powers. We are completely in his hands and in the hands of any future Attorney-General. I for one am not prepared to accept that unless the AttorneyGeneral has a much better explanation than he has given so far by appealing to nationalism.
-For the first time, I must agree that I have never seen proposed to a Parliament legislation which could not be challenged to any court by reason of failure to comply with the provisions.
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I have just one or two things to say. Earlier the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) said that this legislation was in the national interest and that he was surprised that I was not supporting it. I want to say quite clearly now that I consider the processes of this Parliament, its right to the proper scrutiny of legislation and the duty of its membership to examine every piece of legislation which affects the rights and freedoms of citizens as much more important than defeating Westinghouse.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1-
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: “2. This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. “
Senate ‘s amendment No. 2-
In sub-clause (2), line 2, leave out “1 July 1976”, insert “the commencement of this Act”.
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to.
This Bill was passed by the House on 2 June 1976 to take effect from 1 July 1976 but honourable members will recall that the Senate rose before considering it. The Bill increases the level of liability for death of, or personal injury to, passengers carried on domestic air services from the present amount of $30,000 to $45,000. The amendment now proposed is to provide for the increased limit to take effect from the date of Royal Assent of the legislation. I believe honourable members will agree that it is desirable for the Bill to have a forward effective date. The majority of general aviation operators did not take out extra insurance cover from 1 July 1976 because the amending legislation had not passed through both Houses.
If the retrospective date of effect were retained there could be serious consequences for aircraft operators whose activities fall within the scope of the legislation. In the event of an accident occurring since 1 July 1976 many aircraft operators would be without the protection of the additional insurance cover and personally liable for excess compensation over $30,000 up to the new limit of $45,000. Any aircraft operator therefore unfortunate enough to face a claim under the legislation during its retrospective period could incur crippling and unfair expenses. I understand that insurance companies will not provide back coverage to 1 July 1976 if the commencement date is made effective retrospectively. Under a contract of insurance, insurance companies are under no obligation to accept back premiums for higher coverage. Insurance companies require prior notice of the date of effect of increased statutory liability and adequate time to arrange additional cover. The proposed amendment to the Bill by providing for a forward effective date will enable aircraft operators a reasonable time to make the necessary adjustments to their insurance arrangements. I commend the amendments to the Bill.
-This Bill, as the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said, passed through this place on 2 June. Whilst the Opposition is not opposing the amendments I would like to make a few comments on behalf of the Opposition. The Minister will recall that on the evening that this Bill was debated he had to leave the chamber. I asked him at that time whether the Government would give consideration to the points put by the Opposition. I have heard nothing from the Minister since on that. The Opposition in another place moved an amendment to this Bill to raise the limit of liability from $45,000, as provided in the Bill, to $67,000 and to provide for a biennial adjustment which would be related to average weekly earnings using 1970 as a base. There were very good grounds for moving that amendment. In 1970 when the Act was last amended and the limit was increased from $15,000 to $30,000 the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, said in the other place:
As the nominal average weekly earnings of adult males in Australia have approximately doubled since 1955, when the basis for the existing limit was established, the Government proposes that the same change be made in this limit of liability, that is to say an increase from $15,000 to $30,000. This will cost the airlines some $250,000 per annum in additional insurance premiums.
In the previous debate and in the other place the point was made that $45,000 in today’s terms would not buy even a comfortable house in Canberra. To limit the liability in regard to relatives and other people who are injured in aircraft accidents to $45,000 is wholly inadequate. In many cases people would be condemned to tragedy and hardship for the rest of their lives particularly the children of families if the breadwinners were involved.
The cost of the increase is something which we sought during the debate. Again, we have heard nothing from the Minister or the Department of Transport on the cost. By our own calculations, which I have checked, the cost of additional insurance to the airline companies to raise the limit of liability from $45,000 to $67,000 would be 5.7c per passenger flight- about half the price of a packet of Juicy Fruit. Surely that is a financial burden that the airlines, considering that Ansett Airlines of Australia showed a profit of $14m just recently, can bear. The impact of serious injury or loss of life in an aircraft accident is severe. I repeat: $45,000 is wholly inadequate. I again ask the Minister and the Parliament to give further consideration to this matter. We do not want to delay the passage of the legislation because an accident could occur at any time before the legislation receives royal assent. For that reason I again ask the Minister to consider the points we have put. We say quite strongly that the limit on compensation should be related to the average weekly earnings of the year 1955 as put forward by the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, in 1970. The other point I wanted to make -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Before the honourable gentleman goes any further I am having a little trouble establishing the relevance of his speech to the clauses that have been amended. I invite him to speak to the clauses that are before the Chair.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I appreciate your guidance and your inquiry, but I was referring specifically to the first part of the Minister’s explanatory statement on these amendments .which refers to an increase in the amount of compensation from $30,000 to $45,000.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I do not know whether it is relevant to do so. The matter before the Committee is the amendments sent from the Senate. As I understand it, the Committee should be dealing with the 2 clauses that have been amended.
-I submit, with the greatest respect, that if it is relevant for the Minister to introduce these amendments and refer to the increase in compensation surely in any reasonable interpretation I ought to be able to respond.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-I did not know to which speech of the Minister the honourable member was referring.
-Passing on from that point, I want to emphasise, on behalf of the Opposition, that it is a disgrace that these amendments are before the Committee tonight. This Bill went through the House on 2 June. The Senate sat on the evening of 2 June and on 3 June and 4 June. At the time the Opposition understood that the Minister thought it important that this legislation pass through the House before 1 July which was the operative date. What has happened since is what we indicated might happen. There have been aircraft accidents and people have been injured. I do not want to reflect on their personal positions. Surely the people and the families who would have benefited if this legislation had gone through, as I know the Minister wanted it to go through at the time, should not be disadvantaged by the fact that the legislation did not go through the Senate prior to 1 July. On the Opposition’s behalf I ask the Minister to do what he can to see that people who have been affected by the late passage of this legislation are in some way compensated or assisted so that they are not disadvantaged as a result of the Senate’s delay in not dealing with the legislation. I conclude on the point that if there is to be a continuation of arrogance on the part of this Government surely the people of Australia will take note of the fact.
– in reply- In case somebody misunderstands what the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) is talking about- I would not be surprised if that were the case- I ought to explain to the Committee that what has happened has not happened because of the arrogance on the part of the Government. But we were concerned to have the amendments passed tonight and not earlier than tonight because there has been an outstanding matter that occurred after 2 June. We have been able to resolve that matter satisfactorily. Ex gratia payments will be made to the people involved in a certain accident. I do not want to say any more than that. However, I would like the Committee to know that nobody has been disadvantaged by the delay of the passage of this Bill from 2 June as a result of those ex gratia payments. It was essential that we fix a date for the House to pass the amendments. I am pleased to say that there seems to be no trouble with the Opposition in the Senate. The amendments have been carried through that place. I look forward to their being passed in this place.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1-
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. ‘.
The amendments made by sections 3 and 4 do not apply in relation to any accident or occurrence that took place before 1 July 1976.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 2-
Leave out ‘ 1 July 1976’, insert ‘ the commencement of this Act”.
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to.
This Bill complements the Civil Aviation (Carriers ‘ Liability) Amendment Bill 1 976. It amends the title of the principal Act from the Air Accidents (Australian Government Liability) Act to the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Act. This is consistent with the general policy of the Government as announced earlier this year. The Bill further provides that the maximum amount of the Commonwealth liability in respect of death or injury resulting from air accidents be increased from $30,000 to $45,000. I commend the Bill to the Committee.
-The effect of this amendment is to change the operative date from 1 July 1976, as inserted in the original Bill, on 2 June, to a date which would be from the commencement of this Act. The remarks I made in respect to the earlier Bill- the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Amendment Bill- are also pertinent to this amendment. I do not wish to delay the Committee with the passage of the Bill. The Opposition does not oppose the amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I do not wish to delay the House, but to enable me to make my personal explanation I will have to read what was stated in a question placed on the notice paper. It appears at page 2742 of the Hansard record of 16 November 1976. It is question upon notice No. 935 and is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). In parts 2 and 3 of the question I asked:
The Minister’s answer to parts 2 and 3 of my question which appeared in Hansard reads as follows:
That is completely untrue. On 10 December 1975 I telephoned the Department inquiring after an answer to my telegram. The officer who spoke to me gave me a message. I asked him: How can you give me a message in reply to that telegram if you have not received it’. He said to me: ‘We heard it on the program AM on Monday morning’. I wish to make the point clear that I did not tell the department. I was told that they had heard it on the radio.
– I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the defence White Paper. I consider this Paper to be one of the most significant documents that the Government has issued. I consider that it is significant because for the first time a government document- a defence White Paper- has come out with a very clear message to the people of Australia that we cannot continue to rely on the support envisaged in the ANZUS Treaty. It sets out m very clear terms that there are severe limits on the extent to which we can rely on that treaty. I refer to paragraph 9 on page 2 of the paper which states:
The United States has now disengaged militarily from the mainland of South East Asia.
It goes on to say:
There must be large questions about the circumstances that could move the US Administration and Congress to agree to become militarily involved there again, particularly with ground forces.
This is reinforced later in the report at paragraph 8 on page 10 where it says:
Short of this major, and improbable, situation, one could face a range of other situations that we should expect to handle more independently. It is not our policy, nor would it be prudent, to rely upon US combat help in all circumstances. Indeed it is possible to envisage a range of situations in which the threshhold of direct US combat involvement could be quite high.
That is very significant because for many years it has been stressed on the Australian public that the ANZUS Treaty is the linchpin of Australia’s defence and many people in recent years have questioned just how strong is that linchpin. It is very good to see this paper, and I commend it for saying clearly that there are very severe limits to the effectiveness of the ANZUS Treaty. If we look historically at how we have fared under the ANZUS Treaty it is apparent that it has served the American interest much better than it has served the Australian interest. Since the last World War we have been involved in 2 land wars, in Korea and in Vietnam, both of which I would say were in the American rather than our interest, and in the interest of the now discredited domino theory. American forces have not been involved in our interest in any way. If we had wanted to take a more independent policy in West Irian or, more recently, in Timor we would have been inhibited in doing so because of the lack of American support. America just was not interested in looking after our interest in those areas.
This is a very good statement and I commend it for saying clearly that there are severe limitations on the ANZUS Treaty. That is the positive aspect of the paper. However, it also is significant because of its negative aspects and although it points out the different situation in which we are now placed strategically and says that we have to take a more independent role in the continental defence, it does not tell us how we are to do that. It does not indicate any new analysis or reassessment of the needs to do that or tell us how we can do it. The White Paper in fact shows up glaring deficiencies in both our defence organisation and defence equipment. One of the most glaring shortcomings, and I say this in a non-partisan way because it is not something which has happened recently, is the low proportion of our defence expenditure which is devoted to equipment compared with other nations. This past year I understand it was only about 8 per cent. To the Government’s credit it is increasing it to 13 per cent in 1976-77 and hopes to increase it to 22 per cent by 1981. However, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics spent 27 per cent on equipment, the United States of America 30 per cent and West Germany about 30 per cent. So we are spending considerably less than are other nations and much less than half of our defence budget goes on equipment. However, I concede that it is not a straight comparison because our manpower costs are relatively high.
The other disturbing aspect of our equipment situation is the emphasis on replacement by more of the same thing. There is no analysis of the different options we might follow to meet the new strategic demands which the White Paper points out very well. There is no reassessment of our needs. All we see is that the usual sorts of equipment are being replaced with the same sort of equipment but in later models. This applies to tanks, destroyers and reconnaissance aircraft. We are getting more of the same and nothing new. There is no questioning of the cost effectiveness of these items of equipment. It has been said by many people that we should question the cost effectiveness, for instance, of destroyers as compared with fast patrol boats. Many people think that fast patrol boats would be much more appropriate to the new needs which have been outlined effectively in the strategic assessment. There is a grave inconsistency here because the White Paper points out the new defence environment in which we live and says that we have to be more independent, less dependent on the United States and we have to organise ourselves for more joint force operations; but there is no reassessment of how we should do this. There is provision of more of the same equipment.
It says that we have to respond quickly but historically we have usually been concerned with supplementing other countries’ forces as we did for America and as we did during the war in the islands and in Vietnam. The White Paper however indicates that we should not do that. It says that we have to stand on our own feet but there is no mention of the equipment that would enable us to do this in the most effective way. I question too the retention of the divisional organisationa divisional structure- because the strategic assessment does not indicate that we would be likely to use divisions. We would be more likely to use regimental, battalion or brigade forces. So why do we retain the divisional organization? In chapter 7 there is no discussion on the vulnerability of defence facilities. It is all right to have all these facilities but they are vulnerable and this aspect is not discussed in any way. There is no reassessment of how they can be made less vulnerable and despite the vulnerability of some of our defence being disclosed by cyclone Tracy in Darwin, we find that those facilities have been replaced by the same sort of facilities in the same situations. They are just as vulnerable now as they were when cyclone Tracy hit them.
I am disappointed that there was no reference to military aid to Indonesia. Although I know that many people will justify this there are others who question the propriety of Australia giving approximately $30m of taxpayers’ money m defence aid to Indonesia which is likely to use this aid, even in an indirect way, to subsidise acts of aggression on defenceless neighbours. Many people question this. There is no reference in the whole of the assessment to Timor. It does not get a mention. Vietnam does not get a mention although a few years ago the whole thing was about Vietnam. It was the great threat to Australia under the domino theory. Now the wheel has turned and we do not get a word about Vietnam. There is a chapter on what the objectives should be in relation to defence capability but there is no assurance that the plans outlined in the White Paper go any way towards achieving those objectives. The White Paper poses the problems but does not give the answers.
I want now to mention very briefly the inadequacy of any mention of political rights in the conditions of service. I know that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is endeavouring to correct this deficiency and I hope he persists with it. Other Ministers have tried to correct it but for some reason have not succeeded. I know that there is considerable opposition, particularly in the bureaucracy, to liberalising the political rights of servicemen, but now that they have been liberalised for public servants they should be liberalised to the same degree for servicemen.
What we should be really concerned about in this paper is that there is no overall strategy set out for our continental defence. There is no indication of how we are planning to handle this continental defence and to meet contingencies. Perhaps the public should not know, but when people in the Services, including high ranking officers, do not know what the overall strategy is or what the contingencies are we should be concerned. There is a lack of clear direction and purpose in our defence planning. That is a serious deficiency and I hope the Minister will say something about it. There is no existing command control organisation in the Australian defence organisation. There is no Australian defence command. All we know is that there is a CommanderinChief who lives at Yarralumla. If there were a war tomorrow there is no on-going organised command which could take over. Certainly we have a Chief of the General Staff and heads of the various armed forces, but the process of setting up a command organisation would have to start from scratch. In other countries these are permanent establishments. The command organisation is there ready to be put into operation at a moment’s notice. We have no such organisation.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m. in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I refer to an article written by Mr Alan Reid in the Bulletin of 13 November. This is the second article by Mr Alan Reid, who is a senior member of the Press Gallery, in which he has made attempts to silence me in the House of Representatives, which is the people’s House. He will not succeed in doing so as long as there is breath in my body and my vocal chords will ring out. His first attack on me was some years ago when I raised a matter in this Parliament concerning the biggest illegal abortion clinic that ever operated in this countrythe Heather Brae abortion clinic at Bondi. Some 18 months after my mentioning and disclosing this matter in this Parliament- he accused me of doing so under parliamentary privilege- three to five people from this clinic were charged before the criminal court in Sydney and three or four of those people whom I named in my speech in the adjournment debate for which Mr Alan Reid criticised me were named in the annual reports of the Commissioner of Taxation for underestimating their illicit income of well over $200,000. That is the type of thing that I have disclosed in this House.
In his recent article Alan Reid criticised me for bringing up a particular series of matters. He tabbed me as the portrait of a bucket-dropper. He accused me of making unfair allegations about Mr Gorton. On my recollection of my allegations about Mr Gorton or the questions that I put to Mr Gorton- Hansard will prove me right- Mr Gorton would thank me for bringing the matter forward. I believe that that man was threatened with blackmail. That is one of the main reasons why I mentioned the incident concerning him.
Alan Reid has accused me of making unfair criticism of a solicitor who, in my view, is unscrupulous. Time will tell as to that, if honourable members are not satisfied now. I am referring to a Mr Danny Sankey, who launched criminal proceedings against the former Prime Minister of this country -
– Is he not connected with the case at Queanbeyan?
– Yes. Mr Alan Reid said in his recent article that I had made unfair allegations under the privilege of Parliament. Among the unfair allegations, he said, was a suggestion that Mr Sankey had a part-ownership in a girlie bar in Sydney. I made those allegations. I stand by the allegations. A certain government department, the identity of which I would not disclose, has on its records information which shows that Mr Sankey is a part-owner of the Caprice restaurant at Double Bay. Yesterday an article appeared in the Daily Mirror which reads:
A Sydney solicitor, Mr Danny Sankey, is risking a personal fortune to wage one of the most unusual court battles in Australian legal history.
The article said that it had been estimated that Mr Sankey will have to meet an expense of $30,000 to wage a prosecution against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and another former senior Minister of the Whitlam Administration. I come now to an article in yesterday’s Australian, which refers to a mystery man:
Adnan Khashoggi described as the biggest middle man in the world, flies into Australia on Friday on board his private Boeing 727 for an undisclosed purpose.
The 4 1 -year old Arab is the master broker between Saudi Arabia and Western industry and is reported to be worth $100m.
My information is that this man buys arms which are intended to be used against Israel by certain Arab countries. My information also is- if I am wrong I shall readily get up and apologise- that he is to be entertained at the Caprice restaurant at Double Bay next Friday night. That is the restaurant of which Mr Danny Sankey is a part owner. That might well answer from where Danny Sankey is to find $30,000 to meet his legal expenses.
– What do the meals cost?
– I do not know. You would know better than 1. 1 do not frequent those places.
– Arab money will pay for it.
– Arab money is probably paying the costs of Danny Sankey. It may come from this multi-millionaire gun runner who is negotiating arms deals.
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This evening I would like to say a couple of a words about the safety of nuclear power and also the results of recent public opinion polls in Australia and the United States of America. The recent Fox report referred to the many wildly exaggerated statements made about the risks and dangers of nuclear energy production by those opposed to it. Misleading and unfounded propaganda of the anti-nuclear lobby is continuing to confuse and worry the public. This anti-nuclear lobby has deliberately made it difficult for the average citizen to make a well-based assessment. Yet, with all of that anti-nuclear propaganda, the most recent public opinion poll in Australia- that is, the gallup poll of 5 November 1976- is in line with some of the voting in the United States, about which I will speak a little later. The first fact is that 70 per cent of those Australians polled are in favour of nuclear energy. I do not think it is really relevant to mention the 17 per cent who are against it or the 1 3 per cent who do not know. I suppose one can split those who say they do not know, half and half. Anyway, 70 per cent are in favour of Northern Territory uranium mining; 50 per cent are in favour of encouraging the sale of Australian uranium overseas; and 71 per cent are in favour of Australia developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
I think this is a tremendous tribute to the common sense of the average Australian voter such as I find in my electorate and such as individual members on both sides of the House find in their electorates. If honourable members opposite were honest enough to admit it they would tell this House at appropriate times of what people have told them about this matter. The people of this country are not fooled by all of this antinuclear propaganda. I think they have made up their minds pretty conclusively to back what I think will be the Government’s decision- I am’ not supposed to be speaking about uranium mines- to go ahead and develop nuclear power plants.
I refer now to the voting in the United States. It should be remembered that a tremendous fear campaign was conducted by the anti-nuclear lobby in the United States. Voters in 7 States of the United States, representing about 20 per cent of the population, have now strongly endorsed nuclear energy. I think honourable members will recollect that the first significant breakthrough was in California in June. We were told by the anti-nuclear lobby that our side of the question had no hope of carrying the vote in California. It was carried quite considerably. Now Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Ohio and Washington have rejected all of the nonsense from the anti-nuclear lobby by a majority of about two to one. This has happened in spite of the tremendous efforts of that great propagandist, Ralph Nader.
The facts of the safety of nuclear power are quite plain. It has been proved to be among the safest industries yet established in the world. Official United States figures show that the annual death rate in the coal industry is 1 1 times greater than that in the nuclear industry, including mining, that injuries are 7 times greater in the coal industry and that man days lost are 10 times greater. Radio active waste has been handled completely safely over the 20 year history of nuclear power production and plans now in hand for handling the waste material are technically sound and feasible and will lead to a continuation of this excellent record as the industry grows.
– What does Dr Mosley say?
– I propose not to devote much time to Dr Mosley. I think the House is well aware of my opinions about him. After today I fear that Mr Speaker might be severe on me if I say what I really think about Dr Mosley. In any case I think the case is pretty well proven. Ever since the Teller report 27 years ago in the United States there has been an unparalleled safety record for nuclear power. No matter how many lies are told about that record and no matter how much emotion is generated, it cannot be surpassed.
– It is part of the history of Australia today that Mr B. A. Santamaria, particularly during the first half of the 1950s, planted people in the Australian Labor Party to change the course of the policy of that Party from one of reform to one of conservatism and one advocating the status quo. These people were put in as plants. It is also beginning to be part of the history of Australia today that certain officials in the Liberal Party are very concerned about the same sort of thing happening in the Liberal Party today.
– Who are they?
– Up to 3 years ago the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) was State secretary of the Democratic Labor Party in Western Australia, Mr Santamaria ‘s party. I have here tonight a document called an information sheet which is returned by branches of the Labor Party to its head office. This one was received at the head office on 26 March 1953. It refers to the Gordon Branch of the Australian Labor Party in Sydney. Who does it show as secretary? The secretary was none other than Michael E. Baume, of 32 Bent Street, Lindfield.
– And he saw the light.
– Far from seeing the light, Mr Michael Baume, of Patrick Partners and all that, is noted as a most Machiavellian fellow. He was one of the people planted by Mr Santamaria in the Gordon Branch of the Australian Labor Party back in the early 1950s. Finally, of course, in 1956, at the appropriate time- I point out that I know that branch very well; I lived only 4 miles from it and therefore I know its history- that branch split and joined the Democratic Labor Party. Its members then found that their ambitions could not be satisfied, just like the honourable member for Swan, so they infiltrated the Liberal Party. So today here we have Michael E. Baume, who is the honourable member for Macarthur, and the honourable member for Swan. They are in the Liberal Party. Is it any wonder that officials of the Liberal Party are very deeply concerned about the infiltration of the Santamaria movement into the Liberal Party today. That is why I brought this document forward tonight. It is a very interesting document, one which nobody had heard of before. The honourable member for Macarthur has not admitted this before. In his Machiavellian manner he has made sure that he was a plant in the Labor Party. Then he went to the Democratic Labor Party and now he in the Liberal Party. I ask leave to table this document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– If leave is granted I have made my point. Perhaps I should incorporate it in Hansard I ask leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– Well I shall have to read it. It states:
Australian Labor Party-New South Wales branch, Branch officers elected; meetings arranged for 19S0;
It does not give the exact date but there is a date stamp on it for 26 March 1953. Beneath that the document reads:
Name of Branch: GORDON; State Electorate: GORDON; Secretary: Michael E. Baume; Federal Electorate: BRADFIELD; Address: 32 Bent St, LINDFIELD, N.S.W.; Municipality or Shire: Ku-Ring-Gai; Phone No.: JM3254; President: C. H. Jackson.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented? If so he is entitled to make a personal explanation.
-I call the honourable member for Macarthur.
– It was alleged incorrectly just now by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) that I had ‘not admitted it before’. He was relating to what one could call a temporary aberration on my part, the enthusiasm of youth, the time when I was a very good secretary of the Gordon Branch of the Australian Labor Party. What the honourable member said was totally untrue. Before my preselection for the Liberal Party I stated very clearly at that preselection meeting, and in fact in many meetings, that I had been a member of the Labor Party. In fact I put very strongly at such meetings that as a member of the Labor Party I had come to realise the dangers of the authoritative nature of that Party and for that reason I had left it.
– It is now no longer possible to go on reading about all the nonsense written about our Australian Constitution and the events of last year without making some protest. What the Queen can or cannot do in England has only marginal relevance to us here. Our Constitution is clearly written down in the Act of 1901 whereas the constitution of England is entirely a matter of practise and custom. One look at the authority on our Constitution, Quick and Garran, will convince most people with the barest understanding of constitutional law that it is based on the Dominion of Canada Act and 2 ideas taken from the Constitutions of Switzerland and the United States of America.
The tripartite system is absolutely clear. Chapter 1 of the Constitution states simply that there shall be the Queen, a Senate and a House of Representatives- in that order. The House of Representatives was created to look after all Australians. The Senate was created to look after the interests of the States. Therefore both Houses have equal powers except that the Senate may only defer or reject a Supply Bill; it cannot alter it.
The Federation would never have succeeded if the Senate had not been created. Its purpose is clear and simple. It was designed to make sure that at any time no one State or combination of States could dominate the Federation. Therefore to get rid of the Senate would immediately place Victoria and New South Wales, because of their political numbers, in political power. Such a situation would not be tolerated by South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland or even the Northern Territory. The Constitution even makes provisions for a deadlock. This is clearly laid down and is clearly to be observed. What are the reserve powers? Apparently the nation does not know them. The Governor-General has them and can use them in time of emergency. I draw attention to section 5 of part I which states:
The Govenor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of Parliament as he thinks fit.
He may from time to time, by proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament and likewise dissolve the House of Representatives as he thinks fit. The real problem is that nobody has taught our children the Constitution. Therefore, if we do not understand the issues, it is our own fault. The High Court was created to concern itself with any matter or any irregularity in the Constitution. That is why at the present time the Opposition has never brought any case against the Governor-General or the Chief Justice of the High Court. All this year the former Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, has complained that the Governor-General acted wrongly. Mr Whitlam went to Buckingham Palace and suffered a Chinese earthquake. He came to the conclusion that, after all, it was the fault of Sir Garfield Barwick. The Labor Caucus tried to do something absolutely ridiculous. It tried to have the Chief Justice of the High Court impeached. The Labor Party is now running around calling for a republic and asking this nation to tear up the Constitution which protects the States and protects the liberties of every Australian. I say this: Those whom the ancient Gods wish to destroy, they first send mad. Whereas we are perfectly willing to agree that the Constitution could be revised, nobody with any sense of responsibility could possibly agree that the Constitution is valid and sensible and should not be altered without the concurrence of the entire nation.
– I do not normally avail myself of the opportunity of speaking on the adjournment debate. I merely do this so that there can be on record within my constituency a correct statement in relation to an article which appeared in a newspaper, which has a circulation of about 1 SOO in a total of some 80 000, about my attitude in a debate which took place in the Caucus of my Party yesterday. I do not normally refer to those debates but because of the stupidity and maliciousness of that report I want to correct what appears in today’s issue of the Australian. It was suggested that I had supported an amendment moved in relation to the usage of uranium by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). I respect him and what he did. I did not support the amendment. I supported and in fact gave assistance to Senator Button in the preparation of the motion which was successfully carried. I mention an Adelaide newspaper, also published today, which is never read in my electorate and which has no effect, of course, on public opinion. For the benefit of my supporters in Adelaide I state that this report is completely fallacious. In this article the newspaper was not sure. It feared there might be litigation. The writer said that he supposed that I opposed Mr Keating. I did not. I supported him. I commend his attitude to the people of Australia and to the people of my Party. I have always worked on the principle that the dogs may bark but the caravan moves on. I have a very real contempt for the veracity, the mendacity and the capacity for evil of substantial sections of the metropolitan Press of Australia. They are a distinct disgrace to Australia.
– Tonight, in 5 minutes, I also wish to comment about a newspaper editorial which appeared in the Melbourne Age of Wednesday, 17 November. The editorial refers to certain remarks which were alleged to have been made in relation to China. The appropriate sentence of the editorial states:
This is not to endorse the rigid anti-communist line … Mr Wentworth . . . and Mr Cairns, of Queensland.
The Age has often been guilty of abysmal ignorance in relation to many of its policies and attitudes. It is wrong in this case. It has perpetrated an error and I request that it not continue to perpetrate this error. I have requested evidence for oft quoted principles in relation to our China policy. I have done this in a way which is not intended to criticise or to scarify. But I have requested evidence for oft quoted principles which underlie diplomatic attitudes which have been proposed by the Age. The 2 principles for which I seek evidence are these: It has been stated that China has a policy now of promoting stability in South East Asia which is similar to our policy. I ask: What is the evidence for that policy? I am aware that insurgency is being promoted quite deliberately in Burma, northwest and south-west Thailand and on the border of Malaysia. I am aware that China is responsible for promoting insurgency there. In the face of that evidence I merely request evidence for the principle that China’s policy is related to a similar view held by Australians or others on stability in South East Asia. Where is the evidence? The Age may be able to produce the evidence. I ask for it.
The second point with which I want to deal in the few minutes available to me is this: I refer to the non-interference principle which has been promoted by China and accepted by the Age in a number of its comments. The non-interference principle has been that China has said: ‘We will let government to government relations be quite separate and distinct from party to party relations’. That principle has been quoted over and over again and it is then presumed to represent a new era of peace and goodwill in South East Asia for which China has a predominate, searching and apparently a sincere role. I cannot see the evidence. When I listened to broadcasts which are made continually from southern China promoting insurgency I wonder whether the Age and other journals are aware of the fact that the activities of the Communist Party in China visavis Communist parties in other parts of the world are distinct from attitudes between the Chinese Government and other governments. If that principle is stated without anyone seeking evidence for it, all it does is merely allow China a free hand through insurgency movements to promote instability in South East Asia. So when the Age criticises people for taking a rigid anticommunist line, I hope it realises that any line ought to depend upon the evidence which supports it. If it is rigid, conservative anticommunism to ask for the evidence which underlay principles which have been supported by the Age then I believe that that is a rational and sensible attitude to take. What I have said is not intended to criticise. Nor is it intended to scarify any policy or proposal. My queries are balanced. I hope that they will be taken as such. They should be put at nothing less and nothing higher. In this case the Age in its editorial has been guilty of abysmal ignorance. It has based its editorial on quite inadequate evidence and information. I hope that if the Age refers to this matter in the future it will not continue to wallow in what has become an abysmal ignorance in relation to some of its foreign policy comments, especially in its editorials.
-Tonight I welcome the opportunity to raise with the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), who with characteristic courtesy is in the House as a result of my advising him that I would raise these matters, the rights of serving members of the defence forces to participate in political parties. I understand from the complaints I receive, often from various sources, that with varying degrees of strictness the armed Services discourage members from participation as active members of political parties. My experience locally- that is Ipswich where the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley functions- is that there is no impediment, at least of which I am aware, placed in the way of armed Service personnel. I would hate my query which I am raising to be interpreted as some sort of criticism of the officer in command of that base. Queries come to me frequently, because of my responsibility to speak for the Opposition on defence matters, largely through correspondence. Lately I have been receiving communications from the Canberra city branch of the Australian Labor Party on this issue.
Very shortly, my request to the Minister is: Can he give some sort of an indication as to the position and his thinking about the rights of serving members of the armed Services to have membership and participate actively in political parties. I think it undesirable that any person in a democratic society be denied that basic right. I accept the principle, however, that a distinction must be made between the role of Sergeant Bloggs, Petty Officer Smith, or Flight Sergeant Innes on the one hand and their role as Mr Bloggs, Mr Smith, or Mr Innes on the other hand. Will the Minister be kind enough to consider this matter.
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the debate is interrupted. Does the Minister wish to extend the debate?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. May I say to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) that I find myself in substantial sympathy with the case he has put to the House. I have looked at the regulations governing the relationship of members of the Services with political parties. I think they are anachronistic. I would like my honourable friend to know that the regulations are currently under study. For my part, I would seek to interpret them liberally- I do not use that word in any fierce sense, I use it in its technical sense.
– In its real sense.
– My honourable friend says in its real sense. My only reservation, as presently minded, is that I would seek to protect the uniform from being sullied by any fierce political conflict. For example, I think it would be sad if we saw the mythical Sergeant Bloggs, to whom the honourable member referred, in uniform and involved in one cause or the other. Of course the members of the armed Services have political attitudes, affinities and allegiances. It would be unreal if they did not, and the Parliament, the country, does not serve itself well if it seeks to pretend otherwise. The armed Services have an immaculate sense of loyalty to governments; nevertheless the people who serve do have attitudes.
– You might say that that is the quality of their conception.
– Yes. I would like my friend to know that I have looked at the regulations. I have them here, but I do not seek to weary the House by referring to them. I have discussed their import and their impact with the various legal officers of the Services. I think there is a clear need to tidy them up. When a person comes out of civilian life and joins one of the Services he does not shrug off easily his political attitude, and that is the view my friend has put. Might I say, Mr Speaker, that you and I have sat together in this Parliament for 2 1 years.
-It has gone like that!
– You have a fragrance of expression, Mr Speaker, which rivals only your fragrance of memory. I cannot recall, and I say this to my friend the honourable member for Oxley, one occasion in all of those years on which any member on either side of the House has raised the case of a member of the armed Services who has been subject to some discipline, to some form of punishment, to some penalty because of his political allegiance. I would like my friend from Oxley to know just that, but I give him the assurance and give the House the assurance that I have the matter under study at the moment. When that study is finished, of course I will come back to the House and give the result.
-The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 30 November next at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The level of acting duty prevailing in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs results from the need to retain vacant positions in Canberra and State Branches into which officers returning from service overseas can be absorbed at their substantive classifications.
Reducing establishments overseas and in Australia and the structural rearrangements which have taken place affecting Immigration functions and staffing over recent years, have also been contributing factors.
The above figures were effective as at 31 August 1976. They include officers who hold positions (with exempt conditions) with the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications and officers working with the Commissioner for Community Relations.
Liaison Officers in Migration Posts (Question No. 973)
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the Convention, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is charged with the task of supervising international conventions providing for the protection of refugees. (2 (a) I understand that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees does not recognise displaced Lebanese as coming within Article 1 (2) of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has accorded refugee status to some Chileans outside Chile, presumably because their situation conforms with the terms of Article 1 (2).
am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government’s decision on these matters to provide an additional $25m in funds was reported to the House in my statement of S October.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1), (2) and (3) No such directive has been issued to any Aboriginal legal service.
At the beginning of this financial year all services were advised of interim proposals for operational guidelines.
The interim guidelines recognised that in no year since the establishment of Aboriginal Legal Services have funds been sufficient to provide representations for all Aboriginals in all courts. The guidelines suggested that Services may need to be selective m the types of cases they sought to represent in order to meet priority needs and contain their operations within their budget and set out some possible criteria for selectivity.
I chaired a conference on 14 and 1 S October with the Services at which the guidelines and mutually acceptable terms for the long term operation of the Services were discussed. Substantial progress was made and I expect that a further conference next December or January will set the course for the future.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The remaining questions do not fall within my Ministerial responsibility but I have received the following information from ATN Channel 7 which may be of interest to the honourable member
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
Will he ensure that, before the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976 proceeds, maps are available to Members showing the areas described in the Schedule to the Bill.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. A small map is available, on request, from my office or from my Department showing the reserves and other areas listed in the Schedule to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill.
I am informed that the Parliamentary Library is ordering copies of the Northern Territory pastoral map which shows the Aboriginal reserves and mission lease areas listed in the Schedule.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
Will he publish a monthly register of strikes, work to regulation campaigns, etc., showing (a) the type of strike, (b) whether it is political or industrial, (c) the demands made by the strikers and (d) how the decision was made to take the action, in order to bring to the notice of the people of Australia the extent of this action and its cost to the country?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Bureau of Statistics issues, on a monthly basis, estimates of:
a ) the number of industrial disputes;
the number of workers involved;
the working days lost; and
the loss in wages.
Each quarter the Bureau also issues information on the causes of disputes and the means of settlement. The Bureau ‘s statistics refer only to disputes involving stoppages of work of ten man-days or more.
Although the Bureau’s statistics do not include instances where no stoppage of work is involved or where the stoppage involves less than 10 man-days, they do give a good indication of the extent of direct industrial action. The publication of a register in the detail suggested would duplicate to some degree the Bureau’s work and would involve considerable Departmental resources.
For these reasons I do not consider the time and expense which would be involved in the preparation and publication of another register along the lines suggested by the honourable member could be justified.
Defence Force Members on Secondment (Question No. 1256)
am asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) It is true that no organisation in Morwell has as yet been funded, but the question of their viability has not yet arisen as no Aboriginal organisation in the area has submitted a request for funds.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
Territory on 3 1 December 1976, as evidenced by motions recently passed at the Northern Land Council and at the land rights meeting in Sydney attended by Aboriginal delegates from all over Australia.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I indicated in that reply, I do not believe that any extension of the freeze is required, but I will be glad to consider requests for an extension if it can be established that it is necessary.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
-The Minister for Administrative Services has supplied the following information:
This policy has been followed in relation to the supply of vehicles mentioned in the answer to part 1 of the question.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Materials for Telephone Books
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question without notice on 7 October 1976:
Were tenders by an Australian company for the supply of materials for Australian telephone books rejected? Were the contracts let to firms outside Australia?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A tender from an Australian manufacturer was received by Telecom Australia for some telephone directory paper but because the prices submitted were substantially higher than overseas tenderers, the tender was not accepted.
The following contracts for directory paper have been let:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) The following States have established an Urban Land Council or a Land Commission-
All of these bodies are currently confining their development programs to the capital cities. However, three of them have land holdings for future urban development outside the capital cities.
Western Australia- Moore River Area.
The South Australian Land Commission was established by legislation in November 1 973.
With respect to South Australia, three factors are evident-
It is not possible however to quantify its effects categorically because of intervening influences over the time period the program has been introduced, because of movements in the general economy, increases in the costs of servicing, and the introduction of price stabilisation legislation in South Australia.
A recent comparison of land prices in the limited areas in which the Victorian and Western Australian Councils have placed some land on the market suggests that these bodies are able to sell lots substantially below other comparable lands.
I have directed my Department to carry out a continual monitoring of land prices for serviced housing blocks in major metropolitan areas, and will inform the House of progress in this regard later in the year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761118_reps_30_hor102/>.