31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government ‘s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch, Mr Bourchier, Mr Lloyd, Mr Morris and Mr Ian Robinson.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve ) and Citizens Air Force. by Mr Lucock, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Shack.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham and Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the Divisions of Hughes and Cunningham respectfully showeth:
That reportedly proposals for much cheaper overseas air fares have been put forward or are going to be put forward by the companies Pan-American, British Airways and Freddy Laker;
That these proposals, if effected, will at last open Australia to tourists and visitors from the world at large and in reverse will provide an air-bridge to the world at large for Australians from all walks of life;
That these proposals will also substantially ease the many individual problems created by the previously unbridgeable gap between most Australians (new and old) and their relatives or friends overseas;
That, thus far, international air fares have been kept unnecessarily high by the Government and Qantas. This was, in fact, admitted by the Chairman of Qantas on the ABC program 4 Corners on Saturday, 17 December 1977, when he admitted that Qantas’ international air fares are dramatically reduced the moment a Qantas aircraft reaches Singapore and takes on passengers who have bought their tickets on the free air fare market prevailing there. Another admission of this fact was implied in the words of the Federal Transport Minister, the Honourable Mr Nixon, when he said in an ABC-TV interview before leaving on an air-fare study tour to Europe recently, that Qantas was studying a move to match the Laker and British Airways proposals, with lower fares;
That the over-luxurious catering arrangements aboard international aircraft can be simplified and made much less costly by a cash-and-carry type restaurant service;
That the introduction of one-class economy-fare aircraft and /or chaner planes could substantially contribute to the lowering of air fares; and that the obnoxious government taxation-share of each air fare should be abolished.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Federal Cabinet, in March 1978, decide in favour of the abovementioned proposals and that Federal Cabinet allow introduction of dramatically reduced international air fares well before1 July 1978. by Mr Les Johnson and Mr West.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burr.
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 sheweth:
That the Australian Government extend to members of the Forces of a Commonwealth country who are eligible for a service pension under the Regulations of the Repatriation Act 1920-1975, the fringe benefits enjoyed by Australian Exservicemen.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives grant equality to those members.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
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 on 13 September 1977, Steve Biko, President of the Black Peoples Convention died, aged 30, while being held incommunicado for questioning in detention without trial in South Africa;
That this is the 20th death of a black political prisoner in similar circumstances in South Africa in the last 18 months; and the 44th death of a prisoner while in police custody in recent years.
That Steve Biko had been held in detention since August 22; and had previously been held for 101 days without trial; and in addition, was under a 5 year house arrest and restriction order;
That Steve Biko is the acknowledged leader of the black people’s resistance to apartheid, racial exploitation and injustices in South Africa, and that in this context his death in the hands of the white police must be regarded with grave suspicion;
Your petitioners accordingly request the Australian Government to register the strongest protest to the South African Government at the circumstances of Biko’s death and decline to accept the credentials of the new South African ambassador due to be appointed shortly.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
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 people of Australia need and deserve a public library service of a high and uniform standard. The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries clearly documents the inadequancies and inequalities of the present provision. Many Australians have no access to free public library service at all.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will announce at the earliest opportunity its support in principle of the recommendations of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries, and in particular those recommendations relating to the federal government’s funding role in public library provision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
Public Telephone in Coombah Road House
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 there is a need for a public telephone to be installed at the Coombah Half Way House for emergency use on the 22 5 km stretch of lonely highway linking Wentworth with Broken Hill, New South Wales. That continued refusal by Telecom Australia to provide an emergency telephone threatens users of this highway with danger to life and property.
The cost of providing a service at the privately owned Coombah Road House is prohibitive to the operator and should be undertaken as a service to the outback travelling public by the Federal Transport Department.
And your petitioners as in d u ty bound will ever pray. byMrFitzPatrick.
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 rents for Service personnel should not be increased unless the base salaries and wages are also increased.
That Service rents should be limited to15 per cent of gross pay-
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government to maintain existing levels of rent until there is a rise in Service salaries and wages.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barry Jones.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The students and teachers at Jackson School of TAFE request that your Government increase the foreign aid commitment (mainly India), especially concentrating on specific people to people’ projects and sending experts to help people in developing countries.
And your petitioners as in d u ty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lloyd.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia yesterday for discussions in Europe and the United States. He is expected to return in mid-May. During his absence the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) will act as
Minister for Special Trade Representations. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will act as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and will be represented in this chamber by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman).
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Was replacement of the obsolete Honeywell computers of the Department of Defence authorised by the Government in 1972? Did the Government in 1976 accept tenders from Univac Computer Systems for the supply of two replacement computers? Has only one of the two required Univac computers actually been purchased? Has the purchase of the second Univac computer been deferred, thus rendering the initial computer inoperative? Did the Government recently purchase a refurbished obsolete Honeywell H820 computer costing $2.2m? Have delays in the implementation of the initial decision to purchase the Univac replacement computers resulted in severe criticism of the Department of Defence by the Auditor-General and in a de facto reversal of the Government’s original replacement decision and the decision to award the replacement contracts to Univac over Honeywell?
-Between 1962 and 1972, eight Honeywell computers were installed within the then various defence departments- the Department of Defence, the old Service departments and the Department of Supply. In 1 972 the Defence (Administration) Committee resolved that the existing computers were inadequate for the task which lay in prospect, namely, the reorganisation of the departments. In addition, the burden of work cast upon those eight Honeywell computers made the computers not suited to give an adequate response. As a result of open tender, Univac Computer Systems was selected. It was hoped that the Univac computers would have been installed, I am informed, by 1977. For a variety of reasons, not the least being the reorganisation of the defence departmentsany move made before then would have pre-empted the decision of this Parliament- they were not installed.
My friend will understand that the Honeywell computers were to be phased out while the Univac computers were installed. A Univac computer has been installed, but regrettably it has not been found possible for the second Univac computer to be installed. Threatened with the maintenance of the computers, some of which, as my friend will acknowledge, are now somewhat aged, the only decision open to the Department was to seek to obtain a refurbished Honeywell computer to tide it over until such time as the other Univac computer came into play. My understanding is that there are significant technical differences between the Honeywell computer capacity and the Univac computer capacity. I will see what detail is available, and I will provide my honourable friend with that information. Mr Speaker, it remains only for me to say that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I have never met an employee of Univac in my life and, to the best of knowledge and belief, I am not aware of any employee of Honeywell being a member of the Queensland Irish Club.
-Is the Minister for Finance aware of the devastation caused to the southern areas of Western Australia, particularly in the electorate of Forrest, by Cyclone Alby? Has he or the Government been in touch with the Western Australian Government? If so, what is the early assessment of the situation and what can the Federal Government do to assist?
– The Government is of course aware of the substantial amount of damage done by the cyclone. My understanding is that the honourable member will be returning to his electorate later this afternoon to represent the Prime Minister, to take a personal interest and to do all that he possibly can to assist. I understand that the Prime Minister has indicated to Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia, that the Government stands ready to be as helpful as possible. Of course it is not possible yet for us or for the Government of Western Australia to put a figure on the damage, but let me remind the House that, in the case of personal distress and hardship as regards food and shelter, the Government will provide assistance to individual people on a dollar for dollar basis with the Western Australian Government. We go beyond that. In the case of major disasters a base figure is set for each State. It is a very low base figure and it has not been changed since 1971. The base figure for Western Australia is $ 1.5m.
Where a major disaster strikes and the costs are to be more than 10 per cent of that base figure the Commonwealth Government accepts responsibility in a wide range of areas, not only in the event of personal hardship but also with grants to restore government, semi-government and local government facilities with a small share having to be contributed by those authorities. In addition it provides loans to primary producers to get them producing again, rail rebates to primary producers with food and clothing being carried free of any cost at all, subsidies on road transport for stock and fodder, loans to small businesses at concessional terms- all loans are at concessional terms- and loans to churches, and community and sporting organisations. Altogether the Government takes a very generous approach when disasters affect the Australian community. I repeat to the honourable member for Forrest that we stand ready to hear from him and, through the Western Australian Government, to be of as much assistance as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is the Australian Army currently seriously short of funds for transport equipment and the movement of personnel? Are serious backlogs occurring in the movement of stores and so on? Will additional funds be appropriated to enable the day-to-day functioning of the Army to continue for the remainder of the financial year?
– I can give the honourable gentleman the assurance that funds are available for the day-to-day functioning of the three armed Services. If the honourable gentleman has in mind some particular happening and will furnish me with details of which he is aware and of which I am not aware, I will investigate the matter promptly and provide him with an answer.
-I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, with reference to the National Aboriginal Conference and its State branches: What action is the Government taking to assist the Conference to carry out its responsibilities more effectively?
– I am very glad that the honourable member, who is chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, should ask a question about the National Aboriginal Conference today because we have in the public gallery the 35 members of the first National Aboriginal Conference.
– Tell us how you sold out last week when you took tricky Peter up to Queensland. Why did you not take Ruddock instead of Nixon?
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for
Port Adelaide is Manager of Opposition Business and as an officer of the House he should set an example for members and not continually interject.
- Mr Speaker, I was pointing out that in the public gallery today we have the 35 members of the first National Aboriginal Conference. May I congratulate them on their victory in the elections. I look forward to working closely with them. I am quite sure that the force of their views will be felt by this Government and also by future governments. That is one of the fundamental purposes for which the Conference was established. In order to assist members of the Conference who come from all parts of Australia, from remote parts as well as cities and country towns, as part of their Conference activities this week and next week we are running an extensive training course. That will be only the first of a number that will be run to enable the members to fulfill their functions and to perform their duties for the people they represent.
Might I just touch on another matter. Together with the National Aboriginal Conference, the Government decided to establish a Council for Aboriginal Development, five members of which would be selected by the National Aboriginal Conference and the other five would be nominated by me. I am about to extend invitations to five Aboriginals to join the Council. I am quite sure that these two bodies together will do what the Government expects them to do- to be a forum for the expression of Aboriginal opinion and an organisation which can give advice to the Government.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of the high turnover rate among lower ranks of the Australian Army Reserve? Did the Millar report on the Citizen Military Forces recommend action to overcome this avoidable wastage of personnel and expertise? Have these recommendations been implemented? Are existing funding arrangements for the Australian Army Reserve so restrictive as to seriously jeopardise the defence effective capacity of the Australian Army Reserve?
– I take the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question first. The answer is no. In assessing the demands for the Australian Army Reserve in a year, the Department of Defence works on the basis that some 36 days will occupy one Army reservist. The honourable gentleman will appreciate that in some areas he will find a greater display of enthusiasm with respect to Reserve activities than in others, and adjustments must be made between and among the various Reserve areas. That is done. It was drawn to my attention by one of our colleagues in Western Australia that a very significant demand had been made upon Reserve training, so much so that funds were not immediately available to meet that demand. Funds were subsequently transferred.
The Whitlam Government and the Government led by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister have implemented most of the recommendations of the Millar Committee’s report. Speaking from memory and subject to correction, only some two or three of the recommendations made by Dr Millar and his committee have not been implemented. With respect to the first part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, let me say that no evidence has been placed before me which would argue the case that there is any disturbing turnover of Army reservists.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Resources. Is it a fact that New Zealand has reduced its tariff on motor vehicle components imported from Japan and the United States of America from 45 per cent to 35 per cent whilst at the same time it has increased its tariff on motor vehicle components imported from Australia from 20 per cent to 25 per cent? Could this move cost Australian manufacturers $20m in export orders with a consequential decline in employment opportunities in this country? Did New Zealand consult Australia before making this move in accordance with the undertaking agreed to by Mr Talboys, the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, in November last year? If not, has New Zealand reneged on its obligations under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement or is it attempting to double-cross Australia?
– I have received representations from automotive product manufacturers in Australia who are very concerned about the announcement that New Zealand is to adjust its tariffs from 1 July this year. I believe this will have a significant effect on the capability of the Australian industry to sell as well in New Zealand. At the New Zealand-Australia free trade talks- the NAFTA arrangements- that we have each year, we have agreed that consultation should take place prior to any alterations in the preference tariff arrangements. I am sad to say that in this case an announcement was made before any consultation started. Consultations are now under way.
It could be argued that the new tariff levels do not come into effect until a few months time. I believe consultations would have given us more time to explain the situation to the industry and also to make strong representations to New Zealand concerning the consequences which will flow. There are to be talks between Australia and New Zealand in two weeks time. I intend registering very strongly with New Zealand my view that there should be modification to the tariff adjustments which it is suggesting, because of the impact the adjustments will have on the Australian industry. I think it is fair to mention that a general review of tariffs has been going on in New Zealand. The announcement that was made covered about 4,000 items. The new adjustments in tariff levels apply from 1 July. That in no way diminishes my very great concern as to the consequences of this new tariff on Australian motor products imported into New Zealand.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer him to the recent reference to the Industries Assistance Commission concerning light commercial and four-wheel drive motor vehicles in which reference is made to:
Is the Government aware that this phraseology is ambiguous and is causing considerable confusion amongst importers of both passenger and commercial motor vehicles? Can the Government confirm that it is actually asking the IAC to report on the concept that 80 per cent of the combined passenger and light commercial fourwheel drive market is to be reserved for local manufacturers? Will the Minister confirm that importers of commercial motor vehicles will obtain first allocation of quotas at present import levels and thus effectively cause the present import quotas for passenger motor vehicles to be virtually halved?
– The Leader of the Opposition is inviting me to comment on the substance of the issue which, quite properly, has been referred to the IAC. That form of open public inquiry is a form which I believe the honourable gentleman ought to accept. I simply say to him that this issue has been around for a considerable period. The background to this issue is a series of representations to the Government both for and against the inclusion of light commercial motor vehicles in the passenger vehicle plan. The honourable gentleman will recall the proposal put to the IAC by a number of companies in 1974 and the subsequent inquiries that took place. This matter was considered by the Automative Industry Advisory Council late last year. Therefore it is now an appropriate time for the matter to be put to public examination and study, for a report to be brought down and for that report to be then the subject of a decision by the Government. I have seen a number of articles that have sought to make comment on the substance of the matter. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and I have received a wide-ranging series of representations both in support and m rejection of that concept.
As to employment, the Government is very much aware of the position of importers, distributors and dealers. Their position needs to be weighed as a matter of balance in relation to both activity and employment against the need to look at employment effects throughout the industry, including vehicle and component manufacturing. I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he should await the report of the IAC because it will comprehend very much the form of the representations which he may wish to put forward to the Government. I do not recall receiving any representations which assert that the terms of reference are in any way insufficiently precise, but if such representations have been made I will certainly look at them and, in doing so, I will consider the point that the honourable gentleman has sought to make.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister would be aware of the widespread concern in rural areas about loss of income and violation of the principle of freedom to export as a result of the ban imposed by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union on live sheep exports. What is the present situation? What would be the financial import of the three-to-one ratio that the AMIEU is advocating? What can the Government do to reassure rural people that the law will prevail?
– The Government’s attitude towards the resumption of the trade was made known quite publicly by the Prime Minister in his message to the meeting of farmers yesterday in South Australia, by my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and by me. I think it is important that the community realises that if there were to be a change in the basis on which live sheep are exported the cost would be very severe, as I mentioned yesterday, not only to the Australian sheep industry and the employment opportunities of members of the AMIEU but also to the whole of the Australian community. I have had taken out some figures which illustrate that, if a three-to-one ratio of carcass to live sheep exports were to operate continuously for the next five years- that is, for the period 1977 to 1982-the impact of these export restrictions on projected export levels would be a reduction in the number of live sheep exported of the order of 56 per cent, the prices of wethers in saleyards would be depressed by 45 per cent and carcass prices for lean lamb and hogget would be down by between 12 per cent and 13 per cent. In circumstances in which the Australian farmer is not receiving the benefit of indexation but those who are maintaining the bans are receiving that advantage within our conciliation and arbitration system, there is no basis by which they should enforce such a reduction in the living standards of the farming community when they are seeking continued increases in their own benefits, wages, salaries and emoluments. In those circumstances, quite obviously the maintenance of the bans is very seriously affecting the livelihood of a number of members of the Australian community, and the Australian Government is quite determined that the trade should be resumed as soon as possible. Let me reiterate, however, the advice that the Prime Minister gave at the end of his response to a question in this House yesterday. At some point in the dispute there must be an opportunity for the parties on either side to consult with each other. One would hope that, before the full force of the law was applied, consultation might take place, with the bans being lifted and the trade resumed.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer the Minister to the statement he made last October regarding the purchase of torpedoes for Austraiian Navy Oberon class submarines. Is it a fact that in total only 12 torpedoes were to be purchased for the six Australian submarines? Does the Minister still support the statement that the Oberon boats with only two torpedoes each will have ‘an underwater fighting capability at least equal to the most advanced conventionally-powered submarines in the world’? Further, is it a fact that only two dummy torpedoes were purchased, that is, one among three boats? If so, what arrangements will be made to share this equipment among the boats? What procedures exist for target delineation and firing authorisation in respect of all those torpedoes?
– It gives me the greatest of pleasure to be able to give the honourable member the assurance that the Oberon type submarine does remain one of the most effective underwater machines in the world. It is peculiarly suited for operating in Australian waters. I hope that the honourable member possessed with that bit of information will sleep a little bit the better this evening. As to the torpedoes, I invite him to accept this simple proposition. When the order was put in for torpedoes, 12 could be delivered. They are highly sophisticated torpedoes.
– Perhaps we could have a short war.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide who interjects, I am bound to say, does have a number of endearing qualities but intelligence does not appear to be one of them. May I say to the honourable member for Chifley, who asked the question, that 12 torpedoes have been delivered as part of the initial order. The honourable member will appreciate also that when an order is put in there is an hypothecation of funds against the total cost of the order.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is the Minister aware of a report in today’s Australian that an industrial economic and forecasting company, Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd, has predicted an upsurge in house building later this year? Does the Minister agree that an upswing in house building can be expected during the year?
-I did notice the Press report to which the honourable member referred. It certainly is encouraging that this forecaster has predicted significant growth in the home building industry during 1978. 1 think everyone would recognise- the Government recognises–that the home building industry is a vital industry and a vital part of the Australian economy, lt is fair to say that in recent months it has been going through a rather flat period. This forecast suggested that the quarterly dwelling commencements would grow throughout 1978 and that in the December quarter, in particular, they should be about 25 per cent higher than they were in the December quarter of 1 977. Forecasts that were recently made by my Department also indicate that there will be increased levels of activity during the latter half of 1978. Those forecasts are not quite as optimistic as the forecasts made by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd. Nevertheless, they do show a trend towards growth. Both the industry and home buyers, especially, should be encouraged by the more certain prospects for increased construction activity during this year. I believe that these result very substantially from the success of the Government ‘s general economic policies.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Capital Territory in his capacity as Minister for Home Affairs. Is he aware of the formulation of a plan for the evacuation of Christmas Island which would reduce the population to 120 persons? Did the Minister’s Department initiate this development or was the plan initiated solely by the Christmas Island Administration?
Honourable members interjecting
– Honourable members opposite might laugh, but this matter is very important to the people of Christmas Island.
– Excavation or evacuation?
– There ought to be an excavation for you. I am talking about an evacuation of Christmas Island. Is the Minister aware -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is entitled to ask his question without interruption. I ask honourable members on my right to allow the question to proceed.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. Is the Minister aware that the original reason given to the persons on Christmas Island who were directed to draw up the plan was that such a plan could be used to forestall and counteract possible industrial action by the union of Christmas Island workers during the negotiations on the Island due to commence at the beginning of June? If the plan is simply to cover a potential emergency situation, why was it necessary to provide for it to be ready within a period of two weeks from 23 March, with the contemplated date of use of such a plan being stated as July 1978? Will the Minister guarantee that the plan is not designed to intimidate the workers of Christmas Island and that the threat of evacuation will not be used during the course of the negotiations for the purpose of frustrating the union representing the workers on Christmas Island while pursuing their legitimate claims?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will cease commenting.
-I am the Minister for Home Affairs in my own right. The honourable gentleman asked a question about the evacuation of Christmas Island. No plan has been approved by me to evacuate Christmas Island. I have no doubt that people who are concerned with Christmas Island may, from time to time, speculate in relation to it. Nothing has come before me under which my approval has been sought for, or that indicates that any other Minister has approved of, a plan to evacuate Christmas Island. Industrial questions have arisen on Christmas Island. So far as I understand, they have been the subject of debate and consultation in recent weeks. I imagine that if the parties involved speak together in a spirit of compromise as is necessary on the Island they will be able to come to agreeable terms. As the honourable gentleman would know, an arbitrator has been appointed. He allowed an award last year. I also understand that the question of the extension of that award is currently being considered. I do not think the honourable gentleman should be concerned about an impending evacuation of Christmas Island.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and follows the question asked by the honourable member for Forrest. What federal assistance has been made available to residents of New South Wales in general and of my electorate in particular who suffered severely in the recent floods? Further, what progress has been made in implementing the Federal Government’s $200m water resource program, including flood mitigation, announced last month by the Prime Minister, on which the States were to be approached for their participation? Have all the States responded in a satisfactory way?
-There are standing arrangements for support in relation to natural disasters, and during the time of the severe problems in New South Wales I was in touch with the New South Wales Premier concerning the programs and standing arrangements that the Commonwealth has with the States. The honourable gentleman would know that a number of matters are agreed automatically in these circumstances-grants for relief of personal hardship and distress, grants for the restoration of public assets, concessional loans to small businesses, concessional loans to churches, sporting associations and other voluntary non-profit organisations, concessional loans to primary producers for carry-on, restocking and restoration purposes, freight subsidies for primary producers, assistance to State, local and semigovernment authorities for the slaughter and disposal of helpless and unsalable stock. In the last financial year the Commonwealth provided nearly $ 1 3m to New South Wales for natural disaster relief, and it appears from the estimates for this year that the amount will be again over $ 12m for the State as a whole.
The honourable gentleman also referred to the period some weeks ago when I wrote to the States reminding them of our pre-election commitment for a $200m national water resources program. Both the Minister concerned and I are eagerly awaiting the responses of the States in relation to that because we want to be influenced by the States’ assessments of their own priorities. The funds could be used for city water supplies, flood mitigation and relief, water storage, or farm or irrigation purposes, and much will depend upon the priority that the States themselves have within their own arena. I must say that up to this point South Australia is the only State that has responded to that request. I hope that the other States will respond shortly.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and remind him that yesterday he told the House that he had instructed his Department to continue the review of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission that has been going on since 1976. 1 now ask: Is it not a fact that this review already has recommended that the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission should be retained with, and I quote, strengthened guidelines ‘? Is it also a fact that the idea that the Land Fund Commission should be abolished and its functions taken over by a new body under direct ministerial control was initiated not by the departmental review but by the Minister himself?
– The honourable gentleman obviously has a copy of a minute of a meeting I held with officers. There is every reason why I should initiate consideration of particular points of view which may in the long run provide for the Aboriginal and Islander people a much more effective use and application of the funds made available by government to the Land Fund Commission. I should have thought that from the honourable gentleman’s own experience in government he would know that Ministers do have ideas of thenown, which if implemented can be of benefit to the Australian people. A review is going on at the moment, and when my Department has completed that review, including a consideration of the ideas that I have put forward, I will make a decision on what should be put to Cabinet.
-Does the Minister for Home Affairs recall that during the last Federal election campaign the Government undertook to establish a permanent women’s advisory body? When does the Government propose to honour this promise?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. It gives me an opportunity to make an important announcement. It is true that during the election campaign the Government promised to establish a permanent women’s advisory body. I am very happy to announce to honourable members that the Government has decided to honour that election promise and to establish a National Women’s Advisory Council. Honourable members will be aware that in September of last year the report of the women’s advisory body working party was presented to the Parliament and was available for honourable members to look at. That resulted from an initiative taken by the Prime Minister in 1 976 to call together women’s organisations and representatives of women’s organisations from all over Australia. As a result of that initiative, that advisory body was set up. It recommended that a permanent advisory body be established.
Of course, the new Council will give women a permanent voice in government. It will enable them to give advice to me as the Minister for Home Affairs in relation to all matters of concern to women. This body will consist of 12 women who will be drawn from all walks of life. They will not be on this body to represent particular organisations. They will come with their own experience. They will represent all women- I repeat, ‘all women’. At this point I pay a tribute to the women who work in my Office of Women’s Affairs. They have come to my Department and have assisted greatly in the establishment of machinery leading to the Government’s decision. I hope that in a fortnight or a little longer it may be possible for the Government to announce the membership of this body. But I think that all honourable members will agree that it is a very significant step forward. As I say, it will enable women to have a firm, strong and permanent voice with government in this country. I do not propose to read out the powers and functions of the body. But I think it appropriate that they be incorporated in Hansard, and seek leave for their incorporation.
The document read as follows-
The powers of the Council shall be: to report and make recommendations to Government on request or on its own initiative in relation to matters of concern to women; to set up, subject to Ministerial approval, subcommittees, working parties or task forces as necessary, drawing on its own resources when appropriate and on other resources which may be made available; and at the request of the Minister responsible, to encourage research into areas of importance to women.
The Council may do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.
The primary role of the Council will be to advise me, as Minister for Home Affairs, on matters of concern to. women. In furtherance of this function the Council may: establish and maintain effective communication with women and women’s organisations and other interested groups and individuals; explore means of overcoming language and other communication barriers; raise awareness within the community of the situation of women and of their varied and changing roles and aspirations; encourage and assist effective liaison with the communications media in ensuring that the individuality and achievements of women are given due recognition; actively promote a policy of equality of opportunity for all women; review and report to the Minister on legislation specifically relating to its powers and functions; convene forums, seminars and conferences throughout Australia; report annually through the Minister to Parliament and the public, and regularly produce publications and other material in several major languages to disseminate information; establish and maintain cooperation with other advisory bodies and relevant machinery at State and Commonwealth levels and internationally, with a view to guarding against unnecessary duplication; and in collaboration with Departments and agencies and through the Depanment of Foreign Affairs establish and maintain liaison with international and regional agencies in relation to implementation of the World Plan of Action for the UN Decade for Women.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs which is supplementary to that which I asked him a short time ago. Does he recall saying yesterday in answer to a question which I directed to him about the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission that he had asked his Department to carry on the review of the future role of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission which had been under way since 1976 and also that when the review was completed its findings would be put before him as Minister? The Minister will recall confirming that statement today. Is it not a fact that the minutes of the meeting in his office between himself and officers of his Department on 14 March shows that the Minister decided that a Cabinet submission should be prepared which would incorporate the functions of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, the Aboriginal Loan Commission and Aboriginal enterprises into a single body directly responsible to the Minister? If the Minister cavils at that, has he any objection to a copy of the minutes being incorporated in the Hansard record?
– I do not know what the honourable gentleman thinks he is on to. I would have thought that it was quite in order for a Minister to request his Department to prepare a Cabinet submission. When I see it I may disagree with what the Department has provided to me. I might ask my officers to modify it and change it. I do not know what the final form will be. Obviously, the honourable gentleman has a copy of a handwritten minute of a meeting that was held in my office. Of course, that is a confidential document- a stolen document which the honourable gentleman is quite prepared to receive. We know the quality of receivers of stolen documents.
– I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document which is a handwritten copy of a minute of a meeting held in the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 1 4 March.
Leave not granted.
– I seek leave to have the document tabled.
Leave not granted.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Resources. In view of reports appearing in the media concerning export development proposals, can the Minister indicate when he will be able to announce details of the Government ‘s decisions in this regard?
-I noticed a number of reports in the Press today based on speculation about the Government’s decisions with regard to export incentives and export promotions. It should be no secret at all that the Government considers it important to maintain and expand our existing export performance for reasons of employment and balance of payments. For these reasons the Government announced during the last election campaign that it would introduce a new incentive scheme to encourage and assist exports. That scheme has been under examination. Industry people have been consulted and have made comments. There has also been an Industries Assistance Commission report looking into the export market development grants scheme as well as other export incentives. All these matters are being considered by the Government and until they are resolved I am not in a position to make any further comment. As soon as the matter has been finalised by the Government, an announcement will be made in this House.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Reserve Bank has been pushing down forward margins on the United States dollar below the relative differential between interest rates in Australia and interest rates in the United States? Is the present margin unrealistically low and is it intended to reduce it further? Is the Reserve Bank pushing down forward margins in order to bring the Australian dollar to parity with the United States dollar? If so, does this indicate that the Government wishes to establish an open foreign exchange market in Australia?
– On a number of occasions, in response to questions and also through statement, I have provided to this House and to the community generally, a description and explanation of the current management of the Australian exchange rate. Frankly, I have nothing to add to those descriptions.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs concerning illegal immigration to Northern Australia. Is the Minister aware that numbers of Papua New Guinea citizens are over-staying their traditional, normal and usual visits to Australia and have settled permanently in northern Australia, particularly in Queensland? Has the Minister’s Department investigated this matter? Does the Minister have an estimate of how many such people are over-staying in Australia? Have they come to Australia under any special arrangements?
-This matter was brought to my attention last year. Following that, I consulted Ministers of other interested departments and an interdepartmental committee was set up to look at the implications of the question. A task force was established and that task force journeyed to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait in October last year and again in February of this year. The task force has reported back to the IDC which is composed of interested departments. The task force was charged with the responsibility of investigating the allegations, keeping firmly in mind the traditional rights and traditional movements of people from Papua New Guinea in the Torres Strait area. The interdepartmental committee is at the present time considering the report of the task force. The response to that report has not yet come to me, but the initial investigations show that the movements referred to by the honourable member are not considerable.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared by the Department of Transport entitled ‘The Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974 Report of Progress to 30 June 1977’. The report was produced at the request of State authorities and provides an example of the co-operation between State and Commonwealth which is being achieved under the Act.
Pursuant to section 122 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members I present the summary report of the sixth meeting of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, Cairns, 29 July 1977, and the summary record of proceedings of the ninth meeting of the Australian Environment Council, Canberra, 1 1 August 1977.
– by leave- I wish to make clear the Government’s position with respect to the creation of establishments, institutions or organisations which can, because of the diplomatic terminology used, result in substantial difficulties in Australia’s relations with other countries and impede the operations of Australia’s foreign policy, the effective conduct of which is vital to the well-being of the nation. This is particularly so when such an establishment is referred to as an embassy*. Australia is a party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. That convention, in article 22- which has the force of law in Australia- imposes on Australia a special duty to prevent any impairment of the dignity of a diplomatic mission accredited to this country. It is not a matter which can be dealt with in any sense of compromise. It is a matter of our international obligations and the domestic law which gives effect to these obligations. I need hardly add that this would not apply to such establishments as the so-called Aboriginal Embassy as it did not affect the standing of any other nation with which Australia has diplomatic relations.
It has not been necessary in the past to treat this matter as one for legislative action. However, this has now become necessary because of the establishment in Canberra late last year of a so-called Croatian Embassy. It is because the establishment of the so-called Embassy has had important ramifications for Australia- ramifications with respect to the Vienna Convention, Australia’s responsibilities under it, the effective operation of Australia’s foreign policy, and our long-standing relations with a universally recognised nation, namely Yugoslavia- that the Government now feels it necessary to consider legislation to put an end to this anomaly and to guard against any recurrence.
I therefore wish to set out the Government’s position with regard to this matter. The so-called Croatian Embassy has been set up in Canberra by certain persons who may or may not be fully aware of the serious implications of their actions, which impede the correct and orderly conduct of Australia’s international relations, for which I am directly responsible. It is therefore necessary that I now make clear to this House beyond any possibility of doubt the Government’s views and intentions on this matter. These are in short that an establishment such as the so-called Croatian Embassy is damaging to the national interest and that such an establishment cannot therefore be tolerated.
Yugoslavia acceded to independence in the context of the post-World War I settlement, to which Australia was a party. Australia has longstanding and friendly relations with that country. By mutual agreement many people from Yugoslavia have settled in Australia. This has strengthened our ties. We respect Yugoslavia’s sovereignty. The Government cannot therefore view with indifference an attempt to establish and maintain on Australian territory any organisation which not only is openly dedicated to the destruction of a state in friendly relations with Australia but which also arrogates to itself an unacceptable title and status which could in turn disrupt the orderly conduct of Australia’s relations with another universally recognised member of the international community. This could clearly have a substantial adverse effect on our international standing, the conduct of Australia’s foreign policy and our national interest, thus affecting all Australians.
It can scarcely be maintained that the setting up of a so-called Croatian Embassy is not an impairment of the dignity of the diplomatic mission which in law, and in fact, represents Yugoslavia in this country. It is of no less concern that the unauthorised establishment of this socalled Embassy interferes with the exercise of the executive power of the Commonwealth to conduct Australia’s international relations. The Government is thus deeply concerned lest other minority groups may be inspired by the continued existence of the self-styled Croatian Embassy to believe that they, too, may similarly interfere in and jeopardise Australia’s relations with sovereign states. Furthermore, it has been a longstanding policy of Australian governments to oppose the importation into Australia of alien political and racial feuds. The Government is also concerned about the aggravation of tension between certain ethnic groups.
At this stage let me make it quite clear that it is not in any way the Government’s wish to discriminate against the Croatian community or to stop, or hinder, members of that community forming their own groups and clubs where these are not aimed at a state and government with which Australia has normal diplomatic relations. The overwhelming majority of the Croatian community in Australia has shown, by its contribution to the development of Australian society and culture, a strong loyalty and commitment to its new homeland. It is an affront to this loyalty and commitment that a so-called Croatian Embassy should purport to represent them. The proper international representative of the interest of Australians of Croatian, as of other, origins is the Australian Government and no one else.
The only course of action for the authors of this enterprise is for them to abandon it forthwith and revert to the means by which dissent may be peacefully asserted within the law as it prevails in our society. In order to leave no doubt of the seriousness with which this matter is being regarded, and consistent with the provisions of article 22 of the Vienna Convention, I wish to inform the House that the Government will introduce legislation specifically prohibiting institutions or bodies falsely representing themselves as diplomatic, consular or other official missions of another country or part of another country. Such action is essential not only to remove the anomaly which has already been created, but lest the practice of establishing socalled embassies be extended thus jeopardising Australia’s foreign relations and national interest. The Government does not believe that the Australian community would support the establishment of organisations so obviously to the detriment of this nation. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– It is appropriate that the Government should take firm action on this matter, although it must be conceded that the action comes belatedly and grudgingly. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has given a firm undertaking that legislation will be introduced to give effect to the sentiments he has expressed in his statement. I would wish that he might have more success in the introduction of that legislation than he has enjoyed so far in seeking to introduce legislation to prohibit the operation of the Rhodesian Information Office in this country. Honourable members will recall that Security Council resolution 409/77 cosponsored by the United States of America, proposed among other things that member nations should take action to close down Rhodesian Information Offices. This Government gave a firm undertaking to the Australian people last year that that would be done. The right wing rump of the Government, which is large and even greater in its influence on the Government -
-Order! The motion is to take note of a paper about legislation in relation to organisations declaring themselves to be embassies when that is not the fact. The honourable gentleman can make statements relevant to that motion but not to an entirely different subject.
-Mr Speaker, I submit that what I am proposing is that on the Minister’s record so far we have no reason to feel reassured that he will be successful in introducing the sort of legislation that is required here. In the case of the Rodesia Information Office he has been constantly thwarted. Last year the promise was made but the matter has been bogged down in
Cabinet since then. I leave the matter there. The point, I believe, has been adequately made.
However, I will relate a few simple facts associated with this matter. The ‘Croatian Embassy’, as it is called, was opened on 29 November last year. It has taken something like four months to obtain this firmness of attitude from the Minister. In that intervening period it has become quite clear to those about Canberra who have contacts and who are concerned about these matters that relations between Yugoslavia and Australia have become increasingly strained and were reaching the point of jeopardy as a result of the absence of appropriate firm action by the Government.
I remind the House that on 29 November last year when the ‘Croatian Embassy’ was opened, the opening was graced with official Government presence. Senator Knight, formerly of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Haslem, of this House, were present. I think it is reasonable to ask, in view of the provocative statements that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has made, whether their presence at the opening of the embassy was with the knowledge of the Government and of the Minister and to what extent they were encouraged or discouraged. But there are more important questions to be asked. It is significant that although the embassy was opened well before the last general election, the Minister did not find his way clear to make a statement on the matter until well after the election, nearly four weeks later. Presumably he was waiting until the Croatian vote had been safely counted.
– How debased you are.
-The Minister for Foreign Affairs -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The honourable member for Denison will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Speaker.
-The Minister for Foreign Affairs has attracted no stature to his presence by the way in which he has handled this matter. He has been tardy and unimpressive. His final action, the statement to the House today, comes, as I said before, grudgingly and belatedly and is a clear indication that action was finally extracted- I stress extracted- from the Government, not because it felt it should act as a matter of principle or because it felt the burden of its responsibilities internationally under the Vienna Convention which the Minister has quoted, but rather because it had been made abundantly clear to the Government that if the ‘Croatian
Embassy’ were to continue any longer in operation the strained relations between Australia and Yugoslavia might well break.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
– by leave- One of the most recent amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-77 made by the Government- namely section IIIC, enacted in December last year- entrusted the Minister with the responsibility to plan the development of radio and television services in Australia. In accepting this trust, one of the ongoing priorities will be to ensure that this responsibility is undertaken in a manner that will facilitate socially responsive, yet systematic, planning and policy implementation. I am well aware of widespread concern about what has been described as the haphazard ad hockery’ of broadcasting planning and regulation since its inception in this country. Whilst I do not intend to take issue with the justification, or otherwise, of such a viewpoint, I am bound to take account of it, voiced as it has been by such a wide range of organisations and interests, both here and outside in the country.
This statement will be the first of a series in the Government’s systematic approach to the development of policy guidelines for the entire broadcasting system. These statements will be designed to keep Parliament and, through it, the public informed of Government intentions and proposed action relating to particular areas of the system. On this occasion, the statement will deal with our intentions as they relate to the planning of public broadcasting. However, before moving on to that particular matter, it is timely to outline the general assumptions and philosophic principles upon which the Government’s overall approach to broadcasting planning and development will be based.
Broadcasting, in the broader context of mass communications structures, is one of the most influential and pervasive social phenomena of our time. It is a phenomenon, moreover, which presents governments of all democratically based nations with a continuing, and not easily soluble paradox. Each country has approached this paradox by adopting a system of broadcasting to meet its own individual geographic, social, economic and cultural problems. In formulating and articulating a clear philosophy on which to base guidelines for policy planning and implementation for Australian conditions, it is necessary to stress that broadcasting- and indeed government attitudes to it- is inextricably linked with matters of national policy. This derives from a number of factors: Firstly, its importance to public information, freedom and expression is crucial. It projects, influences and reflects socio-cultural values and opinions to an extent unrivalled by any other media form. Secondly, this all-pervasive medium of communication is a valuable national resource- in strategic, technological and economic, as well as social, terms. Thirdly, it can be argued that the electromagnetic spectrum- the physical medium by which radio, television and other communications services are delivered- is by no means an inexhaustible, if not a scarce, resource. Therefore, there must be some ultimate arbiter, some final regulatory authority responsible for decisions on matters affecting allocation and utilisation of the component elements of the spectrum, particularly where broadcasting frequencies are concerned. Fourthly, it derives from national, indeed international, regulation of the physical bounds, the broadcasting airwaves and all electromagnetic communications channels- for example, their frequencies, power and points of origin and delivery. Without such regulation, the whole system would be plagued by interference until it degenerated into utter chaos.
In short, broadcasting is so powerful a social and communications instrument, so valuable a national resource, so crucial to the public interest, that no government can afford to ignore it. The problem for government of course, is the extent to which the system can, or should, be regulated. Where does sensible planning and policy implementation finish, and totalitarian control start? A basic premise accepted by most governments in free societies is that the electromagnetic frequencies- or airwaves- used by broadcasting and in most forms of communications, are public property. That premise leads logically to an assumption that government must accept the role, and attendant responsibilities, of custodian of those airwaves for, and in, the public interest.
This Government interprets ‘public interest ‘ in terms of a system which must, while remaining economically and administratively viable, be sufficiently flexible and diverse to respond to the very wide range of changing needs implicit within the complexities of Australian society. Therein lies our basic approach as regards broadcasting planning and policy implementation, expressed in these philosophic terms: That government involvement in Australian broadcasting must be directed to ensure freedom of expression and enterprise in all forms of communication available to Australian society, particularly radio and television, and that this freedom is best served by diversity of structures and outlets. However, we also believe that facilitation of freedom of expression and enterprise in broadcasting must be consistent with the onus upon government to make the necessary planning and administrative provisions, to obviate the risk of freedom of expression and enterprise for one sector, or group, being indulged at the expense of others, or of the system as a whole. We believe that this can best be achieved by encouragement of diversity in the airwaves through logical and systematic planning.
In passing, it should be noted that this approach is in line with a fairly widespread consensus expressed in submissions to two major government-initiated broadcasting inquiries undertaken in this country over the past two years. I refer, of course, to the 1976 departmental inquiry into the structure of the Australian broadcasting system and associated mattersgenerally known as the Green inquiry- and last year’s Australian Broadcasting Tribunal inquiry into broadcasting standards and the concept of self-regulation.
The Government is mindful of the inherent relationship between freedom of expression and a free society. Our view is that this relationship can best be nurtured by the encouragement, wherever possible, of public consultation in the actual planning process. A parallel view is that the free, complex and dynamic society in which we live requires considerable flexibility in the planning process to ensure effective response to changing needs. These views give rise to two essential planning criteria for ministerial planning responsibility under the Broadcasting and Television Act- public consultations and procedural flexibility, both of which have special relevance to the public broadcasting sector.
The very nature of that sector makes close involvement between public broadcasters and the communities they hope to serve axiomatic. The axiom will be just as applicable to communities comprised of, say, Aboriginal residents or broadcasters of Christian programs. It is accepted that public broadcasters should have a better appreciation of the interests, hence needs, of their broadcasting communities than anyone else, including government. This acceptance is signified by the Government’s intention to give every opportunity for those community interests and needs to be articulated during planning processes. But, because public broadcasting is a relatively recent phenomenon in Australia, this acceptance must be tempered with realism.
This sector of the system is bound to experience considerable growing pains. No doubt there will be a number of potential licensees who will underestimate the needs of, and support they might expect from, their chosen communities. The converse is also inevitable: There are bound to be others who will overestimate the capacity of particular communities to sustain and to devote resources and skills to their own special interest broadcasting stations. These will surely fail. However, any such failures should not be used as a yardstick by which to judge the overall potential or success of the entire public broadcasting sector. The now thriving commercial sector, which has made such great contributions to broadcasting services in Australia over the past half century, also experienced its early failures. But this has not prevented commercial broadcasting from becoming a vital, essential and invaluable part of Australian communications heritage. Nor should any early failures by some public broadcasters prevent this new sector from developing to complement the national and commercial services and to enrich the system as a whole.
It is expected that early definition of long term strategic objectives for public broadcasting will minimise teething troubles in the early growth years. But it is stressed that such objectives for the public sector cannot be formulated in isolation: They must take into account the structure of the overall broadcasting system and the objectives of the two established national and commercial sectors. Until recently, Australia has been served by what has been termed the ‘dual’ broadcasting system, which is serviced by national and commercial sectors. With the advent of the handful of public broadcasters licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, a third sector entered the system. They embryonic state of this sector was documented officially in the Green report. That report acknowledged the existence of, and made recommendations on, legislative provisions for ‘administration in all three sectors and for licensing of public as well as commercial stations’. Both recommendations have since been adopted by the Government and passed into legislation. Consequently, the term public broadcasting’ has now acquired legislative definition in Australia. Section IIIA (1 ) of Part IVa of the Act describes the public broadcasting service and the public television service as applicable to a ‘licence granted for a special purpose as specified in the licence’. Section 8 1 (4) also provides that public broadcasting licences may be granted only to non-profit corporations.
I return to the problem of defining long term strategic objectives for the public sector. The Government has approached this problem by relating the proposed objectives of this sector to those of the system as a whole and hence, logically, to those of the established national and commercial sectors. The overall objectives for the system as a whole are implicit in the philosophy of this Government, as I outlined earlier. We believe that the Australian broadcasting system should aim for diversity and quality as an overall objective and also to cater for and reflect the widest possible spectrum of information, opinions, values and interests in Australian society. These objectives have been rationalised and defined in both the Green and Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Inquiry reports. More specifically, the Government takes the view that the various sectors which comprise the system should aim to develop programming objectives and functions expressly designed to avoid unnecessary and wasteful duplication of broadcasting facilities, resources and content.
In considering the programming objective, the ultimate raison d’etre of the individual sectors, the starting point must be a general assumption that the total viewing or listening audience is comprised of a series of majority and minority groups. These have been traditionally identified in terms of block mass and minority groupings. However, it must be recognised that what may constitute a minority audience in terms of a percentage of the total listening or viewing population can still constitute a mass audience m numerical terms. It also must be recognised that different audience groupings, whether mass or minority, are both divisible and interchangeable. All people, at some time or another will form part of a mass audience. Of those, most at some time or another will, in following specialised interests, be potential members of minority audiences.
The nature of the broadcasting system in Australia until quite recently, together with the physical limitations of the availability of broadcasting frequencies, has tended to serve mass audiences well but to overlook those members of the various mass groupings with additional and quite specific interests outside those catered for in mass appeal programming. The commercial sector has been, by virtue of its economic structure and marketing requirements, traditionally oriented to cater for largely undifferentiated audience blocks via mass appeal programming. The national service, by virtue of its Australiawide network structure and public funding origins, has also, though to a lesser extent, tended to program for mass audiences, albeit across a wide geographical service area, while at the same time tending to concentrate on more specialised educational and cultural interests.
The newer public sector is seen as complementary to both pre-existing sectors. It is likely to program for minority rather than mass audiences in response to special interests and needs. This is not to imply that public broadcasting should be confined to elitist interests. Speciality and elitism are not necessarily synonyms. After all, a special interest may range, for example, from football to Flemish weaving, from film to Florentine art, from hard rock to harpsichord recitals and from Bach cantatas to brass bands. What public broadcasting should aim to do, as a sector, is to develop appeal for all of the people, some of the time. From these premises, the Government proposes that the strategic aim of public broadcasting is to serve specialised audiences or, as the Act puts it, to provide ‘special purpose broadcasting’. Action on planning proposals for the public broadcasting sector is now urgently required due to, firstly, the imminent expiry of licences issued under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1905, and secondly, the volume of inquiries and follow-up requests received by my Department from potential public broadcasters. In recognition of the urgency of the situation, a series of discussions have been held with the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia to consider draft Guidelines for the Planning of Public Broadcasting in Phase I’. After discussions with the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia, the guidelines have been modified and I have now authorised a final version.
I seek leave to have terms of the final version incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
GUIDELINES FOR THE PLANNING OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN PHASE I (See Note A)
Public radio station licences will be categorised by the special purpose ‘ for which they are granted, viz.
Category E Licences: Will be issued to educational bodies intending to provide programs of continuing and adult education, but including material designed to enrich the cultural life of the audience.
Category S Licences: Will be issued to groups intending to provide programs serving a particular interest or group of interests e.g. music/sport/religion.
Category C Licences: Will be issued to community groups intending to provide programs serving a particular community e.g. Bathurst, Manly- Warringah.
The licensing policy adopted will differentiate between these categories (See Note B). For example-
Category E Licences (educational bodies):
in capital cities licences will normally only be issued to consortiums of educational institutions or to a single applicant where that applicant agrees to allow reasonable participation by other educational institutions;
licences will be medium coverage. They may be issued in either AM or FM (See Note C).
Category S Licences (special interests):
consortiums will be permitted, but not mandatory;
licences will be medium coverage. They may be issued in either AM or FM. (See Note C).
Category C Licences (community groups):
consortiums will be permitted but not mandatory and licences may be issued to bodies such as shire councils, schools, and non-profit companies in isolated areas;
Promise of Performance may include educational and access programs;
licences will be low coverage in capital cities but may be medium coverage elsewhere. They may be m either AM or FM (See Note C).
In Phase I (See Note A) a maximum of three (3) medium coverage FM Licences will be issued in Categories E and S for each capital city. However, further licences will be issued in Phase II. Licences in Category C will be issued freely wherever frequencies are available.
The Minister will call for applications for one or more public broadcasting licences for a service area, after which the Austraiian Broadcasting Tribunal will hold a public inquiry and then issue a licence/licences to the successful applicants. Applications for Category E, S and C licences to serve a particular area or part of an area will be invited simultaneously wherever possible.
Any public broadcasting organisation will be free to apply for a licence and demonstrate to the Tribunal its greater suitability than that of other applicants, according to specifications determined by the Minister and conditions imposed by the Tribunal.
Applicants will submit a Promise of Performance setting out their programming intentions and other policies related to broadcasting, which will be used in choosing a licensee and in renewal hearings. Significant departures from the Promise of Performance may be subject to investigation by the Tribunal.
Licensees will be directly responsible under the provisions of the Broadcasting anc; Television Act 1 942, for their station’s programs.
Government financial support will be limited to indirect funding.
State Governments, statutory bodies other than educational bodies, and political parties will not be issued public broadcasting licences.
Sponsorship in a form approved by the Minister and administered by the Tribunal will be permitted, but not advertising of the ‘ spot announcement ‘ type.
- Licensees will not be permitted to own/control more than one public broadcasting licence, but may apply for translator licences.
Transfers of public broadcasting licences will not be permitted. If an effective transfer is desired, a new Tribunal hearing will be held, with all prospective applicants considered equally.
Licence categories (a) are concerned with establishing the special purpose of stations for the planning and licensing processes- what might be called the ‘station profile’. They are indicative rather than prescriptive, setting out broad planning guidlines, and are not intended for use in the regulatory process. That function will be served by the stations’ own Promises of Performance, (b) are not intended to be mutually exclusive. For example:
The radii indicated below are illustrative only. Actual radii will depend on many factors, such as aerial height, terrain, etc.
The precise mix of wide, medium and low coverage stations to be adopted in a particular area will depend upon demonstrated demand and detailed planning considerations.
– The guidelines form the basis for preparation of planning proposals for licence applications in both areas now served by broadcasters licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act and those in which potential licensees have expressed an interest in servicing. The Phase I to which they refer may be regarded as an introductory period in the establishment of frequency modulation public broadcasting stations. The Government intends that Phase I should be as short as possible to avoid unnecessary restrictions upon the development of public broadcasting. At the same time, there is a responsibility to control the way in which the enormous potential of FM broadcasting is to be realised. That involves all sectors of broadcasting and requires proper caution in its exercise.
At this point, a priority task is to initiate public hearings in those areas served by the broadcasters licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act Planning proposals have been prepared and will be circulated by my Department to the appropriate organisations for comment prior to the relevant hearings to be conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. As indicated previously, the planning guidelines propose that public radio stations should be categorised according to the ‘special purpose’ for which they apply for licensing under the Broadcasting and Television Act. Three licence categories are envisaged to identify what might be described as individual ‘station profiles’. The categories are intended to be indicative rather than prescriptive and will be chosen by the applicants themselves. They are not intended for use in the regulatory process and are as follows:
Category E licences will be issued to educational bodies intending to program for continuing and adult education. Such programming may include material designed to enrich the cultural perspectives of the audiences served. In the capital cities, Category E licences will normally be issued only to consortiums of educational institutions in Phase I. They may also be issued to a single institution with the proviso that other educational institutions be allowed reasonable participation. Most new licences will be issued in FM, since it is mainly in the VHF band that frequencies are available. However, the criterion for the granting of AM or FM licences will be the mode seen to be more technically appropriate for the programming involved. Thus Category E licences, which will provide for medium coverage, might be issued in either mode.
Category S licences will be issued to groups intending to program for a particular interest, or group of interests. This will be the most flexible category, as it allows potential applicants scope to define in their Promise of Performance whatever interest groupings they wish to serve. These might cover music, sport or religion for which licences will be issued in either AM or FM mode and which will provide for medium coverage.
Category C licences will be issued to community groups intending to program for the interests of a community, or communities, in a specific geographical location. Potential licensees would be drawn from bodies like shire councils, schools, student organisations and resident groups. The point I made earlier about active involvement by public broadcasters with their communities of license is especially applicable to applications for category C licences. Participation will be the name of the game. As with categories E and S, category C licences will be issued in both modes. However, in capital cities they will extend only to ‘low coverage ‘, that is, coverage over a radius of approximately 1 5 kilometres.
I stress that these three public broadcasting licence categories are not intended to restrict licensees to immutable programming compartments. Programming from one category to another will have some inevitable similarities. Notwithstanding, in planning development of broadcasting services for each particular geographical area, a prime consideration will be the need to offer listeners the widest possible diversity of programming options. There are lessons to be learned here from the experience of countries like the United States. There, because of a permissive planning policy in the past, the regulatory authority faces enormous difficulties in finding enough frequencies for deserving new applicants. At this stage, it is the Government’s intention to moderate demands from bodies like educational institutions, which can be expected to be strong contenders for licences. The rationale for this intention is the need to maintain reserves, both present and future, for other types of public broadcasting. No doubt many licensees will be educational broadcasters, and these will be welcomed as such. But I expect the public broadcasting sector to be developed in a way that will facilitate eventual provision of greater variety and public benefit than educational broadcasting alone could offer.
An important consideration in planning for the development of public broadcasting, indeed broadcasting as a whole, must be the protection of existing broadcasters against interference from new transmitters and receivers. For this reason, at this stage, I propose to call for a maximum of three medium coverage FM public broadcasting licences for each capital city. There are not such tight limitations upon the issue of category C licences: These will be issued subject to demand and availability of frequencies. At a later stage when more FM frequencies will be available, licensing will continue within the bounds of an orderly, systematic development of the system. The general procedure will be that I will call for applications for one or more public broadcasting licences for specific service areas.
Public hearings will then be scheduled and conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, on the basis of which a licence or licences will be issued, in accordance with the planning specifications I have determined. Any public broadcasting organisation, or group which forms itself into a non-profit corporation will be free to apply for a licence, with a view to demonstrating that it is the best applicant for the available licence, within the above parameters. As an applicant, it will be required to submit a Promise of Performance setting out its programming intentions and other policies related to broadcasting, which will be used by the Tribunal in choosing a licensee and in subsequent renewal hearings. Significant departures from this Promise of Performance may be subject to investigation by the Tribunal and licensees will be directly responsible for their station ‘s programs.
The Government has accepted the Green report attitude that public broadcasting is an activity which should spring from local, community initiatives. Accordingly, it is proposed to specify that State governments, political parties and statutory bodies other than educational ones should not be issued with public broadcasting licences. Again, licensees will not be permitted to own or control more than one public broadcasting licence- although they will be permitted to apply for translator licences- and the effective transfer of public broadcasting licences will necessitate a new Tribunal hearing at which all prospective applicants will be considered. Advertising of the ‘spot announcement’ type will not be permitted on public broadcasting stations. However, sponsorship in a form approved by the Minister and administered by the Tribunal will be allowed.
Finally, it should be said that the main reason for setting up new broadcasting stations is to provide better programs. The Government sees public broadcasting as a force for diversity. Its role is to provide Australians with a range of choices which the national and commercial sectors are not able to provide. Public broadcasters will best perform this role not by duplicating the programming of national and commercial stations, but by defining very clearly for themselves, the Tribunal, and above all their audiences, the special purpose’ which motivates them. In doing so, they will add to Australian broadcasting an exciting and challenging new element which should make it one of the best systems in the world. I present the following paper
Motion (by Mr Anthony) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– I should like to say at the outset that the Opposition welcomes the statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), although it does have some disagreement on points of detail. I know that the Minister has complied with the notification requirements in relation to the presentation of ministerial statements but I think that he would readily agree that the philosophical statement and the details laid down in the guidelines for planning are somewhat complex and may well need some consideration at some later time. Once again the philosophy on any of these propositions is very good. The Government is to be commended for the way in which these propositions have been presented. They are very appealing to the Opposition. However, it is the implementation of that philosophy in line with the guidelines with which we are particularly concerned. This statement is refreshing in its frank approach to broadcasting in Australia after two years of vacillation and ad hoc decisionmalting by the previous Minister.
The issues and principles are set out in the statement. Page 4 of the statement mentions the:
I think this is necessarily a very fine principle but once again it needs to be implemented and applied if the whole philosophy on broadcasting is to mean anything. On the same page of the statement reference is made to the very nature of the public broadcasting sector which makes close involvement between public broadcasters and the communities they hope to serve. Reference is made also to Aboriginal communities and broadcasters of Christian programs. The Opposition hopes that ethnic communities particularly are to be included. I note that they did not rate a mention in the statement, but I am sure that that is only an oversight.
– I am assured by the Minister that it was an oversight. The Minister, in his general observations at the beginning of the statement, rightly emphasised three points which are particularly relevant to the somewhat unique broadcasting structure in Australia: Firstly, the fact that the airwaves are a limited public resource; secondly, the need for government involvement as the ultimate arbiter in relation to the use and development of that resource; and, thirdly, the need for a definition of the philosophy of broadcasting in Australia. The Parliament will be aware that only recently the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr Duckmanton, called for a statement on broadcasting philosophy. For years an attempt at philosophy has been expressed in terms of a need for adequate and comprehensive programming’ or more recently in the words of the Broadcasting Tribunal report ‘a need for an Australian look’. In fact a number of important statements by bodies such as the Green inquiry into broadcasting were ignored until this statement in which the Minister started to take them up. Members of the Opposition need an opportunity to examine in detail the statement and the results of that inquiry and to comment on those matters. The Opposition welcomes the opportunity which Parliament has both now and, as promised, in future to discuss the whole philosophy of broadcasting. The technology, the expertise and initiatives with regard to public broadcasting have been available for a number of years in order to develop a vigorous and viable public broadcasting sector.
The Public Broadcasting Association of Australia is a well-informed and responsible organisation whose initiatives hitherto have been frustrated. The Minister’s discussion of the guidelines with the Public Broadcasting Association is an example of how the Government and the Parliament can co-operate constructively with community organisations. Ethnic community organisations ought to avail themselves and do avail themselves of the procedures outlined by the Minister. That is a fair example of what can be done.
Two events seem to have motivated the Government’s new initiatives in relation to public broadcasting. The first was the initiative of President Carter in supporting the already active and virile public broadcasting movement in America which led the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to dispatch Mr Westerway of the Postal and Telecommunications Department to America late last year to study these developments. It was a totally necessary visit. The second event was the appointment of a new Minister who seems to be at least prepared, on the basis of the present statement, to grapple with the problems. While there will be, undoubtedly, disputation about the detailed implementation of the public broadcasting policy, the statement of the Minister promises that that development at least will now take place.
The Opposition is convinced that it will be in the interest of all sections of the Australian community. As I indicated at the outset, we believe that some of the points of detail- once again we can lay out the principles, how they should apply and what may well be the working effect of the procedures in the future- need to be considered. Other honourable members wish to participate in this debate. I have been given an assurance by the Minister for the Capital Territory that honourable members will be afforded an opportunity to speak in this debate at a later stage. Therefore I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Minister for Trade and Resources in Japan to defend Australia’s trading interests.
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 places-
-The Opposition has raised this matter of public importance today because of the current sorry state of Australia’s international trade, in particular the calamitous position that has been reached in Australia’s trading relations with Japan. The responsibility for this situation rests solely on the shoulders of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony). No longer can he shelter behind the international gaffes and embarrassments caused by his Liberal Party and National Country Party colleagues, Sir Charles Court and Mr Bjelke-Petersen, on their recent constitutionally illegal safaris to Japan. Nor can the Minister shy away from the blame for the abortive foreign policy initiatives taken by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in recent months culminating in the sugar negotiations and the Facom affair both of which have done great harm to Australia ‘s relations with Japan.
The depths to which the Deputy Prime Minister has fallen in the eyes of the Australian people, the media, the mining industry and his own Party were illustrated clearly last Monday night in his sorry attempt to justify his recent 10-day visit to Japan. When talking of the difficulties facing the iron ore and coal industries the Minister claimed, as his only credit, that it was he and he alone who forced the Japanese steel mills to adopt a policy of maintaining existing stockpiles of iron ore and coal as a means of preventing cutbacks for Australian iron and coal producers.
This is what he told a very sceptical Mining Industry Council dinner
I argued strongly Tor the retention of existing stockpile levels, not only of iron ore and coal but also of pig iron, scrap steel and coke . . . The mills gave me an assurance that they would hold their stocks of iron ore and coal at current record levels- and this was the first time such an assurance had been given.
Yet in Japan when the Deputy Prime Minister floated this so called achievement to the Press, the Press quickly discovered by talking to Japanese officials that this policy had been decided by the Japanese steel mills before Mr Anthony arrived and was not the result of any advocacy on his part. At any rate the Deputy Prime Minister failed to impress the miners in the audience last Monday.
The attitude of the Fraser-Anthony Government in its foreign policy and trading relations with Japan is to run hot in public and cold in private. It is ironical that these two men would use every opportunity to bucket the intiatives of the former Labor Government in a most unwholesome way when they were in Opposition, yet in Government, have twisted Labor policy to suit their own ends. It was the Liberal-Country parties in Opposition that coined the phrase resource diplomacy’ in relation to Labor’s successful attempts to increase both price and tonnage for Australian resource exports. Labor’s objective was to see that Australian resource producers did not fall for the divisive negotiating tricks of the international cartels which played one Australian producer off against another. Labor wanted to ensure that Australia’s major trading partners had a reliable source of supply at proper prices. It was benign supervision and nothing more. Yet, it was painted as nationalisation by our opponents who thought nothing of running down the policies to foreigners and belittling the status of Australia and its Government.
Now, the Fraser-Anthony Government, by failing to recognise the achievements of the Labor Government, has cost the coal and iron ore industry millions of dollars in export income. I refer to the Inayama agreement negotiated by the late Rex Conner in July 1 975. The agreement was in the form of a letter from the Chairman of Nippon Steel, Mr Inayama, providing for an increase in purchases from Australia of coking coal from between 27 million and 29 million tonnes for the current year to between 44 million and 49 million tonnes for the year 1980. There was to be a maximum increase of 20 million tonnes over the period.
The agreement also contained the important proviso that if, through economic circumstances -this ought to be listened to-there should be a reduction in the manufacture of steel in Japan, there would be no reduction in coal purchases committed under Japanese contracts for coking coal imports from Australia. That is a very significant concession and one that, if kept, would be of great importance to the industry today. I seek leave to table a copy of that letter.
– I thank the House. At the time of this agreement Mr Fraser and Mr Anthony, as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, went on the attack to downgrade the agreement. The then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, said in a Press statement:
The deal is unnecessary despite Mr Connor’s claims.
I seek leave to table this statement also.
– Last year the Deputy Prime Minister, when in Japan, sought a reaffirmation of this agreement and, in a Press statement, later acknowledged this. I quote from that statement:
Japan has come to recognise Australia as a regular and secure source of supply. This has been demonstrated in periods of high demand when Australia honoured its contracts and did not desert Japan for high priced markets.
We would expect Japan to act similarly in periods of recession. In fact, Mr Inayama as Chairman of Nippon Steel and representing the Japanese steel mills gave the Australian Government -
He did not say the Labor Government- such an undertaking in writing in 197S. This undertaking was re-confirmed when I was in Japan last year.
That is when he was there as Minister. At the negotiations this year, the Deputy Prime Minister again brought up the Inayama agreement in an attempt to salvage something to take back to Australia, only to be confronted by the Japanese with his own and the Prime Minister’s statements in 1 975 downgrading the agreement. The Japanese are not fools, and according to our Japanese sources they were anxious to show Australia that the approach adopted by the Liberal and Country parties in resource negotiations was both immature and disruptive.
The Japanese steel mills have taken the world recession far more seriously than the Australian Government. Mr Inayama was talking about falling steel production as far back as mid-1975. Throughout this period the Fraser-Anthony Government failed to appreciate the need to manoeuvre the Japanese steel mills into a continuing acceptance of the philosophy of the ConnorInayama letter, namely, that the producers who were first into the market on a long-term basis were to be the last penalised. The latent overcapacity in the world iron ore and coking coal industry is the direct consequence of the steel mills own policy. They alone must now take responsibility for the excess mining capacity that has only gained recent entry into their market. It is these new mines which should bear the brunt of production cutbacks- not Australian mines which in good faith entered into long-term supply contracts, long ago. The mills wanted the over-capacity as a weapon to depress prices in good times; they should now take responsibility for their folly in the bad times.
Acceptance of minimum contract tonnages is reasonable enough in the circumstances, particularly with declining steel production, but going below these levels to the tune of 1 5 per cent is unacceptable and the Australian Government should tell them so. Some mines in Australia stand to lose up to 33 per cent of base contract tonnages. This will drive many of them into loss situations and adversely affect employment. The Government would be recreant in its duty if it did not stand its ground against the Japanese steel industry and insist on at least the minimum contract tonnage uplift during the current contract year. As far as prices are concerned, the mills squeezed a favourable price reduction in iron ore from Brazil so Brazil could hold its tonnages. This should not be a precedent for Australia. If Brazil feels compelled to grovel there is no reason why we should feel compelled to imitate it. On the contrary, a $70m revenue loss to our mines is too great. Existing prices should be held and old contracts should be renegotiated to current prices so as to minimise the loss of income from tonnage reductions. There are still quite a few old contracts written at low prices, and if the Japanese want to mitigate the damage of a loss of tonnage deliveries to the level of 10 per cent falling away from the base contract tonnages they can reduce the impact of revenue losses by upgrading the old contracts to current prices. Any drop in prices for Australian producers will clearly signal complete capitulation by the Australian Government.
Australia’s interests have not been helped by the antics of the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland. The mills must be laughing themselves sick with the caravan of conservative Australian politicians that has beaten a path to their door in recent weeks. Sir Charles Court was there doing his best to further convince the mills of their supremacy. He was there trying to save Western Australia’s iron ore mines from cutbacks, yet the same man was in Tokyo last year trying to start another new iron ore mineGoldsworthy ‘s Area ‘C. If he had suceeded one can only imagine how sick the Western Australian iron ore industry would have looked if even more capacity were to have been built into it. Of course, the mills sent Sir Charles home empty handed despite the fact that Sir Charles and the Western Australian newspaper have spent the last week trying to put a good face on his rebuff. The mills know Sir Charles is now delightfully irrelevant. It would help Western Australia’s interests and his own to leave trade matters where they constitutionally belong and that is with the national Government. Far better for him to stiffen up Mr Anthony than to try and take on the role as the National Trade Minister. The same goes for Premier Bjelke-Petersen. He has no more clout with the mills than his Western Australian alter ego.
These incursions by the States into international trade negotiations are a direct consequence of the absence of any permanent mechanism to deal with difficult trade questions. The Government must formalise a system whereby there is close harmony and exchange of information between the relevant government departments and private industry so that when negotiations get under way all available skill and knowledge come together at the one time. There is nothing wrong with active government support in resource negotiations and the reluctance of the Fraser-Anthony Government to continue the policies of Labor in this regard seems to be the result of an ideological blind spot and not of any rational assessment of the current international market place. The Government in the national interest must move towards the Opposition in this matter and forget its prejudices. The system should work by officials getting together following consultations with the various industries for talks with their counterparts overseas. Once the ground rules are worked out, the various resource companies could then begin their negotiations with prospective buyers in the full knowledge that they have all the knowledge and skill to back them up. There is no reason why such negotiations should always take place in Japan, and in fact it is in the interests of Australia that in future these important negotiations take place alternately in Australia and Japan so that we can end the cap-in-hand treks to Tokyo that have characterised the relationship between the two countries since the fifties.
In fact the Japanese steel mills in the late sixties had become so arrogant in their dealing with Australian iron ore and coal producers that their negotiators openly claimed that they set prices which allowed the Australian producers a reasonable profit after costs. Can anyone imagine the Japanese steel mills allowing the Australian resource producers to determine their profit levels? Yet the subservient attitudes of successive Liberal-Country Party governments in their private negotiations with overseas buyers has allowed this philosophy to develop and be accepted. It is demeaning, and if the Australian public were fully aware of it they would be ashamed. As it is, they merely see Government Ministers, including the Prime Minister, threatening the Japanese and the European Economic Community with retaliatory action unless they buy more beef, wool, iron ore or coal. The approach of the Government to resource negotiations and foreign relations in general is one of posture and empty rhetoric and is long in need of an overhaul.
The Government’s recent crude forays into resource diplomacy’ demonstrate the extremes which have characterised this Government’s trade approach. This Government actually threatens foreign governments that supplies will be cut off unless certain conditions are met. The Minister for Primary Industry recently used the 200-mile fishing and resource zone off-shore as a lever for Australian cattle producers to gain access to Japanese markets. The Prime Minister in his usual heavy handed way has threatened the EEC that unless it buys more beef it cannot be sure of gaining access to Austraiian uranium. It was the Prime Minister last year who, after informing the Australian newspaper first, summoned the Japanese Ambassador to Kirribilli House in Sydney to read him the riot act over the sugar negotiations, causing the Ambassador severe embarrassment. On the same matter, it was this Prime Minister last year who wrote direct to the Japanese Prime Minister in most direct and undiplomatic language on the sugar question, ignoring the Japanese Embassy and other accepted and proper channels and causing great offence as a result. They are very bold and resolute in public, but every time these public confrontations are reduced to across-the-table meetings Australia is always the loser. Up they go to Japan waving a big stick and back they come with the stick well and truly broken over their backs. Perhaps the Australian editorial of 30 March last sums up the current situation adequately:
Trade is essential to our survival in this economically troubled world. Mr Anthony presents himself as entirely inadequate in the position of Minister for Trade. His recent trip to Japan was demonstrably unsuccessful and his attempts on his return to give a semblance of success to his mission succeeded only in giving an impression of a farmer sent on a super-salesman’s errand.
The Japanese are tough businessmen and for Mr Anthony to try to sway them with talk of ‘a special relationship’ between Australia and Japan is ludicrous. It is yet to be demonstrated by the Japanese that they recognise a ‘special relationship’ and Mr Anthony would be better off realising that, instead of publicly apologising for the tough line taken against Japanese fishermen by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Muldoon- who seems to understand tough dealing better than we do.
That is a quote from the Australian. There is a clear interest for Australia to protect, firstly in regard to our balance of trade and our balance of payments, and secondly in regard to our industries. The Prime Minister has demonstrated an interest in running the detail of most Ministers’ portfolios. If the Minister for Trade and Resources does not pick up his feet the Prime Minister will feel obliged to take command of his portfolio also.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is fairly obvious that this is a political exercise on the part of the Opposition. One naturally would expect that the shadow Minister for Trade and Resources, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), needs to put up some performance so that he can circulate a speech to the branches of the Australian Labor Party in his electorate. It is unfortunate that this has some ramifications. Certainly, it does not help a common national objective of trying to facilitate the maximum amount of trade between Australia and Japan during times of difficulty. The honourable member talked about my trip to Japan as a cap-in-hand approach to negotiate and suggested that the Japanese should come to Australia. Clearly, he does not understand the intentions of my trip.
My visit to Japan was for the purpose of discussing Government policy, to meet with Ministers, officials, organisations, utilities, trading houses, to help to create good relations and to cement goodwill between our two countries. This probably was one of the most valuable trips I have had. I received a particularly good reception in Japan. We had frank and understanding discussions about the problem of both countries. There are mutual problems that must be discussed. But it is ridiculous to talk about the Japanese coming to Australia. I ask honourable members to look at my program and have regard to the multitude of people I saw. We would need to bring the representatives of half the business houses in Japan to Australia in order to undertake the same program.
Annual discussions are held between Australia and Japan. They take place alternatively in Japan and Australia. I mention this in case the honourable member does not know it. There are to be joint ministerial meetings in Australia within the next two months. This is part of a regular pattern of discussions at ministerial level. But these meetings are undertaken for other reasons. It could be assumed from the way in which the shadow Minister spoke that only coal and iron ore are important in our trade. A multitude of other matters need to be discussed. They range from uranium to citrus fruit exported to Japan. All of these matters must be discussed. As it was two years since I had been to Japan I thought that discussions in that country were long overdue. They took place at a time of very serious problems in the Japanese steelmaking industry. It was most appropriate for me to be there to put the strongest case I could and to create the best climate or atmosphere- call it what you like- for our commercial people to go to Japan to negotiate the best possible terms and conditions.
There are serious problems for Australia and serious problems for Japan. They have been brought about mainly because of the downturn in the Japanese economy. That downturn has been occasioned primarily by a world recession in trade. Because we are so closely linked in trade with Japan, what reflects on Japan reflects on Australia. We are totally interdependent upon each other. There is a special relationship between our two countries. It has developed over the last 20 years. It is a terribly important relationship and one that has to be nurtured and looked after. It cannot be fostered by the ALP approach of going like a bull at a gate, telling people what to do and making pronouncements. That is its doctrinaire philosophy. It is like the bullock driver yelling, screaming and using wild language in the hope that he will move the bullocks. That is not the way to maintain a proper relationship with our most important trading country. It is a very delicate affair and must be handled with the greatest diplomacy.
I know that my trip to Japan was of value. Anybody closely associated with the trip and the industries involved will support what I am saying. This has been the common approach adopted by the Commonwealth and the State governments. I am pleased to say that on this occasion there has been complete unity between the Premier of Queensland and the Premier of
Western Australia. They went to Japan and coordinated their approach. They knew that this was in the national interest. I think it is unfortunate that the ALP, for some petty political reason, now tries to divide the nation at a time when those companies involved in coal and more especially in iron ore are struggling to get the best terms and conditions they can. The honourable member criticised Sir Charles Court for going to Japan and trying to get new iron ore developments going. He said that if Sir Charles Court had gained something last year it would have worsened the situation this year. How ignorant and stupid can the honourable member be?
If Area C project had gone ahead it would have been about five years before it got into production. We would be looking to the middle 1980s before that project came on to supply. Why should we not want new iron ore developments? Is it the philosophy of the ALP that it does not want resource development? That is what we heard from the mouth of the honourable member today. If Sir Charles Court can go to Japan and get replacement developments for Goldsworthy Mining Ltd which will run out of ore within a short period of time, I think he is doing a great deal of national good as well as good for his State. He has my support. If the Labor Premiers of South Australia and New South Wales want to go overseas to try to facilitate trade and they are prepared to co-operate at a national level, which they do, that is in our national interest. We should work together on these things. There should be a bipartisan approach and not the niggling, nitpicking attitude we heard from the honourable member today. If any accusations are to be made, they ought to be levelled at the honourable member and the Australian Labor Party in this House for their failure to understand the circumstances of today and the difficulties of the Japanese steelmaking industry.
This is a difficult time for the Japanese. As the honourable member mentioned, I was in Japan in 1976. At that time Mr Inayama, who was then the president of Nippon Steel Corporation, told me that the company was forecasting a total annual steel production of 140 million tonnes to 150 million tonnes by 1980. He told me that in 1976. I returned to Australia and had the Government approve of a number of things to help the development of our coal and iron ore resources. We introduced a new taxation regime. We cleared our investment guidelines. There were a number of road blocks preventing new developments getting under way in this country. All of these moves helped the development of our steel industry to meet the forecast about which the Japanese had told us. What has been the consequence? There has been a recession in world trade. Today the Japanese steel industry is operating at only 70 per cent of capacity. Japan is producing 100 million tonnes of steel per annum. This is well below expectations. The situation is so bad that they have enormous stockpiles of those raw materials and pig iron and scrap.
At present Japan has 20 million tonnes of iron ore on the ground. That represents 60 days supply for Japanese mills. Normally, the mills hold about 40 days to 45 days supply. They have 14 million tonnes of scrap and pig iron steel worth over $3000m and eight million tonnes of coal on the ground. The Japanese are knee-deep in the stuff. Yet the honourable member for Blaxland says that the Japanese must honour contracts and take more. I say that we must try to get the best agreement possible. The honourable member talks about basic export tonnages and contracts. I would like to mention that their basic contractual arrangements are for the supply of 145 million tonnes of iron ore and their minimum contractual arrangement is for 142 million tonnes of iron ore. So the Japanese must negotiate with various countries to try to achieve some reductions. They are knee-deep in the raw materials. They cannot eat the stuff. There has to be some conciliation. There has to be some understanding of the situation. It is not possible to force it upon them. It is sheer stupidity to take that attitude. The adoption of such an attitude will make hopeless any attempt to develop any form of negotiation with them. When I went to Japan, I pointed out the importance of the Japanese market and the fact that we have developed an iron ore industry. No other country in the world has spent as much money as we have on the development of iron ore and coal for the Japanese market. We have spent $3 billion to $4 billion and 80 per cent of our production goes to the Japanese market. Forty nine per cent of Japan’s iron ore imports comes from Australia and 42 per cent of its coal imports comes from Australia. So, there is a special relationship.
I can give an assurance to this House, because it has been given to me and repeated to Sir Charles Court, that we will maintain our share of the market. We will not lose it. But that does not mean that there might not have to be some reduction. We have this special relationship and it is something that we value. A special relationship is not something for today and tomorrow; it must be a lasting affair. It is something that takes time to build. There must be mutual trust and understanding. Since Australia and Japan signed the Treaty of Commerce in 1957, there has been an unbelievable growth in trade with Japan. It has been fortunate for Australia that this has happened. With the United Kingdom going into the European Economic Community, Japan now has become the alternative market to the United Kingdom. Japan is our largest market for iron ore, coal, bauxite, mineral sands and all the non-ferrous metals. In the agricultural area it is the largest market for wool, sugar, cheese and skim milk powder and a very significant market for our beef. It is our main market for coarse grains and a major market for wheat. Is that not evidence of a special relationship? Of course Japan is looking to Australia as a supplier of uranium. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) did not mention today what I have heard him mention in radio interviews- the contractual arrangements for uranium. What about them? This was a case where Japan negotiated a certain quantity and price for uranium, but the price was quite unrealistic in today’s circumstances. However, it renegotiated the price from about $6 or $7 per lb to about $30 per lb. Japan did so because it was realistic. It knew the price had to be changed and in that case it was to Australia’s advantage that the price was renegotiated upwards.
Of course, there must be understanding on all these contracts. I ask: What about the sugar contract? Certainly some pretty hard negotiating went on but fortunately both sides saw reason. There was a compromise and today we have a very good contract which is extended a year longer than the previous contract. That is the way one deals when one has a special relationship. OK, the dealings are tough and solid; but there should be none of this business about threats because today, when Japan can obtain iron ore from other countries around the world, we will be the loser from such action. To make allegations against this Government is quite improper. Part of the reason for today’s trouble is that Japan is obtaining additional quantities of iron ore from countries such as Brazil, Chile, India and South Africa and additional coal from South Africa because during the period of 1973, 1974 and 1975 it became so disturbed and upset about the way it was bullied by the Labor Government of this country, that it formed a deliberate policy to invest in other countries. That investment now is starting to pay off with the additional supplies that Japan is obliged to take from those countries. As I said, Australia will be given preferential treatment. We will maintain our share of the market. It would be totally wrong if we were to lose any share of our market to any other country of the world, although I do not believe this will happen. We will finish in a preferred position and that is what I went to Japan to achieve with respect to iron ore and coal.
-To sit here and listen to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) say without even a blush that his trip to Japan has been a success is absolutely breathtaking. If his trip was such a success why was it necessary for the Premier of Western Australia to go traipsing to Japan a week later to secure some phoney understanding from the Japanese. If the achievement of the Premier that is, the maintenance of our proportion of supply to the Japanese steel mills, was so significant, why was it not possible for the Deputy Prime Minister to extract that sort of undertaking?
-If he did so, why was it necessary for the Premier to go there? The Premier spent about a week there. While he was in Japan, we in Perth were treated to a most disgraceful display of trumped up publicity relating to the Premier’s own assessment of the success of his trip. These were paraded before the whole population of Western Australia as great achievements. Yet, when he returned, having said that he was going to Japan to secure the jobs of people in the Pilbara, he said: ‘That is all very well. I was able to have a very successful trip there but I am not able to bring back any promise of security for the workers in the Pilbara.
As the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) rightly said, what we are interested in is not simply the maintenance of a proportion of supply to Japan. We are interested in the maintenance of tonnages to Japan. We are the major suppliers to Japan. We should be the last to suffer as a result of any cutbacks in the Japanese steel industry. Honourable members must remember that the industry in the Pilbara is committed to the extent of about 70 per cent to the Japanese industry. That is an enormous commitment for any industry to make to one country. In return for that commitment, surely it is not too much to ask for Japan to ensure some security with regard to the continuity of its purchases. In any event, all the Premier of Western Australia has been able to say, all the Deputy Prime Minister has been able to say, is that the proportion we are now supplying to Japan will be maintained. As if we would accept something less than that! It would be totally outrageous for us to accept anything less than a constant proportion of a declining market. That is the position with which we are faced. We are not in a situation where maintaining our proportion of supply to Japan will maintain tonnages. What we are seeing is a declining amount being bought by Japan and, even if we do maintain our percentages, we will still have a situation where the tonnages supplied to Japan are reduced substantially.
It would appear that, despite the Premier’s undertakings, despite the Deputy Prime Minister’s assurances, we are not near the truth yet. If we look at the indications in the Press only a couple of days ago we find that Mount Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd is being asked to take cuts of something like 34 per cent below the basic contract levels. That is what Mount Newman is being asked to supply for the June quarter. If this was extended for the rest of the year it would represent approximately a one-third reduction in the basic contract levels. Surely we are not expected to accept that sort of proposal without a murmur. The Deputy Prime Minister talks about the wonderful job the Premier of Western Australia is doing in trying to get Goldworthy Mining Ltd’s Area C going. We are not just interested in getting Area C going for its own sake. There is no point in Goldsworthy Area C being established unless it has some substantial understanding that it will be able to sell the iron ore that it produces from those expanded mines. Area C will be the biggest mine in the Pilbara and to talk about going into that, to talk about making a commitment to the biggest mine in the Pilbara at a time when the existing mines are faced with substantial cutbacks, is absolutely nonsensical and displays a complete ignorance of the whole industry. In any event the problem is that Goldsworthy will not even exist if, as we are told, the current recession in Japan continues. Mount Newman expects that the situation with regard to Japan is likely to continue until 1985. If that is the case, Goldsworthy will soon be out of existence. Therefore, if Gold worthy’s current operation is not in existence at that time, the prospects for expanding Area C are just a pipedream.
Even if we are able to maintain our proportion of the Japanese market, the Western Australian industry will be looking at something like an 8 million tonnes reduction in the amount that was delivered last year. It is a substantial amount. It is more than Goldsworthy Mining Ltd is producing on its own. It means that for the next year at least Mount Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd and Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd will be operating at something like only 73 per cent capacity. That has very serious implications for the work force in the Pilbara. Between 1,000 and 4,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the failure of this Government to maintain the level of supply to Japan. As a result of having to accept cutbacks, something like 1,000 to 4,000 workers in the Pilbara will be faced with the prospect of joining an ever-increasing dole queue.
The interesting point that arises is that, although the Deputy Prime Minister and the Premier of Western Australia have been trumpeting about a commitment by the Japanese to a 48 per cent or 50 per cent share of the Japanese market- the Premier has been prepared to say only that it is approximately 48 per cent to 50 per cent of the share, which suggests that there may even be a decline in the amount that we have historically supplied- this is exactly the same undertaking that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions was able to extract from the Japanese over a year ago. At the time he extracted that promise from the Japanese he was pooh-poohed all over the place as having returned from a fruitless mission. So we now have a situation, 14 or 15 months later, in which not only the Premier of Western Australia but also the Deputy Prime Minister went to Japan and came back with nothing more than that commitment and heralded it as a great achievement.
When they said that Mr Hawke was wasting his time they also said that the main problem in the iron ore industry in the Pilbara was one of industrial relations. We heard that repeated here today. Honourable members will recall that Mr Hawke gave an undertaking that action would be taken to help resolve industrial disputation in the Pilbara. If we look at the record over the last year we find that there has been a substantial decline in the incidence of industrial disputation in the Pilbara in Western Australia. Let us compare a couple of quarters. In the March quarter of 1976 something like 41,000 man-days were lost compared with only 16,000 in the March quarter of 1977. Similarly in the September quarter of 1976, 36,000 man-days were lost compared with 1 3,500 in the September quarter of 1 977.
Of course people will be quick to point out that in the June quarter of 1977 there was a substantial amount of industrial unrest. Nobody would deny that. There was a 37-day dispute with Mount Newman Mining Co. To take that as being representative would be quite wrong. It occurred at a time when agreements were being renegotiated. Everybody involved in that dispute now says, and said at the time, that the behaviour of Mount Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd at that time was absolutely disgraceful and not at all in the interests of promoting anything like industrial peace. Mount Newman not only was being intransigent on the issues before the parties but also was involved in encouraging strike breakers to take the positions of workers who were in dispute. That is why the dispute extended for the period that it did.
A further point about this whole question of industrial disputation is that one of the reasons why Mount Newman would have been interested in promoting industrial disputation, particularly at that time, is that it is now faced with massive stockpiles. The cheapest way for the company to reduce its production in the face of these mounting stockpiles is to promote industrial disputation. It does not want the production. It does not want the wages bill that goes with that production. So the matter of industrial disputation, which is being portrayed as the most serious problem facing the Pilbara iron ore industry, and the responsibility for it is far from being a simple one-sided matter.
– I listened with great interest to what Opposition members have said here this afternoon. They indicated more clearly than ever before that their understanding of trade policy is very primitive and very ignorant. The conduct of a successful trade policy depends, particularly in the present difficult international economic conditions, upon cooperation between trading nations and major trading partners in resolving mutual problems. It is not a matter of confrontation between major trading partners, as the Opposition would seem to be suggesting here this afternoon. This cooperation has become particularly important in view of the world trade climate in which we have to operate at the moment in which protectionism is becoming more important and more pronounced all the time in the trade policies of a number of countries. The dividing up of markets is also becoming more pronounced. We have a classic example of that in the effects that have flowed from the creation of the European Economic Community and in the restrictive trade policies that have been followed by that trade group in the last few years. In that situation, countries such as Australia and Japan are faced with difficulties with which they have never been faced before. The only way out of those difficulties is for countries in our situation to do the best we can to co-operate with each other and not to exacerbate existing problems.
The other matter which seemed to escape Opposition members totally this afternoon is the importance of a well conducted trade policy in the long term, particularly with Japan. They have suggested a number of things which might lead to very short term gains but which in the long term would only greatly harm and impair our trade relations with Japan. I remind honourable members opposite that Japan is now this country’s most important trading partner in a number of major commodities. They should also recall that, despite what has often been said about the difficulties from our side at the moment particularly in respect of iron ore, the balance of trade that we have with the Japanese is very much in our favour. In fact, the ratio of the value of our exports to Japan to our imports is running at about 2 to 1. So that is a balance of trade which is very much in our favour. If we want to keep that situation in the long term, obviously our trade policy has to be conducted with due regard to the sorts of problems the Japanese are experiencing at the moment.
I think we can honestly say that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and the present Government have tried to conduct these matters in a statesmanlike way with a view to long term gains and not just to short term confrontation and headlines.
If one compares the record of this Government in the trade area with what happened while the Opposition was in power between 1972 and 1975 one can see a very marked contrast. Throughout that period from 1972 to the end of 1975 when, to the great relief of the Australian population the then Government was expelled from office, repeated insults were directed at a number of our major trading partners, particularly at the United States of America and Japan. In 1974 honourable members opposite managed to achieve the unique situation in which the Japanese placed a total ban on Australian exports of beef to Japan. So that is the record of the Opposition as far as trade policy is concerned. It is a record not of co-operation with the Japanese but of confrontation. If one talks about the general situation of our trade relationship with Japan, despite certain difficulties one has to keep in mind the overall perspective of how that situation has been moving in recent years.
Let us compare one year in the middle of the Australian Labor Party’s period in office with the last financial year for which we have figures available and see how some of the major trading commodities have moved. In the year 1973-74 our exports of coal to Japan were worth $303m. In the last financial year, 1976-77, the value of coal exports to Japan had risen to $ 1,047m. That is a 14 per cent increase in volume, quite apart from the monetary increase. Let us consider the greasy wool equivalent. From 1973-74 to 1976-77 it rose from $426m to $454m. That is a volume increase of 33 per cent. In 1973-74 we exported $57m worth of sugar to Japan. In the last financial year our exports were worth $2 74m, a volume increase of 52 per cent. In 1973-74 our exports of sheep meats to that country were worth $28m, but in the last financial year they were $70m, an increase of 2 19 per cent in volume terms. This is our so-called sick trading relationship with Japan which the Opposition is trying to assert this afternoon. Certainly we can see some difficulties in certain areas because of the difficulties faced by the Japanese steel industry at the moment. But if we look at the trading relationship in its total perspective in fact it is in a very healthy situation. I refer again to the comment I made at the beginning of my speech that the overall ratio of our exports to Japan compared with imports from that country is two to one in our favour. There is no other country in the world nor any major group of trading countries with which we enjoy such a favourable relationship.
I return now to the Minister’s recent visit to Japan. It has been asserted here this afternoon by members of the Opposition that the visit was not as successful as it might have been. Obviously they did not read the statements made by the Minister since he came back. I shall bring out a few key points. As far as beef exports to Japan are concerned, the Minister was able to obtain for the first half of the next fiscal year an increase in the quota- a minimum of 40,000 tonnes, an increase of 5,000 tonnes over and above what has already been obtained for the present fiscal period. It has also been suggested that for the second half of the next fiscal year there may in fact be an additional quota of a further 5,000 tonnes. That is a failure? To me that sounds like a very good success.
The Minister has indicated in considerable detail further on in the statement that gains were made also in other areas, such as with fisheries and, to take a smaller commodity, citrus fruits which to date, because of Japanese quarantine regulations, we have not been able to export to that country. The Minister was able to obtain an assurance that there may well be a favourable decision about the quarantine regulations which will allow citrus fruits into Japan. So in fact the Minister was able to make quite substantial gains in terms of guaranteeing markets for a number of Australian export commodities.
I shall return to the question of iron ore. As the Minister said, I think one has to recognise the problems being faced by Japanese steel mills at present. The day may well come when we will look to the Japanese for a similar sort of accommodation, a similar consideration of the problems and difficulties that we may encounter in our own industries. If we do not give reasonable regard to the problems being faced by the Japanese at the moment we can expect quid pro quo if we face similar problems with our industries in the future.
I would just like to finish by making the point again that in trade policy one is concerned about making all countries better off in the long term through trading with each other. That means that we must seek the maximum possible cooperation from countries with which we are trading, taking into account the problems that we all encounter from time to time and not indulge in short term headline-seeking head-on confrontation.
-Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will guarantee the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities on Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland to manage their own affairs. Its provisions are all directed to ensuring that, if the communities have chosen not to be administered by officials of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, they will not have official management foisted upon them. If communities now managed and controlled by government officials consider that they are ready for self-management and are prepared to take responsibility for community affairs as reserve communities elsewhere in Australia have done, they may apply to have the legislation cover their reserves.
This legislation responds directly and positively to the expressed wishes of the Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island that the Commonwealth Government prevent the takeover by the Queensland Government from the Uniting Church of management of the two communities. It is carefully designed to achieve that result within the constitutional power of the
Commonwealth, given by the 1967 referendum, to make special laws for the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary.
Aurukun had been administered by the Church and its predecessors under Queensland legislation since 1904 and Mornington Island since 1914. The possibility of a Queensland Government takeover at Aurukun had been discussed with the Church last year and representatives of the Church had then discussed the matter at length with the Aboriginal community. The consensus view of the community was that the Church should remain at Aurukun. The Church accordingly informed the Queensland Minister at the end of December that it could enter into negotiations about the transfer of responsibility only on the basis that it would abide by the expressed will of the Aurukun community, and that it would need to be assured that the Queensland Government accepted responsibility to maintain essential services to those groups wishing to live and work in their tribal lands on the reserve and that the continuing role of the Church within the community would be defined to the satisfaction of the Church.
The Queensland Minister, on 13 March, handed to the Moderator of the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church in Queensland, a letter informing him of the Cabinet’s decision to cease support for the Church’s administration on 3 1 March and have the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement assume complete responsibility for the management and wellbeing of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities from that date. The Queensland Government had not discussed with the Church a possible takeover of responsibility for the Mornington Island community. There had been rumours that such a takeover was being considered and, because I was advised that the rumours were causing uncertainty within the community, I wrote to the Queensland Minister, Mr Porter, inquiring about these rumours on 10 February. He replied on 20 February but did not indicate whether or not a takeover was planned. Then, as I have said, on 13 March the Queensland Government acted. I was informed of the Queensland Government’s decisions by the Uniting Church and my Brisbane officers. I at once consulted with representatives of the Uniting Church and of the two communities. I was satisfied that the communities strongly opposed the Government decision and that there had been no prior consultation with the communities.
The Commonwealth Government considered my report on 22 March and decided that legislation should be prepared to ensure that the expressed wishes of the communities were not overridden. It also decided that attempts should be made to dissuade the Queensland Government from proceeding with its decision and to persuade it to amend its legislation applying to Aboriginals and Islanders. Accordingly, my colleague, Mr Nixon, and I went to Brisbane on 29 March to discuss the matter with Queensland Ministers. At that meeting, a conditional agreement was reached to explore with both the Church and the Aboriginal communities the possibility of a temporary joint management arrangement in the two communities between the State Department and the Church. This agreement was expressly subject to acceptance by the Church and the Aboriginal communities as stated in the joint statement issued by the Ministers who attended the meeting, including the Queensland Premier and the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
When I visited Aurukun on 30 March and Mornington Island on 1 April to explain the position of the Commonwealth and to listen to their views, the Councils and the people of the two communities made it absolutely clear to me that they did not wish to have the Queensland Department manage their communities and believed that any joint management arrangement was undesirable and unworkable, and they were opposed to it. They are very conscious of the differences of policy approach between the Uniting Church and the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the Queensland Government on the other, and considered that they could not serve two masters. They indicated that the Church staff understand and support their aspirations and in particular their wishes to manage community affairs themselves and to be free to live where they choose on the reserve and to develop their own outstation communities. They are well aware that the Queensland Government Ministers have expressed opposition to the movement of groups out of Aurukun over the past few years. Many have visited or lived on reserve communities managed by the Queensland Department or talked to residents of those communities and they expressed misgivings about the future of their communities under direct State departmental administration.
Speakers at meetings in both places expressed their appreciation of Commonwealth Government support for community initiatives and their strong wish that they be permitted to continue to develop their communities in their own style, with the advice and help of the Church and the financial support of the Commonwealth Government. My experience paralleled that of the honourable member for Leichhardt, Mr David Thomson, and a Government members group led by the honourable member for Petrie Mr John Hodges and comprising the honourable member for Bowman, Mr David Jull, and Senators Bonner, Martin and Knight, who had visited the two communities before me. Mr Hodges had suggested the visit to me and I was pleased to respond to what, together with Mr Thomson’s visit, proved to be an invaluable contribution to the Commonwealth’s efforts to stand by the communities. The Queensland Premier is reported to have said recently that:
The people on the missions in Queensland live their own lives. They make all the decisions. We, the Government, don’t.
If this were so, there would be no need for the State Department to take over the official management of the two communities, nor would there be any need to introduce this Bill. The Bill seeks to ensure that the Aboriginal people living on reserves in Queensland should be, to quote the 1975 Aboriginal Affairs Policy Statement of the Liberal and National Country Parties, ‘as free as other Australians to determine their own varied futures’.
In introducing this legislation, the Government seeks only to extend Aboriginal management of their own community affairs. The Commonwealth is not enlarging its own powers; it is not in any sense taking over the reserves itself, but is only allowing the communities themselves to exercise local responsibility. The Commonwealth has not in any other State taken over the reserves established under State law but applies its policies of self-management to communities living on those reserves. Elsewhere in Australia, Aboriginal communities have for years been able to manage their local affairs if they wished. Only in Queensland is there legislation that gives government officials power to control, manage and direct communities on reserves.
The Queensland legislation- the Aborigines Act and the Torres Strait Islanders Act and the regulations and by-laws made under themprovide that officials, as well as Aboriginal and Island councils, manage the affairs of reserve communities and the officials have the overriding power and responsibility. Under the Acts, the Governor-in-Council may appoint a manager of a reserve and may establish a community on a reserve and appoint ‘such officers, resident or visiting, as he thinks necessary for the wellbeing of the persons within the community’. The manager and other officers who have control of reserves are responsible to and subject to the direction of the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement.
Managers appointed to reserves are responsible to the Minister and the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, not to the Aboriginal communities. Regulation 7 provides that a community on a reserve is ‘under the control of the Manager and Council of such a community’, but regulation 19, in making councils responsible to managers, clearly established that the dual control system is not a partnership of equals: The manager is in charge. The situation in the Torres Strait Islands is different from that on the larger Aboriginal reserves, though the law relating to Island reserves is very similar to the law applying to Aboriginal reserves. The management of Island reserves may be vested in managers and officers may be appointed to communities on Island reserves, but generally there are no resident managers on the Island reserves. The Island councils are hence not responsible to managers but to a district officer on Thursday Island. To this extent, the Island councils are more independent than Aboriginal councils, but they remain subject to the control and direction of the district officer and the Director and thereby remain under the direct administration of the Department.
The means by which the legislation achieves its purpose of ensuring that if communities wish it, their councils control community affairs without being subject to the overriding power of Government officials is as follows:
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may declare that the legislation applies to a reserve or community on request by a council established under the Queensland law or if he is satisfied that a substantial majority of the adults resident on the reserve or community wish it; an existing council established under Queensland law or a body declared to be a council for the purposes of the Act, will have the function of managing community affairs and the necessary powers to carry out that function; any declared body established under the regulations will be an elected council or otherwise a properly incorporated body; councils will have power to make by-laws and to authorise entry to reserves; by express provision, councils and individual Aboriginals and Islanders will not be bound to obey directions given by officials under the Queensland legislation; councils will be responsible only to their communities; the Commonwealth may, if it becomes necessary in order to give effect to the purposes of the legislation, make available to councils land acquired by or otherwise vested in the Commonwealth; and in the case of acquisition, the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act will apply.
The legislation will not apply to any community unless the community, through its council or directly, asks the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to make a declaration that the Act apply to the particular reserve or community. No such declaration will be made without full consultation with the community and without a clear expression of community opinion in favour of such a declaration. Thus it will be by an act of choice rather than by imposition by the Commonwealth that the legislation applies to any particular community. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated in the inaugural meeting of the National Aboriginal Conference earlier this week:
It was never good enough for politicians or bureaucrats whether at the State or Federal level to impose on the Aboriginal people their conception of what was good for the Aboriginal people. Aboriginals have the same right as other Australian citizens to determine what is best for them.
At the national level, the establishment of the National Aboriginal Conference expresses the Government’s commitment to involving Aboriginals in setting goals and objectives which government should pursue, in setting priorities for expenditure and in evaluating programs, formulating new programs and taking responsibility for the success of programs. At the local community level, we have been seeking to encourage and help Aboriginal people throughout Australia to take full responsibility for decisionmaking in the management of community affairs. This policy of self-management has been implemented for a number of years in other States and territories and in Queensland outside the reserves. The Government is making it possible for Aboriginals as individuals and as communities to stand on their own feet.
Self-management does not mean abandoning Aboriginal communities to fend for themselves after years of dependence on governments and missions. The full resources of the Commonwealth are made available in support of community self-management. We provide not only financial assistance but advice and support, and enable communities to hire staff to help them. In many communities in the States and the Territory where the churches, including the Uniting Church, have previously managed mission communities for many years, they continue to provide advice and support and especially help in the recruitment of resource staff and in the training of Aboriginals to perform administrative and technical duties as directed by the community councils. This is the policy which this legislation will enable us to implement in Queensland reserves. Communities will not be directed by officials but will have decision-making authority in their own hands.
State government departments in these situations continue to provide the ordinary community services available to other Australians. In all the States, education, health and community welfare departments, for example, provide services to Aboriginal communities in the same way as they do to other citizens. There is no reason why these and other State Government services should be affected if reserve communities in Queensland choose self-management under this legislation.
In Queensland, as in other States, the Commonwealth Government provides grants through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to support the special programs of State education, health and other departments in Aboriginal and Island communities. We look forward to continuing co-operation with the Queensland authorities in the provision of services to all Aboriginal and Island communities. General Queensland law will, of course, continue to apply to people living on reserves and this legislation will not affect the maintenance of law and order in communities.
The Commonwealth Government is ready to discuss with the Queensland Government at any time arrangements that might be made to transfer responsibility for policy planning and coordination in Aboriginal affairs from the State to the Commonwealth. All the other States negotiated agreements for the transfer of responsibilities, following the enactment of the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Act in 1973. These agreements do not mean that the States resign all responsibilities in Aboriginal affairs. In Western Australia, for example, the special State legislation- the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act- remains in force. That legislation provides, amongst other things, for the establishment of an Aboriginal land trust, with special responsibilities with regard to the use of Aboriginal reserve lands. Under the arrangement with the Western Australian Government, the Regional Director of my Department in Perth, who was the Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning before the transfer of responsibilities, retained this office under the State legislation. I have previously indicated to Queensland Ministers my interest in discussing possible arrangements for the transfer of responsibilities to the Commonwealth along the lines agreed with the other States and intend to renew the invitation to discuss this issue.
The Queensland Government is engaged in a review of its Aboriginal and Islander legislation. It has appointed an Aboriginal and Islander Commission to advise it. The legislation was due to expire last December but has been extended until next June so that the Government can consider the report of the Commission. The previous Queensland Minister, Mr Wharton, invited me to submit the views of the Commonwealth Government to this Commission and I will be responding to this invitation. I have already indicated in general terms the Commonwealth Government’s view that the Queensland legislation is in several important respects out of date and inappropriate, particularly in its provisions placing management and trusteeship of reserves in the hands of officials which effectively takes out of the hands of Aboriginals and Islanders not only ownership of lands specially set aside for them but any meaningful authority to manage their own communities.
Similar legislation designed to supervise and control Aboriginal people and set them apart from others has long since been repealed in other States and in Commonwealth Territories. It is a relic of earlier policies directed to protecting Aboriginal people by limiting their freedoms and controlling their relations with other citizens. This Bill is designed to deal with a fundamental aspect of the Queensland legislation: Management of reserve communities by departmental officials. I believe it does this fully and effectively. It meets the needs of the special situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island and the widespread and increasing desire of Aboriginal and Islander communities for self-management.
Communities other than Aurukun and Mornington Island will no doubt want to study the legislation and consider carefully whether they too should seek a declaration that the legislation apply to them. When I visited the Torres Strait last week, the Island chairmen gathered at Yam Island expressed not only their sympathy and support for the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities but also their keen interest in this legislation. They spoke to me of their wish to have their councils control expenditure on community services in the islands which are at present provided by the Queensland Department, as one step towards independence in the management of their own affairs. I have no doubt that there are Aboriginal communities on the mainland which will be similarly interested in the legislation. Many may well choose to wait and see how the new arrangements work at
Aurukun and Mornington Island. I stress that no community will be pressed to make a decision on these matters and no change will be forced on any community.
I trust that the Queensland Government will similarly study the legislation with care and consider whether it does not in fact match its own declared policies. I trust that the Queensland Government will not seek to impede or frustrate those communities which may choose to manage their own affairs under this legislation but rather will help them and continue such services as they may now be providing to those communities.
I intend, upon the passage of the legislation, to proceed without delay to declare the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves to be reserves to which the Act applies. As I announced on 22 March, the Commonwealth Government is ready to support the two communities and the Uniting Church with the funds necessary to ensure that existing services maintained by the Church are continued if the Queensland Government terminates its subsidy support to the Church as previously announced. My officers will be conferring with representatives of the Uniting Church and with the two communities about arrangements. Close liaison will be maintained with the communities through my Department’s area offices in north Queensland, and whatever advice, practical support and financial assistance that the communities require will be provided.
The Government will watch the situation at these two reserves closely. If further action is necessary it will be taken. The Prime Minister stated on Monday before the National Aboriginal Conference:
These communities have turned to us. We will not fail them.
The Government would expect good sense and a spirit of goodwill to be shown by the Queensland Government towards the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island who, by their stand, have crystallised the simple human aspirations of the indigenous people in Queensland to be free to live their own lives, to make their own decisions and to shape their own future. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I seek leave of the House to propose a motion that so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages of the Bill being passed without delay.
Leave not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages of the Bill being passed without delay.
-We on this side of the House are opposed to the rush with which this legislation is being put through the House. We were told very late last night of the legislation being made available to us. Of course, that may have been because of the tactics of the Government. The Bill, together with details of a further amendment which is to be made to the final draft of the Bill, was provided to us very late last night. The Labor Party committee handling this matter met until the early hours of the morning. We again convened earlier today in order that we would be able to meet with those Aboriginal people who are meeting in Canberra and receive their views. We were told that we would receive a copy of the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) but it was not made available to us. This is the first time we have been able to see it and to see the explanations on the several clauses in the Bill. We do understand, of course, that the people of Mornington Island, Aurukun and many other communities in Queensland would wish as quickly as possible to take complete charge of the running of their own affairs in those areas but the rushing of this Bill through this Parliament in one day will not overcome the problems and could leave the Parliament with laws that just will not work.
We have said previously that we will cooperate at every level to ensure that this legislation goes through the House as quickly as possible if we have had sufficient time to look at the legislation and time to be able to point up what we think are the shortcomings in the legislation. There is no need to break the tradition or convention in this House that the Opposition is given sufficient time to look at the legislation, to look at the second reading speech of the Minister and to put forward any amendments it may wish to put forward. We are not going to co-operate with the Government on this matter because it is merely making a farce of what is an extremely important matter. May I add that our suspicions are aroused because of the machinations of the Government in the past week. We are not at all amused by the manner in which the Minister and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) were herded off into Queensland and the initial back down to the Queensland Government.
-Order! The honourable member will make his remarks relevant to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
-They are relevant because we understand that it was from that meeting that this legislation now crops up and we are entitled as an Opposition to use the forms of this House to point out that if there are faults in this legislation which is being rushed through it may be because of the limited time that is being allowed for this Bill to be debated. We are opposed to rushing this legislation through this House.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. ( Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
- Mr Speaker, there is no urgency that would justify a major piece of legislation such as this being rushed through the Parliament in one day, with less than a day’s notice of the terms of the Bill being given to the Opposition, the public and the people it affects. Three weeks ago in this House I raised a matter of public importance, urging the Government to legislate along these lines. I was told then by speakers on the Government side that there was no urgency and that the Government wanted to consider the matter. Yet at that stage the Queensland State Government had indicated its intention to move in and take over the settlements at Aurukun and Mornington Island before we resumed our sittings in this place. The Opposition urged that the Parliament be recalled before 3 1 March so that, having had time to prepare legislation, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) could present it to the House and we could give it a speedy passage. But the Minister said that it was not necessary to recall the House.
Now there is no urgency, no threat of the State Government moving into Aurukun or Mornington Island or anywhere else. The Premier has said that he wants a cooling-off period, and in fact the deadline of 3 1 March has gone by and he has not sent in any officials to follow up his ultimatum. Yet suddenly this Government has become galvanised with urgency. I am informed by my colleagues that 12 months ago the same sort of procedure was adopted, with major Bills being rushed through the Parliament in 24 hours, not to aid the parliamentary process, not to aid mature deliberation and discussion by the community or the Parliament, but for the Government’s own purposes. The Minister in his second reading speech, and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when addressing the inaugural National Aboriginal Conference, have said that the Liberal Party and the Government want Aborigines and Islanders to be as free as other Australians to determine their own future. In his address the Prime Minister said:
I look to this Conference … to articulate the needs of those whose voices may not otherwise be heard We wish to see Aboriginals exercising an increasing influence at national, regional and community levels in the determination of these priorities.
This present situation is a rather sorry start to that. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) received a telegram, a copy of which has been handed to me, and I have no doubt that the contents of that telegram have also been conveyed to members on the Government side, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is at the table. The telegram states:
NAC unanimously moved this morning to request the Federal Government and the Parliament to delay passage of the Bill for the normal period of approximately one week -
We have already had three weeks delay, which did not disturb the Government. This telegram asks for approximately one week. It continues- so that the people of Mornington Island, Aurukun, the Uniting Church, Queensland, the NAC can seek independent legal advice and make recommendations to overcome obvious inadequacies in the proposed legislation. Moved by John Newfong Queensland Chairman seconded by Isaac Zingle representing Aurukun and Tony Assan representing Mornington Island . . . Lois Odonoghue Chairman National Aboriginal Conference.
Yet I heard murmurs from the Government side when the Opposition moved to disallow this rushed approach. I heard calls of ‘hypocrisy’. I ask: Who is the hypocrite? It is the Government which is hypocritical. It said that there was no urgency- but there was- when the State Government was on the point of moving into the settlements to take over. Now suddenly it finds urgency when the State Government has backed off.
The Opposition wants a reasonable, normal, legitimate, democratic delay to allow the National Aboriginal Conference, which is meeting in Canberra for the very purpose, to give this kind of advice to the Government. The Prime Minister spelt this out in his address to the Conference. He asked it to look at the matter and to tell the Government its views. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in his second reading speech stressed repeatedly the need for governments not to be paternal and not to impose decisions on Aboriginal communities. Yet here we have been forced after two divisions of the House to do exactly that. We want time to see whether we cannot persuade the Government at least to listen to the many voices of Aborigines over the years which have asked for acquisition of reserves.
I have received dozens of telegrams in the last two or three weeks asking for a total takeover of all Aboriginal and Islander affairs in Queensland. I am sure that the Government has received an equal number of representations. It is nothing new. This has been going on for years. We also want time to incorporate in the legislation not just land rights, the taking over of reserves, but also a stronger control of reserves by the Aboriginal and Islander people of Queensland. We believe that it is a legitimate reason for delay to give effective control of the reserves to the Aboriginal and Islander communities living on those reserves. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Bill goes some way towards allowing certain actions to be taken and certain deterrents to be applied against some of the more pernicious features of Queensland legislation. But it could go a long way further.
For instance, the Bill does not provide, as some of the land rights legislation for the Northern Territory provides, that no person, not being an Aboriginal or Islander, shall enter a reserve without permission of the Aboriginal council or without the consent of the Minister. Nowhere in this Bill is there a provision for the Aboriginal or Islander council, with or without the support of the Minister, to prevent the entry of persons onto Aboriginal land. Nowhere are the Aboriginals permitted to restrict entry. All they are permitted to do is to allow entry. They can issue permits to people who have not already got permits from the Queensland authorities. There is no revoking of the Queensland Aboriginal or Islanders Acts which require permits to be issued. So restrictions on entry are still possible for the Queensland Government but not possible for the Aboriginal councils. To this extent, selfmanagement is not provided for adequately by the Bill. It is a legitimate request that it be withdrawn for the normal period of debate by the Opposition, the National Aboriginal Conference and the persons nominated in its telegram whom it asks to have this opportunity to discuss the issues and to propose informed suggestions for amendments with independent legal advice. That seems a reasonable request which should be granted.
The second reading speech of the Minister refers to land rights. He said that in Western Australia the State legislation provides for an Aboriginal lands trust. Certainly, there is nothing in this Bill which would induce Queensland to legislate along the lines of Western Australian legislation. There is nothing in this Bill which would do something equivalent to the setting up of an Aboriginal lands trust in Queensland. Yet land rights have been the cry right from the days of the first dawning of a national voice for Aboriginals in this country. Land rights virtually are ignored in the Bill. The Minister praises the Western Australian legislation. But I am afraid that the Aboriginal lands trust legislation enacted in Western Australia represented a pretty hollow victory for the Aborigines. We now hear that the Western Australian Government is moving to limit the powers of the Aboriginal communities in that State. Instead of the Aborigines having the power that I referred to earlier to restrict entry to their land, the Western Australian Government is having second thoughts and is looking at the possibility of taking that right away from the Aboriginal communities so that various mining interests will be allowed onto Aboriginal land at the behest of the State Government. It looks as though the Aboriginals will lose that power also. It is a hollow power.
The Minister says in his second reading speech that the Bill is designed to deal with a fundamental aspect of the Queensland legislation; that is, the management of reserve communities. That is about all it does. I suppose it is true that that is a fundamental aspect of the Queensland legislation. But it is not the only one that is of concern to Aborigines. I went to the Aurukun community on Monday of this week, rather later than the Minister and the other Government supporters to whom he referred. There were several reasons for the delay. One of them was a unanimous view of Government supporters expressed at a meeting of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs that it would be stirring and may weaken the bargaining position of the Uniting Church in Australia and the Australian Government if we went there before 3 1 March. Yet the Opposition members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs were in favour of going to Aurukun in the course of the Committee’s normal investigations of the health of Aborigines and at the same time to get our views on the facts as they occurred. Having acceded to the wish of the Government majority on the House of Representatives Standing Committee not to go there, we then read in the Press that half a dozen Government back-benchers went to Aurukun with the blessing of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Apparently, that was not stirring. It would be stirring only if the visit included a few members of the Opposition. Yet virtually the Opposition ‘s policy in this matter is the policy of the Government. Surely we would not do any more stirring than half a dozen Government backbenchers who went there. But we delayed our trip until after 3 1 March.
I believed that it would be very profitable and constructive to go after 31 March to see what effect the State takeover had on that community. At that stage we had no indication that this Government intended to step in to deter that takeover on 31 March. Nevertheless, our findings at Aurukun were substantially those outlined in the Press, in the second reading speech and in all the reports we heard for year upon year of what goes on in Queensland. Of course, the people want self-management and self-determination. They do not care terribly whether the management is appointed by a Federal government, a State government, a council or anybody else. What concerns them is their freedom and equality as human beings. We all agree that that is the issue. However, they stressed that those freedoms and equalities were not apparent to them under State administration in Queensland. They could not see any possibility of a State takeover helping them to achieve these freedoms and equalities. In fact, the position was quite the reverse.
A public meeting was convened: I must say with great patience. The Aborigines have been swamped with visitors from the media and the Parliament over the last few weeks. But very patiently over 200 of the people from Aurukun assembled to give us their views and to receive our assurances. They made it clear to us that that is how they feel. Many actions are taken in the name of the Queensland Government on State reserves ostensibly for the benefit of Aborigines and Islanders which, nevertheless, they do not see as being for their benefit at all. They are not going to these outstations; they are not decentralising their settlements, such as the Aurukun reserve, in order to go back to tribal living although no doubt there are certain attractions in some of the traditional lifestyles that they may pursue there. They are realistic people and they see advantages in some of the benefits that white civilisation can give them such as health care, education, career structures and economic opportunities. But they can see also great harm and damage from absorbing too rapidly and too fully and embracing too readily the values that white Australians offer them, whether they be in the form of ready access to alcohol or competiveness in economic activity, as distinct from their subsistence hunting and food gathering activities. Many of the influences for social disintegration occur in the urban conglomerations and in fringe communities of Aboriginals on the outskirts of white settlements. Whatever their reasons they are entitled to integrate with white society at their own rate and in their own way, not in ways that would be imposed on them from outside. The Government and the Opposition are as one in that view.
The Opposition has spelt out on many occasions the error in the views of the Queensland Premier who states that to allow self-determination of these communities is a form of apartheid and encourages a black nation alongside a white nation. There is a vast difference between being told that they must assimilate or that their culture will be eaten up by ours- a cultural cannibalism, a cultural genocide which has been applied in the past under paternalistic policies- and being told, as people are told under the apartheid policies of South Africa, that they must stay apart. There is a vast difference between the permission that the Government offers and that the Opposition offers to Aboriginal and Island people to go their separate ways, to develop at their own rate and in their own way, from the apartheid policy of South Africa where they are taught not to assimilate, not to integrate, not to participate in common or on an equal basis with persons of another culture.
Most of the characteristics of apartheid which are enforced on those persons in an inferior position in South Africa also are enforced on Aboriginal people in the Queensland reserves under State administration where, for example, they are offered training which will never qualify them for teaching, trades, nursing or nursing aide positions in the general Australian community but will qualify them only for an inferior standard of work in those fields on Aboriginal settlements only. They have lower rates of pay, lower standards of training, lower job opportunities and no openings for apprentices that I have heard of- certainly not in most of the settlements. They are condemned forever to the serfdom that applies in South Africa where they are in an inferior position, where they are working as aides or assistants, semi-skilled or unskilled, to white superiors- be they tradesmen, nurses, doctors or administrators. Their positions are inferior to those people.
There is a proper way to go about integrating two cultures as diverse as ours in the white community and that of the ancient culture of the Aboriginal and Island people. The Aboriginal and
Island people are not going to be integrated forcefully by the old paternalistic assimilation policies without great demoralisation, loss of self esteem and dignity and loss of their sense of identity, which is very strongly bound up with their links with the land of their birth, their traditions, their dreaming and their spiritual sentiments. It is not to be achieved that way. It can be achieved only at their own pace. Just as we cannot change a man’s religion by burning him at the stake or by using thumbscrews, we cannot turn a stone-age indigenous person in any country into a typical citizen of the twentieth century if he has not had the opportunity to absorb, to select and to judge for himself what aspects of that culture he wants.
As I indicated, there are many factors missing from the Bill. One is that the Minister has the right to veto any by-law given to the Aboriginal or Island people on the council which, I would hope, represents them. Although the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) says that he is giving them self-management powers- certainly the Bill provides the power for them to make bylawsthose by-laws will have no effect unless the Minister tables them in the Parliament. Surely it should be equally acceptable to say that, if he does not approve of them, he can still table them in each House of Parliament and allow the Parliament to make that decision. He himself can move in the Parliament to disallow them if he disagrees with them. But those people ought to have at least the opportunity that any other local authority, commission or statutory authority has to pass by-laws, regulations or ordinances subject to the scrutiny of this House and not to be subject to an arbitrary executive decision.
The Opposition is a little concerned that, in the definition of a ‘reserve’, the gate has been left open to the State Government, if it so desires, to reclassify or re-gazette the land that at present is reserved. The Opposition believes that some date ought to be specified at which those reserves are defined. It is concerned at the very tame approach to land rights. The Minister may make Commonwealth land available to the council for the council’s purposes but that does not mean that he gives it to the council. It does not mean that it has the freehold title. The land remains vested in the Commonwealth, not in the council. Surely, with all the glowing praise for land rights legislation in the Northern Territory in the recent address by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the National Aboriginal Conference and with the Minister’s own praise for land rights in Western Australia, we could at least have hoped for some foreshadowing of land rights legislation here. We could have hoped that the Bill not only would make land available to the council for its purposes but also would vest the land in the council.
The Opposition is disappointed with the pace and the extent of this legislation. It smacks all too much of an appeasement of public opinion, of the very severe reaction against the proposed actions of the Queensland Government. I would expect that the threat of Senator Bonner, and goodness knows how many other Government supporters, to resign if some such action was not taken would have been a major factor in deciding the Prime Minister that perhaps he had better start doing something. He has waited for over two years, since he has been in government, to take definitive action against the regressive laws of Queensland. Certainly we received cooperation in 1975, when we were in government, for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act, but no action has been taken to enforce it. It may be said that that Act provides some power for the council on the Aboriginal lands to deny entry to people who are not Aboriginals or Islanders; or some other powers that have not been spelt out in the BUI. Those powers have not been enforced.
There has been no action that this House knows of to enforce the laws passed in 1975 against discrimination generally and, in particular, against discrimination in the Queensland law concerning Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. For that reason, on behalf of the Opposition I move:
I commend the amendment to the House. I believe that, if the House will accept it, it will meet the sentiments of the telegram from the National Aboriginal Conference. If the telegram is disregarded and cast aside as of no relevance or import, what sort of message will those 30-odd delegates take back to their communities? They will say: ‘We came down to Canberra. We heard fine words of great promise and new hope from the Prime Minister. We thought that at last it would be more than words. What happened? We did what we were set up to do: We advised the Government on priorities; we advised it on our sentiments; we spoke for those who could not otherwise be heard, as the Minister invited us to do. What was the Government’s reaction? It said: ‘Blow you, Joe. We will still be paternalistic and regressive. We will do it our way. We know what is best for you ‘.
The Opposition’s amendment is not an unreasonable one. It is in line with good, established practice within the Westminster system. It is time for the Government to be humble enough, realistic enough and mature enough to accept that perhaps it has been hasty; perhaps this rush has been entered into with the wrong motives. Perhaps it will have repercussions not only against the Government but also against the people in whose interests the Government is acting. I appeal to the Minister, as a reasonable man, to do what the people want him to do. If the words of his second reading speech were really genuine the first thing he can do to demonstrate that is to accept our amendment, to delay a little, to talk, to consult with the people who will be affected. They ask for independent legal opinion. Surely the record must demonstrate to the Minister that when Aborigines ask for this right and when it is granted to them they exercise it with great responsibility and effect. The legislation that has come out of the deliberations of the land councils has largely derived its force, effectiveness and value from just this procedure, from Aboriginal organisations getting independent legal advice and advising governments. Why does that suddenly become anathema? Why does the Government suddenly shrink from allowing this legislation to be made public for the normal period, to be exposed properly in the Parliament for the normal period, to allow honourable members and everybody else proper time to deliberate?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and seek leave to continue my remarks at a later time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– I rise to speak on this Bill with some regret because I believe that in many ways it should have been unnecessary. I do not propose to answer the rather rambling and disjointed speech of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). I believe that he and the Opposition do not understand the purpose of this Bill. I will leave it to other Government speakers to answer the specific points raised by the honourable member. I want to talk about the people at whom this Bill is aimed. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said, this Bill came about because the Queensland Government moved to take over the administration and management of two communities, Aurukun and Mornington Island. Both of those communities are in my electorate, so I have a very special interest in this Bill.
On 17 and 18 March my wife and I visited both Aurukun and Mornington. That was only a couple of days after the visit of the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders’ Advancement, who informed the communities that the State would be taking over their administration and management. I went to find out for myself what the people of those communities wanted. My wife and I spoke to several hundred people, many of whom we knew from previous visits. I was surprised at the unanimous expression of the people’s wishes. I expected that there would be a division among the people, particularly at Aurukun as there has been often on other issues, but there was no doubt of the overwhelming support for the Uniting Church in Australia to remain in the management of those communities. Therefore I had no alternative but to support the wishes of those people. At both Aurukun and Mornington we talked to many of the people individually. We went to a public meeting at which I was asked to help and I gave my word that I would support the people of the communities. That was a very difficult decision for me to make because it put me in direct conflict with the Queensland Government and with many members of my Party in my electorate and throughout Queensland. I have twice been elected to represent all the people in my electorate of Leichhardt. I was not elected necessarily to represent the view of the Queensland Government in this Parliament, although on many occasions I have agreed with the views of that Government. On this occasion I do not agree because I believe that my duty is to support the wishes of my constituents, 1,600 of whom live in these two communities.
I would like to quote from the Federal National Country Party of Australia platform. The first two planks of the platform on Aboriginals state:
The National Country Party of Australia recognises the fundamental right of Aboriginals to choose whether they wish to retain their identity and traditional way of life, or to adopt in whole or in part a European life style.
The Party recognises the different life styles of the Aboriginal people and the need for flexible policies to meet varying needs.
I believe that this Bill and the intent of this Bill is exactly what those two planks of the platform of the Party which I represent in this Parliament are all about.
There are more than 20,000 Aboriginal and Island people in my electorate, about one in six of the whole population. Many of them live in cities and towns but 13 Aboriginal communities live on reserves and there are 14 inhabited islands in the Torres Strait. I believe that I have a duty to all those people, as their elected representative in this place. As the Minister has explained, this Bill gives the people in the communities the right to choose. I think it is worthwhile for me to restate a short part of the Minister’s second reading speech. On page 5 of the speech he said:
The Commonwealth is not enlarging its own powers; it is not in any sense taking over the reserves itself, but is only allowing the communities themselves to exercise local responsibility. The Commonwealth has not in any other State taken over the reserves established under State law but applies its policies of self-management to communities living on those reserves.
That is what this Bill does. There is no compulsion; each community will be able to make a choice. I do not mind who administers or manages all the communities in my electorate- the Church, the State or the people themselves. That is their choice and this Bill gives them the right to make that choice. They may wish to remain as they are now under State control; they may wish self-management; or they may wish, as I believe they will at Aurukun and Mornington, for the Church to remain and share the management of those two communities. As I said in quoting from the Minister’s speech, there is no question of the Commonwealth stepping in to take over the management.
Had I been asked about 18 months ago, I would have supported a State takeover of those reserves. At that stage they were both in a very difficult position. They had had a number of managers over a short period and they were not well run. Now they are much better managed. They are not perfect and I think very few reserves in the whole of my electorate are per.fectly managed. Many improvements in the management of Aurukun and Mornington have been made in the last 12 months. I think it needs to be realised that there is an infinite variety of communities throughout Queensland, and particularly in my electorate. They differ in history, racial composition, their degree of integration into the European community and in language. Some of them still speak their own language; some of them still retain their tribal and clan traditions; some of them have been partially and some almost wholly integrated into the
European lifestyle. Therefore it is not possible to say: ‘This is the right policy for all communities ‘.
I believe that the Queensland Government through its Department of Aboriginal and Islanders’ Advancement has in many ways done an admirable job in looking after the interests of Aboriginals and Islanders in the past. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) told me this afternoon that there were some very bad slum areas outside a number of towns in his electorate. By joint State-Commonwealth effort these have all been removed and the people have been housed in decent conditions. That is the sort of thing that has been occurring.
Times and conditions are changing very rapidly and the State recognised this. It set up the Aboriginal and Island Commission with four members. It is to report by 30 June this year on the State Aboriginal and Islanders’ Acts under which the reserves and Island communities are at present governed. I cannot understand why the decision to take over Aurukun and Mornington Island had to be taken now. Surely it would have been better to wait for the Commission’s report because, for instance, if the Commission had recommended self-management, I am sure the State would have accepted it; but I believe that the precipitate action taken by the State without any immediate prior consultation was a mistake.
I have said that there are many differences in the communities in my electorate. Staying in my house in Cairns at the moment on a holiday is Mr Alan Hockey, the Manager of Doomadgee Mission, which is outside Burketown near the Northern Territory border but still within my electorate. He and his wife have been at Doomadgee for 27 years and I suppose they know as much about this problem as anyone else in the business. When they went to Doomadgee the people had already lost their language, their tribal traditions and customs. The reserve is not on tribal land but is on land purchased by the Church for the purpose of the community. Alan Hockey told me that, in all the years that he had been dealing with the State, he felt that the Queensland Government had dealt with him and his community- his words were-‘with compassion and justice’. Obviously this is not the experience of the Uniting Church at Aurukun and Mornington particularly in recent years. There are many reasons for this. I do not believe that I should go into them now.
I would like to speak very briefly about the people at Mornington and Aurukun to whom this Bill mainly applies. Of course it applies to all communities and island communities in
Queensland but particularly to Aurukun and Mornington. I believe those people have already made their choice as to what they want for their future. Mornington is an island in the south- eastern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is a very isolated area and difficult to reach. Some 680 people live there. Aurukun is about 60 miles south of Weipa and is on the north-western coast of Cape York Peninsula. About 750 people live there. The reserve set aside for them by the Queensland Government covers 750,000 hectares or 1.85 million acres. It is a very large area. In both of these areas the people speak their own languages. One language is spoken at Aurukun and two languages at Mornington. The people retain their tribal and clan structure; they retain their tribal and clan traditions. Both groups are living on traditional clan and tribal land. There has been a great resurgence of interest in Aboriginal heritage in these two communities. I think this can only be a very good thing.
There has been a lot of talk about the effects of alcohol in Aboriginal communities. No doubt there are many problems not only in communities run by the church but in all communities whether State run or church run. Alcohol is allowed at Mornington Island. The people there have had problems in the past. Under a very effective and recently appointed manager they have solved most of their problems. Aurukun does not have a canteen. It is dry by the wish of the people. Liquor does come in there. It is often brought in by unscrupulous Europeans. However that problem is under control; the situation is much better than it was in the past. The problem there is not worse than it is in many other communities.
I said that the Aurukun reserve comprised 1.85 million acres- a very large area. Until the last few years most of the people spent their time living in a small village community crowded together. In the last two or three years they have started to move out to what are called outstations in a decentalised plan. At the moment 270 people are living out in clan groups in seven decentralised outstations. These outstations are not humpies on the banks of a creek. They are
E roper small settlements with air strips, radios, buildings with tin roofs and stores. I believe that the stores in each of these outstations are making a profit, which is not very usual.
There is no doubt that the health of the people on these outstations is much better than the health of the people in the main community. They are eating better food. They have beef, fish and duck. Vegetables are growing in the area. The health sisters tell me that there is no great problem in the health of the people at these outstations. The health of the children, particularly those in the main communities, is a much greater problem. Doomadgee, Mornington and Aurukun are three very different areas. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) also told me today that Cherbourg, one of the communities in his area, will almost certainly choose to remain under State management. This Bill will allow it to do so. The Bill is giving the community a freedom of choice.
I think two points were made by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) who led for the Opposition. First of all, the general Queensland law will apply in these reserves as it does anywhere else in Queensland. Queensland will be responsible for health, education and law and order just as it is anywhere else. Questions have been asked tonight about acquisition of land. No part of this Bill allows the Government to acquire land. This can be done only under the Lands Acquisition Act. A provision for acquiring land is not contained in this Bill. I understand that the Australian Broadcasting Commission mid-day news announced that the Bill included plans to acquire land. This has caused a good deal of concern in my electorate and I have had a large number of telephone calls this afternoon. At the moment the land will remain Crown land vested in Queensland. It is very difficult to change that situation. Other speakers, better versed in the law than I am, might be able to add to that.
This Bill will almost certainly be passed through this House and the other place this week. There is little doubt that it will be passed by both Houses. I appeal to the Government to delay the proclamation of this Bill to allow further discussions with the Queensland Government. This will be very necessary to allow for an orderly and peaceful period for the people of Aurukun and Mornington.
– What about discussions with the people?
-This will allow for discussion with the people themselves. A great deal of discussion with the people has already taken place, as has been mentioned tonight. I believe that other communities will have to make up their minds about this matter. I think we should have discussions with the Queensland Government to ensure that any communities wishing to come within the provisions of the Bill should be able to do so in as orderly a manner as possible. I am concerned that the people of the Aboriginal island communities should not suffer because of political arguments between governments. This Bill gives them the power to choose their futurethe future management of their communities. In carrying out the promise that I made to the people of Aurukun and Mornington, I support the provisions of this Bill.
– When this Bill is enacted it will be cited as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Act 1978. It will be a misleading entitlement. It has all the gloss of deception. This legislation, when enacted, will not provide for self-management at all. It is overridingly an Act providing for ministerial control, not for self-determination. For instance, clause IS makes it clear that the Minister has the authority to override the properly arrived at decisions of Aboriginal people as to the declaration of reserves and communities. He may declare on those matters. We say that is not good enough. We say he ‘shall declare’ within 30 days and that he shall do this through the parliamentary system.
Clause 3 provides a definition of an Aboriginal reserve and makes it clear that the boundaries of the reserve stand at the whim of the Queensland Premier. That is asking for a lot of trust. The Houston Oil Co. would not be silly enough to buy an old oil drilling rig from the Queensland Premier. Why should we expect the Aboriginal people to buy this sort of thing from the Queensland Premier? Accordingly, we say that the boundaries ought to be clearly fixed as those boundaries applying on 31 March 1978. I recognise that laws m the respective Queensland Acts are referred to in this Bill. Hopefully before much longer the relics of discrimination which riddle those laws will be removed. This Act can then be amended. I am afraid that we cannot share the sort of blissful trust that would encourage us to allow these matters to be left in the hands of the Premier of Queensland.
Sub-clauses (4) and (5) of clause 10 are hanging on that dependent word ‘may’. The by-law authority of the councils rests on the fickle guarantees of the Minister’s political fancy of the moment. Accordingly, on the experience we have had of this Government in the past, especially when it has been subjected to pressure from the Queensland Government, it is reasonable to anticipate that there will be many cases where by-laws that have been decided properly by the Aboriginal people on reserves and communities will go into limbo because of the authority that depends on the word ‘may’. But the matter is left at the whim of the Minister. We say that the matter should rest with the Parliament and that the decision should be made there.
The fault with this legislation is that we are expected to accept too much of it on trust. That is a big challenge- trust in the Government. It is a quality of rapidly depreciating value. It is even shakier in value than the Australian dollar. How can we be expected to trust the Government on its record in regard to Aboriginal welfare? Clause 16 of the Bill comes to the heart of that hestitation. It says with a display of grotesque irony that the Bill will add to rather than derogate in any way from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975. We introduced that legislation when we were in government. We were forced to introduce it as a response to the unreasonable and totally unacceptable racially discriminatory laws in regard to Aboriginal welfare in Queensland. When we went out of office the authority of that law was put into the deep freeze. Meanwhile, the rights of Aboriginal people in Queensland continued to be violated by official Queensland Government policy.
Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 we gave Aborigines rights over their properties, we ended wage discrimination, we established their rights to have legal representation in courts and we ended the odious permanent entry system onto reserves. After we went out of office the authority of that legislation was never adopted by the present Government. The authority of that legislation, in conjunction with the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975, the Aboriginal Land Fund Act and the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act of 1976 gave the Government, if those authorities were taken up, a great deal of clout in its relations with the Queensland Government in the matter of Aboriginal welfare and rights. The fact is that the Government has approached all these responsibilities and the authority available to it with a faint heart. Much of the present problem, probably all of it, could have been averted if these authorities were taken up. The situation now is the product of a fickle Government commitment to the rights of Aboriginal people in the face of bluster from the Queensland Premier.
How can we ask Aboriginal people to have trust in this Government? That is very largely what we are being asked to extend in this Bill. So much of it is not self-government. So much of it is dependent upon the whim and caprice of the Minister at any given time. I refer to the authority to make by-laws, the authority to establish councils and the authority to establish reserves.
How can we have trust in the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and this Government when it is established that there were secret assurances from the Prime Minister to the Queensland Premier not to apply the authority of some of those Acts I cited a few seconds ago.
While the Prime Minister was giving those assurances his representative in Aboriginal welfare matters, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), was going about the community conveying the impression that he was an unyielding, dedicated defender of the rights of the Aboriginal people in the community. Between them the laws I have quoted would have removed odious discrimination from the laws, regulations and by-laws in Queensland. They would have given Aboriginal people land rights and they would have ended the sweeping, intrusive and coercive powers of the Queensland Director of Aboriginal Affairs- powers, intrusive and coercive in their nature, which no white person would tolerate. For instance, the Director of Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland has authority to take charge of the properties, wages or savings of Aboriginal people in that State. It is a very difficult matter for Aboriginal people to assert their rights if they resent that. No white person would tolerate that. It is in conflict with the basic principles of so many international conventions which this country has signed upholding human rights, human dignity and self-respect.
The authorities under the laws I have cited would have allowed a much greater degree of self-management than the Aboriginal people in Queensland have been able to establish to this point. But the fact is that none of these things was done because there were secret deals between the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier. They ensured that while the word was being promulgated the deeds were not being fulfilled. The most craven action of all was the failure of the Government to apply the authority available to it under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act of 1 976. That legislation was passed in this Parliament in December 1976. Today, more than 12 months later, it is yet to be proclaimed. It is the Government’s own legislation. Why has the Government confronted this situation with such a faint heart? It is nonsense for the Government to talk about self-management. The Government’s one hesitant foray into this area with the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act of 1976 was not proceeded with or taken up. The Aboriginal people were to be disillusioned.
Eighteen months ago the Prime Minister gave a secret assurance to the Queensland Premier that there would be no land acquisitions for the purposes of establishing land rights for Aboriginals in Queensland. The policy has proceeded in every other State. It is indisputable that the Queensland Government is very difficult in terms of allowing the development of this sort of policy. It is quite clear that the Queensland Government’s policy of assimilation and of seeking to submerge, dilute and, if possible, breathe out the main cultural influence of the Aboriginal people encourages it to be opposed to any sorts of policies which will allow dignity, selfexpression, independence and the strengthening of that sense of Aboriginal cultural identity. Accordingly, the Queensland Government resents movements to provide more independence and influence for the Aboriginal people in the community to give more strength to their cultural form of expression.
But that is no justification for accepting those obstructions. If the Government is prepared to be tough enough and determined enough it has available to it sufficient fiscal authority in various ways to ensure that even if the Queensland Government sought compensation it could adequately offset the sorts of claims that the Queensland Government sought to establish. It is totally unacceptable that we have a government presenting itself to the Aboriginal people of Australia and suggesting that so much of this legislation should be taken on trust when its record, insofar as matters of trust are concerned, in regard to Aboriginal welfare is so appalling.
I repeat that 1 8 months ago the Prime Minister gave a secret assurance to the Queensland Premier that, despite what the Government was claiming it wanted to achieve for the Aboriginal people, it would not allow the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission to make independent land acquisitions for Aboriginal people. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs talks about selfmanagement. He should be the last person to seek to assert that principle. He has effectively nobbled the Land Fund Commission. Its degree of independence has been effectively destroyed by his intrusion into its affairs. I know of two prominent examples of that. In the first case the Land Fund Commission sought to purchase land in Queensland for Aboriginal purposes. In the second case the Land Fund Commission sought a legal opinion on the matter of racism in Queensland. It had a specific incident in mind. It sought to have the legislation against racism which we introduced in 1975 adopted if the case was appropriate. The Minister instructed the Land Fund Commission that it was not to proceed with the purchase of land and that it was not to proceed further with the legal opinion it sought. By clear implication the Government made it very clear that it was not to do any of those things in the future and furthermore, that while legislative authority existed in those matters they were to all practical intents and purposes to be accepted as dead letters for the Land Fund Commission and the Aboriginal people.
The Minister’s next step was to propose at a meeting with senior officers of his Department that a Cabinet submission should be prepared by officers of his Department. The purpose of that submission was effectively to destroy the Lands Commission. He sought to quibble about the detail of this claim but today, one month after the matter first surfaced publicly, he conceded that in fact the actions that he had set in train, if they were followed through, would effectively bring to an end the Lands Commission. The minutes of that meeting show very clearly that he left an instruction that it was his wish to have the Lands Commission absorbed in such a way that it would be destroyed and that consistent with this proposal a Cabinet submission was to be prepared. These are the sorts of responses which flowed from the actions of the Lands Commission seeking properly to discharge its responsibilities under law to Aboriginal people, that is, the action of seeking to purchase land for Aboriginal people in Queensland and of seeking a legal opinion about a racist incident in that State. These matters were objected to by the Premier of Queensland and that objection, that bluster, was sufficient for both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to react in this way. These men are towering mountains where Aboriginal affairs are concerned- towering mountains of jelly!
Where are the grounds for trust in this Government in such an important matter as this matter is? Are they in its performance? If there is a direct ratio between performance and credibility, the Government’s credibility is slumping badly. This is the Government that suspended the trachoma campaign in Queensland because it suited the political whims of the Premier of Queensland, in spite of the fact that the continuation of the program was so essential for the health of Queensland Aboriginals. Even at this stage the program has not been restored, nor is there any firm guarantee that it will be restored. Where are the grounds for trust in the Minister himself? He is the man who under pressure buckled to the Queensland Premier and proposed a compromise arrangement, which was totally unacceptable to either the Uniting Church in Australia or the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island, whereby the
Queensland Government and the Uniting Church would jointly administer the reserves. It was a fine compromise- it lasted four hours, and his credibility went with it.
The Queensland Government in its policies on Aboriginal welfare has established a nasty racist record. The report by the Commissioner for Community Relations on the situation in Queensland had this to say:
On the Queensland reserves today, one would be hard put to find any part of Aboriginal life which is not discriminatory.
The report in its final paragraph concluded:
Unless one has actually seen and experienced the situation, it would be hard to credit that, in 1976, such oppression could be practised by the Queensland Government and its agencies against a section of its citizens; or that a State Government daily flouts two Federal laws, namely the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) and the Racial Discrimination Act.
If the Government were thoroughly genuine in this matter it would have long ago taken up the authority available to it under the legislation that we introduced to eliminate racial discrimination in all of its odious, oppressive and insidious forms in Queensland. It would have not only enacted legislation but also ensured that the laws on Aboriginal councils and associations introduced in 1976 would have been proclaimed by now and in effect long ago. How can the Aboriginal people be expected to take this son of legislation on trust when so much of it is dependent on this sort of trust?
The legislation is far from satisfactory on many scores. It allows for instance, as I said earlier, the Queensland Government not only to establish what the boundaries of a reserve are but from time to time, as the legislation now stands, to adjust the boundaries of those reserves. The declaration of reserves is still very much dependent upon ministerial whim. Council by-laws will stand or fall on the political capriciousness of the Minister at any given time. Under this legislation, the Queensland Government could effectively de-gazette, under the Crown Lands Act, Aboriginal reserves and Aboriginal communities. It could padlock the facilities on existing reserves and prevent their use by Aboriginal people. I can find nowhere in this legislation power for the Australian Government to build on reserve lands. Accordingly, there is further evidence of the defectiveness of the legislation and a demand that further action has to be taken by the Government. The legislation needs more teeth. But most importantly the legislation fails squarely to confront the land rights issue for Aboriginal people. We hear so much from the Minister in this Parliament and elsewhere about the special quality and nature of the relationship between Aboriginal people and land. The relationship is well established. It is a very important one. It ought to be recognised and respected. The Government has had adequate opportunity and sufficient authority to ensure those things were done if it were fair dinkum enough in these matters. It has not done those things. And it has not done those things in this legislation.
Again, clause 9 (2) is too open to satisfy the Opposition and, accordingly, we propose certain amendments to the clause which will give greater protection to Aboriginal people about the conditions under which people can enter reserves to provide necessary services for Aboriginal people. Clause 12 does not give sufficient authority to Aboriginal councils to control the movements of people in Aboriginal reserves. I said earlier that the Government seeks trust in these matters but it must be judged by its deeds and its deeds fall far short of encouraging trust. For instance, in the area of expenditure it has slashed by about $60m in real terms the amount of money being provided very broadly for Aboriginal welfare this year compared with the provision in our last Budget in 197S. It has cut back expenditure in health, education, housing, generally in the welfare area, and in all of those areas in which it is well established that Aboriginal people have distinct disadvantages, not through their own fault but because of generations of neglect which has been imposed upon them by the dominant white culture of this society.
As the inquiry into poverty in Australia found:
Aboriginals probably have the highest birth rate, the highest death rate, the worst health and housing, and the lowest educational, occupational, economic, social and legal status of any identifiable section of the Australian community.
The Prime Minister has asked the Opposition for bipartisan support in Aboriginal welfare. We extend that but we are not prepared to step down to his levels. We want him to step up to those which we expect should be applied for the welfare of Aboriginal people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to support this important piece of legislation and to oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for Capricornia, Dr Everingham. This item of legislation is certainly very important. It is not an easy piece of legislation by any means, but it is one which I believe that honourable members on both sides of this House ought to approach in a co-operative way and in a way which will lend itself to its prompt passage and also lend itself to developing a co-operative approach between governments which do have legitimate powers and responsibilities. Whilst undoubtedly the Commonwealth has powers and responsibilities in relation to Aboriginal people, the Government of Queensland has powers in relation to the services that it must provide to all of the people of the State of Queensland.
– What has that to do with this legislation?
-This is very important and has a great deal to do with this piece of legislation. As honourable members opposite would know, clause 9 of the Bill deals with the very question of the provision of services to Aboriginal people in Aboriginal communities. It deals with the questions of housing, health, sewerage, water supply, electricity supply, communication, education and training. As the Bill acknowledges, there is a role for the Queensland Government to play in providing these services, unless honourable members opposite believe that we can have in any one State a situation of one set of laws in relation to education, for example, for one group of people- the Aboriginal peopleand another set of laws for the rest of the community. Nothing would smack more of the creation of a state within a state or of apartheid, if one likes to use that term, than that situation.
I make this point in the debate because I have listened to two speeches today from honourable members opposite- leading spokesmen of the Opposition- which have smacked absolutely of cynicism in a way which one would hope would not be necessary in a debate such as this, in which we are essentially pursuing a bipartisan approach.
In the last few weeks people have suggested that we should not involve politics in this matter. It has been suggested that the disputes between Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) were terrible disputes, that the political wrangle between the Federal Government and the State Government was a terrible thing and that the politicking Liberals, who were politicking amongst themselves, were not really serving the Aboriginal people. Yet, what happens m this place? Honourable members opposite sit back and let the situation continue. They could allow other people to draw their own conclusions. They come in like the tide with the most political speeches that one can imagine, the most exaggerated comments and the most blatant over-statements of propositions that I have ever heard.
Recently, on 15 March, after the Queensland Minister wrote a letter dated 10 March, the Opposition raised a matter of public importance. The honourable member for Capricornia said: Act now. Five days after this event takes place, introduce legislation. We will facilitate its passage through the Parliament’. The honourable member said that that was what the Opposition would do. We made it very clear that if necessaryif we could not talk on reasonable terms with the Queensland Government- we would take this approach and that this legislation would be introduced. I refer honourable members to page 748 of Hansard at which the Minister made it very clear that the Federal Government would act and would stand by the Aboriginal people and introduce this legislation if we could not get a reasonable approach from the Queensland Government on this matter. Members opposite argued that it was an urgent matter.
When we reached the point tonight of introducing legislation in response to the situation which has been fully documented and spoken about by so many people-it has been adequately spoken about by my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson)- honourable members opposite said that they wanted the legislation postponed and that there was no urgency about the matter. Some people who were saying previously that we could not deal with Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, now are saying: ‘You can have absolute faith in his undertaking that he will do nothing in the meantime. Now there is no need for urgency. The situation has changed ‘.
– You are not talking about the Bill.
-I am speaking about the Bill, which is more than many honourable members opposite do, even with their prepared speeches. I am replying to a member’s specious remarks in this debate about postponing the legislation, putting it off, which could possibly endanger the communities about which honourable members opposite piously speak in this place. Consequential matters were raised in the speeches of honourable members opposite. They did raise some matters with which I believe it is very important to deal in this debate.
The honourable member for Capricornia moved an amendment suggesting that we ought to put aside this proposal which deals with the very important question of control of settlements and of decision-making in settlements. He introduced a new and separate element. If the Opposition cannot fight on one question it brings in a new element, one which is likely to exacerbate the situation further and one which is likely to lead to the situation in which the very important question of services such as health and education- we would expect the Queensland Government to continue to provide those services for Queensland people, including Aboriginal people- would be put in jeopardy by promoting an all-out confrontation. That is what honourable members opposite are all about.
All the speeches that we have heard in this debate and in similar debates on previous occasions have been about an all-out confrontation in every respect. The speeches have been about one government- the Canberra Government- obtaining by way of legislation power over another government. I do not think that ought to be the basis for this legislation; nor does the Minister. The legislation seeks to give to the Aborigines the right of self-determination- an ability of the people themselves to be able to make decisions in their own communities.
Yet the Opposition has introduced a land rights question which puts in jeopardy programs which are for the benefit of Aboriginal people throughout Australia. I think this point ought to be made because we all know that we are the subject of a written Constitution. That Constitution provides that if the Commonwealth acquires land in one form or another it has to acquire the land from the party concerned on just terms and pay just compensation. What does that mean? The figures that have been quoted in relation to an attempt to acquire all the reserves in Queensland have varied between about $500m and $ 1,000m. That is the amount of money that would have to be paid out. Whilst it may be fine to acquire the reserves, what effect will that have on the programs and the balance of programs for Aboriginals in our community? What would happen if all the money that would otherwise be appropriated for programs for the Aboriginal people- housing, health or educationwere set aside to accept a constitutional obligation of providing on just terms for the acquisition of all those lands in Queensland to which one could effectively give control by legislation of this sort? Whilst honourable members opposite might think that we can print money, take it from other appropriations or perhaps just find the money in some other magical way, we know from experience that there is no magical way.
I am sure that if we put to the Aboriginal people that the question was whether we provided land and total land rights in Queensland, acquired all the reserves on just terms, that is, paying out that money for those rights, and lost ali their other programs throughout the rest of Australia- housing programs, education programs, health programs- they would say responsibly that they would wish to see the maintenance of those programs which would be to their immediate benefit. In relation to the programs that the Commonwealth has a responsibility to provide, it is important that the Commonwealth acts responsibly for all Aboriginal people, not just some Aborigines. There was some good material in the speech of the honourable member for Capricornia. I endorse generally his approach to the question of selfdetermination and the emphasis he put on this. It reflects very much the approach of honourable members on this side of the House and members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. We have looked at other aspects of programs for Aboriginals in Australia.
I believe that it is very important that Aboriginals in their own communities are able to make those decisions which affect their well-being and they are able to make decisions as to whether they wish to be assimilated, if that is the nature of the Queensland Government’s policy and approach, as against a slower and more gradual approach which, I believe, would be to their benefit. If we examine the history of Australia over a long period, we can observe that the policy of assimilation of Aboriginals has failed. The reason we do not have many full-blood Aboriginal people in New South Wales, for instance, is that Aboriginals were forced to live on the outskirts of towns and to be assimilated in one way or another. They were expected to live in houses and were not allowed to live in a traditional way. They were pushed aside, pushed out of the way and abused in many ways. There was no capacity for them to make a choice about living in a traditional way which perhaps would have preserved their culture and given them the strength to deal with some of the stresses that come when one’s culture is under threat. I see that as being very basic to the problem. This item of legislation has been developed around pursuing that objective in relation to self-determination but not bringing into conflict a whole range of other questions such as the education and health services which the State would normally provide and which the State is expected by us to continue to provide to the communities. Sub-clause (2) of clause 9 is very important in that respect.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) spoke of deception in this debate and in the approach of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and he related his comments to clause S of the Bill. He suggested that the Minister was deceiving people because he was seeking to substitute ministerial control for self-management. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clause 5 of the Bill, one of the operative clauses, deals with the very basis upon which the Minister will be involved in making determinations on requests from Aboriginal communities as to whether or not self-management will occur. It is not a question of his ministerial control. In fact, the amendments that the Opposition has proposed would do more to bring that about than the proposals of the Government. The suggestion of” the Opposition that the Minister ought to act in a mandatory way when he makes a decision on a request from an Aboriginal community would put at risk the very legislation we are debating tonight and its effectiveness. One of the important facets of this legislation is the discretion that has been given to the Minister to enable him to satisfy himself as to whether the council genuinely reflects the views of the Aboriginal people in the community. The councils and their composition can be effected by Queensland legislation and by decisions of the Queensland Government- this is one of the things that I should have thought the Leader of the Opposition would have picked up in his distorted claims about the Queensland Government- and it is quite clear that changes could be made in Queensland legislation so that we had a council that was not representative. If the Opposition’s amendment is carried, a council could make a request and the Minister would have to implement it without going behind the decision of the council to see whether it was in fact a representative decision. I cannot understand the Opposition putting that view to the Parliament.
In relation to clause 9, the Opposition wishes to substitute in sub-clause (2) the requirement that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs must consent to the Queensland Government accepting its specific responsibilities for schooling and health in the communities. I cannot imagine anything that would have a more disastrous effect on the relationship between the Commonwealth and the State and on the ability of the Commonwealth to maintain meaningful services in these reserves and communities than an amendment that put at risk the schools that are there, the schooling obligations of the State, and the health programs that are being administered through the Queensland Government. Such a provision would only exacerbate the situation.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act and led the House to believe that there was some failing on the part of this Government in implementing that legislation. That legislation is law. It is a Commonwealth law that prevails over Queensland law. One of the benefits that the Aboriginal people do have is access to an Aboriginal legal aid service. As individuals they are entitled to proceed before an industrial tribunal if they are not being paid full adult wages, and the Commonwealth law as it now applies enables them to get that full wage. If Aboriginals are prosecuted the same law can be used as a defence. Legal advice is available to Aboriginalsvery adequate legal advice- through the legal aid service. The law is available for their benefit and is in operation. To suggest otherwise shows a total misunderstanding of the nature of law and its effect. The emotional speech made by the Leader of the Opposition was couched in such a way as to mislead Aboriginal people and destroy their confidence in a very important piece of legislation, and to do it on a quite specious argument, in fact I believe a very deceptive argument.
– It is shameful in every respect and not worthy of the Leader of the Opposition. Finally he suggested that the Queensland Government would have the capacity to go into the reserves and padlock the facilities that had been provided- presumably the schools and hospitals. I cannot imagine anything more fearsome than to say to people that their schools and hospitals would be locked up. The Leader of the Opposition made that suggestion without any comprehension of clause 1 5, the clause of which he was speaking but quite clearly did not understand. Clause 1 S of the Bill makes it plain that the Commonwealth will be able to go in and use its general acquisition power to buy or acquire land and facilities they might be in the form of a building or a school or a hospitalavailable to the Aboriginal people involved. There would be no padlocking of the facilities. Clause IS enables us to deal with that situation should it arise. The political way in which this matter has been treated is shameful.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) defends his clients in court in the same way as he has defended this legislation, it is no wonder that the prisons of New South Wales are over-full. I will take just some of the points that he made this evening. First of all, let us take the political point. Fancy anyone in this Parliament being political! I am going to disappoint the honourable member. I am going to be political. This is a major political issue. It is a challenge to the Parliament, a challenge issued by the people of Australia when they passed the referendum back in 1967, and the honourable member knows that full well. We have a clear constitutional duty to take up the challenge issued by the Queensland Premier and fulfil the aspirations of the Aboriginal people. That means that they must have absolute security on the reserves upon which they live. The honourable member said that we had been political. He said that we might come into confrontation with the Premier of Queensland. What is wrong with that? It is probably 20 years too late to come into confrontation on these matters with the Premier and others in Queensland, but this is what the honourable member had to say in the debate on the matter of public importance only a few weeks ago:
If we are to embark on a program of confrontation, as the Opposition has sought to do, we will be in exactly the same situation which the Australian Labor Party was in when it was in government.
In other words, Labor lost nearly all its seats in Queensland. The honourable member is not afraid of the Queensland Premier; he is afraid of a political reaction that would lose seats for his Party. I suggest that the people of Australia will measure honourable members opposite by the integrity with which they have taken up this challenge. This Bill is a piece of shadow sparring. But honourable members opposite say that the Opposition is trying to create a state within a stateapartheid. What nonsense! Is Canberra, which is administered separately from the area around it, an example of apartheid? Of course it is not. Is Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land which is a mining enclave an example of apartheid or a state within a state? Of course it is not. Are Puckapunyal and other military establishments of that sort, whether they be under constitutional or Commonwealth authority, which engage in Commonwealth services areas of this type? Of course they are not. Is the repatriation system which operates separately throughout the whole of our community for a separate group of people an example of apartheid or a state within a state? Of course it is not.
We have to face the fact that we can put no faith in the Government of Queensland, in the present Premier of Queensland or in his immediate predecessors. Anything which ignores that fact represents shadow sparring. We are dodging the issue. I am afraid that after all the fanfares of trumpets this legislation represents another sellout. I want to take issue with our colleague, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) on the question of the role of the National Aboriginal Conference, as it is now called. I will take a couple of points which arise from the use of language. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have talked about the inaugural meeting of the National Aboriginal Conference. For the last three or four days they have done everything in their power to make it look as if it was their initiative, as if they had set it up themselves. The Conference has been in business for five years. Its structure has been changed to a certain extent and its name has been changed. But the object for which it was established is still there. The major objective of its establishment was to provide a pipeline between the Aboriginal people of Australia, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Government. In this first issue that comes forward after the Government has used the National Aboriginal Conference as a political ploy to show how good it is, how dinkum it is and how fair it is to the Aboriginal people, it ignores the Conference absolutely. I have a copy of the telegram from the National Aboriginal Council before me. It asks that the Conference be consulted and that the matter be deferred until it can consider it. Why can the Government not do that?
I suppose that I have nearly as good a record as most honourable members in this House as a parliamentary advocate of the cause we are discussing here tonight But the procedures adopted in this Parliament today in respect of this piece of legislation are a disgrace to the Australian parliamentary system. They are fraught with the destruction of the traditional parliamentary program and system and we ought not to tolerate it, no matter how urgent we think the issues are. Of course, the urgency of the issues has been exposed by the failure of the Minister to act over the last few weeks and months and, in fact, over the last few years. The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) made a plea on behalf of the people whom he represents. One wonders how a person such as the honourable member is able to fall in with the people who run the National Country Party in Queensland. The honourable member talked about the choice of the Aboriginal people. This has been one of the major objectives of the Aboriginal policy of the
Australian Labor Party over the last few years. We ask the question: Will the Aboriginal people be free to make continuing choices once they have made a choice to accept the provisions of this Bill? We say not and nothing said from the other side of the House, and nothing in the Minister’s speech, disabuses our fears about that. When will honourable members opposite face up to the facts of life and do the job properly?
We cannot make any deals with the Premier of Queensland. Surely that is obvious. The man is the quintessence of a political practitioner. He cares not a point about principles. He has turned political hypocrisy, unprincipled behaviour and unscrupulous usage of his office into a fine art. He is Australia’s greatest political practitioner. He even makes members of this Government look like amateurs. I turn to deal with some of the other points which were made. The honourable member for Leichhardt said that Crown land will be vested in the Government of Queensland. That is placing a blissful trust in the Government of Queensland. Land is the issue and we cannot avoid that by changing the name of the legislation. Land is the issue and the key to the situation. To ignore that is to dodge away from the issue. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) shakes his head. He is either attesting to or denying what I say. He will find out when the Aboriginal people go to the ballot box next time that land is the issue.
The other issue is the opportunity of the Aboriginal people to control and manage their own affairs. I do not like to use the word ‘control ‘. But the management of their own affairs is again another issue. This legislation represents a craven breakdown, blissful innocence- is there anybody who thinks that this Government is full of young innocents- or is it a devious political ploy. I ask honourable members to look at the unhappy record. First of all, we had the cuts in expenditure which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposed to the House. There was a total surrender when faced by the Queensland Government with issues such as the trachoma program. There was the failure of the Northern Territory Aboriginal land rights legislation to face up to the issue and place on the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory the responsibility finally for many areas which are of some importance. This legislation will not work. We say that this legislation does not face the issue and that those pans of the legislation which cover points of which we approve will not work because it does not have the appropriate teeth. I was hoping that tonight we would reach the end of the long haul. But what has happened? We have stopped short of the top. I pick up copies of newspapers and read articles dealing with the seasonal sport in politics. In a newspaper dated 24 January 1976 1 found the headline: ‘Canberra may move in Aurukun row’. That was more than two years ago. At the same time, another newspaper headline read: ‘Canberra accuses State of Aurukun trickery’. Yet the honourable member for Dundas says that we can still put our faith in the Queensland Government. In 1 973, at a time when the people running this country had the interests of the Aboriginal people at heart, a letter was written by the then Prime Minister to the Premier of Queensland asking him to transfer the Aboriginal lands to the Aboriginal people themselves. Of course, the Premier of Queensland did not do that.
– You did not do anything about it.
-No, we started the persuasion. Then we started to produce legislation. We established a battery of legislation which the present Government is not game to use. What is that matter all about? First of all we have as an example the aspirations of the Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island. I say that land rights is the principal issue. I have spoken to the Aboriginal people about this and that is what they say also. It is significant that there are more Aboriginal people in the House tonight than there are Government supporters. Land rights is the principal issue. But other matters are involved also. I ask the question: Does this legislation answer that problem for the Aboriginal people? The Opposition says that it does not. The question of social development is another issue. In what way does this legislation fulfil Aboriginal aspirations in that respect? There is also the question of economic progress. How far will this legislation take the Aboriginal people along the road of economic progress? Somewhere I have some figures from the last available relevant report of the Queensland Government. It is stated in that report that only about one-third and in some cases 25 per cent of the adult Aboriginal people in these places have any sort of employment. Does this legislation guarantee the personal security of Aborigines? We say that it does not. It still leaves the reserves open to the trespass of the minions of the Government of Queensland. Does it establish the self-respect to which the Aboriginal people are entitled at this stage of our Australian history? Of course, it does not. What should be done? From the very moment that this issue became part of the political scene in Australia, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had at his disposal, without any further legislation being passed by this Parliament, a battery of laws which enabled him to act. First, it is clear that he had powers under the Constitution. Section 51, placitum (xxxi) states that the Minister has the power for:
The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws.
The Constitution gives the Minister power to make laws for the Aboriginal people. He also has powers under the Lands Acquisition Act.
– We have the power of acquisition in this Bill.
-That is right. The Lands Acquisition Act fortifies that. Why has not the Government used that Act?
– It is in there- clause 1 5 of the Bill.
Mr BRYANT The Minister should have used that power weeks ago. There is no need to be rushing legislation in this way. The only way we can ensure the satisfactory security of the people of Aurukun, Mornington Island and other places is to acquire the land and deed it to the Aboriginal communities. Why do you not do that?
– You need to have a Commonwealth purpose. Where is the purpose?
– I will explain to the honourable gentleman. First of all, a notice to treat is issued. The provisions are all there. I do not have time tonight to read them all out but the honourable gentleman will find the information in the Bills and Papers Office. I will arrange for a copy to be sent to him and have it annotated for him directly if he wishes. The provisions are all there but the Premier of Queensland says: ‘No, I will not be in it ‘. Then an order for compulsory acquisition is issued, and after a certain number of days it becomes Commonwealth property.
– You need to have an Act under which you pursue it.
-Wait a minute. The deal, of course, is that the Government says to the owners that it will pay them so much. The honourable member for Dundas spoke of $500m. How would he arrive at that figure? It is a good round figure of course. He is a Sydney legal man. I suppose he would send a bill along the lines of:
Doing this, that and the other . . . say, $500m. The Aurukun Reserve covers about 1.8 million acres. What is land worth up there? What is the going rate? They tell me that if one looks through the Queensland Country Life to try to buy a place in that general direction, one finds that it would cost between $ 1 .50 and $2 per acre.
– You do not want to buy the minerals also!
– Wait a bit. It would cost perhaps $3m for Aurukun. Mornington Island, I suppose, would cost $400,000 to $500,000. That is the offer the Government would make to the Queensland Premier.
– Why do you not move in yourself?
-Just a moment. The Government would make that offer to the Premier of Queensland who then says that he will not accept that. He says that he wants to deal with the Government and he takes the matter to the High Court. What does the High Court say? I refer the House to the case of Australia versus the Proprietors of Lanyon here on the doorstep of Canberra. The Labor Government offered them, I think, in the first instance, $ 1 .8m. The owner was again a person from Sydney and he said that he wanted $35m because it was going to be urban land. We said: ‘Not on your life’. We tried to introduce legislation in this place to guarantee that land acquired by the Commonwealth would be paid for at the going rate for the usage of that land. The Senate, under our friend Withers, threw it back. The matter went to the High Court and the High Court ruled that the appropriate price for land is the current usage value.
What about minerals? I knew the question of minerals would rear its ugly head. The honourable member for Dundas is afraid of two things. He is afraid of loss of seats in the Parliament- I do not blame him for that- and who is going to get the bauxite. That, of course, is the weakness in this legislation. We should vest this land in the Aboriginal people in perpetuity by way of special legislation. That is what would be necessary and I would agree with it. Then, if the honourable- I should place those words in inverted commas- Premier of Queensland decided to withdraw services from the people there, it would be the Commonwealth ‘s duty to provide those services. We have had a double standard about these matters for too long. I ask: If the Queensland Government issued permits for mining tomorrow, would this legislation stop it? The answer is no. Is not that the pre-eminent threat to the people of Aurukun. Of course it is. If it decided to go on to the land and cut timber, would this legislation stop it? Of course it would not. If it decided to give special fishing rights along the shores, would this legislation stop it? Of course it would not. The legislation is phoney.
We are breaking parliamentary tradition in the way in which we are handling this legislation. We have raised the aspirations of the people of
Aurukun and Mornington Island and the rest of the Aboriginal people of Queensland. If we pass this legislation without appropriate amendments or if we do not withdraw it and do the simple, direct things such as acquiring the land and consulting the people we will have failed. We must ensure that there are adequate decision making powers. I presume that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is sincere in his stated hope that, when it comes to the point of applying this legislation to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island and other places, they will be able to make decisions about their own destiny. We say they will not.
There is only one absolute security. I suppose this kind of psyche is common to all of us. The land upon which we live must be ours in some absolutely protected sense. In the current state of our society, in the current state of Australian politics, in our obsession with regard to minerals, there is only one absolute security for the Aboriginal people of Queensland and elsewhere, and that is the acquisition of the land and the vesting of it in them absolutely. I know this conflicts with treasured and traditional attitudes to mineral rights. In this country the mineral rights belong to the Crown. The Crown then sells them off, not to the highest bidder, but usually to the lowest bidder. We have been selling this country over the last 10 or 15 years at about 5c a ton. Some people have made enormous fortunes out of this but not the people who traditionally own the land. What real profits have the people of Yirrkala received from the Gove bauxite developments? What real profit have the people of Groote Eylandt received? What real profit have the people of Weipa received? We must find another formula.
The honourable member for Dundas and I have travelled this country very extensively looking at Aboriginal communities. I guess that our friends on this side of the House and our friends on the other side of the House all have something in their hearts asking them to try to find an answer to this question. But if they start on the premise that property, State rights and that kind of legalism transcends human rights, they will find no answer.
As I said earlier, it is a long haul. It is some 20-odd years since we took up the debate about Aboriginal progress in this Parliament. Lots of things have happened since. The Constitution has been changed. The laws of Australia dealing with Aboriginal people have been changed, but not as effectively as we would have wished in Queensland. We have made a different social climate. I find it most gratifying to have on our side on this occasion the Right Honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), not a notable radical revolutionary or progressive, to have the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs sounding as if he is almost one of us, to have the churches, which, organisationally speaking, have dragged their feet in the past coming out on side against the Premier of Queensland. The churches have an unhappy history, as have governments, as have we all. When the issues were first raised in Yirrkala and Weipa, the Methodist Church in the first instance, and the Presbyterian Church, in the second instance, came down basically on the side of governments. The missionaries did not and the people on the spot did not. The Aboriginal people owe a great debt to many people in the churches, not so much the people on the organisational side, but the people on the ground. There is no answer, short of total acquisition deeding the land to the Aboriginal people and consulting them all the way. I appeal to the Minister to take cognisance of the fact that the National Aboriginal Conference is meeting in Canberra at the moment. They are all here. How can we expect them to go away from here, from what the Minister chose to call their inaugural meeting- I put that in inverted commas toowith any sense of purpose or any respect for the job which has been bestowed upon them if in this fundamental issue the Minister will not even take 24 hours off to consult them.
– When I hear the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) sounding almost elated that we are of one accord on the basics of this particular problem, I become a little sceptical. If ever there was a disastrous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs it was the honourable member for Wills. He is a nice fellow, a gentleman and a friend of mine but he was just not a good Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. As this debate has proceeded over the past few weeks, I have become increasingly concerned that the welfare of the people who are caught up in the middle of the wrangle that is going on between the Commonwealth and the State- that is, the Aborigines- is in some danger. The welfare of the Aborigines is of paramount importance.
– Crocodile tears.
-I hear a few comments from the other side. I probably have a greater affinity with these people than most members have. In the 1940s, in the Second World War years, I went to school with them. I saw quite a deal of them. That is probably more than most honourable members have experienced. The Aborigines of Australia have come a long way in the past 30-odd years, from the days when I knew some of them and went to school with them, when they lived on the fringe of Cooktown in shanties and communities that were known as ‘blacks camps’. These people have moved forward.
I visited a number of communities recently, and I was impressed by the intelligence of the people, by the fact that they are aware of their rights and by the fact that there is an awareness of the world around them. As well they have become more articulate, and that is all to the good of the Aboriginal people of this country. So the welfare of the Aborigines is of paramount importance. I hope that we do not lose sight of that fact in this continuing wrangle. We as Europeans have imposed our way of life on them. Who are we to say that our Western way of life is better for them? We have imposed it upon the indigenous people of this nation, and that imposition has caused a number of unfortunate problems which we are now trying to rectify.
The Commonwealth’s action in introducing this legislation has been precipitated by the Queensland Government’s proposed takeover of the two communities of Mornington Island and Aurukun from the Uniting Church in Australia. Let me say here and now that, having visited both of those communities, I am convinced of the deep affinity that those people have with the Uniting Church. I heard the call go out from a senior member of the Uniting Church to the people of Mornington Island: ‘If you want us to leave this community we will go ‘. Repeatedly the people of that community and the people of Aurukun stated that they wanted the Church to remain and that they wanted the Federal Government to be involved and not the State Government of Queensland. I emphasise this point because to my mind a conflict of policies between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland has caused this whole problem in these two communities.
At meetings of approximately 200 adults out of a population of about 750 in both communities again and again they cried out: ‘We want the Uniting Church involved and the Commonwealth Government, not the State Government’. That did not arise because the Church had been brainwashing them. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), Senator Knight, Senator Bonner, Senator Martin and I moved individually amongst the people. We talked to them in groups and individually. At no stage did we find a dissenter from the general view put at ordinary meetings or from the view put by the community councils. This legislation is enabling legislation, not compelling legislation.
I want to touch on the issue of States rights, about which the Premier of Queensland is so vocal. It is not a States rights issue at all. Eleven years ago, in 1967, the people of the Commonwealth of Australia by an overwhelming majority voted in favour of amending the Constitution so that the Commonwealth could provide for Aborigines throughout the nation. It is not a States rights issue, yet the Premier of Queensland is saying repeatedly that it is an intrusion by the Commonwealth into an area in which the State has full rights. Legally and constitutionally it has no right at all.
– Queenslanders supported that overwhelmingly.
– I am reminded by my honourable friend that Queenslanders voted overwhelmingly in favour of that constitutional change. In my research of the situation in 1967 1 did not find in newspaper reports any opposition at all to the proposal. There was no No case in the referendum. Although the State Government of the day was comparatively silent on the matter, the present State Government sees fit today to cry: ‘This is an intrusion by the Commonwealth into an area of State responsibility’. I want to refer to the attitude of the Queensland Government. Under Fraser ‘s federalism we have seen a genuine devolution of powers and responsibilities to the States. It is true that the Commonwealth has made mistakes. The States have made mistakes. If we are to make federalism work there has to be goodwill on both sides.
I believe that the Queensland Premier is playing dishonest politics in relation to this issue. In Queensland there is more conflict and more bickering going on than there is in the other five States put together. Let us not forget that three of those States are Labor States and have an opposing philosophy to the Commonwealth’s philosophy. The Commonwealth Government has made mistakes and no doubt will continue to make them, but the Queensland Government ought to take a long, hard look at its approach to federalism and to its relationship with the Commonwealth as it has developed today. Longserving State Premiers, such as Sir Henry Bolte in Victoria, Mr Dunstan in South Australia, the late Sir Francis Nicklin in Queensland and Sir Charles Court in Western Australia, have been successful in their own right. As I see it, they have been successful quite honestly. Yet the Queensland Premier resorts to Canberrabashing time and again.
What upsets me more than anything else is the bitterness which the Premier of Queensland is engendering in the minds of Queenslanders and the feeling that they are a separate State and a separate race. That is just not on. We are the one nation. Unfortunately, for cheap political gain Queenslanders are led to believe that down here in the Deep South, there are sinister southerners trying to take something away from them. I was born and bred in Queensland, which is more than some of the strongest critics of the Commonwealth can say. I am working as a Queenslander for the State of Queensland, but I am also able to take a national outlook.
Let us look at what happens in relation to ethnic groups in Australia. The Government, assisted by the States, encourages ethnic groups to pursue their own religions and cultures. We nave ethnic radio and ethnic newspapers. Indeed even people of Danish parentage are encouraged to follow their religion and culture. Yet the Aurukun people, resident in this nation for over 30,000 years, are denied those rights. I can assure honourable members that at Aurukun they fervently want to maintain their outstations. Outstations are part of their culture. They do not want to return to the situation of 200 or 300 years ago, but they are quite adamant that they want to return to that style of life. They have done so, and I believe they have done so very successfully. Yet the Queensland Government had attempted to impose on those people a system whereby they were being asked to return to the central community of Aurukun. I suggest that those people are not nearly as Europeanised as the people of Cherbourg.
The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), who is in the chamber at the moment, travelled with me on Friday, 31 March, to the Cherbourg mission after visiting Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am led to believe that Cherbourg is known as the show place of the Queensland Government’s missions. A lot of money has been spent there, and in my view the people of Cherbourg are quite contented with what has been done for them by the Queensland Government. Indeed I do not doubt their loyalty because over a period a great deal of guidance has been given to them and a great deal of money has been spent in their community, but one could hardly compare Cherbourg, a Europeanised community five kilometres from the sizable township of Murgon, nestling amongst a number of communities with some farmers and graziers- a community in which I found it impossible to distinguish any full-blood Aborigines- with Aurukun and Mornington Island with 80 per cent or more of their populations being full-blood Aborigines. To compare
Cherbourg, which as I say has developed in close proximity to Europeanised communities, with Aurukun and Mornington is nonsense.
There has been more capital expenditure at Cherbourg. The funding situation in relation to those missions is very interesting because I was unable to obtain information- that is, accurate information- concerning the funding of the reserves by the Queensland Government. A lump sum figure is included in its Budget but I understand that the breakdown of that figure is not available to the general public. It is a scandalous state of affairs that funds are included in the Budget but that the Government appears to be not accountable for the individual expenditure in each of the communities.
When we checked at Cherbourg, the show place of the State Government, we found that absenteeism from work was quite high. We checked at the sawmill, the joinery works, the sections where prefabricated homes are made, the pottery and the farm and found that absenteeism was high on that day.
There is a European policeman at Cherbourg; yet Murgon is only five kilometres away. The Church has requested repeatedly that a European policeman be provided for the Mornington Island community. Mornington Island is several hundred kilometres from the closest European settlement- quite isolated- and yet repeated requests for a European policeman to assist the Aboriginal policemen in the settlement have been refused.
– For seven years they have been after a white policeman.
– As the honourable member for Bowman reminded me, they have requested a European policeman for seven years. In the case of the Hopevale mission and the Bloomfield River mission, both of which are near Cooktown, the need is not so great because a European police sergeant and a European constable are located in Cooktown. In the case of Aurukun also the need is not so great because at Weipa members of the Queensland police force are stationed.
I found by questioning that at Cherbourg the people own no land of their own, but I detected interest by those people in the possibility of owning their own land. I asked the councillors at Cherbourg: ‘Do you not believe that your people would be better off if they owned their own plots of land, say 24 or 30 perch blocks, like other Australians?’ If those people owned their own blocks of land, in the future if they so desired they could sell their properties and live elsewhere. They would then have some funds to do that. I detected an interest in that proposal.
A number of complaints, particularly in relation to health, education and law enforcement, have been made by residents of Mornington Island and Aurukun. It is an indictment of the Queensland Government if those services have been lacking because the provision of health services, schools and teachers- that is, the education of the people in those communities- and law enforcement in those areas is entirely the responsibility of the Queensland Government. It seems to me that those communities have been deprived of adequate services in the past although it was evident to us that education at least was up to standard.
The visit to Mornington Island and the Aurukun reserve was interesting for the five of us who ventured there. In my view the Uniting Church in Australia and its predecessor, the Presbyterian church, have done an extremely good job with the Aborigines there. Let us not forget that for seven decades- in the case of Aurukun, from 1 904, and in the case of Mornington Island, from 1914- the Church has been operating for the good of those people. As far as I am concerned it has done a wonderful job in that time. In those seven decades governments, State and Federal, took little interest in the welfare of those people. One can understand their close affinity with the Church and their desire to have the Church continue to assist them towards selfmanagement of their affairs.
I shall conclude my remarks by referring to the Queensland Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement because I believe that the intrusion by this gentleman into the political arena is something that must be quite unique in Australian politics. I want to read for the House a section of a letter from the Director, Mr Killoran, to the Minister of the day- it was dated Tuesday, 19 October 1976- in introducing his annual report to State Parliament. Among other things he said:
The influence of the Christian Churches has in the past been an immense power for good within the Aboriginal community as a whole.
That was a nice comment in praise of the churches-
During the period of first contact when traditional Aboriginal people were experiencing immense trauma from a situation of violent social change, ministers of many religions provided for them a belief and ethic that filled the vacuum that had been created.
It is unfortunate to note that the zeal for pastoral care has, in many instances, been replaced by a philosophy of materialism and political bias. The result is proof of the simple statement that ‘man does not live by bread alone’, and this is instanced by a marked decline in the moral and physical standards of some communities.
That is a scathing attack on the churches- on the Uniting Church in particular because it was obviously directed at it. For a senior public servant to become deeply involved in political argument of this nature I think is scandalous.
-This Bill will come as a great shock not only to the Aboriginal people but also to the people of Australia generally. It leaves the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island dashed in the expectations that they have had built up through the media over recent weeks. The Opposition is very disturbed and disappointed about the inadequacy of the legislation which has no capacity to deal with the fundamental issue which gave rise to the dispute between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. Appropriately the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), in leading for the Opposition, has moved that this Bill be withdrawn.
This Bill, which obviously has been thrown together with impetuosity and indecent haste, is simply designed as a sop to people whose interest has been generated by the media rather than as an effective panacea for the problem with which the Aurukun and Mornington Island people are concerned. Of course the Bill should be withdrawn. It should be withdrawn and referred to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. If that were done, the move would certainly not be without precedent. That process was adopted by the Labor Government with the variety of legislation and great initiatives which characterised Labor administrations between 1972 and 1975.
As has been said, the National Aboriginal Conference is currently meeting in Canberra. It is most insistent that it should be given the opportunity to discuss this legislation. The National Aboriginal Conference, which was sitting yesterday when the Bill was in the process of preparation, was not consulted. It was fortuitous for some members of the Conference to have made a visit to Parliament House last night and to have gained the benefit of some information which was virtually leaked to them. They were told of the general subject matter but were hardly given the opportunity to examine the details of the Bill. We want to see the legislation referred to the National Aboriginal Conference in order to give the Conference dignity and proper recognition right from the innovative stage in which it finds itself now as it launches into a new area. The Government says that the Conference is to have responsibility and a real sense of dignity. It says that it is to be treated with respect rather than the maternalism and the indifference which characterised conservative governments’ attitudes to Aboriginal problems in the past.
We want this legislation withdrawn to take into account the suggestions of the NAC, people of the various reserves in Queensland and indeed in other States as this legislation, if it were found to be effective, could be emulated in and applied to other pans of the country. We want the legislation to provide for the acquisition of reserves existing at 3 1 March. We want the power vested in the relevant Aboriginal and Island communities. We want to give the Aboriginal people effective control of reserves. We want to ensure that they have a say about land rights. Two years ago to this month I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this question:
Are the terms of the Queensland Government’s Aurukun Associates Agreement Act such that Aboriginal people are cheated of royalties and deprived of ownership and customary use of their land? Has the Queensland Government infringed United Nations and International Labour Organisation conventions regarding the rights of indigenous people in respect of their traditional lands, particularly the right to be consulted? In what way is it intended to redress this situation?
The right honourable gentleman replied to me that he had no further answer to give other than the answer that he had given to a previous question asked by the then member for Parramatta. He said:
I will be writing to the Premier seeking additional information. My colleagues the Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will also be taking up with the appropriate Ministers the particular aspects that come within their responsibility.
He went on to talk about foreign investment and said:
Since the matter of foreign investment is also closely intertwined in this total situation there will also be discussions with the companies concerned to make sure that this Government’s foreign investment policy is maintained.
But two years have gone by. Apparently the companies and the Queensland Government have such regard for the foreign investment policy of this Government that they are prepared to surge ahead regardless with a $ 1,000m investment in bauxite utilisation. Of course the Federal Government has been ineffective in the two years that have since transpired.
This legislation is introduced in a FederalState atmosphere of rancour, animosity and bitter dissension. It provides further evidence of the division in and divided purpose of the Government parties and the lack of common objectives of the Liberal and National Country Parties at
State and Federal levels. The people in the parties are Jekylls and Hydes. They speak with different voices. They contradict one another. This Bill was conceived by an action of State Liberal-National Party intimidation. It was nurtured by inter-government distrust and jealousy. It was bora in an atmosphere of panic, desperation and expediency.
The Commonwealth-State on/off negotiation process over the future of Aurukun and Mornington Island has now totally broken down. We have a case now of irretrievable matrimonial breakdown between governments. The only marriage guidance counsellors appropriate to this case- the Aboriginal people- are being ignored. They should be consulted and listened to with respect to this situation. We have received telegrams from the NAC indicating that consultation is the very cornerstone of its claims and aspirations. Everything that has happened is the antithesis of the commitments that are made from time to time by the Government in respect of this consultative process. Paternalism is still the order of the day when the greatest controversy about Aboriginal affairs is dropped from the greatest height with the least possible notice. We are going backwards and not forward.
This Bill has not been the subject of consultation. The opportunity of consultation has not been given to the Government of Queensland or the Parliamentary Opposition. It is hard to imagine a Bill of this complexity and significance introduced as it was today going through all stages contrary to all the parliamentary traditions. Usually a week’s notice at least is given. I know that the Government expected to get the Bill through the Senate as well. For what purpose? It is a sop to the Aboriginal people. So we are just trying to present some public relations per se for the benefit of this benevolent Prime Minister who is suddenly seeking to appear to be concerned about Aboriginal welfare. Aboriginal communities and the Conference, as I have said, have also been ignored.
The issue that gave rise to this Bill was the question of mining on Aboriginal reserves. It is a matter that is the subject of the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act which was enacted by the Queensland Government in 1975. It involves on the one hand the Queensland Government and on the other an overseas consortium which is not answerable to the people of this country but which is intent on reaping out the resources of this country in a vandalistic way as quickly as it can for the purpose of repatriating dividends to overseas shareholders. This consortium is made up of the Tipperary Corporation, which has 40 per cent of the shares, Billiton Aluminium Australia, which has 40 per cent of the shares, and Aluminium Pechiney Holdings Pty Limited, which has 20 per cent of the shares. We know about the Aboriginal people’s attempt to have a say in these matters. It was not just a casual attempt. It took them right to the Privy Council. Why, we have such an anachronistic state of affairs in Queensland that we do not even have faith and trust in the Australiana that is represented by our own High Court. We had to see an issue concerning the indigenous people of this country dragged embarrassingly off to a high court of another land. That is as far as it has gone.
This agreement covers a mining lease of 1905 square kilometres, of which 1800 square kilometres is on land reserved for the benefit of the Aboriginal inhabitants. The proposal also involves the likely establishment of an alumina refinery and smelter with all its ramifications- all its roads, its ponds, its store houses, its heaps of mullock and all the rest of it. The consequences to the Aboriginal people are immeasurable. At stake is their culture, their social structure, their traditions, their environment, their sacred sites and their religion. Those things are the playthings of the Bjelke-Petersen and Fraser governments. We are not talking just about Aurukun and Mornington Island. We are also talking about the other reserves in QueenslandBamaga, Bloomfield River, Cherbourg, Edward River, Hopevale, Lockhart River, Palm Island, Yarrabah and so on. This precedent will affect all those places.
The Aurukun mining legislation was referred to an ombudsman in Queensland and he delivered a voluminous report after talking to the Aboriginal people. I do not have enough time to refer to it in other than a very cursory way. He said:
I now identify the main issues of contention and fears and, if necessary, make comment upon them . . .
The first heading in his report was entitled ‘Fear of Desecration of Sacred (Religious) Sites and Holy (Burial) Grounds ‘. He went on to say:
They remain unconvinced that the sites will be properly respected and protected.
He mentioned a lady, a Mrs Kawangka, whom he said: is intensely concerned that it is proposed to build a barrage across the Watson River in a position where the ground, to her, is holy because her people are buried there.
He then dealt with the fear of the alcohol problem. He said:
The Mission is presently free of liquor and the attendant miseries usually associated with drink. The responsible Aurukuns want to keep it this way.
He went on to deal with the protection of the environment and the restoration of mined land because the Aboriginal people talked to him about it. He said:
The Aurukuns expressed disappointment that the companies had not adequately consulted with them, especially upon the effect the proposed mining development would have upon the environment.
He also dealt with the protection of the Aurukun settlement, hunting and fishing rights and the honouring of agreements and the enforcement of the law. He said:
The nearest Queensland policeman is many miles and hours away and the people feel helpless against European intrusion, especially if there is a breaking of the la w.
It was a Labor Government which entered into agreements with four of the mainland States to enable the Commonwealth to exercise responsibility in regard to Aboriginal affairs. The State of Victoria was co-operative, as were the States of South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia. As a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I had something to do with the making of those agreements. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who has participated in this debate, is another former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He was able to enter into such agreements.
– Both disasters.
– The honourable member for Petrie should ask the Aboriginal people whether that era is regarded as disastrous. All that has happened since then has been a reckless breaking of promises in regard to Aboriginal affairs by the Government that succeeded the Whitlam Government, a cutting of the availability of finance and a slowing down of initiatives. There is no doubt in the minds of the Aboriginal people as to which government served them best. The former Labor Government negotiated successfully agreements with four of the States and was in the process of making a great impact on the Queensland situation as well. Let us remember that only Queensland remains unco-operative. It has a Premier who is as stinted, defiant and racist as Rhodesia’s Ian Smith.
This is the second occasion that a Commonwealth Government has had to make special laws in respect of Queensland. The first occasion, of course, was the passage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1973. This situation that has given rise to the introduction of this Bill is the discovery of bauxite at Aurukun. Queensland’s bauxite deposits can be considered in similar terms to the uranium deposits in the Northern Territory, the iron ore deposits at Yeelirie in Western Australia and the diamonds at Oombulgurri in the Kimberleys. Already some efforts have been made in those States to safeguard the situation of Aboriginals. We have to apply the same principles. We have to work together, setting politics aside if you like, to isolate BjelkePetersenism. That needs to be done. I believe that some of the speakers in this debate from the National Country Party and the Liberal Party could have been far more forthright and unambiguous in that regard. The Queensland Government has been intransigent in its attitude. In a nutshell the attitude of the Premier of Queensland is in union with that of the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, who said on 1 June 1 977 in connection with uranium mining at Yeelirie:
We could not agree to Aboriginal consent but only to consultation.
That simply means that the companies and the Government will talk to Aborigines but will not listen or, if they listen, will not take any notice. The Aboriginal communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island distrust the Queensland Government because they know that they will be sold down the river in relation to mining. They would rather have the guidance of the Uniting Church, which has managed Aurukun since 1 904 and Mornington Island since 1914. They want self-management with the Uniting Church giving practical assistance and the Commonwealth Government providing financial support. They need consultative assistance to the extent that they determine from time to time. I do not doubt that in their minds they hope to be totally independent of the Uniting Church and all the other do-gooders, if you like, as soon as it is possible to accomplish that. More than anything else they want an effective say over the use of their land- the land they have used for thousands of years.
Despite all the pretence and public relations, this Bill will not achieve that. In other words, the Aboriginal people have been sold short. This Bill is purely about those people and their community. It does not have the effect of giving them land rights. It has nothing to do with the land rights issue. The Bill is capable of conceding certain rights and prerogatives to communities established under the Queensland Aborigines Act of 1 97 1 . One wonders why the Government is so anxious to heap further indignity on that legislation, which is the subject of embarrassment for all Australians. The Queensland legislation is the most undignified and inhumane legislation relating to Aboriginals in operation in this country. Although there is much more to be said about this matter, I conclude by saying that much more has to be done if the aspirations of the people at Mornington Island and Aurukun in connection with the right to manage and run their own affairs effectively, based on the cornerstone of land ownership, are to be fulfilled. I am disappointed that more of my colleagues cannot speak on this matter. I believe that this legislation is going to be pigeon-holed off by being referred to the courts of this country and that the Parliament will lose an effective say on it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Hodges) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Everingham’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears-
Aboriginal Community’ means a community for Aborignes established, or deemed to have been established, under or by the Aborigines Act;
Aboriginal Reserve’ means any land that is a reserve for the purposes of the Aborigines Act;
Islander Community’ means a community for Islanders established, or deemed to have been established, under or by the Torres Strait Islanders Act;
Islander Reserve’ means any land that is a reserve for the purposes of the Torres Strait Islanders Act;
– I seek leave to move four amendments to this clause.
– I move:
In moving the amendments, I suggest to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), to the Government and to the Committee that it would be appropriate at this stage of the deliberations for the Minister to move that progress be reported, the amendments having been circulated and in the hands of honourable members. Although I am a new member of the Parliament I have had some experience in another parliament, and I am completely appalled at a process which introduces into the House a Bill that the Government has said pays regard to the wishes, the desires and the aspirations of the Aboriginal community to make their own decisions and to be involved in the important process of decision-making as citizens of that great Commonwealth. I am bound to say that the Aboriginal community and the members of the National Aboriginal Conference who have sat in the Parliament throughout the debate have indicated the degree of their interest and concern in this matter.
I wish to place my protest on record and to urge the Minister to consider what he is doing. He received today a telegram from the National Aboriginal Conference. What did that telegram ask the Government to do? It was the unanimous decision of the first conference of people representing the opinions and thoughts and feelings of the Aboriginal people -
– What did the telegram say?
– I will read it out for the benefit of the honourable member. I think it is important that Government members know what is in the telegram because it involves some very important matters of principle. The telegram states:
NAC unanimously moved this morning to request the Federal Government and the Parliament to delay passage of the Bill for the normal period of approximately one week so that the people of Mornington Island, Aurukun, the Uniting Church Queensland, the NAC can seek independent legal advice and make recommendations to overcome obvious inadequacies in the proposed legislation.
The motion was moved by the Queensland Chairman and seconded by Isaac Zingle representing Aurukun and Tony Assan representing Mornington Island.
– Can you vouch for this telegram?
– I can and I will. What concerns me, and I say this to the honourable member for Hindmarsh, is this: Has a more reasonable request ever been made to any parliament in the Commonwealth? I realise that the Aboriginal people do not carry quite the same weight with the Minister as does Mr Moyes and the representatives of IBM. They might not carry the same weight as people who contribute large amounts to the political funds of Government parties, but has a more legitimate request ever come before the Parliament? It is a plea to the Parliament and to the Minister, who less than three days ago was the sponsor of a function at which he told the members of the National Aboriginal Conference how delighted he was to have them here, how concerned he was that they should engage in deliberations and let him and the Government know what they wanted. If ever there was an exercise in political hypocrisy and political patronage it is this one. On Monday night the Minister acted as host at a function of the National Aboriginal Conference, but when every member of that Conference asks him to do nothing more than delay the passage of this legislation for one week to enable them to consider its implications, obtain their own legal advice and put whatever representations they feel can be put to him, this Government turns its back on that request.
– It can be done in the Senate. Why not?
– This request represents a plea to the honourable member, who has not been in the chamber all night. I condemn him for that. The Aboriginal people have sat here and listened to the argument. The honourable member has not. It is time that the Parliament and members of the Government made up their minds about this. Do they really regard this exercise as being one of trooping in through the door and putting up their hands, turning their backs on one of the most legitimate and proper requests ever to have come before a parliament? Is this an enormous demand? What the Aboriginal people are asking for is very simple. They are asking the Government to pause for one week. What is going to happen in the course of one week? The Premier of Queensland has said that he wants a cooling-off period. Presumably he is not doing anything.
– So there is no element of urgency?
– The Premier of Queensland, and the records are here, has said on public radio that as far as he is concerned there ought to be a cooling-off period. Interestingly enough, he has also said that there have been all sorts of telephone conversations and he is not very worried because everything will be all right in the end. There is no element of urgency, and the National Aboriginal Conference has said to the members of the House of Representatives: ‘We want you to pause. We want you to think. We want you to give us time so that we can get the benefit of our own independent legal assistance.’ I am not going to be a hypocrite. I know and the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) knows that he is going to vote against all these amendments. I am not going to waste my time putting legal arguments about a set of amendments that the honourable member knows he and every one of his colleagues will vote against.
– You are not going to try to persuade us?
-I am not going to try to persuade you. The honourable member is the chairman of an all-party parliamentary committee and he moves around Australia saying that he is concerned about the plight and the problems of the Aborigines. I accept his concern, but the real test for the honourable gentleman is this: This is not an improper request. It is a highly responsible and proper request from a group of Australian citizens whose future is being determined by this legislation. They have asked the Parliament and the Minister for a delay of one weekthat is all they have asked for- in order to get an independent assessment of the effect that this legislation will have on them and in order to make representations to the Minister. The Minister has not told this House what is wrong with that request. Honourable members opposite can talk until they are blue in the face about Aurukun and Mornington Island. They say on the one hand that they believe -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House I shall report progress.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to consider as a proper and honourable course available to this Parliament to have the Committee report progress in respect of this Bill in order that the members of the Aboriginal community who have had little time to consider its implications which vitally affect their future will be given time to give the Bill that consideration. I believe that that is the proper course. I do not know whether the Aborigines will accept our amendments or support the Government’s Bill. It may well be that they regard the Bill as entirely adequate. But it is wrong and hypocritical for the Committee to say that it is passing a Bill which will enable Aboriginal citizens to make decisions about their own future. It is silly for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to be saying that this Government is about to give Aborigines the right to make decisions about their own future when the first request that comes from their own body, the National Aboriginal Conference, of which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs thinks highly, is to give it some time so that it can deliberate on this legislation, make submissions if it feels the need to do so and come back to the Parliament on the matter.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am very disappointed that the time available for this Committee debate has been taken up with the discussion we have just heard from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). I am disappointed because some three weeks ago we were told that the Opposition would facilitate the passage of this sort of legislation with the utmost expedition because it was urgent, because it was considered to be urgent. It was argued that it would be urgent and that it would be necessary. Now when the legislation is before us and when it is necessary for it to be dealt with expeditiously, we have this provocative style of speaking which is unhelpful and which certainly will not contribute in any way to a worthwhile consideration of this important piece of legislation.
We have before us four amendments moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I have to take them on their face value. I do not have any appreciation of what he considers them to mean, yet I will be asked to vote on them. It is a charade because the honourable member puts me in the position of having to vote on these amendments having heard nothing of his reasons for considering them necessary. He may have made the point that this matter could not be considered because he has wasted his time -
– And ours.
-And ours too, yes, by discussing something that was argued and dealt with tonight by the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), perhaps far more effectively, if I may say so, than the matter was argued in the speech we have just heard from the honourable member.
– He just said it seven times.
– Yes, he said it several times. I would agree with that also.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! I ask the honourable member to ignore interjections and to address himself to the clause.
-The fact of the matter is that we proceeded to deal with that matter and it was voted upon. Now four amendments are before the Committee, each of them relating to important definition clauses. Unless one were able to sit down and contemplate what the meaning of the amendments may be, one would not know what the Opposition intends. As I understand it, the intention of denning Aboriginal communities and reserves, Islander communities and reserves as communities that on a particular date- 31 March 1 978- were communities for the purposes of the Act is to effect the acquisition of those sites, reserves or communities on that date. The problem is that if that is the intention of the Opposition, it is a very inadequate method, in legal terms, of endeavouring to acquire property. Provisions are included in the legislation to allow the proper Acts relating to the acquisition of land to be used in appropriate cases. But to use the provisions in this Bill in a general way to acquire, possibly acquire or to intend to acquire property without making provision for just terms and without considering any other legislation that may make provision for just terms puts at risk the carriage of this legislation. It puts it at a point where under challenge it can be declared to be invalid by a court. If that is the consequence of the amendment, I regard it as being poorly thought out and one which is not deserving of consideration by this Committee. We just cannot alford to have this legislation dealt with in this way and put at risk by endeavouring to acquire property without making provision for just terms. This is the nub of the matter.
I return to the point I made at the beginning: If this is the intention of the Opposition, as I believe it is from my reading of these amendments, it would have been worthy of the people that the honourable member says he is endeavouring to assist in this discussion at least to have advanced or endeavoured to advance the reasons for our considering it. On the face of the amendments, as I read them, there is no reason for them to be supported by the Committee or by the Government and good reasons why the Opposition ought to withdraw them and re-think its position on this question. The Opposition is putting this legislation at risk.
– I should like briefly to answer a couple of the points made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). He, like the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, has asked for a delay in the passage of this legislation for a week so that it might be considered further. I accept the point made by the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) that members of the Opposition, when debating a matter of public importance about a fortnight ago, said that they would facilitate legislation of this kind because of its urgency. I make this further point, and this is the fundamental reason that this legislation cannot be delayed: I was at Aurukun recently. I attended a private session of the Aboriginal council. The members of the council were all emphatic that they wanted the Commonwealth to step in straight away, without delay, to protect them and to prevent a takeover. Some 200 to 2S0 adults were in attendance at a public meeting. Many men and women spoke very eloquently about their desire for Commonwealth action. They said that they wanted no delay.
I remember vividly that, when addressing himself to this question, Mr Frank Yungaporta said: ‘We want you, the Minister, to go back to Canberra and to see that that legislation is passed through Parliament next week.’ That is, of course, this week. I know that if this legislation is delayed and if Frank Yungaporta, Donald Peinkinna and the other councillors of Aurukun knew that this Government had delayed the passage of the legislation and put their interests in jeopardy so that the Queensland Government could move in and take over administration, they would be absolutely devastated. Likewise, when I was at Mornington Island, a public meeting was held attended by some 150 to 200 people. They asked the Commonwealth to move immediately. They knew that legislation was being prepared and they asked me to see that it passed through Parliament without delay. When I informed them that I would be reporting to Cabinet last Monday and recommending that the legislation be introduced this week they said to me: ‘Mr Minister, see that it is introduced and see that it is passed through the Parliament this week.’ If that legislation is not passed through this Parliament this Government will have failed the people whom it said it would stand by.
I know that this legislation will do all that those people have asked. It will prevent any takeover by the State Government of the management of those two communities. That is what this legislation is designed to do and that is what it will do most effectively. Like the honourable member for Dundas, I was surprised not to hear any arguments why the Government should accept the amendments proposed by the Opposition. There are serious legal defects in the argument which, if allowed to be carried, would throw into jeopardy the constitutional validity of this legislation. I am not going to tell Opposition members how to do their legal homework but I can assure them that if the Committee carried this amendment without passing other amendments, the Bill would fail. I am certainly not going to be a party to that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
– I seek leave to move circulated amendments 5, 6, 7 and 8 together.
Let me explain briefly the purport of these amendments. I think there never was a piece of legislation with such a deceptive long title. The purpose of the Bill is to ‘empower’ Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, who live on reserves in Queensland, to manage and control their own affairs. There is very little in this Bill and certainly nothing in clause 5 about management or control. It might have been more effective perhaps to have called this Bill the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islanders (Commonwealth Ministerial Control) Bill because, whenever the question of the distribution of power is mentioned, one finds that the strength of the Aboriginal reserve councils is very small and the power of the Minister is very strong. Essentially in proposed clause 5, in which there are four subclauses, each of which the Opposition seeks to amend, the proposal is that where a council for an Aboriginal reserve or an Islander reserve requests the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to make a declaration or even where the Minister is satisfied that a substantial majority of the adult Islanders or Aborigines want the Commonwealth to take action, the Minister may take action. But the clause does not state when. The two points that are made in this series of four amendments which the Opposition has moved to clause 5 are, firstly, that in each case the action should be imperative rather than permissive. In other words: The Minister shall take action. Secondly, the amendments impose a time limit. The Opposition’s amendment states that the Minister shall, within 30 days after receiving the request, declare the reserve to be an Aboriginal reserve. The Bill says that the Minister may, by notice, declare the reserve to be an Aboriginal reserve to which this legislation will apply but when shall he do it? Will it be within a year of receiving notice, within five years, within the life of the Parliament, within a generation or until the Labor Party is next in office? How long will it be? It could be two and a half years.
The Opposition believes that, if the Government is doing what the Bill says, if it is empowering the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to have self-management- and that is the other word that appears in the short title of the Bill- it ought to make it possible for them to have that self-management. We believe that the only way they will have that self-management is to require the Minister, once he has received that request and once it has satisfied either of the criteria laid down in the Bill, to declare the reserve an Aboriginal reserve which he shall do within a reasonable time. It is extraordinary that the Minister has been telling us tonight that the Government cannot wait. The legislation must be passed through the House tonight. The Government cannot brook any delay. But when we look at the actual legislation and ask what are the time limits in the legislation, the Minister says that there are no time limits. There is absolutely no urgency. Once the Bill is passed there is no urgency about the action the Government will take. He says it can be done any old time. I think it is absolutely essential to make sure that the criterion of self-management which appears in the short title of the Bill but which appears nowhere else in the legislation be carried out.
We have been told that the Minister said a couple of weeks ago that the Opposition had indicated that the Bill had to be passed urgently without delay. That is true. We did say that a couple of weeks ago. But we never dreamt in our most censorious moment that we would be faced with such a shonky piece of legislation as has in fact been dished up to us.
– Or that Bjelke would backdown.
-Or, as my friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh points out, that the Premier of Queensland would back down. There have been several backings down over the whole history of this matter. First there was a backing down by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). It was the most extraordinary and craven back down since Henry IV went to Canossa. They backed down only to find that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had decided to take on his role of supremo. Once more, in his role as the great destroyer, the next person in his sights is the Premier of Queensland. I am not a believer in capital punishment but I think in this case I am prepared to make an exception for the Premier of Queensland. He is obviously marked out for destruction. It may well be that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may go down with him. There has been absolute supine weakness with the Government taking more positions than found in the Karma Sutra over the last couple of weeks. We have been told about the great urgency of this matter and we have heard about the consultations that took place. But did the Minister show the people at Aurukun the Bill? Of course he did not show them the Bill. He used that magic monosyllable ‘it’. They said: We want it passed’. But if they said to him: What is the ‘it’ that we want passed’, he simply clasped the draft legislation to his bosom and refused to show it to them. They did not know what was in the legislation, and the Opposition did not know what was in the legislation until 10 o’clock last night. That was the first opportunity we had to look at it.
It is a difficult, complex Bill in many ways, and it ill becomes the Government to act in this way, recognising the poor resources that Opposition members have in this Parliament compared with the enormous resources that Government members have in this place. The Government should recognise that this is not an evenly balanced Bill, that no effective power is given to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander councils but that a great deal of power is given to the Minister. Having seen the Minister’s form in the last couple of weeks, I think we are justified in expressing some anxiety as to how those important discretions are to be exercised. I make this appeal to the Minister: Instead of allowing for a clause which, in this form, enlarges his prerogatives and his discretion and makes the authority of the councils of the Aboriginal and Islander reserves very low indeed, he should do something to redress the balance.
– Are you a lawyer?
-I confess that that is correct. I appeal to the Minister at this late stage or when this legislation is passing between here and the other place to take into consideration that if the Bill is as urgent as he says and if, as he indicates, he intends to declare Aurukun and Mornington Island at the earliest opportunity, there is no reason why there should not be a time limit set in this clause. I ask the Minister to accept amendments Nos 5 to 8 which change the nature and the balance of forces in clause 5.
– These amendments are not acceptable to the Government. If the Opposition’s amendments were carried, the effect could well be to put a community in a most unenviable situation. We might conceivably have a situation in which, on a question of this kind, a council would not reflect the wishes of a substantial majority of the people. Yet the amendments would -
– Then it is a matter for your discretion.
-It is now, but it would not be under the amendments. The amendments would require the Minister to accept the decision of the council notwithstanding that, by some act of the majority of the people in the community, he knew it was not what they wanted. Furthermore, as my colleague the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) has pointed out, altering may’ to ‘shall’ and making it mandatory would not remove the requirement that the Minister must be satisfied in that situation that a substantial majority of the adult Aboriginals were in favour of it. By the amendments a matter of judgment would be required by the Minister before he had to act in a mandatory fashion. I point out that the Opposition by its amendments would be taking away from the community as a whole a most beneficial provision of this legislation.
Furthermore, a council for an Aboriginal reserve is a council constituted under the provisions of the Queensland legislation which provides that there is an election. What would happen, for example, if in the future the Queensland legislation were altered to provide not for an elected council but for an appointed council? In that event, by the Opposition’s amendments, the Minister would be required by way of mandatory act to do what that council asked him to do, irrespective of whether that council truly reflected the wishes of the people. I think that the Committee can see that the amendments moved by the Opposition would be quite detrimental to the interests of the community and would not be in its interests at all.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I seek leave to move amendments 9 to 16 as circulated, together with an additional amendment which I understand is in the hands of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Chair.
– The amendments relate to clauses 7, 9, 10, 12 and 15 and propose the addition of a new clause 12a. The relevant clauses read in part as follows:
In clause 10, omit sub-clauses (4) and (S), substitute the following sub-clauses:
Omit clause 12 and insert the following clause- 12 ( 1 ) no person not being an Aboriginal or Islander shall reside on or visit a reserve or community without the permission of the Council or by the consent of the Minister.
In the time remaining it is not possible to speak in any detail to all the amendments that are now before the Chair. I can say only that it has been the intention of the Opposition in moving these amendments to strengthen the Bill in order to give effect to the Government’s announced intention to strengthen the rights and the prerogatives of the Aboriginal people in determining their own future. It is perfectly clear from the statements so far made by the Minister that not only does he not seriously consider these amendments but also he has not even understood them. I suppose that he is in the same position as every other honourable member. The way in which this Bill has been treated by the Government and the way in which the amendments to very important legislation now have to be put in toto without any full debate or full consideration and without any argument of the real issues, condemns the Government and its approach to this whole matter. I believe that when what has occurred is understood by the Aboriginal communities they will condemn the Government for the way in which it has limited -
– We cannot help it if you cannot marshal your thoughts.
-If the honourable gentleman ever has a thought that is an original thought I will be delighted to sit down and listen to him. The fact is that he has been a party to a process, the result of which is that the Committee has not had any opportunity to consider adequately the amendments. The Opposition has not had an adequate opportunity to present its amendments. I do not ask the honourable gentlemen to understand them. They are probably too difficult and complex for him. At least I would like him to have had an opportunity to debate them. The only contribution that has been made by him and by the Minister to the other amendments indicates that, in the time that has been available to them, they have not been able to consider fully or to understand adequately our amendments, just as it has not been possible for the Committee to debate them fully.
Having regard to the importance of this issue, it seems to me that the course that has been adopted by the Government does it no credit at all. The course that has been adopted by the Minister does him no credit at all. The only arguments that have been advanced as to why we have to curtail our rights in this matter is that the Minister does not trust Bjelke-Petersen. That is what it comes down to.
– Give us your thoughts on the amendments. That is what we want to hear.
– The honourable gentleman will not be able to debate in any way that is at all effective the merits of the amendments simply because the Government itself has chosen a course which means that they cannot be considered fully by honourable members. What I am saying is that we have now put those amendments. There will be no time for me or any other member on the Opposition side to argue this case. The reason for that is that the Minister in charge of the legislation says that he does not trust Mr Bjelke-Petersen. We have to adopt this tactic because he does not know what the State coalition government and the gentlemen opposite who share that political philosophy will do. That is why the House has to curtail its rights and prerogatives. Mr Bjelke-Petersen is on record as saying that he is not worried about this legislation because of telephone conversations that have taken place between him and responsible Ministers. Basically this all comes down to a prearranged exercise designed to push this legislation through the Parliament as quickly as possible to limit any effective debate, in the hope that the Aboriginal people will not understand that the Minister was perfectly happy to make deals with Bjelke-Petersen less than a week ago. Mr Bjelke-Petersen says that the deals are still on. We are in the unfortunate situation that the Aboriginal people who might have come here in the hope of receiving some justice, compassion and understanding from this Government are really in a situation in which what they are being given is contained in a very limited exercise indeed. The rights of the Queensland Governmentwhich the Minister says he does not trust- to walk into their reserves and the rights of the Queensland Government to apply continued pressure upon the Aboriginal people in the reserves that are the subject of this debate can continue and will continue by virtue of the prearranged decisions that have been made by this Minister and his colleagues. All I can say is that the way in which this debate has been conducted is a shameful exercise compared with the way that parliaments ought to work. I apologise publicly to the Aboriginal people for the shameful way in which their interests have been sold down the drain as a result of the collusion of the Minister and his political colleagues in Queensland.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Ian Robinson)- In addition to the amendments previously circulated an amendment relating to clause 12 has now been circulated. The question is:
That amendments Nos. 9 to 16 together with the amendment to clause 12, which was recently circulated, be agreed to.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) said that he apologises publicly to the people who are present, for whom he has been performing and putting on a charade. That is why I rise to speak to this Bill and the amendments. The hypocrisy that has been exhibited here tonight by these people who are masters of it is absolutely appalling. I will now speak some truths for the Aboriginal people with whom I grew up. Many more black people than white people nursed me when I was a child. I accuse the majority of people sitting on the Australian Labor Party benches of being utterly racist. Let me explain that. It applies to the whole Bill -
– I rise to a point of order. I will not put up with that sort of abuse from the honourable member. He has used a description which is not only personally offensive but also I would suggest that it is unparliamentary. He used the word ‘racist’ to describe members of the Opposition, and I ask that he withdraw it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I ask the honourable member for Kennedy to moderate his comments. I call the honourable member for Kennedy.
– I rise to a point of order. I did not ask you, Mr Deputy Chairman, to request the honourable gentleman to moderate his language. I asked that you request him to withdraw it on the grounds that I find it personally offensive and I submit that it is also unparliamentary.
-I submit that I said that they were all mainly racist, and I have not identified any individuals.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports will recall that the honourable member for Kennedy used a generalisation. It is not appropriate that the remark be withdrawn in these circumstances. I call the honourable member for Kennedy.
-I am a gentle soul; I never try to offend anybody. I am like these people about whom we are speaking. I shall relate to the Committee one or two incidents that have occurred in this place. When I was shadow Minister for Northern Australia I sat at the table opposite a Minister of the Whitlam Government. On the adjournment- I ask the people in the galleries to note this well- a member of the Labor Party rose to speak on the Aboriginal question. The Ministerthe Labor Minister- said: ‘He is not going to waste bloody time again. There is not a vote in that mob. ‘ That is what the Aboriginals means to honourable members opposite. Certainly I am emotional. I have grown up among these people.
– You are telling lies.
– Am I telling lies? You prove it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will address the Chair. The House will come to order.
– Now let me say something that is far more personal. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is an exception to what I am about to say because he was gentleman enough to come across to me and apologise for what a member of his Party said to me. Every time I have said anything that was reputed to be offensiveI ask our Aboriginal friends here to note this- I have been subject to a sort of racist attitude. When members of the Australian Labor Party wanted to just prick my skin a little they would call me ‘camel driver’ or make some such comment. Do you know why they made those comments- because my skin is a little like yours.
So I have tolerated racism. Opposition members speak here with their mealy mouths. They have never lived among you; they know nothing about you; and yet they show this hypocritical attitude in relation to this Bill. They are a pack of hypocrites and the quicker it is known the better. I make exceptions; there are new members here who may have no part of that; but I have been subject to it time and again in the House. You and I share this persecution of racism. So remember that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Kennedy will address the Chair. He should direct his remarks to the amendments.
– I issue this challenge to the Leader of the Opposition, who was gentleman enough to come across and say: ‘I want no part of the comments that were made’. Bill Hayden came across and said that. I challenge him to say when any Government supporter has ever uttered one racist comment about any member of his Party. I challenge him to come forward and deliver the goods. Behind all this is a very fundamental principle- the principle of real concern for the Aboriginal people. One can have that concern only if he understands them and has lived among them. What on earth would the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and the honourable members for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) know about Aboriginals? They have never had a thing to do with them. I am sick and tired of their mealy-mouthed hypocrisy. Let us hear from them something that is a bit fair dinkum. That is the only principle I want to bring forward here tonight- a little bit of fair dinkumness, not a lot of mealy-mouthed hypocrisy. They have no concern for the Aboriginals. They never have and they are never likely to have. The Labor Minister said: ‘There are no more votes in it. What the hell are we wasting time for?’ Votes- that is all Aboriginals mean to the Labor Party.
– I do not want to join in the true confessions of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) concerning what people have said about me. I do not think we have to talk about the racist expressions of Government supporters; all we have to judge them by is their actions. Unfortunately I find myself totally discouraged by the legislation which is now before us. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) really ought to be ashamed of himself for coming here with this legislation formed on the basis of statements he has made and statements the Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser) has made in relation to undertakings not only to the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island but also to the Aboriginal people of Australia generally. Probably the most disturbing thing which the Minister had to say was that he believed that we ought to take some solace from the fact that in 1 973 an acceptable arrangement for the administration of Aboriginal affairs in Western Australia was entered into by the then Federal Government and the State Government. The Minister holds up the legislation as some sort of paragon which the rest of Australia ought to attempt to emulate.
I draw attention quickly to some of the shortcomings of that legislation. If the Minister is saying that the Queensland Government and other State governments ought to follow the procedures adopted by the Western Australian Government, he is inviting them to override the wishes of the local Aboriginal people on Aboriginal reserves. That is exactly what is happening in Western Australia. As a result of that arrangement, which was entered into in 1973 in very good faith by a Federal Labor government with a State Labor government, the absolute power for changing regulations under that Act resides with the State Government.
On the question of the entry into reserves, which is purported to be covered by the legislation before us, the Western Australian situation allows for certain classes of people to be allowed on to reserves. Among others allowed are those people who are prescribed in the regulations. Under those regulations it is possible for the Minister- in this case the State Minister for Community Welfare- to amend regulations of the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act to allow for all classes of people to go on to reserves with or without the consent of the local Aboriginal community. That Minister will be well known to the rest of Australia as the honourable member for Kimberley. His attitude on Aborigines is well known. If the honourable member for Kennedy really wants to know a racist all he has to do is look at the State member for Kimberley in the Legislative Assembly in Western Australia. Not only is he a racist by his acts but also he is a racist by his comments which are recorded in court documents. That Minister would like other States to emulate the regulations that exist in his State. That is the sort of thing which one presumes is contained in this legislation.
It is true that before amending any regulations the State Government is supposed to consult the Federal Minister, but we have only to look at the Federal Minister’s recent responses to questions to know that he is in absolute disarray and confusion in relation to the consultative process. Three weeks ago the Minister told me that he did not expect to be consulted because the matter is purely for the jurisdiction of the State Government. In answer to a question of mine a day or two ago the Minister said that that situation was not now correct. He said that he expected to be consulted by the State Government pursuant to an arrangement entered into under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act. If that is the state of liaison between a Liberal Federal government and a Liberal State governmentneither knows what the other is doing in relation to binding agreements which exist between them- how then can we have any confidence at all in the proposals which this Minister now brings before us?
In Western Australia the State Government, with or without the Federal Minister’s consent, is going to amend the regulations to allow mining companies to enter the Forrest River Reserve for the purposes of exploring for diamonds. This is not done in response to any intransigent attitude by the local Aboriginal community. The local Aboriginal community has said that it is quite happy for a subsidiary of Conzinc Rio-Tinto of Australia Ltd to enter into that reserve and prospect for diamonds. The local community has been happy to negotiate with CRA. The people have been happy with the assurances that CRA has been able to give them in relation to safeguarding the physical and social environment of that community. They are apprehensive about the proposal that two further mining companies should be allowed to explore on their reserves. One of those further companies, which already has a mining exploration permit, is a subsidiary of the De Beers Corporation of South Africa. It is little wonder that the people of Forest River are more than a little apprehensive about the prospect of having a subsidiary of that company with its particular track record floating around its reserve and treating the people with total disregard.
It is not as though the Aboriginal people are saying that there will be no mining under any circumstances. They are saying that if there is to be any mining on their reserve it will be under conditions and terms which are acceptable to that community. As proof of that there is an agreement which exists between the Forrest River people- the Oombulgurri people- and the CRA Co. in respect of those arrangements. However, that is not good enough for Charles Court. It is not good enough for Alan Ridge. They want to allow anyone who gets an exploration permit to enter into that reserve and do exactly what they like. Just because the Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning in Western Australia has taken the attitude that he, in issuing entry permits to reserves, ought to have regard for the view of the local people, just because the Commissioner does have regard for the local Aboriginal community, the State Government is moving to amend those regulations to over-ride not only the Commissioner for Aboriginal planning but also the local Aboriginal people. I find it more than a little worrying that the Minister is prepared to say in his second reading speech that the sort of thing that he is interested in developing throughout Australia is the situation which exists in Western Australia. If that is what he is trying to give us in this legislation I think we have a great deal to be worried about.
I want quickly to refer to sub-clause (2) of clause 9. Sub-clause ( 1 ) of that clause purports to set out certain arrangements which the local communities can enter into in relation to the provision of services. A whole list of services is detailed. Sub-clause (2) goes on to say that subclause ( 1 ) should not be construed as preventing other people from providing those services. What sort of a situation are we in if, on the one hand, we give an Aboriginal community the power to provide services for that community and then, on the other hand, turn around and say that this will prevent the Queensland Government or a mining company coming into that reserve and providing those self-same services?
What are we really trying to do if at the same time as we say we are providing for selfmanagement for these people and allowing them to provide these services for themselves we say we are not constraining the State Government from continuing to provide those services? What sort of a position are the local people in if they cannot provide the services unless the Federal Government supplies the finance when the Federal Minister has said in his second reading speech that he hopes that the State Government will continue to provide services in the normal way? He says that the funding for Aboriginal services in Queensland still goes through State departments. He says that there ought to be a system where State governments are not only encouraged to provide services for Aboriginal communities but also are funded to do so. This Bill does not prevent them from providing those services, so what sort of extra freedom and what sort of extra access to self-management do the local communities have as a result of this legislation? The legislation does not even say that the local communities can choose whether they provide services or whether the State Government continues to provide the services. It says that the State Government will not be prevented from continuing to provide the sorts of services which they provide at other Aboriginal reserves. That, surely, is the situation from which the people are trying to escape.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have been listening with interest to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) and to the statements and accusations he has made, especially about the Western Australian situation. The name of Alan Ridge was mentioned. He was accused of being a racist. I was interested to hear that because he was returned to the State Parliament in a re-run just after our Federal election. He bolted home. It seems absolutely incongruous to me that a person like that who is such a racist and represents an area such as the Kimberleys can get back into Parliament with the majority that he achieved. I think that this whole debate is getting way out of hand and that we have to get back to the substance of the matter.
I think the salient point was expressed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in his second reading speech when he said that the provisions of this legislation are all directed to ensuring that if the communities have chosen not to be administered by officials of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs they will not have official management foisted upon them. That is really the crux of the whole matter. I had the privilege last week of travelling with the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) and three honourable senators to Aurukun and Mornington Island to find out what was the situation. Most importantly, after that we went to the pick of the Aboriginal reserves, which allegedly is Cherbourg, and checked out the situation there.
I admit that there were conflicts between the opinions of the people of Aurukun and the people of Mornington Island. I really do not think any real comparison can be drawn between those settlements. It was pointed out very clearly to us by the people of Cherbourg that they would be quite willing to stay under State control. The situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island was the complete reverse. We spoke at two public meetings and we spoke to individual groups and people in stores and houses and not one of the people to whom any of the five of us spoke, and there must have been several hundred people at both settlements, said that he wanted anything different apart from being administered by the Uniting Church in Australia, as is the case at the moment, in co-operation with the Federal Government.
Obviously the situation in Queensland is a very vexed and complex situation, but at least the legislation that has been introduced into this chamber today has given those people that right. They also will have a right to change their minds. If they do not like the Uniting Church’s control and the Federal funding arrangements they have the opportunity under this legislation to change over and go under the control of the Queensland Government, if they must. I think it would be a very wise thing indeed if the people in those communities, whether they are under Commonwealth control or State Government control, were to continue to make a review of the situation and to determine what best suits them. I think the Minister has been very wise in ensuring in this piece of legislation that these people have a right to change their mind. That is one step forward for the Aboriginal people of Queensland in regard to sorting out their own affairs and pursuing a program of self-management. It seems to me to be a very great pity indeed that the people on these settlements have found themselves to be the meat in the sandwich in a political row when all they want to do is go about their own business in their own way. This legislation will help them to do exactly that.
– I want to discuss just a couple of points. The first relates to the Opposition’s amendment to clause 9 (2). We agree that all the services that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has suggested Aborigines should provide for themselves should be arranged by them. We agree with the substance of clause 9(2), but we have been prompted to move the amendment to clause 9 (2) because of the anxieties that the Minister himself has in this matter. Of course the State authorities should help to provide these services. But what will happen if they seek to provide these services in a way in which the Aborigines do not approve and the Minister does not approve? That is simply the reason why the Opposition proposes the inclusion in clause 9 (2 ) of the words ‘with the consent of the Minister’. After all, the Government has been motivated to take the action it is now taking because it has objected to the actions that the Queensland Government has taken. Because of the way in which subclause (2) is framed at the moment the Queensland Government still would be able to take such action. What would the Federal Government do then?
The Opposition is not trying to get at the Minister. We are not suggesting that we disapprove of the Queensland Government entering reserves and doing anything at all. Of course the Queensland Government should shoulder its responsibilities. But that is not the point of our amendment. It is simply that the Federal Government as well as, of course, the Aboriginal community should be happy that what is being done is what is required to be done in the fashion in which the Aborigines want it to be done. After all, the whole argument is about whether Aborigines should have the right to decide for themselves, not that they have to do it all themselves. I hope this is seen as a relatively minor amendment. It is not world shattering. It gives the Federal Government the final say if there is doubt about what the Queensland Government is doing.
The Opposition’s next amendment seeks to omit sub-clause (4) and sub-clause (5) of clause 10 and to substitute two other sub-clauses. As clause 10 stands the Minister can prevent any by-law ever getting anywhere simply by personally disapproving of it. I know that the present Minister is a reasonable and good Minister and that he is not likely to do that sort of thing. But, just to pick on the Government’s prejudices towards the Labor Party, what would be the position if it was in office and it was proposing the giving of this sort of power? Honourable members opposite should be honest with themselves. They would object to it. It is unreasonable to let a Minister acting on his own disallow a by-law. Surely what the Government is trying to say in this legislation is that if the Minister does not like a by-law- and he may well not like some by-laws -
– You just wanted me to accept the Opposition’s amendment to clause 9(2), but now you do not want me to have the power to consent to by-laws. How inconsistent can you be?
– Hang on. I am conceding to the Minister the right of approval. The Opposition’s amendment to clause 9 (2) does not take anything away from Aborigines. It will allow the Federal Government to be sure that what the Queensland Government is doing is acceptable to the Federal Government and presumably to the Aborigines. We are now talking about bylaws written or produced by the councils themselves. We are simply saying that it is unreasonable that a Minister acting on his own should be able to block them. We are not saying that the
Parliament should not be able to block them. We agree with that. Our amendment simply suggests that the by-laws will not be valid unless they are tabled in the Parliament. We have specified a time because, once again, delaying is in effect disallowing by not acting. That is unreasonable, too. Aborigines are entitled to know by virtue of a positive action taken by the Parliament. We are simply saying that once the Minister receives a by-law he should table it. If he disagrees with itthis is provided for already in clause 10 (4)- the Minister may move for its disallowance. As the Government has the numbers obviously that by-law will be disallowed and that would be the end of it. I am asking the Minister to consider the proposition that I put before, that if we were in office and we were putting forward this proposal I do not believe the honourable members opposite would agree to the proposition that the Minister should have the power on his own to refuse to accept a by-law. By all means if the Minister puts that by-law to the Parliament and the Parliament objects, it is bad luck for the councils, but they cannot have it.
The Opposition’s amendment to clause 10 proposes to omit sub-clause (9), which reads:
A by-law does not apply in relation to a person who is not an Aboriginal or an Islander.
Surely the Government is not serious about that. Aboriginal councils put forward all sorts of bylaws to control the behaviour of people on reserves but under this legislation a white man- a non-Aboriginal- can just walk onto a reserve and do what he likes. I cannot believe that is the intention of this provision. Surely what the Government is saying is that if Aborigines are to be allowed to control their reserves in their own way anyone who enters those reserves should be expected to abide by the by-laws. It does not matter what is the colour of his skin.
I want to deal now with the Opposition’s new amendment which has just been circulated. The Opposition proposes the deletion of clause 12 and the substitution of a new clause 12. Clause 12 as it is framed is a long, involved attempt to get around the capacity of the Queensland Government to prohibit people, Aborigines or Islanders, from going onto reserves. That is in essence what clause 12 says. It says that a council can override prohibitions by the Queensland Government by the issue of authorisations. We accept that. The Opposition’s new proposed clause 12 (2) reads:
No person being an Aboriginal or Islander will be prevented from residing on or visiting a reserve or community except by the decision of the Council and with the consent of the Minister.
In essence our proposed new sub-clause says all that the Government is saying in the numerous lines at the bottom of page 7 and the top of page 8 of the Bill. The Opposition’s amendment is a simpler statement, The reason for wording it in that way is that the clause as it is framed at the moment does not provide for Aborigines or the Islanders to control non-Aborigines and nonIslanders, hence the Opposition’s proposed new clause 12(1), which reads:
No person not being an Aboriginal or Islander shall reside on or visit a reserve or community without the permission of the Council or by the consent of the Minister.
The Opposition is not saying that no one should ever be allowed to enter reserves. We are not saying that a council can refuse anyone permission to enter reserves and just leave it at that. Councils may refuse permission but the Minister may think it is a good idea for someoone to enter reserves; so he gives approval. Because of the way in which the clause is framed at the moment the only power the legislation gives to Aborigines is the power to allow onto reserves Aborigines who have been prohibited from entering reserves by the Queensland Government. That acknowledges the power of the Queensland Government legislation.
Our amendment overcomes that situation and provides the Aboriginals with the same power the Commonwealth Government has provided in its legislation in fewer words. It seeks to add a power which the legislation has not given to the Aborigines. The Government has not allowed them any right to control non-Aborigines. We suggest that that is unreasonable and that they should be given that power. But, of course, they may have a particular prejudice- or goodness knows what- against a non-Aboriginal and they may want to exclude him or her unreasonably. Our amendment gives the Minister the power to override those unreasonable objections. For those reasons, I hope the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will seriously examine these amendments that I have touched upon. I cannot see that they in any way seriously challenge the essence of what the Government has put up in this legislation. The amendments try to clarify the position. The amendment moved in relation to clause 9 (2) simply seeks to ensure that the Government does not suffer the fate it has already suffered at the hands of the Queensland Government which has prompted this amendment.
I am suggesting that the power to make bylaws is reasonable and no Minister on his own should be able to declare them invalid. It should be a function of the Parliament itself. By-laws ought to apply to anyone. Finally, I suggest that the legislation should allow the Aborigines and Islanders the right to admit Aborigines and Islanders and the right to admit or exclude nonAborigines or Islanders.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) for being very thoughtful although not in every respect persuasive or accurate in the amendments that he has put forward. He has given a lesson tonight to one of the newer members of his side of the chamber because he has sparked our interest- a very healthy interest- in the amendments that have been moved. It is a lesson that I think ought to be well taken. The clauses that have been mentioned and those I will refer to include clause 9.
The Opposition has sought to amend subclause (2) to provide that the Minister- that is, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- will have to consent before any other body, authority or person other than a council provides any services relating to matters specified earlier in that provision. That includes housing, health, education and so on. One of the bodies that one might expect the Minister would have to consent to being involved in providing its services would be the Queensland Department of Education and, similarly, the Queensland health authorities. What is being suggested is that before the Queensland authorities which have proper functions to fulfil are able to provide those services they are expected to provide for Queenslanders, including Aboriginals, the consent of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be required. I cannot imagine any amendment or provision that would be more provocative than that in terms of the relationship between a State and the Commonwealth.
Further amendments have been moved to clause 12. I should like to state briefly that the proposed new clause 12a already is covered in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 and that provision would not be necessary. The amendments to clause 12, as I understand it, seek power that is already vested in councils under the Queensland Act.
– It is with reluctance that the Opposition relinquishes this debate in the Committee stage. Many Opposition members would have liked to speak in the debate. We find ourselves restricted -
– On both sides.
-If Government supporters also wish to speak, I assure the honourable gentleman who interjected that the Opposition would be very happy to accommodate the Government. We believe that the debate is being curtailed. We made an arrangement that we would conclude the debate on the second reading at a prescribed time, provided we could get an extension of the Committee stage to 1 1.30 p.m. We intend to honour that agreement. But, at the same time, we regret that there was not more time to debate this matter.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)The question is that the amendments be agreed to. Those of that opinion say Aye, to the contrary No, I think the Noes have it. Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The Committee will divide. Ring the bells.
The bells having been rung and Mr Giles proceeding to take the Chair -
– I rise to take a point of order. During a sitting of the House recently, you may recall, Mr Deputy Chairman, that I, by accident, was talking to a member on the Opposition side of the House. I was forced to vote where I was when the division was called. I was not allowed to move across the House and record my vote on the other side. I therefore ask for your ruling. Will you support Mr Speaker’s ruling which forced me to vote where I was or are you going to give discretion to the former Leader of the Opposition?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! I do not accept the point of order. The ruling from the chair is that I have not appointed tellers and I am about to do so. I appoint the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) tellers for the Ayes and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) tellers for the Noes.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- read a third time.
House adjourned at 1 1.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What was the starring establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Victoria at 1 October (a) 1972, (b) 1973, (c) 1974, (d) 1975, (e) 1976 and ( f) 1 977 as a result of the annual reviews in those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Victoria as at 1 October 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 is set out in the accompanying attachment.
Additional staffing establishment is also made available as required to provide for workload increases, and seasonal workload peaks occurring in individual offices, but records of these temporary allocations of staff are not available.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What was the staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Queensland at 1 October (a) 1972, (b) 1973, (c) 1974, (d) 1975, (e) 1976 and (f) 1 977 as a result of the annual reviews in those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Queensland as at 1 October 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 is set out in the accompanying attachment.
Additional staffing establishment is also made available as required to provide for workload increases, and seasonal workload peaks occurring in individual offices, but records of these temporary allocations of staff are not available.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What was the staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in South Australia at 1 October (a) 1972, fl>) 1973, (c) 1974, (d) 1975, (e) 1976 and ( 0 1 977 as a result of the annual reviews in those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in South Australia as at 1 October 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 is set out in the accompanying attachment.
Additional staffing establishment is also made available as required to provide for workload increases, and seasonal workload peaks occurring in individual offices, but records of these temporary allocations of staff are not available.
Commonwealth Employment Service: Staffing of Offices in Western Australia (Question No. 101)
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What was the staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Western Australia at 1 October (a) 1972, (b) 1973, (c) 1974, (d) 1975, (e) 1976 and (0 1977 as a result of the annual reviews in those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Western Australia as at I October 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 is set out in the accompanying attachment.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What was the staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Tasmania as at 1 October (a) 1972, (b) 1973, (c) 1974, (d) 1975, (e) 1976 and (f) 1977 as a result of the annual reviews in those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Tasmania as at 1 October 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 is set out in the accompanying attachment.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What was the staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Northern Territory at 1 October (a) 1972, (b) 1973, (c) 1974, (d) 1975, (e) 1976 and (f) 1977 as a result of the annual reviews in those years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The staffing establishment of each office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Northern Territory as at 1 October 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1 976 and 1 977 is set out in the accompanying attachment.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Has the Secretary-General of the United Nations been given every three months an up-dated list of the units on which Australia expects to be able to draw for United Nations peacekeeping purposes should Australia be requested to participate (Hansard, 4 November 1975, page 2774); if not, when was he last given such alist.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is that the last report was conveyed to the United Nations SecretaryGeneral in December 1975 covering the period from mid-December 1975 to mid-March 1976. In February1976 decided that the provision of these quarterly reports was no longer appropriate. Nevertheless this still leaves the Government free to respond to any future requests for Australian contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations, but without advance commitment.
United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (Question No. 121)
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon Notice, on 22 February 1978:
Will he bring up to date his answer on the performance of Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, signed on 20 June 1956 (Hansard, 22 March 1977, page 470).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia has not yet acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance. I have raised the question of accession with the Attorney-General who has the carriage of matters covered in the Convention.
I am informed that the Attorney-General’s Department is ascertaining what additional resources would be required to establish the Transmitting and Receiving Agencies as provided for in the Convention. The Agencies would assume responsibility for the day to day running of the scheme. I am further informed that the Attorney-General ‘s Department is proceeding with the preparation of regulations under Section 111 of the Family Law Act 1975 to enable performance of the Convention’s obligations in the event of Australian accession.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
– The answer to the three parts of the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Poland, Egypt, Hungary, Pakistan, Senegal, Bulgaria, Madagascar, Israel, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Austria, German Democratic Republic.
Australia has not approached any country with a view to negotiating a cultural agreement.
Objects from Pompeii.
The Chhau Dancers of Bengal
Indian poet Mr Jayanta Mahapatra.
Exhibition of Mediaeval Frescoes
Yugoslav Contemporary Art Exhibition
Cellist Walter Despalj
Treteau de Paris
Exhibition of West European Graphics from Soviet Collections
Exhibition of 1 8th and 1 9th Century Russian Graphics Master Puppeteer
Two Soviet ballet dancers to work with the Australian Ballet
Two Soviet dancers to work with Australian dance companies
Japanese Packaging Exhibition
Sodeisha Group Exhibition
Exhibition of Traditional Rugs from Fars
Exhibition of Venetian Paintings
Exhibition of Greek, Roman or Etruscan Antiquities
Old Italian Engravings
Exhibition of Naive Paintings
Exhibition of Paintings
Masterpieces of European An from Major Russian Collections
Additional negotiations of a preliminary nature are proceeding with Yugoslavia, U.S.S.R., India, Iran, Italy and Greece.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has initiated action on several of these including:
A proposed scheme to assist patients in remote areas without specialist medical facilities who are faced with the high costs of travel and accommodation when referred by general practitioners to specialists in the treatment of illness.
A Health Program Grant to the St John Ambulance Association to develop course material for use in a pilot program, in co-operation with the New South Wales Health Commission and my Department, designed to increase the self reliance of communities which do not have ready access to health services.
Under the Community Health Program, financial assistance has been made available to Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland for travel and accommodation of medical students who undertake part of their training in rural areas. In addition, I announced, in August 1 977, the introduction of an incentive allowance of $70 per week to be paid under the Family Medicine Program to medical graduates who choose to train as general practitioners in rural areas. Funds have also been made available under the Community Health Program to employ other health students during vacation periods. Some of these students were employed in country areas.
The integration of community health services with those of institutional services in rural areas is being encouraged through the Community Health Program, as are a number of other projects aimed at improving rural community health services within the limits of available funds. These projects include nursing posts and mobile staff to establish basic community health services in very remote areas and to serve small centres and outlying settlements and properties.
Funds have also been made available through the Hospitals Development Program to assist States in the upgrading of rural hospitals.
Lead Hazard (Question No. 147)
am asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What measures did the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend at its meeting on 24-25 November 1977 for the elimination of the lead hazard revealed in the Petroleum Royal Commission ‘s fifth report tabled on 16 November 1976. (Hansard, 8 December 1976, page 3468 and 3 November 1977, page 2865).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Because of the necessity to consider subsequent recommendations by other bodies such as the National Energy Advisory Committee, the National Health and Medical Research Council has not yet finalised its own recommendations.
The matter will be further discussed by Council in May and June of this year.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– In answer to the honourable member’s question, the following table shows the. local government areas in each State and Territory in which more than 100 certificates of Australian citizenship were conferred in 1977; the number of certificates conferred in these areas, and the total number of certificates conferred in each State or Territory:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Conference on International Economic Co-operation: Special Action Program (Question No. 212)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
this task. Civilian aircraft are hired because it is uneconomical and unsuitable to use highly sophisticated Service aircraft. At present the amount of flying involved in this type of training does not justify the purchase of a dedicated target towing aircraft for the Navy.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780405_reps_31_hor108/>.