26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to certain allegations made against the Prime Minister in a scandal sheet, which were referred to in the other place.
– I rise to order, Mr President, I take the point that no reference may be made to a debate that is current in the other place.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– Will the Leader of :the Government inform the Prime Minister that as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate I wish to make it known that I believe that these allegations are completely and utterly untrue and that I accept without reservation the Prime Minister’s statement that his conduct has been entirely proper? If I may have the indulgence of the Senate, I would like to say that it is a fact of political life ‘ that everyone who holds a high political office, such as the Prime Ministership, is surrounded by
Tumours and gossip, sometimes of the most extraordinary nature, which tend to excite public imagination. These often originate in the minds of those who wish to be identified as being in the know about high political personages. Will the Leader of the Government accept that while the Opposition may differ with the Prime Minister on public -affairs, it does not seek to displace him or to injure him on the basis of matters which, even if they are true, have no relationship to his public office? Does the Leader of the Government agree that the lesson we ought to learn from this incident is that the Parliament should be jealous to ensure that while public men are made to account for their public actions their right to privacy must be preserved equally with the rights of all other citizens? Every citizen should resent a slander against the Prime Minister as if it were a slander against himself.
- Mr President, I hasten to say that I appreciate, and I am sure that the Parliament and the nation appreciate, the frank comments which form the basis of the Leader of the Opposition’s question. I shall convey his question and expressions to the Prime Minister. It is true that in another place this morning the Prime Minister quite categorically denied the allegations made in this vicious and wicked scandal-mongering newspaper which has assailed his character. It is also true to say that the Government parties accept without reservation the statement made by the Prime Minister and stand four square behind him. It is equally true, as the Leader of the Opposition conveyed in his question, that the Parliament kas a duty to the people of Australia. It does no credit to anybody to try to use the Parliament in any way to slander the character of those who give a public service to the people of Australia.
– I am not criticising the honourable member for Hunter. I have no doubt that he was activated by the highest motives.
– I know. I accept the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. I will convey it to the Prime Minister. I repeat that I am sure the people of Australia will not tolerate this vicious and wicked slander that has been placed upon the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Works whether he recalls that on 6th March he indicated that he would convey to the Senate the date on which it was expected that Tullamarine Airport would be completed and ready for service. Does he now have that information?
– Yes. I am obliged to the honourable senator for reminding me of this matter. The facts are that the domestic terminal is expected to be ready for operation in the early part of 1970 and the international terminal in the early part of 1971.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Department of Shipping and Transport examined the effectiveness of the product Corexit which is claimed to be a vital counter to oil pollution? Has the Department made any attempt to stockpile plastic and wooden booms, bales of straw, etc., so that in the event of an oil tanker mishap it can move in promptly to aid State port authorities who would, in the light of the Torrey Canyon’ disaster, face terrific odds?
– The claims of the manufacturers of the oil dispersing product Corexit 7664 were brought to the attention of the Department of Shipping and Transport late last year. They were immediately referred to the Division of Applied Chemistry of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. That body has been working in conjunction with the Department of Shipping and Transport on the evaluation of different methods of prevention and alleviation of oil pollution at sea. However, no firm decision as to the most suitable detergent has yet been arrived at. Likewise, the effectiveness of booms, mechanical methods of removal of oil from the sea and absorbent materials is being evaluated.
It would appear that generally such systems have doubtful uses outside sheltered waters and are thus primarily matters of direct interest to port authorities who are responsible for pollution within harbours. The Department of Shipping and Transport has had discussions with port authorities regarding responsibility for oil pollution damage and methods of alleviation. Whilst port authorities are primarily responsible for pollution within harbours, no doubt the Commonwealth would come to their assistance in the event of a major disaster. The Commonwealth is most concerned about the possibility of large scale pollution occurring within the vicinity of Australia and as well as participating in the work of international bodies such as the International Maritime Consultative Organisation is also examining local arrangements for emergency action, such as the collection and distribution of detergents and other methods of combating pollution. It is expected that further meetings between State and Commonwealth officers as to the most effective means of integrating Commonwealth and State resources will take place in the near future.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It follows on from comments I have made previously in this chamber. As the railway systems between the capital cities of Australia are now standardised with the exception of the line to Adelaide, will the Minister give urgent consideration to making a Commonwealth grant available for the standardisation of the Port PirieAdelaide line so that South Australian industry and commerce will have the same transportation benefits as those existing in the other States? Will the Commonwealth also take into account the standardisation of the northern railway systems that are associated with the Port Pirie line, which would be adversely affected if they were not likewise standardised?
– I believe that the standard railway line between Kwinana and Sydney will be operating towards the end of this year. This will begin an era of quick transport from the west coast of Australia to the east coast of Australia. I understand that the journey will take about 48 hours. I appreciate the honourable senator’s concern about the unavailability of a link between the capital, Adelaide and Port Pirie. No doubt once the standard gauge railway line is in operation the Minister for Shipping and Transport will give consideration to further standard gauge railway lines as mentioned by the honourable senator. I will certainly add my support to any proposition put to the Minister for his consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement by Mr M. K. Vogt, President of the high schools branch of the Victorian Teachers Union, that fewer than 2% of Victoria’s high schools have enough science and mathematics teachers and that in many high schools science is not being taught to Forms I and II students? Mr Vogt is also reported to have said that because of the shortage of science and mathematics teachers thousands of students will be left behind in the race for the honours necessary to ensure entrance to a university?
– Is the honourable senator reading from a newspaper?
– I asked the Minister whether his attention had been drawn to a report I gave, I think, only sufficient to indicate the substance of the report. Firstly, will the Minister seek a report on the shortage of science teachers generally and make that report available to the Senate? Secondly, does he still support the ostrich-like policy of the Government in maintaining that there is no crisis in education? Thirdly, will the Government take immediate steps to review its ill-considered rejection of the teacher training recommendations in the report of the Martin Committee on tertiary education?
– Notwithstanding the use of some unfortunate terms in the formulation of that question, I am obliged to the honourable senator for calling my attention to the comment to which he referred. I had not noticed it, but I am grateful to him for calling my attention to it. I am sure it will be taken into immediate consideration by both myself and by the Minister. The honourable senator asked whether a report as to the number of science teachers should be called for. It will be recognised at once that the honourable senator is referring to departments of State within the responsibility of the State governments. But I have no doubt that that information -would, upon request, be made available to us in the federal sphere. I have no doubt that the Minister will consider favourably that request. The honourable senator mentioned the hackneyed old phrase ‘a crisis in education’. I refer to this to let him understand that I noticed the use of the phrase, but at question time I will not be drawn into a debate on that. Many times I have indicated that the Government in no way takes an ostrich-like attitude. It recognises the special fields in which educational assistance is required. To an increasing extent year by year we have supplemented those fields so that the direct federal vote for education in the last 7 years has increased from some $57m to a total of $2 10m which will be spent this year. That form of assistance is a much more practical response to any deficiency in education than carping upon such a hackneyed phrase as ‘a crisis in education’.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In the answer to question No. 1220 given in another place on 18th March the Minister indicated that 77 officers of the Department of Customs and Excise have been disciplined under sections 55 and 62 of the Public Service Act in the last 2 years. Has the Minister seen this morning’s Press which implies that this is symptomatic of the extreme dishonesty and corruption in the Department of Customs and Excise?
– The staff of the Department of Customs and Excise at present is in excess of 4,000 officers. The 77 officers referred to were charged with a number of misdemeanours. Only 2 officers committed offences serious enough for the Department to recommend their dismissal - 2 officers out of the 4,000 who are employed by the Department. The other offences were very minor, ranging from matters such as unauthorised absence from duty and drinking on duty to negligence. None of the officers in the second group gained from his offence or conspired to defraud the revenue. It is ridiculous to imply that action taken against these officers is in any way symptomatic of dishonesty or corruption in the Department. .
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation the following questions: In the year 1968 how many applicants appealed to the entitlement appeal tribunals? How many succeeded in their appeals and how many failed? If any succeeded, how does this percentage compare with the percentage of success in each of the preceding 5 years? How many applied to the assessment appeal tribunals for a total and permanent incapacity rate pension in 1968? How many applications were granted and how many failed? How does this percentage of success compare with percentages of success in each of the preceding 5 years?
– I am quite sure that the honourable senator does not expect me to give an answer off the cuff. Most of the answers to his questions would be found in the last report of the Repatriation Commission. Some of the answers may not be there. If the honourable senator looks at that report and finds that there are still answers he would like to some of the questions he has asked I will be happy to provide the information for him.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen a recent statement which claims that there is a lack of cooperation and co-ordination in the various law enforcement agencies involved in preventing the importation and use of narcotic drugs in Australia? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any truth in these allegations?
– The area of responsibility in coping with the narcotics problem is divided between the Commonwealth and the States. To a certain extent the responsibilities overlap. There have been suggestions that there is inadequate co-operation in this overall activity. To overcome the problem I called a meeting of appropriate State and Commonwealth Ministers a few weeks ago and set up a standing committee of senior officials to advise Ministers on what action should be taken in various areas. I am now informed that at the first meeting of the standing committee the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs suggested that an officer of the Commonwealth Narcotics Bureau should be attached to each of the drug squads and that a member of the drug squad in each State should be attached to the Commonwealth Narcotics Bureau. This would overcome any problem such as those mentioned by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. In view of the Government’s easy acceptance of the Tariff Board’s report on single-engine aeroplanes, has the Minister investigated the facilities of the only Australian manufacturer of light aircraft as a possible source of supply of this type of aircraft suitable for defence purposes?
– The reference to the Tariff Board is, in a sense, outside the ambit of my direct responsibility in the Department of Supply, although I would take it on board as representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Yes, it is true that the possibility of the manufacture of light aircraft is currently under consideration along with other matters in the aircraft industry. Yesterday, in response to a question by, I think, Senator Bishop, I gave some indication of the types of investigations that were going on by way of feasibility studies in the Services complex. The whole cross-section of the problem of the aircraft industry of Australia is currently under critical examination in my Department, and at this point of time I cannot add any more to that comment in reply to questions.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that Mr Donald W. Eaton, on behalf of Overseas Containers Australia Proprietary Limited and Associated Container Transportation Limited said in evidence to the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes that when feeder services were developed from proposed feeder ports in Australia there would be a flat rate for United Kingdom cargo from all ports? He went on to say that these services have been developed in Tasmania and are already operating. Is not the decision not to include Tasmania in the flat rate proposal in direct contradiction of Mr Eaton’s testimony to this Committee? In regard to the contention that freight from Tasmania to Melbourne is too dear for Tasmania to be included, is it correct that the Australian National Line makes a loss on some other services around the Australian coast and that its Tasmanian trade is a substantial part of its operations? Will the Minister endeavour to see that Tasmania is not further penalised because of its isolation and, if necessary, confront Mr Eaton with his own statements?
– Mr Eaton said in evidence to the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes that Overseas Containers Proprietary Limited would absorb the cost of feeder services from Adelaide and Brisbane. The exporters in Adelaide and Brisbane will enjoy the same container rates as exporters in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. He went on to say that these will also apply to Tasmania and north Queensland when these services are developed. He added that the extension of these services would have to be economically feasible. There appears to be nothing in the action of the container groups which is inconsistent with this statement. I understand it is still the intention of the container groups to extend their operations to Tasmania by way of a feeder service. I have no reason to suppose that when they do so they will not absorb the cost just as they are absorbing the cost of feeding between Adelaide and Brisbane and Melbourne and Sydney from the outset. It is true that the profitability of the different services operated by the Australian National Line on the Australian coast varies, but the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act requires the Commission to conduct its whole operations on a commercial basis, like any other shipping company. It is also true that trade between Tasmania and the mainland forms a large part of the Australian National Line’s operations. These aspects of the Australian National Line’s operations are a serious matter from the point of view of the overseas shipping requirements of Tasmania.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In view of the conflicting opinions being expressed as to the degree of threat to public health posed by the anticipated epidemic of Hong Kong influenza, the vulnerability of certain age groups and those already suffering from respiratory complaints, and the availability of vaccine, and the public concern that is consequentially caused thereby, will the Minister for Health, if he has not already done so, make a comprehensive statement to inform and re-assure the public on the whole matter comprehended in this concern?
– I had a little difficulty in hearing part of the honourable senator’s question. My understanding is that he asks whether the Minister for Health has made a statement concerning those who should receive injections and supplies of vaccine. The Minister already has made more than one statement on this matter in which he has mentioned that those who are most susceptible to illness should have the injection. I have read to the Senate a statement the Minister made earlier wherein he stated that the vaccine would be made available to people with rheumatic heart disease, congestive cardiac failure and other serious chronic debilitating diseases, people 65 years of age and over, pregnant women, and children over 1 and under 5 years of age. In another statement, which I repeated yesterday, concerning supply of the vaccine, the Minister said .that it is in good supply.
In a statement on the radio Dr Lane said that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories had always stated that the inoculations should be given in the autumn and that this would give people more than 2 months of immunisation before the ‘flu was expected to take its hold. No-one has placed limits on supplies and no limit will be placed on the number of doses in any State. Dr Lane went on to say that supplies to the public had been delayed by the Government’s decision to give the vaccine free to pensioners. Because of this the laboratories are stockpiling 1 million doses in one-dose containers for release on 1st April, when the vaccine will become available as a pensioner benefit. He added that stockpiling had prevented a normal supply to chemists but doctors probably would be able to get the supply of the vaccine that they needed by the middle of next month.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by stating briefly that the Commonwealth Government, through the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, has granted assistance to the victims of the earthquake at Meckering in Western Australia. Is the Minister aware of the extent of the damage and loss suffered by the farming community in the area in relation to farm buildings, fencing and other equipment which is essential to their continuance as fruitful producers? Because of this aspect will the Minister now cause investigations to be made to ascertain the extent of the damage to which I have referred with a view to obtaining additional Commonwealth aid for these primary producers?
– I have sought some information from the Prime Minister’s
Department on this matter. The basis for providing relief and assistance, both financial and material, following natural disasters is that the primary responsibility rests with the State governments. We all are aware of that. Such arrangements are in accordance with the constitutional division of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States. But equally important in the practical sense is the fact that State governments are in the best position to assess conditions within their respective boundaries and to assess the needs of those affected by the disaster. While recognising the responsibility of the State governments, the Commonwealth does provide relief to those affected by natural disasters. It assists in the provision of relief to those suffering physical hardship and distress as a result of disaster but, as it does not wish to place itself in the position of being a free insurer, it takes the view that such assistance should not be available for the general restoration of private assets. In addition to the immediate relief of distress, Commonwealth assistance for the relief of personal hardship and distress is available for making essential repairs to houses and for repairing or replacing essential items of furniture and equipment to the extent necessary to provide reasonable living conditions for those who, due to lack of adequate financial resources, would otherwise suffer personal hardship.
The earthquake at Meckering occured on 14th October 1968 and, following an approach by the Premier, the Prime Minister announced on 17th October that the Commonwealth would contribute $50,000 to the Lord Mayor’s Fund for the relief of personal hardship and distress. In November 1968 in response to a further request from the Premier the Prime Minister advised that the Commonwealth would give sixty Army huts to provide temporary assistance in the stricken area. The Commonwealth met another request for assistance when, in December 1968, it indicated that it would be prepared to make an additional contribution towards financing expenditure to relieve personal hardship and distress and offered to meet, $1 for SI with the State, the cost of restoring damaged assets of State and local authorities. The Commonwealth help was in accordance with the arrangements I have outlined and it was not lacking in either promptness or generosity.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Will the Minister investigate the volume of work performed at the Brisbane office of the Commonwealth Legal Service Bureaux to determine whether additional officers should be employed to cope with the present and prospective work requirements of that office?
– I assure the honourable senator that his request will receive consideration.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise ever received any letter from Mr Gerard Hoffmann, apart from the letter to him which was dated 11th November and to which frequent reference has been made? If so, when was the letter received and to what did it relate?
– Until this morning the only communications I had with Mr Hoffmann were his letter of 11th November last year and the short interview I gave him on the 26th of the same month. This morning, however, I received a letter from Mr Hoffmann. In the course of his letter he states that he gave copies of the documents relating to his case to a Mr King, who was Branch President of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, which was handling Mr Hoffmann’s case. These documents included his reply in explanation; a copy of Mrs Hoffmann’s letter to the Prime Minister - the letter that was never delivered to the Prime Minister; and a copy of the acceptance of Mr Hoffmann’s resignation. Mr Hoffmann also reported to Mr King about the attempt made to secure an interview with me. The copies of documents were handed to the union official in the strictest confidence and on the understanding that they would be used only for the purpose intended. It was agreed by the Hoffmanns and Mr King that any information about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation could never be disclosed. Mr Hoffmann says in his letter that Mr King was the only person to whom these documents were given, except the copy of the letter to the Prime Minister which was shown to Mr Cullen in Mr Whitlam’s office. At no time was any authority given for the disclosure or publication of any of the information revealed by Mr Hoffmann.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer discuss with the Treasurer the possibility of Commonwealth financial support for the building of a spur natural gas pipeline from the Gidgealpa to Adelaide pipeline so that the Spencer Gulf towns of Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Wallaroo may be served? I ask this question because I understand that there is now a Government in South Australia that is anxious to consider the supply of natural gas to those towns, both for heating purposes and general industrial use and that a very much larger quantity of natural gas is now known to be available at Gidgealpa.
– My answer to the honourable senator’s question must follow the pattern of the answer I gave yesterday to Senator Cotton when he asked whether the Commonwealth Government would fiancially assist the New South Wales Government in the construction of a maritime project in Botany Bay. No doubt from time to time other State governments have asked whether Commonwealth assistance could be given for certain State projects. In brief, the reply is that these matters are dealt with on a Prime Minister and Premier level. If the South Australian Government considers that it has a case for special assistance in this very worthwhile project referred to by the honourable senator, the procedure is for the Premier of South Australia to make representations to the Prime Minister. It would then, indeed, have reference to the portfolio of the Treasurer. The pattern that has been followed in assisting special projects is quite clear, particularly where assistance has been given under section 96 of the Constitution.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by reminding him that during the debate on the Estimates last year I suggested that stop clocks similar to those operating in another place be installed in this chamber. The honourable gentleman then supported in principle my proposal. Can he now advise the Senate whether this type of clock will be installed in the Senate chamber?
– As you would appreciate, Mr Deputy President, this is a matter within the responsibility of the President. I will draw his attention to the proposal. I have sat in the chamber of a State Parliament in which was installed a clock system which I considered was most effective. A device was installed so that when a speaker was approaching the end of the time allowed for his speech, a signal light would give a warning to enable him to round off his well prepared peroration and not be cut off in the middle of a sentence. I think this is worthwhile proposal. I will certainly add my support to the submission made by the honourable senator and direct it to the President.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Has his attention been drawn to a report by Mr J. A. Hoadley, described as a lecturer at the School of Surveying, Melbourne, in which he said that cities like Melbourne and Sydney have reached the point where the size of their central areas should be restricted? He said further that rapid mass transport systems as used in Europe and Tokyo are unlikely to be economically adaptable in Australian cities. Will the Minister take up this point of view with his colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport and ask him to place the matters before the Australian Transport Advisory Council for study so that development of Australian cities and provincial centres and related transport matters may assist in decentralisation and proceed economically and efficiently?
– I have read from time to time various articles about the rapid growth of the capital cities of Australia and the need for decentralisation. I suggest that the honourable senator place the balance of his question on the notice paper so that I can get an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in yesterday’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ that Venezuelan investigators have said that an overheated engine might have caused the DC9 disaster last Sunday in which 152 people lost their lives? Reference was made to the fact that atmospheric temperature may have played a major role as a high air temperature lowers air density, which can affect take-offs. The ground temperature on that day was 108 degrees. Will the Minister investigate this theory as ground temperatures in Australia often exceed 108 degrees during the summer months and may result in a serious accident to passengers using DC9 and Boeing 727 aircraft?
– I assure the honourable senator that the Minister for Civil Aviation inquires into accidents which occur to aircraft all over the world. I shall take the particular matter to which the honourable senator referred up with the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister any further information regarding the establishment of an Army marine base in north Queensland?
– If my memory serves me correctly, the honourable senator asked a similar question a few weeks ago and I referred it to the Minister for the Army. I made inquiries about the matter as late as this morning, but have no further information for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, who is also the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. In view of the educational advantages to be gained by Australians visiting the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and by the economy of that Territory from the Government’s excellent encouragement of the tourist flow to Papua and New Guinea, can the Minister advise whether action is being taken to provide increased and suitable tourist accommodation in the Territory?
– The Minister for External Territories has stated that he is aware of the increased interest shown by tourists in the Territory. The number of tourists last year was in the order of 20,000.
It is likely that this figure will increase to 50,000 this year. This is due to the great attraction of the New Guinea Games and of other activities in the Territory. The Minister for External Territories has stated that a study made recently indicates that increased hotel accommodation is being provided in an endeavour to cope with the influx of tourists. The Senate will recall that the games will be held in Port Moresby during August of this year. I believe that the facilities required for those games are well under way.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and concerns the incidence of taxation. Are proprietary limited companies in Australia limited in their growth and in their ability to set aside reserves by the requirements of Australian taxation laws? Does the Minister feel that the interests of the community may well be served by legislation which would allow greater freedom to set aside reserves within private companies? Will the Government consider a revision of taxation law which requires a minimum distribution of profits by private companies under threat of a further 50% levy of undistributed profits tax?
– I appreciate that a further liberalisation of the retention allowance for private companies would give more scope to the companies to set aside reserves. Equally I can see that such a change would give more scope for tax avoidance by allowing profits to remain in a private company rather than bear tax at shareholders’ graduated rates of taxation. Honourable senators will appreciate that where a family business is not incorporated the members of the family pay tax on the’ whole of their business profits whether the profits are put into reserve or not. Private companies pay less primary company tax than public companies and they may retain 50% of trading profits after primary tax and still pay less tax overall than a public company on the same level of income. Questions of equity of the taxation system are very involved indeed, but on balance I express the view that I do not feel that overall community interests would be served by the change suggested.
As to the second pan of the question, the Government receives many requests for new or altered taxation concessions, lt is its practice to review these annually when drawing up the Budget. I certainly will see that the honourable senator’s request for some increase in permitted reserves is noted for consideration along with other matters put forward for consideration when the 1 969-70 Budget is being prepared.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to an item in a recent edition of the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ wherein it was stated that New Zealand regards its child endowment capitalisation scheme as the most advanced piece of social legislation on that country’s statute book? Is the Minister aware that the party I lead has been the only party in Australia to advocate the introduction of such a scheme in this country? Will the Minister seek from her colleague, the Minister for Social Services, a firm statement as to when we can expect a capitalisation scheme to be introduced in Australia? If the answer is no, will the Minister give reasons as to why the Government does not desire Australia to have a social services system equal to or superior to that existing in New Zealand?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that when an interstate Ansett-ANA airliner arrives at its destination a passenger manifest is available at the airport concerned but that this is not the case for a Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft. Can the Minister indicate why this service is not available for patrons of the national line?
– I will take up with the Minister for Civil Aviation the matter raised by the honourable senator and obtain an answer for her.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, lt follows on from a question 1 raised in the Parliament during the week. The matter was also subsequently discussed by Senator Turnbull. Has the Minister seen statements to the effect that doctors in her State, Queensland, allege that healthy young people have been getting injections to combat Hong Kong flu while they have not been available for babies, pregnant women, asthma sufferers and the aged and that the official priority system for giving flu shots is being turned upside down? If they are the facts, what is the Department of Health doing to rectify the position and to ensure that the same unsatisfactory conditions do not occur in any other State of the Commonwealth?
– I think the best way in which I can answer the honourable senator’s question is to refer again to statements which I have made previously in the House and to Dr Lane’s statement that the inoculations should be given in the autumn. This still gives people more than 2 months for immunisation before the flu is expected to take hold. Stockpiling has prevented normal supply to all chemists, but doctors probably will be able to get as much vaccine as they need by the middle of next month. Obviously, that is the answer to the point raised in connection with the time factor. The honourable senator asked also about priorities. I have listed the priorities previously in this House. They include persons with rheumatic heart disease and/or congestive cardiac failure, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic asthma, persons with other serious chronic debilitating diseases, all other persons aged 65 years and over, pregnant women and all children over 1 and under 5 years of age. 1 again return to the point made by Dr Lane that inoculation in the autumn still gives the people more than 2 months for immunisation before the flu is expected to take hold. On 1st April pensioners will become eligible for the vaccine as a pensioner benefit. I believe this will overcome the problem that is concerning the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Bearing in mind that the cost of industrial accidents in Australia has been estimated by Sir William Hudson of the National Safety Council of Australia at $1,00Om, and by Mr T. G. Crane, the President of the Victorian Division of the National Safety Council of Australia, as being possibly as high as $2,000m, or approximately 8% of the gross national product, will the Minister take steps to see whether all Government departments can supply, in their annual reports, full statistics relating not only to their own employees but also to their contractors’ employees, and showing the information required by the National Safety Council and others interested in working towards the reduction of this gigantic national loss?
– This is a very interesting question. I think the prime responsibility would rest with each department concerned. I can readily see, by the depth of the suggestion made by the honourable senator, that it may involve a lot of research not only by the department itself but by the people associated with the department. Nevertheless, I will arrange for the honourable senator’s question to be sent to the Department of Labour and National Service in the first instance and I will arrange also for a copy to be forwarded to other departments for comment. In that way we may get a comment coming back which might easily be the basis for further questions or for debate.
– 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Government consider making a protest to the British Government against its use of armed force against the rebel regime on the island of Anguilla? If there is no such protest, in view of the support given by the Australian Government to the British Government’s decision not to use force against the similarly illegal regime in Rhodesia, overseas countries, including
Australia’s allies, could draw the conclusion that this Government, like apparently the British Government, believes that whilst it is improper to use force against rebels when they are white, it is proper to use force when they are black.
– 1 deprecate a situation in which at question time an honourable senator tries to determine the policy of the United Kingdom Government. Quite frankly I am not prepared to take any action on the question in the form that it has been presented to the Senate. If in its good judgment Australia decided to do certain things in relation to its own Territories, I do not think it would be appropriate that the matter should be raised at question time in the parliament of another country or for that country to dictate to us on how we should handle the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has a request been received from the Queensland Government during the last 3 weeks for a reappraisal of the Burdekin Dam scheme?
– I am not aware of it. I shall seek the information for the honourable senator as expeditiously as I can.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen the editorial in yesterday’s Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ which is headed ‘Unsavoury Customs’? Is it a fact, as the whole tenor of the unsavoury editorial implies that customs officers have defrauded the revenue, made off with large sums of money and yet been fined only small sums instead of being imprisoned? If it is not a fact, will the Minister take steps to deny these innuendoes in the clearest possible terms so that the editorial writer of the Daily Mirror’ will at least have the true position available to him?
– I saw the editorial referred to by the honourable senator and prepared an answer in case a question was asked on the matter. I was appalled at the manner in which this newspaper, like the Australian Labor Party, attacked my
Department and its officers. It is difficult to judge whether the editorial was the result of bad reporting, muddled thinking or just plain malice. It was perhaps a combination of all three. Let me make it quite clear that the officers charged under section 55 of the Public Service Act in connection with the short payment of duty on cigars and cigarettes were charged with having failed in their duty as customs officers in that they did not ensure that the full amount of revenue due was collected. There is no evidence to show that any of the officers charged benefited financially as a result of duty evasion. Had there been a scrap of evidence of this, charges of a very different nature would have been laid. Any benefit from the evasions was to the importers. I said in reply to a question on Wednesday that High Court actions had begun against certain companies. Phrases in the ‘Daily Mirror’ article such as ‘hands in the till’, crooked customs officers’, and ‘weed out the crooks’ are, in this context, scurrilous and I refute them with contempt. Duty evasions and the negligence which assisted them were uncovered after a long period of painstaking and complex investigations by my Department itself, using new methods of control and checks. There was no evidence of collusion by officers in an attempt to defraud the revenue. The matter of the under-collection of duty has been no secret, ll was referred to in the last AuditorGeneral’s report. The cases against the officers under the Public Service Act were published in the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’. My replies on Wednesday in this chamber and in another place made no reference to criminal charges or the misappropriation of moneys. Why could this newspaper not have checked its facts more carefully before launching its unfounded, infamous and hysterical editorial? lt is perhaps significant that it was in this same newspaper that the business of Mr Hoffmann’s resignation first attracted Senator Cavanagh’s attention and we have seen just how accurate that article proved lo bc when the true facts were presented.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by reminding him that recent relief rains did not fall in many areas of Queensland which have been badly affected by drought. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether it is intended to make Commonwealth funds available for drought relief as a result of the appeal from the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, Mr Houston? Or will the Government still adhere to the original drought relief formula by having talks in June as the Premier was previously advised?
– I recall that I gave an answer the other day to, 1 think, Senator Lawrie, in relation to this matter. At short notice, I would say that it is always competent for any government to seek further relief assistance. The formulas under which assistance is given are laid down and it is competent for, and the responsibility of, the Government of the State concerned to make any representations it thinks necessary. With all the good will in the world, it is in that direction that these requests are made. The experience in the past of all States where there has been need for Commonwealth subvention in this field represents a very fine record of CommonwealthState relations. In this particular case, if the recent rains have failed to give relief in certain areas I would assume thai it is the responsibility of the State concerned to make further representations if it thinks this course is warranted.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. He has not had one for a couple of minutes. Would the Minister agree that attempts to evade customs duties have been going on around the world from time immemorial? Would he agree that the Australian Department of Customs and Excise is to be congratulated on its constant and effective work to find and prosecute evaders of customs duties, with consequent benefit to the Australian revenues?
– In travelling round the world one finds many countries where there are graft and corruption within their customs departments.
– How do you know?
– Because I have travelled, and I would ask Senator Cavanagh to travel and see. I could name some countries to which the honourable senator could go in which the customs revenues are defrauded to the extent of about 10%.
– What countries are they?
-I do not intend to name any of the countries because they are outside my own sphere. I should like to say that our customs officers in Australia, by and large, are honest and trustworthy. Over the last 2 years, of the 4,000 employees of the Department of Customs and Excise only two have been charged with malpractices in which they have attempted to defraud the revenues of the Commonwealth. Only two out of 4,000. This, I should think, is evidence of the wonderful honesty of our customs officers in Australia.
In reply to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question, I would say that 99.9% of our customs officer are dedicated men who are doing their job in an honest way to help Commonwealth revenue.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise tell us the reasons for the dismissal of the two officers of his Department just referred to, when and where the offences occurred and for what reason the officers were charged? Will the Minister agree that in any event, as is now shown by the Hoffmann affair, in the case of the proposed dismissal of an officer from the Public Service before such dismissal becomes effective that officer can tender his resignation and thus escape disciplinary action?
– We have been debating a certain subject in this chamber for 3 weeks. On every day questions have been asked about a particular person and the answers that have been given should cover 50% of the matters the honourable senator has raised in relation to the two officers who have been charged. 1 should think that would be sufficient. I have no intention of mentioning any names.
– We do not want the names; we want the reasons.
– That is as far as I am prepared to go.
– With apologies to the Minister for Customs and Excise for again asking a question, I ask him with all respect: How long will it take him to gather sufficient detailed information to reply to question No. 1009 standing on the notice paper in my name which asks whether he has seen a particular statement?
– I do not know whether that is one of the questions to which I have replies today. I have several replies here to questions on notice. If that one is not among them I will endeavour to get an answer at the earliest available opportunity. I point out that about 50 specific questions have been asked in this chamber about Mr Hoffmann and that some 45 of them have been answered.
(Question No. 845)
– by leave- I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
In view of the continued history of industrial problems associated with Trans-Australia Airlines, can the Minister inform the Parliament whether his Department or any other government department is interfering unduly in industrial matters associated with the Australian National Airlines Commission, with a long term view to having the assets of Trans-Australia Airlines disposed of to private enterprise?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no question of the Department of Civil Aviation or any other Department interfering in the industrial affairs of the Australian National Airlines Commission. However, as occasion demands, the Department of Labour and National Service acts as a co-ordinator on industrial issues which concern the aviation industry as a whole.
(Question No. 856)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-RANKIN - The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 868)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Although this survey is being conducted in New South Wales it is hoped that the findings will enable effective long term solutions to be applied to the needs of migrant children in all Australian schools. The information obtained in the investigation into various aspects of adult migrant education is also being processed. As the honourable senator will appreciate, where special circumstances arise action is taken to satisfy the educational needs of migrants without wailing for the results of these investigations. Recently an intensive 6 weeks course in the English language was conducted for Czech refugee students at the University of New South Wales. Presently, a full time day course is being conducted at the Adult Migrant Education Centre in Melbourne for students, and migrants with professional qualifications. In addition, intensive part time courses of four evenings per week are being held in both Melbourne and Sydney. At the Bonegilla Centre all newly arrived migrants are being provided with a 5 hours a day 5 days a week course in the English language, together with special films and illustrated talks on Australia and the Australian way of life.
(Question No. 905)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
In any subsequent discussions between State and Commonwealth authorities on land usage of certain sections of Holsworthy military area, will the Minister ensure that the requirements of the Shoalhaven water catchment scheme take priority over the less important claims of coal and housing claimants, since their wants can be fulfilled outside the Holsworthy region?
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Government has had long discussions with the New South Wales State authorities on the future use of the Army land at Holsworthy, and has given full consideration to the long term State requirements in connection with the Shoalhaven water catchment scheme. These discussions are still continuing. The honourable senator may be assured that the Commonwealth will co-operate to the maximum extent in making any necessary rearrangement of the Armyuse of the land when the water supply scheme is developed.
(Question No. 929)
– By leave- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation the following question upon notice:
– I provide the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 975)
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s questions is as follows:
In following normal tendering practice, Commonwealth purchasing authorities aim to provide opportunity to all interested suppliers to submit offers. Then, if overseas goods are in competition with local supplies, ordering authorities are required to add the cost of freight and insurance and the appropriate amount of any duties and primage which would apply if the goods were being imported commercially. In this way Australian manufacturers are afforded the preference to which they are normally entitled under the tariff.
Except for minor purchases - less than $6,000 - those cases where the local products are still more expensive than the overseas products after adding the duty are decided at ministerial or Cabinet Committee level. Additionally, there are special circumstances in which Australian goods are favoured in any event; for example, if the item is of strategic importance or the industry is depressed. Thus, it will be seen that the Government’s purchasing policy procedures ensure that the very closest consideration is given to each case before any suitable Australian product is passed over when government stores are being purchased.
As Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchasing Policy, I am in close touch with these matters. I can assure the Senate that there is relatively a very small number of cases requiring attention beyond ordering authority level under our purchasing policy procedures. The point I am making is that where Australian industry has the capacity to meet the requirement it receives orders for the bulk of that requirement. There is no real problem in that area. The problem exercising our minds is in the area where the requirement is beyond the capacity of our industry or the numbers required are too few to warrant establishing production in Australia.
We are continuously taking steps to improve the position of our industry in this area of government purchases. For example, senators are aware of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board which has been set up by the Government. In this way we are encouraging Australian industry to undertake more original research and development work.
We are making overseas governments more aware of our attitude to offset arrangements and our aim to upgrade our technological competence. Let me mention briefly some of the work in the area specific to my own Department. We attempt to give industry advanced notice of projected requirements. We keep industry generally informed of our work by informal contact and through such formal means as the industry’ advisory committees. We let contracts on industry to develop new capacities in this country. We undertake cooperative projects with other countries from which there is valuable acquisition of new skills in our industry. We are continuously, examining the matter of supplies purchased overseas with a view to increasing progressively the capacity of our industry. As we develop a viable, efficient and balanced capacity over the whole industrial field so will we be able to increase the scope of orders for government stores handled by Australian industry. The question is not one of using our resources. It is one of broadening our resources so as to reduce the flow of orders overseas.
(Question No. 991)
– by leave - On behalf of Senator Hendrickson I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise the following question upon notice:
Was Mr Hoffman one of the persons associated with Mr J. F. O’Brien in piling up huge bills at the Wentworth Hotel, Sydney, which were being paid by commercial firms doing business with the Department of Customs and Excise?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: 1 have no knowledge of any association between Mr Hoffmann and Mr O’Brien except to the extent indicated in the answer to question No. 919.
(Question No. 1024)
– by leave- I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise the following question upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1025)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– Yesterday Senator Georges asked me a follow-up question about eight West Irians. I said that I would seek further information. The information I have at present is that five of the West Irians have applied for permissive residence in the Territory and their cases are being investigated. Three have not applied and their intentions are still being ascertained. In the meantime, they are in the western district of Weam in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The position may change. Perhaps by next question time I will be able to inform the honourable senator of further developments. I promised to get the honourable senator up to date information and that is the latest I have.
– On 6th March Senator Lawrie asked me as Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs the following question:
Has the Government received any further information as to the way Indonesia proposes to let the people of West Irian decide their future? Is the proposed type of self-determination in line with the undertaking given by Indonesia to the United Nations when that country took over the administration of West Irian from the Dutch?
I said 7 would refer the question to the Minister for External Affairs, who has now provided the following answer:
No official announcement has yet been made by Indonesian Government of the precise methods and procedures that are to be adopted for the conduct of the act of self-determination. The agreement under which West Irian came under Indonesian administration does not contain provision for specific methods or procedures but states that Indonesia will make arrangements, with the assistance and participation of the United Nations representative and his staff, to give the people of the territory the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice. In doing so it is to be guided by the principles contained in the agreement. Indonesia has on many occasions reiterated its intention to honour its obligations under the agreement.
– I remind the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he was to find out the reason for the transfer of our troops from Malaysia to Singapore.
– I will check that out today.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee
– As Vice Chairman, 1 present the One Hundred and Fifth Report of the Public Accounts Committee which relates to the report of the AuditorGeneral for the financial year 1967-68.
Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Your Committee would again pay tribute to the AuditorGeneral and his staff for the sustained effort they have made, over many years, to ensure that the report is presented to the Parliament during August. The early tabling of that report facilitates greatly the work of your Committee in this important field of its operations.
Your Committee’s inquiry for 1967-68 concerned seven matters, six of which are reported upon in the One Hundred and Fifth Report. The remaining matter related to subscriber trunk dialling telephone facilities, with which your committee has been concerned in the context of some of its more generalised departmental inquiries. Because of this wider area of interest and the considerable importance of these facilities your Committee felt that it should report separately on this matter and accordingly a report on these facilities will be presented to the Parliament shortly.
The matters referred to in the One Hundred and Fifth Report include weaknesses disclosed in the Army pay accounts centre, Melbourne; problems related to the purchase by the Department of External Affairs of a property at 59 rue de la Fais an Derie, Paris, and the problems of indebtedness to hospitals in the Northern Territory. The report also contains an examination of ‘buyback’ investments that have been undertaken by the Superannuation Board and the circumstances connected with the overpayment of higher duties allowances on which the Auditor-General had reported. In addition, your committee examined the circumstances of the fire that occurred at the Naval estblishment at Nowra in December 1967. This matter is also included in the One Hundred and Fifth Report. Arising from that examination, however, your Committee had occasion to review the arrangements of the Commonwealth Fire Board. It proposes to present a separate report on these arrangements to the Parliament in the near future. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The principal Bill in the group I am now introducing to the Senate seeks to amend the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920- 1968. The amendments to legislation proposed by the other four Bills are made necessary largely by the changes proposed by the Public Service Arbitration Bill. For this reason I believe it would suit the convenience of the Senate if the five Bills were taken together. The main purpose of these bills is to augment the Public Service arbitration tribunal by the appointment of Deputy Arbitrators so that it can cope more effiectively with the growing volume and variety of work coming before it.
Legislation to provide a system of arbitration for the determinations of claims about wages and conditions of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service was first enacted in 1911 by the Arbitration (Public Service) Act. Under that Act, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was given jurisdiction to deal with claims made on behalf of those employed by the Commonwealth. In 1920, the system for determining such claims was changed by the Public Service Arbitration Act to the form in which it exists today. Under the Act of 1920, the statutory office of Public Service Arbitrator was established. In 1952, the Act was amended to provide for appeals and references from the Arbitrator to the then Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which was later replaced by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In that particular respect, the Public Service Arbitration Act was brought into line with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The system created in 1920 was designed for a very different set of circumstances from those now existing. There was then a very much smaller and more homogeneous Commonwealth Public Service, with most employees being engaged in administrative and clerical duties. Today, more than a quarter of a million employees, or a little over 6% of the total number of wage and salary earners in Australia, come within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator. The admininstrative-clerical employee, the traditional type of public servant, no longer predominates because of the growth of industrial employment with the Commonwealth in departments and instrumentalities such as the Department of Works, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Supply, the Post Office and Commonwealth Railways. The stage has been reached, with this growth in the number and variety of occupations, whereby one arbitrator cannot be expected to deal with the volume of business which comes within his jurisdiction.
Use has been made of section 15 of the Act, which enables the Arbitrator to refer to a person authorised by the GovernorGeneral a claim or application for investigation and report. Some years ago, an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service was appointed to undertake this work on a regular basis. He became known as the Assistant to the Arbitrator. In August 1966. this arrangement was extended when one of the conciliators from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was made available to assist the Arbitrator on a parttime basis.
More recently - in September last - the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) announced that two members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, one of whom was formerly the Conciliator to whom 1 have just referred, would assist the Public Service Arbitrator pursuant to section 15 of the Public Service Arbitration Act. In approving of this action, the Government had in mind that the Act would be amended, as now proposed, lo provide for the appointment of deputy Arbitrators and so strengthen the resources of the tribunal.
There will be no limit specified as to the number of deputy arbitrators who may be appointed. This will enable appointments lo be considered as circumstances warrant. Tt is the Government’s intention to make two appointments on the passage of this legislation. Deputy arbitrators will be statutory officers appointed for a term not exceeding 7 years, as is now the case with the Arbitta tor. A deputy arbitrator will be able to hear and determine matters coming before him in accordance with the procedures of the present Act. However, as it is essential that there be broad consistency of approach in dealing with industrial issues involving employment in the service of the Commonwealth Government, the Bill provides for determinations made by deputy arbitrators to be with the concurrence of the Arbitrator.
Another major provision in the Bill which is designed to bring the Acf more into line with current needs deals with the date of operation of determinations of the Arbitrator. As the Act now stands, a determination can only come into operation after a period of 30 days from the date on which it is tabled before both Houses of Parliament. Either House may resolve against a determination which is not in accord with a law of the Commonwealth. It is proposed, therefore, that the Arbitrator be empowered to decide when a determinatin shall come into operation. However, the existing provision will be retained whereby all determinations are placed before Parliament and either House will still have the power of resolving against a determination not in accord with Commonwealth law.
The Bill also provides for some minor amendments of an essentially machinery character. These include, for example, provisions which are necessary because of the proposed appointment of deputy arbitrators; provisions as to the preservation of rights of certain officers appointed as arbitrator or deputy arbitrators; provisions having to do with the resignation of the Arbitrator, the appointment of an acting Arbitrator, the protection of the office of Arbitrator and of deputy arbitrator, the oath of office and continuation of hearings in the absence of either the Arbitrator or a deputy arbitrator. The amendments proposed by the Bills to amend the Officer’s Rights Declaration Act, the Superannuation Act and the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act flow from the proposal to appoint deputy arbitrators.
The short Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act also contains essentially machinery amendments. One of these flows from the proposal to appoint deputy arbitrators and the remainder have to do with matters such as the preservation of the rights of Commissioners and Conciliators on appointment, clarify the intention of subsection (2) of section 41a and protect the Commission when exercising jurisdiction under the Public Service Arbitration Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 15 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act consequent upon the provision in the Public Service Arbitration Bill for the appointment of deputy public service arbitrators.
Section 15 is concerned with any determination of the Public Service Arbitrator that, in relation to persons who come within the scope of the Commonwealth Employees* Compensation Act, makes provision for the grant of compensation or other benefits in respect of personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of their employment. The section provides that a person is not entitled to compensation or benefits both under such a determination and the Act. The amendment being made by this Bill will ensure that section 15 will apply also to a determination made by a deputy public service arbitrator. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill amends the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1968. I have already referred to the proposals made by the Bill in my second reading speech in relation to the Public Service Arbitration Bill 1969 and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill amends the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 1928-1968 and it flows from one of the provisions of the Public Service Arbitration Bill just introduced; that is, the proposed appointment of deputy Public Service arbitrators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania- Minister for Works [12.42] - I move:
The purpose of this Bill, which is consequent upon the Public Service Arbitration Bill, is to vary the definition of Public Service Arbitrator in the Superannuation Act to include a deputy Public Service Arbitrator. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18th March (vide page 411), on motion by Senator McKellar:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– The Senate is discussing a motion that the Wine Grapes Charges Bill be read a first time. This Bill cannot be amended by the Senate and, pursuant to our Standing Orders, we are discussing things relevant or not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. Already a number of honourable senators have spoken and used this opportunity to make some comments about what has become known as the Hoffmann affair. For my part, I am prepared to take up what 1 consider is a necessary consequence of the comments which have been made by members of the Opposition. I think it is clear that what has become known as the Hoffmann affair is an issue which was raised by the Opposition and which has rebounded upon it. What has been happening from the very day on which the matter was mentioned first in this place has been a deliberately contrived campaign to denigrate the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and thereby to weaken the Australian nation’s ability to have the type of assistance, the type of forewarning and the type of protection which an efficient security service can give. There can be no question that a weakening of the Security Organisation’s ability to achieve those objectives was a direct and obvious consequence of the tactics which were employed by the Opposition.
The campaign was built on false statements in a newspaper article written by a journalist whose political bias and antipathy against the Security Organisation were revealed strikingly by what he said. The article was published in a newspaper whose articles and reporting on this issue reveal a deplorable lack of honesty, objectivity and responsibility. The journalist himself, 1 suggest, can be only a disgrace to a reputable profession and the strongest condemnation must be applied to the newspaper. Its standards, as this issue has revealed, could scarcely be lower. I say those things without elaborating what has been elaborated by me earlier in this place because it is apparent that many parts of the article written by Mr Walsh were entirely false. Truth andobjectivity had no part in what he was writing, because what he was concerned to do was to build up a case, preconceived by him as to what its object should be against the Security Service.
The case built up in this chamber by Senator Cavanagh and other honourable senators who supported him was not only wholly based, as we were told, on this article but it was added to in a manner which can indicate only that Senator Cavanagh’s approach had no regard even for the factual basis Which he said was in the article. 1 think it should be remembered and emphasised that this exercise by the Opposition commenced on two bases. They were the bases put forward by Mr Walsh in his article which appeared originally in a Sydney newspaper. The first basis was that the Security Organisation had intervened improperly to secure the reinstatement of Mr Hoffmann so that he could then resign. The second basis upon which the article and the Labor Opposition built up this case was that this had occurred in the lifetime of the Gorton Government, when in fact it happened 8 years before. If those are the standards by which the Labor Party seeks to justify any attacks it makes on government there is a strong reason why the Labor Party is diminishing in numbers at every election. Those are not the standards which the Australian people recognise or want. I can prophesy one thing and that is that so long as the Labor Party carries on as it has carried on in regard to the Hoffmann affair it will have fewer and fewer representatives in the Parliament of the nation.
Very few members of the Labor Party are prepared to come into the chamber when the Hoffmann affair is being discussed now, in contrast with their numbers when the matter was first raised. The reason is evident. Honourable senators opposite know that it has rebounded upon them and they are running for cover, lt should not be forgotten that what started out as an outright attempt to denigrate the Security Service was based on falsity, and was fortified by falsity and now, as the truth is revealed, the Opposition is left without a feather to fly with. Senator Cavanagh did not state accurately what was in Mr Walsh’s article. Other honourable senators who spoke later - I notice Senator O’Byrne in the chamber - sought to perpetuate allegations which were demonstrably false. Notwithstanding answers that were given time and again by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), still the Minister was not believed. It was not as if there was information or factual material upon which this disbelief could be grounded; there was not. One remembers that on the second day of the first week of the session this year the Minister, in response to questions, made a full statement as to the circumstances under which Mr Hoffmann had resigned. He had said that Mr Hoffmann had resigned and had not been reinstated. The Minister amplified that statement with a series of dates, indicating what happened on each of those dates.
– Then the accusation was made that Hansard was fiddling with the reports.
– Yes, that was one of the accusations. On that occasion Senator Kennelly rose immediately, as the record reveals, and said that he could not and would not accept that explanation. At the same time Senator Cavanagh indicated that Hansard had taken down something wrongly or that could be the only explanation for what had happened. This indicates that right at the outset there was a preconception that whatever the Minister said must be wrong. That has been the tendency and the attitude of the Labor Party right throughout this whole business.
– The honourable senator is battling hard now.
– I will leave Senator Cavanagh to assess at the end whether 1 am still battling hard. The Minister was not believed, for no reasons whatsoever. With the object of obtaining some publicity in the newspapers, the Opposition persisted with questions, even though the information had been given. On other occasions reliance was placed on newspaper stories wholly inconsistent with what Senator Scott had stated. The publicity given to Opposition questions suggested what was not the case - that evasion and concealment and untruths were being engaged in by the Minister. All that the Minister was doing was seeking exact information in response to questions. Notwithstanding the fact that, as he said this morning, some fifty questions have been asked on the issue, invariably the answers were given on the next sitting day. In those circumstances how anyone can justifiably say that evasion was engaged in is beyond me. Time and again the facts, as the Minister gave them, were reiterated, and time and again the Opposition ignored what was said. It charged him with an inability to answer simply because he was seeking exact information and providing it. When the Opposition found, as it must reasonably have supposed it would find - because it has been recognised policy always - that no confirmation or no denial of any stories concerning ASIO would be given, it attempted to shift its attack.
In the first place it had been, with all the unctuous civility that Senator Cavanagh displayed in the early stages, a request for information. When it was apparent that he was not going to get the information it became a request for a denial. When it was apparent that that was not forthcoming the attack shifted to the administration of the Department of Customs and Excise. Then it shifted to the personality of Mr Hoffmann and then to the competence or veracity of the Minister. Anything which appeared to be worthy of hitting at, the Opposition hit at. Yet this is the Opposition which claims to be the alternative government, capable of administering the affairs of the nation. What does this story show?
– It shows $3m worth of evasion.
– I hear Senator Cavanagh’s interjection and it points precisely to what I have been stating. The honourable senator says that there has been $3m worth of evasion. There has been no suggestion of that character anywhere in the Hoffmann story, yet this is the sort of comment which is persisted in and given some verisimilitude simply because it is stated by a member of this chamber. Let me state that there was not S3m worth of evasion. Two very significant things become apparent from what has happened. The first is that the Australian Labor Party, the Party which poses as the alternative government of this country, is prepared by any means available to it to limit the effectiveness of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. lt is quite apparent from Senator Cavanagh’s whole approach to this matter - this can be verified by looking at what he said - that he would reveal all because there ought to be no secrecy concerning the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– Outside its charter.
– I have heard this comment ‘outside its charter’, but what has not been stated by the Opposition is who is to determine, in the field of security, what is the limit of its charter. I should have thought basically that it was the Security Organisation itself. If this is the attitude, it is simply highlighting what I am saying. If the Security Organisation is not the body to determine it, it appears to me that once the question is asked by Senator Cavanagh and other honourable senators in this place who may be seeking to find out whether the Security Organisation has exceeded its charter, every aspect of security must be opened. That is a logical consequence if members of Parliament can ask whether ASIO has exceeded its charter, lt is a fantastic argument and it is given credence only because, phrased in that plausible way, it suggests that there is some measure of control. There is not, because once we attempt that sort of control we open up the whole range of ASIO’s activities. Then the Leader of the Labor Party in this place, Senator Murphy, on one of the rare occasions when he speaks here these days, happened to say that there had been a gross breach of international decency. It would appear that international decency is a standard to which we could all subscribe, but we live in a real and somewhat brutal world. If because of what Senator Murphy regards as international decency we should be prepared to divulge, confirm or deny anything that is done by ASIO which affects a foreign power, in that respect we would be limiting Australia’s ability to defend and protect this country in a way for which the Organisation was established.
Then we have the man who, on one account, has known about this since last November. 1 refer to the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) who remained singularly silent until about a week or a fortnight ago but who finally said that what his colleagues had raised was fully justified. By that remark he linked himself with the left wing members of the Labor Party and indicated that the Security Organisation ought to be limited in its effectiveness. Such is the condition of the Labor Party today that if one section of it (lies off on one of its wings, willy-nilly part of the other wing has to go along. That is why the right and left wings are in the position these days of being unable to present a coherent picture or story.
– The honourable senator said that be was sick of all this so why does he go on with it?
– I should imagine that Senator Cohen would be sick of it in the light of the way that it has rebounded upon him.
– The honourable senator is doing a lot of talking, yet he has been complaining that everybody has been wasting time on this subject.
– It is all very well to start something in the belief that one can make political capital from it, but it seems that when the Opposition finds that it cannot do so it wants to cry quits. I do not intend to cry quits. I am pleased that the facts of the case have been revealed, simply for the purpose of enabling the Australian people to know what a group of people comprises the Labor Party today - bereft of (he principles with which it was formed, denigrating the security of this country and risking the ability of Australia to be able to defend itself and to protect its citizens as occasion may require. Those remarks are legitimate in the light of what has happened.
The second main thing which this incident has shown is an irresponsibility of the highest order. I have already instanced that there has been no regard for the purposes or objectives of the Security Organisation, but also there has been no regard for truth or for fairness. There has been no concern with objectivity. There has been a degree of unparalleled muck raking to obtain some supposed political advantage. As 1 have said, anything which appeared to be worthy of being hit at was hit at indiscriminately; first it was ASIO, then Senator Scott and then Mr Hoffmann. There were allegations of prohibited imports. There was an attack on the accuracy or veracity of the Hansard report, and later the Department of Customs and Excise was the subject of attack. Even today Senator Cavanagh has suggested that there was S3m worth of evasion. But there is another point to all this, that is, that Mr Hoffmann was the individual who suffered. Because of an error which he made he suffered the prospect of dismissal after a hearing by and an appeal to the Public Service tribunals.
– Gazetted dismissal.
– The prospect of dismissal, and he resigned. He lost the security, the seniority and the benefits which were his within the Department. When he was still in the Department he sought assistance in the hope that, on appeal, he would achieve something less than the dismissal which had been ordered by the Chief Officer. He pleaded for assistance in respect of the representations he was making. He went to an officer to whom, I would imagine, most members of the Labor Party would expect one of their supporters to go - at least a supporter who was a member of a union. Mr Hoffmann went to the then President of the Canberra branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association for the purpose of obtaining assistance in regard to his case.
– What was his wife doing at the time?
– I shall come to what his wife was doing. The purpose for which he went to see Mr King, who was the officer of the union to which I have referred, was to enlist the union’s support. He gave to Mr King the documents which he had and which he regarded as relevant to his plea. The documents were given to Mr King on a basis that they were to be kept as confidential by Mr King and not disclosed. That was expressly mentioned between them. There was to be no mention of ASIO and no mention by Mr King of what was contained in the documents because it was a confidential relationship. One would have supposed that any officer or trade unionist could go to the president of bis union or to his union secretary to get assistance in a case where he was about to lose his employment. He would hope to have assistance from that union officer, and I am sure that in the days when Senator Ormonde was active that sort of assistance was given and was much appreciated. But what happened on this occasion? Far from assisting a fellow officer, Mr King or - I will come to the alternative in a moment - this other gentleman, disclosed this information and made it available to those who wanted to use it for party political purposes. There would be a clear breach of an obligation by a union officer to a man who went to him seeking assistance and relying upon an assurance that there would be no disclosure of this material.
There is a further point: The President of the Canberra branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association was then and is now a member of the Public Service. He has certain obligations which derive from that office. If, in regard to a task entrusted to him in his capacity as a union president, he breaks his obligation and seeks to make political capital of it, one can only wonder whether or not he might be prepared to seek political capital if he felt that political capital were to be gained notwithstanding the obligation of the office which he holds in the Public Service. In my opinion it at least raises a matter for inquiry and I would have thought that if it were sustained that he was the person who handed out the document which Mr Hoffmann had given to him then that conduct in itself would warrant believing him unworthy of remaining in the Public Service. I would be interested to hear what any member of the Opposition has to say about that.
I said earlier that there was one other alternative source from which this material could have been obtained. It is quite apparent, from the accounts given by Mrs Hoffmann both in the articles which she wrote in the newspapers, and in other ways which have become apparent, that she saw Mr Cullen who, in November 1968, was secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam. She saw him because Mr and Mrs Hoffmann were members of the Australian Labor Party and they thought they could go to the Leader of their Parliamentary Party to get some assistance. Of course, Mr Whitlam was unable, or unwilling, to see them and Mrs Hoffmann saw Mr Cullen who, as I said, was Mr Whitlam’s secretary. This came out, not when the Labor Party initially raised this matter in the Senate, but as a result of newspaper reports - I saw it in the Melbourne ‘Herald* - about a fortnight after this issue had first arisen. It suggested that Mrs Hoffmann had seen Mr Cullen. I asked some questions in this place as to whether or not Mr Cullen had made any representations. Mr Cullen himself had made no representations. But
Mr Cullen, after those questions and the revelation of what had happened, decided to make a statement to the newspapers and, according to the following report from the Sydney ‘Morning Herald’ of 6th March 1969, this is what was said:
Outside the House today Mr Peter Cullen said that a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, which Mrs Hoffmann had shown to him appeared to be the original copy. Mr Cullen said that Mrs Hoffmann had come to see him when he was on Mr Whitlam’s staff last October to ask for Mr Whitlam’s intervention. She had claimed that her husband’s offence was technical rather than dishonourable. Mrs Hoffmann had brought a lot of documents including a letter addressed to the Prime Minister setting out her case.
Mr Cullen said that he had taken up the case with the public service union involved, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, which had sought to have the hearing of the appeal deferred. But Mrs Hoffmann had returned a few days later and told him that the appeal had been dismissed. He had returned the documents to her. Mr Cullen said he could not discuss the contents of the letter addressed to the Prime Minister, but he had disclosed the contents to Mr Whitlam.
That, of course, was last November. As a result of statements made in the other place this week, Mr Cullen apparently felt obliged to speak to the newspapers, because he said this, as published in the Canberra Times’ of 19th March:
Mr Cullen said later that without being named specifically he had been accused of intercepting a letter from Mrs Hoffmann to the Prime Minister, having copied it and given a copy to Mr Eric Walsh.
These are Mr Cullen’s own words, as reported in the newspaper: 1 did read a letter Mrs Hoffmann originally intended to send to the Prime Minister when she asked me to read it in my office. I did not cop> it and I did not give a copy to Eric Walsh.
Therefore, accepting Mr Cullen’s account, because he has denied specifically taking a copy of it, or giving a copy to Mr Walsh, the only other person to whom the documents were given by Mr Hoffmann was this president of the Canberra branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. It is a reasonable assumption, 1 think, that although Mr King denies that he passed on this information or made it available to other people he was the person who breached the confidence and passed it on and started this affair that has become known as the ‘Hoffmann affair’.
I think it is useful for the record to refer to what Mrs Hoffman herself said: I refer to what appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of
Wednesday. 12th March, where Mrs Hoffmann is reported as having said:
The mystery document which is now claimed to be the central item in the ‘Hoffmann affair’ is apparently a letter I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) last October. This was after Gerard had been unofficially advised he was to be dismissed. Instead of sending it to the Prime Minister, I took it to the office of the Opposition Leader (Mr Whitlam). I was a non-active member of the ALP. 1 fell Mr Whitlands office could ensure the fast and safe delivery of the letter to Mr Gorton.
This. I suppose, was the beginning of the socalled strange circumstances leading to the decision to allow Gerard to resign rather than suffer the stigma of dismissal. At the time I felt upset at the treatment Gerard had received. When I called at his office, Mr Whitlam was out. I showed bis secretary (Mr Cullen) the letter and outlined the details surround Gerald’s dismissal.
On Mr Cullen’s advice, the letter was not sent on to the Prime Minister. Mr Cullen advised that the best approach to right the injustice would be to take the matter up with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott).
I interpolate here to say that Mr Cullen has not told ns why he gave the advice or in what circumstances he gave the advice not to send the letter on to the Prime Minister. The article continues:
I took back the letter. Gerard and I burnt it, although we retained a copy of it. 1 think this is significant:
The letter I wrote did noi in any way hint that I would reveal I had spied for ASIO if Gerard did nol get a belter deal, lt said in part, though, that at one lime both Gerard and I had worked in with ASIO to get information from the Japanese Embassy. lt is interesting to note that neither in the letter which was tabled here yesterday by Senator O’ Byrne nor in the report given by Mrs Hoffmann did she in any way hint or state that she would reveal that she had worked for the Japanese Embassy unless something was done for her husband. That was the fabrication which the Opposition engaged in; that was the fabrication which this Opposition published to the world and, apparently from the noise coming from that side of the chamber now it is still the sort of fabrication in which the Opposition wants to persist.
– On Senator Greenwood’s own admission, she told the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to order, ls it not only disorderly to interject but highly disorderly to interject from a seat other than one’s own, as Senator Wheeldon is doing?
– Fancy saying ‘.hat after all the help I have been giving YOU lately.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laught) - Order! Senator Wheeldon, return to your seat.
– I think it is also relevant, in the light of the answers that Senator Scott was able to give this morning, to recall that he said that Mr Hoffmann, in the letter he sent to Senator Scott, stated that Mr King was the only person to whom these documents were given, except the copy of the letter to the Prime Minister which was shown to Mr Cullen in Mr Whitlam’s office. Mr Hoffmann stressed that at no time was any authority given for the disclosure or publication of any of the information revealed by Mr Hoffmann. May I, in closing off this particular aspect, refer to what Mrs Hoffmann said, again in the article in the Age’ to which 1 have referred. She is reported in this way:
Despite the injustice, despite the blackening of the character of Gerard and despite the harrowing time we had been through, we were content to quietly make our own way in life and forget the whole affair.
That is the way it would have been.
Someone - and it was certainly neither Gerard nor I - plotted t misuse knowledge they had gained to create a political storm.
I think that the people who stand condemned in this are basically Mr King, who had the information, and those who managed in some way to get hold of the information and to use it. We know of course that some time in November there was a reference to these matters in Mr Maxwell Newton’s paper. Then there was a reference by Mr Walsh in the ‘Mirror’ chain of newspapers. Thereafter there have been some small references, one of the most striking being that of Senator Kennelly who said in this place that there was a letter which he had been assured was right. It was a photo copy letter.
– It was tabled.
– This was stated on 26th February. If there was such a letter it was a letter which either Mr Cullen or Mr King had obtained improperly.
Mr Cullen has denied that he obtained that letter so. as I say, the only other person who could have produced it was Mr King.
– Stop persecuting Mr King. You want to get him dismissed.
– What about Mr King’s wife and family? What a shocking accusation to make. Have you no thought for his wife and family. You are crucifying him.
– You have no regard-
– 1 think that the protestations of Senator Wheeldon, Senator Keeffe and Senator Cavanagh highlight how inconsistent and how lacking in principle they are because there was never any such concern about Mr and Mrs Hoffmann and their family. They are concerned about Mr King, the reason being that he is a friend of theirs and the source of their information and they want to protect him.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, in the interests of a little decourm in this chamber I ask that you see that there are fewer interjections.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! There will be less discussion in the chamber.
– 1 rise to a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, fs it in order for one senator to name three others and to say that they are lacking in principle? 1 believe that is unparliamentary. It is most offensive to me.
– You were not mentioned.
– I was not mentioned, it is true, but it is most offensive for me to have to sit here and hear you accuse three senators on this side of lacking principle. I ask that those words be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - My ruling is that the senators named did not complain to the Chair. Therefore at this time I do not ask Senator Greenwood to withdraw.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I did not hear Senator Greenwood’s remark but I should like to know for the sake of my own egotism whether, in his opinion, 1 am privileged to be in that category. Can you inform me on that?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There was so much noise at the time that 1 did not hear clearly what Senator Greenwood was saying. Therefore no point of order is involved.
– 1 claim a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, and ask for the remark to be withdrawn. I was one of the three persons placed in this category, lt is personally offensive to me and in the circumstances I ask for a withdrawal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - What are the words of which you complain?
– He implied and in fact stated that the people he named were completely unprincipled in their remarks in earlier debates in this chamber, the implication being that there was no honesty in any statements that we made.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Were you named as one?
– ] was one of (hose named.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Greenwood, are you prepared to withdraw?
– Yes, I certainly am prepared to withdraw what Senator Keeffe said I said as I did not in fact say that. What I did say with regard to the three of them was that they were lacking in principle. It has offended them, so I withdraw it. I have my doubts as to whether their conduct in this regard can be justified in principle. What I was complaining about was the great noise and the suggestion that I was in some way not thinking of or giving due consideration to Mr King and his family despite the fact that the honourable senators mentioned gave no consideration to Mr and Mrs Hoffmann and their family. I feel that there is such a lack of consistency in that regard that the only explanation is that Mr King is a friend of theirs and the source from which a lot of this information has come. He must be protected, but not Mr and Mrs Hoffmann!
– 1 rise to a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I did not hear whether Senator Greenwood said that I was lacking in principle, but if he did say it [ do not ask for a withdrawal as it does not concern rae in the slightest.
– 1 must say that the noise, the interjections and the protests from members of the Labor Party are a fair indication that they are suffering from some concern about the way this matter has developed. There was a different attitude entirely approximately a fortnight ago.
– Oh, be merciful.
– Senator Wheeldon with a display of mock heroics has expressed the thought that one might be merciful. There is an old adage to the effect that those who show mercy are those who may expect mercy. I fail to see, in anything that members of the Labor Party have done in the course of the Hoffmann affair, any sign of mercy towards Mr Hoffmann, Mrs Hoffmann or the Minister for Customs and Excise. I say that the basis upon which I am making these charges against members of the Opposition is a factual basis which can be sustained, and that is more than can be said for anything which has been put forward by the Opposition in its attempt to charge the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation or the Minister for Customs and Excise in the way it has done. I consider it relevant in this context to refer to the fact that a few days ago Senator O’Byrne sought, and was granted leave, to have incorporated in Hansard the ‘Incentive’ articles published by Mr Maxwell Newton. Those ‘Incentive’ articles published at varying times since last November contained material which has been shown, as a result of questions and answers in this place, to be totally false. It is quite clear, although Mr Newton wrote that Mrs Hoffmann did not get to see Mr Gorton because as a distraught woman she was intercepted in the corridors of Parliament House, that that is not consistent with what Mrs Hoffmann herself says. The allegation that Mr Hoffmann was told in his interview with Senator Scott that he could submit a resignation is likewise totally untrue. The statement that Mr Hoffmann found employment at a higher rate of pay than he was receiving previously is also totally untrue. In these articles there is a mass of material which, in the light of what the Minister has said, is totally untrue. Senator O’Byrne knows that, but he thinks there is some advantage in having this muck raking document put into Hansard.
Even today we heard Senator Cavanagh, after Mr Hoffmann himself has revealed that he gave these documents to Mr King, ask a question designed to suggest that if a union office bearer makes representations to a tribunal on behalf of an employee there is something improper in that. 1 wonder whether Senator Cavanagh, when he was a union secretary, declined to take up the cudgels on behalf of one of his union members. I wonder what his unionists would have thought if he, as a union office bearer, had disclosed what had been told to him confidentially to people who wanted to make political capital out of it.. The days when the Labor Party looked after its members have long since passed. Once upon a time. I imagine, the Labor Party was motivated by something that had built up the unions of this country. It no longer is.
I believe that it is absolutely scandalous that when a union office bearer is given information by one of his members who wants help, that person is regarded as secondary and action is taken only having regard to the way in which the political purposes of the party that the union secretary supports can be advantaged.
– How does the honourable senator know that that is true?
–! have spent the best part of half an hour giving the facts from which that is the only conclusion that can be drawn. Mr Cullen and Mr King were the only people who saw these documents. Mr Cullen has denied that he took copies of them. Yet copies were floating about this place, as Senator Kennelly says. In those circumstances Mr King is the person who, until he denies it - then there would be an issue between Mr Cullen and Mr King - must be considered to be the person responsible.
Let me say a few things in conclusion. These documents have been in existence since last November. They were not used until February of this year. When they were used they were used with only one intent or objective in mind, and that was for them to be used as part of a campaign to weaken the effectiveness of and public regard for our Security Service. That objective was not achieved. These documents were not used to help the person for whose assistance they had been given. Not only was Mr Hoffmann not given any assistance, but the result has been that these documents have been used to vilify him in this Parliament for the last 3 weeks. It is no surprise that Mr and Mrs Hoffmann, after remaining silent while all this blew up, finally were goaded into revealing, as a means of self-protection, facts which they would have preferred to have kept quiet and which Senator Scott, with innate decency, had also sought to keep quiet. But they came out because the Opposition persisted until they came out. Now the whole truth is out, and wo have all this noise and pandemonium on the Opposition side. Members of the Opposition are squirming in their seats because they have been found out. 1 believe that two particular consequences should be borne in mind. The first is that there should be some explanation from Mr King and some denial, if he is able to give it. If there is a denial, there should be some confrontation between Mr Cullen and Mr King as to where the documents came from. If it is established that they came from Mr King, I believe that it is a proper case for an inquiry as to whether he is a proper person to remain in the Public Service. The other aspect that warrants some attention is whether this Parliament should take some action against the scandal sheets and scurrilous newsletters which float about this place, which certain material that is demonstrably false and in which material that is false is persisted in after denials accepted by the Parliament have been made. This is a matter that does not strike at the freedom of the Press; it merely ensures that if there is a free Press there is one standard. That is the standard of truth, which is something that should be insisted upon.
I hope that this matter will not be allowed, on our side, to drop. The more we bring home to the Australian people the situation in which the Labor Party and Labor Party members have put themselves over this Hoffmann affair, the greater will be the realisation of what the Labor Party is and the greater will be the hops of reform of that Party from within its own ranks.
– i wish to take this opportunity to draw to the attention of the Senate a matter which, although it is not as colourful as that raised by Senator Greenwood, I believe is of much more importance to this country. It is the defence issue concerning the purchase of the Fill aircraft and one other related issue with which I shall deal later. The purchase of the Fill aircraft is a subject that lias been dealt with extensively in this Parliament. Arguments for and against the purchase of the aircraft have been raised over the past 2 or 3 years. But I believe that over the past few months this issue has been allowed to lie dormant. We are approaching what I would call the crisis stage both in the purchase of the aircraft for this country and in the development of the aircraft in the United States of America.
I wish to spend 3 or 4 minutes looking at the history of the swing-wing aeroplanes generally. Four have been designed and built throughout the world. Two of them are Russian, one is French and the fourth is the Fill. Those of us who have any interest in the design of military aircraft over the past 20 years or so will know that the Russians have been at the forefront in the design of this type of aeroplane - this highly manoeuvrable aircraft designed for tactical military purposes. There is not much that they do not know. There have been very few occasions on which they have been lagging behind any other nation in the design of military aircraft. They have designed and built two types of swing-wing aircraft - the Sukhoi design, which did not ever go into operation and which is being used only for developmental purposes, and the Mikoyan design, which was the work of the man who designed the very famous series of MIG fighters that we have seen since the Second World War. The French have built the Mirage G. as I think it is designated. Of course, the fourth design is the Fill.
There is a distinctive feature of the three aircraft other than the Fill. It is that all three of them were developments of proven aircraft designs. Apparently that is something that did not occur to the United States manufacturers, who embarked on the development of an aircraft which took them into a very highly sophisticated area both in the variable geometry design and in the mach 2.5 performance. It would seem that this has given them tremendous problems.
Even away from military aircraft we find the same pattern developing. Four supersonic transport designs have been developed in the world in the past 2 or 3 years. There have been a Russian design, a French design and two American designs. One of the American designers - the Boeing company - opted for a swing-wing design. All the other three designers opted for a delta fixed-wing design. But the Boeing company had the good sense to realise that it was running into problems which it obviously could not meet. Consequently it resubmitted its design for a delta wing. 1 wish to quote from an article published in the ‘Economist’ of October 1968, headed What Has Gone Wrong With Swing Wings?’. The article makes the following comments about troubles with the Fill:
The conclusion this leads up to is that the swinging part of the swing-wing is easy to build and works reliably. But it raises design problems for other parts of the aircraft that are inadequately understood. Because Boeing and General Dynamics concentrated so hard on the swing parts, they may have overlooked this - General Dynamics in particular. General Dynamics can even face a heavy financial liability unless the company’s lawyers are able to prove that the Services have asked for so many modifications that their original contracts are now void. lt is quite obvious that the history of the development of swing- wing aircraft has not been particularly favourable. In the September 1968 issue of the magazine Fortune’ the whole subject is dealt with quite extensively. The article is too long to quote in its entirety, but I will quote one paragraph of it. The article is headed Decision Time for Tactical Air Power’ and is written by Mr Charles Murphy. 1 ask honourable senators to bear in mind that the article was written in December 1968. Mt Murphy wrote:
The programme for the Fill, the 1,600-mile- an-hour swing-wing fighter-bomber that was confidently expected to give American fighting forces capacity for rapid and summary intervention in the most distant limited war situations has foundered, and the hope that the Fill would serve the needs of both the Navy and Air Force has been abandoned.
Does not this suggest that in view of the American experience to date we should be having another look at the question of the FI 1 1? In 1963 the decision was made to purchase the F. 1 1 aircraft in preference to the British TSR2 aircraft. I realise that the TSR2 project is as dead as mutton, but as 1 shall indicate, it could well be that the ghost of the TSR2 is still flying, not in British or American colours, but in Russian colours. I wish to quote from a book titled “The Murder of TSR2’ written by Peter Hastings. It deals extensively with the subject, and in particular, the Australian Government’s participation in negotiations in 1963 with the British Aircraft Corporation. He referred to the failure of the British Aircraft Corporation to sell the aircraft to Australia. He wrote:
But before looking for the reasons for failure, it is only sensible to try to analyse whether the Australian Government were right in choosing the American plane. On purely technical grounds, their decision seems a strange one. They had 3i years experience of the growth of TSR2. All the evidence shows that their technicians and airmen understood it and had the deepest confidence in its ability to perform the task. By contrast, practically nothing was known about the Fill, indeed, there was not much to tell in the early stage, nor had a full technical evaluation been carried out. But there is far more to the sale or adoption of these vast aviation projects than technical proficiency alone. The precipitate nature of the Australian negotiations in America which led to the Fill decision certainly owed something to the approaching general election.
That is a reference to the Australian general election. The book continued:
Defence in general and the bomber replacement programme in particular had for some time been a political issue in Australia, and the Opposition were losing no opportunity of pressing the attack. Sir Robert Menzies had clearly decided to get the business out of the way before going to the country. The fact that Mr Townley went to the United States without apparently any plans to visit the United Kingdom would indicate that a decision to ‘Go American’ had probably been taken already by the Australian Cabinet in Canberra before his departure and that he was simply charged to make the best deal he could over the Fill. The Australian Government were prepared to accept McNamara’s assurances on its totally untried performance.
I address my question to the Minister repreenting the Minister tor Defence. In view of the uncertainty surrounding the development and delivery of the Fill aircraft, has the Government commenced investigations concerning alternative types of aircraft? If so, what types of aircraft are under consideration? If the Government has not done so, does it not believe that such investigations should be commenced without delay?
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) replied:
The question might more properly have been directed lo the Minister representing the Minister for Air for information on the substantive facts. [ know of no consideration being given to the study of un aircraft to replace the Flit.
I find it incredible that in a matter of such importance as the purchase of replacement aircraft for the Canberra bombers the Government has been prepared to put all its eggs in the basket of the Fill, even when the evidence so strongly suggests that the aircraft may not turn out to be the performer that we were told years ago it would bc. Are we prepared to say to the Royal Australian Air Force in a few months time that we are sorry that the deal has not worked out, and it will have to wait for another 5 or 6 years for aircraft to replace the Canberra bombers? ls it not reasonable for the Government to be investigating now an alternative to the Fill? Does it not have a responsibility to this country and to the defence programme in general to do this? I suggest that it has. I realise that it may be electorally dangerous lo admit that that was being done, but by comments that have been made by honourable senators opposite in the last 2 or 3 days I am prompted to say that if they are so confident of maintaining their position they should have no fear. They should not be concerned about the few votes it might cost them by admitting to the Australian public that a mistake may have been made and that therefore the Government is prepared to have another look at the question.
I pass now to a related subject which I think is also relevant to the overall question of aircraft, lt concerns a question I asked this morning about light aircraft in Australia. Those of us who have had any interest in this subject appreciate that I was referring specifically to the Transavia Corporation. This subsidiary of a much bigger organisation, Transfield Pty Ltd, established a light aircraft industry at Seven Hills, New South Wales, 3 or 4 years ago. It has done virtually everything that it was told could not be done. It is building, of course, one type of small agricultural aircraft. The company realises, as many others realise, that this country is deserving of a continuing light aircraft industry and that it is capable of providing technicians and know-how if someone is prepared to risk the capital to establish such an industry. This company has invested more than $0.75m in the industry, lt sought assistance in the form of a bounty from the Federal Government, but the Tariff Board’s recommendation was unfavourable. Unfortunately, the Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation. lt seems to me to be an astonishing state of affairs that the Government can go on paying out tens of millions of dollars for the purchase of an aircraft that we do not know will even partly measure up to what we have been told it will do and yet refuses to assist a company which has shown initiative and know-how and has come up with some extremely original aircraft designs. The Transavia Corporation is asking for a mere $310,000 to ensure that it stays in business, but the Government refuses to grant such assistance. I cannot imagine anything more paltry. I could understand the Government’s attitude if the company were manufacturing refrigerators. Is there any honourable senator on either side of the House who is prepared to say that the estblishment of a light aircraft industry in Australia is not to the betterment of the nation? I do not think there is. A light aircraft industry should have been established in Australia years ago. lt can only be established if the Federal Government is prepared to accept the responsibility of providing financial assistance.
One can imagine the dilemma of this company when one considers that it is competing against aircraft imported from the
United States. There are interests in this country who represent the overseas manufacturers and who do not want to see an Australian light aircraft industry survive because it will affect their rakeoff from the aircraft they are importing. The Saab Aircraft Corporation in Sweden commenced operations in the 1930s with government assistance and today it is producing the most highly sophisticated jet aircraft in the world. That is not an over-statement. Saab is able to do this because years ago someone in that small country had the foresight to establish an aircraft industry. We can see today the fruits of that foresight. But the Australian Government is adopting a negative and paltry attitude towards the establishment of such an industry. I am sure that some honourable senators opposite are aware of this.
I conclude my remarks by making two appeals. Transavia is undoubtedly a company worthy of support. It is trying to sell aircraft to prospective buyers, but these prospective buyers are being told by other people: Transavia will not survive for more than 2 or 3 years. Do not buy its aircraft as you will not be able to get spares, service and so on.’ These prospective buyers are being forced into purchasing American aircraft. My appeal to the Government on this point is to give some token of assurance to this company that it can count on government support in its venture. This venture is worthy of support. My second appeal to the Government is in connection with F111 aircraft. Surely the importance of this issue is not determined in terms of votes. Surely it means more than that. If the Government is not prepared to make a statement that it is in fact taking precautions against the complete failure of the F111 aircraft it does not deserve to be in office.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1966 by increasing the maximum rates of levy on grapes delivered to wineries and distilleries. The levies on fresh and dried grapes used in the wine industry have applied since 1929 and are designed to finance the activities of the Australian Wine Board, that is, activities relating to administration, trade promotion in Australia and overseas, and research. The operative rates of levy are varied from time to time after consideration of reports and recommendations by the Board.
The maximum rates of levy now imposed by the Act are $1.50 per ton for fresh grapes and $4.50 per ton for dried grapes. Provision is made in the Act for regulations to prescribe rates below the maximum if lower operative rates are considered desirable. However, the last increase in the rate of levy by regulation in 1967 brought the present operative rates to the maxima and this yields the Board an annual income of between $300,000 and $375,000, depending on the size of the vintage.
The increases now proposed in the maximum rates are to $2.50 for fresh grapes and to $7.50 for dried grapes. Rates imposed within these new limits will ensure that the Board has available sufficient revenue to intensify its promotional activities both at home and abroad as occasion demands, and it will also make it possible to allocate extra funds for research into wine making and grape growing techniques. In the decade to 1966-67 there have been quite spectacular increases in sales of both table and dessert wines and brandy in Australia. Exports both of wine and of brandy during this period have increased by about 20%.
As wine production has increased, so too has the need for publicity and promotion. Revenue from the wine grapes levies has naturally risen with increased grape production, but unless further rises in the operative rates are made possible by increasing the maximum rates laid down in the Act, the industry may lack the finance to take full advantage through promotional activities of the expanding demand situation prevailing.
The passage of this Bill will enable the Board to recommend new levy rates to apply to future grape crops. The rates could be the maxima or any levels below the maxima prescribed by the Act. From the revenue so obtained the Board would be free, after providing for its administrative costs, to use the balance of this money as it saw fit for any purpose calculated to improve the quality or promote the sale in Australia or overseas of wine and brandy.
The Board comprises representatives of the three sections of the industry, proprietary wine makers, co-operative wine makers and grape growers, and a Government member. I am confident of its ability, as it has demonstrated in the past, to reach decisions in relation to the size of the levy to be imposed from time to time which will be of optimum benefit to the industry.
An incidental administrative machinery change is also sought It is that provision be made for payment of the levy in two equal instalments - one by 30th September and the second by 31st March following each vintage. At present all moneys are required to be paid on or before 30th September. The proposals have substantial support within the industry. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The intention of the legislation before the Senate is to give the government authority to increase levies on fresh and dried grapes. The Opposition is not in favour of this legislation and intends to vote against it. The Opposition’s reasons for doing so are quite simple and quite clear. Justification for the introduction of this legislation is contained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who said:
As wine production has increased, so too has the need for publicity and promotion. Revenue from the wine grapes levies has naturally risen with increased grape production, but unless further rises in the operative rates are made possible by increasing the maximum rates laid down in the Act, the industry may lack the finance to take full advantage through promotional activities of the expanding demand prevailing.
The simple position is that the wine industry throughout Australia is rather belatedly starting to enjoy some of the work which has been done by the great pioneers of the wine industry. I pay particular tribute to the early settlers who came to South Australia and developed the varieties of grapes and the techniques of wine making which today are providing, in abundance, the various types of table and fortified wines and spirits. They are providing products of quality from their grapes and in a quantity which does great credit to the industry.
Many connoisseurs who have visited Australia have developed a palate for the thing that Omar Khayyam became so lyrical about. Those connoisseurs have said that our wines are surprisingly good and in fact are much better than their reputation overseas suggests.
– Omar Khayyam said that, did he?
– Omar Khayyam wrote in these terms:
I wonder often what the Vintners buy one half so precious as the stuff they sell.
– He also mentioned a book of verse, a loaf of bread and thou.
– We will not mention the ‘thou’ part of it because it has been bandied about too much in the last half hour. This Bill should attract the closest attention of all honourable senators because it deals with an indirect form of taxation on a particular section of the community, the wine growers. The Bill has other disadvantages because once a levy is imposed - it is actually a tax - it has to be borne in the first place by the growers. They in turn transfer it to the next stage of tha process in the production of wine. The cost then is passed to the wholesaler, who adds his percentage to the total, and it is then passed on to the retailer who also adds his margin. Of course eventually the consumer has to pay a high margin for this commodity.
– I do not think it will work that way in this case.
– In my experience it does work that way. The traditional English habit is to brink beer. The average Australian takes the view that beer is the thing to drink. As a consequence the beer industry has got into fewer and fewer hands and its organising capacity has become more sophisticated. The brewers have been able to purchase hotels. It was rather interesting to note that the first case referred to the Trade Practices Tribunal concerns a brewery. Monopolisation is not restricted to a particular brewery because I believe that in every State the supply of beer is in the hands of monopolies. By contrast, the wine industry has grown up because of the work of individual pioneers. Individualists have taken pleasure and pride in their end product. Now they are coming up against competition - highly organised competition - from beer seliers. The brewer can supply his product direct to the outlet, the retailer, the hotels and other places at which beer is sold, under such conditions that he is able to give rebates and discounts for cash. Generally speaking the beer industry has developed into a cash and carry organisation. 1 have heard that many breweries deliver beer on a Monday and collect cash for it on the Wednesday. The beer delivered on Wednesday is then paid for on the following Friday. The breweries therefore are able to extend retailers terms of credit involving payment within 2 or 3 days.
The wine industry over the years has had to face up to very fierce competition. The people associated with it have had to grant up to 3 months credit. This credit arrangement has become part of the industry. The vintner has to carry the burden of all the expenses associated with the production of his crop as well as the cost of storage while the wine matures. When he eventually is able to go into competition with the beer industry he then has to put up with the long terms of credit plus the enormous amount of profit extracted from wines all the way along the line throughout Australia. Because of the newly formed habits of Australians, many people are realising that beer is not the be-all and endall of liquid refreshment. Wine is being sought after more and more by people from the Continent who have migrated to Australia. Their form of cooking and presentation of food lends itself more to drinking wine with food than to the old Australian habit of beer drinking. As a consequence the wine industry is producing to its capacity in order to supply the market. Not so long ago it was possible to buy plentiful quantities of red table wines bottled 5, 6 or 7 years ago. It seems that that is the period of time which our wine takes to mature. Some people claim that European wines are much better at a greater age than this but from my experience Australian wine seems to be at its best at about 6 or 7 years. There is a tendency with some vintages for the wine to go off after that time.
Red table wines which one is able to procure now seem to be only 2 or 3 years old. This indicates that there has been a sudden demand for the industry’s product and that it is unable to supply the market.
It is considered at present that there will be an additional 10,000 acres planted with vines, lt is understood that many more acres have been planted but the Australian Wine Board, or the organisation dealing with the statistics of the industry, has no knowledge of them. What will happen? It is expected that future vintages will be 250,000 tons of grapes, both fresh and dried. The present levy of $1.50 on fresh grapes and $4.50 on dried grapes will bring increased revenue to the Wine Board. Over the years the work of the Board has been very creditable. It has advertised discreetly by encouraging wine tasting in various communities, it has sponsored competitions and it has arranged for various agricultural shows to specialise in sections for wine competitions. The Board deserves the praise of the industry and of the Australian people generally.
The 1968 Fortieth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board for the year 1967-68 comments that the Board’s income from the 1967 vintage was at the rate of $1.50 per ton of fresh grapes. The income from that source for 1967-68 was $356,942. Income was higher than usual owing to an increase in the operative rate of 20c per ton and the record 1967 vintage. The operative rate of duty of 20c per ton allowed a leeway to the Board. Although the Board claimed that it was not imperative to impose the maximum, it is imposing the maximum that the present Act allows. During the year expenditure was $321,000 and income exceeded expenditure by $43,581. Approximately 75% of expenditure was on publicity in Australia and overseas and accounted for $238,699. The situation is such that, with the growing demand on the domestic market and the prospect of any extra levy having a very important effect on the ultimate cost to the consumer of grapes, we believe that it is too early for the Government to be making preparations for extra funds to become available to the Wine Board. My view, which I am quite certain is shared by honourable senators on this side of the chamber, is that the people associated directly with the distribution of wine in a competitive industry have the capacity and the finance available to be able to advertise their own brands. I have not seen any statistics; I do not know whether or not they are available. From my observation of advertising material, through the Press, through pamphlets, through hoardings and the other multitudinous forms of getting the name and the quality of the product before the public, I would say that the private sector which distributes wines throughout Australia is spending in advertising ten times as much as is the Australian Wine Board. At the moment the industry has practically reached its capacity to supply the demand.
A proposition has been put that we should spend more on overseas advertising. My belief is that Government policy in this case, as in so many other cases, is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Some good, basic, stable commodities such as wool have carried along the economy of the country over the years, but because of Government policy, because of inflation and because of costs associated with the production of these commodities - I refer particularly to wool - we are having great difficulty in disposing of our wool at a profitable price on the world market. We have a limited capacity to absorb a percentage of our gross wool production in the local market. We rely very heavily on exports. Because of domestic cost factors we are meeting strong competition from overseas. The same thing has happened all the way along the line with primary industries. The costs are added to the account of the basic producer and that multiplies as the percentage costs are increased along the line. I foresee the same fate befalling the wine industry as has befallen our other primary industries, if this Parliament allows an impost, a levy, a tax or whatever one likes to call it to be imposed in accordance with this legislation.
The Wine and Brandy Producers Cooperative Association of South Australia has been very strong in its opposition to the legislation. One of the most pleasing aspects of the whole industry is the level of cooperation that has been achieved. It has been said that the most difficult people in the community to organise are the primary producers - the farmers. Often in the Senate I have stated that the farmer lives in his own little kingdom. He has all of the forces of the elements with which to contend, all of the diseases to fight and all of the quirks of nature to battle. He is able to survive against them, but when he enters the business world he gets a very rough handling. He is able to handle most of the natural elements because he has the capacity to take hard knocks and to work. Therefore he is able to handle his affairs fairly well. But once the farmer leaves his little block of land, his little kingdom, he becomes an individualist.
I remember the short-sightedness of the recent propaganda campaign to persuade the wool growers to vote in the referendum against a proposal which would give them some kind of stability in the industry. That kind of campaign is an old trick amongst those people who gain from disunity amongst the primary producers. If the primary producers united in a co-operative way many businessmen would find that their nice rake-off would be reduced considerably. A lot more of those profits would go back to the man on the land. Members of co-operatives have come together for the common purpose of getting their industry on the best possible level. Although I have seen films of the area, I have not had the pleasure of visiting this famous place called Nuriootpa. 1 shall have to see Senator Laucke one day and arrange to visit the area. It is a beautiful name which sounds delightfully Australian. I have often tried the products from Nuriootpa and I have found that they are as good as the name sounds. But the main point that I am making is that producers in that area have cooperated for the common purpose of getting their industry on the best possible level so that their product can be presented to the public as attractively as possible and at a price that should be acceptable to the consumers. This is an excellent way for people to live and to work together on the cooperative level.
Unfortunately, as I have stated already, after the wine leaves the co-operative wine makers and distillers and before it reaches the consumer considerable additions have been made to the price. This should be looked into, even if it is necessary to investigate the situation with a body which is the equivalent of the Tariff Board or have it examined by a special authority or parliamentary inquiry. Tremendous margins are added to the price at each stage of distribution of wine. The wine makers and distillers have gone into co-operatives and not only have they set a standard for other primary producers throughout Australia but also they have been able to develop improvements. They have an incentive to improve the quality of their products.
The Wine and Brandy Producers Cooperative Association of South Australia has said that its members are unanimously opposed to the proposed increase in the maximum grape levy. The organisation has put up certain arguments to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and has stressed the point that I have made, that the wine industry has never been so bouyant at home and that further promotional work can only help to increase the consumption of imported wines because supplies of Australian wines are just not available. The organisation admits that rising costs of administration have been imposed on the Australian Wine Board, but it points out also that in the 1968 vintage grape crush a record of 249,400 tons of grapes were processed. As a result of the increased tonnage processed, the Wine Board will automatically receive an additional income. The organisation has observed also that it expects crushings this year to be in excess of 250,000 tons because of what it estimates to be an increased planting of vines to the extent of 10,000 acres. It is my view, which I believe would be shared by Government supporters, that there is no great emergency about the imposition of this levy. If funds were needed or if the reserves of the Wine Board were to decrease to such an extent that additional money were needed, it would be a simple process to amend the Act. At present I find it very hard to see justification for the steep increase proposed in the levies on grapes, both fresh and dried. Before I conclude I want to draw attention to the-
– State of the House?
– No. I am not terribly interested in that because I believe that this matter is one which, although of great importance to the wine industry, is not of great interest to all honourable senators. I should like to place on record some statistics which appear in the Australian Wine Board’s statement of income and expenditure for the 12 months ended 30th June 1968. The statement shows an income of S6,042 from interest, $356,942 from the wine grape levy and $2,000 from super annuation adjustments on the Board’s contributions for previous years, making a total income of $365,000. If we take these figures and project them on the basis of a possible crushing of 250,000 tons in the coming years, and take into account also the additional acreage that has been planted, there should be sufficient income for the Wine Board to continue to do the good job that it has been doing.
The marketing of our wine overseas has at times been criticised. My only experience of the marketing of Australian wines overseas was when I was in the United Kingdom in 1953. [ thought that the Australian industry was very unimaginative in the presentation and labelling of wines and in the shape of the bottles. I thought that one company which seemed to have a monopoly on the distribution of Australian wine lacked an efficient publicity section. When compared with French and Spanish wines, the Australian product did not measure up in its presentation. The quality of the product was equal to the others, as we have discovered here in Australia, but the type of label and the shape of the bottle did not do justice to the product. However, that is a personal observation which I offer as an aside.
I suggest that although the increased levy will be payable by the grower, eventually it will be the consumer who has to pay. I do not think it is fair to ask the grower to pay the additional charges, which inevitably wm be passed on to the consumer, when the industry on the domestic level is booming. I give every credit to those associated with the industry for the way in which it is developing. The demand for wine is growing and will continue to grow. The future of this industry will be as good as the future of any primary industry if it is not faced with additional burdens and is left to develop in its own way. Already it is one of our most successful primary industries and probably it will eventually be our most successful primary industry. If it is able to get along under its own power, then I submit there should be the least possible interference with it. Having put that side of the picture, I feel that this legislation is unwarranted at the present time. The industry is coping with its problems and although the finances of the Australian Wine Board are not spectacular, at least they are sufficient and I submit that only increased prices could result from any disturbance of the present flow through of the industry if extra levies were imposed. For the reasons I have expressed, we of the Opposition propose to oppose this measure and to divide the Senate when it is put to the vote.
– In speaking to the Bill before the Senate, it is necessary to appreciate some of the particular problems of the industry to which we are referring - the wine producing industry - and to give cognisance to the tremendous improvements that have taken place in it since it has been more coordinated in its general activities under the Australian Wine Board whose function it is to promote the general interests of the whole industry not only in the interests of the people who are concerned with the growing of the grapes or their processing into wine but in the interests of Australia as a whole.
It is only through the co-ordination of the whole of the industry in producing different types of wines that we can hope to penetrate to any marked degree such export markets as may be available to us in the future. Indeed, in the years of its operation, the Australian Wine Board has had some degree of success in this area, though not as much as we could hope for. Whether the Board itself has been proficient in its operation can clearly be illustrated by its own report. I think we must also give consideration to what is proposed in this Bill. The Bill proposes to increase the capacity of the Board to impose levies. Its purpose is to increase by $1 the maximum levy which the Board has been able to impose in the past. The present maximum is $1.50. It is now to be $2.50.
But that is not to say that the Board will always impose the maximum levy per ton of grapes. In fact, only twice in the last 10 years has it levied the maximum permissible amount. It has usually levied something well below the maximum for its requirements. It is true that at the present time, as is often the case, the industry is somewhat divided on the question as to whether or not the proposed impost is necessary at this particular time. It is difficult for the layman outside the industry to judge as to who is right and who is wrong when it comes to evaluating the arguments put forward by those who favour the maximum remaining as it is or being increased only in some specific circumstances when an extra amount of money should be spent in a specified way and those put forward by the people on the Wine Board who, looking to the future, feel that it is going to be necessary for the Board to be able to increase its income for the purpose of promoting increased production and sales and indeed improving the quality of the product. This is an activity in which it takes a particular interest, just as it takes an interest in all other ramifications of the industry that can lead to an improvement of prospects not only in this country but also on the export market.
When one analyses the cases that are put forward it becomes quite apparent that there was very little objection in the industry to this proposition for an increase when it was first mooted. It has been said by Senator O’Byrne that the increase in production last year has obviated the necessity for the increased levy which the whole of the industry thought previously was going to be necessary. In analysing these arguments, we find that we are dealing with a rural production industry that fluctuates considerably with seasonal conditions. Indeed, from what I have been hearing from grape growers in the past month, it would seem that, because of the unseasonal rains that came down late in the season, the record crop of last year may not be repeated despite the increased acreage grown - at least, not in this vintage. It could be exceeded at some future date.
So one then gets down to the question of the need for an increase in income of the Wine Board and whether or not it is wise to increase the levy in a period when the industry is not able to so fully supply the market in this country as it once was to increase its income. It seems to me to be wrong to suggest that the promotion of the sale of wine should slow down or should remain static because at the moment we are not able fully to supply the market demand. With modern techniques in advertising - and I do not think the wine industry would be a special one in this connection - it is well recognised that you do not advertise today to sell the product tomorrow, particularly if you are selling an idea, as this
Board is selling an idea in attempting to promote an increase in wine drinking in the community. As well as the product, you are selling an idea - almost a culture. If you are going to do that, then it is necessary to think very much further ahead than from year to year or from vintage to vintage.
Indeed, if you want people to develop the habit of wine drinking at home with their meals when they are able to afford such a luxury in their mid-twenties or their thirties, then you have to pre-condition their minds when they are in a much earlier phase of life. Any good advertising executive would agree with that. You develop the habit or the idea, or even the ambition to enjoy these things when they are able to afford them - when they are 18, 19, or 20 years of age. It has been argued that there is less need to advertise wine today because there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for it due to the change in the culture of this country as a result of the tremendous influx of people from older countries of the world. Should we say that this is a time when we should be so short-sighted as to reduce or hold static the amount of promotion engaged in by this particular industry?
I might agree with that argument if it can be shown that the proposition to enable the Wine Board to think bigger and spend bigger would mean the imposition of an unfair hardship on the consumer of wine here or even the consumer of the wine which we export. But I do not think that even the most cursory analysis of the figures reveals that this is likely to be the situation. It is true that the vintage of last year amounted to 250,000 tons. The maximum levy for that is already fixed at $1.50. We do not know what the vintage will be next year, but if it equals last year’s record of 250,000 tons, and if the Board levies the full amount proposed, then the maximum that would be paid by the Industry under the new legislation would be increased by $250,000.
That might seem to be a large sum of money to those who are not accustomed to promoting publicity, but I have had some experience in promoting publicity for election campaigns and I know that if you are to tackle newspaper, radio or television advertising you are talking in terms of chicken feed when you mention $250,000.
That is a very small sum of money in the field of advertising. If you relate it to the potential increase in the price of the product and you realise that a 250,000-ton vintage leads to a wine production of 42,948,000 gallons, and if you strip those gallons down into bottles of the size in which we buy wine, you find that the cost of a bottle of wine will be increased by only lc or 2c. That would seem to be a considerable increase if it were a bread and butter product but this is largely - I hesitate almost so to describe it - a luxury product, ft is one of those products which perhaps we could well live without.
– An additional amenity of life.
– That is a very good description. Perhaps to call it a necessary additional amenity of life would improve it still further. If we take this into consideration alongside what many of us, if we are not prepared to pay, indeed are forced to pay in excess of the cost of producing a bottle of wine when we drink it in circumstances in which we sometimes like to drink wine - that is, in an allegedly very high quality restaurant - the increase is not so great. Without wishing to act as an advertising agent for any particular product I must say that one of the co-operatives in South Australia produces an excellent Rose which compares quite favourably with the alleged best in the world. It retails over the counter in the wine store at $1 a bottle. To my eternal shame I have paid as high as $3.50 a bottle when it has been served in a leading hotel and a leading night club in Melbourne.
– What are their names?
– I think there has been a little too much naming to the detriment of people in the last couple of weeks and I intend to state no names either to the advantage of the firm that produces this excellent product or to the detriment of the particular night club for what I consider to be its outrageous overcharging. If I am silly enough to go there I suppose I deserve all I get, but that does not make me like the restaurant.
What I am trying to illustrate is that in an industry where it is possible to add $2.50 for the use of glasses I do not think the consumer is subjected to any great hardship. Of course a recognised factor is that restaurants may have to store for a considerable period a large variety of wines of different vintages to meet the very varied demands of the community. For that reason they are entitled to charge something, but not $2.50 a bottle. In an industry such as this where you pay, whether you like it or not, $2.50 for the corkage of a bottle of wine I do not think there will be any great hardship to the consumer of the product when the levy to promote the welfare of the industry may - only may - if the Board exercises its right to increase the levy to the fullest extent, result in an increase of lc, 2c or even 3c in the cost of a bottle of wine. I have mentioned 3c to make sure that I am not challenged at some future date for having fixed the margin too low.
I do not think it is a valid argument to suggest that this levy should be applied because it will increase disproportionately the price to the consumer. I think that in the interests of the industry, as represented by the people who constitute the Wine Board, and for the protection of the industry we must accept the majority opinion of the members of the Board. Those who are opposed to this idea are representatives on the Board itself. It has been put to me that their arguments in favour of the proposition that the levy should not be increased are so strong that the opinion of the Board could be challenged, because the Board was not aware that it would have a record vintage last year.
Be that as it may, I am sure that the Board would lean more to the argument that I placed earlier that the industry is one that must think years ahead rather than in terms of one vintage or two vintages. But if that were not so there is still no reason why this is not a perfectly logical and valid piece of legislation. If the majority on the Wine Board can be convinced of the requirements of the industry, the Board can still fix the levy at the same rate that it fixed last year. As I said at the outset, looking at the Board’s record we see that only twice in 10 years has it fixed the levy at the maximum and I think it unlikely that the Board would fix it in the first year at the maximum allowed by the legislation. I do not think the Board would want to bring this matter before us every year. Probably it is looking 10 years ahead and, in the general structure of prices today, there is every justification for a Board of this character trying to estimate its income, along with the requirements of the job it has to do. at least in terms of 10-year periods rather than 2-year periods.
I think that the Board too will pay the attention that it is necessary to pay to promoting exports. Our prospects in this regard were seriously unbalanced by the devaluation of sterling, which added about 2s a gallon to the export price of our wine in Great Britain. Most of our competitor countries devalued with Great Britain and received that advantage. When we remember that 2s a gallon was added to the price of either 12s or 14s - I cannot remember which - we realise how the devaluation caused a serious problem for the export side of the industry. To date this has not revealed itself to the extent that was expected but again we are dealing with an industry which cannot think in terms of income this year or of what might have happened even last year, because it is one in which time is an important factor in the production of the good and better types of wine. 1 do not mean that this necessarily is the type of wine that we export; rather to the contrary. But when it comes to laying down vintages it is a fact that we have to think in terms of several years from the time the grapes are brought in from the field until the wine is marketed.
For those reasons I think that this legislation which has been recommended by the Wine Board should be supported. I remind honourable senators that certain members of the Board oppose it and, I might say, from their point of view they have valid reasons for objecting to the increase. But 1 think it can be left safely to the judgment, discretion and wisdom of the Board to handle the problems that may eventuate from the levy being lifted to $2.50 a ton. It has seemed always to be a sound administrative organisation. I feel it can be left to the Board to decide whether it will take full advantage of the legislation immediately, or whether it will take any advantage of it at all. It will do so only if it thinks that that is in the best interests of the industry and everyone concerned with it. I am certain that the representations which have been made to other honourable senators and to myself on this question by those who are opposed to it, and the arguments they have put, are so valid that they will not be ignored by the Wine Board which has shown such an intense interest in the industry as a whole. For those reasons we propose to support the Bill, which seeks to increase the levy on this product to $2.50.
– When any industry is moving along nicely it is good sense to give thought to ensuring a continuation of that condition and also to be mindful of the inevitable fluctuations and to prepare for the time of less favourable conditions. I believe that that general assessment of basic business requirements applies to the wine grape industry at the present time. I support this Bill, which provides for increases in the maximum rates of levy on grapes delivered to wineries and distilleries. These levies are made on both fresh grapes and dried grapes used in the wine industry. They provide the finance for the Australian Wine Board to cover ils costs of administration, trade promotion in Australia and in export markets, and research.
The levies may be varied from time to time with ministerial approval. The Board cannot, within its own powers, vary the rale of levy. It can only recommend variations to the Minister for Primary Industry and support those recommendations with facts, figures and general reasons. Then the determination is made by the Minister. I believe that in general principle, when a board is properly constituted with representation from the various sectors of a given rural industry, its activities should not be impinged upon by arbitrary direction from the Parliament; rather should we leave that board to operate within its charter and to be free to do those things that it believes are in the best interests of the industry. The Australian Wine Board consists of representatives of the proprietary companies, the co-operatives and the grape growers themselves, as well as a government member. I have no doubt that the fact that at the present time the grape growing and wine making industry is in a very buoyant condition is due in part to the excellent work done by the Wine Board in the discharge of the duties that have been allotted to it.
The promotion of wine both at home and abroad and research into the improvement of wine have certainly had an effect on the sales of our wine. When we note that the intake from the last vintage of 250,000 tons gave a production of 42.9 million gallons of wine and that our sales of wine were 17.4 million gallons, we see on the one hand that we have a very great production and on the other that the disposals in a given year represent an increase on those of the previous year. Sales of wine in 1966- 67 were 15.3 million gallons. In 1967- 68 they were 17.4 million gallons. Exports of brandy also increased in those 2 years. So there is this increase in sales. The vintage intake is growing year by year. The average annual intake in the past 10 years was 201,518 tons. In the past 5 years it was 221,083 tons. Last year’s vintage was about 250.000 tons. With increased plantings, we can expect an increase in grape tonnages in the future. At present we have a production of about 43 million gallons, 24.4m gallons being beverage wine and 18.4m gallons distillation wine. Disposals of beverage wine were 1 7.4m gallons. So there is a very definite need to watch the promotion of sales in order to ensure that a condition which is so pleasing at the moment is maintained.
This Bill seeks to allow the Wine Board to recommend an increase in the levies that it makes on fresh grapes and dried grapes should the conditions of the industry demand a greater allocation of funds in any given direction in order to promote the sale of wines at home or abroad. It seeks to give the Board the facility to meet situations. In an industry such as this, situations are met with funds which may be deployed to do those things that will enhance the distribution of the product of the industry. The power sought in this legislation is not to be used immediately if, in the opinion of the members of the Board, bearing in mind the tonnages of grapes received, the income therefrom is sufficient for the requirements of the industry generally. But the levy can be increased at any time, should it be felt that the time is ripe for an increase. In my opinion it would be wrong not to give this discretionary power to the Board to direct or manipulate its finances as it finds need for direction or manipulation.
The position is that as at 30th June last the Board had $56,790 in hand and had reserves of $50,000. But the $56,790 had been committed for promotional work and other outlays up to the end of the Board”s financial year, which is at 30th September. So, although the Board appeared at 30th June to be in a rather healthy financial condition, in fact it was not in a very strong financial position because the funds had been committed up to the end of the Board’s financial year. The Bill provides for the levy to be paid in future in two payments instead of one - half in March and half in September. This will be of benefit to the industry and the processors. Instead of paying the levy in one big amount just after the vintage, they will be able to pay it in two amounts. 1 can see no valid reason why the Board should be deprived of the freedom, within its own organisation, to recommend an increase in the levy. I support this legislation as something that is necessary for the machinery of the authority which, to a large degree, governs the affairs of the wine industry. I regard this as a reasonable requirement and I am in favour of the increases here proposed. I support the Bill.
– As Senator O’Byrne has stated, the Australian Labor Party opposes this legislation. While we recognise the value of the work that the Australian Wine Board has to do in the field of trade promotion both in Australia and overseas, and in research, the question arises of whether the Board has sufficient money for its requirements or whether it is essential to obtain more finance. I think that as Parliament established the Board, it should be the last body to consider curtailing its activities by financial limitations. The Minister for Primary Industry has from time to time varied the levy in accordance with the recommendations of the Board. The levy imposed ! finance the operations of the Board is comparable to the levy on wool or any other product. Ultimately it is borne by the grower.
We must consider the possible effect of this legislation on growers in the industry, and the effect on charges for wine. 1 do not have the relevant figures with me at the moment, but it is clear that the promotion of the Australian product has been so successful that we are not in a position to meet the requirements of the market. A further extension of the promotion campaign within Australia would simply mean the promotion of a product which we cannot supply. The growers are finding it difficult to supply market requirements at present. The present level of wine imports into Australia is about 1.6% of our consumption, but that percentage could be increased if the demand for wine within Australia increases. Because Australian producers cannot supply requirements grape growers have a real fear that promotion of a product which cannot be supplied will invite competition from overseas sources in a market that is controlled almost exclusively domestically at the present time.
On overseas markets we have serious competititon, mostly from Cyprus, a country with lower production costs. If the price of our exported wine is increased, it will affect sales. Senator Little referred to the small increase that would result in the price of a bottle of wine even if the levy were increased to its maximum. However, an increase of l c or 2c in the price of a bottle of export wine is of importance. Therefore serious consideration should be given to this question before we allow the Board to increase its levy. It is said with some justification that the Board is master of its own industry, but its recommendations have to be approved. There is a tendency to make the maximum levy permitted the minimum payment of levy. For the reasons I have given and reasons that I will advance at another time, 1 think it is desirable that at this stage the levy should not be increased. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 March 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690320_senate_26_s40/>.