24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator POKE presented a petition from 109 electors of the State of Tasmania praying that the Parliament take action to extend the increase of pension rates to aged and invalid pensioner couples.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As the Minister will be aware, a number of organizations said to represent the interests of manufacturers, primary producers and retailers, prepared a case for the abolition of sales tax on all foodstuffs. The organization stated that such abolition “ would assist pensioners and married women with children who are hard pressed to supply the needs of their homes and children under conditions of rising costs “. I have received a number of complaints from pensioners and others indicating that since the sales tax was abolished no such relief has been enjoyed. Will the Treasurer ask the Commonwealth Statistician to prepare an authoritative statement showing comparative costs before and after the abolition of the sales tax on foodstuffs?
– I think it is true that in a number of cases where stocks of commodities were held the benefit of the sales tax remission was not immediately passed on. It may well bc also that some business people are seeking to retain, in whole or in part, the benefit of the sales tax reductions announced in the Budget. I suggest that those people, by virtue of competition, will reap their own reward when the public finds out that they are adopting these tactics. It has been my experience - this is confirmed both by consumers and by business people - that the benefit of the sales tax reductions is in fact being passed on except in a few cases. At a later stage to-day when we are debating a bill I propose to ‘ cite some cases at least where an immediate reduction was made. Indeed, in many cases a reduction was effected in the price of stocks that were held. With the exception of the cases of businessmen, to whom I have referred, who are not passing on the reduction, I think that in the main the public is receiving the benefit.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that manufacturers” of penicillin in Australia have announced reductions in the wholesale price of that drug? Are these reductions expected to lead to any significant savings to the Commonwealth in the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? Is it likely that similar reductions will be forthcoming in respect of other drugs which the Commonwealth makes available as pharmaceutical benefits?
– I have noted with a great deal of satisfaction the news of the reduction in price of penicillin. Two Australian manufacturers have reduced their prices voluntarily. This reduction has been made possible because of improved techniques and increased production. The reductions were negotiated with the Department of Health. The department, of course, is seeking always to have the best possible price negotiated, and the reduction in this instance will save the taxpayers some £400,000 a year. The honorable senator asked me whether this trend was likely to continue. I cannot speak with any certainty on that. Suffice it to say that we are continually examining the cost structure; and I remind the Senate that even recently wc have been successful in securing very substantial reductions in the prices of tetra cycline and Chloromycetin. Both reductions have resulted in very great saving to the Commonwealth Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Russian violinist, Igor Oistrakh, and his wife visited Canberra for a recital under contract to the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Is it also a fact that the Soviet artists refused to play the Australian national anthem? Did the A.B.C. have to engage a local pianist to perform this function? If so, will the Government request the A.B.C. to consider the possibility of not engaging people who blatantly mix their musical artistry with politics?
– I do not know whether the Russian artists referred to have visited Canberra and whether they refused to play the national anthem. I should be greatly surprised if any great artist - and I emphasize the word “great” - in any part of the world would refuse to play the national anthem of the country in which he was performing. Having said that, I shall ask the Postmaster-General whether the allegation made by the honorable senator is correct, and bring the honorable senator’s submission to the notice of the Minister.
– In view of the interest in the export of iron ore, and press reports of negotiations which are now proceeding, will the Minister for National Development recapitulate the conditions under which export licences are granted?
– I am glad of the opportunity to recapitulate the position, because there has been a good deal of interest in this matter. The mining company concerned, or the prospective exporter, has first to make arrangements with the State government which controls the mining tenements. The Commonwealth is retaining control over exports for a variety of reasons. First, it wants to see exports made from new deposits rather than from deposits which have been known to exist and have been worked for some time. It wants to see new discoveries developed, particularly those in the north of Australia. Secondly, it is not the intention of the Commonwealth to interfere, or to become involved, in ordinary, normal transactions at ordinary commercial prices; but it does require to retain some degree of control in order, for instance, to ensure that Australia receives the benefit of the export earnings. It would be possible for a purchaser to make arrangements to purchase minerals at particular prices so that the export earnings could revert to the country in which the purchaser resided instead of to Australia.
The Commonwealth has an interest also in ensuring that, so far as is practicable in the early stages of the development of new discoveries, as much processing as possible shall be done in Australia. We want to be in a position to prevent transactions at such low prices as would damage the interests of other companies. If sales were made at very low prices it would be possible for damage to be done to the industry as a whole. The main point I want to make is that we wish to see the commercial mining companies, and the interests which hold mineral deposits, go ahead with confidence in their negotiations overseas and in seeking and finalizing commercial transactions. If they are in doubt at any stage, the officers of my department will give them advice and help. We do not want any misunderstanding to exist. We want them to go ahead with their developmental work, to make their contracts and to proceed with their transactions.
– I note the announcement of the Minister for the Navy that a 14,500-ton escort ship is to be built at Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney, for the Navy. As this yard holds the contract for the building of “ Empress of Australia “ for the Sydney-Tasmania service, can the Minister assure me that the placing of the contract for the escort vessel will in no way delay completion of “ Empress of Australia “? Is the construction of the latter vessel running to schedule and in the contract for its construction is there a penalty clause for late delivery?
– I am not conversant with the detailed clauses of the contract for the construction of “ Empress of Australia “, because that ship is being built under a contract arranged by the Australian Shipbuilding Board; but I understand that construction is running to schedule and that the vessel is expected to be in service on the date originally projected. The letting of a contract for an escort maintenance ship - not an escort ship, as the honorable senator described it - should not affect completion of construction of “ Empress of Australia “ in any way. The keel of the escort maintenance ship is expected to be laid in February or March of next year. Preliminary work is now going on. This programme will enable the people employed on “ Empress of Australia “ to be phased into the construction of the escort maintenance ship as they are phased off the construction of “ Empress of Australia “ when it nears completion. It will be possible to employ not only those 600 men but also a number of others.
– Earlier to-day the Minister for Health said that two drug houses had reduced the cost of drugs supplied under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Is the Minister confident that the other 63 drug houses will make similar reductions?
– The question is in the same category as the old question, “ Have you stopped beating your wife? “. One is inhibited in providing an answer. However, I will go so far as to say that the Government is greatly encouraged by the success being achieved in negotiating with the drug houses for lower prices. It is no secret that my friends of the Opposition would not negotiate. They would direct. That is part of their philosophy of life. We for our part subscribe to the principle of private enterprise. If the time ever comes when private enterprise fails - I am quite confident that it will not - we may have to speak to these people in more positive terms, but until then we shall continue - successfully, I hope - with our negotiations.
I have not seen the actual paper which Mr. Haigh delivered. I have seen the newspaper report concerning it, and I have had the opportunity to discuss this matter with Mr. Haigh over a period. The publicity which has been given to Mr. Haigh’s paper is one of the fruits of this symposium on water resources. It has made public information which is known to the professional officers concerned but which is not so well known publicly. What Mr. Haigh said is correct. He stated the position in general terms. But before effect can be given to these proposals a great deal of detailed investigational work is needed, as outlined by Mr. Haigh himself. It is necessary to have a great deal of information; and it was for this very purpose that the Commonwealth created the Australian Water Resources Council thereby inaugurating a CommonwealthState co-operative campaign, roughly to assess our water resources and get the information which is needed about them. This is a condition precedent to the development and implementation of irrigation schemes. There has been one meeting on this subject. The second meeting, I think, will take place next month. I hope that when the second meeting is held we will have the proposals from the State governments as to what is needed in the way of technical skills and financial resources in order to put down the basis of a proper and comprehensive campaign for the collection of water data. That, I think, will be a very valuable foundational exercise for the development of northern Australia.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that two Beaver aircraft valued at £12,000 each and another light aeroplane were destroyed in cyclones last season at Mawson, Antarctica. Is it also a fact that no effort has been made by the Federal Government to replace these aircraft and that important mapping and exploration programmes are held up because our Antarctic expedition has been without aircraft? Will the Minister agree that it is imperative that something should bc done to le-establish Australia’s reputation in this field, bearing in mind that the famous Australian explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins, was the first man to fly in Antarctica? What action, if any, does the Government intend to take to replace the destroyed aircraft?
– The short answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the Government has already taken action to replace the destroyed aircraft and to enable the work that they used to do to be done more efficiently. 1 am not sure whether it was last season that the aircraft were destroyed; I think it was before then. However, the Government has been in the habit of hiring helicopters to enable the work to be done which was previously done in the area by the destroyed aircraft. There is, therefore, no need to re-establish something which has never been disestablished.
– I wish to ask the Minister for National Development a question relating to the symposium on water supplies and water conservation currently being held in Canberra. Would the Minister mind indicating to the Senate the nature of the symposium, its aims, and whether he has any views at the moment on the significance of the symposium? If he has not any views at the moment, would he mind giving consideration to preparing a statement on the symposium for consideration by the Senate at a later date?
– This symposium is not a governmental activity; it has been sponsored by the Australian Academy of Science. Those attending include professional men of high standing from overseas, plus, I should think, most of the senior experienced and knowledgeable people who are engaged in water activities within Australia. I do not think that the work of this symposium calls for any governmental statement, lt is an Academy of Science matter. Following the symposium, the academy may or may not make recommendations to the Government. In my view, the symposium is serving a very valuable purpose in directing public attention to the work that has been done and needs to be done upon Australian water resources. I am told that at the conclusion of the symposium all the papers that have been read and all the debate on those papers will be published in book form. I am sure that will be a very valuable work of reference to all interested.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that Australian exports of meat to the United States of America will be limited because the United States has introduced legislation under which every abattoir in Australia which supplies meat for export to that market must be licensed by that country. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the legislation will affect Australia’s meat exports? Has any assistance from the Government been requested by the meat industry, or has any representation been made on behalf of the industry in relation to this matter?
– I am of the opinion that the importation of our meat by the United States of America will not be limited because of added requirements imposed by the government of that country. I think the honorable senator suggested that our exports would have to be licensed by the United States Government. That is not so.
– Our abattoirs will have to be licensed.
– That is not so. Those abattoirs are licensed, quite properly, by the Australian authorities. It is true that recently the Americans have laid down certain standards similar to those which have been adopted in their own country, but my information leads me to believe that, speaking generally, the abattoir operators will have no great difficulty in meeting those requirements. In some instances substantial amounts of capital will be involved, but as far as I know no request has been made up to this point of time to any government for assistance in making alterations.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. I refer to comment on the proposed rise of 2s. 6d. in doctors’ fees in South Australia in a sub-leader in yesterday’s Adelaide “ News “, which reads as follows: -
No one can sensibly oppose the proposed 2s. 6d. rise in doctors’ fees. Doctors like every one else have been affected by rising costs.
The newspaper goes on to say -
If the Commonwealth does not rise to the occasion and narrow the present gap between benefits and doctors’ fees the whole idea of the medical benefits scheme will be thwarted.
I ask the Minister: Will he have an immediate study made of the position that is developing in South Australia and no doubt in other States as well? Has he any comment to make on the question of narrowing the gap, which is so important to 70 per cent, of the people of Australia who have elected to insure under the health scheme?
– The scheme has failed.
– There is a great deal of misconception about the so-called narrowing of the gap. I invite my friend of the Opposition who suggests that the scheme has failed to listen to the figures I propose to quote in reply to the question asked by Senator Laught. Last year, no fewer than 1,590,000 services attracted a 90 per cent, rebate. When we study specifically the gap to which the honorable senator has referred we find that in 1953-54 - the financial year in which the scheme was inaugurated - the contributor paid 36.9 per cent, of the doctor’s charges. The proportion paid by the contributor has never been more than 37.8 per cent., as it was in 1957-58. In 1961-62 the contributor paid 36.1 per cent. This was one of the lowest percentages on record. Of course, honorable senators will want an explanation of these figures, and the explanation is this: In 1953, when the scheme was inaugurated, the Commonwealth benefit was 6s. and the fund benefit was 6s., making .a total of 12s. In 1962 the Commonwealth benefit was still 6s., but the fund benefit had risen to 10s., making a total of 16s.
– Did that apply throughout Australia?
– Yes. To give an overall comparison, I remind the Senate that since 1953 the consumer price index has risen by some 25 per cent., but the proportion of benefits received by the patient has increased by 33i per cent. So I invite those people who talk so glibly about narrowing the gap to have a good look at the statistics. It is true that there are some anomalies in the present schedule, but the Department of Health is examining them and I am hopeful that we will be able to improve the service still further by removing at least some of these anomalies.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by pointing out that many requests have been made by municipal and shire councils throughout New South Wales that the Commonwealth Government pay rates, or make an ex gratia payment in lieu of payment of rates, to municipalities and shires where there are Commonwealth properties. Will the Minister take this up with the Treasurer as a matter of urgency so that an injustice which has continued for many years may be righted? The Commonwealth Government is not meeting its just liabilities in this connexion and so has been responsible for higher rates being imposed on property owners in the relevant municipalities and shires. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army are the principal offenders.
– The payment of rates by Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities has been the subject of discussion and negotiation between local government authorities and the Commonwealth Government for many years. I emphasize that all Commonwealth Government trading authorities and utilities do, in fact, make payments to local government authorities in lieu of rates.
– Some do.
– T have said that the trading authorities such as TransAustralia Airlines, the Australian National Line and the Commonwealth Bank make payments in lieu of rates.
– The three departments which 1 mentioned - the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army - do nol pay anything.
– The Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army are not business undertakings.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. By chance, my question follows somewhat, but nol entirely, the lines of the question asked by Senator Vincent about the symposium on water resources that has been held in Canberra this week. My question deals with stratigraphic drilling. In view of the vital importance of water to Australia, has any worthwhile additional information on underground water resources been revealed by the stratigraphic drilling programme that has been engaged in by oil search companies throughout Australia over a number of years with the aid of a Government subsidy? Is there an obligation on companies that receive these valuable subsidies to provide data on water discoveries?
-The reply to the first part of the question is, “ Yes “. One of the interesting and valuable by-products of the search for oil in Australia has been the additional information that we have obtained about water resources as a result of the drilling that has occurred. New water resources have been found, our knowledge of the already known water resources has been increased, and areas have been delineated in which additional underground water resources may be found. I do not think any detailed tabulation of the information has yet been prepared. However, I think there is a general knowledge of the result, which is made available to the Commonwealth and State governments. In reply to the second part of the question, I can inform the honorable senator that in respect of all operations that are subsidized, there is pro vision for full information to be made available, not only to the Commonwealth Government but also to the State governments.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. On Tuesday of this week the Minister accused a “ Sydney Morning Herald “ article writer of making a grossly false statement thatmedical care in Australia costs the nation more than the fully nationalized British, scheme. In claiming to prove the writer wrong the Minister quoted a figure of £8 16s. per head of population in Australia. Is this not merely the expenditure on health by the Commonwealth Government? Is it not a fact that in addition, according to Commonwealth statistics, the States spend about £8 per head and the private expenditure is about £13 per head, making the total cost per head of population in Australia about £30? Taking the Minister’s own figure of £22 14s. per head for the British national health scheme, is not the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ right in stating that medical care in Australia is more costly per head of population than the fully nationalized British scheme?
– Sir, I have nothing whatever to retract from the statement I made in the Senate earlier this week. The writer of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ article obviously set out to make a comparison of the British national health scheme and the Australian scheme. The inference that every one was asked to draw was that the scheme in Australia, which the writer correctly described as a limited scheme, was costing this nation more per head than the fully nationalized scheme in Britain. I suggest that the article was intended at least to confuse the people and to knock our present scheme. Unfortunately, there are many people in this land to-day who do not know the reason for the attempts to destroy our scheme. It is merely a matter of differing ideologies. Those who would destroy the scheme would have a compulsory scheme, and I invite any one who favours a compulsory scheme to visit countries overseas where such schemes are in operation. If having done that a person can honestly say that he prefers that kind of scheme to our voluntary scheme under which one can choose his own doctor, hospital or specialist - all those freedoms which are so valuable to us - then I shall look again at what I have been saying.
– By coincidence, Mr. President, my question also is addressed to the Minister for Health and relates to the medical benefits scheme. Are there different systems operating in the Australian States in respect of the qualifications required of doctors to be recognized as specialists? Is it not a fact that many people make appointments with doctors and, when applying for their medical benefit refund, find that their refund is not as much as they expected because the doctor is acknowledged as a specialist and the patient should have been referred to him by a general practitioner in order to receive the payment of maximum medical benefit? Is any action being taken to introduce regulations to ensure uniformity in the qualifications a doctor must have before he can claim to be a specialist? What action can the Commonwealth Government take to inform people that they should consult a general practitioner before seeking specialist service if they desire to obtain maximum medical benefits?
– I am not competent to comment on the qualifications required of specialists in the various States, and as the whole of the question hinges on specialist services I should like the honorable senator to put his question on the notice-paper so that consideration can be given to it. My understanding of the position is that there is no register of specialists in Australia. If that is so I will find great difficulty in giving the answers that the honorable senator requires, but I shall do my best.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I understand that lottery prizes are not taxable but that tax is levied on prizes such as motor cars and trips around the world, which are awarded for skill at football - and even games such as rugby which is not considered to be true football. Will the
Minister request the Treasurer to make an investigation to see whether prizes granted to splendid young athletes can be given the same tax exemption that is accorded to lottery winnings?
– The question asked by the honorable senator is of very topical interest. I shall certainly have an inquiry made. I think that the basis of taxing recipients of prizes or amounts of money in a case like that referred to is that the person concerned is regarded as a professional engaged in the particular sport which he plays, whereas the winner of a lottery is not a professional in any such sense. However, I shall have a look at the matter, and if that is not the basis, or if there is any other information that would be of interest to the Senate - as I am sure it would be - I will inform the Senate accordingly.
– Yesterday I asked a question without notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral about the screening of the “Four Corners ‘’ programme dealing with the Returned Servicemen’s League. Has the Minister seen the Postmaster-General and has he met with any success?
– When Senator Whiteside posed his question yesterday I suggested to him that there might be some real difficulties in screening this feature in the Opposition party room as suggested. My forecast proved to be correct, because the “ Four Corners “ show is on tape, and special equipment would be needed to show it in that room. The Postmaster-General informs me that this tape is in Canberra to-day and is available for viewing at the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s studio. I suggest to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who might like to see this feature that they ask their party whips to arrange a time suitable to Mr. Chisholm of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– My question to the Minister for Health is on the subject raised by Senator Laught. Is the Minister aware that in announcing the proposed increases in fees for home consultations in Adelaide the president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Medical Association, Dr. Dwyer, said that advice of this increase had been given to all authorities, as he did not want to embarrass anybody by announcing that the profession would commence to charge the new fees on any set date if some people were not ready to proceed at that time? Dr. Dwyer is also reported to have said that the Commonwealth Government might like to make an adjustment of its contributions to benefits following the South Australian decision. Will the Minister consult the South Australian Minister for Health and other health authorities with a view to providing some relief to the South Australian community?
– I am intrigued by the suggestion that I should consult the South Australian Minister for Health, Sir Lyle McEwin, on this matter, because this is a field in which the Commonwealth accepts the responsibility for making Commonwealth benefits available to patients. The whole of the health scheme is based on the payment of contributions to the patient and not to State governments or State instrumentalities. If the honorable senator would care to see me and amplify his suggestion I should be interested to discuss it further with him.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade by saying that some months ago it was reported that Canada would be asked by Australia to consider joining a contemplated free trade area which the Government hoped to institute between Australia and New Zealand. Can the Minister say whether any progress has been made with this proposal? Is it correct to say that the proposal contemplates only a bi-lateral agreement between Australia and New Zealand for duty-free access to each other’s markets? What advantages will the proposal have for Australia?
– This question relates to Australia and .New Zealand. Discussions have taken place and are still continuing at the official level following the visit of Mr. McEwen to New Zealand to discuss tariff arrangements between the two countries with a view to liberalizing them and increasing trade. There could be advantages to both countries and the possibilities are being, no doubt, thoroughly explored. The discussion will take some little time, because these matters are always complicated.
(Question No. 14.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Contrary to the assertion made by Senator McClelland in his question on the resignation of public servants, public service salaries have not been depressed in recent years. In 1954 the (then) Arbitration Court determined the salaries for third and second division officers. In 1959 the Arbitration Commission decided that (he salary adjustment determined by the Public Service Board for second and third division officers showed, to quote from the judgment, “… that there has been a proper economic assessment of the skill and responsibility of these public servants “. More recently, in conference with the staff associations under the chairmanship of the Public Service Arbitrator, the Public Service Board agreed to further increases in salaries for the third division of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Public Service Arbitrator issued the consent determination on 28th June, 1963.
Although statistics of resignations on the calendar year basis are not available for 1958, (he statistical information sought by Senator McClelland is provided in the following table tor the years 1959-1962. Detailed information of officers classified above the £2,553-£2,878 salary range (or its equivalent) and who have resigned since 1st January, 1959, is provided in schedule form after the table of resignations.
(Question No. 18.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Relative to the reply given to Senator McClelland that 4,119 officers had resigned from the Commonwealth Public Service during 1961 and 4,079 during 1962, will the Prime Minister advise how these figures compare with resignations during the years 1959 and 1960?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
In the year ended 31st December, 1959, 4,843 officers resigned from the Commonwealth Public Service and in 1960, 5,934. On a percentage basis, resignations have fallen from 4.8 per cent and 5.8 per cent in1959 and 1960 respectively, to 4 per cent, and 3.9 per cent, in 1961 and 1962. During each of these four years, 11,000 to 12,000 appointments were made.
In summary, the statistics relating to the four years concerned are -
These are final, corrected figures which, it may be noted, differ slightly from those supplied to Senator McClelland in answer to his question on 14th May, 1963.
(Question No. 30.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of concern which has been expressed by the Ravenshoe Aborigine Advancement League that aboriginal reserves have been taken over without the agreement of the people who live there and are, of course, gravely affected, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that, before any final decision is made which will affect these reserves, the people living there will be consulted and their land tenure rights, royalties and compensation settled on terms acceptable to the aborigines?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The Commonwealth Government has a direct responsibility only for those aborigines living in the Northern Territory and my answer is confined, therefore, to aboriginal reserves there.
All aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory were created for the use and benefit of aborigines and are being held to-day, not as a refuge to which aborigines can retreat and live in a tribal state, but as reserves of landto meet the needs of these people whenthey have advanced further towards civilization. The only modification of that decision is brought about by a policy of assimilation which discourages arrangements which segregate aborigines from the rest of the community.
It is the policy of the Government that no excisions from reserves or abolition of reserves are made for the purposes of settlement or subdivision unless the circumstances are such that the aborigines themselves can take part in the settlement or benefit from the subdivision. Country with economic potential on reserves is to be held untouched until such time as the aborigines can themselves share in the benefits which arise from its development. Particular application of this policy relatesto mining and forestry when special royalties are paid for the benefit of aboriginal wards if mining or forestry work is done on reserves or on land excised from reserves.
Aborigines do not have land tenure rights over areas set aside as aboriginal reserves. Under Northern Territory law all mineral and forestry rights are reserved to the Crown and royalties are determined by the legislature.
Where it has been necessary for the benefit of aborigines to move them to more favoured areas the aborigines have been consulted. I can assure the honorable senator that should similar circumstances arise in the future the aboriginal people concerned will be consulted.
(Question No. 32.)
Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice-
– The Minister for Trade has provided the following answer: -
As the Prime Minister announced on 30th August, the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Hayato Ikeda, will be the guest of the Australian Government from 29th September to 3rd October. This visit is the result of an invitation which I extended personally during my visitto Japan early last month.
(Question No. 42.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
(Question No. 65.)
asked the Minister for Health upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
(Question No. 68.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: - 1, 2 and 3. The Premier of Tasmania has made further representations for the Commonwealth to finance the construction of a thermal power station in the Fingal valley. 4 and 5. The Commonwealth’s altitude to the Tasmanian proposal is under consideration.
(Question No. 17.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions’. -
(Question No. 71.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2 and 3. Section 265 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act provides that where it is shown to the satisfaction of a board (known as the relief board) that -
Application for relief must be made in writing. In this application the taxpayer is given the opportunity of placing before the relief board all the facts he desires to be taken into consideration. Where the relief sought is £500 or more, the applicant may appear before a member of a board of review, or the chairman of the valuation board, who then furnishes, to the relief board, a report on his examination of the case.
In reaching a decision whether or not the exaction of the full amount of tax will entail serious hardship, the relief board has regard to all relevant circumstances, including the present financial position of the taxpayer, his age, occupation, state of health, domestic responsibilities, current earnings, future financial prospects, amount of tax due, &c.
It is customary to allow payment of the tax to remain in abeyance pending determination of the application for relief.
– Some time ago Senator Cavanagh asked the Attorney General, through me, a question which is not now on the noticepaper, having been discharged from it. At the time, the AttorneyGeneral said that he would supply some information concerning this question. He has now provided me with the following information: -
There is an organization in Australia currently calling itself the Australian Nationalist Party. It is also known as the Australian Nationalist Workers Party and has been known by various other names including the Revolutionary Workers Party and the National Labour Party.
It has claimed various numbers as its membership, including 400 and, on other occasions, 750 and 2,000. . There is, however, no evidence of any large membership either in South Australia or Australia generally, and its membership claims are considered to be grossly exaggerated.
The party subscribes to the same principle as the German Nazi Party. Its alleged National Secretary, according to Press reports, is Donald Alexander Lindsay, of Haberfield, N.S.W.
The party distributes Nazi literature on a small scale but none of the publications mentioned by Senator Cavanagh as being distributed is an Australian publication. One such publication “ The National Socialist “, which Senator Cavanagh specifically states to be an Australian publication, is not such a publication but is published in the United Kingdom.
Senator Cavanagh can be assured that I will be vigilant in considering whether any information supplied to me discloses any offence against Commonwealth law.
– by leave - I present the following paper: -
South-East Asia Visit - Report of Commonwealth Parliamentary Delegation, June-July,
and move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 1 th September, 1963 (vide page 475) on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second lime.
– Prior to the adjournment last evening I was directing attention to the amount of revenue that would be lost to the Government if it were to extend thetax remission to sweets and carbonated and aerated waters. This is a matter to which the Government should give closer consideration, in view of the use that is made of these products and the type of people who make use of them. I say at the outset that whilstI have been critical of the Government’s legislation relating to the removal of sales tax from food, that is not to say that the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the legislation or disagrees with it. We support if and wishthere was very much more of it. We are critical because it does not go far enough.
Apart from technical aspects of the bill, there is little information in the Minister’s secondreading speech. One does not get very much from it. Perhaps it is as well to look in some other place for the Government’s intentions. There has been constant pressure for a number of years for the removal of sales tax on food. This is a type of tax which the Labour Party particularly opposes, as it falls equally on all sections of the community. In another place the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) had this to say -
The honorable member, in his short contributions, spoke quite a lot about the rich paying the same amount of sales tax as the poor. He did not indicate that purchases of foodstuffs alone by those who are more fortunate in life raise revenue by way of sales tax far in excess of what those on a much lower income could possibly think of contributing through their buying.
The taxation measures that have come before this Parliament in the past few years have been most unfair. They have been criticized by the Labour Party because the greatest remission of tax has been to those in the higher income brackets. Perhaps the lifting on sales tax by this legislation can be attributed to the same type of policy. If the honorable member for Swan is a spokesman for the Government and is correct in what he says, the Government intendsto give to those with the most the greatest amount of relief.
In addition to pressure by the Labour Party, pressure for the lifting of this sales tax has been brought to bear upon the Government by merchant’s, manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers. AsI indicated yesterday, according to the Brisbane “ Truth “ the benefit of sales tax remissions has not been passed on to the public. This is an opportunity for those people who have constantly urged that this tax should be lifted to prove their bona fides. I have in mind, of course, the answer by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) given to a question asked in the Senate to-day. Yet we know that whenever sales lax has been increased that increase has immediately been passed on to the public whether the increased tax had been paid on the goods concerned or not. Apparently, those who sell these goods want to have it both ways. Because of the way in which the Government administers the affairs of this country, they are able to have it both ways. I urge them to have regard for their bona fides when they ask for taxation relief in order that they may reduce the price of goods. They should see that they do not retain for themselves the amount by which sales tax is reduced. Shortly after the reduction of sales tax was announced the following article was published in the “ West Australian “: -
The removal of the 121 per cent, sales tax announced in the Federal Budget means that the price of ice-cream bricks in both the metropolitan area and country districts will be reduced. Spokesmen for the State’s two biggest ice-cream producers - Peters and Beach - said the new prices would be introduced on Monday week. The delay was necessary so that shopkeepers could sell old stocks. The price reductions range from 2d. to 6d.
That is interesting to note. The article then sets out Peters’ ice-cream prices. The new price for a small brick is 2s. 3d. and the old price was 2s. 6d. That reduction almost corresponds with the full reduction of 12* per cent, in sales tax. The new price of medium sized bricks is 3s. 9d. and the old price was 4s. In other words, 50 per cent, of the reduction in sales tax is retained. The new price of a family sized brick is 8s. and the old price was 8s. 6d. Again, 50 per cent, of the amount of the sales tax reduction is retained. The new price of a small ice-cream cake is 13s. and the old price was 13s. 6d. The reduction of the old price by the full amount of the sales fax remission would have lowered the price by ls. 6£d. so the ice-cream manufacturers retain ls. id. of that amount, permitting the consumer to benefit by a reduction of only 6d. I invite the Minister’s attention to that fact in view of his statement to-day that the benefit of sales tax remissions was being passed on.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the tax is imposed on the wholesale price and not the retail price. You have taken the retail price as the price on which the tax is imposed.
– I appreciate that. However, I want to point out that this article makes no mention of what are commonly called “ ice-cream licks “. These are such things as icy poles which the children run down to the shop and get. Nowhere in the article is it stated that the price of these will be reduced. They would represent the greatest sale of items in the nature of manufactured ice-cream. Neither in Brisbane nor Western Australia has the intention been expressed to reduce the price of these. So whoever pays the sales tax, the whole amount of the remission on these items will represent a profit to the industry.
Sir, I think that the Government should give greater consideration to lifting the sales tax on the commodities that are concerning us at this time. I refer particularly to those covered by the extra amount of £6,600,000. I say this because sales tax collections from all sources will be reduced by less than £1,000,000 despite the fact that it is assumed that, as a result of this legislation, sales tax collections will be reduced by £9,000,000. Obviously, collections must increase by £8,000,000 from some other sources. The Government should give further consideration to taking the sales tax off sweets and carbonated and aerated waters. In that way, some assistance may be given to the family man. The Government should re-examine the whole system of indirect taxation. I assure the Senate that when the Labour Party takes office, which will be in the not far distant future, there will be a rearrangement of the system of taxation throughout Australia. We do not oppose the bill.
– I do not oppose the bill. In fact, I welcome it and without the reservations that Senator Cant mentioned. As a matter of fact, his speech followed the usual pattern of speeches delivered from the Opposition side of the chamber when a sales tax measure is introduced. The Budget, to my way of thinking, is an excellent Budget from the point of view of taxation reductions, and in the field of sales tax it does not lose any of its excellence. As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out in his Budget speech, it has been represented from all parts of the Parliament that the imposition of sales tax on foodstuffs both adds to the cost of living and discourages the consumption of commodities which are grown by our primary producers. I think it was a most imaginative step to cut out sales tax altogether on the major lines of foodstuffs. Already, I have received letters of congratulation from the dried fruits industry and from certain of the food processing people showing that they appreciate what the Government has done.
It was very interesting to hear Senator Cant’s comments as to what the Australian Labour Party would do with regard to sales tax if it were returned to office. I think it is fair to remind the Senate that it was a Labour government that introduced sales tax. Certainly, it was not introduced at a very high rate, but it was imposed on nearly every article - food, agricultural implements and other commodities. It has been the proud achievement of this Government to exempt whatever commodities it could from sales tax and to reduce rates on others. It should be remembered that when this Government came to office a large number of articles was taxed at the vicious rate of 66) per cent, and a lot of them were in common daily use. Since 1950 this Government has done a lot to reduce rates of sales tax.
– Will you tell us what articles attracted a rate of 66) per cent.?
– I understand that they included shaving soap and various other soaps. 1 am quoting from memory.
– You made a bald statement about the rate of 66) per cent., but your reply just now was not so bald.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar).- Order!
– Included in that category were articles of jewellery - not expensive articles, but general articles of jewellery - and plated ware used in the household. I could possibly arrange for the honorable senator to be supplied with a list. My recollection is that it contained a number of items used by all classes in the community. It should be remembered also that when this Government assumed office there were many different categories of sales tax. The existence of so many categories was most confusing to business people. T understand that there were rates of 8i per cent., 10 per cent., 12£ per cent., 20 per cent., 25 per cent, 33i per cent., 50 per cent, and 66) per cent. This Government, in addition to reducing the severity of the tax, has reduced the number of categories to four.
I pass now to the reductions in rates and the exemptions for which provision is made in this legislation. I compliment the Government upon the extensive survey it has made. Foodstuffs, including ice-cream and ice-cream mixes, are now completely exempt. Also exempt are bags and wrapping material made from plastic film. Of course, for quite a long time certain paper bags have been exempt; but now, because of technical advances in packing methods, plastic film, metallic foil and similar materials, resinated paper wrapping and seals used to wrap and secure goods for marketing and delivery are exempt. In exempting these items the Government has taken an imaginative step forward. Packaging plays an important part in the cost of goods, especially foodstuffs. The provision relating to returnable bottles, jars, boxes, cases and crates used in marketing cordials, and aluminium foil used in the household for cooking, is quite important. I understand that fork-lift trucks for use on roll-on roll-off ships are exempt. That is an important development in the carriage of goods, particularly in Tasmania and South Australia. A roll-on roll-off ship operates to the Eyre Peninsular and Kangaroo Island. Of course, the number of vessels of this kind which operate between Tasmania and the mainland is increasing almost yearly. I am pleased to note that goods used by safety organizations are now exempt from sales tax.
– What goods arc you referring to? Have they been listed?
– They have not been listed, but I should say that the general list would cover such items as safety belts. No doubt it is the responsibility of interested persons to apply to the department to see whether a particular article falls within that general description. The rate of tax on floor rugs and mats made of fur has been reduced from 25 per cent, to 21 per cent. That would help to increase the use of kangaroo skins and other animal skins. Generally speaking, the list of items covered by the legislation is quite imaginative.
A certain amount of trouble was caused by removing the sales tax from imported fish. There seems to me to be a lack of co-ordination in this regard between the Department of Trade and the Taxation Branch. When the tax was removed from foodstuffs, which included imported fish, the processors of similar fish in Australia lost the protection of sales tax at the rate of 121 per cent, which they had been led to believe was regarded as being a tariff protection. The processors were led to that conclusion by a statement made by the
Tariff Board. When the board considered the case presented by these people some little time ago, it regarded this tax as being equivalent to tariff protection. I should like to see some co-ordination between the Department of Trade and the Taxation Branch in future when a similar move is made. Actually, no damage was caused because the position was rectified, I understand, within a day or two to the satisfaction of the industry.
It seems to be a pity that when a quite imaginative reduction of sales tax is made on certain commodities some other form of protection against imported commodities is not granted simultaneously when the Budget is presented instead of having a gap of a day or two. This sort of thing disturbs the industry. I received a telegram on the day after the Budget was presented, which I placed before the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEvven) immediately. Other members ventilated the matter on the floor of the House. What occurred did not prove to bc detrimental to the industry but it caused a certain amount of disturbance. If the two departments in question were to confer on these matters beforehand, such disturbances would not occur.
I commend the bill to the Senate. It is a step in the right direction. Obviously, when the Government reduces taxes it does not give satisfaction to all. But in the light of the Government’s budgetary responsibility and its responsibility for the future of Australia, and in the light of its commitments in the realms of defence, development and so forth, the provisions of the bill are reasonable. They cover a wide field and will benefit a wide assortment of people and trades.
– Usually Senator Laught does not make wild and woolly statements and therefore I was surprised at the tenor of the speech he has just concluded. Many red herrings have been drawn across the trail in the past fortnight and honorable senators have dragged into debates events going back to 1920. but Senator Laught generally is a reasonable man, and I was surprised when he said baldly that a Labour government had introduced sales tax. That statement is quite true, but the honorable senator did not go further and explain that the Scullin Labour Government was elected to office in 1930 when the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history was developing as a result of the borrow and bust policy of the Bruce-Page Government.
Senator Laught did not mention that a third of our people were out of work and that money had to be found somewhere. I was then in the councils of the Australian Labour Party on the administrative side and I know that we had no money at all. We were flat broke. The Treasurer of the day, Mr. E. G. Theodore, and no doubt officers of the Treasury, examined the Canadian sales tax scheme, and that scheme was introduced here. I do not mind honorable senators playing politics, but I was surprised that Senator Laught should try to score some cheap political advantage.
The honorable senator said that in 1949, when the Labour Government went out of office, the sales tax was 661 per cent. I do not know how many people read “ Hansard “ although I am told it is a wonderful thing to cure a cold if you put a copy on your chest. But well meaning people who read what is said in this chamber, on noting that the honorable, senator said that the sales tax was 66i in 1949, would say, “Isn’t that awful!” But we find that sales tax at that rate was levied on things like shaving soap and jewellery. Senator Laught went further and said that the tax was imposed on paper used in the home. He did not say what kind of paper.
– I dic! not refer to paper.
– You spoke of paper used in the home. Of course, the honorable senator did not mention that several years ago this Government increased sales tax on motor cars from 30 to 40 per cent. It ruined the motor car industry for the time being, and whilst I am not so concerned about General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited as Senator Laught would be, since the company operates in his State, I was concerned about those who were thrown out of work
– I want to correct the honorable senator. I did not refer to paper, but to plated ware.
– T accept the honorable senator’s statement, so let us look at plated warc. The ordinary people cat off china, and I do not know any who use gold plate. Eating off gold plate certainly would not improve the food in Parliament House. The dining room here would still be only a second-class restaurant. If people want to have silver ornaments 1 do not know that sales tax of 661 per cent, would cause any difficulty. I am delighted that sales tax on many items is to be reduced because that will affect the common people - such as we are ourselves - about whom the late Mr. Chifley spoke so often. I only hope that the people generally get the benefit of the reduced sales tax by way of lower prices.
Recently I asked a question in the Senate and was told correctly by a Minister that is is not the retailer but the wholesaler who pays the sales tax. Recently I was sent by my wife to buy a block of ice-cream, and the price of a block had been reduced by 3d.; but on Sunday afternoons, when I buy an ice-cream for my grandchildren, I find that the price is still the same. 1 am not blaming the Government for that. It would be stupid to say that this is the Government’s fault, but it is unfair that honorable senators opposite complain about sales tax bumping up the price of ice-cream for the children, although when they get a chance to correct the situation, they merely take the impost off the wholesaler and leave it at that.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was dwelling on the sweet taste of ice-cream. T propose now to return for a moment to Senator Laught’s remarks. The honorable senator stated that safety belts for motor cars would come within the proposed exemption, but from my reading of the clause T do not get that impression. T invite correction if I am wrong. Proposed new item 74L of the schedule refers to “ Goods for use . . . and not for sale, by a society, institution or organization established and maintained exclusively or principally for the promotion . .” of safety on the roads. I take those words to refer to road signs, rather than to safety belts. I doubt that any public or semi-public body uses safety belts, but I know that some public authorities erect road signs. In Victoria I know that the
Country Roads Board has erected many signs. I should like to say at this point that I wish the traffic control authorities in Melbourne would not continually alter the size and shape of road signs because a committee of which I am a member has to buy these signs and place them on certain private roads that it graciously allows the public to use.
– Is that Albert Park?
– That is the most important reserve in the nation. I become a little upset when the traffic authorities ask me to erect road signs. For instance when it was suggested that the Albert Park committee should erect 30 miles per hour signs, I offered the opinion that as the roads concerned were within a reserve, the limit should be 40 miles per hour. However when I asked who would provide the wherewithall to pay for these signs I was told that the committee would have to provide the funds. Out of the goodness of our hearts we complied with the request. But in six months the authorities may decide to alter the standard shape of road signs from round to rectangular. Of course, we cannot view that with pleasure, but if the aim is to save life or prevent people from being hurt, we are prepared to co-operate. I suppose that the Victorian traffic authorities have more sense than to read “ Hansard “, but if they should do so I hope my words will influence them to decide upon the shape of a road sign and not to change that decision. I cannot see that the wording of the proposed item could include car safety belts, though I should think road signs would be included.
I commend the Government for its decision to remove the tax from items such as those. This concession will help the municipalities. While on the subject of local government, may I say that I had hoped that municipal authorities and other semi-government instrumentalities would have been relieved of the burden of pay-roll tax. I do not like pay-roll tax.
The proposed sales tax exemptions are commendable. I join with Senator Laught in expressing the hope that departments will co-operate more with each other. The decision to remove sales tax from imported canned fish caused considerable upset to the fishing industry at Portland, Victoria.
I know that a reference is now before the Tariff Board on this item but apparently there has been a lack of consultation between the departments concerned. Of course, we have the same problem in Melbourne where State Government departments do not co-operate closely enough. Often when a new road has been built, within a week the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works digs up part of it to lay a pipe; then in the following week the Postal Department does the same thing. One sometimes wonders whether authorities can ever get together on these things.
The foodstuffs to be exempted from sales tax include imported dried fruits. 1 have ascertained that Australia imports 9,100,000 lb. of dried fruits annually. The value of these imports is £310,792. 1 have also been informed that these imports consist largely of dates. I tried to find out where dates were grown in Australia. I knew that they were not grown in Victoria because there we have a rather healthy, robust people, and I knew that in those places where dates are grown the sun takes some of the blood out of people. We are not like that in Victoria. I understand that some dates are grown around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. I do not know whether they are grown elsewhere in the hotter parts of Australia. Possibly the growing of dates could lead to a closer settlement in some of those areas. But again, I do not know how old the palms have to be before bearing fruit, nor do I know what problems are associated with this industry. I was pleased to know that most of the 9,100,000 lb. of dried fruits that we import annually consists of dates. I would have been very surprised if the imports had included ordinary dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas.
Another item of interest is that which relates to returnable bottles, jars, boxes, cases or crates used for cordials. I am always interested in non-alcoholic beverages, so again I tried to obtain some information. I understand that large screw-top bottles of the type used by one quite big factory in Victoria - from the extent of its radio and television advertising I presume it is a big factory - cost lis. a dozen. A reduction of 12i per cent, in the sales tax on a dozen bottles would in- volve a saving of ls. 4id. I know that the Minister cannot compel a retailer to reduce his prices, but it seems that with this saving of sales tax the retailers are now making more profit. So far as I have been able to ascertain there has been no reduction in the price of a bottle of soft drink.
– A bottle of cordial costs 4s. 6d.
– I was referring to soft drink bottles, rather than to bottles for cordials. The cordial bottle would not be the same as the ordinary soft drink bottle. With 12i per cent, sales tax added, a dozen bottles costing 8s. would cost 9s. In other words, the manufacturer of the soft drink would pay an extra ls. a dozen. The retailer does not mark up his price on the basis of 8s. but on the basis of 9s. His mark-up of 20 or 25 per cent, brings the retail price to lis. 3d. With sales tax off and a basic price of 8s., on a mark-up of 25 per cent, he could sell for 10s. Unfortunately, the Government does not believe in prices control, which is why, although the Government may really want to help the people, in the long run they will get very little out of this reduction.
Take the case of block cake. I asked my wife to find out what the position was. There has been a reduction in the prices of large cakes, but not m the prices of small cakes, with the result that the manufacturers are concentrating on making small cakes. I do not say that that is being done right throughout the country, but the practice does operate in one suburb of the city in which I live. The reduction in sales tax will cost the Government £9,500,000 during the remainder of this financial year and, I think the Minister said, in a full year it will cost £12,000,000. That may not be a large amount when you think in terms of over £2,000,000,000 in revenue, but it could be used to build some very good hospitals and schools. I think that the Government’s intention was to try as far as it could to give some advantage to the people and not merely to the manufacturers who sell the goods. I cannot offer any solution to the problem, but I think that in the main the price of bulk articles will be reduced but not the price of the smaller articles. I have had experience with one article and my wife has had experience with another. The price of- large, blocks of ice-cream and large, block cake will come down, but not the prices of the small items.
Senator Laught mentioned that the tax was to be taken off rugs. We are all interested in rugs, but when I looked into the matter I found that the reduction applied only to kangaroo skin rugs. I suppose that the kangaroo shooter- may get something out of it. For a skin hung up on the wall, there will be no reduction in tax, but if the skin is put on the floor to be used as a rug the reduction will apply. Another item, which amused me was the reduction- in tax on horseshoes and horseshoe nails. I should like to know who on the Government side is interested in trotters and racehorses. Let us face the facts. I suppose that the average sheep station to-day uses a jeep and dogs to muster ‘the sheep.
– What about racehorses?
– I know that there is a beautiful- trotting track in Western Australia. I am not implying for one moment that my friend the Minister was thinking of- that when he took the tax off these articles. There are a few horses used in Victoria, on the Bogong highway, in the snow country, but generally speaking I do not think many people will benefit from this concession-. The first thing that struck my - some, may call it suspicious - mind was that whoever was responsible for this reduction was a person who was prepared to have so much each way.
Then we come to fork-lift trucks. I heard Senator Laught say that this was intended primarily to help the operation of “ Bass Trader “. Whoever conceived that vessel did a wonderful job. On a Sunday I often drive over to look at it. However, recently I read, that there was going to be a rise in shipping freights.
– You ought not to believe everything you read.
– It all depends, you know. All my life I have been on the wrong side with the. press, and at times I wonder whether I am doing right when, the press supports; me. I want to know the position about some of. these matters. I know that. the. Minister does not mind my questioning him, I. want to know how much tax is to, be- taken, off, and how many of these fork lifts are in use. From what I can. see, the only people who will get anythink out of this are the shipowners. Of course, I know that they are poor and that the Government wants to help them.
I agree wholeheartedly with the reduction of sales tax on goods for the use of United States personnel in Australia. Another item to be commended’ is the imposition of tax on goods people buy on one of the islands off our coasit and then bring into Australia.
I pass now to metal materials. I notice that the Government has reduced the tax on tractors, but not on tractor parts. Why has it not included tractor parts, particularly those used by the. rural community? Maybe I had better go over to the corner and join the Country Party. I could talk for quite, a while on this. We want to increase production for exports. Why not give assistance to those who are using tractor parts? Mention is made of tractors used in timber-getting and earth-moving. The main earth-movers in Victoria are the Country Roads. Board and, the Metropolitan Board of Works. They are rather characters in Victoria; they like to have free competition.. The: Minister- has often told us about the beautiful concept of free competition, Over- in Victoria we are not satisfied; with one contracting authoritywe have two. I do not want to refer to the King’s Way; I will forget about that for the time being, but I suggest that the Government do something about the tax on tractor parts, which are very expensive. I am interested in five tractors myself. Although I do not pay sales tax on those tractors I have to pay for parts.
– Australian-made, I hope.
– We look after ourselves; we get the ones suited for the job. I think that rural producers are entitled to have sales tax removed not only from tractors but also from parts. They are entitled to a reduction much more than are earth-moving firms.
I come now to the proposal to remit sales tax on scoops, which surely must be outmoded implements these days. I should like to know how many scoops are being used in earth-moving work in Australia to-day.
– If you want to clean out a dam, you get a scoop.
– No. You get an earth mover, or you put a blade on a Fordson major.
– You could not shift sludge with that.
– The honorable senator speaks of sludge. He should know about it, because the only time that he sees water in the State from which he comes is when there is a flood.
– We have had enough water this year.
– I know that, and I hope you have a good season. When 1 think of earth-moving scoops I think of them in the same terms as I do of the kind of dresses that the ladies used to wear years ago and which went out with button-up boots.
I do not know why the Government has decided to remove sales tax from some silver-plated articles. Of course, it is not to be removed from such articles of every day use as silver-plated propelling pencils, watch bands and sleeve links; but it is to be removed from silver-plated articles which are used in the serving of food because, apparently, some people think that food tastes better if it is served on them. I have already mentioned the remission of sales tax on rugs. Incidentally, I notice that reference is made to cattle rugs. I have not seen many rugs made from cattle skins. Surely people with cattle hides to dispose of would sell them so that they could be made into leather goods. I ask honorable senators opposite whether kangaroo skins can be used to make leather goods.
– Yes. They make beautiful boots.
– Thank you. Sales tax is also to be remitted on wireless receiving sets for use in the conduct of public commercial telecommunication services.
I think it will be of interest to honorable senators to know that, according to inquiries which I made recently, our total salt production in Australia amounts to 150,500 tons a year. I have ascertained that last year we imported 7,214 tons of salt, at a cost of ?64,000. I thought that perhaps Senator Laught might be interested in the salt lakes of South Australia. As a matter of fact, I think that there is also a salt lake in Victoria.
– We have a number of small salt lakes.
– I see. The point I am making is that we cannot expect the Australian salt industry to grow if we continue to import salt. I have ascertained also that we have imported 22,000,000 lb. of canned fish, worth ?4,087,000. I hope that the reductions of sales tax that we are discussing will achieve a worth-while purpose. I am not criticizing the Minister for Civil Aviation when I say that I do not think the effect of the reductions will be passed on in all instances. The Government is adopting more and more of the policies of the Labour Party. I suppose that it will be only a matter of time before all aspects of our policy will have been adopted by the Government. Evolution is a wonderful thing. I think the Government wishes to help the ordinary members of the community, as we do. That being so, it must agree that if sales tax were removed entirely from many articles of every-day use, particularly foodstuffs, the people of Australia would be very happy.
– I rise to support the bill which is designed, in the first place, to provide for certain tax exemptions and to reduce taxation in other respects. The whole idea of sales tax, of course, is to provide the Commonwealth Government with sufficient revenue to carry out its essential works programme. It is very pleasing to see that the Commonwealth Government, which is carrying out record developmental projects throughout Australia, is able to make reductions of sales tax which will amount in this year to ?9,500,000 and in a full year to ?12,000,000. It is both interesting and pleasing to hear that the Government has decided to remove sales tax from essential foodstuffs, thereby helping to reduce the cost of living. lt seems to me that the governments of the Western countries, including that of Australia, have settled on a policy of two main forms of taxation. First, there is income tax, which is based on the principle that the person on a low income should pay a low rate of tax and the person on a high income should pay a higher rate of tax. Secondly, there is sales tax, whereby commodities which are not absolutely essential are taxed according to a certain scale. By this method, people who want luxuries pay more tax than those who do not. Senator Kennelly said that he could not understand why the Government proposed to reduce sales tax on horseshoe nails and horseshoes. Apparently, he is under the impression that most horseshoe nails and horseshoes are used in the trotting and racing industries. I remind him that horseshoe nails and horseshoes are used extensively in the pastoral areas of Australia. On some stations, particularly in the stony areas of Australia, there are 200 or 300 horses, which require to be shod two or three times a year. We have them also in farming areas. The honorable senator mentioned the use of ever-increasing number of jeeps, Land-Rovers and motor cycles in the pastoral industry and on farms for mustering stock. Notwithstanding that, many hundreds of thousands of horses are still used. In addition, children who belong to pony clubs and riding organizations require horseshoes and nails for their ponies. We must look after the children of Australia as well as the people of the outback.
We must ensure that these taxes are applied on an equitable basis. We know that the Australian Labour Party introduced sales tax. Before the Chifley Labour Government went out of office it was collecting very large amounts from this tax. Senator Kennelly said emphatically that governments had to impose sales tax. That is quite true. If the Labour Government had not introduced sales tax in 1931, another government would probably have introduced it in 1933. My interest is to see how much has been collected by various types of government.
In the last complete year of the Labour Government’s term of office, its budget amounted to £550,000,000, of which in round figures £40,000,000 - £1 in each £14, or 7 per cent. - was collected in sales tax. This year we expect to collect £155,000,000 in sales tax, in a total budget of £2,115,000,000. That is still £1 in £14, or 7 per cent. Senator Kennelly shakes his head. I have worked out the figures. I may have been mistaken, but it seems to me that sales tax still represents approximately 7 per cent of the total Budget. It has evidently remained at that proportion during the intervening years.
It has been said that sales tax can play a part in stabilizing the economy. The International Monetary Fund prepared some figures showing cost rises in various countries. From these, it must be acknowledged that Australia has a stable economy, under a government that is prepared to take the necessary steps to bring about stability. The figures show that at 31st December, 1962, costs in Japan had risen by 14 per cent., in Italy by 10 per cent., in France by 9 per cent., in Great Britain by 7 per cent., in Germany by 6 per cent, and in Australia by 1 per cent. Since then, various adjustments have been made to wages in Australia and three weeks’ leave has been granted by the courts. These changes will have an effect upon costs of production and may counter our stability to some extent.
The measure contains a provision that under certain circumstances goods brought in from our adjacent Territory, Norfolk Island, will be subject to sales tax. Previously goods brought first to Norfolk Island and then transhipped to Australia were not subject to sales tax. As a result, a company was formed - possibly more than one company- - to import transistor and other radio sets to Norfolk Island and then trans-ship them to Australia, free of sales tax. The bill will correct this anomaly. Sales tax will not apply to fork-lift trucks used on the waterfront. This will be of considerable assistance to shipping and other companies using roll-on and roll-off methods of loading. I should think that the bill will also provide a considerable benefit to warehouses and manufacturing industries using fork-lift trucks. I hope that they, too, will not have to pay sales tax on these trucks.
Travelling around Australia, one hears of certain anomalies. I have been led to believe that a mining company that purchases ore trucks for the transportation of ore to a treatment plant within its own leases may claim exemption from sales tax on those trucks. But if the company lets a contract for the carriage of ore from its mine, on its own roads, to its own treatment plant, the contractor is required, I understand, to pay sales tax on a truck purchased for the purpose.
– The company purchases it for him.
– We are not all like the honorable senator. I believe there are many companies that will not do that; they do not believe that it is right. They say, “ We have been granted this relief in order to purchase a truck ourselves and, under the act, we are not entitled to pass that relief on to our contractor “. And they do not do it. I have found that to be so in various parts of Australia including Queensland. I hope the Government will look into what I believe is an anomaly. I am sure that the Government believes that it is an anomaly and that the Government will correct it.
I congratulate the Government on having removed sales tax from foodstuffs. I also congratulate the Government on having reduced the sales tax on certain items at a time when we are contributing financially to large developmental works. I believe that Commonwealth commitments of this kind for the next five years probably total over £250,000,000. That is a record which has never before been achieved in the history of Australia. Yet while all this vast developmental work is being carried out the Government has provided for reductions m sales tax. I have very much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- As has been stated by other Opposition senators, the Opposition wholeheartedly accepts and supports the bill before the Senate. I did not have any intention of speaking on this matter until I heard the remarks of Senator Laught and Senator Scott. I then felt impelled to say something with respect to their observations. Senator Scott cited some totally unacceptable figures in an attempt to prove that the amount of sales tax collected during the last year of the Labour Government’s term of office represented the same proportion of national revenue as the amount of sales tax collected ‘this year. Senator Scott may have been able to convince himself that his figures were valid, but he has not convinced anybody on this side of the chamber. If his colleagues were to set out to discover in what devious ways Senator Scott arrived at his conclusions I think they also would be rather sceptical about his figures.
I want to remind honorable senators of the panic measures, including credit restrictions, that were introduced by the Government. It would have been interesting had Senator Scott related his rather dubious statistics to that year in which the Government savagely increased the sales tax on motor vehicles and other commodities. That may have provided him with a more reliable yardstick than the figures that he cited.
– I cited figures for two years, comparing those for 1948 with those for 1963. You tell me where I was wrong.
– I know what you quoted. I am under no illusion about that.
– Were the figures wrong?
– Definitely. Even allowing that the figures were right - and I say that they were wrong - Senator Scott could have arrived at a more accurate understanding of the relationship between taxes imposed by the Chifley Government in its last year of office and taxes imposed from time to time by the present Government if he had related his figures to some of the years in which this Government’s savage impost of sales tax was drastically affecting the Australian consumer. On that basis he would have provided a better comparison than by taking a year in which the Government has decided to remove some of the unjust imposts which have existed for years.
I said at the beginning of my remarks that I had not intended to speak in this debate. But in view of the “ holier than thou” attitude which Senator Laught and Senator Scott adopted, I felt that I should do so. Senator Laught said that he was proud of the Government’s achievements in respect of sales tax. He said it was a great thing that the Government was removing sales tax from foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. Surely we would all agree with .that statement. But I do not think that Senator Laught should be proud of the fact that the Government took at least six years to discover that there was an anomaly in this field. Honorable senators opposite know that in every Budget debate since 1956 1 have raised the question of sales tax on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content. I am prepared to say unreservedly that senators on the Government side also have raised the matter. I do not want to give the impression that only Opposition senators have been concerned about problems in the dried fruits industry arising from the Government’s sustained refusal - I use the word “ sustained “ advisedly - to afford relief both to the dried fruits industry and the consuming public in relation to sales tax on foodstuffs with a dried fruit content.
Why did the Government take so long to make this decision? How can Government supporters pat themselves on the back and say, “ We have done a good job “, when, for six or seven years, the Government has failed to recognize something which the general public recognized all that time? During that period considerable pressure was brought to bear by the dried fruits industry on individual Government supporters and on the Government itself to take action in this matter. Government supporters have nothing to be proud of. I disagree entirely with Senator Laught’s statement that there is reason to be proud of the Government’s achievements in this field. I am pleased that sales tax has been removed from foodstuffs with a dried fruit content, because it was one of the most unjust impositions ever suffered by the Australian public; and its maintenance was completely unjustified. Like Senator Laught, I have received letters of appreciation from the dried fruits industry association, and I have not the slightest doubt that every honorable senator on both sides of the chamber has received a similar letter. No doubt the organization is pleased that the great benefit mentioned in this bill has at last been’ conferred upon the industry. But this is no matter >for tie Government to be proud of. The Government should not have taken so long to do this.
With reference to the question of the amount of sales tax collected by the Labour Government compared with the amount collected by the present Government, I think it can be truly said that we were only pikers compared with ‘this Government. When Labour introduced sales tax in its original form circumstances were vastly different from those which exist at present and which have existed over the past seven or eight years. We were engaged in a war, we had to raise money for post-war rehabilitation and we were concerned in all sorts of national crises.
– Your party introduced the sales tax in 1930.
– I am talking about the sum of £40,000,000 to which Senator Scott referred.
– I have it here in my notes.
– I know that, but you got a bit confused.
– I did not. Those figures are right.
– I am referring to the sum of £40,000,000 in 1948 that Senator Scott mentioned; I am not referring to 1930. when the amount received from sales tax was so small that it really did not matter in relation to the overall economic pattern. If we acknowledge that sales tax amounting to £40;000,000 was collected by the Chifley Government in 1948 and take that as the yardstick with which to measure the records of Labour and anti-Labour governments, all I can say is that the Labour Government was a mere piker. We never attempted to use sales tax as a fiscal instrument, but this Government has done so most effectively. This Government has used it not merely as an instrument but as a blunt instrument. The fact that the Government has decided now to give some relief to sections of the Australian community is a step in the right direction: but it is mere hypocrisy for Government senators to say, “Look what we have done “,, after they have kept the Australian :public and Australian industries in bondage for seven or eight years without any justification.
I wish to make only one other point, lt arises out of an interjection that I made when Senator Laught was dealing with the removal of sales tax from safety appliances. The honorable senator was not able to tell me which appliances were affected. Indeed, he could not be expected to do so, because the bill does not contain any specific reference to the kinds of safety appliances that are involved. All we have is a general statement that safety appliances will be exempt from the sales tax. In the interests of public safety, there ought to be an immediate discussion between representatives of the Government and the various safety organizations throughout Australia to determine what road safety appliances should be exempt. I am sure every honorable senator will agree when I say that we should not delay making decisions about national safety any longer than is humanly possible. I suggest that, if the Government has not already done so. it should define as early as possible what appliances will be covered. The public and the manufacturers of safety equipment should have that information as quickly as possible.
– I rise to support the measure. It is indeed refreshing to note that the Opposition is as one with the Government in promising a speedy passage of the bill. Whilst the Opposition has stated that it supports the measure, it has not fallen short in taking advantage of the opportunity to criticize. That being so, we on the Government side are entitled to analyse its criticisms. Senator Cant led for the Opposition and therefore he must accept the fact that his arguments form the basis of the Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s sales tax proposals. The honorable senator attacked the principle of indirect taxation. He set out to make a case against the Government because it was collecting sales tax from the poor as well as the rich. Nobody would know better than Opposition senators that the sales tax was introduced by a Labour government in August, 1930. So it was the present Opposition party and not the present Government parties that adopted this form of indirect taxation which raises revenue from rich and poor alike.
Ever since 1930 indirect taxation, including of course the sales tax, has been used by all governments as an instrument of fiscal policy. Senator Laught said - and I think Senator Kennelly misunderstood him - that at one time sales tax at the rate of 66) per cent, was levied by a Labour government as an instrument of policy.
– No doubt it was done to damp down sales of luxury goods. So Senator Cant’s argument was based upon something which the Labour Party practised when in office, and which indeed has been a fundamental means of raising revenue adopted by all governments in the Commonwealth sphere.
Governments have collected large amounts of money from sales tax. As Senator Scott indicated, in 1948 a Labour government collected sales tax amounting to £40,000,000 in a budget of £500,000,000. In 1963 this Government will raise £155,000,000 from sales tax in a budget of £2,115,000,000. I am not arguing about amounts but about the use of the sales tax as a means of raising revenue. The Government and the Opposition both realize that, if this sum of money is not raised by this means, it must be raised in some other way. So we can dispose of Senator Cant’s argument and this apparent surge of distress because governments are raising money by indirect methods. It was a Labour government and not an antiLabour government which produced the brain-child, but during successive periods of office the Labour Party did not state that this form of taxation was wrong.
Both Government supporters and members of the Opposition support the proposal to abolish or reduce sales tax on foodstuffs. The loss to revenue will be about £9,500,000 in this financial year, and I understand it will be £12,000,000 in a full year. That will mean in effect that £12,000,000 will be released for the purchase of consumer goods and to that extent the measure will help the. economy.
It has been said that, while the Government has brought down this proposal with the best intentions, the sales tax concessions will not be passed on to consumers. lt is difficult to measure precisely the extent to which the concessions are passed on, because in some cases there is a time lag to be considered; but, as I said when speaking on the Budget, the day after the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced in the Budget speech the sales tax concessions on foodstuffs the metropolitan newspapers contained large advertisements setting out reduced prices of goods attributable directly to this concession. I was able to produce here a half-page advertisement published in a Sydney newspaper - and that is expensive advertising - setting out concessions that were to be applied to the prices of certain articles. The old prices and the new prices were shown. None of us will be so simple as to say that the concessions have been passed on in all cases, but generally the reduction of sales tax on foodstuffs has been passed on to the consumers.
– How does the honorable senator account for the increase in the price of bread in Hobart?
– That could be explained - if one had to explain it - in a variety of ways. It could well be that the industrial award governing the bakers’ carters has been varied. I am not an economist, but I do not think I have to be one to answer the honorable senator. An increase in price which coincides with a reduction in sales tax does not mean simply that the sales tax concession has not been passed on. The Opposition claims to support industrial awards. It could well be that awards governing the wages paid in the baking industry were varied.
– The honorable senator’s answer is based on conjecture.
– I am giving the honorable senator a classic answer to a very simple question. Surely he understands that when an increase in- the price of an article coincides with a decrease in the sales tax, the two things are not necessarily related. This is a good measure because it grants concessions to the people, and it is refreshing to know that the Opposition will support it. T certainly support it, and I hope the measure has a speedy passage. I conclude by saying: Let us not have any more of this silly argument about indirect taxation as though it were something new and something terrible that was introduced by this Government. The principle of indirect taxation has been applied for many years, lt was followed by the previous Labour Government and indeed it was introduced by a Labour government.
– I congratulate the Government on altering the sales tax on foodstuffs, although I regret that working people still have to pay this indirect tax on many things that mean a lot to their standard of living. There are several products that I propose to mention specifically. First, many children drink aerated waters or cordials, and these arc an important element in the living costs of the family. Sales tax has not been removed from aerated waters; so families still have to bear this impost. Honorable senators may say that aerated waters are not good for children and should not be drunk by them. But that also could be said of beer. People should not drink beer, but they still do. There has been an increase in the consumption of aerated waters and I should like to see some tax concessions there, not so much to help the manufacturers of aerated waters as to help the family man.
Chocolates are also still subject to sales tax although they are a good, energygiving food. In Tasmania we have one of the finest chocolate factories in the world operated by Cadbury-Fry-Pascall Proprietary Limited. Many people are involved in this industry, including dairy farmers, carters and operatives, and anything that can be done to help the industry will be felt through the community. This secondary or indirect taxation is always harmful, I believe, and I would much sooner see the funds raised by a more direct means. The removal of sales tax from chocolate should assist the very fine factory in Tasmania, to which I have referred, and probably others throughout Australia. This, in turn, will help the farmer and the worker, as well as those who produce the chocolate.
When the Minister first announced the proposed removal of sales tax on foodstuffs I asked at once what would happen to the fishing industry. This is an important industry and one that should be of more importance to Australia. I asked what effect the lifting of sales tax on imported canned fish would have on the Australian fishing industry. I was very pleased that the: Government; immediately took action through the Tariff Board to protect the tuna industry, which is gradually becoming quite a large industry along the coast of Australia. However, the industry in which I was more interested was the fish cutlet canning industry along the shores of the Bass Strait. I mentioned at the time that a canning factory worth about £60,000 had been established at Portland in Victoria and that it had been built to help the fishermen in that area. I mentioned also in the course of directing my question that even with the addition of sales tax the imported fish could be produced and sold in Australia cheaper than locally produced fish cutlets which are not subject to sales tax. I asked the Minister also whether anything had been done to preserve and protect the Australian fish canning industry which would be placed at a great disadvantage. I am referring now to the fishing industry concerned with barracoota and Pacific salmon, or black back salmon as they are commonly called, which appear in great numbers in Bass Strait and off the southern coast of Australia.
From these fish the canneries are producing cutlets, and I am almost certain that they will not be able to sell their product unless they are given some protection. The Minister has already told me that the sales tax has no connexion with this problem, but the fact remains that the lifting of the sales tax from imported fish could have a great effect on the industry. I ask the Minister whether the interests affected by these proposals have applied to the Tariff Board for immediate protection for their industry from imported fish cutlets. If tariff protection is not given our barracoota and salmon cutlet industry will suffer real harm.
I should like to say again that the Government has been very wise in removing the sales tax from the foodstuffs that are now to be exempt, but I should still like to see the tax removed from what may be termed luxury items, such as chocolates and aerated waters. A reduction in the price of these items would be of benefit to the ordinary family man and to the respective industries. I hope that at least by the time the next budget is introduced sales tax will have been removed from those items.
– in reply - One can always rise in a rather relaxed way to reply to the debate on a bill which the Opposition has not opposed. Some honorable senators opposite, in stating their support of this measure, did so in an extremely grudging way. Nonetheless, one learns to be thankful for small mercies in this political atmosphere, whether one sits on the right or the left of the President. Speaking for the Government, I express my pleasure that the Opposition has seen fit not to oppose the proposals contained in the bill. I do not suppose it would be unfair to say that the Opposition dared not oppose a measure such as this.
The opportunity was taken during the debate to refer to some of the attitudes that have been taken from time to time, particularly by the Labour Party. One of the early speakers I think it was Senator Kennelly referred to the fact that sales tax was originally introduced in Australia by a Labour government. That, of course, is true. I hope I do not misquote Senator Kennelly.
-You would never misquote me.
– Not on purpose.
– I know you of old.
– The honorable senator went on to say that the sales tax had been introduced out of necessity.
– A war-time measure.
– It was not a war-time measure.
– I meant to say it was a temporary measure.
– The sales tax was introduced in 1930, and as Senator Kennelly was explaining-
– It was economic.
– As my friend from New South Wales explains, it was forced upon the then government as a matter of economic necessity. Senator
Kennelly said that the tax was introduced during a depression when unemployment was at its peak. If there is anything at all in the criticism which is made of sales tax generally, and which was repeated in this debate by Senator Cant on behalf of the Labour Party, namely, that this sort of tax is wrong in principle, then I suggest that it is doubly wrong for any government to introduce such an impost in times of depression when unemployment is high. That is precisely what the Labour Government under Mr. Scullin did in 1930. I was interested as the debate proceeded to have referred to me some excerpts from the debate of that time. Mr. Scullin explained in another place when introducing the original sales tax legislation that, largely because customs duties had fallen, it was necessary for the government to get revenue from other sources. Depression had fallen upon the country, customs revenues had declined, and in an effort to protect his finances Mr. Scullin resorted to a tax which was imposed upon the people who were then in jeopardy of losing their jobs or were already out of work because of depressed conditions. This is what he said at the time) -
There is no need for me to” emphasize the fact that Australian finances are to-day suffering from a number of ills. The fact that there has been a tremendous loss of customs revenue has been mentioned frequently. The loss of customs revenue which is an indirect tax, and one which had been growing for many years, has very seriously embarrassed Commonwealth finances. It has, therefore, become necessary for the Government to look for new sources of revenue.
The new sources of revenue were provided by way of sales tax on commodities that were consumed by every one in the Australian population including the wageearners and those people who at that time were unfortunate enough not to be earning wages. When Mr. Latham addressed himself to the bills he said most piercingly and trenchantly -
These bills are the result of the policy of the Government and of its general methods of finance. That policy, and those methods, on the basis of the tariff as it stood prior to November last, would have reduced customs receipts by over £8,000,000 per annum.
So the policies adopted by the Scullin Government would have reduced customs receipts by more than £8,000,000 a year! He went on to say -
The new duties that have since been imposed will result in a still further reduction of that revenue, and some of them will cause costs to be increased to the people generally. Therefore, the Government must find additional revenue in some other way.
The policies of that Government having at that time created an economic depression, the other way to which the then Prime Minister resorted was to tax the income earners of Australia, whether they were in or out of employment.
After that brief and factual flashback to the circumstances surrounding the introduction of sales tax let us look at what is happening to-day. I have said that if this type of tax is wrong it is doubly wrong in a time of depression and unemployment On this occasion the present Government, in a time of high economic activity and high employment, has reduced this costand price-increasing tax. This brings me to another most important point in connexion with this measure and with this type of tax generally. It is understandable, indeed it is to be expected, that in a debate of this nature speakers will concentrate on the effect of sales tax upon the individual. That is a very important aspect of this type of taxation, but I suggest that equally important is the effect of the tax on the community and the economy generally. I refer to increased costs, which reflect themselves in increased prices.
It has been the policy of the Government to take such action as is possible to reduce costs and prices. How successful have been the Government’s efforts in recent years is shown by a table published by a completely independent authority - the International Monetary Fund - which compares fluctuations in prices in Australia with those in other countries. This table shows variations which occurred in the two years from December, 1960, to December, 1962. It discloses that during that period, in Japan prices rose by 14 per cent.; in Italy by 10 per cent.; in France by 9 per cent.; in Great Britain by 7 per cent.; in West Germany by 6 per cent., and in Australia by 1 per cent. That, I repeat, is disclosed in a report issued by the International Monetary Fund. If any honorable senator opposite wishes to cast doubt upon that report he is entitled to do so, but I remind him, and I remind the Senate, that he would be reflecting upon a completely impartial and factual presentation by the International Monetary Fund.
– Let the Government put a few more thousands of people out of work and prices will come down again.
– I indicated the other day - I do not think that the honorable senator was present at the time - that the degree of unemployment in this country is very little in excess of what Mr. Albert Monk said he would accept as the degree necessary to look after transient employ-: ment requirements - a figure of 64,500 compared with the existing figure of 78,000. I am sure that, when the employment figures are made public later this month we will find that the gap between the 64,500 accepted by Mr. Monk and the actual figure will have been reduced to an even narrower margin than 13,000.
Some speakers on the other side said that in a number of cases these sales tax reductions have not been passed on. I do not think any of them went so far as to say that that was the general trend, although one would have been justified in gaining that impression because of the emphasis placed on the comparatively few items to which the reduction had not yet been applied. I say without reservation that in any community there will always be some traders and commercial people who will try to take advantage, for their own gain, of a situation such as this. I join wholeheartedly with my friend, Senator Kennelly, in wishing them the worst, and I hope that they will be found out. However, I think it is fair to say that in general these tax reductions have found, or are finding, their way through to the public in the form of reduced prices. As I mentioned this morning in answer to a question, there must be cases where it is necessary to clear existing stocks before cheaper goods are available.
– Existing stocks are not cleared first when the Government imposes fresh taxation.
– Some are not. I am not here as an advocate for every retailer in Australia. I am addressing myself to the general proposition, and I say that the majority of trading people in the community have passed on these reductions. I have in front of me a letter from a major biscuit manufacturing firm which distributes its biscuits throughout Australia. The letter is dated 19th August, or five days after the introduction of the Budget provisions. It ‘indicates that alterations had occurred in the retail prices of the whole range of biscuits as a result of the removal of sales tax on 14th August. Tinned fish has come in for some comment during the debate, and I have interested myself in ascertaining from one of the biggest companies in Australia the effect of the sales tax reduction on ‘the price of canned fish. My inquiries reveal that the price of the 16-oz. tin has come down from Ils. 3d. to 10s. The price of another tin has been reduced from 7s. 3d. to 6s. 3d., and the 8-oz. tin has been reduced from 4s. lid. to 4s. 2d.
– Are those wholesale prices?
– They are retail prices supplied by a retail store. They illustrate the reductions that have been made throughout the whole range of canned fish. It has been fashionable during this debate to produce newspaper advertisements. I have here an advertisement which shows that there was an immediate reduction of 2id. per lb. in the price of a certain brand of biscuits. The advertisement states, “Tax reductions now make our quality biscuits available to every one “.
– What is the name of the company?
– I am not promoting these particular biscuits. The advertisement is available to any honorable senator who wishes to see it.
– What percentage of the selling price does the reduction of 2£d. per lb. represent?
– I do not know. I have adverted to the matter to show that the reduction of sales tax has made it possible to reduce the price of biscuits. I have before me an article from a Sydney newspaper of 7th September. It is headed, “ We now pay less for many items “.
– The newspaper would not be the “ Daily Mirror “, would it?
– No. So help me, it is the “Sydney Morning Herald”. The article states -
Retailers had passed on to consumers the sales tax concessions provided in the 1963-64 Federal Budget, a Herald reporter found this week. The listing at 12i per cent, sales tax of cakes, biscuits, buns, fancy bread, salt, pepper, tinned fish and other groceries has been passed on by all stores, supermarkets and shops included in the survey. In some shops, silver-plated tableware was down by an average of 9 per cent following the Budget sales tax reduction from 10 per cent to 21 per cent.
There follows an itemized list which includes prices for biscuits, cakes, cake mixes, a variety of other groceries, fancy bread and buns, and pastry, indicating that prices have been reduced as a result of the measures taken by the Government. While acknowledging that some small percentage of business people might attempt to take advantage of the position, I think it can fairly be said that, in the main, there has been a reduction of prices as a result of the sales tax provisions.
A good deal has been said during the debate about sales tax on safety equipment. I am sorry that Senator Toohey is not now in the chamber. I point out that sales tax on safety belts for fitting in motor cars was removed a year or more ago. The measure that we are now discussing is a fairly comprehensive one. It applies to goods for use and not for sale by nonprofit organizations established and maintained exclusively or principally for the promotion of safety on roads, in industry and elsewhere. Senator Toohey suggested that the provision should be more specific and should state, piece by piece and item by item, the particular things that are affected by the proposals we are discussing. I am happy to be able to tell him that this is a dragnet provision. As I have said, it relates to goods for use and not for sale by the organizations I have mentioned and applies to such things as office equipment, pens, paper and even a motor car if it is used by the organization in the inculcation of safety practices. I believe that this comprehensive provision will be very much welcomed.
Reference has been made to fork-lift trucks used by shipowners. The background of this matter is that ships are -sales tax free. All other equipment used on ships also is sales tax free. It seemed a logical development that fork-lift trucks should be included.
– Do you expect the benefit to be given to the taxpayers?
– I would not for one moment try to contend that the reduction of sales tax on a fork-lift truck would immediately be reflected by, say, a reduction of £1 in the freight charge from Melbourne to Hobart. However, I believe that the effect of the reduction will be to reduce costs, which is a very desirable end in itself.
Scoops for earth-moving purposes have been made completely exempt from sales tax. I believe that this is a matter which should be welcomed by every one. More and more, equipment of this kind is being used in the diversified developmental work that is being undertaken throughout the continent. I believe that the reduction of sales tax in this respect will make a real contribution to development.
– This is 1963. I worked with scoops 40 years ago.
– They are still going strong. They are still being used. If my friend would occasionally move himself away from Albert Park and have a look at the things that: are happening in the great wide open spaces of Australia he would see that scoops were still being used on some of the biggest developmental projects being undertaken.
There was criticism, again from Senator Kennelly, of the reduction of sales tax on horseshoes and horseshoe nails. The honorable senator, looking almost patriarchal, sat back and asked, “Now, who is going to benefit from this, other than the racehorse and trotting horse owners?” I have not a close acquaintance with either horse racing or trotting. Indeed, these days I have not a close acquaintance with any horse. I suppose that if I wanted to develop such an interest again, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals might take a hand in the matter. But I do know this much about horse racing and trotting and shoes for horses: There has been an increasing tendency in recent years to use not the iron shoe but the rubber shoe or the plastic shoe. Let me assure the honorable senator that, much as he was prepared to treat this item lightly, in the vast open spaces of Australia-
– You could not find a horse.
– Could you not? The honorable senator must come with me, because he obviously has not got beyond Centennial Park. Senator Cant, at least, will agree with me that in the north-west of Australia, including the Kimberley area, and in other remote parts, horses are still used to a large extent. Senator Cant may also know that particular representations for the removal of sales tax from these items came from that part of the Commonwealth, where this will be considered a real concession. I have spoken rather longer than I had intended, but I thought it necessary to pass those few remarks in order to attempt to explain some of the things which attracted some criticism during the debate. I am delighted that the measure has the support of all sections of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Will the Minister, having aired his knowledge of horseshoes and horseshoe nails, tell me what the cost of the remission of the tax on these items will be to the Treasury? We will test out your knowledge; you want to be funny. If you make a political fight of it, I will go beyond the third round. It will be on now.
The question is, “That the bill be agreed to “.
– -No, I want an answer. If I do not get an answer, I shall go right through it.
– As I understand it, the question is: What will this concession on horseshoes and horseshoe nails cost? I am sorry; I have no figures available.
.- You do not seem to be as knowledgeable as you were earlier. Now we will get down to a few more. Tell us the cost to the nation of the remission of sales tax on silverplate ware - you know, for those people who do not think that china is good enough. I played it easy. If you want to play it tough, do not whinge.
If we cannot get an answer to that one, let us consider the tax on scoops. No progressive farmer to-day would use a scoop for building a dam. They were all right in the 1920’s. To-day farmers use bulldozers or something similar. They have to be modern to-day; in the end this saves them a lot of money. Tell us the cost to the nation of this concession about which you have made such a song and about which no one else knew.
– The concession in respect of silverplate ware will amount to £64,000 this year and £80,000 in a full year. Scoops for agriculture, about which you seem most concerned, have been free of sales tax for some years past. The concession has now been extended to include all scoops and I have not a figure in relation to the cost.
.- Tell us the cost to the nation of the exemption of the floor rugs and mats that you say will be made out of kangaroo skins and cattle skins.
– Now ask another silly question.
– I leave it to people of your mentality to be silly. You are much better at it than I am.
– I have not any figures in relation to the cost of this concession. The honorable senator may be interested in the reason.
– I am not interested in any reason. It was all right until you started to make it a bit political and rough-
– Not at all. I will make it just as tough as you do. You are not going to set the pace and get away with it.
– I will do what I want to do. You see whether I am right.
– Publicity has been given to the fact that the tax remissions will amount to £9,500,000 this year and £12,000,000 in a full year. Those amounts have been implanted in the minds of the public as reductions in the price of foodstuffs for the ordinary people. Without going through the list of items as Senator Kennelly has gone through them, I ask the Minister to state what percentage of the £9,500,000 remission this year will relate to foodstuffs and what percentage will not relate to foodstuffs.
– This year, £9,000,000 of the £9,500,000 will be applicable to foodstuffs.
.- We had better have a look at the list again. The Minister is keen about these fork-lift trucks. Will you tell me what that concession will mean to the shipowners? This cannot be passed on. It is silly to think it will be passed on.
– The amount of the remission will be £12,000.
– That is not a bad gift for them, is it? I think you admitted yourself that they would find it tremendously difficult to pass that on. If I remember correctly, you did say that in future they might be able to do it. Let us hope that they will. To my mind, they will not.
– Do not marine boards and harbour trusts-
– Listen! At the moment, I am speaking to the butcher, not to the block.
– Mr. Chairman, I rise to order. I suggest that the Chair should take cognizance of the use of language such as, “ I am speaking to the butcher, not the block “, and of the requirement of the Standing Orders that speeches should be addressed to the Chair and that there should not be cross-fire between individual senators in such terms as, “You said this” and “You said that”. It is very difficult under those conditions for honorable senators to follow proceedings intelligently and with respect.
– If I have offended, Mr. Chairman, I withdraw my remark. I think I have now asked the
Minister the questions that I wanted to ask him. In only a few instances have I received a reply, but let us hope that in dealing with future bills the Minister will be more helpful and that, when he replies to a debate, he will not make a party political speech. His action in doing so on this bill prompted my questions.
– I should like to ask the Minister whether any approach has been made regarding salmon and barracoota by people in the fishing industry.
– I am not aware of any approaches having been made in respect of salmon, barracoota or other fish of that kind. I am not aware of any approach having been made either by the processors or by other people interested in the canning of those fish. I should think thatthe course that they would need to take would be to submit their case to the Tariff Board.
– I should like some explanation from the Minister in relation to clause 2 which concerns the commencement of the various amendments. There are four paragraphs in the clause. One of them has retrospective application. The other three provide for differing commencement dates. I was wondering why that was necessary.
– That clause relates to catalogues and price lists. The new customs tariff had application from that date. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) agreed that the sales tax concession should apply at the same time.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I regret rising to speak on the third reading of the bill. I should not do so had the debate taken the normal course. I always feel a bit upset and hurt when the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) uses the occasion of hisreply to a debate to turn the game into a fierce party political contest. I heard most of the speeches made on this bill. I thought that the debate was being conducted, with minor exceptions, without feelings being roused. However, in replying to the debate, the Minister selected certain extracts from “ Hansard “ which suited him, purely in order to make party political capital out of them. I do not know whether he was interested in the welfare of this nation in the 1930’s. I know that he came into politics about 1951. When people are relating events of the past I think they should give the whole story. It is true that in 1930 the Labour Government introduced sales tax. I believe that this nation was then near bankruptcy, and I do not think one could blame a government that had been in office only about six or eight months for that position. In 1929, the bottom fell out of the economy. Subsequently, Otto Niemeyer was brought in because Australia had borrowed so much money overseas. He said, “ You have to pay “; and the government of the day had to obtain money. It is also true, as the Minister said, that customs duties were imposed on textiles in order to enable us to establish a textile industry and give work to some people.
The bill before the Senate is one which I did not think would provide an occasion for a party political speech by the Minister. We all have our own views on these matters. I think Senator Scott stated his view on something that I had said, and I said something about a statement by Senator Laught. But if debates of this kind are to be used to gain party advantage we had better nail up on the wall a sign reading, “ Never at any time be generous “. I do not mind if the Minister would like that to be done. I would rather enjoy debate under those conditions. However, I feel that that would not add very much to the reputation of the Parliament. But Opposition senators do not want debates to be one-sided. If the Government wishes, I am prepared to say to it, “Righto! You have your 31 senators here all the time and get your legislation through as best you can”. We have been a fairly generous Opposition. I have not all the say in this matter on the Opposition side but I have a little and, possibly, I shall have a bit more. That is why I adopted the attitude I did. I am sorry if I offended the House by my interjections, but at times I just cannot put up with the inane interjections which come from the other side of the chamber. I do not mind a clever interjection which gives me time to think, because I am not a fast thinker. But if debates of this kind are to be used to gain party political advantage the Opposition is prepared to play the game in that way, and I shall enjoy it.
– I do not rise at this stage to pour petrol on the flames far from it. However, I believe that I am obliged, in view of what Senator Kennelly has said, to state my position. I will never unduly provoke a political fight. That has been my record for the past seven years. But if any criticism is offered which requires an answer, I will answer it. If reference to any tactic needs to be rebutted or counteracted, I will rebut it to the best of my ability. I say to Senator Kennelly with goodwill that I will not make the pace but will merely keep the pace. I remind him of that, because he frequently says things which he subsequently forgets. I felt that he was rather annoyed to-day when I made what I regarded as being a perfectly pleasant indeed, it was intended to be humorous reference to his association with Albert Park. In making that reference I was motivated by his own earlier reference to horse shoes and horse nails, and the existence of a splendid trotting track at Perth and his subsequent remark about it. I invite him to look at the report of what he said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 91), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy President, in the debate just concluded the Australian Labour Party was accused of placing on the Australian statute-book legislation for the imposition of indirect taxation in the form of the sales tax. We do not deny that the Labour Party introduced such legislation. Indeed, it would be impossible for us to do so. But, when we are criticized for having done that, honorable senators who offer the criticism should look at the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the legislation.
This country had been so run down by conservative governments over the years that it was in pawn. Money had to be found from somewhere not only to carry on the ordinary services of the country but also to feed and clothe the men, women and children who were unable to obtain employment as a result of the policies that had been adopted after the First World War. Up to 40 per cent, of the working population was unemployed and large amounts of unemployment relief money had to be found.
– I rise to a point of order. I direct attention to Standing Order No. 413, which reads -
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the same Session upon a Question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate for personal explanations.
The honorable senator is referring to a debate that has just concluded.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! I ask Senator Cant to confine his remarks to the bill now before the Chair.
– The bill now before the Chair is a bill to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act. I am talking about sales tax.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. The bill now before the Senate is a bill to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5). It deals with the procedure - the mechanism - by which the measures approved in the bill which has just been agreed to shall be applied. It is nothing more or less than a procedural bill.
– I think the point is well taken that one cannot allude to a speech made in relation to another matter during the same session. We have just been dealing with a bill that merely fixed rates. We are now dealing with a measure which determines where those rates shall fall - the incidence of the tax. This bill covers the whole of the sales tax. Implicit in that is the history and purpose of the sales tax - the social, economic and all other aspects of the matter. I submit that it is quite in order for anybody who speaks to this measure to refer to the history of sales tax and its incidence. Of course, I do not contest the submission that one cannot refer to what has been said in a previous debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! 1 ask Senator Cant to confine his remarks to the bill now before the Senate.
– The sales tax legislation was placed on the statute-book for the purpose of relieving unemployment, and no doubt it was retained during the term of office of the Lyons Government and the Menzies Government for the same purpose. It was retained during the war period by the Labour Government because money had to be found to fight the war. To levy sales tax in a different era when we have a buoyant economy is quite a different thing. I remind the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) of the references in 1958 to “Australia unlimited”. I do not know what the word “ unlimited “ was intended to convey. As far as I can see, Australia is unlimited for exploitation. I shall probably have more to say about that later. To say in times of complete buoyancy that the Labour Party is wrong in directing attention to indirect taxation is quite another matter.
I should like the Minister to tell honorable senators, at either the second-reading stage or the committee stage, how the relationship between direct and indirect taxation has changed during the period that this Government has been in office. That would be a different story from reading a set of figures which showed revenue from direct and indirect taxation as percentages of total revenue. If I am not mistaken, the ratio of revenue from indirect taxation to total revenue will be found to be much higher now than it was before this Government assumed office. I had not intended to speak on this bill until the Minister replied in another debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator is not in order in referring to another debate.
– The measure is complementary to the measure that has just been passed. It is of a technical nature and is required for administrative purposes, and the Labour Party does not oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Government’s Budget repatriation proposals, and to make other adjustments which will be of advantage to exservicemen and their dependants, and to the effectiveness of repatriation administration. The present repatriation system is the product of many years of development by successive governments. Its basis is sound in principle; and its evolution has kept pace with changing circumstances and needs, and, in the field of treatment, with developments in medical science.
The present Government has regularly reviewed the system and from time to time has adjusted the rates of pensions and other benefits, and has introduced other measures to widen eligibility and improve services. Among more significant recent changes, in addition to progressive increases in the main pensions rates, are the provision of a full range of medical benefits for member service pensioners, provision of repatriation benefits for members of the forces on special overseas service which exposes them to risks beyond the normal conditions of peace-time service in the permanent forces, and extension of eligibility for service pension to Torres Strait Islanders. The measures with which the bill is concerned continue this policy of review and progressive development.
The Budget, of course, is not the sole instrument for giving effect to improvements within the repatriation system. This is illustrated by several changes, not related to the Budget, being introduced in the bill. Further, in the course of each year, many other adjustments and improvements, not requiring amendment of the act, are effected by regulation or administrative action. More recent developments of this sort include the grant, for member service pensioners, of a funeral benefit of £10, extension of medical benefits to war widows and children of exservicemen of the First World War who did not serve overseas but whose deaths have been accepted as due to war service, and removal of the limited means test which formerly applied to the rate of medical sustenance paid during periods of in-patient treatment and essential convalescence. Continuing attention to administrative processes within the department has also resulted in speedier and more efficient service for those receiving benefits.
This year the Budget provision for repatriation services totals £120,500,000, an increase of £12,800,000 on expenditure for 1962-63. A substantial proportion of the additional expenditure reflects a projected increase in the number of pensioners and in the average percentage rate of pension payable for incapacity, as well as the cost for this year of the increased rates provided by this bill. It also includes substantially increased provision for medical treatment at both in-patient and out-patient levels to meet the estimated continuing upward trend in the numbers requiring treatment, as well as provision for new facilities and equipment.
In considering Budget proposals for 1963- 64, the Government has of course, had regard to the present economic situation, the general budgetary position, and the competing demands of the many sectors of the Commonwealth’s activities which must be reconciled and balanced.
As the Treasurer has pointed out, the past year was one of strong continuous growth which seems likely to continue. Concurrently with that growth, we have achieved a gratifying stability of consumer goods prices. This is of particular importance to those having to live on fixed incomes, among whom are a substantial number of repatriation pensioners, notably those receiving the special rate of war pension for total and permanent incapacity, most war widows, and service pensioners. The benefit of stable prices for this group needs no emphasis.
Nevertheless, the Government has considered that further assistance by way of direct monetary supplement should be given this year to “ economic “ pensioners who are wholly or substantially dependent on their pensions, and to certain “ means test “ pensioners. The bill accordingly provides for a significant increase in the special (T.P.I.) rate of pension, and in parallel with social service pensioners, new and increased benefits are provided for service pensioners. Of particular significance in this area are the new differential rate for “ single “ pensioners, and the provision being made for student children. The domestic allowance paid to the majority of war widows will also be increased by regulation.
An amendment to the Second Schedule of the Repatriation Act will give effect to the increase of 10s. in the special T.P.I, rate of war pension bringing it to £13 15s. per week for a member pensioner. This rate is payable to those whose war-caused incapacities are such as to prevent them from earning more than a negligible proportion of a living wage, and to the war blinded. The new rate will also be paid to exservicemen who are temporarily totally incapacitated, and to certain sufferers from tuberculosis.
The Second Schedule to the act also enables the Repatriation Commission to determine a rate of pension for sufferers from tuberculosis who, whilst not being totally incapacitated, are capable of only light or intermittent work. This rate, which is known as the Class B rate for tuberculosis will be adjusted to provide an increase of 7s. 6d. to £9 15s. per week.
The special rate of medical sustenance will also be increased to £13 15s. per week. This rate is payable, subject to certain conditions, where the ex-serviceman is receiving in-patient treatment for a war-caused disability, and during a period of essential convalescence immediately following discharge from hospital. The limited means test which formerly applied to this rate of sustenance was recently abolished.
To correspond with the increase in the special T.P.I, rate pension, the additional amounts payable to certain amputees under the first six items of the Fifth Schedule to the act are being increased by 10s. to £8 a week. A substantial number of exservicemen will benefit from these increases in the special rate, and from consequential adjustments.
The domestic allowance payable to certain war widows is to be increased by 7s. 6d. to £3 10s. per week. This allowance is payable to war widows who are over 50 years of age, who are permanently unemployable or who have a child under the age of sixteen years, or over that age but receiving approved education. More than 90 per cent, of war widows are in this class, and the increase in the domestic allowance will benefit more than 35,000 of the approximately 38,000 war widows. The increase will be provided by an amendment to the Repatriation Regulations under which this allowance is paid.
Widows of deceased ex-servicemen whose deaths have not been accepted as due to war service will, of course, benefit from the social services proposals in relation to civilian widows with children. As a matter of passing interest, I might mention that all such widows with one or more children will receive an increase of £3 a week in the social services pension now payable to them.
An amendment to the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Regulations will extend the new special rate - the T.P.I. rat - and the new rate of domestic allowance, to eligible Torres Strait islanders under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act.
There is also to be an overall increase of 15 per cent, in the rates of education allowance payable to students, other than professional students, under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. The minimum rate will now be 19s. per week for a child of twelve to fourteen years living at home. Higher rates are paid to older children, and to those who have to live away from home. The maximum rate will now be £4 17s. 9d. per week. These allowances are payable from the age of twelve years, whilst education or approved training is continued to children of an ex-serviceman whose death has been accepted as due to war service, or who is receiving the special T.P.I. rate of pension, or who is blinded as a result of war service. The allowances are also paid to children of ex-servicemen suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, and receiving the special rate of pension which is likely to continue for a period of three years. There is a substantial rise in the rate of allowance when the child reaches the age of sixteen years and its war pension ceases. Where the parent is also receiving a service pension, student children will also benefit to the extent of a further 15s. per week from the increased service pension benefits to which I shall be referring later. More than 7,000 children will benefit from the proposed increases in education allowance.
There will be increases for certain service pensions in parallel with the increases for social service pensioners. In particular, the innovation of a special, and higher, rate for an age or invalid pensioner who is single will be incorporated in the Repatriation Act in relation to member service pensioners, giving them an additional 10s. per week.. This will provide a useful supplement to the income of these means test pensioners who may have special problems by reason of living alone.
There are two changes, both of which provide additional benefits, in service pension eligibility relating to children.
A member service pensioner, permanently unemployable, who has two or more eligible children now receives an addition of 10s. a week to his own pension in respect of the second and each such subsequent child. That amount is to be increased by 5s. a week to 15s. a week for each such child. Hitherto only children under the age of sixteen years have been eligible children for this purpose. For the future a child over that age, while he or she is a full-time student, will also be regarded as an eligible child up to the end of the year, 31st December, in which the child attains eighteen years. Likewise service pensions which are paid, as well as the addition to the member’s pension, to a first, second, third or fourth child and Which now cease at sixteen years of age will be payable during full-time education until the end of the school year in which the child reaches eighteen years.
Children who have already reached the age of sixteen but have not yet reached the end of the year in which they turn eighteen, and to whom a service pension is not now being paid will be eligible provided they meet the other conditions for this ‘benefit. The addition to the members’ pension in respect of such children will also be restored. Those who are in this position will be invited to make an appropriate application to the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in the State in which they reside.
Finally, in the service pension field, the service pension payable to a wife is to be increased by 12s. 6d. to £3 per week.
The bill includes the amendments necessary to give effect to the proposals for the increased rate for the wife of a service pensioner, and for payment of the service pension to a student child after the age of sixteen years. No amendment is necessary to give effect to the other service pension proposals, including the differential rate for single service pensioners, since the legislation provides for these to follow automatically from the relevant amendments to the Social Services Act. The new service pensions arrangements will, of course, apply to eligible Torres Strait Islanders under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act.
For the convenience of those who are interested in the details, I have prepared a table which summarizes the repatriation Budget proposals. With the concurrence
The effect of the measures which I have outlined is to allocate funds which are available for development of the repatriation system to areas of greatest need. Economic and means test pensioners who will benefit from the additions to their own pensions or allowances will also, if they have children under the Soldiers’ Children Education of honorable senators I incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
Scheme, have the additional advantage of the increased rates of education allowance.
With one exception, all of the amendments made by the bill will come into operation from the date on which the act receives the royal assent, and the bill provides for pension increases to be paid on the first pension pay day after that date. The exception is the payment of the new rate for single member service pensioners, which is to come into effect on a later date. This will be related to the date of operation of the relevant provisions of the Social Services Act, which are to operate from a date to be proclaimed.
In conformity with the Government’s policy of continuing review of repatriation administration, the opportunity is being taken in the bill to make certain other adjustments. The first of these will extend the right of appeal in cases where a member seeks acceptance of a sequela of tuberculosis which is pensionable under section 37 (3.) of the Repatriation Act. That section provides that if an ex-serviceman has served in a theatre of war and after discharge suffers incapacity or dies from pulmonary tuberculosis, the incapacity or death gives entitlement to the member himself and his dependants where appropriate as though the tuberculosis had been due to war service. Normal appeal rights exist in the case of tuberculosis for which acceptance is sought under the section. However, if there is a claim that a subsequent disabling condition is a sequela of that tuberculosis, and a repatriation board rejects it, the appeal right does not extend beyond the Repatriation Commission. Likewise, in the case of a claim under the section in respect of death, where the primary cause of death was not tuberculosis but a sequela of tuberculosis, the right of appeal stops short at the commission. The bill provides for appeal rights in these cases to extend beyond the commission to the level of an entitlement appeal tribunal.
The bill also includes an amendment which will provide for re-hearing by an entitlement or an assessment appeal tribunal of an appeal decided in the appellant’s absence in cases where the absence -is due to circumstances beyond the appellant’s control. An appellant to either type of tribunal is not compelled to attend at the hearing of his case, but is given notice of the date of hearing, and may attend or be represented if he wishes. It can happen that after an appeal is decided in an appellant’s absence, the appellant claims that although he desired to attend or be represented, his absence or that of his representative was due to causes outside his control and which did not give an opportunity to seek adjournment; for example, a sudden illness.
To prevent possible injustice the bill provides that a tribunal, on application within a prescribed period, may set aside a decision made following a hearing at which the appellant was not present or represented by an advocate, and re-hear the appeal.
The rate of pension colloquially known as the “ double orphan’s rate “, £3 1 ls. 6d. per week, is paid to a child under the Third Schedule to the act if the member’s death was due to war service, and the wife of the member is also dead. In this context the wife would normally be the child’s mother, but this is not always so, for example, where there has been divorce and remarriage. The existing legislation does not adequately cover the case of a child of a deceased member of the forces who is not in fact being maintained by its surviving parent, a step parent, or an adoptive parent. The bill therefore recasts the schedule to preserve the basic eligibility, and to allow a discretion to the Repatriation Commission to pay the double orphan’s rate of pension to children in such circumstances.
The bill includes a minor adjustment which relates to the date of lodgment of applications or appeals to the commission. It also recasts existing provisions for notification of changes in property or income by service pensioners, and for the recovery of overpayments which result from the pensioner’s failure to carry out his obligagations. The amended provisions will accord with similar provisions which are already included in the Social Services Act. Consequential amendments will also follow in some cases from the substantive provisions I have mentioned. All of these amendments are of a machinery character and will be explained more fully in the committee stages should further details be required.
As I have indicated, the measures to which the bill gives effect continue the evolution of the repatriation system according to principle and need and 1 commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill 1963.
International Development Association Bill 1963.
International Finance Corporation Bill 1963.
International Monetary Agreements Bill 1963.
World Health Organization Bill 1963.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 97), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the bills be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports these five bills, which deal with the immunities and privileges of international organizations and of certain persons connected with those organizations. The bills raise some very interesting questions, although these are not matters for heated controversy. The bills, the main one of which is the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill, deal with the subject-matter in different ways. In the first place, as the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) said in his secondreading speech, the main bill reviews and restates the law governing the granting of privileges and immunities in Australia to international organizations and to persons connected with the activities of those organizations.
It will be seen from a reading of the bill, and of the Minister’s speech, that the organizations are, firstly, the United Nations: secondly, the specialized agencies of the United Nations; and, thirdly, other international organizations. In addition to restating and reviewing the privileges, one of the bills goes a stage further and confers privileges upon individuals attending international conferences in Australia not under the auspices of international organizations. One could refer to such organizations as Anzus, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Council conferences, and conferences held by other bodies of an international character but not being international organizations as such. These are conferences held in Australia to which representatives of various countries have to resort in order to take part.
– Does the bill make it clear that the conference has to be held in Australia?
– I think it does.
– We could not extend immunities to cover persons attending conferences outside Australia.
– It applies to a person in Australia for the purpose of taking part in an international conference.
The Opposition takes the view that this is a proper and welcome extension of the system of diplomatic immunities and privileges that has become part of international usage over the years. It is obvious that we have gone a long way since those ancient days when we thought of an ambassador merely as a person who was to use the colloquial phrase sent to lie abroad for his country. We have reached the stage where international organization is complex and diverse, where an extraordinary number of interests of a social and welfare character are pressing on the international community and for which international organizations particularly agencies of the United Nations have been formed. It is proper that our Parliament should attempt to streamline and bring up to date, in the widest sense, the machinery which forms part of international diplomacy, to embrace the ordinary privileges and immunities established by international practice and usage. The Opposition commends the Government for the bill in that sense, although the legislation leaves a number of important problems unanswered, and I want to advert to those matters in due course.
Several matters to which the Minister referred in describing the type of bill that this is are worthy of mention. First, the Minister insists, and I think properly, that upper limits should be laid down by this Parliament to privileges and immunities. In other words a ceiling should be placed upon immunities. These matters are covered in the various schedules to the bill which set out the maximum extent of the various privileges and immunities that can be conferred upon organizations themselves, upon officers of those organizations and upon individuals who come here for the purpose of attending international conferences. I do not propose to canvass the particular privileges in detail, but I want to refer to one or two of them in the course of my remarks. The Minister said that it is not possible always to predicate just what privileges should be conferred in a particular situation. Therefore, the Minister is empowered to designate organizations and persons to whom the privileges and immunities shall apply.
– By regulation, you mean?
– Yes, by regulation.
– That is not an unqualified power of the Minister.
– I did not suggest it was an unqualified power. The Parliament sets the upper limit of the privilege. The schedules identify and set out a number of privileges which apply, respectively, to an international organization itself, to a high officer of an international organization, to a former high officer of an international organization, to representatives accredited to or attending conferences convened by international organizations, to officers other than high officers of international organizations, to former officers other than high officers of international organizations and, finally, to persons serving on a committee or participating in the work of, or performing a mission on behalf of, an international organization. Those various categories are set out and the number and extent of privileges vary according to which category the organization and the officer comes within. Parliament sets the ceiling, and in a particular case the Minister can specify a smaller number of privileges or can limit the extent of a particular privilege on a particular occasion.
– By regulation?
– The only reason why I mentioned the word “ regulation “ was because I thought the use of a regulation was intended not for a specific occasion but for that class of person.
– The Minister, of course, may specify that a particular organization is an international organization, or one to which the act applies. The privileges set out in the schedule as applicable are then the ones that are to be applied. But the act itself gives the Minister power to limit privileges according to principles of reciprocity.
– How do you obtain reciprocity from the United Nations Organization and its agencies?
– You would have to negotiate the matter with the appropriate officers of the organization concerned.
Let me go straight away to clause 8 of the bill which provides -
Where the Minister is satisfied that persons, or members of the official staffs of persons, representing Australia in a country would not receive in that country privileges and immunities corresponding to those conferred in Australia by this Act or the regulations upon persons, or upon members of the official staffs of persons, representing that country, the Minister may, by instrument in writing, withdraw from the representatives, or from the members of the official staffs of the representatives, of that country all or any of those privileges and immunities.
So, the nexus is established between Australia and .the country in question. Indeed, in Britain, not at the level of international organization but at the level of diplomatic immunity generally, the Parliament of that country has passed legislation restricting the application of diplomatic immunities according to these principles of reciprocity. I refer to the Diplomatic Immunities Restrictions Act of 1955 and to an OrderinCouncil, made under that act, giving effect to it. By its terms, it exempts certain countries from the application of specified lists of immunities and privileges and also limits the particular privileges and immunities that are conferred on particular countries which have cut down the immunities and privileges afforded to British representatives overseas.
– Does that touch the acts of an agent of the United Nations Organization, as distinct from a representative of a country? How can the United Nations Organization give any immunity, by virtue of its own authority, to our envoys?
– Or reciprocity?
– I doubt whether it can, in that sense, but we are dealing with countries here.
– That is the point of the 1955 act. It dealt with countries.
– And so does clause 8 of this bill deal with countries which are combined with Australia in certain international organizations.
– Clause 6 deals with certain organizations, in the main, does it not?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - I remind honorable senators that we are at the second-reading stage of the bill.
– I am concerned, Sir, to point out a number of considerations which appeal to the Opposition as being important.
I think it is proper to note, as the Minister has said, that the privileges conferred, other than in the case of high officers, are limited to acts done in an official capacity. Looking at the schedules to the bill we see that, except in the case of a high officer of an international organization, who is entitled to the like privileges and immunities, including privileges and immunities in respect of the spouse and children under the age of 21 years, that are accorded an envoy, the others - lesser officers and former officers - are entitled only to immunity, for example, from suit and from other legal process in respect of acts and things done in their capacity as such officers. For reasons which I shall advance in the next few minutes, I suggest that that is a proper limitation of the extent of the privileges.
This is not the first legislation connected with the privileges and immunities of international organizations that we have had in this country. In 1948, this Parliament passed the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Act. By that act, the Parliament gave its approval to Australia’s accession to the United Nations convention on the privileges and immunities of the United Nations, that being the convention of 13th February, 1946. Australia gave ratifying effect to the convention early in 1949, by means of the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations. The United Nations was declared by those regulations to be entitled in Australia to the privileges and immuniites applicable under the con vention of 1946 which dealt with the privileges and immunities of the United Nations itself.
In November, 1947, the United Nations adopted a second convention dealing with the privileges and immunities of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. Our Government was not nearly so expeditious in ratifying that convention. Although it had moved by 1949 to ratify the 1946 convention, it did not in fact ratify the 1947 convention until 1962, after fifteen years had elapsed. It was not alone in that respect. To this day, some States, including the United States of America, have acceded to neither the convention dealing with the United Nations nor that dealing with the specialized agencies. The United States has made special bilateral agreements with the United Nations Organization. Australa did not ratify the second convention, dealing with specialized agencies, until November, 1962. It had acceded to the convention a few days earlier, on 20th November, 1962, and adopted the convention and ratified it by regulation on 23rd November, 1962. Nobody could contend that the Government acted expeditiously in the case of the second convention. The consequence of the failure to do so was that, between 1947 and 1962, there was in this country no effective provision for privileges and immunities for officers of the specialized agencies.
– How would ratification have affected it?
– By the ordinary way in which treaties and conventions become operative. They do not become part of the law of Australia until they are adopted either by an act of the Parliament, as in the case of the 1948 act, which sets out the convention as a schedule, or by regulation. The 1948 act gave the Minister power to promulgate regulations ratifying a convention. Only when it reaches that stage of ratification, either by this Parliament or by the Minister under regulations authorized by the act, does it become part of the law of Australia. There was a third convention, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Regulations, of 18th April, 1961. Australia signed this convention on 30th March, 1962. which was the second-last day for signature, but the convention does not come into force until the 30th day following the deposit of the 22nd instrument of ratification. Some 60 or 70 countries have signed the convention, but it does not become effective until 22 or more have lodged an instrument of ratification.
– Is that not a convention of the United Nations?
– No, it is an international convention on diplomatic immunities. We have not yet ratified that convention. It would be instructive to know the Government’s intentions in relation to ratification of this convention on diplomatic relations.
– Does the subject-matter come under this bill?
– Not directly. The Minister referred to it in the course of his speech. He dealt with that convention for other purposes. I want to deal particularly with waiver of diplomatic immunity, because this bill makes a welcome advance on the previous provision. Perhaps I can approach the question of waiver in this way: Two important interests compete for recognition when one is dealing with the subject of diplomatic or international privilege and immunity. First, there is the obvious claim of the country concerned or the international organization concerned that its officials shall be protected in the course of their official duties. The receiving country has to guarantee, in accordance with international diplomacy and usage, that an official will not be frustrated or molested in the exercise of his official functions as a diplomat, or even as a consul, although consuls are not strictly diplomatic officers.
An organization must have sufficient privilege and immunity to allow it to do its job. I think every honorable senator will recognize that as the purpose for which diplomatic immunity and privileges are conferred. There are areas in human activity, within the receiving nation, where conflict can arise between an officer or organization claiming immunity, and an individual citizen of the receiving nation who is the victim of some act in respect of which immunity is claimed. We immediately think of the field of motor car acci dents. Such accidents are proliferating because motor cars are proliferating and diplomats are proliferating.
By this very legislation which we are asked to enact, we multiply the number of persons who will have privilege and immunity, not all of them necessarily at the same time, because some will be coming into the country ad hoc for particular international conferences and will be leaving it again when those conferences have concluded. But certainly, once this legislation becomes the law, more people will be entitled to privileges and immunities, and therefore more people are likely to be involved in contests in which their legal rights are curtailed or frustrated by the claiming of diplomatic immunity. I do not think that we can ever allow ourselves to be put in the position, as a nation of independence and integrity, where we will merely lie down under a claim of diplomatic immunity.
Indeed, the Minister, in his interesting second-reading speech, directed attention to the development in the international conscience which has made the question of waiver of diplomatic immunity a much more living and real thing than it was even a decade or two ago. At the conference which led to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations a resolution was passed recommending that the sending State should waive the immunity of members of its diplomatic missions in respect of civil claims of persons in the receiving State, when this can be done without impeding the performance of the functions of the missions. Australia, I am glad to say was one of the 50 nations which voted for the resolution. Two nations voted against it and eighteen abstained. The resolution also strongly pressed a sending State which felt unable to waive immunity to use its best endeavours to bring about a just settlement of a claim.
I agree with the Attorney-General that that is a sign of a new attitude in international relationships in the field of privilege and immunity. This has been developing. It is not something that has happened just in the last year or two or merely on the occasion of this particular convention. If we look at the original convention of 1946, which was ratified and which became law in this country by the 1948 act, we find it stated in section 14 -
Privileges and immunities are accorded to the representatives of members not for the personal benefit of the individuals themselves but in order to safeguard the independent exercise of their functions in connexion with the United Nations.
Consequently, a member nation has not only the right but also the duty to waive the immunity of its representative in any case where, in the opinion of the member, the immunity would impede the course of justice and it can be waived without prejudice to the purpose for which the immunity is accorded.
Both that convention and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations deal with the waiver of immunity, and this was. put in the forefront of the matters which were raised by the nations themselves in the discussion at the Vienna conference. Indeed, there were two competing concepts at the conference. In the Department of External Affairs “ Current Notes on International Affairs”, of August 1961, there is a very interesting discussion of the basis upon which the claim for immunity rests. It seems to me to be extremely important that when a claim for immunity is made this should be appreciated by those who make it, by the citizens of the country who have to accept it and by the individual affected by the claim. These are important matters. I want to read a passage from the publication to which I have referred because it seems to me to summarize the argument very well indeed. The passage reads as follows: -
Prior to the Conference, and until recently, the theory was widely held that the head of mission (ambassador, minister, high commissioner) was the personal representative of his Head of State, and such immunities as were granted to him by virtue of this position were extended also to his staff and to their families. This theory was based on the idea that the head of a mission was not only the personal representative but the “ personal embodiment “ of his sovereign and could not therefore be regarded as “ residing “ in the territory of the sovereign to which he was accredited. Accordingly, since one sovereign could not subject another sovereign to his laws, he could not subject a head of diplomatic mission to his laws, and the immunity so granted was considered to extend to the head of mission’s personal and official staff and their families.
When it drew up the draft articles, the International Law Commission expressed the view that the immunity of diplomats and their families-
I use that expression generally and I want it to apply to those who are to be covered by the present legislation because it seems to me to be an extension, up to a point, but not to affect the particular principle which I am citing now. The passage continues - . . the immunity of diplomats and their families should perhaps be based rather on the ground that immunity is essential to enable a diplomatic mission to function effectively and without fear of intimidation. A diplomatic mission, it suggested, could not function effectively if its members were in constant fear of legal action or reprisals based on law of a. foreign country which they could well not be expected to understand and which might in fact conflict with the law of their home country.
A choice has to be made as to the basis upon which the privilege and immunity rests. Opposition senators and, I venture to think, honorable senators opposite, would not want to tolerate a state of affairs in 1963 in which we meekly conceded every claim and privilege.
A number of interesting suggestions has been made as to what should be done in particular areas. These privileges are quite far reaching. They apply, for example, in fields of taxation and excise. They apply, even within the Australian Capital Territory, to liability for rates and they apply in many other ways.
In recent years, a number of legal actions have been commenced against diplomatic representatives who have claimed immunity. In making those claims, the diplomats concerned have run counter to both government and public sentiment. The general belief is that something should be done either to waive the privilege or to blunt its effect by forcing some kind of intelligent compromise. I could cite a number of cases in which citizens have taken action against diplomats in this national capital of Canberra. An action was commenced by an optician against the German Ambassador in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1956. The action was discontinued, it being assumed that some settlement was arrived at as a result of the feeling that this was not a proper case in which to make a claim of privilege. In 1959 a Canberra electrician sued the Austrian charge d’affaires in the Australian Capital Territory and the complaint was found by the court to be null and void by virtue of the ancient diplomatic privilege. In 1962, in the Australian Capital Territory, a claim was made against a secretary of the embassy for the Federal Republic of Germany, based upon alleged damage to a flat. The claim of immunity was made but was later waived. These matters never become public in the ordinary sense. Only the early part of such proceedings is reported when a claim is made. If the proceedings are adjourned they are frequently discontinued thereafter because compromises -are forced by conflicting interests. One can assume that happens although one does not know the facts in each case.
Perhaps motor car accidents are the most frequent source of complaints. This is the area in which there is most likely to be a conflict between the right of the citizen to prosecute his, claim against an offending motorist who has caused, him damage and the right of the diplomat to be protected in the exercise of his proper representative functions. Here, there seems to be no reason in logic or justice why a person who has been run over by a diplomatic car should not have the same right to recover damages as the person who is run over by a private car. A person who is run over by a Commonwealth car has the right to sue the Commonwealth. Why should he not have a similar right if he is run over by a diplomatic car?
– Would you extend that to every country in the world?
– These things can only be done by reciprocal arrangement. I recognize that in dealing with diplomatic immunities and privileges, whether they concern diplomatic personnel accredited to a country or to an international conference, it is not possible to act unilaterally because the whole system of diplomatic privilege and immunity rests upon reciprocity and the mutual recognition in the comity of nations. A country which acted unilaterally would risk reprisals. I have not a particular situation in mind, but in principle it is obvious that these matters have to be negotiated at a coherent and sensible level so that the privileges of Australian diplomats in other countries will be curtailed only to the extent to which the privileges of representatives of those countries are curtailed in Australia.
– The basis of adjustment could not be common law. The position in any one country would have to be the same as in another.
– I think it would have to be on the reciprocal basis of the diplomat submitting to the law of the country in which he was residing. An Australian representative would have to be required to observe the law of the country to which he was accredited. If he were attending an international conference he would have to observe the law of the country in which the conference was being held.
– May I ask a question, at this stage, for the purpose of elucidation?
– Suppose that an officer of the Australian Department of External Affairs was knocked down by a motor car in another country and killed. The compensation payable in Australia in respect of his life might be £40,000 but, in Nigeria, it might be 40ticals. How do we get over that problem?
– I do not suppose that any rule could be laid down which would not raise some kind of a hard case. But I do not believe there is any case so difficult that suitable arrangements could not be made if there were real cooperation between the governments of the two countries concerned. Senator Cormack’s question brings to my mind a suggestion that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) when the diplomatic immunities legislation was before the Senate in 1952. Senator McKenna made what I think was a very interesting suggestion. He said -
I suggest, also, that it may be advisable to establish a screening committee, composed of persons of the calibre of the Solicitor-General, to screen claims that our citizens might have, against ambassadors or their staffs in order to determine whether a prima facie case could be made out, and that when sponsorship of the claim is given by the committee the Commonwealth ought to be sueable as a nominal defendant.
The Leader of the Opposition reached the point in which I think Senator Cormack was interested when he said -
Although I do not urge the appointment of such a committee, t suggest that in that case the Commonwealth ought to be liable, and that it then ought to present its claim to the foreign government through the usual diplomatic channels. By this means liability could be determined, and there could be eliminated any matters in connexion with which it was considered there had been uo negligence on the part of an ambassador or members of his staff. It would also be possible to determine through a court of our land the proper measure of damages, and I believe that two of the most difficult elements in a settlement between countries would be eliminated. If the AttorneyGeneral would concede that point, it is quite clear that we should need to seek reciprocity by other countries.
Of course, Senator McKenna was not dealing precisely with the difficulty raised by Senator Cormack, but he was putting forward what I submit with respect was a valuable suggestion for the meeting of minds to discuss problems. Once you reach the point of discussion where it is conceded that the area of privilege and immunity should never be wide enough to exclude legitimate claims by citizens who have civil rights which they can exercise in their own country against ordinary individuals and indeed against their own government, then 1 do not think it is too difficult to find a point where there can be some sensible discussion about it. I have not got the machinery in mind, but I do not doubt that machinery could bc devised.
Another area in which 1 suggest it is extremely important that diplomatic immunity should never be claimed to defeat just claims is that of workmen’s compensation. This may seem to be an unusual point to raise, but it is not the first time that it has been raised. I have in mind persons who might be employed temporarily by representatives who come to Australia temporarily to attend some of the international conferences with which this legislation is concerned. A representative of another country might employ Australians temporarily in either a secretarial or a domestic capacity and those persons might be injured. We would not want to see those persons deprived of the rights which they have as Australian citizens against other Australian citizens or against a State government or the Federal Government. Something could be done in the Australian Capital Territory by an amendment of the workmen’s compensation ordinance. I do not know how effective it would be, but at least it could be a statement of legislative intention which would make very rare the occasions upon which privilege was claimed.
– The justice of the case would not be much different in the case of the electrician who had been working for an embassy.
– I do not think it would be, in principle. I was suggesting an area in which cases might occur more frequently than in other areas. If a citizen, an employee, or a workman - according to the language used in the statute - is injured while in the employment of somebody who falls within the category of persons covered by the legislation now before us, it would be a shocking thing to see that person deprived of rights by the mere adventitious circumstance that his employer for a short period of time happened to be a person who was not subject to our laws.
– He gets his compensation where there has been no negligence. Surely in a case where there has been negligence by the diplomat it is much more imperative that justice should be done by awarding compensation.
– I do not think you can say it is much more imperative. They are both important. In some cases liability is dependent upon proof of negligence. In other cases it is absolute upon proof of the happening of the accident which gives rise to the claim for compensation.
Other aspects of this legislation call for consideration. I have ventured to suggest only a few areas in which some thought might be given to the development of the problem beyond the stage which it has now reached. It might be interesting for honorable senators to recall that when Senator McKenna made his suggestion in 1952 in relation to a screening committee, the then Attorney-General, Senator Spicer, said -
There may be some difficulty in regard to the kind of machinery to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred. I think that there is much to be said for the view that if our community, in common with other communities, provide immunity for a diplomatic representative, the whole burden of such immunity should not fall on an unfortunate citizen who may suffer as the result of action by that diplomatic representative. I fully appreciate that that approach to the matter supports the suggestions which the Leader of the Opposition has made.
I conclude by saying that it is a test of national maturity to face up to the implications of this legislation. It is proper that we should extend to representatives of international organizations and to persons who resort to these shores for such purposes, whether they be representatives of the United Nations, specialized agencies such as Anzus or Seato, the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, or other regional bodies or groupings of nations which are not international organizations within the strict meaning of this legislation. But it is also reasonable that this Parliament and all those who are concerned with the problem should insist upon the qualification that, where you agree to the granting of privileges and immunity to those who are covered by the legislation, it should not be at the expense of the established civil rights which the ordinary citizen enjoys and of which he should never be deprived because the person on the other side of the conflict is a representative, however distinguished, of a foreign power or an international organization. Having expressed those reflections on behalf of the Opposition, I commend the bill to the Senate. I welcome the fact that there are new approaches to problems of waiver and that the winds of change are blowing even through the protocolladen corridors of the chancelleries and indeed through the new and hygienic auditoria of the modern international conference buildings.
.- I was very interested in all that Senator Cohen had to say in discussing this matter and I hope he will not think that any interjection I made - and I think I am speaking for Senator Wright also - was made in an attempt to throw him off his stride. It was done to attempt to obtain from him - a distinguished Queen’s Counsel - some of the ideas he has in relation to this bill.
T take some slight issue with closing remarks of the honorable senator in which he suggested that this was a time when Australia should display some sort of maturity in relation to matters of diplomatic immunities and privileges. I want to say at the beginning that I take the opposite point of view. I want to take a good hard look at this International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill because what is happening in the world to-day is a growth of a new, privileged and entrenched class. In just a minor matter, for example, we have three categories of Australian citizens once they move out of the confines of Australia. We have those citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia who are armed with diplomatic immunities and privileges the moment they embark on a ship or an aircraft to leave Australia. Then we have a second class of citizen - where this originated I do not know - who are the official class of citizens in Australia and who, when they board an aircraft or ship, receive concessions in relation to their immunities and privileges when they travel abroad. Then we have the simple class of helots who provide all the money on which the two superior classes of mandarins may travel abroad.
We have had since 1946 the situation that a great gaggle of nations in New York has been proceeding to confer all sorts of privileges and immunities on itself, in respect of both travel and domicile in different parts of the world. It may be an expression of the growth of maturity in Australia that the Department of External Affairs has got round to consolidating all the acts that embalm, and embody and place in statute, the qualities of the various coloured robes which. the mandarins in that department will wear on the basis of some reciprocity - but only some.
It may be a matter of historical interest to Senator Cohen, who dealt with the subject of the unfortunate citizens in the mid- 20th Century who will be crushed under the juggernaut of diplomatic privilege, to know that times have changed. For the amusement of the Senate I have taken an illustration of the changing quality of diplomatic immunity and privilege from Setow’s “ Guide to Diplomatic Practice “. I understand that this is kept under the pillow of every diplomat in every part of the world, including Australia. It lays down the privileges of diplomats when living among the barbarians.
– It is a very hard pillow, if you accept that.
– You have been through it. For the amusement and interest of the Senate, and to show how changed the times are, I have taken out this story which was recounted, I understand, of the French
Ambassador Morny by Prince Bismarck. He was telling a story and referring to Morny he said -
When he was appointed ambassador at Petersburg, he arrived with a whole string of five elegant carriages, a host of trunks, boxes and chests full of laces, silk stuffs, ladies’ dresses . . . each servant had his own coach, each attache” or secretary at least two and himself five or six. He auctioned the lot. He must have made at least 800,000 roubles. He was not a bad fellow all the same. 1 have mentioned that, to illustrate that historically there is a great deal of vested interest in the maintenance of diplomatic immunities and privileges. In these days it may get down simply to cases of Scotch, which seems to be an international currency. As a matter of fact, I remember talking recently to the diplomatic representative of a nation whose currency was at some discount. He said the most effective method of getting the diplomatic cars repaired was by a barter system - so much work on the car for so many cases of Scotch, because oddly enough Scotch comes under diplomatic immunities and privileges.
This is the point I want to make: At least when diplomatic immunities and privileges were stabilized or had elements that were stabilized, by convention and by understandings between European countries - not countries outside Europe - the conventional behaviour of European countries in their diplomatic practices was either accepted or enforced. It was reasonable to assume therefore that the rights of a nation, or of the citizens of a nation as against the practices and malpractices of diplomats, could be enforced. In other words, that raises the question that Senator Cohen has mentioned - problems of reciprocity. Reciprocity could therefore be negotiated and the levels of immunity and privilege could be sustained by the capacity to negotiate reciprocity.
But in 1946, with the advent of the United Nations, a whole new complex in relation to diplomatic immunities and privileges arose. I do not know whether the Senate is aware of, or has any real idea of, the elements of the United Nations Organization upon whom it is proposed by the Crown in this Parliament to confer diplomatic immunities and privileges either under the first, second, third, fourth or fifth schedules; but I have made a list of them to illustrate how widespread the net is cast for the conferring of privileges by the bill before the Senate. The organizations concerned include the International Labour Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Telecommunications Organization, the Universal Postal Union, the World Health Organization, the International Trade Organization, the International Refugee Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, and the International Government Maritime Organization.
I suppose there are a great many more. I have a number here which do not seem to be on our list. This is the United States list of international organizations designated by executive order as being entitled to privileges, immunities and exemptions under the International Organization Immunity Act of the 79th Congress. It includes a few that I have not come across before, including the International Wheat Council, the International Cotton Advisory Committee, the International Hydrographic Bureau, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Finance Corporation, the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, the Coffee Study Group and so on. Although these are not mentioned anywhere in the act I assume that from time to time some of these other organizations over and above the pure list of the United Nations Organization I have read will come within the capacity of the Department of External Affairs to confer some forms of immunity and diplomatic privilege.
In 1946 the United Nations started to muscle in on this question of diplomatic immunities and privileges. Article 104 of the United Nations Charter states that -
The United Nations Organization shall enjoy in territory of its members such legal capacity as shall be necessary for the exercise of its functions . . .
Article 105 states - it shall enjoy such privileges and immunities . . , and it covers those embraced by this bill. Subsequently, by a resolution of 13th February, 1946, it laid down the convention 1 have mentioned. Then it conferred on various other matters which included, under specific articles, such things as juridical personality, property, funds and assets, and inviolability of premises, the inviolability of archives, no restriction by financial control, exemption from taxes save those that are charges for public utilities, customs duties and prohibition of imports, and so on, and settlement of disputes. This is the interesting one which I will return to later because 1 think this must engage the attention of the Senate on the level at which Senator Cohen dealt with it.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had mentioned that the conception of diplomatic immunities and privileges is based on conventional behaviour among nations over many hundreds of years. I think if is fair to say that, substantially, the conventions of diplomatic behaviour relating to immunities and privileges were established first by the Western nations and, secondly, by the Western-derived nations. In the twentieth century, of course, we are involved in problems of diplomatic immunity and privilege with nations whose mores - if that is the right word - are not in Europe. They have their own concepts of behaviour in diplomatic contacts. As I w;:s reminded just a few minutes ago, diplomatic relationships are founded in convention rather than in international acceptance of law.
The bill before the Senate has two distinct parts and deals with two separate problems. First, it relates to the diplomatic immunities and privileges of ministers, ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, and so forth. There is a reasonable method by which proceedings can be taken for breaches of diplomatic conventions. A nation that considers itself to have been offended against can declare the diplomats concerned to be persona non grata and demand their recall. As Senator Cohen pointed out there are times when individual citizens of a country feel themselves aggrieved as the result of actions of visiting diplomats. He gave instances of such occurrences in Aus tralia. Often such matters only come to public notice because action has been taken in a court. Sometimes the outcome of the proceedings is never known because the matter is settled out of court, perhaps following intervention, in Australia’s case, by the Department of External Affairs. The offending embassy, legation or ministry is made to conform to a settlement out of court.
– Not always.
– Not always, that is true, but I want to demonstrate that there exists a capacity, as I think Senator Wright will agree, by which a citizen can get reasonable protection. But I want to make the point that the very title of this bill fills me with some sort of horror because it deals with diplomatic immunity and privilege. Whenever you establish a privilege, you establish at one; -a subtraction. If you establish a privilege you subtract something from somebody. Usually that subtraction is the subtraction of the right of a citizen to secure redress of a grievance by resort to the ordinary processes of law. This is particularly true of an Englishspeaking country such as Australia or the United States of America where there exists the common law. In either place, if a citizen is knocked down by a motor car, to use Senator Cohen’s example, he can proceed, to obtain damages against the driver of that motor car. In Australia the awards that can be obtained against such an offending person are fairly clearly established. But let us look at the reverse side of the picture. Supposing a diplomat knocks down an Australian citizen: The Australian citizen cannot get compensation under the terms of our law because the offending citizen claims diplomatic immunity. So here is an immediate subtraction from the citizen’s rights in that he cannot proceed through common law against the offender. Perhaps this was reasonable enough 100 years ago when very few nations were involved in this problem of diplomatic immunity and privilege and some sort of settlement could be obtained. But I suggest that that situation does not exist to-day.
There is another side to this, and I take now as an example the question that I asked Senator Cohen this afternoon by way of interjection. The diplomatic representative in Canberra of say an African country may knock down an Australian citizen. Assuming that the offending diplomat acknowledges responsibility for damages by what standard is the appropriate amount to be assessed? Is it to be the standard that would be applied in that African country? We can picture the Prime Minister of such a country travelling down the road at 60 miles an hour, with his motor cycle outriders, horn blowing to warn the mob to get off the road. An unfortunate picaninny does not manage to get out of the way. Compensation of £100 may be considered sufficient for death or injury. So an Australian citizen may be offered £100 compensation. I suggest in the frankest possible terms that if the Crown wishes to confer immunity and privilege upon foreign missions or individuals, then the Crown must defend the citizen. If the Crown wishes to subtract from the citizen’s right in law, it must adjust this in terms of compensation. That is what L at least, feel about it.
When we turn to the United Nations Organization with its vast increase of agencies we are involved in a separate problem altogether. Although the bill says in one part that problems of reciprocity are involved, what reciprocity can be obtained from the United Nations Organization? What is the United Nations Organization? It is not a state; it is not a supranational government or, as someone has suggested, a world state. What reciprocity Can be obtained from the United Nations Organization? If diplomatic immunity and privilege is given to a United Nations agency operating in Australia and some citizen suffers an injury as a result of the action of a member of that agency, what reciprocal rights will enable that individual to obtain just compensation or reparation for his injury? Perhaps in such a case the citizen could obtain reparation by proceeding against the organization in the International Court of Justice which sits at The Hague in Holland, but clearly that would be a very difficult process.
I suggest that whereas it is theoretically possible to obtain compensation under the normal conventions of diplomatic immunity relating to sovereign states, it is not possible to succeed in a suit for injury against instrumentalities of the United Nations Organization. Yet we intend to confer vast rights and privileges on a whole range of such instrumentalities. Again, if the Crown wishes to subtract from the common law rights of the citizen, in this second instance also the Crown must be prepared to acknowledge that it owes a duty to the citizen who has suffered an injury.
I am interested in another aspect of the operation of the United Nations. I refer to the possibility of espionage by representatives of the organization who may be stationed in Australia. I do not see anything in the bill that accords to the Commonwealth Government the means by which it can obtain some redress against an individual representing a United Nations agency who has been put by his own country into that agency for the specific purpose of operating, not on behalf of the agency, but on behalf of his own country. Honorable senators need not think that this cannot happen, because there have been two or three illustrations in the United States of America where the government has had to take action against members of United Nations agencies who have been operating there. It might be argued that the Commonwealth Government, under its own constitutional powers, has not the right to take action against an agent of the United Nations in relation to espionage. I notice that in the United States in a case where action was taken against an individual, it was taken under the law of a State - the State of Illinois - against a Russian by the name of Melekh.
In this brief survey of the problems associated with the bill I suggest that the Senate should take good and careful note of the measure, and particularly at the committee stage should put a fine comb through it. I suggest that this is a bill that deserves our most careful consideration as a house of review. The citizens of this country should be able to seek protection in this house of review. The Senate exists especially to see that nothing is subtracted or added unless it can be demonstrated most effectively that such action is necessary. I suggest that we should take a leaf out of the book of the United States. That country has obtained bilateral agreements with member nations of the United Nations so that its citizens can be protected in relation to matters that occur from time to time. I think that we should have bilateral agreements. I am not prepared to say, for example, that it would not be possible for a member of a United Nations agency operating in Australia, or attending a conference in Australia, to pose a situation which would require some rectification.
Finally, I notice that in the bill reference is made to conferences. In law, as I understand it, there is no definition of what constitutes a conference. There is no definition in this bill, as far as I have been able to see, as to what constitutes a conference. If two men operating as a United Nations agency set up shop in Collins Street, Melbourne, would that constitute a conference? I had my attention directed to this as a result of an examination of “ Law Commentaries “, a British publication. “ Law Commentaries “, dealing with the British act on diplomatic immunities and privileges, raises this very question - What constitutes a conference? In the bill before the Senate there are several references to conferences.
– I think there is only one reference.
– Even if there is only one reference I still ask: What is a conference? That is something I should like to know. 1 understand that Senator Wright wishes to speak on this matter and I do not wish to take up the time of the Senate in a second-reading speech except to deal with the matter in general terms. I suggest that the Senate should not regard this bill lightly but should consider it carefully because I think that the bill extends privileges to a degree to which I have yet to be persuaded it should extend them.
.- This bill, which seeks to establish privileges and immunities, should excite the attention of the Senate. My handicaps in approaching the. matter are obvious. I have only recently returned to Australia and I have had a very limited opportunity since the resumption of this sessional period to direct my mind to this matter. I had the opportunity to consider it this afternoon, and I have listened to the speeches that have been made. I wish to persuade the Senate that there is such material for consideration in this bill that the bill should be deferred and that the appropriate course to take is to refer it to a small select committee. By doing that, we could be fully informed by the law officers who are advising the Government of their views on these matters, and we could take time leisurely to develop our own knowledge on this subject. I, for one, frankly confess that this is a field with which I am all too unfamiliar.
The next thing I wish to say, Mr. President, is that the bill does not deal with diplomatic immunity in the conventional sense. Diplomatic immunity has been accorded as between representatives of sovereign States by the United Kingdom as a matter of common law. From a brief reference this afternoon to “ Cheshire “ I reminded myself that it was in 1708 that the Diplomatic Privileges Act was passed in the United Kingdom. It was a declaratory act to appease Peter the Great, who was offended by some contretemps, the particulars of which I forget, in which his representative to the Court of Queen Anne was involved. That statute, in declaring the common law, said that a diplomat accredited to the United Kingdom was entitled to complete immunity from civil or criminal action of any sort, whether or not it arose out of behaviour appertaining to his office, or whether it was based on deliberate fraud or chicanery. The only remedy was that our sovereign, if the diplomat transgressed too far,, could request the sovereign with whom comity existed that he should withdraw the diplomat. But the citizen upon whom fraud had been practised, or whose rent had not been paid, or whose contract had been contemned, was left without remedy. That situation derives from a time when the British people’s own legal process was quite ineffective against their own sovereign. True to the principle of sovereignty our own Crown was not in any sense suable. That, of course, was true to the principle that the king could do no wrong and is not liable for contract, tort or wrongdoing in the sovereign’s own courts. That was part of the principle of the divine right of kings.
That state of affairs existed in England until 1949, when a zealous Labour Party took the opportunity, after the problems of the Second World War, to follow the precedent which we had so democratically established in the States of Australia. As far back as 1891 the sovereign and the government of the State were made suable for contract or tort as fully and as effectually as if the .government were an individual. When the Commonwealth Parliament was established one of its first acts was to pass the Judiciary Act which made the Commonwealth justiciable in all the federal courts. I beg leave to ask for further consideration of any suggestion that, by extending this archaic privilege not to the diplomatic envoys of sovereign States but to members of international missions and people who go to conferences as well as officers of an organization such as the United Nations, we are pursuing the winds of change towards complete and just democracy under the rule of law. Instead, we are establishing for a new officialdom an archaic privilege which, in relation to our own citizens, we swept away half a century ago.
– It is rather reactionary.
– I think it is a very reactionary proposal. Having referred to the common law situation which pertains as between sovereign countries, I now wish to say something for the purpose of having my statement challenged if it is incorrect. I assert nothing here with confidence. 1 hope to evoke a reply from the Minister which will correct my statement if it is not accurate. I believe that that situation regarding diplomatic privilege still pertains in Australia.
– What is still the situation?
– The common law of England.
– Under a statute of Queen Anne?
– Yes, as declared by Queen Anne. I say that for the purpose of making my second point because there have been, I think, references to this matter which have been calculated to make the position unclear. A Commonwealth statute entitled the Diplomatic Immunities Act was enacted in 1952. It must always be remembered, when we are considering the bill now before us, that that Diplomatic Immunities Act applies only as between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations inter se.
– That is only the 1952 act, which extended to the Commonwealth privileges which other ambassadors already had.
– If the Minister does not mind, I prefer to state the position in my own way. I wish to make it clear. I have no passion one way or another with regard to the matter. My only purpose in rising is to contribute to such discussion as this intelligent assembly feels inclined to engage in on a subject which, one day or other, will affect particular individuals in our country and may deprive them of their civil rights.
Having referred to the common law diplomatic situation, 1 was saying that we should not confuse the present bill with the Diplomatic Immunities Act that we placed on the statute-book in 1952. That act applied, as between member units of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the same principles of diplomatic immunity as we had previously applied to the representatives of foreign nations. The act was applicable only to the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and parts of the Queen’s dominions which had been declared by the regulations to be countries to which the act applied. Then, without putting any fine point on it, the act imported into the relationship between those members of the British Commonwealth of Nations limited privilege comparable to that which existed between the United Kingdom and a sovereign State.
Then we come to a new situation, not as between one member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and another member; not as between a sovereign nation, such as the United Kingdom, and a foreign sovereign nation, such as France or Russia; but between this country and an international organization such as the United Nations Organization. I do not go on record as denigrating the purposes of an organization such as that. Even in my short and dull lifetime I have derived some inspiration from the growth across the world of the idea of a parliamentary system that would be. observable by different countries, if not by the whole world. But the United Nations Organization has not attained to any degree of statehood. As yet, it is simply an organization, a conference of nations, with a Security Council and a General Assembly. As I understand the position, the United Nations Organization is not a recognized State. I make that statement and others who take part in the debate may dispute it if it is wrong. I ask honorable senators to take into account what Dr. Robertson said concerning the growth of international super States in Europe since the end of World War II., the chief of which is the European Iron and Steel Community. In that respect, there is recognition of a limited degree of international sovereignty within the ambit of iron, steel and coal production. I have argued in this place before that, if the Treaty of Rome has true operation, the European Economic Community also will take its place as a super State comparable to the federal State of Australia. The United Nations Organization, however, is nothing of that kind.
The alarm that I have about this matter comes from the widespread nature of the new conception of applying principles that pertain as between sovereign States over a very wide field, to officials of the United Nations Organization, ex-officials and persons attending conferences. When I ask myself whether the principle of reciprocity, which is the fundamental principle upon which the whole efficacy of diplomatic immunity has rested, applies in this instance, I find myself driven into agreement with Senator Cormack. It seems that there is no basis in reciprocity at all. I have no confirmation of this, but I took it from the honorable senator’s speech that the United States of America, in which country the United Nations Organization is domiciled, had chosen not to accord to these gentry of the United Nations diplomatic immunity in that country but had made reciprocal agreements with the nations represented there. That being so, the honorable senator suggested that we should consider the matter deeply and take some time in deciding the proper direction to follow at the outset.
– I did not mean to convey to the Senate the impression that the United States has not given immunity and privilege. It has done so, but it qualifies those things in relation to espionage and some other matters. It demands bi-lateral agreements.
– I find the united nations, or united excursions, altogether too discursive for me. When I go overseas, I come back via Europe rather than endure the contact. Forgive me if I do not call in aid the United States as a precedent. Having put aside the relation as between sovereign states and then the statutory situation on relations as between member states of the British Commonwealth, let us have a look at this bill and see how far it goes, not for the purpose of giving it a committee discussion but for the purpose of trying to distil the content. Clause 3 of the bill defines an international organization as -
Sub-clause (2.) states that the laws from which it is proposed to give immunity are State laws, Commonwealth laws, and laws of our territories. Let us not imagine that we are dealing only with our own federal laws. So that I shall not be misunderstood in later references, let me mention that subclause (5.) of clause 3 states -
References in this Act to countries shall be read as including references to the governments of countries.
Therefore, if one were to read the later references to representatives of a country, one might ask in what sense the eminent professors from California, who are attending the conference in Canberra in relation to water, represent the United States. They must be representatives of the government of the country.
Clause 6 provides that the regulations may, either without restriction or to the extent or subject to the conditions prescribed by the regulations, confer immunities upon certain people. Who are the people upon whom immunity may be conferred? First, there is an international organization, that is, one that is declared by the regulations to be an international organization; secondly, a person who is declared by the regulations to hold high office in an international organization; thirdly, a person who is accredited to or is in attendance at an international conference convened by an international organization. It is quite plain from the subsequent reference in sub-clause (4.) of that clause that that person acquires his privilege while travelling to or travelling from the conference.
It will be noted that although the conference is a conference convened by an international organization, it is no part of the conditions upon which the privilege is conferred that the conference be held in Australia. Quite obviously, the only act for which we are pretending to give immunity is an act done by the person within our own jurisdiction. That may be the subject of further dispute on the grounds of extraterritoriality of our laws. But we postulate that we are dealing not with an Australian citizen but with a foreign citizen. That appears from sub-clause (6.) of that section. If he is not in the country and he commits an act extra-territorially, I concede that we would have no jurisdiction over him and therefore would1 not pretend to give immunity. We purport to confer immunity upon a person who holds an office in an organization just an officer of the organization and upon a person who is serving on a committee or participating in the work of an organization.
That is a brief and truncated enumeration of the people upon whom this privilege is proposed to be conferred by regulations, either without restriction or to the extent or subject to conditions prescribed by the regulation. For myself, I find that power altogether too wide to be conferred by regulations and I believe that the provision is capable of being enacted in the statute. Parliament should have an opportunity of saying what it wishes to say on the matter. In passing, let me say that the Attorney General, when introducing the bill in another place in May, said that it was not proposed to bring it into effect until the regulations had been drafted. I do not know whether they have been drafted or whether other senators have had an opportunity of seeing them. I certainly have not, but I submit that it is desirable that they should accompany this bill and that we should have them before us while the matter is under consideration by the Parliament. If the act is not to come into operation until the regulations are drafted, there can surely be no reason, on any view, why consideration should not be deferred until that time.
With regardto these people who attend conferences, I ask that some attention be given in the secondreading stage to clause 7 of the bill, which states - (I.) Where-
This clause refers to an international conference and to a mission sent to this country. By whom is the mission to be sent? The very fact that that clause takes its place there pre-supposes that the persons upon whom diplomatic immunity is conferred by clause 6 (1) (c) are not confined to persons who attend conferences in Australia. It is as clear as possible that this bill is wide enough to confer upon John Smith, on his passage from Washington through Sydney and Darwin on an international mission to India, immunity in respect of anything he does between Sydney and Darwin. That is a preposterous proposition.
– Perhaps it will be better if you leave the question till after the Minister replies. We shall see what the Minister says. An explanation of so elementary a matter might occupy time disproportionate to the value of the question. The only other thing I wish to do during the secondreading debate on this bill is to direct attention to clause 8 which makes some reference to these people being considered as nationals of a country. I find myself with an inadequate understanding of sub-clause (1.) of clause 8, which reads -
Where the Minister is satisfied that persons, or members of the official staffs of persons, representing Australia in a country would not receive in that country privileges and immunities corresponding to those conferred in Australia by this Act or the regulations upon persons, or upon members of the official staffs of persons, representing that country, the Minister may, by instrument in writing, withdraw from the representatives, or from the members of the official staffs of the representatives, of that country all or any of those privileges and immunities.
My difficulty is in finding the application of that in relation to officers and emissaries of these international organizations who are going to or from a conference. In this connexion, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has said that the bill has an advantage in two respects. He said, first of all, that it brings this whole subject under parliamentary control. I like that method of drafting legislation the whole backbone and substance of which must be expressed in regulations. Until this Parliament was alerted by the vigilance of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee it always regarded the subordination of legislation to regulations as something which was sidetracking parliamentary control and authority. But perhaps I may take it as a compliment from the AttorneyGeneral, whom I know is appreciative of the work of our committee, to say that by relegating the whole of these matters to the field of regulations he was thereby putting them under parliamentary control.
Then the AttorneyGeneral in the Schedules prescribes the upper limit to which immunity can be conferred. But he leaves it to the regulations to set out what restrictions and what conditions should operate in relation to those privileges. All this concerns what I have referred to as emissaries or officers of these international organizations or the organization itself. It does not apply, I submit, to the Minister for his consideration, to the immunity given under clause 6 and clause 9 of the bill. Under clause 9, power is conferred by regulations upon the Executive of the day to grant such privileges and immunities as are required to give effect to the statutes of the International Court of Justice. The opinion of the GovernorGeneral with regard to the extent of that requirement is, in the familiar way here of law draftsmanship, made conclusive and un-examinable except on exceptionable grounds. I think that is a new privilege which is to be granted solely at the discretion of the Executive. The upper limit of it, I think, is not prescribed and the degree of it, once decided by the Executive, the Executive’s opinion on it is conclusive. That, to my way of thinking, for legislation, is completely objectionable.
– I am asked “ Why? “. After I have been a member of the Senate for nine years and after all the attempts we have made to persuade the Senate as to the objection-ability of this kind of legislation, the statement I have just made still provokes only a bland “Why?”
I have just given the Senate the results of my consideration of what this bill yields. I suggest that it is in a field of law the mastery of which is reserved to a very few. We now have the time and opportunity to examine these matters. We are now on the threshold of an extension of diplomatic privilege to a new field, not as between sovereign countries and not as between units of the British Commonwealth but an extension of diplomatic privileges to officers and emissaries of the United Nations Organization and international organizations. Although these people, in order to discharge their functions, often need to be free of anxiety concerning the adverse application of local national law which might otherwise impede their functions, I suggest that a strong case should be made out in order to justify depriving a man of the right of recourse to the law courts who has suffered damage because of the wrongdoing of the representative of an international organization.
Before Senator Cohen referred to the reference which Senator McKenna made to this proposition in the debate of 1952 I had been thinking along the lines that the proper way to progress in this matter would probably be along lines on which justice is done under local law. I refer to the protection of citizens who are injured in motor car accidents. After introducing the principle of compulsory insurance so as to ensure that money would be available to the injured if he could show that negligence had occurred, we dealt with a case where the defendant whose car inflicted the injuries could not be found. The insurance industry in each State was compelled to contribute? to a fund to be generally available in cases where injured plaintiffs could show that they had been the victims of injustice but could not identify the defendant. Under this arrangement those who administered the fund nominated, say, John Smith, as a nominal defendant. Then, if the plaintiff in a court of law could persuade a judge, if a judge were to decide the case, or a jury, if a jury were permissible, that the plaintiff had been the victim of wrongdoing, although the defendant could not be found compensation could be paid to the plaintiff from the insurance fund.
I am not pronouncing any opinion on this matter. 1 am only putting it forward for discussion and consideration. But I believe that there is a prima facie case that if the Commonwealth wishes to establish proper comity between this Country and international organizations, and the price of maintaining that friendship and comity is to grant immunity to officers and emissaries of the organzations from judgment in our courts, then the Commonwealth should P/0vide a fund from which a plaintiff who is injured by the acts of these persons could be compensated. Otherwise, the Commonwealth is allowing the person who loses two legs or, perhaps, the sight of both eyes in a motor car accident caused by the representative of an international organization to remain uncompensated by any legal means. I find it completely unsatisfying to be told that the Government can use its diplomatic endeavours to persuade the government whose national has offended us - perhaps the United Nations Organization - to do the decent thing.
We have long since passed the stage where an individual citizen who is the victim of an injustice should have to rely upon the discretion of the Crown. I hope that we will not put a citizen who has been the victim of an injustice in the position of having to rely upon the advocacy of the Crown to have the discretion of a foreign State or organization exercised in his favour. 1 have referred to these matters in support of a proposal, which I believe to bc appropriate, that the bill should be referred to a select committee. Because I understand that the Standing Orders provide that a motion to that effect must be proposed in a particular way, I should like to have an opportunity to consider the proper procedure while other honorable senators are speaking or while the Minister is replying.
indicated that that was the position.
The bill deals with three categories of organizations and persons - an international organization, the officers of such an organization, and an abstract conference or mission having some international character but not necessarily forming part of an international organization. In the new world in which we live it is inevitable that arrangements of this kind should be made. From a coldly practical viewpoint, two difficulties present themselves to my mind. The first is the one to which I adverted in 1952 - the fact that some individual against whom immunity can be claimed under this measure is hurt and that he has no redress except by the grace of the country or organization that sponsors the wrong-doer, shall I call him, or the person who offends.
The introduction of this measure gives us an opportunity to consider that question. My view has changed very little since I first expressed it in this place. The then Attorney-General agreed with that view in principle. According to what I heard Senator Cohen say to-day, I indicated then that there should be some form of reciprocity in the matter of compensating a person who has been harmed and who is barred from redress by a claim of immunity. To-day, after more mature consideration and in view of the great development that has occurred in this field, 1 do not see any reason why we, acting as we are under this measure in what I shall term not only the national but also the international interest, should not protect individual citizens and should not give them access to a court at Iea?! to allow the measure of damages to be determined. Our citizens have to be protected.
But these semi-international organizations and organizations that are international la character, and their staffs, also are in a difficult position. It is rather easy to lodge a blackmailing claim against an ambassador, an envoy, an organization of the kind with which we are dealing, or against high officers of that organization Those persons or organizations are obvious targets for a blackmailer. To preserve their own prestige and the prestige of their own countries, in the case of envoys, and to preserve the prestige of an organization or a high officer of that organization, there is a disposition to settle rather than to have publicity. Injustice can be done in that way, and some measure of protection needs to be afforded. That is why, amongst other considerations, I suggested in 1952 that there ought to be some screening procedure to determine whether the Commonwealth should accept financial liability, to determine that there should be a nominal defendant as Senator Wright has suggested, and to decide that the measure of damages should be determined.
II, prior to the commencement of pro ceedings the Crown says that it concurs in the case being proceeded with, in damages or whatever other claim is made being assessed by the appropriate tribunal, and that in the event of a verdict against the nominal defendant it will meet his commitment, it could then be left to diplomatic activity, as a matter of honour and good fellowship between countries or between our country and a high organization, to talk the matter over in the light of that judicial decision. That seems to be real sanity. I invite the Senate to remember the two aspects of the matter which I have mentioned - the wrong done to the individual and the danger to which an organization or an envoy can be subjected at the instance of an unscrupulous person. Both aspects must be considered. 1 think it is opportune, Mr. Deputy President, to address our minds to this very important subject at this stage. The legislative situation proposed under this bill is a distinct improvement on the present situation. The Government must accept a high degree of responsibility under this measure. ‘ By regulation it will name an organization that is to have a privilege or immunity, and by regulation it must state the extent of thai privilege or immunity. There is a limit to the distance it can go in detailing the privileges and immunities. Those details are set out in the schedules to the bill, to which Senator Wright adverted at length. This will be an orderly procedure; it will be done by regulation. As I said, the Government must accept responsibility in determining who is to be privileged and the scope of the privilege or immunity. That is unquestionably an advance.
I indicate to Senator Wright that if he cared to move under Standing Order No. 196a. we on this side of the Senate, without having considered the matter thus far, would be prepared to support a reference to a select committee. I suggest that- there need be no great delay in passing the legislation. I suggest that the time for considering the bill should be severely limited and that the setting of 31st October as the date by which a report should be presented might be appropriate. I think it would be incumbent upon us to deal with the matter with due expedition, and that we could consider it within that time. I suggest to Senator Wright that it is the type of committee on which the Government might have four members nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and the Opposition three members nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, and that it might have the usual powers of a select committee. I would suggest an obligation to bring in a report by, say, 31st October.
– That is the date that has been in mind.
– It is obvious that this legislation is not intended to come into immediate effect because a great portion of it is to be postponed until other action is taken. So I would think that the Minister would see the reasonableness of that in the light of what is a great question - that is, the rights of individuals who are being hurt in the national interest, or in the national interest through the international field. I think the community has an obligation to the person in those circumstances. The matter has been raised previously in this Senate. There has been ample time for the necessary action to be taken, and I confess my surprise that the provision has not been included in the bilL
We are dealing with a more difficult situation than when we are dealing with sovereign states, lt is more complicated. Reciprocity is a matter of difficulty in that situation. Even the usual diplomatic approaches are not so easy in a situation where we are dealing with organizations and their officers.
So, while the Opposition is quite happy to give a second reading to the bill as an improvement, we would welcome an opportunity to examine the matter coldly and objectively and in particular to look at what can be done to protect individuals who may bc harmed in those circumstances. It is an obvious defect that nothing has been done about that at all. If the community can make provision otherwise, why should hurt fall on some one or other citizen of the community who, apart from this legislation, would be able to seek his redress in our courts?
– I do not wish to speak generally on this bill which has been ably analysed by honorable senators who have preceded me. I think that enough has come out of what they have said to show that the bill does raise very great questions. Putting it in a slightly different way from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), one of the issues which seems to be important here is that of providing the utmost protection to diplomats or persons concerned with international agencies by legislation. The kind of result that that legislation should also achieve is that which will cause the least detriment to persons who are affected, or who claim to be affected, by the actions of diplomats or persons engaged on some international business.
It is not sufficient, as was suggested 1 think by Senator Wright, that we might provide some means whereby the individual person in Australia who claims to have some right of action against a diplomat could take action against say, a nominal defendant or against the Commonwealth, and for him to obtain a judgment accordingly. The proper course in the first place is to protect the diplomat or the person engaged on international business. It is not merely the judgment we are concerned with; it is the proceedings, the embarrassment. the vexations and harassment that might occur to diplomats or to international persons because they are involved in proceedings. You cannot have a system whereby the claim will be made against a nominal defendant. An international person might be in a position where he would be called as a witness. Even if he were not called as a witness, if allegations were made against him and persons were brought in to prove them, he might be in a situation where his name might be besmirched unless he gave evidence. That would do great damage whether or not a judgment were enforceable against him.
In many cases, of course, the country or the agency which he represents may be much more concerned with avoiding the embarrassment and the vexation than with the mere payment of the money involved. So, with all respect to Senator Wright, I think that that suggestion is not the appropriate one to meet this case. But as be has suggested - and he indicated that that was not his final thought on that particular solution - this Senate might well be able to find a solution to this problem if further consideration were given to it. I understand that is the view taken by the Leader of the Opposition and by Senator Cohen, and with respect to all honorable senators, I share that view.
– in reply - This has been quite an interesting debate from the time Senator Cohen opened on behalf of the Opposition. I did not take very many points from Senator Cohen’s speech except the one which has formed the main thesis for debate from all sides. That is, whether it is right or wrong that a citizen who is damaged by somebody possessing diplomatic immunity should not be able to obtain redress for that damage. That is the worry that has been expressed on all sides. Indeed, 1 think except for statements by such honorable senators as do not like the whole idea of diplomatic privilege, or do not like it being extended, that is the main point that has emerged from this debate.
It is clear that the bill now before us has nothing whatever to do with the privileges and immunities of diplomatic representatives of foreign countries in Australia. If the bill is passed, rejected or amended it will have no affect whatever on the present position as regards the privileges and immunities of diplomatic representatives in Australia. But what it does do is suggest that there should be extended to representatives of United Nations agencies the sort of privileges which diplomatic representatives of other countries have in Australia. It does not extend or seek to extend to all representatives of an international organization who may be in Australia the same privileges as are now extended to diplomatic representatives of another country. It would extend to people who were high envoys, that is to say, the leaders of such organizations who may be holding positions in Australia, the full range of diplomatic immunity. To other persons who might be accompanying a leader, advising him or working for him, it extends immunities limited to acts done in pursuit of work for that agency in Australia. It does not extend beyond that.
Leaving aside for the moment any reasons which may be advanced against the proposal, the reasons why it is desirable are, I think, fairly clear. We have to think not only of what may happen in the country in which we live; we must think of what may happen to people working for or with international organizations in all sorts of countries throughout the world. Many of those countries do not have the rule of law which we in this country take absolutely for granted, and many have no conception whatever of the ideals of justice with which we have all grown up. In many countries an international organization would have no hope at all of functioning if the governments of these countries did not wish it to function, unless the people who made up that organization and worked for it had these privileges and immunities excluding them from action for what they did in pursuit of their jobs as members of that organization. Therefore, if international organizations are to operate freely throughout the world, they must have these immunities and privileges.
I have heard it argued that it would not much matter if international organizations did not have these immunities; that there are too many such organizations; that the people who belong to them are a race apart enjoying all sorts of privileges such as tax- free incomes and duty-free alcohol; and that it really would not matter if these organizations did not operate. I will go so far as to say that in relation to some organizations I find myself a little sympathetically drawn to that suggestion. But then I come back to the fact that the vast majority of international organizations are in fact performing a worth-while job for the nations of the world. Of course, they are not all world health organizations; they are not all organizations seeking to free people from hunger; and they are not all organizations like the International Monetary Fund which sends representatives into a country to carry out investigations with a view to improving its economy. But there are enough of such organizations doing good throughout the world as a whole for me to be very hesitant about any suggestion that because there are perhaps some bodies which are not of that stature, we should not be prepared to facilitate the work of any of them in the way proposed in this bilL
Therefore I find myself, on balance, very much in favour of anything that will help international organizations to operate in any country without being subject to the pressure of government, whatever colour that government may be. If they are to operate throughout the world without pressure of government, whatever colour that government may be, if they are to operate in countries such as Russia, China, Viet Nam, Pakistan and Australia, they must be given the same ability, the same privileges and the same immunities as, by custom, and for the same reasons, diplomatic representatives have been given. I find no difficulty whatever in extending to them the privileges that they must have in order to carry out their work, even if this means curtailing to the extent t that the bill sets out, the rights of citizens and governments of the countries in which they operate.
Whether or not the right of a citizen to bring an action for damages against officials of international organizations should be regarded as of such importance that the principle that I have just enunciated no longer applies is a matter for this Parliament to decide. It may well be that the Senate will consider, notwithstanding the good that these international organization* do and notwithstanding that they operate in some 80 countries with the privileges and immunities that this bill seeks to confer on them in Australia, that they should not operate in Australia unless we so alter things that they are subject to action by any citizen of this country who considers himself aggrieved or damaged by some action taken. In most cases that action would be taken by people in the pursuit of their actual job in an organization. If the Senate takes that view, then that will be its decision. But I think such a decision would probably result in not many such organizations, if any, carrying on their functions in Australia or in its territories. It may be that the safety of our citizens would justify this. I do not believe it would, but it might
Senator Cormack raised some points about reciprocity. I am bound to say that I did not understand precisely what the honorable senator had in mind. I do not know how we can have reciprocity with the United Nations Organization.
– That is the point I was making before.
– Nor do I see that it matters. The United Nations Organization possesses, if it possesses anything, a heavily mortgaged building in New York. It has not even an enclave such as the Vatican and, therefore, cannot extend to the diplomats of other countries the sort of privileges and immunities that are extended as between . countries and which are sought to be extended as between the representatives of international organizations. But I do not think that matters. I do not see how the representatives of a country can do something that is contrary to United Nations laws and therefore require immunity from those laws. Where reciprocity does come in, is in a situation such as this: If an Australian citizen, who remained an Australian citizen, was operating as a member of an international organization, in, let us say, Rumania, we would expect him to have immunity from Rumanian law. He should be immune from the sort of tyrannical oppression that can be visited at will by the Rumanian Government on the Rumanian people. If he did not get it, then under the terms of the bill all we could do would be to say to the United Nations Agency that none of its members who were Rumanians would get any privileges or immunities in Australia. I do not see how you could give reciprocity going further than that or, indeed, what good it would do if you did. There would be no way of bringing the matter before the International Court because the United Nations cannot be made a party to a dispute before the International Court. The court deals only with disputes between States.
Senator Wright raised a number of objections to the bill which go beyond the general worry which people have as to whether it would not be possible to enable a citizen to bring an action, if not against a member of an international organization, then against the Commonwealth in lieu of that organization. He mentioned the 1952 act which was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. All that act did was to extend to Commonwealth high commissioners, who rank as ambassadors, the same privileges which ambassadors from foreign countries already had and have. The bill did nothing more than that. It merely provided that although these high commissioners were not called ambassadors, because they did not represent foreign countries, they were to get the same privileges as ambassadors. I do not see the relevance of that to this bill.
Senator Wright also raised the question of reciprocity. I do not think I can say to him any more than I have endeavoured to say to Senator Cormack who raised the same point. Senator Wright seemed to be worried that under clause 7 the Minister could by regulation extend privileges and immunities to John Smith - I think that was the name he used - who came to Australia and was in transit through Australia to some conference in India, even though that man was not going to a proper international conference.
– No - even though the conference was not held in Australia.
– He was going to a conference outside of Australia. Clause 7 provides -
an international conference is, or is to be, held in Australia or in a Territory of tha Commonwealth;
That seemsto be a fairly definite indication - or
In those circumstances the Minister can, if he regards the conference of sufficient importance, do certain things. Surely that limits the occasions on which he can do these things to those occasions when an international conference is being held in Australia or a territory of Australia, or when a mission is sent to Australia or a territory of the Commonwealth. It could not apply to a conference in India, which was the country used by way of illustration.
– That clause would not apply, but it is an indication that the previous clause, 6 (1.) (c), is intended so to apply.
– That has nothing to do with clause 7. Clause 7 refers to an international conference in Australia or to a mission sent to Australia. It was clause 7 to which the honorable senator was referring.
I do not think that there is much more that I have to say on this particular point. The nub of the matter on which honorable senators have to make up their mind is: Are these agencies of the United Nations of sufficient importance to have extended to them the sort of privileges the bill seeks to give? Should their leaders receive the same privileges and immunities as an ambassador receives? Should their members, and those who work for them, receive lesser immunities and privileges, limited to acts done in pursuit of their duties; or should we, having extended these privileges to them, put in a rider that nevertheless such people can be sued for actions done in pursuit of their duties? That, I suppose, is a matter entirely for the judgment of the Senate.
At the moment even privileges extended without limitation to ambassadors and diplomatic staffs do not lead to the sort of theoretical troubles which are exacerbating the minds of some people in the Senate to-night. They might. It is theoretically possible that they might, in the most exceptional cases. Would the extension of these privileges to people working for a United
Nations agency lead to abuses in Australia? 1 suppose that one could reply that, theoretically, it might. I do not know whether it would be wise to alter, very much, the concept regarding granting to such organizations and to persons who work for them immunity from the processes of the law of the country in which they are, in respect of actions which they perform in the performance of their work. In Australia it might do no harm, but I can imagine many countries in which it would do harm.
Senator McKenna pointed out that a diplomat could be an object of blackmail. That is quite true. A man from an international organization could, in many countries be prevented from functioning altogether once we start breaking down these time-worn conventions. It will be a matter for the Senate, balancing one of these prospects against another, to consider in which way we will serve Australia best, and in which way we will serve Australia’s international interests best. Having said that, I leave the matter for the Senate to decide.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I move -
The only thing I wish to say in support of the motion and in addition to the comments I made earlier, is that I noticed that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) made the following statement in reply to the secondreading debate in the House of Representatives: -
MayI now refer to matters raised first by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and then by the honorable member for Bruce. In this country particularly, one has some misgivings about whether the immunities and privileges are all really necessary to enable diplomats or diplomatic officials to carry out their particular functions without impediment. I think I should point out to the House that there seems to me to be a new attitude abroad internationally towards privileges and immunities generally.
I mention that statement by the Attorney General as an indication of whether he is fully convinced that these privileges are necessary. I leave the motion to the judgment of the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– I wish to speak briefly to the motion and to take a little further the quotation which Senator Wright has made from the speech by the Attorney General (Sir Garfield Barwick), in the belief that the part of the speech quoted by the honorable senator might mislead the Senate. The AttorneyGeneral said -
I think I should point out to the House that there seems to me to be a new attitude abroad internationally towards privileges and immunities generally.
He then went on to say that this new attitude was the result of the Vienna Convention and that there was a limitation of privileges and immunities, not in their theoretical application but in their practical application.
Honorable senators will remember that the Vienna Convention urged member governments not to claim privileges and immunities for their diplomats in ordinary civil cases, and that this has resulted in fewer and fewer claims and in diplomatic immunity being waived on many occasions. The AttorneyGeneral did not just say, “I feel there is a different attitude “, and leave the matter up in the air. He went on to indicate that in practice immunity has been waived more and more by governments. As to the question of whether these full diplomatic privileges and immunities are needed in this country, I again remind the Senate of what I said before Senator Wright spoke. We can think of all kinds of countries in the world, and in many of them these immunities and privileges are essential if this organization is to be able to carry on its work.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . Nil
– There being 27 “Ayes” and 27 “Noes”, the question is resolved in the negative.
International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill 1963.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7. (I.) Where-
.- First, J wish to refer to clause 6(l.)(c), which provides that regulations may confer - . . upon a person who is accredited to, or is in attendance at an international conference convened by an international organization to which this Act applies as a representative of a country other than Australia all or any of the privileges and immunities specified . . .
That person will be entitled to the same privileges and immunities while travelling to a place for the purpose of presentng his credentials or attending a conference, and while returning from a place after ceasing to be accredited or after attending a conference. Nothing is said about the conference having to be in Australia. Clause 7 clearly implies that the primary intendment of the language in clause 6 (1 .) (c) is to apply to conferences whether in or outside Australia. Clause 7 seems to depend upon the Attorney-General or the Minister of the day declaring by notice published in the “ Gazette “ that the conference or mission is one to which the clause will apply. I read the primary intendment of clause (6) (1.) (c) to relate to conferences outside Australia and to apply to officers and emissaries to that conference passing through Australia. The point was not made clear to me in the Minister’s reply at the second-reading stage. I should be obliged for elucidation as to whether that view is right or wrong.
– Do you ask me to consider that in relation to clause 7?
– I use clause 7 only as an indication that the primary intend ment of the language I have read from clause 6 is to apply to conferences outside Australia. If that is not so, I suggest that it is advisable to introduce words into clause 6(l.)(c) to make clear that that provision applies only to conferences in Australia. Subject to what is said, I would persevere with some amendment to make that clear.
– My understanding of clause 6(l.)(c) is the same as that of the honorable senator, namely, that it primarily applies to persons attending a conference in Australia, but that it could apply to persons attending a conference and passing through Australia, lt must oe a conference of a particular kind, that is, a conference convened by an international organization, such an organization b?ing the subject of a definition in the bill. Clause 7 relates to a conference which is not convened by an international organization, to such a conference as a conference of Anzus or Seato, or a conference of the Antarctic Treaty countries, which is taking place in Australia.
.- We were not at one before but 1 think that we are now. 1 want the Minister to consider the advisability of extending this provision to persons who are not accredited to conferences being held in Australia. 1 want to consider why we should give this privilege to people who merely pass through Australia on their way to or from such a conference. It cannot be said that Australia is on a necessary route to many international conferences. The whole purpose of giving this privilege is to enable these emissaries effectively to discharge their functions. Therefore, it does not seem to me that, if they choose to make an excursion into Australia, that would be reasonably and directly incidental to their mission. I would ask the Minister to accept an amendment to limit conferences for which provision is made in clause 6(l.)(c) to conferences in Australia.
– I should like the Minister to say whether he considers clause 6 (3.) makes plain that in any event privilege applies only in Australia. I suppose it is part of the necessary intendment that it is limited.
– We could not give privileges or immunities anywhere outside Australia.
– I think that that is right, although it is not stated. May 1 ask Senator Wright to repeat the second point that he put to the Minister?
– Simply this: If it is not necessary to the effective functioning of the conference for the person to go through Australia, and he drives from Sydney to Perth and has an accident in Adelaide, why should we give him immunity?
– I am inclined to accept the view put by Senator Wright. 1 ask the Minister whether there is any reciprocity with any other country. Is this something completely original so far as Australia is concerned?
– Where else is it to be found?
– This is an endeavour to put into operation a United Nations convention to which we have acceded. All other countries which have acceded to the convention and have passed such legislation give the same privileges in respect of transit to a conference of an international organization. The matter is covered in Article V. of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 21st November, 1947. Therefore, whether it is right or wrong, what we are doing is in line with the convention to which we acceded and with what is being done by other countries which also acceded to the convention and have passed legislation on the matter.
– I have not a copy of the convention. Is the Minister saying that this provision follows the language of the convention in substance?
– Section 13 of Article V. reads -
Representatives of members at meetings convened by a specialized agency shall, while exercising their functions and during their journeys to and from the place of meeting, enjoy the following privileges and immunities . . .
.- I refer to clause 7. I have directed attention to the fact that in the second-reading speech the Minister said that this legislation would bring the subject-matter under parliamentary control. I point out that the Minister’s declaration in the “ Gazette “ is not reviewable by either House of the Parliament. It is not a regulation under the Acts Interpretation Act which can be disallowed. That is my first objection to clause 7. My next point is that clause 7 purports to extend an international conference convened by an international organization and goes on to refer to any international conference. The term “ conference “ merely means a conference that is attended by a person, or persons, representing Australia and a person, or persons, representing a country or countries other than Australia. The next point is that the clause refers to a mission which is or is to be sent by a country other than Australia to Australia or to a Territory of the Commonwealth, and it uses these words - . . and it appears to the Minister that the provisions of this Act other than this section do not, or may not, apply in relation to that conference or mission but it is desirable that diplomatic privileges and immunities should be applicable in relation to that conference or mission, the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare the conference or mission, as the case may be, to be a conference or mission to which this section applies.
In other words, the Minister may grant the privileges with which I am dealing.
Mr. Chairman, I ask you to adopt the procedure of dealing with such of the provisions of the bill as precede clause 7 that are acceptable to the committee so as to enable me to oppose that clause specifically in division.
– I understand that Senator Wright’s comments on this matter are in line with his general views on matters of this sort. Let me be perfectly clear and specific on this matter, so far as I am able to be. This clause does confer upon a Minister a right to declare a conference as one to which certain privileges should apply. That declaration is not by way of regulation, and it is within his competence and right to make it. If he does make such a declaration, then the privileges which would apply would be such as are set out in tha schedules to this bill if Parliament passes it. This is a provision to enable a Minister or a government to deal with a special case. Many such cases could arise. We have seen such cases. We have had a conference here on the Antarctic Treaty. At short notice, we have had a meeting of Anzus representatives here. We could have a meeting of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers here. We could have a special United Nations mission coming, for some purpose, to some territory of Australia. The Senate must decide whether or not it is reasonable in order to deal with cases not covered by the definition of an international organization under this bill the Government should have the right to say, “ This is -a conference to which we wish to extend diplomatic privileges as limited by the schedules of this act, because we think it is important to this country to have it here “. I think it is as simple as that.
.- I am wondering whether the Minister should not reconsider this position and adopt the suggestion put forward by Senator Wright. Clause 13 of the bill gives a proper power to make regulations. It seems to me that, unless there is some special circumstance of urgency, this is the way to act in the matter. Clause 7 gives the right by notice to change the position in relation to any international conference as defined in clause 3 of the bill. The circumstances suggested in clause 7 do not appear to be necessarily urgent circumstances but merely cases which are not otherwise covered by the terms of the bill. I should like the Minister to clarify this matter. Otherwise, I am rather persuaded by what Senator Wright has in mind.
– I am told that clause 13 does give the right to make regulations but that regulations can only be made relevant to the clauses of the bill. If clause 7 were removed from the bill regulations could be made about conferences called by international organizations but not about ad hoc conferences of the kind that I have mentioned, such as the Antarctic and Anzus conferences because they would not come within the definition of conferences called by international organizations.
.- Does not the solution of the problem which has been put forward lie in altering the definition clause so that it will be clearly comprehended? Otherwise, we shall merely allow opportunity for unfettered ministerial discretion to declare a particular conference to be a conference within the meaning of the bill when, otherwise, it would not be such a conference. It seems to me that the position cannot be covered merely by a ministerial statement out of the blue - “I say this is a conference and I say it by notice “. It has to be something which, under the bill, would be a conference anyway.
– Are not two points raised here? One seems to be whether privileges and immunities should be extended to bodies other than international organizations, namely international conferences. The second point seems to concern the means whereby that may be done if it should be done at all. Senator Cohen has already dealt with the first point. Taking the second point, Senator Wright has objected to the method proposed which is by notice published in the “ Gazette “. It seems to me that there is a great deal of force in that argument. If privileges are to be extended to representatives at international conferences, why could not one use the method of a prescription by regulation rather than a notice published in the “ Gazette “? In other words, in clause 7, why not delete the words “ by notice published in the ‘ Gazette ‘,” and insert in their stead the words, “ by regulation “? I should think that that would overcome the many objections which underlie the point made by Senator Wright, namely that by this method of publishing a notice in the “ Gazette “ the scrutiny of the Parliament appears to be avoided. If the method of making a regulation were followed that could be done just as quickly, and it would mean that the matter would inevitably come under the scrutiny of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate.
– Briefly, I put it to the Minister that there are not likely to be conferences of the character that we are now considering that will be convened at very short notice - whether it is an
Antarctic conference, an Anzus conference or a Seato conference. These are the kinds of conferences that have been mentioned. That would be a matter of prolonged discussion between the nations concerned.
I put my second point in more particularity than the argument we just heard from Senator Murphy. I would say that the making of regulations could probably be attended to quicker than a notice could be placed in the “ Gazette “. It might take a week. The Minister knows what is involved in making a regulation and in publishing it in the “ Gazette “. A special gazette could be published, but I should think there would be no difference in point of time in arranging the two matters. There is nothing to argue about there.
There is validity in the point that all parliamentary control over the granting of immunity to officers of this new type of conference or mission is eliminated. It is the only place in the bill where that is done. I have no hesitation in acknowledging that there might be conferences and missions in relation to which it might be desirable to extend immunity to their constituent parts. I suggest that the proposal that has emanated from Senator Murphy is the appropriate one that the words “ notice published in the Gazette “ be omitted and the word “ regulation “ be inserted.
– But if you propose an amendment you will not be able to carry it, if the voting is the same as on the earlier occasion.
– One never knows.
– May I make a suggestion to the Minister?I put it to him, without being committed to it, as something that he ought to consider. If conferences such as the Anzus conference and the Antarctic conference which he mentioned are not covered by the definition of “ international conference “ in clause 3, they ought to be. 1 should have thought that they were covered by that definition. If there is any ambiguity and if it is possible to amend the definition of “ international conference “ in clause 3 to comprehend this exceptional case, the necessity for clause 7 would seem to disappear altogether. I ask the Minister to consider that point.
.- Clause 6 (2.) seems to contemplate that a regulation would be capable of identifying a particular conference as well as prescribing conferences by description generally.
– I do not get your point.
– There is considerable support for Senator Murphy’s suggestion that the way in which any such extension as is sought in clause 7 should be achieved should not be by notice published in the “ Gazette “ but by regulation.
– I understand that.
– That seems to be contemplated in clause 6(2.), which provides -
Regulations made for the purposes of this section may be of general application or may relate to -
particular international organizations to which this Act applies;
particular offices or classes of offices;
particular conferences, committees or missions or classes of conferences, committees or missions; or
representatives of particular countries.
So if a proposed Anzus meeting comes within the definition of “international conference “, as has just been suggested, there would be no need for clause 7 at all.
– Senator Wright read clause 6 (2.). That provision applies solely to conferences called by international organizations. Now I shall deal with the points that were raised by Senator Cohen and Senator Murphy. Senator Cohen raised the point as to whether the term “ international conference “ would apply to an international conference as mentioned in clause 7. Clause 7 (1.) reads -
an international conference is, or is to be, held in Australia…..
Clause 3 defines an international conference as opposed to an international organization. It reads - “ international conference “ means a conference that is attended by -
So there is a degree of definition of “ international conference “ as it is used in clause 7 (1.). I do not believe that the substitution in clause 7 (1 . ) of the word “ regulation “ for the words “ notice published in the Gazette “ would cause any difficulty to the Government. The amendment having been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Murphy, I offer no great opposition to it. It would require a consequential amendment in sub-clause (2.).
– The words “ where a regulation has been made “ would meet the position.
– I move -
In sub-clause (1 . ), leave out “ the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette “, insert “ the regulations may “.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
In sub-clause (2.), leave out “ such a notice has been published “, insert “ a conference or mission has been declared by the regulations to be a conference or mission to which this section applies “.
– Why not insert the words “ such a regulation has been made “?
– That is what the draftsman would prefer. It seems to me to serve the same purpose.
.- I object to this inveterate habit of using thirteen words where three will do. I think we ought to follow our own common sense and say, “ omit the words ‘ where such a notice has been published ‘ and insert the words ‘ where such a regulation has been made.’ “.
.- I think the draftsman has no more wish than any one else to use two lines where one will do, but feels it would be better to refer back to clause 7 (1.) (a) which refers to an international conference, and all I can do is accept his legal advice on this matter.
– I think, with all respect to the Minister for the Navy and whoever drafted the amendment, that since it is proposed simply to substitute the word “ regulation “ for the words “ notice published in the Gazette” in clause 7 (1.), it is appropriate simply to use the words “ regulation has been made “ instead of “ notice has been published in the Gazette “. I think it would require also the deletion of the word “ notice “ where it is used in paragraph (a) of sub-section (2.), and in paragraph (c) we should simply delete the word “ notice “ and insert the word “ regulation “. Looking at it quickly, it seems to me that would meet the situation without difficulty.
– I think the words suggested by the draftsman meet the position. Surely we do not need to debate at greater length the wording of the clause. I think this meets the case and it should be accepted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Gorton) agreed to-
In sub-clause (2.) (a) leave out “specified in the notice “.
In sub-clause (2.) (c) leave out “ a notice relating to “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8. (1.) Where the Minister is satisfied that persons, or members of the official staffs of persons, representing Australia in a country would not receive in that country privileges and immunities corresponding to those conferred in Australia by this Act or the regulations upon persons, or upon members of the official staffs of persons, representing that country, the Minister may, by instrument in writing, withdraw from the representatives, or from the members of the official staffs of the representatives, of that country all or any of those privileges and immunities.
.- I want some clarification of what is meant by the word “ country “ in this clause. Reading it alone, it would appear to apply generally to diplomatic privileges and immunities. It does not appear, by its terms to be limited to the countries that are comprehended in the definition clause. Would the Minister consider it advisable to make some sort of amendment to show that the countries involved are those covered by the general purview of the measure? Reading it as it is, it does not appear to be limited in any way.
– I do not understand the point.
– If you read clause 8 alone, without anything else, it would appear to relate to international organizations at all. In its terms, it merely refers to people representing Australia in other countries. If there is no reciprocity, certain events follow. I wonder whether that was the intention of the draftsman; or was it meant to fit back into the context of the bill? Should there not be some words showing that it referrs to an international organization or an international conference?
– A conference could be held in some foreign country to which Australia would send representatives. If certain privileges were not extended to those representatives of Australia in that country, then such privileges would be withdrawn from any representative of that country who happened to be in Australia.
.- Does that not point up the difficulty? If it is not made clear that it is to be wide enough to cover persons representing Australia at international conferences in a country, it would then be limited to ordinary diplomatic representatives accredited to that country. But, as I understand this bill, what it wants to do is facilitate these things in relation to people attending international conferences. In other words, the representation is wider than mere diplomatic accreditation to a country.
– Supposing there was a conference in France similar to an International Labour Organization conference, and to that conference went people representing the Australian Government, Australian employees and employers, American employers, the United States Government, and so on. Assume that the Australian representatives at that conference were denied the privileges and immunities they might expect from the government of the country in which the conference was being held. There would not be another conference taking place at the same time in Australia, but if on some future occasion people came from France to Australia to a similar conference, their privileges and immunities could be withdrawn.
.- I am trying to help the Minister with the suggestion that there is a need for more flexibility in the wording of this clause. What troubles me is that if a conference was being held in France - perhaps an International Labour Organization conference in Paris - the provisions of the clause as it now stands would be limited to the Australian Ambassador to France. In other words, they would be limited to an official representing Australia in a country. What I have in mind is that in addition to the ordinary diplomatic representative, this bill is intended to cover unusual delegations. It is intended to cover persons who represent Australia at an ad hoc conference in another country. I believe, therefore, that this clause is unnecessarily limited.
– Clause 8 appears to me to have a very wide application indeed. I do not think it is limited to diplomatic representatives in a country. It relates to persons, or members of the official stalls of persons, representing Australia in a country. Such persons could represent Australia at any one of a dozen different kinds of conferences, but if when they went to that country to represent Australia the Minister was satisfied that they were not being extended the privileges and immunities that representatives from other countries were getting, he could withhold those privileges and immunities from the representatives of that country in Australia.
– 1 should like to support Senator Cohen who said that this clause needs some clarification. The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), in his reply to Senator Cohen, indicated that the provisions of this clause were not limited to diplomatic representatives. That raises a serious question. Even though they are not limited to diplomatic representatives but extend to other persons, they nevertheless cover diplomatic representatives.
Senator Cohen has questioned the clarity of the clause in relation to persons attending conferences. As I understood the Minister, if a foreign country is not according diplomatic privileges and immunities to Australian delegates to an international confer- encc. the Minister may, by instrument in writing, withdraw all or any of such privileges from the representative, or members of the official staff of the representative, of that country in Australia. That is expressed in the widest sense. If the Minister is correct in saying that this provision is not limited to diplomatic representatives but extends to others, obviously it includes diplomatic representatives.
This clause may have far-reaching consequences unless we can say with certainty that its provisions apply only to the withdrawal of such privileges and immunities as were concerned with international organizations, including conferences. One might readily read this as meaning that a Minister could withdraw from all representatives, and all members of the official staffs of representatives, all or any of the privileges and immunities which are conferred on such persons in Australia. So the lack of clarity goes not only to the question of how far we can get reciprocity; it affects also the question of how far the Minister can exercise a sanction simply by instrument in writing and without the necessity of some regulation or parliamentary approval. It would seem that he might be able to withdraw all the immunities and privileges conferred on representatives and official staffs of representatives in this country.
One may be able to say that this clause must be read down, but on the other hand it can be argued that this should not be done because it is concerned with reciprocity in relation to the immunities and privileges of international organizations, but gives a sanction to Australia when another country does not accord us reciprocity. It may be suggested that there is no real reason why the sanction should be limited merely to the privileges and immunities of international organizations and conferences.
I think the provision is a little uncertain and I agree with Senator Cohen that there should be some clarification. His is the major point, that in an endeavour to insist upon reciprocity the clause perhaps may not go far enough. But if it does, as the Minister indicates, then it may be that the sanction is much too wide for a Minister to exercise simply by instrument in writing.
.- I shall begin by putting a couple of hypotheses in order to see whether I have thoroughly understood what it is that Senator Murphy has been saying. Is it suggested that by virtue of this clause a Minister, because he was satisfied that Australian representatives at some overseas conference were not receiving proper immunities, might withdraw the privileges and immunities from diplomats of that country who were stationed in Australia?
– That is one possible reading of this.
– I just wanted to know whether that was in the honorable senator’s mind. I understand that, in fact, that could not happen. As the clause is worded, should this bill become law it would not confer privileges on any man or have anything to do with the. privileges and immunities accorded to a diplomat or an accredited representative of some other country in Australia.
– I appreciate that as to the conferring of privileges, but this is a sanction clause which may be construed as meaning that a power is given to take away those privileges. That is what concerns me.
– I am assured that should this clause become law there would be no power for a Minister to take away privileges and immunities of accredited diplomatic representatives of other countries who may be in Australia. Let us read the wording carefully. It says-
Where the Minister is satisfied that persons, or members of the official staffs of persons, representing Australia in a country would not receive in that country privileges and immunities corresponding to those conferred ;n Australia by this Act. . . .
There are no privileges or immunities conferred in Australia by that act other than in relation to accredited diplomats from other countries.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator McKellar).Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I agree with the point the Minister has made.
– Where the Minister is satisfied that persons representing Australia would not receive the privileges corresponding to those which we confer on representatives of that country in Australia, he can withdraw those privileges and immunities from the representatives or official staff of that country.
.- 1 wish to intervene at this stage and point out to the Minister that the ambiguity arises from the words “ persons . . . representing Australia in a country “. Let us put to ourselves the question: Who represents Australia in France? We can answer that question by putting to ourselves the proposition that we have an ambassador with a secretarial and staff. One conference might be going on at Orleans and another at Versailles. One might be an International Labour Organization conference and the other a conference of an international character to which clause 7 applies. Who are we to say is representing Australia in France? That is where the ambiguity arises, and I suggest that the fears of honorable senators opposite might be well founded from the point of view of clarification.
The Minister for External Affairs might purport to deprive a French emissary who is driving from Sydney to Melbourne of his immunities and privileges, or he might purport to deprive a diplomatic representative of his immunities and privileges. The diplomat could contest the action of the Minister on the ground that the Minister had no right to so deprive him, that he only had the right under this bill to withdraw immunities from the representative corresponding to the person representing Australia in France who was not given the same privileges. That is the ambiguity that endangers the efficacy of the clause. We want to be sure that, so far as reciprocity is concerned1, this clause is effective. 1 venture to suggest that the language which should be used is the same as that which applies to the persons to whom we have given immunity. If we refer to clause 6 we find reference to a person who holds office in an international organization and isa national of Australia in another country or a person who is accredited to, or who is in attendance at, an international conference. You could use an abbreviated phrase such as, “ person upon whom the privileges mentioned in clause 6 have been conferred in another country is denied the corresponding privileges that are given to a citizen of that country in Australia “. The whole ambiguity arises from the possibility that the only person who can legitimately come within the meaning of the words “ representing Australia in a country “ is the ambassador to that country, or the person who represents Australia in that country. It is not a fly-by-night emissary who may be attending some pseudo conference to whom we intend to give immunity under this measure.
Sena:or GORTON (Victoria - Minister for the Navy) [10.35].- I do not think it is possible that the argument of Senator Wright has validity in view of the wording of this clause. It would not be possible under this bill for the Minister to withdraw the immunity of the French Ambassador because that immunity has nothing to do with this bill. This bill sets out to confer certain privileges and immunities which are set out in the schedules to the bill. The persons on whom it seeks to confer these privileges and immunities are also stated in the bill. Those privileges are conferred on certain people who are representatives of international organizations or persons who attend an international conference being held in another country for the purpose of representing the Australian Government at that conference. Those persons and their staffs are in that country representing Australia. They are not, as is an ambassador, accredited to the country in which they are. This clause merely sets out that certain privileges and immunities are conferred on people who come from some other country to represent that country in a conference held in Australia. If that country will not take reciprocal action then we will withdraw the privileges which this bill gives to that class of person. I do not think it can go any further than that.
– I realize that clause 8 is expressed in the context of the bill. Although I recognize that it is in that context, what is disturbing those who have spoken is that there is some degree of imprecision in the bare reference to “ persons representing Australia in a country”. Let me put an absurd interpretation on these words, not to be facetious, but to underline the difficulty which some of us have. I put this interpretation for the sake of showing how widely these words can be stretched. The clause says -
Where the Minister is satisfied that persons, or members of the official staffs of persons, representing Australia in a country . . .
The point I make is that they could bc footballers or cricketers - so far as we have gone. They could be sportsmen.
– We would not have conferred privileges and immunities on them under this act.
– Let me read the clause again -
Where the Minister is satisfied that persons, or members of the official staffs of persons, representing Australia in a country would not receive in that country privileges and immunities corresponding to those conferred in Australia by this Act or the regulations upon persons, . . .
Our difficulty is - I think it can be cured simply - that we are merely talking about persons representing Australia. They could do that in many capacities - the diplomatic level, the sporting level and in all sorts of ways.
– At an international conference?
– What my colleagues are asking is that instead of using the words “ representing Australia in a country “, you use the words “ representing Australia at an internatioal conference in a country “.
– There is no worry about that.
– That is the whole worry of my colleagues. I thought I had made that clear but I had to make it a case of reductio ad absurdum’ before the Minister could see it.
Amendment (by Senator Gorton) agreed to -
In sub-clause (I.) after “Australia”, first occurring, insert “ at an international conference “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
The regulations may confer upon - such privileges and immunities as are required to give effect to the Statute of that Court and such privileges and immunities in respect of acts and things done in the course of the performance of their functions in connexion with the business of that Court as are, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, required to give effect to any resolution of, or convention or agreement approved by, the General Assembly of the United Nations.
– I move -
Leave out “, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral,”.
The clause provides that the regulations may confer upon the International Court of Justice and its entourages, witnesses and so on, such privileges and immunities as are required to give effect to the statute of that court, and such privileges and immunities in respect of acts and things done in the course of the performance of their functions in connexion with the business of the court as are required to give effect to any resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The words which I seek to have deleted serve only to give exclusiveness to the regulations. This is exactly the device that was employed in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. The High Court took leave to say that it had been deliberately inserted because the act of the GovernorGeneral and his opinion are unexaminable in any court on the grounds that they go beyond the extent of the relevant power, or on the grounds of unreasonableness or eccentricity. I submit that the things which it is proposed to protect by the regulations require the protection of the court. I seek, in pursuance of a purpose long since sustained, to have all these matters determined finally, not by the Executive but by a court of justice in case they should subsequently be raised as an issue before a court of justice. The deletion of the words “ in the opinion of the Governor-General “ would have that effect.
.- I second the amendment. One needs only to look at the language of clause 13 of the bill to see that the words which Senator Wright seeks to have deleted are unnecessary. Clause 9 states that the regulations may confer upon the persons named such privileges and immunities as are required, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, to give effect to any resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Clause 13 provides -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
For the reasons that Senator Wright has advanced, I think that the words “ in the opinion of the Governor-General “ are unnecessary and, indeed, are to be resisted.
– I would not be happy to accept this proposed amendment. I believe it to be better that the words “ in the opinion of the Governor-General “ should be left in the provision. . It is true, as Senator Wright has said, that if they were taken out, any regulations that were made by the Government and passed by the Parliament would be subject to challenge in the courts on the grounds that somebody had said they were not in fact required to give effect to a resolution of the General Assembly. There could be argument as to whether they were or were not required to give effect to a resolution of the General Assembly, or a convention or agreement approved by the General Assembly. It is better, in my opinion, to remove that danger to the validity of the regulations. Obviously, the regulations having been made and signed by the Governor-General, they would have been necessary in his opinion and therefore not subject to challenge on that ground. They would then, as is normally the case, be scrutinized by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate which, it appears to me, would be a better body to decide the international actions which Australia should take in matters of this kind.
– I am profoundly disturbed by what I have just heard from the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). He has suggested that the words “ in the opinion of the Governor-General” should be left in the clause in order that the validity of the regulations might be effectively removed from the scrutiny of the courts; in other words, that regulations which were not required for this purpose could be made, and citizens would not be in a position to establish before a competent tribunal that the regulations were outside the ambit of the purpose and that, therefore, they should not be affected in law by such regulations. It may be, since this matter is concerned with the privileges and immunities of international organizations, that the right of a citizen to bring an action for damages, or to vindicate in a court his right to justice, might be cut down by the existence of a regulation which was effectively protected by such a provision, although in fact the regulation was not really required for the purposes contemplated.
It is a most serious thing for the Minister to say, “ Well really, it is better to remove these things from the scrutiny of the court and to leave them to the scrutiny of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Senate”. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee was never intended to perform such a function. As honorable senators know, it has performed a function which has made it justly famous for its scrutiny of parliamentary delegated legislation, but its function is not to be the final tribunal to determine the validity of regulations. Of course, it would1 be both wrong and impossible to give the committee that task, because it is not equipped to carry it out. The committee supervises legislation and in some instances sends legislation back for review. It uses the processes of the Senate in seeing to it that obviously objectionable delegated legislation docs not become law. It has never been suggested by the committee, nor could it be suggested reasonably, that it should be substituted for the ordinary courts of the land as the body to determine ultimately the validity of delegated legislation. I hope that such a suggestion will never be made.
I concur completely in what has been put by the distinguished Senators Wright and Cohen on this matter. I agree with them for the reasons which have been outlined. We should not allow this provision to pass with those words in it. It is enough to hear Senator Wright raise the matter and to indicate the reasons for objection to the clause. It is extremely disturbing to hear the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral concede the basis of that objection, yet still sa’y that the clause should be left as it is. It goes to the heart of the constitutional processes of this country that there should be an endeavour to remove from the effective scrutiny of the courts of this land the regulations made under this legislation. This is to be resisted at all costs. I completely support Senator Wright.
.- As chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, 1 could not accept the responsibility of that committee’s being considered to be above the courts of justice. I cannot see any objection to the amendment moved by Senator Wright. I am in sympathy with it. I express very clearly my view that the responsibility which the Minister proposes to put upon the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is more than we should accept.
– A clear opinion having been expressed by a number of honorable senators, I only seek as best I can to disturb Senator Murphy a little more by reiterating my belief just as strongly and by rejecting his attack on my ideas. This Parliament has a right to make a law and, subject to constitutional authority, it has the final say. On matters within its jurisdiction, this Parliament is the ultimate authority in the nation. I have never considered the Regulations and Ordinances Committee to be the final arbiter on regulations. I have always thought that the Senate was the final arbiter on such matters, that decisions were made not by the committee itself but by the Senate. I have always thought that it was within the committee’s province to suggest to the Senate that regulations were harsh and oppressive or caused injustice to individuals. I do not know why some members of the committee should suddenly consider that they have not any longer a right or duty to do this. It is my opinion, whether it be right or wrong, that it should be the province of this Parliament, with or without recommendations by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, or indeed with or without any Senator’s directing attention to anything that is considered unjust, to decide whether or not a regulation is valid.
– May I put the matter to the Minister again in this way? Perhaps this may convince him. The inclusion of the words “in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral “ really affects the question of validity. When the matter comes before the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee or comes into the Senate, one of the questions is .whether the regulation . is or is not outside the ambit of the act - whether or not the regulation is valid. The inclusion of the words “ in the opinion of the Governor-General “ would effectively remove that question not only from the consideration of the ordinary courts of the land but also from the consideration of the Senate. We would make anything virtually within the ambit of the clause by saying that it is within it, if it is within it in the opinion of the Governor-General. The question will be whether we are satisfied that the Governor-General thought that the regulation was necessary, not whether the Senate thinks that it is necessary. The validity of the regulation will be judged by whether the regulation is required, in the opinion of the Governor-General, to give effect to the section, not by whether it is required to give effect to the section.
– This is only one of the tests which the Regulations and Ordinances Committee applies in its examination of regulations. I have not before me, as Senator Murphy has, all of the heads of its examination. He has mentioned one and he says that on that ground there would not be reason for the committee to disallow the regulation. There are other tests to be applied to regulations. One is whether they cause harshness or injustice to any individual. These ought to give a fair amount of protection when considered by the committee and by the Senate.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator G. C. McKellar.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of the bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Associated bills taken together, and agreed to.
International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill 1963 reported with amendments, and associated bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11,5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630912_senate_24_s24/>.