30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide50 per cent of all funding for Australia’ s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5, 903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Burr, Mr Carige and Mr Giles.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman, Mr Ian Robinson and Mr Antony Whitlam.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman and Mr Lusher.
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 Zone Allowance Provisions currently included in the Income Tax Assessment Act require variation from the point of view of boundaries and value of the allowances in view of the substantial changes of circumstances over the last decade, brought about by the coal mining enterprises in the Central Queensland Highlands.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we request that your Government take immediate action to have established at Moranbah, A.B.C. television without further delay. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlogin construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution. by Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia who are employed as Federal Public servants respectfully showeth that many Australians are deeply concerned at the decisions by the Australian Government to:
Your petitioners most humbly ask that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to rectify this situation. by Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government, through its appropriate authorities controlling the establishment of television services, provide these services to the Eyre Peninsula region of South Australia as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the House take note of the Ministerial Statement relating to uranium exports made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development on 1 1 November 1976.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the White Paper of the Minister for Defence presented to the House on 4 November 1976 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 as soon as possible.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House:
Expresses its concern at the recent and increasing practice of personal and offensive attacks being made on the honesty and integrity of members of the Australian Bar in order to discredit them in the eyes of the court and the jury at a time when they are directly involved in appearing before the courts on behalf of their clients who are either standing for trial or are involved in legal proceedings; and
Invites the Standing Orders Committee to recommend amendments to the Standing Orders so that the reputation and the honour of the members of the Bar will not be discussed in debate when they are at that time appearing in the courts of law in Australia.
-I ask the Deputy Prime
Minister: What is the rationale behind his claim yesterday that inflation fell by 6 per cent last year; or has the Government ceased to pretend that its claims concerning economic performance -
-Order! The honourable member is now arguing the issue. The question has been asked. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
-The level of inflation is based on 2 sets of figures. There are the broadly based Statistician’s figures in relation to all price increases and there are the consumer price index figures. If the Medibank factor is taken out of the
CPI figures it will be seen that our rate of inflation is running in the vicinity of approximately 10.5 per cent in both cases.
– Has the Prime Minister considered the proposal which has been put forward by an eminent Australian political figure to pay the unemployment benefit to married women, recognised as being unemployed, having become redundant -
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The question is clearly based on a false newspaper report. It could not be based otherwise because no such statement was made. If honourable gentlemen opposite find that funny I will seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the total text of the statement. The point of order I take is that the question is based on a false newspaper report and therefore should be ruled out of order. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
-I will take one matter at a time. I ask the honourable member for North Sydney to repeat the question.
– I seek leave to have this document, which is an accurate copy of the speech, incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Not until I am given a copy of it.
-Do I understand that the right honourable gentleman wishes to see a copy of the statement before he responds to the request?
-I call upon the honourable member for North Sydney to repeat the question.
-The question is this: Has the Prime Minister considered the proposal which was put forward by an eminent Australian political figure to pay the unemployment benefit to married women, recognised as being unemployed, having become redundant or otherwise unable to maintain the second salary of the family?
-Questions without notice which are based on newspaper reports are out of order, but it has been the practice of the House to permit questions based on newspaper reports. That has been the will and the wish of the House. However, if a question is based on a newspaper report and its accuracy is challenged it is necessary for the person asking the question to vouch for the accuracy of the report. I call upon the honourable member for North Sydney to indicate whether he can vouch for the accuracy of the report.
– I have seen some extremely handsome, eminent political figures on television in the city of Sydney, and I am of the judgment that what was said related to the question I have addressed to the Prime Minister.
-The honourable member vouches for the accuracy of the report. I call the Prime Minister.
– I think the question asked by the honourable gentleman is certainly of some interest to this House because over the weekend statements have been made which have been reported in such a way as to indicate that the proposals contained in those statements would certainly add very greatly to the burden of taxpayers in the Australian community. They would add in the same way as the previous Administration added without thought to the burden of taxpayers, believing that money would grow on trees, promoting the philosophy of a cargo cult, in an utterly irresponsible manner and in a manner which has caused by far the greater part of the grave economic problems which this Government has had to face. The Leader of the Opposition said over the weekend, according to his own transcript, that there should be greater access to unemployment benefits, the same access to job training schemes, wage indexation and unemployment benefits. The only interpretation that that can be given is that there should be no income test for families in relation to unemployment benefits.
-Mr Speaker, I take the point that not only was the question unable to be authenticated but also the Prime Minister has now seen, and everybody in tomorrow’s Hansard can see the full text, and the Prime Minister is misquoting it. He misunderstands it or he misquotes it. There are no two ways about it. The text will speak for itself.
-The right honourable Prime Minister has been called to answer the question. The Minister- that is, in this case the Prime Minister- is entitled to answer the question as he sees fit provided his answer is relevant. I do not have access to the document, nor could I-
-Could I assist you?
-No. You will listen to my ruling first. The right honourable gentleman may complete his answer. At the conclusion of the answer I shall ask him whether leave is granted to incorporate the statement in Hansard. The Leader of the Opposition will then have the opportunity, if he claims to have been misrepresented, to make clear the misrepresentation and to give a correction at the appropriate time in the proceedings of the day.
-I have no objection if the text is incorporated.
-The Prime Minister will complete the answer.
– I shall repeat the part of the statement which I quoted accurately for the information of honourable members. But let me go back a little further so that I can quote more of it.
Every woman who needs or wants to work will have the right to work, to work with equal pay, to work on terms of genuine equality, to have the same access to job training schemes, wage indexation and unemployment benefits-
The sentence goes on: but to have the same access to unemployment benefits.
That is the end of the quotation.
-That is not the end of the sentence at all.
-It is the end of the quotation. Mr Speaker, it is perfectly plain on that basis that the honourable gentleman is proposing that an income test for the payment of unemployment benefits would no longer prevail. This does not just work one way. If a woman is working -
-Mr Speaker, I take the point that not even the Prime Minister is entitled to omit from or to distort documents from which he is quoting. We would be entitled to have tabled any official document from which he is quoting. We could then see whether he was quoting accurately. This cuts both ways. The Prime Minister has not purported to quote the whole sentence. He is stopping when it suits him. He is giving his own interpretations. The question could not be authenticated. The Prime Minister has the text. He is not quoting it completely and he is misinterpreting what he does quote.
-Order! The House will come to order. Two points are raised by the honourable gentleman. The first is that the quotation is not complete. He also alleges that it is not accurate. I cannot rule on that matter. It is not possible for me to do so. The record will speak for itself. As to any claim of misrepresentation that the honourable gentleman has that will need to be raised at the appropriate time. The honourable gentleman has said that the quotation could not be authenticated. In fact I called upon the honourable member for North Sydney to authenticate it, to vouch for its accuracy. He used terms that I interpreted as doing so. Likewise, if any honourable member in this House makes a statement I accept it on its face. The honourable member for North Sydney has authenticated the quotation. I call on the Prime Minister to complete the answer.
-The honourable gentleman’s sensitivity in these matters is well understood. He said something, as he often does, which was unwise, foolish, not thought through and did not have the support of his Caucus. Now he wants to try to pretend that he never said it. I have only read the statement out twice, and if the honourable gentleman wants me to read it a third time for the benefit of the Caucus members who do not support his policy, I will be delighted to do so. But he will not prevent answers from being provided in this House by that kind of tactic. I have read out accurately the words that the Leader of the Opposition used. I have read out those words accurately twice. What they mean is perfectly plain, that is, that women who are not in the work force and who want to apply for unemployment benefits, irrespective of the income of their husbands, would get unemployment benefits -
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. That is the third occasion on which the right honourable gentleman has referred to the payment of unemployment benefit to husbands as being without qualification. The facts with regard to unemployment benefit are- the House should not be mislead on Government legislationthat where a wife is working, the husband who becomes unemployed is not eligible and the same access for a working wife would apply.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is not point of order involved. I have already given a ruling. I call the Prime Minister.
-Under the honourable gentleman’s proposal, if women under the age of 60 years applied for unemployment benefit, the cost to the Australian taxpayer, I am advised by my colleague the Treasurer, would be $3,300m. Obviously the honourable gentleman does not want that fact to be known.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister is not being accurate. He is not being truthful.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not taking a point of order. He is responding in argument. I shall give him adequate opportunity to make a personal explanation at the appropriate time in the proceedings.
– That is not good enough, in my submission, Mr Speaker.
Government supporters interjecting-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call upon all members of the House to stop expressing themselves and their judgments in loud noise. We are dealing with a specific issue and I want to hear the Leader of the Opposition. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker, it is not sufficient remedy for honourable members to make a personal explanation at the end of question time when Ministers, without any basis at all, have said things about them in answer to questions. Honourable members who ask questions based on newspaper reports have to authenticate them. Ministers who quote from Government documents, unless they are confidential, have to table them. Similarly, if Ministers answer questions they are not entitled to fabricate facts or to distort facts. The Prime Minister has the document. He refers to a proposal. There is no such proposal. Now, Sir, he is abusing your -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He has made the point of his objection perfectly plain to me, but I am bound by the Standing Orders. There are some areas in which I have a discretion, but this is not one of them. I remind the honourable gentleman that it has been a problem perennially for many years that the opportunity to correct an issue comes in its place in the procedures of the House. The honourable gentleman has made it clear to the House that he contests what the Prime Minister is saying. At the appropriate time he will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation. I call the Prime Minister.
-One can well understand that because of the honourable gentleman’s monumental incompetence in these particular matters, he wants to prevent the answer from being given. Again, I can well understand that because it is clear that the kind of policy he was espousing is not one that had been accepted by Caucus; it had not gone through his party machine and it had not gone through his policy machine. He now has to try to pretend that he never said what he did in fact say. All right, that is not a very difficult job for the Leader of the Opposition because he spends three-quarters of his life trying to pretend that what happened did not happen. There is so much of his past that he would like to forget. Unfortunately, he probably will not be allowed to do so forever. The cost of the honourable gentleman’s proposal, if all women under the age of 60 years were to apply for and gain the unemployment benefit, would be over $3,000m. On the Treasurer’s figures it would be $3, 300m. It is quite obviously a ludicrous proposal. He is proposing, in effect, that the income test with married couples does not work either way and that either partner of a marriage who is not working would be eligible for unemployment benefit. The consequences of that throughout the Australian community would be very great indeed.
– That is a deliberate distortion.
-The honourable gentleman has one supporter at least. How nice it is to see in this place a supporter trying to say that the words of the honourable gentleman -
-Order! The Prime Minister will make his answer relevant to the question.
-The point that is being made is that these matters obviously did not have the support of Caucus. They are very important matters- matters involving a great amount of taxpayers’ funds. When the honourable gentleman was in office he showed in every area of policy that he did not care a cent for taxpayers’ funds or for the burden that he put on taxpayers through inflation and higher and higher taxation. The particular proposal that came out of his speech shows that he has learnt absolutely nothing and that if the Australian Labor Party is to keep him where he is it will be staying where it is in perpetuity.
– The Prime Minister said that leave would be given for the incorporation of the document if he saw it.
-I am about to deal with that matter. A request has been made for the document which was handed by the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister to be incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted?
– I would be delighted for it to be incorporated and for the accuracy of my remarks to be noted.
-Leave is granted. The document will be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
SPEECH BY THE HON. E. G. WHITLAM, Q.C., M.P. TO THE N.S.W. LABOR WOMEN’S CONFERENCE, SYDNEY
26 March 1977
I pay tribute to the magnificent support and practical encouragement given by Labor women to the cause of our party. Since I addressed your last conference a year ago we have seen the election of a Labor Government in New South Wales and a steady decline in the standing and support of the Fraser Government in Canberra. Women have contributed in great measure to our gains in New South Wales and throughout Australia. When I last addressed you the party was defeated and demoralised. Few people were giving us much chance of an early recovery; fewer still would have given us any chance at all of winning the next federal election. All that has changed. Today it is the Fraser Government that is broken, demoralised, discredited and divided. Labor is on the way back. Victory in 1 978 is within our grasp.
That victory is assured if we rally the votes of women. On the support of women and the efforts of women in the party depends the outcome of the next election. I can put it no higher than that. To achieve victory we must do two things. First, we must fashion policies with the special needs and interests of women in mind. Second, and perhaps even more important, we must show that Labor’s existing policies- our traditional and enduring policies-are as much designed for the benefit of women as they are for men. I would go further in Labor’s great and historic concern for the disadvantaged, the underprivileged and the weak- in the primacy we give to justice and individual and family security- women may have more to gain from a Labor Government than men. And this is especially so in times of economic uncertainty.
There is a fallacy and a danger in putting men and women in separate compartments. We cannot treat men and women as if their interests were competing or mutually exclusive. I regard Labor’s policies as designed, not for some women, not even just for all women, but for all people. Women cannot be treated, and would never wish to be treated, as a sectional interest. It would be arrogant and mistaken to devise policies for women in the way that special policies are needed, say for migrants or Aborigines or pensioners or other deprived minorities. Women are not a minority. All our policies must be developed with women in mind; and there will be some initiatives which have women specifically in mind. Labor’s approach must be to stress the universality of its policies, their relevance and value for everyone. Too often we have failed to do this. By doing so we will not only be clarifying the nature of our policies; we will be demonstrating a far more mature perception of women’s place in society.
If we look at the whole range of Labor initiatives and Labor achievements- in health, in education, in social security, in child care, in industrial policy, in incomes policy, in human rights- we can see that women and children are as much the beneficiaries as men, and that those in greatest need receive the greatest benefit. Everyone is vulnerable to poverty, illness, hardship and deprivation; very often these things fall more heavily on women than on men. Labor’s policies in these fields are policies for women; they are part of our program to improve the welfare and widen the rights and opportunities of the whole community.
Let me stress this point. Inevitably in government we found gaps and deficiencies in particular areas affecting women and we felt a special and urgent obligation to do something about them. The problems of single mothers are a good example. We introduced a supporting mother’s benefit- the most important single innovation in social security for a generation. It has relieved a great deal of unnecessary human hardship, not only for the mothers but their children. The Fraser Government has not dared to abolish this benefit although many Liberals, including Mr Fraser, would dearly like to. Mr Fraser constantly talks about restricting social welfare payments to those in genuine need. But he never spells out whose needs are supposed to be genuine and whose are not. Every statement of this kind from Mr Fraser is a threat to the security of women and everyone on social welfare benefits. And we can be sure that if the Fraser axe falls on social security the first benefits to B9 will be those introduced by the Labor Government, which have not yet had time to be universally accepted and institutionalised. But the general point I make is this: The supporting mother’s benefit is merely one aspect of social security, and social security is not a specific objective for women but an objective for everyone.
Labor’s first priority for women was to rectify the problems of particular women with particular needs. Because of this it was often said that we looked after a minority of women to the exclusion of the vast majority.
Rightly or wrongly the impression was given that Labor’s concern for women was selective and elitist. Many people believed that our main concern was for the minority of career-minded women with higher education; that we were interested in abstract questions of women’s rights and women’s liberation rather than bread and butter issues; that the opportunities of professional women came before the needs of housewives. Now this was never true, but as I say the impression was given and we must break it down. It was given because many of the women most active in our cause were, and are, among the most gifted, driving, and articulate people in the community. I am grateful to them. No other political party could hope to attract or retain their support. They have enlarged and sharpened our concern about women in a whole host of ways and they have helped to formulate and implement many of Labor’s most progressive policies. I do not discount the importance of anything that women, whether inside or outside the women’s movement, have achieved for our party. And lest anyone imagine that these remarks are a veiled criticism of Elizabeth Reid I repeat what I have said before: no one has a broader, deeper and more humane concern for women everywhere- for people everywhere- than Elizabeth Reid, and no person in Australia, indeed scarcely a person in the world, has done more for women in practical and creative ways.
Nevertheless I put it to you that the great challenge now before us is to persuade women that Labor is the party that can best meet their day-to-day needs and aspirations. We must move from a particular concern with specific women’s interests and rights to a more general concern for women as members of the community, as consumers, as members of the workforce.
It was natural that in our first period of government we set about restoring women’s rights, and removing discrimination in all its social, economic or legal forms. We recognised that for women to take their place in society on a basis of dignity and equality it was necessary to remove discrimination and, beyond that, to meet the needs of women in overcoming handicaps. That was the theme of our programs. There was much to be done and we acted accordingly. We extended the adult minimum wage to women and we supported equal pay. We established committees on discrimination in employment and an inquiry into the educational needs of women and girls. We ratified the International Labour Organisation Equal Remuneration Convention 1951, and the United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1953. We appointed the Royal Commission into Human Relationships- an inquiry of fundamental importance to the rights and needs of women and families. We appointed a body to undertake a continuing review of developments affecting the employment of women in the public service. I have mentioned the supporting mother’s benefit, payable to any women with the sole custody, care and control of a child (we would have extended, and we will extend, this benefit to supporting fathers too). We established health centres and many women’s refuges throughout Australia. We established a pre-school and child care program which was catering for 100 000 children around Australia. As pan of this program we passed legislation to set up the Children’s Commission; the Fraser Government has destroyed the Commission but Labor will restore it. We passed the Family Law Act to bring simpler, speedier, cheaper and more dignified treatment of matrimonial and family problems, we participated enthusiastically in International Women’s Year.
We vastly improved the status and opportunities of women in the field where we had full responsibility- in the Australian Public Service. We deliberately set out to see that women were given the opportunity the Government to advise the Government and run government enterprises. We appointed women as judges, as arbitration commissioners, as career diplomats, as second division public servants. We established a women’s section in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to ensure that every matter coming before the Cabinet is vetted for any aspects which concern women or should concern them. We appointed the Coombs Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration which has recommended a number of practical steps to give greater employment opportunities to women. Unfortunately the traditional methods of appointment in the public service have not helped women. People are traditionally appointed on experience and seniority. If a woman is passed over for a job and appeals to a tribunal, there is usually a man who can claim longer experience and seniority. In statutory bodies, however, the Government makes the appointment, and the Labor Government deliberately set out to find women who could contribute to the work of statutory authorities. As a result, nearly every statutory body now has a woman at the top, on its board or in a senior position.
Now these were impressive achievements and no conservative government can claim anything like our record of care and concern for women. It stands alone. And undoubtedly there is more to be done in removing discrimination and promoting sexual equality, but it is time we turned our minds to broader issues as well. The Fraser Government’s economic mismanagement is destroying women’s jobs and living standards as surely as it is destroying those of men. It is wrecking creative programs for the health, security and welfare of women and children just as it is wrecking those for men. I ask women to remember that their needs and interests are not special or separate but identical with those of the whole community. The wrecking of Medibank is an attack on women; the neglect of the cities is an attack on women; the Fraser Government’s onslaught on social welfare, urban transport, sewerage programs, area improvement, environmental and recreational programs are attacks on the living standards of everyone, men and women alike. The record of the Fraser Government in economic management can be measured by the fact that it is now presiding over the highest quarterly inflation rise since Sir Robert Menzies set the record in I9S1 and the highest level of unemployment ever recorded by the Commonwealth Employment Service.
I ask: What are the real needs and concerns of the vast majority of women? First, inflation and prices. The Fraser Government’s bungling has pushed prices up further and they will continue to rise under the impact of devaluation. Second, unemployment-not just their husbands’ jobs are at stake but their own jobs. I shall return to this in a moment. Third, the health and welfare of their families. The Fraser Government, by demolishing the concept of Medibank and throttling Labor’s programs for health care and hospitals, especially in outer suburbs and developing regions, is making life harder and more hazardous for millions of women. Fourth, women, like everyone else, want some reasonable prospects of security and companionship; a decent environment; surroundings and services that are at least modestly convenient, congenial and attractive; reasonable access to libraries, theatres, parks, playgrounds and transport. These are the fundamental, indeed the minimum, conditions of a civilized life for women in any advanced society. They are exactly what the Fraser Government is destroying. Mr Fraser has no more understanding of the needs of women in our sprawling suburbs or impoverished country towns than he has of the needs of Eskimos. What would his Cabinet of wealthy graziers know about the problems of working wives, women with disabled husbands, women who travel hours to work each day to support their families, migrant women with language barriers, women who break down from overwork or stress or the pressures of large families, women caring for elderly relatives on pensions or low incomes, women cut off from any chance of recreation or enjoyment, women condemned to drudgery and isolation in poor houses or dreary jobs?
It is time we recognised that women not only have a right to work if they want to but in most cases they need to work to support themselves and their families. There is no longer anything grasping or self-indulgent about the two-income family. Hundreds of thousands of women get jobs to make ends meet. Under the Fraser Government they are finding it harder to get those jobs and harder to keep them. The official unemployment figures conceal a huge rise in what might be called hidden unemployment. The labour force figures published every quarter by the Bureau of Statistics show that in the year to November 1976, the latest period for which figures are available, there was a rise of 1 85 000 in the population aged IS years and over, but in the same period there was an increase of only 5000 in the number of employed wage and salary earners. There has been a big decline in participation in the work force as people have given up hope of getting a job, and clearly those people are mainly women or working wives. They don’t appear in the unemployment statisticsbecause they don’t apply for benefits; indeed if their husbands have any sort of job these women are not entitled to benefits. They are not counted as unemployed, yet unemployed they undoubtedly are. And their lack of work is every bit as humiliating and socially destructive and wasteful as unemployment among men. They have little hope of finding other work because any sort of national retraining program of the kind launched by Labor has now ceased. There is no attempt to help women with marketable skills. Let us be quite clear on the size of this vast reservoir of idle, workless women. The statistics show a decline from 62. 1 per cent to 6 1 per cent in the ratio of the working age population who are working. That decline accounts for some 100 000 lost jobs- jobs that are no longer open to women. During the three years of the Labor Government, the number of women in the total workforce rose from 40.7 per cent in 1972 to 43-8 per cent in November 1975. By November 1976 the percentage had dropped to 42.2 percent. In other words, women’s role in the workforce has declined under the Fraser Government.
Until women have equal rights to employment they cannot be said to have equal rights as citizens. As a federal government we supported equal pay for women and that part of your struggle is largely won. What we still have to ensure are equal opportunities for women in the workforce. That struggle is now beginning. The next Labor Government will provide a full charter of job security and equality of opportunity for every woman who wants or needs to work. We were moving towards it as a government; as a government we shall finish the job. Every woman who needs or wants to work will have the right to work, to work with equal pay, to work on terms of genuine equality, to have the same access to job training schemes, wage indexation and unemployment benefits, to enjoy the same protection from exploitation, and to enjoy adequate child care services if she is working or if she is not.
These are the basic goals of a Labor Government for women. They are our goals for the whole community. To achieve them we must continue to expose and attack the failures and deceptions of the Fraser Government No government has so grossly betrayed the women of Australia or so deeply undermined their living standards and opportunities. No government has done more to threaten their jobs and security. The Fraser Government has not only neglected the specific needs of women but attacked their basic interests as members of the wider community. The only equality offered to women by the Fraser Government is an equality of misery and deprivation. Your needs and interests as women are those of society as a whole. This conference reflects that community of interest. Your agenda- wide-ranging, imaginative and resourceful- is evidence of the hard work and careful preparation that have gone to make this meeting a success- a valuable and productive step towards the return of a Labor Government. It is my honour and pleasure to declare the conference open.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Do women have the same access to unemployment benefit as men under existing legislation?
– Women, as well as men, must undergo a proper test to be eligible for unemployment benefit, but I do not want to go into the detail of the answer at this stage. I shall get the appropriate answer in detail for the honourable gentleman from the Minister for Social Security. All people who apply for social service unemployment benefit must undergo a work test.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs been drawn to an article in today’s Australian Financial Review in which it is alleged that the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission has criticised statements contained in the Speech of Her Majesty at the opening of Parliament? Does the article correctly represent the Government’s attitude on the matters referred to in the article?
-My attention has been directed to an article on the front page of the Australian Financial Review published today which rather fancifully suggests that the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission has directly criticised some statements regarding productivity in Australian industry contained in Her Majesty’s Speech at the opening of Parliament. The article is a rather curious and pathetic attempt to create a difference of opinion and a difference of attitude between the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission and, by implication, the Prime Minister and the Government regarding the matters referred to in the article.
The article rests upon a complete misunderstanding of a paragraph in Her Majesty’s Speech in which reference was made to the dependence of the prosperity of Australia on the strength of its productive private sector- on its manufacturing, mining and rural industries. As honourable gentlemen who have carefully read Her Majesty’s Speech and listened carefully to statements on these matters by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers would realise very quickly, what was being referred to in that Speech was the importance to the economic recovery of this country of the productivity of the entire private sector as opposed to the public sector. In speaking about productivity of the private sector, one of course speaks about the productivity of the rural sector, the manufacturing sector, the mining sector and the service sector. I think that the article represents once again an increasing tendency on the part of some people, when looking at matters relating to industry assistance, to fail to understand the total interdependence of all sectors of Australian industry, be they rural, mining, manufacturing or service.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. As he would be aware, Standing Committee D of the Australian Constitutional Convention meets this Friday with the prediction that there will not be any resolution of the difference of opinion regarding the Senate’s powers to block Supply or a Budget. Has the Government considered a referendum which would seek to change the Constitution so that in the event of the Senate refusing to pass Supply or a Budget a joint sitting of both Houses would be held to attempt to resolve the situation? If in the event that the Budget was once again defeated by a joint sitting, an automatic double dissolution would occur.
-The Government has given no serious consideration to any referendum proposal apart from the 4 referenda which are in fact being put on 21 May. The Government began its starting point of this examination on the basis that for a referendum to be successful there would need to be substantial agreement at the Australian Constitutional Convention held in Hobart and that there would have to be substantial agreement between the parties represented in this Parliament. Therefore it was considered to be rather an academic question to look at other elements of proposed reform at this stage.
Also, I think the Government certainly had in mind that there is a very genuine desire among many people in the Australian community for a modernisation of the Constitution where it can clearly be shown that reforms would be beneficial to the Australian people. Therefore we would want the process of constitutional reform to be successful and to go ahead on a smooth basis. That can occur only if referenda are put which do have the broad support of the parties in this place, and hopefully of the same parties as represented in other parts of the Commonwealth, to the maximum extent that might be possible. History has shown very clearly that if there are differences between the Government and the Opposition referenda are unlikely to succeed.
Because the Government wants constitutional reform to proceed, we sought to select those items which would have a wide degree of acceptance and which could be supported on a bipartisan basis. I might again take the opportunity to mention that I think there is a certain real element of fairness and justice in the 4 matters that are in fact being put. It is fair and just that people in the Territories- the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory- should be given an opportunity to be counted in the total number of people to be counted in a referendum decision. It is unreal that in this respect the people of the Territories should be regarded as second-class citizens. I think it is fair and just that there should be a retiring age of 70 for Federal judges. While arguments can be adduced that there have been notable people who have performed admirably beyond that age, by and large I think it is the view of this Parliament that the status of the High Court will, over time, be enhanced by the retiring age. Also, some people will get to the Bench earlier and there will be a re-invigoration of the Court from time to time.
The filling of casual Senate vacancies has a very real streak of Australian fairness in it. If someone moves out of the Senate from the Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the National Country Party, that person ought to be replaced by someone of the same party affiliation. One or two people have sought to oppose this proposal on the ground that it would write political parties into the Constitution. I do not see it that way. I see it as protecting the wishes of the electors of a particular State as they were expressed at the previous election or on a previous occasion. It would prevent the wishes of the electors, so expressed, being subverted by the appointment of someone of a different political colour. I think again that is an eminently fair proposal.
Also in the light of history and in the light of discussions that have taken place at the Constitutional Convention, the proposal that there should be simultaneous elections for this House and the Senate again would seem to be practical, fair and reasonable. It certainly would preserve the powers of the Senate. It would preserve the powers and the status of this House and simplify matters very greatly. In other words, in all of these matters there would seem to be an element of justice, fairness and reasonableness which I believe will gain them majority support in the Australian community. There is one other element in these referenda which marks their difference from previous referenda or most previous referenda. On previous occasions people were often asked for additional power for the Commonwealth Parliament, and the natural reaction of Australian voters to politicians who ask for more power for themselves is to say no. This is not happening on this occasion. Therefore I believe that these measures will be supported in all States.
-Can the Minister for Post and Telecommunications give an assurance that persons making submissions supporting the legalisation of citizen band radio will not be raided by officials for the purpose of seizing and confiscating any citizen band radio equipment in their possession? Did the Minister advise the public that copies of the paper on citizen band radio would be available to the public? Has his Department refused to supply them? Has it advised members of the public to get them from the Australian Government Publishing Service? Has it taken up to 6 weeks for his Department or the AGPS to provide this information to those who have accepted his invitation to apply for a copy of the report? How can the public -
-Order! The question is far too long. I call the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– The House may remember that I informed honourable membersI think it was last week- that I am anxious to get the public to respond to the paper that has been published with regard to citizen band radio. Anybody who writes to me has my complete assurance that such information as he provides will not be used in any way to harass those people using the equipment. What I want to do is get comments from people, preferably by the end of this month, so that I can formulate my submission to Cabinet in the next 2 or 3 weeks. As to the question of the paper being available, I have checked with the Department. I find that there has been some delay m making it available, and I have asked the Department to do everything possible to ensure that people who request this paper can get it expeditiously.
-Is the Prime Minister aware of the violation of human rights which is still taking place in the Philippines under the system of martial law? Is he aware that in January this year 74 of the 82 Catholic bishops of the Philippines signed a pastoral letter for reading in all churches denouncing the Philippines Government for deporting missionaries, arresting priests and lay workers, harassing newly formed Christian communities and abusing minority groups? Does he agree that violation of human rights in extreme rightist controlled countries such as the Philippines is equally as reprehensible as the violation of human rights in communist countries? Finally, will the Government use its best endeavours in the appropriate forum to prevent the violation of human rights in the Philippines?
-The violation of the natural rights of people, wherever it happens, is something to be deplored. The Government’s record in this matter stands equal with that of any government Australia has had.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade. As he is aware, the Queensland sugar industry attaches the utmost importance to the negotiation of a new International Sugar Agreement with effective economic provisions. What prospect does he see for the successful negotiation of a new sugar agreement in the negotiations opening in Geneva next month?
-A United Nations sugar conference to be opened in Geneva on 18 April comes at a very opportune time for the Australian sugar industry. It is opportune because since 1974 prices have been declining and costs of production in Australia have been increasing. The Commonwealth places enormous importance on this sugar conference as it can stabilise world prices and indeed bolster them. We played a leading part in the formulation of an international sugar agreement in 1968. 1 was pleased to spend quite a considerable time at that conference. In this case I will be leading the Australian delegation to Geneva. I do not know whether I will see any familiar faces there, but my previous experience will serve me well. The Queensland Government also places enormous importance on the conference and is sending to the conference two of its Ministers as well as the AgentGeneral for Queensland and the Chairman of the Queensland Sugar Board.
I have been planning discussions with the industry to try to work out a strategy as to how the negotiations should proceed. Those discussions will take place in Canberra on Thursday of this week. It seems possible that we will achieve an agreement, maybe not in the first round of discussions by probably later this year, because for the first time the United States of America has been showing interest in having such an agreement. The new United States Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Bergland, has been giving his support to the discussions. Also helpful comments have been coming from the European Economic Community. Cuba and Brazil are keen to attend the conference and both countries are sending senior trade Ministers to the meeting. So I think that this augers well for the achievement of another successful international sugar agreement.
– I address a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He will remember that early in December the Australian Broadcasting Commission accepted the Government’s invitation to assume responsibility for ethnic radio, subject to the availability of adequate funds, but that he told me a month ago that negotiations with the Treasurer were still proceeding and that the precise amount involved had yet to be determined. I ask him whether the amount has yet been determined and, if so, at what sum. I also ask whether any funds have yet been allocated for the operations of the National Ethnic Advisory Council the appointments to which he announced on 1 February.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission will be taking over responsibility for ethnic radio. It has been necessary for discussions to be held between the Australian Broadcasting Commission, ethnic communities and the department which is presently funding ethnic radio to ensure that the takeover is carried out properly. My latest information is that this will occur from 1 July. In the meantime adequate funds are being made available through my Department to keep the ethnic radio broadcasting system open. I have not finalised discussions with the Treasurer as to the extra funding that will be made available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for this added responsibility. As to the question of the National Ethnic Advisory Council, I did not make that announcement. That responsibility rests with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, is further to my question to him some time ago relating to vaccinations and innoculations being provided free of charge by Commonwealth health establishments to overseas travellers. I ask whether the Minister has determined that a fee for service should be charged. If so, how much will it be and when will the cost to the Australian taxpayer be eliminated?
– The honourable member will be pleased to know that the investigation that I commenced within my Department has been completed and that a charge for vaccinations against disease will apply to privately insured people who are travelling overseas. Arrangements are now being made to implement the necessary administrative requirements. We anticipate that the saving to taxpayers generally will be in the vicinity of $3m in a full year.
-Order! The honourable member is now arguing the issue. He will resume his seat.
-The honourable member has directed his question to the wrong person because he obviously does not realise that I remember very clearly all the facts relating to the imposition of wheat quotas in the 1968-69 period. They were imposed because a request was made by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation for a restriction on production due to the heavy oversupply of wheat in the granaries in Australia as well as in other countries. In fact, it had got to a position where we could no longer provide storage space for additional production and if efforts had been made to produce more wheat much of it would have been spoiled.
I do not have to give any guarantee. The only guarantee I would give is that if the wheatgrowers made a similar request to the Government of course we would look at it because their request would be in the interests of the Australian wheat growers to maintain their position as reliable and stable producers. No industry can continue to survive if it produces and cannot sell.
– Is the Minister for National Resources aware of the figures recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing an increase in the value of mineral exports of almost 30 per cent in the half year to 31 December 1976? Do these figures show that the recovery in the mining sector is well under way? What effect are they likely to have on Australia’s economic prospects?
– In the last couple of days some very encouraging figures relating to our mineral exports for the 6-month period from June to December as compared with the previous 6 months have come from the Bureau of Statistics. These figures show that the value of our mineral exports has increased by 30 per cent but I think we can look forward to an even more promising period this year as the full effects of devaluation come forward. The prospects for selling our bulk minerals as well as some of our non-ferrous minerals have certainly improved. There are at present very good prices for tin and lead and the prices for some of our other metals are slowly increasing. In the case of alumina, there has been quite a substantial lift in the last 6 months. There has been a 23 per cent increase in the volume of exports and the average price rose from $76 to $93 per tonne- an increase of 22 per cent. When Alcoa’s new plant at Pinjarra comes in with more production our income from alumina exports will go up considerably. As I have said, the prospects seem good. It will depend very much on the rate of international recovery but if this continues I believe that the Australian mining industry can look forward to a more fortunate period than it has experienced in the last few years.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. Has he seen reports that the Queensland Ministers for Mines has granted a prospecting authority over the Oakey Creek region to Houston Oil and Minerals of Australia without calling for public tenders? Does he agree that some Australian companies, including Colonial Sugar Refining Co. and Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd were interested in this region and were disadvantaged by the Queensland Government ‘s action? I further ask -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is asking a question as to which the Deputy Prime Minister has no ministerial responsibility.
- Mr Speaker, he has responsibility in his capacity as Minister for National Resources. If you will be patient -
-Order! I will allow the honourable gentleman to continue but he must make his question relevant to the Minister’s responsibility.
-You will find it is relevant, Mr Speaker. I ask: Does the Government intend to use its control over export licensing to ensure that Australian companies have at least an equal chance of tendering for mineral leases?
– I have read reports in today’s Press that the Queensland Government has given coal exploration rights to an overseas company, lt is within the authority of the Queensland Government to do so. I would not want to interfere with the Queensland Government’s policy on how it chooses or selects people to carry out explorations. However, when the stage for development is reached, should that company be successful with its exploration, it will be necessary, if there is to be foreign participation, for the matter to go before the Foreign Investment Review Board for consideration to see whether it meets Federal Government guidelines.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer the Minister to the proposed purchase by the Government of lands adjacent to the Puckapunyal army camp. Can the Minister advise the House whether a decision has yet been reached in respect of this acquisition? If a decision has not yet been reached, can he advise when a decision can be expected? Is he aware of the serious plight of many of the farmers and land holders in the area who are anxiously awaiting a decision?
– I am acutely aware of the distress which the delay in acquisition has caused. I would like the honourable gentleman to know that both the Treasurer and I are doing everything possible to facilitate the completion of the acquisition. The land is wanted for the exercise of the new Leopard tanks. The honourable gentleman will, of course, acknowledge the fact that the processes of acquisition regrettably take time. An environmental study had to be concluded and that study in turn had to be considered by the Victorian Government. An opportunity had to be given to local government authorities to present arguments to the Government relating to some of the pros and cons of the land which was under the acquisition notice. I assure the honourable gentleman that I will confer with the Treasurer and see what can be done to ensure that the acquisition is completed as soon as possible.
-Does the Minister for Transport recall, when replying to a question of mine on 2 December last year, giving an assurance that the position of members of the staff of the Bureau of Roads would be protected during the proposed amalgamation? Is he aware that the morale of the staff is still adversely affected and that a questionnaire regarding arrangements sent by 22 members of the Bureau of Roads staff to the Permanent Head of the Department of Transport remains unacknowledged and unanswered since November 1976? As this is vital to the careers and future plans of the staff, will the Minister undertake to have that questionnaire answered now? If he would like a copy of the questionnaire I can supply it, or perhaps he would prefer that I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– I do not need a copy of the questionnaire but I thank the honourable gentleman for the offer. I will take up with the Permanent Head of my Department that part of the honourable gentleman’s question concerning the questionnaire and reply to him. With regard to the main thrust of the question, I have been at pains to try to encourage a high morale in the staff of both the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Bureau of Roads in respect of the amalgamation. In fact, the present Chairman of the Bureau of Roads has been acting as the co-ordinating chairman to effect the amalgamation. I have every faith that he would have taken into account the feelings of the people who have worked behind him in previous years. But I shall have a look at the implications involved in the honourable member’s question and reply to him again.
– For the information of honourable members I present the twentieth annual report of the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on sacks, bags and certain polyolefin fabrics.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the State Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 I present an agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to Tasmania for a resources survey for nature conservation purposes.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the Melbourne Age of Friday last there appeared a report on the debate which took place in this House on the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in relation to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The report in the Age had this to say:
Mr Bryant described the report which was adopted unanimously by its Labor and Liberal members; as ‘an example of gross intellectual sloppiness’.
I did nothing of the sort. I said that the evidence given to the Committee by various high-ranking people and people in high places in the Australian Public Service, including the head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the departmental officers themselves, and the reporting of that evidence by the Auditor-General without checking it, and the failure of the Press to analyse that evidence were examples of gross intellectual sloppiness. I made no reflection on the Committee at all. In fact, in the Hansard of 24 March 1977 on page 574, I said- this shows my broadmindedness:
I am not complaining about the Public Accounts Committee.
-Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence to give additional information to that given in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Corio?
-Yes, I will grant my indulgence as long as the information is relevant to the question.
– The advice that I have received from the office of the Minister for Social Security is that at present married women are entitled to the unemployment benefit on the same basis as married men.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I present a report of the Committee entitled, ‘Off-Road Vehicles- Impact on the Australian Environment ‘.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The report on the environmental impact of off-road vehicles which has just been tabled is the third report of the Environment and Conservation Committee established in the Thirtieth Parliament. The Committee took evidence from nearly 100 witnesses and held public hearings in Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane as well as inspecting forest areas in Victoria, arid areas in the Northern Territory and sand dune and coastal areas around Newcastle and areas set aside for motorbike use in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The inquiry was conducted by a sub-committee and as Chairman of the Committee I would like to place on record my appreciation of the work of that subcommittee. The sub-committee was chaired by the Honourable Member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). I commend the report to the House.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
– During the inquiry of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation the Committee attempted to examine the extent of environmental problems caused by off-road vehicle use around Australia and to look at existing mechanisms employed by government to control the use of these vehicles. The Committee was primarily concerned with trail and mini bikes and 4-wheel drive vehicles but it also looked at the problems produced by dune buggies and snowmobiles. The Committee in fact examined the impact of all vehicles, including the family 2-wheel drive car, when used off-road. The conclusions and recommendations of this report apply equally to specifically designed off-road vehicles and conventional vehicles used off-road. The Committee examined the impact of these vehicles on the physical as well as the social environment. We were told of ORVs disturbing wildlife, destroying vegetation, causing sheet and gully erosion and destroying the wilderness qualities of large areas of countryside. We were also told of the distress the noise of trail and mini bikes causes to residents in urban areas, and of the frustration experienced by bushwalkers and picnickers when the peace of their recreation is destroyed.
Two basic legislative approaches to controlling the use of ORVs and limiting their impact on the environment are currently in use in Australia. Both approaches involve the registration of ORVs as recreation vehicles for use off-road. The difference between them lies in the areas in which the vehicles can be used. For example, the Victorian legislation provides that these vehicles can be used off-road only in specified free access areas. The Queensland legislation on the other hand allows vehicles to be used off-road except in areas declared closed to vehicular use. We considered the implications of both these approaches and believe there may be dangers in both. The Queensland approach may result in sensitive areas not being closed to vehicular use and the Victorian approach may result in no free access areas being provided.
On balance it seemed to the Committee that the environment as a whole can best be protected by banning the use of vehicles off-road except for specified uses and/or in specific areas. But the Committee considers it to be important that adequate areas for ORV use be set aside and for these areas to provide some challenge to ORV users. If designated areas do not fulfil the needs of ORV users they will go outside them and may threaten more ecologically sensitive parts. Combined with the legislative approach the Committee considers it vital that ORV owners be educated to understand the damage they can cause to the environment and the need for restrictions on their activities. We believe that the use of the go anywhere bush bashing or sand blasting theme of some advertisements for these vehicles is irresponsible. It is not only in the advertising of off-road vehicles that these themes are used but also in advertising other totally unrelated products. The Committee urges manufacturers and advertising agencies to accept an obligation not to encourage irresponsible use of the environment.
The Committee recognises that all State governments are aware of the environmental dangers of ORV use and that some States have introduced control measures. Nevertheless, we feel that all State environmental authorities should give earnest consideration to the recommendations of this report. Within the Commonwealth jurisdiction the Committee has made recommendations relating to the control of ORV use in the Territories, research and education programs, noise limits for vehicles and impact controls. In conclusion, on behalf of the SubCommittee which I chaired I should like to thank the members of the staff of the Committee, Mr Morrie Adamson, the Clerk of the Committee, Mrs Ann Wilson, the steno-secretary who did the typing of the Committee’s report and in particular I should like to pay tribute to the work done by the Committee’s research officer, Ms Jenny Jones. Her work and efforts in assisting the Committee during its investigations were greatly appreciated by members of the Committee. I commend the report to the House.
-I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s efforts to pre-empt and distort the uranium debate.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their placesMr E. G. WHITLAM (Werriwa-Leader of the Opposition) (3.15 )- The Fraser Government is continuing to mislead and confuse the Australian people on the issue of uranium mining and export. Naturally this deception begins with confusion and concealment concerning its own policy. The Government professes to have an open mind on this issue, but for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, its mind is made up. It is in favour of uranium mining; it is in favour of uranium exports; it wants to go ahead with them whatever happens. Its options are closed. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) himself has publicly confirmed the Government’s intentionand publicly confirmed its breach of faith with the Australian people. Twice last week he signalled the Government’s intention to go ahead with uranium mining. On Thursday, at question time, he repeated what is now a ritual incantation from the Government. He said:
This repeated assurance from the Government can be interpreted as follows: The Government has made up its mind in favour of mining whether or not there are acceptable safeguards, but for the sake of appearances there will be no announcement until after the second Fox report is received. At the National Press Club- 2 hours after his assurance to the House-the Deputy Prime Minister stated:
I believe it is in the best interests of Australia to develop uranium . . . We have an obligation to the rest of the world, as well as to ourselves, to do the utmost to speed development in this country.
There are many ways of regarding Australia’s obligation to the rest of the world. It is precisely the debate about Australia’s obligation to the world, to humanity, to future generations, that the Fraser Government is pre-empting. The Deputy Prime Minister not only spoke in favour of mining at the National Press Club; earlier in the week, in a staggering indiscretion, he launched a book on uranium which puts the case for mining in Australia. All the Government’s talk about a debate, all its alleged desire for international safeguards and its professed concern for the hazards of nuclear proliferation are a sham. We know what the Government wants. It has come to a decision. It is prepared by any means to distort the truth and to stifle debate on that decision.
Just 5 months ago, the first report of the Ranger Uranium Inquiry was made public. The past 5 months should have been a time for earnest and dispassionate debate on the great questions of human safety and survival raised by the report. That debate, enjoined by the first Fox report, should have prepared us for consideration of the second report. And what should have been the attitude of the Government in those 5 months? Its obligation was clear: To promote debate, to listen to arguments on all sides, but above all to remain uncommitted itself. Instead the Government has ranged itself publicly and gratuitously with the uranium lobby. Whatever the findings of the second Fox report, the Government is determined to pre-empt them, and if necessary ignore them or distort them, just as it evaded and misrepresented the first report 5 months ago. It is clear that the Fraser Government will proceed to establish new uranium mines in Australia and to export Australian uranium before any adequate international safeguards have been developed and irrespective of what public debate takes place in Australia on the final findings of the Fox Commission. On the day the first Fox report was issued, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) made a Press statement in which he ignored all the inquiry’s findings on the risks of inadequate safeguards and the dangers of nuclear war. He encouraged the public to see the report as an unqualified endorsement of mining. On 4 November it was revealed that a special task force had been established to advise the economic committee of Cabinet on uranium mining and export policy. The Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development was not even represented on the committee.
The Fox report listed no fewer than 1 1 major defects in the Non-proliferation Treaty and its associated safeguards agreements. It stated that these defects, taken together, are so serious that existing safeguards may provide only an illusion of protection’. It stated that Australia is uniquely able to promote the development of an adequate international safeguards regime. It spelt out precisely why Australia has a special place in the international nuclear community. It stated.
Australia occupies a very special position in the nuclear scene. It is represented on the Board of Governors of the IAEA, and was represented at the NPT Review Conference held last year. It is possessed of relatively large uranium reserves which by now have attracted world-wide attention. It has a nuclear industry of its own. These features may combine, perhaps with others also, to put Australia in a favourable position to take initiatives, or at least to support them.
Mr Justice Fox was moved to protest at the misrepresentation by the Government, both in a call which he sought on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and in a letter to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development which has never been published.
– When are you going to table it?
-On 3 December I asked about the letter. I asked the question again in this new session and the Minister has not yet answered the questions. What has he got to conceal? In the face of urgent and solemn advice from Mr Justice Fox and his colleagues, the Government is blundering heedlessly into hasty decisions and commitments, urged on by the mining lobby and its spokesmen in this Parliament. The Deputy Prime Minister and his Department are making all the running on this issue. The Prime Minister, with his oft-revealed sympathy for the mining faction in his Government, naturally bends to their wishes. The Deputy Prime Minister told the National Press Club that ‘a refusal to supply uranium would cause tensions- perhaps serious tensions’. He then exonerated the Ambassador of Japan for some public comments by the Ambassador which had been eagerly taken up by the uranium lobby. Knowing the intelligence and discretion of the Ambassador and the sensitivity of his Government on this issue, I find it difficult to believe that his comments were accurately reported. Nowhere did the Deputy Prime Minister show any concern for the fundamental issues that uranium and nuclear materials uniquely raise. He followed the Fraser principle of deception we saw at question time the Prime Minister’s regard for truth and accuracy- by his plainly ludicrous insistence that in spite of all he had said ‘there will be no decision on any uranium policy until the Ranger Report has been presented’. Only a very brave or credulous person will believe that double talk now. Certainly the Australian stock markets have had no hesitation in responding to the Deputy Prime Minister’s statements. They know that the Government has taken its decisions and that the second Fox report will present to the Government no more than a cosmetic difficulty.
The Prime Minister, who, from the outset, has treated the commissioners and the House with contempt- I invite honourable members to look at the Hansard of 2 November last; St Peter himself could not have answered 3 questions with so much falsity-the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government as a whole have sought to render the Fox inquiry impotent. They have wasted our money. They have wasted the time and effort of hundreds of sincere people, many of whom have the highest professional qualifications, and they have done violence to honesty and concern for issues of national and global significance. The disease has been infectious. The latest victim is the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) who, the week before last, in his foreign policy statement said:
The Government regards it as imperative that nuclear energy development takes place-and it seems inevitable that it wil take place- under an effective international regime.
What is inevitable about uranium mining? To regard it as inevitable is to beg the question. The essential concern of the Fox Commission, of the Flowers Royal Commission in Britain, of vast sections of the nuclear industry in America, of the Canadian and American Governments, is to question the idea of inevitability. The Minister’s glib reference to an effective international regime evades the real question, that is, what would constitute an effective international regime? What are its characteristics and main requirements? How can it be brought about?
The Prime Minister has now written to President Carter and to Prime Minister Trudeau. He has told them that we are committed to the development of an effective international regime. These are, of course, the right words; but the representatives of those Governments in Australia and elsewhere will not have failed to see and to report to their Governments that they are mere words- words that seek to mask the fundamental intention of the Australian coalition Government to open up new uranium mines and to proceed to export uranium in advance of the development of any such effective regime. In this context Canada is a key country. Like Australia, it controls a significant portion of the world’s available uranium. Over 12 months ago Canada declared that it would never again under any circumstances pass to another country nuclear materials or technology which could contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation. That policy is uncompromising; it is right.
The Government has done nothing and plans nothing with respect to the awful problems of radioactive waste disposal and storage. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has nothing in its budget for this purpose. The Atomic Energy Commission has always had a minimal and superficial interest in waste disposal. If the Government can be judged from its past behaviour the best we can expect, in this field, is that it will once again make Australia available as a dumping ground for the radioactive waste produced by other countries. The use to which Maralinga was put 25 years ago is not necessarily a thing of the past. On 2 1 March one Dr Arthur Matheson, an American scientist brought to Australia by the Australian Uranium Producers Forum, made the startling suggestion that Ayers Rock be used as a repository for nuclear wastes. No statement could have done more to alert the public to the difficulties and urgency of nuclear waste disposal. His proposal should have been rebutted immediately by the Government; it was not. The pressure will mount as stores of nuclear waste products grow in coming decades. There is every reason to believe that the Fraser Government would consider proposals for waste disposal in Australia if it thought that such a decision could produce some short-term economic advantage.
It is neither safe nor responsible for Australia to export uranium with the present gaps in the NPT and the present uncertainties m waste disposal. Any new export of Australian uranium should take place only after the Government has developed clear and uncompromising policies towards nuclear safeguards. These policies cannot be developed by Australia alone; our policies should be compatible with those of the United States and Canada. President Carter will present a new energy program to Congress on the 20th of next month. This important statement must be taken fully into account in the planning of future Australian policy. Canadian policy towards nuclear exports has already been enunciated. Australia should recognise that Canada and Australia together have strong mutual interests in this field. Together they hold the dominant share of the world ‘s available uranium.
Such an Australian export policy would, at the very least, include the following features: Firstly, Australia should make its uranium available only to countries which have signed and ratified the NPT. Secondly, such sales must be the subject of an International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, or its equivalent. Thirdly, Australia must join with the United States and Canada in obtaining undertakings from recipient countries that the nuclear material they supply shall not be the subject of reprocessing. This would ensure that Australia played its part in resisting any move towards the plutonium economy. Fourthly, Australia must join with others in obtaining agreement for the establishment of round-the-clock IAEA inspection of materials subject to Agency safeguards. Only by this means can diversion of peaceful materials to military purposes be avoided. Fifthly, Australia must take urgent steps at home and in cooperation with other countries- to develop waste control and disposal techniques to ensure that the world ‘s human population and environment will not be exposed to the hideous dangers inherent in nuclear waste.
Mr Speaker, these are minimum requirements consistent with our national interest and international responsibilities. They are clearly recognised by the United States and Canada. Their urgency is accepted throughout the world’s atomic and scientific community. A report issued earlier this month by the Ford Foundation and the
Mitre Corporation following an exhaustive and expert study of ‘nuclear power issues and choices’ calls upon the United States Government to pursue policies such as those I have just outlined and to seek the co-operation of other nuclear supplier governments to ensure that such policies become universal and effective. The carelessness and supine indifference of the Fraser Government on these issues must stop. These are matters or urgent national and international concern. The Fraser Government must get to work on them at home and in our relations with other countries without further delay.
– I rise with mixed feelings to meet, for the Government, the matter of public importance for which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has just put the argument. I say that because I have never seen such an arrogant display of double standard in this House since I have been a member. Only about an hour ago we had the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition pretending to squirm when the Prime Minister Mr Malcolm Fraser) was trying to give the facts about what the Leader of the Opposition may have said over the last weekend. The Leader of the Opposition had the nerve to try to plead that we were misquoting or quoting selectively. If ever I have heard a case put on misquotation or selective quotation, I have heard it today. Probably the only thing that the Leader of the Opposition has done in support of this debate is to misquote or to quote selectively.
Let us get the facts. I think the Leader of the Opposition put 3 propositions to us. They were: first, that we had pre-empted the debate; secondly, that we had failed to promote the debate; and, thirdly, that we had not listened to the debate. Let me deal with each in turn. First, I would like to repeat some of the remarks I made when I tabled the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry on 11 November 1976. This is just the beginning of how we have not pre-empted this debate at all. I said:
The principal findings and recommendations of the inquiry nave been considered by the Government and their thrust is broadly acceptable and provides a basis for future decisions on the industry.
This is still the Government’s attitude. It is a view that has been consistently put by every spokesman of this Government who has spoken on the issue. I also said then:
The Government will take decisions on the further development of the Australian uranium industry in the light of public discussion and that debate.
In a few moments I will show the House what we have been doing about that. I said then:
The second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry should further illuminate particular issues.
I said then and I repeat:
The Government is most concerned that rigid control and safeguards be applied to uranium exports, along the lines of the recommendations of the inquiry. It will not permit the export of uranium unless it is satisfied that there are adequate and proper safeguards on the handling, transport and processing en route and in respect of the ultimate consignee.
That makes my position clear.
Now to the Prime Minister. He has said repeatedly, both in this House and outside, that the Government’s policy is that no further decision in relation to the mining of uranium will be taken until after the receipt of the second Ranger report. I and other Ministers have also reiterated this policy. Yet the Opposition still persists in saying that the Government has made up its mind. That is totally untrue. We will not be bullied into taking a decision in this most vital area of Australian interest until we have had a chance to read all the arguments and all the evidence presented by Mr Justice Fox and his Commission of Inquiry. So much for the Prime Minister’s view on this subject.
The Leader of the Opposition attempted to misuse statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). The Leader of the Opposition mentioned in passing the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). I will come to him in a moment. What did the Deputy Prime Minister say about the Fox report? He made a speech on 2 1 March. Let me quote the important parts of that speech, not the parts that the Leader of the Opposition chose to use. The Deputy Prime Minister said:
As the Government has already stated in the Parliament, we are deeply appreciative of the work of the Fox Inquiry. The report sets out clearly the issues involved in the debate; debate has been taking place both in the Parliament and in society at large.
He also said that Sir Brian Flowers, the former Chairman of the United Kingdom Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution which published in September 1976 its report on nuclear power and the environment, has publicly lamented the lack of rational debate on nuclear power in Britain. Sir Brian regretted that the Royal Commission’s plea was being overlooked. The plea was that the arguments of both sides of the industry deserve to be heard with greater mutual understanding. The Deputy Prime Minister pleaded the case for a better debate in Australia. To say that he was wrong in launching this book- a book that perhaps did not follow the antagonistic side of the argument but followed a pro side- is ridiculous. He was merely contributing to rational debate and not the nonsense that I must say both extremes have tried to give to the Australian people.
But let me go a little further and quote more of what the Deputy Prime Minister has said, again conveniently neglected by the Leader of the Opposition. He said last night: all Australians await with keen interest the policy decisions the Government has yet to take concerning future uranium development. We have made it clear that those policy decisions must await receipt of the second Fox Report. All senior members of the Government, including myself, have already paid tribute to the work of the Fox Inquiry. The First Fox Report is a comprehensive document and without it, I for one, would feel poorly equipped to consider the major issues that uranium development poses for this or any other Government.
If that is not making it perfectly clear to a forum of people who represent national mining interests of this country, I do not know what does. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs in his statement in this House on 1 S March said:
While it awaits the final report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Government has conducted a most thorough preliminary investigation on the whole question of nuclear safeguards, both as they apply in Australia itself and overseas.
If Australia does become a major exporter of uranium, she will do so with a comprehensive and stringent national policy on the safeguards to apply to her exports.
I think that the Government’s position is perfectly clear however much the Leader of the Opposition may try to distort and misrepresent it. But it is interesting to contrast this attitude with the attitude of the Opposition. If ever there is a group in Australia that is attempting to distort the position to pre-empt the findings of the Fox report in its totality- both the first report and the second report- it is the Opposition led by the spokesmen who now pretend, or are trying to pretend, to lead it. I think this contrasts very sharply with the responsible attitude that we are trying to take. Already without debate in the Parliament having been terminated or those other reports being delivered- that is to say, without the second report- the Labor Party has come out with a range of contradictory decisions. More seriously, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) who is trying to interject has closed his mind to the whole issue. He is calling for a blanket ban on uranium mining. He has gone further and in fact has pre-empted the Fox report if anybody has. Also, the Leader of the Opposition said in this House on 30 November 1976:
I make it clear that the next Labor Government will not feel bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the present Government . . . My colleagues and I are convinced that, in view of the Fox commission’s findings, no new mining development should be permitted unless a future Labor Government is satisfied that the hazards have been eliminated and satisfactory methods of waste disposal have been developed.
Both Sir Brian Flowers and Mr Justice Fox have lamented the lack of rational debate on nuclear power in Australia. Nobody has done more than the Australian Labor Party to contribute to this situation. The Australian Labor Party refuses to discuss and debate the issues. It has made up its mind against uranium mining and has announced its decision before the public debate which was recommended in the first Fox report has taken place. I might say that it has done so before debate in this House has been completed.
Let me move to the second point made by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, that we are refusing to promote debate on the issue in Australia. This is an interesting charge because I think it brings out another attempted distortion by the Opposition. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), I think it was last week- it may have been the week before- tried to suggest in this place that we somehow or other were trying to suppress the Fox report. Once again, nothing could be further from the truth. Just let me get on the record what we have done in respect of the Fox report. About 10 000 copies of the report have or will be printed. The Australian Government Publishing Service has to date distributed and sold by mail order through Government bookshops in each State about 5000 copies of the report. The report is now available for sale, as I am advised at this moment, in every Government bookshop in the capital cities of Australia.
– It has been out of stock for 2 months.
– That is just simply not so. That is another sort of thing that the Opposition so blithely says without one shred of evidence to support it.
It might be interesting to also note that I, through my Department, sent about 1000 letters to interested groups and environmental organisations in all States telling them that the Department would make available to them, if they so wanted, the Fox report. I also pointed out where the copies could be obtained if they wanted the report. As for this Parliament, copies were distributed and were available to every member of this House, 60 senators and to the Press Gallery. On the very day that the honourable member for Corio went to the Bills and Papers Office in the House to find out whether there were some available, he failed to discover that there were in fact seven on the bookshelf there and then. The staff of the Bills and Papers Office, in their attempt to help the honourable member, gave him their tagged copy so that he could see it immediately. But he failed to find out what was there. In other words, we have gone out of our way to make sure that there are sufficient copies of the Fox report available to everyone who wants it. I have provided a copy free to all those people who have written to me. The report is also available at Government bookshops. It is available to everyone in this place. Further, it is available to all public libraries and environmental and conservation group centres and offices which we could find. So much for the charge whether or not we have promoted the debate.
The final point made by the Leader of the Opposition was whether we were listening to the debate. I can assure the House that the Government is taking the debate very seriously, deplorable though the standard of the debate may be. My Department is monitoring the debate carefully. In fact, I have appointed officers specifically to do that very job. Since November I have had regular reports and summaries of what major newspapers, magazines, radio, television and all of the rest of the media in this country is saying about it. My officers analyse that debate and then give their analysis to me. I can assure the House that the summary of that debate on Ranger Report No. 2 will be made available to my colleagues in Cabinet to help them to make up their minds about what they will do.
I do not think there is very much more to be said about this matter. As I have said, the Leader of the Opposition made 3 points. His first point was that we were distorting the debate. I think I have shown that contention is quite untrue. Secondly, he said that we were not promoting debate. I think I have shown that we have gone out of our way to provide the factual and rational information that is available. The Fox report is available for anybody who might want it. Finally, we are taking into account the debate, which is much more than I can say for the Opposition. It can be seen that wide debate is taking place but I hope that the debate will be much better than that taking place at the moment. The Opposition would do well to look to its position and make sure that the debate continues on a rational and proper basis.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development (Mr Newman) has misrepresented me in a number of instances. Firstly, he said that I made some statements in this House that copies were being withheld. I asked the Speaker why copies were not available in the Bills and Papers Office after having requested a copy and being informed that no copies were available at that time. Subsequently that day copies were made available. The Minister on two or three occasions during his speech referred to that request. What he said is a complete distortion of what was said on that occasion. I repeat that copies were not available readily to members on the presentation of the report. One copy only was available and it was some time afterwards that copies became available.
Mr NEWMAN (Bass-Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development)- With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think I should answer that. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) at the end of question time implied to honourable members and to those people listening outside the House that somehow copies of the Fox report were not available. He said that he had gone to the Bills and Papers Office and could not get a copy. In reply to that assertion the Speaker wrote to the honourable member for Corio on 16 March and made the position clear. I would like to quote a relevant part of this letter which for the information of everyone could be incorporated in Hansard. The letter stated:
The demand from members for copies has slowed to a trickle this year and the House Department still holds 7 of the additional copies supplied. Of these 7 copies, one was in the Bills and Papers Office and it was this copy that was sent to you in the Chamber on Thursday with the request that as it was the ‘ tagged ‘ copy it would be appreciated if it could be returned when you no longer had need of it.
The remaining 6 copies of the report had been in the Attendants box at the back of the Chamber until the previous Friday -
I seek leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard so it is in the record for everybody to see.
-Is leave granted?
Mr SCHOLES (Corio)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to make a further personal explanation. The Minister said that copies were available in the Bills and Papers Office. I did not go to the Bills and Papers Office. I asked an attendant to get me a copy. I was informed that a copy was not available and I was given a copy on loan. That is all there is to my remarks. In answer immediately before the Minister said there were adequate copies available.
– You never checked the facts.
-I asked the Speaker to make sure that copies were available. The facts are- if the honourable member for Mackellar listened he would understand- that I sent for a copy and I was given a loan copy because no copy was available in Bills and Papers. That is where honourable members normally obtain their information on matters of this nature. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just informed me that copies are not now available in the Bills and Papers Office.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I sought leave to incorporate a letter in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
MrG.G. D. Scholes, M.P.,
Last Thursday in the House you raised with me the question of the availability to Members of copies of the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and I undertook to make some inquiries.
I have since been informed that when the report was presented on 2 November the House Department was provided with the customary 147 copies for Members. These copies were ‘earmarked’ for use as follows: 127 copies-being one copy for each Member. In this instance only 79 Members received their copy automatically as 48 Members had opted to receive only those reports that they specifically requested. 2 copies- being second copies regularly provided to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. 1 8 copies- being a stock held in the Bills and Papers Office to meet requests from Members for additional copies.
Demand from Members for the report was initially heavy and the House stock was quickly exhausted even though Members seeking additional copies were limited to one extra copy. As a debate in the House was pending a request was made to the staff of the Inquiry for a further50 copies and these were readily supplied.
The demand from Members for copies has slowed to a trickle this year and the House Department still holds 7 of the additional copies supplied. Of these 7 copies,I was in the Bills and Papers Office and it was this copy that was sent to you in the Chamber on Thursday with the request that as it was the ‘tagged’ copy it would be appreciated if it could be returned when you no longer had need of it. The remaining 6 copies of the report had been in the Attendants box at the back of the Chamber until the previous Friday (to support orders of the day on the Notice Paper of the last Session). Regrettably, they had not been amalgamated with the tagged ‘ copy when your request was received.
I should, perhaps, add that Members, or their staff acting on their behalf, may obtain up to 2 copies of the report per visit to AGPS bookshops with the cost of copies obtained in this way charged to the House Department. Where complimentary copies of a report are in short supply, the Bills and
Papers Office do suggest to Members that they obtain their needs by obtaining sale copies from an AGPS bookshop.
-The only thing that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) has done in a public debate in this Parliament has been to re-introduce on the Notice Paper the uranium debate. That has been put back on the Notice Paper only because of this matter of public importance submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The Minister protests so much but we know that he has very l ittle voice in Cabinet. In fact, he is not in Cabinet; he is outside Cabinet. No Cabinet Minister is to speak in this debate. We know that environmental matters have a very low priority under this Government. We know what is paramount, what is supreme. Mining is supreme. We only have to look at the last Budget. We know that the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is supreme. But he refuses to come into this debate. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development is a lightweight, and we all know that little notice is taken of his Department.
There can be no doubt that the Government has now dropped its mask of pretence about uranium mining. In this House last Thursday morning, the Deputy Prime Minister gave us the standard Government line on uranium miningthat the Government was waiting for the final Fox report. A few hours later the Deputy Prime Minister bluntly indicated to the National Press Club that uranium mining would go ahead. This was the clear message he spelled out. Somewhere between Parliament House and the National Press Club the Deputy Prime Minister decided that Government policy should be stated. He decided to come clean.
At last we can argue the issues and not be put off by the Government’s pretence about the Fox report. The Government has already made the decision to allow uranium mining. Let this House and the Australian people be clear about that. The Government has always had an understanding with the uranium lobby that mining would go ahead. The Deputy Prime Minister has now admitted it. The possible impact of the Fox report had already been weakened by the way in which the first report was interpreted. The media focused on the first 2 items listed in the findings and recommendations. These 2 findings were considered in isolation by the media and this gave a completely false impression of the overall report. The only daily newspaper that gave a fair report of the findings and recommendations was the Melbourne Age.
All other national dailies confused the recommendations and findings. The recommendations were the most significant part but they have been ignored almost completely. The Government has deliberately fostered this false impression. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development issued a Press statement which deliberately encouraged this interpretation. He rejected a statement prepared by his Department which put the findings and recommendations in a proper perspective.
There are three important points to be made about the recommendations. First, if they were fully implemented, uranium mining in Australia would be so difficult as to be impossible. I stress that. It would be difficult or near impossible to carry out uranium mining. For example, recommendation 4 says that exports should be regulated according to chapter 16. Yet if these recommendations were adopted so many obstacles would be imposed on mining that it would be uneconomic. Recommendation 6 gives the Government power to interrupt or halt supplies. What mining company would invest $200m or more if this were possible?
Secondly, the Government has made no attempt whatever to implement any of the recommendations. What about recommendation 9, which calls for a Uranium Advisory Council to include adequate representation of the people? This council has never been discussed or even referred to by the Government. It is not possible that the Fraser Government would admit the influence of grass roots opinion in this way. The final recommendation called for a public debate on the issues. What has the Government done to stimulate a public debate apart from 2 hours of parliamentary debate and a completely inadequate printing and distribution of the Fox report? The first report has been out of stock in the parliamentary Bills and Papers Office for several months. This is not a public debate in the terms suggested by the Ranger inquiry.
The Government has made a complete mockery of the Fox recommendations while pushing the 2 findings, which fortunately for its purposes were listed first in the 16 findings and recommendations. These were only 2 findings out of 16 findings and recommendations.
The third point to be made is that the Fox report sets the Government an impossible task. Recommendation 8 says that no sales of uranium should take place to any country not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. How can the
Government guarantee that? The NonProliferation Treaty does not prevent the sale of uranium to those who have not signed the Treaty. Australia could easily sell uranium to West Germany or France, which could sell it to Brazil or Iran, or any other country where there is an unstable government.
For all of these reasons, the Government wants to push the first report out of sight. The Fraser Government wants to honour its commitments to the uranium lobby before the second report comes out. It wants to honour its preelection commitment to the mining lobby and to overseas interests. If honourable members opposite want evidence I will give them evidence if they give me an extension of time. The Deputy Prime Minister has made it blatantly clear. There are 3 reasons why we are strongly opposed to opening up Australia’s uranium reserves to foreign mining interests. The first is the damage to the economy that would be caused by unrestricted uranium mining and uranium export. Apart from the other distortions in the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech to the Press Club he grossly overstated the possible economic benefits. Uranium mining would have little or no impact in creating new jobs. Once the initial construction phase is over, it would provide very few new jobs. Uranium mining is immensely capital intensive and employs very few people. The labour content is decreasing all the time. Most of the equipment used would be imported, with no benefit for Australian industry and the Australian work force. The development stage of uranium mining would require immense capital investment and this would drain capital investment away from manufacturing industry where much of the work force is engaged.
Once uranium reaches the export stage, the harmful impact on other sections of the Australian economy continues. Let there be no doubt. The mining lobby predicts that uranium exports will exceed exports of both iron ore and coal by the early 1980s. The uranium mineowners would earn high export income, and this would bring pressures from our trading partners for Australia to raise imports to maintain our trade balance. Imports of manufactured goods further hurt our manufacturing industries, which face enough difficulties already. The trade imbalance puts upward pressure on the exchange rate, and this raises the price of our rural and manufacturing exports on world markets. This is the economic reality behind the string of platitudes mouthed by the Deputy Prime Minister.
The environmental arguments are just as compelling. One is the devastation of Kakadu National Park which the Ranger project would bring. Kakadu is one of the S areas of Australia which have been accepted as part of the world heritage to be preserved at all costs. Even more important is the genetic effect of pollution from nuclear development. The evidence now available on the hazards of radioactive material on the human genetic structure is quite chilling. Just as frightening is the potential for loss of life and random damage to future generations from nuclear accidents. We cannot discount these arguments in the simplistic terms adopted by the Government. Nuclear accidents are bound to happen, just as they happen in any area of technology.
The third reason for rejecting the case for uranium mining at this stage is the stimulus it would give to the spread of nuclear weapons. The spread of the nuclear industry fed by putting more uranium supplies onto the world market would greatly increase the hazards of nuclear war. More countries would have access to plutonium and to the technology needed to make nuclear bombs. Delivery systems for nuclear weapons are becoming simpler and cheaper to produce. More countries are finding nuclear weapons and their delivery system within their means. We cannot reject the threat of nuclear terrorism. For all these reasons we reject uranium mining and the stimulus it would bring to nuclear industry, the spread of nuclear technology and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Finally, let me state the central element of the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on this issue. It is:
That it be made clear that the next Labor Government will not be bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the previous Government.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) one of the most irrational discussions on a matter of public importance proposed by the Opposition that we have heard for quite some time. The subject of the matter of public importance does not concern the pros and cons of the mining of uranium. It refers to ‘the Fraser Government’s efforts to pre-empt and distort the uranium debate ‘. If ever I have heard a distortion of the uranium debate I heard it in the irrational remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is well known where he stands on this matter but it is not so clear where most of his colleagues stand and it is not so clear where he stood just a little while ago. At least the Government has always been consistent in its approach to the rnining of uranium. It has stated quite categorically that whatever decision is made by the Government it will not be made before the second Fox report is received.
I draw the attention of the House to what was said on 2 November 1974 by the then Prime Minister of Australia the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), in relation to the Prime Minister of Japan. He said:
Mr Tanaka expressed his appreciation of the confirmation of supply by Australia to Japan of the contracted 9000 short tons of uranium-
Just 2 days earlier than that the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) had this to say:
When Australia negotiates further sales it will do so as a willing seller seeking willing buyers. In particular, we will ensure that our major trading partners- Japan, Italy and West Germany- obtain an equitable share of the uranium we have to export.
That does not appear to me to be consistent with the story we have heard today. On 16 October 1 974 the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said:
International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners, which could amount to a total of about 100 000 tonnes of uranium . . .
-When was that said?
-That was said on 16 October 1974. On 21 May 1975 the honourable member for Cunningham said:
I stress and repeat, Labor honours its contracts and will always be in a position to do so.
Is that consistent with the story we are hearing today? I quote from Hansard of 30 November 1976 what the present Leader of the Opposition then said:
I make it clear that the next Labor Government will not feel bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the present Government. Let there be no misunderstanding about the attitude of my Party now or in the future. As a Government we inherited substantial contracts from our predecessors. One-third of the contracts were actually approved after the writs were issued for the elections of December 1972. It is one thing to honour contracts we inherited; we shall be under no obligation, in view of the questionable actions of our predecessors . . .
He then went on to say: no new mining development should be permitted unless a future Labor Government is satisfied that the hazards have been eliminated and satisfactory methods of waste disposal have been developed.
The Opposition’s case is emerging as one of the most inconsistent stories that I have heard for quite some time. The Opposition is charging the
Government with pre-empting and distorting the uranium debate. At least we are consistent. On 11 November 1976 the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who has just spoken in this debate, said:
The preparation of environmental impact statements for uranium mining projects outside of the Northern Territory may now proceed but the Government will not make final decisions until the Commission of Inquiry has made its second report.
In answer to a question in the Senate from Senator Durack on 4 June 1976 Senator Withers said in part:
Press reports in early June stated that the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Miki, had indicated that the Japanese Government was not giving any thought to nuclear waste facilities in Australia. I re-emphasise: Neither is the Commonwealth Government.
There is a strong thread of consistency running right through this debate. At all times the Government has said that no decision will be taken until the second report is received. I turn to the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) to the National Press Club on 24 March 1977. 1 shall quote from this statement because this debate has arisen, I think, from some of the remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister. He said:
It seems to me that we need a much more sensible and balanced approach to the question of the advantages and disadvantages of mining development. I can’t help feeling sometimes that some people see mining as only a rapacious destroyer of the environment. Of course, the environment must be protected to the greatest practicable extent. No one disputes that. But there are many other things that need to be taken into account. There are many questions we ought to ask ourselves when we are contemplating a new mining development. Let me take, as an example, uraniumalthough similar considerations will apply to other minerals as well. What are the questions we ought to ask here? Certainly we should consider the implications for the environment of a decision to go ahead with mining- of any kind.
Certainly, with uranium, the questions of waste disposal and nuclear safeguards must be adequately dealt with. But, as well, I think we need to ask questions about the economic implications for Australia of whatever decision is made about uranium mining and export. Is there going to be a nuclear power industry around the world regardless of whether Australian exports uranium? … Is our national rate of growth so satisfactory that we can reject opportunity to improve our performance? And there are wider questions which apply in some degree to most minerals, but certainly to uranium.
The Government’s approach to the whole question of the uranium debate is an even-handed one and is always within the context of its decision to await the second Fox report. But that is not the case with the Opposition. If anyone has pre-empted the debate it is the Opposition. It has been at pains to point out that it will not permit the export and mining of uranium. But the Opposition charges the Government with pre-empting and distorting the debate. Whenever there is to be mining development, particularly in uranium, the Government calls for an environmental impact study. These studies are on-going. This Government has brought down far more impact studies than the Opposition did when in government. To prove further the consistency of the Government on this question I turn to the Deputy Prime Minister’s address at the Australian Mining Industry Council’s annual dinner yesterday. Speaking about prosperity and uranium, he said:
The issues are important. In purely material terms there is no greater economic potential in any area of activity in Australia than is inherent in our uranium resources. It can be argued whether our capacity to export will mean $400m a year or a billion dollars a year. It can be argued whether the investment to ensure this development will be half a billion or a billion dollars.
The Deputy Prime Minister went on to say:
There are international issues which are obvious. The solution to the energy shortage must be one of the world’s greatest problems. The demands of so many of our major trading partners for uranium are real and valid.
But he said also:
Lest I be misunderstood let me say that I am repeating now what I have frequently said before. We must keep a balance in the uranium debate. The Australian public must focus on all the issues involved. In this I endorse thoroughly the remarks of Mr Justice Fox. The extremists on both sides must not be permitted to debase the tone of the debate.
No one has been more consistent than the Government on this issue and at the same time no one has debased the tone of the debate more than the Australian Labor Party. No one is more inconsistent than the current Opposition in this House. Firstly, when it was in office it said that it could not condemn proposals to extract, process or export uranium. Now, of course, we have the whole question being thrown back and we on this side are being accused of distorting and debasing this debate. I completely reject the contention that the Fraser Government has tried to pre-empt and distort the uranium debate.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The facts speak for themselves in this regard. No matter how the Government tries to squirm out of it the issue is this: After the Fox inquiry presented its first report the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) made a short statement and there was a 2-hour debate. There has been no further public debate. He scurried in here today with a notice of motion to resurrect that debate onto the notice paper after he had been apprised of the fact that the Opposition was bringing this matter on for discussion. That condemns the Government from point one. That is the fact. The Government has not at any time tried to have a wide-ranging debate in the Parliament. We have asked for it; the Government has not given us a debate. There was a 2 to 214-hour debate some time ago and then the Minister cut if off. The Government said that there would be no decision on uranium export policy until the total report of the Fox inquiry had been evaluated. The issue is this: The Government decided that it would agree to uranium exports before it ever received the first report of the Fox inquiry. The notion about the Government waiting now on the second report is so much bunkum because the second report deals only with mining in the Northern Territory. It does not deal with the question of general exports, which was dealt with in the first report. When the first report was presented it was misinterpreted by the Government in the Minister’s original statement about it.
We on this side of the House are accused of not contributing to the debate. We are the only contributors so far on any major scale. The government says that we acted with indecent haste to determine our position. Let me put this matter to rest. On 11 November the Minister for the Environment made a statement about existing contracts, that is, contracts signed by the McMahon Government before 1972, and debate on that statement was to take place within a week of its having been presented. Over that weekend I, as spokesman on mineral and energy matters on this side of the House, was obliged to look over the matters raised by the Minister and contemplate a debate the following week. Obviously, because the Fox report was a new document the Labor Party had to decide on a parliamentary attitude to it in the light of the threatened debate and we did so. When we did that the Government called off the debate because it thought there would be no benefit in springing it upon the Opposition after it had sorted out its policy. That is the real issue. We did not want to be forced into a position in which we had to determine an attitude to it but nevertheless the first report is the vital report. It is the one which talks about uranium mining in the broad and export, not just mining in the Northern Territory as the second report does.
We have raised this matter in the House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) have spoken in this debate. I am the front bench spokesman in the Parliament on minerals and energy matters. What are we confronted with? The Minister for Environment, who is carrying the can for the Government on this issue, and a back bencher- the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter)- have spoken. I am not too sure who the third speaker on the Government side will be. What is wrong with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) coming into this place and answering these vital questions? These resources are worth at market price $23,000m or thereabouts. There is no way in the world that the Minister’s Party has not decided to allow the export of these minerals. Yet the Minister persists with the facade that the Government is waiting on the second Fox report. The Minister for Environment says he is keeping records. What is the good of records in his office or in his drawer or in saying: ‘Look, the Sydney Morning Herald said this on that day and the Melbourne Sun said this’? So what? What does that matter? What we wanted was a little bit of goodwill from the Government in the original stages of the debate so that the nation could have perhaps settled down to a consensus about the issue but the Minister was not prepared to do that.
I will just deal with the 1 1 November statement. The Government pledged on that occasion that it ‘will not permit the export of uranium unless it is satisfied that there are adequate and proper safeguards on the handling, transport and processing en route and in respect of the ultimate consignee’. Let us see what the Fox report said about the safeguards:
The Commission states that it recognises that these defects taken together are so serious that existing safeguards may provide only an illusion of protection. However, we do not conclude that they render valueless the aspect of international safeguard. We believe it is essential and possible to make safeguard arrangements more effective.
That is what the commission had to say about existing safeguards. What was the Government ‘s response to that? In the document released by the Minister it said:
The Government welcomes any international initiatives for strengthening international non-proliferation regimes.
What a docile irresponsible attitude that is. This Government will sit and wait for someone else to develop the safeguards and if they are good enough they will do the Government. The whole thing is that there has now been some quick exchange of letters between the Australian and United States Governments. There was a letter from the Australian Prime Minister and a courteous response from the American Presidentcorrespondence based on the notion that the Australian Prime Minister is doing something tangible about safeguard development. In fact, nothing tangible is happening about safeguard development and there has been no attempt by the Government to do anything about it. Right through all of the utterances by Ministers and supporters of this Government is the one consistent line, that is, that Australian mineral uranium deposits should be exported. We can go back to the speech to the Australian Mining Industry Council, not of yesterday but of 12 months ago, when the Deputy Prime Minister came out with a jingoistic speech saying that Japan would come and get it if we did not export it, and relying upon those old phobias to try to sell the question of uranium exports. Not a week ago at the National Press Club the Deputy Prime Minister had this to say:
Certainly, with uranium, the questions of waste disposal and nuclear safeguards must be adequately dealt with.
But, as well, I think we need to ask questions about the economic implications for Australia of whatever decision is made about uranium mining and export.
Is there going to be a nuclear power industry around the world regardless of whether Australia exports uranium?
Is the Australian economy so strong that we can deny ourselves the clear economic benefits that would flow from the mining and export of uranium? Are the economies of local regions so well-based that these regions can turn their backs on the benefits that the mining of uranium or something else can bring?
Is our balance of payments so secure that we can forgo the considerable boost which uranium exports would bring?
He went on in that vein. The whole tenor of the discussion was that he supported the export of uranium. Turning to the reference last week in this House by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), he said:
The Government regards it as imperative that peaceful nuclear energy development takes place and it seems inevitable that it will take place under an effective international regime.
But where is the effective international regime? The Government has generally bypassed most of the considerations in this uranium debate. We just want to make a couple of points clear to the Government. We on this side of the House are determined- and I stress the word determined ‘-that there will be a national consensus before there is any export of uranium from this country. Honourable members opposite may say: How is the Opposition going to do that? Before 1972 we took the very old fashioned and traditional view that governments had rights and prerogatives which were the property of the elected government. We soon learned after 1972 that that kind of view no longer prevailed and within a year of our taking office this Government when in Opposition commenced its attacks on our Budgets. The Government defeated the second Labor Budget and threatened major legislation by defeat in the Senate. The Opposition is now claiming the same right. We are doing so on the precedent created by the Government by the breaking of the Fraser Island contracts. The Opposition does not feel obliged to honour any future contracts entered into by the Fraser Government. The consequence of that is that until there is satisfaction by the international banking community that cash flows will not be interrupted by the use of the Commonwealth’s export power to interrupt payments to companies to service debts, money will not be advanced to small Australian uranium miners to establish plants of the order of $200m to $225m.
Representatives of many American and international banking institutions have been here in the last 6 months. They all referred to clause 3 of the report and confirm what I believe, that is, that money will not be advanced unless that threat is taken away. That threat will not be taken away while the Government unilaterally persists with its policy of exports and the attitude that the rest of us can go to billy-o. The Opposition will not go to billy-o. It will do just what the Government did in opposition. We will force the Government to adopt a decent and responsible attitude on the uranium issue. Otherwise, the Opposition is determined that forever there will be no uranium exports from new mines. The face is that unless safeguards are provided and developed, and unless waste disposal problems are conquered, the Opposition will maintain the attitude that it has announced. The penny should drop. Dull as the Government supporters are, they will not get away with this and they must accommodate the views of the Opposition if this industry is to develop.
– The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) stated that the Labor Party policy with regard to uranium mining and export is that a national consensus would have to be reached before any uranium exporting was contemplated. I remind the honourable member of the Press statement of the former Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in 1974. This was mentioned by my colleague the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) earlier in the debate. In conjunction with Mr Tanaka, the present Leader of the Opposition stated that there was a confirmation of a contract for the supply of 9000 short tons of uranium. The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Les Johnson, also stated that there would be an export of 100 000 tons of uranium and that international assurances had been provided by Ministers of the day. Yet there is a complete denial of these assurances and former contracts entered into by the Leader of the Opposition when he was the Prime Minister. Labor Party policy has now gone in exactly the opposite direction. The strongest advocate, of course, in the Opposition for the blocking of mining and sale of uranium is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, (Mr Uren). In view of those previous statements by the former Government in favour of the mining and sale of uranium, why is the Leader of the Opposition now strongly taking this attitude aided, I take it, by some of his supporters in the coming struggle for leadership of the Australian Labor Party? I put to the House that it is because he is looking for left wing support in his leadership struggle.
With regard to the wording of this matter of public importance concerning the Fraser Government’s alleged efforts to pre-empt and distort the uranium debate, I would say that there has been much opportunity in this place, in another place and outside to debate this issue but the Labor Party has not taken that opportunity to bring this matter before the House. In answer to a question on 1 1 November 1976, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
If the wider community wishes to debate these matters, obviously it will be able to discuss the decisions which the Government has so far taken.
It was subsequently stated in the Sydney Morning Herald of 26 March that the uranium debate seems in danger of fizzling out. The Opposition has been objecting to the mining and export of uranium, yet it is not really mounting any major argument. This matter is now brought to the attention of the House by the Leader of the Opposition.
Since the time that this debate was initiated by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), the Government has adopted a steady and evenhanded approach to the debate and to the mining and export of uranium. It has done this because it has not wished to pre-empt the debate which is exactly what it has been accused of doing. In actual fact, the Government has been awaiting the second Fox report before taking any major decisions. I believe that it is the Labor Opposition which has pre-empted the decision of Mr Justice Fox. It has said that there will be no export of uranium, whereas we on this side of the House are awaiting that report before reaching any decisions. It is complete and utter nonsense for this matter to have been brought before the House in the way in which it is worded. Of course the Government realises that there are environmental factors and that safeguards regarding health and pollution must be given great importance. This is what the Fox report is all about.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned Kakadu National Park and said that this tremendous national park would be disadvantaged by being surrounded by uranium mining. I take it that he was referring to the Jabiluka area. However, he overlooked the fact that the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill, which was initiated by the Labor Government when it was in office, gives rise to a potential claim for that area by the Aborigines. Supposedly, then, the land would be leased back as a national park. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is using a false argument that this National Park would be in jeopardy because of these operations. He would know as well as I do that the waters that run into the Arafura Sea and the Alligator River and its tributaries are loaded with uranium and that no one seems to be suffering from that at the moment. Nor will they, I am sure. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned that we must look sanely at the industry to see what benefits will come from it.
One must look at the safety aspect and the pollution and environmental aspect of the question. Let me speak to honourable members as a person who operates in and out of the city of Darwin which was devastated in 1974. This industry, which would be located only a matter of a few hundred miles or even less from Darwin, would give tremendous fillip to the people who live in the area and to the rehabilitation of Darwin and of the Northern Territory which is suffering in the same manner as are most other primary industry areas because of the cattle prices. That industry also would give a tremendous fillip to the Aborigines in the area in that they could work in such a tremendous commercial setup which would have the effect of rehabilitating the port of Darwin and the city of Darwin, as well as the whole economy of the Northern Territory.
I think you have to weigh one thing against the other. It has been mentioned that 10 000 jobs could result from the setting up of such an industry. Australia at this moment is not flush with employment, although I think the figures are sometimes rather strange, and the Northern Territory would benefit in that regard from such an industry. I am certain that most of the people in the Northern Territory would support the arguments put forward for the mining and the export of uranium because I think that they look at things in a somewhat more down-to-earth way than many people in the south, such as the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition who has been shouting at me consistently, view their affairs.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Hotham.
-I thank you for your call, Mr Deputy Speaker. In my new situation, I propose to speak only on those issues upon which I feel strongly. I know that it presents difficulties to parties on both sides of the chamber to have an independent member in the House. I will not abuse that position in seeking permission to speak, but this happens to be one issue about which I feel very strongly. I am still getting used to Mr Speaker’s decision to place me in this position in the House. To be placed to the right of the National Country Party is bad enough, but to be placed to the left of the Labor Party is even worse.
It is no wonder that people who listen to the broadcast of the parliamentary proceedings get disgusted with politics. I am delighted that this matter is on the business sheet for today. I am not happy about the way in which it has been raised by the Australian Labor Party because I think it is a facetious and capricious way of trying to score a cheap political point. Instead of putting on the notice paper the subject of uranium, important as it is, the Labor Party draws attention to the Government’s efforts to ‘pre-empt and distort the uranium debate’. I do not agree that the Government has done that. If the argument had been that the Government has not encouraged debate in this House I might have been attracted to that proposition. But at the same time the Labor Party has shown no inclination to have the subject of uranium debated in this House.
We are talking about something which I believe and which Mr Justice Fox and his Commission think is the most important issue ever faced in this country, because it is not only a question of what the high level or low level wastes might do to Australians in the mining, milling and enriching of uranium but also a question that can affect the whole of the human race and life on this planet. In fact, the Fox report says that the radio-toxic properties of uranium and its by-products do cause cancer and may cause gene mutations in future generations. So the subject we are debating today does not concern simply the importance of a Newport power station or the pollution of a Fraser Island. It is a question of high morality. Have we, the members of this Parliament and this generation, got the moral right to commit an act, namely to allow our uranium to be sold and enriched which may affect future generations, according to the Fox report? As far as I can see that is what we are debating.
I would like to disagree with my close friend, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), when he described the Labor Party policy. I am not defending the Labor Party; I am just saying that the honourable member for the Northern Territory said that the policy of the Labor Party is that there will be no export of uranium. As far as I could understand him, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) today did not say anything of the kind. Nor did the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who is the Opposition spokesman on this issue. I personally wish that they had said that. I wish that some political party would come out with that view- no export of uranium until we can answer the points made in the Fox report. Is there any way in which we can control the low level and high level wastes? I have- been debating that point around the country with some very distinguished people who have expressed views both for and against the proposition. I deplore the statement made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) when he said that the debate has been continuing, deplorable though the state of the debate may be. I will come back to that point in a moment.
On every occasion that I have appeared on a platform- I have been on them with distinguished scientists who have spoken in favour of mining uranium- I simply say: ‘Do you have an answer to that section of the Fox report which says that there is at present no generally accepted means by which high level wastes can be permanently isolated from the environment?’ The high level wastes cause cancer, may cause gene mutations in future generations and last for 500 000 years. My point is simple: I am not necessarily against the use of nuclear energy. I am not necessarily against the selling of uranium. But what I am against is the mining and selling of it by Australia- in fact, by anybody-until science can tell us that we are not going to commit future generations to cancer or possible gene mutations. That, to me, is the crux of the argument.
I have heard nothing from Government speakers or from Labor Party speakers to change my mind. The Labor Party talked about honouring contracts. In doing so they take up that position which I am taking up. As far as I am concerned, I am the only member of this Parliament who is prepared to say: ‘No mining of uranium, no export of uranium, until the scientists can give us some sort of guarantee of controlling all the wastes, some guarantee in relation to the nonproliferation treaty, and so on ‘.
The honourable member for Blaxland said that the Labor Party, if it comes to office will not honour any contracts without national consensus. I was most interested in that statement. Neither the honourable member for Blaxland nor the Leader of the Opposition went on to say how the Labor Party would get that consensus. But I am indebted to my friend, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), who tells me that a friend of his, a Mr Des Shield, in Hobart put this suggestion to him: Why does not the Government hand out a small booklet which puts the pros and cons of the uranium debate? Why does it not spend as much money on such a booklet and disseminating it to the people- such a booklet would carry the ‘yes’ case and the ‘no’ case- as we spend on issues which are of far less importance than that of uranium? It is a suggestion which my friend from Denison gave me and which I pass on to the Minister and to the Government. If we are prepared to spend millions of dollars on booklets about the retiring ages of judges or simultaneous elections, important issues though they may be, why cannot we spend similar amounts on the uranium question? I do not think there is a person in this House who would think that the question of uranium which we are discussing today is not more important than those other matters. I think that the suggestion I have outlined is one well worthy of consideration.
The Minister suggests that the Fox report is freely available. The fact is that it is not freely available. Countless people have come to me saying that they have been to the places where the Department told them they could get a copy and that they just cannot get one. As I have said before this question is the most important one that this House has ever debated. We have had only 2 hours debate on it on a previous occasion. The debate was then adjourned, although I was given an undertaking by the Leader of the House on the night on which the debate took place that a vote would be taken on it that night. I then moved a proposed amendment for a moratorium of 2 years. I was in the House. At half past ten, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the House automatically proceeds to the adjournment motion. On the undertaking given to me by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) I was prepared to vote. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) talked out time on that night and the matter was automatically adjourned and did not reappear.
I feel a gross discourtesy was paid to me that night. But that is not important; what is important is that obviously there was an arrangement between the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and the Australian Labor Party on that night to get that debate off the agenda. There must have been, because I was told that there would be a vote. After the Parliament was prorogued the matter did not even appear on the notice paper. I am indebted to the Leader of the House and to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, who is at the table. He gave notice that the matter would be reintroduced. I now give informal notice that when it is, if given the opportunity, I shall test the members of this House by moving an amendment to the motion before the chair that there be a moratorium on mining and milling Australian uranium. The House will soon go into recess. The Ranger report No. 2 will come out in the recess, as I understand it. I hope the Minister will stick to his word by not making a decision until that Report comes down. But that means that a decision could be made by the Government during the recess. I warn those listening to the debate who wish to contact their members of Parliament to give their views on this matter that time is running out.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 24 March, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-When this debate was interrupted last Thursday I was giving my support to the Government’s decision to provide once again substantial funds to the Asian Development Bank. I had indicated that in terms of the statement of subscriptions to the capital stock of the Bank, Australia, on a per capita basis, is probably the most generous contributor to the Asian Development Bank of all the industrialised nations of the world. I also indicated that such support is essential on humanitarian grounds and constitutes an obligation which we share with all developed countries with respect to multilateral aid institutions of this kind. I further stated that in view of Australia’s strategic position in this region our support is also justified on more pragmatic and political grounds. However, I should like to query one aspect of the activity of the Asian Development Bank concerning the considerable reciprocal business which is generated by the loan and investment activities of the Bank. This matter was also raised by the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) earlier in the debate.
It is well known that participation by the developed countries of the Asian Development Bank gives them the right to participate in procurement of goods and services under Asian Development Bank loans. Borrowers are permitted normally to use the proceeds of a bank loan only for procurement in member countries of goods and services produced by them. Similarly, consulting firms and consultants are also selected only from member countries. But I understand that the bulk of this business- some 40 per cent of it- is directed to Japan, 8 per cent is directed to the United States of America and only 2 per cent accrues to Australia. We are substantial contributors to the Bank and I should like to know the reasons for the fact that we do not fare well in this regard.
As the Bank’s procurement policies are based on open, competitive bidding I would suggest that one major reason for Australia missing out in this area is the high rates of inflation we have experienced in recent years as compared to other countries. This probably is a perfect example of how continuing high inflation rates can have an adverse effect on our international competitiveness. I should be grateful if the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner) could assure me and the House that this is the only reason for our poor performance in this regard and that it is not due to other administrative or non-market factors. I am concerned about this matter particularly in view of the significance of Australia’s subscription to the capital stock of the Bank in relation to other members, the details of which I outlined in the debate last Thursday evening.
I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that Australia should contribute to the Asian Development Bank on the understanding that it gets some kind of pro rata return, but I do believe it is a legitimate area of concern which I hope the Minister will be able to clarify for me. I should also like to know from the Minister what follow-up steps are taken by the Asian Development Bank to ensure that projects, once implemented, are successfully maintained in the recipient countries. I ask this because of the fact that the Bank works on a project by project basis because the average amount lent for projects financed by the Bank is well in excess of $ 10m and especially because, to my understanding, the Bank has no resident staff or branch offices in member countries. Perhaps the Minister can provide some reassurances in this matter. But it should also be noted that Australia has contributed substantially in the past to the Bank’s soft loan activities through its contribution to the Asian Development Fund. This area of activity was also outlined in some detail last Thursday by the honourable member for Eden Monaro. These loans are concessional loans made to the poorest of the Bank’s members. This Government indicated last year that this aid must be continued and expanded. I fully support that view and was pleased that Australia recently agreed to contribute her allocated amount of the replenishment to this fund at a cost of $US41.6m. These loans are made on standard terms of 40 years maturity including a 10-year grace period, with a service charge of 1 per cent per annum.
In 1976, as stated in the Minister’s second reading speech, these special loans totalled $US236m out of total bank loans of $US776m. This is a substantial proportion. Some people have questioned the capacity of the Bank to do this and still to ensure its creditworthiness in the capital markets of the world where it competes for funds. I feel that 2 points should be made in this regard. Firstly, the Bank operates in the poorest developing region of the world and must therefore finance some of its transactions in a way which allows assistance to reach those countries which need it most. This kind of assistance has primarily gone to the very poor nations such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Secondly, concessional loans are not made from funds borrowed by the Bank. The soft loans are made from the Bank’s special funds which are, to quote the charter of the Bank:
Held, used, committed, invested, or otherwise disposed of entirely separate from the ordinary capital resources of the Bank.
I am pleased that the Government has honoured its obligation to the poorer countries of this region by its substantial contribution to both the hard and soft loan activities of the Bank. While I was speaking last Thursday the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) interjected that this Government was not doing enough with respect to our foreign aid program. A number of my constituents have also written to me on this matter. I remind the House again that Australia ‘s official development assistance of 0.5 per cent of gross national product is well above the average for the developed nations of the world. I agree that it should be more, and so should the contributions of all developed countries. I believe that this Government shares that view. I am pleased that this Government has set itself the longer term target of devoting 0.7 per cent of our gross national product to our foreign aid programs. In the meantime, it is gratifying to note that on a per capita basis our contribution to the Asian Development Bank which serves the poorest developing region of the world surpasses the contributions of all the developed nations. I am pleased to be able to support the Bill presently before the House.
-I also support, as does the Opposition, the Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill. The debate has been of a non-partisan nature since it is evident that there is a very strong inclination to have regard to the need for Australia to make a contribution to the developing countries in our region particularly, but in other parts of the world as well. The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to make an additional share capital subscription, on behalf of Australia, to the Asian Development Bank of $US346.1m, of which 10 per cent will be paid over a period of 4 years commencing in 1977-78 with the balance remaining on call. This represents Australia’s full entitlement in the general increase of $US5,004m or 135 per cent being made to the authorised capital of the Bank. As the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) said, Australia is a good performer in this field. From what I can see we are exceeded in our contributions only by Japan, the United States and India. Mention of India as a contributor to the Bank is an indicator that the people who benefit are also involved from a dual point of view as recipients and as contributors. This of course evokes a very great sense of responsibility on the part of all the participants.
It is interesting to note in the Asian Development Bank’s quarterly review of OctoberNovember 1976 that the Bank’s total lending passed the $3 billion mark on 23 September last year when its Board approved a $32m loan for a development project in the Republic of Korea. By the end of the year’s third quarter the Bank had approved, in all, 270 loans totalling $3,009. 10m for 247 projects in 21 countries. As one goes through that very interesting quarterly review, it is interesting to note the nature of the disbursement of funds. There is a very high emphasis on financing public utilities. Some 35 per cent of the funds went in that direction. Agriculture attracted some 22.7 per cent of the funds; industry, 21.9 per cent and transport and communications, 19 per cent. I see that education attracted only a very small, if not infinitesimal, part of the funds- 1.07 per cent. One wonders whether it might not be advantageous in the medium and longer term to expand the allocation under that heading.
A great deal of philosophical conjecture can be brought to bear on this matter. We all recall that for many years aid was used as a weapon of the cold war. Countries gave assistance for the purpose of deriving direct regional advantage, sometimes in consideration of defence requirements and matters of that kind. I do not think that Australia has pursued its aid policy along those lines. I certainly do not advocate that it should do so. There has also been some philosophical conjecture to the effect that Australia and other countries should have the right to tie their aid to the potential repurchasing that could take place in Australia or in other donor or contributing countries. I do not disparage that suggestion altogether. I think that it is a fair sequel to aid and one to which we could turn a very factual eye in the future. There is no question that when a country like Australia contributes to another country’s development in the Asian region, benefits are likely to accrue. When we develop a purchasing capacity, a consumer demand capacity, it follows that Australia would be among the countries which could derive benefit.
One could talk about many matters on this Bill. As former Minister for Housing and Construction, I had the good fortune to be very deeply involved with the work of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation which, as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, has a very direct association with our aid program in that it has been associated with about 22 countries around the world. I believe that although SMEC, as this organisation is called, is in a very competitive situation, the Government should not let up in any way in the endeavour to keep SMEC in the vanguard of this functionary aid program. Our technicians go into the consultative field, exposing to these developing countries the way in which their own resources can be developed. I have noticed from studying the Bank’s annual report- I commend the study of that report to honourable members to see the work done- the wide range of countries that have been the subject of investigatory programs. For example, the report refers to the work done in the hydrological area in the upper Nile basin, the feasibility study of the power station in Ghana and the great projects in Indonesia which I have had the privilege of visiting- water studies and road projects, some of which we have directed in a very effective way. Our aid has gone to the Philippines,
Malaysia and Thailand the into the Pacific area as well. I believe that this is a very valuable part of our aid program.
Another matter which deserves some mention at present is the Common Fund which is currently the subject of some controversy in the United Nations. The aim of this Common Fund is to protect developing countries from fluctuations in export earnings. The aim is also said to be to improve market access and reliability of supply for primary products, to diversify production in developing countries, and to improve market structures, distribution and transport systems for commodity exports of developing countries. What is Australia’s position in regard to the Common Fund? I am told, following some research in the Parliamentary Library and through other processes, that in Nairobi in 1976, Australia did not oppose the adoption of the resolution of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on the establishment of the Common Fund. But at the conference being conducted at present in Geneva, Australia has refused to state its position. The delegation to the Geneva talks is from the Department of Overseas Trade. Its attitude, reflecting the attitude of this Government, has alienated already most of our Asian neighbours. A report from the conference quotes a senior Asian diplomat as saying:
I can’t understand that on a question so vital to all ASEAN Countries Australia can be so indifferent to it.
I draw attention to this matter which I think is very relevant to the question that is before the House at present. In essence, the Common Fund is involved with the 10 predominant basic export products in the developing countries. The commodities in the integrated program, these 10 core commodities, include coffee, cocoa, copper, cotton, tea, tin, rubber, jute, fibres and sugar. There are 8 other commodities in a subsidiary group which includes meat, bananas, bauxite, iron ore, manganese, phosphates, tropical timbers, oil and oil seeds. It would be apparent to all honourable members that the stabilising of these industries and agricultural pursuits would contribute very significantly to the well-being of the people in the producing areas. In addition, it would advantage people in the importing areas. Australia is affected in regard to several of the commodities mentioned. There is no doubt that in the Mount Lyell situation we would have been very greatly advantaged if the Common Fund had been in operation.
I am told that an independent observer attending the Common Fund Negotiating Conference in Geneva, Mr Rollason, has some very pointed and critical comments to make about this matter. He said:
The Developing Countries known as the Group of 77 are dissatisfied with the lack of progress, and their impatience with the Western industrialised countries known as Group B has reached frustration level.
According to Mr Rollason, apparently there is now talk of a walk out, and the objective of establishing a Common Fund could be in jeopardy. Australia, as a major commodity producer and a member of Group B, could have led the way into real negotiations. For reasons best known to the Government, apparently it has steadfastly refused. The trade official who is leading the Australian delegation, Mr Colin Teese, is said to have admitted that ‘we have not taken a decision as to whether we will support a Common Fund’. He does not understand what is meant by a Common Fund. That seems to be used as a standing or holding position in the negotiations taking place in the United Nations at the present time. Mr Teese is said to have summed up the Australian position by saying:
We will reserve till the end the right to decide whether we accept or reject the Common Fund.
The reaction to this, according to Mr Rollason, is very adverse. He said:
Australia’s non-position is not winning us any friends amongst our regional neighbours either. The substantial efforts to improve relations with ASEAN Countries by Foreign Minister Peacock is rapidly being undermined by the Trade Department delegation present at this Conference.
This is a communique dated 24 March. I believe it is of such urgency that it ought to command the immediate attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs because the reactions attributed to some of the spokesmen from neighbouring countries are very alarming indeed. The Conference Ambassador of Indonesia, who is a spokesman for the Group of 77, is said to have named Australia as one of the countries with whose position he was very disappointed. The Malaysian representative had something similar to say, as did the representative from Papua New Guinea. The Conference Ambassador of the Philippines- I am just skimming through this communiquestressed the importance of ‘developing relations between neighbours in our South East Asian Region’ and commented that there should be maximum effort to see each other’s viewpoints. The Malaysian representative commented that he had expected Australia to take a more understanding attitude of ‘our aspirations’ not only because of ‘our close relations’ but also because Australia is a major producer of commodities.
-Order! The debate is on the Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill. As I understand the position, the honourable member has been off that topic for the last 8 minutes. I think the principles involved in the House on these sorts of debates allow a degree of free-ranging debate. I invite-I put it at no higher level than that-the honourable member for Hughes to return to the substance of the Bill, perhaps as he is getting towards the end of his speech.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have substantially made the point which I wanted to make on this matter. There are many facets of aid inseparably associated with the matter before the House. We have entwined within this issue the provisions of the Asian Development Bank Act, the Asian Development Bank (Special Funds Contributions) Act, the Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Act. It would be quite impossible for anybody to separate those matters from the one before the House. In terms of the total philosophical issues under contemplation at present, Australia’s performance in the past, its current performance and its future performance are certainly very relevant. Our aid will take different forms. Another Bill is listed on the notice paper for debate- the Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill. It would be inappropriate for honourable members to talk at length about that today, yet it would be an absurd proposition to discount it as it is directly related to the subject before the House at present.
I applaud the activity taking place under the Asian Development Bank. I am glad that the contributions which Australia is making to sustain it are substantial. I believe that in the longterm, Australia, although at present it is in a contributory situation, stands to be one of the most significant beneficiaries under the Asian Development Bank concept. I am very glad that we have no direct tie-up in terms of security, foreign policy or matters of that kind. It is very important for us not to be superficial in our analysis of these matters because the facts are that such aid is capable of being the subject of abuse. All of us will recall from some time ago the criticism of aid programs to which Australia was a contributor, particularly the Colombo Plan, when it was said that there was abuse in terms of material being thieved and used by the private sector and that buses were being provided and if something on the bus broke down it would lie there and an enormous waste of funds would be involved.
It is very interesting to note that there is still a great deal of criticism of aid programs around the world. Before I came into the House today I was looking at a paper provided by a prominent, if not eminent, staff member of the World Bank. He was complaining that profits from the sale of land in India’s Punjab region had risen by 500 per cent as international and large national companies moved into the agricultural business. We must keep our eye on that kind of matter to see that the people in general rather than some private entrepreneur are the beneficiaries. This gentleman, Mr Ladejinsky, complained that in respect of aid to India tenants of generations are being forced to become hire labourers and that in 2 districts there were 70 000 evictions. Many of those evicted from farms are moving into city slum situations. He is making the point that we should do everything we can to ensure that our aid program contributes to the success and survival of labour intensive industries, whether they be primary or secondary industries. I believe we must have a long-term view of these things. I would have liked this Bill and the other Bill which I mentioned to be debated cognately so that there could be a more general coverage of these matters. I commend the Bill. I believe that Australia will have to do even more to increase its aid program.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I, too, rise to support the generosity of the Australian Government in this Bill which allocates $34.6m as its contribution this year to the Asian Development Bank. I am pleased too that members of the Opposition are supporting this Bill. This is one of the humane occasions of political life on which we are able to support proposals that contribute to and help the economies of other people who are in greater need than the people of this country.
Australia’s contribution was originally allocated in the 1976-77 Budget. I have heard criticism from people, including some members of the Opposition, that Australia is not giving enough in overseas aid. Nevertheless, we are giving a greater amount year by year. Certainly, we gave a greater amount in 1976-77 than had previously been given. I would like to read just one section from Budget Paper No. 8 entitled Australia’s Official Development Assistance to Developing Countries 1976-77 which illustrates the generosity of this country. It states:
The Government ‘s commitment to assist developing countries is reflected in its decision to increase Australia’s aid program for 1976-77 by IS per cent at a time when the growth in public expenditure is being curtailed.
That is quite generous. It further states:
The total provision for Australia ‘s official development assistance (ODA) in 1976-77 is $398,504,000.
That is almost $400m. It continues:
This is estimated to represent 0.49 per cent of the forecast gross national product for that year, which compares with the average for member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development . . .
Their average, of course, was 0.36 per cent. We have gone a long way towards fulfilling our aim of providing 0.5 per cent of our GNP by way of assistance. Hopefully next year we will be able to achieve that goal.
Australia has a very proud record in regard to the contribution it makes to the Asian Development Bank which is the subject of this Bill. I say that notwithstanding the fact that Australia also contributes to other similar banks, such as the World Bank, that are dedicated to helping countries in need. The Asian Development Bank is only one of the three or four banks to which we contribute. Our record is the same in respect to this Bank.
It is worth while noting the 1975 annual report of the Asian Development Bank. I fully realise that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has presented some figures from the 1976 quarterly report of the Bank. However, the annual report to which I refer points out very well the aims of the Bank. It also points out in its opening remarks the recognition that it takes of the economic problems that many of its member countries had in 1975. No doubt the same situation exists today. The report states: . . most of the Bank’s developing member countries (DMCs) suffered severely from the effects of world-wide recession, inflation and widening trade imbalances, and these effects will be felt to an even greater degree in future years. In addressing itself to its members’ needs and problems, many of which are of a long-term nature, the Bank’s efforts were directed to:
That is very necessary-
I agree very strongly with the third point because it really covers the reason for its establishment, namely, to provide funds to people who under normal circumstances, through normal financial institutions and normal banking avenues would have difficulty in raising funds to meet their needs. The report further states:
Much of the lending in 1975 was directed to sectors where the need for accelerated development was most urgent- 37 per cent to agriculture and agriculture-related activities and 29 per cent to public utilities . . .
This, of course, is mainly for power projects in these countries about which we have seen much publicity lately. The report goes on to talk about disbursements during the year.
A look at the record of the member countries of the Bank shows that Australia has performed outstandingly. On average each of the 41 member countries provides Vh per cent of the Bank’s capital. But Australia accepts a far greater contribution than the average obligation. It subscribes 12 per cent of the total capital of the Bank. Australia is making a very generous and worthwhile gesture when we consider that a country of our size subscribes 12 per cent of the capital when the average is 2Vi per cent.
The Asian Development Bank has been operating for only nine or ten years. Therefore it is relatively in its infancy. The Bank financed only 7 projects in 1 968 which was the first year of its operation. But 9 years later the number of projects financed by the Bank grew to 228. In 1975 the total amount in terms of loans on projects had grown to $2,500m. The figures presented by the honourable member for Hughes in respect of the quarterly report of the Bank for 1 976 show that the amount is now over $3,000m. So we can see that the Bank has a very healthy growth rate.
I will not go through the list of member countries and the contributions they make because this aspect of the Bill has been covered adequately by previous speakers. However, members of the public listening to this debate and certainly some members of this House will no doubt think that 41 member countries sounds a lot, even in a world-wide context. Notwithstanding that, 41 countries do not really go a long way when one looks at the Asian and Pacific areas. It is rather surprising how many countries there are in these regions. The list is quite impressive. Of course, outside of Japan, Australia is making the greatest contribution.
Members of Parliament- this happens in my electorate and no doubt it happens in the electorates of many other honourable members- are approached consistently by good Australian people who ask us to try to persuade our Government to put more money into Australian assistance to overseas countries. This year we haverightly so- directed much of our overseas money towards New Guinea. This does not mean that we have neglected other Asian countries. New Guinea is a developing country. It has recently gained its independence and it is to this country that the bulk of the money should go.
In supporting this Bill I certainly commend the Government, as I have done already. I would like to tell the Australian people that this Government does not intend to stop with a contribution of 0.49 per cent of our gross national product towards overseas aid. We want to get it up to the target of 0.5 per cent. The Government is genuine in wanting to assist countries in need. But is should be borne in mind that, as the report suggested, when we have economic problems as we do at the moment- they are not of a serious nature- we must give money in an organised manner and it must be money that we can afford without placing great burdens and strains on the Australian taxpayer and without taking funds from other sections of the Australian community where money is needed also. So we recognise that there is need in Asian countries for funds. At the same time there is some need at home among the people of Australia. Although we will follow the policy of increasing this amount of funds, it must be done in an organised way. I know that the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) wants to follow me with figures in more detail. So I simply say that I support the Government on this Bill. I thank the Opposition for supporting it. The money will go to good use.
-The honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) said he was enthusiastic. He did not sound all that enthusiastic. On the whole I am prepared to agree that there are worse fields of destruction being wrought by this Government on previous programs than there is in this area of assistance to other countries. I agree with everybody who has said that Australia relatively does pretty well in this field and that compared with other people we do not do too badly. I can only say about that that in this field you do not have to shine very brightly to be a star. The world is more concerned with other things in general than with lifting the living standards of suffering humanity in South East Asia or anywhere else. I suppose that Australia on the whole has managed to create a very favourable impression around the world and particularly in our part of the world by its actions, but it is mostly the people in the field who manage to produce this result.
My friend the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) mentioned the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and its present activities. The Snowy Mountains people of course have established a pre-eminence in some of the engineering fields, particularly in such ventures as road making and so on. I remember that when we were in northwest Thailand a few years ago we saw the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation team working there on the Tak-Mae Sod road between Burma and Thailand. These people were the superprofessionals in the business. Not only did they bring a professional approach; they also brought a style of operation which was a lesson and an example to other people. One of the interesting things about our own professionals is that they do not seem to mind taking their coats off and getting underneath the bulldozer, getting their clothes and themselves dirty, if something goes wrong. By contrast many of the professional people who work with them in the field think it is against their highest professional ethics to get their hands dirty. Australians on the ground are people who get on with the job, who mix with the local citizenry and who are prepared to communicate about how you do the job. Australian people on the whole get a pretty good pay-off in the form of goodwill. I might say that this is pretty much the way with the people from New Zealand. I find that around the various parts of the world where they operate they are very good at actually getting on with the job and getting full value for their money.
Taking the general principles upon which we are operating, I am not too sure that we have answered here this afternoon some of the questions which have been raised about all the operations of the Asian Development Bank. I was interested in the comments by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury), who pointed out that although we had committed a fair amount of funds to the Asian Development Bank in the past some of it did not seem to have been taken up. Like me, he was a bit puzzled about the actual details of it all. Perhaps we do not get adequate information in this Parliament about the systems we are supporting in the rest of the world. Perhaps the Parliament itself, through its various committee systems, ought to take a more active interest in it and it ought to look at things more closely on the ground. We are sending groups of parliamentarians overseas continuously, but I do not know that we get the detailed analysis on the ground of Australian activities that we ought to get out of that. I would expect that part of that flows from the fact that the Parliament itself is often isolated from the activities of the institutions it creates, whether it is Asian Development Bank or the Department of Foreign Affairs. Not only are we isolated, but often times we are insulated from proper information.
Let us look at the figures that are involved. Australia’s contribution of $346m over the next 10 years- about $34m is to be paid out now and the rest is to be on call- while a substantial sum for most of the people of the world is not a substantial sum as far as Australia is concerned. It is a reasonable contribution but it makes a pretty small impact upon the great sea of trouble that we call South East Asia. I am not sure in my own heart that the banking system is the best way by which to contribute to the development of underdeveloped communities. It is true that we use in this case some techniques that we could well use at home; for example, special concessional interest rates. In this instance Australia, by giving its support to the Asian Development Bank, becomes a supporter of the guarantees of the Bank for its continued borrowing overseas. I think we should be trying to avoid putting the developing nations into the hands of the moneylenders of the world. No matter what kinds of institutions they are, the continuing demand of interest payments on development programs around the world is a millstone for the future. Australia has had enough of that itself. There must be other ways in which we can do it.
One of the great difficulties with the banking system is that you are likely to deal more successfully with the people who have the least need of your services. You will forgive me, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I am pessimistic enough to think that no matter whether it is the Asian Development Bank, the Australian private banks or even in some areas our own publicly owned banks, banks are likely to be in the hands of people who are very conservative when they have to consider the factors that are involved in supporting the activities in the banking system. We have acquired some fairly progressive bankers in this institution on occasions. Perhaps they may not be here all that long, but they make a good contribution while they are here. Some of the ones I know quite well have done so. But it is more the pity if we have taken the progressive bankers out of the banking system. Therefore perhaps it is our public duty to return them to their active duties.
The real problem we face in this part of the world is the tapping of unused resources. These resources are in the flow of finance and funds throughout the community but they are also in the development of community resources. I am not sure that the traditional banking system is the best way in which we can mobilise them, because we are dealing with a group of people who have enormous resources at their disposal. In 1969 or 1970 I visited Burma. One of the things that struck me about Burma was that it was a country with almost everything going for it except its
Government. I suppose it is in the same position as Australia. It has a substantially solid community life going back for some 2000 years, with a cultivated society torn into political discord over the last few years and now ruled by military people. The earth in Burma is especially fertile. Its rivers are immense and it has oil, timber and other resources. Its principal deficiency is good administration. Like many other countries it suffers from poor government and totally inadequate administrative systems. No matter what we do and no matter how often this Parliament debates questions of overseas aid, somehow we have to start to create systems of support for administration throughout the world.
Without access at the moment to any of the detailed reports on the work of the Bank, but noting some of the things that have been said here, one has to remark that most of the support seems to go to very large development programs of one sort or another throughout this part of the world. I hope that we will be able to find some way by which the great skills of administration which are some of the by-products of Western society- those skills are pretty meagre in the rest of the world- can be transferred to the communities to our north and north-west. I do not know how this can be tackled. I suppose that it could be done by support for local government. If we can give local governments in that part of the world funds at concessional rates and if we can supply then with technical training systems and so on we will probably be doing more for them than by bolstering up many of their central governments. As I see it, it will be a long while before most of those central governments are able to administer their countries in a way in which we expect this country to be administered.
I suppose that during the 3 years when Labor was in government we were not able to do as much as we wished to do in these matters, but I wish that this Government would apply itself more directly to the problem of supporting such projects in that part of the world. One of the questions that has been asked is: What do the Australian people feel? My observation, which is supported by pretty solid public response on occasions, is that Australians are very prone to supporting the needs of people outside this country. I have been a member of this place for a fairly lengthy and, I hope, very constructive period. One of the things that has depressed me is that members of the citizenry on the whole, in their relationships with their Federal members of Parliament, want to know what their Federal members of Parliament can do for them. People trudge up the stairs to our offices to tell us that their telephone has been cut off. One cannot blame the Telecom people because they want their bills to be paid. Other people may be in trouble with social security or repatriation matters. I do not think that it was until the Bangladesh crisis some 4 or S years ago that I received any real public response in the street. People would come into my office and ask what we were going to do about that problem. Honourable members who were here at that time would remember the tremendous pressure put upon the Government to provide some substantial support for the people of Bangladesh.
I can recall in my very early life, in 1923 when I was quite young, collections being taken up in Australia for the victims of the Tokyo earthquake and my own one or two pence going in to support the Japanese in that unhappy event. It was one of the ironies of international affairs that by the time I reached manhood we were spending our taxes and energy trying to knock the place down again. As I see it, in this country there is an enormous reservoir of goodwill towards people who are less well off than we are. It is our job to find some way of mobilising that goodwill. I am not too sure that a lot of the funds around this country could not be ploughed into something similar to the Asian Development Bank. In a country with a population of 13 million, 6 million or 7 million people with bank accounts might be prepared to invest $1,500 or $2,000 over a period, which investment would be guaranteed by the Australian Government. I would not be surprised if the Government could raise very large sums continuously in this way, just as I presume many of the needs of the Australian Government could be supported in this way, but I think that we ought to be able to resolve that question by greater intellectual effort.
In dealing with institutions as substantial as the Asian Development Bank we should not concentrate on the large things to the exclusion of the small things which would change the quality of life of communities in South East Asia. I remember on one occasion visiting villages in India. Those people do not need a mammoth dam on the river. They do not need a power house. I recall one case where the power line went past the village only a mile or two away and some power was being connected. But the people had no water supply. There were some wells on the edge of the village. The women went to the wells and carried the water back in the traditional Indian manner, in water pitchers on their heads. That is very picturesque and I understand that it is good for the human form and carriage, but it is an extremely wasteful way of doing it. Those villagers would have had their life transformed by 400 or SOO yards of one inch water pipe, one electric pump and 6 or 7 tapsthe sort of things that one finds lying around in their thousands in Australia.
When I think of the many things that we discard I become disheartened. I have seen very good equipment which is obsolete being sent off to the breakers and to tips in Australia. I recall seeing a printing press being taken off and sent to be broken up with a hammer. The ordinary people in India would be very grateful to get their hands on such things. I realise the great difficulties in creating a financial situation at the other end and an administrative system at this end. I hope that with institutions such as the Asian Development Bank we will be able to start to do something about overcoming the immense problems of transferring the surplus resources for food in this country, for instance, to the hungry mouths and waiting stomachs of the people of South East Asia.
It is a serious reflection on humanity that one of the biggest areas of trade between the wealthy countries and the non-wealthy countries is in arms. I forget what the figures are, but about three-quarters of the arms sold to the underdeveloped countries come from the three or four richest and biggest countries such as Britain, America, France and Russia and the other countries in their bloc. I do not want us to compete in that field. If I had my way I would neither sell arms to nor purchase arms from other people. If we could stop that trade we would make the world a better place in which to live. One of our greatest problems at the moment with surplus meat is in processing it. I recall being told that it cost something like $700 a tonne just to process it. That was the figure a couple of years ago. I am sure that if we applied all our skill, wisdom and wit to the problem we could do better than that. Having done that, we have to transport the product and then find a way of marketing it in a part of the world where the markets are in the hands of people who would prefer to transfer the funds available to the acquisition of Mercedes cars or something like that for themselves. Perhaps in this area we could follow the example of the Australian Dairy Produce Board which has established its own marketing arrangements in various parts of the world. In these areas I think that we can learn something from capitalist enterprises which have their own agencies and their own subsidiaries scattered throughout the world wherever they want to market their goods.
This is one of the areas of debate in this Parliament on which we all are basically in agreement. I think it is good if in debates such as this we do not fracture our shoulders by patting ourselves on the back and saying how good we are. We have a long way to go. We have a great opportunity to start to throw our weight around in the rest of the world and demand more action. The real difference between a good quality of life and a poor quality of life for people in a community stems basically from the kind of government and the kind of stability that they are able to develop in their own society. Let us consider the difference between, say, the Khmer Republic and Switzerland. Probably the Khmer Republic has more going for it than Switzerland in the way of climate and other things but the difference basically lies in the form of government. The same applies to Australia and many other countries. Any encouragement that we can give to the Government to proceed along the path which it has followed in this regard- that is, no undue reduction in our effort- will be encouraged by this side of the House.
-In rising to speak in this debate I do not want to take up a great deal of the time of the House. Most of the points have been debated. I agree with most of the comments made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). He suggested that perhaps the Asian Development Bank was not the best means of distributing aid or of showing that we have a concern for underdeveloped nations or for raising the standard of living of countries whose standards of living is lower than ours, but by doing this through the Bank we will have a permanent monitor to the type of aid- for it must be regarded as aidwhich we are giving. Until a better monitor comes to the fore- and I am not suggesting that improving the standards of local government in those developing nations is the answer- I am quite happy to have our aid given in this fashion because in so many ways when foreign aid is given it is open to abuse, it is open to rumour that the amount of funds we are prepared to expend as a nation is not spent dollar for dollar within the recipient nation and by the time it is spent on the cause for which it was designed to be spent the aid has diminished to a great extent. Therefore, I believe that the Asian Development Bank is a suitable means by which we can fulfil our obligations to these underdeveloped nations. I do not want to say that in any patronising way because there wil always be a dispute as to what is sufficient, what we should be spending at home, what we should be spending overseas. This debate will go on and views will differ from person to person.
In respect of the amount of money to which Australia is being committed, one wonders whether the giving of money is intended to remove all obligations from a nation such as Australia. For instance, much has been said about the high figure per capita that is being given by Australia. In terms of our population it is a rather generous donation but is it generous in comparison with India which gives more? I consider it to be a fine effort by India which is a country in which the standards of living are so much lower than ours. I believe that they are the standards we should be aiming at, not standards based on the amount of money that is given.
Quite a lot has been said in connection with what we would expect to receive in reciprocal trade for the amounts of money that we do forward and which are eventually lent. If these monies are expended in certain areas I would expect that in the short term our trade could increase considerably but I do not believe that that is the object of giving these funds. I was very interested to hear the figure cited by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield). He said that 37 per cent of these funds were lent in terms of agriculture. I agree with the emphasis the honourable member placed on this more so than with what the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said when he suggested that we process the meat and food here and send it over as aid. This is an extremely short term benefit, very short term relief. It probably puts 3 meals a day into the stomachs of some person for just that one day but it does not give him permanent relief. I would like to see our foreign aid- and I believe that the Asian Development Bank is doing this- go towards raising the standard of agriculture. I refer to projects in Bangladesh such as the fertiliser project and agricultural credit. In Indonesia Java Fisheries Development is a recipient of this aid. Another project is palm oil processing. These projects will be continuing projects which will increase and improve the standards of living on a permanent basis, not as something temporary. After all, can we increase the standards of living for a person in these nations by giving him one meal a day. But if we are going to give him one meal a day let us do it on a permanent basis.
I mention a project going on in Malaysia at the moment. This may not be covered by the Asian Development Bank but we should be exporting not only our money to these places but also our expertise. If the honourable member for Wills wishes, we can export our management, too. In Malaysia at the moment there is a project to develop a beef industry. I see this as being in no conflict whatsoever with our own export industry because Malaysia would probably never be able to afford, on the standards of living in that country, our imported meat. This project is only small. It involves converting jungle to pasture and raising beef for local consumption. I see this as a tremendous project. I see it as a project in which we have a constant monitor in that if we are supplying management and that management is giving the best of expertise and advise that Australia can offer.
It is not only in rural industries that I believe Australia is a leader. We could export our mining industry expertise to any place in the world and it would be well received. We have the technical ability proven over many years in the Snowy River project which has been mentioned. I notice that a report from the Bank indicates that this is the type of assistance that we should be looking at and I would hope that this is what Australia takes into account when it brings together its foreign aid policy. We should be doing something of this permanent nature.
Foreign aid, particularly within the South East Asian region, within the South Pacific area, must always be regarded as a means of trade for Australia but more importantly as a means of defence. The honourable member for Wills indicated that he was disillusioned at the fact that much of the exports from developed nations to underdeveloped nations was in cold hard cash which was required for munitions and for defence. I believe that we are giving aid in a cheapened fashion but on a more permanent basis by giving aid to these areas which are our neighbours and with which we will be trading in the future.
– Give them more sugar.
– That is one item I think we probably could export without giving them the expertise in growing for these places do not have the advantages of the Queensland coast where sugar can be grown.
It is in these areas that we establish our reputation, not as people trying to cleanse our consciences or the consciences of 13 million people just by giving a handout of funds and saying: That is the amount of money; we consider it enough, you can play with that ‘. If we do it in this other way by exporting expertise and management and monitoring projects we can make sure we are catering for the needs of these people and not simply providing the items which we think they need then I believe we will go a long way in our foreign policy and particularly in our defence.
I did say I was not going to speak for a great length of time. I just wanted to bring forward these additional points because many Australians today are questioning the amount of money we are spending on foreign aid and how it is being applied. I for one do not believe that money given by us to other governments is a complete answer. At all times we must match it with the necessary expertise and management to make sure that the money is better spent. We should have a consistent and constant monitor on what we do, and I do not believe that only the Public Service can give us this constant assessment of a project. There are many people throughout Australia who have in a practical sense been able to demonstrate their ability. They have been successful here. They are the type of people we should be sending overseas.
– in reply- Quite a number of honourable members on both sides of this House have spoken in this debate and I think that that in itself is indicative of the degree of interest which this Parliament has in the overall question of overseas aid. It speaks well of the efforts of the Parliament that honourable members from both sides so readily support this Bill which we are debating. As has been pointed out, the additional subscription to the Asian Development Bank which this Bill authorises is an important adjunct to Australia’s overseas aid program. A number of points have been raised by a multitude of speakers but I will not endeavour to cover all of them. However, I will deal with some of the matters of particular substance. If in dealing with those I do not mention some of the other specific matters raised by honourable members then it is not because they are not of importance but simply in order to close the debate and I would invite honourable members who have participated in this debate and who wish to take up with me or the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) any of the matters mentioned in their speeches not to hesitate to do so.
The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) spoke rather disparagingly of the present Government’s target and effort in the field of overseas aid generally. Other speakers from both sides of the House complimented the Government on its efforts in the field of overseas aid while suggesting ways in which that aid can be more effectively provided or spent in the recipient countries. Therefore, simply by way of general observation, I make some comment on what has been said. It is correct that the proportion of gross domestic product which Australia’s overseas aid represents this year has declined from 0.55 per cent to 0.49 per cent. However, I point out that the amount of aid, as a proportion of gross domestic product, has varied from year to year over recent years. Although the Government regrets this decline nevertheless it must be viewed in the context of Australia’s current economic position. Our first priority must be to make our own economy healthy. This, in turn, will obviously improve our capacity to help others. What we do on the domestic front will be of direct benefit in the future to the developing countries to which we provide aid.
The Government is deeply concerned about the problems of the less developed countries and the huge difference between the incomes of those countries and those of the developed world. Australia has matched its expressions of concern with concrete measures designed to improve the position of less developed countries. International comparisons of aid performance, as pointed out by a number of speakers, indicate that Australia continues to rank high among donors on the basis of both the terms on which aid is provided and the size of official development assistance as a proportion of gross domestic product. Virtually all of Australia’s aid is given in grant form, and most of it is untied. I know from what has been said by previous speakers that all honourable members welcome this policy approach by the Government. The Government will ensure that Australia continues to shoulder its fair share in the provision of assistance to less developed countries. By way of example- these examples have been given before but are worth repeating- Australia has undertaken to provide Papua New Guinea with at least $180m per annum over the next 5 years, largely in the form of budget support. Australia has pledged at least $86m to Indonesia and $60m to the South Pacific over 3 years. Not all of our aid is given bilaterally, of course. In addition to the proposal before the House concerning the Asian Development Bank, the Government has recently pledged $30.7m over 3 years as Australia’s share of the Asian Development Fund replenishment. We have also decided to support a fifth replenishment target of $US7 billion to SUS7.5 billion for traditional donors for the International Development Association, and to maintain our existing share of 2.04 per cent of that target. This involves a commitment of $A 133.7m at current exchange rates. All of this verifies the concern which
Australia feels to bear its share of the provision of international aid to underdeveloped countries.
The honourable member for Adelaide raised some technical questions concerning the effect of overseas aid on the Budget deficit, whether it adds to domestic demand and whether it has inflationary tendencies. I refer briefly to those aspects without seeking to go into them in great detail. It is misleading to suggest that overseas aid expenditure should not be subject to constraints within the Budget context on the argument that it does not add to the domestic Budget deficit and has no effect on domestic liquidity. The provision of foreign aid involves the use of real resources by Australia for the benefit of other countries and this involves a reduction in the resources that would otherwise be available to Austraiian citizens. The process by which those resources are provided is complex. However, as they involve a reduction in resources available to Australian citizens, the Government must regard proposals for overseas aid expenditure in a similar light to proposals for other government expenditure. In fact, a large proportion of overseas aid results in demands on Australian resources. In 1975-76, for instance, approximately 50 per cent of total overseas aid of $347m involved direct procurement by the Australian Government of goods and services. This was reflected in the domestic deficit. Most of the remaining 50 per cent represented Australian Budget aid to Papua New Guinea. In 1975-76 it was $148m, a significant proportion of which would have been expended by Papua New Guinea in the purchase of goods and services from Australia. In total, probably 75 per cent of 1975- 76 overseas aid was thus directly reflected in demands on Australian resources. For 1976- 77, the proportion would probably be similar.
The honourable member for Adelaide also sought to make some point about possible underexpenditure of the overseas aid program this year. If there is under-expenditure this year, it will largely reflect the inability of the Aid Bureau to spend the allocation rather than any deliberate decision to achieve savings by cutting that program. As all honourable members know, in the overall budgetary position of all departments for the whole of a financial year, for a variety of legitimate reasons, expenditure may not reach the actual appropriation. Mention was made by a number of speakers of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Common Fund negotiations and Australia’s position. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les
Johnson) went so far as to suggest that the position adopted by Australia showed that it was indifferent to the proposals put forward by developing countries. This is simply not true. Australia has undertaken to discuss the Common Fund proposal in UNCTAD without commitment. It is understandable that with developing proposals, in the sense that negotiations are continuing and proposals are being worked out, and differing proposals, with respect to the Common Fund, Australia would seek not to commit itself at this stage but to participate in debates and discussions before making a final announcement on its position.
There have been recent statements by President Carter and others on these discussions and the negotiations about a Common Fund. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has recently been in the United States of America and I have no doubt that he has been briefed on the position of that country at the present time. So it is not correct to say that Australia is indifferent to what is happening in this area. It is of importance to us because of the proposals to achieve a stabilisation of commodity markets and in the interests of developing countries themselves. A number of speakers mentioned the percentage of Australia’s participation in procurement from the funds lent and provided by the Asian Development Bank. They referred to the Japanese percentage of 40 per cent, the United States percentage of 8 per cent and Australia’s percentage of 2 per cent. The honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) particularly raised this point and sought an assurance that administrative or non-commercial factors did not lie behind this differential in percentage. I assure the honourable member that contracts awarded under bank loans are on the basis of international competitive bidding and open tendering and are in no way related to non-commercial factors. That, nevertheless, points out the room which Australian industrial and professional services have to participate in the procurements which flow from the Bank’s loans. No doubt there is a considerable area of room for improvement in the participation of Australian services and industry.
The honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) made the point that perhaps the Government could help Australian industry and the professions which provide technical and other services to be more aware of the opportunities available in the member countries supported by the Bank. I am sure that the Government would be interested in giving that kind of help wherever it may be needed by Australian industry and services.
The honourable member for Perth also sought an assurance regarding an on-going evaluation of projects which are funded by the Bank. The Bank supervises the implementation of projects and reimburses borrowers only for expenses actually incurred on projects. The Bank has also started a program of evaluating projects after implementation in order to determine to what extent the objects of the projects have been achieved. I think the honourable member for Penh will be satisfied to know that the Bank is active in that way.
As I say, I have not sought in this reply to cover all of the matters raised by each honourable member who has spoken but simply to pick out particular aspects which I thought, when listening to the debate, deserved immediate comment. I thank all honourable members who have participated in the debate for their contribution because, as I said at the outset, I am sure it reflects the overall interest of this House and of the Government in Australia’s overseas aid program.
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 Viner) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24 March, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Modification Bill 1977 which has already been introduced in the Senate and has been passed by that august chamber. I notice that it took some 52 minutes of debate there. Looking at the question one can see that everybody would have his own idea of what sort of decision ought to be made in choosing the tune for a national song, which is the purpose of this legislation. As a lawyer one might have hoped to amend this piece of legislation to ensure that the Australian people could express an opinion on any number of matters that the Government may from time to time decide; for example, the mining of uranium and matters of that nature could well have been encompassed in what might be called a general purpose provision. However, we are limited on this occasion to suggesting to the people of Australia that they might like to indicate what tune they desire for a national song.
They are limited to the 4 choices of God Save the Queen, Advance Australia Fair, Song of Australia and Waltzing Matilda. Having read the speech of my learned colleague Senator Button in the Senate I can see why many people might not select any one of them. Senator Button described the various words that are used in respect of each of those melodies, and there are faults in respect of every song. I must say that I agree with him. As we are dealing with the tune we are apparently dealing only with the melody and not’ the words, but I do not think the Australian people will be making their decision on that basis. One would hope that as an up and coming nation we would evertually develop a national spirit to the stage where we want an anthem of our own and not be just exercising some sort of discretionary voting rights as to a tune for a national song. I can think of nothing less important than this sort of decision.
I am pleased to note that the people in the Territories will at least get a chance to exercise some rights in this matter as they will not be able to do in respect of the 4 major referendums which will be dealt with on the same day. But we hope in that respect that one of the referendums will give them a vote in all future referendums. This matter has been fully debated in the Senate. I am convinced that one day we will develop a more national spirit and we will even select our own national anthem and will exhibit the spirit this nation has been anxious to show. I am convinced that people under 30 years of age in Australia will be keen to change from the choices offered in this proposal I have no doubt, as has everybody who is interested in this matter, that there are people in our electorates who have keen ideas as to what sorts of expressions ought to be used to identify in a national anthem Australia and what it stands for, with all its ethnic backgrounds including its Aboriginal culture, its achievements and national identity. For what it is worth, the Opposition makes no more comment than that it hopes the people will indicate also at the time they exercise their choice that they have other ideas as well. We fully support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill 1977 is an important piece of legislation.
-The AttorneyGeneral says: ‘Hear, hear! ‘ We appreciate the fact that he has introduced it, we just wish it were a better Bill. We will propose an amendment that it be redrafted. At this stage I indicate that we shall suggest that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to prevent hostile incursions by Australians into foreign countries, preparations for such incursions and the recruitment in Australia of Australian citizens for those purposes. The only satisfactory part of the Bill that we can identify is clause 9 which states that there shall be no advertising for recruitment. In other words one shall not recruit mercenaries. The history of this legislation is worthy of some comment. Perhaps we can excuse the Government for what we regard as faulty drafting on the basis that not many countries in the world have yet legislated effectively in this field. The British -
-What do you mean by faulty drafting? Are you attacking the draftsman?
-I am not attacking the draftsman. The Attorney-General is very sensitive this evening.I am talking about faulty drafting in terms of what the Government is trying to achieve. We shall elaborate that a little further. The point I am making is that the British had an Act seeking to prevent their citizens engaging in mercenary activities but it was an Act of some age and it would not effectively prevent the difficulties that arose relatively recently in Great Britain, particularly in respect of the Angola situation. Knowing the problems of the world today it is difficult to identify what is a government in the wording of the legislation. We saw the situation really come to light in the Angolan situation where the Portuguese had indicated to 3 contending parties that when the Portuguese decided to leave Angola they would virtually hand over the government to 3 parties on a trust basis. We then saw virtual civil war commencing between the 3 contending parties. We have read since of the great tragedy that occurred to a number of young British men who were recruited as mercenaries to fight for money. Unfortunately they were recruited to the losing side. As a result of that they lost their lives. Some of them were executed by the winning side.
This clearly shows that if one sets out in draftingI emphasise this matter as regards this Bill- one has to be very careful if one is trying to protect Australians in the future that the wording is not as in this Bill. Under clause 6 of this Bill it is perfectly legitimate to engage in hostile activities for a government but it is wrong to engage in hostile activities against a government. One is then involved in the niceties of what we are talking about as a government. Are we talking about the 3 contending parties in Angola? Are we talking about General Amin in Uganda? Are we talking about the Smith regime in Rhodesia? This is where all the confrontation and military action have taken place or are likely to take place. Clause 6 of the Bill defines hostile activity as: the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the foreign country; causing by force or violence the public in the foreign country to be in fear of suffering death or personal injury; causing the death of, or bodily injury to, a person whois the head of state of the foreign country; or holds, or performs any of the duties of, a public office of the foreign country; or unlawfully destroying or damaging any real or personal property . . .
That is hostile activity. It has been suggested that it is wrong to interfere with the freedom of individual Australians, that perhaps we should not prevent them from engaging in activities overseas, that it would be contrary to their individual rights, but if we consider the question we realise that we are talking about the right to engage in hostile activities of the nature described. Surely if we are talking about the rights of those people whom we are anxious to protect in that regard, we must look at the rights of the rest of mankind who will be on the receiving end of that hostile activity. They have rights as well. So the Opposition takes the point that clause 9 ( 1 ) of the Bill is commendable in the sense that it just does not limit the situation to talking about actions for a foreign government; it makes it quite clear that any recruiting of people for or against a foreign government is illegal and liable to penalty. That ought to be the whole tenor of this Bill. That is why we are suggesting that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted with that concept in mind. In other words, the whole Bill is not bad but by trying to save the Bill one virtually has to wreck clauses 6, 7 and 8 for the reasons that I want to expound.
It is quite clear that it is a crime to recruit people in Australia to be in an armed force in a foreign country whether for the government or otherwise. It is just as important that those people are not encouraged to engage in hostile activity for or against a government. I look at the problem of the Diplock Committee which was set up in Great Britain following the Angola tragedy. That Commission said that it was virtually very difficult to legislate in this field and limited itself to talking about how no encouragement should be given to recruiting. In the course of those expressions by the Diplock Committee it went on to say that men with beliefs would be anxious to fight in any cause whatsoever. The Opposition recognises that such men might be anxious to fight m any cause whatsoever, but as Australians they have a duty to this country not to engage in hostile activity because their beliefs could well disagree. For example, what a tragedy it would be for the Australian nation to find 2 Australians fighting each other in Rhodesia- one for the Smith regime and one against it. I am not at all clear about the position from what the Attorney-General said on a broadcasting medium called AM. He made it clear that if a person wanted to engage in activity in Rhodesia, this Bill would not encompass that person. I think that that could be an interpretation of clause 6. We would like to see the legislation strong enough to say that a person will not engage in hostile activity either for the Smith regime or against it. The Attorney-General could be deemed to have said on the radio program: Well, you may be able to fight on a conscience basis for Smith’. If that is so, obviously we can read into that that a person may be able to fight on a conscience basis for the guerrilla activity against Smith. So we could have the position where 2 Australians would be fighting each other in rival forces. I do not think that any legislation should leave the situation in such doubt.
We come to the United Nations itself. This point is made very clear under the United Nations charter. It states:
All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.
It would be extremely difficult for Australia to be able to say in the United Nations that it did not know what its own people were doing, if in fact they were fighting as mercenaries in some action where there was an illegal government.
Let us take the Chilean position. There were people anxious to fight for Allende and there were also people anxious to fight against him. Certainly in Australia that might well have been the situation. Under clause 6 of this Bill and depending on whether the Allende Government remained, those people, if they were in favour of the Allende Government, would be acting in accordance with the provisions of clause 6 and not liable to any penalty. If at that stage those people were fighting against Allende, would they be liable to a penalty under this Bill. If the Allende regime fell, as it did do, the people who were fighting against it would then come within the ambit of legality of this Bill. Those who were fighting against the government that deposed Allende would become liable to the penalty. Honourable members can see the difficulty into which one can get when one starts talking about hostile activity against a government. The provisions of clause 6 clearly make the point that it appears to be in order to engage in or enter into a foreign country to engage in hostile activity provided that activity is not against the government. I put the word ‘government’ in inverted commas because one has the difficulty of trying to identify what a government is. The penalty is quite severe. Of course it would be extremely difficult to enforce. Clause 7 is another interesting definition of trying to prevent action. It states:
A person shall not, whether within or outside Australia -
do any act preparatory to the commission of an offence against section 6 . . .
It then proceeds to talk about acts that are prohibited under that section. They are all understandably acts that we would not want to see perpetrated here- the stockpiling of weapons, the training or drilling of people for the purposes of hostile activity, allowing oneself to be trained or drilled, the giving of money or goods to perform those services, the receiving or soliciting of money or goods for the purpose of those services and the allowing of premises to be used for those purposes. But those purposes are the purposes as defined in clause 6. None of that action can take place in respect of preparation for hostile activity against a government. One could read into that that all those actions could take place for hostile activity on behalf of a government. The Opposition makes this point: We do not want to see that activity take place in any way in Australia. Can honourable members imagine anybody in this country encouraging the preparation and accumulation of weapons and the training and drilling of people to engage in action outside this country? It has all the earmarks of disaster for those people so engaged. It has all the earmarks of disaster for this country as a nation to allow such a situation to happen. We have this problem of there being so much conflict in the world that we cannot possibly sit down here and calmly say: ‘The safest thing for us to do is to prevent recruiting’. I emphasise again the point that under clause 9 that recruitment, either for a government or against a government, is prohibited. I want to see the same situation introduced in a new piece of legislation where a person shall not engage in any hostile activity either for or against a government and shall not engage in any of the preparations as envisaged in clause 7 either for or against a government. Clause 8 makes the position even more difficult to understand because a person really does not have to engage in all those actions to be guilty of an offence. Clause 8 states:
A person shall not, in Australia, recruit another person to become a member of, or to serve in any capacity with, a body or association of persons the objectives of which are or include any of the objectives referred to in sub-section 6(3).
So honourable members can see that there might be what may be termed a normal meeting of people here urging, for example, that there be an overthrow of President Amin of Uganda. In doing so, those people would be guilty of an offence under clause 8 because the Amin regime would be deemed to be the government. If those people had a meeting with just the objective of hostile activity in mind, not any other overt act, they would be guilty of an offence under clause 8 and liable to imprisonment for 7 years. The point I am making from the Opposition’s point of view is that by all means encourage the Government to prevent Australians from engaging in any warlike activity outside Australia. Recruitment, in the sense of the banning of recruitment, is only a small part of the problem.
Clause 9 reveals that that has weaknesses too. Sub-clause (2) of clause 9 provides that the Attorney-General can make provision for permission for that sort of recruitment in Australia where the circumstances warrant it. We again say that that is a dangerous piece of legislation because if there is to be any armed force or recruitment for an armed force, it has to be under government control. It has to be in the interests of the Australian nation. It has to be for the purposes of the Australian nation. It should not be left to some discretionary point of view as to whether it is good or bad. We would have the difficulty of somebody suggesting that we might want to recruit Australians to fight in West Irian or a similar country. Can one possibly imagine the Government saying: ‘We are not involved in this matter. We do not really have anything to do with it”? The Attorney-General certainly said that it was permissible to recruit for that purpose. I do not think any government could get away with it, as clause 9 (2) is drafted.
We are saying that the Bill needs to be redrafted. The concept that we are endeavouring to put in the amendment is that hostile incursions by Australians into foreign countries be banned, that preparations for such incursions be banned and that the recruitment in Australia of Australian citizens for these purposes be banned. It is very easy to do but it is not done in this Bill. The point I make is that clause 6 bans hostile incursions only if they are against a government. Clause 7 bans all the preparations, drilling and stockpiling of weapons, provided they are against a government. Clause 8 sets penalties for people who take any action the objective of which is merely the implementation of the objectives of hostile activity. Clause 9 ( 1 ) is interesting in that it is so wide that it catches all recruitment for or against a government. We welcome that position. Clause 9 virtually laughs at clauses 6, 7 and 8 because these clauses limit the offence to actions against a government. Clause 9 makes it an offence to take action whether it is for or against a government. That is why we say that this Bill ought to be redrafted.
I notice that the American legislation states that if one is a member of the armed forces of any other country one is liable to lose one’s citizenship. Perhaps the American courts may not impose that penalty, but it shows that the Americans are very concerned about what would happen to their nationals if they were allowed to engage in armed activity in any other country. So we have this problem of trying to find comparable legislation in other countries. There is not really much at which to look.
– Try Cuba for size.
-The honourable member wants to try Cuba for size. Many people recognise the Government of Cuba. Therefore we would be in this difficulty of getting involved with people who favour the present regime or another regime. We could say the same about Yugoslavia. Australians are fighting in Oman at the moment. On what side? We must look at what we mean when we talk about governments. We should not say: ‘We are not too clear on our attitude to Angola’. We did not understand who was the government of the country. The famous Colonel Callan, who tragically met his own death at the hands of a firing squad, was fighting for a side that could well have been deemed at one stage of the event to be the appropriate government of that country. He lost the battle. Somebody else won it. So young people from Britain were slaughtered because they were recruited to fight for a losing side. We do not want to see that happen to Australians. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wrote a letter to my colleague the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) because my colleague was anxious to prevent recruitment in Australia. I do not know whether the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), who is trying to interject, wants to hear this, but we are dealing with life or death. In that letter the Prime Minister wrote:
I reiterate that the Government is opposed to the service of Australian citizens as mercenaries . . .
We say the same thing. We say that this Bill does not achieve those aims. It only opposes the recruitment. That is the position. We want to get it quite clear. If we were to say that we supported this Bill the Government could encourage mercenary activity that has already taken place in this country from the point of view of recruitment. Australians are engaged in war-like activities in other countries. That is not what we want to see happen. It would cause all the difficulties that I have mentioned. It would create all the international complications that one could readily appreciate if a government were turning a blind eye to the fact that its citizens were engaged in hostile activity. There could not be anything more hostile than the activity defined in this Bill, that is, involving the blood and lives of other people. So there will be severe penalties if anybody is caught by another country. What a tragedy it would be if here in Australia we were pleading for the prevention of execution of Australians who were caught acting as mercenaries or engaged in related activity, particulary in Africa. We do not want it. We do not encourage it. The Bill ought to be redrafted on that basis.
I make these points: Why make a special prohibition on recruitment and not any special prohibition on stockpiling, drilling, training and all the other activities that are associated with hostile activity? Why single out only recruitment and make it an offence to attend a meeting or to form an association when the objectives are merely to get some change in another country and when any activity other than attending a meeting has not been engaged in? The Bill imposes severe penalties for that sort of offence. We make this point: It is impossible in many cases to define which is the foreign government. Governments change quite rapidly. At present we do not recognise the Smith regime in Rhodesia; it is an illegal regime. Therefore in relation to Rhodesia one cannot get caught within the ambit of clause 6 in my view, because that is an illegal regime. I notice that the Attorney felt that anybody who wanted to engage in activity in Rhodesia would be outside the ambit of this legislation. That is wrong. People from Rhodesia have come back here on Australian passports. They were obviously engaged in military activity there. That creates all the problems which I mentioned earlier. For the reasons which I have mentioned, I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I think it is important to have some clarification here and now on the Government’s attitude to mercenaries. So there can be no mistake about the Government’s attitude as far as that body of men or women is concerned, I refer to the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on or about 1 3 April 1 976. It was a quite clear cut statement of the Government’s attitude:
The Government does not approve the service, recruitment or training of Australians as mercenaries for service in other countries.
That is a quite clear and unequivocal statement of the Government’s attitude. The provisions of the Bill have a two-fold objective. Firstly, there is a prohibition on incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities. Secondly, there is a prohibition on the recruiting of persons in Australia to serve in armed forces in a foreign country. It is the Government’s wish to preserve international relations. This Bill will go a long way towards achieving that goal. It would seem that most countries have some arrangement whereby one is not permitted to recruit openly mercenaries and mercenary types to go and fight in a foreign land. Australia had never formerly had any legislation along these lines, and for reasons that I will subsequently advance this commendable piece of legislation is not before time.
I have received numerous inquiries from Australian Jews expressing their doubts as to whether the provisions of the Bill would prevent them enlisting in the armed forces of Israel or whether an Entebbe type raid emanating from Australia would be caught up in the sanctions imposed by the Act. I can immediately allay all fears they may have on both those counts. Clause 6 of the Bill forbids a person to enter into a foreign country with intent to engage in a hostile activity against the Government of that country, or engage in a foreign country in a hostile activity against the Government of that country. The Bill clearly sets out that engaging in a hostile activity consists of doing an act for the purpose of achieving, among other things, the objective of the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of that country. The operative word here is the word ‘objective’ mentioned in the clause. One must look at the objective of the action. Taking that into consideration there can be no doubt in my mind that Australian Jews wishing to fight for Israel would be free so to do and that any rescue operation of an Entebbe character would not be an infringement because the objective- again I stress the word ‘objective’- of such a raid could never be said to be for the purpose of the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of a foreign country.
Tonight I shall address my remarks mainly to the second thrust of the Bill, namely, that concerned with recruitment in Australia. Here it is important to note that citizens, especially those who might be described as patriots, would not be ensnared by the provisions of the Bill if they enlisted as mercenaries to fight in support of the Government of the country of their origin. That is an important consideration. Clause 9 (1) (d) of the Bill is of particular relevance to my remarks. It will be noted that that clause makes it a penalty for any person to do any act or thing for the purpose of facilitating or promoting the recruitment of persons to serve in any capacity in or with an armed force in a foreign country. I mention that because it has particular application to the Rhodesia Information Centre at Crows Nest in Sydney. I have not the slightest doubt that this centre is a front for the recruitment of persons in Australia to serve in the Rhodesian armed forces. The director of the centre is on record as saying only in January of this year that they advised Australians wishing to take part in the war against black nationalist guerrillas to communicate with Salisbury. Only last week this national centre, in response to a phone call, advised me that if I wanted to join the Rhodesian army to write to Salisbury. It was suggested also that I send a medical certificate along. I was further informed that I would be contacted direct from Salisbury and that, if accepted, I was to fly there at my own expense. I was also advised that if I was not accepted my air fare would be refunded. I was told further that Rhodesia would take as many mercenaries as it could get.
My belief as presently advised is that at the moment between 100 and 200 Australians are serving in the Rhodesian army. Reports referable to Australians serving in Rhodesia show that they are expressing grave doubts as to whether they would be caught up under the sanctions of the legislation if they returned to Australia. I am sure they would not be entrapped by the provisions of this Bill or by any of its clauses. Therefore they should have no worries on that score whatsoever.
I suggest that the Rhodesia Information Centre, m its nervous state to facilitate enlistments, has a confounded cheek in thumbing its nose at the Bill presently before the House. I hope that members of our Commonwealth Police Force pay the centre a call shortly and cite the provisions of clause 9(1) (d). I hope that they will specifically draw attention to the fact that anyone who transgresses this clause is liable to a penalty of $10,000 or imprisonment for 5 years. I can only hope and trust that that type of call would bring an abrupt halt to this pernicious practice emanating from that source.
There can be no doubt that the Rhodesian Government has recruited, and still is secretly recruiting, Australian mercenaries to fight a Vietnam type war against the Zambians. I believe that ample evidence exists that Rhodesian army officers posing as South African businessmen have been operating in all Australian capital cities. Reports have been received of an efficient spy system being set up by Rhodesians giving them access to highly confidential military records of every ex-serviceman they recruit. An example of one recruitment drive is in relation to a former private who served with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in Vietnam. Apparently this former soldier was wounded in that country and left the Army in 1970 with a 100 per cent war pension. He had been attracted to a Sydney newspaper advertisement that invited Australians to migrate to Rhodesia. His reply by way of inquiry was met with brochures and general information. An example of the deceit that is flowing from the centre is the fact that he was also given a migrant application form. Of course that form sought information in respect of his military background.
He subsequently received a telegram asking him to ring a motel in North Sydney and to ask for a certain person. The next day that gentleman initially stated that he was a businessman in Australia on holiday and had been asked to check up on people who had made applications to migrate to Rhodesia. He talked generally about Rhodesia and then said straight out that he was a major in the Rhodesian Army and was in charge of recruiting. He said that he had been sent to Australia for the specific purpose of interviewing applicants for the army. The major stated that the Rhodesian Army was interested in Australians because of their experience in this type of action in Vietnam. Obviously he was here in secret. He went on to say that he would be in a lot of trouble- no doubt he would have been-if the Australian Government knew that he was here recruiting.
As further evidence of the deception that is being practised, this former soldier was told that his passport would not bear any stamps to indicate that he had been to Rhodesia. All that would be shown was that he had entered South Africa. The offer to the former soldier included a free flight for himself, his wife and young daughter to Salisbury, the guarantee of a house with 2 servants, free medical, hospital and dental service and a substantial salary with a bonus every 12 months. I understand the contract was to be for 3 years at the end of which he was to get a bonus of $1,500 plus a free return flight to Australia. The Rhodesians wanted, and still want, men to wage a Vietnam type of war against the Zambians. Apparently this former soldier was informed that the Rhodesians did not have enough combat experienced troops.
Information was given to him that there were Australians in Rhodesia, all specialists in booby trapping and ambushing, currently operating behind the Zambian lines. In any event an application form to join the Rhodesian army was duly completed and almost immediately a telegram from the Director of the Rhodesian Information Centre at Crows Nest arrived requesting him to ring a man in Melbourne. This he did. He was told by this gentleman that he was an officer in the Rhodesian army and that he was in Melbourne personally to study all applicants’ military records by sighting them. According to him the Rhodesians had somebody planted in the Deparment as its records, as everyone knows, are highly confidential and are never officially disclosed. He subsequently received his contract duly signed by the mysterious major on behalf of the lieutenant-general and commander of the Rhodesian Army. However, further deception became manifest. It was visited on him when he read the contract and apparently it contained conditions completely different from the ones that had been previously stated. In that regard he had been told that he was liable to service anywhere in the world.
Only recently an advertisement appeared in one of the national papers seeking fit men for tough, exciting adventure jobs overseas. Ages were to range from 18 to 30 years. It was stipulated that applicants must be single and have had past bush or military service. The job was to be with all expenses paid, good pay and top conditions for the right man. Reports last year received from the Singapore Government indicated that Sydney was being used as a base to recruit South East Asian students for communist guerrilla groups. Reports from the Singapore Government said that links had been traced between underground communist cells and a recruitment and fund raising centre in Sydney. It was said that the centre had been set up to subvert Singaporeans and Malaysians in Australia.
All in all the recruitment of persons in Australia, as I have said, is obnoxious, and the severe sanctions imposed by the Bill will go a long way towards eradicating this practice. The recruitment of mercenaries to fight in foreign lands is usually a shadowy affair conducted in secrecy over lunch or in hotel suites. It is interesting to note just how many able-bodies and broadly experienced mercenaries and commandos are presently in this country and prepared for a price to lend themselves to fight anywhere at any time for a cause. Let there be no doubt that over the years there has been a vast recruitment campaign of the nature to which I have referred in every State of the Commonwealth. I say with deliberation that foreign recruiters are present in Australia and have been for some time taking advantage of decent Australians who, not having served as mercenaries before, know very little about how they can be treated and indeed about their safety since they have perhaps always served in a former Australian Army and have been treated accordingly to its standards. They may go overseas- if honourable members opposite listen they will learn something- and fight somewhere in Africa or South America and end up without any support, military or financial, perhaps dying and being tagged as indiscriminate killers.
The fact remains that recruiters need Australians who have taken part in the Vietnam War and are known to be well trained and responsible people. They are in great demand as mercenaries, as people who can be depended upon in times of crisis. Recruiters from America and Europe have this in mind. They realise the distance of the trouble spots from Australia, the untapped manpower that exists and the reasonable frustration on the part of former soldiers and commandos living in a country which is perhaps still reasonably quiet and undramatic in its social structure. It must be understood that many former soldiers still seek military action and comradeship. Therefore the underlying theme is that our people to an extent are naive and easily roped in to serve in all sorts of mercenary outfits. They want to experience this sort of thing since it has not been part of our heritage to be able to do so as perhaps it has been part of the heritage of Germans, Irishmen and Scotsmen in the past.
Local and overseas recruiters are obviously aware that there are hundreds upon hundreds of men living in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities who are prepared to fight for money. Therefore no doubt the Rhodesians and perhaps now the South Africans have an immediate need for such men and, that being so, have stepped up their own recruiting drives. I have been given to understand that South Africans are recruiting from gun clubs and from the Army, a practice which if continued will be visited by heavy penalties under the Act. A particular problem has arisen with the sort of people who deal in mercenaries. They are with few exceptions low and disreputable in their commercial and personal outlook. Of course the thought has always been that a person who wishes to be a mercenary has a right to do what he wishes with his own life. As I said in the early part of my speech, this Bill does not restrict the operations of mercenaries as such because it would be regarded as impinging on or inpugning the personal or individual liberties of the subject. The Bill, as I said, does not impinge on their activities for the reasons I have just stated.
I believe on the information I have I should sound a clear warning to similar-minded Australians. There are a great number of people in this country who have had experience in fighting. Numbered amongst them are Americans, Canadians and a lot of English and Irish people. Amongst this group are those who have come here and have taken out a nationality umbrella with all its advantages and have then chosen to earn their living elsewhere in cash, which naturally is not taxed, to return to Australia and use the country to live in and on whereas they fight for an earn money in other nations. The Bill is a most commendable one. As I have said, it outlaws incursions and recruitment in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
-In seconding the amendment, the best that I could say about the contribution of the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) to the House is that I had great difficulty in working out whether he is in favour of the Bill or opposed to it. He belaboured the word ‘mercenary’, a word that does not appear in the legislation. If he equates a mercenary with someone who fights for money, as I think I heard him say in the closing part of his address, I suppose every soldier in the world is a mercenary in that sense.
My attitude is one of opposition to hostile acts, whether committed by governments, their supporters or those who oppose governments. The amendment amounts to just that. Those who are engaged in hostile actions can earn no respect from me, although I recognise that there are those who will engage in violence to achieve their ends. I trust that I shall never be one of them. If violence is used against me I shall retaliate but trust that I will never initiate violence. Therefore I cannot agree with the philosophy behind the Bill, as it will not correct anything in its present form.
It is clear from a reading of the Bill that any Australian citizen, any person ordinarily resident in Australia or any person who was resident in Australia for one year prior to the commission of the hostile act is in breach of the legisation and, if found guilty, will suffer a penalty of 14 years imprisonment, provided that the hostile action was against the government of a foreign country. That means that the people of the class that I have mentioned can commit with impunity hostile acts in Uganda against Ugandan people who oppose the madman Amin, but if they were to oppose the maniacal dictator who declares himself the government because he owns the pistol they would risk suffering imprisonment for 14 years on returning to Australia. The same thing of course would apply if people supported the illegal regime of Smith in Rhodesia or supported those who sought freedom.
The Bill is badly drafted and full of vagueness and ambiguity. It gives dispensation to any person acting in the course of his duty to the Commonwealth in relation to the defence of Australia. It is well worth noting that during the 1960s the Conservative Government led by the most ultraconservative Prime Minister Australia has had until the present one declared that Australian soldiers were engaged in the defence of
Australia whilst fighting in Vietnam. How history was to reveal the lies and the deceit used to support that specious contention! Even with the passage of this worthless legislation, nothing will change. On the face of it the Bill seeks to prevent a number of undesirable and un-Australian activities such as a willingness by any Australian citizen or resident to engage as a mercenary. If found guilty he would be liable to a penalty of 14 years in gaol. The preparation in Australia or elsewhere for hostile acts against governments of foreign countries by possession or stockpiling of weapons, munitions or poisons, by training, by giving of money or gifts in support, and by knowingly allowing property or buildings to be used, carries a penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Recruiting persons to commit hostile acts carries a penalty of 7 years imprisonment. Recruiting persons to serve in the armed services of a foreign country carries a penalty of $10,000 or 5 years imprisonment.
The all-embracing nature of the Bill would also make it an offence for Australians to send messages of support to oppressed people who were retaliating against tyrants. Yet all of this becomes some monstrous window display when clause 9(2) is read. This clause allows the Attorney-General to declare any war a respectable war and, by publishing in the Gazette his nod of approval, allows the vultures who thrive on conflict to recruit and advertise for recruits in Australia to serve in any capacity with an armed force in a foreign country, whether for or against the government of that country. Surely the people of Australia will not tolerate the Attorney-General deciding whether wars in foreign countries are just or unjust, whether foreign governments should be supported or opposed, whether Australian people can fight for this cause or that cause in a foreign country. Does the Attorney-General really expect us to believe that he has the omniscience to declare these things? Will it come to a flat ‘ no ‘ to anybody who wishes to recruit people to serve in’ an armed force hostile to the governments of southern Africa, Rhodesia and Uganda and a .’yes’ to those who support the governments? Is this the let-out to allow the recruitment of Croatians in Australia to serve with the Ustasha because of its avowed opposition to the communist. Government of Yugoslavia?
The words used are ‘in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia’. On those grounds the Attorney-General may give a dispensation. If the present Government and its supporters were rational people and not gripped by their paranoiac hatred of communism, that clause would seem to be inoffensive, but we have a government untrusted by the people, a government that has diligently earned that distrust over the past 15 months. It has a Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) noted for his broken promises and unwillingness to keep his word. It has a Treasurer (Mr Lynch) who speaks frequently and at length on the economy but the people believe only 14 per cent of what he is saying. With such a track record how can this House and the people of Australia believe that the spirit of this legislation would be observed? We know it to be window dressing of the most blatant sort, a true velvet glove with a steel insert. It will have as much effect on the activities it seeks to prevent as would a strike by abattoir workers on Sweeney Todd’s pie factory.
Let us turn to clause 10(3). Again the Attorney-General has the final say as to whether proceedings for commitment for trial on indictment for an offence against this Act shall be instituted. The Attorney-General asks this House, this Parliament, the people to give him the right to decide who shall come to trial and who shall not, and simply by procrastination on somebody’s part an accused shall be discharged. Clause 10 (5) says:
Nothing in sub-section (4) prevents the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.
The definitions outlined in clause 3 do not tell me what is a reasonable time, so this sub-clause is also at the discretion of the Attorney-General. I trust that the people listening will take note and that the Press will highlight the enormous discretionary powers which this Bill intends to confer on the Attorney-General. The man who is presently the Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, is known to this House and to the people. He is known to be honest and to have integrity. We all remember when he and the present Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Howard, were examining boxes of documents before 13 December 1975, when the present Prime Minister formed a caretaker Government, seeking to find evidence to incriminate the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and others in relation to overseas borrowings. We know that they could not find any evidence. A Press release by the Attorney-General told us so, very honestly and in a very straightforward manner. We also know that the then caretaker Prime Minister called the caretaker Attorney-General to his office and told him to reissue his Press release but in terms not so honest or straightforward. He is alleged to have told his caretaker AttorneyGeneral to make it appear that all was not quite above board with the documents. We know that the Attorney-General was uncomfortable and embarrassed at practising his first lesson in politics by the master of the double standard and innuendo.
Knowing all these things, we can trust Attorney-General Ellicott but how are we to know who will follow him? How are we to know to what exalted position he will be elevated by a Prime Minister intent on finding jobs for his boys before the next election or the next coup in the party room of the Liberal Party? It is too great a power to reside in one man, even a man of the integrity of Attorney-General Ellicott. He is not known to be a person to succumb to pressure from the Prime Minister or anybody else but, if he were, would clauses 9 (2), 10 (3) and 10 (5) not leave themselves open to abuse? This can be put down only to poor drafting. The amendment should be carried to allow the Government to rethink the legislation.
The iniquitous actions of some people in Australia in setting up training camps at Wodonga and at other places in Victoria and Queensland appalled all Australians. It was unbelievable. It was unthinkable that any person other than our armed forces could establish camps to train people for warfare in another country. Yet that is what happened as the Ustasha set about training people to return to Yugoslavia to oppose the Government there. The Bill prevents this action if it is training people to fight against a government. So the Ustasha is prevented from doing so. However, why should we tolerate military training camps at all for whatever purpose? Australians are a blend of many races, cultures and creeds. We have welcomed to our midst people from almost every country on earth. We are a peaceful, friendly people who wish to live in harmony with and free from fear of our neighbours. It is intolerable that those whom we welcome as brothers and sisters should bring their hatreds, prejudices and animosities with them. To achieve this, clause 7 should be re-worded to delete the words ‘section 6’ wherever they appear. If this were done, all military or paramilitary training camps not established by the Australian Government would be outlawed, and that is as it should be. I shall be supporting the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and opposing the Bill until it better suits the real position in Australia.
– I suggest that the real master of double standards is the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith
Johnson). On the one hand he is saying that this piece of legislation is completely worthless and on the other hand he wants to strengthen the legislation by supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I commend the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) and the Government for again showing great initiative and wisdom in bringing down this important piece of legislation. In essence the Bill is directed towards 2 particular problems of urgent national and international concern to us in Australia, namely, the prevention of foreign incursions by persons from Australia and the recruiting in Australia of people to serve in armed forces in a foreign country. Both these areas are currently of concern here because in recent times there has been clear evidence of military-type incursions into foreign territory by people who have been residing for various lengths of time in Australia, and as well of efforts in various parts of Australia to recruit persons to participate in armed conflict in some other parts of the world. There is no doubt that the training in Australia of people to engage in foreign incursions has threatened our international relations and it is therefore essential in order to preserve those relations that we deal specifically with the problem in the form of this penal statute.
There are existing laws which provide limited opportunity to restrict foreign incursions, but that legislation lacks teeth and is not really effective. Under the legislation before the House the authorities will be in a much better position to terminate quickly and effectively preparations for such foreign incursions. Clause 6 of the Bill prevents incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities against the government of that country. It applies not only to Australian citizens but also to people who are ordinarily resident in Australia and persons who were present in Australia within a year immediately before the offence was committed. There are, of course, limits to the powers that the Parliament, or indeed any parliament, has to legislate to control the activities of citizens of other countries, so there must be some reasonable connecting link to warrant the application of Australian law. It was found necessary to include in the categories of persons to whom the legislation applies people who have been present in Australia for only a short period. It is felt- and I would agree with this-that the 12-month limit is appropriate. In previous incursions emanating from Australia the people involved included some who had been here for only a very short period of time. In some cases it would seem that they actually came to Australia with the express intention of training others here in Australia to participate in their activities overseas and them leaving to go overseas on their escapade. Any responsible government with concern for international peace and order cannot allow that kind of person to engage in those activities without sanctions that can be imposed within Australia
I am pleased to see that under clause 7 the preparation for incursions will also be prohibited. Again I compliment the Attorney and the Government on the form of the legislation. It appears to cover all the various activities that a group might be involved in in preparing for a military type incursion including stockpiling and keeping of arms and explosives and other weapons, the training and drilling, and the meeting and assembling of people with intention to train or drill, and it applies even to owners and occupiers and other categories of people who might knowingly allow a meeting or assembling of people on their premises to promote the offence. So under this clause the legislation is very wide in its impact and should virtually prevent these sorts of activities from being carried out.
In recent times there has been accumulated a good deal of evidence of some foreign countries and forces endeavouring to recruit young men in Australia to join their armed forces and to engage in active combat overseas. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) did cover this very well in his speech. He mentioned a couple of examples and I will not go over them again. Advertisements have been placed in newspapers asking people to apply for ‘interesting work abroad’. One such advertisement gamed widespread publicity in Hobart some months ago and caught the attention of my colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), but when certain people sought out the individuals responsible it was not easy to find them or the organisers of the recruiting campaign.
– They were phantoms. The Committee of Privy Councillors appointed by the British Government to inquire into the recruitment of mercenaries spent some time considering these types of advertisements. In its report the Committee was particularly concerned about the recruitment of British subjects in the armed forces of the National Federation for the Liberation of Angola. It was found that the recruits answered advertisements like the one that I have mentioned has been used in
Australia, and as a result of the advertisement some 160 British citizens served in the armed forces of the FNLA. The first batch of recruits was aware that they were being engaged in a combatant role but the Committee found that among those recruited in Britain at a later stage some thought their duties in Angola would be limited to training African troops and that they would not be required to serve actively unless they actually volunteered to do so. In that case the recruits were flown from London to Brussels and then to Zaire in Africa. The rate of pay offered was £Stg 1 50 a week and they were paid £300 in advance before departure. In most cases that money was paid to relatives. Active recruitment in Britain came to an end when it became known that a number of the British mercenaries had been massacred by their own side in the African conflict.
I am opposed to the Opposition’s amendment for a number of reasons. The honourable member for Burke and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) are simply saying that they oppose all forms of mercenary activity and are against all mercenaries. There is of course a problem in defining what a mercenary is, but if the suggested amendment were acceptable it would prevent mercenaries from engaging in activities which perhaps might be acceptable in some cases to the people of Australia, for example, the International Brigade in the Spanish civil war. The United States citizens who joined up in the British Air Force before their own country entered World War II could be said to be mercenaries. The British Jews who fought in the Israeli Army against the Arabs also could be said to be mercenaries. There is a problem in defining just what is a mercenary.
The Committee of Privy Councillors was tempted to seek a definition of mercenaries which would differentiate between the professional free-lance soldier and the soldier of conscience. However, it was not found practicable to distinguish between the two. I would like to quote briefly from the findings of that Committeethe Diplock Committee- as follows:
The motives which influence a man to enlist in an armed force which is not that of his own country may run through the whole gamut from sheer desire to private gain accompanied by indifference as to the cause which that force is supporting to a conscientious conviction that the merits of that cause are so great as to justify his sacrificing his own life if need be in order to ensure that it will trill mph . . .
The Committee also said:
A spirit of adventure, an ex-soldier’s difficulty in adjusting to civilian life, unemployment, domestic troubles, ideals, fanaticism, greed, all may play some part in the same individual’s motivation. No single one of them may be identifiable to the standard of proof called for in a court of law as the effective cause of his becoming a mercenary.
So one can appreciate the problems in attempting to distinguish the various types of mercenary and in this legislation that particular expression has been avoided completely. It is important to note that the legislation does not prevent a person from serving as a mercenary in an overseas government force but it prohibits in certain circumstances the recruitment here in Australia of persons to serve as mercenaries. I repeat: It prevents the recruitment of those persons to serve as mercenaries. This was completely in accord with the conclusion reached by the Diplock Committee to which I have made reference. Accordingly, the Bill does not make it unlawful for an Austraiian to fly to a foreign country because of some deep concern or belief and to enlist for military service with that country, although it would make it unlawful for a person in Australia to recruit another person for that service. To serve as a mercenary is not an offence under international law and a mercenary under the Geneva conventions, to which Australia is a signatory, is entitled as a prisoner to the same treatment as is any other member of a military force. That is important to note. So there is some international recognition of the role of mercenaries.
I think the legislation in its present form protects those important rights of the individual to serve in a cause in which he believes but at the same time protects the public interest and as far as possible ensures the maintenance of good international relations between Australia and other countries. I commend the Government for the foresight it has shown in so promptly bringing down this piece of legislation.
-I welcome the fact that the Government has brought forward this Bill because it does allow a discussion on a matter which I think a number of us have felt strongly about for some time and it is a matter that the Parliament should discuss. I enter the debate briefly because I feel that in some way it is very much a conscience matter to which I must address myself. Mention has been made by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) and the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) of the definition of mercenary. I realise the difficulty there. I do not think there is any doubt that there is a complete repugnance on behalf of most Australian people to the mercenary who simply sells his services to whoever pays the highest price or where the opportunity occurs.
– Paid killers.
– They are paid killers. I think the repugnance is pretty widespread. The problem also is that once one deals with those hired killers, one finds problems of recruitment and of illicit arms being horded and used. Much has been said to the effect that there should be a letout for certain individuals because of the rights of individuals but those individuals, in accepting Australian nationality, also accept responsibilities to the nation. I am presenting a view which is personal and which is probably more extreme than most honourable members would offer. Certainly this is something that I have not discussed with my colleagues on this side of the House. I support the amendment because I feel that persons should not be involved in armies outside their own country. In arriving at this conclusion I thought of the International Brigade, in the Spanish civil war which has been mentioned in the debate, when many men felt as a matter of conviction that they must go and fight in Spain.
I can think of the attraction of other apparently just causes throughout the world where men have volunteered to fight, not just as hired killers but because of their devotion to that cause. But if we try to make allowances for them, we leave too many loopholes. This is the reason for the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen)- to close off very tightly this aspect of recruitment and service. I feel that despite the arguments that can be put to allow loopholes for just causes and the question of the right of the individual, the national responsibility is too great to have this type of legislation which allows these loopholes. If men wish to serve in causes, I suggest that we have our own army which could be used to fight these sorts of causes although they may not always be just causes. Also, if we wish the United Nations peacekeeping forces to be successful, we should be pressing for those forces to be used in those troubled areas of the world.
Attention has been paid by previous speakers to clauses 6, 7, 8 and 9 which deal with the question of serving in forces other than government forces and the recruitment to those forces. I asked a question on 23 February about recruitment in Australia for the Rhodesian army. This question arose out of a newspaper report. Unfortunately I do not have the extensive private espionage network available to the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) but the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) expanded on the answer which he gave to my question without notice. I seek leave to have his written answer to me incorporated in Hansard. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) has indicated that he is agreeable to that.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Canberra 1 March 1977
Dear Dr Jenkins,
I refer to your question without notice on the 23 February 1977 drawing my attention an article in the Melbourne ‘Age ‘ of that date which alleged that soldiers were being recruited for the Rhodesian army in Australia and that the Australian Government was aware of these activities.
The person referred to by Professor Roebuck is Mr Anthony William Bell who was unsuccessfully prosecuted in June 1976 for placing an advertisement in the Hobart Mercury seeking recruits for the Rhodesian army. Mr Bell who has served in the Rhodesian army apparently placed the advertisement on his own initiative.
Mr Bell has admitted to police that he recently contacted Professor Roebuck and handed to him papers associated with his activities last year, including a list of twenty names he had gathered.
Inquiries reveal that Mr Bell has not undertaken any further recruiting since his prosecution in 1976 and there is no evidence that recruiting is taking place in Tasmania.
I reiterate that the Government is opposed to the service of Australian citizens as mercenaries in the armed forces of other countries. This is one of the reasons why the Government is planning to introduce legislation to prohibit recruitment in Australia for such purposes.
DrH. A. Jenkins, M.P.
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
As has been mentioned, in his reply the Prime Minister reiterates the Government’s attitude to the service of Australian citizens as mercenaries. His reply gives some basis for what is contained in this Bill. Clause 9 of the Bill provides for the Attorney-General to authorise recruitment for a specified armed force generally or in particular circumstances where that is considered appropriate by the Government. This sort of authorisation, this let-out, in the Bill by the AttorneyGeneral concerns me because I wonder who lays down the criteria and the tests for such authorisation. This country has been involved in a major armed conflict where there was no declared state of war. I am reminded of my son at the age of 14 years attending high school in the United States of America and attending a seminar of high school students at which the subject was Vietnam. At the seminar Justice William O. Douglas of the United States Supreme Court was asked: Sir, what is your opinion of the war in Vietnam? ‘ His reply was: ‘Well, as a constitutional lawyer, I have to say there is no war in Vietnam’. This son of terminology -
– He was a part of the Vietnam lobby, though.
– The honourable member for Hunter interjects but I only repeat what Justice Douglas had to say about definition and the problems it can get one into when one gives discretion to Ministers to authorise the waiving of conditions in this way. As I indicated previously, my attitude is for an absolute ban on recruitment for service overseas except in the Australian forces or in United Nations peacekeeping forces. In this way there can be no loopholes and there is no need for the let-outs. The snide operations that go on to get men fighting overseas would go by the board. There are a lot of loopholes concerning offences with regard to advertising for recruits. There is in the community a number of ethnic groups. Persons can come from the same country but still have a variety of cultures and a variety of opinions. Mention was made of Yugoslavia. I mix with a lot of people from Yugoslavia. The group with whom I do not mix is composed of the remnants of the Ustasha, the Chetniks and some of the younger people who are convinced of the right of the Croatian national movement. I have been the subject of abuse, spitting and proffered violence by this group when attending functions held by the other Yugoslavs. It seems to me that as they meet together and talk about what could be done to overthrow the legitimate Government of Yugoslavia, they would well come under the definition of clause 9.I am not sure that we really want to stop them in their daydreams. What we want to do is to stop them inciting and carrying out violent action. After all, ethnic radio was used in Melbourne in November last year to at least incite violence in Australia in this report. One knows of the reported terrorist activity that has occurred and those who have been arrested after leaving Australia in an attempt to carry out such activity.
One of my colleagues in the Victorian State Parliament raised the question on Wednesday 16 March, of Creations running a military training camp in Gippsland. He gave a description of occurrences there. In fairness, he said that he could not guarantee that that was what was occurring but there was certainly a lot of noise. There was shooting and there was strong suspicion that that was what was going on. That, indeed, is one of the things that I am told when I go into the community. I think that is something which should be stopped absolutely. There is no let out. There is no opportunity for such actions to be authorised. When the umbrella of our nationality is accepted such people should conform to the sort of standards we set.
There are some other matters in the Bill which concern me. I refer to clause 10 which deals with prosecutions. I feel that the Bill needs to be redrafted because it goes too lightly in this area. Once again a great deal of discretion is given to the Attorney-General. I trust that the present Attorney-General will not feel too sensitive about that remark. I am not making a personal attack on him. But as the person who holds the office of Attorney-General he is being relieved of a good deal of responsibility by that provision. Sub-clause (5) of clause 10 reads:
Nothing in sub-section (4) prevents the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.
What is the meaning of that sub-clause? Is that the prime let-out? Does that provide some way in which persons can avoid the sanctions imposed under this Bill, nebulous though they may be, as my colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has pointed out? Those provisions need redrafting to give substance to the Bill.
There are other things that flow from this sort of activity which should be considered. Recently there has been a spate of seizing of hostages throughout the world. When one reads accounts of these incidents one notices that most of them are carried out by national groups of some sort or another, purportedly for the cause of their particular nationality or their particular religious penchant. One recent international magazine referred to the seizing of hostages as the scourge of the 1970s. Unless we have in this country firm legislation to prevent any suggestion of recruitment or of grouping that could be used for overseas service we will find that next we will have the same sort of seizing of hostages for political reasons- not in regard to Australian politics but in regard to political events on the international scene.
I take a fairly extreme point of view on this matter when I say that there should be no recruitment of Australians for service in forces of other countries. There should be no recruitment of them and no permission for them to go. I mentioned 2 exceptions to that previously, and I think they are proper and in accordance with our international responsibility. I agree with my colleagues who have said that while this Bill has provided a vehicle for debate-I might even accept the proposition that there was some goodwill expressed and a desire for it to be effectivein its drafting it has too many loopholes to prevent the sort of activity that Australians find so repugnant and wish to see prevented.
-The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) has done the House a very great service by extending the scope of the discussion in the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill 1977 by taking extreme points of view so that we can look at the Bill with great care. The honourable member for Scullin must be one of those who must now regret that there is no standing committee of this House to which a Bill of this sort which involves extra-territoriality, private international law, civil liberties and diplomatic relations, can be sent. There was never a Bill such as this that would have provided the opportunity for the House to deliberate on it in a standing committee on law. At the present moment we nave no opportunity to do so, and therefore we have to do our very best.
I must admire the courage of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott). He has provided the very first Bill which I have known in history which concerns all the world. Honourable members should take note that every foreign country is referred to. In its definitions clause the Bill states: foreign country’ means any country outside Australia.
The provisions of the Bill extend to every territory, including, I suppose, the penguins in Antarctica where we have extra-territorial rights. The second half of the Bill which is an honest attempt to deal with the main problem- that is to try to avoid this nation providing recruits for foreign armies- is commendable.
The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) rightly pointed out that we have a large number of migrant groups in this country. I do not think people understand quite the complexity of the situation. There are 152 ethnic groups in Victoria alone. It would have been better if the House had had an opportunity of studying the findings of the Diplock Committee and also of seeing what lessons were to be learned from the long and learned study that was made by that Committee. Therefore I do not myself complain about the Attorney-General’s excellent efforts in relation to clause 9, clause 10, clause 12 and clause 15 of the Bill. Naturally one would question the power which he is taking unto himself under this Bill. I would have thought that the remark made by Lord Acton was correct. The House should not increase the power of the executive but should try to diminish it. The Bill puts the Attorney-General in a very powerful position indeed.
Having said that, let me now look at the first part of the Bill. This is an attempt to legislate for our nationals who are in another country. From what source do we actually obtain such a right? I have for a long time been trying to find it, and I believe it arises from the Statute of Westminster under Schedule 3 which reads:
It is hereby declared and enacted that the Parliament of a dominion has full power to make laws having extra territorial operation.
I turn now to some of the other decisions that have been made, particularly those concerning efforts to tax those people who are not in this country- efforts to claim extra-territorial rights in taxation. In the case of Morgan v. White it was quite clearly declared that it is not competent for this country to attempt to tax anyone or anyone ‘s property outside this country. That decision was based on the good old maxim: No taxation without representation. However, I suppose I ought to refer to the Constitution and try to find that part which gives us the right to pass legislation in relation to Australians abroad. Section 5 1 of the Constitution reads:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
As I look through what follows I see that the Parliament can deal with bankruptcy, foreign corporations formed within the Commonwealth, service of executions throughout the Commonwealth in civil and criminal proceedings. In trying to find anywhere in the Constitution that gives this Parliament the right to pass legislation in relation to Australians living in another country, I eventually came upon section 51, placitum (xxix) which reads:
I do not know whether the Attorney-General will be able to enlighten the House whether the power to legislate in this way exists. I express some very grave doubts about passing legislation of this sort. I ask the Attorney-General: Are we required to pass this legislation by any resolution which we have voted for at the United Nations? Has any member of the Commonwealth at a Commonwealth legal conference asked members of the Commonwealth to pass legislation of this sort? I inquire of the Attorney-General whether we are the one courageous nation that is passing laws which would affect people who have been in this country for 12 months and have gone to another country making them subject to 10 years imprisonment if they return here.
Let us take some practical cases of how things might arise. Say one had had one’s property stolen in The Lebanon because there was a change of government there and one went to Victoria and stayed with one’s family for one year. One heard that the situation was getting better but another Government had of course taken over one ‘s property and had placed guards outside it. One went back and one tried, using the ordinary system of recaption, to take back one’s possessions and with a few friends in the evening time one said: ‘OK, I am going to enter my old house and I am going to remove from my old home the various possessions I once had’. But of course one was acting against the Government of that country. If in the rush going out one knocked over the policeman at the door, actually injured him and tore his uniform, what would happen when one got back to Australia? It would be 10 years imprisonment. That is quite a serious matter.
Take another simple case. Say a change of government occurred in Greece, one came to Australia for a short term of 12 months, stayed with one’s family and went back to one’s old hotel. One had kept one’s health quite well and one thought it was safe to go back. One or two of one’s friends arrived and had a discussion in the hall. One heard over the cups of coffee and the ouzo that they were actually thinking of being able to change the government, something which some Greeks think of almost every day of the week. Of course under this clause of the Bill what was one doing? Can we be certain? One in fact was in a building, one was the owner or occupier- one might even have been the night watchman, the superintendent- and one knowingly permitted one’s friends to go into that room with the object of discussing how the Government could be overthrown; one was actually making suggestions that people might be hurt or something might happen which would injure other people.
-Clause 10 (3).
-Clause 10 (3) would probably get around the situation. However if one returns to Australia to rejoin one’s family after having had the discussion, what would happen? It would be 10 years imprisonment. I am just taking a few ordinary, practical things that might happen as a result of the legislation as laid down in this Bill in clauses 6 and 7. 1 am interested also that the penalties for actions abroad are 14 years and 10 years but in another clause of the BUI there is provision for a fine of $10,000. 1 wonder why there is the difference of penalty. Are we trying to pay off the deficit by raising money in this way? A penalty of $10,000 or 5 years imprisonment is provided. Why is there the difference in penalty in the different clauses of the Bill? By what criterion has the Attorney-General decided on those penalties?
I do not want the Attorney-General to run away and to think that I am being hostile about the matter at all. I think this is one of the most important pieces of legislation which I have read for some time. I should like to close by saying in honesty to the Opposition that I cannot accept its amendment as it stands at present. It is far too simplistic. I hope that this Bill will receive substantial amendment, and will be gone through clause by clause by a committee in another place. But I have to commend the Attorney-General for a brave effort to put into legislative form things which many of us really and seriously desire. The whole problem of people apparently running camps, other nations recruiting or other nations trying to find terrorists in Australia is one which fills the public with alarm and dismay. Therefore I think we can congratulate the AttorneyGeneral on what he has achieved. I hope that the Bill will receive most careful attention in another place.
– I join in this debate because I have been interested for some years in Australian mercenaries fighting in overseas wars. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) expresses lack of keenness or enthusiasm in the legislation. On the other hand the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) expresses the same indignation as I about mercenaries who he agrees are nothing more than hired killers. I believe that the Government is not keen and enthusiastic about this legislation. I believe that the Government is introducing this legislation for the purpose of permitting it to hold its head a little higher in international forums so that it can say: But we in Australia have legislated. We will not be a party to allowing Australians to fight as mercenaries in overseas wars’.
Why is the Government doing this? In my view it is for two or three particular reasons. Firstly, it knows- I would have expected the honourable member for Holt to have mentioned it- the embarrassment that the British Government suffered recently when four or five of its nationals were tried and sentenced to death for fighting as mercenaries on the wrong side in Angola. I believe that the second reason that the Government is introducing this legislation is to prevent a possible increase in the number of Australians fighting as mercenaries in the civil war in Rhodesia as time goes on. I believe that the third reason that the Government has introduced this legislation is so that it can say to the Government of Yugoslavia and Yugoslavs in Australia that we are introducing legislation to prevent people originally from Yugoslavia going there and fighting against the Government of Yugoslavia. I believe they are the principal reasons why the Government has introduced this legislation.
I want to prove further the inconsistency of the Government and the lack of sincerity on the Government’s part in this regard. In 1970, when many honourable members on the Government side today were not in the Parliament, including the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), I pointed out, I believe with overwhelming evidence, that the Australian Government was supporting mercenaries and financially backing them to participate in conflicts in other countries, in Laos and Cambodia at the time of the Vietnam war that we all remember. I remind the House that in 1970 I asked this question of the then Minister for the Army, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock):
Can the Minister for the Army say whether the Australian Government has any knowledge of the suggestion reported in the Cessnock Eagle of 6 March -
That was in 1970- and elsewhere concerning Australian soldiers serving as mercenaries in Laos? Has the Government co-operated in any way in having Australian soldiers, either before or after discharge, serve as mercenaries in Laos?
The then Minister for the Army, the honourable member for Kooyong, Mr Peacock, said in answer
I have not seen the report referred to by the honourable gentleman and I would not wish to make a comment until he had forwarded it to me. I would be obliged if he would do so and I would be prepared then to give him an answer.
I supplied the then Minister for the Army, the honourable member for Kooyong, with a copy of a leading article in the Cessnock Eagle- an insignificant newspaper but not written by an insignificant man. The article was written by a very dedicated, high principled Australian journalist who was at that time working for the Cessnock Eagle. He pointed out in his leading article that he had attended with another Australian journalist the Zambesi Club in London and interviewed a good number of Australians who were outspoken. They said that they were offering themselves as mercenaries, that they were going to fight for a quid and that they were supported financially be the Austraiian Government. I believe that statement to be true. Here is a complete about face by the Tories of this country. I might say that I never got a reply from the Minister for the Army. I went on to point out that the Minister said that he was not aware of the report in the newspaper to which I had referred and asked me for a copy of it. I immediately obliged him. The article went on to allege that the Australian Government for the past 2 to 3 years had men involved in the war in Laos and that it would probably deny this emphatically. The article alleged further that it was well known among foreign correspondents and military commentators that mercenary troops had been working in Laos for the past few years. Most of the troops were either New Zealanders, Australians or South Africans. The article stated that when on leave these mercenaries hang out in the tenement flats of Earl’s Court, London, waiting for their next job. They spent much of their time at the Zambesi Club and were ready to talk to sympathetic looking journalists. The soldiers regarded themselves as soldiers fighting for a cause which gave them no reward except money. They stated that they were well and truly covered by a comprehensive insurance scheme and that when one of them had his brains blown out his family was well cared for. The article stated that they resented the nasty publicity they received in Nigeria and the Congo.
They were interviewed by 2 young and forthright Australian journalists whom I shall name. One was Kenneth Brass, formerly of the Sydney Morning Herald in London and now believed to be with the London Daily Mail. The other was a young journalist, Brian Hungerford, who held an important post in the United Nations. Those 2 journalists interviewed the mercenaries at the Zambesi Club at Earl’s Court. The soldiers stated that they were New Zealanders, South Africans and Australians. They said that they were financed in part by the Australian Government to carry out their operations.
– Which Australian Government?
-The previous Government in 1 970 which held similar political principles to the ones held today by this Government- by the Tories of this country.
– That would be the McMahon Government.
-That would be the McMahon Government. The soldiers said that they were financed in part by the Australian Government to carry out their operations. They complained of being treated as thugs and murderers on their return to England. One soldier, believed to be an Australian, was reported as having said:
We are just soldiers. We have the same problems other soldiers have. We are only fighting boongs, but boongs with rifles are dangerous.
That is a disgraceful statement.
– That is good for the people in Asia.
– Yes. The mercenaries said these things at the interview by Brass and Brian Hungerford. One of them said
All the dirty work we do. See, we can get in when the normal uniform troops cannot make it. That’s why some of our boys are in Laos. The Aussie or the United States Governments can’t send in ordinary troops wearing uniforms. All the coons would start screaming in the United Nations about intervention and neutrality and all that.
I put it to the Attorney-General: Has not that statement got a true ring to it? Does not that statement as quoted sound as if it came from the mouth of a forthright Australian mercenary at Earl’s Court in London when interviewed by Brian Hungerford, a forthright young Australian journalist?
– Filthy racists.
– Yes, and they were backed at the time by the Tories of this country. There was no denial of it when I alleged it in the Parliament in 1970. The journalist reported one of the mercenaries as having said:
We’ve lost a few of our blokes around the Vietnam border. The bloody Chinks keep crossing over to get around the back of the Yanks. It’s our job to keep them occupied all the time. We do too, but we get no thanks for it. Our top man is Colonel Peters. We all reckon he is a great man.
I went on to inform the House that Colonel Peters was a retired former high-ranking British soldier. He is alleged to have played a part in recruiting mercenaries to fight in the Congo and Laos and in Nigeria prior to the ending of the wars there. He is credited with recruiting most of these mercenaries in Johannesburg. Colonel Peters was alleged by one of the mercenaries to be a man of high ideals about the world. The soldier told the journalist:
He doesn’t want the boongs or the Commos to take over and he’s prepared to go to any lengths to back his ideals. One of our brigades in the Congo got rid of 1000 boongs in one day. We bloody soon settled the nasty little situation there.
The Government did nothing about it. The climate then was that we were backing American foreign policy. Since 1970 when I brought this matter before the House there has been somewhat of a change. It was reported to the Australian journalist to whom I have referred that this organisation which was recruiting mercenaries in London, including a good number of Australians, bought a terrace of nouses in which 300 Australian, New Zealand and South African mercenary soldiers were to be domiciled when in London on leave. As I have said, this interview took place with twelve or more mercenary soldiers at the Zambesi Club in Earl’s Court in London. The man who gave most of this information was an Australian soldier who had done 2 years’ Army service and who had become restless. The resultant interview to which I have referred was reported in the United Kingdom Press. It is a wonder that the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), if he was in England at that time, did not read of it because he was an enthusiastic practising politician or an enthusiastic political student at that time. If he was in England at the time one would think that he would recall reading the article, in a debate of this nature now before this House.
– Who told you?
– If the honourable gentleman were listening to me he would have known who told me. Brian Hungerford told me and I read the article in the Cessnock Eagle. I brought the matter before the House.
-On a dark night. Ha, ha.
-Yes. A Baillieu laughs. His dignity would not let him read the coal miners’ cause- the Cessnock Eagle. Oh, no! However, the article was printed in the United Kingdom Press and it was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Commission. It surprised many British people. They learned that the Australian Government was paying professional mercenary soldiers to do dirty work. The Australian mercenaries were proud of their achievement and profession and what they were doing on behalf of the Australian Government, the article in the British Press said, though they regretted that the ordinary campaign medals associated with normal military adventures were not for them. Yet the United States and Australian governments claimed at the time that they were not involved in the war in Laos. If this article and these allegations of Hungerford ‘s had been untrue, one would have expected a responsible Minister in Mr McMahon’s Government at the time to deny in the British Press that the Australian Government was subsidising mercenaries to carry out the duties which were alleged by those 2 forthright Australian journalists.
– You naughty boy. You know you are telling a lie.
-I know I am not telling a lie. I know the consequences of lying to this Parliament. I have never told a lie since I have been a member.
– What are you doing now?
-I am not telling a he. You ignored it. You never thought the day would come when the matter would be revived.
I recall some of the remarks of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom). If my memory serves me correctly, he spoke of fighting for an international brigade. He made some reference to the Spanish Civil War. He mentioned Franco’s name. Franco was fighting against the Spanish Government. If it had not been for outside intervention, the Spanish people would not have suffered for almost 30 years the oppressive fascist rule of the Franco Government. Mercenaries actually contributed to the installation of the fascist regime in Spain which oppressed those people for so long. Many lives were lost under the Franco regime.
It is not conscience that is causing the Government to bring forward this legislation. It is not principle that is causing the Government to bring forward this legislation. The Government is bringing forward this legislation so that it can say in the forums of the world that it objects to mercenaries from Australia participating in foreign wars. I do not think the legislation goes far enough, as was said by speakers on this side of the House, particularly the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). Does the legislation suggest that any person who leaves Australia and enlists as a mercenary in a foreign country, as Australians were doing at the Zambesi Club at Earls Court in London, is guilty of an offence? Can this legislation do anything to prevent Australians from going overseas and enlisting as mercenaries? Can it take their passports off them?
-Can it? It certainly should. The tories saw fit to take Wilfred Burchett ‘s passport off him when he wanted to come back and see his dying 80-year-old father. Burchett was a freelance journalist. The tories prevented him from coming back to Australia by not reissuing a passport to him. They allowed mercenaries to fight in Laos, Cambodia, Nigeria and elsewhere on the African continent. If they had been doing their job in 1970, they would have established the identity of these mercenaries and would have passed legislation not in 1977 but immediately it was brought to the notice of the House that Australian mercenaries were being backed by the Australian Government to fight in foreign wars. So it is not to their credit and it is not with sincerity that they are bringing this legislation before the Parliament now. I get no joy out of making that allegation against the sidestepping Attorney-General, who probably is a better lawyer than he is a sidestepper when eggs are thrown at him. I believe that the time to introduce this legislation was 1970, when it was first brought to the notice of honourable members opposite that Australians were fighting as mercenaries, allegedly backed financially by the Australian Government.
– It was not my intention to make any comment upon the speech of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) but as he mentioned in passing the name of Wilfred Burchett I am obliged to make one or two comments. I am amazed at the contradiction in his speech. He was able to cry because Australians may be involved in hostilities overseas of any kind whatsoever, whether as mercenaries or as people doing anything at all. He cried that he was concerned and sincerely upset about that. He was upset further that we would not welcome into this country Wilfred Burchett, perhaps as a patriotic and a loyal Australian. I find it difficult to accept the second proposition because I know personally Australian soldiers who were captured in Korea and who were interviewed by Wilfred Burchett in the company of communist Chinese soldiers in North Korea. Therefore, for him to assume that the speaker following him would not remind the House of the very reprehensible action committed by Wilfred Burchett is beyond my imagination.
I turn to the substance of this Bill. It aims to do only 2 things. What it aims to do ought to be understood by the House. What it cannot do ought to be understood by the House. I quote from the first paragraph of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott):
Thus, the first objective of the Bill is to prohibit persons preparing for or engaging in incursions into foreign countries.
It makes no other claim. He also said:
The second is to prohibit the recruiting in Australia of persons to serve in armed forces in a foreign country.
The Bill does not aim to do any more than that. It cannot do any more than that. I refer now to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). He is a talented, sensible member of the Opposition and a loyal Australian. He seeks to make hostile actions of any kind by Australians in foreign countries subject to the provisions of this Bill. He is trying to make this country a peeping, a prying and a pimping country which must take action in respect of every activity by an Australian overseas. That is the consequence of paragraph (a) of the words proposed to be added to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. That is an absolutely absurd proposition. It would make a government the laughing stock of the world. What is intended by this Bill? Two precepts were enunciated by the Attorney-General. It cannot do more than that. We hope it cannot do less than that. It must do so with a degree of common sense.
The other characteristic which underlies this Bill is that it must be of a political nature, having regard to political effects in respect of Australians in overseas countries and in respect of the governments of overseas countries. The origin of the Bill makes it quite clear. A piece of history, I think, is appropriate. It is not often that present members of this place or even members in the 1930s praise actions of the League of Nations. The characteristic reference to the League of Nations is that it was considering a convention on road traffic signs while the Germans were marching into Danzig. That was a measure of its effectiveness. It passed a convention that has an appropriate relationship to what this Bill is about. I shall read from what is known as the Convention for the Prevention and the Punishment of Terrorism which was passed by the League of Nations in 1937. The convention was primarily aimed at the protection of heads of state and other public figures. It is in Une with what this Bill is supposed to do. It was designed to prohibit any form of preparation for or execution of terrorist outrages upon the life or liberty of persons taking part in the work of foreign public authorities and services. This Bill goes beyond that. But the principles involved in the convention are appropriate to this Bill.
In 1937 the League of Nations considered that matter following the events of 1934. 1 know that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) is vitally interested in this matter. In 1934, as the House knows, there was the dual assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and Louis Barthou, the French Foreign Minister at the time. As a result of that assassination in France of those 2 people by a citizen of one of the Yugoslav provinces, a train of events was set in course which did have a great effect on World War II. Some say that as a result of that action the little entente which acted as a brake upon the developing power of Germany during the 1930s was dissolved. Only history can tell what effect the dissolution of the little entente had with the passing of Alexander I. But the point I want to make is this: That action in a foreign countrythat incursion and that terrorist action- had very grave ultimate political consequences. So that has to be taken as the ultimate point of departure as far as this Bill is concerned. It has to be concerned with heads of state. It has to be concerned in respect of governments. It has to allow to the Attorney-General of this country the power to make exceptions and to make judgments according to the foreign policy or the defence requirements of Australia. Were it not to allow those exceptions to occur the country could be drawn into every type of absurd situation imaginable.
The Bill is not a charter of behaviour of Australians overseas. It is not a charter of the rights of Australians overseas. It is not a charter of the obligations of Australians overseas. But it must have characteristics in relation to the actions of Australians in relation to governments overseas. That is the whole purpose of the legislation. Unless those matters are understood, I am afraid that the very nature of the Bill cannot be understood.
The year 1934 was a year of assassinations which affected the course of the world and certainly affected the course of Europe. That is the reason for the inclusion of clause 6 in the Bill. The side note to the clause states:
Incursions into foreign countries for purpose of engaging in hostile activities.
Clause 6(1) states:
A person shall not-
enter a foreign country with intent to engage in a hostile activity against the government of that country; or
The Opposition proposes to delete the words against the government of that country’. The clause continues:
Delete those words- that is the sum total of the rationale of the amendments moved by the Opposition- and we would make Australian foreign policy and Australian defence policy the plaything of random and erratic actions by any Australian overseas. It will be said that any action by an Australian overseas- it does not have to be in respect of a country overseas- is a cause for action itself.
One can come up with some quite absurd situations. Take the example of Lord Byron. If Lord Byron was an Australian citizen and not a British citizen what would be the requirements of Australia? To what extent would Australia be held responsible for his actions in Greece against the Turks if he were an Australian citizen? What action would have to be taken? Would the penalties outlined so brilliantly by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) have to be contemplated by the Government? That would be an absolutely absurd situation.
What would happen with respect to British soldiers serving overseas if they happened to be Australian soldiers? In such a case, what would happen to such soldiers fighting with Garibaldi? Australia would be impelled into action. It would not be possible to withdraw from action. Australia would, ipso facto, have to take a course of action in respect of those matters. Another example concerns events that occurred with respect to World War II when countries made treaties with an occupying power as a last resort. People came out of those countries and found themselves in another service overseas fighting ostensibly for the liberation of a country which, for legal purposes, had been taken over in a friendly way. Flexibility on the part of a government would be prevented in such cases. A government would be impelled to take a particular course of action. The very philosophy and very nature of this Bill require that common sense be applied to it.
I give another example which will not appeal to all members of this House but nevertheless it is appropriate. During World War I Archbishop Mannix, the Archbishop of Melbourne, because of the troubles in Ireland found himself on the way to that country which was occupied by another power. We know what happened. We know that this event has often been characterised historically as one of the greatest victories of the British Navy. Nevertheless, accepting that position, Australia would have been impelled into action irreversibly on account of that trip being taken to Ireland by the late Archbishop Mannix. How can one conduct oneself sensibly and with reason in a world where no flexibility is allowed in respect of those matters? It is just not on. We had a situation a few years ago in which Australia did not have diplomatic recognition of mainland China but recognised Taiwan. What would happen with respect to Australia taking an action or intending an action of one kind or another defined as widely as is clause 6 (3) of the Bill in respect of mainland China? We would be impelled into action again. These are just some examples of the absurd position in which a number of the propositions put forward by the Opposition would in fact leave this country. Nobody could conduct foreign policy on that basis. We would be led into absurd positions. Clause 6 (3) ofthe Bill states
For the purposes of sub-section ( 1 ), engaging in a hostile activity against the government of a foreign country consists of doing an act for the purpose of achieving anyone or more of the following objectives . . .
Paragraph (d) of sub-clause (3) states:
Unlawfully destroying or damaging any real or personal property belonging to the government of the foreign country.
What does that mean? Are we to say, as has been said over and over again tonight, that the legislation would affect some modest action by an Australian overseas such as kicking in a telephone booth or punching a referee at a British soccer game? I can imagine the emotions that would be aroused by that action. If the Opposition’s amendments were accepted the Australian Government would be impelled into action. Members of the Opposition have made it quite clear in their speeches that the flexibility allowed to the Government in clauses 9 and 10 would not apply. That flexibility is absolutely essential if there is to be any common sense whatsoever.
I suggest that the power given to the Minister in terms of clause 9 (2) is quite important. Clause 9(2) states:
If the Minister has, by instrument signed by him and published in the Gazette, declared that it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit the recruitment . . .
Then recruitment can take place. The ultimate effect of the sentiment expressed by the Opposition would be that all Australian relations with Papua New Guinea could be endangered. They could be made very difficult. The transfer of personnel could be made quite difficult. Where do they stand in relation to this? It is common sense that something would have to be done about it. Clause 10 makes it clear that once a prosecution has commenced, whether or not it is proceeded with, it allows the Government and the Minister to make their own decision. Clause 10(1) states:
Subject to sub-section (2), a prosecution for an offence against this Act shall be on indictment.
Paragraph (c) of sub-clause (4) states:
A person so charged may be remanded in custody or on bail, out no further step in proceedings referred to in subsection (3) shall be taken in relation to the offence until such a consent has been given.
Sub-clause ( 5 ) states:
Nothing in sub-section (4) prevents the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.
All these provisions merely allow a country to be in charge of its own foreign policy. I remind the House that the United Nations covenants with respect to crimes against diplomatic persons and so on are expressed in terms of the grave effect their non-observance could have in jeopardising foreign policy or foreign relations. The covenants with respect to this matter have that as its preeminent principle, according to whether it judges the common sense or legality of what it is doing.
This Bill is political. It has to be unashamedly political. Were it not political it would live in a never-never world. Its origin in the modern era lies in those circumstances of the 1934 period. It has a relationship to the consideration by the League of Nations of those events that went on for 3 years. It has a relationship to the activities of governments in relation to one another. Ultimately it assumes the non-interference principle of governments in relation to one another. I only wish that that principle had been observed a little more from North Korea to South Korea, for example. Nevertheless, the Bill has its origin in that. Unless those facts are realised the Bill becomes an absolute nonsense. I would suggest therefore that the amendment moved by the Opposition would make the Bill a nonsense and would make it unable to deal significantly with any events whatsoever.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). The Bill has some rather strange provisions. Clause 9 is one of them. It virtually provides in sub-clause (2) the power to the Attorney-General to publish a notice in the Gazette offering the Government ‘s support for a particular war. That is the only interpretation one can place on that clause. Subclause 9(1) makes illegal only foreign incursions by forces who fight against a government. There are some interesting cases which would make one wonder where they fit within the terms of this Bill. Over a considerable number of years it has been a regular practice- I do not think it could be denied that recruitment has taken place in Australia- for persons to leave Australia and join the armed forces of Israel as part of the establishment of the Jewish state and also to assist in the defence of that country against incursions by other governments. To which government do we apply sub-clause 9(2) in that case? It is a government-to-government situation, not a rebels versus government situation.
Earlier in the night we had some mention of the International Brigade. My understanding would be that any person who joined the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War would have been committing an offence under this legislation because Franco was in fact a rebel. One of the other areas of the Bill which seems to me to have a degree of unreality is that, it could be for instance, that the British Government would seek in Australia from British migrants who are still British citizens recruits for the British armed forces. This would appear to be outlawed by the Bill. My opinion is that whilst the Bill seeks to meet a purpose which the Opposition supports it does not necessarily meet that purpose. I make one point about paragraph
– I have never said that.
-The transcript of the interview states:
Whether they are professional soldiers or not, if they went to Rhodesia to fight in a Rhodesian force they would be breaching this legislation.
That is taken from the transcript of a PM interview. If it is incorrect I apologise to the Minister. I was relying on the accuracy of the transcript. We seem to have trouble with those sorts of quotes. We would like to know what the situation would be with Rhodesia, where the government is not recognised. A few years ago persons were recruited and trained in Australia for an expeditionary force to go to Yugoslavia to liberate Croatia. The people concerned quite firmly believed in the correctness of their cause. Quite obviously they were misled by the people who recruited them. Their action would be illegal, even though over a period of time the Government has indicated some degree of support for their cause. But under this Bill apparently if it suited the Government’s foreign policy the Minister could by publication in the Gazette make that a legal act and therefore create a state of war between Australia and another country in this sort of circumstance.
There are all sorts of rather bizarre possibilities under clause 9 of the Bill which I do not think we ought to be passing after the short period of study which has been given to this Bill and without a considerably greater degree of examination of the real and long term implications. The Bill does not seem to meet the purpose which its name would indicate it should meet. Certainly it would provide for a de facto state of war in some instances. I do not know whether the AttorneyGeneral is able to indicate whether in the IsraeliArab situation it would be legal to recruit persons to join one side and illegal to recruit people to join the other side. The Idi Amin situation is repeated in a number of places around the world where most likely it would be government policy not to support the government of the day because of its attitude or the manner in which it came to power. For instance, one would not expect a Labor government here to have much sympathy for the people in Chile who overthrew Allende. One would hope that no Australian Government would. But under this Bill, once the overthrow had taken place it would become legal for persons to go to Chile to fight against the forces of the former government which had been elected. But it would be quite illegal for persons to go to that country ana fight for what was the properly elected government before a seizure of power took place.
Recently in Thailand we saw almost the same situation where an elected government was overthrown by the armed forces- not the first, I must say, in that country- and overnight a government was established. It then becomes illegal unless we do not recognise it or the AttorneyGeneral says that it is all right to go and fight against that government. I do not think that any politician should exercise that power. We had a situation where the elected government having been overthrown, it would be illegal to seek to support that elected government’s restoration to the position to which the people had elected it. They seem to me to be contradictions in terms. I would be far happier if there were a total embargo on Australians going to fight for or against foreign governments. That may be a restriction of civil liberties but certainly it would be no more a restriction of civil liberties than it is to say that no Australians can go to Uganda to fight against Idi Amin but they can go to fight for him. That is the most obvious case that one could mention.
The Bill does not serve the purpose which its title would indicate that it should serve. I support the amendment which seeks the withdrawal of the Bill and its redrafting so that it meets this purpose of banning foreign incursions. If Australia is at war or is involved in an international action of any description in which the government of the day considers that the country should be involved, the government of the day has ample powers to involve itself in that situation. I do not believe that we should, as clause 9 states, be in a situation where we can be involved in & de facto situation either by a notice published in the Gazette or by persons being recruited to join the armies of another country supporting the government. That is as much as participating in a civil war, and the notice of it in the Gazette would be an impossible situation in any foreign policy. If the Government is not prepared to support one side or the other as a part of foreign polley I would be very surprised if any notice were published in the Gazette by the Attorney-General saying: ‘If people want to go and fight for the government of, say, Israel or Syria- both countries’ are likely to be involved -or one of the 2 claimants to government in some country where there is a disputed government, that is all right; the Government supports their fighting on one side but the Government does not involve itself. Clause 9 is a contradiction in terms. It certainly does not fulfil what the Bill suggests it is intended to fulfil. If bans are to be placed on Australians going as mercenaries to fight in other countries the bans should be total and not restricted in the manner in which they are there. There is nothing which could stop a person from leaving Australia and being recruited into the army of any country if he so desires. The Act would apply only on his return to Australia.
I raise again the other problem which I see in the legislation and that is that there are numerous nationals of other countries in Australia who could well be recruited to join the armed forces of another country even though they have permanent residence here. There are Australian citizens who are in exactly this situation. For instance, if a Greek citizen returns to Greece he could be liable for military service. If he has taken out Australian citizenship he would find himself in the situation of being in breach of this legislation by carrying out an obligation for which, if he fails to carry it out, he would be imprisoned in that country. Other European governments do the same thing.
– That would not be right.
-That is the way the Bill reads. I suggest that the Bill does not meet the requirements that even the Minister would put on it. It ought to be given careful examination because once it is passed by this Parliament it is highly unlikely that it will be returned for reexamination. 1 do not think that anything like adequate time has been given for proper study of the effects of the Bill. Certainly a week is not long enough in which to obtain adequate legal opinion on the meanings of some of the clauses. Irrespective of how good it is, I am certain that the Government could not have drafted the Bill in the time that is left for its examination in detail.
-The primary purpose of the Bill which the House is debating is to deal with preparations made in this country for hostile acts in other countries. The recent past has shown that such activities have occurred in Australia. Whether or not the persons concerned acted, as they saw it, in good conscience, it is intolerable that we have military preparations going on in Australia. I understand from published reports and also from statements made on behalf of the Government that in the past few years there have been incidents of persons engaged in military training or drilling, or having weapons or explosives available to them in this country for the purpose of training to go to other countries. That cannot be tolerated in this country because there must be some effect or some potential effect upon the freedom and safety of our own citizens if any person in the community is to take up arms, explosives or the like and carry out training or similar activities.
The separate question of actual entry into other countries is also dealt with by the Bill. That is a somewhat more complicated matter because it brings in the question of mercenary activity. It brings into relief that whole problem of the conscientious fighter as against the conscientious objector, which is a completely different situation. The conscientious fighter may be a person who on some criteria is applauded by some people but who on the same or other criteria is condemned by others as being a terrorist. The British Committee of Privy Councillors looked into this matter in considerable detail and concluded that there were a number of reasons which might commend themselves to a government in order that it ban this activity, but that there was only one real reason to prevent it and that was that the restrictions on the freedom of an individual to go and fight in another country were warranted because under international agreements the relations of the 2 countries could be seriously impaired. The Committee decided that the maintenance of good international relations between the United Kingdom, in that case, and other states should be maintained by legislation within the United Kingdom to prevent these difficulties from arising.
In the very short time available to me I want to deal briefly with one particular point before I move on to the substantive points. I am greatly disappointed in the amendment put forward by the Opposition. Although one can possibly see some arguments directed towards clause 6 and to the clause dealing with the Attorney-General’s power and more particularly his delegation of power, the amendment simply is unintelligible in the context of the whole Bill. If the amendment were to be passed we would have a situation in which we would have an Act which could not be soundly read. It is not a sensible one.
– The amendment says that the Bill be withdrawn.
– I have an amendment here to the effect that certain words be omitted. That has been produced here.
– You have forgotten the first amendment.
– The first amendment has not been given to me.
– I read it out.
– If the honourable member wants to withdraw the Bill and then move an amendment in the Committee stage he is adopting an entirely inconsistent position.
– I rise to order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you whether it is in order for the honourable member for St George to be debating an amendment which is projected for the Committee stage rather than the amendment which has been moved at the second reading stage of the debate.
-In the strict sense the amendment is related to the Committee stage and is therefore not under consideration. On the other hand, the general comment of the honourable member for St George relates to the subject matter of the Bill and in that case it has a relevance to the second reading debate.
– It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following information in answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Air Travel by Members of Parliament (Question No. 105)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Is there anyone in the Department of Administrative Services who is in a position to state when the airlines started allocating first class tickets to Members of Parliament following his Department’s notification to airlines of new travel entitlements to Members of the Parliament.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I have nothing to add to my earlier answer concerning this matter (House of Representatives Question No. 866, Hansard, page 1 27 1 of 2 1 September 1 976).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Objection (principally on the grounds of non-residence in a particular sub-division)
Transfer (i.e. electors being transferred from the roll of a sub-division to another sub-division)
In respect of some States there is a further heading of ‘On Certificate of Australian Electoral Officer’. This covers electors who have ceased to be qualified for enrolment on the Roll for a particular sub-division but have secured enrolment on the Roll for another sub-division. Depending upon the computer system used in the State, these statistics are either shown under a separate heading or under the heading Transfers’.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Among other things the relevant UNCTAD Resolution on the Integrated Program called for the convening of a negotiating conference on a common fund which began on 7 March in Geneva. The main purpose of a common fund would be to finance buffer stocks or other stocking arrangements which is only one of a number of measures that could be included in individual commodity agreements or arrangements, and the extent to which stocking arrangements might be used has still to be determined. No decision has yet been taken internationally to establish a common fund. A number of important and complex issues remains to be considered and firm proposals drawn up. The Government firmly recognises that participants in an individual commodity agreement have the responsibility jointly of ensuring that finance is available for stocking arrangements where these have been agreed as an appropriate measure in that agreement. However, in the terms currently proposed, the Government remains to be convinced of the need for a common fund as an element of the Integrated Program.
Visits by Mr Fraser to Papua New Guinea (Question No. 194)
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What was the (a) date and (b) duration of each visit he has paid to Papua New Guinea and what centres did he visit on each occasion.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 23- 30 April 1967: Port Moresby, Lae, Wewak, Vanimo and Goroka 24- 25 February 1968: Port Moresby 15-17 September 1 975: Port Moresby 7-11 February 1977: Port Moresby, Lae, Wewak, Vanimo, Mount Hagen and Daru.
Free Public Libraries in Queensland (Question No. 209)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Queensland to facilitate the replacement of subscription libraries by free public libraries (Hansard, 4 June 1976, page 3113).
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Consulate Premises in Los Angeles (Question No. 210)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Applications received from and Visas issued to persons normally resident in Lebanon seeking admission for residence in 1976 and 1977 by months in Ankara, Athens, Cairo, Damascus, Nicosia.
Settler Arrivals- Last Country of Residence Lebanon p - preliminary
August- 256 p
September- 418 p
November- 1089 p
December- 1 228 p
January- 948 p
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
How many (a) landings and (b) take-offs were there to and from the west using the east-west runway each month between the hours of
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the following the figures given for the scheduled movements have been extracted from the airline schedules for 14 March 1977 to 20 March 1977 inclusive. The average number of aircraft taking-off and landing have been extracted from the records of actual aircraft movements for 1976. The difference between the two sets of figures in part ( 1 ) is partly due to the different time periods surveyed but mainly due to the difference between scheduled arrival and departure times and actual landing and take-off times.
1 ) (a) (i) The daily average number of aircraft scheduled to arrive between 10 p.m. and 1 1 p.m. is 3.7. The daily average number of aircraft landing was 5.3.
The daily average number of aircraft scheduled to arrive between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. is 6.6. The daily average number of aircraft landing was 3.9.
(i) The daily average number of aircraft scheduled to depart between 10 p.m. and 1 1 p.m. is 1.4. The daily average number of aircraft taking-off was 2.2.
The daily average number of aircraft scheduled to depart between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. is 1 1.9. The daily average number of aircraft taking-off was 4.0.
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Foreign Vessels Fishing in Australian Waters (Question No. 334)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
Are children with below-the-elbow or below-the-knee amputations eligible for the Handicapped Child Allowance.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
A basic criterion in the definition of a handicapped child for the purposes of Handicapped Child’s Allowance is that the child requires constant care and attention by reason of his physical or mental disability.
In view of this definition it is not practicable or desirable to set down a blanket rule that children with below-the-elbow or below-the-knee amputations are or are not entitled to Handicapped Child’s Allowance. Each claim is considered on its ments taking into account the severity of the handicap, any secondary disability and the ability of the child to cope with his handicap.
The claim has provision for the parents to advise if appropriate, of the child’s difficulties in eating, toilet, mobility, behaviour, speech, language, hearing and of the special care and attention provided including number of hours per day care is required. This assessment and the report completed by the child’s supervising doctor are then considered by a Commonwealth Medical Officer employed by the Department of Health, who certifies whether the child can be accepted as severely handicapped for the purpose of the allowance.
Prime Minister’s Visits to the United States (Question No. 388)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration (Question No. 433)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Transport the following question, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
When did the Government decide (a) to proclaim or (b) not to proclaim the Inter-State Commission Act 1 975.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No decision has been made regarding the proclamation of the Inter-State Commission Act 197S.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March, 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Fishing Industry in Western Australia (Question No. 332)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Flights by VIP Aircraft (Question No. 386)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
What was the cost of each flight made by the VIP squadron outside Australia during the period 1 to 9 March 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See my answer to Question No. 385.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770329_reps_30_hor104/>.