31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-Mr Speaker, I would like to bring to your notice a matter of privilege.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– On 1 April, I raised a matter of privilege on behalf of Mr David Berthelsen, who claimed that he was being discriminated against and intimidated in his employment in the Public Service as a result of giving evidence before a Sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. On that occasion I submitted material to you. After consideration of that material you ruled that you were unable to conclude that a prima facie case of breach of privilege existed. Mr Speaker, I now submit further material, which I would like you to consider, to support Mr Berthelsen ‘s claims. I believe that these documents indicate that certain actions have been taken against Mr Berthelsen for having criticised security arrangements in the Department of Defence in evidence given to the Sub-Committee. These documents also show, in my view, that officers of the Department of Defence and the Auditor-General’s Department have collaborated in those actions in a way which constitutes a breach of the privilege which Mr Berthelsen considered he was entitled to in giving evidence before the Sub-Committee.
I also believe that Mr Berthelsen acted from the highest motivation and in the public interest in attempting to alert a committee of this Parliament to what he regarded as serious deficiencies in the security arrangements of the computer system of a government department which he became aware of in the course of his duties. The experience of Mr Berthelsen does, I believe, raise important questions of principle concerning the freedom of public servants to give evidence before committees of the Parliament and the freedom of those committees to call witnesses as well as the principles involved in the manner in which senior public servants should respond to criticism of their administration. I would appreciate your early consideration of this material.
-The honourable gentleman will provide the papers to the Clerk. I will consider them and announce my reaction to them later today.
– 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 Bourchier, Mr Ewen Cameron, Dr Jenkins, Mr Martyr and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index. By this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Gillard, Dr Jenkins and Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the retail price of Australian rum is too high and should be reduced to enable the average Australian to buy it.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that steps be taken to reduce the excise duty on Australian rum.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament will
Reform income tax laws to allow the joint income of husband and wife to be equally divided between them for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that equal opportunity regarding Human Rights and fundamental freedoms is not enjoyed by all Australians irrespective of the race, colour, or ethnic origin of certain groups, particularly Aboriginal and Islander groups.
That the Human Rights Bill and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill do not advance the causes of Australia’s oppressed Aboriginals and Islanders.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament affirms:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Right Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
This humble petition of the sportsmen and women and citizens of Australia respectfully 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, 1980.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins, Mr Holding, Mr Innes, Mr James, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Kerin and Mr Willis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of certain residents of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government promotes carcass trade and that all future shipments of live animals overseas for slaughter be banned, and thereby stop a repetition of the shocking loss of life through burns or drowning as occurred with the incineration or drowning of 40,000 sheep on a ship to abattoirs in the Middle East, or the more recent cruelty to horses being exported for slaughter in Japan.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Roger Johnston.
-Has the Minister for Transport noted the proposals from Qantas Airways Ltd to provide domestic services between Perth and Sydney and Melbourne on a round trip economy basis at fares of $154 and $104 lower than those charged by the domestic airlines? Does the Minister realise the extent of concern, in Western Australia especially, to obtain lower fares and greater frequency in air services to the eastern States? In view of the great advantages offered by the Qantas proposals, will the Minister allow them a trial as he recently allowed a trial for the proposed Townsville to Singapore service by Ansett? Specifically will he authorise a three months trial of the Qantas proposals so that their practicality and consumer response can be properly assessed, especially in Western Australia?
– The proposal by Qantas has not yet been formally handed to me. Therefore I have not had a chance to study the implications of the proposal other than the Press reports which indicate that Qantas has made an assessment of fares that would apply on the DarwinSydney, Darwin-Melbourne, Perth-Sydney and Perth-Melbourne routes should Qantas be given authority to fly over domestic routes. The proposal involves policy, as does the proposal from Ansett to fly on the international route between Townsville and Singapore.
Before the Government could approve either proposal it would have to consider existing policies and consider the proposals against those existing policies, the first being the two-airline policy, which has been in force for many years, and the second, the policy announced and reaffirmed as recently as late last year that Qantas should remain the sole international carrier for Australia. In due course the Government will be considering these applications against the background of the existing policy and whether a change in policy would bring problems that may not be foreseen at present.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Housing and Construction. When will design work for the Commonwealth government office block at Townsville be commenced? Will consideration be given to the engagement of local northern architects for that work?
– The Commonwealth intends to construct a new office block in Townsville in northern Queensland at a cost of approximately $7m. It will be necessary to refer this project to the Public Works Committee, but I am sure that that Committee will consider the matter very fairly and favourably. Design work for reference to the Public Works Committee will commence next month. It is the intention of my Department to give careful consideration to engaging local architects from northern Queensland for that design work. In fact, today departmental officers are interviewing one firm of architects from Townsville and two other firms are presently under consideration. The trend at present is to involve more private architects in the work undertaken by my Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Does the Government sanction the report of the United Nations Association of Australia, which was released today, which calls on the Federal Government to set up a royal commission on the question of Aboriginal land rights and which also supports the call of the Yungngora people for a three-year moratorium on mining and drilling at Noonkanbah until all sacred sites are mapped out? Does the Federal Government regard drilling on Aboriginal sacred sites as acceptable? Does the drilling by Amax on Noonkanbah sacred sites violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory? Finally, does mining on Aboriginal sacred sites also breach the Racial Discrimination Act 1975?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable member refers. I will refer his question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and obtain a reply for him. I would only add that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has been in constant touch with the Western Australian Government and has also had a number of discussions with members of the Noonkanbah community for the purpose of ensuring that sacred sites are properly identified and protected. As the honourable gentleman would be aware there is provision under the Western Australian Heritage Act for the identification and protection of sacred sites.
An issue has been raised as to the distinction between what might be called broad acre areas of influence and importance to Aboriginals with respect to Aboriginal law and particular physical features which are in the nature of sacred sites and which, under all circumstances, ought to be protected. It is to this issue that my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has directed his attention in his discussions with the Western Australian Government and with the Noonkanbah community itself. I am quite sure that the honourable gentleman can feel confident that my colleague will do everything in his power to see that the Aboriginal interests with respect to sacred sites are protected.
-Can the Prime Minister advise the House whether the Canadian Government has yet formed a view on the Olympic Games boycott?
-The Canadian Government has recently formed a view that Canadian athletes should not take part in the Moscow Olympics and that advice has been given to that country’s Olympic officials. The Canadian Government has been considering this matter for some time but the decision that has been made is completely consistent with what its Foreign Minister told me when we discussed these matters in Salisbury. He advised me that the matter would be discussed in the Canadian Cabinet on Monday or Tuesday of this week and that a decision would be announced. That has occurred and it was one of the reasons for my continuing confidence that an effective boycott would unfold.
Mr Speaker, I would like to take this moment to correct what I think is a misunderstanding in this morning’s media. The matter is on a related subject. A large part of the media indicated that I had called Mr Wilkes’s Press secretary an idiot. In fact it was the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who called him an idiot, and I had agreed with the honourable member in a good show of bipartisanship.
– My question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs concerns Kampuchea. I ask: Why has the Australian Government pledged only $3m, given the enormity of the problems of Kampuchea and the country’s importance to the overall stability of the region? In view of the serious food deficit situation developing again in Kampuchea, will the Australian Government consider providing additional emergency aid, particularly in the form of seed grains? Furthermore, why has the Australian Government been so inactive in seeking, along with other countries in the region, a permanent solution to the Kampuchean problem? Does the Australian Government share the views, for example, of Thailand, that the United Nations has been insufficiently active and that there should be convened by the United Nations an international conference to discuss means of achieving a permanent solution as well as the security of refugee camps on the Thai border?
-The honourable member’s information is incorrect. The figure is not $3m; it is just on $10m, which is a somewhat larger figure than he has indicated. The $3m he refers to is merely the last element in that line, but not the last action that we will take. Cumulatively, to date, this Government has given approximately $10m. The last amount was $3m and we indicated at that time -
– You are a liar, Peacock.
-There is no need for the honourable member to get so agitated.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I understand that the honourable member for Batman used a term which is an unparliamentary expression. I ask him to withdraw it.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister -
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw.
– Was misrepresenting me.
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw.
– Could I substitute the word ‘misrepresent ‘ for ‘ liar ‘?
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw immediately or I will have to deal with him. The honourable member will withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister was misrepresenting what I said.
-I warn the honourable member for Batman.
– I referred specifically to the pledge in quantities.
-The honourable member for Batman will resume his seat.
Government members interjecting-
-I need no assistance from my right. This is a matter of considerable concern to the Parliament and I ask honourable members to treat it with the seriousness that I do. I say to the honourable member for Batman that he will withdraw the expression he used without qualification.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker -
-I warn the honourable member for Batman to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, I think that is unfair.
-I name the honourable member for Batman.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the honourable member be suspended forthwith from the service of the House.
- Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence?
-I will give the honourable member for Adelaide my indulgence.
- Mr Speaker, I would ask you, in the circumstances, to think over this episode and give the honourable member for Batman an opportunity to put his point of view. Then, if he will not withdraw, you have to proceed, but I ask you to give him that time.
-I have given the honourable member for Batman no fewer than a dozen opportunities to comply with my instruction. He has declined to do so.
That the honourable member for Batman be suspended forthwith from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honourable member for Batman thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
Government members interjecting-
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and Energy aware of the decision by the Moorabbin Council in Victoria to convert its vehicle fleet to use compressed natural gas? Will the Government encourage moves by other councils and organisations to convert their fleets and to save on liquid fuel and money? Will the Government also consider giving financial assistance or a subsidy to the Moorabbin Council as it is the first council in Australia to convert to compressed natural gas?
– It has been brought to my attention that the honourable member made a valuable speech in this House last week in which he told us that the Moorabbin Council had converted a large number of its vehicles to use compressed natural gas. I think all of us must welcome that decision and say that the Council is giving a lead to the community to use an alternative fuel.
Opposition members- Speak up. We can’t hear you.
-Order! Honourable members on my left have interjected to indicate that they cannot hear the Minister’s answer. I ask the officers in the broadcasting booth to turn up the sound reinforcement system.
– I am very flattered that the Opposition should want to hear what I am saying. It is rather unusual. It is part of the Government’s policy to encourage fleet operators and large users of fuel to use liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas. Both are very valuable alternatives to petroleum products. This country has large reserves of LPG and is exporting a considerable quantity. We have enormous quantities of natural gas. Cooper Basin and Bass Strait gas will supply our requirements for many years. Of course, we have potential on the North West Shelf. So the more people we can move to these forms of alternative energy the better. We are giving incentives by removing the sales tax from LPG conversion kits for motor vehicles. We have also said that excise or road tax will not apply to LPG or compressed natural gas.
It is important to convert to these types of fuels because, for example, if all the LPG that is now being exported were used in motor vehicles in Australia we would save about 10 per cent of our petrol usage and that would make a great contribution. Of course, if we could get people to use compressed natural gas the saving would be even greater.
– Can the Minister for Defence give some indication of what has transpired following correspondence from the Leichhardt Council and residents of Balmain requesting that the Minister reconsider his statement that the land used by the Australian National Line at Mort Bay should be used for defence purposes and not left as open space? Is the Minister aware that the Premier of New South Wales has stated that he believes that the ANL site should be open space and not be used for defence purposes? As the area is jointly owned by the Federal and State governments, will the Minister as a matter of urgency start negotiations with the Premier of New South Wales so that a joint statement can be issued to alleviate the worry of residents as to the future of the area? As the Federal member, could I be involved in these most important discussions?
– As the honourable gentleman knows, there is a very important shipbuilding program at Cockatoo Island. That program is important to the defence capability of this country and I believe, having regard to its size, to the economy and to the general employment level. As a consequence, it is also important that the program proceed without interruption. In order to service Cockatoo there must be a land base for the movement of material to and from the island. There must also be parking facilities available for those who work there.
It has been brought to my notice that disquiet has been expressed by the local authority to which the honourable gentleman referred. I understand that certain views are held by the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales. For my part, I would be happy to arrange a conference between the appropriate bodies, officers of my Department and officers of the New South Wales Government. Finally, it remains for me to acknowledge the sympathetic interest the honourable gentleman has shown in this difficulty. I most certainly would facilitate his attendance at such a conference.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Batman. Can the Minister advise what aid is actually being supplied to Kampuchea? Can he also advise what action he is taking to call for an international conference on this matter?
-I am grateful for the opportunity to complete what essentially is the answer to the earlier question, which is that -
– You shouldn’t be surprised; after all, you asked him to ask the question.
– I was seeking to answer it when that interjection came forward.
-I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent and to cease their interjections.
-To date, we have given $10m. At the last conference on the matter we undertook to give $3m and added a very important rider that we would do more. We were working to establish an international conference which would be a pledging conference akin to that held last year because funds were running out. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, I regret, would not agree to such a conference being called. All that was called was a meeting of donor countries. At that meeting we immediately undertook to give $3m and to do more financially and diplomatically. The Cabinet will be directing its attention to the matter of finance when we seek, on the secondary front, the achievement of the full international conference that I think the tragedy of Kampuchea deserves.
We are now working through the Economic and Social Council, with the Association of South
East Asian Nations, to call on the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations to convene an international conference on Kampuchea on humanitarian grounds to discuss what is a continuing, stark tragedy. It is, therefore, unfair to allege that the Government has given only $3m. It has not only given a great deal more than that but it has also worked in association with other countries to call for a full international conference. At the same time, it has sought to put down fundamental principles to achieve a political solution in Kampuchea which, after all, must be supported by all members of the Parliament. It is not good enough just to be dispensing money year in and year out. Therefore, we have not only been calling for an end to the suffering but also for a reduction in Soviet arms and the eventual elimination of them.
As honourable members know, at present $3m in military aid is being given to Vietnam by the Soviet Union. This is allowing Vietnam to continue to have 200,000 troops in Kampuchea. We are also seeking the withdrawal of the Vietnamese. This would lead us on to the further stage; namely, providing the conditions for the Khmer nationals to choose their own form of government uncoerced by others. That is the political solution, the guidelines and the principles that we have been working to since last year. They are the principles I have been putting to the Vietnamese when I have talked to their representatives at the United Nations, to their Deputy Foreign Minister and when I have talked to them in Hanoi. In calling for an international conference, in working for full participation for a political solution, I think we are executing the proper approach in a policy towards Kampuchea. We are certainly doing more than was indicated in the question asked by the honourable member who has now departed this chamber.
-I ask a question of the Foreign Minister which is supplementary to that he has just answered. Is it not a fact that in the first phase of pledging aid in the matter which he has mentioned, Australia contributed $7.8m out of $2 10m? Does not the second pledging amount total some $270m? On a pro rata basis Australia will be required to pledge approximately $10m. Accepting that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has already given $3m, will he give an undertaking that Australia will pledge the amount of $10m? Will the Minister also guarantee that the amount of $3m will actually be paid when this money is needed, namely, before the end of this financial year? I further ask:
Is it not a fact that Sweden has already pledged $3.8m compared with the amount pledged by Australia of $3m? Are Australia’s interests in Indo-China greater than those of Sweden?
– I do not seek to differentiate within the international community as to who has a greater interest in the suffering that is occurring in this unfolding tragedy. It is not enough to say that one country has more interest than another. This is one of the great international tragedies and it requires what we are seeking, namely, the full participation of the whole international community in working not merely towards a political solution but to the alleviation in the meantime of human suffering. Australia was one of the major donors- on a pro rata basis Australia was probably the major donor- at the last pledging conference. As honourable members opposite know, Australia has taken on the problem of Indo-Chinese refugees to a greater extent per capita than any other country. So far as the donors’ meeting is concerned, Australia has indicated that the amount of $3m was merely to be put down now as an example of -
– Are you giving an undertaking?
-I give the firm undertakingCabinet has already agreed to it- that Australia will do more. It must be commensurate with the actions that we have already taken. The House should be under no misapprehension about the fact that this Government is very active both on the humanitarian plane and in its work towards a political solution.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the difficulties that Australia experienced with the European Economic Community in the multilateral trade negotiations last year. Following the recent discussions with Mr Haferkamp of the Commission of European Communities, is the Minister any more confident of gaining access for agricultural products to Europe?
-After talking with members of the Commission of European Communities it is very obvious that the common agricultural policy and the burden of the increasing Budget are causing a major problem for them. The European Parliament has already rejected its Budget for this year, indicating that it will not give approval to increased allocations. The total cost of the agricultural policies is taking up 70 per cent of the total Budget of the European Parliament and the resources of the Commission. This is getting out of all proportion. What the Commission must now look at is revising some of its agricultural support price policies and interventionist policies to see how it can bring them more into line with the Budget proposals put forward by the EEC countries. All this means that enormous pressures are emerging in relation to its agricultural policies. I believe ultimately it will be looking for cheaper food to support the citizens of those countries because, as I have said on many occasions, the cost of its policies will become so burdensome that it will not be able to sustain them.
-My question, which is directed to the Acting Attorney-General, concerns the run down in funding for the Australian Legal Aid Office. I ask: Does the Minister recognise the valuable community service being rendered by local community legal centres, such as Macquarie Legal Service which operates in my electorate? Further, does the Government intend to fund local community legal centres on an ongoing basis? Finally, will the Government allocate the necessary funds to enable a significant increase in the amount of finance available to the individual centres?
– The Government has had a policy of funding legal aid centres of the nature that the honourable member described at Parramatta. There is also the Redfern Legal Centre, the Fitzroy Legal Service and the Inner City Legal Services Centre in the electorate of Wentworth. 1 am quite sure that the Attorney-General will have in mind the needs of these centres when these matters are discussed in the budgetary context.
– My question is .directed to the Minister for Transport. It follows the questions asked yesterday and this morning by the Leader of the Opposition. The’ Minister will be aware of the tremendous support throughout Queensland and especially northern Queensland for the establishment of a direct Townsville-Singapore link of the type demonstrated by Ansett Airlines of Australia last weekend. Is the Minister aware of the benefits, both financial and in terms of employment, that such a link could bring to northern Queensland? As the Ansett proposal allegedly cuts several hundred dollars off the present
Qantas Airways Ltd fares from Townsville to Singapore -
-I ask the honourable gentleman to ask, his question and to cease giving information.
– I ask: When will the review mentioned earlier by the Minister be undertaken?
– Yes, I am well aware of the possible benefits that could flow to northern Queensland as a result of such a service to the Great Barrier Reef area particularly from the point of view of tourism and employment. The Ansett Airlines of Australia proposal to provide direct access from Townsville to Singapore has those attractions. It certainly merits consideration from the point of view of tourism. But it involves very important policy considerations for the Government. Yesterday I dealt with some of them in my reply to the Leader of the Opposition.
The proposal cannot now be considered in isolation from the attractive proposal that Qantas Airways Ltd is reported to have made. I have not yet received a formal proposal from Qantas to compete over domestic routes using Boeing 747s at competitive fares. I understand that its proposed fares are up to 40 per cent lower than the existing domestic fares over the long haul routes. This proposal is not new. It has been under consideration since the Domestic Air Transport Policy Review was tabled in this Parliament. One of the recommendations in that report dealt with the issue. There have been some difficulties in terms of infrastructure arrangements at the airports that the Department has been investigating.
Both proposals are inconsistent with the existing policy applying to international and domestic services. Therefore, there are critical issues involved which cannot be dealt with overnight. I would not like to forecast when the Government would come to a decision on either proposal. It is worth acknowledging that we have an orderly scheduled system of service, both domestically and internationally, at the present time.
It is important for the honourable member and for Queensland to understand that under the terms of the existing policy, Qantas has proposed a new and changed air schedule in regard to Darwin which will enable both domestic airlines, Trans- Australia Airlines and Ansett, to vary their schedules to provide better communications between northern Queensland- Townsville and Cairns- and South East Asia and elsewhere. In the meantime, the Government will give consideration to the various complex problems associated with any changes to existing policies.
-The Minister for Health will recall the concern expressed at the recent Federal Council of the Liberal Party about the inequality and cost of the present private health insurance system, as well as the confusion surrounding its operation. Is it a fact that the expensiveness of health insurance cover is clearly reflected in the simple fact that basic family health insurance has risen from $3.20 a week in 1976 to $9.70 a week today, that is, a 300 per cent increase in a period when average weekly earnings increased by 34 per cent? What immediate steps has he in mind to relieve Australian families of the financial distress of private health insurance and, accordingly, to moderate the flight of Australian people from the private health insurance funds?
– It is very strange that a man who was responsible for a situation over three years which led to an escalation of 120 per cent in health costs throughout this nation and which, with the introduction of Medibank, led to increased servicing of 38 per cent in one year, should be talking about increases. There has never been a period in the history of Australia when health costs have escalated so rapidly as that period during the Labor Party administration. That escalation occurred more particularly, directly as a result of that man’s- the Leader Opposition’s–
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not speak in those terms.
– The Leader Opposition’s administration and the introduction of the Medibank scheme. I think it comes very strangely from the lips of such a man to draw attention to what he regards as costs escalating top rapidly. I also point out that under the Labor Party’s proposals which are commonly known as Kiddy-Bank, in the recorded message sent by the Leader of the Opposition to those who wish to buy the tape, he makes the proposition that healthy young families can leave the funds but that nevertheless under the Labor Party’s scheme those who remain in the funds will pay less. That is a total nonsense. As I mentioned in this House the other day, the Leader of the Labor Party and other members of that Party have tried strenuously to get people to leave the funds, knowing that when people leave the funds those who remain in them will be faced with higher costs.
– Can the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs advise the House when he will announce the Government’s decision on the Industries Assistance Commission’s report into the cheese industry? When will the report be made available for public scrutiny? Further, what arrangements have been made with the New Zealand Government regarding the importation of cheese from that country?
– I can only tell the honourable member that the matter is still under consideration. I will try to obtain further information for him and will let him know later in the day.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether his attention has been drawn to the statement by Professor Yossi Loya, professor of zoology at Tel Aviv university who is spending a year at the Australian Institute of Marine Science as a senior Queen’s Fellow, that recent research has shown that even small oil spills could seriously damage coral reefs if they occurred repeatedly and that such pollution could happen in the normal operations of an oil rig? Under the circumstances will the Minister explain why the Government refuses to give an assurance that there will not be any oil drilling in the Great Barrier Reef region and why it refuses to declare the whole of the Great Barrier Reef a marine park, it having been shown in evidence to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation that this could be done quite soon?
-I thank the honourable member for his question. I will answer the last part first. There have been several suggestions recently that the whole of the Great Barrier Reef should be declared a marine park immediately. Yesterday I said that this course would be impractical. I repeat that statement. I notice in the editorial in the Melbourne Age of today, 23 April, the heading: ‘Reef must be protected’. I share with the honourable member his concern that the Reef should be protected. The first words of the editorial are:
Back in 1975 Federal Parliament voted to have the entire Great Barrier Reef declared a marine park.
That statement is not quite correct. I should like to read from a debate on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Bill on 22 May 1975. The then Minister for the Environment, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), is recorded on page 2680 of Hansard as having said:
This Bill proposes the establishment of a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority which will examine the entire
Barrier Reef region, determine which sections of the region should be proclaimed as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and decide appropriate uses for its various sections.
Before a section of the Marine Park is declared the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is required by its Act to produce a report on the section proposed to be declared. This report would normally contain information on the physical and biological characteristics of the area involved as well as relevant social and economic data. The preparation of such a report is demanding of both time and human resources. A comprehensive report on the whole Barrier Reef could not be produced in a few weeks or months even if the resources of the Authority were unlimited. I wish to emphasise that the Authority has received very considerable increases in its staff ceiling in the last 12 months. Last year the staff ceiling was raised from 18 to 29. This year the ceiling has been raised to 44. There is a limit to the rate at which the staffing of any organisation can be increased effectively. I think that is a reasonable increase.
The Government’s approach to management of the reef is to ensure that whatever is done is done efficiently. We do not want to see an uncontrolled burgeoning of the bureaucracy but we do want to protect the reef. The zoning plan is a complex document. I will make sure that, as soon as Question Time is over, the honourable member gets a copy of the zoning plan.
– What about the first part of the question?
-My attention has not been drawn to the statement mentioned in the first part of the honourable member’s question. I am aware of similar statements. The Government has made it very clear that there will be no drilling on the Barrier Reef and no drilling will be allowed which will affect the reef. The Government has also said that no oil exploration will be allowed until the conclusion of both short and long term studies. This means that there will be no drilling on the reef. If the honourable member wants anything more definite than that I cannot give it. There will be no drilling on the reef; there will be no drilling in any area which will affect the reef. There will be no oil exploration -
-I think the House has received that message.
– I table a statement outlining the Government’s decision to establish an inquiry into management education.
-I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to make a short statement about a breach of security.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-My locked office in Parliament House, which is very close to this chamber, was broken into between 12.15 a.m. and 9 a.m. today. I am informed that the office of my next door neighbour, the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) who is absent overseas on parliamentary business, was similarly broken into. Some of his material was thrown into my office and some of my material was thrown into his office. Names were also switched on doors. If this was a practical joke, I look upon it as one in extremely bad taste. I, like every other member of this Parliament, have sensitive files. I raise this matter publicly with you, Mr Speaker, to seek a thorough investigation so that all my colleagues in this House will be forewarned of this lack of security. The door was not forced. Yet my staff and I are absolutely certain that when we left at 12.15 this morning, the door was locked.
-The matter which the honourable gentleman has raised was brought to my attention by the Serjeant-at-Arms this morning. Like the honourable member for Adelaide, I was very concerned. I do not want to prejudge the issue, but the Serjeant indicates to me that at this stage there is no indication of any papers being missing. This would tend to imply that some misguided, strange-minded person has thought this would be a joke. It is not a joke. The honourable member for Adelaide may be assured that the Serjeant will take every action possible to discover who did this. When that is discovered, if it is discovered, there will be no shortage of decision to reprimand in the appropriate way.
-Mr Speaker, with your indulgence may I raise a further aspect relating to this question?
-Is it relevant to this matter?
-The honourable member may proceed.
-When one arrives at Parliament House at 7.30 in the morning frequently one finds that all the office doors are jammed open, including those of Ministers’ offices. It seems to me that this demonstrates a severe lack of security within the House precincts early in the morning when the cleaners are going through. I think that the cleaners should be required to adopt a more secure arrangement when they are cleaning offices.
– I will take that point into consideration. I will make inquiries and ensure that adequate steps are taken in regard to the security of Parliament House.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, I do.
-He may proceed.
– Last night on a television program in the course of a friendly chat with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) I made the observation that President Carter had announced that the Americans would impose export prohibitions, which included foodstuffs, on Iran. The Minister for Foreign Affairs disputed that and suggested that I quote the source of my information. I am able to produce that documentation now, merely for the sake of an accurate record. On 7 April 1980 a copy of a telex was circulated to my office, I presume, from the American Information Service, but certainly from the services of the American Embassy. The telex stated:
Carter statement on Iran.
US breaking diplomatic ties with Iran, Carter says.
Washington- President Carter announced April 7 that the United States is breaking diplomatic relations with Iran and all Iranian diplomatic and consular personnel must leave the country by midnight April 8.
In a White House statement, the President ordered official sanctions prohibiting exports from the United States to Iran. The sanctions, he said, will be effective immediately, and it is expected that even exports of food and medicine to Iran will be minimal or non-existent.
The President also said all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States will be invalid effective April 7, and that no visas will be reissued or new visas granted except for compelling and proven and humanitarian reasons.
Later, off camera, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on being presented with the copy of the document which a member of my staff had with him, pointed out that this must have been the text and not the delivered statement of the President and that there had been an amendment or an adjustment which resulted in reference to embargoes affecting foodstuffs and medicine being excluded. I accept entirely the Minister’s statement as a correct one because of the certainty with which he presented it. We have sought confirmation of this from the United States Embassy; not so much to check the Minister’s veracity but to complete our files. At this point we have not been able to establish whether the Embassy did circulate a subsequent document or whether it is in a position to circulate the document covering the delivered speech. My purpose essentially is to establish that I made that assertion last night in good faith on the basis of the best information, the factual information, which was available. No other information had been made available to us or, even at this point, is available to us from the American Embassy.
– I seek leave to make a short statement following the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden).
– The Minister may proceed with my indulgence.
-I accept all that the Leader of the Opposition has said. I accept the innocence of the error made in our friendly discussion on the program Nationwide last night. The honourable gentleman read to the House accurately from the telex that he showed me. The telex did say that it was expected that the President would implement sanctions on food. In fact, the President did not do so. He indicated that he may in due course do this, but he did not impose them. As the Leader of the Opposition has had difficulty in obtaining the full text of the President’s statement, I will take steps to obtain that text from my Department as he requested so that his files can be complete.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendments or requests:
Income Tax Laws Amendment Bill 1980.
Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill 1980.
Pig Meat Promotion Amendment Bill 1980.
Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill 1980.
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1 980.
Motion (by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 29 April at 3 p.m. or until such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the chair.
Film ‘Death of a Princess’-Drought Relief Programs-Effects of Nuclear tests at Emu and Maralinga-Taxation - Af ghanistan - Independence of Zimbabwe- Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party-Service Pensions: Merchant Seamen- School to Work Transition Schemes.
That grievances be noted.
– I wish to raise with the House the intervention of the Commonwealth Government in the person of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in trying to apply pressure to the Channel 7 network not to show the program Death of a Princess. Very significant issues about censorship need to be discussed. I advise that I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister as follows:
This is to advise that I will be raising on the Grievance Debate the issue of the application of pressure on the Channel 7 network not to present the film ‘Death of a Princess’ and I wanted to give you due notice so that you will be in a position to reply.
I received a note from the Deputy Prime Minister’s secretary saying:
He has also asked me to advise you that unfortunately, because of his commitments today, he will not be able to reply.
There are two ways in which a government can apply pressure to television networks not to show particular programs. The first is the procedure provided under the Broadcasting and Television Act- under section 77 for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and under section 99 (3) for the commercial networks. Section 99 (3) states:
The Minister may, from time to time, by notice given by telegram or in writing, prohibit a licensee from broadcasting or televising any matter, or matter of any class or character, specified in the notice, or may require the licensee to refrain from broadcasting or televising any such matter.
Section 105a provides that, when the Minister has prohibited the broadcasting and televising of any matter and has made any requirement, ‘he shall, within seven sitting days, report same in writing to both Houses of the Parliament and shall give the reason for such prohibition or requirement, as the case may be’. The Minister has applied the second method, which is to apply the political squeeze to television networks and say: I think you ought not to show this film and if Australia suffers any adverse economic effects from your actions, the moral responsibility is yours’. The second method, as taken by the Deputy Prime Minister, is irresponsible, literally, because he takes no ministerial responsibility for the decision; he passes the buck to the television network.
There is some dispute as to the facts of the story behind Death of a Princess. It appears that Princess Misha’al was the great granddaughter of King Ibn Saud, first king of Saudi Arabia. She was married to a first cousin who then left her. The princess studied in Lebanon and appears to have gone through a form of marriage to a student in the belief that she was validly divorced- in other words, free to remarry. The Saudi Royal Family appears to have taken the view that she was not validly married the second time, on the grounds that the divorce had not been approved by the Royal Family Council and that her marriage, or purported marriage, to a Lebanese commoner had not been approved by the Royal Family Council- a procedure, I might say, which is identical to the British Royal Marriage Act, an Act which is still in force here in Australia. Thus a relationship, which would be deemed to be a valid marriage in Lebanon or elsewhere, was taken to be adulterous in Saudi Arabia. The Princess and her husband returned to Saudi Arabia voluntarily- and extremely foolishly in the circumstances. Islamic law requires that for a charge of adultery to succeed, evidence must be given by four adult males- a precondition which I should imagine would very rarely be met. It appears that the princess attempted to escape from Saudi Arabia, was arrested and put on trial before a family court. She admitted to having had intercourse with the man she considered to be her husband, thus defying the law and obviating the need for the four male witnesses. She and her husband were then sentenced to death. In November 1 977 she was shot in the market place at Jiddah. She was shot in front of her husband, or lover, who was then beheaded. Other Saudi princesses were taken to the market place to watch the executions. Whether the relationship between the princess and her lover was adultery or marriage has little bearing on whether this is a matter we in Australia are entitled to learn about. I might add that if adultery were regarded as a capital offence in Australia it would decimate the Parliament and make it extremely difficult for us to meet our quorum requirements.
There are a number of extraordinary examples of our subservience to Islamic opinion. Another one, and very closely related to this matter, is the appalling export of live sheep to Iran and other Arab countries, something which contributes to unemployment in the Australian meat industry and imposes an unconscionable cruelty, lasting for weeks, on millions of animals. We defer to Arab susceptibility, but are there any examples where the Arabs defer to our susceptibilities?
This matter is not raised in the spirit of cultural arrogance. It is not a matter of saying that our way is necessarily right and that we are invariably superior to other nations and that whatever is done in other countries is necessarily wrong. But it is essential that we do not deny ourselves the right to examine subjects, even distasteful ones, so that we can form our own view of the world. But in our desire to avoid cultural or even racial arrogance, let us not overreact and try to impose censorship on ourselves. We are a democratic, pluralist society; the Saudis are not. We do not force our views on them and if an Australian Minister were to try to apply pressure on Saudi television stations to tell them what they may or may not telecast, it would be regarded as an outrage. But it follows that they have no right to tell us what we should see, hear or discuss. To accept the economic significance of Saudi Arabian oil and trade prospects and say that they give the Saudis the right to intervene is a moral outrage. If we subject our access to information to constraints set by the Saudis or any resource rich nation, we diminish ourselves. It is no justification to say that the objectors are major traders and that we may need their oil.
Let me give honourable members an example. The Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial of 12 April quotes a spokesman for the Arab Information Bureau in Melbourne. The article states:
A spokesman for the Arab Information Bureau in Melbourne said last night that the Government should stop the film being shown here.
The spokesman said that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, should try to stop the film.
He was treated like a king in Saudi Arabia, and came back with billions of dollars of contracts’, the man said on ABC radio.
Indeed, that was better than the prophecies of Nostradamus. It was absolutely correct; the Deputy Prime Minister did protest.
This is one of a long series we have had of this Government and its predecessors trying to interfere with what goes on the media.
– It is a complete distortion. .
-It is not a complete distortion at all; it is the application of ‘the quiet word’. But let us just see how far the principle can go. In a telex the Deputy Prime Minister said:
There are wide differences in beliefs, traditions, customs and practices amongst nations. In the case of the Arab States, and especially Saudi Arabia, the tenets of the Islamic religion have a direct and very strong bearing on all aspects of the nation’s life and actions, and in fact form the basis of its law.
Well, one does not necessarily disagree with that. But how far does one take it? We might also say that the tenets of the Communist Party have a direct and very strong bearing on all aspects of the nation’s life and actions in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and in fact form the basis of USSR law. If the Soviets say ‘Look here, we know how to deal with dissidents in this country. We object strongly to the fact that you might be showing films about Solzhenitsyn or about Sakharov or you might be talking about dissent in our country. We have our way of life and we demand that you respect our feelings’, that view would not be adopted by this Government even though Russia is a significant trading power. I think it is appalling that nations which are oil rich seem to take the view that they have the right to impose on other nations their moral views. We are not attempting to impose on them our moral views. We think if they have the right to act in a particular way, we have the right to discuss the implications of a different way of life, a different system, a different approach to moral problems that are utterly different from our own.
It appears that the film, which was made by Antony Thomas for the Independent Television Authority of Britain, is a very sensitive and intelligent detective story. In effect, it is an account of a journalist who attempts to find the truth of a particular story. The concentration in the film is not so much on the events leading to the death of the princess. It is on the attempts of the journalist to find out what happened. He tries to find out how one assesses the truth, how one finds out what does happen in the Islamic world.
I conclude by quoting a letter that appeared in the London Times of 10 February. The author, P. J. Coster, wrote:
Maybe I know nothing about Saudi Arabia, or Islam either, for that matter. Maybe it is pointless to worry about two foolish young people when so many are dying of hunger, disease and butchery. Maybe it is all part of life’s rich pattern for the Saudis and we should not be involved. However, for two young people to be savagely cut down for a comparatively trifling sin is barbarism wheresoever it may happen.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– He concludes:
That it should happen in a friendly and respected country is sad, and that it should be required in the name of Divinity sadder still.
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I intended to use this opportunity to refer to one of the gravest problems facing this nation at the moment, the widespread national drought. However, I feel that it is first necessary and proper to respond to some of the comments of the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones). Without attempting to reply in detail, I feel that I should say that as I see it, and as I am sure do many other honourable members, it is a very proper part of the responsibilities of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) to seek to enhance and to protect Australia’s relations, including trade relations, with other countries. I have no doubt that it was precisely that responsibility that the Deputy Prime Minister had in mind when he suggested to the Channel Seven network that it would not be in Australia’s best interests to show the film Death of a Princess. In no way was he attempting to impose his will. In no way was he attempting to use any of the appropriate sections of legislation to require that network not to show this film. He was simply putting a point of view on behalf of the Government to the network. Perhaps it is worth while quoting sections of the telex that was sent to the manager of ATN Channel 7 in Sydney. The telex read:
I am writing to ask that, in addition to the normal factors that are considered in making programming decisions, you might take into account the following matters:
It then listed some of those matters and continued:
The film is grossly offensive to the Saudi Arabian Government and the Saudi royal family.
-Basically, that has nothing to do with us. It is offensive to them, as I think my colleague would agree. The telex continued:
It is also offensive in the eyes of other Arab nations.
Some of those nations- Bahrain and one other I believe- have now expressed strong support for the Saudi ‘s attitude regarding the film. I think we would agree with that. The telex continued:
I do not believe there is any doubt that showing the film in Australia will harm relations between Australia and Saudi Arabia. Harm to relations between Australia and other Islamic nations cannot be ruled out.
I believe that that is an important principle because most of those Islamic nations provide a very real buffer between us and the encroachments of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. To me, that is a good reason as any other for making this suggestion to Channel 7. The telex continued:
There are wide differences in beliefs, traditions, customs and practices amongst nations.
That section has been read by my honourable friend from Lalor who, again, did not disagree with the principle involved. The telex continued:
While it is of course open to anyone to form their own opinions and express their judgments on the beliefs of others, and on the laws and customs following from those beliefs, I suggest that we must always give consideration to the feelings of those whom we might be seen to be judging, and to the manner in which we express our views, if for no other reason than ordinary courtesy.
The public reaction of the Saudi Government indicates that there could be a threat to relations- including trade and economic relations- between Australia and Saudi Arabia, and possibly other Islamic states.
Australia and Saudi Arabia have recently entered into an agreement on trade and economic and technical co-operation.
In that regard, on Monday, 2 1 April, the Deputy Prime Minister made in the Parliament a most comprehensive statement consequent upon his recent visit to various Gulf states. Most honourable members would have been impressed with the negotiations and achievements and with the way in which the Deputy Prime Minister was received in those states. We can look forward to very substantial trade and co-operation between ourselves and those nations, which are becoming increasingly important in an energy-starved world. The telex stated further:
Two-way trade between Australia and Saudi Arabia (mainly in oil, wheat, meat and dairy products) is now approaching $500 million a year . . .
There is every prospect that in the next few years that will double. Australia is making substantial proposals for participation in a number of major developments in Saudi Arabia, not the least being in respect of the provision of administrative and consultancy services to some major hospital and health projects in Gulf states. The telex continued:
I have negotiated trade agreements with Bahrain and Iraq, and initialled agreements with Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Negotiations are under way with Kuwait . . .
In general, there has been a strong effort over recent years to strengthen Australia’s relations with the Islamic world, and in particular with the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. This effort has included the building up of our diplomatic and trade representation in the region. Agreement was reached during my recent visit on the establishment of formal diplomatic links with Oman.
It is worth while to bring these matters to the notice of honourable members, as did the Deputy Prime Minister to the Channel 7 network. He said that at the outset they should be carefully considered, with other matters that the network would be taking into account in making a decision on the showing of the film. The Deputy Prime Minister concluded:
I am concerned not just with trade and economic relations- although these are of course of very great importance. I am concerned also with the need for Australia and other western nations to build up relations with the Arab world. This is, I believe, very much in the interests of all nations.
The whole context of the telex was to suggest that the network might take these matters into account in coming to a decision whether to show the film. It is interesting to note in today’s Melbourne Age an article by Mr Claude Forrell, who admits that he seldom finds himself agreeing with the Deputy Prime Minister but in this instance does so. Mr Forrell describes the Deputy Prime Minister’s submission to Channel 7 as scrupulously proper. I am sure that any honourable member who has read that message, the text of which I have read to the Parliament this morning- would come to a similar conclusion.
I turn now to the matter that I intended to raise originally, the extremely serious and widespread drought that Australia now faces. I do so because, although a number of measures have been announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and have been subsequently elucidated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), there has been a little confusion in relation to them. I hope to use my remaining time to clear up that confusion. The Commonwealth Government has announced that capital structures relating to the construction of dams, earth tanks, wells, bores, channelling for irrigation, facilities for reticulation and distribution of water on farms, which hitherto could be written off over a period of 10 years, will be eligible as from 14 April 1980 for full write-off within the year of construction. The cost of plant items such as pumps is depreciable over the life of the asset, but many of the items involved will also qualify for the investment allowance that will be applicable in addition to the depreciation schedules just announced. There has been some confusion whether these taxation concessions will apply in future or under current conditions only.
I note that the Opposition in the Senate has attempted to get some mileage out of the claim that only wealthy farmers will be able to benefit from these measures and that they apply only at present. This is not the case. The farmer who at present may not be able to find the funds necessary to make these capital expenditures and to provide additional water storages and reticulation systems on his farm will be able to do that in the future. I wish to quote from a speech given by the Minister for Primary Industry in Warrnambool on 1 8 April. He said:
The Government has taken action through special concessions announced earlier in the week by the Prime Minister. These are on-going and are intended to encourage farmers to develop additional water storage and farm reticulation systems.
The same Minister has said that a farmer can take advantage of these concessions now or at any time in the future. This will provide a long term insurance policy, as it were, for farmers, who can assure themselves of more adequate water supplies and reticulation systems than they have at present. The Commonwealth, of course, will be assisting the States under the natural disasters policy. For example, once $10m has been expended by New South Wales, the Commonwealth will be contributing on a three to one basis to any further additional expenditure required for the current drought conditions. Contrary to the claims being made by Mr Wran implying that all the funds will be coming from New South Wales, the Commonwealth is providing a very substantial proportion.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise again in the House the need for an inquiry into the health fall-out from the nuclear tests conducted at Emu and Maralinga in the mid-1950s. Three groups are particularly concerned with this problem: Firstly, the 2,000 Australians who were working at Maralinga- mainly servicemen, police and citizens concerned with scientific work there; secondly, an unknown number of nomadic Aborigines in those areas in those years; and, thirdly, some 9,000 British, mostly servicemen, involved in the tests at the Maralinga site. The Australian Government’s responsibilities are obviously directed to the first two of those groups; that is, Australians working at Maralinga and the Aborigines in the area. In many ways, of course, an evaluation of the health problems of the 2,000 Australians actually at Maralinga is much easier to do than an evaluation of the health problems for Aborigines which may have arisen as a result of these tests. The British personnel problem is primarily a problem for the British Government. I am glad to note that this issue has now been taken up by the-British Press, and no doubt that government will make some response to those requests.
I believe that an inquiry into this matter is warranted, firstly, because of the rather primitive safety precautions that prevailed in the test area. Those primitive safety precautions are understandable when one considers the level of knowledge at that time about the dangers of low level radiation. But even more worrying is the evidence we are now getting of non-observance of some of the rudimentary safeguards. There seems now to be enough evidence to enable us to make a presumption that the Australians in and around Maralinga were exposed to radiation considerably in excess of that experienced by the average Australian. I note that that was denied in a sense two years ago on 1 1 April 1978. The then Minister for Health said:
Because of the stringent monitoring procedures undertaken at the time and the fact that they were not exposed to dangerous radiation, there is no proposal to institute studies on Australians who were in support of the UK activities at Maralinga from the rear areas.
It seems to me that sufficient evidence has built up in the past two years to make us worry about that conclusion. For instance, there is evidence that Royal Australian Air Force airmen flew into the blast areas immediately after nuclear explosions without adequate protection. As one of those airmen alleged:
On the first occasion we had no additional clothing other than normal flying clothing.
Secondly, there is evidence that ground crews worked on contaminated aircraft with only a minimum of protection. There is one allegation of ground crews working for two days on radioactive Lincolns without protective clothing before radiation was noted and protective gloves were issued. The protective clothing regulations seem to have been only loosely enforced in the area and the civilian personnel in the area were not always clearly separated from radioactive areas. There is a report, which probably needs further checking, that some Commonwealth Police were allegedly billeted for six months in a tent alongside a radioactive waste pit.
For the Aborigines, of course, there were not even those protections. There were notices in the area which they mostly could not read. Certainly efforts were made to move out Aborigines at the time of the tests in the area and decontamination procedures were applied to Aborigines when they were found in the area. But, as one Australian who was there at the time and who found one of these groups of Aborigines after a test, said:
They must have got enough radioactive dust on their feet to make their bones tick for centuries.
I think that is a quotation which all Australians need to think about. It seems to me that there is a presumption- I am not arguing more than thatthat Australians in and around Maralinga were exposed to radiation considerably in excess of that experienced by the average Australian.
Of course, the critical issue which we now have to face is: What are the effects of this exposure on their health? Again there is worrying evidence about the incidence of cancer amongst Australians who were serving at Maralinga during that period. I now gather that some four dozen reasonably well verified cases have been reported. This is not in itself statistically significant, but one of the worrying features is that in a high number of the cases the onset of the disease occurred within six or seven years of working at Maralinga. That reflects very much the time pattern which has been observed in the development of cancer in people who were on the outskirts of places such as Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where there have been very effective surveys. A six or seven year period seems to be the peak period for the development of radiation induced cancers. I think that the very detailed and intensive surveillance of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima populations have produced findings which could provide useful guidelines. Of course, the situation in Australia is not the same and I am not suggesting that it is. Nevertheless, health guidelines which have been established over about 20 years during which populations of those cities were monitored would provide basic guidelines for work in this area. For instance, studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have identified the chief types of cancers which seem to be radiation induced- forms of lung cancer, and cancer of the gastro-intestinal tract and of the lymph system. We need to ask whether these are the types of cancers that are showing up in the population that was at Maralinga. What is necessary is an examination of the incidence of cancer, particularly the types identified as radiation induced, amongst the total population of 2,000 Australians at Maralinga- measured against a group not similarly exposed. As I have said, in comparison with the difficult work that has to be done on agent orange, it is much easier to make a survey in this field, because we have a lot of material on radiation induced illness which we do not have on pesticide induced illness.
I am having some difficulty in getting much response to this request for an inquiry into these matters. On 21 April the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) accused me of charging him with complacency. He said: the honourable member for Bonython said that I had been complacent about the tests.
He then went on to say:
I have made no response at all to this stage about the testing at Maralinga.
Whatever the logic of that kind of explanation of non-complacency may be, he did make a statement a week before in the Adelaide Advertiser, in which he said that an inquiry was unlikely unless there was evidence to demonstrate a problem. It was on the basis of that statement a week before that I and the Advertiser were making remarks about his complacency.
Further, there seems to be considerable buck passing of the issue. When the spokesman for the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) was asked a question on this issue, he referred it to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). When a spokesman for the Minister for Health had this question given to him, he referred it to the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick). So Veterans’ Affairs passed it to Defence and Health passed it to the Minister for National Development and Energy. Then we finally get a statement by a spokesman for the Minister for National Development and Energy. I think this classically sums up the problem we are facing. He said:
Senator Carrick won’t be making any statement in the immediate future. It is not clear whose responsibility this is. There are a lot of portfolios involved- including National Development, Health and Defence.
I recognise that many portfolios are involved such as Defence, Health, National Development and Energy and Veterans’ Affairs. All I am saying is that it is about time this set of Ministers got together and agreed on how to handle this problem and what response to make. I think perhaps the responsibility lies primarily with Health because it is a health issue. I recognise that the Minister for Health may have to co-ordinate with other departments. But it does not seem to me to be a very satisfactory method to go on dealing with this issue by saying: ‘We cannot talk about it because it is some other department ‘s responsibility ‘. It is about time the Minister for Health accepted responsibility in this area, co-ordinated the other Ministers concerned and gave this Parliament a response to what are a fairly serious set of questions.
– I would like to mention in this grievance debate two domestic matters and then, if I have time, two foreign affairs matters, one of which, of course, involves the work of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett). The two domestic matters I wish to mention concern taxation. The first relates to the tax known popularly as Division 7 tax. In view of the time limit on me I will not go into detail about what this tax is other than to say it is a tax imposed with respect to the undistributed profits of private companies. I venture to suggest that in general terms the way in which to revive the economy of this country and similar economies throughout the world is to lessen the financial burden which is on the private sector to enable the private sector thereby to engage in more active economic activities and consequently to employ more people and increase the productivity of the nation. Companies- I mention companies in particular because they are, of course, large employers- cannot do that when they have to bear a continuous and substantial tax burden.
Of all the defects in all the variety of taxes that one can mention, Division 7 tax must surely be completely insupportable and, in my view and in the view of many other people, it should be abolished. It places a very severe restriction on the ability of private companies to engage in commercial activities, to expand those activities, to start new businesses and to employ new employees. The strange thing is that although the present Government has reduced the rate of Division 7 tax on I think two occasions there is still a strange attempt to justify it as if it has some inherent virtue. We argue that the tax has some attractions and some virtues and yet at the same time we continue to impose it. My strong conviction is that it should be abolished. A substantial contribution would be made to the revival of the economy if Division 7 tax were abolished.
The second taxation matter which I wish to mention is payroll tax. It should be said at the outset, of course, that this is a State tax. It was given to the States by the Commonwealth some years ago as a growth tax to provide the States with additional and increasing revenue. What the States did, of course, was to increase the rate of payroll tax. This tax likewise is an indefensible tax as it is a tax on employment. It is probably the most peculiar tax of all for that very reason. It is what is popularly described today as a disincentive to employment. In my submission a decision to abolish this pernicious tax on employment would make a very substantial contribution to increasing employment in Australia.
I turn now to the two foreign affairs matters which I wish to raise. The first relates to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The House will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had occasion to raise this matter yesterday in response to a question I put to him. The issue arose by virtue of a letter contained in the magazine known as Labor Star which is the magazine of the Labor Party in Victoria. So that I do not unduly take the time of the House by reading the letter in full I seek leave to incorporate the full document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
Opposition members- No.
-Leave is not granted.
-In view of the fact that the Labor Party is reluctant to have this document incorporated in Hansard I will have to take the time of the House to read two paragraphs from it. The letter is in fact a defence of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The first paragraph reads as follows:
So it is with some pleasure-
I emphasise the word ‘pleasure’- that you discover that some members of the Party . . actually understood perfectly the issues involved and why the ALP should be supporting both the Afghan Government and the Soviet assistance to that Government.
The second paragraph is this:
Rather one should rejoice-
Again I draw attention to the word ‘rejoice ‘- that for once the Soviets are not acting in an objectively counter-revolutionary role as the Chinese seem to be always acting these days.
So there we have it- a statement contained in the organ of the Labor Party in Victoria from the Press Secretary of the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria supporting the Soviet Union’s invasion to Afghanistan. Not only does he support that invasion but also he says in the first place one can note it with some pleasure and in the second place that one should rejoice when one sees those events taking place. I emphasise at the outset that I would be the last to suggest that this was a universal view within the ranks of the Labor Party, even in Victoria. But likewise it would be unfair of the Labor Party to deny that it was the view of a substantial section of that Party in Victoria.
Just so that we can see how remote the. Labor Party is from the position of most people in this country and, indeed, most responsible people overseas, let us see who is on the other side of the argument. These people are opposed in the first place to a vote in the United Nations. They are opposed in the second place to the condemnation by all Arab States except Syria and South Yemen to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Thirdly, there was the Islamic Conference vote by some 36 Foreign Ministers who strongly condemned the invasion of Afghanistan. Not even Algeria, not even Iraq and not even the Palestine Liberation Organisation defended the Soviet Union. So we find that the Labor Party in Victoria, or a substantial section of it, is beyond the pale, beyond the Palestine Liberation Organisation which has condemned that invasion. Furthermore, we find that members of the Association of South East Asian Nations have condemned the invasion. We find that a number of other Asian countries, such as
India, Pakistan, Japan and China, have condemned the invasion in various forms. We find that most Western European countries have also condemned the invasion, as has the European Economic Community.
But what is more persuasive than that- it is quite extraordinary- is that at a meeting of the Socialist International held in February this year in Vienna it described the Soviet action as a monstrosity. Yet a substantial section of the left wing Labor Party in Victoria supports it. Not only does it support it but also it describes those events as being events which we should look at with pleasure; it describes those events as events about which we should rejoice. What are these people describing with pleasure? What are they rejoicing about? They are rejoicing about an invasion. They are rejoicing about the attempted extermination of a race of people. They are rejoicing about the use of a formidable array of weapons. They are rejoicing about the dispossession of people from their homes and villages. They are rejoicing about an artillery pounding of defenceless villagers. They are rejoicing about what has become in effect a violation of the 1972 agreement between President Nixon and Mr Brezhnev which we all hoped would be a substantial contribution to bringing about a sane and peaceful world. They are the things which at least this section of the Labor Party in Victoria regards with pleasure; they are the things about which it rejoices. There can be no argument but that the members of that section of the Labor Party in Victoria, which is a powerful section of the Labor Party in that State, are nothing other than Soviet stooges.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is a foreign affairs matter in general terms. It should be placed on the record and noted that Australia’s standing in the world over the last three to four years has improved substantially, to the extent that Australia is now regarded as a country which can, and does, make a substantial contribution to the solution of world problems. I refer particularly, and necessarily briefly, to the very substantial contribution made by Australia and particularly the Prime Minister to the events leading to the independence of Zimbabwe. This was recognised by the Government of Zimbabwe. It has been recognised by the Governments of all countries which have been concerned with that issue that Australia made a very substantial contribution indeed to bringing about the ceasefire and the free elections which were held in that country, to observing those elections and to taking that country to its independence.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In this grievance debate I want to mention firstly the untruthful and misleading statements made by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown), who has just resumed his seat, in respect of the position of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party and a letter which was published in that branch’s publication. I begin on the premise that some Australians may believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is sincere when he says that he wants a bipartisan approach from the people of Australia on the issue of Afghanistan. That is to say, he is looking for points on this difficult question on which the whole of the Australian society can be united. Yesterday, in reply to a Dorothy Dix question asked by the honourable member for Diamond Valley, the Prime Minister produced a series of statements which were untruthful and which misrepresented the position of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party. He was quite willing to toss round the name of an individual member of the Labor Party and to slander him. For what purpose? In order to produce the view that the only view that is legitimate, the only view than can be expressed in respect of Afghanistan is the view that comes out of the tiny mind of the Prime Minister of this country.
Let us deal with the facts. What was this letter which we are told represents a significant view of a group in the Labor Party? If the Prime Minister had been sincere and if the honourable member for Diamond Valley had been honest in his pursuit of the truth of this matter they need only have asked me about the matter. As a former president of the Victorian branch, I would have told them about what he was referring to on page 2 of the Labor Star, a series of letters under the heading ‘Feedback’. The policy of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party in its own party publication- it is a position that I defend and commend- is that any individual in the Party who wants to express a minority viewpoint different from that of the prevailing majority opinion of the Party has the columns of the party paper available to him for that purpose. I believe that that is a thoroughly responsible and democratic way for any party paper to function. It is a policy that I commend.
Pursuant to that policy Mr Noel Turnbullwho does not write or purport to write as the Press secretary of the Victorian Leader of the Opposition- wrote a letter and signed it as a member of the Port Melbourne branch. So there can be no confusion of functions. What an extraordinary exercise in traditional liberal virtues and values it is to say that because one holds a position on the staff of a Minister or on the staff of a politician one must never express a view that is different from that of one’s boss. I reject that suggestion in relation to any private employer in this country and I reject it personally. I believe that any politician ought to reject that position in respect of a member of his staff who chooses to express a viewpoint on a matter of public controversy in which he is doing nothing more or less than expressing his individual attitude, provided that in expressing that opinion, he indicates that he is expressing a personal position. Provided he makes that clear then I will defend his right to do that. I would have hoped that the honourable member for Diamond Valley would have done that.
On this page of the newspaper there is not just one article on Afghanistan but another article also. They are both in reply to a series of three or four letters in the previous issue of the Labor Star. So to any discerning reader it is clear that individual members of the Labor Party are arguing for their respective positions. That is what this page is designed to achieve. On the very same page, next to the letter written by Mr Turnbull, is a letter from a member of the Caulfield South branch which condemns the aggression of the Soviet Union and expresses overwhelming support for the position of the Labor Party and, by name specifically, for the position of Bill Hayden. Is it not extraordinary that the Prime Minister should get up in the Parliament to slander one member of the Labor Party in terms of a letter on a page of the Labor Star by presenting it as representing the viewpoint of the Victorian branch?
For the information of the honourable member for Diamond Valley, the viewpoint of the Victorian branch was expressed at its most recent conference. That resolution and policy condemned the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and called upon the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops. That is the policy of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party. In order to deal with the fanciful conjuring of the honourable member for Diamond Valley, let me assure him of this fact- if he is interested in fact- that that resolution was carried overwhelmingly by the conference. It received the support of all major factional groupings, including the socialist Left that appears as a spectre of such awfulness to the honourable member for Diamond Valley and the Prime Minister.
How is it, with all the resources available to the Prime Minister, that he should say such things? He has only to ask one of his minions on his staff to find out what the policy of the Victorian Labor Party is and’ to what extent this letter of Mr Turnbull represents his own personal view or the view of a significant section of the Labor Party. Does anybody believe that that information would not be available to the Prime Minister within five or 10 minutes? Of course it would be. The Prime Minister was not concerned to make the inquiry as the honourable member for Diamond Valley was not prepared to make the inquiry. He wanted to use Question Time in this Parliament to smear and malign an Australian citizen who holds a viewpoint which is different from his own. I condemn that action of the Prime Minister and I condemn his hypocrisy. On the one hand he says that he wants a bipartisan policy but on the other hand he is so willing to distort, to invent and use half truths. That is what has occurred in this situation.
I deplore this for another reason. It is difficult enough in this Parliament rationally to debate issues without the kind of approach that was adopted by the honourable member for Diamond Valley today and by the Prime Minister yesterday. Would I be entitled to argue in this House that all federal members of the Liberal Party from New South Wales are anti-Semites because Mr Urbanchich, who is a prominent anti-Semite, held a prominent position in the Liberal Party? Would it be a proper exercise in this Parliament to use a privilege to say, therefore, that every federal member of the Liberal Party in this House is an anti-Semite? That would be quite improper, just as it would be improper for me to suggest that every federal member in this Parliament from Western Australia who represented the Liberal Party is a potential ballot rigger because on one occasion Senator Withers had to resign from the Ministry for improper electoral practices. Would it be proper for me, following the principles of argument of the honourable member for Diamond Valley and the Prime Minister, to say that every member of the National Country Party is a potential company crook because a prominent political figure in that Party is currently subject to charges in respect of company practices?
When it comes down to it, the Government is prepared to use those sorts of standards and to apply those standards to individual members of the Labor Party. What I am saying is that that standard of argument ought to have no place here. Honourable members opposite would object quite properly, if I went on to argue that
Victorian Liberal Party members in this House were in the pay of land subdevelopers and land speculators. It is a matter of public record that a Liberal Party Minister in Victoria- a Minister in this House- had his election expenses funded by land developers who were milking the people of Victoria. I am not prepared to extend that analogy in that way because I believe to do so would demean the level of argument in this place. If one does not do so in terms of some of the business practices that have operated and have been seen to be operating amongst members of the Liberal and National Country parties, one should not do it in terms of political ideology. I condemn the actions and the statements of the Prime Minister. I brand them for the lies that they contain. I condemn the statements of the honourable member for Diamond Valley who has not done himself or his electorate any credit in his approach to this matter today.
-At the outset I should like to say that the undue sensitivity of the Victorian left wing to these charges surprises me. This afternoon I wish to grieve on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia. I have no doubt that all honourable members present in the House are interested in and concerned about this matter. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) touched on one or two aspects of this matter. It is a massive problem which faces Australia as a whole. I had hoped that all taxpayers, including the ordinary taxpayers, would have taken an interest in the debate on the reform of the taxation system. There is no doubt that wherever one goes in Australia- from Walgett to Woolloomooloo- various groups of people are interested in taxation reform. A genuine feeling exists amongst some people that they have been touched, that they are not getting value for money and that the taxes they pay, in terms of what they get out of the dollar they contribute, are certainly not being registered within the economy. On the other hand I think it is fair to say that many Australian taxpayers genuinely feel that because of the various tax avoidance and evasion schemes which are so rife and of such a magnitude in this nation that they carry the load.
I should like to cite a few facts which will be helpful. Between 1969 and 1970, personal income tax was 44.7 per cent of total tax revenue. In the tax period 1974-75 this figure rose to 54.8 per cent. In the year 1978-79 it stood at 55 per cent. The expectation for the current year is 55.8 per cent. It has now plateaued at this figure of roughly 55 per cent or 56 per cent. How is Australia placed in relation to the rest of the world? If one examines the tax structure of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, taxes on personal income and profits represented 56 per cent. On that basis alone, Australia almost topped the bill. We must recognise that, to compensate for this, in those nations contributions are paid for social security and other areas of welfare. If we take a true line through this, the real level of taxation paid in Australia- I am taking into consideration the adjustments for those social contributions- is relatively low by OECD standards.
I draw the attention of honourable members to the Budget Papers of last year. I have drawn out various percentages relating to the income tax paid by wage and salary earners as individuals. The Budget Papers show that the total income paid by wage and salary earners and profit makers in 1 966-67 was 67 per cent of the total income tax paid by individuals. For the years 1 976, 1978, and 1979 the figure was 81 per cent. Therein lies the crunch. Household incomes of people in that category have not risen. The conclusion that one can draw from that is that the pay-as-you-earn taxpayer in Australia certainly is carrying the full load in terms of tax payments. Therefore, we must examine what we can do for the PA YE taxpayer because his opportunities to reduce his taxation payments are decidedly limited. Members of this Parliament will be aware that their monthly contributions are deducted at the source. The ability of the PA YE taxpayers to reduce their taxation payments is extremely limited.
The taxation system will remain in the confidence of the nation provided it meets the requirements of certainty and social justice. If we accept that as the basis on which a review should take place we would need to look at what we have in Australia to see what could be done. I would hope that such a review would examine indirect taxes. Indirect taxes contribute about 17 per cent to the nation’s resources. Of that, nearly 85 per cent falls onto the areas of alcohol, petrol and cars. Relatively speaking, a limited amount of money can be taken out of that area, but there is a wide range of services which could make some contribution to society. I do not have time to refer in detail to matters such as incomesplitting which I believe is only one possible adjustment within a whole range of tax reforms. We have to look at the concept as a whole if we are to make what the public would see as a genuine attempt to lighten the direct load and place the tax burden more fairly across society. I would like to see encouraged in Australia a debate on the real merits of the introduction of a consumer tax. It would be a broadly based tax and would apply to all services and to all general areas of consumption. By doing that, I think the level of personal income tax could be reduced considerably. By doing this -
– Will it stay there?
– That depends on the demands of the people for government services. The ability of governments to provide services is, of course, strictly in line with their degree of determination or political guts in reducing government spending programs to keep in line with the amount of money that is available from tax. I should like to indicate to the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) that all of us recognise that we cannot have taxation reformstax cuts, in anybody’s words- without subsequently offsetting government spending. Governments cannot spend more than they earn. Government deficits should be looked at as temporary facilities, not as permanent debts because the overall cost to society is enormous.
In the few minutes I have left to speak in this debate I wish to brush over the question of a flat rate tax. I believe a flat rate tax is not appropriate. Social equity and justice will not be served by the introduction of a flat tax rate. I deal briefly with the question of a value added tax. I do not believe the administrative capabilities are equal to the task. It is an enormous burden on the consumer price index and an enormous burden on many of the manufacturers and processers in this nation. I commend an examination in detail of the prospects of introducing a broadly based consumer tax. It would certainly enable us to catch up with tax avoiders and tax evaders in the service industries. In Australia today many areas- a whole subculture of cash transactionswould be caught up in a service or consumer tax. The amount that is not recorded in Australia in this regard is enormous. The amount that is missing certainly runs into billions of dollars, not the hundreds of millions of dollars which was referred to in the report of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation. In Australia there has been a preoccupation and a great desire to have the growth and development of our nation and to fund them as much as possible from our own resources. Due to the inequities that have existed in the last 10 years we are approaching the stage at which consideration ought to be given to imposing a capital gains tax.
There is an enormous area throughout Australia where there are conflicts in the descriptions and legal interpretations of section 26 of the
Income Tax Assessment Act. Because of these interpretations and the approaches to the section, this should be taken into consideration in any review. Unless we get the taxation system right in Australia, the incentive to work, to take risks, to look after oneself and to develop the great nation in which we live will be lost.
– In February of this year, the eligibility for service pensions was extended to include service men and women who served in allied forces subject to certain residential qualifications. This is the latest move in a gradual process of extending the eligibility for the service pension which has proceeded over a number of years. Briefly, the question with which I want to deal is that of extending further the eligibility to include those people who served in the merchant navy. This matter has been raised on many occasions. I dare say that it will continue to be raised until it is satisfactorily resolved. In the past this issue has aroused very great passions. I understand the reasons for the rejection of the case that has been put in the past. However, it is time now for the matter to be re-examined.
The current resurgence of interest stems directly from the extension of eligibility to allied service men and women. Those people who served as merchant seamen during the war take the view that, if service men and women who have not been members of the Australian Forces are entitled to an Australian service pension on the basis that they fought alongside Australian service men and women and now live in Australia, their case has equal merit inasmuch as they were directly involved in Australia’s war effort and, therefore, should be considered on the same basis as allied service men and women. In my view these people have a strong case which should be considered by the Government in the context of the forthcoming Budget. Unfortunately, there are no organisations directly representing the interests of these people even though the Returned Services’ League and other ex-service organisations and trade unions have supported their claims in the past.
When a number of people who had served in the merchant navy during the war approached me some time ago 1 suggested that it would be a good idea if they were to get together with other interested people in order to press their claims in a concerted way. A meeting of about 60 people was held in Fremantle on 11 March. At that time a committee was elected and a campaign was organised. Those people present were asked to prepare their own resumes of their history of war service. The committee which was elected at that meeting met on 25 March and chose a name for the association; that name was the Merchant Navy War Service Association. At that meeting the committee examined the various case histories that had been submitted and, after selecting a representative sample of those case histories, forwarded them to me along with a letter to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) from the Association. I seek leave of the House to have that letter incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows-
Merchant Navy War Service Association, C/o 5 Daly Street, South Fremantle, W.A. 6162 26 March 1980
Mr E. Adermann, Minister for Veteran ‘s Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Re: War Service Pension
I am writing to you on behalf of the ‘Merchant Navy War Service Association’, regarding the War Service Pension at 60.
There would be about seventy men involved so far, and we have been told that there is quite a lot of interest on this subject in ail the other states.
We are aware that as the Government Policy now standsnamely the signing of Forms TI24T and T124X- that the majority of Ex Merchant Navy men don’t qualify, even though they went right through the war; lost more lives than any other service, have Certificates from the Admiralty for doing a Course in Gunnery in H.M. Navy; discharge books to prove the theatress of war they served in, and an average of five Campaign Medals which they have been awarded.
My husband was in the British Merchant Navy, as were also many Australians- these would account for about half in our Association, the others were in the Australian Merchant Navy, we wish to mention that we are all one in our approach to you, as we are all citizens of Australia, and proud of it. However, since the Federal Government announcement in August 1979, these men have felt very frustrated that they were not included in the Pensions allowed to our allies, and the Vietnamese. Many ex Merchant Navy Men have died, feeling frustrated also that they were not given a pension, along with the RAAF, the AIF and HMAS, along with the Merchant Navy they fought to win the warwithout the Merchant Navy the War would not have been won.
At our meeting on 1 1 March, last, all men present, (Ex M.N), were very positive in stating that they did not have better pay and conditions, than the other forces. Their conditions were often so much worse, at times putting to sea in ships from the ‘Scrap heap’, or ships which had the Plimsol line painted out, and moved up higher so that the ship could take more cargo. These were dangers in themselves which never would have been allowed in peace-time, but the tonnage of Merchant ships sunk was so bad, and the lives lost, so many, that this was the case in War-time. Then the seas sailed were infested with ‘IT Boats. ‘E’ Boats, enemy Warships, Raiders, and the men were often under constant air attack. Particularly in Ports where, ammunition, high octane fuel, etc. were urgently needed by our Armies and Air forces. It was in conditions such as these that produced more lives lost by the Merchant Navy, than any other single Force.
There wouldn’t be a great number of Merchant Navy men around the age of 60. Some have died, others are on the old age pension, or the ‘dole’- but for those behind this letter and petition- it would be nice to have the option of a War Service Pension, their numbers are getting less every year, and it’s not just these men, the people in the streets and wherever, either think the Merchant Navy men already had the pension- or think it is disgraceful that they haven’t! Soon our Association will be Australia-wide. The people of Australia are proud of the Merchant navy still, so please Mr Adermann add your help to ‘give them a go’. One of the best feelings in life is to help somebody else, and I feel you are a man who would like to help people.
We wish to thank Mr John Dawkins, M.P. for Fremantle, for presenting our case and for his help at all times in this matter.
We also wish to thank Mr J. Giblett, of the RSL and thank them for backing our cause.
Yours faithfully, P.P. Merchant Navy War Service Association,
Hon. Secretary (Mrs) J. Arncliffe
P.S. These men could not leave their ships when they wished, nor could they refuse to sail in a certain ship at a certain port- they had no choice in the matter- their only alternative was gaol.
-I thank the House. The letter and the case histories will be sent to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs in the next couple of days. I spent some time looking at those case histories and at the arguments put forward in support of the extension of eligibility for people who served in the merchant navy during the war. A number of points were apparent. First, if there is a case for Australians who served in the merchant navy, it seems to me that a similar case can be made out for those people now living in Australia but who served as British merchant seamen during the war. This follows directly from a decision some years ago to extend the eligibility of the service pension in Australia to British service men and women. Secondly, there is great variety in the circumstances involved in these case histories. I acknowledge that this creates some problems in terms of establishing an extended eligibility criteria in relation to these people. Obviously it is a matter which has to be studied very carefully. Thirdly, there are some very powerful arguments presented in support of the claim by these people.
Briefly, I want to examine some of those arguments. It has been put to me that members of the merchant navy, or people who were merchant seamen, are considered only to be equal with service men and women when they are both dead. The reason for so saying is that there are war memorials in Perth and Fremantle where merchant navy memorials enjoy equality with the other memorials to (hose people who served in the Australian Infantry Force, the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy. The fact that they are acknowledged in those memorials strengthens their case to some extent.
It is argued often that people in the merchant navy served under conditions of better pay and superior conditions than did those people who served in the regular Navy. Indeed, they served under better circumstances than did those people who completed the appropriate Admiralty forms which brought them under the direct control of the Navy. That is true, if people were employed for the whole duration of the war. But if people who served in the merchant navy did so only from time to time, there was no one to support, to feed and to clothe them in between their periods of seagoing service. Against the claims of superior pay and conditions one has the greater irregularity and insecurity of employment to which these people were exposed.
It is true also that many of these people who ended up in the merchant navy had tried first to join the regular Services. Some of them were unable to join for a variety of reasons, incuding the fact that they were in reserved occupations and, therefore, when they went to join they were rejected by the Army, the Navy or any other forces. If they believed that they could make a better contribution to the war effort by being involved in active service, the only way they could do so was by joining the merchant navy. Many of them took this course of action. I do not think there is any disputing the fact that these people served under very dangerous circumstances. In many cases they were captured and became prisoners of war. I quote briefly from a couple of paragraphs from one of these case histories. It reads:
Next trip was on the sister ship M.V. Hope Peak, sailing from Hull to Brisbane and Townsville, Australia. On our way to join a convoy, we were bombed and machine gunned- the ship was ‘holed’ up forward bows, but we managed to reach port. After repairs we continued to Australia, again through U ‘ Boat wolf packs, etc., losing many ships.
He goes on to say:
In 1944 1 was on the M.V. Peebles, on the Atlantic run between England and New York, carrying munitions, and explosives. It was on this UK to US run across the Atlantic that one convoy alone lost 67 out of 85 ships . . . My next ship was the Empire Ganges, where we were based off southern France, off Marseilles- our job was to meet the incoming American T2 Tankers, to take half of their high octane cargo, to enable them to enter port. After being in this hazardous situation for about three months, we then sailed to Northern Italy. We were one of the first tankers to enter Genoa … to supply the US 5th Army, and the 8th Army . . .
On all iIic.m: trips many ships wca- torpedoed mid bombed .nui wi- were nui allowed m slop and pit k up any survivors, as we would drop back and be picked off. There was noi much left when an ammunition ship blew up.
That is ample evidence of the fact that these people experienced very severe dangers during their war service. A further point which was raised was that, contrary to some arguments, they served under very strict direction from whoever was in charge. For instance, one of these people tells the story of how he served at the direction of the merchant navy officers pool. After each trip he was directed to join a new ship. He could not please himself, as it is sometimes alleged was the case. When he tried to please himself on the occasion on which his father died he was threatened with imprisonment. I am not trying to overdramatise this situation; I am simply arguing that the claims of these people deserve consideration by the Government at this time.
It is as well to remember that some of these people already receive benefits as a result of their war service. In some circumstances they are eligible to receive benefits under the Defence Service Homes Scheme. If they suffered actual injury as a result of their service during the war they are eligible for medical and hospital treatment in circumstances identical with those provided to service men and women under the repatriation scheme. I think that as the Government is finalising its consideration of the Budget this is the time to raise this matter. I urge the Government to give this matter very careful consideration in the next couple of months.
-In Noble Park in my electorate of Hotham we have a scheme which has the same purpose as the Government’s transition from school to work scheme but which takes a different approach. It is called Bridging the Gap and involves work experience. The concept of work experience is now regarded as an important aspect of a student’s education in an effort to make education more relevant and to assist students in career selection. It has already been used to advantage by many schools. The scheme is regulated under the Victorian Work Experience Act 1974 and its subsequent amendments. The Act requires that a minimum of $3 a day be paid to each student employed. The employer is not required to provide workers compensation or insurance covering common law claims. The Victorian Government undertakes to meet the costs of any claim and thus makes the scheme an attractive proposition to most employers.
Work experience offers mutual benefits to employers and students. The scheme has the wholehearted approval of the Victorian Employers
Federation, the Trades Hall Council, the Department of Labour and Industry, every secondary school in my district and the Victorian Parham ment. The Bridging the Gap scheme is a Noble Park Apex Club community project. It is being run in conjunction with Peter Collins, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Noble Park, and with Fred Phillips, who is the co-ordinator. Fred Phillips is a top line business consultant. He has taken on the job of contacting local businesses and local schools, acting as intermediary in bridging the gap between school and employment.
Springvale and Noble Park have some of the lowest unemployment figures in the State. With a large number of small businesses in Noble Park and many more in next door Moorabbin, opportunities are continually arising. Mr Phillips found that many school leavers had over estimated their abilities or chose inappropriate jobs. I cannot help agreeing. I see an extension of this situation in the demand by other unemployed people for better jobs than they had, for jobs which are identical with their last jobs or for jobs which are as close to home as their last ones had been. It should be noted at this stage that the ridiculous figures that the Commonwealth Employment Service offices have to put out at the end of each month have little relationship to the real situation. If the number of job vacancies as calculated is small, it really means that the CES office is doing a good job. It means that it is filling most job vacancies that come to it. But unfortunately, for general comprehension, the figures show up a higher ratio of unemployed people to each job vacancy. If the CES office did not do a good job and job vacancies were unfilled, there would be a lower ratio of unemployed people to each job vacancy and the media would say that the situation was good. Again,. I ask the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) to use more appropriate figures.
Under this Bridging the Gap project businesses in the area were contacted and their heads were asked to give help. All of them agreed to coach teenagers who were sent to them by Fred Phillips. The number of businesses approached is now very close to 100. Contact was then made with five local secondary schools. They were asked to send 10 students eachstudents whom the schools felt would find it hardest to obtain jobs. Fred Phillips remembers them well. They could not read, write or spell. Some of them could not even spell the name of the street in which they had lived for many years.
This is of course a very sad reflection on the education system. The whole program has showed that the business world appreciates the need to help youths at the beginning of their working life and is prepared to help bridge the gap between school and employment. The youth of today is the strength of Australia in the future. One aspect of this program showed up quite definitely. In talking about the education system, we found one parent who complained that his child disagreed with him. The child said that 2 1 divided by 7 was 2, because the teacher had ticked it correct.
-Order! I regret that the honourable gentleman must be interrupted. It is now 12.45 p.m. In accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to adjust grants to the States and the Northern Territory for schools in respect of cost increases. The adjustment of allocations for government and non-government schools in the States for 1979 and, in the States and the Northern Territory of 1980, requires amendment of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1978 and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1979. The amendment to the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1978 will finalise the adjustment of 1979 grants. It involves an additional appropriation of $3.3m. The adjustment of 1 980 grants by amendment of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1979 involves the appropriation of a further $ 16.1m. This Act will be amended again in the Budget sittings of the Parliament later this year to provide for further cost increases, in accordance with the Government’s announced policy.
The Bill does not increase the grants for nongovernment schools for general recurrent expenditure, child migrant education, or emergency assistance, as the necessary adjustments to these grants have been effected previously. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Blewett) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1978. In accordance with established procedures, the Bill makes appropriate adjustments for movements in costs for grants covered under the existing legislation. The grants were last adjusted in the Budget session of 1979. The adjustments to the grants for all sectors amount to $7.4m in respect of 1979, $83.8m in respect of 1980 and $72m in respect of 198 1.
At its meeting in October last year, the Australian Education Council, a body comprising Commonwealth and State Ministers for Education, supported the provision in the States grants legislation of a condition that universities and colleges of advanced education pay salaries in accordance with the recommendations of the Academic Salaries Tribunal. A condition along these lines is contained in the Bill. More specifically, recurrent grants are to be provided on the basis that if the Minister should inform a State that he is satisfied that institutions in that State have paid salaries in excess of the recommendations of the Academic Salaries Tribunal, the State is required to return funds to the Commonwealth. The repayment to the Commonwealth is to be limited to the amount by which the Minister is satisfied that salary payments have exceeded the funds required to meet the rates recommended by the Tribunal. The condition will come into effect on 1 January 1 98 1. During the intervening period the Government expects institutions to review existing arrangements. I intend to ask the Tertiary Education Commission to contact State authorities and institutions, requesting that they inform the Commission of cases where payments are not conforming with the recommendations of the Academic Salaries Tribunal since there may be circumstances in which the Minister should not exercise his authority to require a return of funds to the Commonwealth. In due course I will seek a report from the Tertiary Education Commission on the operation of the new condition. The Government believes that the new condition will assist its policy of wage restraint.
In the Budget session last year the principal Act was amended to put into effect revised arrangements for the introduction of new teaching developments in universities and colleges of advanced education. At the request of the Western Australian Minister the Bill includes an amendment which will ensure that institutions and States are not prevented from preparing further submissions in support of specific new teaching developments when previous submissions have not been approved by the Commission. In addition to the adjustments to the schedules for cost increases, minor adjustments have been made within the schedules in relation to some advanced education and TAFE programs in Victoria. The adjustments, which have been made in response to requests from the State authorities, transfer amounts within each of the sectors but do not increase the Commonwealth Government’s overall commitment to the provision of tertiary education in that State. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Blewett) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to make reference to an incident which allegedly concerns me.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– I have had some reports from Brisbane that an organisation which is using a company name has been seeking assistance and even credit from motor suppliers in Brisbane and using my name as a person connected with that organisation. I do not wish to be unfair to this organisation which is called the Twilight Car Clinic. When I received the first complaint I gave that organisation the benefit of the doubt that perhaps the person who had had the conversation with the caller had misunderstood a reference to I quote: ‘Donald Cameron, member’. Unfortunately there have been further reports of my name being used in the manner described previously.
I want to make it known that in no way do I have a connection with the Twilight Car Clinic, nor, to my knowledge, are the persons involved in that clinic known to me. If such reports continue to come to me after today I may well be forced to take appropriate legal action. I am quite certain that you will agree with my conclusion, Mr Speaker, that this job is difficult enough without persons incorrectly using our ninnes in an effort in guin themselves an advantage. As I h;i ve .said, there is still a slight degree of doubt about the matter because I have received only reports from individuals who state that they believed that it was Donald Cameron, member of parliament, who was calling them. I have no hard evidence to that effect. But if it happens again, instead of the organisation being called the Twilight Car Clinic, it will be twilight years for the individuals concerned.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That Notices Nos 1 3 to 1 6, Government Business, be postponed until a later hour this day.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the Opposition will not oppose this motion, but it is concerned at the switching around of programs because it is causing an inability at short notice to get speakers on hand. I believe the affairs of the House could be conducted much better for the benefit both of Government and Opposition members.
– in reply- I might comment on the matter and express my gratitude for the co-operation of the Opposition in the circumstance which has arisen. There has been some delay in the transporting to the Parliament of the Bills which were to have been introduced. Therefore, we are not in a position at the moment to proceed with the introduction of those Bills. As I say, I do appreciate the co-operation of the Opposition in the circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 7 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
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 Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills 1980 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put 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, 1 will allow that course to be followed.
– First of all, I must state that I am a little concerned about the way the business of the House litis been reordered. I would not have attended two committee meetings if I had known that the Wool Industry Amendment Bill and the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills were to come before the House so soon. Even more importantly, the Opposition will be moving an amendment. The amendment is with the Clerk and his officers, or whoever attends to those matters, and is being typed at present. The Opposition will be moving the amendment when it turns up.
The Opposition does not oppose the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Bills at all, but we do put forward some qualifications regarding the Wool Industry Amendment Bill. On behalf of the Opposition, as an amendment, I move:
I wish we had copies of the amendment before us. The amendment simply means that the Australian Labor Party would prefer to see the Australian Wool Corporation wholly administering the refund of growers’ moneys from the Wool Market Support Fund. The amendment proposes a mechanism whereby this would be effected. We are not opposed to the Government’s actions regarding any of the six Bills which concur fully with the Opposition’s view on the need for the fund to be a revolving one. We are putting some qualifications forward as to the administration of what is proposed and the mechanism that could be used. This is in keeping with what has been advocated for some time by our spokesman on Primary Industry, Senator Walsh, and grower organisations. What is being proposed, as was understood from the outset of this scheme in 1974, is that the fund would revolve- that is, the first contributors into the scheme would be repaid by the last contributors. With a revolving fund, people who paid in their 5 per cent in 1974 would virtually get some money back after a period from funds being paid in in terms of the 5 per cent they are contributing this year.
If time permits, I would like to speak on some of the marketing measures taken by the industry and governments over the past 15 years. Despite the propaganda by Government spokesmen, it was the Labor Government which introduced the Market Support Fund by the adoption in
September 1974 of the floor price policy. The existing legislation that allowed this was being applied with respect to a deficiency payments fund. The floor price policy introduced in September 1974 was quite different. Of course, this legislation puts the date beyond all doubt and puts the propaganda claims beyond all doubt. The legislation introduced by Senator Wriedt set for the first time a price below which wool could not be sold for an entire wool selling season. The price set was 250c a kilogram for 20 micron clean wool. Prior to the price being set, wool was selling for around 170c a kilogram despite considerable buying by the Australian Wool Corporation. The Australian Wool Commission and the Australian Wool Board were combined in either 1973 or 1974-1 am not quite sure which it was- to become the Corporation.
After the 250c reserve price, or floor price, was introduced the Corporation bought over 60 per cent of the wool offered at some sales and had acquired nearly 40 per cent of the clip by July 1975. It should be understood- as I am sure it is by honourable members- that any floor price set is essentially the one at which it is perceived the market will clear in the long term. In other words, by setting this price we are making a judgment as to the future and the level of a price that it will be necessary for the wool market to clear. In 1974-75 the Labor Government had to appropriate $350m for loans to the Corporation to finance those purchases. It would be understood at the outset of the scheme that the 5 per cent grower contribution was not enough to build up a fund immediately. Of course, the market was lacking at that time; there was a downturn in sales. It was absolutely essential for the Australian Government to stand behind the Australian Wool Corporation at that time, when market demand was so lacking. As the wool stockpile has been sold off, the money has been repaid to the Government and the Market Support Fund now stands at over $300m in credit with only about 200,000 bales of wool on hand.
The scheme is a classic example of a buffer stock scheme which irons out oscillations in prices in the market and, to a great extent, stabilises growers ‘incomes. However, even though the public has had to provide large funds to the industry, it is the industry itself, by the 5 per cent grower levy, which finally finances the arrangement as long as the market clears at or above the floor price set. The Wool Council of Australia- it supersedes the Australian Wool Industry Conference, but I think there still have to be some administrative details tidied up there- which can now be regarded as the peak wool industry organisation in Australia, endorses the moves by the Government and advocacy of the Opposition on this matter but would prefer that some $3 50m be accumulated in the fund plus the $43m of the first year’s contribution before any payout occurs. I have seen calculations that the $43m payout will amount to about $ 1 1 a bale for the growers who contributed at that time.
I think it is time to pay back the money to the growers before waiting for the $350m threshold, but I cannot understand the reasoning of the Wool Council with respect to the rise it is seeking for the floor price to be at 366c for the new season. The time when funds are being cut does not seem to be the time to increase the floor price by so much. In other words, by definition we are paying out of the fund some $43m. Admittedly, the market indicator is at 4 1 2c at present. I think immediately after the wool storemen and packers strike it went up to 433c for a while. The more relative statistic is that even the 412c price is really only about 14 per cent above the opening level of prices for the 1979-1980 season. There seems to be every evidence of a world recession for at least the next year.
The Market Support Fund needs to be large enough to absorb a loss in trading for a period unless public funds are to be used again heavily or unless the Australian Wool Corporation borrows. What I am simply saying is that by leaving the floor price at its present level or increasing it marginally, there is no danger at all of the wool floor price clearing the market at that level. To go to a new high because the current indicator price is about 412c may be unwise and, in a way, the Wool Council seems to be arguing against itself.
The repayment mechanism has caused particular concern to the wool brokers, not because it is they who will have to administer 90 per cent of the total to be given back but because of their sensitivities about the disclosure of confidential client records to the Australian Wool Corporation when the Australian Wool Corporation is now clearly a competitor with the brokers as far as the Limited Offer to Purchase Scheme is concerned. The Bill does not appreciate that the Australian Wool Corporation is in competition with the brokers and the brokers are fearful that information gained by the Australian Wool Corporation may be used against them and prejudice the minds of some growers. I believe that the brokers would probably also be opposed to the first part of our amendment, but we put it forward because, as the AWC will be looking over the brokers’ shoulders, we may as well have the Corporation carry out the administration which will virtually be duplicated.
The Opposition particularly welcomes the move to place the floor price arrangements on a continuing basis. The acceptance by the Government that industry contributions to promotion and research- that is, the 3 per cent levy- will be matched dollar for dollar by the Government. We also welcome the idea that the amounts going to promotion and research are not necessarily fixed year to year. Over the past six years, the first contribution has been below 50 per cent of the total funds. The percentage has varied from 39.3 per cent in 1 978-79 to 58.5 per cent in 1973-74 under a Labor government. We are also pleased that a foreseen anomaly of some small growers not receiving a full return because the clip might have been sold in many lots has been remedied.
I wish to make a few comments on the Limited Offer to Purchase Scheme- LOPS. Most growers whom I have spoken to have been in favour of the scheme despite the fact that it is still losing money; and I think we can expect that it will lose some funds when it is first introduced. My objection to LOPS is not with the service it provides to growers- I think that is well and good- but to the administrative correctness of it and the evaluation of it. Firstly, I have never been sure whether LOPS is contrary to the Wool Industry Act 1972-78 regarding the provisions relating to the Australian Wool Corporation’s acting commercially. I do not recall the name of the private treaty firm concerned but I understand that at one stage the Australian Wool Corporation clearly acted commercially with respect to that organisation under the umbrella of LOPS. Secondly, some of the advertising of the scheme seems to me to be misleading. Thirdly, the only limit to the scheme is the limit of 1 50,000 bales a season.
Those objections may seem to be pedantic but I am also concerned, if not more concerned, about the evaluation of the progress of the scheme. In subsequent reviews of the Corporation’s marketing proposals of December 1973- and those proposals form the basis for the Corporation’s views on acquisition or its first proposals- I have always been dubious of Australian Wool Corporation estimates of potential savings from acquisitions and a range of proposals. I am personally opposed to acquisition and believe that the AWC and brokers, working together in some form of creative tension as we have at present, is better for the industry than one large bureaucratic organisation. I therefore have some doubt about LOPS. It may be claimed to be a back-door method of acquisition and if there were massive grower demand for acquisition LOPS itself would be swamped. We still await a full report on the operation of LOPS by the end of June this year. But, even so, there seems to be enough informed opinion to doubt the figures being produced by the Australian Wool Corporation on LOPS and some of its other more far-reaching proposals.
Despite the termination and evaluation of the experimental scheme by the end of June 1980, the Australian Wool Corporation has now recommended to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) that the scheme continue as an on-going wool marketing service- and I think that is the name it will be given. I am doubtful as to the amount of cross-subsidisation of the limited offer to purchase scheme by the Australian Wool Corporation and other alleged benefits such as reduced marketing costs, or an increase in the usage of wool, or an increase in the demand for wool or the price of wool. I am sufficiently concerned to advocate that any evaluation of the limited offer to purchase scheme should not be carried out internally by the Australian Wool Corporation and that an outside organisation such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics or private consultants should do it. Such evaluation must include not only the present scheme which has operated since September 1977- allegedly as an experiment- but also the more flexible proposals for the continuation of the scheme now before the Minister.
There seems little need to analyse specifically the Bills any further. They are straightforward. They have been described well by the Minister and the Opposition fundamentally agrees with them. However, it is sensible to make some observations about the condition of the wool industry and its marketing expectations. This year has been one of record farm production- record income per farm- and record exports for agricultural commodities in money terms. Wool has shared in this allegedly or so-called more buoyant financial situation. But, as everyone knows, the favourable seasonal conditions of earlier in the year- 1979-80- have deteriorated rapidly and, even if the general drought breaks, there needs to be some qualification as to the general condition of our rural industries at present.
The revised Bureau of Agricultural Economics figure of income per farm of $29,520 leads many people to believe that this is the income of the average farmer, just as some people believe that the average wage is the income of the average wage earner. In both cases there is an upward bias due to the very high incomes of a relatively few people and in the case of farms there is another more important qualification because the number of income earners per farm on average is more than one. If we look at farms right across the spectrum of various rural enterprises in Australia, particularly horticultural farms, the number of income earners per farm is often as high as four. This figure of an income per farm is certainly biased and does not accurately reflect what the true situation is.
The rural recovery also needs to be qualified with respect to an adjustment for inflation whereby farm incomes are still behind the rate of increase for the rest of the community and also the terms of trade in our agriculture- by that I mean the prices paid to the prices received- are still very adverse. If I can recall the figures, taking 1 960-6 1 as a base year of 1 00, the figure is about 67 and has been as low as 58 in the downturn in the middle of this decade. The terms of trade, of course, are not getting any better, particularly given the Government’s crazy petrol, fuel and liquefied petroleum gas pricing policy which is not only pinning down dwellers in country towns but also substantially adding to farmers ‘costs.
If we are trying to do some serious evaluation of the general condition of our rural industries we also need to look at the past decade. I recall that in the early 1969-70-71 period things were very depressed; then there were two or three very good years; and then there was a substantial downturn through 1975-76. We come now to the end of the decade with allegedly record figures in money terms. This is the way agriculture goes. No matter how hard governments try, we in this country are still very much dependent on the vagaries of the weather and on overseas markets. I am sure that people representing rural electorates realise the impact of those two factors and the inadequacies and the lack of any potence of government policies in some areas.
Wool is one of the industries in which something can be done to stabilise income. Wool is storable. One can establish a buffer stock fund such as we are discussing under this legislation. One opinion that I formed during the time when I worked in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics was that at any given time, 20 per cent of the farms or firms involved throughout Australia, are doing very well- 20 per cent are going out backwards and 60 per cent are somewhere in between. However, the same people are not involved each year. Also to be considered are such factors as management, weather and luck. Again, some people pull out and become better managers or some fortuitous change for them occurs. Others do not pull out at all. As is the case with all businesses, there are always quite a few farmers who are going out backwards.
Change also occurs in the rural industries themselves. We have seen the very rapid adjustment which has occurred in the dairy industry in the last few years. We have seen the great flattening out which has occurred in the cattle industries. Other industries, such as the sugar industry, are relatively controlled and controllable. One measure that individual farmers can take, in addition to improving management, is to increase productivity. That is why agriculture has kept up with the deteriorating terms of trade which I mentioned earlier. Rural industries have increased productivity at a far greater rate than have other industries. They have been able to substitute capital for labour and increase productivity by resort to a range of measures.
Putting aside the short term increased price effect of the wool storemen ‘s strike, which had a potentially dramatic impact on the wool industry, it would seem that the current price level of wool will not hold. Although it is very dangerous to look into the future, one can make a few points on just what the situation is. In doing so I rely on documents of the Australian Wool Corporation, which every month comments on the future world wide textile situation. In recent months there has been no real improvement in the Japanese textile industry, which is very important to us. Consumer demand has been slow. Garment manufacture has been cautious and greasy, scoured, tops, yarn and fabric stocks have been rising throughout the textile pipeline. Some consumer resistance to higher prices is also evident. This has caused the worsted section of the wool industry to deteriorate.
The prospect in other countries seems a little better. In South Korea, a devaluation of a little more than 16 per cent is expected to stifle some of the economic difficulties which have stemmed from soaring oil prices, and encourage continuation of improved volume. Textile mills are operating at full capacity in Taiwan, but rising costs and increased protectionism in major overseas markets are forcing diversification of the textile industry. In China the textile industry represents one of the growth sectors, but it is still early days. In Hong Kong the industry is still smarting from the agreement with the United States to limit the increase in textile exports to that country. In the European Economic Community rising labour costs are worrying the Italian textile industry, which for 1979 recorded increases of 30 per cent, as compared with only 13 per cent in other EEC countries. In the EEC generally top orders are good and stocks in combing mills are down, but greasy wool stocks have risen considerably.
At home, the Australian wool and textile industry seems relatively buoyant. Although the Wool Corporation ‘s report is pessimistic for only one market, Japan, that is by far Australia ‘s most important market. Thus, more attention must be given to developments there than to developments elsewhere. Japan’s purchases of Australian wool for the July-December 1 979 period reached 553,000 bales, an increase of 19.5 per cent on the same period in 1978, but in November and December purchases were down by 5.7 per cent and 11.1 per cent respectively on year-earlier levels. Given that the Japanese market is so important to us, I believe that the Wool Corporation is right in its forecasting and in urging some caution with respect to the world textile market. Wool is not so fraught with danger from synthetics as it was, but when one considers the downturn in world trading conditions, interest rates of 20 per cent in the United States, the problems of the Japanese economy, the fact that Japan faces rising oil prices- as is the case worldwideand that commentators are speaking about a degree of world recession, wool prices cannot really be considered likely to hold at present levels. Earlier I referred briefly to the fact that the action by the Wool Council of Australia to raise the floor price by some 16 per cent, to 366c, did not seem to be very wise. Somewhere between the present figure of 3 12c and 366c may be a bit wiser, given the economic and market conditions that the wool industry faces internationally.
I did not know that the debate would be brought on so soon, but they are the main comments that I wish to make on the industry. Perhaps some Government spokesman will refer to the various aspects of the wool handling dispute which, as I have said, had a potentially dramatic effect on the wool industry. It was a very complicated dispute but one can say that there emerged from it a better understanding of the situation of the work force in the industry. The National Farmers Federation showed that it possessed quite a bit of political muscle and nous by and large but I am sure that all honourable members could appreciate the situation in which the storemen found themselves. Having been given an award increase after a study by a judge, they saw it referred to a full High Court which did not take account of the work value review that Mr Justice Staples had undertaken.
– It is a staple product.
– It is indeed a staple product. They saw their increase removed. I am sure that if in June or July the Remuneration Tribunal were to give us poor hard-working back benchers an increase and, after its being referred to another tribunal, that increase were cancelled, we would begin to have some doubts ourselves. Certainly, that action had a bigger impact on wool storemen because, relatively speaking, they do not receive a high rate of pay. I can understand the concern of the Government that such a percentage increase might flow on generally, but the particular situation of the wool storemen could have been taken into consideration. I do not believe that one could, with justification, employ the conservative argument that it would have set a precedent. For a long time low wages have been a feature of the industry.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and resedve my right to speak at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bungey) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
-A quorum is required. Ring the bells.
The bells being rung-
-Serjeant-at-Arms, recall the honourable member for Canning to the chamber. (Quorum formed).
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. As the quorum bells were ringing you asked the Serjeant-at-Arms to recall the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) to the House because he had left the House while the bells were ringing. I see no sign of the member for Canning having been recalled. I ask you to determine what has occurred.
-There is no point of order. The matter has been taken in hand.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is one of an historic package of Bills which will be introduced today to give legislative effect to the off-shore settlement reached at the
Premiers Conference in June last year. The implementation of the off-shore settlement represents a great milestone in CommonwealthState relations. The Commonwealth will share with the States and the Northern Territory powers and resources in the seas surrounding Australia which, as a matter of constitutional law, are presently the Commonwealth’s alone. It is important for an understanding of the Bill that I have introduced and the associated Bills that will follow that they be considered in the context of the total package and of the background to it.
The present Bill- the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill- is the cornerstone of the package. It is being introduced in response to legislation that has been recently enacted in each of the States requesting the passage by the Commonwealth Parliament of such a Bill. This Bill, together with the Coastal Waters (Northern Territory Powers) Bill, the titles Bills and the amendments to the Seas and Submerged Lands Act, vests in the States and the Northern Territory power over and title to the territorial sea around Australia. Those Bills provide the legal basis for State rights and activities in the offshore area. This is on the basis that the territorial sea is an area best left for local State jurisdiction- except on matters of over-riding national or international importance.
The remaining Bills in the package- the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill and associated amending Bills, the Fisheries Amendment Bill, the Navigation Amendment Bill and the Historic Shipwrecks Amendment Bill- give effect to the agreed arrangements to apply in relation to particular areas of off-shore activity both within and without the territorial sea. Here again, from a position where the Commonwealth has full constitutional authority, the Commonwealth has chosen to recognise the concerns of the States, to find a solution which will accommodate the interests of the States and will utilise the skills and expertise of existing administrations and will allow a sharing of resources that should benefit the nation as a whole. In this way, the Commonwealth is acting in the true spirit of federalism.
The total package of legislation is an outstanding demonstration of the success of the policy of co-operative federalism that this Government has pursued since it took office. It has been our firm conviction that the key to successful government in a federal system lies in co-operation rather than confrontation, in a joint rather than a fragmented approach to common difficulties and in honest straight-talking rather than mutual distrust. Complex and contentious issues associated with the off-shore area have bedevilled Commonwealth-State relations in Australia for over a decade. Other federations have had similar problems. For Australia, these issues crystallised first of all in the Commonwealth-State negotiations in the 1960s in relation to off-shore petroleum mining. Mirror petroleum legislation was enacted by the Commonwealth and the States. That legislation- the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Acts- reflected a policy of avoiding the sensitive questions of the respective powers of the Commonwealth and the States over the off-shore area.
The Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources concluded in its report in 1971 that, notwithstanding the advantages to the national interest which the legislation and its underlying concepts had produced, the national interest was not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth authority in the territorial seabed and the continental shelf. In April 1970 the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill was introduced into the Parliament in pursuance of the then Government’s view that it would serve Australia’s national and international interest to have the local position resolved as soon as practicable by the courts. That Bill was not proceeded with. Its stormy reception did serve to indicate the controversial nature of the subject. However, the substance of the Bill was subsequently enacted in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973.
The constitutional issues were resolved by the High Court in 1975 when it unanimously upheld the 1973 Act’s assertion of sovereign rights on the part of the Commonwealth, as against the States, over the whole of the continental shelf. Also, the High Court upheld the Act’s assertion of sovereignty on the part of the Commonwealth, as against the States, over the territorial sea, including its seabed. That is to say, Commonwealth sovereignty was held to extend right into low-water mark.
The High Court’s decision left the Commonwealth with two clear options. The Commonwealth could have exercised its legal dominance in the off-shore area. The Commonwealth could have denied the States any share at all in the resources lying within the off-shore area and any say at all in the regulation of activities that take place in that area. But we did not. We adopted instead a course of restraint, a course consistent with our notions of the appropriate allocation of rights and responsibilities among governments in Australia, and of the benefits of decentralisation of authority and of decision-making.
Notwithstanding the inherent difficulties and the overall magnitude of the task, we decided to explore with the States, and the Northern Territory, the question of conferring upon them a proper role and appropriate rights in the offshore area and resources adjacent to them. This course accorded with our policy of co-operative federalism. When the Commonwealth and the States are each concerned with a matter, we believe that they should channel that concern into negotiation of a mutually acceptable accommodation of interests.
The contrast with the approach of our predecessors is obvious. Even in Opposition, they still have not learnt the lesson. At last year’s National Conference of the Australian Labor Party, a program was approved that appears to give the States no role at all in the area of off-shore sovereignty. The States, under that program, would be completely excluded from the regulation and exploitation of all off-shore resources within the 200-mile economic zone. By contrast, our discussions with the States have been designed to determine what matters are appropriate for Commonwealth administration, what matters are appropriate for joint administration, and how the various agreed solutions could be implemented. All State governments- I repeat all- have agreed on the solutions.
The discussions with the States have now produced a practicable and co-operative solution. The talks at both ministerial and adviser level have focused in a practical way- and taking full account of international, national and State interests- on what matters are appropriate for Commonwealth, or on the other hand, State responsibility, what matters are appropriate for joint administration, and how the various agreed arrangements should be implemented. The appropriate Commonwealth- State consultative bodies have been fully involved, including the Australian Minerals and Energy Council, the Australian Fisheries Council, the Marine and Ports Council of Australia, the Australian Environment Council and the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers.
The Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral has played a central role and has devised innovative and flexible legislative measures to carry out the arrangements that have been agreed. The resulting package of legislation represents the culmination of extended negotiations, discussions and coordination which have been conducted in a spirit of frankness and goodwill. I acknowledge the very great efforts of the Commonwealth and
State Ministers, and the officials, who have been involved in this great task.
I turn now to the particular measures that constitute the legislative package. The Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill-the Bill before the House- is as I have indicated the cornerstone of the package. It is also a Bill of historic significance in its own right. It represents the use, for the first time since Federation, of the power conferred upon this Parliament by section 51 (38) of the Constitution. The exercise of that power requires the request or concurrence of the parliaments of the States concerned. It enables Commonwealth and State parliaments acting in unison to exercise all the powers that at the establishment of the Constitution could be exercised only by the British Parliament. All the States have agreed to the extension of State powers in the territorial sea by use of section 51(38). Each of the State governmentsincluding the two Labor governments- has introduced and secured the passage, within a period of a little short of eight months, of legislation requesting passage by this Parliament of legislation to the effect of the Bill before this House. The Bill that I have introduced responds to those requests.
The Bill provides for the legislative power of each State to be extended in the adjacent offshore area. State legislative powers will be extended over a territorial sea of 3 miles breadth. The baselines from which the 3 miles will be measured will be drawn in a way which takes advantage of the international principles authorising the drawing of what are known as straight baselines where the coast is deeply indented or fringed by islands and of closing lines where bays are not more than 24 miles wide. The baselines to be adopted are being prepared in close consultation with the States and will be promulgated in due course under the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973.
The powers granted by the Bill will also apply- by virtue of clause 3 ( 1 )- to internal waters on the landward side of the baselines. For drafting purposes, the whole of the area involved, that is to say the territorial sea and internal waters, is described as the coastal waters of the State. The result will be an enlargement of the area in which the States will enjoy the benefits of the legislation far beyond the area that would be covered if a line were simply drawn 3 miles out from low water mark.
The Bill provides by clause 5 that State legislative powers extend to the making of all such laws as could be made if the coastal waters of the
State were within the limits of the State, including laws relating to the seabed and subsoil beneath, and the airspace above those waters. In addition, some State based activities may extend beyond the outer limits of the coastal waters of a State. An obvious example is subterranean mining from land within the limits of a State. For example, there are coal mines on the New South Wales coast which extend seawards for more than 3 miles. A State may wish to establish harbour facilities that extend beyond the 3-mile limit. Clause 5 of the Bill accordingly provides that State legislative power is to extend to these particular matters.
The Bill also provides that a State’s legislative powers extend to fisheries in Australian waters beyond the outer limits of the coastal waters of the State, but only where there is an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State that the fisheries are to be managed in accordance with the laws of the State. This will greatly simplify and facilitate the fisheries arrangements to which I shall refer shortly. Under clause 5, the status of the territorial sea under international law is to be expressly preserved.
Savings provisions are included in clause 6 to safeguard existing State extra-territorial powers in the off-shore area. Those provisions also ensure that laws of the Commonwealth that apply in the territorial sea prevail over any inconsistent State law in accordance with section 109 of the Constitution. The Commonwealth will itself retain powers over the territorial sea- these will be used where national or international interests or concerns justify their exercise.
The Commonwealth recognises its international responsibilities for the Great Barrier Reef and so the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 will continue to apply to the whole of the Reef region as defined. Joint consultative arrangements that have been established between the Commonwealth and Queensland for the management and preservation of the Reef region are a concrete example of the results that can be achieved through co-operation.
The Bill, as I have indicated, is one segment of a carefully constructed package. In order to place the Bill in context, I need to provide a brief outline of the scope and purpose of the other Bills which will be introduced following it. The Coastal Waters (State Title) Bill will vest in each State proprietary rights and title in respect of the seabed of the adjacent territorial sea. This measure- by conferring rights of ownership on the States- will support the grant of legislative powers and provide an assurance to the States that the arrangements will have permanency and stability. As in the powers legislation, the Commonwealth’s international obligations will not be affected. The seabed owned or used by the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth for any specific Commonwealth purpose is not included in the grant to the States; the Commonwealth’s right to use the seabed for national purposes, such as defence or navigational aids, will be preserved.
The Commonwealth believes that the selfgoverning status which the Northern Territory achieved in 1978- through another innovative and major legislative measure introduced by this Government- makes it appropriate that the Territory also should share in the benefits of the settlement. The Northern Territory powers and title Bills are similar in effect to the State Bills. The Bill to amend the Seas and Submerged Lands Act is essentially a consequential measure to bring that Act into line with the arrangements provided for in the powers and title Bills.
The remaining Bills give effect to the arrangements agreed upon by the Commonwealth and the States for particular areas of off-shore activity. Perhaps the most important of these is the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill which is designed to give effect to revised arrangements for the administration of off-shore petroleum mining outside the territorial sea. Day-to-day administration will continue to be in the hands of the designated authority appointed for the adjacent area of each State- that is, the State Minister. But, as a new step, a statutory joint authority is to be established for each adjacent area consisting of the Commonwealth Minister and the State Minister, to deal with major matters arising under the legislation. In the event of disagreement, the views of the Commonwealth are to prevail. Off-shore petroleum mining inside the outer limits of the territorial sea is to be the responsibility of the States alone. However, the existing sharing of royalties both inside and outside the territorial sea is to continue, and the common mining code is to be retained. The new arrangements will ensure that national interest in off-shore petroleum activities can be asserted while retaining the valuable role that the States currently play. There will be no dislocation of on-going projects- existing permits and licences will not be prejudiced.
Following the 1 975 High Court decision, the Commonwealth could have taken over completely from the States in regard to off-shore petroleum mining. We chose instead a co-operative approach. We have granted rights to the States despite their lack of constitutional authority. In view of special circumstances in the case of Western Australia, a special arrangement with that State was made and approved at the Premiers Conference in June last year. The Premier and I have agreed upon arrangements to implement that agreement. Those arrangements are set out in a schedule to the Bill.
The Fisheries Amendment Bill, in keeping with the overall approach of the off-shore settlement, will establish new and more flexible arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to off-shore fisheries. Generally speaking, under existing arrangements, State laws apply out to the limits of the three-mile territorial sea and Commonwealth legislation beyond. These arrangements inhibit a flexible, functional approach under which responsibilities can be adjusted by reference to the requirements of particular fisheries. The Fisheries Amendment Bill provides for joint authorities to be established for off-shore fisheries, with complementary State legislation providing for their operation right in to low water mark if that is agreed. Flexibility is the keynote of the proposed legislation. The measures have a practical objective- to provide a sound legal and administrative basis for a practical approach under which a particular fishery can be regulated by one authority under one set of laws, without regard to artificial jurisdictional lines.
The Navigation Amendment Bill establishes arrangements which lay the basis for a complete resolution of shipping and navigation problems that have existed in Australia since Federation. The arrangements provide for an appropriate distribution of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States and the Northern Territory in regard to such matters as the survey and issue of certificates to ships, the regulation of ships’ crews, and the number and qualification of those on board. The States will be responsible for the regulation of trading vessels except those proceeding on an interstate or an overseas voyage which will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The States will be responsible for all Australian commercial fishing vessels except those going on an overseas voyage, for all vessels operating in inland waterways and for pleasure craft. The Commonwealth will, broadly speaking, be responsible for navigation and marine aspects of off-shore industry mobile units and offshore industry vessels not confined to operations in one State or the area adjacent to it.
The remaining Bill is to amend the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. That Act applies now to waters adjacent to the coast of a State only after a proclamation has been made declaring that the
Act so applies. In practice, proclamations have been made only where the adjacent State requests it. The Act is to be amended so that as a matter of law it will apply, or continue to apply, only to waters adjacent to a State or the Northern Territory with the consent of that State or Territory. An exception is made in the special case of old Dutch shipwrecks lying off the coast pf Western Australia. Those shipwrecks are the subject of a 1972 agreement- between the Commonwealth and the Netherlands. They are protected at present by the 1976 Act and are to remain under that Act until satisfactory alternative arrangements are made with Western Australia.
My ministerial colleagues, in introducing the Bills associated with the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill, will give further details. An information kit is being circulated in connection with the package. I should mention that arrangements are currently being worked out between the Commonwealth and the States and the Northern Territory on the regime to apply in respect of mining of minerals other than petroleum. Broadly speaking, the arrangements will follow those that I have outlined in regard to petroleum mining.
I refer also to the Crimes at Sea Act 1979 which was enacted earlier as part of a complementary Commonwealth-State scheme of legislation on offences committed off-shore. I stress again the significance of this off-shore constitutional settlement. The Commonwealth and the States have shown what can be achieved, through negotiation, on the basis of practical sharing of power between governments. The settlement achieves a significant adjustment of powers and responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States. It does this within the framework of the Constitution without the need for referendum or other formal action to alter our constitutional structure itself. The Commonwealth, by its sensible and generous approach, and the States, by their co-operation, have brought about a comprehensive settlement of problems that have caused difficulties in Commonwealth-State relations for over a decade. The settlement will provide benefits to all governments and the people of Australia. It will enable us all to exercise effectively our rights to the resources of off-shore Australia as well as our right and responsibility to preserve and protect our marine environment. The Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill is the first Bill in the package to give effect to the settlement. I commend the
Bill to the House. I wish to add, and to emphasise, that this Bill- indeed the whole packagehas the support of all the States regardless of the politics of their governments.
– Shame on them.
-The honourable gentleman, a shadow Minister, said: ‘Shame on them ‘. So he is saying shame on the New South Wales Government and shame on the Tasmanian Government. Let that be known. I was about to say that I had believed, on this great and historic occasion in the light of the agreement with all the States, no matter what their political flavour- agreement by reason, consultation and common sense painstakingly worked out over many conferences involving officials and ministers on many occasions- this Parliament might also agree.
– A great sell-out of the Commonwealth.
– It is to the shame of the honourable gentleman sitting on behalf of the Opposition that he has already made it very plain that he will not support these measures. He is using words such as ‘sell-out’ and ‘shame’ in relation to his colleagues in the States. The honourable gentleman has made it perfectly plain that this too is to be a matter of division within this Parliament and within this nation.
– You are the most divisive person in this nation’s history.
-The honourable member for Blaxland will remain silent.
– I was seeking to have a situation- since all the States and Premiers had agreed- in which this Parliament might also agree. It is a tragedy that the Opposition has apparently determined that that is not to be so.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker, it has been drawn to my attention that I walked out of the chamber after a quorum had been called. I apologise for this breach. I emphasise that no discourtesy was intended to either the Chair or the Deputy Speaker, Mr Millar.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
In 1978 this Government introduced into this Parliament the Northern Territory SelfGovernment Bill for the purpose of conferring self-government on the Northern Territory. This was a history-making measure. It constituted a major achievement of this Government. The Commonwealth believes that the self-governing status which the Northern Territory attained in 1978 makes it appropriate that the Territory should also share in the benefits of the off-shore constitutional settlement with the States. The present Bill, and the Coastal Waters (Northern Territory) Title Bill which I shall shortly introduce, are therefore similar in effect to the corresponding State Bills. They constitute a further step forward in the development of the Northern Territory. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
^. 14)- Imo ve:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, when proclaimed to come into force, will vest in each of the States proprietary rights and title in respect of land beneath the coastal waters adjacent to the State and within the sovereignty of the Commonwealth. It is one of the major elements of the history-making off-shore constitutional settlement between the Commonwealth and all the States. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has already observed in dealing with the Bill extending State powers in the off-shore area, the present Bill, by conferring rights of ownership on the States, will support the grant of legislative powers to the States in the off-shore area and provide an assurance to the States that the settlement will have permanency and stability.
During the 19th century, if not before, the nations of the world recognised the intimate relationship that naturally appertains between a nation’s land territory and the waters immediately adjacent to it. Those waters came to be regarded as ‘territorial ‘ waters, rather than as the high seas, and as belonging to the adjacent country, subject only to certain specified rights to be enjoyed by other nations. The most well known is the right of innocent passage.
The breadth of such waters, while not the subject of any specific prescription, was general ‘ recognised as three nautical miles from low water mark or the closing line of inland waters. Eventually the existence of sovereignty over tha territorial waters of a coastal State found expression in an international convention. Article 1 of the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Ssa and the Contiguous Zone reads:
Before the seas and submerged lands case in 1975 there had been what the High Court has called ‘a common misconception’ that the territorial sea appertaining to the Australian nation was in fact part of the State territory. Upon this basis there was colonial and, after Federation, State legislation governing activities in the territorial sea. Until the High Court’s decision, the territorial sea was widely considered to be the property of, and under the control of, the States. The High Court has now held of course that the territorial sea does not come within the limits of the States. Commonwealth sovereignty extends right into low water mark, and will continue to do so. One major consequence is, however, that this creates serious legal problems as to the States’ power to grant proprietary rights in the territorial sea, even for such obvious matters as wharves and jetties. The present Bill will remedy the situation.
Australian experience in this regard was by no means unique. Thus, the United States Supreme Court in 1947, in the United States v. California (332 US 19, 38) enunciated its now historic decision that the State concerned was not the owner of the three-mile marginal belt along its coast and that the Federal Government, rather than the State, had paramount rights in and over that belt, an incident to which is full dominion over the resources of the soil under that water area, including oil. In the United States as in Australia the sheer practicalities of life have made it necessary to modify the practical effect of the constitutional ruling. In the United States this was done by the Submerged Lands Act 1953. For Australia, the present Bill will perform a similar role, as far as proprietary rights are concerned. I mention the United States parallel to show that the difficulties with which this Bill deals are real, and need to be dealt with. The solutions adopted, however, are distinctively the product of negotiations and discussions between all Australian governments. The results bear out our firm conviction that the key to successful government in our federal system lies in cooperation rather than confrontation.
The basic provision in the present Bill is clause 4(1), which vests in each State, upon the commencement of the operation of the Bill, the same right and title to the property in the seabed in the adjacent coastal waters of the State as would belong to the State if the seabed were beneath waters of the sea within the limits of the State. This vesting is, however, made subject to a number of important reservations and qualifications. Thus, clause 4 (2) (a) protects any subsisting right or title to property in the seabed, other than any right or title of the Commonwealth that exists by reason only of the general sovereignty asserted by the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1 973. That is to say, care has been taken to protect any particular valid titles that, for example, third parties may have acquired.
I also direct the attention of honourable members to the important reservations contained in clause 4 (2) (b). The vesting of title is subject to the right of the Commonwealth and authorities of the Commonwealth to use the seabed for certain national purposes. These are purposes in relation to communications, the safety of navigation, quarantine and defence. The reservations include the right to place and construct equipment and structures for these purposes, for example, submarine cables. I should add that the Commonwealth will continue to be able, by virtue of its subsisting sovereignty and its specific legislative powers, to acquire the seabed of the territorial sea for other national purposes as occasion requires, in much the same way as it can acquire property at present on dry land within the limits of a State.
Clause 4 (2) (c) contains another reservation, relating this time to the right of the Commonwealth to authorise the construction and use of pipelines for the transport across the seabed of petroleum recovered from the continental shelf. The right does not have to be exercised- in fact the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill to be introduced later today, will leave such pipelines under State administration, where they rest at present- but the right nevertheless has been preserved. The Prime Minister has already referred to the Commonwealth’s determination to carry out our responsibilities for the Great Barrier Reef. Sub-clauses (3) and (6) of clause 4 of the Bill ensure that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 will continue to apply to the whole of the reef region as defined.
Clause 5 deals with the application of the vesting provisions in relation to parts of the seabed actually occupied by, or by structures or other property of, the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth. The vesting date, if any, in those cases is to be fixed by the Minister, by notice in the Gazette. I should stress that there is no duty under the clause to transfer all- or indeed any- of such parts of the seabed to the adjacent State. It is envisaged, however, that where the Commonwealth finds that it no longer requires a particular part of the seabed previously occupied by it, it will be transferred to the adjacent State.
Under clause 6, the status of the territorial sea under international law, and the Commonwealth’s international responsibilities, for example for innocent passage through the territorial sea, are expressly preserved. The savings clause in clause 8 makes it clear that an extension of State limits is not involved. This protects the constitutional validity of the Bill. It also is provided that nothing in the Bill derogates from any rights or title of a State apart from the Bill.
I cannot conclude without expressing particular appreciation of the efforts of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It was entrusted by Premiers Conference with the challenging task of devising legislation to implement the historic off-shore constitutional settlement. The Standing Committee and its legal advisers have carried out that brief with great success, all the more gratifying in that it was accomplished in a spirit of frankness and goodwill. I should also express particular thanks to the Parliamentary Counsel concerned for drafting the historymaking legislation involved. I also thank officers of the Attorney-General’s Department who were involved. I personally am gratified to be able to note that I was involved in the early discussions in the Standing Committee, which have now truly led to measures that in every sense of the words are a great milestone in co-operative federalism. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
As its long title makes clear, the purpose of this Bill is to vest in the Northern Territory proprietary rights and title in respect of the seabed of the coastal waters adjacent to the Territory.
While the Bill is similar in effect to the Coastal Waters (State Title) Bill, there is one difference to which 1 should draw honourable member’s attention. ‘Prescribed substances’ within the meaning of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 are excluded from the vesting. These substances were excluded from the minerals transferred to the Northern Territory by the Northern Territory Self-Government Act 1978, and the present Bill has been drafted so as to be consistent with that exclusion. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill forms part of the package of Bills settling the off-shore constitutional issues and is purely consequential in nature. The Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973 asserted the sovereign rights on the part of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth, as against the States, over the continental shelf. The Act also asserted sovereignty on the part of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth over the territorial sea, and also over internal waters outside State limits as at 1901, including the seabed beneath the territorial sea and those waters. In effect, this means that Commonwealth sovereignty extends, generally speaking, right in to the low-water mark. The current package of Bills extends State and Northern Territory powers in the territorial sea and vests in them proprietary rights and title in respect of the seabed of the territorial sea.
However, there is a risk that a State law enacted consistently with these new powers might be rendered inoperative by reason of possible inconsistency with section 16 of the 1973 Act. This risk must be removed and the amendments in clause 3 of the Bill are designed to do that, and to place Northern Territory on the same footing as the States. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
The significance of this Bill in the package of offshore legislation has been clearly outlined in the second reading speech on the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
At this juncture it is appropriate to recall the history of the petroleum legislation which has governed the search for and the production of petroleum in Australia’s large off-shore areas since 1967. At that time there was considerable uncertainty regarding the respective rights and powers of the Commonwealth and the States with regard to the off-shore area. Consequently the Commonwealth and the States joined together at that time in a unique co-operative scheme to ensure the legal effectiveness of titles issued for exploration and production of petroleum over the off-shore areas. This was achieved by the introduction of the so-called mirror’ legislation which provided for the common mining code to be uniform throughout the off-shore areas. The administration of this legislation remained in the hands of the States subject to consultation with the Commonwealth in certain areas of Commonwealth constitutional responsibilities. This scheme was backed by a Commonwealth-State agreement covering the administrative arrangements to be applied.
At the time the legislation was introduced into this Parliament in 1967 there was considerable discussion of the constitutional concept underlying the arrangements and this led to the setting up of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, which concluded in its report that, notwithstanding the advantages which the legislation and its underlying concepts had produced, the national interest was not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth authority in the seabed of the territorial sea and the continental shelf. In addition the Committee expressed the opinion that the constitutional conception underlying the legislation was inconsistent with broad concepts of ministerial responsibility or accountability to the Parliament.
The passage of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973, and the subsequent resolution of the constitutional issue by the High Court case of 1975, upheld the Commonwealth’s sovereignty over the territorial sea and the continental shelf. The 1975 decision also made it clear that the reordering and readjustment of powers and responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States was required not only in relation to the Commonwealth’s responsibilities for off-shore petroleum in the continental shelf, but also with respect to the States’ historic connection with the territorial sea.
The Government is very conscious of its constitutional responsibilities to the Parliament and the people of Australia and clearly recognises this in respect of petroleum-, which is so important to the well-being of the nation. At the same time the Government has a firm policy of co-operative federalism and has no wish to use the High Court decision to create confrontation with the States in off-shore administration. With this in mind the Government sought agreement with the States as to how this readjustment might be accomplished in the most efficient and effective manner. At the Premiers Conference held in 1977, 1978 and 1979 agreement was reached on a wide range of issues including the amendments to the petroleum legislation.
The basic agreement on off-shore petroleum was reached at the Premiers Conference in October 1977 and June 1978 and included the following: all off-shore mining would be conducted in accordance with a common mining code or codes;
Commonwealth legislation would apply beyond the three-mile territorial sea and State legislation within the three-mile territorial sea; the present arrangements for the sharing of royalties for petroleum to be preserved; there would be joint authorities in respect of all mining operations beyond the three-mile territorial sea consisting of the relevant Commonwealth and State Ministers. The view of the Commonwealth Minister would prevail in the case of disagreement. the joint authorities would be responsible for: major matters relating to titles (granting or refusal, renewal, transfer, farm-ins et cetera), determining conditions of titles including work and expenditure, directions of a permanent or standing nature;
State Ministers would continue their active role. All contacts would continue to be through the State Ministers, and State departments would continue to handle day to day administration and supervision of operations.
These changes have been incorporated in the present Bill and in particular I refer to clause 9 of the Bill, where in the proposed new Part lA, the establishment, functions and procedures of the joint authorities are set out in detail. I should add that the Australian Minerals and Energy Council has played a vital part in bringing to fruition the decisions taken at the Premiers conferences. Talks at ministerial and adviser level have, in a spirit of co-operation, produced a statutory solution taking into account international, national and State interests.
Turning to the provisions of the Bill, the opportunity has been taken to set out the new form of joint authority administration and also to revise certain sections of the mining code which experience has shown can be either improved or clarified. Explanatory notes dealing with each clause of the Bill have been made available and consequently the following comments will be confined to the more important aspects. As I mentioned earlier the new provisions in relation to the joint authorities are in the proposed new Part lA and in the related lists of sections of the Act referred to in clause 59 and schedule 1 to the Bill. Schedule 1 lists those sections of the principal Act which require a decision by the joint authority. In schedule 5, clause 59 of the Bill, are listed those sections of the principal Ac. which the Commonwealth Minister, at his discretion, may refer to the joint authority for a decision. As I indicated earlier, these are the important decisions which have a significant bearing on the overall implementation of the legislation. The distinction has been made between the two groups of sections referred to above to promote more efficient administration.
The Premiers Conference in June 1979 also agreed that because of Western Australia’s remoteness and other special circumstances special arrangements with respect to decisions of the joint authority would be provided. These arrangements are referred to in clause 9 of the Bill and set out in clause 59, Schedule 4. It is made quite clear in the provisions of clause 9 that all communications with companies will continue to be through the State Minister.
With regard to the changes to the mining code the following will be of particular interest: Clause 14 clarifies the position regarding the commencement of the renewal of a permit and provides that the term shall commence on the day of the grant. A similar amendment is contained in clauses 21 and 26 in respect of production licences and pipeline licences. These amendments will overcome the ambiguity that exists in the present wording of the Act.
The current provision regarding the number of blocks that may be granted when a permit is renewed is not entirely clear and clause 15 introduces an amendment to clarify this matter. The section will now provide for an application for renewal to include half the number of blocks covered by a permit and in addition any blocks included in a location.
Clause 20 in conjunction with clause 8 clarifies the position in respect of a situation where a titleholder has two adjoining licences and wishes to drill a well from one licence area into the area of the other licence. The amendments ensure that a licensee may recover the petroleum in a licence area by means of a well from an adjoining licence held by him. Clause 36 inserts a new section 97a to ensure that title, conditions may contain a requirement that the titleholder take out adequate insurance to cover such eventualities as blowouts, pollution damage and clean up costs. Clause 40 deals with a situation where the rights of permitees may need to be suspended in the national interest. The new section 103A provides that where it is considered necessary in the national interest to halt operations in a permit area, the rights conferred by the permit may be suspended and the term of a permit may be extended by a period equivalent to the period of suspension. Provision for compensation in accordance with the constitutional responsibilities of the Commonwealth has also been included.
Moneys collected under this legislation must be paid to the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund. Clause 47 provides that all fees, et cetera, collected will be paid by the Commonwealth to the States. This will maintain the present arrangement which entitles the States to these moneys. Opportunity has been taken to bring up to date the level of fees and penalties under the Act. All fees have been increased by a factor of three to take into account the change in the value of money since 1967, and penalties have been appropriately revised.
Of particular importance are the transitional provisions in clause 62 of the Bill and Schedule 4 to the Bill. These provisions provide for the transitioning of existing permits which straddle the three mile line, the dividing line between State and Commonwealth administration under these new arrangements. I should add that complementary State and Northern Territory legislation will be required to regulate offshore petroleum inside the three mile territorial sea. It will be necessary for the Commonwealth and State Acts to be proclaimed simultaneously, to preserve the rights of titleholders whose titles extend into the territorial sea.
The opportunity is also to be taken to extend the area of application of the legislation to include the continental shelves of Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and Heard and McDonald Islands. This is to be done by a further amendment to be introduced during the passage of this legislation. The Norfolk Island authorities have been advised of this intention, and discussions will take place with them at the first opportunity regarding the application of the legislation to the Norfolk Island adjacent area and to work out a means by which the area might be administered on an acceptable basis for Norfolk Island.
The legislation will, I feel sure, prove to be another milestone in Commonwealth-State cooperation and will play an important role in the continuing search for much needed petroleum resources for the nation. The State and Northern Territory Ministers and officers will continue to have, an active role and their expertise and experience will still be used to good effect. At the same time proper account is taken of the Commonwealth’s constitutional responsibilities following the High Court decision. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on the motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence to correct the detail of an answer that I gave to a question asked in this House this morning.
– The Minister has the Chair’s indulgence.
– This morning, in answer to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), I noted that the first year of the operation of Medibank saw the utilisation rate for medical services increase by 38 per cent. I have subsequently checked that figure and established that on the information provided by my Department the actual rate of increase in 1975-76 was 28.5 per cent, which still stands in marked contrast to the decrease of approximately 5 per cent which was recorded in the first full financial year of Fraser Government administration.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
This and four other Bills to follow are subsidiary to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill and introduce amendments to the subsidiary Acts to bring them into line with amendments made to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967. The amendments to this Bill are also relevant to issues raised in recent years in the Auditor-General ‘s reports.
The major amendments in this Bill are contained in clauses 3 and 6. The amendment introduced by clause 3 provides that any royalty payments shall be received on behalf of the Commonwealth by the designated authority. This amendment is required to ensure that the constitutional position of the Commonwealth in respect of the collection of moneys under Commonwealth legislation is properly safeguarded. The amendment in clause 6 enables the joint authority to direct the designated authority regarding ascertainment of the wellhead, of the value of petroleum at the wellhead, and of the quantity of petroleum recovered. Since royalty will be imposed and collected under Commonwealth legislation it is clearly essential for the Commonwealth to have the final say in respect of the determination of the royalty collections. This provision will apply, retrospectively to royalty periods which commenced or terminated before enactment of this Act. It has been included because a satisfactory settlement to the long standing dispute in respect of Bass Strait royalties has not yet been resolved. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is subsidiary to the main Bill, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill, introduced earlier. The amendment contained in this Bill will ensure that all fees payable under the Act will be received on behalf of the Commonwealth by the designated authority. The amendment is required to ensure that the constitutional position of the Commonwealth in respect of collection of moneys under Commonwealth legislation is properly safeguarded.
The Bill also ensures that the Commonwealth, through the joint authority, is involved in the determination of the level of fees under the Act. The Bill increases the level of fees by a factor of three to compensate for the change in value of money since 1967. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is subsidiary to the main Bill, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill, introduced earlier. The amendment contained in the Bill will ensure that all fees payable under the Act will be received on behalf of the Commonwealth by the designated authority. The amendment is required to ensure that the constitutional position of the Commonwealth in respect of collection of moneys under Commonwealth legislation is properly safeguarded. The Bill increases the level of fees by a factor of three to compensate for the change in value of money since 1 967. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is subsidiary to the main Bill, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill, introduced earlier. The amendment contained in the Bill will ensure that all fees payable under the Act will be received on behalf of the Commonwealth by the designated authority. The amendment is required to ensure that the constitutional position of the Commonwealth in respect of collection of moneys under Commonwealth legislation is properly safeguarded. The Bill increases the level of fees by a factor of three to compensate for the change in value of money since 1 967. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
This Bill is subsidiary to the main Bill, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill, introduced earlier. The amendment contained in the Bill will ensure that all fees payable under the Act will be received on behalf of the Commonwealth by the designated authority. The amendment is required to ensure that the constitutional position of the Commonwealth in respect of collection of moneys under Commonwealth legislation is properly safeguarded. The Bill increases the level of fees by a factor of three to compensate for the change in value of money since 1 967. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill gives effect to the fisheries part of the off-shore constitutional settlement reached with the States at the last Premiers Conference. It constitutes the first major legislative review of Commonwealth fisheries arrangements vis-a-vis the States since 1955, when the Fisheries Act 1952 came into operation. That Act, of course, applies to fisheries outside the three-mile limit; State laws apply inside thai limit. The Bill creates a legal and administrative structure, the objective of which is to rationalise the roles of the Commonwealth and the States in managing Australia’s fisheries. The Bill will depend for its success heavily on close and co-operative relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. But given those, the Bill has the potential to eliminate many of the artificial lines on the sea that fishermen have been required to observe hitherto even though the fish do not. It offers also the prospect of liberating fishermen from the need to hold a multiplicity of licences in order to comply with Commonwealth and State fishing laws.
The Government regards as important the way in which the Bill enshrines the federal nature of fisheries jurisdiction and management in Australia. It provides mechanisms for the Commonwealth and a State or States to consult and agree on management of a particular fishery and then for one or the other to apply its laws to implement the agreed measures throughout the fishery, whether adjacent to one or several States, whether within or beyond the three-mile limit. I emphasise the words ‘consult and agree’ which form the basis of the actions contemplated not only by this Bill but also by the complementary Bills which all the States and the Northern Territory are to enact.
The provisions of the Bill have been the subject of long and detailed consideration by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and the Australian Fisheries Council. They have each met several times to review its progress and direct the next stages. So too have the Standing Committees of Solicitors-General and AttorneysGeneral. Of course, it has been on the agenda for the last three Premiers’ conferences. As a result, the Bill has already had long and careful scrutiny by all governments and I ask the House to note accordingly that the Bill is very much a national exercise and not merely a Commonwealth one.
All governments, whatever their political persuasions, have endorsed its contents. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in particular to note that.
In summary, the Bill provides for the establishment of four joint authorities each comprising the Minister administering the Fisheries Act 1952 and the fisheries Minister or Ministers in the State or States concerned. Additional joint authorities may be established by Commonwealth-State agreement. The Bill treats the Northern Territory as a State for these purposes. The cornerstone of the off-shore constitutional settlement, so far as fisheries are concerned, is the power for the Commonwealth and the States to enter into arrangements for either Commonwealth or State law to apply to management of specified fisheries. The Bill provides for the following possibilities.
Commonwealth or State law applying from the low water mark where only one State is involved;
It is envisaged that the latter case would be unusual- especially in the longer term. The Bill makes provision also for the principal Act to apply in any marine waters beyond three nautical miles thus, for example, enabling Australia to join in international management schemes. The Bill makes clear also that the States will continue to regulate recreational fishing by Australians beyond three nautical miles. Commonwealth law will regulate both commercial and noncommercial fishing by foreign boats in the Australian fishing zone beyond three nautical miles.
The procedures of joint authorities are specified in the Bill as are the functions of joint authorities, their powers with respect to regulating fishing, the fisheries licensing powers and procedures for making and terminating arrangements. A matter worthy of mention is the provision in the Bill which requires the Commonwealth Minister, before determining any matter on which there has not been agreement in the relevant joint authority, to submit it for consideration by the Australian Fisheries Council before he implements his final decision. The Minister, if he is satisfied with the extent of Australian control over the operations of a foreign boat temporarily imported into Australia, may declare that boat to be deemed Australian in specified circumstances in which case, if it is operating in a fishery covered by a Commonwealth-State arrangement, it may be brought within the control of a joint authority. I imagine in such circumstances that it would be almost automatic for the Minister so to decide.
In accordance with parliamentary practice, 1 have distributed an explanatory memorandum to assist honourable members’ understanding of the principles and details in the Bill. Shortly after enactment of the Bill, the Commonwealth expects to commence talks with the States, either within the framework of the joint authorities or directly, to agree on those fisheries to which changed jurisdictional and management arrangements will apply.
In this connection the Government is mindful of two things. First, its recently undertaken responsibilities for management of the 200-mile Australian fishing zone and the need to develop it in the overall interest of Australia and Australians. Secondly, the ambitions of the Australian fishing and allied industries eventually to utilise all the resources of the zone “without the assistance or intrusion of any foreign country’s fishermen. While the Bill is essentially designed to resolve jurisdictional conflict between the Commonwealth and the States, the Government believes it consolidates the basis for achieving both these objectives. In the first place it provides a basis for joint development and sound management policies to be administered by the most appropriate agency in relation to each fishery. This in turn, especially given industry input through the advisory mechanisms already developing and to be further developed, will facilitate implementing management regimes to achieve the second.
The Australian Fishing Industry Council has asked the Government to include in the Bill provision for representation of that Council on committees established to advise joint authorities. The Council also requests that the Bill make establishment of such committees a mandatory requirement. The States have agreed with proposed sub-section 12F (7) in the Bill which leaves it to each joint authority to decide, in the first place, whether it needs to establish advisory bodies and, in the second place, the membership of such bodies.
Whilst it would not be proper for industry representatives to be privy to detailed submissions and departmental advice tendered to members of joint authorities for their consideration, the Government recognises the vital need for the establishment of a proper industry consultative mechanism to operate under the joint authorities to ensure that the views of the fishing industry on management issues are fully ascertained. Joint authorities will need to consider this immediately they are established. Nevertheless, in view of the importance the Government places on the future relationship between joint authorities and industry, I propose to recommend that joint authorities establish advisory committees comprising not only senior officials of the Commonwealth and the State government or governments concerned but also appropriate representatives of industry. In most cases, I envisage the Australian Fishing Industry Council, and where appropriate, representatives of any other industry organisation with particular interest in the area of an authority’s responsibilities.
The provisions of the Bill giving effect to the new jurisdictional structure will come into operation on a date fixed by proclamation. This will be co-ordinated with commencement of the seven State Bills to be enacted for the same purpose. The remaining provisions of the Bill, dealing with administrative and legal matters for which there is an immediate requirement, will commence on royal assent. The Bill is significant to the Parliament and the nation at a time when Australia’s fishing industry is embarking on a period of expansion and growth following the establishment of the 200-mile zone. The Bill modernises a scheme of jurisdiction conceived for an age when our fisheries were much smaller and generally confined to inshore waters. It is designed to facilitate the management of that expansion. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is another of the very special package of Bills to which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred in his second reading speech on the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill 1980. The package of Bills will give effect to the offshore constitutional settlement reached by the Commonwealth and the States at the 1979 Premiers’ Conference. This Bill deals with the shipping and navigation issues involved, and I think it desirable that I begin by giving, very briefly, some historical background.
The division of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States in matters relating to the regulation and safety of shipping has been confused and uncertain since Federation. At Federation the Merchant Shipping Act 1 894 provided a common code throughout the British Empire but, under powers provided by that Act, each of the Australian colonies had enacted a local Act to deal with the colonial coastal trade and shipping within the jurisdication of the colony. The local legislation has continued ever since in the form of State Acts, which have been amended from time to time. In 1912, in exercise of its powers under the Constitution, the Commonwealth passed a navigation Act which, because of constitutional and administrative complexities,was not brought into force until 1921.
One of the problems created by the Act was that, under section 2, it was expressed to apply not only to ships engaged in interstate, overseas or territorial trade, but also to ships on the high seas or in waters used by ships engaged in interstate or overseas trade. This ‘common waters’ application, as it conveniently became known, has meant that a ship on an intrastate voyage could be required to comply with State law for parts of the voyage and with Commonwealth law for other parts, depending on the waters traversed. Another problem has been the uncertain application of the Commonwealth and State laws to new kinds of shipping not directly associated with the carriage of passengers or cargo from port to port. The off-shore industry is a prime example of this.
Over the years practical working arrangements evolved between the Commonwealth and State marine administrations, largely on the basis of the Commonwealth ‘s being responsible for interstate, overseas and territorial commercial shipping and the States for the remainder. This resulted in a divergence between the legislative requirements on the one hand and administrative arrangement on the other. The seas and submerged lands decision did not create any new problems in this area but it provided an opportunity to bring Commonwealth and State laws into line with administrative practices. Earlier attempts at this had failed for want of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. In addressing itself to these problems, the Government took the view that the Commonwealth should leave local matters to the States and should exercise its powers only where this is essential in the national interest. This was reflected both in the Premiers Conference discussions and in consultations between my predecessor and his State and Northern Territory counterparts in the Marine and Ports Council of Australia.
The adoption of this approach, which of course reflects the Government’s policy of cooperative federalism, has resulted in a comprehensive agreement between the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory which will bring legislative and administrative responsiblities into line. It will also enable the Northern Territory, which is to be treated in the same way as a State, to introduce its own State-type marine laws. This will ensure that the Government best equipped administratively to deal with particular aspects of shipping and navigation will have the legal powers required to carry out that particular function.
The broad terms of the agreement in respect of shipping and navigation, which deals primarily with the survey and issue of certificates to ships, the regulation of ships’ crews and the number and qualifications of those on board, are as follows:
The States and the Northern Territory will be responsible for trading ships except those proceeding on an interstate or an overseas voyage. For this purpose ‘trading ships’ are ships, other than those in the other categories to which I will refer, that carry goods and passengers on a commercial basis. This category also includes tugs, barges, dredges and other marine service vessels.
The Commonwealth will be responsible for trading ships on an interstate or overseas voyage.
The States and the Northern Territory will be responsible for all Australian commercial fishing vessels except those going on an overseas voyage. For this purpose a Queenslandbased fishing vessel which, incidental to its main operations, calls at Papua New Guinea would not be regarded as being on an overseas voyage. The safety standards of foreign fishing vessels in Australian waters except those operating locally on joint venture operations will be a Commonwealth responsibility.
The States and the Northern Territory will be responsible for all vessels whose operations are confined to rivers, lakes and other inland waterways. New South Wales will be responsible for all vessels operating in the River Murray upstream from the South Australian border.
The States and the Northern Territory will be responsible for pleasure craft including such craft when operated on a hire-and-drive basis.
The Commonwealth will be responsible for the navigation and marine aspects of off-shore industry mobile units- mainly drilling shipsbut the Navigation Act requirements will not apply to the extent that they are inconsistent with the Commonwealth or State Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Acts.
The Commonwealth will be responsible for off-shore industry vessels- mainly oil rig supply, seismic and hydrographic survey vessels- other than those whose operations are confined to the one State or the Northern Territory and its adjacent area of sea. As in the case of mobile units the Navigation Act requirements will not apply to the extent that they are inconsistent with the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Acts. The procedure for determining whether an off-shore industry vessel is confined to a State or the Northern Territory will depend on the owner making a declaration as to the intended operations of the vessel over a prescribed period. Unless a declaration is made and is accepted by the Minister for Transport following consultation with his State or Northern Territory counterpart, the vessel will be under State or Northern Territory law. The prescribed period is to be three years, to fit in with operational requirements of the industry.
The amendments necessary for the main purpose of the Bill, to which I have just referred, require repeal of the existing section 2 of the Navigation Act and the substitution of an entirely new section, which for ease of interpretation is, as far as possible, based on the concept of the particular voyage to be undertaken rather than the concept of a vessel being engaged in a trade.
The substitution of this new section 2 is in fact fundamental to virtually the whole of the Bill. The new section eliminates the ‘common waters’ basis of application, together with the terms Australian-trade ship’, ‘limited coast-trade ship’ and ‘river and bay ship’. As necessary, and in accordance with the agreement, various sections of the Act will expressly exclude the application of section 2, leaving specific parts of the Act, such as those relating to marine casualty inquiries, to apply broadly. The application of section 2 will also be excluded in respect of certain convention requirements until such time as the States legislate to give effect to that convention, when the exclusion will cease to operate. Also in accordance with the agreement, the Bill preserves the Commonwealth’s power to issue survey certificates on request of the shipowner to any shipeven one engaged solely on intrastate voyages at the time- to facilitate that ship subsequently making interstate or overseas voyages at short notice.
As the Navigation Act does not at present contain specific provisions in respect of the vessels and floatable structures used in the off-shore industry, the Bill makes appropriate provisions in respect of such craft which are consistent with the terms of the agreement. The Bill empowers the making of regulations for the control of off-shore industry vessels and of the navigation and marine aspects, but not the mining aspect, of offshore industry mobile units. A new Part VB, is inserted in the Act specifically to provide for this and in particular to allow for the adoption of any special provisions laid down by the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in respect of such craft.
Under the Navigation Act, seamen are normally employed under what are termed ‘articles of agreement’, which are signed by the ship’s master and the seaman. The special nature of offshore industry operations makes that system inappropriate in respect of service in off-shore industry vessels and mobile units, and the Bill therefore introduces, on an optional basis, a different procedure under which seamen engage on ‘contracts of sea service’. Contracts of sea service will provide for seamen to enter into a contract with the owner of a number of off-shore industry vessels or units to serve on one or more of the owner’s ships. When a seaman goes on leave or stands down he does not have to be discharged and re-engaged later. The merchant marine superintendent is advised, however, of the seamen actually serving on each vessel. The system has in fact been in operation in the offshore industry for a number of years and is working satisfactorily. Many consequential amendments of the Act are required as a result of the introduction of the provisions for contracts of sea service and in fact these account for almost half of the total number of clauses in the Bill. The explanatory notes on the clauses of the Bill, which are being circulated, will enable honourable members to establish which clauses are being introduced for this purpose.
Other provisions inserted by the Bill are to ensure that the Minister for Transport has power, in respect of ships imported into Australia either for trading purposes or engagement in the offshore industry- under Commonwealth controlthat remain registered overseas but engage Australian crews, to require them to be subject to the same survey, manning and other safety standards as ships registered in Australia and engaged in the same kind of operations. Without this, two different standards would apply in the Australian industry.
In respect of marine inquiries the agreement provides for the Commonwealth to have the power to conduct an inquiry in any case where a question arises as to the possible cancellation or suspension of a Commonwealth certificate of competency, exercisable in the case of a casualty to a ship under State or Northern Territory survey only if the State or the Northern Territory elects not to hold an inquiry. The Bill excludes the application of section 2 in respect of the provisions relating to marine inquiries and preliminary investigations to enable this aspect of the agreement to be implemented administratively. With regard to the wreck removal provisions of the Act, section 2 is similarly set aside as the agreement envisages that the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory will continue to have power to order removal of any wreck that obstructs shipping, regardless of the kind of shipwreck or its location. The States are however to have primary responsibility for wreck removal within ports. With the adjustment of the application provisions of the Act so that it will apply mainly to ships proceeding on interstate and overseas voyages, the distinction between ships and vessels is no longer necessary where the terms appear on their own in a general context; where ‘vessel’ so appears the Bill generally replaces it with the word ‘ship’. The Bill also adjusts the coasting trade provisions in respect of the Northern Territory to place the Territory on the same basis as a State in the control of its coasting trade.
Because of the total repeal of existing section 2, the status quo in respect of the application of the Act to Commonwealth ships is maintained by the insertion of a new section providing the Minister for Transport with appropriate exempting power. The Bill also amends the GovernorGeneral’s power under section 423 to suspend application of the Act, to fit in with the application provisions of new section 2, retaining the original concept of a power of exemption in respect of small ships not operating commercially. The opportunity is taken in the Bill to update various references in the Navigation Act to courts- with insertions being made to place Northern Territory courts on the same footing as State courts- to update a number of monetary figures that have remained unchanged for many years, and to add to the regulation-making powers in respect of orders.
This Bill is a very important component of the historic package of Bills now being put forward. Even by itself, this Bill represents a most significant milestone in the successful application of the Government’s policy of co-operative federalism, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, as presently drafted, does not apply in relation to waters adjacent to the coast of any State until a proclamation has been made declaring that the Act so applies. In practice, proclamations have only been made where the adjacent State requests it. The result to date is that the Act applies to the waters adjacent to Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, as well as to waters adjacent to the Northern Territory. Under the off-shore settlement agreed to at the Premiers Conference on 29 June 1979, the Act is to be amended so that it will expressly provide that it will be applicable, or continue to be applicable to waters adjacent to a State or the Northern Territory only with the consent of that State or Territory. The Bill, therefore, contains provisions whereby no further proclamations will be made in respect of the waters adjacent to a State except at the request or with consent of the Government of the State. Likewise, the Bill provides for a State to request the withdrawal of the principal Act from the waters adjacent to that State or from such part of those waters as are withintheterritorialseaadjacenttothatState.
The Act as it is presently drafted affords Australia-wide protection of relics which have been removed from historic shipwrecks. In those cases where a State requests the withdrawal of applicability of the principal Act to the waters adjacent to that State, the Bill provides that the proclamation withdrawing the Act can contain a provision declaring that the Act will continue to apply to specified relics or articles of a specified class that have been removed from the waters adjacent to a State. Such a provision continues Australia-wide protection of relics which have been removed from the waters adjacent to a State.
I turn now to the particular matter of old Dutch shipwrecks lying off the coast of Western Australia. These shipwrecks are the subject of a 1972 agreement between the Commonwealth and the Netherlands. They are protected at present by the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1 976 and, as the Act is presently drafted, continue to remain under the Commonwealth Act until satisfactory alternative arrangements are made with Western Australia. Western Australia has already proposed discussions for such arrangements.
The Bill provides, as with relics from shipwrecks which have been removed from the waters adjacent to a State, that the Act will continue to apply, at the request of Western Australia, in relation to specified Dutch relics of a specified class which have been removed from the waters adjacent to that State. I might add that this provision has been included at the request of the Western Australian Government.
The present Act provides for the GovernorGeneral to make arrangements with the Governor of a State for the performance of functions by a competent authority of the State in relation to the protection, recovery, preservation and exhibition of historic shipwrecks and historic relics. The Bill provides that such arrangements can be made with the Administrator of the Northern Territory. This provision has been incorporated at the request of the Northern Territory Government.
The opportunity has also been taken to amend section 16 of the Historic Shipwrecks Act to provide the defence of reasonable excuse to a prosecution for an offence against section 13 and subsection 15(5) of the Act, and for an offence against regulations made for the purposes of section 14 of the Act.
The Bill has been prepared in consultation withthe States andt he Northern Territory and it incorporates changes that have been recommended by them. There is, however, one particular aspect that affects the States to which I should expressly refer. The proposed amendments have made it necessary to do something that was not done in the original 1976 Act and that is to provide a clear dividing line between the waters that are to be regarded as adjacent to a State and the waters that are to be regarded as adjacent to neighbouring States.
For this purpose the convenient course has been followed of adopting the dividing lines between the adjacent areas of the several States to be found in Schedule 2 to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967. Those dividing lines have been used, by agreement of all of the States, for the purposes of the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill and the Coastal Waters (State Title) Bill. In those circumstances it would indeed be very difficult to adopt any other dividing line for purposes of the Historic Shipwrecks Act. I want to make it clear, however, that the adoption of these dividing lines for these particular purposes does not pre-empt any future question that may arise of dividing lines to be adopted as between States for other unrelated purposes. South Australia, especially, has asked that this particular point be made clear.
Flexibility is the keynote of the proposed amendments. It will be a matter for the States themselves, and the Northern Territory to decide if the principal Act is to continue to be applied, or to be applied, to the waters adjacent to the States and to decide, where a proclamation is made, if the Act is to continue to be applied, to relics which have been removed from the waters adjacent to the State. The same principle will apply to relics from the old Dutch shipwrecks. Such provisions will provide for the continuance of the existing high level of co-operation between Commonwealth agencies and such State institutions as the Western Australian Museum. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 and related Acts. It implements major policy decisions relating to multicultural broadcasting, public broadcasting, the extension of national broadcasting and television services and test transmissions by potential broadcasters. At the same time, opportunity has been taken to introduce a number of other amendments to the principal Act. These relate to changes to licence technical specifications, inquiries directed by the Minister, the Broadcasting Council, concert activities by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and associate members of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
Before I proceed to outline the contents and implications of the Bill in greater detail, I point out that this particular amending legislation does not contain those provisions effecting government decisions relating to the regulation of the broadcasting industry and general inquiries, as announced by me on 1 5 February 1980.
At that time I indicated that the Government was proceeding to develop amendments to the legislation and aiming at their being introduced during this session. That is still the Government ‘s intention. It has become clear, however, that although these matters have been the subject of a great deal of debate and comment by the public and within the industry, it is an area of government policy which requires the. widest possible public consultation.
Therefore, the Government has decided that it will continue with the development of legislation in these areas but will not press for its passage in the current sittings. I hope in the near future to introduce a second amending Bill, which will be allowed to lay on the table during the recess. This will make it readily available to all interested bodies and individuals, who will thus have an opportunity to study the precise form of the legislation and make their views known to the Government. In these areas, which are clearly of great and proper concern to the Australian community, the Government does not wish to rush through legislation without proper consultation. I believe that this is the most responsible course.
Turning now to the Bill, honourable members will recall the establishment by the Government of the Ethnic Television Review Panel, chaired by Mr Frank Galbally. That panel was asked to undertake a series of detailed consultations with interested groups and individuals about the form of a permanent ethnic television service. In a series of recommendations, the panel designed a new approach to multicultural broadcasting with a major recommendation that the Special Broadcasting Service and its advisory bodies, the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council and the two State Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Committees, should be replaced by a new body to be called the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation. It also recommended that the Corporation be independent of government and be placed on a similar footing to the ABC.
Honourable members will recall that some months ago I announced that the Government had accepted the bulk of the panel’s recommendations. These matters have been incorporated in this Bill. The Government has committed itself to establishing a full scale multicultural television service by October of this year. The new service will be of appeal to the whole community and will reflect the diversity of cultural traditions and backgrounds of present day Australians. Initially, the service is to be established in Sydney and Melbourne as a fifth television channel in those cities and to broadcast for a limited number of hours. For an interim period, the service will be simulcast on the VHF and UHF bands.
The Bill provides that the functions of the IMBC are to provide multicultural and multilingual broadcasting and television services that:
In addition the Government has decided that the Corporation should assume the function of supporting and encouraging the public broadcasting sector which has to this time been carried out by both the Special Broadcasting Service and the Australian Film Commission. The Government believes in the public broadcasting sector as a vital part of broadcasting in this country. It is essential to the policy of increasing the diversity of services available. This rationalisation of support for the public broadcasting movement should contribute to its future strength and performance.
The Government has also accepted the recommendation of the Ethnic Television Review Panel that the Corporation be empowered to derive revenue from advertising. To guard against any problems which could arise from this, the Bill provides that the Corporation seek to cover its costs from advertising, subject to the proper performance of its functions. It also provides that the Corporation should comply with advertising standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal as they are applicable to advertising by the Corporation.
Honourable members may be interested in some aspects of the administration of the IMBC. It is to consist of seven to 11 members with a Chairman and Vice-Chairman. The Bill allows for the Chairman to be full time or part time, with all other members being part time. Before the membership of the Corporation is appointed I intend to hold the fullest consultation with representatives of the ethnic communities and my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee). The Bill also has a consultative process built into the operation of the IMBC. It provides for State or Territory consultative committees to advise the Corporation. The committees will be comprised of up to 18 members appointed by the Corporation for up to two years. As well as this, there will be a National Consultative Committee consisting of the chairmen of the State and Territory consultative committees and up to six other members appointed by the Corporation. The IMBC will have a good deal of flexibility on staffing and financial matters, and will be empowered to appoint its own staff. However, in line with the Government’s policy on the co-ordination of Commonwealth employment matters, terms and conditions of staff will be as determined by the Corporation with the approval of the Public Service Board.
I would like to make clear the Government’s commitment to an IMBC which fulfils a worthwhile role in Australian society; an IMBC which reflects the aspirations and desires of not only those Australians who are not Englishspeaking, but also the whole Australian community; an IMBC which encourages the development of a co-operative spirit between all Australians no matter what their cultural background. For this reason the Government is committed to ensuring that the functions and activities of the IMBC are subject to regular re-assessment. It has agreed that it would be appropriate for the legislation which establishes the Corporation to include what is described as a sunset clause. This in practice means that the basic operation of the IMBC must be a matter for full re-appraisal by the Parliament at regular intervals. In addition the legislation also requires that the general performance of the IMBC be reviewed periodically by a committee specifically appointed for this task. The first such general review will be conducted after two years and then at least every five years thereafter. These review provisions are seen by the Government as a safeguard which will ensure that the Corporation will continue to pursue objectives consistent with what the community wishes in this most important area.
I have mentioned that support for public broadcasting will now rest with the IMBC. The Bill also covers another aspect of public broadcasting which I announced in a ministerial statement m April 1978; that is, that while spot announcement type advertising is not permissible in public broadcasting, program sponsorship announcements of an approved type will be allowed. The Bill will also enable licencees to apply for translator services to extend the coverage of their public broadcasting stations if they wish.
The extension of broadcasting and television in country areas has always been a matter of particular concern to the Government. A number of measures have been taken in the past to bring to non-metropolitan areas at least a basic national broadcasting and television service. These will continue but will be complemented by an arrangement which will allow local communities to fund a translator service and be reimbursed when the service was due to be built in the national program. Other communities presently utilising television repeater stations may want to take ABC programs live off the interim Intelsat IV satellite. The Bill presently before the House provides for the introduction of national broadcasting and television translator station licences to accommodate both sets of circumstances. These licences will be subject to the same licensing and regulatory provisions as apply to other translator services. There has been considerable demand by potential broadcasters, particularly potential public broadcasters, for permission to conduct test transmissions. At present there are no provisions in the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 authorising such tests. The Bill introduces relatively simple procedures for authorising such transmissions by empowering the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to grant permits for up to seven days on such conditions as it thinks appropriate.
One aspect of the Bill on which I have recently made a statement is the amendment to provisions of the Act relating to changes to technical specifications of licences for radio and television broadcasting stations. This change is necessary because, while an outline of the technical specifications is published when applications are called for, final technical specifications required to enable the successful applicant to provide the intended service often reflect the need for detailed re-examination of the original technical parameters. The technical specifications must be able to be varied without legal doubt being thrown on the validity of the licence. In a nutshell, technical considerations must be the servants of the basic designated service area and not the other way around.
I am delighted to be able to introduce this provision. For this reason the amendment will be expressed to take effect as from 1 January 1978 to remove any possibility of doubt in regard to licences issued in the intervening period. This will have great implications throughout the country ultimately, I believe, particularly in places such as the western suburbs of Sydney where people presently have quite poor reception of the public stations and would have had equally poor reception of the commercial FM stations when they went to air were it not for this change.
The Bill also amends the Broadcasting and Television Act to provide that associate members of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal have the same voting rights and the same powers as full tribunal members in relation to the inquiries for which they are appointed. This will remove an existing anomaly whereby associate members are appointed to assist in relation to particular inquiries but have no part in the decisions, recommendations and reports arising from those inquiries. Also, by amendments contained in the Bill, restrictions on the ABC’s power to hold, organise or subsidise public concerts and entertainments will be lifted. In current legislation this power is limited to those concerts and entertainments which are in whole or in part broadcast or televised, with some exceptions relating to educational, religious or non-commercial events for which no charge is made by the ABC. This obligation to broadcast or televise all concerts and entertainments is in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s view in many cases a waste of valuable transmission time and the Government has accepted the Commission’s proposition that these restrictions be repealed.
The Broadcasting Council is another matter dealt with in the Bill. Because of government decisions on the regulation of the Broadcasting Industry and the imminent establishment of a Broadcasting Information Office, the Council will no longer have any role in program regulation. It will simply be an industry consultative body on planning issues affecting the whole industry. The Bill includes amendments reflecting this change of role. Finally, there are other minor provisions which relate to the power of the Minister to direct the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to hold inquiries and the updating and standardisation of financial provisions for the Tribunal and the ABC. There are also a number of consequential amendments to other Acts.
Honourable members will understand from this brief outline that this Bill incorporates changes in many facets of broadcasting. I have foreshadowed that I will also be introducing in the Parliament a further Bill specifically related to government decisions of industry regulation and general inquiries by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. These changes are necessary and it is essential that we move quickly. There is no more dynamic force in modern society than broadcasting and communications. Those who work in this sector must be able to cope with change. They must be able to adapt quickly to changing conditions; to new techniques and technologies; to the challenge of an area of human endeavour which never stands still.
Some will, of course, express reservations and argue that these matters are being swept along too quickly. But it is incumbent upon government also to accept change; to be prepared to administer a system which is not bound by preconceived values; to assist the industry but at the same time to bear in mind the public responsibility in an effort to achieve the best for all. For it is because of a willingness on the part of government to encourage change that society will be able to enjoy the diversity of choice which it clearly demands. We must accept the dynamism, the flexibility, the development while adhering to the basic objective of providing a co-ordinated and effective broadcasting system. While this continues to be our aim, the Australian community, and indeed democracy in this country, will be well served. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Thomson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the protection of Antarctic wildlife and for the preservation of areas of outstanding ecological and scientific importance in the Antarctic. The conservation measures contained in the Bill arise from a long standing international agreement first recommended at the Third Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting in 1964. The Antarctic Treaty is a cornerstone of international and Australian policies for Antarctica. Maintenance of Australia ‘s sovereignty over the Austraiian Antarctic Territory is, of course, the other major consideration in our policy. I should like to take this opportunity to inform honourable members of the ways in which these national and international obligations come together in the Government ‘s Antarctic policy.
Australia was an original signatory to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and continues to play an active and positive role in the support and development of the Treaty organisation. The Antarctic Treaty has ensured that .Antarctica remains a zone of peace and international co-operation. This is a remarkable and valuable achievement. The Treaty nations have established an excellent tradition of co-operation and open scientific investigation. The knowledge gained in the various national research programs is available for the development of management plans and guidelines for future development. I am pleased to say that Australia is at the forefront of this cooperation and that it is this Government’s policy to maintain and strengthen that position through increased scientific research.
I am especially encouraged by the progress made towards a convention for the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. These negotiations are likely to be finalised at a meeting in Canberra in May this year. The proposed convention will ensure that any exploitation of the living resources of the Southern Ocean is conducted according to sound ecological and environmental principles. There is widespread speculation that Antarctica may be the site of an unprecedented minerals boom in the 1980s and beyond. Investigations of the continent’s resource potential are in a very early stage and the environmental and legal problems have yet to be fully assessed. It is the Government’s policy that active programs or research will be directed to the possible environmental effects of exploration and exploitation so that future developments can be based on sound principles. Over the next few years, development of international guidelines for exploration and mineral development will have high priority at treaty party consultative meetings. In the meantime all nations have agreed to refrain from commercial exploration and exploitation. Australia will be active in ensuring that any agreement made on this matter takes into account the special environmental problems of the Antarctic and includes rigorous controls to limit environmental impact.
Antarctic nature conservation and environment protection rank high in priority in both the Antarctic Treaty and Australian Government policy. The Bill presently before the House gives effect to one of the major conservation agreements negotiated under the Antarctic Treaty. Known as the ‘Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora’ this agreement establishes a system of wildlife protection which is one of the most stringent, internationally agreed conservation measures anywhere in the world. The Agreed Measures have, until now, been implemented by means of administrative action by my Department. The Bill now before the House will give the Agreed Measures force of law. Under the Agreed Measures all wildlife in Antarctica is protected. Indigenous animals and plants may only be collected when specific permits are given. The agreement ratified by this Bill makes provision for three categories of special protection:
Specially protected species may be declared where there is evidence that the survival of the species is under threat. Collection of these species can only be undertaken for compelling scientific reasons.
Specially protected areas may be declared to protect delicate habitats or the breeding grounds of birds or seals.
Sites of special scientific interest are reserves declared for their outstanding value as natural laboratories for scientific inquiry. Such areas are declared on the advice of the international scientific community.
Honourable members will be aware of the damage caused in this country by feral animals such as rabbits and goats and of the way in which plants such as lantana and cacti have changed the Australian environment. The Antarctic Treaty nations are anxious to avoid such problems in Antarctica. Accordingly, the Bill establishes controls over the importation of animals and plants. This measure is also intended to avoid the introduction of diseases in the breeding colonies of native birds.
The Bill covers both the activities of Australians anywhere on the Antarctic continent and the activities of any national in the Australian Antarctic Territory. The permit system to be established under this Bill gives the Minister power to regulate organisations and individuals in respect of activities involving wildlife and their habitat. The Bill also provides for the making of regulations to cover the control of pollution, the use of motor vehicles and other issues relating to environmental protection. As a consequence of
Australian sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory, we have a special responsibility to ensure that the Antarctic environment remains protected from any adverse effects of human occupation. Increased activity on the continent, whether stemming from tourism or resource exploration, must occur only within rational guidelines for environmental protection. This Bill provides these guidelines in the Australian Antarctic Territory and supports measures elsewhere in Antarctica. The provisions embodied in the Bill represent the culmination of long and carefully considered efforts by many nations, including Australia, and constitute an important step forward in the protection of the Antarctic environment. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Thomson and read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable members will recall that, in March 1978, the Government commissioned an independent inquiry into whales and whaling headed by Sir Sydney Frost. The report of the inquiry was tabled in Parliament on 20 February 1979. On 4 April 1979, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced that the Government had accepted all recommendations made in that report. The central conclusion accepted by the Government was that the Whaling Act 1960 be repealed and that we pursue a vigorous and active policy for the protection of whales. This Bill introduces such a policy for all cetaceans, that is, whales, porpoises and dolphins.
The Bill prohibits the killing, capturing, injuring or interference with cetaceans in the 200-mile Australian fishing zone and by Australians domiciled in Australia and Australian vessels and aircraft and their crews beyond the 200-mile Australian fishing zone, with penalties up to $100,000. Support for a total worldwide ban on whaling will be sought through international forums, such as the International Whaling Commission. Honourable members will be aware that Australia is an active member of that Commission. Consistent with the off-shore constitutional settlement the prohibition will not apply in the three-mile territorial sea adjacent to each State and the Northern Territory, except at the request of the State or Territory government concerned. Within this jurisdictional framework, the Government will seek to encourage the development of effective and consistent whale protection measures in all Australian waters, including those of the territorial sea, in accordance with the federalism policy.
The Prime Minister has already written to State Premiers and to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, in the course of consulting them on this legislation, stating that the Government sees merit in the development of a complementary legislative regime in the States and the Northern Territory for the protection of cetaceans. All States have indicated their willingness to discuss this matter and it is planned to meet with them as soon as possible. A complementary regime could be achieved by existing State legislation, perhaps with amendment, by new State legislation or by adoption of the Commonwealth’s legislation. I will also be discussing with the States suitable arrangements to administer and enforce the proposed legislation. The Government has in mind administrative arrangements similar to those established under the Commonwealth Fisheries Act.
At the Commonwealth level, I propose to delegate day to day administration of the Act to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife who is now, also, the Australian Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission. The Bill prohibits the possession or processing of a whale, or part thereof, where the whale has been killed or taken in contravention of the Act or has been unlawfully imported. Experience in other countries has shown that certain kinds of commercial fishing can affect whale populations. This has not shown itself to be a serious threat to whales, dolphins or porpoises in Australia to date. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) will shortly introduce legislation to establish machinery to control the taking of cetaceans incidental to commercial fishing should this prove necessary.
The Whale Protection Bill provides for a report to a scientific body, authorised under the legislation, of any incident where a cetacean is unavoidably killed, captured or injured. Any cetacean taken under these circumstances will be made available for scientific study by the scientific body, if required, on the basis of an agreement between the body and the person taking the cetacean. Permits may be issued under the legislation to allow for the taking of cetaceans for live display, for scientific or educational purposes, for the taking of cetaceans incidental to specified licensed fishing activities and for other specified purposes relevant to the cetacean protection policy. The permit will specify the class and number of cetaceans which may be taken for purposes permitted under the Bill. Permits will be subject to conditions, contravention of which will be a punishable offence.
Provision is made for public comment in relation to the issuing, variation and revoking of permits. The applicant, or permit holder, will receive copies of comments and will have an opportunity to respond. All of this information will be considered before a decision is made. Applications may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to allow decisions relating to permits to be reviewed. Inspectors will be appointed to enforce the provisions of the legislation and will have powers of arrest, search and seizure, appropriate to the difficult and isolated circumstances in which the Bill is likely to be enforced. Foreign whaling vessels will not be permitted entry to Australian ports without the written permission of the Minister, except in specified circumstances. The basic prohibitions of the Bill will not apply if a permit has been given, if a cetacean is unavoidably affected during licensed commercial fishing operations, where suffering by a cetacean is to be prevented, where risk to human life or health is involved, or where damage to any vessel, aircraft or structure fixed to the seabed is to be avoided.
Additional protection for cetaceans may be needed in future for breeding or feeding areas or migratory pathways. Information on this matter at present is scarce and research is being undertaken. If additional protection is found to be necessary, provisions are available under existing legislation such as the Fisheries Act 1 952 or the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. Any proposals for protection would be developed in consultation with the Commonwealth and State instrumentalities responsible for such matters as shipping, defence, seabed mineral exploration and exploitation and fisheries operations, as appropriate. The legislation considerably extends matters relating to the protection of cetaceans covered at present by the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The recent moves to extend the convention to small cetaceans- that is, porpoises and dolphins- are strongly supported by Australia.
This Bill provides legislative backing for Australia’s policy on whale protection and it is further evidence of the Government’s responsible attitude to conservation issues. Our attitude has been vigorously argued by the Australian commissioner in the International Whaling
Commission where we have taken a leading conservation role. It represents an important step towards our goal of an eventual world-wide ban on whaling. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Thomson, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill supports the Whale Protection Bill now before the House. When the Government approved the principles to be embodied in the Whale Protection Bill in order to give effect to the recommendations of the inquiry into whales and whaling conducted by Sir Sidney Frost, it decided that ancillary matters necessary for the protection of whales should be given effect under the appropriate functional legislation.
Fishermen are major users of the sea, and their activities in the course of earning their livings have the potential to interact with the wellbeing of whales. Because the Fisheries Act 1952 specifically excludes whales from the definition offish’, measures adopted under that Act cannot directly regulate the taking of whales. The Bill therefore makes it clear that the Minister may adopt measures relative to the taking of fish that have for their objective the protection of whales. These measures will fall into two categories which are not dealt with by the Whale Protection Bill. The Fisheries Act already provides a power for the Minister to prohibit the taking of fish by specified methods or equipment. One of the effects of clause 3 will be to authorise the exercise of that power where to do so will assist in protecting whales. The second category of measures is contained in clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill. Clause 4 (A) proposes to empower the Minister to establish areas as whale sanctuaries in which it will be an offence to navigate a licensed boat at all or specified times. These areas will be agreed in consultation with the Minister for Science and the Environment to protect whales in areas in which they are likely to be vulnerable, for example, migratory pathways or breeding grounds.
Clause 4 (B) is a machinery amendment to facilitate the administration of section 8 of the principal Act by making it clear that any two or more of the kinds of prohibition already provided in that section or to be inserted there by this Bill may validly be combined in a single notice. This provision will be applicable both to whale protection measures and to general fisheries management measures. Clause 5 is related to clause 4 (A) and acknowledges the need to facilitate the safe navigation of licensed boats. It will not be an offence to navigate such a boat into a sanctuary area for safety reasons due to the press of weather or sea conditions.
The Government believes that this Bill will serve as a useful support to the Whale Protection Bill. The Government intends that there should be full consultation between whale protection and fisheries officials before adopting measures such as the present Bill proposes to authorise. Where necessary, State fisheries authorities would also be involved in the consultations. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bill is short and simple and I have outlined its provisions in some detail. For these reasons, I do not propose to circulate an explanatory memorandum. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Thomson, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is associated with the Fisheries Amendment Bill in support of the Whale Protection Bill. Like the Fisheries Amendment Bill, it makes clear that the Minister may adopt measures relative to the taking of sedentary organisms, that have for their objective the protection of whales. It also makes similar provision for establishment of areas as whale sanctuaries in which it will be an offence to navigate a licensed boat at all or specified times and for facilitating administration by combination of prohibitions. Finally, it will not be an offence to navigate licensed ships in sanctuary areas when necessary due to press of weather or sea conditions for safety reasons. All the other remarks made in my speech on the second reading of the Fisheries Amendment Bill apply equally to this Bill. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I remind the House that it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this Bill and the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills 1980.
-I oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) and support the Bill in an unchanged form. This Bill and the cognate Bills are rather significant. They make certain changes to the Wool Industry Act and the Wool Tax Acts (Nos 1 to 5) to allow certain things to happen. Firstly the legislation continues on a permanent basis the 5 per cent levy on the sale value of shorn wool for the Wool Market Support Fund. This Fund, of course, covers the reserve price functions of the Australian Wool Corporation. The 5 per cent levy was first introduced in the 1974-75 season and since then it has been extended on an annual basis. I am pleased that this legislation now provides that the Fund shall continue as a permanent arrangement. It will no longer be necessary to implement annual legislation to extend this arrangement. The wool industry is very happy with this arrangement. The 5 per cent levy will now extend well beyond the 1979-80 wool selling season. This legislation secures the operations of the Wool Market Support Fund and puts them on a completely permanent basis.
These Bills involve the setting up of a revolving fund into which the 5 per cent levy will be paid. This has been requested by the Australian wool industry for many years- since the initial introduction of the 5 per cent levy. I think it is a very just and proper arrangement. I am glad to note that the reserves in the fund at the moment total some $300m. It is estimated that an upper limit of some $350m is required to cover any contingencies that may arise in the operation of the wool reserve free scheme. The surplus will be paid to the people who paid the first levies.
Levy payments will be arranged between the Minister for Primary Industry and the Wool Council of Australia, which replaced the Australian Wool Industry Conference. When the Australian Wool Industry Conference first looked at these levy arrangements it maintained that, if possible, a revolving fund should be introduced. I am glad that the Government has put that provision into formal legislation. Certain restrictions on the repayments, agreements and safeguards in relation to the revolving fund are good. There is no authorisation for any immediate payout from the fund. It is expected that, to be on the safe side, the fund will be allowed to reach a balance, as I said, of some $350m. Arrangements for the payouts will be made between the Wool Council of Australia and the Minister for Primary Industry. So far as I can discern, the Wool Council of Australia has made this suggestion and the Government has responded to it.
The third change is to the administration of the 3 per cent levy contributed by wool growers to meet the research, promotional and administrative or pre-marketing costs of the Australian Wool Corporation. It is now proposed that the 3 per cent levy will no longer be directed to the pre-marketing charges and that these charges will be met from the Wool Market Support Fund. Unfortunately, from discussions I have had with farmer leaders and others I am not convinced that the industry is as happy as it should be with this arrangement. I have been in touch with the Farmers Union of Western Australia today. Apparently it still opposes this move or still has some reservations about it. I know that discussions on this matter have been held between the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) and representatives from different sections of the wool industry. It disturbs me that there still seems to be some disquiet within the industry in relation to this problem. I also understand that in the pre-Budget discussions with the Federal Cabinet last week the farmer organisations raised this question again.
For this reason I have some reservations about these Bills. I seek an assurance from the Minister that he is satisfied that adequate consultations have been held with the wool growing organisations. I am worried that there may not have been adequate consultation, and I am worried because wool growing organisations are unhappy with some aspects of the Bills. Unfortunately, I am hampered because I have not been able to get the exact wording of the industry agreement and I will be happy to receive any assurances or any details that the Minister may be able to give the House at a later date. Late last year the Wool Council of Australia seemed to have a very firm policy in relation to this matter. It passed a motion which was worded along the lines that the Wool Council of Australia strongly opposed any amendment to the Wool Industry Act in respect of pre-marketing administrative costs being met from the 5 per cent levy. As I said, there is some doubt about this. I await the Minister’s advice.
Clauses 11 and 12 of the Wool Industry Amendment Bill deal with research funding provisions. It seems that doubt exists within the industry- I am in some doubt too- as to the exact way in which research will be funded in the future. I know that from a certain date the Federal Government will contribute on a dollar for dollar basis. But at the moment there is a total surplus of $7m which includes $4m from the previous year and $3m for this year. Apparently it is not clear to certain members of the wool industry, particularly to the Farmers Union of Western Australia, where that $7m will go. They also have the impression that the Wool Research Trust Fund at the moment has a balance of about $ 14.5m and that it is proposed that $5m of that amount be transferred, leaving a residue of some $9.5m. Generally they feel that that surplus of $7m and the surplus of $5m from the Wool Research Trust Fund will go into reserves to be used for promotional purposes. Will the Minister clarify where this money is going and how the wool growers’ contributions will be used? Is the Government in effect jockeying around the figures in such a way that the Government’s contribution is reduced perhaps this year or next year?
Unfortunately time has been against me and I have received the complaints from the Farmers Union of Western Australia only by telephone; but I raise these matters because they are of great concern to the Farmers Union. I seek the Minister’s comments on them. The members of the Farmers Union also feel that because the premarketing charges are being excluded from the 3 per cent levy and because there has been a surplus from that 3 per cent levy- as I said, in the previous two years the surplus was $3m and $4m- there may well be an argument for a reduction of the levy to, say, 2.6 per cent. I sincerely hope that the Government and the Minister will give consideration to that suggestion.
Generally, I welcome the legislation. I am sure that it meets with the approval of the industry. It is vitally important that this industry be given stability. The honourable member for Werriwa mentioned the fact that the reserve price scheme was introduced by the Labor Government. I admit that that is the case. I point out very clearly also that under the Labor Government there certainly was not the stability within the wool industry or in the reserve price that has been experienced under this Government. This Government not only has rectified many of the faults with and impositions on the wool industry but also has taken substantial initiatives in relation to it. This legislation represents only one further substantial initiative which will be of infinite benefit in stabilising this very important industry.
Let us look to some of the other things that this Government has done to help the wool industry during its term of office. If I refer to some of those things honourable members will see, in contrast to the attitude of the Labor Government of some years ago, the keen interest taken by this Government in the wool industry. The tax averaging provisions have been modified and made more beneficial. The Government has established the Primary Industry Bank of Australia and already over $200m has been loaned to farmers from that bank.
The second phase of the fuel price equalisation scheme has been introduced. That scheme benefits country areas and, in particular, farmers. This Government made changes also to the income equalisation deposits scheme which is of great benefit. There have been abolition of death duties, rural adjustment scheme initiatives, the introduction of depreciation allowances on buildings, on storage facilities and, latterly, in relation to water conservation. All of these things have helped the wool industry to a large degree. Since this Government came to office- here I refer to the wool industry alone- the floor price has been raised from 250c a kilo clean in 1975-76 to 318c a kilo. This is a significant increase in the floor price. I hope that the Minister and the Government will give careful consideration to a further lift in the floor price this year.
I find no reason to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Werriwa on behalf of the Labor Party. I understand that the amending legislation was discussed by the wool industry and was advanced by the wool brokers in discussions on this Bill. I believe the wool industry is happy with the final draft of the Bill. The aspect concerning the administration of the refunds is not causing concern. It is my understanding that the wool industry accepts very generally the framework for refunding put forward in the Bill. Therefore, I oppose this amendment. It is not supported by the wool industry and there are no benefits to be derived from it. I will wait with interest to see the justification advanced for it. It has been fully discussed with the wool industry. The wool industry is in agreement with the arrangements that have been made.
It is pleasing to note also that the figure of 25 per cent in relation to the transactions for refunds has been changed. It has been defined clearly to ensure that it is not a 25 per cent charge for each lot but a 25 per cent charge for each transaction or account sales. The Minister has included this change in the legislation. Honourable members appreciate the assurance that he gave in his second reading speech on the Bill that this figure could be changed in the light of experience in future years. In those circumstances I commend the Bill to the House and reject the amendment.
– I do not deny some of the things that the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) has suggested have been done by this Government to support farmers have happened. I do not think that honourable members on this side of the House would argue with what it has done. The honourable member did not deal fully with a matter that I would like to mention: All that this Government has done is to refine and to improve in some ways a basic scheme which was introduced by the Labor Government to assist greatly the wool industry. That is one of the reasons why the Opposition supports this legislation in general terms; we feel that we have a continuing interest in it. It would be fair so say that the noor price scheme introduced by the Labor Government was one of the better pieces of legislation amongst a lot of very good legislation brought forward by the Whitlam Government. I will refer later to our amendment which qualifies our support for the Wool Industry Amendment Bill in general terms.
The central purpose of the Bill is to provide for the continuation of the operation of the Wool Market Support Fund and the floor price mechanism. The Fund has been contributed to by wool producers through a 5 per cent levy on gross sales of shorn wool. This mechanism was designed to absorb any losses sustained through the implementation of the wool reserve price scheme. Of course, that scheme was introduced by the Whitlam Government in 1 974. It would be fair to say that most reforming legislation that has gone through this Parliament, whether in relation to rural or other areas, has been introduced by Labor governments. As a reinforcement of that view I ask honourable members to look at the very sterile nature of the Notice Paper at this time.
Meanwhile, I return to the Bill, which would please you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It provides also for the making of progressive refunds of levy contributions on a first-in-first-out basis, starting with the 1974-75 contributors, after the credit balance in the Fund reaches an agreed satisfactory level. Amongst other things, the Bill also provides for the automatic appropriation in future, on a dollar for dollar basis, of a government grant to match the expenditure of wool producers’ contributions on annual wool research programs. In this provision the Bill places the funding of wool research on grounds similar to those applying to other rural research schemes. One of the other machinery refinements of the Bill reverses the situation which prevented the prepurchase marketing costs of the Australian Wool Corporation being considered in the Corporation ‘s profit and loss accounts. That is something that the Opposition applauds.
Other amendments in the Bill have the effect of recognising the replacement of the Australian Wool Industry Conference by the Wool Council of Australia. That also has our complete accord. This Bill allows legislation enabling the floor price elements embodied in our reserve price arrangements to be placed on a continuing basis. That is a reform with which the Opposition also agrees. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) is having a pretty good time today. The wool industry supports this provision. It is fair to say that these arrangements for the marketing of the Australian wool clip are firmly established and are recognised both here and internationally. The 1974 Labor initiatives to support losses on the scheme through the Market Support Fund have until now needed to be extended each year through the Wool Industry Act and the Wool Tax Acts. It is pleasing to note that this Bill reverses that situation.
It is fair to say that the Labor initiatives of 1 974, carried on and improved by this Government, have allowed the wool industry to survive some fairly rough patches in the 1 970s. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be found in the present prosperity of the industry. There is no doubt that there have been rough times. There have been times of depressed prices. The scheme which Labor introduced and which this Government has reinforced has been the great catalyst in helping this industry to survive and to prosper to its present state. The decision to provide for progressive refunds to wool producers of their past contributions to the Market Support Fund has been made by the Government as a result of strong requests from the Wool Council of Australia. This Fund was set up to absorb net losses on the reserve price scheme. Over the last few years consistently high wool prices have enabled the fund to reach a credit balance now exceeding $300m; hence the decision to refund some of this great credit.
The amendments moved by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) call upon the Wool Corporation to be responsible for the refunding of these credits. The Bill specifies that in most cases this would be done by wool brokers and dealers registered with the Commissioner of Taxation to remit wool tax. They would bulk bill the Wool Corporation for the amount necessary to make the individual refunds to which their clients are entitled. I wonder why that is the position? The honourable member for Werriwa will expand on these matters even further during the Committee stage of the Bill. We feel that the Wool Corporation should do what it was set up to do. It really should exercise some control over the wool industry and its finances.
I think it is fair to suggest that wool is a very special property. It has marvellously special characteristics. It is a unique fibre. No real substitute for wool has ever been evolved. No substitute fibre can have its elasticity, its versatility, its softness or its pliability. I think the future of the wool industry in Australia is particularly rosy. One of the reasons for this is the price increases in recent years in the cost of hydrocarbons. Of course, this had a subsequent reflection in the cost of nylons and other viscose polymer products. Added to this, the increasing cost of heating oils throughout the world has led to a reversion to wool as a popular fabric. I know that in America, for instance, the cost of substitute fibres plus the cost of fuel has led to a real reversion to wool as the most favoured fabric of all. So no doubt a rosy future is assured for the wool industry.
I wonder what the wool industry thinks about its history. I should like to refer- perhaps in a fairly tenuous argument in regard to the Bills, but with your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker -to what I think the wool industry should be doing to perpetuate its history. There is no question that Australia has ridden on the sheep’s back for a long time- for almost 200 years, in fact. I should like to encourage the wool industry in all its areas of influence to do something to honour its history. I should like to encourage the Wool Corporation, the wool agents, the great pastoral houses, the wool producers and perhaps the Federal Government to think very hard about a project which was suggested in this House a couple of weeks ago by my colleague the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) when he was speaking in the debate on the Australian Bicentennial Authority Bill. He mentioned that in my electorate of Parramatta there is a very famous old cottage- Elizabeth Farmhouse- which was built in 1793 by John Macarthur. The first experiments in wool and Macarthur ‘s most lasting contribution to the wool industry-the production of what we now know as the modern Australian merino- started in Parramatta in 1 793.
This building is unique for more than just that. It is the oldest building in Australia. It is unique in that it is the only building remaining in any Western civilisation that was constructed within five years of the start of that colony. I would like to think all the segments of the wool industry could be pulled together to help the funding of an agricultural museum to go alongside what is now the restoration of Elizabeth Farmhouse by the New South Wales Government. An amount of $750,000 has been set aside to restore this old cottage. I am pleased to see Senator Tate sitting in the gallery. His family are very old residents of Parramatta and they have had an abiding and continuing interest in the history and future of Elizabeth Farmhouse. I would like to think that the wool industry, as a measure of its respect for Australia and as a measure of its respect for the great prosperity it has achieved for the people who are involved in it, would be prepared to think about joining in a venture, perhaps with the New South Wales Government as a bicentennial project, to build an agricultural museum somewhere in the close vicinity of Elizabeth Farmhouse.
I had a very close look over Elizabeth Farmhouse with the NSW State architect last week. What it reveals is simply mind-boggling. It is a real compendium not only of Australia’s building history but also of the techniques that early primitive convicts had to employ to build something. This cottage was built in 1793 and it is still standing, as a testimony to the skills of the convicts with their primitive tools and the primitive nature of the materials with which they had to work. It is certainly the most significant building in Australia. Within a hundred yards of it is a cottage which was built in 1803 and which belonged to James Rouse, who, of course, was a father of the Australian wheat industry. A hundred yards further away is Hambledon cottage, which was built in 1826 by John Macarthur for his daughter. So there we have a wonderful triad of buildings within about 200 metres of one another. They are all standing and they all need to have finance spent on them. I would like to think that in the year 1988 this Government- I hope the Minister for Primary Industry is listening to my remarks because this matter certainly would require some involvement from his Department- would see that something was done to complete the restoration of an historical walkway which was suggested, I might add, by my colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) when he was Minister for Urban and
Regional Development in 1975. It is a vision that he has long hoped for. I would hope that 1988 would see it coming to fruition. .
– He can’t see anything; he’s asleep.
-He is not asleep. If the honourable member thinks Tom is asleep he is going to get a shock. I suggest to the Minister that he might be able to do something to influence the other sections of the wool industry to be a part of this project. It is rather staggering when one goes into this old cottage of which I have spoken, which was built in 1793. In the ceiling are ironbark beams which are a foot square. They were pit sawn back in 1793 from the local ironbarks. I can imagine what sort of devastating experience it must have been for convicts who were not used to the Australian summer and were not used to flies, down in a pit with a great cross-cut saw. There were no industrial goggles or protective clothing in those years, I would think. It is a testimony to the convicts’ skill and perseverance that the beams are still sitting up there, albeit greatly eaten by termites. I believe with modern restoration techniques this cottage will be restored to its former glory. I hope it will take its place as a national shrine in Australia to the formation and the expanding of the Australian wool industry upon which Australia has depended for so long. I will leave the House with that thought. Perhaps all sections of the wool industry will think kindly about that project.
In summing up, I suggest that whilst we support these Bills, one of the aspects of Australia’s wool is that all the world knows about its unique characteristics. The dumbest people in the world know how uniquely important wool is. Even the dumb Russians would not venture into an Afghanistan winter without a jumper made from some of the fine merino wool from Nareen.
-The Wool Industry Amendment Bill and the Wool Tax (Nos 1 to 5) Amendment Bills herald significant changes to wool marketing and the financial arrangements for the Australian Wool Corporations research and promotion of the wool industry in Australia. The Wool Industry Amendment Bill is the most significant piece of wool industry legislation to come before this House for some time. The first and most significant aspect of the legislation is that the annual arrangement for the continuation of the floor price and those parts that are necessary to it- the 5 per cent levy and the Wool Market Support Fund- are being made permanent. There is to be a change from an annual arrangement to a permanent arrangement. Generally, this is to be commended because it will bring greater stability, security and confidence not just to the growers but to the wool processing and international textile industry generally. All sectors will be aware that these procedures are here to stay and that they can plan with greater confidence.
It is to be noted that the Wool Council of Australia- the growers organisation- supports and recommends the changes. I congratulate the wool growers of Australia. Let us consider the depressed market conditions that existed when the scheme was introduced. What other industry in any similar circumstance would have been required to pay 5 per cent of its depressed income to stabilise itself? All the other industries would have gone screaming to the Government. Perhaps, if the Liberal-National Country Party coalition had been in government at that time the arrangements would have been more generous than the 5 per cent arrangement that exists currently. We introduced the reserve price scheme in 1970 and no 5 per cent levy was required.
-The Labor Party forgets that.
– It keeps forgetting 1970. To it the wool industry started in 1974. But one has to congratulate the wool growers of Australia for the way in which they accepted that requirement from the Labor Government of the day, stuck to it masterfully and overcame their problems, to its great benefit and to the benefit of Australia. How would any other industry in Australia, including a few rural ones, have reacted? We recently experienced how they reacted when they faced similar depressed market circumstances.
It is to be hoped that with international acceptance, stability, mechanisms in place and $300m of support fund money we will be able to ensure that the depressed situations of the late 1960s and the early and middle 1970s will never happen again. I also believe that with the continuation of this Government the wool industry will have a more sympathetic government to assist it if hard times come again. One point I must make- it has been made to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) who is at the table- is that the change to a permanent situation removes from Parliament the opportunity to have an annual debate on the wool industry. No longer will there be annual amendments or ministerial statements that will provide this opportunity.
– It would be a good idea if the Government did the same for housing. It does not have any policy.
– Bringing housing into this debate is woolly thinking. I make the point to the Minister that he has assured the Government members rural committee that there will be an opportunity to have a debate or discussion in Parliament on the state of the wool industry. I hope that this assurance will be honoured.
– That is if the Parliament wants it.
– That is a fair comment. So it is up to the committee to make that point to the Minister. The question to be answered on the change to a permanent arrangement is whether the Market Support Fund is to be permanent or to be revolving. Large sections of the industry have been arguing for some years that they would like to have an announcement on the establishment of a revolving fund, that is, the acceptance of the revolving fund principle once a satisfactory level of the Market Support Fund has been reached. In the Minister’s second reading speech we are told that the fund has at the present time about $300m and that $350m would appear to be a satisfactory level as a commencing point for the revolving fund. However, the actual starting time-that is, the level at which the fund is, the date at which it starts and the actual year or years of repayment- rests with the Australian Wool Council. In other words, it rests with the direct representatives of the wool industry. I believe that that is very important. I am pleased that the Minister has this arrangement with the Wool Council. It is clearly stated in his second reading speech that the responsibility to determine the level of funds is clearly with the Wool Council because the Wool Council must agree in writing as to the level, the commencement date and so forth. This is most important.
The second feature of the legislation relates to the better separation and formalisation of the 3 per cent levy. I refer to the research and promotion levy that was there before the 5 per cent levy was added in 1974. In future, the research arrangements will be the same as for other primary industries, that is, a straight dollar for dollar industry and Government contribution. Prepurchase marketing costs-these are basically the appraisal costs and a few other costs as wellwill be placed in the Corporation’s profit and loss account rather than as part of that 3 per cent levy. Some wool growers are suspicious of this change because, I would think, of Government action in the last Budget. However, I have been reasonably satisfied-and I believe the Minister has satisfied the Wool Council if not necessarily all of its constituent parts- that that is an unreasonable fear. When the reserve price arrangement began in 1970 there was a 3 per cent levy only. The then Wool Commission had no funds to pay the sorts of costs involved. Therefore, it was inevitable and sensible that the payment should come from that levy.
Growers, I believe, can be reassured that there will be no increase in the levy. In fact, the point that the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) made is that the growers now, with the better information available to them on the separation of the costs of research and promotion et cetera, can make a decision that the 3 per cent levy could be reduced. But, in total, the industry, I would hope, now will be able to assess more clearly how that 3 per cent is being spent. The wool industry can clearly see the level of its promotion arrangements. The Government, to my knowledge, has been and is more generous in its contribution to wool promotion than it has been in contributions to other primary industries. I do not criticise that; I just make that point.
I wish to relate one experience that I had when I visited the United Nations last year. The Australian Wool Corporation has an office in New York as does the International Wool Secretariat which is called, for United States purposes, the Wool Bureau Inc. What is of interest is that, to my understanding, this is the only special office of the Wool Corporation, outside Australia, that has certain powers. These powers and procedures have been given to it because of the special nature and difficulties of wool in the United States textile markets. It has the power to stockpile wool. It has the power to provide wool in different forms such as tops or even yarn to meet special specifications to provide a service that is competitive with the synthetic industry in the United States, which is the great competitor with wool. It also has the power, which I think is unique, to promote Australian wool in its own right and to promote it in wool blends that are less than those accepted by the various wool marks and wool blend marks, but far lower than the low point of 70 per cent. I was given quite a deal of information on one specific promotion which this office was very pleased about. With the advent of demand for easy-care textiles, dripdry trousers and so forth, wool has lost a great deal of its input into that part of the textile market. In conjunction with the big textile company, Burlington Industries Inc., the Wool Bureau Inc. was promoting 25 per cent wool blend drip-dry trousers. That is a tremendous inroad for wool into a part of the textile market in the United
States which, I understand, has been lost to the wool industry for many years.
Mr Speaker, would this be an appropriate time to interrupt the debate.
-It would. Does the honourable member seek leave to continue his remarks at a later hour?
– I do.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-This morning the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) rose on a matter of privilege. He referred to a matter which he had first raised in the House on 1 April 1980 concerning the alleged discrimination and intimidation in employment in the Public Service of Mr David Berthelsen because of evidence given by him to a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. On that occasion I stated that, from the material placed before me, I was unable to conclude that a prima facie case of breach of privilege existed. The honourable member for Fraser this morning presented additional material which he asked me to consider in relation to the matter. I have examined this new material. The issue here raised impinges upon a fundamental principle of privilege, that is freedom of witnesses before a committee of the Parliament. The claim is based upon a considerable volume of material and potential evidence. I have concluded. that it would be proper for the Privileges Committee to examine the issue of principle raised against the facts to be elicited in this case for the future guidance of the Parliament and to determine whether any wrong has been done which amounts to a breach of privilege. Accordingly, if the honourable member for Fraser wishes to move a motion to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges, I am prepared to allow the motion to take precedence of other business.
-In the light of your decision, Mr Speaker, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I now wish to refer to the repayment arrangements contained in this Bill, that is, the repayment arrangements in the revolving fund for that money, which was contributed in the years from 1 974, to go back to wool growers. I stress once again that, in my understanding, the Wool Council of Australia has agreed with these arrangements. There is to be a minimum repayment of $25. If my arithmetic is correct, shorn wool to the value of $500 gross must be sold, for the collection of $25- that is equal to 5 per cent of the sale value of that wool- by way of the levy. By the ‘revolving of the fund ‘ proposal, a year of levy contribution will be declared as a period in respect of which refunds will be made.
I acknowledge that there would be difficulty in finding everyone who sold wool in 1974 and that a point would be reached at which, I suppose, there would be a negative cost benefit in chasing up those people- bearing in mind the amount of paper work involved- for small payments of less than $25. It could be said that by introducing a minimum refund for each wool transaction and allowing any money that is not recovered to remain in the Market Support Fund the small grower, to a certain extent, is being treated less generously than the large wool grower. I am pleased that in the second reading speech the Minister stated that he is prepared to look again at this amount if evidence shows that it can be lowered.
The Opposition amendment refers to the way in which refunds should be made. In his second reading speech the Minister stated how it will be done. Basically it will be done through the wool brokers- the intermediaries, the agents for the wool growers. As many as 90 per cent of transactions are conducted through the wool brokers and the repayments will be made through them. The brokers in turn will just bulk bill the Australian Wool Corporation. The Labor amendment states that the refunds should be administered by the Wool Corporation only and not by wool selling brokers and wool dealers. This would mean that the Wool Corporation would have to obtain all the information from the wool brokers first because it does not possess this information. For the sake of the wool growers, I just hope that all the wool brokers possess the information. If the Labor amendment were carried, it would disturb the client relationship between the brokers and the growers in the way in which business has been conducted.
The legislation gives the Wool Corporation the necessary powers to ensure that correct payments are made and the growers will have recourse to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if they believe they are entitled to refunds which they have not received. In other words, I believe the legislation provides adequate powers so that the correct thing is done. The brokers obviously have more expert knowledge as to who the actual growers are. They have local knowledge. They would be more likely to know whether a grower had changed his address since 1974 or whether there had been a change in a grower’s partnership or ownership arrangements. If the Wool Corporation were required to handle refunds, it would mean more expense because of double handling. I would suggest to members of the Australian Labor Party that they have short memories. When the Labor Party was in power, in 1973-1 think that was the year- a small but welcome payment was made to the canning fruit growers. The Labor Government did not want to use the traditional method of payment to the fruit growers- that is, through the canneries as the agents, although the canneries had detailed knowledge of who had supplied what fruit at what time. It wanted to send the payment directly to the fruit growers. The Labor amendment proposes the same arrangement under this legislation.
The greatest mess of all time was created in the canning fruit industry. At that time Labor Ministers said that direct payments were the best way, although they took longer and were more expensive and less successful. They said that they had learned their lesson and would not do it that way again. All I can say is that they must have short memories. The same sort of messy situation would prevail if the Opposition amendment were carried. I would suggest that we forget about the amendment and support this most important legislation.
– I will not keep the House long but, as the seconder of the amendment moved by the Opposition, I think I should say a few words. The amendment proposed to the Wool Industry Amendment Bill states:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House:
believes that refunds should be administered by the Australian Wool Corporation only, not by wool selling brokers and wool dealers, and
calls on the Government to transfer administration of the refunds to the Corporation immediately sufficient information has been obtained pursuant to proposed Division 6 (sections 42x, 42y, and 42ab) of the Bill ‘.
Members of the Opposition support that amendment and trust that the House will support it. We are talking about the state of the wool industry in general. In the early 1970s the present Government introduced a number of schemes which proved rather deficient given the state of the industry at that time. I refer to the 35c per lb reserve price scheme and the scheme that gave wool growers a grant of $1,500 if they could prove that their annual income was less than 92 per cent of their income for the previous year. We know of the anomalies that arose under the latter scheme. 1 can remember one grower coming to me. He was in tears because he was up to his eyes in debt. Despite increasing his wool clip, the declining price of wool caused him to finish with an income which was 92.18 per cent of his income for the previous year. Notwithstanding his financial situation, he received absolutely nothing under that scheme. A number of anomalies came out in the operation of the scheme.
In 1974 the then Labor Government introduced the legislation which is being amended by the Bills we are discussing today. I know that not too many honourable members on the other side of the House give the Australian Labor Party credit for what it has done in the rural industries. They are telling untruths. The two greatest initiatives in the rural industries were taken by the Labor Government in introducing the initial wool reserve price legislation and the wheat stabilisation scheme. It was a change to hear a Minister give credit to a Labor government. That credit was given in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). He said:
The general authority for reserve price operatons was provided in 1 970, but the arrangements for the absorbing of any losses on the scheme through the Market Support Fund were introduced only in 1974 with the adoption of the floor price policy.
Of course, that was the Labor Government legislation. He continued:
The reserve price arrangements embodying the floor price element are established and accepted, both in Australia and internationally, as a permanent feature of the marketing of Australian wool, and it is appropriate that the enabling legislation be placed on a continuing basis. This has the full support of the wool industry. Twice during the past decade, the scheme came under heavy testing when wool demand became severely depressed, and I do not believe that any member of this chamber would wish to guest that the scheme has performed to date otherwise than in the most successful fulfilment of its intended role. Indeed, had the scheme not been operating during the 1970s, the consequences would have been disastrous for the wool industry. Apart from the price stabilisation advantages to producers, wool users have become enthusiastic over the floor in the market. The decision to provide for progressive refunds to wool producers of their past contributions to the Market Support Fund has been made in the light of strong requests from the Wool Council of Australia.
The primary purpose of the Fund, which was established in September 1974, is for it to absorb net losses on the reserve price scheme.
That statement was made by a National Country Party Minister. It is not very often that in a second reading speech credit is given to Labor Party legislation. I commend the Minister for the credit that he has given to that Labor Party legislation. In conclusion, the Opposition supports the scheme. The Opposition does not intend to oppose the legislation because the Labor Government introduced the initial Bills, but it supports the amendment which was moved by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin).
– in reply- Success has a thousand fathers, that is all I can say. I am pleased that the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) recognises that the flexible reserve price plan that was introduced in 1970 was the genesis of the floor price scheme that was introduced in 1974. 1 hope that the honourable member will be as generous to us in recognising what the Minister for Primary Industry of the day did in allowing the Australian Wool Commission to operate a flexible reserve price scheme. As I say, success has a thousand fathers. I will not debate that issue any longer.
Several matters of interest have been raised. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) first of all raised the question of the reserves that are presently in existence. I point out to him that the actual cash in hand as at 30 June 1980 is expected to be about $ 11.9m. Some of this amount is money that has already been matched by the Government and some- for example, interest- was never matchable. About $5m of levy income was unmatchable and is expected to go into the Wool Market Support Fund after the end of June 1 980. This $5m could, by agreement between the Minister and the Wool Council of Australia, be diverted to the Australian Wool Corporation. But there has been no decision to do so at this point, although the Chairman of the Wool Council has indicated to the officers of my Department that the matter will be considered. So, that is the situation with regard to the Fund in existence.
The honourable member for Canning also raised the question of consultation about premarketing costs. He was concerned to know whether there had been adequate consultation between industry and the Government on the transfer of the premarketing costs. There had been a great deal of conversation and consultation on the transfer of premarketing costs at the national level. I recognised, as did the Wool Council executive who came to see me, that there was a split view about this transfer of the $3.3m. The Western Australians in particular are concerned about this transfer and really are not in favour of it. The honourable member for Canning was quite right: The matter was raised at the pre-Budget discussion with Cabinet and in the discussion that took place it was apparent that the Wool Council of Australia was expressing reservations about the matter and, properly expressing the Western Australian viewpoint, was not prepared to offer another alternative. In other words, I took the position that it was prepared to go along with the scheme. The Council had its own industry difficulties on the matter but it finally accepted the Government’s position on it.
The Opposition has moved an amendment and, quite frankly, I fail to understand what the Opposition is driving at. It seems to me that it is not prepared to accept the validity of the proposal that the brokers are closer to the growersthey usually have a close working relationshipand know the financial transactions that occur between grower and broker year after year and, indeed, generation after generation. It seems to me that the Opposition wants to put the Corporation in the place of the brokers as the medium for handling the refunds. I understand that the Corporation would have some difficulty in finding the manpower and the mechanism to carry out this function.
– But the brokers are crook and you know it.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh should just listen and let me finish. He might like to assist me later if he has some worthwhile point to make.
– He is an old shearer.
– He is an old shearer and I sometimes wish that he would go back to the shearing shed; but I say that with the greatest love and affection. The reality is that the brokers have a great amount of detailed knowledge of the wool sales that have occurred over the years and are in a better position to act as the agents for the growers in this regard. It would simply be extending the bureaucracy of the Corporation to a size that one could not measure to expect the Corporation to be able to act as agent. So, the Government does not accept the amendment. We believe that the arrangements have the support of the Wool Council of Australia which, after all, consists of wool growers, and they are the people affected. It is their money and they are the ones who believe that this is the appropriate way to carry out these arrangements. The Government is only the agent in this regard; it is not a principal party to the transfer. Therefore, we believe that the arrangements we have made have the support of the Wool Council of Australia and the great majority of wool growers of Australia, although I am not too sure about the shearers. Therefore, we believe that the method that has been adopted by the Government is appropriate.
I think I have covered all the points that were raised by those honourable members who have spoken in the debate. I cannot see that there is anything else to answer for in respect of the debate. I have made the two points in respect of the Australian Wool Corporation. I do not think that anybody is arguing about the validity of the common sense view that the Government has taken in respect of the premarket transfer costs- those costs being transferred to a trading cost rather than a cost on the levy. I do not think that anybody is seriously arguing that we ought not to proceed on that matter. I think, therefore, that I have answered all the questions raised by honourable members and I thank them for their contribution.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
WOOL TAX (Nos 1 TO 5) AMENDMENT BILLS 1980
Consideration resumed from 17 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
-by leave- The Government’s achievements in reducing and containing the costs of international air travel during the past 18 months have placed Australia in a strong position to meet the challenges facing world aviation in the 1980s. These challenges will, however, test the initiative, imagination and acumen of airlines and governments alike. They will continue to demand vigorous and efficient management of international airline operations.
The unabating upward spiral in aviation fuel prices throughout the world will make it difficult for airlines to maintain fares at acceptable levels. The problem of fuel costs probably represents the most serious challenge to the airlines. The Government has a responsibility to promote a safe, modern, efficient and economic international air transport system. It is fair to claim that the policies and initiatives taken by the Government in recent times have met the challenge in a positive way.
Let me review what has happened during the past 18 months. The House will recall that the Government closely examined Australia’s international air transport arrangements in the years to 1978. It had the benefit of work done by a committee of inquiry, together with experience with new fare types introduced in early 1977 on the Australia-United Kingdom route. These new fare types included an advance purchase farethe APEF fare- and a revised excursion fare.
The Government found that a number of factors had acted to prevent international airlines from satisfying the needs of consumers at the lowest possible cost. Firstly, intergovernmental arrangements- in some cases concluded as long ago as 34 years- prevented our international air transport system from operating in the most efficient manner. Secondly, the way in which air fares were constructed had actually inhibited the development of fares which were properly cost related.
It was to this end that my predecessor, the Honourable Peter Nixon, as Minister for Transport, announced on 1 1 October 1978 a new Australian international civil aviation policy. One of the principal objectives of that policyand one which the Government then sought to implement as soon as possible- was to renegotiate our air transport arrangements with other countries to allow for the needs of the widest possible range of Australian and overseas passengers to be satisfied in a safe, efficient, rational and commercially viable manner. The new arrangements had to provide opportunities for low cost travel by the majority of passengers, whose travel decisions are limited by the price of travel.
At the same Transport) ago as 34 yearsprevented Government recognised its responsibility to passengers generally, including those travelling for business or leisure; those resident in major gateway capital dues and elsewhere; those who want travel flexibility and the immediate availability of service; and, of course, those who wish to plan in advance for travel without interruption to their destination at the lowest possible fare.
The Government attached particular importance to the development of tourism to Australia. It was apparent that growth prospects for the travel and tourist industry could be significantly enhanced. We reaffirmed a long-standing policy objective of securing Australian participation in the provision of international air services. We endorsed another long-standing view that Australia’s international air services as a whole should be financially self-supporting and fare levels set at adequate commercial levels. We said that the new arrangements should aim to avoid the development of practices that lead to discrimination concerning the price paid by selected groups of consumers or retailers. We wanted arrangements that incorporated the advantages of charter services yet simultaneously maintained the public utility character of scheduled air services. This is especially important for a country such as Australia where the international gateways serve different markets of variable sizes widely distant from one another in a vast island contingent.
We were under no illusion about the difficulties that our decision would entail. We recognised and accepted that to secure these improvements we would have to take full account of the aspirations, policies and initiatives of the other countries, our bilateral partners with whom we were negotiating. It is important that this House and, indeed, the Australian community, fully understand the magnitude of the tasks that the Government set itself, and the results that it achieved.
I want to pay a well-earned tribute to my predecessor, the Honourable Peter Nixon, who was responsible for the implementation of the Government’s policy, as announced by him on 11 October 1978. I believe his efforts brought about such significant benefits that they deserve public recognition. The success of his difficult task is evidenced by the lower fares arrangements that were successfully negotiated. It was the Australian initiative that led many countries to join us at the negotiating table to obtain a better deal for air travellers. The first of the low fares was introduced on 1 February 1979 for travel between Australia and the United Kingdom. The off-peak APEX fare, as one example, was $568, a reduction of $282 on the cheapest fare available previously, which was $850. More low fares agreements were concluded during the first 18 months of our new policy than in any other period in Australia’s international civil aviation history.
I think the record is an impressive one and deserves to be brought to the attention of this House:
No fewer than 33 rounds of negotiations or consultations have been conducted over the last 18 months with the following countries: United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, United States of America, Yugoslavia, Canada, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, Fiji and Japan.
With some countries only one negotiation or consultation was required; in other cases multiple rounds of a bilateral or multilateral nature were required. Our efforts led in total to 18 revised fare arrangements.
The results arising from these negotiations were:
United Kingdom- lowest individual round-trip fare from the east coast of Australia to London reduced from $850 to $568, a reduction of $282; -from Perth and Darwin, fare reduced from $796 and $779 respectively to $540, a reduction of $256 and $239 respectively;
Hong Kong- lowest individual round-trip fare from the east coast of Australia reduced from $77 1 to $544, a reduction of $227; -from Perth, fare reduced from $662 to $490, a reduction of$172;
Federal Republic of Germany- lowest individual round-trip fare from east coast of Australia to Frankfurt reduced from $1,101 to $566, a reduction of $535;
United States of America- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to San Francisco-Los Angeles reduced from $952 to $430, a reduction of $522; -from Melbourne to San Francisco-Los Angeles reduced from $1056 to $455, a reduction of $601;
Yugoslavia- lowest individual round-trip fare from east coast of Australia to Belgrade reduced from $1,077 to $564, a reduction of $513;
Canada- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to Vancouver reduced from $952 to $498, a reduction of $454;
The Netherlands- lowest individual round-trip fare from east coast of Australia to Amsterdam reduced from $1,101 to $566, a reduction of $535;
Greece- lowest individual round-trip fare from East coast of Australia to Athens reduced from $ 1,022 to $620, a reduction of $402; -from Perth and Darwin, fare reduced from $935 and $908 respectively to $590, a reduction of $345 and $3 1 8 respectively.
ASEAN countries: Fares reduced by up to 38 per cent below previous levels, as follows:
Singapore- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to Singapore reduced from $7 12 to $464, a reduction of $248; -from Perth, Darwin and Brisbane, fares reduced from $545, $477 and $664 to $288, $288 and $464 respectively, reductions of $257, $ 1 89 and $200 respectively;
Indonesia- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney-Melbourne to Jakarta reduced from $628 to $404, a reduction of $224; -from Perth fare reduced from $507 to $224, a reduction of $283;
Thailand- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney-Melbourne to Bangkok reduced from $899 to $554, a reduction of $345;
Malaysia- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney-Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur reduced from $726 to $488, a reduction of $238; -from Perth a reduction from $560 to $3 10, a reduction of $250; and
The Philippines- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to Manila reduced from $767 to $460, a reduction of $307; -from Melbourne, Brisbane, fare reduced from $852 and $735 respectively to $460, reduction of $392 and $275 respectively;
New Zealand- lowest individual roundtrip fare from Sydney to Auckland reduced from $ 1 8 1 to $ 1 32, a reduction of $49;
Italy- lowest individual round-trip fare from East coast Australia to Rome reduced from $1,538 to $878, a mighty reduction of $660;
Japan- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to Tokyo reduced from $ 1 , 145 to $769, a reduction of $376;
Tahiti- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to Papeete reduced from $668 to $458, a reduction of $2 10;
Fiji- lowest individual round-trip fare from Sydney to Nadi reduced from $344 to $268, a reduction of $76.
That is a long list of reductions, but I think it was necessary to put it on the record. It is well to know that, in those months and months of negotiations, such a level of achievement was gained by those who went to the conference table to implement the Government’s policy. It is well known that there were problems with individual countries and groups of countries during some of the negotiations. The House will recall that my predecessor reported on these negotiations. Such difficulties illustrate the point I made earlier: Solutions to lower international air fares are not simple ones. They are not unilateral ones. At all times one has to take into account the interests of our bilateral partners. It is no easy task to accommodate all these interests and arrive at mutually acceptable arrangements. Different countries have different approaches and different goals.
For example, the approach by the United States differs from that by some of our European and ASEAN partners. Throughout these negotiations Australia advocated its principles, believing they would lead to more efficient arrangements. We have now reached a stage where we have negotiated revised arrangements with practically all our major bilateral partners. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the gains that we have achieved in reducing the cost of international air travel.
The document read as follows-
– I turn to our most recent achievements. We have been successful in reaching agreement with Japan on a new fares package. We have also agreed on major fare initiatives with the Italian Government. I know that consumers will recognise and take advantage of the significant benefits that these latest agreements provide. I was surprised to read in a recent report that the new fares for travel between Australia and Italy represented only a minor concession to consumers. The truth of the matter is that the new package includes a new off-peak advancepurchase fare more than $660 cheaper than the cheapest previously available fare, and a new excursion fare with an off-peak level over $460 less than that which would have been otherwise available.
Clearly, these are major gains for travellers on the route. They are gains that will be well understood and appreciated by those tourists and other Australians of Italian ethnic origin who wish to visit Italy, and by Italians wishing to visit Australia. We earlier negotiated similar opportunities for travel between Australia and Greece.
We have adopted an evolutionary approach to fares negotiations. We have been successful in continuing to improve the benefits of low-cost travel to the consumer. For example, the latest fares to Europe incorporate the following significant improvements in advance purchase fare conditions:
A reduction in the advance purchase period from 45 days to 30 days; a reduction in the cancellation penalty for changing a booking within the new 30-day advance purchase period from 100 per cent to 50 per cent; and relaxation from seven to 14 days of the provision requiring prepayment for an APEX ticket after reservation.
The new policy initiatives have meant a complete restructuring of fares on most routes. My predecessor, in his announcement of the policy on 11 October 1978, foreshadowed changes in first class fares to make them more cost related. At the same time, however, we have supported steps to improve greatly the comfort and amenity of those requiring a higher standard of in-flight service through such innovations as sleeperette and business class travel.
Recent changes on the European routes, involving the announcement of revised excursion and group inclusive tour fares, also typify our desire to meet all significant consumer needs on a cost related basis. These changes to fares have included fare types with more relaxed conditions allowing for stopover or transfer at a more economic charge. Fare levels vary and some increases, incorporating fuel related and general cost increases, have occurred on some fares and for some reasons, whilst fare reductions have taken place for others. This is in line with the need to introduce cost related fares which, at the same time, promote traffic development and increase utilisation of aircraft capacity.
I would like to turn now to other benefits of our policy in terms of people who have travelled. It is a fact that our endeavours have brought air travel within the reach of many thousands who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity. Among those who are benefiting and will benefit from our international air fares policies are the thousands of Australians in our ethnic communities. Since the first of the new low fares were introduced a little over a year ago, some 372,000 passenger movements have been recorded on the Government’s new and innovative advance purchase fares to the United Kingdom alone. On the major routes up to twothirds of all passengers have chosen to use these fare types, demonstrating their appeal and ready availability to the public at large.
My Department has estimated total traffic growth for the major carriers since the new fares were introduced, on the following routes. Some routes and some carriers have not been included as all figures are not yet available. Growth rates are based on various recent time periods, ranging from 7 to 12 months. The increases are calculated over the same period in the previous year in all cases. The growth rates are: United Kingdom, 47 per cent; Netherlands, 40 per cent; Germany, 78 per cent; Greece, 12 per cent; Yugoslavia, 38 per cent; United States of America, 40 per cent; Canada, 19 per cent; and New Zealand, 10 per cent. These growth rates further demonstrate the broad public response to the new air fare arrangements.
These arrangements have stimulated tourism to Australia. From February to November last year, more than 617,000 short term visitors arrived in Australia- an increase of 26 per cent or about 128,000 over the same period in 1978. The number of Australians departing on short term travel abroad in the same time span grew from about 841,000 in 1978 to more than 948,000 in 1979-an increase of about 13 per cent. These growth rates are even more striking when it is considered that the arrangements were only partially implemented during that period. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table entitled ‘Preliminary Visitors and Resident Movements’ which contains the latest published figures.
The document read as follows-
-This table shows that the rate of growth in overseas tourists visiting Australia since the new policy was introduced is far outstripping the rate at which Australians have been going overseas. I think it is well known that the Australian Tourist Commission has forecast a 1 5 per cent annual growth in the number of overseas visitors to Australia for the period 1979-82. After 1983 more than a million tourists are expected to arrive each year.
We are now working on a further initiative that will lead to the introduction of new tour basing fares from Europe. This should provide further stimulus for our tourist industries. But in achieving our aims I wonder whether there has been adequate recognition of Australia’s somewhat unique geographical demands. Unlike North America, the United Kingdom or Europe, Australia is a country with a relatively small population distributed principally around a long coastal fringe. Very large distances, by the standards of most countries of the world, separate the principal centres or urban concentration. Nevertheless, we have maintained an adequate level of scheduled air transport services to all of our five established international gatewaysPerth, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We have successfully distributed the benefits of low cost charter-type travel to these gateways. We have created the circumstances to ensure that this distribution of benefits is maintained and developed as demand increases.
The Government is also concerned to see that the traditional standards of fair play and equity are adhered to in the distribution of these consumer benefits. While on this note, I wish to reaffirm the Government’s resolve to do all in its power to stamp out illegal discounting of air travel. Illegal discounting results in discrimination against the law abiding passenger, airline and travel agent, and ultimately has an impact on fare levels generally. My Department is now taking action, on the basis of legal advice, to strengthen the Government’s hand in dealing with those who infringe the Air Navigation Regulations. I would also sound a warning to passengers who may be tempted to purchase illegal tickets. I am unable to guarantee that their tickets will be honoured, either in Australia or overseas. Passengers should, therefore, consider the possibility of dishonoured travel arrangements, severe embarrassment and delays in travel with attendant financial penalties if they enter into illegal ticketing arrangements.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) told the House in 1978 that the next few years would be a period of great change, during which Qantas would have to adapt to substantially altered circumstances. I wish to pay a tribute publicly to the board and management of Qantas for the strong support given to the Government’s policies. Without such a strong airline as Qantas in the highly competitive international environment, I doubt whether Australia could have achieved such an impressive record. I also take this opportunity to thank the negotiators and their support staff in my Department and in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is to the continuing credit of these officers, and indeed to Australia, that so much has been accomplished since late 1978.
I turn to the matter of air freight policy. Some time ago the Government recognised the need to introduce innovations in scheduled freight rates. Exporters of chilled meat are benefiting from announced new lower commodity rates to the Middle East. Scheduled airlines have made significant improvements to their direct and transhipment services to the Middle East, and they now carry some 1 50 tonnes of chilled meat a week to the area. However, as a further initiative the Government is examining in detail arrangements for the export of chilled meat and livestock by air to the Middle East in order to ensure an appropriate level of capacity into the future. I hope to report the results of this examination shortly.
All Australians now recognise that a complacent attitude to the question of energy production, its use and availability is inappropriate to the realities of the world situation. The international air transport industry is not immune from the effects that rapidly rising fuel costs have had and will continue to have on its ability to provide an efficient and economic service to consumers. I should like to inform the House that I am taking a close interest in the efforts of the international aviation industry to establish and advise on appropriate mechanisms to adjust for such rapid cost increases.
However, in real terms, fares on many routes are still much cheaper than those in force before our policy was introduced, despite the many fuel and general cost increases incurred. For example, the cheapest fare to London is now $882. If this is converted into the purchasing power of the January 1979 dollar, using the consumer price index for the year ended December 1979, this fare would be about $780 compared to the $850 fare applicable at that time. The arrangements have, therefore, helped to cushion the impact of rising costs. Put into its proper perspective, in February 1977 a person on the average weekly income had to set aside about six weeks earnings to buy the lowest available round-trip fare to London. Today, he has to spend only the equivalent of about three weeks income. He is, therefore, in a much stronger financial position to afford the fare- in fact, he is twice as strong financially as he was three years ago.
In conclusion, new arrangements, particularly low fares, have been introduced on most of Australia’s international air routes. The benefits of low cost charter type travel have been made available at all of our five established international gateways. Australia’s achievements stand out not only for their consumer benefits; it is also noteworthy that new arrangements have been negotiated on such a large number of international! routes. The Government has maintained a close interest in comfort standards of travellers, particularly as our routes are amongst the longest in the world, and has established arrangements to protect the interests of passengers travelling on the least expensive fare types. Innovative fares proposals have been encouraged under the arrangements we have made and fare types such as sleeperette, business class and excursion fares have been introduced by the airlines in addition to the basic advanced purchase fares. Tourism to Australia has been stimulated.
I believe that the efforts made by the Government to reduce air fares for people travelling to and from Australia are of immense significance. If the Australian Government had not embarked on this difficult and complex exercise in 1978, then the great fuel explosion of 1979 would have put international air travel beyond the reach of millions of Australians. It would also have had dire consequences for our tourist industry. The introduction of the new international civil aviation policy was, therefore, timely and of great advantage to the people of this country. I present the following paper
The Government’s International Civil Aviation Policy Achievements-Ministerial Statement 23 April 1980.
Motion (by Mr Killen) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Hunt)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Shortland speaking for a period not exceeding 32 minutes.
-The statement made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) is welcomed, in the main, on this side of the chamber because it provides a further opportunity to discuss the very important subject of international aviation policy. 1 must say, however, that the contents of the statement in the main are disappointing because the Minister has failed to address the current issues of international aviation policy. A current issue which was dealt with by the Miniser in this House yesterday in answers to questions from both sides of the chamber, and yesterday in answer to a question, is the desire of domestic operators to extend their services and operations to foreign ports. The Minister has some 1 1,000 staff, yet with all those people available and all his resources he has not managed or been able to get around to talking about the current issues. To that extent his statement is disappointing. It appears to be a recycling of past Press releases from Mr Anonymous of the Department of Transport- the unknown spokesman who puts out the nasty statements when fares go up- and statements from the Minister.
With some superb mathematical gymnastics the Minister has sought to show that the level of international advance purchase excursion fares, the APEX fares, has in fact fallen since they were first introduced in February 1979, in particular on the Kangaroo route to the United Kingdom. It is sufficient to cite only one example. When the Australia-United Kingdom fare was introduced on 1 February 1979 it was $568. As of next month that off-peak fare will be $882, an increase of $3 14 or, in percentage terms, a massive increase of 55 per cent in 15 months. So the picture is not as pleasant and rosy as the Minister for Transport sought to point it out to be in respect of APEX fares.
I must say also that the low priority accorded to discussions with the Italian Government over the past 1 5 months has resulted in some 700,000 Australians of Italian origin being discriminated against by not having access to APEX fares. We have had discussions and statement after statement. Eventually at 9 p.m. on Saturday 22 March we had the statement that finally negotiations had been completed. Irrespective of all that, the position is that the Government bumbled about and procrastinated on the Italian negotiations and those 700,000 Australians have missed out on the benefits that have been available to millions of other people in this country who have been able to visit the United Kingdom over that period. I would also like to point out in respect of those 700,000 Australians of Italian origin that even though the reduced fares for travel to Italy under the APEX scheme are coming in there is still serious discrimination against Australians of Italian origin.
I have raised this matter in the Parliament before. There has been no response from the Government and I will raise it again. I refer to a comparison of the APEX fare peak rate, shoulder rate and off-peak rate between Sydney and Rome and return as compared with the fares between Sydney and London and return. The APEX peak return fare for SydneyRomeSydney at $1488 is $4 less than the SydneyLondonSydney fare. The shoulder fare of $ 1 306 is $4 less to Rome than to London. The off-peak fare of $878 is again $4 less. From Rome to London is the cheapest bit of travel in the world ‘s history. Obviously what has happened has been that the Italian fares have been pitched upwards. There has been a continuation of this discrimination by the Government against those 700,000 Australians of Italian origin.
– It is called common rating.
– It is called discrimination on this side of the chamber and by those 700,000 Australians. What a wonderful time we could have in Australia with a $4 return fare for travel over a distance equivalent to RomeLondonRome. That is the effect of the fare schedule that has been brought in. When Mr Anonymous, the departmental spokesman, announced the 22 per cent increase in international air fares at 9 o’clock on Saturday night, 22 March, the Minister thought that by attributing the statement to Mr Anonymous and releasing it at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night when members of the Press were all in bed, it would be forgotten. It has not been forgotten. This exercise should not be repeated. The Minister for Transport has not adopted such standards previously in the performance of his duties.
On looking at the figures that have been produced by the Minister for Transport we see that there are increased numbers of visitors to Australia flowing from the changed fare structures. We all have to agree that that is good news for the Australian tourist industry and it is good news for those families in Australia and abroad that have been able to be linked again with their loved ones. They are able to visit their relatives in Europe, or their relatives in Europe are able to visit Australia. The increase in visitors is 47 per cent according to the total movement sheet referred to by the Minister. It shows the growth rates of total traffic from overseas in unidentified periods.
The Minister referred to a seven to twelve month period. Unfortunately we do not know which months and seasons are involved and these factors have a very influential effect upon the results. In visitors from the United Kingdom there has been a 47 per cent increase; from the Netherlands a 40 per cent increase and from Germany a 78 per cent increase. The increases range right down to an increase of only 10 per cent in visitors from New Zealand. A shorter period is involved but I do not know what period was under examination. It is difficult to interpret, at this stage, the full impact of those movements and increases in traffic. What we have not been told are the actual numbers of passengers in each country. Clearly, in some cases the base figure would be relatively small. So whilst the percentage may seem large, the actual increase in the numbers of people coining to Australia could be relatively small.
If we look at the total visitors and the Australian resident departures and compare the period of February to November 1978 with the period of February to November 1979, we can get a better picture of what is happening and some better understanding of the changing scene in Australia. In the 1979 period there was an increase of 26 per cent in visitors to Australia over the 1978 figures. Departures of Australian residents in the 1979 period increased by 12.7 per cent over the figures for the 1978 period. At first sight one would assume that that indicates a tremendous improvement in the position. It is an improvement; we have to recognise and acknowledge that. But we should not be carried away by it. If we look at the total number of movements we see that there has been an increase of 1 7.6 per cent in comparable periods.
As I said, in percentage terms it seems a very satisfactory situation. However, if we examine the actual numbers of arrivals and departures in the periods concerned we see a different picture. Total movements in the 1978 period were 1.33 million; in the 1979 period total movements were 1.57 million, producing the percentage increase of 12.7 per cent which 1 mentioned earlier. The number of visitors in 1979 was 617,080 and the number of Australian resident departures was 948,341. So we have a travel deficit of some 331,261 persons. In percentage terms it means that 55 per cent more Australians went abroad than overseas visitors came to Australia. That situation has occurred even after the period in which there was a considerable increase in the number of people coming to Australia.
With the rapid escalation in international air fares, one sees, if one has noticed what is contained in international journals, that international airlines are revising downwards their projections of growth, particularly as a result of increased fuel prices and increasing inflation rates in some of the countries from which we draw on tourist traffic. In the case of some airlines the expectation is for an almost static movement in traffic. I believe that the Australian tourist industry needs to be cautious of what appears to be a changing market and needs to be aware of the changing conditions; and the earlier long range projections of very high growth rates should be re-examined in light of increased fuel prices and in light of the recently published growth expectations of the international airlines other than our own operator.
Much is said about potential overseas markets for travel to the Great Barrier Reef and to Australia. We have seen recently reports in respect of one of the domestic operators wishing to operate into South East Asia. But I have made a few inquiries and I am told that the four areas with the greatest potential for increasing our tourist traffic to the Barrier Reef are as follows: Japan and New Zealand are equal first; the United States is third; and the European region is fourth. South East Asia does not even rate a mention in the first four potential markets. I think we need to take that kind of information into consideration also when we are trying to develop a sound basis for future tourist development and tourist investment in this country so that we are accurate in our projections and so that the facilities that we develop and our capital investments will be put to the best use.
The Minister mentioned tour basing fares from Europe. Honourable members on this side of the House believe that could also be of help in offsetting some of the depressive factors in the international market that I mentioned a few moments ago. The reduction in the penalty for cancellation of APEX fares- this was mentioned by the Minister also- is being reduced from 100 per cent to 50 per cent of the fare paid. This system is anomalous, lt is unfair. The penalty is 25 per cent only in respect of the cancellation of air fares purchased to the United States. The cancellation penally was 100 percent in relation to lares to all other countries in relation to which APEX fares have been introduced. It has been reported recently that airlines operating to Europe on the kangaroo route in the first year of the operation of APEX fares collected about $4m in forfeited fares as a result of the cancellation conditions attaching to APEX fares. Honourable members on this side of the House believe that system has to be changed and priority in that system has to be given to air travellers. We believe that the cancellation fee should be reduced to the level applicable to the United States routes, that is, 25 per cent of the fare paid.
Linked to this is the reduction of the prepayment period for fares from 45 days to 30 days. On the face of it, it sounds good but on examination it is not as beneficial as it appears. The fact is that if intending travellers want to secure a seat they have to pay out money many months ahead. I am told also that the earliest available seats off-peak from the United Kingdom to Australia under the APEX scheme are about 10 months hence. Anyone who wants to secure a seat has to pay the fare 10 months ahead of time to make sure that a seat is available on the day that person wishes to travel. The advance payment period for a fare from Australia to the United Kingdom is about six to eight months. Whether the prepayment period is 45 days or 30 days does not really matter unless a person goes into the airline’s office on day 31 and finds a seat available for the day on which that person wants to travel.
The other matter that is tied up with this is the increase in the payment period from seven days to 14 days after the reservation is made. That change is a cosmetic one. It seems to be a doubling of the period: One can now pay within 14 days rather than seven days from the date on which the seat was reserved under the APEX fare scheme. There is little real benefit in that change. The position is this: The long prepayment period that arises out of the forward selling of seats under the APEX scheme means that airlines receive a massive interest-free loan from intending travellers. We believe a 25 per cent deposit scheme should be introduced and the cancellation fee should be reduced to 25 per cent so that an intending traveller would pay 25 per cent of the fare within 14 days of reservating the seat. Then 3 1 days before the date of intended travel the traveller would pay the remainder of the fare. If he had to cancel, the traveller’s loss would be only 25 per cent. We would then have uniformity and people would be in the position of being able to control their own money.
A family of three or four members may be travelling, as is often the case. This applies particularly to persons travelling to Europe because of extended family links. There may be four, five or even six members in one family travelling abroad. The full fare for all of those people could run into several thousand dollars. That becomes a very large commitment, a long time ahead of travel. It is also a considerable risk for the family because one of its members could take ill or some unforseen circumstance could arise which could result in the family being unable to travel. The penalty would apply in that case. One could respond immediately and say: ‘Yes, but there is a travel insurance scheme’. I will deal with travel insurance a little later in this debate.
This evening the Minister has told us that the Government intends to act to prevent illegal air fare discounting. I wish him a little more success than did his predecessor, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), because his predecessor was long on rhetoric but short on action. When it came to ACTU Jetset Travel Service Pty Ltd the former Minister for Transport knew how to act. In went the Nixon raiders and the Commonwealth Police. Such actions were reported on the front page of every newspaper in Australia. But the travel scheme of the Young Liberals had to be drawn to the Minister’s attention in the Parliament. There was no consistency; in fact there was no action. The only overt action taken under Air Navigation Regulation 106a, which this Government has had in its pocket for four and a half years, was for the Commonwealth Police to raid the offices of ACTU Jetset. We see that as an act of blatant political discrimination by the former Minister for Transport.
I have to agree with remarks made by the present Minister for Transport on an earlier occasion when he said that those people who are able to obtain illegally discounted fares gain them at the expense of all travel other Australians who pay the regular fare. Under those circumstances I think the Government has an obligation to act promptly. We should note also that illegal fare discounting is prevalent in some countries, particularly those of South East Asia, in relation to the inward journey to Australia.
-It is true. The honourable member for Bowman says that it is true. Obviously he has been told the same thing that I have been told. I understand also that it is possible to buy abroad a return ticket to Australia- in some cases it is claimed that travel within Australia is included- for half the regular fare. The ticket shows the regular fare so that if it is examined by representatives of the Department of Transport it carries the correct fare. In fact, the amount of money that changed hands may have been only half the correct fare.
I want to deal with another unsatisfactory situation which travellers have to face and which was ignored in the Minister’s speech. I am referring to the problem of travel insurance which I mentioned a few moments ago. There is a multiplicity of complex and confusing policies. In many respects this applies not only to the international scene but also to the Australian scene. There is no doubt that many unwitting travellers are being exploited by insurance companies either because they do not read the fine print in the policy or, if they do, they do not have sufficient legal training to understand the import of the fine print. There have been some very sad cases where travellers have lost heavily because of the recurrence of pre-existing illnesses. When they have been shown the policy by the insurance company at the time of the claim in the cases of pre-existing illnesses there always is a provision in the fine print that enables the company to avoid its responsibility. That is wholly unsatisfactory. The market is big enough to carry that kind of occurrence. Certainly, if that policy is offered to people that fact should be made very clear to the intending traveller.
There is a simple and prompt remedy to this problem. In the eyes of members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, before policies for travel insurance are offered for sale they should be vetted and approved by the Department of Transport. The only insurance policies for travel that could be offered would be those that had been approved by the Department of Transport, on behalf of the Government and the Parliament, and judged to be in the best interests of consumers and air travellers. In that way the air traveller is protected and will not have the severe personal hardship that has occurred over the past year.
I would turn now to the keystone of the Government’s aviation policy- its secrecy in relation to aviation matters. Over the last few months it has been dragged screaming to the altar of public disclosure. We have not quite got it there on the domestic fares inquiry, but we are struggling hard at it. The keystone of the Government’s aviation policy is: ‘Tell them nothing. That way they do not know what is going on and they will do what we tell them to do.’ Public disclosure is ignored again in the Minister’s statement. When the review of domestic civil aviation policy was announced in July 1977 honourable members on this side of the chamber said that it should be a public inquiry. When the international civil aviation policy was announced in October 1977 we said also that it should be a public inquiry.
We said that there should be only one inquiry. Our words have borne truth. That should have been done. There will be a repetition of the domestic inquiry. The policy that the Minister discussed tonight is based upon that private inquiry. Many of the problems that have developed in the implementation of the Government’s policy have arisen from the fact that there was no public disclosure. The Government may be successful in stalling the domestic air fare inquiry until after the election to head off public criticism of its domestic policies. At the commencement of my speech I mentioned one pressing issue that needs public disclosure; that is, the application by Ansett Airlines of Australia to fly international. The Opposition has said many times that it is the committed objective of the Australian Labor Party that air services be framed, designed and developed to meet the needs of travellers.
The civil aviation system was not developed for the benefit of government as a tax gathering system; nor was it developed to give to the Government secured access to money or to the airline operators, government or private, a licence to print money. In the case of the Ansett proposal there is a need for public disclosure. We currently have a continuing public slanging match between airline proprietors on the one hand and airline executives on the other. Wedged between the backroom dealings between executives of both airlines, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Ministers is a situation which is completely unacceptable to the Australian community. That process cannot be substituted for responsible and rational development of an appropriate aviation policy for this country, whether it is an international aviation policy or whether it is a domestic aviation policy. If that process is continued by this conservative Government- as was done by its predecessorsair travellers in this country will continue to be disadvantaged.
The Opposition’s policy is very specific and unequivocal. Where there is an application for a new international service- if that is the desire of the Government- that opportunity is thrown open to all interested parties. There should be a public hearing at which the application can be considered, evidence can be taken on oath, claims and counter claims can be examined and decisions can be made on the facts, based upon achieving what is in the best interests of the nation. This approach, surprisingly, is supported by the Chairman of Qantas Airways Ltd who has many slings and arrows thrown his way. I will quote from a speech he made on this subject yesterday in Sydney. Sir Lenox Hewitt had this to say:
The award of routes is a matter of importance, public importance, and great importance to the beneficiary’s hip pocket. There are well settled practices and policies in the UK and in the USA.
There are quasi-judicial public hearings before route awards are made. I regret other means of achieving the end. I think people and Governments are entitled to that kind of protection.
That is specifically what we on this side of the chamber have been saying for quite some time. Until that process is implemented we will not get the system of air services that are best suited to the nation. We will not get equity. We will get a continuation of the backroom deals of yesteryear that went on under consecutive conservative governments.
The Minister for Transport congratulated Qantas on its achievements in its participation and development of the current fare schedules and policies. Qantas has suffered greatly in the past financial year, not so much because of the delay and proscrastination of this Minister for Transport, but because of his predecessor. I do not want to recount all of the crosses and exchanges between the Australian Government, the Minister for Transport, the Australian Press and representatives of the Association of South East Asian Nations. I do not know whether detailed negotiations have been completed on fare levels. There still are some loose ends to be tied up. Late last year, George Howling, the Marketing Director of Qantas, told an airline conference in Manila that Qantas was suffering disasterously because of the Government’s failure to complete the new schedule of fares between the countries in which APEX fares had been introduced. We all remember that the old fare system and the new fare system were operating in tandem. That information would have been available to the Government all the time. It became public in, I think, August last year. Still the Government did not act. A few weeks ago we had the final tidying up.
As a result Qantas has incurred a loss. Qantas then becomes the target for attack- in most of the cases not on a logical basis, and in other cases on a personal gain basis- because it has not performed at the financial level that it would have done if it were a private airline. If it were a private airline, decisions still would have been made by government. II’ it were a private airline it probably would have gone broke by now. The true responsibility for that situation lies not with Qantas but with the Government of the day. Some of the laissez-faire economists and free traders on the other side of the chamber who want to criticise the operation and performance of Australia ‘s international carrier need to have a good look inside their own party room and question their Ministers as to why the fare schedules were not completed and why negotiations took so long.
The other matter relating to Qantas is that since November 1978 the Opposition has said that the unused Qantas capacity across Australia should be utilised in providing fares at about half rate to people in Western Australia and Darwin on the inward and outward bound journeys. In a few words we said: ‘Sure, there are problems involved. Those problems can be overcome by prebooking, prepayment and by public announcements on the day if there is a delay of a couple of hours or three hours, which there is on rare occasions’. There is a tremendous waste of resources- of energy, labour and investment. The cost of the loss on those fares has to be picked up by those travellers who fly out of Australia. To use another comparison, each week between Sydney and Melbourne something like 27,000 seats, available on international flights, are not utilised; the aircraft fly with those seats empty. That is a different problem again.
While an attack is being made on Qantas, I would have thought that the Minister would have come forward as he is responsible for the performance of Qantas. He is responsible for how it conducts itself in the market place and he is responsible to see that it earns its keep for the Australian community. It belongs to the Australian community. Every extra dollar it earns is one dollar less in tax that is paid by the Australian taxpayers. I make that point to the Minister and to the Parliament. The utilisation of Qantas’ capacity across Australia to Perth and to Darwin should be examined. I know that it is being examined now. It has been a long time since this was last done. We should be looking at the total picture to see how we can make the best use of existing airline capacity with the objective of providing the best possible services that we can to air travellers in Australia. In conclusion, the increase in air travel that was made evident throughout the Minister’s statement this evening is a vast improvement for the Australian tourist industry. It is a measure of public acceptance of the changed fare schedules. It shows what can be achieved by innovation when a government is finally jolted into action. We welcome the statement. I have pointed to what we see as some of the defects in the statement. We hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to the points that we have put forward.
– I join the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) in thanking the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) for putting down this statement. It was on 26 August 1976- for reference, as recorded on page 615 of Hansard- thai I made my first major speech in this House concerning the level of international air fares in and out of Australia. Obviously, we have come a very long way since that speech was made. Not long after that we saw the establishment of a tourist inquiry in the form of a parliamentary select committee. A couple of years ago we had the international civil aviation review and the domestic aviation review. At last, in four short years, we are starting to see some changes.
The number of visitor arrivals was criticised by the honourable member for Shortland tonight. I think we should look at the facts. In 1976 the number of Australians going overseas was three times the number of people coming into this country. In terms of the balance of payments, the amount of money going out of the country was three times the amount that was coming in. Now, as a result of this statement tonight we can see that at least that situation has been reduced from a 3 to 1 ratio to a 2 to 1 ratio. In 1983 one million people will come to this country as visitors for the first time. By 1 985 we will have evened up that situation and the tourist industry and the balance of payments situation will be in the black. They are pretty significant figures when we bear in mind the situation that existed just four years ago when the number of people going out of the country was three times the number of people who were coming in and the amount of money being spent by Australians overseas was three times the amount that was spent by visitors coming to Australia. Significant changes are taking place.
No one, I suppose, has been a greater critic of international civil aviation policies and the way they are formed than I have. I admit that the figures that we have been given tonight are certainly a start. I think that the Government can be congratulated on achieving that 26.5 per cent increase in the number of international visitors coming to Australia. We have heard much spoken tonight about the need for reviews. The point I make is that there is a need for continuing review in all areas of aviation. Aviation is a changing market. The whole world scene in terms of aviation is changing. It is changing very quickly indeed. I was interested to hear the reference made by the honourable member for Shortland to the proposal for a domestic carrier to enter into the north Queensland services. I have taken a particular interest in this matter. Two of the recommendations of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism were, firstly, the designation of Townsville as an international airport and, secondly, the right for domestic carriers to operate on some short haul international routes so that a circle fare could be introduced.
Some interesting debate has been going back and forth between representatives of Ansett Airlines of Australia and the Chairman of Qantas Airways Ltd over the last few weeks- so much so that we have heard Sir Lenox Hewitt say that Townsville would never be a profitable operation. But two weeks later he is coming to some agreement with Thai Airways International whereby Qantas and Thai International can operate a pool service from Bangkok and Singapore into Townsville and down to Brisbane, using Thai International staff and Thai International aircraft. I have no objection to Thai International’s operating in Australia. I think it is a tremendous idea to open up that sort of market in north Queensland. I think we have now reached a situation in which there must be a very close analysis of the proposal that is being made by Ansett. Despite what the honourable member for Shortland said, there have been significant increases in the number of Asians leaving their countries for overseas travel. The increases have taken place in the numbers of people leaving Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. There may be some very great advantages for us to pick up there. But there is an even greater opportunity for us to gain that add-on traffic that is travelling by charter aircraft as far as Singapore, Bangkok and the other exotic destinations of the East. This could well be our chance to hook into that traffic.
The fare levels are interesting. I said a short while ago that it is necessary to have a continuing review of aviation policy. I think the following figures speak for themselves. We should be reviewing this matter. The proposals that were issued at the weekend by Mr Brian Grey of Ansett Airlines, were based on the domestic flagfall of $19.80 and the rate per kilometre of 7.227c for a flight up to a distance of 2,200 kilometres and 6.143c for a flight over a distance of 2,200 kilometres. Those figures are based on domestic costing and do not take into account that the fuel would be duty free in the case of an international service. These are the fares that are being offered. It might be worthwhile to make a comparison of those fares. The first class fare sold by Qantas at the moment for a TownsvilleBrisbaneSingapore flight is $1,766.80. The proposed Ansett fare is $920. There is a saving with Ansett on that direct route of $846.80. The full economy class fare at present charged by Qantas for a flight to Singapore via Brisbane is $1,274.60. Ansett proposes to charge $736, which represents a saving of $538.60. The high season advance purchase excursion fare is $849.45 compared with Ansett’s fare of $552. The Apex fare for the low season is $63 1.40 for Qantas fare and $44 1 for Ansett. That represents a saving of$ 189.80.
I was interested to hear the Minister say this morning that already the domestic airlines are looking at the possibility of an add-on service to connect with the Darwin service from Townsville. That is true. Last Friday in the Townsville Daily Bulletin Trans-Australia Airlines advertised its service with the cheapest possible fare of $550.20 return. There is only one problem so far. I trust that the Minister is keeping this in mind. I trust that in any review of the domestic air fares he will look at this particular factor. There is only one thing wrong with that connecting service; that is, that people travelling back into north Queensland will have a four hour wait at Darwin airport in order to make that connection at 3.50 a.m. I obtained that information from the TransAustralia Airlines advertisement which appeared in the Townsville Daily Bulletin. It is not for me to make any judgment whether Ansett should be granted that particular service, but the matter must be looked at. It is true that the two places that overseas visitors want to see in Australia more than any others are the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock. If we look at an analysis of the figures we see that 4 per cent of overseas visitors see the Great Barrier Reef and 2 per cent see Ayers Rock.
– What about Gosford?
– I am sure that the figures for Gosford are much higher than that because of its close proximity to Sydney. They are significant figures. I do not think it can be argued that there will be a dilution of the traffic. The plain fact is that the traffic is just not there at the moment. Overseas visitors are not prepared to pay that tremendous add-on fare. They are not prepared to back-track over those routes. At last there is a proposition to open up the north of Queensland.
Even more significantly, guarantees have been given through the Queensland Travel and Tourist Corporation that, immediately the direct services into Townsville are announced, $35m will be invested in hotels in north Queensland. That will be just a start. They are the guaranteed figures. There will be two hotels in Townsville. There is to be a major upgrading of facilities on Hayman Island, on which I think Ansett is to spend something like $5m. The Western International Hotels group has already had discussions with the Queensland Government, as has the Mandarin hotel group, about expansion of its hotel facilities in Queensland. For these reasons I believe that very close attention must be given to this proposal for opening up north Queensland to air traffic, to bring in that traffic direct and to help air traffic to make its way around Australia on a circle concept that so many of us in this House are very keen to see in operation.
– The Cohen plan.
– We have done it again. There are a number of other points to be made. I appreciate the comments made by the honourable member for Shortland about the situation concerning the advance booking process. It is mie that now it is almost impossible to get an advance purchase seat to London for early next year. It certainly is impossible in my home city of Brisbane. In fact one must book 12 months ahead to get a seat. Although the 14-day extension is an improvement, I suppose, it is a fact that all the airlines involved in this scheme do have a great deal of money to play with over that 12 -month period. It is an interest-free loan from the passengers.
I just make one final request. For something like 18 months I have placed questions on notice in this House; I have asked Mr George Howling from Qantas and other members of Qantas and I have asked members of the Department of Transport whether they could tell me the formula that they use for determining the number of APEX seats that are available on international services. Nobody, but nobody, has either the capacity or the willingness to tell me. This is causing a great deal of concern amongst travel agents around Australia. They are members of a group that is not without its troubles at the moment. I checked again tonight what the situation was regarding the advance purchase fares. I rang one of the biggest operators in the travel agent industry in Australia. I asked him: ‘What is the story these days on advance purchase fares?’ He said:
We are going through the same problem. A customer will come in and want an advance purchase fare on such and such a day. We ring up the airline concerned. They tell us that no advance purchase seats are available on that day and my suggestion is that they go down to Qantas and get it because Qantas will sell it to them all the time’. I do not think that situation is right. The travel agent industry is a huge one. It is an industry, as I say, that is struggling and has its problems. I wish that somebody could give me the formulation to work out how. many seats will be available. It would be a great help to the travel agents and it would take a lot of suspicion out of the travel agent market.
I would like to expand a little on the Minister’s statement that he is looking at the whole situation of fare cutting. I have mentioned this matter in the House before. Quite frankly, some of the bargains for travellers at the moment- it is not as hard as all that to find these bargains- are absolutely tremendous. If somebody came to see me I could give him advice on where he should go.
– David Jull, travel agent!
– I can get the honourable member a ticket through to London for $585. I will get him a stop-over in Paris. If he does not want to stay in Paris I will get him a stop-over in Bombay. That fare is quite cheap. The bucket shop deals that are being offered in this country at the moment are absolutely unbelievable. I sincerely hope that the Minister will look at air navigation regulation 106a. Quite frankly, it does not seem to be able to do the job. We have a most amazing situation in the aviation industry in Australia. There are people who will suffer as a result of it. It concerns the payment of overriding commissions, the provision of net fares and the simple under-the-counter trick of just handing an agent money.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) mention a ticket that might have been sold overseas at a cut price but yet showed the full fare. To my knowledge one airline at least has a large accounting firm working for it in Hong Kong employing no fewer than 43 people who do nothing all day but go through and work out the bodgie tickets. Frankly, I do not know just how we are going to stop this. I also know of another airline that actually employs a courier who flies from Hong Kong every so often with a bag full of money and somehow manages to get through Customs at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. The story is almost unbelievable. He goes to a location such as Hyde Park in Sydney, stands behind the second tree on the right and waits for people to come along. They tap him on the shoulder, give him the code word and he opens his little bag and gives them a handful of money. That courier then straps his bag to his wrist, makes sure there is no security check at the domestic terminal and flies to any other port around Australia to make further payments. That is a true story. That is how filthy the market has become in Australia. I congratulate the Minister and commend him. I wish him the best of luck in trying to clean up that market. It has not been possible to keep it clean in the past. It is of great concern to a great number of people.
There are a number of other areas that I think we should be looking at. Travel insurance should be up for review. People should be aware that they are not eligible for travel insurance if they are over 75 years of age and if they do have preexisting illnesses. I have mentioned once before in the House the matter of deaths on aircraft. They are not infrequent. They are happening on a regular basis. It is possible for people to lose all of their fare and the relatives of the deceased to be left with a tremendously large bill to bring the remains of the deceased back to Australia. I issue my plea once again. Aged people and people who do have pre-existing illness should get themselves a medical certificate from their doctor before they embark on a long overseas journey. Twenty-four hours in an aircraft full of people packed in like sardines is not a pleasant experience. It certainly is not a very good experience for someone in later life.
I am sure that the House welcomes the results that the Minister has announced tonight. There has been a significant increase in the number of visitors coming into Australia. We trust that the continuing review will go on and that there will be further advances in the negotiation of international air fares so that all Australians- all Australians do benefit from tourism- can get their worth out of the world ‘s second biggest industry, soon to become the world’s biggest industryinternational tourism.
– It is always a pleasure to follow the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), who always speaks so eloquently on the subject of tourism. I am very interested in some of the fares that he was offering round tonight. I am sure that he will get quite a few takers from members of this House. The Opposition welcomes the statement made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt). We commend the Government on a number of initiatives that have resulted in an increase in the number of tourists coming to Australia. The figures, of course, have been quoted quite a number of times this evening. The Minister, in his speech, said that from February to November last year, more than 617,000 short term visitors arrived in Australia, an increase of 26 per cent or about 128,800 over the same period in 1978. On the other hand, the number of overseas travellers going out of Australia grew from 841,000 in 1978 to more than 948,000 in 1979, an increase of about 13 per cent. Although the number of Australians travelling overseas is a great deal more than the number of visitors coming into Australia, the gap is narrowing. If we can keep up the rate of increase that we have had in the last 12 months, of course, it will not be long before the number of people coming to Australia will exceed the number going out.
Tonight I want to take up the concern that is being caused by the unseemly wrangle and debate that has occurred about whether Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines should be allowed to fly out of Australia. I think it is safe to say that the Opposition’s position is that it wants to see two things happen. We are not concerned about which Australian airlines fly into and out of Australia. We want to see the two domestic airlines get together with Qantas Airways Ltd and work out an arrangement so that Australian consumers get the best possible benefit, the airlines remain profitable and the Australian tourist industry prospers.
Australia has three airlines and they are all Australian. Two are government-owned and one is privately owned. It ought to be within the wit of man for these three airlines and the Government to get together at a round table conference over the next few months and work out which aircraft and which airline can best serve some of the Asian routes. We know that Qantas has shifted mainly to Boeing 747 aircraft and the short-haul aircraft are now in the possession of the domestic airlines. We know that Ansett wants to fly to Singapore and to points north and TAA would be most anxious to do so. We know that Qantas wants to carry domestic passengers from Perth to Sydney and perhaps from Sydney to Melbourne as it has spare capacity. Surely to God it is within the wit of the Government and the wit of the three airlines to get together and work out an arrangement.
We do not have access to the sorts of figures that would enable the Government and the airlines to make those sorts of decisions. As the honourable member for Bowman and many others have pointed out, an arrangement between the airlines and the Government could make it easier for Australians wanting to go out of Australia and for people who want to visit the two most popular parts of Australia. I have said this so many times that I am getting bored listening to myself saying it: The Great Barrier Reef and the centre of Australia are two of the greatest attractions in the world and yet nobody gets to them.
– We ‘ll get them there.
– The Minister is not everybody. The point is that less than 5 per cent of the international travellers get there. I am told by top people employed by Qantas Airways Ltd, who are in charge of sales in America- I forget the exact figures- that somewhere around 60 per cent or 70 per cent of people visiting travel agents say that they would like to see the Great Barrier Reef when they arrive in Australia. That is the first thing they say. The figure is something like 60 per cent or 70 per cent but less than 5 per cent get there. What happened? Qantas stopped promoting the Great Barrier Reef. The same situation applied to the red centre. Qantas takes the attitude: There is not much point in our putting up the lovely pictures of the Barrier Reef and all those beautiful fish if once the people come here we cannot sell it to them because it will cost them $700 each to go to Sydney and another $350 to go to the Barrier Reef. That is, they have to pay a 50 per cent add-on fare just to see the Barrier Reef. Most of them do not realise how far away from Sydney the Barrier Reef is located. Tourism in the north of Australia has enormous potential but that potential can be achieved only if we develop an international airport in the north and work out an arrangement whereby the three airlines between them can run the services that are required to the north. I am sure that if the Minister could come up with a satisfactory solution we would support it.
One of the things that concerns me- it is not mentioned in the Minister’s statement- is the consistent campaign to sell Trans-Australia Airlines. In his statement the Minister dealt mainly with international air fares. I find this campaign most disturbing. I notice that the Government has taken the view, at least in public, that it will not wear this attempt to sell TAA. TAA and, of course, Ansett Airlines of Australia are not simply airlines operating for profit; they are running a national service. If they were running only profitable routes they would make a lot more money. The Australian outback people- those who live away from the major capital cities such as those in the electorate of the Minister for Transport- would not be getting the regular services that they now receive. If those routes were taken away from TAA and Ansett they would make a great deal more money.
The other point which I find infuriating about this holier-than-thou attitude of those private enterprise advocates on the other side of the House is that they say: ‘This is a matter for government’. But we do not hear the same people saying: ‘Let us take over the railways’. We never hear them demand that this is a matter for governments to handle. Why is that so? Ever since railways were built in this country they have lost money. The first railways built in Australia were privately owned. The owners could not get rid of them quickly enough. We do not hear those people asking to take over the hospital or education systems. It is the old principle of free enterprise: They flog off to the Government everything they cannot make a profit on and keep everything possible for themselves. I find this whole debate absolutely sickening. There has not been one ounce of honesty throughout, except that which came from the Minister and a few others. I say to all those back bench Liberals who so ardently advocate free enterprise: I will sell them TAA as long as they will take over the railways, the hospitals and the education system, and run them as well as the Government is running them today.
-I remind the honourable member that we are debating a statement on the international civil aviation policy. It would assist the Chair if the honourable member remained relevant to the debate.
-Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like to make a comment on the growth rates to various countries which were mentioned in the Minister’s statement. I notice with interest that there has been a growth rate of 47 per cent on the United Kingdom route; 78 per cent in relation to Germany and 40 per cent in relation to the United States of America. I am looking forward to seeing- I have been a strong advocate of this for many yearswhat will happen with our traffic between Australia and Japan. A few days ago the Minister announced the introduction of the individual round trip fare from Sydney to Japan. It was reduced from $1,145 to $769, which is a reduction of $376. In all the debates about Australia’s tourism potential, it has always been said that we will never attract the big markets; we are too far away from Europe and the United States. It is far easier for the Americans to travel to Europe or to points much closer such as Africa and Latin America. Japan is almost as close to Australia as it is to the United States and is closer to Australia than it is to Europe. It is about a nine-and-a-half or a 10-hour flight. For the Japanese it is not a long flight to get to Australia.
– It is very close to the Barrier Reef.
– Exactly. The Japanese are great travellers. The last figures which I saw showed that somewhere in the order of 3.4 million Japanese travel abroad each year. I see Australia as an enormous market for Japan. It will be fascinating to see, in the next six to 12 months, just what impact we have on Japan. I understand- my colleague, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) mentioned this earlier- that the initial figures for this year do not show anything like the sort of increase we had last year. That is fairly natural. There has been a fairly static growth rate in the early months of this year, which is perhaps a little disappointing to us. One cannot always tell in these cases, but I am very confident that when the Japanese market opens up, provided we give the Japanese the services and facilities they require, we will have an enormous market. I am confident that the predicted figure of one million people visiting Australia by 1983 is an underestimate. We may reach that figure earlier than that. As I said before, something like 3.4 million Japanese people travel abroad each year. The figures are probably about two years old. Of those, we would be getting 3 1,000 visitors, which is about one per cent of the total number. That is a joke. The potential is there for a country which is so close to us. Of course, the Japanese are very affluent people. Their wage rates are very high. The cost of living is very high in Japan but when the Japanese go out of the country on holiday it is quite a cheap one for them.
Much is said in Australia about the costs of Australian travel. I am quite fascinated by this because all of the evidence does not show that Australia is an expensive country to visit. This morning I saw a survey which was published in a newspaper. The Australian Financial Times publishes in about February of each year its index on costs of travel. The index takes in such things as accommodation, food, and drinks. Sydney, which is the city taken as the Australian sample, ranked 32 out of 66. That puts us roughly in the middle. The interesting thing is that the costs in those countries which are listed as our major markets, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands and the United States, are way above those of Australia.
– Saudi Arabia.
-Perhaps Saudi Arabia too. They are the markets that we are trying to get to Australia. Australia, apart from the air fares, is a cheaper destination than the countries that I have just mentioned. Recently I went to the United States. I have been there a couple of times, but this time I went to Hawaii, Los Angeles- two visits- San Francisco and Washington. I visited -
– A nice trip.
– It was a nice trip. I am sorry that you were not there to enjoy it with me, Minister.
-I invite the honourable member to address the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish you had been there too. I stayed at fairly atypical hotels while I was in the United States, such as the Ramada Inn, the International Inn, the Holiday Inn. and the Travelodge. At every one of those hotels the average price was between SUS54 and $US65 a night. On top of that I had to pay a surcharge of 5!£ per cent. In other words, the prices in America are as high as, if not higher than, for the same type of hotel in Australia, for which one would pay somewhere around $50 to $55 a night.
The other point I wish to make is that the Australian hotels offer better facilities. None of the American hotels has the sorts of facilities that ours have. There was no refrigeration, no bar service, no coffee and tea facilities, no newspapers and no fruit- none of the things that are fundamental to personal comfort. I am highly sick and tired of the Press in Australia writing articles about how our people do not give the service; the hotels do not give the quality and are too expensive. That is simply not true. There is room for improvement- in fact lots of room for improvement- in the Australian tourist industry but not of the kind described. As for service, the places I stay at in Australia give me a damned sight better service than I got in any hotel in America. I am heartily sick of the nonsense talked about Australian costs and services.
Unfortunately, time does not permit me to go on for much longer. One of the things I want to expand on later on the question of tourism- I did so when I presented the Australian Labor Party tourism policy at Port Stephen’s last week- is the need for us to build total tourist complex resorts. I refer to the sort of thing that is being done in Bali, Singapore and Mexico, which I visited. In Mexico, whole towns like Can-Cun and IxtpaZihuatenejo where the Government is developing total townships, beautiful hotels, marinas, golf courses, restaurants and condominiums- the whole lot- are springing up. One city I visited was a complete wilderness a few years ago. It is now a city with an airport. The whole complex employs 9,000 people as a result of tourism.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not want to delay the House for very long, but I do want to pay tribute to the speakers who preceded me in this debate because I believe that the debate has been of a very high calibre. It has been characterised by a politically impartial approach because there is obviously good intent on the part of the Parliament at large, and certainly on the part of those people who have spoken in the debate tonight, to ensure that every effort is made to maximise the potential of Qantas Airways Ltd and to provide to the Australian public and those people who want to come to this country a service of the standard that we have enjoyed, by international comparisons, for such a long time.
The statement made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) tonight is obviously very significant. It is called ‘The Government’s International Civil Aviation Policy Achievements’. It is an account or a record of things that have occurred. There may be an element of disputation about the emphasis given by the Government to the existing situation and that which has prevailed in recent times. But it is certainly not a statement of intent by any means. A great deal is yet to be explored as to the way in which the travelling needs of Australians and those who seek to come here can be fulfilled in the future.
I believe Australians see the sign ‘Qantas’ in many parts of the world as they would see an Australian embassy, an Australian diplomatic post overseas. Qantas certainly serves that role. It is a sanctuary for Australians to get within the care of Qantas and I am glad to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) indicating his acquiescence in what I have said. He would obviously regard this great institution as complementary to the network of services for which he is responsible throughout the world. We want to ensure that Qantas is preserved in the future to enable it to go on rendering this great service. I am told that in March 1 979 its assets were in the vicinity of $703m and that it services some 25 countries. It has a staff in excess of 13,000, all of whom are highly accomplished and well trained. Its revenue for 1979 was $744m, which is more than double its revenue in 1974 when the figure was $3 10m. Its profit for 1978-79 was $22.7m. So this organisation is no slouch. It does not have to grovel for continued support. It is entitled to the uncompromising and unqualified backing of the Government of the day and of the Australian people.
One of the things which has helped to make Qantas great, in my view- I think I have a view which is contrary to that of a Government back bench committee- is the high calibre of the man who is currently at the helm of this organisation, Sir Lenox Hewitt. It does little for Qantas, it does little for Australia’s prestige overseas, to have this continuous niggardly picking-away at Sir Lenox. There are some people who seem to have a greater preparedness to tout for private enterprise than they have to eulogise and acknowledge the work of Qantas and the people who lead it. I am not sure whether Sir Lenox’s term has been renewed- I am inclined to think that it has not been- but I think it ought to be, because he certainly is a man who in so many fields has given a very great account of himself. He has been enjoying the support of both parties for a considerable time and I hope that the contrary trend, which is obviously being encouraged by overseas charter interests and the likeprobably anti-Australian interests- will diminish as time goes by because no one is more responsible for Australianising Australian aviation than is Sir Lenox Hewitt.
I have mentioned the people who work in the service- in excess of 13,000. We can see them replaced if we like- if we do not have a sense of Australianism pulsating through our bloodstream; if we are prepared to have anybody take the place of Qantas in the pursuit of a quick quid. We can see these 13,000-odd people put on the labour market. I think that would be a very sad thing to happen.
There are so many uncertainties about aviation matters today that we have to acknowledge that Qantas has done extremely well to achieve the level of profit to which I referred. Of course, the whole key to highly capitalised industries of this kind is the issue of utilisation. We hear some of the experts say that we should have 80 per cent utilisation. I understand that the level that Qantas has achieved is in the vicinity of 6 1 per cent. It is not good enough, but it is our job to ensure that this is not pared away by indiscretions. It is always easy for people to come in on the grouter, as we know by an examination of any one of a large number of industries. There are 13 to the dozen policy people all round the country. They are attached to the pharmaceutical industry, to the motor industry, to the television appliance industry and the like. There is always somebody who can do the job cheaper, give a 10 per cent or 20 per cent discount. They can cut the price, but the things that really count are whether they render the service and whether they put something back into the industry. It is possible for any entrepreneurial person such as the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) to get into the act and say ‘I will cut the price and find an aircraft which I will charter from some overseas company and run the thing at a low rate’, but in the process how many pilots would such a person be training? What would he be contributing in terms of safety? What would be the quality of the comfort service to which the Minister referred quite significantly in his statement? We take a very great pride that when we fly on the Qantas airline we are getting onto a service that puts people before profit.
– Safest airline in the world; not one fatality.
-The honourable member for Parramatta says that it is the safest airline in the world. I think his contention is probably true. I have never verified it. We are proud of it. I do not think we are being advantaged by people who continually gripe away at Qantas because they can find someone who, as I put it in very basic terms, can just come in on the grouter and do the job cheaper. I admonish the honourable member in that way and I hope that he accepts the admonition in the good faith with which it was intended.
Qantas has enormous problems. The fuel bill for 1978-79, of $ 104m, was high enough but it is predicted that for 1979-80 it will rise to some $208m. Imagine operating with that degree of uncertainty. Even with all of the computer assistance, forward predictions and planning available one is left with a very uncertain scene. Fuel represents, of course, a much greater cost factor than it has in the past. I understand that it now represents about 50 per cent of the hourly operating cost of the service, compared with only 26 per cent in the not far distant past.
Whatever is wrong with Qantas, if indeed anything is wrong, and not much has been said in criticism of it tonight, must be laid right at the door of the Government of the day. That must be understood. The Government, which represents the people of this nation, has the capacity to deploy this highly capitalised service. It is faced by a public entrepreneurial challenge. It cannot blame anyone else. The Government of the day appoints the most accomplished public servant it can find to administer the airline, but it is part of a difficult scene. We have to stick with it and accept that the Government is responsible for giving all of the financial directions. It is the Government that negotiates international agreements. One must recognise that the last international arrangement, increasing fares by some 22 per cent, represents an inter-governmental product rather than something that has emerged from Qantas alone.
Despite all that, we are not satisfied, nor should we be, when we note that the cheapest London fare- according to I believe the Minister- is about $882. We know that the Australian people have a sense of mobility. Our ethnic people periodically want to go back whence they came. We must be restless and ensure that Qantas does all that it can to meet the great expectations of the Australian people.
Before I conclude, I say that I am concerned, as previous speakers have been, about the present controversy in respect of the entry of Ansett into the international arena. In that connection I wish to ask the Minister one or two questions which he might be good enough to answer if he has the opportunity to do so.
First, I understand that last week the chairman of Qantas, Sir Lenox Hewitt, was invited by the Townsville television station TVQ7 to appear on a program with Mr Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles. I am told that Sir Lenox actually accepted the invitation. It concerned a highly controversial issue in which the Australian people are interested. I refer in particular to the proposal of Ansett for chaner flights from Townsville to Singapore. Unexpectedly, the invitation to Sir Lenox was withdrawn. I would like to know why. Was it the result of commercial pressure from Ansett, because the spokesman for Qantas intended going before the media to justify Qantas ‘s view? Was it as a result of political pressure? I believe that it involved the suppression of information which the public is entitled to have. We ought to have some indication why Sir Lenox was taken off that program. He was willing to participate and has since indicated that he is prepared to speak publicly in defence of his organisation, which is under attack.
What is the basis for the approval of the single Ansett charter from Townsville to Singapore which took place last week? Is Ansett allowed to charge fares of the passengers on the charter? My inquiries have indicated that the charter was undertaken by the Townsville Community Citizens Group; also that neither the Corporate Affairs Commission of Queensland, nor its
Townsville office, has any knowledge of that organisation. Can the Minister say whether any residual costs to Ansett of the charter from Townsville to Singapore are tax deductible? If so, is the Australian taxpayer meeting approximately half the cost of this charter, which will be flying in the face of the Government’s stated international civil aviation policy? Is the Minister satisfied that Ansett is not illicitly subsidising the charter from Townsville to Singapore? If Ansett is, for instance on a peppercorn basis, what steps has the Minister taken to ensure that the cost is not loaded into any fare increase that is being sought, or will be sought, by Ansett in respect of domestic fares?
Qantas is entitled to a fair go in these matters. It does not get a chance to come into the public arena and put its case. It is being picked off. I stand here in its defence tonight. We have a great airline service. I do not think that the Government has any intention of selling Qantas but, on the other hand, I believe that after the next elections if the Government is returned to office Trans-Australia Airlines will be on the skids and is bound to go down the drain. For heavens sake, let us sustain a bit of national pride and ensure that our public airline retains the viability that in the past has characterised its great and glorious achievements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 April, on motion by Mr Peacock:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The House has before it the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Amendment Bill 1 980, which is designed principally to facilitate the establishment in Canberra of a permanent mission of the European Communities. However, the Bill is phrased in terms which would allow any similar type of regional international organisation to establish a mission in Canberra, subject to necessary regulations being proclaimed. For example, it would allow a mission of the Association of South East Asian Nations to be established if ASEAN should acquire in our region the status that the European Community has acquired in Europe.
The Bill is technical in nature and does not call for a great deal of comment. However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in his second reading speech welcomed the proposed establishment of the EC mission in Canberra as indicating the importance of EC-Australian relations, as facilitating the conduct of such relations. There is a certain irony in the fact that the only tangible result of the policy of confrontation with the EC pursued by the Government until recently has been the establishment of an EC mission in Canberra. The Europeans have clearly judged the Australian Government, if one might say so, to be so unfamiliar with the communities as to warrant their being specially represented in Canberra. I hope that the Government’s attitude will not result in the mission’s principal purpose being the receipt of protest notes from the Australian Government.
I remind the House of the great damage that was done to Australia ‘s relations with the principal countries of Europe as a result of the misguided adoption of a policy which was designed to bring down the European Communities’ common agricultural policy. I believe that a European journal describe it as the Colonel Bull Moose approach. It did Australia immense harm and undid years of careful diplomacy and the building of sound relations. The Europeans were amazed, indeed insulted, by the style and substance of the Australian approach.
The Department of Special Trade Negotiations, as it then was, appeared to have success only in focusing the attention of the Europeans on Australia. The Department has become somewhat one that is searching for a portfolio, but the Europeans have not diminished their attention to Australia. Our performance has certainly not encouraged the Europeans to look at us in any disinterested fashion. The Government has encouraged the EC to accuse Australia of being protectionist. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, Australia’s performance is not something of which we should be ashamed, especially when we consider the standards of the EC and other groups in relation to protection. We are far less protectionist than are many of the countries of the developed world, indeed, probably less so than most. The Government could do a lot more to defend Australia’s very good record on this score. Yesterday the Vice-president of the Commission of the European Communities, in his opening address at the ministerial talks being held presently, put this position:
So far as European exports to Australia are concerned, we are worried from time to time, as you know, about particular measure taken to protect Australian industry. Our exports, we feel, are in an insecure position, faced by competition from Japan and Asian producers, on the one hand, and the steps adopted to protect domestic industry in Australia on the other.
We get that sort of result because of our ineptitude in handling our own arrangements in discussions with the EEC. But we should be able to defend ourselves against this sort of veiled criticism, and to do so clearly. Some of the countries in ASEAN have as many difficulties as anybody else in trying to penetrate the markets of the EEC, of the United States of America or of Japan, and it does us no good to belittle ourselves. It does not do us any good either to threaten the EEC in the hope that it will break down its common agricultural policy, which is very protectionist indeed. Attempts to link European access to Australia’s minerals and energy with Australia ‘s access to European markets for our agricultural products are misguided in the extreme. We should not be talking on that basis. The fact is that Australia may have vast resources of both energy and minerals, but we do not have a monopoly on their supply. We do not have the means to strike a nexus of that type and we will only fool ourselves if we try. Yesterday the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), in his opening speech at the ministerial talks, said:
We do not want you to feel that the prospects for energy and minerals from Australia to the EEC mean we are any less concerned about improved access for our agricultural products to the Community.
The threat could scarcely have a flimsier veil, and it will not do us very much good.
– It was an expression of concern.
-Was it? I would think that the Community has been concerned for some time, because it had to send us protest notes on the last occasion we expressed this sort of concern. Australia’s best hope for an improvement in agricultural access to the EEC lies not in an attempted linkage but in the EEC itself. I was interested to hear the comment in the House yesterday by the Minister for Trade and Resources that ‘the subventionist and subsidy policies of the Community will defeat themselves under their own weight’. I would not be so categorical, but I believe we should not ignore the ample signs of mounting criticism of the burden that the EEC’s common agricultural policy imposes.
In December 1979 the European Parliament rejected the EEC’s Budget for 1 980. That vote, it has been noted, was essentially a protest against the common agricultural policy and the fact that it soaked up almost three-quarters of the Community’s spending. The problems that Britain has had over the level of its contribution to the EEC can also be traced largely to the burden of the common agricultural policy. It may be going too far to be optimistic, but at least there seem to be reasons to hope that the common agricultural policy may not pose in the future quite the barrier that it has posed in the past. At any rate, it would seem clear that if a change to the common agricultural policy is to come, it will come from within Europe and not because of any pressure from outside.
I conclude by referring to the export of uranium. One of the European communities which will be represented in the mission in Canberra will be the European Atomic Energy Community- Euratom. This Government is currently involved in safeguard negotiations with Euratom and questions have been asked in this Parliament about the progress of those negotiations. The Government has declined to give us any meaningful information at all, let alone to inform us of such crucial matters as how the Europeans react to Australia’s requirements of prior consent. The Government is quite open about its determination to sell uranium to the EEC and I am sure that the Europeans will be more than happy to purchase it. In fact that would be one of the prime reasons that they are here. However, I hope that the EC mission in Canberra becomes more than a post office to facilitate the export of Australian uranium.
The Labor Party’s policy is not to sell uranium at this stage. Our policy is to be in a position, as and when we solve the problems of waste disposal and factors related to it, to own and to control the fuel throughout the nuclear fuel cycle. The Government should be looking at what we would do with such a fuel. We would not just sell it to the EEC. We would perhaps lease it or have other arrangements. So that the EEC understands our position, the Labor Party would wish to own and to control the fuel through the whole cycle, including the plutonium cycle. We do not want this position to become clouded.
It is very clear that some of the countries of the EEC want to get uranium not for their benefit but for an export market. We would then have all the troubles involved in trying to enforce safeguards. There have been difficulties between France and Euratom about the way that they look at their problems. I think it is important that we make these expressions at this time, because many people take an interest in Australia in the hope of getting a cheap energy source in a natural state. In other words, they envisage enriching it or reprocessing it and using the plutonium. We want to make it clear that, if and when we get to that stage, our policy is to own and to control the fuel throughout the cycle. Having said that, we commend the Bill.
– I am pleased to support the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Amendment Bill. I congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on having introduced it into the House. It is a very important Bill although it is, as we have it here, only in technical form. It will result immediately in the European Communities having the opportunity to establish what I might call a fully fledged operation in Australia. Its personnel will have the same privileges and immunities as those accorded to persons in the ordinary diplomatic service. Our relationships with the European Communities have been mentioned and an attack was made on the Government for the vigour with which in previous months and years we had made our views known to the EC and particularly the European Economic Community about its protectionist attitudes. All I can say on that matter is that this Government owes a duty to the people of Australia and must act in accordance with our national interests, particularly in trade. Our duty in the past was to make strong representations to the EEC about its protectionist policies as we understood them. There is no point in saying that external pressures will not bring about changes. I congratulate the Government on its approach. Had we adopted, in respect of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, the head-in-the-sand approach advocated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) we may never have had the settlement that has taken place. We will have to wait and see what happens there. But the basic point I make is that this Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, went into the world forum and the Commonwealth forum, took the initiative and worked at the problem of ZimbabweRhodesia to bring about a result. That was a case where external attitudes were mobilised to bring about a particular result.
I am sure that the same will apply to the Olympic Games boycott. Our Prime Minister went to America and Europe, and the Foreign Minister went to South East Asian countries and Asian countries, to put our view. Bringing this sensible and reasonable, although firm, approach to other countries has contributed materially to the developments which I believe will result in an effective Olympic boycott.
To say that we should not adopt the same approach to the EEC and that we should sit at home and fail to present our view strongly is really to say that we should surrender our national interests totally to the one-way trade pressures of the EEC. The Community has firm views and we have firm views. The establishment of the EEC was a well-merited development in world affairs. Nonetheless, it brought about a tremendous change in Australia’s trading relationships with European countries, particularly if we bear in mind the great amount of primary produce that we have traditionally sent to European countries. Therefore, we had a right and a duty to go to Europe, to express our views and to make them known to the EEC. Now that the EC is to establish in Australia an organisation similar to a diplomatic mission we will have the obvious advantage of being able to talk more closely to this organisation without the impediments of distance and time. We will be able to resolve smoothly such differences as there may be with the EEC, bearing in mind that our overall relationship with the Commission of European Communities, including the EEC, is very sound. I only put the trade problems as part of the overall relationship, which is very sound and very good.
We are part of the Western world ‘s efforts now in respect of actions to support America with regard to the Iranian hostages problem. Many of the European countries now take a view similar to that of Australia in respect of the Afghanistan question. I am sure that soon they will take a view similar to ours on the Olympic Games boycott. So we do have some differences with the Community on trade matters. Those differences can be smoothed out more effectively by the establishment of this consultative process. Indeed, as the world faces serious challenges from such actions as Soviet attacks on Afghanistan and Soviet expansionism it . will be much easier to co-ordinate with European countries if those countries establish in Australia appropriate offices with appropriate personnel with high status. If that is done we will be able to keep in touch daily with their views and to mount coordinated actions in response to the types of threats that we have seen.
I do not believe that we should underestimate the potential of this legislation to bring about the benefits that will arise from other organisations establishing themselves in Australia in the future. That, of course, is entirely a matter for future discussion; and organisations, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations, of course, have to make their own decisions fully and freely on these matters. I for one would welcome in this country such an organisation as ASEAN, if it decided that it wished to take advantage of the provisions of this legislation. But that, of course, is a matter for the relevant governments of members of ASEAN. In future one might think in terms of the South Pacific Forum. But again, no doubt, we are looking to fairly distant times. I hope that any organisation that wishes to make an application and that we believe would fit within the scheme of this legislation and our policies could be dealt with according to the regulation power.
The only other points I wish to make are these: Right now there has never been more importance in re-affirming throughout the world conventions on diplomatic immunity and conventions in respect of personnel. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1962 countries agreed to respect the inviolability of diplomatic personnel and mission premises. Even during times of serious conflict there has always been recognition throughout the world of the need to maintain those privileges. Indeed, one can remember from a reading of history which goes right back to the earliest times of mankind that there have been recognised procedures to give emissaries and envoys safe passage to carry messages from one tribe to another or from one state or nation to another. We know that 4,000 years ago treaties between nations enabled the passage of such persons. Treaties and agreements often were implied in the military sphere. One of the earliest known agreements in restraint was the understanding between desert tribes not to poison each other’s water wells. Despite such an agreement these tribes still continued active conflict.
If we do not agree that there should be immunity and inviolability of diplomatic personnel and the premises of missions the entire structure of international law can be brought asunder. That is what has happened in Iran and that is why it is extremely important that the world take active steps to bring about a release of the hostages and to ensure that world opinion dictates that this type of attack on hostages never takes place again. It is not good enough for the Government of Iran to claim that these students are out of its control. I am not suggesting that we should take such action against the Government of Iran as would hurl it into the Soviet camp. But we must take strong and measured responses. I congratulate the Government.
We have cut off the export of military or quasimilitary equipment to Iran. We export only one piece of .equipment, namely the Disappearing Automatic Retaliatory Target equipment known as DART. I would like to make one small comment on that: Having had the opportunity to view this type of equipment and having tried for some years in general to promote the concept of Australian defence oriented industry becoming more capable of competing with other countries, I am pleased that the Government has given indications that it will consider claims for compensation by the company which makes this equipment. I certainly hope that the Australian Department of Defence will consider strongly taking up the slack of orders for this company’s equipment wherever possible. Nonetheless, the general principle applies. American citizens have been detained for nearly half a year. I congratulate the Minister in that this Bill will enable us, amongst other things, to co-operate more closely with the European Community in international actions to try to have the hostages released and returned to their homes and families at the earliest possible opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Peacock) read a third time.
Representation for Handicapped Persons- Afghanistan- Moscow Olympic Gaines- Bridge Building: Employment Opportunities-NRMA: Report on New South Wales Road System- Queensland Roads- The Economy- Unemployment- Petrol Retail Industry
Motion (by Mr Peacock) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to put before the House tonight a matter which has caused me a great deal of thought over the last week or two. I think it is something which the House could well reflect upon. Last Saturday I had occasion to open a fete at a hospital in my electorate. This was the fete of the Marsden Hospital for intellectually and severely physically handicapped children. This is a hospital with which I have had a great deal to do over the last few years. I am utterly impressed with the type of person who is involved in nursing of the type that is carried out at the hospital. Obviously anyone who enters the nursing profession is a special sort of human being. But people who involve themselves in the handling of severely intellectually or physically handicapped children or, in fact, geriatrics, are special types of special people.
It struck me at the time that we have a strange situation in Australia in regard to handicapped people. A great concourse of people, over a million of them, are handicapped, be they blind- I have specific knowledge of the handicaps of blind people because I have a blind electoral secretary- intellectually handicapped, crippled or incapacitated in any way. As I said, there are well over a million people in this class. Yet this group of people does not have direct representation to the Government as such. I compare this vast number of people with perhaps a quarter of a million war veterans in Australia who have in fact a special Minister to look after their affairs. I am not suggesting for a moment that these people who have been broken in body or mind by their service to the nation in war should not have special representation within the Government.
I think it would be equally fair to suggest that the other million people who are handicapped from birth, accident or some other reason should have a direct link with the Government through a spokesman. Having researched the matter a little I was not surprised but pleased to find that in the United Kingdom there is, in fact, a Minister for the handicapped. I think that this Government, in fact any Australian government, would do well to look at what this United Kingdom Minister for the handicapped is able to do. It is fairly obvious to us all that in the normal course of events handicapped people in our community have a great number of disadvantages. That is a matter of fact.
Because I am still an alderman in local government I realise the difficulty involved when it is decided to erect a specific building. For instance, we have just built a new library in Parramatta. The special facilities that we felt impelled to install because of the incidence of handicapped people attending libraries- in the form of lifts, special handrails on stairways and special toilet facilities- are things we perhaps tend to gloss over. In the United Kingdom the Minister for the handicapped has a direct tap into many other departments where handicapped people are severely affected because of the lack of understanding, compassion and thought from people who are not handicapped. I suggest that if we have a Minister for the handicapped in Australia he should have direct contact with the Minister for Transport, for very obvious reasons. Anybody who travels on planes as much as parliamentarians do would realise the difficulty of people in wheelchairs in getting into planes, albeit they are offered very compassionate service by staff of the airlines. I would like that noted. But still the difficulty remains for them in getting in and out of planes and airports.
There are other factors. Because there is no Minister for the handicapped these people do not have a direct tap into the social security system. I think that all members of the House would agree that we are particularly blessed- with a conservative government in Australia, to which I do not subscribe- because at least the Minister for Social Security, the Hon. Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, does have compassion for people. That is very evident. I am sure she has cognisance of the problems of handicapped people. Other areas are involved. For instance, the problems that handicapped people have in participating in sport should be a special consideration for the Minister responsible for sport. There are also problems of education. More particularly, certain inventions come on the market which can add greatly to the joy a handicapped person can get out of his less than privileged life. If there were a special Minister for handicapped people inventions that could assist people to enjoy life more fully could be more advantageously placed on the market, perhaps with Government assistance. Taking all these things into consideration, I would like the Government to think about having a Minister for the handicapped.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I draw the attention of the House to a Press release published by the Press office of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics Embassy in Australia and dated 18 April 1980. It is entitled ‘Soviet News Bulletin’. The reason I mention it in the House is that it gives a very good illustration of the kind of regime that we are dealing with when we express our concern about the invasion of Afghanistan and also the kind of host that Australians will have if they go to the Olympic Games in Moscow in July.
– The International Olympic Committee is the host. What are you talking about? It is just using Moscow’s facilities.
-The honourable member for Parramatta would be unwise to draw the attention of the House to his presence and the remarks he might want to make on this matter. I will look at the Hansard record of tonight during July and I will relish the honourable member’s discomfiture at the occasion of the July Olympics. I will listen further to what he might have to say over the forthcoming months. The news bulletin states:
Timed to be published just before the 19th of April there have appeared in the Australian Press and elsewhere a great number of articles, statements and ‘intelligence assessments’ which all contain the same fabrications about the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.
I ask the House to listen particularly to the next sentence. It reads:
The Soviet troops (temporarily stationed in that country at the requests of the legitimate government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan to help to defend it from armed aggression from outside) are portrayed as ruthless villains which do all sorts of terrible things except eating small children alive.
This kind of assertions can only be the result of morbid imagination.
– Who is writing that?
-This is in the ‘Soviet News Bulletin’. It is published by the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. The bulletin continues:
Numerous examples from the past show that lies and slander are bad companions of serious and balanced policies.
The truth of course is that this is yet another round of vicious propaganda war against the USSR which serves a definite political purpose. Besides other things- such as influencing certain people and bodies- their aim is to distract attention from what is being done in Afghanistan by gangs of the so-called ‘insurgents’ overtly or covertly trained abroad and armed with modern weapons supplied in abundance by the same foreign ‘friends’.
This bilge continues in a similar vein on a subsequent page. This great power, represented in this city by an embassy, seriously puts out this sort of rubbish in order to influence, I know not whom, that its case for the invasion of Afghanistan is serious. It also seeks to suggest that it would be a good host for the international Olympic movement at the Olympic Games. The simple test for this is whether we are allowed to go to Afghanistan freely, to be able to check out whether the 600,000 refugees that have gone into Pakistan as a result of the invasion are telling the truth or not. We would be able to investigate reports from the refugees that in the town of Kerala there was a mass massacre of all the men and boys in the town. We would be able to check out whether 1,000 people were killed in Kabul over a day or two in the course of an insurrection. We would be able to check all these things out. The absolute nonsense that is put forward by the Soviet Union has to be tested by our being able to check out the facts. If any allegations are made against the United States of America we can go to Washington to check them out and we can examine various works and studies- mostly critical- on the Government of the United States. I ask honourable members whether it is possible to visit either Kabul or Moscow in order to check out the statements that are made by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
-The House will be aware of the fact that the Government has shown some interest in facilitating the activity of Australian firms in Asia in connection with aid programs. For some time I had the privilege of having ministerial responsibility for the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which is a very great institution. At that time, it had a manifestation in 22 countries. It was able to attract a great deal of business by its initial pioneering work and it brought benefit to Australian private enterprise.
I understand that at present the Australian Government is committed to providing aid to Indonesia in the form of bridging materials worth $20m to $24m which are to be supplied over four years. This is a part of a much larger aid program. In my experience with the SMEC in a number of Asian areas I was able to establish that many governments were extremely active and effective in promoting their own companies as participants in and tenderers for aid programs. It seems legitimate to me that if a country is picking up the tab it ought to get into the act to the extent of getting some of the business rather than being ultra-high principled to the point where it does not care whether it or another country gets the business. I know that there are some sensitivities about these matters. In this instance tenders have already been called. What I am saying has some application to the present situation for which tenders have been called and certainly for future government policy.
We talk in a very airy-fairy manner about the incidence of unemployment in Australia. This is a chance for the Government to do something very practical. One can imagine the flow-on in terms of job opportunities if an Australian company picked up $24m worth of steel bridging fabrication. It involves the manufacture of steel in Australia, the fabrication of the bridges, the repatriation of expertise to Indonesia and so on. I believe preference should be given to an Australian firm which would use the successful tender as the basis for further expansion of Australian built bridging materials in other countries of Asia. In this way a benefit will accrue.
What happens at present is that tenders are called. Because our companies have never had a break, overseas companies are able to come in and point to their wide international experience. They say: ‘We have built bridges in Fiji, the Philippines and so on’. If we use that criteria, the great British monopolies and other great international cartels will always be able to maintain their advantage. Most bridging in developing countries has been supplied by three British firms which have effectively shared the market between them since World War II, by virtue of their technical expertise, their assiduous pursuit of contracts, and especially the encouragement they receive from their Government and the fact that no other competitor has established himself. I believe the Australian Government’s aid projects provide an opportunity for Australian companies to be so encouraged. I note that in this instance at least one Australian company- there are probably a number- is interested. I put it to the Government that this is an opportunity to show some national pride and to overtake the disadvantages that have characterised the tendering business in this particular aid area for so many years.
– I speak in the adjournment debate tonight to challenge a report attributed to Mr George James, Chief Executive Officer of the National Roads and Motorists Association, which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Daily Mirror. The report stated that New South Wales had the worst road system in Australia. If this is the situation he must be referring to roads which are the responsibility of the State Government and not the federal highways. Let us make a comparison of highways on a mile-for-mile basis. Obviously Mr George James has not travelled the Queensland highways, particularly those that have no bitumen surface or those that are impossible to use in the wet seasons of northern Queensland and also northern Australia. In fact, they are not highways, they are dirt tracks. Obviously Mr James does not take into account the fact that Queensland has three times the length of federal highways, some 3,900 kilometres, that New South Wales has, which has just over 1,300 kilometres. This gives Queensland a problem which is three times greater than that of New South Wales. New South Wales is further advantaged because of its population. It receives 75 per cent more Commonwealth funds than Queensland, which has a greater need in the area of roads, particularly the federal highways.
Among many voices of protest about the condition of the Bruce Highway was that of the Townsville Chamber of Commerce. Late last year the Chamber convened a meeting of local,
State and Federal Government authorities and interested community folk to publicise the problem. The Chamber’s views were transmitted to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 26 November. After his reply, further written representations were made by that same chamber on 2 April this year. The Chamber certainly pulled no punches in its representations. The problems of wet weather dislocation, the spoilage of goods and the general cost to the north’s tourist and other industries were fully exposed. There has been a commitment to the completion of this missing link, which involves bridging many streams and other high cost construction. But the commitment, with inflation and the use of day labour, has not bridged the time gap and the road is still not a reality.
– I thought Joh was on the committee.
– The honourable member for Lalor should travel on it one of these days. He would find that what I am saying is the truth.
– Invite me and I will come.
– The honourable member for Lalor is invited. The funds allocated by the Federal Government for the highway are low and out of proportion to the needs of the State. In addition it must await a priority, which can only be set by the State, to ensure its completion.
The problem is more real than it is emotional. The argument raised by the northerners- the fact that the Federal Government took over responsibility for all the highway systems in 1974 - overlooks, firstly, the condition of the highways at that time, and, secondly, that irrespective of the amount of funds made available the highways of Queensland could not be completely upgraded to southern standards immediately. In fact it would be a long job. Thirdly, the argument overlooks that the length of national highways and the decentralised nature of Queensland make it impossible to provide funds sufficient to the needs of the task that presently exist. It must also be realised that States, with the extra revenue from the Federal Government because of the personal tax sharing arrangements under the federalism scheme, are not precluded from the expenditure of those funds on road sections that were not existent before or at 1974 when the Commonwealth took over responsibility; nor are the States precluded from providing additional funds for any of these highways. Other States do this to a greater degree than my own State of Queensland. It should also be realised that better use of funds by the use of private contractors in place of expensive day labour would build longer and better roads at the same cost.
As a Federal parliamentarian, I ask the Treasurer (Mr Howard), the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) and all Ministers to consider the Commonwealth’s responsibility to Queensland in the States Grants (Roads) Act which operates for the next three years and commences on 1 July this year. The wealth created from Queensland’s decentralised mining and agricultural areas, particularly in my electorate of Dawson, and the contribution of those areas to overseas trade demand this. I also suggest that Queensland has a special responsibility in regard to the speedy construction of this missing link of Highway No. 1 between Marlborough and Sarina. Mr James might travel on Queensland roads to form a fresh assessment. He could then add his argument to that of the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland to support greater road funding for our State.
– I respond to points made by the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) which might lead those who heard his speech or those who may read it to believe there is some excuse for the Queensland Government’s tardy approach to this so-called horror stretch between Marlborough and Sarina.
– I didn’t say that.
– I said it. I have heard it called the horror stretch.
– No, the excuse.
– I said that it might lead people to believe that there is some excuse.
– He said that the State had no excuse.
– Nevertheless, it might lead people to believe there is some excuse. The honourable member for Dawson suggested that we do more to help Queensland because Queensland has done so much for Australia from mining royalties and so on. He cannot have it both ways. The philosophy of the Australian Government is that if the States feel that they are not getting enough money from the federal funding formula they can apply their own State income taxes. That is not an Australian Labor Party suggestion. That is a suggestion of the Liberal-National Country Party Government in Canberra. If in fact huge amounts of Queensland ‘s resources are providing public revenues why has not the Queensland Government used some of that revenue from mining activities for its own purposes? Why does Queensland have to prostitute itself to foreign firms which sell our resources at a ridiculous fraction of world prices? I refer to a limited energy resource such as coal. Alumina and aluminium are produced by using that cheap energy resource. Electricity for consumers in homes in Queensland is not cheap. Those consumers in central Queensland pay one of the highest electricity rates in Australia. This does not apply to aluminium processing or aluminium smelting which is now being planned. I am not excusing the Labor Government of New South Wales. All State governments are competing for a slice of the action to attract industry into their areas. There is grave Federal responsibility in not regulating, co-ordinating and rationalising the approach to foreign deals of this kind. While Queensland claims that it is producing enormous resources, and it is selling out these resources as fast as it can at the lowest rates, it has no case for coming back to the Federal Government.
This horror stretch between Sarina and Marlborough was travelled by the honourable member for Newcastle, Mr Charles Jones, in March 1975, when he was Labor’s Minister for Transport. He deplored the low priority given to this road and to another section of the Capricorn Highway west of Rockhampton. He declined to approve the works programs until another $lm was allocated in 1975 for each of those highways. Those are not the only provisos that he made. The Federal Labor Government initiative specifically insisted on the development of the alternative highway which is now going forward. Many of the bridges have been completed and that will be a decent all-weather road. For once we will be able to say that we will have a wet season without Rockhampton being cut off for a week from the north, west, south and east.
I put on record that the Queensland Government has never given the Labor Government any credit for taking over the responsibility for national roads and highways. Whatever happens on any stretch of that highway, whether it is federally funded engineering improvements to take away areas of hazard, or whatever has gone on, a sign goes up on that highway to say: ‘This is a Queensland Government project. The estimated cost is so many dollars’. There is no mention of the fact that every one of those dollars comes from Canberra. When we are discussing the relationship between Federal and State finances we ought to insist that the States give credit where credit is due and when it is due. The
Labor Party should be given the credit for its initiative in providing decent road standards for all Australians.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Tonight I draw the attention of the House to the significant improvement in unemployment figures, in particular in the Macarthur electorate, reflecting the increase in the level of economic activity in the private sector which provides three-quarters of the jobs in Australia. It is in striking contrast to the policies of the previous Government which were to diminish the amount of activity in the private sector and create more and more jobs which were paid for entirely by taxpayers. This resulted in a collapse of the total number of people employed. Under this Government, the number of people employed in the last year had risen by approximately 1 50,000. In the electorate of Macarthur which is heavily influenced by the capital goods sector of the economy there has been a significant increase in the number of people employed and a dramatic reduction in the number of people unemployed.
– They have a good member.
– I thank the honourable member for St George for his perspicacious interjection. The key point to which I wish to refer is the industrial area of Wollongong where the statistics provided by the Commonwealth Employment Service show the lowest unemployment level for males for four years. This is very significant indeed, lt dramatises the extent to which the industrial upswing has begun to have a very important effect on the capital goods industry. Not only has there been the lowest unemployment level for males for four years but also has there been a significant improvement in junior unemployment in this region. This is evident from the statistics from both the Wollongong and Warilla CES offices which cover the central part of the Illawarra area. In addition there has been a fall in junior unemployment figures in the Nowra and Goulburn CES offices which also cover parts of my electorate. Even in the rapidly expanding Campbelltown area, which covers sections of my electorate, there has been a reduction in the number of unemployed school leavers. Despite the fact that Campbelltown is growing with remarkable speed, naturally the total number of unemployed in Campbelltown has risen. There is no doubt, when one looks at junior unemployment figures, that one will find that the Government is moving in the right direction compared with the direction that was taken by its predecessors. For example, junior unemployment figures in the Wollongong area fell by 113 from March 1979 to March 1980. If one looks at the seasonal figures, one will find that there has been an even greater fall in unemployment figures throughout the region from February to March. The junior unemployment figure for Wollongong fell by 1 1 3.
– To what?
-If the honourable member for Parramatta is keen to find out the total I have no reason to hide those figures. They show an improving trend which is quite contrary to the trend when his party was in power. The total number of junior males unemployed in Wollongong fell by 131 to 1,1 10. That is a fall of about 12 per cent. It is a shame that the Labor Party was not able to show that sort of statistic when it was in office. In March this year, in Warilla the junior unemployment figure fell by 85 compared with the figure there in March 1979. In Nowra, the fall in the same period was 71. In Goulburn it was 1 1. These improvements have been assisted by the Federal Government’s youth employment and training schemes which offer substantial assistance to employers who provide jobs for unemployed youth. In Wollongong, there has been an overall improvement in total unemployment. Of course, this is true throughout the area. This is largely because of the significant increase in the number of placements of unemployed people in jobs by the CES offices in my region. I congratulate the CES officers in my electorate for their dedicated hard work in placing so many unemployed people in jobs.
-Tonight I wish to speak on this Government’s bankrupt petrol industry retail proposals. Judged by its actions and not by its words, the Fraser Government has sold small business down the drain. There is no better illustration of that fact than what is happening with petrol station proprietors. The fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum alerted the Government to the problems in the petrol retail industry shortly after the Government came to office four and a half years ago. Since then the Government has promised a lot but regrettably has done nothing. It has readily tolerated collusive and discriminatory practices by oil companies. These companies are running service station proprietors out of business by charging these dealers more for petrol than the selling prices at stations operated by commissioned agents.
Clearly, the object is to install company agents at every petrol station in Australia to complete the vertical integration of the oil industry. When the monopoly is complete, discounting will end. The consumer will be ripped off by the oil companies and governments will be powerless to do anything about it. The story is depressingly familiar not only in the general retail area but also in the mining industry. Regrettably this Government will side with big business against small business every time. It has presided over a period of unprecedented and unrestrained foreign takeovers in the Australian resource industry. When the Government talks about free enterprise it means freedom for the oil companies to indulge in unfair and collusive business practices. When the Government talks about leaving things to the market place, it means leaving things to a market where thousands of small business people are dominated by a few powerful corporations.
The Government has been able to get away with its inactivity in relation to the problems of the oil industry for four and a half years. It has cleverly dispelled the anger of petrol retailers with promises that it has had no intention of keeping, and by hiving off the problems to numerous committees and conferences. At last petrol station proprietors- those in Adelaide, certainly- are aware of the Government’s deceit over the last four and a half years. They are planning a protest against the lack of Federal Government action on the petrol retailing issue. Who could blame these dealers after the shabby treatment they have received from the Government? In October 1978 the Government promised dealers that it would prohibit oil companies from engaging in direct retailing, that it would outlaw price discrimination and that it would control franchise agreements. It promised to act urgently on these matters. Eighteen months later we have only a draft Bill that ignores the two main proposals contained in the previous agreement. Those two proposals are the only proposals that the oil companies were prepared to concede. We have a Bill that offers some improvements to franchise agreements, which agreements are negated by its lack of effective sanctions should companies break them. The aggrieved dealer will be able to sue for only limited compensation whilst the oil company will suffer no additional penalties in law.
Only a month ago I had occasion to block a major oil company in South Australia from signing a new set of franchise agreements. That company would have run many proprietors in that State out of business had it been allowed to proceed. In addition, as I understand it, the Bill is not made retrospective until October 1978 despite promises to the contrary by the previous Minister for Transport. The other day I asked the present Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) the reason for this lack of retrospectivity. He did not give me an answer. In short, the Bill is next to useless. The Government, it is to be regretted, has sold out to the oil companies once again. Let the Government be warned that the Australian public will not be deceived by its trickery. I suggest that in South Australia, for the first time, there is to be a large attack by all petrol resellers on the Government’s lack of legislation. Quite clearly, this is a Government of big business by big business for big business. The Government had better get the message before December, particularly in South Australia. Every petrol reseller is out to attack the Government for its failure to enact appropriate legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 29 April 1980 at 3 p.m., or until such time thereafter as Mr Speaker may take the Chair.
The following paper was deemed to have been presented on 23 April 1980, pursuant to statute:
Canberra College of Advanced Education ActStatute No. 42- Courses and Awards Amendment (No. 1 ).
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 August 1979:
When will there be a report to the Parliament on the action that the Government has taken or proposes to take as a result of the recommendations in the report tabled in June 1977 by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled ‘The Middle East’, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s direction of 25 May 1978 that statements would be made to the Parliament on all committee reports.
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
The Government’s response to the report on the Middle East was tabled in the House of Representatives by me on 22 November 1979 (Hansard, page 3371 ).
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 September 1979:
What would be the additional cost of introducing a Commonwealth benefit of (a) 40 per cent, (b) 50 per cent, (c) 75 per cent and (d) 85 per cent of medical expenses (up to the common fee) below $20 for those not at present paid for (i) at 85 per cent as eligible pensioners or (ii) at 75 per cent as disadvantaged persons. ‘
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The estimates below are based on the trends shown in information supplied by the health insurance funds of services with Schedule fees of up to $20, on which they pay fund benefits. The estimates of the additional cost of introducing Commonwealth medical benefits for persons other than pensioner and disadvantaged patients for the various benefits percentages indicated by the honourable member in relation to medical benefits services’ with a Schedule fee (at the rates applicable since 1 November 1979) of$20 or less, are:-
Consistent with the wording of the honourable member’s question, the above estimates of the additional cost do not take into account any additional costs for services with a Schedule fee in the range above $20 consequent on applying the benefits percentages to all services. For instance, the present Commonwealth medical benefit for a Schedule fee of $30 is $10 (i.e. $30 less $20=$10) but higher medical benefits would arise from applying the benefits percentages to the Schedule fee of $30. For 40 per cent of the Schedule fee of $30, the Commonwealth medical benefit would be $12; for 50 per cent, $15; for 75 per cent, $22.50 and for 85 percent, $25.50.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 9 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 19 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Rossing Uranium Ltd: Employment in Namibia (Question No. 5678)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 19 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)and (2) Yes.
(a) Yes, the South African Atomic Energy Act of 1967 prohibits publication of information relating to strategic ore reserves and provides for penalties up to a fine of R3,000 or 7 years imprisonment or both for breaches of the act.
The Government has no legal means of preventing the publication of advertisements in the Australian Press of the kind referred to by the honourable member.
Furthermore, the Government has no way of knowing which Australian metallurgists, if any, have sought employment with Rossing Uranium.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 26 March 1 980:
When will a decision on the choice of a helicopter for the Royal Australian Navy’s FFGs be made.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The decision not to proceed with early acquisition of helicopters for the FFGs is based on professional military and Defence civilian advice that a helicopter fully meeting the needs envisaged for the FFG is not yet available. The USN is adopting an interim solution from its existing inventory to meet its early FFG needs while a more advanced helicopter is being developed. This latter development offers reasonable prospect of a substantially more satisfactory solution to Australia s needs also. It is not expected to be able to complete an evaluation ofthis development and place an order for at least another two years. There are also opportunities for rationalising the inventory of future helicopters more widely within the Defence Force. Meanwhile, the practicability is being examined of operating, from the FFGs, a less capable helicopter already available in the Defence Force so that early experience can be gained in flying from these vessels.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 26 March 1980:
Does the Government intend to proceed with the fitting of the Barra Sonobuoys to Sea King helicopters as announced on page 21, para 57 of the Australian Defence White Paper presented to the House on 4 November 1 976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The studies referred to in para 57, page 21, of the 1976 Defence White Paper demonstrated that the Sea King helicopter was not an appropriate vehicle to make most effective use of a large area ASW surveillance system such as BARRA. As a consequence it is not intended to fit BARRA in the Sea Kings. The Sea King will keep its dipping sonar capability.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 26 March 1980:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 26 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 April 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) In an approach to the Pakistan Government on 1 1 April 1979, the Australian Embassy in Islamabad expressed the Government’s concern about Pakistan’s unsafeguarded enrichment program.
The global non-proliferation scene and international nuclear cooperation could be seriously damaged by the emergence of a situation in the Indian sub-continent which shattered the fragile constraints against proliferation in that region. Australia regards this with great concern. The risks of proliferation in Southern Africa and the Middle East are also most disturbing. We hope that countries which have stood outside the NPT will reassure the international community by affirming their acceptance either of full-scope safeguards on their nuclear industries or of some other binding and verifiable commitment’.
On 21 November 1979, during consideration in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution concerning a nuclear weapon free zone in South Asia, the Australian delegation expressed concern about developments in that region and about the need for appropriate arrangements to contain the risk of proliferation there. On 30 November 1979, the Australian Governor stated in the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), during discussion of safeguards arrangements in Pakistan, that any increase in unsafeguarded facilities was indeed disturbing and that the efforts of the Director-General of the IAEA to clarify the safeguards situation in Pakistan were welcome.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800423_reps_31_hor118/>.