31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant, Dr Jenkins, Mr Jull and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That Dover and Southport residents be charged the local telephone call rates for calls to Hobart as planned for other southern districts in the community access 80 program.
That we strongly deny that Dover and Southport residents are adequately serviced by centres south of Hobart.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that residents of Dover and Southport, Tasmania, be charged the local telephone call rate for calls to Hobart.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Goodluck.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJull.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 40 undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Igor Ogurtsov, who has been in imprisonment since 1967, is extremely ill; during the last year his health has deteriorated more than in the previous ten years, and if he is not released soon he will probably die in the concentration camp. Despite his catastrophically ill state he is forced to continue working as a fire-stoker, and is denied all access to doctors and medical help.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that representations be made to the government of the USSR for his immediate release, directly and via the United Nations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned as citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the immediate relatives of Mr Huot Ung (Australian Citizen) are refugees from Kampuchea, being held in Thailand refugee camps (viz Buriram and Mai Rut).
Names of relatives are, Heng Ung, Kong Ry Ung, Ngor Youn, Bun Nath You and Bun On You (all at Burirum). Hak Ung, Chuor Ung, Sing Kim Ung, Noren Ung, Kim Song Tan, and Sou Sarang Tan (all at Mai Rut).
That they live in fear of repatriation to Kampuchea and therefore fear for their lives.
Settlement in Australia will allow them the opportunity to start a new life as well as being a close knit family unit again.
The children will have a chance of obtaining an education in Australia and becoming useful members of this nation ‘s workforce.
Your petitioners therefore pray the abovenamed refugees be liberated from the said refugee camps and resettled in Australia as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
Their support for and endorsement of the National Women’s Advisory Council. We call on the government to continue to maintain the National Women ‘s Advisory Council and increase Federal Government support for its activities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
To the Right Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the sportsmen and women and citizens of Australia respectively showeth that:
Valuing the Olympic movement as an historic expression of all that is worthwhile in human endeavour and conscious of the important role competitive sport plays in maintaining health and the spirit of achievement in everyday life.
Honouring the high principles consistently pursued by the International Games Administration of keeping the movement free from religious, racial and political considerations.
Realising that the Olympic movement owes its resilience and very existence to the citizens of the nations from whom spring the participants in the contests and that the survival of this movement is the cherished hope of all communities.
We the undersigned sportsmen and women and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully pray that the Australian government do all in its power to ensure the participation of a full Australian contingent in the XXII Olympic Games to be held in Moscow, USSR, from 1 9 July to 3 August 1 980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens of NSW respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1 980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1 980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrO’Keefe.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) leaves Australia later today to visit France and India and to attend the 36th session of ESCAP- the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific- to be held in Bangkok. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) will act as Minister for Primary Industry until Mr Nixon’s return.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I will move:
That this House expresses its concern that the Government has clearly pursued policies designed to make impossible a bipartisan approach to the Australian condemnation of action by the USSR in invading and imposing its military dictatorship over Afghanistan.
The House considers the Government’s inconsistent approach to reprisals, bans and boycotts is nationally divisive.
The charge by the Deputy Prime Minister that athletes who compete in the Olympic Games will be supporting the USSR’s actions while insisting that trade should proceed as normal is divisive and unfair.
The continuing trade in strategically important commodities such as wool and rutile and the use of commercial USSR shipping is inconsistent-
-Order! I indicate to the honourable member for Corio that, on this occasion as on other occasions, I will not accept a motion which has within it the arguments as distinct from the proposition. I ask him to rephrase his motion. Are there any further notices?
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The notice is couched in exactly the same terms as other notices-
– Order! I have ruled. The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
– Which are on the Notice Paper.
– I warn the honourable member for Corio that if he continues to speak after I have ruled I will name him without further ado.
– I take a point of order. I ask that the honourable member for Corio be given an opportunity to re-move the motion with the offending phrase removed.
– It is not a question of a phrase. He will need to rephrase his motion. Having rephrased it he can then give the notice to the Clerk who will report it to the House.
- Mr Speaker, I have rephrased the notice. I ask for the call.
– I have ruled. The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. Are there any further notices?
- Mr Speaker, with your indulgence: If the honourable member is in a position to give his notice now, the Government is quite prepared to have the motion debated forthwith.
– I have ruled that the motion is not one that I will accept because it contains statements of argument, not the proposition. When the motion has been reframed it can be given to the Clerk. Are there any further notices? Are there any questions without notice?
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I rose when you called for notices. In view of the remarks of the Leader of the House, is there any means by which I can now give the notice that I wish to give?
– The honourable gentleman will need to reword his motion.
– I can reword it now.
– I will hear it.
-I give notice that at the next sitting I will move:
That this House expresses its concern that the Government has clearly pursued policies designed to make impossible a bipartisan approach to Australian condemnation of the actions of the USSR in invading and imposing its military dictatorship over Afghanistan.
-The Leader of the House would need to ask for leave to move to suspend so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the motion being dealt with forthwith.
Motion ( by Mr Viner )- by leave- proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Corio moving forthwith the motion of which he has given notice for the next sitting.
-There is no point of order. The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I have moved this motion because I believe it is time we considered seriously what is in fact going on in Australia and what is being presented to Australians as an attempt at a bipartisan approach on Afghanistan. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quite properly condemned the action of the Soviet Union in invading Afghanistan and creating tensions in the world which could only lead to a threat to international stability. However, having moved to that situation the Government then sought, and has continued since that time without interruption to seek, to convert that situation to its domestic political advantage within Australia in a quite unscrupulous and calculating manner. It has not sought, by any means which would normally be available or used by a government, to pursue policies whereby it can obtain a national approach- one supported by all persons in Australia- to an action that is condemned by all persons in Australia.
By this divisiveness, which is part of the make-up of the present Government and which is pursued persistently by the present Prime Minister- supported unscrupulously by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony)- the Government has bared itself to quite proper accusations of inconsistency, incoherence and impropriety. The Government has pursued these policies for domestic political gain. It has pursued, with almost contempt for the national good, the people of Afghanistan or the civil liberties of the people of the Soviet Union, policies for political gain in Australia. A boycott of the Olympic Games, as part of a total program against the Soviet Union, would have, and could have, validity. As a single, isolated expression it is very much akin to a pagan sacrifice of the youth of a country so that the elders can sit back in comfort and avoid the wrath of the gods. That is the Government’s approach. Only one group is to be sacrificed and it is to be a temporary sacrifice at that. Sixteen to 18 weeks hence the Olympic Games will have faded into obscurity, if they are held.
What course will be open to the Government then, if the Soviet Union is still expanding its operations in Afghanistan, which current events in that country indicate may well be the case? The Government has committed the obvious crime against any suggestion of a national approach of refusing to offer to the Opposition any form of official advice or consultation on this matter. In every other country, and in Australia, whenever there has been any suggestion of a threat to security or a situation in which the nation concerned should express a unified opinion, the opposition has been asked by the government to accept briefings so that the situation can be properly known to the opposition and it can support the government’s position on the basis of information which is available only to the government. But that is not the case with this Government. The Prime Minister would see that as giving the Opposition the chance to argue with some of his assertions- assertions which are based not on facts but on personal prejudices; assertions which the Government, in order to ensure that no uniform or unilateral motion could be passed by this Parliament, insisted be included in a resolution of this House.
Of what relevance is it, other than for domestic political consumption, to say that this is the greatest threat since the Second World War? The reality is that the Soviet Union is in Afghanistan. All members of the Parliament have condemned that action. But the Government insists on an expression of opinion, which apparently is not supported by its own security advice, being included in a resolution of this House not for the purpose of taking any positive action but to divide the Parliament and to prevent the motion from being passed unanimously. Domestic political advantage is the Government’s aim.
What does the Deputy Prime Minister do? To his eternal shame as an Australian and a man he stands up in Darwin and says: ‘Trade should go on as normal. We cannot afford to interfere with our trade. It would serve no useful purpose’. Let us get this matter into context. If he had said that and nothing else, no one would be arguing with him. What he then said was that any Australian athletes- men and women who have no political input and certainly do not wish to involve themselves in the activities of party politics- who participate in the Moscow Games will be expressing support for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That is what he said. There are no civil liberties for athletes. As far as the Deputy Prime Minister is concerned, it would not matter whether it would be effective or not in that case. The young men and women of Australia, who have made more sacrifices for the good name of their country and have done more for the good name of their country than anyone else in history, can be sacrificed and called traitors by an opportunist politician, but those who are involved in trade with the Soviet Union can continue it because a ban on trade would not be effective. The Olympic Games boycott will be effective only if the Russians decide to make it effective. If their political interests supersede their interests in the Olympic Games they will pursue those political interests; do not make any mistake about that.
This Government, unfortunately, is not prepared to give national leadership. It is not prepared to adopt an attitude whereby a unified Australian approach can be made to this problem. In the debate the other night on civil liberties in the Soviet Union we saw just how concerned the Government is about that situation. Not once in 15 minutes did the Deputy Prime Minister mention civil liberties in the Soviet Union. His whole speech referred to domestic Australian political issues for domestic Australian consumption. He is not interested in the Soviet Union, he is not interested in Afghanistan.
He is interested in preserving the comfortable existence of those people who profit from the Soviet Union while making the pagan sacrifice of Australia’s young people. This Government does not give a damn about the Soviet Union or Afghanistan. It is prepared to make the noises and the gestures; but, when it comes to taking concrete, positive action, this Government shrinks from that action. If it will cost one cent to one of its supporters it will not take the action. It will make no sacrifices, no real attempt to upset the Soviet Union.
The other day we had possibly the worst performance of hypocrisy by a collective government that has ever been before a nation. It was a token gesture. Russian ram buyers were excluded by Australia from a ram sale.
– Ten minutes to go.
-I make it 25 minutes. I repeat: That was a token gesture. Russian ram buyers were excluded from Australia. Big deal! The Government then indicated that it had authorised Dalgety Australia Ltd to act as agents for the Soviet Union at that ram sale. What is the difference? Its buyers were there. The Soviet Union had only to pay a commission to an Australian based or a British based firm. Apparently it is good and holy if you pay an Australian to bid for you but if you bid yourselves it is not holy. The rams will be exported. There will be no problems about that. It is trade as normal. There was no serious objective in that action; it was just a token gesture designed to look good. Authorisation has been given by the Government for grain sales to proceed as normal and for negotiations to be entered into on the forward sales of our wheat. What in fact does the Government expect the Australian people to think?
– Are you finished?
-No, I am having a drink of water. Unfortunately for some of us, we do not all have leather throats which can spout out meaningless words for ever. My throat is sensitive, as I am to national issues of importance.
In one of his remarks during his defence of the Government’s non-action in the trade areas in relation to the Soviet Union, the Deputy Prime Minister said that wool is not a strategic material. I am just old enough, and some Government members are old enough, to remember the Second World War. Australians were entreated daily to provide wool and sheep skins to the Soviet troops fighting against the nazis in the cold Soviet winter at the siege of Stalingrad. Wool was the most important war material supplied to the Russians by Australia. At great risk to young Australian lives and the lives of other people, wool supplies were sent to Russia as part of our war effort. Now the Deputy Prime Minister says that it is not a strategic material.
– There were no synthetics.
-I would have thought that most Australians would not agree that synthetics are a satisfactory substitute for sheep skins and wool in these circumstances. If the honourable member asserts that, I hope that he can get the agreement of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony). I doubt very much that he could afford to agree with it. The fact of the matter is that wool is one of the most important components in the support of an operational force during the winter in Afghanistan or the Asian regions of the Soviet Union. It is winter in those areas now and we are taking every opportunity to ensure that the supplies of wool that are necessary for the support of the Soviet Union’s armies are provided.
We are not acting as a serious nation pursuing a policy of condemnation of what we see as unwarranted and condemnable aggression. We are faced with a government which is unable to provide and incapable of providing real national leadership. It is incapable of national leadership because its own self-interests, its own domestic political interests, dominate completely the Government of Australia. It always thinks first of what is in its best political interests and what is in its party interests. Is it better to have a unanimous resolution of condemnation by the Australian Parliament on Afghanistan, or is it better to obtain some minor political advantage by insisting on the inclusion in that resolution of a phrase which is an assertion by the Prime Minister, which is not supported by his own security advice and which cannot be established as fact? Insisting on having that in the resolution is more important to the Government than a unanimous resolution in this Parliament. I doubt very much whether many Australians agree that this action is the worst threat to world peace since the Second World War and I doubt very much whether many Government members do either, but they stood in this House and voted for that assertion to be inserted in a resolution of this House with the sole object of ensuring that the unanimous support of the Australian Parliament could not be given.
In the past, when we had more responsible leadership in this Parliament- at that stage it was conservative leadership, I must say- when the Soviet Union’s actions against Czechoslovakia were raised in this House some degree of leadership of the nation was available to the Parliament. Consultation was had with the then Leader of the Opposition on the form of the resolution the Parliament should pass. That was national leadership. There was consultation about the form of the resolution to ensure that this Parliament would express its opinion by unanimous consent, and it did so by having a strange division in which no one voted for the noes. There was a unanimous resolution of this Parliament. That could have been achieved last Thursday if the Government of Australia had been more concerned about Afghanistan, and if the Prime Minister had been less concerned about his own personal aggrandisement and more concerned about the people of Afghanistan and the need for an expression of national unity on a matter which is of such imminent importance and on which there was such broad agreement. But there was no such thing. The little tricksters want to win political points. They are not national leaders or statesmen. They like to pose as such.
This Parliament is in this situation because the domination of numbers enables the furtherance of party political interests rather than national interests. In this situation national leadership cannot be given by this House to a nation which desperately requires national leadership. The Parliament of Australia is divided, ill-led and incapable of reaching a unanimous conclusion, on a matter on which the membership of this House is unanimous, because of the pettiness, small mindedness and political opportunism of a government which is incapable of giving leadership to a nation. We are in a terrible position as a parliament.
Mr Speaker, I am sure that, given the opportunity, you could have given this House the standing and the status to which it is entitled. The Prime Minister could have asked that you confer with the Government and the Opposition to devise a form of words that could have been carried by this House unanimously condemning the invasion of Afghanistan This was not done, because the Government has an election coming up and feels that that is more important than the plight of the people in Afghanistan. Not many people opposite can be proud of the performance of this Government in this House. Mr Speaker, the nation needs national leadership. The attempts at petty party politics by the Government of Australia do not give that national leadership. My motion is an accurate reflection of the Government’s position and actions with respect to Australia at this time. It should be carried if the House is prepared to accept its responsibilities as a national parliament rather than as a voice for the ego of the Prime Minister.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Speaker. The Australian people would expect that on some occasions the Parliament would speak with one voice on their behalf. It would be a legitimate question for any citizen of this country to ask any member of this House why on this important question the Parliament has to carry on in the way it has carried on’ for five of the last six days- the only six days on which this Parliament has met for the last three months. Why is it that the Parliament cannot speak with one voice? What are the reasons behind the fact that there is such disruption in the House over the issue of Afghanistan? One would have to reply in all honesty that the only reason this Parliament cannot speak with one voice is the dishonesty of the Prime Minister of this country, the right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser); and we can go through these points one by one.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. I indicate to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that I will not accept the unparliamentary language that he has used. I ask him to withdraw and not to use it again.
-I withdraw. If the Prime Minister’s actions since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan come under scrutiny we find that there have been a number of decisions which quite legitimately would be rejected by the majority of people in this country. Let us look at them. In the last two days the Prime Minister has decided on a new tactic: He will not answer questions in the Parliament unless they are asked by supporters of the Government and unless he has given the questions to the members to ask. He will not speak in debate. The Prime Minister has decided to reject the Westminster system of prime ministerial responsibility in the Parliament.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Port Adelaide made the point that the Prime Minister refused to answer questions. That is not correct. The Westminster system quite clearly lays down that the Minister responsible for a portfolio is the Minister to answer the question.
-There is no point of order.
– Even that golliwog should know that.
-I warn the honourable member for Bendigo that if he continues speaking after I have asked him to resume his seat I will have to deal with him under the Standing Orders.
– I apologise, Mr Speaker.
-The tactic adopted by the Prime Minister of this country is to run away from the scrutiny which is brought to bear in this Parliament, to try to intimidate those who want to interview him on radio and television and to try to get his story out where he cannot be subjected to the questioning to which he will be subjected by the Opposition in this Parliament. Nothing has been more untruthful than the characteristics shown by this Prime Minister and by this Government since the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
The Russian invasion of Afghanistan took place two years ago. All the evidence that this Prime Minister could have got from his Foreign Affairs Department and from all the security advisers in this country would have shown that between 6,000 and 8,000 Russian advisers and military personnel have been in Afghanistan for two years. This Government said not one word, this Government took not one action, against the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan over the last two years. But it has become a popular notice. When the troops moved in at the end of last year, this Government saw an excuse to hold an election on the issue of Afghanistan. Not one supporter of this Government right around this chamber has ever mentioned the word Afghanistan’ in this House previously- not one. They have never mentioned the word ‘Afghanistan’ previously. But all of a sudden, on five of the last six days, that is all they can talk about.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member just said that there was nobody in this House -
– Has the honourable member for Holt got a point of order?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. The speaker from the front bench just said -
Honourable members interjecting-
– It is a very important point of order. I think it is only fair -
-The honourable gentleman has indicated to me from what he has already said that he wants to contest the statement. There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-This Government will do anything possible in this House to try to shut us up, but I have some news for it. The Prime Minister of this country is not going to intimidate the Opposition in the manner in which he is trying to intimidate people outside the Parliament. The Prime Minister will be brought to question on this issue of Afghanistan in this Parliament where he has to answer. The people of Australia are rejecting his leadership on this issue. As I said at the outset, let us examine how the Prime Minister has pursued bipartisanship on this matter as he told us on the television program Nationwide last night and on the radio program AM this morning. He said:
I have been pursuing bipartisanship. I have tried to get us to speak with one voice.
Can anybody name one thing that this Prime Minister has done that would invite bipartisanship? Let us have a look. Contrary to all the advice that he received from his own departments in this country, he jumped on his Boeing 707 aircraft and flew to the United States of America, West Germany, the United Kingdom and France. He did that against all the advice that he was given in Australia. He did not talk to the Opposition about the wisdom of taking such a course and he ignored the fact that we are not a super power. He took off and ridiculed this country by the performance he put on in those countries. That was the first action taken by the Prime Minister.
On that trip he made some statements to the Press which are not accepted by the Opposition. We do not accept that world war could have broken out in three days. We do not accept that the Americans told the prime ministerial party that they were prepared to use nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf. We do not accept that Helmut Schmidt, the Chancellor of West Germany, asked the Prime Minister to return to speak to President Carter. All those things are lies. They have been hammered out time and time again. This is not pursuit of bipartisanship.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member has deliberately and repeatedly flouted your earlier ruling not to use words such as ‘dishonesty’. I ask for the words to be withdrawn.
– I was not referring to anyone.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member did not say -
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat. I am about to rule on that point. The honourable member for
Port Adelaide did not flout my ruling. He did not attribute to any person what he says are lies. Therefore, I cannot call for a withdrawal.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I submit to you that, very clearly, from the honourable member’s saying that the Opposition does not accept various statements that have been made he must be referring to statements made by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. He believes that those statements are lies. I submit to you that that carries a clear imputation against the Prime Minister and other honourable members of this House. That imputation ought to be withdrawn; otherwise the Opposition will use this as a device to get around the clear Standing Orders against unparliamentary conduct.
-I am unable to attribute any words of the honourable member for Port Adelaide to any person or limited group of persons. I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to avoid the use of unparliamentary–
– As I said, the Government will do anything to try to prevent us from speaking in this Parliament.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. A moment ago you asked my colleague the honourable member for Bendigo not to continue speaking while you were speaking to him. The honourable member for Port Adelaide is doing exactly the same thing, and I ask you to call him to order.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide should not speak when I am addressing him. I was indicating to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that he should avoid the use of unparliamentary words, and then the interruptions would not occur.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order with respect to the ruling you have just given concerning the honourable member for Port Adelaide. You indicated -
-I have so ruled. I will hear no more about it. The honourable member for Denison will resume his seat.
– The most important element in this whole debate is the Prime Minister- what he has done and said to pursue bipartisanship, and the way in which he is giving national leadership on this issue. Where is he? He is sitting down the end of the front bench so that he will not have to speak. He has put up a Minister who is going to leave Australia today and will not be taking part in the debates next week. The Prime Minister will be on channel 7, channel 9 or somewhere else tonight, but he will not get up here and answer the questions which the people of Australia are entitled to have answered.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), who is sitting at the table, put out a Press release last Thursday when we asked a question about the wool from Nareen. He said: ‘It is a horse laugh because everybody in the district of Nareen brands their wool ‘Nareen’.’ As an old shearer, I can tell him a few things about the branding of wool. No two properties brand their wool the same, and if the Minister for Primary Industry does not understand how wool is branded let me explain to him what is done in the district of Nareen. This may be of interest to you, and you can chase it up. You should know that if they put you in a bale that is strictly branded ‘Nareen’, comrade, you are going to finish up in Leningrad.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will not address any member of the House directly.
-The only wool that is strictly branded ‘Nareen’ comes from the property of J. M. Fraser. The wool which was sold between July of last year and the end of June this year and which is branded ‘Nareen’ is going to that fine Russian city of Leningrad. That is where it is headed. If the Minister wants to take in Leningrad on his overseas trip next week he will be able to see and perhaps purchase some of that wool.
Yesterday one of my colleagues asked a question about the sale of rams. We heard today that the Chairman of Dalgety Australia Ltd, Sir William Vines, had said that the company had been embarrassed to discover that it was buying sheep for Russia. He said that none of the sheep, mostly prime stud stock, had left Australia and that it was now up to the Government to decide whether to issue export permits. What is the Government going to do? It has been asked to carry the responsibility for whether or not export permits are issued. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street), the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) are all cockies. What do honourable members think they are going to do? They will be issuing permits by the dozen. They are not going to do a thing that hurts their pockets. They will sacrifice all the kids and ban them from going to the Olympics. They will treat them in the cavalier fashion in which they treated the kids they sent to Vietnam. It will not hurt them. This alleged pursuit of bipartisanship is all self-interest. No such thought has entered the head of the Prime Minister. If it has, if he is serious about it, if he is trying to ensure that we speak with one voice, as the people of Australia would like us to speak, I call on the Prime Minister to sit at the table and take part in the debate. You are sitting down there in coward’s castle. You are not prepared to take part in the debate.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will not address any member directly. He will speak to the debate through the Chair. I ask him not to use words such as ‘coward’s castle’ in relation to any member of the House.
– That is where he was sitting; not the person, just the environment.
-I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw the reflection.
- Mr Speaker -
-I am dealing with the honourable member for Port Adelaide at the moment.
– Could I help with that in relation to something he said?
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat until I deal with the specific matter. I ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to withdraw the term that I find unparliamentary.
-Coward ‘s castle?
-AU right, I withdraw the fact that the Prime Minister is sitting in coward’s castle.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw. Will someone please explain, perhaps the Minister for Primary Industry -
- Mr Speaker -
-Does the right honourable gentleman have a point of order?
- Mr Speaker, I thought I might try to help the honourable gentleman for a moment. I thought the honourable gentleman would like to know that I will be participating in this debate. I also thought he would like to know that at least I will be dealing with the issues.
– Why take up my time telling us? Take up your own time. We have now drawn him in. I hope that all the senior Ministers, including all those who are making decisions on the basis of self-interest, take part in this debate.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I indicate to the House that the concerted noise which is coming from both sides of the House is unparliamentary. I feel that, if honourable members group together for that sort of noise, they themselves are submitting the Parliament to the condemnation of the nation. I ask honourable members not to do so. I can understand sporadic interjections. They are unparliamentary and outside the Standing Orders, but I can understand them. However, I think the Parliament ought not to permit itself to indulge in concerted noise of the kind we have experienced over the last two days and more especially this morning. I ask honourable members not to do so.
– For over a week now we have seen the Labor Party come into this Parliament and spend the whole of its time politicising the Afghanistan issue in a domestic way and trying to make personal and vindictive attacks upon the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), and I will prove the case. The real effect of the speech of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) was simply to show the hypocrisy with which this matter is being treated.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask that you require the Minister to withdraw the word ‘hypocrisy’.
-The Minister, like the honourable member for Port Adelaide, was not applying the word ‘hypocrisy’ to any identifiable individual and I will not require it to be withdrawn. But I will say to the Minister for Primary Industry what I said to the honourable member for Port Adelaide- namely, avoid its use.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Indeed, the Minister for Primary Industry said ‘the hypocrisy with which this member speaks’ when he was referring to the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
-He did not say that. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– He did indeed, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide came in here trying to rescue the terrible position into which the honourable member for Corio, who led the debate, had got the Parliament. The debate started off with a motion that demonstrated that the Australian Labor Party has not even got its act together. If one looks at the motion as it was presented in the first place and then looks at it as it was finally presented, it is quite clear that the ALP did not even expect the debate to be called on.
Let us deal with the issues as they come. The honourable member for Port Adelaide made the claim that there is something hypocritical about the way in which this Government is treating this issue. What would the ALP do on the issue? What would it do on Afghanistan? What would it do on trade? What would it do on the Olympics? The fact is that the honourable member for Corio did not add one iota, one jot of news or one policy point to the debate that has gone on thus far. The honourable member for Port Adelaide made it worse. The honourable member for Port Adelaide had this to say about trade- and this comes out of Hansard:
We on this side of the House will not be so glib as to say that we could have a trade boycott. We have not said it. It would be ridiculous.
Yet the honourable member for Port Adelaide gets up in this House and tries to appeal to the Australian people and make out a case that there is something unfair about the Government’s approach to this issue while claiming that there is nothing unfair about the ALP’s approach to this issue. The fact is that the Government has been consistent in its approach to the trade issues right from day one. It has taken measured steps on this issue, consistent with other governments around the world, from the time the Prime Minister left the country.
Let me put this matter in its proper context. The situation is that the Prime Minister of Australia went to various countries on the Afghanistan issue. He visited America, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Without question he was able to contribute a lot to the way the Western world is thinking on the Afghanistan issue and the seriousness of the issue. Indeed, that is even supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). He has no difference at all with the Prime Minister over what the Prime Minister is doing. ‘In this Parliament’, the Leader of the Opposition said/there is no significant difference in attitude towards the Soviet actions in Afghanistan’. Let us not have the humbug that has been going on in this House for the last three days. Let us not degenerate the Parliament any further. Let us try to get a reasonable standard of debate and let us get rid of the personality clashes that have been occurring over the past few days.
I have been amazed and staggered at the personal and vindictive attack on the Prime Minister over the past two or three days. There are several reasons for it. The Leader of the Opposition has been the central part of this attack. I was delighted to hear the Leader of the Opposition say to Huw Evans on the program PM last night that he does not normally take part in these personal attacks and that Huw Evans would recognise that this was so from his record. Later in the same PM program I was delighted to hear also an interview between John Laws and the Leader of the Opposition in which the Leader of the Opposition said that John Laws was a man of intellectual pretension and pomposity and, in typical fashion, would probably take his marbles and go home and sulk. For a man who claims that he does not join in personal and vindictive attacks, last night ‘sPM program was a perfect demonstration! In the last two or three days we have seen in this Parliament a continuing harping and carping attack on the Prime Minister, in relation to both his credibility and his integrity.
I want to make one point clear, one about which there should be no mistake. When we do go to the people of Australia- not the noisy minority for which the honourable member for Port Adelaide might think he is speaking- the silent majority will record their vote in the same way as they did in 1975 and 1977. After three years of Labor government they were satisfied that the Labor Party does not produce the type of government that this country wants. The Labor Government lacked the sort of character and integrity that was required of an Australian government. It does not matter what the honourable member for Port Adelaide or anybody else says; the fact is that when we go to the polls at the end of this year the people will respond.
I suspect that there is a second reason for these continuous personal attacks on the Prime Minister. It comes from the public relations document of the Australian Labor Party. This is what it has to say:
The Party should choose a small number of themes for constant repetition.
The more colloquial the small catchy phrases the more simplistic they are made the more effective they will be.
In other words, call the Prime Minister a liar long enough and that will stick in the minds of the people. That is the great hope of the Opposition. Central to that is the Leader of the Opposition himself. No more disgraceful performance has been seen in this Parliament than the totally hysterical speech made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition. If anybody is losing his marbles it is the Leader of the Opposition. All I can do for the Leader of the Opposition is to give him the advice that I gave him a couple of years ago:
Take another pill, Bill. It might do you some good’. That is the reality of the situation. The ALP public relations document continues:
The swinging voters are selfish, ignorant and depressed. They know nothing virtually of Hayden. We must give Hayden some profile.
Those are great words. What does the Leader of the Opposition do? In order to get some profile he continues his personal vindictive attack upon the Prime Minister.
– I take a point of order. Earlier in the debate a point of order was taken and upheld on the basis that the speaker must speak to the motion. A complaint from the Government side, in fact, was made against speakers on this side for allegedly not speaking to the motion. The interview of the Leader of the Opposition with John Laws, what he does with his marbles or whatever else has been introduced into this debate, has absolutely nothing to do with the motion before the Chair.
– What the Minister is saying is relevant. The question is whether actions of the Government have prevented a unanimous approach being taken, and the honourable gentleman is explaining his side of the case.
– Let me turn directly to the question of a bipartisan approach to this issue. The Prime Minister went overseas, came back and made a report to this nation. The Leader of the Opposition apparently was quite happy at that point to accept in good faith all of the exchanges that had occurred. In this House he made the point that he accepted what the Prime Minister had been saying in respect of Afghanistan. He stated:
In this Parliament there is no significant difference in attitude towards the Soviet actions in Afghanistan . . .
That is where we started off. Then, all of a sudden, the debate turned. The only reason it turned was that the Australian Labor Party changed its approach on Afghanistan. Because of the apologists for the Soviets sitting behind the Opposition front bench, the ALP changed its attitude towards the trade issue- for no stated reasonand changed its attitude to the Olympic Games. In regard to trade the Leader of the Opposition, in common with the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) stated: . . no point in empty gestures or in counterproductive measures that damage Australia or disadvantage our national interest more than they do the Soviet Union.
That was the starting point for the Leader of the Opposition. In other words, he was accepting the fact that the measured steps taken by this Government on trade, which were consistent and consistent with those taken by other countriesthat after all is the issue- were appropriate and satisfactory. That is where the Leader of the Opposition started out. In regard to the Olympic Games he started out in a similar position. He said:
An effective boycott of the Moscow Games undoubtedly would be a major psychological weapon deployed against the Soviet Union.
What caused the change on these issues of great moment? It was only one thing. The back bench, the left wingers, of the Labor Party started to screw down the front bench and say: ‘We cannot go in hard against the Soviet Union like this; it is not appropriate for our Party’. The left wing started to control what was being said and proposed. As a result, there is no consistent policy on the part of the Australian Labor Party on the Afghanistan issue. Nobody can pick up a document and say: ‘This is the policy of the ALP. This is what we would do if we were in government’. No Australian citizen can turn to such a document and find a recognisable policy on the part of the ALP.
One has to wonder why it is that the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party turned away from a bipartisan approach. I will give honourable members the reason. They will recall that in Adelaide the Leader of the Opposition was able to beat his great rival, Bob Hawke, on an issue relating to wages and salaries. The way in which he did it was by getting left wing support. Without question, he made a deal with the left wing. While Mr Hawke was away at lunch he made a deal with the left wing and stabbed Bob Hawke in the back. The Leader of the Opposition has a second problem facing him tomorrow, Friday. He wants to intervene in Queensland. How will he do that? He will get the left wing to help him beat Mr Casey who is, I understand, a good, moderate right winger.
- Mr Speaker, I raise another point of order. We have before us a motion dealing with Afghanistan, but the one thing that the honourable member will not discuss is Afghanistan. He has spent the whole of the last few minutes talking about Bob Hawke ‘s back, about someone up in Queensland, about Mr Hayden ‘s marbles or something else. Why does he not talk about Afghanistan?
-The honourable member has made his point of order. The debate is not about Afghanistan. It is about whether there has been an obstruction to a uniform approach. The Minister for Primary Industry is arguing that the reasons are to be found in the matters that he is stating.
– The issues are clear. We started out with a bipartisan approach on Afghanistan. The left wing gained control of the ALP and turned the ALP against the bipartisan approach on Afghanistan. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who looks as though he is going to follow me in this debate, thought so much of Afghanistan that he said that nobody knows where it is and asked who would want it anyway. That callous sort of approach was taken by the honourable member for Blaxland.
The Australian Labor Party turned away on trade. Why did it turn away on trade? Nobody knows why. It started off with a consistent bipartisan approach with the Government on trade. It turned away from the boycott of the Olympics. It had a consistent approach on the Olympics and it turned away on that. Why did the ALP turn away on all of these issues? Because it wanted to politicise this issue. It realised that the Government was being seen, in accordance with the stand taken by a number of Western nations, to have an appropriate and measured control of the situation and appropriate policies for the situation. So it had to turn away and politicise the issue. It has done this by continuous personal and vindictive attacks on the Prime Minister, trying to drag down his integrity. The motion which has been moved by the Opposition is hard to understand because parts of it have been scratched out. Let me put it in order by moving an amendment. I move:
-No attempt whatsoever has been made by the Government to reach a position of bipartisanship on this issue. Just a cursory examination of Hansard of last week would demonstrate that to any casual observer. If one looks at the proposal advanced by the Government one will see that the Opposition was prepared to support every major clause other than the words ‘and as potentially the gravest threat to international peace’. The Opposition supported that part of the first clause which condemned the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union as a gross violation of the United Nations Charter and of Afghanistan’s non-aligned status. We supported the second clause, which noted that a significant majority of world opinion has viewed the invasion with grave concern. We supported the third clause, which called for the immediate unconditional and total withdrawal of Soviet troops.
The Opposition supported the fourth clause, which urged all independent-minded nations to take action separately or jointly against the Soviet Union. We supported the fifth clause, which urged the provision of humanitarian relief assistance. We supported every major clause, but not the line in the first clause about its being potentially the gravest threat .to international peace. The Government would not agree to go even that far to reach a compromise; yet it talks about bipartisanship. We sought by way of amendment to add to that motion certain innocuous clauses. One stated that we view with extreme concern the possibility that strategic arms limitation may be abandoned. The Government would not have that. Another urged the Government to recognise the serious problems which exist in Australia’s own region. The Government would not have that. Yet another called on the Government to take a diplomatic initiative directed at demilitarising Kampuchea.
What is exceptionable about those things? Why did the Government not reach a bipartisan agreement with the Opposition on the motion last week? Was the Opposition unreasonable? Of course it was not unreasonable. The Government wanted to keep this issue a private issue for itself and was determined to keep it a private issue for itself. What has brought on this matter now? Why has the Government come back to the subject of Afghanistan in this second parliamentary week in the way in which it has? The reason is the behaviour of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at Question Time this week when issues raised by us were responded to by him. What were they about? Four questions were on interest rates and one question was on liquefied petroleum gas. There was no upheaval in the Parliament, no vigorous debate. These were just straight questions asked of the Government. They rankled with the Prime Minister because he knows that he is vulnerable on the subject of interest rates as interest rates are going up and he knows that he is vulnerable on the subject of liquefied petroleum gas as his energy pricing policy is falling apart. The Government had to make an agreement with its back bench members not to raise those matters in this Parliament. It had to make an agreement not to raise them in the party room. When the issue was raised legitimately by the Opposition the Prime Minister came in with his mouth open like a great big mako shark and latched on to the issue. That is the reason.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw, Mr Speaker. That is the reason. The result of the exchange was an article in the Age the next day headed: Hayden Flays Fraser’. That was the response. That is now the response from the Opposition. The Bulletin carries an article headed: ‘Khaki Election Fades as an Election Winner’. What is worrying Mr J. M. Fraser is his own behaviour. He looked like a Prime Minister who was out of control here in the Parliament two days ago, and his back bench members knew it. He looked like death warmed up. He is a man out of control. He is a man losing ground. He is a man who is becoming erratic, obsessive and prepared to take desperate measures such as standing over journalists, threatening them and cajoling them. He is a man who will not be subject to the scrutiny of the Parliament, a man who will not answer questions. Yesterday he sat through Question Time and then gave a kerbside interview. Whenever we see him on television he is walking down the street with the cameras following. He will never have a Press conference. He will never sit down and be examined. He will not be examined in the Parliament. He sits in his office like -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will come back to the motion.
-I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That must be one of the most unfair remarks that I have ever heard from a Speaker in my 10 years here.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to relate his remarks to the motion.
– I just make the point that it is the Parliament which is the place in which to talk, to discuss and to question the Government. But the Prime Minister will not be questioned. Whenever he is attacked he sits listening like Keyhole Jack in his office. He listens to the intercom under the desk and is not game to come into the Parliament. There is no opportunity to question or scrutinise this man. He will not be subject to scrutiny. When the issues are raised, when he grievously misrepresents the motives of the Opposition, when he misquotes the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), my colleagues and me and brandishes the word ‘traitor’ and is called a liar, he complains. The next day is spent ringing editorialists, leader writers, journalists and proprietors to bring the whole media system down upon the Opposition to prop him up. We saw and heard his behaviour on Nationwide on national television last night and on AM this morning, trying to intimidate the journalists concerned, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a government body. The Government knows that the Chairman of the Pipeline Authority is the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is the pipeline authority for the Liberal Party. That is what the Prime Minister wants to make of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He is prepared to carry on with this demented, obsessive policy. Surely any commentator in Australia could see the demented, obsessive quality of this man. How can we expect any rational judgment from a Prime Minister who behaves like some sort of barnyard bully to every journalist and person who dares to scrutinise or look at his deeds? The truth is that the deeds do not match the rhetoric.
What do we finally get down to in relation to the response to the Soviet Union? When we look at page 13 of the Prime Minister’s statement last week, what do we see? The Government is going to stop the cultural exchanges. Well, they are going to be scared to death in the Kremlin when they read that! Think of all the culture that we were going to ship to them. They are going to be brokenhearted when they do not get that! And the cruise ships are to be knocked right out of the ring. That is really going to upset Soviet maritime policy! That is going to cause an extraordinary meeting of the Soviet Cabinet! The Government is going to stop ministerial visits. That is another great censure upon the Soviet Union! When we looked down the pathetic list of responses, we saw that the only response was the Olympic boycott. There were to be no trade embargoes, only purely and simply the Olympic boycott. The wool will go, the wheat will go, the minerals will go, but, more damningly the Prime Minister’s wool will go. He will take the roubles and run. He will say, as he said yesterday in that pathetic personal explanation, that the wool was sold before the invasion. The wool is still in Australia.
Senator Wheeldon raised the issue in the Senate on 1 9 September when he questioned the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). The Foreign Minister replied on 20 October that he was concerned about the Soviet build-up of troops in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister’s wool was sold in November. The process of the invasion started long before the Prime Minister sold any wool. The wool remains in Australia. Sir William Vines has at least had the decency to say that he is embarrassed about the fact that he is about to enter into commercial arrangements with the Soviet Government and that the Prime Minister and the Australian Government can make a decision on permits. At least Sir William Vines has the decency to be embarrassed. But one would not embarrass this lot on the front bench- these farmers. They will take money from anybody. When they had Australian boys fighting in Vietnam they were shipping wheat and wool to China. They are now prepared to ship wheat and wool to the Soviet Union while they condemn its behaviour. We hear the rhetoric, yet the Prime Minister sold his wool. How any self-respecting leader of a government and of a nation can be so involved as to have his own material, his own commerce, at issue in this matter when trying to urge upon the nation a boycott of its young athletes is unbelievable.
Let the Judas tell us how many pieces of silver he will get. Let him say. Let him table his dealings and show us when the wool was sold and to whom it was sold. My colleague mentioned the markings. The following are the markings on wool coming out of Nareen: A. Neeson, whose brand is N /Nareen; E. Neeson, whose brand is JFN/Nareen; P. Cox, whose brand is PC/Nareen; and J. M. Fraser whose brand is simply Nareen. He should read it. It was his filthy wool that was sold. He is a phoney; he is a humbug. It was his wool which was sold and he knows it. He sits there and he cajoles this nation through the Press and he smears us. When we are prepared to carry his motion with a few words changed, he says that we were not prepared to have bipartisanship. Did he offer my leader any advice from the Office of National Assessments? Of course he did not. Then he had the hide to say on radio yesterday that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) had never sought advice. Why was the advice not tendered? The Leader of the Opposition does not know when advice is coming through. Why did the Prime Minister not tender it? He did not tender it because he wanted to keep the issue private. But now it is exploding in the Government’s face. Scratch an Australian and we will find an athlete underneath. The athletes want to be in Moscow. They want to see us in Moscow in July and they are entitled to see us in Moscow in July.
Getting back to this pathetic embargo, let us look at the shipping schedules. This is today’s shipping schedule:
Bunbury to one port Soviet-Black Sea 20,000 long tonnes of alumina offers from March and April.
The following appears in the London Financial Times:
Soviet charters have entered into the London freight market looking for 250 to SO thousand tonnes for grain charter from Australia.
What a disgrace this Government is! Trade of this magnitude is going on. Why is it going on? The Government said from the outset that a trade embargo could not be effective. It would have been easier to get an effective trade embargo than to get an embargo on the Olympic Games. The Government is prepared to try for an embargo on the Olympic Games but it is not prepared to try for an embargo on trade. The Opposition’s position has been completely consistent. We said that we would try for an effective trade embargo, but the Government will not put its rural constituency at risk because the farming institutions around this country know what the impact would be. They are not prepared to put their ideologies before their pockets. If the Soviet Union ever said that it was withdrawing from the wool sales and the grain sales Government members would die a death; their colleagues in the countryside would tear them to pieces for their behaviour. The Government has been found wanting by this nation. It is not prepared to put its own political considerations at risk, but, more importantly, it is not prepared to put the pockets of its members at risk. That the head of government can have a bale of wool stamped with his brand sitting on a Melbourne wharf and bound for the Soviet Union is, as far as I am concerned, an act of high hypocrisy which has never been seen or equalled in this country’s history. How the Prime Minister can with any selfrespect urge the nation’s journalists and writers to take seriously the Government’s attempt at bipartisanship is frankly beyond me.
The greatest danger of the proposed Olympic boycott is that it will completely erode the impact of the United Nations vote of condemnation. Overwhelmingly the United Nations, the senior and supreme body of world opinion, voted to condemn the Soviet Union. Even some of the states in the Soviet orbit voted against it. That has just faded now. The test is not the condemnation by the United Nations, the test is about some boycott of the Olympic Games. The test is entirely subjective because the Montreal Olympics were boycotted by 34 nations and the Melbourne Olympics were boycotted by 23 nations. Any partial boycott will not be regarded as an effective boycott. If the Games go on the Russians will be seen to have been vindicated when they should stand condemned by the United Nations. The United Nations condemnation should be the main and supreme body of world opinion. Instead of that, this Government has put that United Nations condemnation vote at risk by its behaviour in relation to the Olympic boycott.
That is the Government’s contribution to the Soviet debate. ‘Detente is dead’ said the Prime Minister, the old Cold War warrior. He is happy. But trade is not dead. Trade will go on. When we examine the rhetoric and match it with the deeds all we find is that again the young are to be sacrificed. They are the people who have no clout, the people the Government kicks around. The Governor-General had to spend his Australia Day message protecting the unemployed. These are the people who can be kicked around. The young could be kicked off to Vietnam and killed because they had no political clout. And again, the young athletes can be kicked around because they have no political clout. But try to kick around the wool growers, the wheat growers and the greedy Cabinet Ministers of the Fraser Government and one will find it is a much harder job. But, most of all, try to kick around the Prime Minister’s income and see just how hard that is. Quite obviously this Prime Minister will take his 30 pieces of silver. He will take the roubles and run and leave all Australians in the position of having a government with no integrity whatsoever in the face of this dreadful behaviour of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Quite obviously the motion deserves support. The amendment deserves no support whatsoever. Any fair-minded assessment of the Opposition’s proposed amendment to the Government’s principal motion on this issue a week ago will demonstrate that we were prepared to look at bipartisanship. The Government did not want bipartisanship; it wanted to keep this a private issue for itself. The Government is falling apart. Interest rates are the issue. Rising inflation, unemployment, petrol costs and health scheme costs are eating away at the Government. The Opposition is maintaining its position in the polls. The Afghanistan issue will fade. Despite the Prime Minister’s subversion of the media, despite his standover tactics of journalists, he will not succeed, and the domestic issues of Australia will be what people will judge the parties on at the next election.
– If there are people listening to the debate today and if there are people who have listened to the debates on this subject over the past week there are many out in the wider
Australian community who will indeed be wondering at what has happened to this place. Before us are issues of great and fundamental national importance, issues that go to the very survival in the longer term of this nation, issues that go to the very survival of the kind of world in which Australians can live and prosper. But what kind of debate do we have? What kind of personalities do we have introduced? I want to try to get back to the basis of the issues which ought to be before all honourable members in this House. I refer first to a statement I made to this House on I June 1976. 1 said:
We want to help diminish the dangers of war and conflict, to help others- as well as ourselves- to live in peace and prosperity, and to work towards an international environment which is favourable to these ends. There is a yearning in the world for peace and security. These must be the constant objectives of our policy.
In recent years, abroad as at home, lack of realism has inhibited Australia from the constructive role open to us. A government does a great disservice if it encourages acceptance by the people of an unrealistic view of the state of the world in which they live. At home, the costs of a lack of realism have become very apparent in the economic dislocation Australia has suffered. Abroad, unrealistic notions that an age of peace and stability had arrived encouraged a neglect of power realities- a neglect that did not serve our interests.
Further in the same statement I said:
These factors show that a nation does not have to face a threat of imminent invasion before it has grounds for concern at the international situation. From our own point of view the primary concern is an international environment which could progressively limit the capacities of Australia, her friends, and allies, to advance their interests and ideals, which reduces options, which almost imperceptibly weakens the capacity to pursue our interests and advance the cause of human dignity. . . as understood by people throughout the world, detente meant not merely the search for security from nuclear war, but a genuine overall relaxation of political and military tensions.
This referred not only to Europe but also beyond. The statement continued:
The Soviet Union has an immense responsibility before mankind- to use its power and influence to strengthen the fabric of international peace and security. It has an historic opportunity to use its position to help build a stable and humane international order and to end the arms build-up. It will be judged by the great majority of mankind against these standards.
The time has come to expect a sign from the USSR that it understands this and that it is serious about reaching global accommodation with the West. A tangible signal is required from the USSR in the form of a restraint in its military expansion. The pace is being set by the USSR, not by the US.
Mr Speaker, when that speech was given in 1976 there were many commentators throughout this nation who regarded it as a hard line, Cold War statement. As events have sadly proved, it was all too accurate. The Soviet Union gave us a sign, but not the sign we wanted, not the sign honourable people would have prayed for. Instead, it has caused trouble in South East Asia, in Africa through Cuban surrogates, in north-east Africa and now in south-west Asia. In all these circumstances it is the Soviet Union, not the United States and the United States’ friends, that has given cause for concern, for fear in many places, and for heightened tensions.
I think we need to understand why the invasion of Afghanistan is important. This was explained in my statement to the House, but let me repeat the fundamentals. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has invaded a nonaligned state, a member of the non-aligned movement and the Islamic Conference. The most powerful and largest land army in the world has moved for the first time outside what had been accepted as the Soviet bloc, the Soviet power grouping. That places the Soviet Union in the position potentially to exert pressure and influence, or even control, over the supplies of oil which are vital to countries such as Japan and European countries and which are of great importance to Australia and many other countries. That is a new element in Soviet moves that has not been present in previous crises. It is for that reason that we believe that this is potentially the most serious of all the crises since 1945.
The Soviets are moving in Africa, south-west Asia and South East Asia. Tensions in the Indian Ocean are heightened. Tensions in the Indian sub-continent, where there have been difficulties between states, are worse than they were. The strategic balance between the USSR and the United States is not in the favour of the United States and the United States’ friends. There is nuclear parity now, where before there was nuclear superiority by the United States, but there is conventional superiority by the Soviet Union which the United States is setting about to counter.
These are the great issues and the great consequences that affect our environment. They have not been mentioned by the Australian Labor Party, which is more concerned, regretfully, about personality politics than these fundamental issues that should be before all of us. We have wanted and we want a bipartisan policy on these particular matters because they are so important to the fundamental issues which should unite all Australians. I can only say that all Australians must be ashamed of their Parliament on this day- and must have been ashamed on earlier days- when they find their politicians and representatives arguing so bitterly about matters of such concern to this nation.
The charge that this situation has occurred because of this Government’s desire for domestic political gain is an absurdity. That is like saying that this Government was able to cause the invasion of Afghanistan. It is like saying that this Government was able to cause the vote of 104 nations of the United Nations- the majority of which are non-aligned- and also able to cause the vote of the Islamic Conference. Whatever powers this Government may have had, we do not pretend to that total influence and power that is implicit in the suggestion that this situation has been caused for domestic political gain. If theGovernment had received the support of the Opposition on these matters, as I believe it was entitled to receive, there certainly would have been no politics involved. There are no politics in this question, I understand, in the United States. There are no politics in it in the United Kingdom. There the Government and the Opposition understand the importance of the issues and broadly support the thrust of what is done.
Then we come to the Olympic Games, about which so much has already been said. Here we have the Leader of the Opposition and the Government both saying that, because .of what has happened, an effective boycott of the Olympic Games would be the most effective means of getting the message through to the Soviet Government and to the people of the Soviet Union. We all know that over the last two or three years the Olympic Games have been built up as a great social and political event, in the Soviet’s terms, which represents a mark of approval of its foreign policy. For two or three years the Soviet people have been told: ‘AH the nations of the world are coming to the Soviet Union to pay homage to us, the first socialist state in the world, as a mark of approval of us and of our foreign policies’. If the flags are absent and the benches are empty, that cannot be explained to the Soviet people. Then the mark of abhorrence, which we share with the Labor Party, would become evident.
The Leader of the Opposition agrees with what I am saying. He agrees that an effective boycott would be the best means of getting this message through. He having said that if a boycott were effective and were supported by other nations he would support it, we had a right to expect, without dispute and without argument, that it would be supported. Then why is it not supported? He says that there is no sense and no justice in a boycott, which does not seem to flow from what he had said earlier. Then yesterday we heard these two sentences:
If the Olympic Games go ahead we say unreservedly that Australia should participate. If there is an effective boycott, the Opposition supports it.
If the Opposition believes, as the Leader of the Opposition does, that this is the way to get the message through to the Soviet Union and to the Soviet people, if the Leader of the Opposition believes that an effective boycott will achieve that and if he says that he will support it if it is effective, then I plead with this Opposition to work for it and to help to make it effective. I ask it to help prevent this world in the 1980s from going down the terrible and dark slide that we pursued once before when, after 1936, national leaders would not make the decisions or take the steps necessary to prevent the holocaust and the cataclysmic events which led to tens of millions of people being killed and wounded from 1 939 to 1945.
Somebody said earlier in this debate that the view we have of the situation is the view of one person- myself. Again that is an absurdity. It is the view of 104 members of the United Nations. It is the view of members of the Islamic Conference. It is the view of Mr Bani-Sadr, the new President of Iran, who has stated:
The Soviets are at our doors. If they succeed in reaching the Persian Gulf they would control not only Iran but the whole of the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
Willy Brandt, a socialist and a noted statesman in Europe, has said:
No one in the European Parliament’s Political Affairs Committee will, I think, dispute the fact that the world situation in which we and others find ourselves is fraught with danger.
Mr Carter has said; I think he is right- that this could be or could become the most precarious situation since World War II. Jim Callaghan, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has said:
Their actions have made the world a more dangerous place . . . Following the invasion of Afghanistan the Soviet Union has added to that deterioration by the contemptuous flick of the wrist with which Dr Sakharov has been banished to Gorki. The question that some countries are now bound to ask is whether they will be the next to be threatened . . . The shadow of the Soviet Union hangs over many countries in that long arc stretching from Turkey to Pakistan.
To suggest that this is the view of one person is a total absurdity and offensive indeed, because it is the view also of those countries in South East Asia to which the Foreign Minister has spoken. It is the view of the United States and of the United
Kingdom. It is the view of France and of Germany which, in a joint communique, indicated that the invasion of Afghanistan could put in step those processes which one by one could lead to the most dangerous consequences for mankind.
Whatever views people might have about the reasons for Russia ‘s move into Afghanistan, the possibilities and consequences that are opened up as a result of it are matters on which there is, as I understand it, total agreement amongst our advisers and amongst all the countries with which we have talked on this particular matter. If the Leader of the Opposition wants briefings from the Office of National Assessments on the facts of the situation, he knows that they are available to him and that there are accepted procedures. If he asks for approval he will be given it and Mr Furlonger will brief him. That was not done. Have I got to say on every occasion: ‘Do you want a briefing?’ There are other agencies of government that brief the Leader of the Opposition, as he well knows. We have set those matters in train more forthrightly, I believe, than any other government- although, to give credit, Mr Whitlam, my predecessor, also allowed the Leaders of the Opposition to be briefed on certain matters.
I have already said that this Parliament has no cause for pride in the charges that have been made across it in recent days. The debate of personalities does not advance the cause of this nation. That is what I presume all of us are here to do- to advance the cause of the Australian people. There is an element of agreement on these issues. We agree that Afghanistan causes a dangerous situation. We agree that the Soviet Union should be condemned for its action. We also agree that a boycott of the Olympic Games would be the most effective means of getting that message through to the Soviet Union. Why then do we find that the petty internal differences within this House make it so impossible to build on that and to achieve a national consensus in relation to it? I ask all honourable members to remember what it is about. We know what happened when Germany marched into the Rhineland and step by step after that until world war came about. The President of the United States and others are now about preventing that situation happening in the early years of the 1980s. What we are about involves the independence and the very survival of the way of life which is so important to all Australians. I suggest that we now put these matters aside. The Government has had enough of this nonsense and we intend getting on with the business of governing this nation. I move:
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I would think it appropriate for the Prime Minister not to gag debate if he is a man of -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I draw the attention of all members of the House, particularly those on my right, to the fact that it is not the practice of this House to thump tables. The method of acclaiming a speech is to say ‘Hear, hear’, and I expect that to be -
Government members- Hear, hear!
– The Prime Minister is not going to gag me! It took him two days to get into the House.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I want to make some positive suggestions about bipartisanship. I have two substantial propositions to put to the Government to establish bipartisanship.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition should have the opportunity to speak.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has moved: ‘That the question be now put’. Under the Standing Orders I am obliged to put that question. Does the right honourable gentleman seek leave to withdraw the motion?
– I seek leave to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should be entitled to speak. He had not moved or seconded this motion. I know that he was sitting there. In the circumstances in which I have asked to see whether it is within the capacity of this House to develop an Australian approach to these matters, I believe that he should be entitled to speak. I ask that he be given that opportunity.
-The Standing Orders will be adhered to. The Prime Minister has asked for leave to withdraw his motion.
Motion- by leave- withdrawn.
– I think I should start by pointing out that within the exaggerated and somewhat emotional rhetoric of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) it should be recalled that it was Menzies, Spender and Lyons- conservativeswho endorsed the words of Neville Chamberlain as Hitler marched into the Rhineland. What we have to recognise in the Prime Minister’s rather emotional interpretation of international events is that he is a man of rather dark and apocalyptic vision. What he is angry about is that he has been repudiated by the Australian community. He is particularly fierce in his anger because he cannot understand why the Australian Labor Party is not prepared to share the humiliation of the Government’s incompetence in its handling of key elements in this matter. It is the fury of a man spurned by the electorate. His problem is not that he is not loved by Australians. That is incontestable. He can live with that. Rather, his eternal humiliation is that he is not respected by his fellow Australians.
I think it is a rather curious procedure that the Prime Minister should declaim against the Opposition because of an absence, he asserts, of bipartisanship on what he has been stating in relation to the Government’s reaction to Russia’s intervention in Afghanistan. I think it is rather curious because he has never once, at any stage, made any approach to me or, as far as I can establish, to any of my colleagues on the back benches to discuss this matter. Let us understand the fundamental principle of bipartisanship. It is a meeting of equal minds, equally and neutrally self-respecting, to discuss a matter of great moment and to arrive at a common view, a common policy. On matters of great moment it is desirable to do that in the interests of national cohesiveness; to support and sustain national unity. Not only has the Prime Minister never sought to do that, but also he has presumed that he can hurl tablets from the equivalent of Mount Sinai in Canberra and expect the Opposition to pick them up and faithfully follow the instruction that he has inscribed. Let me make the Labor Party’s position clear on this matter. I will quote from my speech. It seems infectious today. The Prime Minister quoted extensively from his, but then who else would? Last week on behalf of the Opposition in my speech I stated:
I have no hesitation in saying that the Government has every justification to regard the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with disgust and concern. The Opposition shares those feelings without qualification of any sort. There can be no question that Moscow’s brutal abuse of the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and mutual non-interference in its occupation of Afghanistan demonstrates the Soviet Union’s utter insensitivity to the values and standards which so many nations seek to advance.
I said something else which was quoted by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) out of context. Correctly, quoting me he stated:
In this Parliament, there is no significant difference in attitude towards the Soviet actions in Afghanistan.
That is, between Government and Opposition. He ended the quote there. But the next sentence was telling because it established this caveat. I said:
What is in dispute between the Opposition and the Government is the appropriate response Australia should make.
We believe that the Prime Minister has been most unfortunate for himself and for his Government. He has embarrassed this country by impulsively producing a knee jerk reaction to the situation by proposing that there should be a boycott of the Olympic Games and then proceeding as though unilaterally Australia would carry the rest of the world with her. That is eternally embarrassing to Australians. Seventy per cent of them repudiate the Government on this boycott issue. They recognise that that world support is not there to make the boycott effective. To establish a boycott by making this ringing, if not rancorous, declaration and then look around to see what sort of support can be drummed up is no way to proceed. On this score the Prime Minister is much less than candid with the Australian public. Last night on Mr Richard Carleton ‘s program, when there was the usual confrontation between two participants in the program- on this occasion, however, between the interviewer and the interviewee- he used not only his size but also his position and influence with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to try to intimidate Mr Carleton. The Prime Minister claimed that a large number of countries support his proposed boycott. He specifically mentioned, I understand, West Germany and France. That is just not true. Let me quote from page 33 of the most recent edition of Time magazine, dated 3 March. It’ states:
One of Washington’s biggest disappointments last week was Vance’s failure to win firm European commitments to the Olympic boycott.
It went on:
West Germany and Italy have deferred a final decision on the issue. France remains adamantly opposed to the idea.
That is one score against the Prime Minister. The rancorous and emotional way in which he went about this, guaranteeing almost certainly a complete disclosure to the international community that he had a poor understanding of international relations and fairly much guaranteeing that he was not going to be successful, is not the way for a middle sized to small power like
Australia to proceed in this son of situation if it wants to establish effective influence. There is another aspect which has been dealt with extensively. Perhaps I will come back to that later if there is time. That is the matter of unfairness. Here we have a situation where, in this Parliament, there are 45 primary producers- as the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) has pointed out to me-among the Liberal-National Country Party members of both Houses. There are 45 out of 125 members. That is about 40 per cent as against a national average of 4V4 per cent.
The significance of that is that the Government is allowing itself to be seen, at least if not consciously then certainly unconsciously, to be motivated by self-interest in that it is exempting the primary industry, the farm sector, from sacrifice and is seeking to impose the sacrifice totally on our young athletes. The principle which it enunciates as justifying the absence of any embargoes on trade- that is, they will not be effective because other countries will not join in- is the same principle. We accept it, but the same principle, we say, should apply to the Olympics. Having said that, let me deal a little with the Prime Minister’s plea for bipartisanship. I cannot see how the Prime Minister can feel that he has been slighted and wounded unfairly in this debate that has developed. After all, he initiated it. He never sought consultation to establish bipartisanship with the Opposition.
– Who initiated it?
-The Prime Minister initiated it in this country in the nature in which it developed. If the Deputy Prime Minister will listen I will make this important point. How does the Prime Minister expect to have the respect and confidence of the Opposition so that bipartisanship can be developed when he abuses, accuses and impugns us? I have made it clear- I quoted only one small section from my speechand honourable members who spoke from my side in this debate outlined their views and made it abundantly clear that we are all as fiercely condemnatory of what Russia has done in Afghanistan as anyone on the Government side. The differences related to responses. If the Government, and the Prime Minister specifically, were genuinely concerned to establish bipartisanship why did he not try to establish dialogue instead of flinging himself off at a tangent with this emotional rhetoric? He says, as he did today, that he is a man of peace; he has consistently warned about the potential threat of Russia.
I think we have to look at the way in which this man conceives these things and then projects them. He is a man whose views are distorted through a political prism and it tends to result in an unfocused blur rather than a clear perspective of issues internationally. He has certainly been consistent in his condemnation of Russia. That must be seen in context. After all, he was not a man of peace at the time of the war in Vietnam. He sought to incite Western involvement there. He was reluctant at all stages to condemn the murderous Pol Pot administration of Kampuchea once it became obvious how ruthless, cruel and barbaric that administration was. He was restrained at the time of China’s intervention in Vietnam. In the case of East Timor, he was totally reluctant to take any firm humanitarian step, to make any clear gesture in defence of international human rights. In fact, he recognised Indonesia’s military incorporation of East Timor into the greater Indonesian nation at a time when there was in existence a United Nations declaration calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor and declaring the right of the East Timorese to an act of free choice. These are things which must be seen about this man.
The Prime Minister condemns the Opposition for not being as excessive as he is in his reactions on this important matter. There are varying views on this matter. For instance, there is the view of his own Foreign Affairs Department and of Sir Nicholas Parkinson, who is the respected Ambassador to Washington. Sir Nicholas cabled the Prime Minister and said, in relation to the United States Administration:
Deep-seated doubts about the competence of this Administration in foreign policy still continue.
The cable went on: as closer scrutiny reveals that the Administration is better at rhetoric than at effective follow-through.
It makes the point that criticism will mount. That observation is as pertinent in relation to this Government and its Prime Minister as it is to the United States administration and its leadership. That is what this issue is about. Certainly it is about concern and condemnation, which are absolutely justified, but it is also about the display of some sort of sane appreciation of international events and how we can effectively and influentially play a role to bring some greater sense of harmony and stability into the situation that has arisen in Afghanistan.
For the Prime Minister to declare in this House how toughly the Government has reacted to the Soviets in relation to a range of proposed boycotts and so on seems to me to lack any real substance. It is an empty shell. Let me explain why. When the Government announced that it would impose quite firmly embargoes to prevent the sale of wheat additional to that which had been contracted for the current season, generally it was applauded, certainly by an uncritical media. However, I took the opportunity to contact the Bureau of Agricultural Economics right away to see what the embargo meant. It meant nothing. The Government did nothing, and presumed to impose upon the public the impression that a great deal of sacrifice had been undertaken. The Government did not a thing in any effective terms, and the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), who is at the table, knows this full well.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics told me that although plenty of wheat is available in Australia for additional sales above existing contracts, the sales cannot take place for the simple, practical, logistical reason that not a bushel more of wheat above existing contracts can be exported from Australian ports this season because the port handling facilities are fully extended handling existing contracts. So much for the claptrap we get about great principle and sacrifice. If the Prime Minister has his way, the athletes will not go, but the farmers will not have to pay. We have heard about the situation of the Prime Minister in relation to his production of wool. He is a wealthy grazier who will profit from the sale of wool to Russia. He produces micron 24 wool, and the Russians do not buy wool of a lower quality or strength or calibre than micron 24. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) pointed out, the Prime Minister’s wool goes directly to Leningrad. He stands to profit.
Let us be consistent, if we are going to talk about bipartisanship. I can understand the problems of trying to establish effective international embargoes. Frankly, I believe that it is almost impossible in the commercial sector because of the way the major economies of Europe are locked into the Russian economy. I am prepared to recognise that, but the Government refuses to recognise the unfairness and inconsistency of not applying the same principle of exception where our athetes are concerned. I want to talk about bipartisanship in two areas. Let us take a constructive initiative. Mr Speaker, I suggest that you could act as the honest broker. In spite of some conflict or tension between us from time to time, there is a great deal of respect for your integrity and for your attempts at independence in this House. We support moves for the neutralisation of Afghanistan and action for the withdrawal of Russian troops from that area. I suspect that the Russians recognise that they have got themselves into an unbearable situation, not only internationally but domestically, because of their large Islamic population. Let us take that up as the first constructive issue. Could I perhaps get an extension of three or four minutes to finish on a constructive point? This is a constructive proposition to search out bipartisanship.
– Go ahead.
-The Minister says that I can. I suggest that if the Government wants to establish bipartisanship, if its rhetoric has more in it than emotion and right wing extremism, it will listen to me. The other initiative we propose to the Government is this: We share with the Government its concern about the abuse and the denial of fundamental human rights in the Eastern bloc countries, about the savage intimidation, discrimination and repression of people of various types. (Extension of time granted). We share the concern of the Government about these things. When the matter has been raised in this House, I have joined with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in support of what he has said. But I think we need to be consistent in our commitment on the matter of human rights in international relations. We ought to be most fierce in our defence of human rights in those areas most near us, within our own sphere of influence, and where we can have some influence. I have never once heard a spokesman on the Government side condemn the intolerable situation in Malaysia today, the cruel repression that is taking place in the Philippines, the unacceptable conduct of the Indonesian Government.
– That is not so.
– If they have, then I apologise. Indeed, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has done that in relation to East Timor. As for Ministers, it is a matter of government policy. Let me give some of the facts about the vile cruelty, the barbarity, that is being practised in countries in our region, where we should be exerting an influence and publicly condemning that behaviour as openly, as forthrightly, as fiercely as we have in the Eastern bloc countries some thousands of miles away from Australia. In Malaysia the Government is invested with sweeping powers of arbitrary arrest and detention under the Internal Security Aa 1960. That Act authorises the Minister of Home Affairs to detain without trial for two years any person he believes has acted or is likely to act ‘in a manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia’, and empowers the security authorities to detain a person for up to 60 days. At least 1,000 prisoners are held at present under the Internal Security Act. During the 60-day period, detainees are subject to round-the-clock interrogation, sometimes accompanied by severe beatings, and are kept in solitary confinement. Those facts are from the latest report of Amnesty International. The same thing applies to Singapore, where people have been held in detention without trial for as many as 17 years. The Amnesty International report states:
When the Government has felt that it faced growing criticism from influential circles, such as lawyers, journalists or students, it has often reacted by arresting and harassing individuals prominent in those fields, and so reduced them to the role of acquiescent observers.
Let me tell the House the nature of the torture. It is every bit as bad as anything I have read about that takes place in the Communist bloc countries. People are picked up late at night or in the early hours of the morning. So the midnight knock becomes a fearsome reality in countries with which we have close and friendly relations, countries about which, as far as I can see from public comment, we have not expressed any public criticism at ministerial level, or distanced ourselves from what is going on. People are picked up in the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning. They are bundled into unmarked vans and driven around, sometimes for seven or eight hours, until they are totally disoriented. They are deprived of their watches and all their belongings, put into damp, hot, squalid cells, and fed poorly. They are then taken into freezing cold interrogation rooms, beaten up, perhaps having freezing cold water poured over them, and then taken back to their hot cells. This goes on for days on end, and sometimes the interrogations last 24 hours.
Let us have some consistency in our attitude on human rights. Let us condemn abuses of human rights wherever they occur. That has not happened so far with the Government. With your good offices, Mr Speaker, and if the Government is genuine, I will put down a couple of starting points on which to have discussions, given that there is a desire to establish bipartisanship. The first point is to strive to work for neutralisation of Afghanistan and the withdrawal of outside forces. In that respect, I find myself enormously unsettled to be reminded by the daily news that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is in London, presumably talking to Lord Carrington about important matters affecting Zimbabwe. But not once have we had any comment from the Prime Minister about the Minister for Foreign Affairs supporting this initiative of neutralisation of Afghanistan and the withdrawal of outside forces. The next thing is that there will have to be an absence of the abuse of and imputation against members of the Opposition. If there is to be any bipartisanship, there has to be mutual respect. We will extend it, but will will not suffer the intolerable abuse that has been hurled at us. I remind the Government that we are as loyal and as patriotic as any other section of this community. The Government does not have a monopoly on patriotism.
This is the sort of thing that motivates our concern. I quote George Kennan, originator of the policy of containment and former ambassador to Moscow. He said only three weeks ago:
There was never any reason to suppose that the Soviet Government, its prestige once engaged, could be brought by open pressure … (of this nature) … to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
But this means, then, that we have expended- for what was really a hopeless purpose- all the important nonmilitary cards we conceived ourselves as holding in our hands.
Barring a resort to war, the Soviet Government has absorbed the worst of what we have to offer, and has nothing further to fear from us. Was this really mature statesmanship on our pan?
We are now in the danger zone.
I can think of no instance in modern history where such a breakdown of political communication and such a triumph of unrestrained military suspicions as now marks SovietAmerican relations has not led, in the end, to armed conflict.
It is precisely because we believe that there is a need for mature statesmanship, not emotional exaggeration, not uncontrolled excitement on the part of the Prime Minister or other Government spokesmen that we have proposed the things we have, that there needs to be a sensible analysis of the implication of what has happened in Afghanistan. We understand, reliably, that the view we have put, the view that I have put, the view that my colleagues have endorsed in debate is the view that the Office of National Assessments has put to the Government. I have put forward some constructive proposals. I have also kept very much to the issues that are before us.
– Ha, ha!
-The honourable member for Kingston may well laugh, but it is a fact. If he stopped to listen and to think- I know how difficult it is for the honourable member to do two things of that demanding quality at once- he would find that the Labor Party is responding to the Prime Minister’s propositions for bipartisanship. But there will have to be fairness in the distribution of burden of sacrifice. It is no good the farm sector’s being excluded and the athletes bearing the burden alone. There has to be less of this exaggerated and foolish, if not immature, rhetoric that is associated with so much of what is being said and there have to be real, hard, constructive propositions such as I have outlined. If the Government is prepared to talk about those things, through you, Mr Speaker, we are prepared to enter into some sort of dialogue.
– It would be very easy to have a bipartisan policy in this Parliament and in Australia if the Labor Party were prepared to be consistent on its points of view. In fact the points of view expressed by the Labor Party on one hand would be in line with the Government’s policies. But of course every time the Labor Party says something in support of not having trade embargoes or in support of an embargo on the Olympic Games, it qualifies what it has said. Everything is said with a forked tongue. It is quite impossible, under those circumstances, to have a bipartisan policy while the Labor Party performs in that manner. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made the salient point today that if the Labor Party does believe that a boycott on the Olympic Games can be effectiveand the Labor Party has said in effect that there could be an effective boycott if countries joined together- then why does the Labor Party not work for it, instead of doing every single thing to undermine the Government’s efforts to be able to have a concerted approach by the free nations of the world to get the message through to the Soviet Union that its actions in Afghanistan will not be tolerated?
What have we got today? We have an invasion of a country. We have terrific brutality and misery in that country where hundreds of people are being slaughtered daily. Virtually hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring out of Afghanistan into Pakistan and Iran. Yet the Labor Party sits back and says: ‘All we need to do is mouth words to express our condemnation of what has been going on’. But when it comes to the Labor Party’s doing anything positive to register its point of view with the Soviet Union, nothing works.
– Like exporting rutile.
-The honourable member for Prospect comes into this chamber and tries to make devious arguments about any minor, petty issue to try to divert the nation’s attention away from the salient point we are debating. We are debating the issue of the further expansion of the Soviet Union around the world. We know that every time there is a move forward by the Soviet Union, there is no Soviet retreat. The people in those countries become an enslaved people. They are captured within the arms of the Soviet
Union. Any freedom is lost altogether. There is a marked division between the Opposition and the Government in this country as to the concern over Russian expansionism and international communism. We see them as a threat to our way of life. Members of the Opposition seem to want to treat it as a joke. We do not accept it as a joke. We believe that the people of the Western world ought to be put on the alert, we believe that they ought to know what is happening. The Prime Minister, with great courage and great leadership, has been playing his part as one of the leaders of a free country to get that message through.
President Carter of the United States has the onerous responsibility of giving leadership to the Western world. That is a tremendous responsibility. Yet the Opposition seems to want to belittle some of his actions or to try to humiliate the United States for its efforts this way or that way. Who was it who decided that there ought to be a trade ban on feed grain going to the Soviet Union? It was the United States, and why? It was because the United States supplies two-thirds of the world ‘s trade in feed grain and if it were to hold back 17 million tonnes it would certainly have a major impact on the Soviet Union’s livestock industry. What did the United States ask? It asked that other countries which were major exporters co-operate with it, not necessarily by restricting their trade, but at least by not sabotaging what the United States was doing. Who in this chamber would feel proud of himself if he were to say that Australian exporters of grain were deliberately undermining United States’ efforts? So Australia, in conjunction with Canada and the European Economic Community, did cooperate with the United States in trying to help it in its efforts to register with the Soviet Union its hostility to what the Soviet Union is doing in Afghanistan.
President Carter also considered the question of the Olympic Games. He gave a lead to the world in asking the United States Olympic Committee to consider its position about sending athletes to the Olympic Games because it would look like sheer hypocrisy to be stopping trade in grain on the one hand while on the other hand to be sending athletes to the Olympics, the ideal of which is world peace, harmony, goodwill and friendship between people. What are the circumstances of the Olympics in Moscow? We see the host country carrying out violation of those principles by the invasion of another country, with war taking place at the same time as that country is pretending to host games in the name of international peace. Is it little wonder that we have reacted in the same way as the United States? This has become an international issue, not necessarily of the making of Australia, but of all countries which are concerned about whether they ought to go along to the Olympic Games under the circumstances. Some 35 countries or more have expressed concern about their athletes going to the Games. Is this not a collective, cohesive point of view of the world- concern at what the Soviet Union is doing? Yet we have the Labor Party doing everything possible to undermine that effort of the Government to get a united stand. This is the most single effective way of registering our protest and of hurting the Soviet Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has said that. If he says it on one hand why does he then come forward and say: ‘It is useless ‘? He wants it both ways.
There is complete inconsistency in everything that the Opposition, headed by the Leader of the Opposition, has been saying. He said that there should not be any trade boycotts. He says that they would be ineffective. He says that the Soviet Union can find alternative supplies or that it is largely self-sufficient in most commodities. Yet he uses every opportunity to try to belittle and embarrass the Government. He believes that there are more political points to be scored in trying to harass the Government or to humiliate the position of the Prime Minister because he is a wool grower. I have made the position of trade in wool quite clear in this House. We trade in commodities. Trade goes on as normal unless it can be shown that there is a united effort between countries to do something that would be effective to the Soviet Union. If we did anything else it would hurt us far more than it would hurt the Soviet Union.
As I said in this House the other day, even with our large production of wool we supply only about 10 per cent of the Soviet Union’s raw wool needs. Indeed, we supply only 2 per cent of its fibre requirements. Yet we hear these emotional speeches being made. Of course, one can make an emotional speech and distort the circumstances on anything if that is one’s objective. If the Opposition wants to try to undermine the Government’s position, if it willingly or unwillingly wants to support the Soviet position, then it should just try to employ tactics which divert public attention from the central theme.
Today we heard the Leader of the Opposition trying to extol himself in a most virtuous way as to how the situation ought to be approached. I accept that it would be very nice to have a neutralised zone and that efforts are being made around the world to get the Russian troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and for Afghanistan to be declared an impartial area. But the Opposition continues with these other tactics, which is characteristic of so many of the communists around the world, to find fault with any regime and to pinpoint it as the single most important issue around the world. Okay, they are important; human lives are involved. We know that there is misery and inhumanity in different countries where people have not the rights that we would like to see them have. These problems exist all the time and if this Parliament can do anything about it, it will. Earlier this week we had a debate about Andrei Sakharov and we have the Human Rights Commission Bill coming before us today. We debate these things. But today there is a far bigger issue because at the moment world peace is at stake on the question of Afghanistan. That is a subject to which we must devote attention and that is what the Prime Minister has been doing. We believe that a boycott of the Olympic Games would have a much greater impact on the Soviet Union than all the idle talk about trade embargoes which the Labor Party says will not work, yet somehow or other the Labor Party is trying to cajole us into believing that we should do something about them or it is confusing the Australian public into believing that we ought to do something about them.
If we were to stop trade in wheat, wool, rutile or anything else it has been clearly shown that the Soviet Union can get alternative sources. It will be little affected but we will be severely affected. If there is a boycott of the Olympic Games and a country does not turn up for the Games, how does one replace a country? If a group of countries do not turn up how does the Soviet Union explain to its people why those countries did not turn up? Yet today, with all the bloodshed that is going on in Afghanistan, with all the international debate there has been about the Olympic Games and whether or not we should attend, the Opposition is taking a stance to encourage our athletes to go along as if nothing were happening. If our athletes were to attend the Olympic Games it would be recorded by the Soviet Union as a major triumph, that it has been able to bluff the rest of the world and that it has taken no notice whatsoever. I believe that this point has been registered by a lot of our athletes. Everyone is sorry for our athletes. Of course they are making sacrifices but there are people who are making much bigger sacrifices. There are people being killed in this world today. The question then arises as to whether liberty and freedom are more important than a few gold medals. If honourable members opposite believe that they are, why do they not come forward and support the Government’s efforts?
The Opposition is trying to embarrass the Government. It is trying to divert the public’s attention by getting back onto trade matters. I have explained the trade matters. There has been a lot of publicity and public concern about rutile being exported to the Soviet Union. The Government immediately took action and examined whether, in relation to other countries, rutile is a strategic material. Upon examining the matter and talking with other countries we discovered that it had never been classified as a strategic material. Why? Rutile is used for many things- mainly pigments- but it is also used for making titanium metal. That is where the elementary question arose as to whether it is a strategic material. Titanium is used in rocketry, jet aircraft and so on.
On close examination the absurdity of the situation was revealed. The Soviet Union is the largest exporter of titanium metal in the world. Indeed, in 1978 the Soviet Union supplied 60 per cent of United States imports of titanium metal. This fact was mentioned also by the Leader of the Opposition. So why continue to try to be embarrassing and be devious in the arguments put forward in misleading the Australian public on this issue? That is what the Opposition is trying to do. It is trying to pinpoint the Prime Minister as doing something wrong, something dishonourable, because he sells wool which can be exported anywhere in the world. The Opposition has used the argument that Russian soldiers in Afghanistan are using wool which is being exported from Australia. If they are using Australian wool, and who knows, that wool would have been sold years ago. The course of processing it into military uniforms could take two or three years.
The Opposition wants to excite the emotions of the Australian people. It deliberately wants to undermine a concerted effort against the communists. Obviously there is great division within the Australian Labor Party because of those leftwing socialists who are relied upon to give their support to the Australian Labor Party’s federal organisation and who today are trying to take over control of the Queensland Labor Party. This is the reason why Opposition members are speaking with forked tongues. On one hand the Opposition believes in everything the Government is doing but on the other hand it shows that it has a commitment to the socialist left.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion ( by Mr Anthony) proposed:
That the question be now put.
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat. Under the Standing Orders I am bound immediately to put the question ‘That the question be now put’. However, the Leader of the Opposition approached me in the Chair earlier and indicated that he would like me to give him indulgence .as he sought to request that he be given leave to withdraw the motion. I indicated that I would give him that indulgence and I propose to call him before the closure.
- Mr Speaker, as a genuine gesture -
- Mr Speaker, with your indulgence -
-I will hear the Leader of the House first as he may be protesting against my indulgence.
– There have been discussions between myself and the Manager of Opposition Business with regard to the Opposition withdrawing its motion and the Government withdrawing its amendment because the Government’s amendment follows the motion. We are prepared to agree to that course being followed but we are not prepared to agree that another set of speeches accompany the withdrawal. It should be withdrawn and left at that.
– There will be no speeches. The manner in which this would be accomplished is for me to be informed of the request for leave to withdraw. I can be informed by the Leader of the Opposition in that sense but, actually, the honourable member for Corio moved the motion and he would have to consent to its withdrawal. If leave to withdraw the motion were granted the need for the amendment would disappear. There would be nothing before the House.
- Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, the proposal was that, as a genuine gesture designed to encourage a movement towards at least negotiating on some bipartisanship, we would withdraw the motion. But there are several cardinal points of principle involved.
-Order! I will not -
- Mr Speaker, can I make the point that we do not want to be misrepresented by the Prime Minister. He has a terrible tendency -
-Order! I indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that I will give him the indulgence to request leave to withdraw the motion but I will not permit him to speak to that motion.
– I did outline the principles in the course of my speech. I wanted specifically to enumerate them. There are six cardinal principles, among others.
Government members interjecting-
– If honourable members opposite are not interested in bipartisanship, that is it- all right.
– Why didn’t you use your time before?
– We tried. You did not. We were prepared to surrender.
-Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to pursue the question of leave to withdraw the motion?
– Only if I can enumerate the cardinal principles upon which negotiations can commence.
– Order! I cannot allow the honourable gentleman to do that.
– Otherwise there will be complete misunderstanding in some circles and thorough misrepresentation in circles not far from my left.
– I cannot let the Leader of the Opposition speak to the matter. As he does not pursue it, I will not regard him as having asked for leave to withdraw the motion.
- Mr Speaker, I ask leave to proceed with an explanation of the cardinal points.
-There is no basis on which I can give the honourable gentleman leave.
– It is most unfortunate. I thought that there was a genuine search for bipartisanship. Clearly, the Government is not prepared to enter negotiations. Negotiations must commence from understood principles on each side.
-The Leader of the Opposition must say simply whether he does -
– No, it is off. If the Government is not going to be reasonable about this -
-The motion of the Deputy Prime Minister is that the question be now put.
– So that there will be no misinterpretation on the part of the listening audience, they should know that special provision was made for the Leader of the Opposition to speak and he was given an extension of time. If he had anything pertinent to say he should have said it then.
Opposition members interjecting-
– Honourable members on my left will remain silent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is that the amendment be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The Leader of the Opposition has indicated to me that he craves my indulgence to make a personal explanation.
– Last night I was interviewed on the program PM. You, Mr Speaker, have drawn my attention to a comment which I made on that program. I will read it out and apologise for it. On that program I said:
And you must understand the absolute futility and frustration that you experience in Parliament when the Speaker allows this sort of thing to go on and claims, incorrectly I believe, that the standing orders will allow a Prime Minister to stand up and answer a question . . .
I do not want to repeat what I went on to say as I do not want to cause any unnecessary provocation. I thought that I said ‘correctly’, not incorrectly’. Certainly, it is a correct interpretation of the Standing Orders as I understand them. The defects are in the Standing Orders, not in your rulings, Mr Speaker. While I am on my feet may I say that it has been rather a trying week for you in many respects. I would like to commend the way in which you have handled the affairs of the House. You have handled them firmly but not so rigidly as to cause unnecessary problems in the House. At least to the extent that they may have arisen, they are not your fault.
– I appreciate the correction made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask that questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
-The honourable member for Dundas has indicated to me that he wishes to make a personal explanation. Normally I would call him after the Presentation of Papers but the matter relates to a debate just concluded.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) suggested that no honourable members on this side of the House had any interest in human rights in this region. I only want to make it clear that I, as a past chairman of the parliamentary amnesty group, was very active in relation to human rights in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand in particular. I know of many other members on this side of the House who have been equally active. I regret very much that the parliamentary amnesty group, which is a bipartisan group, should need to be inveigled in this debate in this way,
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement on the implementation of recommendations of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on the management of the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park, which is now known as Uluru.
-I have given consideration to several questions placed on the Notice Paper by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). The questions are directed to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and ask whether he will obtain certain information from the Presiding Officers. The information required relates to the operation and administration of the parliamentary departments for which the Presiding Officers are responsible.
The honourable members in directing their questions through the Prime Minister have acted in accordance with past practice of the House not to direct questions on notice to the Speaker. The questions of the honourable members are related to the functioning of the House and seek detailed information regarding the operation of the joint departments- the Library and the Joint House Department. It is quite inappropriate that questions of this nature should be directed through the Prime Minister yet that is the only way in which the required information can be publicly obtained according to present practice. Accordingly, I have reviewed the past practice and decided to adopt a method which enables a request for detailed information to be made.
The Prime Minister has been informed that I will furnish replies directly to the honourable members after consultation with Mr President. Where a member desires to ask a detailed question relating to the administration of the departments of the Parliament he should indicate to the Clerk that he intends to lodge a request for information to the Speaker. After questions without notice I will call him to announce so. The procedure will be that such requests will be handed, in writing, to the Clerk. If the request is in order it will be printed in Hansard for that day and the Speaker will provide a written reply in due course, such reply to be printed in Hansard. The foregoing procedure is not meant to alter the existing procedure whereby less detailed requests for information may be asked orally of Mr Speaker.
- Sir, I seek your advice in respect of those questions that are currently on the Notice Paper.
-They will be answered directly by me.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the acquisition of replacement computing equipment for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-(Mr MilIar) - Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. During the morning’s debate the honourable and distinguished member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) asserted that not one member on the benches opposite him had ever mentioned Afghanistan in this House before the invasion of that country by the Soviet army. I point out that that was a misrepresentation. I visited Afghanistan during July last year and in this House I pointed out the following -
– What date?
-Do not be in too much of a hurry. I said:
Mr Taraki has adopted communist policies. I am not prepared to say whether they are good or bad . . ., but they have thoroughly antagonised the Afghan people.
That address to the House was made in the adjournment debate on 13 September last year.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I apologise to the honourable member for Holt. I should have said that 86 out of the 87 members of the Government parties have never mentioned Afghanistan.
– Order! There is no point of order.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to the following proposed work: Replacement of cranes, Cockatoo Island Dockyard, New South Wales.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to the report.
-Since the Committee’s inquiry the Government has announced decisions which include an increase in naval operations, extension of the life of HMAS Vampire, acquisition of a second underway replenishment ship, acquisition of a fourth FFG guided missile destroyer and a future program for construction of destroyers at Williamstown Dockyard. The Department of Defence has advised that each of these undertakings could result in an increase in the utilisation of Sutherland Dock, Cockatoo Island. Hence the need for adequate cranage on the dock attains greater importance and urgency. Although there is a likelihood that work loads on the cranes will grow, the increased activity will not change the lifting requirements. Hence no change either to their number or to their operating characteristics will be necessary by virtue of the Government’s decision.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to ensure fair and consistent treatment in applying boycotts or embargoes in retaliation against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and, more specifically, its failure to divorce self-interest from such decision making.
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-
-This is the most important issue that this Parliament has been presented with in the last three months. In spite of the Government’s ignorance of its responsibility to the House-
Motion ( by Mr Fife ) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is the implementation of a honey research scheme similar to those in operation for a number of other rural industries. A statutory honey research scheme has been requested by the honey industry to permit an expanded research program considered by the industry to be essential to its future progress. The existing non-statutory research arrangement is seen as being quite inadequate in the light of problems related to bee diseases, pesticide hazards, honey bee nutrition and bee breeding which the industry faces. The Bill is modelled on existing legislation for similar rural research schemes.
Research is broadly interpreted in clause 3 of the Bill to cover the scientific, technical and economic aspects of beekeeping and the production, packing and marketing of hive products. It includes the training of people for research, publication of research findings and the dissemination of information and advice. It allows scope for a wide range of research. The Bill provides for the establishment of a honey research trust account to receive the equivalent of an industry levyexport charge to be imposed for research purposes, to be matched dollar for dollar by the Commonwealth as industry contributions are spent. Other payments into the trust account will include income from gifts, sale of assets and produce and interest on investments. Within the trust account are to be two separate accounts, one for matchable income from the research levy-export charge plus the Commonwealth contribution, the other for non-matchable income. This will permit expenditure from either account as provided in clause 7. Research expenditure will be subject to the approval of the Minister on the recommendation of the Honey Research Committee set up by the legislation.
The Honey Research Committee will be made up of two persons representing the honey industry, two representing research organisations and one, the chairman, representing the Department of Primary Industry. Committee members are to be appointed by the Minister on the nomination of the organisation concerned. Provision is made for the payment of remuneration and allowances to members of the Committee in keeping with normal practice and subject to determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal. Existing departmental staff will administer the research account and provide the secretariat of the Research Committee. It is intended that the provisions of the Honey Research Bill come into operation on the date of royal assent. This will enable the early appointment of the Research Committee to consider and recommend to the Minister a research program for 1980-81. Circumstances will not permit a full scale program to become effective in the first year. Funds for research will be contributed by the industry through a levy on honey sold on the domestic market or used in manufacture and a charge on honey exported.
To facilitate the imposition and collection of the proposed research levy-export charge, it is proposed to utilise existing legislative machinery under which an industry levy-export charge is collected to finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board. I shall introduce separately four Bills which should be treated as cognate legislation but I shall now refer briefly to their purposes. The Honey Levy (No. 1 ) Amendment Bill 1980, The Honey Levy (No. 2) Amendment Bill 1980, and The Honey Export Charge Amendment Bill 1980 will enable an additional levy or export charge to be collected through the same mechanism as moneys for the operation of the Australian Honey Board are collected. The Honey Industry Amendment Bill 1980 will have the effect of reserving to the Honey Board the appropriate amounts of levy or export charge. The research levy-export charge will come into operation on 1 July 1980 at an initial operative rate of 0.25c per kg of honey. The operative rate may be varied by regulation up to a maximum of 0.5c per kg. At the initial operative levy-export charge rate, industry contributions to the research account would be of the order of $50,000 in a full year at normal levels of honey production. The Commonwealth would match on a dollar for dollar basis expenditure of those contributions for research in accordance with the provisions of the legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Export Charge Act 1973 so as to implement an export charge, to be used for the purposes of honey research, on exports of honey from Australia from 1 July 1980. The Bill is part of the cognate legislation referred to in my second reading speech on the Honey Research Bill. The maximum charge for honey research under this legislation will be 0.5c per kg. Initially the operative rate will be 0.25c per kg. This may be varied by regulation, up to the maximum. The research charge will be additional to the existing export charge- 1.0c per kg maximum, 0.5c per kg operative- which provides part of the funds required for the operation of the Australian Honey Board. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I please speak to that motion?
-The motion that the debate be adjourned was put to the House. It was resolved on the voices that the matter be adjourned to another day’s sitting, at which time the honourable member quite possibly may have an opportunity to speak on the subject.
– In that case I will defer to the Chair, but I was standing before the question was put. Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will understand that, being interested in beekeeping, I will seek to catch your eye on a more suitable occasion.
-The honourable member possibly is not aware that it is not possible to speak to the question at this juncture.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 1 ) 1 962 so as to implement a levy, for the purposes of honey research, on honey produced and sold in Australia from 1 July 1980. The Bill is part of the cognate legislation referred to in my second reading speech on the Honey Research Bill. The maximum levy for honey research under this legislation will be 0.5c per kg. Initially the operative rate will be 0.25c per kg. This may be varied by regulation, up to the maximum. The research levy will be additional to the existing levy- 2.2c per kg maximum, 1.8c per kg operative- which provides part of the funds required for the operation of the Australian Honey Board. Opportunity is taken to make formal amendments to the existing legislation in accordance with current drafting practice. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 2) 1962 so as to implement a levy, for the purposes of honey research, on honey produced in Australia and used in the manufacture of other goods from 1 July 1980. The Bill is similar in other respects to the previous Bill. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Industry Act 1962 mainly for the purpose of distinguishing between levy/export charge imposed, on the one hand, for the purposes of the Australian Honey Board and, on the other, for research. In this respect the Bill is part of the cognate legislation referred to in my second reading speech on the Honey Research Bill.
Opportunity has been taken to repeal section 14 of the principal Act and substitute a new section to bring provisions for payment of remuneration and expenses to members and deputies of the Australian Honey Board into line with current practice. There is a formal amendment to section 16, dealing with the functions of the Board, to provide that the Board may continue to make recommendations to the Minister as to the operative rate of the levy/export charge imposed for the purposes of the Board.
Other formal amendments bring the wording of the principal Act into line with current drafting practice. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr MacKellar, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise a contribution by Australia of $A203.53m towards the sixth replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association or IDA as it is commonly called. The IDA, established in 1960, is an affiliate of the World Bank, and assists its poorest member countries by providing long term interest-free credits for sound development projects, utilising grant funds provided by its developed member countries. The Association has, therefore, made available to the poorest countries a financial facility from which they can prudently borrow in pursuing their developmental goals.
The IDA continues to be the largest and most effective concessional lending institution in the world today. Membership has increased from 68 countries originally to 122 at the present time, while the number of contributors has also grown from 17 to 33 countries who have agreed to contribute to the sixth replenishment.
Honourable members might note that the IDA is an efficient institution capable of undertaking large scale projects in a technically proficient way and that, although the Association offers long term interest-free credits, the projects which it finances are subject to the same rigorous standards of appraisal that the World Bank applies to its own lending operations. The IDA systematically monitors and evaluates its projects and uses the lessons of experience to further improve the quality of assistance it provides.
Taking into account the initial subscriptions made in 1960 and thereafter, together with five subsequent replenishments of its resources as at 30 June 1979, IDA had been provided with a total from all sources of some SUS20.9 billion for lending to the poorest developing countries. At the same date it had funded 900 development credits totalling more than SUS16.7 billion in 73 countries for all the major sectors of the economy.
These projects have covered a wide range of activities, including developing agriculture, improving education, increasing electric power output, expanding industry, creating better urban facilities, promoting family planning, extending telecommunications networks, modernising transportation systems, improving water supply and sewerage systems, and establishing medical care. Because IDA funds are allocated to the poorest countries where the majority of the people live in rural areas, IDA lending has increasingly been devoted to agricultural and rural development. In the last two years over 40 per cent of IDA ‘s funds were committed to projects in this sector. These projects take many forms. Some provide basic infrastructure. Others are designed to expand production of a single subsistence commodity. Others, comprehensive multisectoral projects, are designed to bring a range of non-agricultural benefits including improved education, health services, housing, drinkable water, rural electricity, roads and family planning services- to name just a few- to a target group of poor farmers. The IDA has similarly extended its poverty-oriented assistance to the cities through the funding of integrated urban development projects. Though an increasing amount of the resources is being channelled into these comprehensive ‘new-style’ projects, IDA has continued its traditional style of lending in sectors such as power, industry and transportation. In developing these projects, IDA has made a deliberate effort over the years to assure that the benefits reach the lowest income groups within the poorest countries where life is at the margin of subsistence.
The resources of the Association are replenished every three years. The fifth replenishment totalled SUS7.7 billion to cover commitments over the three-year period ending 30 June 1980. Since IDA resources will be fully committed by that date, additional resources are required to cover lending commitments for the following three years. Following intensive negotiations on a sixth replenishment, which commenced in mid- 1978 and were concluded last December, donor member countries decided, having regard to the needs of the poorest countries, that they should continue to provide for a real increase in IDA ‘s lending resources.
The traditional donors of the IDA agreed, subject to parliamentary approval in the various countries concerned, to provide an amount for the sixth replenishment equivalent to SUS12.0 billion. In addition, a number of countries intend to contribute resources to IDA for the first time. These countries are Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Mexico, Portugal, Romania and Venezuela. It is pleasing that some of these countries who still borrow funds from the World Bank have decided to assist the poorest developing countries by contributing to the Association in this way.
Australia ‘s share of $US229.20m is equivalent to $A203.53m. This represents a share of 1.91 per cent of the SUS12 billion target for donors and is equivalent to Australia’s percentage share in the fifth replenishment. In absolute terms, our contribution of $A203.53m represents a very substantial increase of over 50 per cent on the amount of $A 133.76m which Australia provided under the fifth replenishment. The amount is fixed at the exchange rate applying on 5 October 1979. Thus our obligation is not subject to adjustment due to fluctuations in exchange rates.
Australia again has the option of paying its contribution either in cash or by lodging nonnegotiable, non-interest bearing promissory notes encashable on demand as and when funds are actually required by IDA for loan disbursements. In accordance with past practice and in line with the practices of most other members of IDA, we propose to lodge promissory notes. This will spread the impact on the Budget over about 10 years. Small encashments are expected to be made in 1981-82 with the bulk of the encashments taking place in each of the following 5-6 years.
During the discussions on the level of the sixth replenishment it was agreed that essentially the same voting power arrangements which were made under the fifth replenishment should continue to apply. Accordingly, although contributions to replenishments as opposed to the original subscriptions to the IDA do not carry voting rights, a small proportion of donors’ contributions is counted as a subscription. This is designed to ensure that the relative voting power of each of the developed member countries of IDA can continue broadly to correspond to its relative share of total resources contributed by these countries. Complex calculations undertaken by the staff of IDA indicate that, included in the total figure which Australia will make available under the sixth replenishment, an amount of $A307,758.60 will take the form of an additional subscription with voting rights. The balance will represent an additional contribution. This distinction is provided for in clause 4 of the Bill. I should also mention that the agreement covering the sixth replenishment will not become effective until the instruments of commitment representing approximately 80 per cent of the total replenishment are deposited by donors. The IDA is hopeful that this requirement will be met by 30 June 1980, thereby assuring the continuity of its operations.
As honourable members will know, Australia has always been a strong supporter of the IDA which is a highly effective channel for the disbursement of multilateral aid to the poorest countries throughout the world. In this context, the IDA has a most important role to play in continuing to foster economic and social development in the Asian and Pacific region which is of immediate interest to Australia. Since the inception of IDA about two thirds of all IDA credits have gone to these countries. It is Government policy to give high priority to the Asian and Pacific region in its foreign policies and to cooperate fully with multilateral agencies which are involved in the region. Continued Australian support for IDA is therefore in Australia’s national interest. This Bill provides an opportunity for honourable members once again to demonstrate their bipartisan support for the IDA as an efficient and effective development finance institution and our willingness to provide the poorest developing countries with highly concessional assistance through this organisation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr John McLeay, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to repeal the existing provisions for the filling of Senate casual vacancies for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory by by-election, and to provide new procedures for the filling of such vacancies consistent with those presently provided in the Constitution for the filling of Senate casual vacancies in the States.
Honourable members will recall that section 15 of the Constitution was not amended to take account of the import of the introduction of proportional Senate representation until the referendum of 1977. As amended, it provides that a casual vacancy for a senator representing a State shall be filled, where possible, by a member of the same political party. Implicitly recognising the role of party representation in the Senate, it provides further that the replacement senator shall serve out the remainder of the departed senator’s term, not simply until the next general or senate election. Like the original section 15 it provides that the selection shall be made by both Houses of the State Parliament voting together.
Although the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act provides that the same electoral procedures be followed as in the States in the election of senators from the Territories, section 9, which deals with the selection of senators to fill casual vacancies, fails to provide for the continuity of party representation. Rather, it provides that a casual vacancy for a senator representing a Territory, if it is to be filled before the next general election, may be filled only by holding a special election.
It may be argued, since the costs of conducting by-elections in a Territory would be far less significant than in a State, that the present arrangements for choosing senators to fill casual vacancies from the Territories reflect the basic reasoning behind section 15 of the Constitution as originally adopted. It does not, however, reflect the importance of party continuity in Senate representation. It also maintains an apparently unnecessary inconsistency in the methods by which senators may be chosen in the States and Territories. To overcome this inconsistency and lack of assurance of party continuity, this Bill provides that:
In the case of the Northern Territory, the choice of a replacement senator will lie with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. If the
Assembly is not in session, a pro tern appointment will be made by the Administrator.
In the case of the Australian Capital Territory, the choice of a replacement senator will lie with the Senate and the House of Representatives sitting and voting together. If Parliament is not in session, a pro tern appointment will be made by the Governor-General.
As with replacement senators for the States, a casual vacancy for a senator representing a Territory will be filled, where possible, by a member of the same political party.
As the status of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly can be said to be comparable to that of a State Parliament, the Constitutional provision concerning a Senate replacement for the Northern Territory has been adopted directly in this Bill. However, since the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly has neither legislative nor executive power and having regard to the results of the referendum held in 1978 where Australian Capital Territory electors said that, in effect, they did not see that body having anything resembling the status of a State Parliament, it seemed more appropriate to provide that the selection of a replacement senator for the Australian Capital Territory lie with the two Houses of Federal Parliament.
The requirement that the replacement senator be of the same political party will operate only when the retiring senator was, at the time he was elected, publicly recognised by a political party as being an endorsed candidate of that party and publicly represented himself to be such a candidate. The replacement of senators who were elected as independents will not be affected. If the person who has been chosen as a replacement ceases before taking his seat to be a member of the party to which the former senator belonged, he will be deemed not to have been chosen or appointed, unless the reason why he ceased to be a member of that party was that the party itself ceased to exist. The Government would hope that this Bill will be supported on both sides of the House. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to enact the excise tariff alterations in respect of stabilised crude petroleum oil, saccharin, cyclamates and grape brandies, which were validated by the Excise Tariff Validation Act 1979. The first alteration increased the excise duty on stabilised crude petroleum oil from $70.98 to $102.27 per kilolitre with effect from 1 July 1979. This followed determination by the then Minister for National Development of new import parity prices to operate from 1 July 1979, in accordance with the Government’s decision that all Australian-produced crude oil should be priced to refineries at import parity levels.
The second alteration provided for removal of excise duty of $4.41 per kilogram on saccharin and cyclamates with effect from 22 August 1979. This alteration was complementary to similar Customs Tariffproposals introduced at the same time and implements recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in report No. 212 of 4 May 1979 entitled ‘Chemical Products (Part A)’. The third alteration reduced the excise duty on grape brandies from $18.75 to $16 per litre of alcohol with effect from 9 November 1979. This alteration implements the Government’s decision to enhance the competitive position of these products following consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on grapes and wines and on spirits and spirituous liquors. The duty differential between flavoured and non-flavoured spirituous liquors was also eliminated, both now being subject to an excise duty of $18.75 per litre of alcohol. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend the Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Act 1979 to continue the bounty scheme under that Act for a year from the date of royal assent, but at a reduced rate of $20 per kilowatt of the power output of the engine incorporated in the prime mover of a rotary cultivator, hoe or tiller. The limit on the amount available for payment during that period is also to be removed. The Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Act 1979 presently provides assistance to the manufacture and sale for use in Australia of self-propelled pedestrianoperated rotary cultivators, hoes and tillers. This bounty is payable at the rate of $40 per kilowatt of output of the engine incorporated in the prime mover of the above implements having an Australian content of not less than 60 per cent and the amount currently available for payment of bounty is limited to $60,000 in each 12-month period.
The Bill reflects acceptance by the Government of a recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission, contained in report No. 227 of 4 October 1979 entitled ‘Certain Engines not exceeding 7.64 kW; Rotary Cultivators; and Tractors having a power of less than 15 kW, that bounty continue to be payable for a further period of 12 months at a reduced rate of $20 per kilowatt of engine power. In its report the Industries Assistance Commission concluded that the bounty should be regarded as short term assistance only so as to avoid its being seen as a permanent means of assistance and, as such, influencing production and investment decisions.
The Government has accepted the recommendation of the Commission that the rate of bounty be reduced to $20 per kilowatt of engine power because import duties on the major component, that is, the engine, have been reduced with effect from 24 November 1979 from 45 per cent to 40 per cent. This rate will be further reduced to 35 per cent with effect from 24 November 1980. Additionally, increased tariff protection has been provided to this industry because import duties on pedestrian-operated cultivators have been increased from 22 lA per cent to 25 per cent with effect from 16 January 1980. Provision of the short term assistance is considered by the Industries Assistance Commission to provide local manufacturers with the opportunity to make any adjustments to production considered necessary in the light of changing market patterns. Additionally, no significant effects are expected to arise from adoption of the proposed assistance levels in respect of rotary cultivators. It is expected that the cost of the revised scheme in a 12-month period will be approximately $20,000. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to implement the Government’s decision to provide additional short term assistance to Australian manufacturers of cemented carbide drilling bits with diameters greater than 105 millimetres which are produced and sold for use with percussion rock drills in Australia. Current assistance is by import duties of 6 per cent general, 2 per cent preferential. Following advice and recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in report No. 224 of 1 9 September 1979 entitled ‘Short Term Assistance to Certain Bits of Cemented Carbides’, the Government decided to accord assistance by way of a scheme providing for payment of bounty scaled on the basis of bit size, ranging from $40 for bits exceeding 105 millimetres but less than 127 millimetres in diameter, to $ 1 60 for bits of 203 millimetres diameter and above, providing that the Australian content of the bits exceeds 50 per cent.
The bounty, which is payable from 1 October 1979, is intended by the Government to provide short term assistance to Australian manufacturers pending an examination by the Industries Assistance Commission of the long term assistance requirements of the industry to be included in its report on cutlery, industrial knives and hand tools. That report is expected to be received by 30 June 1981. Because of the short term nature of the proposal, the Bill includes provision for the scheme to terminate on a date to be fixed by the Minister and published in the Gazette, and for the amount available for payment of bounty not to exceed $ 1 50,000 annually. Based on 1979 values, the amount of bounty claimed in a 12-month period would be approximately $30,000. However, this is likely to rise as the market expands.
Honourable members will be interested to note that when the reference was first sent to the Industries Assistance Commission the Australian industry producing these bits was experiencing depressed sales and a declining share of the market. This had resulted from the historical market situation, where local producers did not manufacture larger size bits because of a limited demand. However, between 1976-77 and 1978-79 the Australian market for these bits expanded by about 30 per cent. There was also a shift in demand from the smaller to larger sizes with over 90 per cent exceeding 105 millimetres in diameter. Local manufacture of the larger bits has developed with negative effective tariff protection and consequently imports have supplied about 85 per cent of the Australian market.
The short term assistance will allow the Australian product to be more price competitive with imports which, combined with product development, should enable the Australian industry to increase its output and market share. This will provide an opportunity for this recently established industry to realise its potential, presenting Australia with an opportunity to develop an area of high technological and industrial competence, with export possibilities and the possibility of expansion from hard rock drill bits into exploration bits. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend the Distillation Act 1901 to introduce a new class of distilling licence as part of the Government’s initiatives aimed at diversifying Australia’s liquid fuel sources. The licence to be known as an ‘experimenters’ licence’ will authorise the distillation of spirits from any material for the purposes of research into the production of ethanol for use as a fuel for internal combustion engines. The Bill includes a provision to enable the regulations to prescribe the number of ‘experimenters ‘licences ‘that may be in force at one time. This is to enable controlled small-scale fuel ethanol production to occur.
The Government is of the view that it is possible that ethanol produced from various agricultural crops at a competitive price, could make a contribution to satisfying Australia’s liquid fuel needs. This fuel could have a role as a petrol extender in petrol-ethanol blends containing 10 per cent to 20 per cent ethanol. In fact blends containing up to 15 per cent have been used in the past in some areas of Queensland. In addition to the prospect of commercial production there is already considerable interest in production of this fuel on a small scale for use by farmers. The granting of ‘experimenters’ licences’ will thus enable the Government to make a realistic assessment of the technical, environmental and administrative problems involved in small scale ethanol production and to devise the most effective means of control. In a related amendment to the Excise Tariff Act 1901, which I will introduce, provision is made for ethanol for use on a farm and as a transport fuel to be free of excise duty. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of the Bill now before the House is to make a consequential amendment to the Excise Act 1901 as part of a package of measures designed to encourage research into the production of ethanol for use as a fuel in internal combustion engines. The proposed amendment will ensure that Customs control and inspection powers, for the protection of the revenue, can be exercised in respect of goods levied for excise duty at the ‘ free ‘ rate. Customs control can currently only be exercised over excisable goods upon which an excise duty is imposed by the Parliament.
In this Bill the opportunity has been taken to repeal Part XIII of the principal Act entitled Settlement of Cases by the Minister’ and to abolish references to King’s and Queen’s warehouses. Administrative use of Part XIII of the principal Act was discontinued in 1974 when the view was taken that the provisions purported to confer upon the Minister and his delegates a power of determination more proper to be exercised by the judiciary. Because the Commonwealth no longer maintains warehouses for commercial operations references to such warehouses in the legislation are therefore redundant. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Schedule to the Excise Tariff Act 1 92 1 to insert a tariff item for fuel ethanol. The Bill forms part of a package of measures designed to encourage research into the production of ethanol for use as a fuel in internal combustion engines. Currently, ethanol if used as a fuel in internal combustion engines would attract excise duty at the rate of $ 1 9.25 per litre of alcohol. The proposed new item makes provision for fuel ethanol to be free of excise duty. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to introduce, from the date of royal assent, an export duty on uranium concentrate produced from uranium ore obtained from the Alligator Rivers Region in the Northern Territory. The rate of export duty to be imposed is to be 11c per kilogram of anhydrous triuranium oxtoxide-
U3O8- contained in the uranium concentrate. This duty is to be imposed in recognition of the special costs of environmental monitoring and research activities related to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region.
The Government has already taken special steps to ensure that uranium mining in this region is carried out in such a way as to minimise the impact on the environment, and in particular that the standards and technology being applied in this region are adequate, and consistent with overseas developments. This is achieved through the provisions of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 which created a supervising scientist, a co-ordinating committee and an Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute. Special arrangements have also been made with the Northern Territory Government to ensure that the interests of the Commonwealth in the areas affected by uranium mining are appropriately served. The operations of the
Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in the Kakadu National Park also contribute significantly to the protection of the environment in that area.
The Government therefore considers that the mining companies involved in uranium mining should contribute to the cost of machinery the Government has established to protect the environment. The objective of the proposed export duty is to obtain that contribution. On current estimates of exports of uranium concentrate it is expected that revenue from this duty will be about $945,000 in the next three years, and as production and export reaches planned levels the revenues will increase accordingly. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House, which is consequential to the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill 1980, is to amend the Customs Act 1901 to introduce provisions to ensure that the duty imposed by the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill 1980 shall be payable at the rate in force at the time of export and that the duty shall be paid before exportation or within such further period as the Collector of Customs allows.
Specifically the export duty will be levied on the amount of anhydrous triuranium octoxide-
U3OS- contained in uranium concentrate that has been authorised for export by the Minister for Trade and Resources. In addition, to avoid difficulties with adjustments to sales contracts that have been negotiated at a particular price, the Government has further decided that any variation to the rate of export duty will not require a variation to the sale price. To achieve this provision is made in the Bill for section 1 52 of the principal Act to be altered in the same way as it was similarly amended for the levy on coal exports. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19 February, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1 979 as they are associated measures? Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Human Rights Commission Bill 1979 and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1 979 are very important pieces of legislation. They affect every Australian, not only in the domestic sense but in the international sense. If honourable members look at the Human Rights Commission Bill they will notice that it says that it is desirable that the laws of the Commonwealth and the conduct of persons administering those laws should conform with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. If honourable members look at the provisions of the International Covenant they will see that they endeavour to protect the rights of all Australians. In Article 1 it is stated that all peoples have the right of self-determination. The international aspect is set out immediately in Article 1. Article 2 clearly shows that it is the hope of everybody in the world that there should be peace, justice and equality. The article refers to the rights of people irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Honourable members will notice that the International Covenant has to have some method of enforcement. That is needed. In Article 2 we see that there has to be an effective remedy to ensure that people have those rights enforced. It suggests that that remedy be by way of a competent judicial, administrative, or legislative authority. If such bodies are not established at the time it is suggested that the state concerned develop the possibilities of judicial remedy. It says also that the competent authorities shall guarantee that such remedies are enforceable.
As we go through the whole ambit of the question of human rights- that is the dignity of the person- we will notice that a person has the right to life, the right to not be condemned to death, the right not to be tortured or to suffer any sort of degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and security. Juvenile persons have the right to protection from those who might well infringe on their liberty or rights. There is the right to legal assistance. In other words, if one is up against the state in any judicial way which could affect one’s rights, one should have legal aid. There is the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to hold opinions without interference. The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised and the family is entitled to recognition and protection as the fundamental unit of society. There is also the right to take part in public affairs, to vote, and to be elected at genuine elections by universal and equal suffrage. All of those matters are spelt out in the greatest of detail.
Let me not forget Article 50 which reads:
The provisions of the present Covenant shall extend to all parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.
What a marvellous collection of words. They are marvellous when we think of what we all say in public life. We talk about how we love democracy and how we want to give people equal opportunities and to guarantee their rights. Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill fails on every count. It fails to protect the rights of people. If we look at this Bill we will see that we are creating a Commission which can examine, inquire of its own initiative, explore and then make a recommendation but it will have no powers of enforcement whatsoever.
That is the great weakness of democracy at the present time. It does little good to take a cosmetic approach and say that we are on the United Nations Human Rights Committee. If honourable members had a look at the people who join us there they would be worried as to whether we are in good company. I do not want to mention the states concerned but it is well recognised throughout the world that democracy is the last thing that they want. After looking at the Harries report we might also suggest that it should not be in their time as their time has not yet come. They are states in the Middle East, in our region, in South America and in the Soviet bloc. They are all on what is called the Human Rights Committee. Looking at the Human Rights Committee does not help us decide whether to adopt a cosmetic approach or whether to really worry about the rights of people, their rights against the state or their rights against a dictator, whether he be a fascist, an autocrat or a president of a communist regime. Those rights are extinguished if power is used against a person.
While I have a little time I would like to talk about this matter in the context of what we have been saying in this Parliament in recent days. If we do not legislate to guarantee rights for Australians we are only paying lip service to human rights. It is essential that this is done. We have the legal power so to do. It is not being done in this Bill because people such as Sir Charles Court, Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Hamer say at a Premiers Conference that they will not have a bar of it. The Premier of Queensland said: ‘We do not want federal snoopers coming around in Queensland’. The national government has abdicated its responsibilities because of political expedience- it does not want to get offside with some of its junior partners, whether they be Liberal Party or Country Party. But we are all Australians and there is great danger for us. It is not much good talking about the double standards of the Soviet Union or about Afghanistan if we do not legislate ourselves. We cannot have a policy of talking big and acting small; of saying one thing and doing another. If we do that it will be held in contempt by the people of Australia. If we behave in such a way other countries will know we are insincere because we will not exhibit any practical expression in our bilateral relations with them. By our own lack of action Australia will leave them facing no other conclusion.
In our own region the Government never allows human rights to assume any significance in our foreign policy. This is in the face of the fact that in our own region there exist serious problems of human rights violations in a number of countries mentioned during the course of debate today. In no case has this fact had any impact on our relations with those countries. In every case the offending government or regime can rest secure in the knowledge that whatever it does to its people, whatever way it violates their basic human dignity, the Australian Government will not react in any meaningful way.
Regimes in our region know that if they continue human rights violations they risk absolutely nothing in their relations with Australia. The worst and most shameful case is Kampuchea. It is beyond belief that this Government continues to recognise Pol Pot, Leng Sary or anyone else in that group honourable members might wish to name as being the legitimate Government of that country. The Pol Pot regime has murdered three million people. The other night, during the course of a debate on human rights, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr MacKellar) referred to Kampuchea and said: the citizens of that country now find themselves in a situation whereby one oppressive regime has been replaced by another.
I do not condone the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, but no one can pretend that the situation in that country is to be equated with the genocidal and insane regime of Pol Pot. I have here photographs of children taken before they were slaughtered and tortured to death, because they happened to be the children of people who were exterminated. The evidence is beyond belief. The Pol Pot regime has been the most barbaric and suicidal that one could imagine.
Our own Australians were not exempt. I refer to the two Western Australians, Dean and I think the other person’s name was Scott, who were tortured to death by this regime. Yet we have this sort of nonsense given out by the Minister, who says: ‘Well, of course, one regime has been replaced by another. But we are recognising the Pol Pot regime. ‘ That is to our eternal shame.
When I go round the Asian countries I find that they are saying- because our Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has been thereYou recognise Pol Pot; there is nothing wrong with that’. Some 3 million people have been exterminated, yet we recognise this, the worst communist-marxist regime that one could ever find in Indo-China. We do so for political reasons. I emphasise that we have before us photographs of children who were tortured, catalogued and then killed. Can honourable members imagine what that does for the Australian people when they look at legislation such as this?
– Who else recognises that regime?
-Certainly the United Kingdom does not, nor does the United States. That is important. The countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations recognise it because our Foreign Minister has been round there urging them to maintain recognition. Honourable members know the reason. I have not time to debate the matter with the honourable member now. The point is that these two Bills are a disgrace to the Parliament. They are an abdication of the Parliament’s powers in relation to the protection of human rights. It is not bona fide. It is hypocritical for any government to spend hours debating human rights in the Soviet Union and yet be prepared to do nothing about human rights in this country. If our own house is in order we are in a position to criticise the human rights of others. It is, of course, our duty to do so. But when we look at the problems we now face we find that those problems of human rights are exploited by people in power, whether they be in the Soviet Union, in Chile, in the Philippines or part of the monstrous Pol Pot regime. Australia must not be put in a situation where it pretends that it will do something about it yet does not even do so within its own domestic legal power. Under the external affairs power we can do something about it, but we have this shallow piece of legislation, and running with it the Racial Discrimination Act, which will lessen the protection of human rights, particularly in the area of racial discrimination.
Therefore, the Opposition takes the view that human rights are indivisible. Every person in the world is entitled to the fullest protection of his human rights, simply because he or she is a human being. Whether a person is a Soviet dissident, an opponent of the regime in the Philippines or an Aborigine living on a reserve in Queensland, he or she is entitled to the protection of his or her human rights. We have a duty to ensure that that is done. Those who do not do so must be classed as hypocrites. A few Government supporters may claim that they strive consistently to protect human rights but, as a whole, the Government does not. If a totalitarian country such as the Soviet Union, Chile or the Philippines were to look for a piece of window dressing legislation, it could do no better than adopt what is proposed under this legislation.
Australia is fortunate in being one of the few countries that is entitled to call itself democratic, yet we know that our democratic system is far from perfect. Australia has had a great deal of repressive legislation. I refer to industrial legislation, uranium legislation, legislation on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, customs legislation and the disquieting features of what is known as the social security fraud case. It is laughable for a government which has refused to take a strong stand on the treatment of Aborigines by a hostile Queensland Government to pretend that it can solve the problems of the world, in regard to racism in particular. Aborigines are entitled to ask: ‘Why does the Australian Government attempt to adopt such a high profile on the rights of the black population in South Africa when continually it walks away from its responsibilities in Queensland? ‘
The debate on this legislation in the Senate, and the ultimate vote taken, give cause for serious concern. Firstly, it is deplorable that the two members of the political party which claims that it wants to hold the balance of reason in the Senate were not even present when the vital vote took place. The second matter, which is of even greater concern, is that three government senators, Senators Missen, Bonner and Puplick, withdrew their support from an amendment to provide for enforcement by way of civil proceedings- that is supposed to be guaranteed- after the Government declared that there would be no further debate. Those honourable senators withdrew their support. So much for their stand on human rights. It will be interesting to find whether any government back benchers will have the courage to support the amendments that we propose to move. Of the 1 1 honourable senators who spoke during the second reading stage of the debate in the Senate, 10 criticised the Bill. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) was put in the position of saying: ‘There does not appear to be much support for the Bill. ‘ However, it was passed.
If we get down to basics, there are two major differences between our approach and that of the Government. The first is the question of whether human rights should be judicially enforceable. We believe that they should be, but this Bill does not provide for it. The second question is whether the system of human rights protection should apply to both the Commonwealth and the States. We believe that it should, but this Bill exempts the States and the Territories. In our use of the term ‘human rights’ we refer to the rights of thought, conscience, religion, association, assembly, voting and free speech. Those are all basic rights, yet we find that they are to be denied. The fact that the Government is not prepared to make these rights enforceable stems very much from the type of government that it is. The Government takes the view that it is for parliaments and governments to determine what rights people should have; that, in other words, human rights are not the inalienable rights of each person. They are simply a privilege that may be granted by a government. The argument of the basically undemocratic nature of the judiciary is often raised in this context. It is said that judicial review is undemocratic because the legislator is elected and the judiciary is not. It is suggested that once a government is elected it can do as it likes- including taking away a citizen’s rights- and that is not democratic. Mr Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, said that it serves to: . . withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty and property, to free speech . . . depend on the outcome of no election.
Democracy is not just a matter of majority rule. It is also about achieving the fairest method of decision making. Therefore, we are in the position of saying desperately that organisations such as the Human Rights Commission and the Commissioner for Community Relations are an important part of the process, but that the means of enforcement are the most essential part. In the Australian Labor Party we are great believers in the parliamentary system. There is nothing in the slightest inconsistent with this system to have a judicially enforceable Bill of Rights. Surely what we should be concerned to ensure is that we have the best possible system of democracy.
To make the position very clear, let me point out that if a government is elected by 5 1 per cent of the population it has no right to disenfranchise the other 49 per cent. Yet this happens every day from the point of view of the attitude of the Government of Queensland towards the Aborigines. That attitude is blatantly racist and openly hostile. When we condemn the suppression of human rights in other countries we must be prepared to have these matters raised against us.
The Covenant has been ratified, but more than ratification is needed. It has been ratified by countries such as Iran, Chile and the Soviet Union. Whilst it identifies the areas of concern in relation to civil and political rights, it does not do so in a way which is altogether satisfactory. The provisions which allow derogation are too extensive. They involve justification for noncompliance with the principles of human rights on grounds as wide as public safety, public health or morals.
An earlier Bill, which we will call Senator Murphy’s human rights Bill, modified the derogation provisions. The Opposition believes that a Bill of Rights is necessary. It would do more than simply place fetters on a government. It would ensure that it was democratically elected. Voting rights are absolutely basic to political freedom. Under our Constitution we have what is now called McKinlay’s case, under which one has no right to vote if a State so decides. That extraordinary situation is not covered in the Bill. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that applies particularly to Queensland and Western Australia. We could act under the external affairs power and we should do so. But a government that does not believe in democratic voting rights is not likely to have much respect for any other right. That is the first one it ought to believe in. All of these problems are covered in this Bill.
It is the means of enforcement of human rights provisions which separates those countries which are really honest about their endeavours from those which want to hide by dressing up their constitutions with high sounding but unenforceable human rights provisions. So we have the provisions that I mentioned earlier of Article 2 and the question of enforcement and Article 50 and the question of applying to a federation. The Opposition makes the point here that the Bill has no application at all to the laws of the States, which is where the majority of human rights breaches occurs. We want to make that very clear indeed. One of the major objections to the human rights commission legislation is that it does not apply to the States, unless the States make arrangements with the Commonwealth for the extension of the legislation to the States. I cannot imagine that being done, particularly by the States that I have mentioned.
Whilst the worst violators of human rights are in the States, we should remember that the record of the Fraser Government is very poor indeed because it has abdicated its responsibility, particularly in relation to Aborigines. If we look at the Western Australian Police Act we will see that it infringes the right of peaceful assembly and the right of trade unions to have their meetings. In Queensland, public servants who run as the candidates for the Labor Party know that there is a fair chance that they are not likely to be reappointed to their previous positions should they not be elected. Only New South Wales has an effective system for the protection of privacy, but there are problems in that area. Then there is the listening devices legislation which was introduced by a previous government in New South Wales. In Victoria the use by police of firearms legislation for unwarranted searches and procedures is well established.
All these infringements affect all Australians. The gerrymandering of electorates, the use of listening devices and the tapping of telephones are all infringements of rights. We have an opportunity, a legal power and an obligation to do something about it but nothing is being done. As we are talking about this matter, let us look at what the Attorney-General himself said. He said: a federal system of Government is one of the traditions and one of the institutions by which human rights can be preserved … the dispersal of power which a federal system involves is one of the bulwarks by which human rights can be preserved and enhanced.
This is nonsense. There is nothing in the division of power under the Constitution which protects human rights. The States are subject only to overriding legislation and we have not introduced the legislation to override the States. The argument that the federal system prevents the adoption of a comprehensive system of human rights is simply a cowardly exercise for weakness. That has been recognised. Senator Puplick, in the course of the debate in the other place, said:
I do not think the principles of federalism are worth a brass razoo.
He is right about that. The late Hubert Humphrey told a Democratic National Convention in 1948:
The time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of State rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.
It is about time that this Government did the same thing. We want to make certain when we are talking about matters that relate to people ‘s rights that we do something about them. I wonder how many nations with governments like that of Queensland can honestly make that claim. Of course, Australia would be one of the relatively few countries that are entitled to say that they are democratic but Australia is far from perfect. We on this side of the House believe strongly in the ratification of the Covenant and we will press for it. This legislation does nothing for the cause of ratification. The Minister said:
The purpose of the Human Rights Commission is to help Australia maintain its excellent record in the protection of human rights, and progressively to develop a better and more comprehensive recognition and observance of the rights of every individual.
Those sentiments are pretty high sounding but the legislation denies that. One needs only to look at the question of legal aid in this country to realise that one cannot get legal aid for most of the issues. There is not enough money for it. One should not measure human rights by using the yardstick of monetary guidance, but that happens in this country. This Bill is specious if it makes the claim that it is doing something about a person being able to enforce his rights. The most insidious argument of all was that it was one of the issues that we should not do anything about because the introduction of a Bill of Rights might well mean that people could not enforce their rights. This argument was used against Senator Murphy’s Bill of 1973. As a result, that Bill lapsed at the 1974 dissolution. It was not reintroduced because it would not be passed by the hostile Senate. These are the problems that are facing the world at present.
The effect of parliamentary supremacy is that the only restraint on parliaments in relation to civil liberties is that which they place on themselves. We do not have in the Constitution anything approaching a Bill of Rights. We have no hold over any government that can legislate, particularly in the State sphere. We have had this problem for years. It is worthy to mention what Edmund Barton said when he was talking about the Constitution. He said:
I do not think that the doctrine of the equality of man was ever really intended to include racial equality.
How wrong was he? There is an attempt in clause 1 16 at religious rights and that is subject to test at present. Usually when people speak of freedom in Australia they are referring to human rights in the international sense. Freedom of expression is only that which remains after we take out all of the laws. The laws which need to be are taken out for freedom of expression are those of defamation, obscenity, copyright, contempt of court, contempt of parliament, and sedition. There is very little left. As the Privy Council said in the case of James v. the Commonwealth, free speech does not mean free speech.
We have to look at what governments can do. Our laws should mirror our commitment to the principle of people having rights and of giving a citizen a remedy whenever he is entitled to one. It is for that reason that we oppose this legislation. What the Opposition seeks is a better standard of life and a greater opportunity for the people of Australia. It is not to be assumed that people, by electing a government, give up those rights. For example, the Senate had no right to refuse Supply, as it did, because that is merely giving power to an Opposition. The question must be squarely faced as to how the Australian judiciary would cope with the responsibility for the enforcement of a Bill of Rights. It must be stated that the record of the Australian judiciary is somewhat mediocre. There is a problem there because the profession can be somewhat conservative.
Let us look at other decisions, particularly in England. Let us look at the House of Lords decision in Shaw’s case. The court decided that the defendant could be convicted on a charge which had not previously existed. It invented one. So we can get all those problems. A Bill of Rights has a further advantage in that it allows the defusing of political grievances as they arise. Improper laws and practices can become entrenched simply by the passage of time. We should pay attention to the words of Professor De Smith, the British legal author, who wrote:
If the Constitution of Northern Ireland had been equipped from the outset with more detailed guarantees against religious discrimination … the worst of the recent troubles might have been averted.
How true that is. We have to look at what is wrong with a government which has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, despite the fact that individuals’ rights are being infringed not only in Australia but also in the nations of the world with which we do business. We have to look at the problems of our judiciary. The United States courts have been able to do something about human rights. They struck down the education system because it did not provide equal opportunities for blacks and whites. They spoke in 1962 about one vote one value. We have not done that yet.
In England at present, Lord Hailsham and others are leading a growing movement for a Bill of Rights. We want one here. Canada has had a statutory Bill of Rights since 1960. It would be a great advantage, an educative force, if we had a Bill of Rights here. A statutory Bill of Rights would be based on the International Covenant under the external affairs power. Section 109 of the Constitution would guarantee that our law would override any State rights or lack of them. We could then have some real initiative here. Under clause 9 (1) (c), the Commission, on its own initiative or when requested to do so, can make a report to a Minister. But that is not good enough.
In conclusion, let me summarise this situation. The legislation is a sham. It does not protect human rights. There are no powers of enforcement. It does not apply at the State level. The Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill is an underhand way of reducing the effectiveness of the Commissioner for Community Relations. On that basis we make the point that the States are not going to do anything about human rights. We have the power to do something about them. We have done nothing about them. Accordingly, I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-These two Bills are indicative of the Government’s resolve to protect the dignity and person of the individual. The amendment is to signify what an individual’s basic and inalienable rights are and to give notification of the procedures adopted to guarantee to safeguard those rights. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) stated that the legislation was a disgrace and a sham. He is a kindly soul who usually uses much milder language. I hope to be able to rebut some of his statements. The Bills are positive measures based on good government practice. Whilst countries have adopted different guidelines in this very fundamental area, it is true to say that there is unanimous agreement in the free world that there has to be a charter of human rights. No longer, if we ever could, can we rely on the innate goodness of man to respect the rights of others. Too often and for too long have we witnessed the crushing of the weak by the strong, the silencing of the meek by the roar of the bully and the invasion of one’s privacy by the prying eyes of the law, business and government.
In recent times there has been little debate about the need for legislation. What has been in question and has been hammered out on the anvil of world discussion has been the approach. Therefore one would want in this debate to touch on. the history of the development of our approach. We cannot itemise this in isolation, for Australia has been and is very much part of the world-wide debate. The United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It purports to state in fairly broad terms those inalienable rights of man affecting the whole gamut of his existence. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol naturally followed by transforming these principles into more precise terms of treaty provisions. This Covenant was open for signature on 19 December 1966 and entered into force on 3 January 1976. Australia, as the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) said in his second reading speech, is a signatory to the Covenant and will, the Government hopes, ratify it later this year.
What we have done in this legislation is within the spirit of international undertakings. Criticism has been expressed that this legislation does not go far enough, that it lacks enforcement, that it does not have enough muscle. Whilst there may be some force of argument in this criticism, nevertheless it can be said with some conviction that what is being done is most worthwhile and in keeping with the structure of the Commonwealth’s and Australia’s unique constitutional and legal system. The Minister stated that the area of human rights is a relatively unchartered one. Maybe it is, maybe it is not, but a great deal of common law, as well as codified law, is applicable. Where this is the case, recourse will still be available in these areas. There is opportunity also to have one’s case heard by the Ombudsman or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Acknowledging the above, the legislation’s aim is to further the understanding and observance of human rights by persuasion and knowledge. In this aim the legislation is more in line with the United Nations Covenant that with the European Convention, the latter having elaborate provisions for the enforcement of its provisions which may culminate in a judicial hearing, the findings of which are backed up by a political committee composed of Cabinet-level representatives of member States. It is worth mentioning in passing that all of the noncommunist states of Europe, with the exception of Finland, are now members. In summary, the United Nations Covenant is more general than the European Convention, which emphasises its European aims and inspirations. The actual rights are expressed more briefly and more to the point in the European Convention, although there is a certain similarity between the two. As one writer has said, the European Convention is more developed, credible and sophisticated. It also has teeth, as I have already indicated, by the provision of a mechanism for effective supervision and enforcement of any alleged breaches.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, Canada adopted a Bill of Rights on 10 August 1 960. Canada, of course, has a similar legal and political system to our own. It declares and recognises that human rights and freedoms do exist, but it does not form part of the Constitution- that is, the British North American Act. It applies only to federal legislation; it has no effect on provincial laws. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made some comment on that matter. Under it, any federal law infringing one of the declared rights and freedoms shall be declared inoperative. One would have to be impressed when first looking at this Charter, but in practice the Canadian Bill of Rights has not had any substantive effect. In most cases where the Bill was invoked the courts held that it did not apply. Canadian appellate courts in particular have treated the Bill as, at the most, providing rules for the construction of federal legislation. Because of the inadequacy of its Bill of Rights as it operates in practice- either the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not able to understand this or he does not know the situation- the Canadian legislature has sought to bolster the protection of those rights by the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1977. In effect, the Canadians tried to do what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. They found it did not work and they are just doing what we are doing in Australia. Each of the 10 Canadian provinces has its own antidiscrimination laws which are broadly similar to the federal law.
Australia does not have a Bill of Rights whereby an individual’s rights are easily identified and guaranteed by entrenched provisions of the Constitution. The pervading belief in Australia has been that the Constitution, Federal and State legislation and the common law act in concert to protect and guarantee these rights. The various constitutions of the States deal essentially with matters of procedure and machinery. They contain no guarantees of civil rights. It is worth stating for the record that the then Premier of Queensland, the honourable G. F. R. Nicklin, a Country Party member, introduced a Bill of Rights- the Constitution Declaration of Rights Bill- into the Queensland Parliament, honouring a 1957 general election policy undertaking. It was never proceeded with. The Labor Party did not agree with it; there were just far too many difficulties.
Whether or not we should have a Bill of Rights or a Human Rights Commission has been debated for decades. Whilst there have been many expressions of informed opinion in favour of a Bill of Rights, there have probably been just as many and as equally informed expressions of disfavour. It is appropriate therefore that we consider the arguments, examine the premise from which they proceed, the judgments they imply and their tenability. Thus we can define the matter in dispute and endeavour to narrow the area of controversy. There is one point in agreementwhatever side a person is on. That is that all of us take pains to affirm our personal commitment to fundamental human freedoms or some other synonomous generalities. Those who oppose a constitutional Bill of Rights in any shape hold the view that a Bill cannot of itself secure the liberties which it declares and that its efficacy ultimately depends on the government’s and the people’s commitment to the values it expresses. The Simon Commission on Indian Constitutional Reform reported in 1931 as follows:
Absolute declarations are useless unless there exists the will and the means to make them effective.
Lord Wright voiced similar sentiments in the case of Liversidge v. Anderson as recorded in the 1942 volume of the Appeals Court, pages 206 to 261, when he observed the following:
The safeguard of British liberty is in the good sense of the people and in the system of representative and responsible government which has been evolved.
The conclusion, therefore, is that if there is a general commitment to the values which a constitutional Bill of Rights enshrines, it is argued that constitutional guarantees are unnecessary. One would have to agree that a Bill of Rights is powerless unless the standards it seeks to impose on governments are standards on which the community agrees and which it insists on enforcing. I submit too that nothing can be achieved by any Bill of rights if the government to which it applies generally accepts and acts in accordance with the limitations which that Bill of Rights imposes. Fortunately in the Australian Government and in many of the States we have those types of governments, particularly in Queensland. A very fundamental objection to a constitutional Bill of Rights is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to frame guarantees which are meaningful but not excessively inhibiting. That kind of objection was well put by a joint select committee on Indian constitutional reform in 1 934. Its report states:
Either the declaration of rights is so abstract a nature that it has no legal effect or its legal effect will be to impose an embarrassing restriction on the powers of the legislature.
The United States Bill of Rights deals in terms of absolutes and its language is extremely general. Over the years there has been gathered a substantial judicial gloss, and as judicially interpreted it is considerably less absolute than its express terms would suggest. One common criticism made of the American type Bill is the lack of guidance it provides to legislatures and the enormous scope it allows for variable judicial application. Judicial application has attracted attention because judgments made are, out of necessity, political ones which can be coloured by personal prejudices and because the judges, as an unelected elite, are answerable to no-one. If judges are drawn into the area of political controversy, respect for their opinions and impartiality will diminish.
Another objection is that a court, unlike a legislative body, is not able to entertain arguments from all parties and groups which may have a special interest in the outcome. Its understanding of the problem may be impaired by the incompleteness of the facts set before it by the parties. Courts also, of themselves, do not initiate proceedings. Whether an opportunity presents itself for a court to review governmental acts depends on the accidents of litigation, on whether there is a plaintiff with locus standi who is prepared to litigate. Even then the constitutional issue may be avoided by the court. Thus invalid legislation may operate for many years before its validity is tested judicially.
Mr Justice Murphy of the High Court of Australia- the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) referred to him- when he was Attorney-General of Australia held the opinion that the Australian people are entitled to a Bill of Rights to protect them against infringements of their fundamental rights and freedoms’. He introduced a Bill of Rights into the Senate, but on account of parliamentary activity at that time it was not proceeded with. Justice Murphy believed there was a need to have a Bill of Rights because the common law was not always tender for the rights of the individual, particularly the individual without money or without political influence. But the then Attorney-General had overlooked the point that common law in essence is judge-made law. The rules and principles of the common law apply only where they have not been set aside by some statutory enactment. No special formula is required for this to be done, nor is the power to set aside common law limited to the Australian Parliament; it can be exercised by State parliaments by regulations made by executive governments, or by local councils. The position is best judged by two of the most eminent authorities on modern constitutions, Australian-born Sir Kenneth Wheares and Sir Ivor Jennings. Sir Kenneth concluded:
The ideal constitution, then, would contain few or no declarations of rights, though the ideal system of law would define and guarantee rights. Rights cannot be declared in a constitution except in absolute and unqualified terms, unless indeed they are so qualified as to be meaningless. It is in ordinary law itself that the careful definition of rights can be best undertaken, with the added guarantee that the law since it has been passed by the legislature may in most cases be in line with dominant public opinion.
Sir Ivor Jennings observed:
Liberty is a consequence not of laws and institutions but of an attitude of mind. Laws can be broken and institutions subverted. A people can be forcibly enslaved, but it cannot be forced to be free. It becomes free because it desires to be free, and remains free because it so desires.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in advancing the argument for a Bill of Rights, stated that we have power under the external affairs power. I draw to his attention the excellent series of articles by the late Sir Robert Menzies who argued strongly against Australia having a Bill of Rights. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would admit that Sir Robert Menzies was a legal person of some standing. Sir Robert described some of the clauses of Senator Murphy’s Bill regarding basic freedoms as ‘the most dangerous nonsense’. These are the words of Sir Robert Menzies about the Bill of Rights of the Labor Party. In relation to a Bill of Rights he also said: the United States likes it, well and good, it is thenbusiness; but that it should come about in my own country seems to me to be an absurdity of the first order.
Indeed Sir Robert Menzies vigorously advocated that the Commonwealth Government did not have the power to introduce, and give effect to, legislation such as the Murphy proposed ‘Rill of Rights’. He of course admitted that there was some judicial authority against his views, in particular the judgment of Justice McTiernan and Justice Evatt in the Burgess case in 1936 over civil air regulations. The late Sir Robert said:
I find it impossible to believe that by the mere fact of entering into an agreement with another country or countries, the Commonwealth Government can convert its existing ‘external affairs ‘ power into a power over internal affairs.
Sir Robert, in drawing the attention of the States to be on guard in protecting their rights, agreed with the judgment of a judge of the High Court who suggested some control over external affairs power. He said: ‘Now, that seems to me, as an individual, to be dead right’. The judge had said:
The power to make laws to carry out international obligations must be under a convention with other nations concerning international affairs.
Sir Robert Menzies even in his retirement, I submit, by writing these articles did his and our country a great service. A Bill of Rights entrenched would pose potentially the most important threat under the Constitution and the whole of our constitutional federal system, and above all would threaten the integrity and powers of the State parliaments. The Government is to be commended for adopting the sensible approach in honouring the words of the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, when opening this Parliament on 2 1 February 1978. We on this side of the Parliament are concerned about human rights. The covenant contained in a schedule to the Bill defines these rights in 26 of its 53 articles. I personally will be giving support to the amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). I want to talk about some of these rights in the time remaining to me. Firstly, I want to talk about privacy or, as Sir Robert Menzies put it, ‘the right to be at peace in one’s own home’. The legal systems of Australia and the United
Kingdom, while never expressing ‘ a right of privacy’, have always afforded a measure of protection to interests in such matters. Legislation prohibits such activities as the interception of mail, disclosure of information given to public authorities, wire-tapping, eavesdropping by means of listening devices, and peeping and prying around a building. For common law protection, it is only necessary to notice that in very many of the situations where the American tort is available, an action could be framed here on more conventional grounds such as trespass, nuisance, defamation or breach of confidence. As A. F. Weston puts it in his publication of 1 967, Privacy and Freedom at page 337:
There is a growing public concern about invasion of privacy, and well there should be. No doubt this is due to the development of new techniques of surveillance, whether by means of optical or acoustic devices- physical surveillancepsychological, personality or polygraph testspsychological surveillance- or collection exchanges and manipulation of documentary information about individuals often involving the use of computers. Such advances have contributed to a heightened awareness in the community of increasing encroachments from all sides on the individual’s separateness and on his claim to manage his own affairs without outside interference. No wonder it is a highly emotive area, for in the most part issues of privacy involve the civil liberties of the subject who is very much at the mercy of large and powerful organisations such as governments, employers, computer operators and the mass media.
There are four basic states of privacysolitude, intimacy, anonymity and reserve. Solitude is the most complete state of privacy that the individual can have. He is separated from the group, and freed from observations of other people. In intimacy, the individual is acting as part of a small unit that claims and is allowed to exercise corporate seclusion so that it may achieve a close, relaxed and frank relationship between two or more individuals. Typical examples are husband and wife, the family, a friendship circle or a work clique. The third state of privacy- anonymity- occurs when the individual is in a public place or performing public acts but still seeks and finds freedom from identification and surveillance. Another kind of anonymity is the publication of ideas anonymously where the author wants to present some idea publicly but does not want to be universally identified as the author.
The fourth state of privacy is the creation of a psychological barrier against unwanted intrusion. This occurs when the individual’s need to limit communications about himself is protected by the willing discretion of those surrounding him. Most of us have an interest in privacy consisting of our demand that our personal affairs should not be laid bare to the world and discussed by strangers. The Queensland Government has been to the forefront in this area, despite what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen), has said. It has legislated in this area with the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971. That Act requires the licensing of credit reporting agents- persons regularly engaged in providing credit reports- prohibits the furnishing of credit information to anyone other than a credit giver and confers a right on the consumer to see and to dispute entries in his file if refused credit. Queensland leads the way.
One does not have time to develop this matter of privacy further, but as one who believes that privacy needs to be respected I would hope that all governments take positive action in this area. Time does not allow one to develop views on other basic freedoms- freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and the rights of accused persons and of prisoners. Let us hope that this legislation will spark off an infectious enthusiasm among legislators and citizens to treat the whole person and not just a part. Some may be disappointed that the Bill does not contain legal sanctions. One can understand and appreciate that. But it is a start and one can only hope that, once started, we can move forward in progress. I want to rebut a few of the other statements made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is with pleasure that I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), to the motion for the second reading of the Human Rights Commission Bill. That Bill and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill are a disgrace to the Parliament. I remind the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that Queensland is the last remaining State with racist legislation on its statute books. That is an indictment of this country; it is an indictment internationally.
A little more than a decade ago countries around the world celebrated Human Rights Year. Here in Australia, through a national committee supported by the Commonwealth, both national and State governments paid service to the need for this country to take positive action to better recognise and protect basic human rights. At the time the national Government was urged to sign and to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It was acknowledged also that there were important areas where Australian laws, both Commonwealth and State, fell short of the standards set for the protection of human rights in this and other international instruments. There was a good deal of recognition too that Australia and other Western countries had a special responsibility to ensure that their own houses were put in order with respect to the standards set in such instruments. Without this they were hardly in a position to be critical of the serious violations of human rights which are obviously taking place elsewhere in the world.
This Bill is another example of the prevarication of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In the Prime Minister’s election policy speech on 2 1 November 1 977 he said:
We have protected individual rights and reformed outdated laws. The Ombudsman and Administrative Appeals Tribunal protect basic civil liberties. We will establish a human rights commission to extend that protection further and we will bring in freedom of information laws.
On 10 December 1978 he also put out a Press release in which he reaffirmed his commitment to protecting human rights. He stated:
Today, 10 December, marks the 30th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is appropriate to affirm that Australia remains committed to the promotion and protection of fundamental human standards. The anniversary comes at a time when there is a growing international recognition of the importance of human rights.
It is essential that Australia be seen as a firm upholder of human rights. It is also in Australia ‘s interests that all communities and countries join in a commitment to the basic priniciples and standards as set out in the Declaration.
Last year in the Senate this legislation came in for some very heavy criticism from both sides of that chamber. The Liberal back bench moved a number of amendments to the Bill in an attempt to strengthen the capacity of the proposed Commission to give effect to the protection of human rights. Those amendments accepted the philosophy of the Bill; that is to say, they were designed to strengthen the Bill within the framework set by the Government. What the Government did is a matter of history. Let me quote from the joint public statement of the sponsors of the amendments, Liberal Senators Missen, Bonner and Puplick. They stated:
It has been made clear to us that the Government is concerned that an amendment proposed by Senator Missen and supported by us and other Senators, providing for enforcement proceedings for human rights violations by way of civil proceedings, is likely to be passed by the Senate and will not be acceptable to the Government. The Government is likewise concerned with the proposed amendment to delete pans of clause IS (because of their freedom of information implications). The Government is accordingly not willing to permit further debate on the Bill unless it is assured that neither amendment will be made to the Bill. We therefore have given serious reconsideration to that situation. We are firmly of the opinion that such amendments are necessary to ensure that the Human Rights Commission Bill has ‘teeth’ and will provide suitable and effective remedies for complaints . . .
We believe that the lack of enforcement rights is a grave defect and a limitation on the effective operation of the legislation.
This is a telling indictment of the duplicity of the Government. Obviously the Government blackmailed the senators when all they were trying to do was to strengthen the legislation.
One of the great features of Human Rights Year in Australia, which was supported by all of our major political parties, was the way in which it was shown that there was a number of areas in which both Commonwealth and State laws were falling short of human rights standards seen in international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights. It is clear that the international community had rejected any notion that Australia should be treated as a federal state for the purpose of ratifying the International Covenant. The honourable member for Darling Downs ought to note that. Australia argued strongly at times during the preparation of the Covenant that it should apply to the States only with their separate approval. The international community decisively and strongly rejected this contention and will continue to do so. The result is that if and when Australia ratifies the Covenant, it will be taken to be binding upon Australia as a whole unless, which seems most unlikely, the international community is prepared to accept reservations which exclude the Covenant from applying to the States. It is the age-old conflict between international and municipal law.
Now, more than 10 years after Human Rights Year, we have before the House a Bill which can hardly be described as advancing the cause of protecting human rights beyond the position which was acknowledged to be unsatisfactory in 1967. In some ways in fact it might well be described as taking one step forward and two steps backwards. There are areas, as in the case of international agreements on air navigation, where the Commonwealth has acknowledged its international responsibilities even if they might at times affect the powers of the States. It is possible that in this Bill the Government is in fact not exercising its own power and authority to the extent that it is already acknowledged to exist under the Constitution, whereas generally it has done so.
In this regard I point particularly to clause 5 of the Bill which states quite categorically that the Bill is not intended to bind the Crown in right of a State or of the Northern Territory. Leaving aside the Northern Territory, where special problems might arise, is it intended that the net effect of this clause is to exclude the States and their instrumentalities from the operation of the proposed Act, even where the States are already bound by Commonwealth law? The Minister responsible for this legislation ought to answer that question. Thus, for example, could it be argued, if the Bill is enacted in its current form, that a State instrumentality will not be subject to the already admittedly limited authority of the proposed Commission in the case of possible violations of human rights in such fields as industrial relations? I am awaiting the Minister’s answer to that conundrum.
Will the proposed Commission have any authority over the States or State authorities in other areas where they may be acting under the terms or colour of Commonwealth law? The recent decision of the High Court in Bradthem’s case suggests that under clause 5 the States and their instrumentalities may well be excluded from the operation of Commonwealth law which might otherwise apply to them constitutionally. If this is so, then this is a major and serious defect in the present legislation. I would have thought that that was patently obvious. The Commonwealth, in this Bill, may not even legislate to apply the standards of human rights, which the Bill accepts, within the areas of its undoubted constitutional authority.
If this is the consequence, no self-respecting government could even purport to claim that this is a real step towards ratifying the International Covenant within its own sphere of power. Yet repeatedly for more than 15 years the Commonwealth has asserted internationally that it supports the concepts and ideas set out in the International Covenant and other multinational instruments dealing with human rights. While any doubt remains on this I find it difficult to see how other countries can be prevented from pointing the finger at us and asserting with a good deal offeree that we are hypocritical in the role we adopt internationally in relation to the protection of human rights. However, on the other hand, we claim to criticise others for their failures to protect human rights, such as those set out in the International Covenant. At the same time, here at home we may be refusing to go even as far as making the standards, which we say we support, apply within the acknowledged authority of the Commonwealth. That is set out in this legislation. This, of course, is not the only example of the pussyfooting way in which this Bill fails to come to grips with the needs of protecting human rights in the community.
Overall in the way in which we have moved to protect human rights the Bill leaves Australia still far behind almost every other advanced country. The Bill, I suggest, accepts the worn out notion that it is ultimately up to the Parliament and the Executive to protect human rights. That was the thesis advanced by the honourable member for Darling Downs. Machinery like the provisions in this Bill may help to keep Parliament and the Executive informed of problems on the protection of selected human rights but it does very little to recognise that it is well acknowledged today that separate, independent checks are needed on parliaments and the Executive if effective steps are to be taken to protect human rights. We have already gone some way towards recognising this with the creation of a Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I thought that that would be acknowledged but now, as we come to basic human rights like these in the Covenant, either civil or political, we draw back for reasons which stand ill with those who were used to research the office of Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Government has its head in the sand, frankly, if it believes- as the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) suggests and as Government members persist in saying throughout this debate- that the common law, the Parliament and the Executive can or should be expected alone to protect human rights. There is no mistake where that applies to any minority. If that were so, we would not have ombudsmen and we would not have any need for an Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Experience of most other western countries like ours shows that much more effective machinery than that proposed in this legislation is necessary if we are to do anything more than pay lip service to human rights. In recent years, Britain has found through the activities of the European Court on Human Rights that the British Parliament and the executive have failed, and failed badly at times, to protect basic human rights like those in the Covenant. May I say to the honourable member for Darling Downs that I find it singularly odd that members of Parliament in both chambers have their rights protected by a Bill of Rights in the United Kingdom but we do not extend that protection to the people outside whom we represent.
On the face of it, the present legislation may go partly towards this in clause 16, but one significant omission in this clause is the statutory requirement that the Minister will be required within a specified time to place a Commission report before the Parliament. I consider this a glaring omission and an anomaly. At the very least, it would seem to be necessary to strengthen this already weak legislation by making it a mandatory requirement that the Commission reports will promptly be placed before Parliament where they can be considered and debated. If the Government believes that the Parliament, in the last analysis, is the body responsible for the protection of the rights set out in this Bill, then Parliament must be given the right to act promptly in dealing with violations of human rights which are reported to the Minister and to this Parliament.
The tragedy of the Bill is that in an age when human rights are a matter of international concern this legislation is so concerned with parochial problems. It is hedged in with parochial problems. It will continue to be hedged in with parochial problems for as long as the structure of the Bill remains as it is. It will be interesting to see what the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has to say about this Bill because it certainly cannot be regarded as one of domestic concern only. I reaffirm the stand which I took two days ago. I struggled on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I was responsible for- I initiated it, if you like- the recommendation for a standing committee on human rights. I have to say with all honesty that apart from the members of the Committee I never received support either from my side of the House or from the other side of the House. There needs to be enough courage in this Parliament for a standing committee on human rights to be set up and we ought not to be afraid or ashamed to condemn governments, even our own, where there is glaring violation of human rights. It is about time that Government speakers at least got up and made a statement as to where they stand on this issue.
Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs believe that this Bill will be a help or a hindrance as he deals with other countries on human rights and related matters? How will it affect Australia’s standing in the United Nations and with the Carter Government in the United States of America which has placed such great store on demanding the better protection of human rights around the world? I give the American Government credit for that. There is very little indication that the Australian Government has taken matters like that into account. In my view, this legislation is- as put so ably by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen)- specious, a disgrace and a sham. I will conclude, if I may, with a quote which really sums up the attitude of all Tories, of all Liberals, if you like -
– We are Whigs.
– Honourable members are not; they are Tories. They have always been Tories. If ever there has been an attitude of Tories to all sorts of reforms for the protection for individuals, whether it be for charters, reform Bills or the like, it was well summed up by the grand old Tory, the Duke of Wellington, who, as usual, got it right when he assured a jittery fellow land owner:
We shall not have a commotion, we shall not have blood, but we shall be plundered by forms of law.
I support the amendment.
– I think it is fair to say that in this place we all hope for universal concord. We do not aways hope for it in exactly the same form, but I think we do all hope for it. I believe that it was in an attempt to go some way down that track that the Government decided to go along with this legislation. It was an election promise made in good faith, knowing that many people in this country would support the covenant of the United Nations on human rights, knowing that there was a vague feeling within the country that the phrase human rights’ did have a meaning, knowing that many people would like some aspects of that covenant more rigidly enforced within our country. Having said that and having therefore given basic support to the idea of putting through this Bill, I must say that I have noticed in the debates, especially those in the Senate, that there are two sides to the argument amongst those who do not see the legislation as being quite adequate. They are, firstly, the side which says it is not enough, and the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), has said that we should be going a lot further at this stage. There is another point of view which says that it is going too far, and that point of view can be just as sincere. That is the point of view I hold.
I believe that we play around with the words human rights’ often times not quite knowing what they mean and often times not thinking quite clearly enough about the implications for our community of any imposition of rights. In my view, human rights are obtained only through the exercise of care, consideration, and obligation by other people in the community. I do not believe that we can have a condition where human rights are upheld, forgetting for the moment what the definition of ‘human rights’ might be, unless there is genuine consideration and care. If that is the case, then the imposition of human rights by law on the community presupposes the imposition of obligations on the community. I do not believe that we can have enforced human rights without enforced obligations. In itself, that must give rise to conflicts of views and conflicts of principles. In other words, who is to say what human rights are in many cases?
Last year in this place there was a long, and I believe sincere, but very heated debate about a basic human right, the right to life. In the debate on what was then called the Lusher motion people took sides about the definition of ‘life’. Some people aligned themselves as proabortionists and others as anti-abortionists. There was a great deal of sincerity on both sides in that debate, but there was a basic lack of agreement on that one thing. What is the definition of ‘life’? If we are talking about life in a covenant, if we are talking about the right to live, then we need to be clear on what we mean by life. I understand that later this evening the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) will be introducing an amendment which will bring this very conflict into the debate, and I believe that it is a conflict that needs to be debated. If we are going ahead and deciding that we want to uphold a basic covenant, surely we should be clear on what that covenant will mean. Certainly in the debate in this place last year on abortion it was not clear what people thought. Some thought one thing and others thought another.
That is one of the reasons why I believe that if we begin to codify what we call human rights, perhaps we will not get any solution at all. We will not get a solution unless there is a general attitude amongst people and, happily, that is possible in a free country such as ours. If we bring about the enforcement of human rights by going further than this Bill and introducing an actual human rights Bill, I firmly believe that the only people who will gain in the long term are the members of the legal profession. It would open up a great Pandora’s Box for the legal profession, whose members would find all sorts of things with which to get themselves involved, with very little reduction in the misery that any human rights legislation hopes to reduce.
I do not want to bring party politics into this but I think it is worth pointing out that members of the Labor Party believe, by the very ideology of that party, that there is a position where some people in the community should be able to tell other people what is right and what is wrong and should be able to make up the minds of other people. That is basically what the socialist system is. It is a system which many people in Australia sincerely hold to be a very good system, but above all things it is a system where people in a collective society make in a collective way decisions that are imposed on the remainder of the individuals and on themselves. Of course, that is the sort of philosophy which would lead to wanting a Bill of Rights. It is pretty obvious from Senator Murphy’s Bill of Rights of a few years ago that that is precisely what the Labor Party wanted. The people on this side, who are not Tories but Whigs, do not want that. In general, we would prefer individuals to live in a society where there was genuine regard for individuals, not a society where we looked to a small group of people, who may or may not change their minds from time to time, to impose upon us what they believe we should do. That is the basic difference in our two systems.
Having said all that, however, there is one group in the community which will benefit fairly directly, benefit psychologically, from this legislation. Since the war some millions of people in this country have come from countries which do not have our basic system of law, our common law system, which traditionally provide rights through the normal process of evolution in the courts. That is the way I have been brought up in Australia. Many of our citizens in Australia have come from countries which have a rigid system of rights codified in the law. They do not come from places where the common law has been in existence and I can imagine that, coming to a traditional common law system such as ours, those people could be confused. It is possibly better psychologically for many people in that situation to see that we are prepared to put down, even if it is without proper definition, what is right and what is wrong. However, I do not believe that in the long term those people would see themselves as wanting to live in a place where a small group of people, albeit the government, begins to enforce rights whose definitions are never too clear. Those definitions might be clear to some lawyers who, as I said, are bound to be the people who make the most money out of legislation such as a human rights Bill. The Bill, and this is a mild criticism, tends to nibble away at rights in some respects. Clause 34(1) states:
The Commission, a member or a person acting under the direction or authority of the Commission is not liable to an action or other proceeding for damages . . .
It seems to me that if the basic rights we have in our community to proceed for actions of damages are taken away, then to that extent this legislation is patently removing a human right. Anomalies will always appear in this sort of legislation. The anomalies of imposing views on people will always have with them the removal of some rights.
I was also fascinated to read Article 12.3 in the Human Rights Covenant. It states:
The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions-
That is perhaps fair enough. That is the way that a true liberal should think. But it goes on:
Of course that is the way things work in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union says: ‘We endorse the United Nations Charter on human rights’. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) very proudly said, Iran, Chile and the Soviet Union have all ratified this charter. The Soviet Union talks about human rights but it never carries them out. The Soviet Union does exactly what is said in Article 12.3- they do not put those rights subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, and the Soviet Union makes quite sure that the law in that country positively works against human rights. It is all right to crow about human rights, but as I said when I began speaking on this subject, genuine care and consideration are needed in the community.
Quite often we hear the words ‘human rights’ in the context of a whole range of things. Those words seem to be creeping into our vocabulary. We talk about the right to work and the right to be educated. All these rights sound marvellous. Of course we want everybody working; we want everybody to be educated to the extent that he desires but the traps are always there. When we start to talk about the right to work, we are talking about imposing a on somebody else an obligation to provide a job. That may well remove, by some inefficiency, the right of somebody else to work. As soon as we start imposing these rights- and as I said, a definition of these rights is often difficult- we begin to impose obligations and in many cases we begin to impose restrictions, and those restrictions can often be worse than the high ideals we started out with. But as I said earlier, that is the way in which the Soviets live. The rights we are looking for in this country will come only through the will of the people.
I was upset also to hear some suggestion from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this present Government- I presume that he is referring to all honourable members on this side of the House- for some reason is not a champion of what we normally regard as people’s natural rights. He seemed to be saying that we are not concerned with rights in other countries, that we are not concerned with the abrogation of basic rights of people being able to go about their normal work without being incarcerated- a right that has been abused in other countries. Of course that is wrong and I think it denigrates the standards of this debate to introduce such suggestions.
I began my speech by saying quite plainly that we all believe in human rights but where we often are in conflict is as to the ways in which we ensure that those rights are brought about. Rights in this country- as in any other countrywill never be enforced, will never be taken up by the people, unless our parents, unless our teachers- and that is very important- unless our leaders set the example. If they do set that example, the next generation may be sufficiently altruistic to ensure that people have sufficient regard for their neighbours.
I conclude my speech by reiterating that I have my doubts about any extension of this sort of legislation in Australia. I am prepared to support this Bill, basically because there are some groups who perhaps will feel a little better. I honestly do not believe that the Human Rights Commission will bring about any improvement in what I and probably most other citizens of Australia see as human rights in this country. I do not really think that it will do any good in that direction at all. But that is not to say that I do not hope that it is not very successful. Perhaps this legislation will be a help; I do not believe it will be much help.
-I would like to begin by quoting what I wrote in the preface to Professor Ken Buckley’s book All about Citizens’ Rights:
We are Australian residents, but not Australian citizens. We are citizens of six States and two Territories which make our bewilderingly diverse laws governing citizens ‘ rights. Even the right to vote at Commonwealth elections is determined by State laws.
There is no absolute right, guaranteed by law, of freedom of assembly or association or to read; assuring the presumption of innocence or ensuring that accused persons have access to legal advice; of access to one’s own files in data banks; of the right to communicate without fear of telephone bugging or tapping.
Citizens’ rights’ are what is left over after police, government instrumentalities, local councils and various professional hierarchies have exhausted their range of options. There is an enormous range of official discretion, little of which comes under the scrutiny of courts, parliaments or Ombudsmen.
The main beneficiaries of our civil law are people, who don’t need protection- those for whom life is a success story, the affluent, the educated, the confident, those with ready access to professional advice or support.
We seem to feel great collective anxiety about those whose life style differs from the national average. Our laws reflect this timidity. Poverty, inability to speak English, nonconformity, and juvenile delinquency are sternly punished. The main victims of our State laws are Aborigines, children, unskilled migrants, prisoners, women and mental patients.
I am very much concerned by both pieces of legislation that we have in front of us- the Human Rights Commission Bill and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill, which can be described as the ‘Al Grassby Defenestration Bill’, because that is its intention. There is more than a whiff of sickening hypocrisy running through the House today.
The Human Rights Commission Bill purports to provide for the recognition and even the enforcement of human rights, but when one looks at the fine print of the legislation, we find that it does nothing of the kind. First of all, the Bill rests on the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights which appears as the Schedule to the Bill. This Covenant dates from 1966 and the Government, with its customary enthusiasm, is proposing to push this Bill through just 14 years after the Covenant was presented to nations for signature. It is true that the document itself reads very well. In fact the provisions about civil liberties are almost as convincing as those in the Soviet Constitution of 1 936.
– And just about as effective.
-And just about as effective. The Covenant says that people are to have the right of self-determination; that they have the right to dispose of their property; that slavery is abolished; that people are guaranteed civil and political rights; that every human being has the inherent right to life and that this right shall be protected by law and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life; that no one shall be imprisoned on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation, and other things. In fact, there are 53 articles, all of which we would agree with thoroughly. The most interesting one which I draw to the attention of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), who was a distinguished lawyer before he entered this place, is Article 50 which states:
The provisions of the present Convenant shall extend to all pans of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.
Here we come to one of the first problems of this Bill because if we look at the provisions of the legislation before us, we find that is precisely what is not provided for. If we look at clause 5 of the Human Rights Commission Bill, we find these words:
This Act binds the Crown in right of the Commonwealth but does not bind the Crown in right of a State or of the Northern Territory.
In other words, this provision makes the application of the Covenant completely ineffectual. Everybody would agree that at least 95 per cent of human rights violations that occur in Australia occur under State or territorial law. Clause 5 of the Bill makes Article 50 of the International Covenant meaningless. The Bill is absolutely a hollow sham. In effect what we really are saying is: ‘So far as the ACT is concerned there is to be no slavery, there is to be no torture, there are to be no people jailed or detained without trial.’ That is a pretty safe declaration and we could probably work on the assumption that it would apply to the ACT and- perhaps even Norfolk Island as well -
– Even some of the territories would be all right.
– Yes, even some of the territories. I do not know about Christmas Island. When we come to the crunch, if anyone asked any of the honourable members present, such as the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) or the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), the following question: Where in Australia are violations of human rights most likely to occur?’, I am sure that as the honourable gentlemen are honest men they would say: ‘In Queensland or in Western Australia.’ When we look at the Bill we find that States, including Queensland and Western Australia, are specifically exempted.
The Human Rights Commission is to be set up by clause 6 of the Bill. When we look at the functions of the Commission, set out in clause 9 we find another critical difference between what is found in the Covenant and what is to be found in the Bill, and this is the second major objection to the Bill. Most of the functions provided for in clause 9 are to be carried out at the direction of the Minister. If we read the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights there is nothing to say that these rights shall be investigated and enforced subject to the direction of some appropriate Minister. The functions are absolute enough in the Convention. The way they appear in the Bill seems to be a particularly objectionable hollow sham to find that when we go through the Bill the functions of the Commission are to be directed by the Minister. For example, clause 9 ( 1 ) (d) reads:
The functions of the Commission are- when requested by the Minister, to report to the Minister as to the action (if any) that, in the opinion of the Commission, needs to be taken by Australia in order to comply with the provisions of the Covenant or of any relevant international instrument;
What is the use of that? If the Minister decides to say: ‘Look, this is really terribly embarrassing. The last thing we want to do is to draw attention to it; we want to hide it or bury it under the carpet’, then all he has to do is to sit there and do absolutely nothing.
– He just ignores it.
-If he ignores it and makes no direction to the Commission then what can the Commission do? The whole exercise is pointless, particularly as the accompanying Bill destroys the practical possibility of the Commissioner for Community Relations carrying out his work. This means that this Bill is reduced to absolute impotence.
– That is the purpose of it too.
-Obviously that is the purpose of it. The next thing which I find objectionable in the Bill is clause 10 (4) (f). It reads:
The Commission may, in its discretion, decide not to hold an inquiry as a result of a complaint if-
Those words sound comparatively innocent but obviously this is a recognition of the old legal doctrine of locus standi. In other words, before initiating action one had to be personally involved. That would mean that organisations such as civil liberties groups and Amnesty International would not be in a position to recommend that the Human Rights Commission should examine what they regard as flagrant breaches of human rights unless somebody from Amnesty International was personally involved. As we all know, in very many cases like this it is extremely difficult for the people who are actually involved- the people who are under pressure in a particular situation- to get up and go to Canberra, or wherever necessary, to make a complaint. It is quite obvious and logical that in many cases an organisation would take action for them. There is nothing wrong with that. I know that the cry will be that there are cases where carpetbaggers come in and try to foment trouble. Perhaps that has to be taken into account as well. This part of the legislation, providing that the person making the complaint must have a direct personal interest, is objectionable. It does not mean an intellectual or moral interest. It means a direct or fiduciary interest, or perhaps the involvement of a family member. The legislation is far too narrow and restrictive.
Clause 1 1 provides the worst horse laugh in the whole document. It reads: 11. (1) The Minister may make an arrangement with a Minister of a State or of the Northern Territory for or in relation to-
In other words, if we are concerned about Aboriginal rights in Queensland we ring up the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland, chat him up over the phone and say: ‘You had better have a look at it but you carry out the investigation’. The same thing applies in Western Australia. For example, consider what appears to have happened in the Kimberley electorate in Western Australia during the last week. There was a claim of police harassment of people who cast postal votes, resulting in the defeat of a Minister and the election of a part-Aboriginal. If somebody raised a complaint about that in this House the logical conclusion drawn from this Bill would be to say: ‘We cannot do anything about this at a Commonwealth level but we will ring up Sir Charles Court or the Western Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and get him to carry out an investigation’. What a joke that would be. Or one might get the Western Australian Minister for Police to carry out the investigation. That would completely destroy the possibility of an objective examination of the matter. We would be appealing from Caesar to Caesar. I believe that is completely destructive and contrary to the provisions set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Let us have a look now at Clause 15. 1 consider it to be a most interesting clause. Clause 1 5 provides for the Commisison to have access to documentation. Clause 15 (1) gives the Commission the opportunity to call for documentation. That sounds all right. Sub-clauses (2), (3) and (4) knock them right down. All that the Minister in an appropriate area has to do is to write across it: For reasons of State we do not regard this as appropriate to go before the Human Rights Commission’. Once he does that- I suppose that this is what the legal draftsmen regard as the equivalent of a wink being as good as a nod- the Bill says: . . the Chairman shall take as the basis of his consideration the principle that it is desirable in the interest of securing the effective performance of the functions of the Commission that the Commission should be made aware of all relevant matters but shall pay due regard to any reason specified by the Attorney-General in the certificate as a reason why the disclosure of the information or the contents of the document, as the case may be, would be contrary to the public interest.
Judging from the experience that I have had so far on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts one would assume that the rubber stamp that is the closest to the Minister’s hand at any time is the one with the word ‘Confidential’. It is almost a reflex action; as soon as the paper is put before him a hand goes out to the rubber stamp which stamp then goes on the paper. If ever there is an opportunity to withhold information from anyone wishing to look at it for some legitimate public purpose it will be withheld. That situation is absolutely deplorable. I refer to clause 34, which was mentioned by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) who has now left the chamber. The honourable member made the point that clause 34 ( 1 ) provides:
That was all news to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. But, of course, this is the standard provision which also protects judges or others carrying out judicial functions. Indeed, it is analagous to parliamentary privilege which protects us here. A protection is certainly given to such persons as an ombudsman, judge or member of Parliament. I concede that it is an anomaly but it has never been regarded as an infringement of rights. The honourable member did not mention sub-clause (2) of clause 34, which provides: (2)Where-
What does that mean? I draw the attention of the House to a statement that was made by Senator Missen in a very valuable critique that he wrote on this legislation. I quote and adopt his words:
It appears, therefore, that the results of Commission inquiries, including admissions of breaches of Commonwealth laws will not be available for any subsequent prosecutions for such breaches- a grave restriction on the value of the inquiry to any public or private prosecution.
In other words, the inference to be drawn from clause 34 is that if a matter is investigated by the Human Rights Commission and even where the most damaging evidence appears- an indication that the laws have been broken over and over again- apparently the people involved would then be exempt from prosecution. Prosecution might be exactly the sanction that is required in the case. That is another matter which must be re-examined. I refer to clauses 7 and 16 of the Human Rights Commission Bill. Clause 7 provides for the Commissions membership. There are to be not less than five or more than nine other members. One notable exception from the people who may be appointed to that Commission is the Commissioner for Community Relations himself. That confirms that the whole purpose of this legislation is to gut the very valuable work of Al Grassby.
Clause 16 of the Bill indicates that the only sanction available will be that of adverse publicity. In many cases that may well be enough. One of the great achievements of Commissioner Grassby has been that of the thousands of matters he has investigated, very few have actually led to prosecution. If disputes can be solved without prosecution, that is fine. Nevertheless, the sanction may need to be there if matters are to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The lack of a sanction is to be deplored very much.
One other remark made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro demands comment. His view is that human rights really need to be renegotiated by each succeeding generation, that there should be no idea of a continuity or tradition of civil rights. Instead they should be negotiated, like a wage claim, each time an issue comes up. That is an appalling concept. There are certainly differences between the Liberal side and the Labor side of politics. There is the difference between the rich and poor, the strong and the weak, between an essentially competitive view of society, in which society is equated with the market, and a co-operative view of society, based on a sense of community. Those are tremendous differences. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro reminds me of the man who said that in a fight between koalas and jaguars he was absolutely neutral.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The previous speaker, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), in some instances cited examples which he claimed highlighted inadequacies. Instead they really served to highlight the contrary, inasmuch as the Human Rights Commission Bill is not meant to override and interfere in every corner of the nation’s administration. The honourable member did quote the case of the alleged discrepancies in postal voting in Western Australia. I would hope that the Electoral Act of Western Australia would be sufficient to ensure that if a complaint did exist it could be thoroughly investigated. As a Liberal, I do not believe that the Federal Parliament should be burdened, whether with commissions or legislation, in such a way that we have to be poking our noses into every aspect of life. I believe that sincerely. Perhaps one of the problems with the national Parliament today is that we try to do too much and spend too little time thinking about what we are doing.
– You don’t mean Afghanistan.
-The Opposition raised that matter today. That made it the sixth day in a row for that topic. I would have thought that after five days the Opposition would have had enough. I was most surprised when the Opposition raised the matter yet again. Talking about Afghanistan reminds me of some of the countries that have signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A signature is not necessarily a guarantee to people of their freedom.
– That is for sure.
– I thank the honourable member. The fact that Australia has taken a number of years to ratify it- it will probably be ratified later this year- underlines the sincerity of our approach. Australia asks: ‘Can we completely fulfil the obligations that will be required of us? Can we get all the State governments to come on side and agree to abide by the International Covenant?’ Australia has not raced off and ratified the agreement. Certainly, we have signed it but we have not ratified it. That, of itself, is a great mark for this country. I am not necessarily suggesting that a Labor Party government would have simply signed it without thought. I hope that on both sides of the House there are people who are deeply sincere when they consider the subject of the rights of the individual. I also believe that there exists in this House a great difference of opinion as how best to establish the rights of the individual. However, I do not believe that one can necessarily legislate for rights. One cannot necessarily enforce rights by threats of judical intervention, of dragging people before the court. The Bill that the Government has introduced seeks to educate people. Certain events happen in every State of Australia. As a Queenslander, I squirm as honourable members on the other side continually pick on Queensland- it is a case of Queensland this or Queensland that- injustices exist all over the Commonwealth. Injustices also exist in the Labor States, such as Tasmania and New South Wales. Are there any others?
– Not in South Australia. South Australia has led the way. You cannot deny that.
– No, the people put a Liberal Government back into power. The point I am endeavouring to make this afternoon is that honourable members on the other side of the House desire to push harder to achieve a goal whereas we on this side of the House believe that that same goal can be achieved but by a different method. Perhaps that is the only difference. When one looks at the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lionel Bowen, one sees that he wants the whole Bill scrubbed. He wants to delete all the words of the motion after ‘That’. I think the first word of the motion is ‘That’. He has made some suggestion about the Bill providing for specific adoption in judicially enforceable form of the rights specified in the International Covenant. Honourable members on both sides of this House know that there are many countries which have signed and ratified this Covenant but it means absolutely nothing because freedoms there are crushed under foot.
The honourable member for Lalor, who, I am pleased to say, is still in the House, made reference to clause 10 (4) (f) of the Bill. That clause specifies that a person shall have a genuine interest in a complaint. Before the honourable member for Lalor was elected to this place I was subjected to what was an infringement of my rights as an individual. I am not going to rake over all the coals, only some of them. I am not even going to name the senator concerned, even though he was a Labor senator. I observed in Brisbane that members of a certain group- I used at the time a word to describe race for identification purposes- were stealing cheques from letterboxes and cashing them. It gave them quite a living at the time. Having said that, a certain senator of a different political persuasion to mine raced into print saying that he was going to report me to Mr Grassby. A great battle ensued. It was like Hastings here every night as I stood in the only forum available to me and defended myself.
I was made the subject of politics. Because I was a Liberal politician, someone trampled on my rights. If I had been quietly reported to Mr Grassby and he had quietly investigated what I had done and given me an opportunity to explain I would not have been so volatile. But was I volatile! The honourable member for Lalor really missed something while he was in the Victorian Parliament. I was fighting for my rights. I am not going to go into too much detail but if the people who had felt aggrieved had made the complaint I would have felt a lot better. I felt that I was just being used as the subject of a political battering. Fortunately, Mr Deputy Speaker- you would remember the occasion well- some weeks later about twelve of these people were picked up, charged and subsequently convicted for doing what I said had been done. We can always quote an example to show why something should exist. My liberties were being transgressed at that time. I speak of that in the course of this debate to explain why I say that there is always another point of view which can have some validity.
I have already expressed the view that rights cannot necessarily be guaranteed by legislation. Rights can be improved by legislation. The Labor Government introduced a Bill- the Murphy Bill, as it has been described- which had almost every State in Australia offside. There were reservations about this Bill in the hearts of even the Labor States. We want co-operation. Surely it would be better to introduce legislation that the States will co-operate with and work with in the pursuit of the same goal. I do not intend to speak at great length this afternoon on this subject except to say that last year I spent some 16 hours behind doors examining this Bill clause by clause. I probably knew it too well. I became very closely acquainted with just about every word and what it meant. I subscribe to the view that there is a need for civil liberties and rights to be protected. I have stood with members of the Labor side of the House on the matter of telephone tapping and issues such as that. Concern for a person’s rights does not belong to a particular party in this Parliament. We all share that concern. But we have varying views as to the rights that should be extended.
In conclusion, I want to refer to the change in procedure in the Racial Discrimination Act. Mr Grassby, whose name was mentioned by the honourable member for Lalor as having done a great job, is a person who evokes mixed feelings in the community. I think I am putting it mildly. Some people believe that he does a wonderful job; others believe that he creates racial tension.
– Of course.
-The honourable member for Holt is one who subscribes to that view. On this occasion I will remain neutral. I believe that the type of work that has been done has, in some areas, been of benefit. Recently a complaint was made to me by an Australian who wanted to join a club which is run by an ethnic group. He told me that he could become only an associate member of that club. He said that he was not allowed to take out full membership.
– Is this the Irish Club?
-The honourable member for Lilley asks me whether it is the Irish Club. As my great, great grandmother came from County Cork, I could probably qualify for anything. In the minds of different people racism still exists in this country. The Aussie did not like being told that he could not join the club as a full member because he was not a national of this ethnic group. It will go on like that and we will never completely remove it. All we can do is promote love and understanding and seek to diminish the tensions which sometimes can exist. Mr Grassby will be part of the Human Rights Commission.
– No, he won’t.
-He will not automatically be a member of the governing body of the Commission but there will be between five and nine members of it. We can reasonably assume that he has a good chance of being appointed.
– You will put your lot on it.
– I know that every time a federal seat becomes vacant Mr Grassby makes comments about wishing to nominate and puts a finger in the water to feel whether he would be welcome in a particular area. Perhaps by the time the Bill becomes law, Mr Grassby will be back in this House representing some Labor seat. He has been doing this for a long time. That may be why honourable members opposite are saying with such certainty that Mr Grassby will not be appointed to the Commission. I do not know. But I do believe in my heart that the Commissioner for Community Relations, no matter who he might be, should have a position in the actual Commission. The Commission is to have between five and nine members. I believe that, regardless of personal feuds in the past and the differences which have existed, the Commissioner for Community Relations should be one of those persons. I am pleased to see that his role is to be redirected as a consequence of the introduction of this legislation.
– It is an interesting comment on the state of human rights in Australia that members of the public who have been tuned into the proceedings of this Parliament or have been in the gallery over the course of the last week have heard lengthy and heady debates in the Senate and in the House of Representatives about human rights in the Soviet Union and the plight of Dr Sakharov. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that, but it seems to me to indicate something about the nature of this Government. It has been allowed to allocate all that parliamentary time to discussions about human rights in the Soviet Union, yet on not one occasion in five years has a single minute been allocated by this Government for this Parliament to discuss and deliberate upon the state of human rights in our community and, more particularly, upon the reports of the Commissioner for Community Relations. In all of his reports he details time and time again not merely the denial of human rights but examples of racial discrimination within our own community.
I do not question the sincerity on the human rights issue of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), who is at the table, or of some of the spokesmen opposite, but one is entitled to ask: What sort of priorities does this Government have? What sort of allocation in terms of simple human responsibilities will it give? We can get angry, anguished and upset about the plight of the Soviet dissenter, but when our own human rights commissioner produces report after report to this Parliament detailing the infringements of the liberties of our own citizens, that is not deemed worthy of consideration by this Government or by this Parliament. That is the sad, incontestable record. I have raised this matter at the outset because I think my colleagues have indicated their basic objections to this piece of legislation.
I support the amendment. I believe, together with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and my other colleagues, that the Human Rights Commission Bill ought to be sent back. It ought to be sent back for this Government to have another go at it so that we can get legislation which will fulfil the spirit of the promise given to the electorate by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was an election promise. The implication of that promise was that the Government would legislate to enlarge human rights, not merely to recognise the international covenant but to protect it. A question which has already been asked by previous speakers and which has been elaborated on by my colleague, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) is: What kind of enlargement of human rights has taken place? What level of protection does this Parliament give when we say: ‘Well, now we have this great piece of legislation which enshrines all that is best and beautiful in Liberal Party policy on human rights and it is going to apply in the Federal Territory. As for the States, it is a bit sad about them, is it not? We would not want to interfere with that great civil libertarian, the Premier of Queensland, neither would we want to get involved with the Premier of Western Australia.’ So this monumental piece of legislation is going to afford protection, to establish the concepts of the Liberal Party, for whom? For half a million Australian citizens. If we cross the border into Queensland we can forget this legislation.
– What about where Commonwealth Acts are concerned?
– I hope I have the support of the honourable gentleman opposite in what I am saying. I am not stating just my own view. His own Liberal Party colleagues in the Senate have indicated their unhappiness with this legislation. If this Parliament is going to wax eloquent about civil rights in the Soviet Union, let us at least put our own house in order and make certain that we have extended and enlarged human rights in our own community, our own society. I want to spend some time on the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 1979. This is part, of the Government’s package, although it was not specifically mentioned in the Prime Minister’s policy promises. I say at the outset that of all the actions which have been taken by this Prime Minister and this Government, I find this particular action the sorriest. I do so for this reason: The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 was passed with the support of the Australian Labor Party Government and the Liberal and Country parties, who were then in Opposition. It was passed after substantial amendments were agreed on and after views from all sides of the Parliament were incorporated in it. It was in that sense consensus legislation. As the word ‘bipartisan’ has been used frequently in this House in the last 24 hours, I believe that it can be said of this legislation that it was in that sense truly bipartisan legislation.
I believe that Mr Grassby, in the position of Commissioner for Community Relations, has discharged his obligations to that office with credit to himself, to this Parliament and to all the people of Australia. I have been privileged to have Mr Grassby in my elecorate in his capacity as Commissioner. He has been welcomed by people of all political beliefs and of none, but more importantly than that- because I represent an electorate which includes many ethnic communities- Mr Grassby has become for ethnic communities a symbol of all that is best in Australian society. He has become a symbol of a capacity to stand up against racism, a symbol of a man who in office is concerned to produce a multi-ethnic society. Of course he is a colourful character and of course he has used some of that colour to draw a great deal of attention to problems of racial discrimination in this community. Is there one single ethnic community anywhere in Australia which has ever suggested through its leader or through anybody else that Mr Grassby has not discharged his obligations to his office with dignity, with capacity and with integrity? I do not believe that any member of this House would not acknowledge that.
Therefore, I believe that, at a time when the Prime Minister is talking about healing divisions in Australian society, it is singularly regrettable that he has purged every board, every instrumentality, wherever he has been able to wield the knife, to dismiss a Labor Government appointee. He has done that in cases of government instrumentalities and bodies where some of those appointees, appointed by a Labor Government, were card carrying members of the Liberal Party. He has done this because of his peculiar political spleen. For him it does not matter whether a man is a man of capacity, it does not matter whether he is even a member of the Prime Minister’s own party; the fact that he was appointed by a Labor Government is enough for the Prime Minister to say that he has no positive role to play in Australian society. Of course, that is the real motivation in this Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill. It takes the Commissioner and places him under the complete control of the Human Rights Commission. The office will be absorbed. It will be subject in its direction and limited in its handling of complaints of racial discrimination.
The Commissioner will no longer be able to report direct to the Parliament. Think about that. These gentlemen who are so concerned about human rights in the Soviet Union are so concerned about human rights in Australia- racial discrimination in all its ugliness and vileness in our community- that they say that the Commissioner, whoever it may be, will no longer have the power to report on these matters direct to the Parliament. Is that not a serious minimisation, not merely of the powers of the Commissioner; is it not a diminution of the rights of the Parliament itself? I do not believe honourable members on the other side of the House are so unconcerned about these problems that they do not want to hear about them.
Let me deal with some of the matters raised in the last report of the Commissioner. He stated:
One of the most serious aspects of the state of the nation evaluated in this report is the considered decision by the Queensland Government to defy the law of the land and deny complainants under the Racial Discrimination Act 197S the right to conciliation processes laid down under the Act.
Despite the fact that every opportunity has been afforded to State Ministers to respond, even to the extent of waiting up to 1 2 months- a delay which we have never accorded private citizens- there has been a complete lack of co-operation. The end result has been the application of the full procedure leading to the issuing of certificates to enable the complaints to be taken to the courts of law.
He went on to point out in his report that a survey of racism in school text books pointed out that only 10 per cent of the 500 books on the market dealing with Aboriginal Australians could be highly recommended and there were, in fact, 300 books on the market incorrectly dealing with Aboriginal people. He pointed out the number of organisations existing in our community which are involved in continuing political exercises of racial intolerance. He stated:
During our four years of operation we have identified 30 extremist or racist groups dedicated to promoting race hatred and community division. Taken at their word they have a combined membership of 104,000.
He expressed concern at their co-ordinated activity of plastering the highways and bus shelters of Perth with ‘Asians go home’ signs, of distributing 100,000 pamphlets in letterboxes under cover of darkness, of practising round-robin propaganda techniques of writing letters to newspaper editors and making comments on talk-back’ radio programs. These are surely matters which ought to be of as much concern to any Australian parliamentarian, to any Australian parliament, as the rights of a dissenter in the Soviet Union. Are they any less relevant? It is easy for honourable gentlemen opposite to stand up and wax eloquent on the injustices and inadequacies of the Soviet system. It is far more difficult to lead by example, to put our own house in order and to act upon the information that has been brought to this Parliament over a period of four years. It has illustrated time and time again where racism and the denial of human rights operate within our own community. In the last report there was detailed evidence of how Aboriginal women- again unfortunately in the State of Queensland- were illegally and improperly denied the supporting mothers benefits. Is that not a matter of such concern to some of the honourable gentlemen opposite that they should be moved to put a notice on the Notice Paper regretting it or condemning it? Perhaps if the Aboriginal people of Queensland abandoned names like Smith, Brown or Burns and called themselves Sakharov, Borokov or Molokov- any sort of kov you like- they would be a matter of concern to the honourable gentlemen opposite.
What is the argument? We have yet to hear from the Government side of the House why the functions of Mr Grassby and his office ought to be diminished, why the work that he has done ought to be destroyed, why his functions ought to be minimised and why the responsibility to report to this Parliament ought to be taken away. Indeed, the responsibilities in terms of human rights and protecting the rights of minority groups in this community at the whim of this new commission proposed by the Government, may be given to a State government. Oh, there is justice in that! What would the honourable gentlemen opposite say if, when we were dealing with the case of a Soviet dissenter, it was considered that perhaps the analysis was a bit jaundiced from our point of view so to be thoroughly independent we asked for not a report but action to protect his rights from the head of the NK.VD? The Government would regard that as a poor joke. Yet it brings into this Parliament legislation which is not going to enhance human rights or extend the implication which every Australian citizen, be he a Labor supporter or a Liberal supporter, was entitled to assume was the underlying principle of the Prime Minister’s promise that there would be legislation which would enhance civil liberties and enhance and enlarge human rights. The legislation was to give protection to the citizen against the abuse of his rights, not merely by the Commonwealth but also by a State or by any of the large and powerful organisations which exist within our community. The average Australian citizen who voted for this Government was entitled to make a reasonable presumption that that would occur.
Not by any stretch of the imagination can honourable gentlemen opposite say in relation to the presentation of this legislation that that is what has occurred. What we have is an exercise in window dressing. The statement, as my colleague the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) said, applauds all the sentiments that could be written into the constitutions of other nations. But when it comes down to the principle of enforcing and providing legal fabric to protect the people of this community, particularly those minority groups such as Aboriginals and the ethnic minorities who need the protection and enforcement of the law, this legislation does not provide protection. With all the spleen and all the rancour that we know can flow from this Prime Minister, despite his talk of bipartisanship, he is abolishing one of the offices which is of such importance to the ethnic communities of Australia in what is nothing more than an exercise in political vindictiveness. The most honourable thing that this Government could do would be to vote for the amendment, take this legislation back and have another go at it.
– I oppose the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, (Mr Lionel Bowen) but I want to foreshadow a few amendments of my own which I will move at the Committee stage. They are being circulated. I do not know why the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) felt that he ought to parade in this debate the minimal support that I think he has for the system in the Soviet Union. I do not think it is really relevant. I thought from reading the Australian Financial Review recently that the small proSoviet group within the Labor Party was holding its head down, but apparently that is not so. I give it credit for that; if its members do not want to hold their heads down, that is fine. Sometimes they ask me to hold my head down and I do not. We can say for sure that they are not keeping their heads down and that the honourable member is not the least bit ashamed to give the Soviets a little support.
I say to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that there is absolutely no comparison at all between the system of human rights which is established in this country at the moment and the system which prevails in the Soviet Union. Surely the honourable member for Melbourne Ports cannot talk seriously about the two systems together. Not so long ago we put down a draft of the condition of persecution that is endured by most of the citizens of the Soviet Union. There is no condition of persecution or difficulty in this country. There are small, deprived groups which are the objects of my foreshadowed amendments, but there cannot possibly be any comparison at all between the system of human rights that we have already in this country and that which prevails in the Soviet Union.
Further, I say to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that the people who voted for this Government on the last occasion will probably vote for it again, despite everything that honourable members opposite say. They will vote for it on a number of issues, not just this one. They will vote for it on all the human rights issues, including the very fair treatment which, I believe, we have given to Aborigines. I will not listen to criticism here which is not true and not justified. I offer a rebuttal to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and to anybody else who makes those assertions about our Government’s performance with respect to human rights. It has not been too bad, although I would like it to be a bit better.
Clearly the objective of the Human Rights Commision Bill, which is now before us, is to provide extra ways to protect the basic human rights of Australians. Australia is not one of those unfortunate countries- I alluded previously to the Soviet Union, and there are several otherswhere all human rights are trampled on every day in the most blatant and large scale way. Essentially our system of common law and legislation provides our people with more than a good measure of enforceable protection of their basic human rights. Indeed, I for one would prefer to rely on our present system of Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary and on our system of common law and the rights of appeal which exist at the moment to protect the human rights of our people.
I would prefer to leave alone the sort of legislation that we are contemplating at the moment because I can see that there will be many problems with its interpretation and its enforcement. I can see that I have the interest of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports; he is a good lawyer and he knows that what I am saying is right. If this Parliament is to decide that we need specific human rights legislation, it is vitally important that the legislation should apply without fear or favour to everyone and not only to some selected sections of the community. It is even more vitally important, in my view, that through oversight or deliberate intent no section of the Australian community should be excluded from it. Least of all should those who are least able to help themselves in these matters be excluded from the umbrella of any protection it can provide.
My foreshadowed amendments are aimed at including within the legislation those citizens of Australia who are most helpless to protect themselves- the unborn citizens still being carried in the mother’s womb. They are tragically in need of some force of law to establish their most basic of human rights-the right to their life which begins at conception. We have reached a point in our knowledge, with manipulation of life before birth, when it will soon certainly be possible to determine the exact moment of conception easily and as a matter of routine. If there had remained any slight doubt about conception being the actual beginning of every human life, the birth of little Louise Brown in England removes it completely and forever. She began her life in a test tube fertilisation. She continued it in her mother’s womb and then returned to the outside world at her birth. From the moment of her visible conception she was the same Louise Brown who is alive and well today. The test tube fertilised baby carried by its mother in Melbourne at present is the same baby that will be born later this year. My foreshadowed amendments face this scientific fact and write it into this legislation. Every child conceived in Australia is in undisputed fact a new citizen for this country and, as such, must be accorded the same rights as every other citizen.
I hope I am not giving more than the usual amount of amusement to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports on this matter. I know that he opposes me, but I would like him to absorb this because I think it will do him good. I was saying that these new citizens must be accorded the same rights as every other citizen. Those rights begin with the most fundamental one- the right to its life. Many things are bandied about which purport to be right and which are at least arguable, but the right to life is not arguable; it is intrinsic. If this human rights legislation that we are speaking about at the moment does not include within it a full measure of protection of the right to life for all our citizens, then it is not in truth human rights legislation at all. It is dangerous and offensive. It is selective human rights legislation which gives rights only to those it is considered should have them. Its passage without including the unborn citizen would make it legislation which by law would deny to the most helpless, the least offensive and the least guilty of our citizens protection of their very lives. I would not want any part of such legislation and I would not support it. I believe there are many others in this place who feel the same way.
We can come to grips with the total question of human rights and of human rights legislation only if we are prepared to face the unyielding rock of reality that life begins at conception; and to deny rights to the unborn is to deny rights to people. My foreshadowed amendments do not break new ground. They will not do something that has not been done previously. We all know the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child which was issued by the General Assembly of the United Nations in November 1959 and which spells out that ‘the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth’. That statement is taken exactly from the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child and I cannot understand why that particular Convention has not been referred to directly in the Schedule to the Bill. If we are to use a United Nations Convention as the basis of any legislation that we are contemplating, why on earth did we not include the Declaration of the Rights of the Child? It is possible that because last year was the International Year of the Child it was thought inappropriate to include it.
Unborn children already have some rights enshrined in law and custom, provided they live to birth to claim them. They have rights of inheritance and rights to sue for pre-birth injuries. I think the most recent example is those unfortunate victims of thalidomide. My foreshadowed amendments simply seek to write into what is supposed to be legislation to secure full human rights for all Australian citizens the basic right to life of every Australian, not from the accidental time of birth but from the impeccable moment of conception.
– What about test tube babies?
– I have spoken about them already. If the honourable member had been here he would have heard. He can read it in Hansard. On the last occasion that the question of the rights of unborn children was discussed in this House, during the debate on the funding of abortions, I became aware that very many honourable member were horrified at abortion and rejected the killing of unborn Australians but felt that they could not vote against what they saw as the right of citizens to have it paid for as a medical procedure. I think that amongst those were the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), and on our side the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean).
I think that the honourable member for Bradfield was given an honourable mention in an analysis of the debate which we had in this House on the Lusher motion. I believe he was given that honourable mention in that analysis simply because he, like a great many of those who voted against the Lusher motion, was horrified at the procedures used in abortion, at the killing in the womb and at the magnitude of between 60,000 and 80,000 abortions occurring every year. Of course we must be horrified at it. But I believe that those honourable members had good conscientious reasons for choosing to adhere to the present practice of paying medical benefits. I understand this. I hope that when the time comes for my foreshadowed amendments to be debated those honourable members might have another think about the situation because all that I am making is a statement of principle. I am not talking about money or anything else. It is a statement of principle, enshrining the right to life in the proposed legislation.
I am concerned that the legislation is not specific enough about handicapped people. I have foreshadowed one very simple amendment. It is one that I do not believe should occasion objection or controversy in this House. Its objective is simply to strengthen this human rights legislation by writing into it a specific and clear protection for the full human rights of intellectually and physically handicapped people of all ages. There are some who may argue that these people are by implication included in the other categories named. I would like to think that that is so, but in my experience it is not. These people must be carefully protected by the most unequivocal statements that their rights are the same as those of other citizens. In fact, if I could I would give them more care and protection than others because they need it more.
In some countries the people’s human rights are violated on a large scale every day but, as I have said before, Australia is not such a country. In Australia we have the massive legislative, bureaucratic and common law protection to which I have alluded before. But even with this massive blanket of protective and usually enforceable law it seems that there are still some people who in some instances are or could be denied treatment as full and proper human persons. Many of these people are intellectually and physically handicapped. There have been serious allegations about psychiatric treatment for the mentally disturbed. There are many honourable members of this House who have had cases put before them where these allegations have been made. I have sat here during the adjournment debate many times in the couple of years that I have been a member of the Parliament and listened to those allegations being made. I have been horrified by them. There are cases where physically or mentally handicapped people or their relations have alleged that these people have, because of their handicap, been denied basic human rights particularly in relation to medical treatment. Many of these cases are well founded and yet the people concerned find it difficult or impossible to assert their rights or protect themselves.
I have told the House before- I do not intend going into it in great detail again- about the case that has troubled me for several months. In fact, it spoiled my Christmas. I refer to the case of Christopher Derkacz who died in the Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth last year at the age of two after being denied resuscitation because he was a Down’s syndrome child. His parents, foster parents and even the Department of Community Welfare have no way to establish responsibility or redress for the terrible denial of human rights that took place in his case. Because he was a Down’s syndrome child he was denied life-saving treatment that would have been given to a child not handicapped. He was deliberately allowed to die. His parents were not even consulted about whether he was to be allowed to die or to be resuscitated, so they too were denied the most basic of human rights. It has been made abundantly clear that they have no redress at all. I am not making wild and unsupported allegations. I will say these things outside the House. I have said them and they have been published in the newspapers. These are not wild allegations. What I am saying about this case is absolutely true. It is based on the sworn evidence which was given to the coroner’s court in Perth covering these matters.
Provision of specific cover for the mentally handicapped in this human rights legislation would extend at least some help and protection to people like the late Christopher Derkacz. It would give some measure of some redress and help to those who find themselves in the same situation. There have been too many of these instances which have come to my notice. There is only the one that 1 can speak about with full and complete authority, because of total involvement and because of the sworn evidence. I would have to say that the others are based on hearsay, but there are many of them. If we are to be able to extend protection and help, it will give some measure of redress, and help if necessary, to those who find themselves in the same situation as Christopher’s angry and heart-sore relations.
As I have said, this is not an isolated case. The worst thing that I have learned about this case- it is all because the human rights legislation within the State, and within this Commonwealth perhaps, is a little inadequate in protecting handicapped people-is that there has been an enormous erosion of confidence in hospital and medical care among handicapped people and those who care for them. They know of so many cases where the intellectually and physically handicapped have not been given the same care that would have been available to patients without handicaps.
Many handicapped people approach illness and hospitalisation with fear and doubt. Will they be allowed to die or develop a serious condition because of their handicaps? Will they even be consulted about whether they wish to be revived, or will the doctors make unilateral decisions, as they have been doing, about life or death? Will these people be denied intensive care treatment because of their handicap? Will their human rights be subjugated to the economics of continued care and will they be allowed to die because it costs too much to care for them? These are real fears which are founded on real evidence. With a simple stroke of the parliamentary pen we can help restore- we can help, if my amendments are accepted by the House- much of the eroded confidence of the parents of handicapped people and the handicapped people themselves. We can restore their peace of” mind simply by writing into this legislation a specific spelling-out of protective extensions to them as people, with equal rights the same as out own.
As I said before, without such amendments I think there is a grave doubt whether this legislation will be complete. The definitions as they stand are incomplete. It escapes my mind why the Government has not taken the wonderful opportunity that has been given to it to write amendments into legislation like this so that it will endure forever, give protection to the unborn, and to intellectually and physically handicapped. I oppose the amendments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As I have said, I foreshadow my own and I commend them to the House. If those amendments are carried I will certainly support the Bill.
-The honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) obviously wants to have a little bit both ways in the Human Rights Commission Bill. He started off by putting forward a rather conservative line that he really does not want the human rights legislation at all. Then by talking about a matter that seriously concerns him he seems to want an extension of the Human Rights Bill quite beyond even many of the rights that we would like to see clearly spelled out. Quite frankly, as other Opposition members have said, this Bill is a sham. It is a supreme irony that it comes before the House after a week of condemning the Soviet Union for the lack of human rights in that country. Of course, supreme ironies are not uncommon with this Government. I was amazed the other night to hear the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) talking about his concern for the Afghans being killed. It was he who said on 28 August 1975 that Fretelin, the political party in Timor, was communist, and that was one of the things that gave the green light to the Indonesian Government to go ahead. So much for irony and hypocrisy.
Although I have some philosophical qualms about the ability of the state to guarantee human rights by statute beyond those already fought for and won, I have no qualms at all about accepting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), and of course I fully support my party’s policy on this most important issue. I support it on the very pragmatic ground that human rights and civil liberties are under attack in Australia and that racial discrimination, particularly in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, is widely practised. The Australian Labor Party ‘s policy states:
In other words, we believe in proper full-blown legislation on human rights, and that belief was reinforced by the ALP when it was in office. Before the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) can get some of the things he would like to see in human rights legislation, he has first of all to get proper human rights legislation. Of course, the Bill introduced by the then Senator Murphy, now Mr Justice Murphy, was howled down by the conservative establishment forces in this country. Conservative lawyers saw no need for a Bill of Rights. Sceptics doubted whether one would work. The law and order types thought it would work, but for the wrong kinds of people. Of course, all the States’ righters and various other reactionaries in the judiciary hoped that it would not work as far as their area of interest was concerned. Unlike the Murphy human rights Bill, which was greeted with such strident hostility, this Bill to set up a Commission dodges the issue of enforceable rights and essentially puts its faith in those trusty defenders of our freedom, the people’s elected representatives, such as the Premier of Queensland and a minute bureaucracy.
As this legislation is so impotent and is in keeping with the Government’s pusillanimous approach in so many areas of national policy making, it is the worst of all worlds and tokenism at best. The philosophical arguments that one could talk about in terms of human rights and natural rights have been settled by the Government by setting up a Commission to look at things. This Bill does not go much beyond that- a Commission to look at things. Proper conservatives, and I guess the honourable member for Swan is one, would have argued that it does not deal with human rights as such but group rights, and therefore assumes that because a person is Aboriginal, non-Australian or female he or she has some particular rights apart from the rest of society. It would therefore follow, even for a conservative, that the Commission is tokenism and that there would be a danger of groups using it for grandstanding and engaging in activities which will clog up the system. Of course, many of the conservatives on the Government side will have these thoughts and will fall in with the Menzian view of the sufficiency of the common law to guarantee rights. But they will not express those thoughts, and will simply sell the line that human rights are a good thing and that the Human Rights Commission is going to do something about those good things.
As elected representatives, we have a great responsibility to protect human rights. Much of our electorate work and specific party policies is directed towards rectifying specific perceived wrongs. Although past human rights philosophers, in pressing for representative parliamentary institutions, did not see that they could degenerate into tyrannies of majority rule or be instruments for buying votes with the electors’ own money or vehicles for petty party politics and vested interests, they would have been well pleased with parliaments such as the Australian Parliament, where as long as we are vigilant as members we can do a lot to protect rights. After all, we are a rich, democratic country and not a totalitarian society possessed of an authoritarian bureaucracy. The responsibility is there, but for all our good points we need to be aware of the bad. Those in this House who condone and praise the abuses of the likes of Mr BjelkePetersen should realise what forces they are encouraging. There is a diminishing group of people in our society concerned with the rights of others. There are growing groups of people with the reverse attitude, and I need point only to the National Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan in this country.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, during which I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I yielded not to temptation, I was talking of trends in our society. There are few in our society who take stock of the amorality of business, the media and political life and the fact that public and private bureaucracies are steadily strangling personal freedoms. We live in a society of planners, regimentation and bureaucracy and these factors, by force and propaganda, lead to a conformist, uniform society which in many ways has lost the spirit of initiative. The Liberal and National Country parties, for example, are horrified by lack of conformity. This is evidenced by their constant accusations and criticisms in this place of any disagreement or diversity of opinion. It is said that the Press, the media, will defend human rights but I often feel that where they do not take a political line, quite often they tend to perpetuate conformity by the consistency of their reporting, the consistency of the way in which their articles and news items and slanted. Where they do bring to the surface the individual injustices or the denial of personal and human rights, these stories are rarely carried through because after a while there is no news in them. So as I said at the outset, there is a great responsibility on all of us to see that our systems do not trample the individual.
There is a need for a proper Bill and not this eunuch of a Bill. It is important for the Australian people to understand that this Bill being presented to Parliament is not a human rights Bill which ensures liberties and rights, but is simply a Bill which sets up a commission- in fact merely an advisory committee- totally under the control of a Minister of the Government and without independent decision-making status. The Public has been told that discussions were held with the States but the content of the discussion has been withheld. Few people know whether the Bill will benefit them or that in fact it really has nothing to do with the Australian people and simply is a window dressing to make Australia’s position look better internationally. Rights not only have to be enunciated but also implemented in a way that is set above partisan political debate.
The Australian Constitution, though to a large extent influenced by the American Constitution, contains no catalogue of the liberties of the
Australian people. The American Constitution sets out basic liberties which are very well known and are a source of national pride. As Mr Justice Kirby said:
They have proved remarkably adaptable and relevant to the problems of modern America. Even if we do not agree with a notion of a bill of rights, the American experiment now nearly two centuries old must command our attention.
When our Austraiian Constitution was written, for highly understandable reasons at that time, rights and liberties received very much less attention than railways and rivers and despite several sorties into the discussion of rights in this century, even basic matters such as one man one vote have only partially been achieved, and I again remind honourable members of the situation in Queensland. Australians are left with few formal guarantees of life, liberty and property against intrusions by government. Real respect for civil and political rights depends very much on social and economic rights, income distribution, community attitudes and a concern for the least powerful members of society. Though the Government has ratified the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, there is little indication that these rights are being upheld- for example, the right to work.
Australia needs touchstones. The increasing disaffection for politics and politicians, for representative democracy and the judiciary presents a potentially explosive situation and should be combated by the laying down of basic standards. The strongest argument for a Bill of Rights enforceable in the courts is that it would provide the public, the politician and the judiciary with general principles in those areas where legal injustice has been permitted by parliamentary indifference, administrative complacency and judicial restraint. The facility of a Bill of Rights is to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy and place them beyond the reach of minorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied in courts. One’s right to life, liberty and property, to free speech and a free Press, freedom of worship and assembly and other fundamental rights depends on the outcome of no election. The question must be asked: If the decision to ratify the Covenant has been made because it has only been recognised that Australian people need legislation to ensure that their liberties and rights are protected, why is the Government now considering legislation for human rights in the area of civil and political rights when the International Covenant came into being in 1966? Has the Bill been designed primarily to meet the needs of the people in Australia whose rights are being denied, or has it been designed to gloss over the needs of people and to act simply as a means for Australia to save face? In this area of critical importance for every person in Australia, why has so little public discussion and debate been encouraged? Is the International Covenant appropriate to Australian conditions? After all, it was designed 13 years ago. Should it not be expanded to meet Australian requirements for basic human rights and to have changed those clauses inappropriate to Australia?
Human rights in Australia are dangerously illprotected. Yet why is a Bill being introduced with the stated purpose of protecting particular rights, but with no means of ensuring those rights? Is this no more than tokenism and likely to divert resources away from better means of protecting people? Will any Minister be likely to make an unbiased judgment against himself or his Government’s actions? Australia has ratified the international covenant on social and economic rights, yet these very basic rights like the right to work and the right to a minimum income, are still being denied. Satisfactory answers to very basic questions are not found in the terms of the Bill and the community should be stimulated to discuss such questions as whether the Bill meets Australian needs; what rights and liberties are important in Australia as distinct from America and Europe, and what sort of mechanism or structure should be used to enable people to gain maximum benefits?
It is not my purpose to set out what the Bill actually does, as the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) has already discussed this in his second reading speech. But I would like to say what the Bill does not do. There is no provision for remedy of wrongs; there is no provision for the awarding of costs; there are no links to the community; there is no power to refer a matter to a court; there is no requirement for a time limit for a Minister to indicate what action willi be taken on a Commission report; there is no provision for assistance for people to prepare and present their case; and there is no indication of co-operation from State governments. In Australia, we have no mechanism to challenge governments, some of which create or allow laws which actually violate human rights, particularly those of minority groups such as Aborigines, women, migrants and the poor. I concede that the State governments and the Federal Government too implement a whole range of Bills in some of these areas, but overall, there is no specific legislation to cover these matters. The fact is that human rights are meaningless unless there is a way of ensuring that they are recognised and enforced, and that implies some sort of legislative base.
Historically, there have been written guarantees such as the Habeus Corpus Act, the Magna Carta and other written rights. However, written guarantees have not kept pace with modern needs. I know that conservatives downplay this whole business of having written guarantees, but the simple fact is that we have not kept up. In the old days these things used to be written down. One fear of written rights enforcible in the courts appears to be related to the apparently illiberal attitudes of the groups of aging men who constitute the High Courts of the land and a concern about putting any further power in their hands, particularly in regard to Aborigines, women and the poor. Governments fear courts for a different reason. They fear that the power of the courts will reduce their own power. Yet what we now give the courts is a conglomeration of laws, uneven and inadequate, with which to define rights. Clearly, it is not only which legal rights are specified, but also the structure and the means of ensuring that they are recognised which are of vital importance.
Legislation is only one aspect of what is needed to end discriminatory practices and denial of rights. A public education role is essential. People must be aware of their rights so they know what has been denied to them. Most Australians have a concept of an Australian society in which civil and political rights are recognised and if they are not, there is a remedy for any violation. In fact, this is not a valid assumption and Australians are very vulnerable to the use of arbitrary power. The dangers are increasing and changing. Increasing bureaucratic power, covert security operations, the onslaught of the technocratic society, the use of naked and secret power to influence political decisions- all are dangers which should be faced and not sidestepped. Many problems have to be resolvedwhether rights should be dealt with in the political arena or in the courts, or both; the issue of Commonwealth-State relations in implementation and possible structures. Reliance on the electorate to control the political arena presumes an independent critical media, an informed electorate and politicians who are willing to fight for rights if necessary against the party line. It also assumes that the minorities whose rights are likely to be infringed will be organised, articulate and persuasive enough to compete against powerful groups in the political arena.
Civil rights, particularly those of minorities, are never likely to be major election issues. What has happened to the Aboriginal people in Australia is the clearest case to indicate that the present political protection, together with the Commonwealth protection, is inadequate. Clearly, there are no legal restraints to prevent parliaments from abusing or denying many of the human rights specified in the Covenant.
Finally, I would like to discuss the question of the office of the Commissioner for Community Relations. This Bill- eventually this Act- will completely subsume that office. Even though the Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Al Grassby, will remain, in many ways he will remain in name only. He will be there without power. He is there simply because he has a seven-year contract. There is some reason for me to say that the Government has simply vented its spleen against Mr Grassby. Even if the Government has not, by bringing in this Bill to set up this Commission it is really trampling on what that man and that group of people working with him have done for community relations in this, country. The reports that he presents to this Parliament are most comprehensive. In these reports he sets out to try to educate the Australian people as to what abuses occur with respect to the trampling of human rights in this country. As he points out, Aboriginals are still the main group singled out in this country. Through his reports and his actions he was able to point to, and show, the Australian people the violation of human rights occurring in respect to Aboriginals in Queensland. I know that some honourable members are worried about us constantly harping on Queensland but we cannot get away from the fact that human rights are being denied in Queensland, whether it be in respect of the march legislation, the unions, or the Aboriginals. Mr Grassby was able to point to the deficiencies with respect to Aboriginals in Queensland but that facility is being taken away by this Bill.
There are five main deficiencies in this Bill. The main one is simply that the Government has decided to give the Human Rights Commission no teeth. The Bill does nothing to change laws in any area where we know that there is discrimination. There is discrimination right throughout our society. I know that the discrimination is nothing like it is in other societies but anyone with a close knowledge of the way our society works and a knowledge of the reality of our society knows where the discrimination is. This Bill does nothing about it. It contains no power of enforcement. It is a token Bill; it is a sham. It merely sets up a commission because human rights are goods things. The Commissioner is given no role at all in relation to State law and that is another major deficiency.
Once and for all we have to really work out whether this is one country or a collection of six or seven States. I know that the debate about federalism and the rights of the States is legitimate and ongoing in Australia. It always will be while we have a small population in such a large area. But surely there are some areas where we should have national legislation. Quite clearly this is one such area. There should be no disagreement between States. There should not be any worry about States becoming upset if we set down a national law in this field, just as we need a national companies law. So far as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is concerned, this Bill tries to have things both ways. The Bill goes along with the Covenant but does nothing about it. Of course, the main thing is the derisory staff and the smaller resources that will go to the Commission. That just puts the icing on the whole tokenism of this Bill. The Human Rights Commission will be a very small organisation indeed.
In arguing against myself, briefly, if we get very good people on the Commission- perhaps like Al Grassby- they will be able to override the wishes of the Government, which really wants to bury the whole question of human rights. If we get good people on the Commission we can only hope that they, like Al Grassby, will be able to enlighten us as to where the real disabilities lie in this country.
-At the outset may I congratulate the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) on a measured and very considered address on this important legislation. In the Federal Parliament tonight Australia is pioneering legislation the like of which has never been enacted before in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Whilst I should be the first to admit from the outset that novel- in the legal sense new- legislation will always be subject to criticism and adverse comment that it could have been stronger or it should have been weaker, the fact of the matter is that our Government has a commitment to improve the quality of life of all Australians. The Government has introduced this legislation along with earlier legislation, to give the citizens of Australia certain rights and a protection which they have never received since federation. This is bench mark legislation; it is pioneering legislation. I am proud to be a member of a Government which in 1 980 introduced a Human Rights Commission Bill into the Federal Parliament.
In addition to expressing my pride at being associated with the Bill and having been Chairman of the Law and Government Committee which carried out an extensive investigation into this legislation, I want to compliment those people both within the Government and outside the Government who worked so hard to bring this Bill to fruition. In another Parliament it was strictly prohibited for honourable members to refer to what were known as ‘strangers’. Indeed, under the Standing Orders of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of Tasmania, if a member referred to strangers- that is nonmembers in the course of his speech, Mr President could have the chamber cleared; that is to say, all persons in the public gallery would be removed. It used to make it very difficult for those honourable members who wished to compliment a non-member who happened to be sitting in the public gallery listening to the debate. If that person was referred to by name somebody could rise in their seat and say: ‘Strangers’. As soon as that dread .word was used Mr President could have the public galleries cleared. That provision does not apply in this Parliament and tonight I want to acknowledge the presence of a very great Australian in the chamber, a person for whom I have the most enormous personal regard. I venture to say that without the work of Mr Peter Bailey, and those who work with him, this legislation would not have come to fruition. I know that the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), who is sitting at the table, by his nod of approval entirely agrees with the sentiments that I am expressing. Indeed, my friend the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) knows that when I comment about the work of Mr Bailey and his assistants I am paying a bipartisan tribute, which would be shared on both sides of the House, to a very great Australian.
It is a most exciting experience to stand in this Parliament as the representative of an electorate, albeit as an ordinary back bencher, and to realise that one is debating in the national chamber legislation which is completely original and upon which the strength of the Commonwealth and the rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth will be developed and extended in the years to come. Like the honourable member for Lalor I come from an old school. I have a commitment to what is known by lawyers- indeed also by an increasing number of laymen and laywomen in Australian- as a commitment to the rule of law. I believe it is axiomatic, indeed it is fundamental, that without the rule of law no parliamentary democracy can survive, let alone develop. In many respects it should not be forgotten.
The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and the Minister at the table would be the first to concede that the establishment of the Human Rights Commission in no way derogates from the rule of law and the right of the citizen to approach the courts of this land. That is a point that must be made. Some, within our Australian democracy, would argue that the courts are not adequate, that access is not freely available and that for many of our citizens the rule of law has no real, practical application at all. Accepting, as I do, the deficiencies which apply in any legal system, accepting as I do the problems of parliaments grappling with the fundamentals of writing laws in simple terms so that they can be clearly understood by the men and women of Australia, accepting as I do the difficulties that citizens encounter in having wrongs righted and injustices remedied, I believe that the rule of law in a parliamentary democracy is of such basic and fundamental importance that it should never be forgotten that the judiciary and the courts are there, to protect and to uphold the rights and privileges of the citizens of Australia under the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
I might say, in the somewhat placid circumstances of this debate- when compared with some of the goings on of the past few days- that notwithstanding the criticism that has come from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) for whom, I repeat, that I have the highest regard, and from every member of the Opposition who has considered the Bill, including the honourable member for Werriwa, who says that the Commission is without teeth, I get the feeling- a gut feeling if you like- that although we might differ with respect to detail there is true bipartisanship within the House of Representatives in our deliberations on this Bill tonight. With the goodwill and support on both sides, the legislation and the Human Rights Commission to be established under it, are getting off to a very good start.
I turn now to the basic purposes of the Bill. Although some of the things that I say have already been expressed in different words, I wish to add my own comments, my own gloss, in order to give the Bill perhaps greater relevance for those who are listening to this debate, and for those who might actually approach this Commission for help and assistance in the years that lie ahead. As has been said by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) the purpose of the Bill, in establishing a Commonwealth Human Rights Commission, is to give the people a Commission that will protect and promote, within the limits of Commonwealth power, the observance of human rights throughout Australia. My last comment will attract the attention of legal members such as the honourable member for Lalor because the International Covenant, which is attached to the Bill as a schedule, and is therefore part of it, says quite unequivocally that, in respect of those countries which ratify the Covenant, as Australia will this year, and have a federal system of government, the provisions thereof shall apply to each and every section of the federal system.
That creates a very interesting legal proposition. The Commonwealth’s power to legislate is strictly limited to the powers of the Commonwealth itself. Lest that sound tautologous I repeat that the Commonwealth Parliament’s powers are prescribed in the Constitution, but if one appends to a Bill which the Commonwealth passes, and subsequently ratines under its foreign affairs powers, an international covenant which says that it shall have equal application in all parts of the federal system, as this Bill does, it may have implications involving the States of Australia.
– Will the honourable member look at clause 5 of the Bill, which really reads the other way?
-I appreciate what the honourable member is saying. Indeed, I wrestled with clause 5 at length, but the Covenant which is being appended to the Bill as a schedule is unequivocal. If Australia were to determine that the Covenant would not apply to the States, the only way out would be to do as some other nations have done, namely, adopt the Covenant but reserve certain provisions thereof.
– What about my amendments?
– I am coming to a consideration of the honourable member’s amendment. Without pre-empting what I shall have to say, I note that I have the greatest respect for the honourable member and for the amendment that he has proposed. Although I do not want him to become overjoyed in premature anticipation, I think he can accept that in regard to the basic tenets that we hold in respect to rights we are close enough to say that we are on an equal footing.
It is incredible that whilst the United Nations adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966, the Covenant did not come into force until 10 years later, in 1976. Some 59 countries, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Canada and, in our own Pacific area Japan and New Zealand, have become parties to it. As I have mentioned,
Australia is a signatory to the Covenant and will ratify it later this year.
The legislation before us, and the Human Rights Commission to be established under it, will help Australia not merely to discharge the obligations that it will assume under the Covenant but will give to its citizens unequivocal protection in respect of each and every individual right set out therein. It is a great pity that very few adults in Australia know the first thing about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But if one talks to the young people of Australia, if one addresses the United Nations Association camp, such as I did last year, and speaks to 13, 14 and 15-year olds, one finds that they know more about the International Covenant than do their parents or grandparents. The interesting thing is that at the particular camp that I attended, and where I had the pleasure of working with, and addressing, the young people, they were examining additional rights and privileges which ought to be included in any covenant of any civilised country.
Not a single country guarantees its children the right to breathe clean air. Not a single country guarantees, by covenant, by Act of Parliament, that its children shall drink pure water. These are just two examples that come to mind from the seminar that I attended. We talk about all sorts of things. We get a very twisted idea of the sorts of things in which young people are interested. They are indeed interested in breathing fresh air, and in drinking pure water. As I have said on several occasions, we are not the owners of the earth but simply its trustees. It is our duty to ensure that the world that we pass on to our children and to our children ‘s children will be none the poorer because of our presence, and that because of the things that we have done it will not have been destroyed, mutilated or damaged irreparably. We are trustees, not owners.
The challenge to the Human Rights Commission which is to be established- not as something imposed from Canberra but as something which will bring with it all the strength of the federal system of the Commonwealth- is a great one. I do not believe that the language of the legislation will make or break the Commission, accepting as I do the well intended and genuine comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa and others who have spoken. What I do say is that if the Commission is worth its salt and if it finds that it cannot do the job which it has been charged with performing under the legislation, the Commission will come back to this Parliament and say: ‘Give us more powers’.
– They have done it.
– The honourable member for Capricornia is not normally a pessimist. He is not normally gloomy. He is a bright and friendly member of the Parliament and one for whom I have a very high personal regard. Who says that the Commission cannot say: ‘You have not given us enough powers?’ Do honourable members want it to be put in an Act of Parliament or do they think that the fact of the matter is that the Commission will make its views very well known to the people of Australia if not directly to the Attorney-General or to another Minister? Is any member of the Opposition prepared to stand up and tell me that if the Human Rights Commission finds that it is fettered, that it is in chains and that it cannot do the job it has been charged with performing, it is going to say nothing. The fact is that it will make its views known loud and clear. I ask honourable members to look at the work of the Law Reform Commission, at the work of the Commonwealth Ombudsman carried out by Professor Richardson and at the work of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. They have not been backward in coming forward and pointing out areas where they ought to have more powers and where the legislation ought to be amended.
In the minutes remaining to me I want to read into the record the rights which are specifically- I repeat specifically- covered by the legislation establishing this Commission. One right is the right of equality before the law. Australia, notwithstanding the criticism which comes from time to time, has the most benevolent and generous legal aid scheme in the entire Western world. Believe it or not, we have the lowest means test provisions of any legal aid scheme in the Western world. Another right is the right of freedom of opinion. We can stand up in this country and express our views. The rights of conscience and expression and of freedom of assembly and association are untrammelled in Australia. The right to participate in public affairs is, again, unrestricted. We have the right to privacy and the rights of the family and children. We have basic civil rights, such as the right to life, to liberty and security of the person and to freedom of movement. We have the rights of accused persons and of prisoners and the rights of ethnic minorities and of aliens.
It took an honourable member of courage and of conscience to remind this Parliament that, in relation to express statements, there could perhaps be some restriction in the definition of human person. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr), in my concluding seconds, for having the courage to propose the amendment which he has proposed. I intend to support it, for not to support it would be to deny every basic human right to which this Bill refers and which the Human Rights Commission is being set up to protect. It would be totally incompatible with my support for this legislation to turn to the honourable member for Swan and say that I will not support it. But I do not have to look at it from a negative point of view because I support it in my mind and in my heart. I believe that, in accepting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Swan, this Parliament will add stature to its standing and will prove its bona fides as a parliament committed to the rights of all living things and, by living things, I talk of those to whom life has been given from the very first moment. It is for that reason that I unequivocally support the amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Swan. I commend the Government and I ask the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) to convey to the Attorney-General the support of the Government for this enlightened and pioneering legislation.
-The Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 sought to endorse the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to set up the office and functions of the Commissioner for Community Relations. Under this office, the Commissioner and staff have power to investigate allegations of breaches of the International Covenant and to investigate, attempt to conciliate and call compulsory conferences in cases of racial discrimination. If these efforts to resolve any evidence of racial discrimination are not successful, the Commissioner is empowered to issue authorisation enabling complainants to seek redress in the courts. Commissioner Grassby, who, of course, is the Commissioner for Community Relations, reports that, of 2,800 complaints investigated, conciliation failed in only three cases, thus necessitating the issue of certificates for court action.
One suspects that this could mean either that the Labor Government’s 1975 legislation was not strong enough or that the Commissioner has been highly successful. On either assumption this Government’s present legislation stands condemned, for it weakens federal powers to prevent racial discrimination and destroys Commissioner Grassby as a reasonably independent force for resolving racial conflict in
Australia. This legislation establishes a so-called Human Rights Commission of five to nine members and a Chairman and Deputy Chairman appointed by the Governor-General. The Government says:
Essentially, the function of the Commission will be monitoring the actual state of human rights in Australia, investigating complaints and relying on State and Federal legislation to ensure that the human rights and civil liberties principles espoused in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are maintained.
The problems generated by recalcitrant, conservative State governments, such as those of Western Austrafia and Queensland, will be a constant block to the toothless tokenism of this legislation. So one of the most pernicious failures of the Bill is clause 5, which binds the Commonwealth but not the States. Why should authority vested in the Federal system and bestowed for the precise purpose of going beyond mere provincialism be subverted by State law to suit the whims and caprice of egocentric State lawmakers? It is in the States where the rights and freedom of the individual are so much abused. We need this power in States such as Queensland and Western Australia, where conservative governments rule, where freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are not civil rights, where workers are threatened and blackmailed into submission, where Aborigines are obstructed from voting and obstructed from runnning their own affairs and where there is one law for the whites and one law for the blacks.
Under this Bill, a State can be empowered to investigate complaints made against it. So we hand over powers to anti-human rights legislators such as Charles Court and Bjelke-Petersen. That is marvellous! The Queensland Government disputes the validity of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the federal Aboriginal land rights laws. I can just hear the cheering from the Queensland Aboriginal communities when this piece of legislation becomes law! It is not the sort of legislation that will convince people of the Government’s sincerity concerning human rights. The whole point of having a Human Rights Commission is to protect individuals on a national basis and that by necessity should override any discriminatory State laws. There must be an effective means of enforcing its recommendations and there is none in this legislation.
The Government fondly seems to imagine that its Commission, although it will have no court remedies, will work by promoting human rights as outlined in the International Covenant and by cajoling the community and State governments. With regard to the conservative State governments and their shocking record of mistreatment of Aboriginals, this Government seems to be relying on so-called Federal-State ministerial human rights meetings which it hopes- I stress the word ‘hopes’- will become a fully fledged ministerial council on human rights. Presumably the Government expects that Queensland and Western Australia, for instance, will change any discriminatory laws at the request of and in consultation with the Commonwealth. There is no evidence to support this view. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in this chamber, ought to know that from his own experience with Premier BjelkePetersen, the Queensland State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Porter, and the Queensland Department for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. He will remember the continuing story of Aurukun and Mornington Island- a saga which culminated in the ignominious backdown of this Federal Government to State bigotry against the Aboriginal people.
The truth is that this Government, despite its pontificating about human rights in the Soviet Union and the totally deplorable persecution of individuals such as Sakharov, cares nothing for human rights in its own region. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) use Question Time, debate upon human rights in the Soviet Union and the suspension of Standing Orders to attack the Australian Labor Party’s approach to the totally reprehensible Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and to suggest that we are less than enthusiastic in our condemnation. They deliberately misconstrue our reasoned analysis of foreign affairs and of what is in the best long term interests of Australia and the world for their own selfish, blinkered political purposes in an election year. For instance, the Government and the Prime Minister have no hesitation in suppressing the human rights of Australian sportsmen by pressing their rather stupid attempts for an Olympic boycott when at the same time they see nothing wrong with allowing wool exports from the Prime Minister’s own property, and from the properties of five Cabinet members of this Government, to the Soviet Union. They seem to see no contradiction at all in allowing ram sales to the Soviet Union via Dalgety Australia Ltd, even after having refused visas to Soviet buyers. They see no contradiction in attacking the human rights of members of the Opposition by misrepresenting to the Australian people our position regarding Afghanistan.
The last two weeks have been a black time for Australian parliamentary democracy. However, this Government will not get away with it, Voters will examine the track record of this Government and of the United States Government in their twin support for some of the most undemocratic, repressive anti-human rights regimes in the Americas, South East Asia and the Middle East. I refer to such regimes as those in Iran, Chile, Mexico, Kampuchea, South Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, just to name a few. While the Prime Minister was shuttling around Europe at his own invitation, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) was scuttling around South East Asia exhorting support for this Government’s new cold war policies from some of the most monstrously authoritarian governments in the world. As we are debating the subject of human rights, let me quote from the 1 979 Amnesty International Report regarding the activities of some of these governments. Firstly, in relation to Indonesia the report states: . the government stated that 1,391 A-Category and 9,997 B-Category prisoners were still in detention. The authorities regard A-Category prisoners as those directly involved in the 1965 coup attempt and subject to trial; BCategory prioners are those allegedly ‘indirectly’ involved, against whom there is not enough evidence to justify a trial. Amnesty International believes that many more are still in detention. In the October 1978 Introduction to the translation into Indonesian of the Amnesty International Report on Indonesia … it was estimated that the total number of detainees held at that time could still have been as high as 30,000.
Let me move now to the Philippines. Amnesty International states:
There are frequent reports of arbitrary arrests for political reasons in the southern Philippines. Many of those arrested in the south are held for quite short periods without charge or trial. However, an increasing number are held for longer periods, on charges triable before a military tribunal, whose proceedings are protracted.
It goes on to say:
There have been reports of bombing and burning of villages and the killing of harmless captives. For example, in the province of Bukidnon, in the southern island of Mindanao, the 57th Philippines Constabulary Ranger battalion was accused by local people ‘of conducting a private campaign against the people they are assigned to protect’.
Now we turn to Singapore. Amnesty International has this to say:
Under the Internal Security Act, people are held for an initial 60-day interrogation period, after which they may be served with a renewable 2-year detention order. For the initial 60-day period, detainees are usually held at the Whitley Road Holding Centre, where they are routinely subjected to round-the-clock interrogation in air-conditioned rooms. Up to 100 prisoners are believed to be kept at Whitley Road at any given time.
Finally, I turn to Pakistan, the country that the Prime Minister and President Carter seem so keen to re-arm in the present Afghanistan situation. Amnesty International states:
Under martial law, political activities remain severely restricted … An Ordinance was introduced in October 1978. prohibiting the formation of parties opposed to “Islamic ideology or the integrity or security” of” Pakistan. Amnesty International estimates that at least 7,000, and perhaps many more, political opponents of the regime are imprisoned as at May 1979 for participation in peaceful political activities, including journalists, trade-unionists, lawyers, former ministers and members of the national and provincial assemblies, as well as thousands of political party workers and demonstrators. The vast majority of them belong to the Pakistan People’s Party … the party of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was executed on 4 April 1979.
He was executed by the present regime of President Zia. These are the regimes and people to whom the Australian Foreign Minister has been talking about a crisis in Afghanistan and whom he has been exhorting to take steps which could lead to a new cold war in the world. I suggest, without trying to downgrade in importance the despicable action of the Soviet Union in invading Afghanistan, that unless we are to be accused of exercising double standards, we should look also to our own nation and our own region and consider which nations we are collaborating with. This Bill is meticulously worded to avoid its doing its job. Its purpose is to pass legislation which paralyses in practice everything it espouses in theory. What we need is a national Bill of Rights, a Bill which not only identifies and recognises fundamental human rights but which can also uphold those rights and enforce corrective legislation to ensure that they are not breached. Only from an acceptance of this premise can we progress and can reform be effective. The Minister argues against a Bill of Rights being enforceable in the courts because:
He states that: . . it would be contrary to our long established constitutional traditions, according to which authority for our basic human rights is primarily derived from the parliamentary and elective processes.
He also says: . . the Australian system of law, grounded in common law and supplemented by significant statutory provisions, is not suited to general declaratory provisions of the kind included in Bills of Rights.
What nonsense that is. Just how successful has common law been? As I have outlined, we need only to look at Queensland and Western Australia for our answer. Senator Durack does not deny the need for human rights legislation, so why does he deny the right to enforce it? Do we or do we not stand for human rights? If we do, let us stand up and be counted. If we do not, let us stop this hypocrisy.
Under the proposed Bill the resources and staff of about 20 people which are said to be allowed to the new Human Rights Commission will be ridiculously inadequate for even the low key role of the proposed Commission. No doubt they have been for the Commissioner under the present arrangements. This Government has allocated approximately only $200,000 a year to Commissioner Grassby and his staff to carry out their work. The four years of operation of the organisation has cost governments significantly less than Sim for the whole of Australia. The Minister should ask the various ethnic organisations throughout Australia and the Aboriginals what they think of Grassby ‘s work as Commissioner. They will find that his work is held in high regard and that the decision to divest him of staff and place him under the jurisdiction of the new Commission without making him a commissioner is abhorrent to them. I will return to this theme later.
The point is that the Government intends to limit the financial resources of its new Commission and to limit its staff in the same way as it has limited Grassby as Commissioner for Community Relations in Australia. One can also be critical of the decision to base human rights matters exclusively on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In doing so the Bill will permit any State to withhold basic rights such as freedom of assembly as the Covenant allows certain restrictions in the interests of national security, public order and safety, public health or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’. It is easy to see how someone like Bjelke-Petersen would justify his anti-street march, anti-union legislation as being allowable under the Covenant and, therefore, exempt from inquiry by the Human Rights Commission.
I turn now, very briefly, to some less noticeable deficiencies. A particularly galling provision as far as the public is concerned is clause 10 (4) (f) which instructs the Commission not to hold an inquiry if the complainant is not sufficiently interested in the subject matter. Why should a complainant have to establish his or her interest when human rights are at stake? The legislation is supposed to protect public interest but instead turns around and attempts to exclude the public from following such interests. Clause 9 (d) states that the Commission must wait until requested by the Minister to report on any action it considers should be taken by Australia concerning human rights. Why does the Commission have to wait for the Minister to take the initiative? The Commission is the body concerned with the issue and is aware of the action needed. Why wait for a Minister who may never request a report? There is no justification for such unnecessary hampering of the Commission.
I turn now, in my concluding few minutes, to the Racial Discrimination Act which, instead of providing the basis on which to build a strong human relations Bill, has fallen victim to a malicious and petty vendetta inspired by the disreputable White Australia policy representatives of this Government. The Act should have provided a firm foundation for the more general human relations Bill. Instead, the Government has emasculated it. One presumes the vendetta was a personal one against the present Commissioner, Mr Grassby. The Government aimed to kill two birds with the one stone- look good in the eyes of the world by having human rights legislation and get rid of Mr Grassby at the same time.
Mr Grassby represents a deviation from the repressive Fraser regime. So it has been decided that he will be destroyed. Such pettiness has incurred not only the disgust of Australians but also the particular wrath of hundreds of ethnic groups who have benefited from the establishment of the office and from the work of the Commissioner for Community Relations. Instead of being grateful that the office has taken the heat off relevant government departments and politicians the Government has responded by attacking the office and the Commissioner. Under this proposed legislation Grassby will become the pawn of the Human Rights Commission. No longer will he have any staff to research, educate, change community values, combat racialism and promote understanding. These functions have been transferred to the Human Relations Commission but without the proper accompanying powers. If the Government were serious about human rights obviously it would appoint the current racial discrimination commissioner to the Human Rights Commission. What of the annual reports the Commissioner presented to Parliament? What will happen to those reports which have been produced at a cost of $200,000 a year?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Tonight we are discussing the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979. It is interesting to note that an almost identical Bill was presented to Parliament in 1973. It was called the Human Rights Commission Bill 1973. 1 think another Bill was presented to Parliament in 1977 along very similar lines. The Bill in 1973 was presented in the
Senate by the then Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. When the second reading was moved the debate was adjourned and did not recommence before Parliament was prorogued on 14 February 1974. As a result of the prorogation the Bill lapsed and was never restored to the Notice Paper. It is interesting to note that the 1973 Bill enumerated rights specified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights almost in identical terms. It provided that it operated despite anything in Commonwealth or Territory laws unless Parliament had expressly declared the contrary.
By virtue of section 109 of the Constitution, anything inconsistent with provisions of the Bill in the State legislation would have been inoperative to the extent of the inconsistency. The Bill also provided for the appointment of an Australian Human Rights Commissioner whose function was to investigate alleged or prospective infringements of the freedoms guaranteed. If the Commissioner was satisfied that there had been a’ contravention he could act as conciliator between the parties concerned and so on. I bring these Bills to notice to illustrate the similarity of the present Bill with the 1973 Human Rights Commission Bill. The 1977 Human Rights Commission Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in June 1977. Following the second reading speech the debate was adjourned and was never resumed. Like the Labor Government Bill the 1 977 Bill relied on the rights set out in the Covenant but it did not provide for the ratification by Australia of the Covenant. The initial aim of the Government was to have a joint Commonwealth-State venture. It proposed the creation of a human rights council which could examine both State and Commonwealth laws. Discussions with the States to this end were, however, unsuccessful as most of the States refused to join a scheme which involved functions relating to State legislation and practices being invested in a Commonwealth commission. Thus the 1977 Bill had limited application and had no recourse to legal action.
I turn to the Human Rights Commission Bill 1979. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack), in his second reading speech outlined the objectives of the Human Rights Bill in terms of helping Australia ‘to discharge the obligations it will assume under the Covenant’ which the Government intends to ratify. Broadly, the Commission will function in two ways to achieve its objectives. Firstly, it will inquire into and where practical effect a settlement of issues that have come to its notice. Secondly, it will also work to promote understanding and acceptance of human rights in Australia and to this end will undertake research and educational programs. It is interesting to note that the Commission under this present Bill may inquire into such matters as it thinks fit and in doing so is not bound by the rules of evidence. Clause 14 ensures that where the Commission has found an act or practice inconsistent with the Covenant before reporting to the Minister it must give the person concerned reasonable opportunity to appear before the Commission or to make written submissions.
The Commission has power to require persons to produce relevant information or to give evidence. However, the Attorney-General is permitted to certify that the disclosure of the information would be contrary to the public interest for a number of specified reasons. I bring these points forward to point out the weaknesses in the Bill as I see them. Senator Durack went on to say in his second reading speech that the legislation is a necessary parallel to Australia’s ratification of the covenant. I do not believe that this is necessarily the case. He also skimmed over the important issue of the Covenant itself. It is a matter of debate as to whether Australia should, in fact, ratify the Covenant.
There is the problem of the definition of rights stated in the Covenant; for example, the conflict of the right to freedom of religion with the right to freedom of expression. Where rights are stated in such general terms they can be of little assistance for practical application. The effectiveness of the legislation depends largely on the cooperation of the States. It has been estimated that about 95 per cent of breaches of human rights- if one can call them all breaches of human rights- have occurred under State law. I believe that the States have been approached to ascertain whether they would be prepared to cooperate with the proposed Human Rights Commission and, although they have agreed in principle, they are not prepared to negotiate any details until the legislation has been passed. Furthermore, Press comment indicates that the States are not willing to become party to the legislation and that some have actually complained that the Bill constitutes an infringement of State rights.
I have tried to get an estimate of the cost of running the Commission and the best estimate available- I think it was mentioned tonight- is an unofficial one of approximately $lm. It is very approximate because nobody can tell how many people will constitute the Commission. I think there is an almost open-ended provision. On the one hand, this seems to be a lot of money to spend on toothless legislation while, on the other hand, it seems to be too little to do anything worthwhile if the Commission is to achieve anything. There is a danger that once the Commission is established the latter argument will be used to extract more money for its operation. It will probably become another one of those evergrowing government commissions.
One of the main arguments against the Bill is that it lacks any power of enforcement. As it stands, the proposed Human Rights Commission is, in the words of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), so weak that it would be acceptable to the most totalitarian regime. Again I believe it is a case of people within the Government ranks groping for a job. However, it is not a simple solution to say that the Commission should be given some recourse to judicial action, as the problems raised by the 1973 Bill prove. These problems included doubts as to whether the Bill went beyond the legislative powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. That Bill also represented a substantial change in the distribution of power within the federal system. Advocating an enforceable bill of rights also presupposes acceptance of litigation as a means of determining rights and the existence of an elite, probably appointed and probably judges, having the power against the elected legislature to determine what our rights are within generalised statements of rights. It will, in effect, take enormous powers away from the legislature and give it to a band of appointed judges.
It could be argued that reasonable and satisfactory machinery for ensuring human rights already exists and that the establishing of a Human Rights Commission would be an unnecessary proliferation of government commissions. Present protection includes such avenues as the common law and bodies such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations, Federal and State ombudsmen and the Law Reform Commission. I believe it is unnecessary to set up a further government commission without satisfactory and necessary powers. There are specific laws banning discrimination on a number of significant grounds. Backing these and other laws there are commissioners, counsellors, boards and committees. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald: . . something of a competition for clients is emerging. Last November the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board expressed its discontent with some of the activities of the Counsellor for Equal Opportunities. The human rights commission could exacerbate this competition and over-lapping … The present system of isolating specific rights and providing specific remedies if they are violated makes more sense than establishing an umbrellalike organisation with its powers based on the nebulous concept of human rights. The vagueness of the concept is dangerous in that the commission would find itself becoming the arena for groups and individuals to take up issues that have little to do with human rights. Trade-unionists, for example, could be tempted to take up matters against their leadership which could more properly be decided somewhere else. The commission is further weakened by its lack of power to redress wrongs. Moreover, nothing it did would have any application to State or Northern Territory law.
With regard to Commonwealth legislation, there is already a certain amount of safeguard built into the system; firstly, in the drafting stages when the draftsmen draw to the attention of the Attorney-General’s Department any provisions which they feel may change such things as the onus of proof et cetera and, secondly, in the very debating processes through which the legislation must pass before it is enacted. It is felt by some that such safeguards as would be offered by the Human Rights Commission would not be required by the majority of law abiding citizens- I feel quite strongly about this- but on the contrary would offer further cover for people seeking to break the law. I would cite the assembly laws in Western Australia. In the Bill there is no provision which gives people any access to the Commission, except to lodge complaints in writing. Accessibility is not achieved by setting up a remote superstructure. Whilst the Minister will have total access to the Commission, ordinary people whose liberties need protecting- if one is arguing for the establishing of the Commission- will have little or no access other than by written submission; and even that is constrained by a number of discretionary provisions to enable the Commission to avoid holding an inquiry. The Commission has no specific power to make any public statements. It has no privilege against defamation actions. It could be argued that this would make the Commission undertake investigations and make reports in such a cautious manner as to render its intervention useless. The Bill does not provide for a time limit for the Minister to indicate what action will be taken on a Commission report. There is no provision for assistance to people to prepare and present a case. Thus, the less articulate and the less educated in the community may not have the ability to make an acceptable approach to the Commission.
The protection of human rights requires, as a minimum, the existence of a body with the right to criticise the actions of political authorities and with sufficient independence and powers to make such criticisms meaningful- if one is worried about human rights in Australia. The current Bill does not give the Commission sufficient independence or power to do this- again if one is convinced that it is necessary to have a Human Rights Commission, which I am not. With regard to the Covenant, it can be argued that if rights were denned the tendency would be to accept them as the only rights conferred upon the members of the community; and restraints upon them, if held to be valid by the courts or by other organs of review, would further constrain them. So the standards prescribed may be regarded as the maximum and the freedoms not specified may become lost.
The Human Rights Commission Bill is being considered in conjunction with the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill, which provides for the abolition of the existing Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations and for the incorporation of the Commissioner as a minor pan of the Human Rights Commission. If we want to do away with that Office, we ought to do away with it and not try to hide it by tucking it away in some nebulous government commission such as the Human Rights Commission. The Commissioner will be allowed to perform his inquiry and settlement functions only subject to the direction of the Human Rights Commission. This can be seen as the unnecessary emasculation of an existing and enforceable representation of human rights, whether or not desirable. In short, there seem to be many problems with this legislation and many reasons why it should not be passed. The Commission is laid out in such terms that it will cost more in time and money than opponents of its basic principles are prepared to see spent, and it does not go nearly far enough for those who would have some enforceable legislation on human rights passed. As Sir Robert Menzies has put it: ‘Responsible government in a democracy is regarded by us as the ultimate guarantee of justice and individual rights’.
There have been people who have proposed all types of models for human rights Bills. I do not believe that so far we have put together an acceptable form for a Human Rights Commission Bill in Australia. It is my opinion that the Human Rights Commission will be a wasteful, superflous, unnecessary imposition on the community. It will be a toothless wonder. The right place to protect human rights and to rectify human rights violation is here in the Parliament when we bring in legislation- I mean all legislation.
Before concluding I say that I accept the principles of the amendments to be put forward by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). I will support his amendments only because I believe it is so important that the very basic human rights of the individuals in this country are covered by those amendments. Even the very basic human rights are not covered under the present Bill. If those amendments are not successful then I will move and vote to defeat this Bill.
– I support the Opposition’s amendment. I want to refer to some of the weaknesses in the case presented by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) in his second reading speech on the Human Rights Commission Bill. He points out that the Commission will protect and promote human rights within the limits of Commonwealth power and in co-operation with the States. That is correct. But what he did not say was that that was all it would do. It will only use the Commonwealth powers insofar as the States co-operate. It will not only be using powers within the orbit and ambit of the Commonwealth, but also it will be so far within that it will not quarrel with the States. I take this interpretation from the rest of the Minister’s speech. We have pointed out in our amendment that a weakness in the Bill is that it gives no jurisdiction which would conflict with a State or Territory.
The record of this Government shows its failure to enforce human rights, which it has ringingly declared before the public and in this Parliament as human rights. It has then gone to water when a State has stood up to it. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) has referred to the example of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Since then there have been other examples. The people at Yarrabah in North Queensland have been fighting for the best part of a year for award wages under the laws of Queensland. They took their case to the Supreme Court of Queensland many months ago. The court has said: ‘Yes, Queensland is bound to do this’. The case has been before the Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby, and he has done all he can. He has taken the case as far as he can to ensure that Queensland carries out that decision of its own court. It has not happened. This Government, which has the power under the antidiscrimination laws to take action against the guilty men in Queensland, has taken no action, and intends to take no action and will take no action for the duration of this Parliament and of the Queensland Parliament. From my discussions with the Minister that is the only interpretation that I can place on this very subject.
The Opposition sees a need for the Federal Government to face up to its responsibilities under its powers to make laws concerning Aborigines as well as under the international affairs power of this Federal Parliament for which it was set up and for which we go to the councils of the world proclaiming human rights as international, with no discrimination between Queenslanders, Northern Territorians the people of the Australian Capital Territory or the rest of Australia. They are all humans. They all have the same human rights. They have been declared international.
The Minister talks of ratification of an International Covenant, yet he has first to demean himself, his principles and human rights in this Parliament by going cap in hand to the States and saying: ‘Please will you let us?’ He has been given the power under the Constitution. He should use it. This matter involves not State rights, but human rights. He says that there has been full consultation about the proposals and that discussions are in progress. He does not say with whom. I doubt whether the National Aboriginal Conference has had any discussions. It has not told me. Certainly, as the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I have had no discussions about the matter. Further than that, the Minister says that the States have agreed that there should be a forum at ministerial level. That is where we are getting to. The discussions are between State officials and Federal officials. Now the Minister has been able to get the States to agree to have another forum at ministerial level. That is what it is all about: The appeasement of State writers and State authorities who are more sacrosanct under the traditions that this Government respects than human rights.
The Minister says that the rights cover equality of opinion, conscience, assembly, privacy, family, freedom of movement, freedom of prisoners and minorities. They are all very fine words and intentions, but when it comes to the crunch the Government does not protect those rights. Aborigines in particular do not have equality before the law. The Aboriginal legal aid service has been ordered by the Minister to impose a charge of $5 on everybody using that service unless he can prove that he is unable to pay. The onus is put on that Aboriginal person, who is given an Aboriginal legal service because of his incapacities before the white man ‘s law. He did not ask to become a member of the white community. He did not invite the white community here. He has rights under indigenous people’s covenants which Australia does not respect. He is told he has to prove that he cannot afford to pay $5 or he does not get legal services. Fortunately that charge has not been enforced, but that is the sort of thinking that convinces me that this elected Parliament is not the place to get human rights. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) quoted Sir Robert Menzies. He said that the right honourable gentleman stated:
Responsible government is the ultimate guarantee of justice.
It is not the ultimate guarantee, as Sir Robert Menzies found to his cost when he brought in his anti-Red Bill and the High Court threw it out. He then appealed, not to this elected Parliament, which is not the ultimate repository of justice, but to the people of Australia. The people at a referendum threw it out, as it deserved to be thrown out. It was one of the most pernicious breaches of human rights ever contemplated by an elected government. It would have damned and labelled people as communists just as the South African Government does today. The South African Government puts people in gaol with the onus of proof on them to prove that they are not communists. That is the sort of argument that the Minister is using. We want to abide by our traditions and preserve State rights and our common law. We do not want to do anything to upset that. Yet we are talking of international human rights which are something that ought to transcend the common law and traditions.
All these freedoms are not equally available to Australians. In Queensland we do not have freedom of opinion. We do not have the freedom to express our rights. We do not have freedom of assembly and association. A gentleman in my electorate, who is a dentist, applied for a permit to march at 3 a.m. down one of the back streets of Bundaberg with his dog. He applied to the Queensland police for a permit, as the law of Queensland requires, and was refused. We do not have freedom of assembly in this country. The State governments in particular deprive people of human rights. They ought to be put on the map by the processes of democracy, whether it be through this elected Parliament, through international covenants or through a referendum of the people after an appeal to the High Court. Rights are of people, not of traditions and not of States.
The Minister said that we should have more research and education programs and that that is one of the objects of this Commission. We already have a Commissioner for Community Relations, whose staff and resources are being whittled away each year, apparently on the grounds that he is being political. The honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) said: ‘Why doesn’t Grassby stop playing politics?’ But no one has quoted to me anything indicating that the Commissioner for Community Relations has been playing politics. I have read his reports and, as far as I can see, they are eminently clear, fair and patient, setting out the deficiencies in human rights in this country.
Unless we get away from the idea that because somebody has an attachment or a history of attachment to a political party anything he says must be suspect, then we are guilty of depriving people of human rights. As my colleagues have said, if the Government thinks that Mr Grassby is not doing a good job, why not ask the people for whom he has done work. Why has the Government not asked the Aborigines whether they disapprove of the way he has gone about his work? The only thing they disapprove of about his work is that it is ineffective, and the reason it is ineffective is that he has had his teeth pulled and he is going to have more of his teeth pulled by this legislation. The Commission that will replace his will have even fewer teeth. It will use fine, high-sounding phrases, it will have sweeping, pious hopes, based on the words of the International Covenant, but it will not carry them out.
According to the Minister, the Commission will not need the enforcement powers of the kind vested in courts. Yet the very record of what has happened in Queensland shows that the courts are now the only resort for the enforcement of these things. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) said that I was being pessimistic when I suggested that we wanted legal enforcement. He said: ‘Surely you have faith in this elected chamber. You know that people will bring their complaints here and we will do something about them, legislate about them’. He is condemned out of his own mouth because this legisation will have the reverse effect. Complaints of the weaknesses of the situation in our law have been brought before this Parliament in three reports by the Commissioner for Community Relations. What has been the result? Has it been the result that the honourable member for Denison suggested, that the Parliament has taken up and seized upon the injustices, done something about them, legislated to remedy the situation? No, the result has been that Mr Grassby is going to be sacked. He is going to lose what little power he has. His Office is going to be submerged, buried in another organisation. As the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) said: ‘If you want to abolish the thing, do it straight out. Don’t hide it under the carpet by setting up some puppet organisation ‘.
The Commission will need enforcement powers because, without enforcement, the powerless ones of this country are going to be subjected to the same discrimination, the same disadvantages, the same cruel cultural genocide that has wiped out so many tribes in this country and is continuing to this day in the Northern Territory and other parts of the country. Aborigines’ land is being taken, they are being subjected to the influx of townships and the white pattern, where grog flows freely, white systems of schooling have been imposed on them and their own culture denigrated and made of no account. They are falling by the wayside as a result in health, in education, in self-regard, in self-reliance, and in self-sufficiency. The Minister said that it is proposed that the Commission be given a small research staff. It will be small, all right, because the Government has been cutting down on Mr Grassby ‘s staff. According to the Minister, the Commission will increase recognition and observance of rights and by publicity it will stimulate the Parliament to appropriate action. I have just showed that that will not happen, that it has gone the other way.
The Minister said that the Commission will have education programs which will be more cost effective. If the Government really means that, why is it cutting off the funds for the education programs proposed by the Commissioner for Community Relations? His officers put out a publication entitled Let’s End the Slander, which gives a very good, modest, balanced, and I think clear account of the discrimination that goes on in Australian schools. It outlines how our texts ought to be changed and what might be done about that discrimination. One would think that, if the Government was fair dinkum in saying that education will save money and will achieve all these fine objects of human rights, that book would be placed in the schools. One would think that there would be some effort to get it through to the teachers. But what is the position? The Community Relations Office cannot afford to disseminate the book; it has to sell it for $2.50 a copy. The Government is not fair dinkum. If it really wanted to use education to eliminate discrimination and advance human rights, that is where money would be going. It would be going into ensuring that the work already done in this field is effective, that it starts to get somewhere.
According to the Minister, the Commission will begin to identify areas where new legislation is required. That has already begun, and the Minister has taken no notice. Instead of having separate agencies on particular aspects of human rights the Minister says that it will be brought into one focus. I do not object to that, but let us not submerge and lose specific activities that are already going on and have proved their acceptability to the people who have been suffering from the loss of human rights which have been investigated and brought to the notice of this Parliament. The Minister objects to a Bill of Rights because of the implications for our federal system. He does not say what they are, but I have told the House what they are. The implications for the federal system are that the Federal Government for the first dme will have to assert itself and assert human rights against bigoted, biased and racist State rights. That is what they are in Queensland in particular, to a large extent in Western Australia, as was shown in a Court of Disputed Returns, and to a large extent in the Northern Territory, where the area of the city of Darwin has been declared to be three times the area of Greater London to stop Aborigines from applying for land rights.
It is necessary for this legislature to take the part of individuals, not State and Territory governments. We must have something of the nature of a Bill of Rights- in other words, some legal enforcement, some court enforcement of people ‘s rights- and not just pious platitudes and hopes which do not work and which result in less action and more pious words. The Minister says that that would be contrary to our longestablished constitutional traditions, which put human rights in the parliamentary and elective process. I have already given an example of how that did not work with the anti-Red Bill. We must have the courts as a safeguard against the bigoted and oppressive laws that so-called democratic governments at times bring forward. The courts are there as a safeguard, as are ombudsmen and other avenues of appeal. We have them because we know that governments alone cannot be relied upon to be just in all cases and should be subject to independent review.
Where a deficiency is shown to exist, the Minister says that the elected representatives will consider legislative and administrative measures to remedy it. Do I have to spell out once again that this has not happened, that the reverse has happened, that Mr Grassby is going to be sacked because he looks like bringing forward legitimate grievances to this Parliament? Of course that is false. The Minister says the ministerial meeting will consider what is required before Australia ratifies the Covenant. There ought to be no need to talk to the States and the Northern Territory Government before we ratify the International Covenant. If the Minister really means what he says about elective representation and democracy, then we ought to be able to decide it here. I am not against discussing things with the
States, but I am against interminably postponing and delaying justice on the grounds that we have to be friendly with the States. When the States insist on perpetuating the filching of land and every other right from the people who are the original owners of this country and when the Federal Government persistently refuses to defend the rights of those people, it is time to stop consulting with the States. It is time to tell the States, if we are responsible representatives and responsible people, that we have the responsibility for these people given to us by the supreme authority in this country- the people- at a referendum. At that referendum, over 90 per cent of the people- the highest vote ever in our history- at every polling booth, including those in Queensland, said: ‘Yes, the Federal Government is the one to make the law for Aborigines’. But will this Government do that? No.
The Opposition insists that this Bill is a watering down of human rights, not a defence of them. There should be a specific adoption, in judicially enforceable form, of the rights specified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights along the lines of the Human Rights Bill 1973. It should apply to the laws and practices of the States and there should be expanded powers and functions for the Commission, including effective means of enforcing its recommendations.
-I do not propose to take too much time in speaking in this second reading debate. I propose to spend more time on this matter in the Committee stage where I will be supporting amendments if amendments are put forward to improve the Human Rights Commission Bill and its operation. It is perhaps appropriate to refer back to a report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Human Rights in the Soviet Union, mainly because it would be very logical to do so after two weeks of debate in this House on matters relevant to that report, but more particularly because the report deals at length with human rights. Annexure C to that report consists of an excerpt from the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the socalled Helsinki Agreement. Part of that Agreement states:
The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
The Helsinki Agreement- the Final Act of 1975- as the House would be aware, was accepted by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence found in its conclusions and recommendations, within three years of Mr Brezhnev’s signing the final Helsinki Agreement, the Soviet flouted the human rights provisions to such an extent that it imprisoned or expelled most of the people who, with considerable courage, had openly monitored the extent of Soviet non-compliance with the Helsinki Agreement. It is not enough to have a piece of paper, to have a government expressing a belief and a commitment to human rights. It is the application of the mechanisms which are available within a democratic country which ensure that human rights are available to every citizen. That fact is very relevant to this Bill and to the weaknesses which are inherrent in it.
Let me just quote from the preamble to the Schedule to the Human Rights Commission Bill and from Article 2 of the Covenant so that we can see that the language is similar to that of the Helsinki Agreement. In the preamble- this is what we are going to subscribe to in the Commonwealth of Australia- it is stated:
Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.
Article 2.1 states:
Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction -
That is every person in this country- the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
We should also look at Article 50 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is set out in the Schedule to this Bill. It states:
The provisions of the present Covenant shall extend to ail parts of federal States without any limitations or exceptions.
It is unfortunate that this Bill does not provide that the States will be subject to the operations of this Bill. One of the features of a debate of this kind is that some very responsible organisations make representations to the Government and to honourable members. I shall refer to three of those organisations because their views ought to be considered and ought to be taken very seriously, as they have been taken seriously by some honourable members in this debate and certainly by some honourable senators in a debate in the other place. I refer firstly to the Australian Council of Churches and identify some of the problems that it has with the Bill as it has been presented. The Australian Council of Churches made the point, as indeed I made the point, that there is a principle in the Human Rights Commission which ought to be supported. The fact that this Bill is now being debated in this House is welcome and it is essential, as the Australian Council of Churches points out, that the provisions contained in the Bill and its objectives are capable of being achieved as the Bill is being applied. The second point which the Australian Council of Churches makes in a submission of 6 November 1979 relates to the point to which I have just referred in regard to Article 50 of the Covenant, and that is the Council’s fear that this applies only to federal laws. Many honourable members have made the point tonight that that will be something of a disability in the application of this Bill because so many of the possible breaches of human rights in this country could well be carried out through breaches of State law. It is not enough to say that consultative mechanisms will be set up through ministerial councils to ensure that the human rights of those individuals affected by State laws will be protected. I just do not think that that will happen. It is a pie in the sky type of argument.
Let us look at the fifth annual report, for 1977-78, of the National Committee on discrimination in Employment and Occupation. In that report, Table 3: Complaints Received- by Ground and Source, indicates that out of 1 1 1 complaints of breaches by government, 67 were made in relation to sex, 1 2 in relation to race, 3 in relation to colour, 3 in relation to political opinion and 26 in relation to national extraction. That is the breakup of 111 complaints of breaches by government out of a total of 222. 1 mention those figures only to indicate that the classification or ground for complaint relates not just to the laws of the Federal Parliament. It will obviously be applicable to many discriminatory Acts which will be applied under the State laws. The Australian Council of Churches also made a point in relation to staff. I do not want to dwell on that except to say that the Council obviously has a point as to whether the Commission will have sufficient personnel to carry out the duties which it is asked to carry out by virtue of this Bill.
I turn now to Amnesty International. I do not think that the importance of Amnesty International, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, a body which is totally bipartisan, one which is concerned wholly with the question of human and civil rights, needs to be spelt out in this place. I should like to quote to the Minister responsible for this Bill, one paragraph from the Amnesty International’s submission to Senator Missen on 12 October and another from the Commission for World Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia of 7 November last year. I would like the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) to give us an assurance in his reply in this debate that what is being said in these paragraphs will be noted and the monitoring will be absolute and very specific. Firstly, I will quote from the Amnesty International submission. It reads:
It has long been a policy of Amnesty International to support the establishment of a Human Rights Commission in this country and to press for the ratification of the international covenant itself, but if the present Bill were passed unamended, the Government would lay itself open to a serious charge of hypocrisy.
The Commission for World Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia made a very similar statement and I would like to incorporate that into the record. It said:
Our Commission has applauded the efforts of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in action against racial discrimination in Africa recently. But neighbouring peoples rightly ask us, ‘What is your government doing about racial discrimination in Australia?’ We do not want to have to reply that our government has emasculated the only effective piece of racial discrimination legislation that we had. We submit that for the Parliament to proceed to pass the Human Rights Commission Bill while amending the Racial Discrimination Act in the way proposed, will serve to prove to the world that the Human Rights Commission Bill is just a piece of window dressing.
When the Minister replies I ask him to reassure me and everybody in this House that the hypocrisy and the window dressing which is referred to will not be an apt description of the way in which the Government sees the Human Rights Commission operating in this country.
Amnesty International has given a clear example of the basis of that suggestion of hypocrisy if the Bill goes through in its present form. It is the way in which ‘sufficient interest’ is defined. Will it mean that organisations like Amnesty International or the Australian Council of Churches, made up of highly responsible and respected people who are often put in the position of having to protect human rights where nobody else will take up those issues on behalf of an individual, will not be able to bring some action under this legislation as they do not have sufficient interest’ as it is defined in the Bill? That is to be regretted.
I would like to refer briefly to the second reading speech of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) and I raise a few questions which I hope will be answered by him in his reply. I hope that he will give me assurances that my fears are not well founded. The first thing to note in his second reading speech is the emphasis that the Bill is aimed to apply to human rights throughout Australia within the limits of Commonwealth power. That is the very point to which I referred in relation to the application of the Bill only to Commonwealth power and not to laws in the State or to actions under State jurisdiction.
Another point made by the Minister in the first part of his address was the fact that the Bill will be a step towards protecting the rights of individuals, a matter of the utmost concern to the Government. It is worthwhile emphasising that this is seen by the Minister as a step towards protecting the rights of individuals. The Minister and the Government appear to be saying: ‘This is the first step that is necessary in building up and creating a worthwhile piece of legislation in the human rights area’. In my opinion, and in the opinion of a number of other people, it is a pity that the Bill could not be amended to take care of many of the objections which have been raised by the organisations to which I have referred. A number of honourable members opposite and a number of senators have raised the very issues which would go towards satisfying those who are concerned about the full protection of human rights in this country. If I am wrong in my interpretation of what the Minister has said, let him emphasise that this is the first step. If it is the first step I am happy to accept that and, in due course, when the Commission has been operating for some time and has been closely monitored by all those interested in human rights in this country, we will see some amendments to improve the application of the Bill.
I referred earlier to the question of ministerial discussion between State Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister. I am sure that ministerial discussion is a worthwhile objective. Ministers should get together on occasions to discuss human rights issues. But just discussing them is not enough. There has to be action following the identification of breaches of human rights and civil rights in this country, action that will mean that the people affected by those breaches will have a remedy. When we look at the Bill it is unfortunate that the remedies are ones which can only be described as very soft public education, public pressure and persuasion, not ones capable of being enforced through the courts, as has been mentioned by a number of other honourable members. The ministerial council discussions on this whole issue should be pursued but are only one small part of the general area of responsibility for human rights and should not be seen as any more than that.
If the procedures and the settlement functions do not work the person who is offended, or the group of people who may be acting on behalf of a person who is offended, has very little means available to have the provisions of the Act or the Covenant applied. If these settlement provisions break down the situation becomes very hollow. All that can happen is a report to Ministers and the Parliament, with the Parliament then being unable to do anything, pursuant to the provisions of the Act, by way of enforcement, and with the person adversely affected, or the group in the case of a class action, being unable to take any action in the courts to ensure that those human rights will be protected and that the situation will not recur again if it is capable of being repeated against the complainant.
I wish to quote one section of the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
It could be expected that as the Commission develops its work, it will begin to identify for the Parliament areas where new legislation is required to reinforce the provision of the Covenant, or where existing legislation is for some reason proving inadequate.
There seems to be some recognition that the Bill may prove to be inadequate, that there may be a need to come back and identify such inadequacy. If that is the correct interpretation of the Minister’s words, I find it encouraging to see that people will have the opportunity to discuss the legislation in this place and elsewhere and perhaps introduce amendments or provide new legislation which will allow the Covenant to be adherred to in this country.
I commend the work of Senator Missen and the critique which he had incorporated into Hansard during the Senate debate on this subject. I do not want to go over that ground, nor do I want to be specific in relation to the clauses. However, I have identified a number of areas which concern me and a number of other honourable members in this House. Very briefly, they are that the functions of the Commission are limited; that action can only be taken at the request of a Minister and not by such groups as Amnesty International; that the Commonwealth laws are covered under clause 3 and that there is no application to State laws; that sufficient interest, as defined, is not sufficient to allow further action by others; and that clause 11 ( 1 ) (b) and (c) allows the Minister to by-pass action by the Commission by what appears to be a delegation of responsibility to the States. The notes which have been made available in the explanatory memorandum say that the clause will not allow the Government to by-pass the Commision because any arrangement it makes pursuant to the clause would have to be carried out by the Commission. Then there is a reference to clause 13.I cannot for the life of me see how that is possible according to my simple interpretation of clauses 1 1 and 13. I submit that in fact the clause allows the Government to by-pass the Commission. If I am wrong then I would like the Minister to explain where I am wrong and to give me the assurance, again, that the Commission will be consulted at all time before any delegation of responsibility is passed from the Commonwealth to other State responsibilities or State instrumentalities.
I do not want to refer to the amendment which has been foreshadowed- I do not think that it has been moved as yet- but I trust that it will not prove to be devisive, that it will not be a side track to the debate on the Human Rights Commission Bill. It seems to be an unnecessary refinement and an intrusion into the International Covenant aimed at trying to refine it more than is necessary. It is capable of interpretation according to the normal meaning of the English language as it is written at the present time and I trust that that particular debate will not be devisive and destructive in the whole interests of this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr Howe) adjourned.
– Honourable members are aware of the inadequacies of the accommodation for members and senators and their staff and the staff of the parliamentary departments in this building and in the Hotel Canberra. Mr President and I proposed to the Executive that West Block- because of its size and location- should be used to augment the accommodation needs of the Parliament. However, that building would need major refurbishing and would require considerable time and expenditure. The Executive proposed the Kurrajong be used by the Parliament to enable the transfer of some sections of the parliamentary departments to that site and consequently provide extra accommodation for those members, senators, staff and departmental officers who will remain in this building.
The Executive has agreed that if the space represented by the Kurrajong and the present accommodation in the Hotel Canberra remains insufficient we might expand our occupation within the Canberra to adjacent space in that building.
West Block is to be extensively renovated over a lengthy period. The Government has indicated its intention to apply the accommodation in that building, when available, to public service use. The President and I have not abandoned the Parliament’s claim to West Block but realistically that is a matter to be pursued when the renovation is complete. The Presiding Officers will consider their attitudes to this and any other matter after the full use of the Kurrajong and Hotel Canberra has been implemented or, of course, some earlier time should new factors arise for consideration.
In the meantime it would be unwise to forgo the offer of the Kurrajong and, accordingly, we have agreed to take up that accommodation at the earliest possible opportunity.
The arrangement with the Executive is as follows:
That the whole of the Kurrajong will come under the control of the Presiding Officers as a parliamentary building for the exclusive use of Parliament. Funds will be provided for refurbishing and necessary alterations;
Parliament will continue to occupy the Hotel Canberra until such time as an alternate use is decided for it, whereupon further discussion will ensue to identify substitute accommodation;
If there is a need for further space the Parliament will occupy areas of the Hotel Canberra adjacent to that now used, such as the dining room and staff areas with appropriate alterations;
Control of all works and budgeting for the Kurrajong will be within the control of the Presiding Officers.
We appreciate the Executive’s co-operation in this matter and its undertaking to assist further to ensure the proper needs of senators and members are met. We propose to proceed immediately to plan and undertake the required work at the Kurrajong without delay. Of course, these steps are taken against the background of the continuation of the program for the building of the new and permanent Parliament House on Capital Hill.
-Previous speakers in this debate have quite clearly summarised a number of the deficiencies that are associated with this legislation. Among those who are concerned about the issue of human rights, it has no’ merited a great deal of applause, either in this House or the other place. Although people may have hopes for what may be developed in the future- the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) appears to be something of an optimist in that respect- the reality is that, following the most vigorous debate that this Parliament has had in relation to foreign affairs and particularly human rights, over the last two weeks, we have been presented with legislation by the Government which most informed people within the Parliament, most people who are concerned about human rights, regard as being extremely weak.
The basic issue with which we are concerned when we talk about human rights derives from the growing power of the state within modern or contemporary society. As Mr Justice Staples has said, at the core of the concept is the power of the state over the individual citizen. We are all aware, both nationally and internationally, of the growing concentration of power within complex modern societies in particular, whereby the state takes unto itself massive power. Whether one lives in a so-called totalitarian society or a democratic society, there is no doubt that the state possesses enormous power over and against the power of people, and particularly of individuals. That, of course, is the reason why legislation concerned with human rights nas developed within a number of countries. It is because we recognise within this nation the enormous power of the state that we are critical of the legislation that is before us. We are critical of it in a number of senses. We are critical in the sense that it does nothing to qualify or change law as it impinges upon the individual, upon the citizen and his rights. We are critical in the sense that the Commonwealth is not empowered by it to take action which might override the interests of the States. Built into the legislation is the concept that there is no such thing as Australian human rights, let alone universal human rights.
Other speakers have referred particularly to the peculiar situation in such States as Queensland and the Northern Territory of Aboriginal people, who continue to be less than full citizens. They continue to be second class citizens and they are the object of discrimination in almost every area of their activities.
One recognises that the legislation stops short in the sense of commitment to the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the relationship between that Covenant and the Australian situation is left unclear. Finally, there has been criticism of what is before us because of the statements of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), which suggests that the resources to be made available to the Human Rights Commission will not be sufficiently considerable to enable it to do anything like the kind of job that many people recognise needs to be done within this country. I suggest that the very term in the Schedule, ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’, to which the honourable member for McMillan referred so extensively, suggests that it simply is not possible to achieve great advances in terms of human rights without looking at those rights within an international context. The movement towards human rights necessarily involves not only this nation, but a number of other nations, moving in a similar direction.
I believe that Government supporters, in their discussion of human rights, have displayed a considerable degree of hypocrisy in the past week or so. We have seen tremendous emphasis placed by the Government on the question of the invasion of civil rights in the Soviet Union, and on the Opposition side that has been supported. No member of the Opposition disputes the fact that civil rights are curbed to a very great extent within the Soviet Union. Nor are there members of the Opposition who challenge the fact that in the course of the invasion of Afghanistan the right of people to self-determination was at least temporarily destroyed, and certainly put aside, and that is to be rejected. So there is agreement in that respect in relation both to the actions of the Soviet Union domestically and to its most recent, severe international action, the invasion of Afghanistan. But while members on the Government side have been unanimous, and have not had to work through special groups such as Amnesty International to assert those kinds of principles, they do not display a similar commitment to the assertion of human rights on a broader scale than that which members of the Government would be openly critical of the role of the United States in relation to Iran, for example, and the vicious suppression of human rights that has taken place in that country over a quarter of a century. Who has criticised the United States for the relationships which that country has preserved through its intelligence agencies with Savak, one of the most dangerous instruments ever developed to destroy human rights in any country in the world. Individual supporters of the Government may be critical of the United States and critical of particular countries which are in the orbit of that country, but when it comes to the Government as a whole there is virtually no criticism of the United States and its relationship to a great web of dictatorship which exists in the Third World. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) made that point extremely forcibly in the debate on Afghanistan.
I want to move to a situation which is much closer to Australia and which involves us much more intimately if we are to talk about human rights and to do so within the context of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that is, the situation in East Timor. Article 12 of the International Covenant states:
Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
There has been a great deal of criticism of the Soviet Union with respect to the restrictions it has placed on the emigration of Jews. One recognises at times the justice of that criticism. There has also been considerable criticism in terms of what has happened in relation to IndoChinaVietnam in particular- and the decision of that country to permit the emigration of thousands of citizens of Vietnam. But there has been very little criticism- no criticism by the Government in a public sense- of the situation which exists in relation to East Timor. It is a fact that the people of East Timor, which has been incorporated as part of Indonesia, are being prevented from leaving that country even though an agreement was reached on the subject by the Australian Government and the Indonesian Government in 1978. Under that agreement 600 people, chosen no doubt for political reasons by the Indonesian Government as people safe to leave the country, were chosen from a list of something like 2,700 names. It was agreed by the Indonesian Government in consultation with the Australian Government that 600 people, chosen not along special refugee lines but because they came within the normal family reunion policy of this country, would be allowed to come to this country and reunite with their families.
We have heard a great deal of emotion from supporters of the Government about human rights and the way that they are prepared to stand up to the Soviet Union and should stand up to the Soviet Union on an international scale. I say to them that there are hundreds of people within East Timor whose wives and children are in this country and who have been separated foi four years from their families. The Government is not prepared to say a word about that. It may be good enough for some people to talk about Amnesty International and what one might do through particular groups, but the reality is that the back bench members of the Liberal Party are prepared to sit back and let this Government do absolutely nothing to ensure that those people are reunited with their families in Australia. The Government is not prepared to do anything to disturb the Indonesian Government in terms of the equanimity that it may have within the world.
If we are to talk about human rights and to do so in the pious way in which we have talked about human rights, we have to face up to the fact that human rights are not built simply on the basis of events in a particular country but in relation to a region. We live in a region of the world in which human rights exist in a very minimal way indeed. We live in a part of the world in which a number of governments with which we are prepared to have very profitable trading relationships indeed exist on the basis of the suppression and repression of human rights to an extraordinary degree.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) referred to that this morning in the debate on Afghanistan. He referred to the situation that exists in countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea, where the rights of individual people over and against that of the state are being trampled on in the most brutal manner possible. When we talk about human rights in this context, let us recognise the reality that we are not, as a country, prepared to condemn human rights in terms of our own region. We are not prepared to deal with the Indonesian Government in terms of its violation of the rights of the people of East Timor both militarily and, in terms of the present circumstances, what in international terms may appear to be a minor thing- simply the welfare of a few hundred people whose families are in Australia.
I remember going to a meeting in Richmond late last year at which one child after another spoke about his parents in East Timor and what it felt like to be separated from those parents for years. Mothers spoke about what it meant to be separated from husbands. That situation has been allowed to continue. I know that there are supporters of the Government who are concerned about the situation. But the reality is that they are members of the parties which form the Government of this country, which has been totally insensitive to that reality. It has done nothing substantial to draw the attention of the world community to the invasion of the human rights of the particular people for whom we in Australia have a special responsibility. After all, 50,000 Timorese died with our soldiers in the Second World War. Yet we are prepared, four years after a war, to sit by and not raise a finger to do nationally anything which will disturb the equanimity of the oceans to our north in trying to rescue those people.
One might say a number of other things in broader terms about human rights. One could go on to talk about how we have not even established the facts. We have not even allowed a committee on this subject to be established by this Parliament. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has not come back and responded to a request for a parliamentary committee to investigate what has happened in East Timor. We talk about human rights in this Parliament but we are not prepared to go a few hundred miles north to find out what has happened. If the Indonesian Government would not allow us to go there we would not be prepared to make a noise about that in the international community. I think that one has a right to put in context the discussion that we have had about human rights over the last two weeks, focussed as it may be on this Bill, which people concerned with human rights say is toothless. If we are not prepared to do something serious as a Government and as a country about discovering the facts about East Timor, about doing something for those disunited families which I have been referring to, why talk about the waves we are going to wash against the Soviet Union? Why talk about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on arming a dictator in Pakistan whose rule is totally dependent on military means and who has no mass support in that country? That is the implication of this Government’s policy. It is to run against basic human rights in Pakistan.
I know that essentially we are talking about a domestic Bill. I know that we are talking about rights within this country. But I think we have to see about this issue of human rights not simply in terms of this nation but in terms of an international covenant, of an international agreement. The reality is that we could not get an agreement with a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations about the basic principles. We are not about to try to get an agreement because we do not want to get involved, we do not want to disturb the stability that exists in that region. Let me say that human rights relate essentially to people. They are people’s rights to live as decent human beings. They are people’s rights to choose what they eat and to have a relationship to the land. They include the right to develop and to maintain one’s own language and culture.
Here we are, enacting this particular piece of legislation and the reality is that in relation to the Aboriginal people in this country we are not even prepared in terms of this legislation to stand up to a government whose treatment of the Aboriginal people compares poorly with the treatment of indigenous people by any government anywhere in the world. We are not prepared to take on that issue. One can refer to the last report of the Commissioner for Community Relations- a commissioner whose office is to be emasculated, a commissioner who is to be removed from any position of power. There in the appendix of that report is an account of the Queensland Government’s position on human rights. It does not line up with the charter at all. Yet we are going to bow to that Government as we bowed to it in relation to Aurukun and Mornington Island, because we are not prepared to face up to the conflict that would otherwise be involved.
Human rights have never existed without people’s being prepared to take on conflict and to fight for what they believe is an essential human right. The reality is that if we are to establish human rights for the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory and Queensland, someone will have to go to battle for them. The Commonwealth Government, in terms of this legislation, is abrogating any responsibility. It sold out in relation to Aurukun because of the bauxite. It is selling out on this particular legislation because it does not want to wreck its stability which depends on relationships with conservative governments in such States as Queensland and Western Australia. That is the political reality. That is why this legislation is gutless. It is gutless because this Government is not prepared to take political risks. It is gutless for the most pragmatic reasons, the basest reasons.
I should like briefly to conclude my remarks by referring to Commissioner Grassby. Commissioner Grassby has been extremely active within the ethnic communities of Melbourne. Indeed, at any Italian function that I have ever been to, his name has been mentioned almost with a kind of reverence. He is a person who has, I think, established a reputation throughout the Commonwealth of being prepared to fight for the rights of ethnic minorities. He has done that not simply on the basis of talking about indigenous culture and language and matters of that sort; he has constantly spoken of the necessity for ethnic communities in Australia to preserve their political rights, their rights to defend their interest in a political sense, their rights to participate fully in the Australian political community.
I believe that if we wanted thoroughly to discuss the question of rights in the Australian context we would have a great deal to speak about in terms of the rights of ethnic communities in this country, but essentially those rights can be subsumed under the notion of class. What we have imported into this country in the post-war period is a working class, an under-class. If one looks at where the ethnic communities have lived and worked in the post-war period, particularly in the early stages of their migration, one sees that in a real sense, they have formed the backbone and the basis of the working class. There is nothing in the legislation which is before the House to deal with their problems in a real sense. There is nothing to deal with working conditions, nothing to deal with the problems of health and injuries, nothing to deal with the pollution which exists in the inner suburbs and nothing to deal with the kinds of housing standards that people have had to live with, stacked into high rise flats in the great housing commission estates of Melbourne and Sydney. The rights of those communities will not be enforced by this legislation. It has no relationship to law -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to take part in this debate on these important pieces of legislation to deal primarily with one area of concern that I have raised previously in this House. It is an area of concern to which I do not think sufficient public attention has been given. I note from the Human Rights Commission Bill that the Commission, amongst its functions, is to be given the responsibility: . . on its own initiative or when requested by the Minister, to report to the Minister as to the laws that should be made by the Parliament, or action that should be taken by the Commonwealth, on matters relating to human rights; . . .
I hope that when this Commission is set up- it will be set up as a result of this legislation- it will use the authority conferred upon it in clause 9 ( 1 ) (c), which I have just read out. I hope that it will use it to examine whether the Parliament should be invited to legislate a comprehensive code relating to the circumstances in which information gathered by the departments of the Commonwealth can be disclosed to the public. If we look at the legislation on the statute book, we find a wide range of attitudes to this process adopted in that legislation. Most of the debate about privacy is focused upon the effect upon an individual’s privacy in the gathering of information. Should information be gathered? By what means should it be sought? Should telephones be tapped? Should bugging devices be used? Should organisations that have information about an individual be called upon and compelled by governments to supply that information?
I hold the view that where the Government sets up an instrumentality or a department, where it gives someone a function, a responsibility, that department or instrumentality should be given the power to perform its functions. However, if in order for it to perform its functions it is necessary to give it power to gather information, it should be given that power. In the case of national security, I believe that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should have the power to gather information because there, in the interests of the security of the nation, we have to make a compromise between the individual’s right and the interests of that individual as the member of a civilised, free, democratic society. But equally, governments need revenue. They therefore have to impose taxes. In order to ensure that the taxes are collected from those who should pay them, the Government has to give the Commissioner of Taxation the power to gather information, to check on the information that tax-payers provide to him. One could go through a whole range of departments. There is the Department of Social Security, the Department of Health, even the Department of Education, and the police departments of the Commonwealth and the States. All those authorities in different ways need power to gather information in order to discharge their responsibilities.
The issue that arises is this: Having given them that power, obviously they will inevitably find information that really is not relevant to the discharge of their responsibilities. The police, in enforcing the law, will obtain a lot of information about many innocent people- information which if taken out of context can be very damaging to an individual if wrongly disclosed. Yet we find that officers of the Taxation Office are guilty of a criminal offence if they disclose information about the affairs of an individual. We find that officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are guilty of a serious criminal offence if they supply information that they have gathered in contravention of the legislation under which they work. But there are other organisations, one of which is the Australian Federal Police in the case of which we do not make such a disclosure a criminal offence. We simply say: ‘A policeman giving wrongful information can be disciplined within the Force’. It is a Force which, one would hope, for its effective working would build up a strong esprit de corps. Why do we say that the Australian Federal Police are to be in this privileged position of being only disciplined, reprimanded, perhaps losing status or five days ‘ pay or whatever it might be, if they disclose information which is damaging to an individual- an individual about whom the Police really have no direct concern.
It must worry the community to consider recent events concerning the Customs Bureau which is now incorporated within the Australian Federal Police. The leaking of information from it appears to have resulted in criminal deathsmurders. Yet if the officers concerned had been members of the Australian Federal Police under the Australian Federal Police Act they would not have been guilty of an offence. Maybe they could have been charged under the Crimes Act. Members of this House know how difficult it is to bring successful prosecutions under that Act. Perhaps they were involved in a criminal conspiracy, but members of this House know how difficult it is to prove criminal conspiracy. After all, two people are required to be involved in a conspiracy. What if a police officer or Government servant had disclosed the information on his own and there was no evidence of conspiracy?
We should protect the privacy of individuals, that human right which enables us to be individual free beings in a civilised society. It is imperative in a society with the benefits of modern technology. Great amounts of information can be collected and that information can be recalled, because of the availability of computer recording techniques, and combined and collated from more than one department. If misused, this can be very damaging to the human rights of innocent Australian citizens. I want to bring to the attention of the House this very important issue. We have so often focussed on the question of whether the information should be gathered. Let us assume it is to be gathered, that it is to be recorded, that it can be recalled and that someone might wrongfully use it. How then should we treat the wrongdoer? It is no good saying that the Human Rights Commission should look at the matter after the event and say: ‘Tut, tut. It is very poor that that occurred’. The damage will have been done. It is no good disciplining a police officer within the force, reprimanding him and saying: ‘Do not do it again. You have been a naughty boy’. If it is good enough to prosecute a member of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation or a tax officer we should prosecute a police officer for wrongfully disclosing information in the way that I have described.
More importantly, we need to examine this whole question of the misuse of information in ways that can prejudice the human rights of Australian citizens. If we examine it, I believe that we will reach the conclusion that we should have a code that is common, in its effect, to all officers of government. Within that code there may be grades of seriousness in terms of the circumstances in which information is wrongfully disclosed to the public. As I said in a previous debate- I had examples incorporated in Hansard- there are dozens of pieces of legislation that seek to confront this problem and which deal with it in very different ways. I am concerned that with the growth of technology and computers that we should have the Parliament look at this problem to see whether we should protect human rights by ensuring that information properly needed by one department or another, or several departments, is not misused by governments, by the departments themselves or by other departments or officers within those departments, to the prejudice of the human rights of Australian citizens.
I have spoken on one issue. I have chosen to do this because I think it is an issue of very great, and increasing, importance in our modern society. I do hope that in the exercise of the power mentioned in the opening of my speech that the Human Rights Commission, when established, will address itself to this important problem and advise and recommend to the Parliament whether it considers that some action should be taken by this Parliament to ensure that information gathered about citizens which is not needed by departments for the fulfilment of their functions is not misused to abuse the rights of individual citizens within the Australian society.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
-At an earlier hour the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) sought the indulgence of Mr Speaker to correct a statement to the House. As Mr Speaker agreed, I call the Leader of the House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for granting me indulgence. I wish to refer to the debate in the House yesterday, in which I participated, concerning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I seek to correct one statement and to clarify another. Page 4 1 1 of Hansard records that I referred to statements which I attributed to the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). In fact, the statements were those of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). They appear at page 134 of Hansard of 20 February 1980. At page 412 of Hansard I referred to a speech by Senator Wheeldon and invited honourable members of this House to compare that speech with the speech of Senator Melzer, both speeches having been made in connection with the debate in the Senate on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Having invited attention to those speeches I then went on to say:
There, if one could ever find one, is an attempt to excuse or justify the Soviet invasion much along the lines of that of the honourable member for Parramatta, the honourable member for Corio, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and others.
In using the word ‘there’ I intended to refer to the speech of Senator Melzer and not the speech of Senator Wheeldon. I wish to clarify the matter so that it is not misunderstood by anybody who may later read Hansard.
The Parliament: Media Coverage- Afghanistan- Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme- DecentralisationUnemploymentPensioners USSRGosford District Hospital
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This week we witnessed some wailings and bleatings from those opposite, particularly the Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), at the nature of parliamentary proceedings. Anybody who witnessed the behaviour of the then Opposition in 1975 must term this week’s behaviour in the Parliament as docile and mild-mannered. Tonight I want to refresh the memories of those opposite who outraged parliamentary standards in 1975 about their language and accusations. Throughout 1975 they debased the Parliament by their rowdiness, abuse, innuendoes and smears. Their friends in the media who at the moment sanctimoniously complain bitterly about the Opposition’s comparatively modest charges this week at that time readily collaborated with them. In 1975 those same friends in the media encouraged and reported in detail the smears and innuendoes of the then Opposition. Some even resorted to chequebook journalism and then sought to justify their actions. History has shown that bought evidence is false evidence and has shown that the charges that were made in that period were false. The leading bellyacher and complainant has been the Prime Minister himself. I shall readjust a few extracts from Hansard of 9 July 1975. The right honourable member for Wannon said:
The Prime Minister’s tongue is no substitute for substance and facts . . .
The Prime Minister stands revealed as a person more concerned with his own survival than with honest decent government for Australia . . .
The Prime Minister has tried to fob the nation off with partial disclosure, misrepresentation and scapegoats.
The Prime Minister has certainly misled the Parliament and the Australian people by a flood of half-truths which are now engulfing him.
Best of all:
Is he a man incapable any longer of confronting, knowing and understanding the simple truth? Ten per cent or even 50 per cent of the truth is as good a way of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people as a downright lie.
Those words were not true then- history has shown that to be the case- but today they are true, pertinent and appropriate to the man who used them. The events of the past few days have shown that Irrespective of bleatings opposite, the record will show that what the Prime Minister of today said in 1975 applies to him and to his performance over recent weeks. Not content with having a friendly and sycophantic media protecting him and with having neutered the Australian Broadcasting Commission by having almost converted the people’s information service into a branch of the Government propaganda unit, the Prime Minister is still not content.
Let me remind honourable members opposite of the dirty tricks campaign in the last weeks of the Budget sitting. Mr Eggleton is the shadowy figure that lurks behind the throne of this Government, the man who, in association with some of his colleagues in the Liberal national secretariat, prepared and fabricated misinformation, distributed it to the media, fooled the media, misled this Parliament and debased the political system of this country and parliamentary proceedings. Now these men have the temerity to complain and to bleat- it is nothing more nor less. Who were the men who used that fabricated misinformation? They were the Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). But that is not enough for those opposite. This morning we heard on the program AM the intimidatory, bullying and evasive behaviour of the Prime Minister of this country towards a professional journalist who was simply doing his job and asking straightforward questions of great public importance.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The Chair reminds the honourable member for Shortland that if it is his intention to reflect upon honourable members of the House there is a proper form in which he might pursue that objective; and this is not the occasion.
-They are the words which have been used by the present Prime Minister. I am just quoting from Hansard. That is all I am saying.
-The honourable member ought to be particularly attentive to the Standing Orders.
– I respect your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister was asked by Mr Adderley:
What steps did you take to seek a bipartisan policy?
The Prime Minister said:
If you could just let me finish an answer please.
I have not time to read all the transcript, but after filibustering, the Prime Minister complained again: . . if you allow me to answer the question without interrupting, and if you’re going to continually interrupt and all that so be it . . . Would you please let me answer a question. You know it’s a great habit of the ABC to interrupt but so be it.
Despite all the power and wealth from taxpayers’ cash that this Government has to use its sycophantic friends in the media, still today the Prime Minister has to ring the ABC, to put that journalist’s job in jeopardy and to complain bleatingly to the ABC about the nature of the questions he was asked. This is standard behaviour, not befitting this Parliament, this nation or the Prime Minister of this nation. If the Prime Minister wants better statements and better behaviour, let him set an example.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-A few weeks ago, following the brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), who has a very fine record in this Parliament in defence of human rights, decided that it would be appropriate to give the people of Australia the opportunity to express their views according to the democratic process by signing a petition which would be personally delivered to the Soviet Ambassador in Australia, Dr Sudarikhov, expressing the contemptindeed, the disgust- of the Australian people at the brutal invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The honourable member for Perth contacted colleagues in other States. The net result was that yesterday he sought an appointment with the Soviet Ambassador, Dr Sudarikhov, to present petitions signed by some 3,000 citizens of Australia expressing in strong terms their condemnation of the action of the Soviet Union.
The first situation that developed was that the Soviet Ambassador declined to meet the deputation comprising six members of the House of Representatives representing all States of Australia. The honourable member was given an appointment for 4 o’clock this afternoon. That was subsequently changed to 5 o’clock this afternoon on the basis that it would make it more difficult for media coverage of the presentation of the petition to be obtained. Upon arrival at the Soviet Embassy this afternoon we found that a number of journalists, cameramen and photographers were present. They made a perfectly normal request to go in with the deputation to photograph and to film the presentation of the petition. That request was denied and the people of Australia, therefore, were denied the opportunity of seeing on television or in newspaper photographs the presentation of the petition. When we got inside we found- the honourable member for Perth will confirm this-that Mr Rogov, the Minister Counsellor of the Embassy, was there, accompanied by Mr Rodionov, the First Secretary, and the Press Attache.
After reading the petition to Mr Rogov the honourable member for Perth endeavoured to hand it to him. He was told bluntly and abruptly to put it on the table. The honourable member for Perth said that he was to present the petition. There followed a diatribe which extended for some 15 minutes and in which Mr Rogov endeavoured to convince us that everything in the petition was wrong and that the Soviet Union had acted in self-defence of its own territories and of Afghanistan. Indeed, his words were almost identical with the words we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in debates in this Parliament over the last few days. A couple of matters came up which I think are interesting. First and foremost Mr Rogov said that the Afghanistan Government had made 14 approaches to the Soviet Union before the troops moved in. He denied emphatically that there were 80,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He said that the figure was 10,000. 1 recall asking Mr Rogov a very simple question: Did he know whether Afghanistan was putting a team into this year’s Moscow Olympic Games? He replied that it most certainly was.
Mr Rogov went on to inform us that the newspapers in the Soviet Union had been flooded with spontaneous letters of support for the action of the Soviet Union in sending troops into Afghanistan to fight the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States of America and Pakistan- the reactionary counter-revolutionary imperialists- and that they had not received a single petition against it. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) asked whether Mr Rogov knew of any man in the Soviet Union who had come out against it. The answer was no. The honourable member for Dundas asked: ‘What about Dr Sakharov?’ Unfortunately Mr Rogov was not prepared to comment on that. The short point I want to make is that the arrogance and contempt shown by Mr Sudarikhov, the man who went to the Prime Minister of Australia and to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and who treated Australia’s attitude on this matter with absolute contempt, have been repeated by his underling, Mr Rogov.
The Soviet Union is adopting an attitude of absolute and utter contempt for the views of the Australian people and of the Government of Australia. Mr Rogov requested us to inform our electors of the Soviet view and I told him in simple terms that I would do so. But, like the Prime Minister, like President Carter, like Mrs Thatcher and like any other person who has studied the facts, we have no hesitation in rejecting totally and unequivocally everything the Soviet Union has put forward. The Soviets say that little Afghanistan has attacked them. It was put as simply as that, because Mr Rogov made the point that he was born just a few hundred kilometres from the border in Tashkent and that the Soviet Union was threatened by the people of Afghanistan, by the CIA, by Pakistan and by the United States of America.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This evening I would like to raise in the House the question of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, and in particular, how that Scheme relates to mature aged students. I am moved to do so because of correspondence I have received from one of my constituents, a Miss Judy McLeod, of Allan Avenue, Belmore. I have asked the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), who is at the table, for leave to incorporate Miss McLeod ‘s letter in Hansard.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave?
– I am seeking leave.
-Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
The document read as follows- 6/5 Allan Ave., Belmore 2 192 13.11.79
Mr McLeay, 1st Floor, 132 Beamish St, Campsie 2 194
Although ( have petitioned other members of parliament and got absolutely nowhere, having newly arrived in your electorate, I thought I would make one final effort before I give up in disgust.
I, sir, am the poorest person in your electorate. Even those receiving Unemployment Benefits rate as wealthy compared to me. The reason I am so poor is that I am trying to educate myself. I am an independent student attending Sydney University. I gave up work and attended Technical College last year so that I would be able to get where I am. Frankly I don’t know why 1 bothered.
The reason I did bother is because I am one Australian that is “having a go”. I want to upgrade my future familie’s standard of living, as well as contribute to the future of this country.
Mr McLeay, I have $45.12 a week from which I have to pay rent, food, clothes, fares, textbooks, electricity bill and everything else I need. With today’s prices this is an impossibility, I therefore work during my holidays. I don’t mind working, I am perfectly willing to work, but could you please explain to me why I am not allowed to earn more than $1,200 per year. That figure barely covers my yearly text book expenditure, not to mention compulsory union fees.
I am told that my weekly handout puts me some 30-40 per cent below the poverty line. That $1,200 puts me almost within reach of it. There has, to my knowledge, been little or no increase in this allowance since 1974. How much has yours and every other Australian’s wage increased since then?
The problem is I represent a very small minority. Less than 10 per cent of students are in my plight, the rest are fortunate enough to have parents to help them, being one of seven children makes this impossible in my family.
Being such a small group we have no political weight. Our votes aren’t going to make any difference to any politician, which I suppose is why I’ve had no success so far. I am convinced that the only method to get anywhere in this country is to form a group which has the numbers to threaten politicians.
Instead of spending all that money on those advertisements telling us to “have a go” you could have given us the opportunity to put that into practice. Everytime I see those ads I could cry. All that money wasted, while I have to spend what was going to be my train fare into my exam on Thursday on posting this letter to you in the slight hope that it may do some good.
Please Mr McLeay, if you can’t get the Independent rate of the Tertiary Allowance up-graded to at least the same level as Unemployment Benefits, at least abolish or substantially raise the amount I am allowed to earn in my holidays. that wouldn’t hurt anybody and it would certainly make my attempt at “ having a go “ a little less burdensome.
Yours faithfully, signed Miss Judy McLeod
I ‘ve decided to save my train fare for my exam and deliver this to your office personally.
-The decision of the Commonwealth Government to adjust recurrent grants for education from 1974 was so that tuition fees would be abolished and so that the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme could be established. The Scheme was designed to give socially and economically disadvantaged groups a fair chance of getting a university education. The TEAS scheme is much more important than the abolition of fees. When the Williams committee did an investigation into the education, training and employment of Australians it estimated that over 100,000 people in Australia were receiving money under the TEAS scheme. The Williams report said that some of these people were mature age students who receive grants, but that the percentage was very small.
When one considers that the rates that TEAS recipients receive is $29.25 per week if one lives at home and $45. 1 5 if one lives away from home, one sees that that is a very small amount of money. That amount has a means test applied to it of $ 1,500. In fact, if one is a mature age student living away from home one is expected to live on $75.15 per week. When one takes into account living expenses, rent, the purchase of books, et cetera, one can understand that young people, endeavouring to give themselves an education outside the normal system, do not have a great deal to live on. A person whose only chance of going to university is as a mature age student is in a very perilous situation indeed.
This evening I would like to ask the House and the Minister to consider giving those people a better deal. There needs to be either an increase in the means testing of the allowance- the $30 that one is allowed to earn over a 12 months’ period is somewhat difficult to live on if one has to buy books and pay some of the extra fees, as students do- or an increase in the allowance for mature age students. It is estimated that mature age students make up less than 10 per cent of the number of students receiving the tertiary allowance. If we do hold to the view that we should be endeavouring to educate people, that we should be endeavouring to retrain people, then these are the people whom the Government should be trying to assist. They have indicated that they have the will and the ability to continue.
Some years ago a survey was conducted at the University of New England. It indicated that mature age students were the ones who had a better chance of passing and had more dedication in achieving that goal. I would think that this Government, indeed the Parliament, should be attempting to assist those people. I would hope that the Minister would take account of the items raised by Miss Judy McLeod in her letter. We should give some consideration to extending either the allowance or the means test. I would sum up by mentioning something from the Williams report and something from Miss McLeod ‘s letter. The Williams report stated:
The emphasis of extending opportunity of education with the extension of these things has been less in evidence since the reappraisal of Government expenditure in 1 975.
Miss McLeod in her letter to me said:
I, sir, am the poorest person in your electorate. Even those receiving Unemployment Benefits rate as wealthy compared to me. The reason I am so poor is that I am trying to educate myself.
I think if someone has to write a letter like that it is an indictment on the Government’s education programs. We, as a Parliament, should consider the matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the New South Wales Legislative Assembly today there was on the Notice Paper a motion which called for the House to express its grave concern at the Federal Government’s disregard for rural people. Firstly, it went on to talk about the last Federal Budget. In particular, firstly, it alleged that the Federal Budget made no provision for the relief of rural unemployment. Secondly, it stated that it reduced funding for decentralisation and, thirdly, that it demonstrated its abrogation of the duty to provide adequate agricultural services by insufficient funding for research, extensions and rural services. I suppose most of us here would consider this motion laughable. The problem is that there is to be an election this year. It is apparent that in the New South Wales Government there is going to be an orchestrated campaign where the speech writers will write, for country members, speeches about these issues and will, frankly, be telling quite outrageous lies. I thought that I should just put a few things on the record that are quite obvious to people in this House and which I know are quite obvious to people in rural Australia but, unfortunately, perhaps not as obvious to as many people in the cities.
On the first question in the motion regarding the provision for relief of rural unemployment, I would like to ask the New South Wales Labor
Government how on earth it thinks people will be employed unless people are making profits and investing so that they can employ people? How will people be employed unless there is an attack on costs in the country- in which area this Government has been very effectively involved- so that people in the country can make profits so that they can employ people? How will people be employed in the country unless there is a vigorous opening up of overseas markets? Certainly that is being done and has been done. I would just like to note that in 1975-76 when this Government came into power our total exports of rural products were $4,286m. In 1978-79, only three years later, it was $6, 191 m. That is an increase of almost 50 per cent. We will just write off that first proposition relating to the provision of relief for rural unemployment.
The motion then dealt with funding for decentralisation. This present Government was the first Federal Government to ever have a decentralisation fund. It was introduced in 1977. That is a matter of record. There was no decentralisation fund prior to this Government. So to talk about this Government reducing decentralisation is absolute poppycock. Thirdly, the motion dealt with the abrogation of duties. I would like to reel off a few points. This Government has introduced the Primary Industry Bank, income equalisation deposits, the investment allowance, the beef subsidy and a complete re-organisation of the dairy industry. It has introduced averaging in that industry. What is very important to people in rural Australia is that it has removed probate. Probate was a great problem for many people and it was a great inhibitor of expansion within families of primary industry. The Government has introduced all those things.
When the New South Wales Government starts talking about funding for research, extension and rural services probably it should begin to realise that the State does have some responsibilities. I know that the State does not have very many, but the State does have some. New South Wales is very effectively raising taxes. It has had an increase in taxation revenue in round about three years of some 50 per cent, so it knows to raise taxes through its own charges. Therefore, it should be thinking about spending some of that money in the country. We do know that a lot of that money comes straight to the city. It runs a deficit on the public transport system of some $400m. New South Wales has done very little for country people. In the five minutes available to me this evening I wanted to put across the story that when we hear about proposals in the Parliament of New South Wales to censure the Federal
Government on rural matters, perhaps the State Government ought to think about its own record and just remember the tremendous increase in confidence that country people have because we have a Government such as ours.
– I was absolutely staggered when I listened to the previous speaker, the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) talking about what his Government did for decentralisation. I wonder whether he has ever heard of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, AlburyWodonga and Bathurst-Orange, where some hundreds of millions of dollars was spent under the Labor Government while this Government gives a pitiful, piddling $6m or $7m. It is a joke. Just to show what sort of a joke it is I point out that last weekend the people of New South Wales, having been told for 40 years that the only person that could hold the seat of Castlereagh was the Labor member, Mr Jack Renshaw, found at the by-election- after all the punters and tipsters had been saying that Labor would take a thrashing- that the new member for Castlereagh is, of course, a Labor member who had a brilliant win. This is an endorsement of the Wran Government and a great embarrassment to the Liberal-National Country Party in New South Wales.
– We will be the next Federal Government.
– The election that the honourable member has to be interested in is the next one. That is the one where the Government is going down the shute.
– Give us some odds.
-I will give the honourable member some odds- any odds he likes. I want to nail to the fence one of the great myths that have been perpetrated throughout this country by the media, skilfully helped by this Government. That is the suggestion that the people of Australia do not want to work. Last Saturday, at the opening of a new wing of the Gosford District Hospital in my electorate, the Chairman of the Board, Mr Hamill provided figures that are absolutely startling. Some 1 1 9 new positions were created by the opening of the new wing. For the 35 clerical positions advertised 856 applications were received; for 20 maintenance positions 200 people applied, for 26 catering positions 352 people applied; and for 38 domestic positions 344 people applied. Let me total those figures, and I hope that the Press will run this story, not for my benefit but because it is the son of thing that needs to be got through to the people of Australia. For 119 vacant positions there was a total of 1,700 applications.
– How many of them had jobs?
– I thought you would never ask, but muggins came right in. Thank you very much. I waited for it. Those vacant positions did not include medical, nursing or paramedical positions. The information I have from the Secretary of the Hospital is that relatively few people on the Central Coast who applied for the positions were already in full time jobs. He said that more applications were received from people who were out of work and from people who travel to Sydney. So more than half of the number who applied are people who do not have jobs on the Central Coast. That is the evidence we have been waiting for. That is the evidence that needs to be told to the people of Australia. Some 1,700 people applied for 119 positions. It is a most staggering indictment of the Government and it is a staggering indictment of those people who in a sense have managed to bury the question of unemployment by spreading around the story that the unemployed are unemployed because they do not wish to work. In our area 1,700 people applied for 119 positions, and about 900 of those people do not have any work at all. They queued up in their hundreds for these jobs, and they are hardly highly paid jobs- clerical, maintenance, catering and domestic.
It is enough to make a person cry to talk about it at meetings to people who sit in the comfort of their own jobs, pulling in $200, $250, $300 a week, and say: “They can get a job if they want to ‘. I have just instanced 800 or 900 people out of 1,700 who have no work at all. Certainly, some of these people spend one and a half hours both morning and evening, for a total of three hours a day, travelling to and from Sydney, but even that is a ratio of something like 8: 1. 1 do not think the situation in my electorate is bad; it is no worse than that in hundreds of electorates around Australia. I hope that this time the story is run by the Press to show the people of Australia that the 473,000 unemployed -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take advantage of this opportunity to express my concern that some pensioners are unnecessarily forgoing profit from investments. Whilst I strongly support the eventual abolition of the means test, I am concerned that many pensioners who come to my Kogarah office to seek assistance are not maximising their investments. There is some confusion about what they are able to earn. Some are obsessed with forgoing a lot of investment to obtain a pensioner health benefit card, and at times that is quite unnecessary. Another thing that has shown up through these pensioners coming to my office, and I certainly welcome their inquiries, is the number of schemes emerging of financial institutions taking advantage of pensioners. One such scheme involves pensioners going to a bank and coming to what I would describe as an under-the-counter deal. The bank accepts their investment and the interest is determined at a rate which enables the pensioners to obtain pensioner health benefit cards. What the bank does not tell the pensioners is that it is not giving them an interest rate anywhere near the market rate. The bank, of course, is accepting the additional profit from their investments.
Another scheme is emerging through a well known building society whereby pensioners can invest money at an interest rate which is struck much lower than the market rate so that the pensioner receives a lower investment return than he or she otherwise should. Of course, the building society is the beneficiary of the difference between the market rate and the rate it is giving the pensioner. I also draw attention to a scheme that has been developed by the Government Insurance Office of New South Wales. I have had great difficulty working out just who gets what. A number of pensioners who have invested in this scheme have come to me. They cannot tell me how much they get. Once again, it is a scheme particularly designed to reduce the amount a pensioner would get from his investment from the amount he would get if he invested his funds in any normal scheme.
I warn pensioners of the schemes that are being devised. I also suggest that they seek advice from their members of parliament or from their local office of the Department of Social Security about maximising their incomes. Pensioners should also start to evaluate what they are gaining and what they are forgoing if they have or do not have a pensioner health benefit card. As most people would know, when a pensioner’s income exceeds a certain limit and his pension is means tested, there is only a loss of 50c in pension for every dollar by which that pension exceeds the means tested amount.
There are other benefits from a pension health benefit card that should be evaluated. I will identify in plain terms and in weekly amounts what those benefits are. First of all, the telephone concession is worth about 50c a week to a pensioner. Council rates are worth about $2 per week. Of course, there are also medical advantages. Basically, they are the three things from which a pensioner benefits when he has a pensioner health benefit card, apart from public transport concessions. I suggest that pensioners evaluate their own needs from these concessions before they go into investment schemes through which other people take advantage of and profit from their funds. I urge pensioners to seek advice.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-So much has been said in condemnation of the Soviet Union in the Parliament in the last week. I want to place something on the record for which many people in the world admire the Soviet Union.
– How many did they kill last week?
– The honourable member should listen. Fifty years ago the Soviet Union had over 80 per cent illiteracy. It has encountered several world wars since. It fought on the side of the Allied Forces and Australia in World War I and World War II it lost 20 million of its people.
– That fixes illiteracy, doesn ‘t it?
– The honourable member is an idiot. He will not be here after the next election. The Soviet Union, in my view, has suffered considerable embarrassment and has shown great tolerance in the last decade. I remember when Anthony Eden was Prime Minister of Britain. Under the rule of President Bulganin two Soviet ships went on a goodwill mission to the United Kingdom. While in the harbours of the United Kingdom, a British diver, Commander Crabb, carried out an examination of the bottoms of the Russian ships. His body was found in the English harbour. Sir Anthony Eden made a bitter statement of condemnation of the secret police in Britain. He was angry that when the Russians were in Britain on a goodwill mission a diver was secretly inspecting the bottoms of two Soviet ships. Anthony Eden described the act as being like inviting guests to one’s home and then searching the pockets of their coats which had been left in the cloak room. I now refer to the Cuban missile crisis. We should all recall that Russia showed great tolerance during that crisis.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
The following notices were given:
Mr Hodgman to move; That in view of its performance in the debates in the Parliament on the brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan- and particularly the deplorable performance of the Leader of the Opposition- it is now clear, beyond doubt, that the defence of this Nation could not be entrusted to the Australian Labor Party.
Mr Kevin Cairns to move;
That acknowledging a continued pattern of Soviet aggression since World War II and that such Communist aggression has manifested itself in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and, before that, in Korea, this House regrets that the last leader of the Opposition to condemn such aggression without equivocation and support action to curb it, was MrChifleyin 1950.
The following papers were presented, pursuant to statute:
Customs Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1 980 No. 2 1 .
Defence Amendment Act- Interim DeterminationsStatutory Rules 1 980 Nos 23, 24.
Navigation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 Nos 27,28.
Public Service Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 26.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Regulations 1980-No. l-(MotorTrafficOrdinance).
Superannuation Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 25.
Trade Commissioners Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules 1980 No. 22.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consulate-General in Los Angeles (Question No. 5257)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 November 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Leader of the House, upon notice, on 22 November 1979:
What items appearing as orders of the day, government business, on the Notice Paper of the House of Representatives, have not been debated by the House in (a) 1979, (b) 1978 or(c) 1977.
– The Clerk of the House has provided the list of items given below in answer to the honourable member’s question. They are the items appearing as orders of the day, government business, on the Notice Paper for the final sitting day in each of the relevant years and which have been reported in the Votes and Proceedings as not having been debated at some previous time or on that day:
Advance to the Minister for Finance 1977-78 - Statement of Expenditure
Advance to the Minister for Finance 1978-79 - Statement of Expenditure
Atomic Energy Amendment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 979
Australian Fishing Zone- Taiwanese Access- Paper
Australian National Railways Commission- Reports
Bankruptcy Amendment Bill 1979
Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Amendment Bill 1 979
Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings- Joint Committee- 8th Report
Casey University- Australian Defence Force Academy Bill 1978
Child Migrant Education- Paper
Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill 1979
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Amendment Bill 1979
Company Take-Overs Bill 1979
Company Take-Overs (Fees) Bill 1 979
Criminology Research Amendment Bill 1978
Customs Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1979
Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 1979
Diesel Fuel Taxation (Administration) Amendment Bill 1979
Dissolution of the House of Representatives on 10 November 1977 and the Simultaneous Dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives on 1 1 November 1975-Papers
Education Commissions - Guidelines for 1980-82-Paper
Education, Training and Employment- Report of Committee of Inquiry- Papers
Homes Savings Grants Acts- Reports
Housing Industry - Indicative Planning Council- Report
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax (Repeal) Bill 1979
Maralinga Atomic Weapons Test Range- Radiological Safety and Future Land Use- Report
Medical Manpower Supply- Report of Committee of Officials- Paper
National Disaster Insurance- Paper
Royal Australian Air Force- No. 34 Squadron Special Flights- Paper
Standing Orders Committee- Report, dated 15 November 1979
Aboriginal Communities in the Northern TerritoryImpact of Mining Royalties- Paper
Advance to the Minister for Finance 1 977-78 - Statement of Expenditure
Audit Amendment Bill 1978
Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings- Joint Committee- 8th Report
Casey University- Australian Defence Force Academy Bill 1978
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Bill 1 978
Criminology Research Amendment Bill 1 978
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill ( No. 5 ) 1 97 8
Migrant Services and Programs- Paper
Norfolk Island Bill 1978
Police Resources in the Commonwealth Area- Report
Population and Australia- Paper
Postal Services Amendment Bill 1978
Royal Australian Air Force- No. 34 Squadron Special Flights- Paper
States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Amendment Bill 1978
Welfare and Health-Paper
Acts Interpretation Amendment Bill 1 977
Advance to the Treasurer 1976-77- Statement of Expenditure
Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1 977
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1977
Australian Shipping Commission Amendment Bill 1977
Australia’s Population- Summary of First Report of National Population Inquiry
Customs Amendment Bill 1977
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977
Defence Force (Retirement and Death Benefits Amendments) Bill (No. 2) 1977
Department of Productivity- Report
Environment (Financial Assistance) Bill 1 977
Foreign Companies- Branch Profits Tax- Ministerial Statement
Human Rights Commission Bill 1977
Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1 977
Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill 1977
National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1977
Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1977
Pine Gap- Joint Defence Space Research FacilityMinisterial Statement, 2 June 1 977
Pine Gap- Joint Defence Space Research FacilityMinisterial Statement, 19 October 1977
Royal Commission on Intelligence and SecurityMinisterial Statement and Papers
Territory Authorities ( Financial Provisions ) Bill 1977
Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) 1977
Transport Planning and Research (Financial Assistance) Bill 1977.
There are, of course, other orders of the day, government business, which are not included in the list but which, in many cases, have been the subject of only limited debate in the House. I provide a table of relevant items debated and not debated in 1977, 1978 and 1979 and, for comparison purposes, similar details for 1973, 1974 and 1975:
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 20 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800228_reps_31_hor117/>.