26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As tomorrow is the twentyfifth anniversary of the entry to the Parliament of the first woman senator. Dame Dorothy Tangney, and as 1968 has been declared Human Rights Year, will the Government seriously consider standing by its international statements, declarations and votes in favour of equal pay for women by introducing appropriate legislation to that end in the fields in which it has clear legislative capacity to do so?
– The Leader of the Opposition has given some very interesting information, namely, that tomorrow is the anniversary of the beginning of the 25 years for which Dame Dorothy Tangney served so faithfully and well, according to her convictions, in this place. I am sure that all honourable senators would wish to send a greeting to her on that occasion. The remainder of the question clearly relates to a matter of Government policy and I would not want to intrude a reply to it into a reply to the first part of the question.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry indicate when the Bill to reestablish the dairy industry, particularly that pari of it that aims at amalgamation of some of the smaller properties, will be brought to fruition? Is it correct that some difficulty has been experienced in arriving at agreement on the legislation with some of the States?
– There has been quite a bit of difficulty in arriving at agreement between the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry and the State Ministers for agriculture. I understand that the Minister for Primary Industry hopes to have an agreement concluded this year.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the desire of all decent Australians to stop inflation and to combat all forms of rackets, will the Commonwealth Government, as a major step towards those ends, introduce legislation to prohibit money lending organisations, including insurance companies, fringe banking groups and all others associated with money lending practices, charging extravagant interest rates in excess of the rates being imposed today by banking institutions?
– Excluding the parts of the honourable senator’s question in which he expresses opinions, I ask him to put the substance of it on the notice paper. If he does that 1 will have a reply obtained for him.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer agree that the present level of tariffs in Australia enables Australia to maintain a low price for overseas currencies, relative to the current levels of wages and prices, and that at this rate of exchange the prices received by Australian exporters are artificially low in relation to the internal cost structure? Does the Treasurer agree that if all protective tariffs were reduced by an average of, say, 15 percentage points, there would have to be a substantial increase in the Australian price of foreign currency to prevent a collapse in wages, unless subsidies were substantially increased?
– In this instance, too, an honourable senator is asking me to express an opinion on behalf of the Treasurer. Quite clearly, 1 could not do that. These are clearly matters of policy and I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
– By way of preface to a question which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, I point out that some time ago there was a move amongst members of Parliament to see whether provision could be made for constituents and visitors to
Canberra to obtain a cup of tea, a sandwich or a pie, at reasonable cost in close proximity to Parliament House. Will the Minister make the Minister for the Interior aware that the whole purpose of the provision of a restaurant in close proximity to Parliament House has been defeated by the setting up of a high priced, exclusive restaurant, charging prices that are well above those which the average visitor to Canberra should be asked to pay? Under whose authority was this state of affairs created? Will the Minister have a review made of the present price structure prevailing at the restaurant, with a view to insisting on the inclusion of morning and afternoon teas at prices approximating those paid at Parliament House or at other cafes in Canberra?
– As usual, the honourable senator is jumping the gun a little. The building has not been fully completed. The National Capital Development Commission erected this kiosk adjacent to Parliament House at the request of the Government and following a survey by the Commission. 1 should like to read out the prices that are charged at the present time in this kiosk and then 1 shall go on to tell the honourable senator what the Minister has in view towards making cheaper foods available to the visiting public. A person who goes to the restaurant for a light luncheon may have soup of the day for 30c, sandwiches for 45c, hamburger and chipped potatoes foi 50c, frankfurters in bread rolls for 45c. meat pie and vegetables for 45c, ice cream and flavouring for 30c, apple pie and cream for 35c, tea for 20c, milk for 15c and coffee for 25c. The interesting thing is that to get the concession from the Department of the Interior the applicant agreed to spend a sum in the vicinity of $50,000 to put in the additional equipment that is necessary. He provides within the building a table service whereby morning and afternoon teas are served, as well as light refreshments such as I have mentioned. The National Capital Development Commission is in the process of providing a small annexe linked to the main building, giving ready access to the kitchen and designed specifically to provide food to take away or for eating nearby, as well as smokers’ requisites, souvenirs and other milk bar type services. These services will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Senate whether, and if so when and by whom, books are destroyed when confiscated by customs officers from passengers who have purchased them legally in other countries but find on arrival in this land of the free that they are banned by the censor? Should such books or other confiscated literature not be destroyed in the sight of the passenger, thereby assuring him that they are not, perhaps, quietly returned to circulation amongst a privileged few?
– The procedures are covered by the Customs Act. If an immigrant comes into Australia with a prohibited book the book is seized and held for a period of 1 month in case the person concerned wishes to take legal action. If there is no writ within a further 4 months the book is destroyed. It is impracticable for the Department of Customs and Excise to hold books any longer than that, and they are destroyed on the authority of the head of the branch, and in the presence of two customs officers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service obtain and make available to honourable senators a report on the employment situation in the Latrobe Valley industrial area of Victoria where, according to trade unions and others, the approach of the availability of natural gas has made early redundancy likely for many employees in brown coal and associated industries, with consequent losses in their homes and additional loss to the community? Will the Minister consult the Minister for National Development on possible utilisation of the Lurgi gas plant which appears likely to be closed?
-Senator Wright, the Minister for Works, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Labour and National Service, is indisposed with a wellknown variety of flu. On his behalf, and accepting his portfolio responsibilities for the time being, I ask the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper and I will obtain a reply from the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– -In addressing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry l’ refer to the action of the Government in withdrawing the bylaw concession relating to self propelled harvesters and the imposition of a duty of 20% on the imported product. I preface my question also by pointing out that in February 1967 the Government refused to accede to a request regarding the by-law admission of single engine aeroplanes during a Tariff Board inquiry for the following reason set out in a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry to the Wool Growers and Graziers Federal Council:
As you will appreciate, any action to alter the rates of duly at this time could give the impression thli t the Government was prejudging the merits of the present reference.
What is the difference in principle between the decision of the Government in relation to the aircraft industry and the decision to impose a duly when a Tariff Board inquiry into the farm machinery industry is in progress?
– in the first pk.ee I point out to the honourable senator th: the administration of the by-law provisions comes within the portfolio of the Minister for Customs and Excise. From my past experience as Minister for Customs and Excise I know that all by-law applications arc dealt, with on an individual basis in accordance with the prescribed formula. The honourable senator’s question is comprehensive. I do not think it would be fair to ask the Minister to answer it off the cuff so I suggest the honourable senator put it on the notice paper and the Minister will reply in due course.
– 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to the receipts duty provisions of the 1967 Stamps Act of Victoria. II also relates to the advice referred to by the Prime Minister last week which has been received by the Government that the Victorian lax is within the competence of the Victorian Parliament. In view of the fact that the Victorian legislation, which is necessary to supplement the Commonwealth grant to Victoria, expressly permits employers to pay the tax for their employees and expressly provides for an arrangement being made by the Government of Victoria with the Commonwealth Government for the payment by the Commonwealth of the tax payable by Commonwealth employees, will the Government assist the Victorian Government in the collection of its revenues by entering into such an arrangement? If not. why not?
– I would think there is a vast difference between the Commonwealth acknowledging that on certain legal grounds a tax might appropriately be collected by the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth assisting the Slate in the collection of that tax. lt would not be for me to prejudge the position.
– 1 rise to order, ls it in order for an honourable senator to ask a question the answer to which would materially help that honourable senator?
– I can help resolve the point of order by suggesting that the question be put on notice.
– But that is not the point of order.
– Could 1 speak to the point of order direct?
– I do not want to stifle debate, but I understand that you have already ruled on this point, Mr President.
– I have not ruled on anything.
– I regret it if 1 am wrong, but I understood that you had done so.
– I have given no ruling. I was wailing to hear some argument on the point.
– 1 wish to speak to the point of order. As the question has been withdrawn, I am wondering whether there is any premise now for the point raised by Senator Kennelly. Has not the particular question been put on notice? If it has been, then it would appear to me thai the cause of this protest by the honourable senator has been removed and we can now proceed to the next business.
– I do not know whether the question has been withdrawn. Unless it has been withdrawn, I must decide the point of order raised.
– I have not withdrawn my question. I would bc grateful to know whether the Leader of the Government is prepared to answer it, or whether he requires it to be put on notice.
– I require it to bc put on notice.
– In view of the fact that the Minister requires the question to be put on notice, the point of order is not upheld.
– I should like to know whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate can inform the Parliament of the following particulars regarding the recent sale of seven former Royal Australian Air Force Dakota aircraft: Was the sale of the aircraft advertised in the Australian Press? If so, which newspapers carried the advertisement? Were Australian firms and individuals prohibited from lodging a tender? Will the Minister supply the Parliament with the names and addresses of the 14 or 15 persons or companies who lodged tenders for the aircraft to which he referred the other day?
– I rather fell that I gave a comprehensive answer when last we dealt with this matter. I indicated that if Senator Keeffe required supplementary information I would endeavour to get it for him. I have not accessible to me here the information the honourable senator seeks, but certainly before the day is out I will study his question and 1 will make a further reply to him tomorrow.
– ls the Minister who represents the Treasurer aware of the current problems of economic feasibility in the dairying industry? Does the Minister consider that: a contributing cause of low returns to butter fat producers is the fact that the Australian Government decided in 1967 not to devalue the Australian dollar? Can the industry be assured that the Government will continue to assist financially the dairying industry or any other primary or secondary industry which has continuing economic problems due to the decision of the Government on devaluation?
– The honourable senator has asked me questions about devaluation and the problems of primary and secondary industries. Clearly the questions do not lend themselves to answers at question time when we are dealing wilh questions without notice. However, I can say that the Senate and the Parliament would be well aware of the contributions made to primary industries already as a result of studies made by and recommendations received from the special committee set up to consider these problems. I suggest to the honourable senator that he place his question on the notice paper. I imagine that within the next few days I will be able to give him information, chapter and verse, in respect of contributions already made to assist primary industries in their problems associated with devaluation.
– Is the Leader of the Government, who represents the Prime Minister in this place, aware of the widespread and strongly expressed criticism of the Saigon Government because of the fiveyear gaol sentence imposed on Mr Truong Dinh Dzu. the runner-up in the last South Vietnam presidential election, for his advocacy of peace talks with the National Liberation Front?- Is he aware that among those people who have attacked this actio;: have been Vice-President Humphrey of the United States of America, and Senator Mike Mansfield, the Majority Leader in the United States Senate? Has the Australian Government made any protest on this matter? If so, what were the terms of the protest? If not, will the Government make it clear to the Thieu Government that Australia will not condone such blatant suppression of political1 opposition in the country which formally requested Australia to send troops there in defence of freedom?
– This question is another example of an honourable senator expressing a point of view at question time. I would not necessarily agree with some of the points he has put. As to the substantive part of his question, I think that in truth it would be preferable for me to direct it in the first place, not to the Prime Minister but to the Minister for External Affairs, to obtain answers.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he authorised the issue to local repatriation medical officers of a form known as ‘Form 70E’. Do local medical officers have to seek permission of the Repatriation Department per medium of that form before they can prescribe medicinal foods, liquids and other items for exservicemen? If , the local medical officer does obtain permission to prescribe items on the list, does the Department decide the amount to be prescribed arid is the local medical officer required to make a new application to the Department for each repeat prescription?
– The position in respect of medical treatment by medical officers outside the Repatriation Department is broadly as follows: Medical officers and dentists are advised from time to time on what they can do to provide relief for the people seeking it. Unfortunately very often people seeking treatment are misled by some - not many - medical officers and dentists who give advice which is not in accordance willi the authority that they have. This is one of the problems confronting officers of the Repatriation Department, through no fault of the Department. I should not think - I would have to check on this - that it would be necessary for a medical officer, having received authority to give treatment to a particular patient, to once again obtain authority for repeat orders. I will inquire into that matter and if the answer is different from the one I have given the honourable senator I will let him know accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. As the Western Australian section of Highway No. I to the South Australian border is nearing completion will the Minister give consideration to providing financial assistance to the South Australian Government to complete the 310 miles of road from the Eyre Peninsular to the Western Australian border, as this will be the only section of unsealed road on Highway No. 1 which extends from Cairns to some 700 miles north of Perth?
– That is a very interesting question. It is heartening to know that the Western Australian Government will soon have completed the bitumen surface to the South Australian border, a distance of 900 miles. However some 300 miles of road in no-man’s land will remain unsealed. The Government is concerned about tourism and is anxious to ensure that people from eastern Australia can travel to the west on a bitumen road. Therefore I will have great pleasure in putting the honourable senator’s question before the Minister for Shipping and Transport and obtaining from him a detailed answer.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: In view of the increasing interest shown - by drug traffickers in Australia as a market and a clearing house for prohibited drugs, is the Minister satisfied that the existing penalties are sufficiently severe to act as an adequate deterrent? Will the Minister consider reviewing the penal provisions of the appropriate statutes to provide penalties which will demonstrate clearly to those participating in this infamous traffic that Australia will take every possible step to protect Australians, particularly young Australians., from this trade in human misery?
– The Government is very conscious of the problem relating to drug traffic in Australia. As the honourable senator probably knows, the penalties were increased last year. Not only has the Government increased the penalties but it has in operation the Prevention and Detection Section of the Department of Customs and Excise, which is fully occupied in investigating and endeavouring to stop the illicit traffic in drugs. With this in view the Department has increased its Prevention and Detention staff over the last few years by 1.00%. In the last 12 months it has purchased four fast motor launches to patrol various ports and has placed orders for four more. At the present moment in the city of Brisbane about twenty candidates are undergoing training to become officers of the Prevention and Detection staff. I note with concern the honourable senator’s question about the traffic in drugs, but 1 can assure him that the Government is doing everything possible to stop the illicit entry of drugs into Australia
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. My question follows a question asked earlier by Senator Webster. Can the Minister indicate what plans the Government has to compensate rural and secondary industries that will have a continuing problem arising from devaluation of sterling and’ not one which will permit the single reimbursement that has been made to certain industries that are currently affected?
– 1 think that I should link the honourable senator’s question with the question asked by Senator Webster. 1 hope that when I get a reply from the Treasurer it will incorporate an answer to both questions as they are clearly related.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that both superannuation and social service payments may, on request, be paid into bank accounts in the Australian Capital Territory but not in some States? Can the Minister inform the Senate of ‘.he reason for this?
– 1 do not know the reason, but I will certainly find out and inform the honourable senator accordingly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I refer to the recent Conference of Commonwealth and State Immigration Ministers and the reported decision of that Conference that there was a need for a thorough review of the recognition of overseas professional qualifications. What action has been or will be taken to give effect to this review?
– I cannot give an answer to the point raised by the honourable senator. I do know that there was a conference between the Commonwealth Minister and the State Ministers. I shall bring the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Minister and obtain an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What date is proposed for the opening to passenger traffic of the new uniform gauge railway from Perth to Sydney?
– I cannot give an exact date. I know that the Minister for Shipping and Transport did envisage that the line would be opened towards the end of 1969. However, I understand that since that date was envisaged there has been a little delay caused by the lack of agreement between a certain railway company in New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government. lt is hoped that this will not cause undue delay.
– MY question is directed to the Leader of trie Government in the Senate. I ask: As the Government previously expressed concern, and has done so more recently through the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, regarding the excessive interest rates charged by leading organisations, has the Government any intention of introducing legislation to deal with such practices?
– Quite clearly this is a matter of Government policy and forward programming. The Senate will soon commence to debate the Budget. If the honourable senator wishes to express some views on interest rates the Budget debate is an ideal vehicle for him. I cannot, in answer to a question, comment on Government policy. 1 know that the1 honourable senator would not really expect me to do so.
(Question No. 33)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 213)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Will the Minister examine the position of apparent racial discrimination existing at the Victoria Hotel. Darwin, as indicated in evidence given in a recent Darwin court case?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The manager of the Victoria Hotel, Darwin, stated in evidence in a court case on 18th April 1968 that there was a hotel rule that Aboriginals were to be served only at the public bar. There had been no prior local public knowledge that such a rule existed. Within a few days the manager of the hotel, on instructions from his principals, had rescinded the rule and Aboriginals now have the same rights as other persons in respect of entry to all parts of the hotel.
(Question No. 292)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 296)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Northern Territory Aboriginals from the sale of paintings and carvings for the financial year ended 30th June 1967?
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions: 1 to 3. All Aboriginal artifacts are sold either through mission authorities, settlement cooperatives, social clubs (of which Aboriginals are members) or by direct transaction between artists and private purchasers. There are therefore no records available of the income derived from these sales or of the way in which the income is distributed.
(Question No. 297)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions: 1 to 3. At 30th April 1968, 299 Aboriginals were known to be employed in Commonwealth departments in the Territory and receiving salaries or wages at normal Public Service rates; a further 119 Aboriginals were known to be employed by private employers (excluding the pastoral industry) at or above award rates. Government departments however do not maintain separate stalling records for Aboriginals and private employers are not requiredto forward separate returns giving details of the employment of Aboriginals. The figures given above must be regarded therefore only as the numbers which can be ascertained from available sources in the absence of complete and detailed records.
(Question No. 345)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers:
There shall not be fitted to any passenger car or light utility vehicle any lyre which has been treated by re-grooving.
The adoption of this regulation is a matter for State governments.
– On 8th May 1968 in answer to Question No. 68 by Senator Gair (Hansard p. 850), I said, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that inquiries were being made as to whether an agreed statement could be issued to indicate what the Commonwealth-State Officials Committee on Decentralisation has been studying and what stage it has reached in those studies. The Prime Minister has now provided the following statement of the Committee’s position as at 14th June 1968:
STATEMENT CONCERNING COMMONWEALTH/STATE OFFICIALS COMMITTEE ON DECENTRALISATION
The following is an account of present studies being co-ordinated by the Commonwealth-State Committee on Decentralisation.
Studies of the Costs involved for Firmsand Individuals in Locating in Various Areas
These studies are being carried out principally in New South Wales and Victoria, andare aimed at finding out why firms made particular decisions about locations and the nature of the particular costs flowing from such decisions.
A Report of the Victorian Study is being prepared by the Division of Slate Development of the Victorian Premier’s Department. It will be completed shortly.
Thedata collected in the New South Wales Study are being processed by computer. Analysis of the data and preparation of a Report will follow the computer processing.
Studies of the Relative Costs (Public Costs) of Providing Public Services in Various Locations, including Big Cities and Small Centres
This broad study is broken into two parts; one concerned with the examination of the historical costs of past development, the other concerned with estimating the costs of hypothetical future development.
In New South Wales work on both parts was launched in November 1966. The ‘Historical Costs’ studies are in course of computer processing at the New England University. The Estimates Study’ was set aside, however, until late 1967, pending the receipt of information from the State Planning Authority but work is now proceeding on this study. Additionally some twelve local government bodies are completing hypothetical estimates of public costs. These should be completed within 2-4 months.
The Victorian Studies were launched, in the light ofthe New South Wales experience, in September 1967. Most information for the ‘Historical’ part has now been collected. But as the methodological problems involved in the forward “Estimates’ part are greater, no substantial technical work has been undertaken pending further progress in New South Wales.
The studies in this broad field relate to the following matters:
The position of these studies is respectively:
All the questionnaires sent out have been returned and work is proceeding towards the preparation of a report.
Certain data, which are yetto be published. from the 1966 census are required before the studies will commence.
Other Research Projects
The studies that have been undertaken so far involve, either jointly or separately, the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. The other States are awaiting the outcome of these investigations as a guide to action which might be taken by them.
-I present the following paper:
Audit Act - Finance - Report of the AuditorGeneral for the year 1967-68, accompanied by the Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure.
– I present the following papers:
Asian and Pacific Council, Third Ministerial Meeting, Canberra, 30th July to 1st August 1968 - Agreement Establishing a Cultural and Social Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region and Joint Communique.
I ask for leave to make a brief statement on the same subject.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The third ministerial meeting of the Asian and Pacific Council was held in Canberra from 30th July to 1st August. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) represented Australia at the meeting which elected him as Chairman. The papers which 1 have tabled are the joint communique, which was signed by the representatives of the nine members of ASPAC; and the Agreement establishing a Cultural and Social Centre for the Asian and Pacific Region which was signed by the representatives of the nine members of ASPAC.
The meeting was attended by the Foreign Ministers of China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and the Republic of Vietnam, and by the Malaysian Minister of Education and the New Zealand Minister of Broadcasting. Laos attended as an observer, being represented by its Charge d’Affaires at Canberra.
At the second ministerial meeting of ASPAC in Bangkok in July 1967, the Council accepted our offer to hold the third ministerial meeting in Canberra. As a consequence, during the past year Australia has had the responsibility for organising and providing secretariat support for the standing committee of heads of mission of participating countries, which carries on the work of the Council between the ministerial meetings. Nine meetings of the standing committee were held in Canberra under the chairmanship of the Minister for External Affairs.
As at previous sessions of the Council’ in Seoul and Bangkok the proceedings, except for the opening and closing ceremonies, were confidential and consequently I do not feel able to give Parliament a detailed account of the discussions. The meeting took place in a friendly and informal atmosphere and provided an excellent opportunity for Ministers to exchange views on a wide range of world and regional problems. The range of topics discussed is brought out clearly in the joint communique.
ASPAC has now established itself as an important regional forum for informal, frank exchanges of views on matters of common interest. Consultations take place not only at the annual ministerial meetings but also regularly in the standing committee and among the representatives of ASPAC countries attending a wide range of international conferences.
During the year substantial progress has been made regarding the projects accepted at the second ministerial meeting, namely the Registry of Experts’ Services and the Cultural and Social Centre. The Registry, which is being sponsored by Australia, has been established in Canberra and was officially opened during the ministerial meeting. At the end of the concluding session of the meeting the representatives of the nine member nations of ASPAC signed the Agreement establishing the Cultural and Social Centre in Seoul. Australia will contribute $US40,000 to the operational costs of the Centre in its first year, and will also establish a special bilateral programme of cultural exchanges related to the Centre’s activities.
The Council has decided that its next meeting will be held in Tokyo and as a consequence the standing committee will be meeting regularly in the next 12 months in Tokyo under the chairmanship of the Japanese Foreign Minister.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
I ask for leave to make a short satement
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
Reports on Items
– I present two reports by the Special Advisory Authority. The first of these reports, presented pursuant to statute, deals with disposable hypodermic needles. The second report which calls for no legislative action is in respect of twine cordage, ropes and cables falling within Paragraph 59.04.99 of the Customs Tariff 1966-1968.
I also present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Bean seed (Phaseolus Vulgaris); and the chemical industry support values review.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of - the Government in the Senate appointing Senator Prowse to fill the vacancy existing on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate appointing Senators Ridley and Mulvihill members of the Select Committee on Water Pollution.
– by leave - From time to time there has been public comment on what checks are made to evaluate fallout of radio-active material as a result of nuclear tests. This comment has not been quite so evident during the current series of French nuclear tests in French Polynesia but I should like to explain the comprehensive nature of the Australian programme to monitor any such fall-out. As with the previous two series of French tests in Polynesia, in 1966 and 1967, some fallout is expected to reach Australia. In the earlier tests it was established that the level of radio-active fall-out was very low and not significant as a hazard to the health of the Australian population.
Radio-active fall-out in Australia is monitored in two complementary programmes. One has continued 24 hours a day since 1957, and is devoted to the low levels of long-lived radioisotopes in fall-out, strontium 90 and caesium 137. These arise to date almost entirely from the major series of weapons tests in the atmosphere by the Soviet Union and the United States. The other programme is directed mainly at the shorter lived radioisotopes in fall-out which are significant only in the few months during and immediately after a test series. This short term programme is operated as necessary. It was brought into action in 1966 and 1967 for the French testing in Polynesia and is operating at present.
The deposition of fall-out from the French tests is monitored in Australia and New Guinea at thirty-five stations. Three types of equipment are used: Gummed films which collect all types of particles, including fall-out, which impinge on them; they are located at twenty-six sites. Pumping systems, which collect airborne particles on highly efficient filters, are installed at five major population centres. Polythene funnels with ion exchange columns operate at sixteen sites; they collect rain and all particles falling into the funnel, and allow only water to escape.
All this equipment is operated continuously. The gummed films are changed daily, the air filters weekly and the ion exchange columns monthly. The funnel collectors are used mainly in the monitoring of strontium 90 and caesium 137. In addition, milk samples are collected daily from all capital cities and from a selection of other cities and towns in Australia, to monitor dietary intake of iodine 131 in fall-out from weapons tests in French Polynesia. These samples represent proportionately all milk being consumed in the cities and towns at the time. Iodine 131 is known to be, from a health point of view, the most important radioisotope in fall-out shortly after tests.
In the long-term programme attention is concentrated on a continuing and extensive survey of strontium 90 and caesium 137 in the Australian environment. These two radioisotopes were chosen because of their long lives and tendency to accumulate in specific body tissues. They are considered to be potentially the most hazardous of the radio-active materials- released to the environment in nuclear weapon tests.
The levels of strontium 90 and caesium 137 are very low and do noi constitute a health hazard. Accurate measurements of the low levels of radio-active fall-out in Australia take a considerable, time, because the samples collected in the monitoring programmes contain exceedingly small quantities of radio-activity. The gummed film and air filter samples, after arrival from the stations by aif, must be measured in highly specialised equipment. Measurements of strontium 90. caesium 137 and iodine 131 are even more -complex and demand considerable technical skill; each sample undergoes extensive chemical preparation before its radio-activity can be measured. Sophisticated and highly sensitive techniques are required, and analysis of each sample takes many hours. One problem is the interference from natural radiation and radio-activity in the environment; this necessitates performing measurements in massive lead ‘‘castles’ and using special electronic techniques.
The programme is operated by my Department for the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee whose Chairman is Professor E. W. Titterton. Many organisations, public and private, co-operate in the collection of samples. Officers of the Bureau of Meteorology make a major contribution in the operation of fall-out stations. Radioactivity measurements of samples are made in Australia by the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory, but laboratories in Great Britain and the United States also contribute. All results are accumulated and assessed by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee which keeps the Government fully informed of the situation through me.
The data also go to the National Radiation Advisory Committee whose Chairman is Professor F. C. Courtice. This Committee advises the Government on the effects of ionising radiation on the Australian community. lt is not possible to make meaningful statements, day to day, on fall-out levels as the measurements proceed. Analysis and interpretation of the results can be done only after they have been collated and considered as a whole. The complete results are published in detail in scientific journals as soon as possible. To date thirty-six such reports have appeared, mostly in the Australian Journal of Science. 1 would like to stress again that any radio-active fall-out from the current French tests is not expected to be a hazard for our population.
– by leave - Honourable senators are aware that regulation 4a of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations prohibits the importation of literature and articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene, or unduly emphasise matters on sex, horror, violence or crime or are likely to encourage depravity. Senators also know the regulation provides that even though a book is prohibited under regulation 4a the Minister may approve any application to import such works provided a report has been received from the Chairman of the National Literature Board of Review or the DirectorGeneral of Health.
When regulation 4a was introduced in 1963 the then Minister undertook to report annually to the Senate in respect of books released in accordance with the above provisions. This report, the fifth to be presented, covers the period 1st July 1967 to 30th June 1968. During this 12 months a total of 65 applications was received. Of these, 47 were approved and 18 were refused. Details of the medical, psychiatric and sociological works are 15 to university researchers; 9 to clinical psychologists; 3 to university lecturers; 1 to a minister of religion; 1 to a social worker; and 1 to a public library. Similar details in respect of Actional works are 6 to university researchers; 8 to clinical psychologists; and 3 to university lecturers.
Motions (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That Senator Branson be granted leave of absence for 2 months on account of absence overseas.
That Senator Davidson bc granted leave of absence for 1 months on account of absence overseas.
Motions (by Senator Murphy) - by leave - agreed to:
That leave of absence be granted to Senator Toohey for 2 months on account of absence overseas.
That leave of absence be granted to Senator Cant for 2 months on account of absence overseas.
Motions (by Senator Murphy) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent my moving a motion relating to the order of General Business after 8 p.m.
That intervening General Business be postponed until after consideration of Order of the Day No. 7, General Business.
The effect of my motion is, put shortly, that at 8 o’clock tonight in the conduct of General Business the Senate will move to the continued consideration of Order of the Day No. 7 which relates to the proposed select committee on natural disasters.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I do not propose to speak at great length on this subject, but I wish to make some preliminary points about the pattern of the debate. I want to make it abundantly clear that the Government believes that a decision of this nature should be made by honourable senators and members of another place, and that every member of this Parliament should in his vote reflect his own personal view according to his judgment. This, of course, is to be done without regard for any previous decisions or views that may have been expressed on this subject.
I think it is necessary to make the point that the decision on the future site of the national Parliament is not in any way to be understood as a committal of Commonwealth revenue. The discussion is designed to determine the future site of the new parliament house. I regretfully observed a Press comment which stated, at least by implication, that the decision we are asked to make involves the Parliament in a vote for the committal of a certain sum of money. I have no doubt that when all the studies, research and examinations of the requirements of the new parliament house have been completed a decision will be taken on a works programme for its construction. Whilst I do not regard myself as an old man, I could not envisage as J stand here as Leader of the Government in the Senate that I would be attending the commencement of the works programme for a new and permanent parliament house. Nevertheless, the decision has to be taken. We must decide where in the ultimate the new parliament house of the Commonwealth of Australia is to be sited. If we did not take a decision or were tardy in taking a decision, we could in certain circumstances be acting at cost to the revenue because we would be delaying any other programme which might be considered appropriate for a site which, in the event, would not become the site of the new parliament bouse.
I think it is important at this time that we should have regard to that fact. 1 hope it will become crystal clear as the debate proceeds that we are not discussing an appropriation item. All honourable senators in exercising their votes will become part of history in the sense that they will have been called upon to express their personal views as to where the new parliament house is to be erected. Whatever view they express they will be happy in the knowledge that nobody can say they were not completely entitled so to express their view. When I said that failure to make a decision about the site might frustrate, limit or restrict other decisions which the National Capital Development Commission may want to make I had in mind a programme under examination to build a national art gallery. Quite clearly the decision that we take could have an overflow effect on the site of the national art gallery. Some other Commonwealth building, which it is felt propitious or expedient to have erected, might be affected also. If a decision is not made two definite sites and possibly a third site will be left in an indeterminate state. The position will remain unresolved. .
I do not want to dwell at great length on the history of the matter. Other honourable senators have been members of committees that have studied the matter. I refer particularly to the older senators - speaking in terms not of age but of their service here - who would know the history far better than I do. There are some new senators here - God bless them - who. I know, will regard very seriously this responsibility that is being placed upon them. I will state briefly the history. No doubt other honourable senators will take up points which, they feel. I have given undue emphasis or which I have omitted to mention. The Walter Burley Griffin winning design in 1912 provided that the site for a parliament house should be on Camp Hill. Camp Hill is almost immediately behind the present provisional Parliament House to which we come and speak on behalf of our constituents. In 1913’ a national competition for the design - of a parliament house on Camp Hill was conducted. A decision was deferred and later cancelled because World War I intervened. In 1921 a Federal Capital Advisory Committee was established, lt recommended the building of a provisional parliament house on the present site, ft is very interesting to note that Burley Griffin opposed this recommendation.
– It was a neutral site.
– It is the present site. Burley Griffin opposed it and in retrospect I can understand why he did so. I have not been able to read hi.s reasons for opposition. I assume that he opposed it because of the reasons that immediately come to my mind. The building of the provisional Parliament House on this site prejudiced the possibility of building the new parliament house on Camp Hill. 1 do not think we oan escape that situation, lt must have been apparent to everybody that to approve plans in 1921 for the building of the provisional Parliament House on this site, allowing for a certain amount of expansion, would mean that the site at Camp Hill could not be used. In the fullness of time this present Parliament House, which is a very outstanding building and one of some quality, has been added to and improved. In the last 3 or 4 years extensive additions and improvements have been made to it. To mc, that was inevitable. lt would be a brave senator, member of the House of Representatives or journalist who would suggest that this provisional Parliament House be pulled down and that the capital investment in making it a real building be cast aside so that Camp Hill, which was the original site, could bc used.
– The amount of money would not be much in the history of the nation.
– Perhaps it would not be much. but. 1 do nol think that senators or members of the House of Representatives would lake that view. Wherever the new parliament house is built this building will become a very valuable part of the national capital because of its usefulness for office accommodation. special conference assembly rooms or other purposes, lt is a very big and important building. I believe that the decision in .1921 to build the provisional Parliament House here prejudiced the site at Camp Hill. 1 am, giving my personal opinion, as everyone will appreciate. When the first sod was turned here, part of the Burley Griffin concept was destroyed because this building and a parliament house of the magnitude that we would require on some future occasion - be it 1978 or 1990 - could not sit cheek by jowl, or one on top of the other, as it were. 1 believe - and 1 will develop this aspect in a moment - that this building prejudices to some extent the possibility of using the Capital Hill site.
The present building was constructed for the opening of parliament in 1927. Serious discussion seemed to lapse between then and 1955. ft is true that an economic depression and World War 11 intervened. There are a lot of good and understandable reasons why this question was not dealt with in the meantime. Serious discussion was entered into again in 1955 when the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra was appointed and took this issue on board. The Committee recommended that the permanent parliamentary buildings should be sited on Capital Hill. A minority report, dissenting from the Committee’s findings, recommended the appointment of a senior town planner to consider the. ultimate site. A report in the case for a permanent building, submitted in 1957 by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, also supported Capital Hill as the site. In 1957, at the invitation of the Government, Lord Holford, who was then Sir William Holford, visited Australia to report on the future development of Canberra.
– That was his first visit, was’ it not?
– As far as I know, it was. To my knowledge he had not come here before officially, but he may have come in a private capacity. His findings were that the present parliamentary buildings obscured both Camp Hill and Capital Hill from Parkes Place. He recommended that the site should be on the eastern shore of the central basin of the lake. Give or take a word or two, that was the substance of his report. It may well have been a far more comprehensive report than that, but that is the substance of what he said. He recommended that parliament, as a democratic institution, should be housed in the forum and not on the hillside. I have some views about the terms forum and hillside, to which 1 will refer in a moment. However, I think that is a fair thumb-nail summing-up of his recommendations. The newly formed National Capital Development Commission and its advisory body, the National Capital Planning Committee, agreed with this view, which was accepted by Cabinet in July 1958.
I have moved that the new parliament house should be situated on the lakeside. I suppose it is incumbent upon me to express some reasons for that. I come back to a point that I mentioned earlier. I said that when a decision was taken in 1921 to build the provisional Parliament House on the present site the Burley Griffin concept was destroyed. Actually, it was only partly destroyed because his original plans envisaged not a parliament house on Capital
Hill but a kind of museum, cultural centre or archives. That building was to bc established on the pinnacle and below it on Camp Hill would be parliament house, with a vista extending across the lake.
– Was that a substantial proposition to make?
– I raise this point only because I have heard it said that the whole of Burley Griffin’s concept is being destroyed by the selection of the lake site. I believe that the decision to put the provisional Parliament House on its present site virtually neutralised ;he proposition that emerged in 1955 that the permanent parliament house should be located on Capital Hill. Indeed, if my motion providing for a site on the lakeside is supported, the Burley Griffin concept of the cultural centre right at the top looking down on the lake will preserved. Parliament house will be in the forum, as Lord Holford suggested, and not on the hill. But that is not a matter that concerns me so much as the practicality of the lakeside site. At least a lakeside parliament house will allow the present Parliament House to be retained to give proper and valuable service to the Commonwealth and will also preserve the original concept of a cultural centre on Capital Hill, overlooking the government buildings set in the triangle between the approaches to the two bridges.
Quite frankly, I find difficulty accepting the proposition that, having regard to the bi-cameral system of government that we have and the magnitude of the requirements of the new parliament house, the Capital Hill site can accommodate the type of building that we - and when 1 say ‘we’ I mean all of us - would wish to erect, taking into account not the short term development and enlargement of the present parliamentary institution but the need for a monumental building that will last perhaps for centuries. Australia will see tremendous development even in the next 50 years. The new building must provide not only the facilities that we already have but also a whole lot more that we do not have. 1 hold the view - and it is only a personal view - that the Capital Hill site would not encompass all of our requirements. In fact, I believe that so much of its top would have to be taken off that the final elevation of the site would be close to that of the pre sent building. In addition, the original concept of the cultural centre would be abandoned.
I have read that in another place conflicting views have been expressed, lt has been said on the one hand that people should look up to the Parliament and the parliamentarians, and on the other hand that the Parliament should be in the market place. Such arguments do not appeal to me. I feel that the story about looking-up probably became a bit twisted in the telling and that it did not start as I read it in one newspaper column. I take a more earthy view. I feel that the new parliament house should be situated where it can be built and used to the best advantage. It must be easily accessible to people who want to go to it - parliamentarians, their constituents, the Parliamentary staffs and the Australian community at large. My judgment is not based on whether it should be up in the heavens so that we can all look up to it or down in the forum or market place. My judgment is arrived at on the basis of where it will be best situated and where it can do the most good. I remember that, when my wife and I were considering buying a house we adopted a system. We awarded points for the most desirable features of each house. We decided on the one wilh the most points and we were able to buy it after a long time. We realised that we would never get perfection. This may be an oversimplification of the problem now before us. But perfection will nol be achieved whatever position is chosen for the new building. Each of us has to make a selective judgment and I think a selective judgment will favour the lakeside site.
I believe that there is another aspect to be considered. For good or bad - and I believe for the good - so much has been done in the development of Canberra around the area where the provisional Parliament House is established that it is only natural to have the new parliament house in this area. For instance, the artificial lake which has been established is a thing of joy. I do not suppose that there is one honourable senator who does not feel a tingle of pride when he or she flies into Canberra and sees the sparkling lake and the beautiful layout of Canberra with its green swards of grass and not too much concrete. 1 believe that the creation of the lake helps the argument in favour of establishing the new parliament house on the lakeside site. Already in the lakeside urea we have tremendously big and monumental Government offices, in addition to which we have to consider the provisional Parliament House which I suggest will stay here. On the other side of this area we have a new Treasury building and also the magnificent National Library which has just been opened and which most of us have seen. We know that the High Court building is to be erected on the lake shore. The traffic flow has been designed to provide free and ready access to the lakeside site. A parliament house in that situation will look across the lake lo the War Memorial.
– The honourable senator says that the traffic flow has been designed for the lake site, but what about the other site? Has the traffic flow been designed for the hill site also?
– Yes, for a cultural building on Capital Hill.
– Is there any concept that the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry will not expand in the next 100 years? I should imagine that they will double.
– 1 think that is inevitable, but the point I am making is that the new parliament house will be a building of such magnitude that it might be greater even than the buildings already there. I believe that there will be accessibility for a parliament house on the lake shore, and that is a point in its favour. 1 have almost completed my contribution to this debate.
– The honourable senator has not convinced us.
– I suppose that is fair comment. At one stage I was in favour of the hill site. 1 have a rather simple approach to life, but 1 believe that we should look at the facts relating to the proposed site without prejudice and each make our own judgment. After a study of the material available I decided that we could have a magnificent parliament house at some time in the future at the edge of the lake. 1 have been to most parts of the world and have seen parliament houses on hills and on the Hat, but 1 do not think that their position in that respect was a critical issue.
– We have seen buildings of far greater magnitude than the present Parliament House completely destroyed without impoverishing the nation concerned.
– ls the honourable senator putting the proposition that we should not allow this provisional building to prejudice our thinking?
– i believe that most definitely. I do not think that it is important.
– 1 do not think the proposition depends on the provisional Parliament House. If that argument is taken to a logical conclusion we might come back in favour of the Camp Hill site. Perhaps the honourable senator will want to move a motion to that effect. I cannot escape from the conclusion that from the time the decision was made in 1921 to build the provisional Parliament House where it now stands, everything that was clone was to improve it, to make it bigger and more comfortable. But no thought was given to whether or not that would prejudice the use of Camp Hill as the site for a permanent parliament house. Everyone has come to accept that.
– Not everyone; 1 do not accept it.
– Again that is fair comment, but the honourable senator will be aware that every recommendation has been to the effect that the permanent parliament house should stand on Camp Hill. I am sure that the existence of the provisional Parliament House is the reason for that. Honourable senators have been forbearing and 1 have taken a little longer than I had expected. I Hope that in this exercise of democracy all honourable senators will state their preference. I believe that this is only the second occasion in 15 years that 1 have been a party to what we generally refer to as a free or unregimented vote. My recollection is that the only other occasion was in the debate on the Matrimonial Causes Bill. 1 believe that the Senate can be relied upon to make an objective judgment. T commend to honourable senators my resolution that the site should be on the lake shore.
– I welcome what has been said by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson), that members of the Government Parties will bc voting freely in this matter, lt is sad to think that the Leader of the Government bus been here for 15 years but can recall only one other free vote. We in the Australian Labor Party have agreed between ourselves, and our undertaking to the people is. that in Parliament we will abide by the platform of our Party and the decisions of the conference and executive which are arrived at under our rules’. We have undertaken also - everyone knows this - that when we stand for election we will abide by decisions which are democratically taken at meetings of the parliamentary Labor Party, lt is sad to think that not only we, but apparently the Government parties also, so often bind ourselves to a vote on matters which really have nothing to do with party politics. One would think that very many of the questions which come before the House of Representatives and the Senate ought to be resolved by a free vote. In many of these matters we do not need to bind ourselves, especially before we have heard the arguments which might bc put in an open debate.
I should think that the occasion of this free vote ought to lead us to question whether it should not be done much more frequently in the future. For myself, I should like to see it done. I think it is not good for the parliamentary process and it is not good for the nation that we on both sides should automatically decide to tie ourselves down on matters which have nothing to do with party policy before arguments have been heard in these chambers. We of the Australian Labor Party, I think even before the Government parties decided that this was a matter which ought to be voted upon freely, had decided that this had nothing to do with our policy. That was our decision and we will abide by it. Every member of the Opposition is free to approach this matter with an open mind or a prejudiced mind and vote however he thinks in the interests of the nation. I propose now to respond to what has been said by the Leader of the Government.
My personal view is that the site of the new and permanent parliament house should be not on the lakeside but on Capital Hill. I have considered all aspects of this matter and have taken into account the expert advice that we have received, the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra and the other documents which have been put before us. 1 have looked at the sites and I have looked at the plans. It seems to me that the lakeside site would be relatively cramped. A parliament house in that situation would be surrounded by other buildings which would have a tendency to expand. Accessibility would be limited by the needs of the other buildings. In effect the parliament house would be competing with the other buildings. The proximity of the other buildings, which the Leader of the Government conceives to be an advantage, would certainly in the course of time be a very great disadvantage. If there is going to be an expansion of these buildings, as there certainly will be, the parliament house ought to be in a place where it will not be cramped. I see Capital Hill as a spacious, elevated and noble site fit for a parliament house, not only in the near future but for many centuries. Therefore, I move:
Leave out ‘the lakeside site’; insert ‘Capital Hill*.
I shall not go into detail on the various matters which affect the view which I have because I understand that other senators who served on the committees, and in particular Senator Devitt, will advance arguments in detail. I do not think honourable senators will be advantaged by a close examination by every honourable senator who speaks on this matter of the reasons which actuate him. 1 prefer to leave it to others to deal in detail with the mailer. I share the hope expressed by the Leader of the Government that the decision of the Senate will be a wise one. I am sure that it will be. 1 am hopeful that it will be in accordance with the view that I have expressed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Usually when the leader of a party moves an amendment the Chair does not require it to be seconded; but, as there is to be a free vote on this matter and as Senator Murphy therefore is not speaking on behalf of his party, I call for a seconder of the amendment moved by him.
– J have pleasure in seconding the amendment. 1 reserve my right to speak.
– Over the years that 1 have been in this chamber 1 have heard 0 great deal about the site of parliament house; but until recently, perhaps like other senators, 1 had not taken a great deal of interest in it. I had left it to those members of the Parliament who have been on committees to look at. the matter and make recommendations. However, 2 or 3 years ago I was appointed to the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permament Parliament House and since that time .1 have taken a very keen interest in it. 1 do not think there is any need for me to state where I stand in regard to the site. If honourable senators look at the document that has been tabled in this chamber they will see that I was one of the three members of the Joint Select Committee who voted for the Capital Hill site.
It seems rather strange that for 56 years we have been arguing, in this Parliament, in committee reports and so on, on where the new parliament house should be. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), in his opening remarks, traced briefly the history of this matter, beginning with the Burley Griffin report made in 1912. He mentioned that Burley Griffin recommended the site on Camp Hill. What he did not say was that in that report Burley Griffin considered Capital Hill as an alternative to Camp Hill as the site for parliament house, and even stated that it might be preferable. Burley Griffin’s preference for the capitol on top of the hill was- due primarily to the fact that he considered that parliament house needed to accommodate two houses, which would not lend itself easily to the architectural treatment required by the Capital Hill site.
It is rather strange that over the years reports have been presented in this place but only one of them has favoured the lake site. That was the report of Lord Halford, who came to this country, remained here for 2 weeks or so doing a study of the sites in Canberra, and then made his recommendation. It is also strange that this is the first time that this Parliament has been given an opportunity to debate this matter. 1 recall that a few years ago Senator Wright had a motion on the notice paper for 2 years or more, waiting for this matter to be debated. At that time he favoured parliament house being on Capital Hill. Yet the Executive has done nothing about it until now, when a motion that parliament house be on the lake site has been brought forward.
When 1 first went on to the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House I listened very intently to all the evidence that was placed before us. 1 visited both sites and many other sites in order to envisage what parliament house on those sites would look like from different angles. Throughout the evidence that was placed before us, it was quite evident to me that a particular case, a very strong case and a very well developed case had been built up for the lake site. In many instances I could not obtain satisfactory answers - answers that would satisfy me, anyhow - to the questions that I asked, lt is no wonder that I could not because the Cabinet had made a decision that the new parliament house should go on the lake site and it is on record that the National Capital Development Commission has worked to that end. lt has said that over the past 8 years the planning and design of a good deal of the landscaping, engineering and construction of the central areas have been based on the assumption that the site had been formally determined; in other words, that the new parliament house on the lake site had been provided for.
– The Chairman of the National Library Council said that.
– I thank Senator Laught for that correction. That is the sort of statement that I have heard before. I have heard evidence from high officials to this effect: The new parliament house cannot be anywhere else because the Library is already established there and the Library must be near parliament house’. What 1 want to know is: .Which comes first - the chicken or the egg? Surely parliament house is the most important building in this country.
I do not intend to canvass all the reasons why parliament house should or should not be on the lake site and should or should not be on Capital Hill. I wish to say why I thought it should be on Capital Hill and why I voted that way. To my mind parliament house should not be built on the lowest level in Canberra. 1 believe that it should be on an eminence and a dominant site in Canberra. I have expressed before my belief that Capital Hill is a pedestal waiting for it monument to be put on it. and what better monument could we have than parliament house. 1 do not think that this eminence should be the site of a cultural building. It should be the site of the most important building, and the most important building, to my mind, is the new parliament house. Suppose the parliament house were on the lakeside. We would have the Library, which is six storeys high, I believe, on one side. On the other side we would have the new High Court building which will also be, I take it, six storeys high. Noone can tell me at the present stage how high the new parliament house will be. Do we want a six-storey building or will it be a three-storey building dwarfed by the buildings on either side of it? Parliament is, in my view, the supreme arm of government and the new parliament house should stand alone in its eminence on Capital Hill.
We have heard a great deal about the traffic problem that we are likely to have on Capital Hill. To my mind, this argument has never added up. We are told that we shall have some thousands of people coming to the new parliament house every day of the year in years to come. We arc told that if the new parliament house is placed on the lake site we shall have a cultural centre on Capital Hill. Surely if people come in their thousands to the new parliament house they must, in turn go up to Capital Hill to have a look at the cultural centre. Will not this create the same traffic hazard on Capital Hill as would the establishment of the new parliament house there? Another argument is that. Parliament House does not generally create a traffic hazard at 9 o’clock in the morning, that the large majority of people arriving at Parliament House arrive after the peak traffic period, that we rise not at 4.30 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon but later in the evening, so traffic from Parliament House is not involved in peak hour traffic. If the new parliament house is on the lake site, with the Library on one side, the High Court building on the other and the Administration and Treasury buildings nearby, with all the great parking areas full of cars, what will happen at 9 o’clock in the morning and 5 o’clock in the afternoon? Surely there will be a traffic hazard. Therefore, to my mind, that argument does not bear examination.
I have been told that if you stand in Parkes Place and look over this building you cannot see Capital Hill. What does that matter? If you are in Parkes Place and look over this building up to a parliament house on Capital Hill you will certainly see it, and that is what we are interested in. It is said that if you stand on Capital Hill and look down in this direction you cannot see Parkes Place over this building. Parkes Place is the green strip of grass down by the lake side.
I am interested in some of the arguments of people who have looked at this question very thoroughly. I want to make one or two quotations from what other people have said, before 1 conclude. William Morris Hughes said:
The building on Capital Hill, whatever ii be, will dominate the landscape and be the most prominent architectural feature in the layout of the city. Having regard to the architectural features of Rome, Athens, Washington and all the other great capital cities of the world, the most important building in Canberra should be that in which Parliament sits. . . . Therefore the dominating site at Canberra should be utilised for parliament house.
– A wise old man, that one.
– That is what I have been saying. Dr K.. Langer, a very famous architect and town planner, after studying the aspect from Capital Hill, stated to the 1955 Senate Select Committee:
I measured in grades the appearance of the Australian and American war memorials in order to get the reciprocal Height and bulk of the proposed parliament house which would be required at the end of the axis. 1 come to the conclusion that a tall, wide and impressive building is needed to fulfil the function oE a tocal point at the end of the long vista.
Those are points which have been made by prominent people who have studied the situation. It has been said that if we have the new parliament house on Capital Hill we shall have to provide there a platform on which to erect it and this will reduce the eminence, V understand, to 30 or 40 feet. But who says so? This is only the view of the planners who are putting up a case for the National Capital Development Commission at the present lime. In my view - and it is only a lay view, Sir - no-one knows by how much the level of the hill would have to be reduced before plans and specifications and the type of building to be erected are determined.
– You can build up as well as tear down.
– Of course, you can. Someone may come forward with a plan whereby it would not be necessary to take anything off the hill and we could build around it. This might be possible in these days of advanced equipment and ability. 1 think that this argument against the Capital Hill site falls by the wayside. One could go on and get down to paltry little arguments but I do not want to do that. 1 simply want to refute 3 or 4 of the most, important points that have been cited against putting the new parliament house on Capital Hill. I do not agree with these points. I believe that there are ways around them and for this reason I support the case for the new parliament house to be on Capital Hill.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [4.591 - Some years ago the matter which is now before the Senate was in the minds and consideration of members of both Houses of this Parliament in a very embryonic condition. It was one of my personal regrets that, due to the flow of political events, as this matter did approach a decision I should not have the opportunity to express views on it and, perhaps, participate in the decision that: ultimately might be arrived at. At all times I thought that the matter which is today before this Senate was one of very great importance and very great significance and that it would be a privilege to have an opportunity to participate in the decision which ultimately would be made by the national Parliament. But by a fortuitous concourse of circumstances I find myself in a position where I do participate in this debate and will participate in (he decision which is arrived at in this chamber. 1 might say that I do not think I am entitled to trespass upon the indulgence of the Senate to the extent of having immunity from interruptions - not that what 1 say is likely to be unduly provocative.
– Order! Two hours having elapsed from the time set down for the meeting of the Senate, under standing order 1.27 Orders of the Day will now bc called on.
Motion (by Senator Scott) agreed to:
That consideration of Orders of the Day be postponed until after further consideration of the motion relating to the permanent parliament house.
– This Parliament at all times has functions which reach forward into history but very often the mailers on which we deliberate and on which we reach conclusions are matters the end result of which we cannot see and sometimes cannot even conceive. We plan for the future. We plan in a way which we hope will be of a permanent character but it is in the lot of human affairs, of course, that the degree of permanence may be only illusion and the matters we plan ultimately may develop in a completely different way. Al least in this matter we have in contemplation a physical edifice which will go much beyond that. In our faith in the political system of which we arc a part and which we help to function we can visualise a physical edifice which will symbolise our beliefs, our faith and our trust for hundreds of years to come.
Let us be aware of one thing. In this debate we are dealing with the question of the site for a permanent parliament house. We are not dealing with the question of the permanence or impermanence of this building in which this debate is being conducted. We are witnessing today, particularly in commercial life, the rapid destruction and removal of buildings that we once regarded as pretentious and ever ambitious and extravagant and their replacement by other edifices which are more functional, more appropriate and more economical. I have little doubt that in the due process of time this building which has no particular claim to architectural excellence - in some ways it is a kind of synthesis of architectural monstrosities - will disappear. lt would be a tragedy if we allowed our thinking as to the site of the new parliament house to be clouded by even the remote possibility that this building may rest for any length of time in the perspective of vision of the new parliament house. Therefore let us consider the site of the new edifice quite dissociated from the probable fate of the building in which we arc debating today. 1 would conceive that in order to estimate the proper site for a parliament house three considerations would have to be taken into account. One would be the functional aspect, another would be the aesthetic aspect and the third would be the symbolic aspect. I think it should be our responsibility to endeavour to discover the best possible harmony between these three demands that any parliament house must make, So far as the function of the house is concerned, we are deprived of the result of the deliberations of the Committee which moved overseas and investigated this very aspect. Just what the ambit of the Committee’s inquiry was I do not know precisely nor, of course, do we know what line the Committee’s deliberations took or what its conclusions might be, but there is little doubt that had the Committee’s conclusions been before this House we would have been assisted in the decision we now approach.
Nevertheless, when we come to assess the function of the house we must consider its function in relation to the site. After all, it is a building which with all’ ancillary services has to function as a deliberative debating chamber and as a building to which the executive will resort, perhaps not to the extent to which it has resorted and occupied the present building but to which, in our ordinary form of government, it will resort. Therefore the site of this building has to be equated with the function which the Parliament is designed to perform and which the building is designed to assist. I think we can say that it will take no great architectural ingenuity at least to solve the problem of function in relation to site. As that is something which perhaps rests beyond the capacity of us individually to discuss, much less to determine, 1 think we can pass over the functional aspect and presume that with proper technical advice the functional equipment of the house and its functional siting will be provided for adequately.
We come to the second aspect which is the aesthetic aspect. That goes to the question of the position of parliament house in relation to the local context and the topography of the national capital, and also the building itself in relation to the topography and general architectural construction and layout of Canberra. That is a most important consideration, lt is one consideration that was prominent in the minds of those who planned Canberra, and particularly the genius who laid out the master plan. It was behind the original selection of the site for the national capital. There was an alternative site wholly on a plain. The site that was selected was within the parameters of the demised area, and within those parameters was a series of hil’ls and folds which might add to the aestheticism of the position in relation to the form that Canberra ultimately might assume.
Is it for us now, even indirectly, to abandon the original concept of selection based on the geography of this place as most suitable so that with variety, with diversity and with adaptability we might select various parts of this geographical area on which to implant great buildings of a functional and aesthetic character? Is it for us now to depart from that concept? 1 have seen no case made, either in the reports or in my own surveys of the scene so far as I have been competent to make them, that we should depart from the original concept that maximum use should not be made of the elevated positions that lie within the area designated as the national capital. I think it would be a wanton abandonment of one of nature’s endowments of this area if we were casually to depart from the glory that nature has given us and the opportunity which nature has provided to us.
I think I can speak for other members of my Party when I say that we feel that the site on the hill is the appropriate and the logical, now the traditional, site for the location of the Parliament. If the members of my Party see and accept the way in which I am now presenting the case I take it as an indication of the judgment, perspicacity and refinement of view of honourable senators who sit around me. 1 come now to the third aspect of the matter - the symbolism attached to the Parliament and to the erection of a parliament house on the hill. I know that in the debate in this House and in another place members to some extent have been loquacious, to some extent facetious and perhaps to some extent emotional, but if there is an opportunity for facetiousness to assist the argument let us resort to it. Listening to the debate in another place I thought that penetrating arguments were made by the process of derision and the process of irony. If emotion were displayed on that occasion are we not also entitled to display emotion in the selection of a site for a national parliament that we hope will last for hundreds of years, perhaps even for a thousand years? We are building, please God, for a thousand years. Therefore if I become emotional in my approach to this matter I think it is a case in which emotion is warranted and should not be denigrated in its use and application.
A parliament house on the hill has certain historical associations. We do not have to venture very far back in history lo find that the hill has always been the last bastion of defence. Throughout classical history, throughout ecclesiastical history and, from memory, throughout mediaeval history the hill had particular and relevant significance to the times in which people built upon them. When life was crude and rough, when revolutions were abroad, when aggression might come at any time the people built on hills. They built their most cherished things on hills. The Romans built on the Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. Rome gloried in those seven hills. It gloried in the use, and the proper utilisation of those seven hills. We all know the names of some of these hills - the Abentine, the Capitoline, the Esquiline, the Quirinal and others. The Romans always took pride in them, but they took greatest pride in and put their greatest things on the Capitoline Hill, which was the last bastion of defence. It was the last bastion at which the liberties which were enshrined in the Roman law would ultimately be defended. It was there that sacred auguries were taken in times of potential disaster. As the Romans said: .. ,–… - est ad triarios’, it has come to the third rank of defence. It was the place to which they would resort. We have often heard - 1 suppose this has been mentioned in debates here and in the other place - pf how in mediaeval times people always went up to the castle. The castle was always on’ a hill. The villagers crowded round the base of the hill and the base of the castle because, under the feudal system, they sought protection - and they were entitled to it - from the lord of the manor. Here again was the bastion of defence.
Then, of course, we have in the scriptures the case of the two men who went up to the temple to pray. This is completely parliamentary, and it has complete significance. At least the cynic would say so. One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax gatherer. Perhaps that is completely in the parliamentary context. 1 do not know, but the cynic would say it was. In other words, history has always elevated to the geographic heights the precious things. But they have not stood above the people as something that lorded it over the people; they have been the sanctum of the people, and they gave immunity where immunity otherwise could not be obtained. That is why they were put there.
I have heard the argument put that parliament should come down among the people. Those who would- propel that argument have failed to distinguish between the parliament as an institution, with its own mystique, with its own character, and those who at any time and from time to time comprise the parliament. The parliamentarians should come down into the street, and please God they would. Bui the institution of parliament- must always be something to which everybody can look up. That is why, in a symbolic and metaphorical sense, it should be upon the hill.
I do not want to speak at great length, but let us think of the parliament in this national capital sited upon. ‘the hill. As the parliament looks out on the panaroma below us, what does it see7 It looks upon the great institutes of learning from which the parliament and the institution of parliament gains its strength and its intellectual fortification. It looks out upon the administration, which is the arm of parliament. It looks out across to the .War Memorial, which is the sword of parliament, and which is a stimulus to its courage and a reminder of the courage of the nation. It looks across, to the great cultural centres which are the riches of the parliament. Finally, it looks across to the Christian churches and the institutes of religion in the highest places which are the strength and glory of the parliament, drawing their inspiration from Christian traditions. I can see no spot in Canberra other than the one which those who believe in the proposition I am submitting project - the position on the hill - from which parliament can look abroad upon all these institutes and draw strength and inspiration from them. If it can do that, then the building we build will last for 1 ,000 years, and in that 1 ,000 years will continue to house the wishes, the hopes, the faith and the glories of the parliamentary system which we support and which we want to see enshrined in the national building we now project on the hill. 1 have seen it suggested that ‘national centre’ is a term to be applied to the building which is to go en this hill. What is the real centre of a democratic nation? It is the parliament. If the term ‘national centre’ is to be applied to any building resting on that hill, then it must be applied to the parliamentary building.
– I rise to speak as a member of the Committee which was selected and named the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, and which (ravelled across the world to look at parliament houses to endeavour to assess the merits, where they existed and the deficiencies, where they existed, of those buildings so that we could carry back here our views based upon our own observations, and as a result of the compound of knowledge that had been gained overseas give a recommendation to the Parliament as to the type of building, so far as we were able to do so, and the dimensions of a building. This, to a very large extent, would ultimately determine the siting of the building. 1 am rather intrigued by what seems to me to be unseemly haste in proceeding to a determination of the site of this building in the light of the fact that so much of the knowledge which has been gained as a result of this overseas visit has not yet been taken to the Committee - there has not been an opportunity for us to make our views known to the Committee - and particularly in the light of the statement of the Leader of the
Government this afternoon that there did not appear to be any great haste in proceeding with the erection of the building. It will be recalled that the Leader of the Government in the Senate mentioned that he doubted very much that he would be playing his part in this building when it was erected.
So I am wondering what all the haste is about. It seems to me that if any difficulty arises as a result of taking a vote now, both in the other place and in the Senate chamber, then, surely, the blame for that difficulty must rest with the Government. It is the Government’s responsibility entirely for not having enabled this Committee to make known all its views and all its findings as a result, of its quite expensive tour overseas. I have said that it was expensive, but the expense was well worthwhile because a tremendous amount of knowledge was gained by that Committee during the course of its overseas visit.
In the course of my remarks, I want to develop this and to give the Senate the advantage of the things which I saw overseas. But let me deal first with one or two comments which the Minister made and which I think have not a great deal of relevance in this particular context. I have already dealt with the question of the speed at which we ought to proceed with the development of this building. I think it was first mooted in 1912. It is now 1968. Surely it would have been proper to have allowed a fuller consideration of all the questions relating to the physical set-up of the parliament house to be completed before proceeding to decide upon the site of the building.
We are very fortunate, I suppose, in the fact that we have two sites. They are both very good sites indeed. I think the lake site is an excellent site. Similarly, of course, the Capital Hill site is also a splendid site. So I suppose that whatever decision we make we shall not be very far wrong in it. But I think it is very important that we should arrive at a correct decision on this occasion because this building is going to last for a great many years. The Leader of the Government suggested that some cultural centre or some art centre, or some other similar building might well be provided on Capital Hill.
Let me tell you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I saw in Delhi an instance of what can happen when a parliament is sited in an inferior position to another building in the general area. 1 refer to the positioning of the Viceroy’s palace in relation to the institution of the parliament - the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. They are situated in an inferior position and because of this do not do credit to the institution of parliament, quite apart from the fact that the building is now found to be inadequate for the services of the parliament. The authorities there are now planning the erection of an executive block some 1,000 feet or so distant from the existing parliamentary building. Immediately one has to provide a building which is so far removed from the parliament itself, there are problems associated with it. We saw, for instance, the sort of problems with which they were confronted at the Capitol in Washington; but .1 shall deal with that later in my speech.
The Minister also said that Burley Griffin in his original design of the capital had selected Camp Hill as a possible site for the permanent parliament house. So whatever our decision is, it seems that we will not be conforming to the Burley Griffin plan. The passage of history has made substantial changes to the thinking that must be brought to bear as to the citing of a new parliament house. A number of site changes have been made so that there is no relevance in the argument that we must stick closely to Burley Griffin’s concept. Experience at present shows how wise was the decision not to build a parliament house on Camp Hill. We might have had here a repetition of the situation that exists at Kuala Lumpur. Since the origin of the Malaysia concept the beautiful parliamentary building there has been found to be inadequate for the purposes of. the Parliament. All sorts of difficulties are being faced by the authorities in trying to make the parliamentary building serve the needs of the Parliament. The building was erected on a hill and presents a beautiful sight as one approaches. However, the great difficulty is that in expanding the building it is necessary to move down over the hill. Great engineering problems are associated with that expansion. When the building was erected the possible developments of the parliamentary system in that area were not fully appreciated, otherwise a serious attempt would have been made to arrange in the engineering design of the building for expan sion at a future date. The very serious problem which has arisen at Kuala Lumpur stems almost entirely from the fact that the demands of the parliamentary system in the future were not foreseen.
In the course of our tour we spoke with many people in authority in parliaments throughout the world. One of the first things they said to us was that the business of parliament is constantly growing. We must bear this carefully in mind in the planning of our parliamentary building. We must think big enough accurately to assess the needs of the future for this building. I would rather this Parliament abandon the idea of erecting a new parliament house unless we can think big enough to project our thoughts sufficiently far into the future to understand fully the growing demands of the parliamentary system in this democratic country. I would much prefer that we left the decision to a future generation.
– At least this building would solve its own problems if it fell down within the next 20 years.
– 1 do nol see any great problem with this building. It has served its purpose wonderfully for 40 years. If it is here for another 40 years, that is well and good, but 1 still do not think this would prejudice the position of a new parliament house on Capital Hill. Suggestions have been made that a new building on Capital Hill would seem to be sitting on top of this building, but surely we have architects with sufficient knowledge, ability and skill to design a building that will circumvent that problem. I do not see any great problem as to whether the area is sufficient for the purpose. Expo 67, that wonderful exhibition which featured many countries of the world, was presented in Montreal at a cost of about $500m. It was staged on ground that was made completely for the purpose. It did not exist when the concept entered the mind of the mayor of Montreal. We should not be convinced that there are any insurmountable engineering problems associated with Capital Hill, because there are not. If we do not. have in Australia engineers capable of designing a building for the Capital Hill site, it is time that we went out and found them.
In the early days of my association with the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House I was persuaded to believe that great engineering and architectural difficulties were associated with the Capital Hill site. I must say that the National Capital Development Commission took every opportunity to acquaint us with the merits and demerits of the lakeside and Capital Hill sites, lt should also be said for the NCDC that to the present time - as. the proposition has been put to me recently - ii has not made any great mistakes.
– Does the Commission say that?
– lt was not said by the Commission, lt was said that surely we can be guided to a degree in our assessment of this situation by the fact that the NCDC has put up a pretty good performance and to the present has not made any errors.
– We must stop the Commission making an error this time.
– I accept that, but 1 do not accept the proposition that one day the Commission might make a serious mistake and it might just happen to be the new and permanent parliament house. Originally I was persuaded to believe that there are engineering and architectural problems associated with the siting of the new parliament house on Capital Hill, but I found from my observations overseas that these difficulties can be overcome. As 1 continued on my overseas trip my approach to the question began to change, particularly as I viewed the magnitude of the architectural works completed around the world. Perhaps 1 could be accused of being somewhat naive, but as we visited some of the depressed countries of the world I was surprised to find there some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. We visited monumental buildings such as the Taj Mahal at Agra and other magnificent buildings throughout India. We visited wonderful buildings in England and all over the world. I do nol think we have in Australia a building approaching anywhere near to those buildings in respect of beauty of design, and natural, aesthetic and functional values.
As 1 said earlier, we must lift our sights. The city of Canberra was built for one purpose only. So far as we are concerned, it was built: for the siting of the Parliament. The most important building that can ever be placed in this city is the parliament house itself. We must not make a mistake. The
Minister has suggested that a building for archives or a cultural centre could be erected on Capital Hill. I think we should get that suggestion out of our minds. I would hate to see any building erected in Canberra in a position superior to that of the new parliament house.
There seems to me to be no alternative to making our engineers fully acquainted with the trends around the world so that ultimately they can produce an acceptable design. There is no great hurry about this matter. We have waited since 1912, so I do not think there is any great rush now. Nevertheless, within the next decade it ought to be possible for us to establish a new parliament house. 1 have referred to the position at Kuala Lumpur and the problems involved in expanding the parliamentary building to meet the needs of the Parliament there. We proceeded from there to Rome where the authorities explained to us the problems associated with expanding the Italian Parliament. We then went to Berlin and viewed the restoration of the Reichstag. We saw at first hand the new approach of the German authorities to the provision of necessary facilities in the Reichstag. We visited the Bundestag at Bonn and saw the need for the authorities in Germany to establish a 30-storey office complex to house the executive and staff because of the inadequacy of space in the existing building. Certainly the building at present being used was not erected initially as a parliamentary building. It was erected as a teachers training college. Nevertheless it serves as a parliamentary building, but it is inadequate for the purpose.
The most significant thing 1 noted overseas was, the inability of the mother of parliaments in London to provide a seat for 200 of its elected members. The parliamentary system has developed to such a stage that of the 635 elected members of the House of Commons approximately 430 are able to find a place to hang their hats. The other 200 elected members do not have a seat in the House of Commons. 1 should hate to think that, we might plan a building, site it in an area which we regarded as being sufficient and provide certain facilities in the building, and that within the space of 100 years we would find inadequacies such as those that exist in that very beautiful building, the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the Thames in London. Do not let us make that kind of mistake. If there is any fear that we should, I come back to my earlier suggestion to defer the decision and let someone with a broader outlook and a proper concept of the need for a monumental building do the planning of it.
We went to Washington and found a similar problem there. In 1830 the population of the United States of America was approaching 13 million, which is roughly the population of this country now. About 140 years ago the population of the United States was the same as Australia’s population today. The suggestion is that the new parliament house should suffice for 250, 300 or even, as somebody suggested, 400 years, lt has been suggested that the parliamentary building can be sited on 47 acres down by the lakeside. Bear in mind that at the Capitol in Washington the area presently being used is approximately 131 acres. The architects at the Capitol told the Committee that they view with some concern the future development and expansion of the parliament. They have reserved a certain part of a residential area adjacent to the Capitol for its future needs and development.
– Forty-seven acres would not bc enough land for a hovercraft park.
– Those are the kind of problems that arise. All around the world the business of parliament is growing. This is a good thing. People have verbal shots at us at times. That is the privilege of free people. I think that the people of this country would want us to come up with a building of which they could be proud. The people lake great pride in their institutional buildings, particularly the buildings of the institution of parliament.
Lel me give an example of the kind of mistakes that can be made in planning. In 1947 it was agreed to proceed with the 43-storey United Nations building in New York. Because of financial stringency it was decided that the top four floors of the building ought not to be completed even though it was estimated that the cost of completion would be $250,000. Thirty-nine floors of the executive block were completed. Within 4 years it was found necessary to complete the final four floors. Each one of those floors cost $250,000. The most important statistics that we found there were to the effect that the building now comprises 600,000 square feet of floor space. Mr van Name, who is one of the chief architects at the UN in New York, told us that despite the fact that the building was completed as recently as 1951 they have an immediate need for an additional 400,000 square feet of floor space. I am not very quick at mental arithmetic, but the inadequacy of space in the UN building is something like 60%.
The site at Parkes Place is a beautiful one. Do not let us take that away from it. I think it is an excellent site. We have already gone part of the way with the provision of the beautiful Library there and I have not heard it suggested that the High Court complex will not be on the other side of the lake. To site down there a building that is required to last this country for 200 or 300 years and to proceed with our present plans would be an irresponsible act. The presence of those other buildings will determine the type of architecture of the parliamentary building because it will have to conform to the overall plan, beautiful as that may be. The new building will be brought back to the field, as it were. The presence of the other buildings will detract from the possibility of creating something of a monumental nature and will detract also from the ideas which will come forth, I. hope, from a panel of architects who will be called upon to design the new parliament house.
To site it on the hill, where there are 130 acres of land as against 47 at Parkes Place, is to give somebody, an opportunity to design something of great beauty which will symbolise the institution of parliament, something to which people can look up, as has been suggested by a previous speaker, and something of which this country can well be proud. Make no mistake about it, there will be arguments about the cost of the building and against providing elaborate facilities and features. We have to be strong enough to stand up to those arguments and to justify the decision we make. We do not yet know the size of the new parliamentary building. That is the reason I regret very much the fact that I have not had an opportunity - nor has any other member of the Committee who went overseas - to put my views before the New and Permanent Parliament House Committee. We could have made our observations, which I think would have been of great value. Certainly there will be an opportunity to put our views before the Committee, but by that time the decision will have been taken, I should imagine, as to where the new and permanent parliament house should be sited. How can we determine whether the site is adequate when we have not determined the dimensions of the new parliament house. What facilities will be provided for members of parliament? Will the building be something like the Rayburn building in the United States, a magnificent complex containing a suite of offices for each member? This may well happen here. It is my view that it will happen here. How can we determine the adequacy of the site, the need for parking, the needs in regard to access, the Press facilities that will be required, the halls to be provided and the type of architectural design that will be necessary to maintain separation between the members and the constituents who are passing through and who must be encouraged so to do?
At this stage the Committee cannot prepare even an outline of a brief to the architects to enable us to determine the size of the building which will ultimately be provided. A few days ago it was suggested to me that this had nothing to do with the work of the Committee overseas. That is absolute nonsense. One of the things thai we wanted to see overseas was the adequacy of buildings, the type of facilities provided and the procedures that were followed. Let us assume that the members of the Committee who went overseas thought that a certain type of thing was inadequate for the requirements of a parliament and came back and kept quiet about it because it was not part of their brief. If, ultimately, the decision was made to site the parliament house at Parkes Place and history proved - as undoubtedly it will prove if the building is sited there - that the site was inadequate, we would have failed in our duty and the people would be entitled to say that we had wasted the taxpayers money. The taxpayers money was not wasted on this trip for the simple reason that members of the Committee worked extremely hard and observed as closely as they possibly could all the features of the parliaments that were visited and the other buildings and monuments that might have some relevance or some relationship to the type of building which I hope we will erect in this country.
Whilst I regret that Parliament is in the throes of considering and determining the site of the new parliament house at a time when the sub-committee of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House has not had the opportunity of putting its views to the full Committee, I still welcome the opportunity that has been given to us to discuss the proposed site. 1 think it is proper that Parliament should express its views upon the site. I think it is quite proper’ that I, as one of the members of the sub-committee which made an overseas tour,’ should have an opportunity to put to the Parliament the matters which have caused me to re-think on the best site. As J have already mentioned. I was originally under the impression that the lakeside site would be adequate for the new parliament house, but after doing some re-thinking I have come to the conclusion that, whilst there would be no problems whatsoever with the lakeside site if the new parliament house was required for only 50 or 60 years, if it is required for 200 or 300 years we have no alternative hut to put: it on the Capital Hill site.
– I am very pleased to be able to give my opinion on the siting of the new parliament house. I think it is one of the most important decisions that we have ever been called upon to make because, as has been said previously, we are making it not only for the next 50 or 6Q years but for posterity. It is hoped that the new parliament house will be in use for hundreds of years, and maybe more than that. 1 do not entirely agree with Senator Devitt’s statement that we should not make a decision on the siting of the new parliament house until we have heard the report of the sub-committee of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. Quite frankly, 1 do not think that the dimensions of the new parliament house should make any difference to where it is located. I feel that we have, architects who can suit the plan to the site thai is decided upon. 1 am not one of those who, in building a home, would firstly decide what I wanted in my house and then look at the site for the house; I would suit the plan to the site that I had chosen. 1 think that if we waited to consider the sub-committee’s report on its overseas visit that we could be bogged down in making a decision on the siting on the new parliament house. To me it is an aesthetic decision primarily. 1 think it is very important that we should all think big, see big and act big. I was very interested to hear that Senator Devitt changed his mind on the site when he went overseas. I believe that travelling overseas does make one think big, see big and act big. He has benefited by his overseas travel, which is much to his credit. It is certainly with a broad vision that 1 am approaching this decision. I do not think that the choosing of the site of the national capital showed broad vision; it was a decision influenced by the parochialism of the Melbourne and Sydney people. I hope that before long this kind of parochialism will leave the Australian scene and that we will be Australians first, last and all the time. Certainly, after the decision was made to locate the national capital at Canberra, the planning of the national capital has been on the highest of planes.
I think that, as a national capital, Canberra is superb and is second to none in the world. Canberra’s beauty is unsurpassed. The site has been chosen to show up the beauty of the hills and countryside of Australia. Its planners certainly showed vision in seeing the possibility of a lake. The design of Canberra is also very interesting and practical. I will refer to this again in a moment. Many visitors to Canberra say that they get lost easily and that the planning of the national capital is not good. I still maintain that the planning is good and that it is relevant to the placing of the new parliament house. Its placing is very interesting from the symbolism point of view. The symbolism of a national capital is all important to me. I think that the national capital should epitomise the nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m. (General Business taking precedence of Government Business)
Debate resumed from 28 May (vide page 1 1 86), on motion by Senator Cohen:
– In debating this motion I think it is well lo do a short amount of recapitulation. It was on 28th May 1968 that Senator Cohen, who was then the acting Leader of the Opposition, moved for the appointment of a Senate select committee to inquire into natural disasters. It is advisable to recall the terms of his motion. On 28th May debate ensued and was adjourned. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has used the resolution which stands in his name to bring the debate on again tonight. I might add that it is brought on without any objection from the Senate. It is significant that the committee was to have reported on or before 30th September 1968. Although it would not be practicable for the committee to report by that date, that cannot be used as an argument to negate the appointment of a committee. That was the date chosen in May, but it would be competent, if it were thought appropriate, to fix some other date. I do not think that that in itself would provide a barrier to the appointment of a committee.
– I have no objection to the time being extended.
– I would concede that. I have mentioned the date only to indicate that a considerable time has elapsed since the issue was debated in this place. In the limited time available to me I should mention that the Government feels that the Senate is not ready for this select committee to be set up and, therefore, if the issue comes to a vote tonight the Government will vote against it.
At the outset I should like to refer to the general question of committees of the Senate. We all take pride in the fact that the Senate has a very special role in the field of committee work. We all recognise that in the Senate we have a function of review. In this house of review we have as our function a consideration of matters beyond that which can be given in the other place where members tend to think and talk in heat and speak more in the political arena than we do. I think all honourable senators would concede as I do that there is a role for the Senate in the consideration of. the more complex matters into which political elements do not intrude. As senators we have not the day to day commitments of a constituency in the same way as members of the House of Representatives and to that extent we would have more time available to us for an investigation of non-party matters which we think are worthy of consideration. Nevertheless, in considering this motion, we need to consider the physical resources of the Senate and our capacity to carry out the job which is inherent in the motion moved by Senator Cohen.
If the Senate is to take on a select committee role on any subject, and natural disasters is. because of its nature a very big subject, we want to be satisfied that we have the capacity to embark upon the project. I am not referring to mental capacity but to physical capacity. Whether the committee were to report by 30th September or 30th December this year, 1 believe that our capacity to do so would be very much restricted. I do not think and the Government does not feel that there will be time this year for even one more purposeful select committee. If we embarked upon it the committee would be purposeful; whenever we embark upon a committee role we do it in a purposeful way. it should be remembered that when thinking or talking of senators available foi a committee, from the Senate of sixty members we must take out the President, the Chairman of Committees and the Ministers. Having regard to the work performed by Party leaders I should think that they would have to be removed from consideration because they have a big job to do. If we exclude these senators we find that about fifty senators are left to perform the role remaining to the Senate.
– This would be an argument against any Senate select committee al the present time.
– I am putting the argument against this proposed committee. Having in mind the exclusions that 1 have mentioned we must recall that we now have four select committees, namely, the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution and the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore .Petroleum Resources. Those committees are working gainfully at the moment and they engage the attention of 26 senators in a work load Which extends all over the Commonwealth. In addition there are three joint statutory committees requiring 8 senators, seven standing committees requiring 44 senators and three joint committees requiring 17 senators. A little quick arithmetic reveals that 95 positions are involved in the select committees and joint and standing committees. Although 95 senators are required, at the most 50 senators are available. This docs not take into account the possibility of sickness, or of senators being overseas on Inter-Parliamentary Union or Commonwealth Parliamentary Association business or for any other purpose. From the 50 senators we have to find 95 positions.
Realising how difficult the situation is and the burden that it places already -on honourable senators 1. turn to the situation in relation to officers of the Senate. Here the situation is even more difficult. 1 think it will be conceded that Mr Odgers, the Clerk of the Senate, already has a heavy role. He is adviser to the Presiding Officer, to myself, the Leader of the Opposition or to any honourable senator who may need advice on the conduct of the Senate, but in addition he has to guide his junior officers. We find that there are about 6 officers of the Senate who are able to serve the Senate committees. Those officers, in the same way as senators, have little flexibility while the Senate is sitting because of their duties. We are now moving into a Budget session which will be a heavy one. I would not know at this point of time, but it is possible thai this session will extend into November.
So this is the first point that I make: It all adds up to a practical problem in that there is hardly an availability of personnel for additional work in this field of Senate select committees, lt seems to me that we have to look at our internal capacity before we embark upon another research project of the magnitude of that envisaged in this motion. I make that point and although it may not lend itself to the response from the Opposition I believe that it is factual. Indeed, it has been referred to in the past by other honourable senators.
The wording of the motion that has been moved is significant. 1 think we can forget the machinery parts of it because generally speaking they are the same in all proposals for select committees. However, it is significant that in this motion no number of senators to serve on the select committee is suggested. That would lend itself to some adjustment. The operative paragraph of the motion reads:
That a select committee of the Senate bc appointed to inquire .into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the- effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought.
So the purpose is, first of all, to look at the desirability of the proposition. This is not a new idea or concept at all. I have discovered that in 1959 this matter was raised in what I would have thought was the proper forum, namely, a Premiers Conference. The history of what has been done in the past in cases in which there have been what one might call, for want of another expression, natural disasters shows that they have been dealt with between the States and the Commonwealth. I will come back to the argument that the essential driving force of responsibility and achievement is the States backed up by the Commonwealth.
I do not propose to weary the Senate by reading too much of what was said at the Premiers Conference in 1959. Suffice it to say that, to put it fairly briefly, the matter was raised by Mr Nicklin, who was the Premier of Queensland at the time-
– Sir Frank Nicklin.
– At the time he was Mr Nicklin. I acknowledge that he is now Sir Frank Nicklin. He said: 1 think this mailer concerns all Slates, became from time to time each and every one of us has suffered disasters which have imposed a very severe strain on our finances. . . . Last year, damage at Bowen caused by a cyclone cost the Stale roughly £225,000, and in addition the damage occasioned to other property ran into well over one-third of a million pounds.
He then stated a case for the Premiers and the Commonwealth to consider the establishment of a national disaster fund. I hope that the Senate will allow me to continue to quote briefly what was said. If there is any suggestion that I am drawing unjustified inferences, I will be perfectly happy to have the whole of this transcript of the discussion incorporated in Hansard. The then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, asked whether anybody else had any views on the matter. Sir Thomas Playford, who was then the Premier of South Australia, said:
I have looked at this matter on a number of occasions and there are some difficulties attached to it. The first one is that the amount of money which would be required for a scheme that would be effective would be very large indeed and it could only be obtained, in my opinion, by placing a lax on all property in all the States in the same way as Mr Nicklin said was done during the war under the war damage insurance scheme. That scheme, incidentally, was nol popular in the community, however necessary it may have been, and I doubt very much whether in peacetime a scheme of that description would bc politically endorsed by the people.
The second thing, Mr Prime Minister, is that most fixed assets at the present time are insurable if the owners so desire.
He went on to produce an argument that if people elect to do so they can ins.ure against the normal hazards oi: storm and tempest . and the like. Mr Reece, the Premier of Tasmania, then made the following comment, which was rather strange in the light of . the tragedy that -occurred later in Tasmania:
In Tasmania we are nol so gravely affected as Queensland and New South Wales by such things as bush fires and cyclones in particular.
His other comments showed that he was not entirely excited about the proposition either. Mr Cahill, the then Labor Premier of New South Wales said:
We had a look at something along these lines some lime ago. Mr Prime Minister, when wc had disastrous floods in New South Wales. The question of establishing a fund, something along the lines of war damage fund, was considered, and we found considerable difficulty in doing anything along similar lines. Our own organisation faced up lo the position, and together wilh very generous assistance that we got from l he Commonwealth, we were able lo meet the difficulties that wc faced at the time. The Slate felt those difficulties, of course, nevertheless we have gol over them and’ possibly other States have done so too. . . .
Mr Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, look the same line as Mr Cahill. He said:
I feel very much as Mr Cahill does on this matter.
He then produced his argument. The position was summed up by the Prime Minister of the day, who said:
Dealing with the matter as we do now-
He was talking about what happens between the Commonwealth and the States - . . each case is looked at under its own circumstances and on its own merits. If a Slate government feels that it ought to do something, it lets us know, and so we are able to help in the matter. That means that you can form an unfettered judgment on each matter as it arises. If you levy a contribution upon the people to support a fund of this kind, everybody will say, ‘I am entitled to get something’, and the claims will be multiplied enormously and it will be very hard to assist.
So the Premiers Conference in 1959 rejected the proposition for a variety of reasons. All the people around the table expressed the view that the present procedures applying, in respect of the States were appropriate. f am also bound to say that the States are very proud of their sovereignty -and it should not be expected that they would be prepared to relinquish their administrative function to the Commonwealth. I am sure that the Commonwealth would not want them to relinquish their administrative function. At this point I think I should stress that, whilst the Commonwealth could provide large sums of money by way of section 96 grants, by way of loan, part by way of loan and part by way of gift, or for special purposes, it is not competent to evaluate the degree of assistance that may be required in any given circumstances. In fact it. is in the State governments, and through them in the local authorities, that the specialised knowledge to meet the circumstances of natural disasters is available.
This is how it has happened in the past: Whenever there has been some disaster - flood, fire, or particularly drought - the States have been in a position to come to the Commonwealth and ask for assistance. When the Commonwealth has given assistance it has been provided through the States, which know where to put a given sum of money in order to get the most effective value from it. The motion does not make it clear whether the proposed national organisation would provide financial assistance or relief, but I think Senator Dame Dorothy Tangney referred to the war insurance scheme. If that were the sort of scheme to be established it would impose problems and it would be very difficult to make a judgment as to where assistance would be needed. Whilst the motion is not clear, it. seems to the Government that the system that has prevailed in the past has proved effective, and I can see no reason why it should not prove effective in the future.
I do not want to speak for any length of time on this subject. There are other speakers to be heard and it may well be thai the motion will be put to the vote tonight. But we can for a few moments think about some of the things that have happened in the past. It is interesting to note that at a Premiers Conference Mr Reece said that Tasmania was not subject to disasters of the nature of those that might reasonably be expected on the mainland. Yet in the last couple of years there was a shocking tragedy in the Hobart area. It was hard to imagine that such a thing could happen in Tasmania, which we all regard as a lush, green, island State, but it was subjected to the cruelty of fire, and storm on top of fire, with the result that lives were lost and many hundreds of people were left homeless. What happened? The word went out, not only to governments but also to all of the people of Australia and the response in the way of help for the people of Tasmania in their hour of trial was one of the most magnificent stories in Australia’s history.
The part that the Commonwealth played must always be on record as one of the most wonderful things that has ever been done. A Commonwealth Minister of State, Mr Howson, was put into the area immediately with all of the responsibility and authority of a Commonwealth Minister to sit next, to the State authorities, including the Minister appointed by the Tasmanian Government, and to make quick decisions on assistance. The Commonwealth gave assistance by way of grant and by way of loan and did all of the things that arc normally done when a judgment is made on a disaster of that nature. I could spell it out in chapter and verse, but it is fresh in our memories, and the Tasmanian Government would be the first to acknowledge that the Commonwealth in those circumstances proved to be willing and anxious to help, to accept financial responsibility with the State, and to accept the judgment of the State in the management of the funds that were made available.
I do not need to tell the Senate what has been done by the Commonwealth in relation to drought assistance. Questions on this matter have been asked in the Senate as recently as the. last series of sittings. In 1949-50 it was necessary, by the grace of God, to provide in respect of natural disasters only $200,000 to New South Wales, $23,000 to. Queensland and nothing to Victoria, South Australia. Western Australia and Tasmania. The total amount of money provided by the Commonwealth to meet natural disasters in that year was thus only $223,000 which is, of course, a relative flea bite, and we should be happy that it was so because it indicated that there were no natural disasters during that period which warranted high contributions. In 1966-67 we provided, in round figures, $13,000 to New South Wales, $5,500 to Queensland, $2,500 to Tasmania and nothing to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The estimate - it can be only an estimate - for J 967-68 is S7,500 each for New South Wales and Victoria, $3,900 for Queensland, $1,150 for South Australia, $7,750 for Tasmania and nothing for Western Australia, which has a charmed life. The Commonwealth, when invited by the States to come to their assistance in relation to matters of natural disaster, has provided assistance and has recognised that the States are best equipped to make judgments as to the relative degree of disaster. It has been satisfied on all occasions that they are the best people to administer this sort of assistance through their local government and other authorities. This has provided a flexibility which has enabled the Commonwealth and the States to meet the ebb and flow of disaster across such a vast continent and the system has proved to be satisfactory. I do not see that there is a case at this point of time to alter the system. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard the following table:
As I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, our physical capacity as a Senate is limited. When we appoint a select committee we must be able to do the best that we can, and we have a limited availability of personnel. For this reason and for the other reasons that I have given the Government will not support the motion moved by Senator Cohen.
– After listening to the speech of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), the sponsors of this proposal have adopted the attitude that we cannot rest on the perfections of the existing Federal-State relationships. The biblical story about the 7 lean years and the 7 fat years sums up the situation in Australia. When there is a natural disaster everyone is galvanised into activity and the Prime Minister meets the appropriate Premier or Stale Minister. We know that happens and we arc not denying that the Commonwealth adopts certain procedures to help the Slate concerned.
Those of us who have considered the functions of the proposed Committee are noi cavilling at the logistics as far as staffing is concerned. The Leader of the Government referred to the number of senators at present deployed on committee work. At the risk of being accused of being egotistical 1 must say that the senators who have been in this place for some time, and each and every one of the senators who have taken their place here for the first time, have some particular field of experience and would be an acquisition to any committee.
The Leader of the Government and the Lender of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) discussed whether the proposed committee could produce any specific proposals by the end of the year. I think we indicated that we were not pressing that point. We would be satisfied if the committee just browsed through the subject. 1 believe it would be a very interesting political exercise to examine royal commission findings where a national disaster has been investigated. The records covering the early part of the century in my State of New South Wales reveal a veiled reference to what the State and the Commonwealth should do. but when the confrontation takes place between the Prime Minister and the Premier concerned following a disaster the discussion is not always on a particularly objective basis. The Commonwealth is concerned with assisting people in various categories who are affected. Our attitude is that there should be no stinting in the allocation of Commonwealth funds. 19510/69- s~p
In large countries like Canada and the United States Federal and State agencies participate in a dual operation in respect of prevention. Much as that kind of system may be repugnant to some people, I think it should be adopted here. During a debate last year - I think Senator Cotton was the leading spokesman for the Governmentwe agreed that the added responsibilities of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) in another place allied to those of the Australian Forestry Council were proving that the Commonwealth Government was assuming greater responsibilities. I think we should go a step further and concern ourselves not merely with national disasters after they occur but also with preventive measures. That is one aspect which the proposed committee could consider.
The armed forces in North America seem to be able to mesh in with State and Federal agencies to a much greater degree than is the case in Australia. I would be the last to deny that the prickly question would arise of who would command whom. 1 do not think we need look further than the United States Army Engineers Reclamation Bureau which, with other agencies, seems to be able to perform signal services which perhaps reduce the incidence of bush fires, floods and so on. The difficulty in Australia, particularly from the Government’s angle, is the federal system under which we operate. It is true that after a disaster has occurred the Commonwealth Government gives a handout, but in view of the heavy expenditure that it has to meet, both at home and abroad, it is a little apprehensive about meeting all the requests that are made to it. some of which are inflated.
The crux of the Opposition’s submission in proposing this committee is that the committee, in general terms, would seek ways in which the Commonwealth, by preventive measures, could cushion the effects of future explosions of nature, whether they be drought, flood or fire. We sincerely believe that the committee would be able to learn, from witnesses and organisations, the preventive measures that should be taken rather than have the Commonwealth step in as an after-thought, as it were, after something has happened.
Obviously the problems are not the same in every State and the difficulty seems to be to get uniformity. Perhaps it could be said tha there would be parallel ministries and they would not work satisfactorily, but we have parallel ministries in the field of education. Not so long ago the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth), announced that the Commonwealth would assist the Aboriginals. The Budget makes provision for an Aboriginal advancement grant. We are very happy about that. Irrespective of what the purists from the Commonwealth and the States may feel and irrespective of the diffidence of some Commonwealth Ministers to enter these fields, the pattern of parallel action has emerged. I do not think anyone claims that the Commonwealth will swallow up the States’ responsibilities.
In a three tier form of government - municipal, State and Commonwealth - the only way to make a federal system work more efficiently is to have a greater degree of federal partnership with the States and a meshing of activities without the Commonwealth attempting to take away the authority of the States. How often do we find municipal bodies trying to generate local enthusiasm for a project? They reach a certain stage and then approach the State government for more assistance but there is sometimes a wide gap between that assistance and the municipal requirements and people lose enthusiasm. The academic approach I am making is that we are trying to buttress up the existing federal system. Many of the problems that are confronting us today confronted the United States at the turn of the century. I do not think any American State would be more jealous of its rights than is Texas. Possibly major States in Australia also are jealous of their rights, but looking at the matter on balance 1 am sure that even the most ardent State.fighter would have to admit in his heart that there will come a time when he will have to swallow his pride and approach Canberra for some assistance.
Let me deal with the subject of research. Later in this sessional period we will receive a very comprehensive report from the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The Commonwealth is doing so much research in so many diversified fields but there are still State Ministers who believe that their way is the best. The same thing applies to the ordinary people. When we go to certain rural areas and talk about the function of the Australian Forestry Council - I know that Senator Cotton would agree with me on this - we still find some of the old straight-backs, for want of a better term, who do not believe in fire prevention. In fact they scoff at it. I shall illustrate my point in a different way. 1 have no doubt that when a cease fire occurs in Vietnam there probably will be a surplus of helicopters. I believe that those helicopters could be used to advantage in various ways to prevent bush fires in Australia.
I am dealing with these matters superficially but I know that they were in Senator Cohen’s mind when this idea was projected and that my leader, Senator Murphy, has asked some very searching questions in relation to them on a number of occasions. They have not been intended as an accusation that not sufficient money has been spent in this direction because the government would be able to say: ‘We have spent $Xm’. The function of the proposed committee would be to carry out exhaustive investigations and I submit that as a result of those investigations it will be found that because of the federal system under which we operate, it would be possible to bring up to the requirements of 1968 some of the things that have been languishing along under the conditions of the hungry 1930s. It is on that basis that 1 give my support to this proposal for the creation of a select committee.
– If one were confined to the actual context of whether it is desirable to set up a Senate select committee, one would be limited to the grounds that the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) has referred to with relation to the physical ability of the Senate to carry out adequately the sort of investigation that is envisaged. I have grave doubts whether, having regard to the present situation of the Senate and the work before it, there are at this point of time the resources available adequately to cover the ground that would need to be covered if this work were to be done in the way in which it should be done:
One has tremendous sympathy for the objective outlined by the Opposition particularly after having listened to Senator
Dame Dorothy Tangney advocating the establishment of a national disaster fund, or something of the sort, for many years. But in that advocacy there was an element of emotion that did not attempt to deal with the practicalities of the situation that any such action would involve, ft does not take very much reflection on the sort of circumstances we are faced with in Australia to bring these difficulties very sharply info focus.
In Australia, of course, the greatest natural disaster is the occurrence of drought. I think the study of drought and how wc are to mitigate the effects of it could, in itself, fully occupy the attention of a select committee, or some other form of investigation. From time to time, Commonwealth and other bodies have given a lot of study to drought and its effects. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has done a great deal of work in relation to drought. The problems created by drought are many and varied. What would be practicable in one area as a means of drought mitigation would be completely impracticable in another. At this point of time. I should like to say how pleased 1 am that the Commonwealth has seen fit to grant the request of those who have advocated drought bonds, as one form of mitigating the effects of drought.
When we come to consider the whole question of natural disasters, the first thing we need is a definition of what constitutes a natural disaster. During the debate, various honourable senators have indicated the sorts of occurrences that they would agree are to be regarded as natural disasters. But there is another aspect of a natural disaster that would determine the intervention of the Commonwealth in the way that is suggested. That is the magnitude of a disaster.
Are we going to wait until a whole shire is burnt out before we say a bushfire is a disaster in the national sense? To the individual concerned, it is a complete disaster if one farm is burned out. Is it going to be any more of a disaster to him if half a dozen of his neighbours are burnt out? We would come very sharply up against the problem of defining the magnitude of a disaster that would involve the intervention of the Commonwealth. This is a very real problem if we are going to concede something in the nature of an insurance fund. Is a man who is presumably being compelled to subscribe to a natural disaster fund to be unable to get any benefit from the fund when in fact he is ruined? As I see the position, this is one of the problems that we would very quickly come upon.
Another problem becomes clearly evident when one looks at the payments which have been made to the States by the Commonwealth to date. I refer to the figures which the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) has had incorporated in Hansard. 1 should like to point out some other facts that become obvious when one looks at the overall payments. For example, over a period of 20 years, the State of New South Wales has been paid $44,487,000. In that same period, the State of Victoria has been paid $20,337,000, the State of Queensland $18,183,000, the State of South Australia $4,385,000, and the State of Western Australia $472,000. Compare what Western Australia has received with what Victoria was paid. Western Australia received less than $500,000 as against something over $44m received by Victoria. In that same period, the State of Tasmania received $1 1,886,000.
Tt is obvious, then, from our experience over the last 20 years, that the incidence of what is termed a ‘natural disaster’ is not the same in each State. How are we going to devise an insurance scheme, if it is to be an insurance scheme, under which we pay premiums commensurate with the risks which are involved in the sort of circumstances where, obviously, some States are much more prone to natural disasters than other States?
If we look at this matter in another context, we find that in 18 of the 20 years to which 1 have referred, it was necessary to pay certain sums to New South Wales. In Victoria, this was necessary in 14 out of the 20 years. In Queensland, it was found to be necessary in 16 out of the 20 years. In South Australia, it became necessary in 8 out of the 20 years. In Western Australia, payments had to be made in 3 out of the 20 years and in Tasmania payments were found to be necessary in 5 out of those 20 years. Imagining that we do devise some sort of insurance scheme, it will have to be agreed to by the States for constitutional reasons, and it is obvious that the States with the lesser risk are not going to be happy paying the same sorts of premiums as the other States with the higher risks.
After all, this is a business proposition. Not only does the position vary in the different States, but the incidence of risk varies even from one part of a State to another. In certain areas capital values have been largely determined by the degree of risk involved with relation to such things as drought, fire and flood, ls that basis to be upset by using contributions from people who pay higher capital values because of natural circumstances? Such contributions would serve to raise the capital values of the more disaster prone areas.
We must look beyond the element of sentimental sympathy that is involved. This is a mutter of business and when we look at it on this basis we see very real difficulties that must be considered. Reference has been made to the scheme in New Zealand. There is an appropriate Act in existence in the United States of America, but upon study it is clear that that legislation does not take us very far because written into it is an insistence that firstly evidence must be produced that the Stales, or the local authorities, have already made adequate compensation. The Federal Government enters into consideration of the matter after evidence has been produced that the States are already contributing on a reasonable basis. For example, section 1 of Ordinance No. 1073 provides that any State in which a major disaster has occurred which can establish the need for Federal assistance and will give such an assurance may be required to expend a reasonable amount of its funds for the alleviation of the effects of such disasters. That requirement appears right through the legislation, lt provides thai there is authorised to be appropriated to the President a sum or sums not exceeding $US5m in the aggregate for the whole of the United States. The Commonwealth of Australia has in fact paid from the national funds an average of nearly $5m. ls not this almost the same thing as is being done in the United States without the formalities of an Act of that type?
The New Zealand Act provides for a different situation because of the relevant smallness of the area involved and the fact that virtually the whole area is prone to earthquake damage. There is a constitutionally different set-up, but even so, the New Zealand Act is simply a premium attached to a fire insurance policy. There is no compulsion for people to take out a fire insurance policy. Therefore there is no compulsion for people to be covered by the Act. There is a compulsion that every fire insurance premium is to cover a special charge in respect of natural disasters. I invite honourable senators to examine what would happen in the Tasmanian situation. People who were covered by insurance would be covered by national insurance; but the uninsured people would still be uninsured. They would not have the protection of the national insurance cover that is provided in New Zealand. So 1 cannot see that the New Zealand Act is of very great benefit when considered in the Australian situation.
The question remains of whether a voluntary scheme would be effective or whether we would be obliged to have a compulsory scheme such as that which operated during World War 11 as war damage insurance. Obviously the constitutional situation is quite different. There is very grave doubt whether the Commonwealth has the constitutional right to impose a compulsory scheme. Anything that could be done would have to be done very much in the way in which the wheat stabilisation scheme has operated - with the unanimous agreement of the States.
I believe that if we are to pursue this idea of a national scheme to overcome natural disasters, the drive must come in the first place from the States. The Minister told us that the States have already discussed this idea and have rejected it because of its many obvious difficulties. In the meantime we have the assurance that the Government has over the last 20 years contributed payments of a current and capital nature to assist the States to alleviate the effects of disasters. Although we may at times think that the present method is inadequate, it produces fewer anomalies or problems than would be produced if we were to try to formalise this situation by devising legislation which, by the very nature of legislation, often does not apply with equity throughout the whole field, no matter how good are its intentions. Al this stage I must oppose the appointment of a select committee in this field.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales) (8.56] - We have before us another proposal for the appointment of a select committee. One wonders whether we are dealing in the area of natural disasters with people or with events. A study of the programme of the Senate shows that we have six other proposal* for select committees waiting in line after the Senate disposes of this proposal, by its adoption or rejection. Earlier speakers in this debate, and speakers in other debates on select committee proposals in the Senate have said - and it will stand repetition - that the Senate as a responsible chamber must have some regard to the manning problem of Senate select committees. Allowance must be made for the fact that, of the 60 senators, as a rule I or 2 from either side of the chamber are travelling overseas to represent this Parliament. As a result, up to 4 honourable senators, for very good reasons, are absent while representing this Parliament overseas. The Senate has its quota of Ministers, the President and the Chairman of Committees. To my sorrow I must say that it is not easy for the Government or Opposition Whip to serve on select committees. This reduces to 48 the number of honourable senators available to serve on select committees and capable of doing the useful job (hat (he Senate demands of them.
Allowance must also be made for honourable senators who from time to time are not well. On my calculation the effective number of honourable senators available for select committees is reduced to 42 or 44. Some honourable senators serve on the permanent committees of a joint character such as the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, which tlo most useful work. They are inhibited lo some extent in the service they can give to select committees. Honourable senators should remember that the members of select committees which have gone through a heavy period are entitled to some relaxation for a short period before serving on another select committee. On the basis of 6 or 8 honourable senators to a select committee it seems clear that if the work done by committees is to be completely effective the Senate is limited to manning 4 committees, or 5 as a maximum. I refer again to what I think bears repetition because the appointment of more Senate select com mittees has meant a tremendous advance in the work of the Senate. I welcome this advance. I was very grateful that the Senate had reached the stage of appointing more committees, but I would not like to see the senate recommending the appointment of committee after committee beyond the point where it was able capably to service and run them. To me this would be a retrograde step. I am not criticising the Opposition. I am just dealing with the realities of Senate life as I believe we have to deal with them.
The Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures were two very good committees which have only just completed their reports after fairly rigorous sessions. The Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, on which I have the honour to serve, the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution and the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, to which senators are now being appointed, are the four committees that are in existence at the moment. Irrespective of whether this motion was moved by an honourable senator opposite or by an honourable senator from this side, I suggest that the Senate has reached the limit of the number of select committees that ought to be appointed. That is the problem as it affects individual senators - myself and others with whom .1 have served on select committees - and the seriousness with which they take their responsibilities. I digress for a moment to say that one of the privileges of being a senator serving on a select committee is to see the very serious way in which a task is approached, the very largely non-partisan and objective examination of the facts involved and to realise that in select committee work one finds an expression of the very best aspect of Senate work. That is why one should not be anxious to see this feature of our work in any way diminished in stature. We may find, because of lack of members or lack of time, that the performance of select committees is not all that we would wish it to be. That is the problem that faces me and my colleagues as members of the Senate.
The sinning of committees with members of the Senate staff in the secretarialadministrative fashion that is called for has been referred to very sensibly as being one of the problems that we now face. We practically have reached the limits of available Senate staff with experience and skill to man these committees. Those who have served on committees will know that a high order of skill is required to be the secretary of a select committee. The duties cannot be picked up at a moment’s notice. All kinds of nuances and pitfalls have to be watched for. This calls for a degree of understanding, know-how and administrative skill that has to come by training.
Another feature to which I wish to refer, because it has been my pleasure on the Committee on which I serve to have had technical assistance, is the work provided by the Legislative Research Service. It is a matter of choice for individual committees to decide, in their own way of working, whether technical assistance is required. The Committee on which I serve felt that there was a great deal to be said, if select committee work in the Senate was to continue to progress and add knowledge and lustre to the Senate and provide useful information to the Australian people, for the Legislative Research Service of the Parliament to be regarded as a source from which to draw the technical assistance required for committees. We felt that if we had this assistance we would be training people, who belonged to the institution of Parliament, for continuing work in servicing committees. If this practice is to be regarded as one worth continuing by other committees - and I recommend it - then the availability of trained staff again imposes limits. Quite apart from the merits of any future proposals for the appointment of a select committee, for all the reasons that I have mentioned we have to consider the Senate’s ability to man those committees with senators who can give their time, the ability to staff committees from the Senate itself, and the ability to provide the background technical research that the committees must have.
I pose this problem: If select committees that are called upon to investigate various facets of Australian administration and go vernmental activities are called upon to staff the technical side with departmental officers it will not be as easy to maintain the objectivity that it is necessary to maintain as a select committee. That is why I believe the parliamentary Legislative Research Service is a very good area from which Senate select committees may draw staff. Committees have tremendous limitations placed on them. 1 am concerned that if this proposal is carried it may not help the Senate, it may not help the cause covered by the proposal and it may well diminish in some sense the good work that has been done in the past and the increasingly high reputation that this chamber is enjoying in the eyes of the Australian people.
I will’ not read all the proposals contained in the motion for the appointment of the select committee. I would not want to do other than pay respect to Senator Cohen and his colleagues for their belief that this is a serious matter which is causing concern and which is worthy of examination. I repeat that the problems have to bc dealt with. The motion contains six terms of reference. The first, which I imagine is the critical one, is as follows:
That a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought.
That term of reference, in itself, is a worthy one but does not stand up to examination as a practical proposition in the light of the other suggested alternatives to deal with such disasters. We have a little time tonight. We are not under tremendous pressure. Anyone who is interested in this matter as I am, is entitled to canvass the Australian scene and the reasons why a proposal such as this is before the upper House of Parliament. Australia has a low rainfall. This is a truism, but it has to be looked at in its real perspective. The country has an extremely low rainfall having regard to the Australian land mass and its size, and comparing it with other countries. Arguments have been advanced about the future of Australia and its opportunities for development. I believe that such arguments have to be taken into the context of the rainfall of the Australian continent. The nation has to be judged with other countries throughout the world. It has a very low level of precipitation per annum over the whole continent. Fundamentally the country is one of very light rainfall.
One of the best comparisons is to contrast the flow of Australian rivers with the flow of the Mekong River in South East Asia. It has its source in the Himalayas, passes through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and part of Thailand. The flow of the Mekong, one river in South East Asia, is greater each year than the waters from all the Australian river systems combined. Therefore this country has a great limitation placed on it because of its low rainfall. That is one of the natural problems that we have and with which we have to live. The country has vast areas of desert. We do not like to think of our country in this way, but we have a tremendous desert area. A lot of Australia is of very little use. It is like parts of the Sahara and other deserts. A great proportion of our land mass is what is classically defined as desert and is regarded as being of no use.
Because of our particular location in the southern hemisphere and the general influence of the winds that move around and the water laden atmosphere that we have, the country is prone to recurrent droughts, far more so than are countries in the northern hemisphere. These are a part of the conditions with which we have to live. The country has a low rainfall over all its land mass; it has a great deal of desert area and it is subject to recurrent droughts. Even some of the areas that have a low rainfall very often exist in a condition of no rainfall. I was on a cattle property in south west Queensland as a boy. Children on that property who were 8 years old had never seen rain. The area lived on the flow of the river that came down from central Queensland. Rain has not fallen there for 8 years.
Yet within this country of desert, of low rainfall and of drought there are areas of high fertility and of useful rainfall. There is the country of the great summer rain where great grass growth occurs, the forest country and similar country which all of a sudden can be affected by very bad and disastrous fires. Australia is a land of great contrast and great difficulty of management. In certain parts of Australia the rainfall is high and the country is subject to flooding. This provides a very difficult problem of national management.
Something that is not mentioned in this resolution but which is another possible disaster is the ability of Australia to be a wonderful host country for noxious plants and noxious animals. This is because of our particular environment. These pests are very often brought in from other countries in plant form. In other countries such plants may be quite useful or decorative but because of the Australian environment they flourish and begin to take over. I refer for instance to prickly pear, St John Wort and Noogoora Burr. They may seem to be quite innocent when they first appear but they can take over millions of acres all of a sudden. The same thing can happen with noxious animals. This is one of the problems of natural management that Australia faces. It is the environment of this country that does these things. At a period when there is very little disturbance and the ecological balance is in good order these animals come here from countries where their natural predators have been keeping them under control. Without those predators they take over and we have the same problems such as those presented by rabbits and foxes.
As I stated earlier, 1 am particularly interested in this subject because my own life has been such that it has brought me into contact with natural disasters. I lived half of my formative years in the desert and 1 saw the difficulties that the people in those areas faced and the struggle that they had to survive. I remember that before World War II, in the Darling area towards the north western part of the State of New South Wales, which is really a desert area, in a 5-year cycle there would be one good year, at best 2 fairly mediocre years and nearly always 2 bad years. We lived in the town at that time and we did not really experience this, but we had lots of country friends some of whom had to walk off their properties. I think Senator Byrne may be interested to comment on this.
In those days if a person went on to the land and bought his property and stock in the good year, as a rule he would go off the place with nothing because he would experience drought years and go broke. However, if he bought in a drought year and could face the constant strain of waiting for the good year, he might do quite well. That is the type of land that it was then and it is the type of land that it has not been until perhaps the last 5 years when it has reverted to its old bad habits and caused distress and hardship to many people. When I left that desert area I went to a fertile part of Australia which had a good rainfall, but there was the probability of floods and the distinct possibility of fires. I can remember one particular Sunday morning, having fought a fire for 2 days, seeing the fire put out by a snowfall. 1 give this illustration to show the country of contrasts that Australia is. It is difficult to know what to expect.
Nature is both very kind and very hard. What I want to put to the Senate is that this is the kind of country Australia is; this is the kind of country it will always be. And this is one of the reasons why the Australian people are the kind of people that they are. Australians are amongst the best people in the world because many of them live very close to nature and the disasters that nature can bring. They have to learn to live with this problem and manage it. Natural disasters are part of life in this country. They are part of the environment of this country and part of the conditions that we must accept if we want to regard Australia as ours to manage with the knowledge and the resources that we can command.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding things in times of drought, flood, fire or other danger is the tremendous ability of the people to join together to counter disaster, the tremendous help they give to each other and the real feeling of comradeship in difficulty that seems to bring out the best in everyone. We have to realise the type of country that Australia is. Wc have to realise that it has always been like this and that it always will be. I suggest that our approach to national disasters should not be by appointing a Senate select committee but by recognising the type of country that Australia really is and endeavouring to deal with our problems as far as possible before they occur, not afterwards. This is not possible. We will have to adopt, over the whole Australian continent and among all the Australian people, what 1 call a conservation approach. Australians must join in recognising the problems of the land that is their heritage and the difficulty of its managment. They must recognise that conservation is very much the answer to the problems and difficulties for which disaster funds are called. What is required is a marriage of the soil resources, the water resources and the forest resources. Those who have read the book ‘Tennessee Valley’ by David Lilienthal will remember this marriage of the resources of an area to bring them all together so that one protects the other. Examples can be found in Australia of disaster situations having been overcome through people joining together on a recovery programme but much more of this kind of thing has been done overseas. David Lilienthal’s book is remarkable. It deals with the denuded Tennessee Valley of the United States, which became a distressed area because of over-grazing, soil erosion and a lack of forests. It gives the complete approach to the problem of conservation of the region. The byline of the book is something like this: ‘A region begins to live’.
I am one of the people who believe that what we need in Australia is a critical study of the whole of our resources, particularly the resources of our river valleys. We should look at the river valleys as regions for conservation type management. This is already happening in Australia but it is happening more slowly than most of us would like. We are really a bit late in beginning this approach. We will need to have it over the whole continent before we are finished. Perhaps the Senate could, either on this occasion or a later occasion, achieve a consensus on the general worth of a conservation approach to the management of Australia’s land in the interest of all Australians. This would be better than setting up a Senate select committee to look into disasters after they have occurred and perhaps to take out of the area of responsibility of the States some of the States’ problems. It should be borne in mind that whilst the Federal Parliament has certain constitutional responsibilities, the States, too, have powers to deal with disasters, and that very often the management problem is more in the hands of the States than in those of the Commonwealth.
I am concerned with what I may call the tendency to forget the responsibilities, powers and resources of the States. I would argue that this is an opportunity for an approach through co-operative federalism. We should look at this problem as Australians, taking into account the various powers, responsibilities, resources and capacities involved. Such an approach would not be without parallel because we already have an Australian Agriculture Council, comprising Commonwealth and State Ministers for Agriculture, which is co-operative federalism at work in an advisory sense. Recently there were very useful developments in the Australian Forestry Council, which is a similar approach to co-operative federalism. We are beginning to see developments now with the Water Resources Council in respect of water on the Australian continent. There have been some suggestions that mining is an area to which this approach might well lend itself. This is a matter in which the Senate might well occupy itself at some time other than tonight.
We as a body of people would have as much responsibility as any other body that I can think of to try to bring about a conservation approach to the whole of the Australian disaster problem, the problem of managing Australia, being the kind of country that it is, by a programme in which we all join together to solve the difficulties. When we look al this proposal we can see how it would tend to come into conflict with some of the State responsibilities. We must ask ourselves: If this were lo be done, how would we finance it? Would we do it by levy in the good years or by some charge on State funds? Would it be by a charge on Commonwealth funds? How would we apportion the funds? In effect, who would pay for it? Would we pay for it before we got the disaster or after?
– This is what the committee would find out.
– I suggest that the committee would be wasting its time in the light of what it ought to be doing in other directions. Then there is another matter. If we ever got to the point of deciding how it should be funded and how the cash should be put together, how would we decide who should obtain the funds? Would we have some sort of central body which would investigate every particular claim for drought relief or fire relief? If we did, who would check all this? In the end we come back to a co-operative federalism because the people who know whether this fellow has lost his stock, has been burnt out or is in trouble are the State governments and their instrumentalities. So we must get a joining together of responsibilities throughout Australia and this is why I suggest that a conservation approach would be a better one than a select committee to investigate the situation, although it would be hard to investigate accurately. Then there is the problem of checking to see whether people who received the money should have received it and what they have done with it having received it. These are immense problems of management.
Today we have a situation in which we cope with a disaster when it occurs. After it has been approved by the Commonwealth, funds are made available out of the general pool. That revenue is made available to the States as grants when the States have proven a difficulty. The State concerned is then responsible to its agencies, who know what is going on. to apportion the money where it ought properly to be apportioned. This is a very safe and sensible way for the Commonwealth to behave when it does not have agencies or administrative bodies to police whether the money is really needed in a man’s hands or whether it is not. We have covered disasters in that fashion. We have helped where help has been called for. I suggest that that is a better way for us to go on and deal with disasters. We do not want a select committee to decide that we are going to continue to help people from the general pool or that we are going to help in individual States through State instrumentalities when they aTe in difficulty. We do not need a select committee for that. We know that they are in difficulties, we know that this is what we have to do and we do if.
I suggest that we might occupy ourselves with looking at the general problem of the kind of country that this is to manage. We talk about fire, flood, famine, drought and disaster, but how do we go about learning the best way to deal with these problems? I suggest that just as we have reached the stage when we have a Forestry Council and a Water Resources Council, we are reaching the stage when the States and the Commonwealth could with advantage join together in a conservation council to learn good and wise management and good and wise land use of this country to protect our resources and to protect the Australian heritage. In this way we could improve our ability to deal with the difficulties, which is what they really are, of management of this rather large and difficult land. Whilst I am in sympathy with the problem of disasters in Australia, having lived with many of them in my lifetime, I do not believe that this proposal adds anything to the solution of the difficulties which have been mentioned here tonight by myself and by others. Therefore, I am not able to support this proposal for the latter reasons which I have mentioned and for the earlier reason of the unmanageability of another select committee in the Senate at the present time.
– My remarks on this proposal will be extremely brief. Some time ago a large number of proposals for select committees of the Senate were introduced and the members of my party gave some consideration to the proposals. We endeavoured to form what in our view was a system of priorities in regard to them. We felt that there was a good deal that called for a committee to investigate natural disasters, although not necessarily in the exact terms in which the motion was moved. We felt that as a committee it should have a high priority. However, the Senate in its wisdom since then has determined that certain other committees should be given priority. At the moment we have functioning a select committee on off-shore petroleum resources, one on air pollution, one on medical and hospital costs, and one on water pollution.
I have taken the trouble to examine the numbers in the Senate and the effect upon the Senate generally of this multiplicity of committees. Taking out the Ministers, the President and the Chairman of Committees who are not available, we are left with 53 senators, a number of whom are not available. Some cannot serve on these committees because of ill health. There arc others who are at the present time overseas, some as representatives going to the United Nations. When we take them out we can reduce the number of senators who would be available to perhaps less than 40. Just looking at the committees which meet fairly regularly, 7 senators are engaged on the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore
Petroleum Resources, 6 are occupied with the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution, 6 with the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs and 7 on the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, a total of 26. Then we have other committees which meet fairly regularly. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory takes 4 senators, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs takes 8 senators and the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House takes another 4 senators, so to the 26 who are involved in the Senate select committees we must add another .16 senators. Then there are 3 senators on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and 3 on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, taking the total to 48 senators who are involved in committee work.
The position is that we have fewer than 40 senators available at the present time, even without the proposed committee, for the purpose of serving on the committee organisation generally. It is perfectly obvious to me, and it seems to be the case so far as my party is concerned, that the manpower of the Senate is not sufficient to provide effectively for more committees than we have now. I have a feeling of some regret that this committee on natural disasters was not preferred to, for example, the committee on air pollution and the committee on water pollution which are very important but which in my view are not so important as one on natural disasters. Consequently my party has decided that we cannot vote to increase the number of committees. However, if this proposal is revived next, year and the terms of the resolution are satisfactory our attitude will be different.
– The honourable senator is making excuses.
– I am not making excuses; I am looking facts in the face. I have been told by members who are serving on one committee at present that they find it a considerable tax upon their time. Some have been serving on two committees and they find the position almost impossible. Senator Gair has been serving on three committees. He has informed me that whereas most members enjoyed some recess over the last couple of months, he had no recess. He had to make himself available continually for those committees. Of course, we all know that Senator Cavanagh is of superhuman strength and intelligence and is able to cope with this kind of thing, whereas these other people are just ordinary mortals.
– 1 am not on any committees.
– 1 am interested to know that Senator Cavanagh, who is not on any committees, is anxious to see that other senators work to a degree that they are finding almost impossible. I want to know what is wrong with Senator Cavanagh. Is he not available, or does not his party want him on these committees? J can only say that I feel deeply for Senator Cavanagh in the disappointment that he must be suffering because his party does not want him on these committees. If he wants to get on to them I will promise to use my influence in the right quarters - and J have not been without acquaintances in the right quarters over the last few months. In the circumstances my party believes that it is not possible for the Senate to undertake this extra task.
There is also the question of the staff of the Senate. The Clerk and the other officers of the Senate who assist him have been put under a strain that induces a feeling of considerable sympathy in me. They have to carry out their ordinary tasks which are very onerous and very difficult. But we have placed upon them very considerable duties in regard to these committees. They have carried out those duties. 1 can think of at least one officer in whose case the amount of work that he has had to do has not been conducive to good health; on the contrary, his health is by no means as good as it might have been if he had not had to carry this additional and very severe strain.
My view on this matter is that we cannot increase the number of committees until we form a committee organisation in the Senate to handle them. I believe that suggestions have been made along those lines. I can only say that if the Senate is to function as a committee House - I hope it will, because I think it does valuable work in this field - something will have to be done to relieve the strain under which our officers have worked over the past 12 or 15 months, or even 2 years. I commend them for the wonderful job they have done. I do not think we should be prepared to place any additional strain upon them in the very difficult circumstances in which they have to work. I therefore say on behalf of my party that we are not prepared to vote to increase the number of committees at the present time.
– In common with other members of the Government parties, I do nol approach this matter in any partisan spirit. We acknowledge that the Opposition has moved a motion on a mutter that is of concern. This proposition has been the brainchild of Dame Dorothy Tangney for about 20 years. We all acknowledge the force with which she has advanced it. 1 must express my amazement that the Opposition is showing so little interest in this matter that it seems to have run out of speakers. 1 would have thought that many of the matters that have been raised on this side of the chamber required some answer. We have an open mind. We are open to be convinced that al. this stage we should set up another select committee; that we have the resources available to back the committee; that natural disasters is a fit subject for a Senate select committee to investigate; and that this subject has a priority above that of many other subjects.
In common with all other honourable senators, I think, I welcome the new approach to select committees by the Senate. We believe that this is a most valuable function for the Senate and that the two select committees that have finalised their work and reported - the Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures - have presented reports that will have far reaching consequences in Australia. In introducing those reports both chairmen spoke of a matter which has been canvassed at some length during this debate and which I believe is of such importance that it should be canvassed further. It is the back-up resources available to enable Senate select committees to operate effectively and efficiently. Whether these committees are to become well known and whether their reports are to be favourably received will depend on the quality of the reports.
I can only say that 1 support fully the comment made by Senator McManus and other speakers from the Democratic Labor Party and by speakers on this side of the chamber, namely, that at this time four Senate select committees are all that can be handled by the officers of the Senate and that before the Senate considers setting up further select committees some decisions should be made on the appropriate resources to back those committees. We should be sure that we have available the research staff to back those committees. We should not throw upon the officers of the Senate the extremely heavy burden that is being thrown upon them at the moment. I cannot believe for one moment that it is possible for a fifth Senate select committee to be handled at all - certainly not to be handled efficiently or effectively - until this problem is solved. When I look at (he notice paper I see that it contains proposals for the appointment of three more Senate select committees and three standing committees. I wonder whether this type of approach is rendering a service to the Senate. I do not believe that, even with efficient and effective back-up resources, the Senate itself could handle that number of committees.
I believe that a great deal of thought must be given to the subjects that are suitable for investigation by Senate select committees. They should not be subjects which have some political bias and from which one party hopes to gain a political advantage. I do nol believe that Senate select committees can work in that atmosphere. The success of the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and the Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes was due in considerable measure to the fact that in the main there was no political content in them and the members of each committee sat as a Senate committee and did not engage in any show of politics. That is important. I do not believe that Senate select committees can work effectively on matters that have a high political content. Therefore I make the plea that neither on this side of the chamber nor on the Opposition side should we suggest Senate select committees in order to gain some political point. In such circumstances committees will not be effective and inevitably will come into disrepute. 1 do not Intend to go over the figures to which Senator McManus referred in relation to the physical capacity of the Senate itself to deal with any more select committees at the moment. I merely say that in my opinion those arguments are valid and strong. I can only express my amazement that, if members of the Opposition are not prepared to accept those arguments, they are not putting up speakers to put their case and to convince us to the contrary. Whether that is the result of a lack of interest on their pari 1 do nol know, but I think it is a pity. In common with other senators on this side of the chamber, I approach this matter with an open mind and without any spirit of partisanship.
I come now to the question of natural disasters themselves. Let me canvass a point that some of my colleagues have canvassed, namely, whether this is a proper subject for investigation by a select committee. I was impressed by a point made by Senator Prowse. Indeed, it is a point that I intended to make myself and it is very important. We have to be clear in our minds as lo what a natural disaster is. It is. all very well to speak in general terms of fire, flood and drought, but what measure of fire, flood or drought constitutes a natural disaster? If my farm and my neighbour’s farm were burnt out. to me and my neighbour this would be a natural disaster, but to the country would it be a natural disaster? If my farm and a few other farms were flooded, would we be considered for assistance under such a scheme as this? We want to be clear. The Opposition has an onus to define clearly what it means by a natural disaster.
– Would you say that the erosion of beaches in the Gold Coast tourist area would be a natural disaster?
– I would not like to say. I think many would regard it as a natural disaster. We want to be clear about it in our minds. Knowing Senator Mulvihills interest in this matter, I should think that he would express the opinion that beach erosion was a natural disaster. Whether it is a proper subject for assistance from such a fund is a matter that has to be canvassed much more than it has been canvassed up to now. We want to know whether a drought covering a small area of a State - as quite frequently happens - is a natural disaster and therefore comes under the definition adopted in a scheme such as this. These are matters on which I would have hoped that the Opposition would clear our minds. Quite frankly, in my own mind I am not clear about it. It is all very well to say that this is a matter for a select committee. We are being asked to support the establishment of such a committee and we are entitled to be told exactly what is in the Opposition’s mind. Even if it does not dot the i’s and cross the t’s, the Opposition should at least give us some indication of the definition.
Wc know also that this matter has been discussed at Premier level. It certainly was discussed at a Premiers Conference at some stage; I think the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) said that that was in 1959. The Premiers themselves could not agree on a proposal. This raises an important constitutional argument as to whether the Commonwealth in fact has power to set up such an organisation and to step into what has been accepted as a Slate sphere. When the scope of a disaster gets beyond the resources of States they make an approach to the Commonwealth. I should think that we would have to have Slate approval before such an organisation were set up. Complementary legislation in the Commonwealth and States might even be. necessary. One would think that before the Senate could move into the field it would have to be very clear as to the attitude of the States to this proposal.
We might also consider whether or not the present system has been satisfactory and effective. I am not going to argue that any system cannot be improved. I do not suggest that we cannot have a better system, but the onus rests upon those who bring forward these proposals to show that they are in fact proposing an investigation of a better system. The Commonwealth has met every request by the States in the case of fire, flood and drought. The figures arc pretty impressive. From memory, since 1950 the assistance given by the Commonwealth amounts to about. $79m. In 1967-68 it amounted to $27m or $28m. in round figures. I have never heard any real complaint that the areas of greatest need have not been met. Therefore, we are entitled to have put to us that the present system has been neither effective nor satisfactory. 1 do not think that these arguments have been advanced.
The present system recognises the constitutional responsibilities of the States and the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth has met all of the demands which have been made upon it within the ability of the economy to sustain them. This is important. lt is all very well to speak blithely of setting up a fund. We want to be sure when we set up the fund that it is under the control of those who are responsible for raising the finance and that it does not get out of control and cause some economic and financial problems for Australia, because this would not help those who suffer from fire, flood or drought. One of the criteria which any government must adopt is whether assistance is given in the best possible way, in the greatest possible amount that the economy at any given time can sustain. This, 1 believe, is a criterion that has been adopted satisfactorily and effectively.
Could a body that roams freely around Australia in time of drought, fire or flood, act more quickly - indeed, more impressively - than State governments? Let our minds go back to the Tasmanian fire disaster. The Tasmanian Government acted within a matter of hours in appealing to the Commonwealth when it found that the disaster was of such a magnitude that the Tasmanian Government could not find the resources to meet it, and within a very short time the Commonwealth had promised assistance to the fullest extent possible. Within hours. I think, a Commonwealth Minister had flown down to Hobart to help to assess the damage and see what assistance the Commonwealth could give. I question whether any other body could act as quickly and as effectively as the Commonwealth Government acted on that occasion at the request of the Tasmanian Government. However. 1 am open lo be convinced. If the Opposition can prove conclusively that is is so, it will convince me.
We have to be told how such a scheme would be financed, not in detail but in outline. We have to be told whether it would be by way of a special tax or by some other means. If it were by a special tax, we would have the problem of increasing taxation, which in itself can defeat the financial and economic policies of a government. The last point that 1 want to make is that we in Australia have very rightly prided ourselves on our mateship and voluntary help. Those of us who have experienced in our own districts the ravages of fire, know how open-ended have been the efforts of those who are more fortunate to assist the less fortunate. 1 believe that this spirit of comradeship and voluntary assistance is one of the great characteristics of the Australian people. The day we destroy it will indeed be a sorry day for Australia. The day we have to rely upon handouts from a government or a government body will indeed be a sorry day for Australia. I hope no-one will propose a system which will destroy the spirit of voluntary help to others in time of trouble. Those of us who have lived our life in the country–
– Do you think that is seriously suggested?
– I think it is a matter of serious importance.
– You are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
– Your philosophy, the Socialist philosophy, is different from mine.
– But it does not negate voluntary assistance.
– If you want to argue you should put up speakers to participate in the debate.
– We have done that.
– It is a long time since we have heard any speakers from the Opposition on this matter. If you destroy the incentive for voluntary help by making the people aware that they will be able to rely upon a big father to help them, then slowly but surely the spirit of voluntary help will be eroded and the time will come when it will cease to exist. Why should it exist if someone else will provide all the assistance required? I put that forward quite seriously.
On those grounds I believe that the Opposition has not made out a case for the setting up of a select committee. I believe further that at this time it is not within the physical ability of either the Senate or the officers of the Senate to sustain any additional select committees. The time to consider additional select committees will be when two or more of the present committees have concluded their work.
– I wish to say only a few words on this motion which has been introduced by Senator Cohen.I appreciate the spirit which has motivated the honourable senator’s proposal that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought, but 1 am not in favour of its adoption at the present time because of the very heavy demand on senators in manning existing committees. I am very new to committee work but those more experienced thanI have expressed the belief that a committee of six members is not very satisfactory because of the inability to maintain quorums for reasons often beyond the control of members. A committee of six with a quorum, of four makes provision for the absence of members through sickness or through unforeseen delays in transport and so on, and the work of the committee can proceed. Should witnesses and organisations be called to appear before the committee and the committee be compelled, by reason of paucity of numbers, to let down those who have been asked to give evidence, it would reflect very badly on the system of committee work which in itself is so desirable.
I regard the word ‘practicability’ as the key word in this motion. I believe that the establishment of a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters is in itself extremely hard to justify.
– Do you think it is a proper subject for inquiry by the Senateto see whether it is practicable?
– In due time it could be. For the time being, having regard to the heavy burden of committee work now on the Senate, 1 feel that the establishment of a national organisation would require immediately the setting up of an insurance body of some kind. That means cost. In my opinion that means the compulsory imposition of an insurance charge on everyone in the community who could possibly claim in respect of the effects of a disaster. We are now at a stage in our economic growth where the cost structure is worrying all of us. If a cost to the individual can be deferred for the time being I think it is desirable lo defer it. Anything which adds to the cost: of production is in itself a danger to a buoyant and progressive economy.
– Blow you Jack, I am fireproof.
– Not at all. On the contrary, I do nol subscribe for one moment-
– You just said that.
– No, 1 am not saying that at all. I am saying that we have at present in respect of natural disasters a system which, in normal insurance practice, does not cover what are termed acts of God and the individual is left to carry his own insurance, for those risks, but that area has been covered in the past by local councils, the States and the Commonwealth which, to their great credit, have met the situation when disasters have occurred. The very fact that insurers regard such disasters as non-insurable risks indicates the peculiar type of risk at stake. 1 believe that the present practice is the best way to overcome the effects of disasters when they come, and pray God they will not come to us as often in the future as they have in the past in the form of bush fire, drought and flood.
Little communities have shown a magnificent spirit of co-operation and assistance immediately something extraordinary has happened to the wellbeing or welfare of other people. Local government authorities now have control over the burning of fire breaks in some locations, and that minimises the risk of fires which could become a major hazard. Local interest and local knowledge are most effective in avoiding, to a large degree, certain natural disasters. States have shown their preparedness to assist when disaster falls, and this Commonwealth Government has shown magnificently over the past few years, and particularly in the last 12 months, what it is prepared to do when situations detrimental to the interests of the people arise.
The present procedure that we adopt when disasters occur - a procedure that has a background of understanding, not a commercial monetary setup to meet certain exigencies - shows that the spirit of the Australian people generally is such that there is no immediate need for any divergence from that procedure. I oppose this motion.
– I support what has been moved by Senator Cohen on behalf of the Opposition, lt ought to be clear to all honourable senators thai we live in a country where natural disasters such as fires, floods and drought are recurring phenomena. These should not be regarded as surprises, as apparently some members of the Government think they ought to be regarded, lt is to be expected that over the next decade in this country we are going to have destructive fires, we are going to have floods along the coastal regions and we are going to have droughts throughout large areas. We ought to realise that it is not enough merely to have some ad hoc methods of dealing with these. We should not have to make special provision if Parliament is in session. We should nol have to have people rushing to these areas or making appeals for assistance. We ought to provide some continuing machinery to deal with these disasters as they occur, knowing that inevitably they will occur.
This is not a problem which is peculiar to Australia. It occurs in other parts of the world. The United States of America has the same problem, but there the Government was sensible enough to realise the necessity for some machinery which would swing into action whenever any of these disasters occurred. If any area became a disaster area, there was the machinery already set up. The various agencies knew what they would have to do at a State level and a local government level. They had private organisations able to fit in to the machinery and relieve. The result was that the victims of disasters were able to have relief brought to them more speedily and the effects of disasters were mitigated and the community, of course, was far better off. 1 think we ought to be prepared to follow what was done in the United States, to name one country. We ought to be prepared at least lo consider the practicability and desirability of having such a national organisation. 1, for one, would think that the case is quite clear that such an organisation ought to be set up. The proposal put forward by the Opposition and eloquently submitted by Senator Cohen is that at least the time has arrived when a committee of one of the legislative chambers ought to investigate the desirability and practicability of this course. That is an extremely sensible proposal, and it ought to commend itself to the Senate.
In the United States of America, the view was taken by Congress that there should be provided an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to Slates and local governments to carry out their responsibilities to alleviate suffering and damage resulting from major disasters, to repair essential public facilities in major disasters, and to foster the development of such State and local organisations and plans to cope with major disasters as may be necessary. Under the United States legislation, in any major disaster Federal agencies are authorised, when directed by the President, lo provide assistance by utilising or lending, with or without compensation, to States and local governments, their equipment, supplies, facilities, personnel, and other resources, other man the extension of credit under the authority of any Act. They are authorised also to help by distributing, through the American National Red Cross or otherwise, medicine, food and other consumable supplies, by donating or lending equipment and supplies, determined under the then existing law lo be surplus to the needs and responsibilities of the Federal Government lo Slates for use or distribution by them for lbc purposes of the legislation, including the restoration of public facilities damaged or destroyed in such major disaster and essential rehabilitation of individuals in need as the result of such major disaster and also by performing on public or private hinds protective and other work essential for the preservation of life and property, and so on. This is the kind of machinery that the proposed select committee of the
Senate could well investigate with profit to the whole- nation.
As 1 understand it, the answer is said to be thai the manpower resources of the Senate have been exhausted. The idea that we arc either worn out or have in other ways reached the limit of our physical and material resources so that we cannot undertake this work may be a wonderful one. but 1 cannot accept that that is the position. The Senate has had an infusion of new blood. On the Opposition side we have three new senators anxious to be involved in the work of the Senate. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has two new members, and there are a number of new members on the Government side. None of these members is on any committee. 1 think they are all bursting with enthusiasm to be set to work, and it would be very helpful to them and lo the nation if they were to set about investigating such a matter.
Surely consideration of whether such machinery ought to be brought into being is beyond the realm of party politics. 1 would think that the Senate ought not to entertain a rejection of this proposal on the basis that we really cannot supply the manpower. Everyone here knows that we can supply the manpower. It has been suggested here that the officers of the Senate cannot service a committee. I do not accept thai, either. 1 think the officers of the Senate have demonstrated their desire to serve committees. They have given no indication that they would nol want these committees. But if more officers are necessary, then it is up to the Government to provide the officers necessary to do the work. This is a legislative chamber, ll is entitled to the technical assistance necessary to enable it to do its work. If we set up the committee. 1 do not think there would be any difficulty. II would be outrageous if the Government were to refuse to supply the officers who are necessary to service it. 1 do nol see that there is any valid argument against the setting up of this committee at this lime, and I would ask the Senate to endorse the proposal submitted by Senator Cohen.
– -1 wish to make a few remarks on the proposition that another Senate select committee should be appointed. I first wish to query whether members of the Opposition are really sincere in the suggestion they have put forward. A study of the notice paper shows that about another six Senate select committees are mooted. One wonders whether honourable senators opposite are really sincere in asking that an additional select committee be set up at this time. I have examined the Senate committees already operating. We have 4 select committees, 7 standing committees, 3 joint statutory committees, and 4 joint committees, making a total of 1 8 committees. That number does not include the committees set up by members of the Government Parties. I have no doubt that members of the Opposition also set up committees to inquire into various mailers. The Government Parties have a large number of such committees.
T think it would be unreasonable to expect honourable senators to give the time and the consideration necessary to serve on yet another Senate select committee. Honourable senators should not forget that the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes have just completed their reports. They did a very good job. It is of no use setting up a committee unless its members are prepared to work hard to produce a result that is worthy of the Senate, If Senate select committees are to be set up ad lib, as it were, they just will not get the results that wc are entitled to expect from them.
I have examined the lists of senators serving on committees at present. Senator Cotton is serving on three committees. Senator Cormack is Temporary Chairman of a committee and was Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. He is at present serving on three committees. Senator Branson, Senator Lawrie and Senator Webster arc also serving on three committees. Senator Bull has just completed service on one committee, is Temporary Chairman of : committee, and is also a member of another committee. Senator Wheeldon of the Opposition is a member of two committees and Senator Cant is serving on four committees. Senator Gair has served on two committees. Those figures clearly show t f i :i t the manpower is not available to man another select committee at this time.
Perhaps when the present committees have finished their work it may be an opportune time for a committee to examine the field of natural disasters, but at present I do not think it is a good proposition, for the reasons I have given. Incidentally, 1 did not see amongst the names of serving members of committees those of Senator Murphy or Senator Cohen. It is a case of ‘Do not do as I do, but do as I say’.
– Is the Minister serving on a committee?
– Indeed 1 am not. The honourable senator has displayed his ignorance. Ministers do not serve on committees. If he remains in the Senate long enough even he will learn. I turn now to disasters that have occurred. The Tasmanian bush fires constituted a State disaster. Senator Cohen, who is speaking loudly across the chamber to another senator, rather intrigues me because he takes great umbrage if subjected to interjections when he is speaking. Apparently again it is a case of ‘Do not do as I do but do as T say*.
References have been made to droughts and bush fires. We will continue to have fires but T wish to point out that bush fire brigades have attained today a standard of efficiency not reached before. Throughout the country well equipped bush fire brigades are operating. I am not suggesting that they can be very effective in heavily timbered country or in certain conditions that occur, but they have had good results in the prevention of bush fires. I remind honourable senators that it is possible to insure against fire.
Droughts raise some tough problems. The Senate has discussed on many occasions ways and means to combat droughts. The Government is still working on this problem. One measure that can be taken by an individual to combat a drought is to conserve fodder. This is not always possible and is the reason why the Government introduced in the Budget last week a system of drought bonds. The ravages of grasshoppers have been experienced over large areas of New South Wales. Measures can be taken to combat this scourge. One of the worst national disasters that could hit Australia, and not just because of its impact on primary producers, would be the introduction of foot and mouth disease on tha scale on which it broke out in Great Britain last year. People who have had an opportunity to read of the measures taken to counteract and exterminate the outbreak have an idea of the tremendous organisation of materials, money and manpower needed to that end. lt was truly a national disaster in Great Britain. These are some of the aspects that would have to be investigated if a Senate select committee were to be established.
I join honourable senators on this side of the chamber who have said that we do nol have enough manpower to set up another select committee. Senator Murphy said that the staff of the Senate would be eager and willing to serve on such a committee. I do not cavil at the proposition that they would be willing to serve, but like everybody else, they are entitled to some leisure, lt has been rightly said that honourable senators who have served on committees recently have had no respite during the breaks enjoyed by members of this Parliament who have not served on committees. lt is only right that they should have a break. Let us have Senate select committees for worthwhile objectives, by all means, but we should not bring them into being unless there are sufficient numbers to man them and lo do the job we want them to do. To appoint select committee after select committee is just plain rot. For the reasons I have given 1 suggest that the Senate should defeat the motion that has been moved by the Opposition.
– in reply - 1 regret that honourable senators opposite and members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party are unable to support the motion moved in good faith by the Opposition. Notwithstanding the failure to gain support, f believe that this is a very proper matter to be put forward in the national interest and a proper subject for investigation by a select committee of the Senate. The motion was moved on 28th May by me. T speak subject to correction in saying that as far as I can recall, as far as a perusal of Hansard will assist me, in the full evening’s discussion on that date there was not a single mention of the problem of convenience nor of the difficulties that have been raised tonight.
Members of the Opposition are just as sensitive as Government supporters and members of the Democratic Labor Party to the convenience of senators and Senate officers. We do not expect them to work 24 hours a day, any more than we would expect ourselves to do that. We do expect that the Senate will measure up to its responsibilities. Had there been on the Government’s part an indication that its supporters were willing to agree to this motion in principle and to have an inquiry deferred, although it is from our point of view an inquiry of considerable urgency, at this stage we could have attempted to make the two viewpoints meet. But nothing of that kind hits been put forward. We have been subjected to two arguments, the first of which was the argument of convenience. To the extent to which it is legitimate, an attempt should have been made to bridge the gap and for Government supporters to say: ‘We will support you on this because we think it is important, but we would like lo see it deferred for the time being.’ The other argument was an attempt to dredge up every point that could have been put before a committee as to whether this course or that course should be adopted or whether this idea or that idea was of any substance.
Senator Sim treated us to a dissertation on the need to define a natural disaster. The last time that the subject was debated the vast majority of honourable senators discussed the question. I opened the discussion by giving ten examples, what might be called the ten plagues of old. T instanced ten identifiable forms of natural disasters which from time to time overtake countries or areas of the world. I instanced flood, tire and drought, which are the primary three with which we are concerned here. I should have thought that to quote flood, fire and drought as three natura] disasters would have been good enough for most Australians. I also referred to famine, earthquake, tidal wave, storms, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes - I think Senator Gair calls them cyclones - and avalanches. They are by no means exhaustive examples, but if any honourable senator seriously suggests that there is some difficulty of definition of a natural disaster in the national sense then I say that he ought to go away and do a bit of reading or else not come here and talk with his tongue in his cheek.
Why has the motion been moved? lt has been moved because the history of this country has demonstrated quite clearly that
Australia lacks permanent machinery which, we can anticipate, will be put into operation automatically when a natural disaster occurs. We have lived for too long with the improvised and ad hoc machinery that is brought into existence when disasters such as the Tasmanian bush fires, the great drought in Victoria or floods in the States occur. It is almost an absurdity to think that a country such as Australia, so prone to natural disasters on a grand scale, should be one of the advanced countries in the world without some permanent machinery and organisation to handle this kind of problem. Whether the machinery be an insurance fund, some other national fund on a non-contributory basis or merely the setting up of machinery which will spring into action when the emergency occurs, surely we are not so smug and so sure of our own infallibility on these questions or so ready to have recourse to the Government’s record in helping in these matters from time to time when emergencies occur as to say that the matter is not a proper one to be looked into by a Senate committee.I have given examples of other advanced countries where some such machinery operates. In the United States of America, New Zealand, Canada and Japan it is commonsense and long established practice that there should be such machinery. President Johnson does not have any difficulty in defining a natural disaster. The great scheme that operates in the United Slates for the alleviation of disasters provided for the payment of some $US124m in the year 1965. One of the great causes of the federal1 machinery being invoked was the infamous hurricane Betsy which was, as President Johnson said, a giant among natural disasters. Everybody knew what he was talking about. 1 do not want to delay the Senate unduly. I want the Senate to vote on this proposition, notwithstanding all the arguments that have been advanced against it. If Government supporters were sincere they would not adopt the attitude that they were waiting to be convinced. At the very beginning of tonight’s proceedings the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) announced: ‘We will be opposing this motion’. Then we had the spectacle of senator after senator on the Government side shuffling to his feet and saying: ‘I remain to be convinced. 1 would like to hear further argument’. To my mind, to decline to support the motion is to retreat from an attitude of responsibility. 1 regret very much that the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have not seen fit to support the motion. It is part of their Party’s policy. It was announced, in the federal policy speech delivered by Senator Gair prior to the Senate election last year, that the Party would support a natural disaster fund to deal with flood and drought.
– We want it dealt with properly.
– I think the record will speak for itself. There are senators to spare among the new senators, including two from the Democratic Labor Party, but apparently it is thought that we do not have enough senators to do a job of this kind. I can only express my disappointment because we could be well on the way to an investigation by now if this motion had been carried last May. I remind honourable senators that the Government’s record on select committees is not as good as has been suggested in the debate.
– What select committee are you a member of?
– I am not a member of a select committee.
– Are you not qualified?
– I think I am qualified. I have been a member of a select committee.
– In the recess you are too busy getting guineas.
– That is completely beneath contempt. The position is that we want to vote on the motion. I urge honourable senators to vote for it. I think that the proposed committee, if it is set up, will be a useful one. It will have an opportunity to investigate. We should leave it to the common sense of an all party select committee to see what can eventuate from this proposal.
That the motion (Senator Cohen’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir
Alister McMullin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relatingto the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish 10 raise a matter of some urgency and importance, namely, the allocation of drought relief funds in the State of Victoria. J understand that today it was announced in another place that a further $19m has been provided by the Government for drought relief in Australia and that$11m of this sum has been allocated to the State of Victoria. I wish to make a plea for the allocation of drought relief funds to the cities of Geelong, Geelong West and Newtown. So far, these three cities have been refused any drought relief allocation whatsoever. This is despite the fact that this area hits had the highest unemployment rate in the whole of Victoria. In fact, at one stage, a city with a population of 1 1 0,000, had 20% of the unemployed in the whole of the State. One in five of all persons unemployed in Victoria lived in Greater Geelong. Geelong comprises three city councils, with six shire councils on its perimeter. The majority of the population of the Greater Geelong area live within these shires. Whilst in some instances the shires have been allocated quite large amounts in drought relief to relieve unemployment in the Geelong area in general, the three cities in the inner ring of the Geelong area, which represent about 40% of the total population of the Greater Geelong area, have received no drought relief funds at all.
– What is the identity of this unemployment?
– In April over 2,000 persons were unemployed in Geelong. This was one-fifth of the total unemployment in Victoria and it is a very high figure indeed for a city of 110,000.
The city of Geelong relies very heavily on the prosperity of the rural community. Many industries are directly tied to the prosperity of the farmer and his ability to spend and market in a normal season. For instance, there are two chemical fertiliser industries in the area that employ a great number of persons. During the last 12 months employment in both of these industries has been far below the normal figure because of the inability of the farming community to purchase chemical fertilisers. There is one major abattoir for the killing of lambs for home consumption and export and a smaller abattoir. The larger abattoir almost completely closed on this occasion. This has not happened for something like 20 years. The Internationa! Harvester Company of Australia Pty Ltd produces in the main agricultural implements. There are several other industries associated with the production of agricultural implements. Although drought relief allocations have been made to the shires that surround Geelong and in fact have large proportions of the Greater Geelong population in them, the three inner cities have been denied this very vital money that is necessary to keep the unemployment rate down. I make a plea for the allocation of funds to this area out of the grant that has been announced today and out of any future grants that the Government proposes to make.
The shire of Corio, which adjoins the cities thatI speak of and has a population of 38,000, received an allocation of $53,652 for drought relief. Although the relief was very welcome, that shire comprises only about one-third of the total population of (he area that I am speaking of. The Shire of Barrabool, whichis a much smaller shire, received $2,700; and Shire of Bannockburn received $22,600; the Shire of Drysdale received $23,072. Figures were not available for the Shire of South Barwon. But drought relief funds have not been confined to shires in Victoria. The city of Ballarat received $56,900, the city of Bendigo received $61,900, the city of Maryborough received $11,775 and the city of Colac received $41,875.
I am not complaining about the grants received by any shire or city becauseI realise that they are necessary and play a very vital role in keeping unemployment down. What 1 am complaining about is the discrimination against the three Geelong cities. This area is part of the drought stricken area of the Stale and its very economy is based in the main on the farming community. Statements and letters from the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) indicate that Geelong was left out because it was classified as a metropolitan area. That is completely wrong. It is not a metropolitan area and it is no! considered to be a metropolitan area for any other purpose but drought relief grants.
I believe that Geelong is foolish to have so many municipalities tied up in such a small area. It is vital to local politics that there shouldbe an amalgamation of these councils. But the sad fact is that despite representations by myself, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), the councils and the Standing Unemployment Committee, on which all councils are represented and which gets some assistance from the Department of Labour and National
Service, all claims have been rejected. We need immediate assistance to ensure that this high rate of unemployment is reduced because a city the size of Geelong cannot carry 20% of the total unemployment of Victoria. Yet this is the percentage which has continued in that city during the winter months of the last year and on previous occasions. We ask the Government to reexamine the requests that have come from this area and to place Geelong, Geelong West and Newtown on a top priority in relation to the future allocations of drought relief.
-I assure Senator Poyser that the people whom he has mentioned have the sympathy of all of us in this chamber. Many of us know what a drought means, not only to the individuals who are concerned but also to the State. I point out to the honourable senator that normally when the Commonwealth decides to make a grant it provides funds to the State and it is then a matter for the State to decide where the money is to be apportioned. I am quite sure that that is what has happened in this case. The honourable senator pointed out that Victoria received $11 m as a grant for drought relief, but having received that amount it would be a matter for the Victorian Government to decide where the money was to be spent. If the Government of Victoria decided that Geelong was not to receive a fair share, as the honourable senator suggested has happened, then it remains a matter for that State. 1 cannot see how the Commonwealth Government can come into the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680820_senate_26_s38/>.