27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Second Report l~s PRESIDENT- I bring up the report of the Standing Orders Committee relating to standing committees. During the Twentysixth Parliament the Standing Orders Committee began consideration of the standing committee system, and that consideration has continued during the present Twentyseventh Parliament. To assist a consideration of this matter the Clerk of the Senate was asked to prepare a report on standing committees. The report was submitted in three parts dated November 1969 and January and March 1970 respectively. The Standing Orders Committee resolved that the Clerk’s report be referred to the Senate for consideration. The report is appended. The Committee makes no recommendation in regard to the Clerk’s report and submits it without comment.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
– 1 give notice that on the next day of sitting or so soon as the motion can be dealt with I shall move:
Thai the Senate considers that there should be an inquiry into and report upon the problems of mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is he aware of Press reports that the price of petrol will rise by 2c or 3c a gallon next month? Is this rise to be imposed on Australian consumers because Bass Strait crude oil is more costly than the imported product? How can the Government justify higher prices for the use of our own natural resources? Will the Government agree to an 10721/70-iS- (131 independent investigation of the cost structure of the Australian oil industry with a view to preventing a continuance of this anomaly?
– I read briefly the Press comment. I ask the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to put his question on notice and I will endeavour to get a more detailed reply for him.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to a statement that 17 American senators have asked President Nixon to prohibit meal imports, mainly from Australia and New Zealand, that are being shipped to the United States via Canada to circumvent United States meat import quotas? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Australian Government will not allow any such practices to develop which could disrupt our meat export trade to the United States?
– My attention has been directed to this matter. I understand from the Department of Primary Industry that the meat is being exported to Canada legally and is being trans-shipped across the Canadian border illegally. The problem has nothing to do with Australia or Australian exporters, nor is there any suggestion that Australian exporters are acting in an illegal way. The meat shipments into Canada not only go from Australia and New Zealand, which are the two affected countries, but also go from other countries. The problem, as 1 understand it, is primarily a domestic one for the United States Government and the Canadian authorities to sort out. As regards the assurance for which the honourable senator asks, my understanding is that there is no blame attaching to Australia; nor can Australia do very much about the situation other than join in the call made by the New Zealand Prime Minister for a tightening of the regulations.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Minister seen a report that South African boats have been fishing for rock lobster in the Abrolhos Islands off the coast of Western Australia? Has the Commonwealth Government given permission for these boats to fish in these waters? If so, will their number reduce the number of Australian boats that can use these waters? Will these boats be subject to the conditions that apply to Australian boats? If the Commonwealth Government has not given permission for these boats to fish in this area, what action has the Government taken to have them removed? Are any patrol boats stationed in Western Australia to protect Australian waters and Australian fishermen and to enforce Australian conditions? If there are no patrol boats in this area, is it the intention of the Government to station some there? If so, when?
– In any event, 1 would want the question to be placed on the notice paper; but in the interests of aiding the answer which may eventually be sought and obtained I mention that it was not clear to me whether the honourable senator made the point that the boats were fishing in territorial waters or on the continental shelf, or what was the general relationship to the Western Australian mainland. Perhaps by way of interjection or by adding to his question in putting it on the notice paper he could provide that information, which would help in obtaining a proper answer.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the announcement of sales of wheat to South American countries. Can the Minister give any information additional to that which has already been given in Press and radio statements? I further ask whether the negotiations referred to by the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board are continuing and what are the future prospects.
– I cannot give any more information than the Wheat Board has released. I ask honourable senators to remember here that the Board is a statutory authority. The Board says that at this stage it is difficult to forecast where it might make further sales and that for the time being it will concentrate on maintaining the sales to regular markets.
– As a descendant of people from southern Ireland, on this St Patrick’s Day I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Will the Prime Minister have investigated the infiltration of the Methodist Church in South Australia by Communists and the trampling of the Austraiian flag by a Methodist minister, as alleged by the honourable member for Boothby? Will the Prime Minister also investigate the Communist decisions made at the World Federation of Churches, again as alleged by this great peace loving champion of democracy from Boothby? As a result of such investigations, will the Prime Minister inform the Senate as to which is the greatest danger to Australia’s way of life - the Communist Party, the Methodist Church or the World Federation of Churches?
– Having regard to the day and the spirit of the day, I think it would be most inappropriate for me to answer a question of thai nature. As a matter of fact, if we have regard to the responsibilities of a State, what people do within a State in pursuit of their normal occupations or in pursuit of occupations that are not normal is a responsibility of the State. But I do not really think I should be responding to a question which tends, by implication at any rale, possibly to reflect on one of the religious denominations.
– 1 preface my question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by referring to a statement made by Senator Murphy in the Senate last week that North Vietnam has not committed aggressions against South Vietnam, as North Vientanm and South Vietnam are one country. I ask the Minister whether South Vietnam is recognised by about 60 nations as an independent state, and North Vietnam is similarly recognised by over 20 nations? Is South Vietnam a member of 11 United Nations agencies, the International Atomic Energy Commission and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Did the Soviet Union veto a proposal in 1951 and 1957 that South Vietnam be admitted to the United Nations, a proposal supported by all other members of the Security Council? Finally, is it a fact that in 1957 the Soviet Union proposed that South Vietnam and North Vietnam-
– I rise to a point of order. The purpose of question time is to ask for information and not to give it. The point being made by Senator Sim may be important, but if he wants to debate it, let him choose a suitable occasion to do so. He should not use question time to give information and to put arguments in favour of the position he takes. To do so is a perversion of question time and I submit that his question should be ruled to be out of order.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr President. Until Senator Murphy raised his point of order I was listening very carefully to the questions being asked. I understood every question to be prefaced by ‘Is it a fact’. Therefore the honourable senator was asking for information and was not giving it.
– I am very heartened by Senator Murphy’s remarks about the way questions should be framed. This is something I have been trying to get across to honourable senators for a number of years. At one stage I was hopeful of success, but recently I have despaired. Senator Sim, your question is a long one. Would you please conclude it?
– I have just about completed it, Sir. Did the Soviet Union in 1 957 propose that South Vietnam, North Vietnam, North Korea and South Korea be admitted to the United Nations thereby recognising South Vietnam and North Vietnam as independent states?
– I did not quite hear the last question asked by the honourable senator, but as to the questions I did hear, it is my understanding that the answer to each question is yes.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he agrees that confusion exists in the minds of taxpayers who have bought and sold shares, land, property and other items of value as to their taxation liabilities. Has he examined the possibility of introducing a rule of law setting a time limit, similar to that in the British system, as the criterion for taxation purposes rather than the present nebulous provision of intention as the criterion, as judged by a taxation officer?
– The honourable senator has asked a very topical question. As I understand it, the Treasurer made a statement in the other place on this matter or, if he did not, he tabled a statement made by the Commissioner of Taxation on whether share transactions are taxable in the present climate of investment on the stock market. It is not for me at question time to comment on a proposed alteration of procedures. The question of intention as the criterion to determine taxability applied before the share market boom. I have in mind the classic case of the acquisition and disposal of property, which often has left uncertainty in the minds of people. As the honourable senator said in his question, it comes back to the question of intention at the time of purchase. He has asked a valid question. 1 prefer to put it to the Treasurer and to obtain a comprehensive reply for the honourable senator.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of a steep increase in insurance premiums covering Australia’s exports to the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea ports, Aden and North African Mediterranean ports? Is he also aware that in the case of flour exports the normal all-risk cover, exclusive of war risk, has risen by 500% in the last 6 months from 50c a ton to S2.50 a ton? Will the Minister have the immensely excessive charges investigated as they constitute a serious handicap to export capability?
– I shall have this matter investigated and will provide a reply for the honourable senator. I was not clear whether he was talking about the premium for insurance or was talking in general terms, but 1 shall take the question on board after question time and will refer it to the Minister so that the honourable senator may have a considered reply.
– With all the sincerity implicit in the green tie that I am wearing on this notable occasion I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs the following questions: Can the Minister confirm the accuracy of the reports of the statement attributed to Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, that Singapore will make available to the Russians the full range of base facilities, naval dockyards, repair and re-supply facilities that were previously available to the British and Australian navies only? If so, what is the Australian Government’s attitude towards this action? Has the Australian Government been consulted about the offer of the base to the Soviet Union? Did the Prime Minister state in the House of Representatives in September and October last that the Government would not favour the Soviet Union’s obtaining base facilities in the Indian Ocean area?
– Dealing first with the preface to the question and knowing the honourable senator as we do, I would say that he would be just as sincere on St Andrew’s Day as he is on St Patrick’s Day. As to the matter of substance in his question, which was very comprehensive, I am sure that the honourable senator would realise that I could not be expected, nor would it be proper for me, to comment on these matters at question time. Will he please put the question on notice so that I may refer it to the Minister for External Affairs?
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation read in the Melbourne Age’ of 13th March 1970 a letter written by Mr C. Brennan, secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Journalists Association, seeking an investigation into excessive force used against the late Mr Pugh, an Australian Broadcasting Commission reporter, at Essendon Airport on 28th February? Can the Minister indicate the lines of security demarcation at airports? Does he think undue strong-arm methods were used on Mr Pugh?
-I should like to say at the outset that 1 am extremely fascinated by the colour of the honourable senator’s tie, particularly on St Patrick’s Day. I did read the letter. I know that an inquiry into this matter has been conducted by the Commonwealth Police Force and that the regional director of the Department of Civil
Aviation also has been given the job of looking into it. I hope to have further information on this matter later this evening and to make it available to the honourable senator tomorrow.
I think that the comments about strongarm tactics would need to be looked into by me, although I very much doubt that such tactics were used. The Department of Civil Aviation has had much experience in controlling fairly large crowds at airports and I expect that officers of the Department would have conducted themselves quite properly and efficiently without harming anybody.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether he is aware that Region 5 of the Murray Valley Development League, which represents all councils of the Upper Murray region in South Australia from the Victorian border to Morgan, recently passed the following resolution:
– The matter raised by the honourable senator is complete news to me. I am glad to hear the question and I shall see that it is passed on to the appropriate Minister.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: Is it a fact that the Canberra Abattoir is now supplying in excess of 80% of the total meat requirements of the Australian Capital Territory? If this is the case, does it not completely vindicate the actions of the Australian Labor Party in its successful endeavours to ensure that this public utility was kept operating despite the Government’s intentions to close it down at the end of June 1969?
– I shall address the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for the Interior and obtain a reply for him.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Is it the responsibility of the Government, the Parliament, or the National Capital Development Commission to decide where and when the National Art Gallery and the High Court shall be built in Canberra? Is it likely that a debate will be instigated in Parliament concerning these important national matters? If Parliament comes to a majority decision will this decision then be completely ignored by the National Capital Development Commission which will proceed to site the buildings where it likes? When can the Senate expect to have a statement by some responsible authority concerning these matters?
– I know of no inhibitions on the will of the Parliament to debate a matter. The forms of the Parliament and the Standing Orders of the Senate provide that any honourable senator, with the support of a certain number of honourable senators, may without restriction raise issues which he thinks are important in any way. Whether or not a decision in relation to a particular building is the responsibility of one organisation or another, I think the matter must finally come back to the Government. I would say to the honourable senator: If at any time you feel that the Parliament is being circumvented in relation to expressing a view about the positioning of any particular building, knowing you and knowing your sex I am sure you will rise in your place and have something to say about it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Is there any truth in a report that the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Housing has frozen, or intends to freeze for a period of 6 months, housing loans advanced from the Division?
– This term ‘freezing’ means, I presume, that there are not going to be any loans. The War Service Homes Division of my Department is carrying on with the lending of money to eligible persons as it has done in the past and will continue to do.
– I would like to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, has stated that a well documented case has recently been submitted to the Commonwealth Government for further assistance to Queensland graziers in the drought areas for restocking and other purposes, will the Government treat the matter as urgent and give early consideration to the proposals contained in the submissions from the Government of Queensland?
– It is true, as the honourable senator states, that the State of Queensland has been affected by serious drought conditions for several years. Throughout this period the Commonwealth has clearly shown its willingness to provide necessary assistance to the Queensland Government. In fact, substantial assistance has been provided during 1969-70. The cost of drought relief measures by the Commonwealth Government in Queensland to the end of January this year amounted to about $9.5m. It is estimated that the Commonwealth Government’s contribution for the full year 1969-70 will amount to some $15m. The Premier of Queensland has recently written to the Prime Minister proposing certain modifications of existing drought relief measures. These proposals are being examined at the present time as a matter of urgency.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science a question. Will he seek, through the Minister for Education and Science, to iron out a problem that has arisen between the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth concerning secondary teachers’ scholarship tuition? Will the Minister ascertain whether it is true that the Australian National University in Canberra would willingly accept students living in nearby areas, such as Young, Yass, Cootamundra and Temora and adjoining areas, thereby saving young people from travelling hundreds of miles to Sydney? On behalf of the young men and women involved, will the Minister try to adjust the petty difference that has arisen between the respective Education Departments and overcome this problem, which affects a number of young Australians and their families’?
– 1 will willingly have this matter examined and ask the Minister to give it his early consideration.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that a serious over-full stock situation is facing the pea and bean industry throughout Australia? ls there any action which the Commonwealth Government may take which would assist the Australian producers of these goods?
– There is a situation in the pea and bean industry which is causing great concern to the growers in the industry. The figures up to the end of December 1969 show that there has been a record crop but export sales have remained more or less stationary over the past 12 months. The figures also indicate that domestic sales, while remaining stationary at the level of previous years, have not improved as the industry anticipated. I. understand that the stocks on hand are equivalent to 6 months supply. The industry panel is meeting today in Melbourne to discuss the. situation and no doubt when the meeting concludes the panel will make available to the Minister for Primary Industry its findings on this matter. On the other hand, I understand that the canners themselves have taken action to try to rectify this situation by saying that they will take the harvest from only 40,000 acres this year instead of the 52,000 acres which were planted last year.
– 1 direct, a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. What method does the Department of Labour and National Service employ to ascertain the respective State unemployment figures at the end of each quarter?
– That is a matter of a statistical procedure which would require an enormously long answer, but I will get a full answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that South Australian people are so badly served by the 2- airline policy, there being 2 aircraft leaving simultaneously direct for Sydney at 7.10 a.m. and 5.45 p.m. and only 3 regular daily flights to Melbourne, plus a few occasional irregular ones, and no direct flights between Adelaide and the national capital, while there are planes leaving every hour throughout the day between Melbourne and Sydney and frequent planes to Canberra from these cities, would the Minister consider licensing a third airline which would be willing to give good service to the less frequented air routes?
– There are quite a number of questions within the overall question; I tried to scribble them down as best I could. First of all, Australia has been very well served by the 2-airline policy - extremely well served. Secondly, once upon a time there was, 1 believe, a direct Adelaide-Canberra service which, because it was not patronised adequately, was discontinued.
– How does the Minister know?
– This is what I am told. When I read Hansard i will look at this question carefully and 1 will endeavour to obtain more information which I hope will prove to the honourable senator that South Australia still is regarded as highly as it was, particularly by one whose parents were born there.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of disclosures made at the abortion inquiry in Victoria, which disclosures indicate that many top level Victorian policemen and many medical practitioners have understated their incomes in taxation returns, can the Minister advise the Senate whether a full scale investigation has been carried out by the Taxation Branch into tax evasion by those named at the inquiry?
– I would like to answer that in the generality because the generality will cover the particularity. My understanding is - I am sure all will agree with this statement - that the Commissioner of Taxation is constantly vigilant to ensure that all taxable income is declared. It seems to me not to matter with which group of people the Commissioner is dealing. I am sure he ensures that all taxable income is assessed properly. I have no doubt that, when a group of people hit the headlines and publicity is given to certain inquiries, that would excite an additional interest by the Commissioner in the field of his responsibility.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General obtain from her colleague an explanation of the unsatisfactory presentation on Saturday night last of the segment dealing with the Adelaide Festival of Arts in the ‘Four Corners’ programme? Will the Minister obtain an assurance that in future accounts of notable events the standard of presentation will be improved considerably and that a repetition of the kind of programme shown on Saturday - which was regarded by many, including a meeting of people in the south east of South Australia, as unimaginative and inaccurate - will be avoided?
– I did not see the television programme to which the honourable senator referred. I certainly shall raise with the PostmasterGeneral the points which he brought up. I gather from the question that the segment on television was not a very good report of the excellence of the Festival of Arts which, I believe, this year was better than ever. I have heard, from very informed sources, that not only was it better than ever before but also that the direction and quality of performance were excellent. The Festival is now firmly established in South Australia. I shall certainly take up with the Minister the points raised.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that certain stockbrokers who are members of the Stock Exchange of Perth have sent circulars to their clients telling them that as from 19th February three provisions will be imposed upon share transactions in
Western Australia, the first being that purchasing orders for mining and oil and related securities-
– I take a point of order. In view of your previous ruling, Mr President, about giving information, I ask that you direct the honourable senator to frame his question in an appropriate way.
– The honourable senator was prefacing his question.
– He was prefacing his question. He may have been a little lengthy. The honourable senator should come to the point of his question.
– I understood that quite frequently information had been given. If you, Mr President, are ruling that I cannot give this information, I cannot come to the point. I cannot come to the point without outlining the question.
– Order! There is no need for the honourable senator to adopt that attitude.
– If I am told to come to the point, I cannot come to the point in the way in which you, Mr President, have asked. So I will not ask the question but will ensure that a point of order is taken on all successive questions which give this kind of information.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents in this chamber the Treasurer. My question is in relation to expenses incurred in voluntary work performed by elected members of councils in local government which is the third tier of government. Will the Treasurer consider the introduction of an income tax deduction allowance at a common level for all members of district councils and corporations to cover the expenses which are necessarily incurred in the discharge of their duties?
– It is a rule, of course, that at question time Ministers do not give answers to questions relating to matters of policy, particularly in the taxation field. But, putting my mind to the question which has been asked, I think it is permissible for me to say that under the general deduction provisions of the income tax law outgoings are deductible only if they are incurred in the production of assessable income and are not of a capital, private or domestic nature. This test is not satisfied in the case of councillors and aldermen who receive no allowance for their local government activities. If the principle of relating deductible expenses to the derivation of assessable income were abandoned in the case of councillors or aldermen who receive no allowance it would be difficult to deny comparable treatment in relation to many other kinds of expenses which are unrelated to income producing activities. 1 am sure the Senate would recognise that fact. For example, the position of representatives of local government would need to be considered with that of other persons who incur expenses in a particular way without reward in a wide variety of activities which are beneficial to the community in general. Again, f think all honourable senators would recognise that as a valid point of view. Nevertheless, I shall bring the points raised by the honourable senator to the attention of the Treasurer. The honourable senator will appreciate, of course, that matters in which the Treasurer does intervene and permit a variation normally find expression at Budget time. I am not saying that it is the intention to do so in this instance. All I am saying is that it is the normal procedure.
– 1 desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Could a different attitude be taken by legal authorities in relation to a charge of assault against Aboriginals when the assault is thought to be obligatory in accordance with Aboriginal tribal customs and occurs on Aboriginal tribal grounds and not on other property? Are elders of the Yirrkala tribe at Gove Peninsula now facing charges of assault? Is Gove Peninsula an area which is now under legal challenge as to ownership? If so, should the position of ownership not be decided before the assault charges are heard, in order to permit the presiding magistrate to take into consideration all factors, including whether the alleged assault occurred on tribal lands, or elsewhere, in accordance with tribal law?
– I fail to see any logical relationship between the ownership of tribal lands at Gove and the terms in which the penal law is described in relation to a charge of assault. I shall ask the Attorney-General to supply information in relation to the charges which are pending. I am not aware of any immunity in regard to any part of the penal law which attaches to anybody by virtue of his race. I abstain from an impromptu answering of any question of law. particularly a complicated question such as this one. I have noticed over the last 2 weeks the honourable senator’s concern in relation to the matter, and out of deference to his concern I shall ask the Attorney-General to give early consideration to his question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the timely warning given in Melbourne by Dr Prescott-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I think the honourable senator is giving information.
– If the honourable senator will exercise a little patience and will not take points of order, but will use good judgment in relation to how questions are framed, we will not have this difficulty. Senator Buttfield, no-one understands better than you how to frame a question. If you are satisfied that you are not giving information I will allow you to continue and will see what develops.
– I was asking the Minister whether she was aware of a timely warning given by Dr Prescott, who is the world’s foremost authority-
– I rise to order again, Mr President. The honourable senator is giving the same information as she gave before. I ask you to give the same ruling as you gave when 1 asked my question.
– I must agree with the honourable senator if unnecessary information is being given. Will you keep that in mind, Senator Buttfield?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that Dr Prescott, who is at present in Melbourne, is a world authority on the effect of pain killing drugs.
– I take another point of order, Mr President. The fact of Dr Prescott being a world authority is information and is not in itself a question.
– I will allow the honourable senator to continue her question for a while longer.
– Is it a fact that Dr Prescott is a world authority on the effect of pain killing drugs on the kidneys? ls it also a fact that Dr Prescott is warning that all countries should have restrictive legislation on the availability of aspirin because of the dangers to which it exposes people? Will the Minister ask the Government whether it will consider introducing legislation to restrict the availability of aspirin in Australia?
– I recall that some short time ago the Minister for Health made two Press statements concerning the problems of drug abuse and the various preparations which could affect people. He then referred to comments by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was directing attention to this very point that the honourable senator has raised, namely, the serious risk to the- kidneys of some of the drugs that are in use. From memory, 1 believe that this matter was being given consideration by the State and Federal authorities. When further information is available I shall certainly obtain it for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Are reports that the Post Office is contemplating increases in the cost of stamps and telephone calls true? If so. will the Government give priority to action to constitute the Post Office as a corporation conducted on business lines to avoid these steadily increasing imposts?
– This question obviously raises points which I believe the Postmaster-General himself would wish to answer, and I shall take up the matter with him.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. With the increasing number of off-shore island fauna sanctuaries, notably Chappell and Goose Islands in Bass Strait, and Pearson Isles on the South Australian coast, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Defence on the future use of some of the on-order helicopters for special island patrols to combat carnage and vandalism by nomadic fishing craft?
– The honourable senator pursues a line of perseverance, which I am sure we all admire, for the protection of wild life. As to whether his suggestion in this instance is practicable, I shall refer to the Minister for Education and Science whom 1 represent in this chamber, and ask him and the Minister for Defence to consider this question together with question No. 69, 1 think it is, standing in the honourable senator’s name on the notice paper, which relates in some degree but from another point of view to Pearson Isles.
– Will the Minister representing the Attorney-General inform me whether there is a social welfare ordinance of the Northern Territory which permits entry to Gove Peninsula to only government officials or persons authorised by the Nabalco mining company or the Native Welfare Branch? If so, would any court held at Gove Peninsula be restricted to only a selected permitted few and not open to the public generally? Are public hearings one of the praiseworthy provisions of British justice? If so, would a court held on Gove Peninsula be a closed court and contrary to the requirements of British justice?
– I go all the way wilh the honourable senator in saying that the practice of holding court proceedings, especially court proceedings involving charges involving penalties, is a cherished fundamental of British justice to which there are some special exceptions. But whether the operation of the Northern Territory ordinance to which he refers has the effect that he attributes to it I would not say without perusing the text of the legislation. 1 shall ask the Attorney-General to examine the matter and to give the honourable senator an answer as to his view.
- Mr President, 1 ask you a question. In reading the notice paper I am intrigued to see that two questions do not appear on it - one that I asked the Minister for Housing as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration three or four days ago, and another one that I asked the Leader of the Government on Thursday last, I think it was, in regard to the cost of liquefied petroleum gas in Victoria. I cannot see either of those questions on the notice paper, although they were more or less put on notice. Has the procedure been altered? As I understand the position, when a Minister asks that a question be put on the notice paper or says that he or she will obtain information on it that means that the question will be placed on the notice paper. If that is not the position, as the weeks go on one forgets that questions have been asked.
– May 1 make a comment, Sir?
– The point Senator Kennelly raises is a grey area to some extent. I frequently say: ‘I invite the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper’. On other occasions I say: I will take the question on board and obtain a reply for the honourable senator’. In my secretariat and, I am fairly certain, in the secretariats of other Ministers, all questions are extracted from the daily Hansard and are ferried to the various departments. The explanation in this instance may well be that there was some area between whether the question actually went on the notice paper - the honourable senator himself has the responsibility of physically putting it on the notice paper - and whether-
– If the Minister says that it is to be put on the notice paper, that is enough.
– I think we should look at Hansard. It may well be that somewhere in the grey area between the two situations the questions have been missed.
– I do not like grey matter.
– I am trying to be helpful. Let me say to the honourable senator that the question directed to me would have been processed to the appropriate department by now whether it was put on the notice paper or not.
– 1 say to Senator Kennelly that questions are put on the notice paper if they are handed in to the Clerks. That is the basis of it. If he hands in his question it will then go on the notice paper.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry examine reports that Canadian farmers are being paid to withdraw land from wheat growing? Will the Government consider taking similar action in Australia?
– The honourable senator asked me last Thursday, I think it was, a whole series of questions relating to the Canadian wheat industry. At that time 1 asked him to put his questions on the notice paper. I understand that the Canadian Government is endeavouring to curb wheat production in that country. I further understand that at the present time Canada has a record stockholding of some 950 million bushels and is paying farmers $6 an acre, I think it is, not to grow wheat and $10 an acre if they grow an alternative crop to wheat.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: ls the system to which the Minister referred in his answer to Senator Webster’s question similar to that which is well known to operate in the United Slates of America, where vast sums of money arc paid to persons and corporations, including foreign corporations, to leave their land idle and not to produce wheat? Is there even a hint of a suggestion from the Government that that incubus is about to be introduced into Australia?
– 1 have given the Senate some information about the Canadian system in respect of wheat growing. I know that there is a system of price support for wheat in the United States of America. I am not familiar with the details of every plan to assist wheat growers. I ask that the honourable senator put his question on the notice paper so that the Minister for Primary Industry can reply to it.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. I preface it by referring to a communication dated 1st December 1969 from the Minister in which he stated that he was considering the establishment of a biological centre on Black Mountain., in Canberra, and also the proclamation of a national park in the Mount Kelly ranges. As 3 months have elapsed, 1 now ask whether a decision has been made on either subject.
– I do not see how I could really be able to help the honourable senator at this moment. 1 ask him to be good enough to place his question on the notice paper and 1 will try to get an answer for him as soon as possible.
– Before I direct my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General I thank him for previous answers he has given. I think they go a long way towards stopping a travesty of justice which may have occurred had such questions not been asked. 1 now ask: Was a court sitting held at Gove Peninsula on Friday 27th February 1 970 when charges of assault were preferred against elders of the Yirrkala tribe? Was the sitting of the court unknown to the Press of Australia and to the Superintendent of the Methodist Overseas Mission at Darwin?
– I am not able to state to whom the sitting of the court was unknown, other than myself. It was certainly unknown to me. I shall ask the Attorney-General to provide for the honourable senator as early as possible the information available from the record.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that some employers of labour are required by law or agreement to make cash payments to employees when the employees’ services cannot be used in their industry?
– I regret to inform the honourable senator that his question has taken me rather unawares. Some provisions have been interwoven into the industrial fabric to provide for redundancy, but I would not say whether they are of an award nature or by industrial agreement. I could indicate now neither general nor particular provisions. 1 shall ask the Minister to provide the information for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Will the AttorneyGeneral make a considered statement to Parliament on information available to him regarding the plans of an organisation described as a moratorium to organise activities and demonstrations of a violent and subversive character culminating in May of this year?
– The extent to which the Attorney-General would be disposed to make public plans of that character would depend upon his judgment of the best way to secure law and order in the event of any such suggestions. I recognise the importance that the proposals of this moratorium have in the mind of the honourable senator and, having regard to that, I feel sure that the Attorney-General will provide information for the Senate at the earliest opportunity.
– Earlier today Senator Kennelly asked about a question that he asked last week in regard to liquefied petroleum gas. I can tell the honourable senator that in replying to his question last Thursday [ did not ask him to put the question upon notice; I said that I. would have it examined and would process it, at that point not being certain to which department the matter should be referred. I am happy to be able to tell the honourable senator now that I sent the question through my secretariat to the Minister for Trade and Industry who in turn decided that it was not within his responsibility and referred it to the Minister for National Development. The question is at present being processed for an appropriate answer.
– by leaveAlthough I do not doubt what has been said by the Leader of the Government, I think that when a question is not answered but a Minister says, as the Leader of the Government said, that he will find out about it, honourable senators may assume that the question is still alive so far as the notice paper is concerned. If we cannot assume that questions which are not answered are placed on the notice paper, in future I shall ask that they be placed upon notice. As to the question which I addressed to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, I know that in that instance I handed to the Clerk a written question. However, I do not want to make a song and dance over this matter. The course to be followed when questions are not answered should be clear cut without this grey area in between. I do not like in betweens.
– If I may make one point, I believe that I told the honourable senator that I would take up with the Minister for Immigration the matter raised in his question. This has been done and the question is with the Minister. As soon as I receive information from him it will be passed on to the honourable senator. However, I do not think the honourable senator’s question was ever put on the notice paper.
(Question No. 16)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The following answer to the honourable senator’s question has been provided by the Public Service Board:
This leave, if not taken, accumulates from year to year.
These provisions were last varied in 1951.
There is additional sick leave for officers in respect of sickness resulting from war-caused disabilities.
In the Commonwealth, officers enjoy generous superannuation arrangements, furlough and sick leave benefits.
Officers also receive a variety of payments related to the nature and circumstances of their employment. These include financial assistance to officers undertaking studies, remote district allowances, annual allowances to certain very senior officers to meet expenses of office, and in relation to overseas staffs, allowances paid to officers in recognition of special features of overseas service.
(Question No. 49)
asked the Minister for
Air, upon notice:
Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the purchase of the F111 aircraft; if so, will the Minister give consideration to including the aircraft in the VIP flight, in order that those who have faith in its purchase may have the opportunity of using it.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Minister for Defence announced in the House of Representatives last Thursday, 5th March, that he would visit the United States of America at an early date to consult with the United States Secretary of Defence on all relevant aspects of the F111 project.
(Question No. 60)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
Supervision and Control in Laos during the recent developments there, nor of any report by the Commission on the situation.
(Question No. 67)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply: (1.) Australia supported resolution 2415 as a whole when it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1968. This resolution endorsed the recommendation of the 1% assistance target adopted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. However Australia maintained a specific reservation on operative paragraph two in resolution 2415 which stated that as a key element of the international development policy for the next United Nations Development Decade, economically advanced countries which have not already done so should accept 1972 as the target year for the attainment of the aid volume target, as defined in decision 27 (11) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and take urgent appropriate action to achieve this objective’. Australia has reservations about the value of setting arbitrary dates for targets, and particularly in this instance where the target includesflows of private investment and private export credits which are generally outside the control of Governments. The replies to Questions Nos 1355 and 1603 in the House of Representatives (Hansard 1st May and 12th August 1969) are also relevant.
(Question No. 68)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister:
Is it true that when units of the Chilean, Colombian and Argentinian navies arrive in Sydney in late April on an invitation from the Prime Minister, no arrangements have been made for a Commonwealth Minister to welcome them on their arrival.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Government will welcome these ships, and several others coming at our invitation, at a reception to be held during the ships’ visits at which representatives of the Commonwealth Government will act as hosts to the visitors. Individual ships will be welcomed on arrival by the Commonwealth Director of the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations, Rear Admiral G. C. Oldham, C.B.E., D.S.C.
(Question No. 72)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
How does the Minister rationalise the demand for larger planes on intra-state services with resultant aerodrome runway enlargement with his Departmental policy of seeking to convince country Councils that they should take over full airport maintenance.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question isas follows:
AsI have advised Local Government Authorities which have mentioned this matter to me. we are in the process of considering the preliminary moves by the airlines concerned to introduce pure jets on our intra-state air services. Any additional airport developments are being considered as part of that review. Until such time as all the facts can be known, the extent of any problem cannot be assessed and I am not in a position to comment. However, you may be assured that 1 am keeping in close touch with these developments and that I am very conscious of their significance to country communities.
(Question No. 89)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Administration Office Blocks 6, 7 and 8 and an Information and Display Building, Darwin, Northern Territory;
Additional Storehouse Building at Stores Depot, Tottenham, Victoria.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that, in my capacity as Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, 1 shall bc making an overseas visit to Fiji and the United States, from 21st March to 6th April. The visit has two purposes. The one, to see, at first hand, the overseas promotional activities of the Australian Tourist Commission; the other, to visit a number of locations where tourist resort development has occurred, as a result of the co-operative endeavour’s of industry and the government authorities concerned. In Fiji, where I shall stay three days - 22nd to 24th March - my major interest will be to learn something of the activities of the Government of Fiji, in encouraging tourism development and to see the results of that Government’s incentives to the tourist industry. One cannot but be impressed by the strenuous activities of the Government and travel industry in Fiji in their attempts to maximise the benefits of tourism. These endeavours may well have lessons for tourist development in Australia, particularly in locations of significant overseas interest, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Central Australia.
In the United States, including Hawaii, I shall attend a number of public presentations associated with the ‘Destination
South Pacific’ travel promotion, a joint promotional effort of the travel authorities of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Papua and New Guinea. The Australian Tourist Commission and the Australian travel industry are participating most actively in this programme, which is believed to be the largest travel promotion exercise to be held in North America during 1970.
In the United States also, I shall visit a number of centres where the development of resorts and attractions has been most advanced. I shall visit San Francisco, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and Hawaii. My itinerary in the United States has been suggested by the Australian Tourist Commission with the specialist advice and assistance of Harris, Kerr, Forster and Co., the consultant firm which has recently completed studies of tourism development in central Australia and the Ayers Rock region for Commonwealth authorities. During the visit, I shall have the benefit of the advice of Mr C. A. Greenway, Chairman of the Australian Tourist Commission, whose direct experience of recent tourism developments not only in Australia, but also in Fiji and the United States, is especially valuable.
International travel nowadays is very big business. During 1969, 361,000 visitors came to Australia from overseas and spent approximately $120m. By comparison the 187,000 visitors in 1966 spent $63m. This striking increase in the number of visitors, with their foreign exchange value to Australia, is indicative of a world wide trend in international travel. Although Australia’s share of this world travel business is only small (less than 1%), its rate of growth is faster than the world average. It is important that this high rate of growth be maintained; for, in keeping with the general trend, more Australians also are travelling overseas, attracted particularly to our nearby South Pacific competitors such as Fiji and New Zealand. The foreign exchange outflow, as a result of their travel, continued in 1969 to be higher than the amount spent by visitors to Australia. Although less than in 1968, the ‘travel gap’ for 1969 remained large at S40m. If we are to maximise the benefits of the tourist industry to Australia it is clear that more visitors must be encouraged to come to Australia, and to stay longer once they are here.
This will require not only more competitive promotion overseas, but also a marked development of Australia’s attractions and visitor facilities, through the co-operation and activity of governments, the travel industry and the community.
The Australian Tourist Commission has estimated that if appropriate tourism development proposals are implemented we should see 700,000 visitors coming to Australia and spending $300m in 1975. The Commission’s proposals involve an extension of the present close and active cooperative efforts of the Commonwealth, the States and the travel industry in tourism development. Through visiting locations and discussing, with those concerned, developments which have resulted from similar co-operative efforts elsewhere, I hope to be better informed when the Government makes its examination of the various proposals for developing tourism in Australia.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - The President has been informed that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the AddressinReply to his opening Speech at Government House on Thursday next, 19th March, at 5.15 p.m. The President extends an invitation to all honourable senators to accompany him on the occasion of its presentation.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 48), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party supports the intentions of this legislation. I suppose it could be said that, whilst legislation of this kind might not raise a great deal of fiery debate in the various councils which discuss matters of this kind, nevertheless it is extremely important. In a sense it could be called complementary legislation because it ties in with existing criminal law. At the same time the range of application is extended to take in the intentions and provisions of the Tokyo Convention. Since some days have passed since the legislation came before us, it might be helpful to state some of the intentions of the Bill because when it becomes law its provisions will be directed towards meeting an increasingly difficult and quite intolerable situation which has grown in recent times as a result of the hijacking of aircraft and as a result of other acts which have endangered life and which have threatened danger to property on international flights. It ought to be stated here that the Bill relates only to civil aircraft on international flights.
The primary intention of the Bill is to approve the accession by Australia to the Tokyo Convention on offences and other acts committed on board aircraft and to give effect to the Convention. As 1 said, the Bill applies only to civil aircraft on international flights. A number of the contracting states to this Convention have their own criminal law. The Convention requires the states to apply their own criminal laws to their aircraft on international flights. That is what is generally known as flag law. The Convention specifies when contracting states may exercise jurisdiction over offences committed on board their aircraft. The Bill deals with the authority of the commander of the aircraft who finds that a person has committed an offence - or suspects that a person is about to commit an offence - against the flag law and by so doing endangers the safety of persons on the aircraft. The Bill sets out in some detail the responsibility of the contracting states. Australia already has legislation which covers acts of this kind committed on aircraft flying within the boundaries of this country.
– Provided it is not an intrastate flight.
– That is right, provided it is not an intrastate flight. As I understand it, the States, with the exception of South Australia, already have under their transport laws legislation dealing with intrastate activities. Existing laws will not be disturbed. Except in certain specified circumstances, which were mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), the Commonwealth will not interfere. The Commonwealth will not be entitled to interfere with foreign aircraft in flight in order to exercise
Commonwealth jurisdiction, except in certain specified circumstances, such as if an offence committed on board affects an Australian citizen, Australian territory or the national security or there is an offence against the Air Navigation Regulations. The provisions of the Convention regarding the powers and duties of an aircraft commander are wider than the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act, which applies to flights within Australia and overseas flights emanating from or terminating in Australia. These provisions will become effective as between the parties to the Convention for foreign aircraft in Australia and for Australian aircraft operating overseas. The duties and powers of Commonwealth authorities are also outlined in the Minister’s second reading speech. There is provision in the Convention for restoration of the aircraft to its rightful owners in the case of a hijacking. I understand that this provision does not exist in the law at present. As I said at the outset, the trend throughout the world towards the hijacking of aircraft is a matter for some considerable concern. I notice that in recent days this practice has been extended to ships on the high seas.
Although the Bill is not the sort of legislation which would cause a great deal of fire and fury in debate it is, nevertheless, an extremely important piece of legislation. I believe it is the generally accepted opinion that in recent years Australia has taken a quite proper place in the conventions which have been passed throughout the world on matters of this kind. Australia has always been in the forefront in agreeing to those conventions where it is necessary to seek a common approach by various countries, particularly those countries with whom Australia has travel arrangements and whose aircraft come into Australia as well as the countries Australian aircraft fly into in the normal course of world traffic. So, although this is not the type of legislation which would cause a great deal of debate, it is extremely important legislation and it is legislation wilh which the Australian Labor Party is in agreement. Therefore, in accordance with the intentions and purposes of the Bill, the Australian Labor Party proposes to give the Bill its support in its passage through this chamber.
– In view of the fact that the Bill receives the support of the Opposition there is not a great deal’ to say other than to echo the words of Senator Devitt that it is a very imporant piece of legislation. The Bill will give effect to the decision of a diplomatic conference which was convened by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Tokyo in August-September 1963. The Convention has been open to signature since 14th September 1963. So far 42 nations have signed the Convention and 22 nations have ratified it. The Convention came into force as between the ratifying nations on 4th December. It can be said that Australia is not far behind the 22 nations which have already ratified the Convention.
As Senator Devitt pointed out, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) said in his second reading speech that since 1963 Australia has had legislation dealing with many aspects of crimes committed on board aircraft. He said that the Crimes (Aircraft) Act covers matters regarding the operations of aircraft in Australia except, as Senator Byrne reminded us, intrastate operations. I think all States except South Australia have legislation complementary to the Commonwealth legislation which would probably protect intrastate operations. The Minister pointed out that the Australian legislation already deals with many of the offences committed on board aircraft. But the Australian legislation applies only to Australian registered aircraft engaged on flights within Australia other than, as already pointed out, intrastate flights, although international aircraft are, I understand, covered on the first leg of overseas flights commencing in Australia and the last leg of overseas flights entering Australia. The Crimes (Aircraft) Act will not be affected by the Bill we are asked to support today, which will ratify the Tokyo Convention. The important thing is that some of the powers in the Tokyo Convention are far wider than the powers under the present Commonwealth legislation. The real significance of the Bill is that the wider powers under the Tokyo Convention will become effective as between the parties ratifying the Convention for foreign aircraft in Australia and Australian aircraft operating overseas, which is of particular importance to Qantas Airways Ltd.
There are one or two important provisions in the legislation which I think we should take note of. The first is the question of the powers and responsibilities of an aircraft commander, which are very clearly defined and are far wider than the powers and responsibilities of an aircraft commander under the Australian legislation. The powers and duties of contracting states in relation to offenders on board aircraft are also defined. In view of the history of hijacking, I think this provision is important. We already have the case of the extradition problems in relation to an American aircraft which was hijacked and flown to Italy. The extradition problems will be also cleared up by the Convention. As I understand it, the extradition Acts of 1966 cover the situation in relation to Commonwealth countries as well as the countries with which we have extradition agreements, but the Acts do not go beyond that. I understand that the present legislation will cover those countries which have ratified the Convention. Therefore, in two or three important aspects the Bill probably deals more effectively with this very serious problem which has arisen in the world in recent times.
I note that since the Tokyo Convention, and as a result of the seriousness of the problem, there have been several other conferences. Australia played an active part in the Washington conference of December 1969 which was summoned by the Government of the United States of America. Australia was also a co-sponsor of a United Nations resolution in 1969 which dealt with this problem of hijacking. Unfortunately aircraft are particularly vulnerable to hijacking. Hijacking places a tremendous strain and responsibility upon the crews of aircraft, particularly the commanders, who are responsible for the safety of aircraft. It is fortunate that there have not been some serious accidents on landing or during flight as a result of hijacking. One can imagine the tremendous strain on the commander of a sophisticated modern aircraft having to fly it with a pistol in his back. The fact that there have not been any serious accidents speaks volumes for the courage and coolness of the crews which have to endure this very traumatic experience. Figures I obtained indicate that between January 196S and October 1969 there were 134 reported hijackings. Since then the incidence has not declined. Rather one would gather from reading reports that it may well be increasing. There also have been some 30 unsuccessful attempts at hijacking.
One rather feels that the success of the efforts of hijackers has only encouraged others to try. One rather feels, with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the international pilots federation, that this is becoming a matter of the greatest concern to operating air crew. One hopes that perhaps it is not beyond the ability of our scientists and engineers to find some way of answering this new threat. I have little doubt that this matter is being given a great deal of thought. When one reads of aircraft landing and being re-fuelled, often with 100-odd passengers on board, and then taking off for a new destination one can only wonder at the problems that are involved in meeting this threat. One would hope that at some time in the near future some answer will be found which will protect aircraft from this modern and, I believe, very serious threat.
The only other aspect I should like to mention is that it is a great financial strain to aircraft operators to have their aircraft hijacked and flown to another country. There is the problem of getting the aircraft released, particularly from Cuba and similar countries, and also concern for the passengers who on some occasions, such as in North Korea - 1 do not know the position at the present time - were held for some considerable time before being released. Concern for the innocent victims of these hijackings in countries which do not recognise international law makes the problem more serious. I notice that in the list of countries which have either signed or ratified the agreement the only Communist country so far which has taken note of it is Yugoslavia. This seems to me to be a problem because most of the aircraft which have been hijacked have been flown to Communist countries. If we are to overcome this problem it seems to me that the co-operation of all countries is necessary.
Finally I can only say that this is another heartening example, in the difficult world in which we live, of international cooperation. One can only hope that it will be extended and that following the Tokyo Convention the further discussions which are now being held to try to tighten control over hijacking will be successful and that the same degree of international co-operation between countries eventually will overcome this problem.
– As Senator Devitt said initially, this is not the type of legislation which provokes great heat and ferment yet it is the type of legislation which has a number of important and significant aspects, not the least of which is that it indicates further international participation in a matter of common interest. As the world advances we are finding increasingly the development of international conventions, whether they relate to the safely of aircraft, the passage of aircraft, communications or pollution of the environment. To my mind these things are an indication of an increasing acceptance and maturity among countries in sharing in the solution of one another’s problems.
As was stated by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in his second reading speech, we already have legislation dealing with flights of international aircraft emanating from Australia or terminating in Australia, and the passage of aircraft interstate as against intrastate. Our own laws apply to them. The object of this legislation is to assent to the Tokyo Convention which will apply the municipal criminal law - the flag law - to aircraft on international flights. The accent particularly imposed by Senator Devitt and Senator Sim has been on the more modern manifestation of the threat to aircraft by hijacking, but of course that is not the only threat to aircraft. You get a threat to the safety of an aircraft and its complement by people who perhaps are temporarily irrational or by people who, though not irrational, are intent upon vendettas of private resort and seek an aircraft for some other nefarious purpose such as to obtain insurance benefits. Therefore the law which is applied is the penal law. This is evident from Article 1 of Chapter 1 which deals with the scope of the Convention. It provides:
This Convention shall apply in respect of: (a) offences against penal law . . .
I take it that that is the penal law according to the flag law of the aircraft. The penal law, therefore, would have a much wider implication than merely an offence which would come within the category of hijacking and the stealing or diversion of an aircraft. We have had instances in Australia of that kind of interference with aircraft for some purpose other than hijacking. Australia has had no instances of hijacking. We are not, at this stage anyhow, in that vulnerable area of the world where hijacking is likely but one never knows, as international differences spread over the world, whether we may not come into one of those vulnerable areas. There was a time when Cuba was the centre of this kind of aircraft diversion under threat. More recently the development has been in the Middle East having regard to the IsraelEgypt conflict, and it is not improbable that in other circumstances it could become manifest in this part of the world. Therefore the early accession to this treaty may have ultimately very important consequences for Australia.
As I read the Bill and in accordance with the Minister’s second reading speech, we have to realise that we abandon to some extent authorities and powers that we have already under the Act described as the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963. In his speech the Minister said:
If Australia becomes a party to the Convention, the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act in relation to Australian aircraft are not affected. The application of the Act will, however, be modified to the extent that the Commonwealth will not be entitled to interfere with a foreign aircraft in flight in order to exercise its criminal jurisdiction . . .
In other words whatever was the authority before, we have qualified it to the extent that that Act will not now apply but the provisions of the Convention will apply. I do not know whether in the ultimate there is any substantial difference in the consequences though it is not improbable that the penal law which applies to situations like this might vary from state to state. There may well be something which is an offence under the penal law of most states which may not be an offence under the penal law of one of the contracting states.
I do not know whether any signatory to the treaty has had to satisfy the other signatories or prospective signatories that its municipal law, that is its penal law of the flag, does provide suitable sanctions and suitable disciplines in consonance with the sanctions and disciplines which are embodied in the municipal or penal law of the other flag states. I take it that this is so but I would be interested to know whether it is so. Otherwise there would be a very great gap. There could be a signatory state which did not have appropriate penal law which could be violated in the circumstance. It could be, say, a question of insanity which might prove to be a violation of the penal law of one state and not of another. One can imagine, for example, a person who is certified as insane being under escort in an aircraft. Different situations might apply if he got free and started to threaten the aircraft. This could come within the terms of the penal law of one flag but not of another. However I take it that all signatories have been satisfied that there is available ancillary parallel legislation which will make the application of the treaty universal and uniform.
There are other provisions. One which intrigues me is contained in Article 1 of Chapter 1. It governs what we might call an aircraft in flight. Obviously this Convention does not apply to an aircraft on the ground before the motors have been started or to an aircraft at the end of the runway after the run onto the runway has terminated. Whether in these circumstances our existing law applies when a bomb is exploded, for example, or something threatens an aircraft just before the motors start to rev or at the end of the runway before the aircraft has come to a halt, 1 do not know. But there is some significance in the fact that that type of situation is expressly excluded under clause 2 of Article 1 . That clause reads:
Except as provided in Chapter III- 1 have not given great attention to Chapter III- . . this Convention shall apply in respect of offences committed for acts done by a person on board any aircraft registered in a Contracting State, while that aircraft is in flight or on the surface of the high seas or of any other area outside the territory of any State.
So it does not apply to any aircraft other than an aircraft in flight. Clause 3 states:
For the purposes of this Convention, an aircraft is considered to be in flight from the moment when power is applied for the purpose of take-off until the moment when the landing run ends.
I should like the Minister, having the opportunity to reply, to be kind enough to indicate what is the position in those circumstances and what is the applicable law. I make these general observations on a statute which, I say quite candidly, probably requires and warrants much greater study. But obviously it received very considerable study before a convention of such dimensions and which find such recognition and acceptance by so many states, not the least being Australia, was formulated. So, I take it as being adequately studied.
For Australia or for any signatory, this could be a most important development. We can expect aircraft to develop and become a universal mode of travel to a degree almost unheard of today. It will be very difficult to police this Convention and to police adequately safety precautions in relation to aircraft. But the important point is that there shall be total reciprocity between nations and that there shall be a common universal code which will be acceptable and will be known and notified to all nations. We hope, of course, that this will become a universal convention and not merely a convention limited to the present signatories.
We commend the Government for its participation in the deliberations which have culminated in this Convention and in the ratification of the document of accession as now before the Parliament. We trust that where necessary the Government will not be remiss in taking initiatives in the future to strengthen any safety precautions where experience demonstrates that they may require strengthening or to plug any legal gaps that may be opened as a result of the legal ingenuity which no doubt will be employed by those who would seek to avoid the provisions of this Act.
– What does Article 2 mean?
– It reads:
Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 4 and except when the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property on board so requires, no provision of this Convention shall be interpreted as authorising or requiring any action in respect of offences against penal laws of a political nature or those based on racial or religious discrimination.
I take it that it means that, if a person was on an aircraft and was attempting to flee a country for political considerations and that was a breach of the penal law but not of the penal law that provided for the safety of aircraft, it would not be within the powers of the commander to operate the powers conferred under this Convention and to handle such a person merely to obtain compliance with or submission to the penal law not being the penal law affecting the safety of the aircraft or the vulnerability of the security of the passengers. Off hand, I imagine that that would be the interpretation. With those words, the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
– I have one or two points which I wish to draw to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and to which he might like to refer in his reply. Firstly, who are the parties to this Convention? If the list is very long he might incorporate it in Hansard. If it is very short, he might read out those that he thinks are relevant. As I see the situation now, this legislation applies only to civil aircraft engaged in international flights. The Minister explained that the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 covers interstate flights but not intrastate flights. He pointed out that State law picks up those flights. But he emphasised that South Australia is not covered in respect of flights within that State. I ask him whether South Australia is in any weaker position than the other States in dealing with crimes on aircraft. This is an interesting point. The Minister said in his second reading speech:
If Australia becomes a party to the Convention, the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act in relation to Australian aircraft are not affected.
He went on to point out that the application of that Act will be modified inasmuch as we will be unable to interfere with foreign aircraft in flight in order to exercise our criminal jurisdiction except in cases in which an Australian citizen is affected. I would like some clearer definition of that. It seems a little strange that we have this Convention to which we are about to accede, but it is modified to the extent that if a foreign aircraft is flying in Australia and there are no Australians in it we can do nothing about it. I wonder whether there is some section of law that shades over that situation. The Minister said:
The provisions of the Convention regarding powers and duties of the aircraft commander are wider than those in the Act . . .
I ask him whether there is any intention to amend our Act in order to bring its provisions into line with those we are discussing at the moment. He then went on to talk about hijacking and getting aircraft returned. I can imagine the debate that occurred at the conference in trying to cover this point. I ask the Minister whether he has any notes on what has happened to hijacked aircraft. I think Senator Sim mentioned the number of aircraft involved. What was it?
– I think it was 134.
– What has happened to those 134 aircraft, some of which have gone to Cuba? Has it been possible to negotiate and have them returned, or have all 134 aircraft been knocked off? Has the Minister any notes on the history of this matter? Senator Byrne raised the point of when this Convention takes effect. In other words, when is an aircraft in flight? If it is from the time of application of power, I would have thought that at the other end it should be the time of de-application of power. But the Convention says ‘when the landing run ends’.
– It is when the aircraft ceases motion.
– Does the Convention say ‘when the aircraft commences motion’ in respect of the other end? If the commander started the aircraft motors early enough he could bring the Convention info play. Otherwise I assume that the normal criminal law or the normal law - it may not necessarily be criminal law - of a state would apply. I would like to hear a comment from the Minister on that.
– The Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 would probably take over then.
– I am wondering whether it would. It would not if it was an intrastate flight.
– If it was an interstate flight it would.
– It might be an intrastate flight. If it was an intrastate flight in South Australia no aircraft law would apply to it. 1 imagine that then the normal State law would apply. I take it that the
Minister knows more about this than I do. That is why I am asking him these questions. I refer also to clause 4 of Article 1 which reads:
This Convention shall not apply to aircraft used in military, customs or police services.
I am wondering why customs or police flights are excluded. There is probably a very good reason, but I just cannot think of it at the moment. I take it that the military would have its own law that would apply; but I thought intrastate, interstate and possibly international customs flights would come under the normal law. I would like the Minister to give us some comments on the points I have raised.
– I wish to raise a few matters in respect of this legislation; but firstly let me say that the principle involved in the Bill, which relates to the convention known as the Tokyo Convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft, is one that has been exercising the minds of people for quite a number of years. Perhaps the Minister could inform us why it has taken so long to come around to accede to this Convention. I believe that a few other matters require clarification. Article 2 states, in part:
Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 4 and except when the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property on board so requires, no provision of this Convention shall be interpreted as authorising or requiring any action in respect of offences against penal laws of a political nature or those based on racial or religious discrimination.
A recent example of political influence being exerted on the flight of an aircraft was the instruction to an airline not to carry a passenger from Noumea to Australia. The airline allegedly was warned that penalties could be imposed upon it if it carried the passenger into Australia. T suggest that that was a political decision. I wish to know whether there is proper provision for the person concerned to receive the fullest protection of the law on landing in Australia.
Although hijacking is the principal offence with which the legislation is concerned, a number of offences could occur on an aircraft. Threats could be made to individual passengers. Drunkenness and robbery could occur amongst the passengers, particularly where valuables were being carried. I would like an assurance from the Minister that provision is made for the application of our laws. 1 particularly have in mind paragraph 4 of Article 13 as it relates to clause 10 of the Bill. Clause 10 states, in part: (1.) The Minister or an authorised person may, by notice in writing, authorise a Magistrate to hold an inquiry for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention. (2.) Upon receipt of the notice, the Magistrate shall-
We must ensure that this legislation docs not cut across the normal rights of a person who is being held in custody. I direct the attention of honourable senators to clause 16, which states, in part: (1.) Where a person remanded under subsection (2.) of section 13 of this Act is in custody at the expiration of two months after -
If a person who has been remanded on bail under sub-section (2.) of the last preceding section does not appear before a Magistrate at the time and place mentioned in the recognisance entered into by him on being granted bail, the Magistrate may adjourn the proceedings and may issue a warrant for the apprehension of the person and for bringing him before a Magistrate.
Whose responsibility is it to issue a warrant for non-appearance? If it is within one of the signatory states, is that stale responsible for apprehending a person who has escaped? Will a delay be caused to passengers on the aircraft who will be required as witnesses? Who compensates passengers called as witnesses? I am referring not particularly to hijacking but to any of the offences outlined in paragraph 1 of Article
– I have entered this debate at rather a late stage. Although the questions I have in mind could be raised at the Committee stage of the debate,I wish to inform the Minister now of the points that I have in mind.I have asked Senator Byrne for his interpretation of Article 2 of the Convention.I do not know whether he is satisfied that his interpretation is correct. Article 2 provides:
Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 4 and except when the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property on board so requires, no provision of this Convention shall be interpreted as authorising or requiring any action in respect of offences against penal laws of a political nature or those based on racial or religious discrimination.
Can the Minister tell me what are penal laws of a political nature? In my discussion with Senator Byrne it occurred to me that we could refuse leave to a person to enter Australia because he came from a Communist country. That is the instance that came to my mind as closest to a decision of a political nature. Could that person then hijack a plane to come to Australia, providing the safety of the aircraft and the passengers and their property were not endangered, in accordance with the provisions of this Bill? Would he be exempted from these provisions?
I am also concerned about clause 15 which relates to the proposed section 13 of this measure, the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963, the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966-68, and the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966-68. Paragraph (2.) of clause 15 provides:
A document certified by the Attorney-General to be a record of evidence sent to him under sub-section (2.) of section 10 of this Act is admissible in evidence in proceedings to which this section applies and when admitted, the evidence recorded in it is evidence in the proceedings.
Certain documents are accepted as evidence in the Crimes (Aircraft) Act and the extradition legislation. Clause 10 of this Bill provides: (1.) The Minister or an authorised person may. by notice in writing, authorise a Magistrate to hold an inquiry for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention. (2.) Upon receipt of the notice, the Magistrate shall-
The evidence referred to in that provision would be taken in the same way as evidence is taken in any other court. The provision requires the magistrate to cause a record to be made of the evidence and then states:
The evidence having been sent to the Attorney-General, it can then be used as evidence in proceedings before a magistrate as outlined in clause 13 of the Bill. Subclause 10(3.) states:
The evidence of such a witness may be taken in the presence or absence of the person (if any) in custody in connexion with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry, and the certificate by the Magistrate under the last preceding sub-section shall state whether a person was so in custody and, if so, whether that person was present or absent when the evidence was taken.
I can only take this provision to mean that a magistrate may hold an inquiry but in taking evidence need not follow the ordinary forms of law which require that evidence be taken in the presence of an accused.
– Why does the honourable senator say that it does not have to be taken in accordance with the ordinary forms of law?
– I am suggesting that evidence need not be taken in circumstances where the witness is subject to crossexamination by counsel for the accused because sub-clause (3.) draws a distinction between a person held in custody and other persons. I presume that that would be a reference to a person accused. But he need not be present when the evidence is taken. It means that I could give evidence before a magistrate that such and such a thing had happened without there being any foundation of truth in what I said and without my being subject to the principle of law which requires that my evidence would have to stand up to cross-examination. My evidence then could be sent to the Attorney-General by the magistrate for consideration under clause 15 which applies not only to clause 13 of this Bill but also to Acts which are set out in the clause. This is a provision which we have not permitted in other legislation.
I note in the Minister’s second reading speech a reference to the laws of the Commonwealth which apply to crimes committed on board aircraft. The Minister referred particularly to the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963, the debate on which was led in this place by the late Senator Cohen, in that debate 1 took an active part in opposing the imposition of the death penalty. Under that Bill it was proposed for the first time that a death penalty should apply not only in respect of an offence resulting in the death of someone by a criminal action but also in circumstances where there was a disregard for the safety or welfare of any person, or where anyone in an area where an aircraft was housed or on board an aircraft acted with a disregard for the safety of any person who might or might not have been present. On that occasion the Australian Labor Party opposed the provision requiring a death penalty for an offence which might not have resulted in the death of any person. Whether this Bill will apply to those found guilty of a breach of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention I do not know, but it is a matter that I raise for the Minister’s consideration. I should like the Minister’s answer to the points I have raised. If he cannot supply the answers, or if I consider that the replies are unsatisfactory, I shall be compelled to raise the questions again at the Committee stage.
– in reply - I thank the Senate very much for its consideration of this measure. It is quite obvious from the many views expressed that there is considerable interest in the Bill. I am grateful to honourable senators for the benefit of their experience gained in the Services or from their interest in flying and for their particular legal knowledge and understanding. It will not worry me if the Senate wishes to go into Committee to debate this Bill more thoroughly and to seek to elucidate certain points, because it may well be that that would be useful. I am not prepared to say at this stage whether it is necessary, but I am quite anxious that the Senate should give to this measure the consideration that it feels it needs to elucidate some points. I shall need some time and it may well be that without going into Committee I wm not get some of the answers to the questions which have been posed. Be that as it may, we shall see as we go along.
It has been pointed out in the second reading speech, but I think it would stand some repetition, that the International Civil Aviation Organisation first proposed the Convention on offences and other acts committed on board aircraft after a series of discussions, meetings and conferences in Tokyo in 1963. At that time, or very shortly after, Australia brought in its own Crimes (Aircraft) Act to which Senator Cavanagh has referred. I think I should mention in passing that in Australia we as a people have a tremendous interest in aviation. We stand about third in the word in the use of domestic aviation facilities, in international air traffic we stand ninth, and in total air movements, although we are quite a small country, we stand sixth. So from this point of view the Bill is a measure of importance. We do have a particular position to protect and to watch. I think it is true to say that we have taken initiative and action and always have been a useful and co-operative country in the international aviation field. We have always tried to play our part and to do what we could to make flying more attractive, safer and more effective.
As has been mentioned quite properly by some honourable senators, the Bill deals fundamentally with hijacking. There are other problems with regard to flying which are well known to all, including problems recently of terrorism and violence, and there is always the overall important consideration of the maintenance of satisfactory conditions of air safety and standards of safety in which this country is perhaps among the most pre-eminent. We have had much worry and concern about noise in aircraft as it affects large populations around large airports. Someone has said - quite well, I think - that the problem with aircraft is that they have to get: on to the ground to get the passengers on and off and that this makes it rather hard. Noise is a problem of an advancing urbanisation, an advancing use of air transport and advancing speeds. Work is going on in this field in this country and internationally which it is hoped will be able to do something in due course to overcome the noise problem, or at least to alleviate it. lt is not a light matter and one does not want to pass it over lightly or superficially. These are the problems of a country which is using aviation to a degree which perhaps is out of proportion to the size of its population.
In no sense can it be said that this country has been remiss in co-operating internationally in any area where it could have clone so or in the maintenance of its own standards or examination of the problem. The measure, as all honourable senators know quite well, is divided into four parts. In order to simplify this as much as possible for my own sake and for others who are still showing a great interest, it applies firstly to the criminal law relating to contracting states. In our case we have the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. Secondly, it defines the powers and responsibilities of an aircraft commander. Thirdly, it defines the powers and duties of contracting states. In the fourth part it lays down conditions which call for the return of an aircraft to its commander. The question of defining the powers of an aircraft commander and making quite sure that the powers are adequate becomes of increasing importance with the increase in size of aircraft and the increase in number of passengers that aircraft are carrying. In the sense that a captain of a ship is responsible for his ship, so an aircraft commander is responsible for the command, safety and care of his aircraft.
There is one other piece of information which could not be given at the time of the second reading speech but which may be of interest to honourable senators who have taken an interest iti this matter. We have had an officer of the Commonwealth “Department of Civil Aviation overseas. He has just returned from Montreal where a legal meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation has been held. This information may add some extra knowledge, not for the purpose of debate but just to inform us all. The proposed convention prepared by the ICAO legal committee 2 weeks ago deals mainly with the jurisdiction of states to deal with cases of unlawful seizure of control of aircraft by force during international flights. It establishes the principle that the state of the registration of the aircraft and the first state of landing after the offence shall establish jurisdiction over the offence. Neither the Tokyo Convention nor the proposed convention affects existing criminal laws so that the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act will still apply; that is so far as Australia is concerned. In addition, if the proposed convention is ratified by Australia and comes into force it will be possible to make it an offence against Australian law for a person to hijack or attempt to hijack a foreign registered aircraft not engaged in flight to or from Australia if the aircraft subsequently lands in Australia with the offender still on board.
– What about the in-flight provisions?
– I think I might just take that and ask my advisers whether they can add some extra information in respect of that question. It will also be possible for Australia to extradite the offender to the state of registration if he is not dealt with under Australian law.
The draft convention repeats the provision of the Tokyo Convention as to restoration of the aircraft to the lawful commander and taking the offender into custody, lt will be drafted so that the states may ratify either the Tokyo Convention, the new convention, or both, without undertaking inconsistent obligations. In due course diplomatic conferences will be called to get this matter further along the road after it has been gone through by what one might call the more technical people. During this debate Senator Byrne made some comments and observations and asked some questions which 1 will endeavour to answer with the help of my advisers. This is equally true of Senator Willesee, Senator O’Byrne and Senator Cavanagh. I now propose to deal with those matters raised by Senator Byrne. With the concurrence of honourable senators 1 would incorporate in Hansard a table dated 18th December 1969 giving a list of states which have signed and ratified the convention which 1 think will be useful to the Senate.
– How many countries are on the list?
– I think it is 22 as at the time of my speaking now. I understand it is in operation and effect now. In response to one of Senator Byrne’s queries, 1 would state that the proposed convention provides that all stares will make the offence of taking control of an aircraft by force or threat thereof an offence under its own laws, punishable with appropriate penalties.
Australia has, of course, already done this in its Crimes (Aircraft) Act of 1963. If, by any chance, I have failed to answer any of the queries put to me I trust I will have an opportunity to answer them later. Another question asked by Senator Byrne concerned a case of crimes on aircraft before take-off and after landing. This aspect is not dealt with by the Convention because it was felt that these could be effectively dealt with by the state in which the airport is situated, without the necessity for international conventions on the subject, under that state’s own domestic laws. Those are the opinions which I give in response to Senator Byrne’s queries.
I have some other additional information which I think would be useful to the Senate if I were to give it in regard to some of the comments made by Senator Byrne. This information comes under the general heading of background data on hijacking and other acts of armed interference with civil aviation. Forty-eight nations located in north, south, and central America, the Caribbean Islands, the near, middle and far East, in Europe and in Africa have been involved. Of these, 25 countries have had their aircraft subjected to these crimes. Twenty-three countries have been either the destination or the intended destination of a hijacked aircraft or aircraft the subject of attempted hijacking, or the site of an armed ground attack on civil, commercial aircraft. An estimated 6,000 air passengers and 700 air crew members have had their lives placed in deadly jeopardy by these acts. A number of air crew members have been killed or injured and 18 large commercial air transports have been destroyed or damaged on the ground. Hijacking, attempted hijacking and ground attacks involving commercial air transports and a few small light aeroplanes increased dramatically in terms of frequency, international scope, and seriousness during 1968 and 1969, particularly during the latter year. I would just say at this stage that I have the view, as I imagine we all would, which was expressed recently at a meeting overseas where it was said by a very prominent person that air safety is indivisible and that all countries who wish to facilitate air safety have to take part in making sure that from their own point of view air safety is effective. They have to do something about it.
asked some questions, particularly one regarding hijacking to Cuba. So far as is known all aircraft hijacked to Cuba have been returned after a short period. In many cases the offenders have been gaoled in Cuba or put to forced labour and not treated as national heroes. Senator Willesee also asked a general question regarding customs and police aircraft. Customs and police aircraft have been regarded as outside the definition of civil aircraft. Ever since the Chicago Convention of 1944 international standards have been laid down. The International Civil Aviation Organisation was set up at that time. The Tokyo Convention adopted the same distinction for the sake of uniformity. In response to a question which was asked by Senator O’Byrne I would say that clause 16 has the effect of minimising inconvenience to all persons involved in an inquiry by providing, except where the cause to the contrary is shown, a limit to the time for which a person can be held. The period of 2 months is less than normally required for the completion of proceedings for an indictable offence under the ordinary criminal law. The provision is a safeguard for the rights of a person seized by placing this limit on his detention. I think he also made a general observation that he hoped adequate protection would be given to people in aircraft and that adequate thought would be given for their security at law and for their general well-being. The only answer I can provide to that observation is that I sincerely hope so, and I would expect so. I see no evidence to the reverse, and the advisers on my left have given me no evidence that it is in any way to be thought not to be the case.
Senator O’Byrne made some comment about a person recently in Noumea who, he thought, had been put in some situation of difficulty by an ordinary commercial airline. I have no knowledge of that situation. I understand the general practice of commercial airlines is that for the payment of a fare they are carriers of people whom they expect to land at a destination, and they have regard to the requirements of the country in which they would land, because if they were unable to land any person he then becomes the property of the carrier, who, in theory, may end up carrying him around forever. I do not think anything in this Act really has much relationship to that. Senator O’Byrne may seek answers to his questions in Committee.
Senator Cavanagh raised points on clause 15 of the Bill. I am advised that the provision is that material will be accepted as evidence, not conclusive evidence, but merely evidence which, like all other evidence, is to be assessed as to weight and credibility in order to determine whether it carries the necessary degree of conviction. One matter going to weight would be whether the person concerned was present.
That is why the certificate has to state that fact, under clause 3. The object is to prevent proceedings being thwarted because of the offender absconding.
Those are the answers which I give in reply to the questions asked. 1 think they cover the points which were raised, as far as I. could note them down quickly. I would say to honourable senators that it is not the simplest task to listen carefully to one’s colleagues and at the same time draft replies to comments. If an honourable senator’s query has not been answered, then opportunity could be taken to develop this matter at length and in detail in Committee if the Senate wishes, in its own good time and manner, lt is the Senate’s decision.
For my own part I feel that the matter has been given fairly detailed study by those who brought it forward, lt has been for quite some time a matter of discussion in international civil aviation organisations. It has taken some time to ratify. I have not been given the reasons why it has taken so long to ratify, but. 1 imagine it is due to the processes of the United Nations discussions about Australia’s rights in connection with other laws governing its international position, lt is not unusual for international ratification to take some time. What is important to me is that we signified very early that we would be a party to it. We brought in immediately behind this our own law to protect ourselves. I do not think that we could be said to have been wanting in any sense in our desire and willingness to co-operate internationally and protect the situation internally.
My own feeling about the matter is that this is a good piece of legislation and that the Australian public will be well served by it. It seems to have been welcomed by those who have scrutinised it outside this chamber. 1 have not had any letters complaining about it but I have had letters from people saying that it is a good measure. I must say that there has been some concern about the problem of increasing air traffic and the dangers which are placed by acts of terrorism on people who travel by air. This is not within the scope of this legislation, but honourable senators may be assured that the Department of Civil Aviation is extremely active in the international field in doing what it can to make possible effective measures to lead to greater air safety and a greater use of air transport both in its own selfish interests on behalf of the Australian people and for the international community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not think that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) answered one of the questions that I raised. I referred to the position in South Australia which has not any intrastate legislation or specific legislation covering offences committed on aircraft engaged in intrastate operations. Does the Minister consider that South Australia is in any worse position than the other States because of the lack of such legislation? Also, the Minister says that the provisions of the Convention regarding the powers and duties of an aircraft commander are wider than those in the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. I wonder whether there will be a review of our own Act which may in turn influence the States to look at their Acts to see whether they come up to the requirements of the Convention in Tokyo.
– 1 raise the questions that I previously raised because I am not completely satisfied with the answers given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Colton). Firstly, I am still seeking a legal definition of penal laws of a political nature. If anyone could give me that definition it would be of great assistance to me. I Jo not think that anyone disagrees with Australia becoming a party to an international agreement which prevents the threat of unauthorised persons taking over an international aircraft. Such an agreement is essential. Of course, the Bill itself sets out how the agreement will he put into operation. It is this that I am querying, not the agreement itself. In the Schedule to the Bill under the heading ‘Chapter II - Jurisdiction’, paragraph 2 of Article 3 slates:
Each Contracting State shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction as the State of registration over offences committed on board aircraft registered in such State.
Therefore if an offence is committed on an aircraft registered in Australia I take it that Australia has jurisdiction over that aircraft. Paragraph 1 of article 9 states:
The aircraft commander may deliver to the competent authorities of any Contracting Slate in the territory of which the aircraft lands any person who he has reasonable grounds to believe has committed on board the aircraft an act which, in his opinion, is a serious offence according to the penal law of the State of registration of the aircraft.
I suppose the pilot or aircraft commander will be aware of the laws regarding aircraft operations of that State. In the circumstances outlined it will be his job to hand over the person. The offence may be committed in any country in the world. Article 13 is pertinent to our legislation. Paragraph 4 states:
Any Contracting State, to which a person is delivered pursuant to Article 9, paragraph 1, or in whose territory an aircraft lands following the commission of an act contemplated in Article 11, paragraph 1, shall immediately make a preliminary enquiry into the facts.
Therefore after the handing over in Japan of someone who the commander of, say, a Qantas aircraft believes is in breach of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act the authorities in Japan will make an inquiry. Paragraph 5 of article 13 states:
When a State, pursuant to this Article, has taken a person into custody, it shall immediately notify the State of registration of the aircraft and the State of nationality of the detained person . . .
The method by which we apply this provision may not have application in any of the other contracting States. [ want now to deal with the situation where an aircraft commander has handed over a person for a breach of the law of a contracting State. Clause 7 of the Bill states: (1.) An authorized person may accept delivery of a person delivered in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 9 of the Tokyo Convention. (2.) Where an authorized person accepts delivery of a person under the last preceding sub-section, the authorized person shall cause the person so delivered to be held in custody until that person can be brought before a Magistrate to be dealt with in accordance with Section 13 of this Act.
Perhaps I am upside down in my thinking on this matter. If some-one is handed over to Australia by the commanding officer of the aircraft registered in Japan for a breach of the aviation laws of Japan, the person handed over is to be held in custody and brought before a magistrate. Clause 10 of the Bill states: (1.) The Minister or an authorized person may, by notice in writing, authorize a Magistrate to hold an inquiry for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention.
I have already read paragraph 4 of article 13 which states:. . . shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts’. Australia has a responsibility to make a preliminary inquiry where a person from overseas has been handed over and placed in its custody by a commanding officer.
Clause 10 of the Bill states in paragraph
Upon receipt of the notice, the Magistrate shall-
take the evidence of each witness appearing before him to give evidence in the inquiry in like manner. . . .
Paragraph 3 of clause 10 states:
The evidence of such a witness may be taken in the presence or absence of the person (if any) in custody in connexion with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry, and the certificate by the magistrate under the last preceding sub-section shall state whether a person was so in custody and, if so, whether that person was present or absent when the evidence was taken.
That means that a magistrate sitting in Canberra can take evidence from persons who travelled on the aircraft, without observing the normal requirement of the law that the accused be present and allowed to be represented and to submit witnesses to the rigours of cross-examination. What anyone says can be taken by the magistrate, who will certify that this was what was said. This applies not only to this Bill but to three other Acts of Parliament. In other words, testimony taken in the absence of an accused person becomes evidence. Paragraph 2 of clause15 of the Bill states:
A document certified by the Attorney-General to be a record of evidence sent to him under sub-section (2.) of section 10 of this Act is admissible in evidence in proceedings to which this section applies and, when admitted, the evidence recorded in it is evidence in the proceedings.
The Minister answered my query by saying that the evidence is not conclusive. 1 do not think any evidence is conclusive; due weight must be given to it. Possibly the evidence should not have been admitted before the inquiry. A person has rights underour system of law. There is the right of the defence to challenge any evidence. It was never intended that evidence against a person be given without that person being present, but by an Act of this Parliament such evidence is to be admitted. Whether or not it is conclusive and what weight the magistrate gives to the evidence are other matters. One could be convicted on evidence that was taken under clause 10. The person concerned does not have to be present. Counsel representing him may not be present at the taking of the evidence. The person could be convicted in his own country or in this country on evidence certified in another country. I do not know how much of this legislation will apply to other countries. I think we need more clarification on the whole question. Are we doing an injustice? Are we extending the repressive provisions of other Acts such as the Crimes (Aircraft) Act to this legislation? Are we taking away all rights of the accused at the time of hearing?
– Senator Willesee asked 2 questions. One related to South Australia and the other related to the comment in the second reading speech that the provisions of the Convention regarding powers and duties of the aircraft commander are wider than those in the Bill. South Australia has no specific legislation covering offences committed on aircraft in flight. Some of its laws - those relating to arson in particular - in general terms would apply to aircraft as well as to motor cars. The Commonwealth pointed out, by letter to all States, that this legislation would be introduced and that in due course amending legislation would be needed to cover intrastate flights. In answer to the honourable senator’s comment on the powers of the aircraft commander, the passing of the Bill will give the pilot in command of the aircraft the benefit of the powers conferred by the Convention in cases to which it applies and will give protection against actions for damages given by Articles 10 and 25 of the schedule to the Crimes (Aircraft) Act, which articles give commanders adequate powers in Australia. I trust that will cover the concern expressed by Senator Willesee.
Senator Cavanagh directed himself to 3 particular points - to Article 2, to Articles 9 and 13 of the Convention and to clause 10 of the Bill and its inherent implications. I imagine it is not very easy for us here in the Senate to seek to amend a Convention which probably took a lot of time to be hammered out internationally by a wide group of countries. Nonetheless, I think the comments are quite appropriate. No doubt the honourable senators would like to know more about the matter. Article 2 re-states a long-standing practice and international rules relating to extradition, that is, that there will be no extradition for political offences or offences arising from racial or religious factors. Having heard that, the honourable senator is in the same state of knowledge that I am.
– Cannot the Minister’s advisers tell him?
– I said that I was quite happy for this process to continue until honourable senators as a whole thought that the matters were covered fully.
– How can we cover the matter if we cannot get any information?
– If the honourable senator contains himself and is patient for a little while,I trust that we will be able to satisfy him, but sometimes I have my doubts. Penal laws of a political nature are those which the Government, in accordance with normal extradition practice, would consider to be those relating to political offences in the country of the flag law. That is the information I have from my advisers. Senator Cavanagh raised certain points in regard to Articles 9 and 13. I trust that in due course I will have something useful to say to him about those. He then referred to clause 10 of the Bill. That clause is allied to clause 13. Senator Cavanagh’s concern seemed to me to boil down to the point that evidence should not be taken without the person involved being present. As far as I could ascertain, his argument was that the person ought to be there. The previous comment that I gave him on this point seems to me to be the comment thatI should give again. The evidence is not to be regarded as conclusive evidence but merely evidence which, like all other evidence, has to be assessed as to weight and credibility to determine whether it carries the necessary degree of conviction. One matter adding to weight would be whether the person concerned was present. The certificate under clause 10 (3.) has to state whether or not the person was present.
The object of hearing evidence without the person being present is to prevent proceedings becoming thwarted if the offender has absconded. Senator Cavanagh said that hearing evidence without the person being present is entirely wrong and improper because the person should be present. The answer, as I have said is that the object is to prevent the proceedings as such from being delayed or thwarted because the offender has absconded. Those are the answers that I have. The honourable senator may like to ask more questions.
– I raised with the Minister a small point about the parallel legislation in the municipal law of the contracting parties. That dealt with the law relating to an aircraft in flight. The Minister drew attention to the provision that requires the signatories to pass parallel legislation. I pointed out that the Convention does not apply to aircraft which are not in flight within the terms of the definition. The Minister said that it was considered appropriate to leave that matter to the local or municipal law. What is the situation when the municipal law does not cover that matter adequately? The signatories are required to pass parallel legislation in relation to aircraft in flight. Would it not have been prudent to require provision to be made for aircraft on the ground and not only those in flight within the terms of the definition? Would it not have been prudent to require the signatories to pass legislation to provide for such a situation in the municipal law of the signatory countries? Again I think there has been an omission. There may be a good reason for it.
– I have a quick answer to that. That observation seems to add something to the discussion. As Senator Byrne said, it is expected and hoped that the signatories will do their part. As I said, the Commonwealth wrote to the State’s pointing out that it will be necessary to introduce parallel legislation. We pointed out the wisdom of so doing. As I understand the situation, every State except South Australia has covering legislation. One hopes that in due course the omission will be corrected. I think one might make the general observation that this is a federation and that the Commonwealth can do and does do certain things. The States have their own responsibilities. From time to time we have been told that the Commonwealth is trying to do too much. The Commonwealth has tried to cover its area of responsibility and to advise those within its area of responsibility that this is something it would foe very advisable to do on behalf of all of us. Having given that advice the Commonwealth is in no position to exercise a mandatory situation. Therefore it has to express the wish that it will be done.
– 1 rise to express a concern which is in much the same area as the concern Senator Cavanagh has expressed, though I shall not dwell on quite the same aspects as he mentioned. As I understand the framework of the Convention, the procedure which the signatories will have to accept in relation to what happens when the commander of an aircraft considers that an offence is occurring or is likely to occur in his aircraft is set out. 1 turn to paragraph 1 of Article 9 of the Convention, which states:
The aircraft commander may deliver to the competent authorities of any contracting state in the territory of which the aircraft lands any person who he has reasonable grounds to believe has committed on board the aircraft an act which, in his opinion, is a serious offence according to the penal law of the state of registration of the aircraft.
I make mention of the fact that the aircraft commander must act upon his judgment, and it is only right that he should be given very wide discretion. He is given that discretion. But any person whom he lands is landed on the suspicion that he may have committed an offence or may be about to commit an offence. One can only suppose that in particular instances the aircraft commander may be in error. I mention this only because the person who has been landed may have a complete answer to what is alleged against him and that answer will be ascertained when the ultimate inquiry takes place. Paragraph 4 of Article 13 provides that when such a person has been landed:
Any contracting state, to which a person is delivered pursuant to Article 9, paragraph 1, or in whose territory an aircraft lands following the commission of an act contemplated in Article 11, paragraph 1, shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
In other words, the Convention provides that when a person is landed an obligation is imposed upon the contracting state - and Australia is the relevant state with which we are concerned - to have provisions whereby an inquiry shall be made immediately into the facts. It is at this point that one turns to those clauses of the Bill to which Senator Cavanagh has referred. I raise as the first point of query - and I hope the Minister will be able to obtain some information from his advisers on this aspect - whether the Bill makes provision for an immediate inquiry. One must appreciate that when such a person is landed he is in the custody of the state. The Australian law should make some provision whereby such a person can either be kept in custody by lawful warrant or brought before a court which will decide whether his custody is lawful. It appears to me that clause 7 (2.) of the Bill is an entitlement on the part of the Australian authorities to keep such a person in custody. It provides:
Where an authorised person accepts delivery ot a person under the last preceding sub-section, the authorised person shall cause the person so delivered to be held in custody until that person can be brought before a magistrate to be deal) with in accordance with section 13 of this Act.
I emphasise the fact that the period within which he is kept in custody is a period of indeterminate length. Actually it is until such time as he is brought before a magistrate. Within what time is such a person to be ‘ i ought before a magistrate? It may be a matter of 2 days or it may be a matter of 2 years. Although it is highly unlikely that it would be 2 years in terms of the lawful obligation there is nothing to gainsay that, because clause 10 simply provides that the Minister or an authorised person may, by notice in writing, authorise a magistrate to hold an inquiry for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention. The Bill does not require a magistrate to hold an inquiry within any length of time. One might suppose that there could be a good reason for not fixing a short period. It may be that there is a good reason for not fixing any specific time. If there is, I would like to hear it.
– Perhaps the reason is that he may be dealing with an offence which commenced 5,000 miles away and concluded in another country.
– lt may be the reason. It comes to mind as a possible reason that there may have to be negotiations between the Australian authorities and the authorities of another state and therefore some time would elapse before a decision could be made as to whether an inquiry should be held. But what is a reasonable length of time for a person to be held in custody before being brought before a magistrate to have his custody, as it were, lawfully justified according to some statute? As I see it, a person who is put into custody when he is landed from an aircraft may remain in custody indefinitely. There is nothing in the Bill with requires that he shall be brought before a magistrate. The Bill provides that the Minister may authorise a magistrate to hold an inquiry but it does not require the Minister to authorise a magistrate to do so within a fixed time nor does it require a magistrate to hold an inquiry within a fixed time.
– It sometimes appears in statutes as ‘shall’. Is it mandatory or is it an optional use of the term? Does the main Act go to the selection of a magistrate and not merely the appointment of a magistrate?
– I do not know whether Senator Byrne is asking me that question in some sort of judicial capacity, but I would think that one of the problems is that the judges and the other persons exercising judicial authority will have to make up their minds as to what the legislature meant. I would think that in the circumstances with which we are dealing, the word ‘may’ would be permissive, but if it is desired that it should be the word ‘shall* I think we should make it ‘shall’. As I see it at the moment, it is open to the Minister to authorise a magistrate to hold an inquiry, but the Minister is not compelled to do so.
– But if it embodies the Convention, which is mandatory, and we are signatories to it, the word ‘may’ could be taken to mean ‘shall’ and not to be permissive.
– I recognise the argument which Senator Byrne puts forward. Even if it is to be regarded as meaning ‘shall’, it appears to me that the measure still does not fix a time within which the inquiry is to be held. Although the Convention refers to the need for a contracting state to hold an inquiry immediately there is nothing in the legislation before us, which is Australia’s expression of its Convention obligations, which requires Australia to bold an inquiry immediately. That is one point upon which 1 feel some concern. I would be grateful if the Minister could obtain some advice for me. I would also be grateful, in the light of what Senator Cavanagh has said, if the Minister could give some indication of the conceivable circumstances in which a person held in custody would not be present at an inquiry into the facts.
– This is the first occasion on which I have had discussions at the Committee stage of a Bill with Senator Cotton as the responsible Minister and not as a back bencher. It is apparent from his reply to a query I raised earlier that I failed to make myself understood. I hope that by going into the question in greater clarity I will be able to do so on this occasion. It did not seem so hard for Senator Greenwood to understand what I was saying, but it would appear as though I may have more difficulty in getting my argument across to the Minister.
– I did not find it as easy to understand the honourable senator as perhaps I should have but having heard Senator Greenwood go over much the same ground I have a better understanding now.
– I am not blaming the Minister. I know my limitations. I am thinking only of the way in which I can approach a matter when Senator Cotton is the responsible Minister, so that I will be understood. I asked what was the meaning of the expression ‘penal laws of a political nature’. The answer I received was that they are the political laws of a flag country. I was not given any further explanation. On no account did I condemn the Convention. I accept that it is correct. Nor did I query any of the Articles of the Convention. I went through the system of referring to the various Articles of the Convention to show what the Convention intended should be done. As it is an international agreement we cannot amend the Convention. Therefore, we must accept it.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I was speaking on this Bill before dinner, but I thought the Minister might have wanted to say something at this stage. I also thought there was some suggestion that we would report progress now.
– I had in mind that we would do that after I had made one or two comments to bring things up to date. I will traverse them very briefly. They begin with the points raised by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Greenwood on paragraph 1 of Article 9, which reads in part:
The aircraft commander may deliver to the competent authorities . . . any person . . .
I am cutting it quite short. Paragraph 4 of Article 1 3 states:
Any Contracting State, to which a person is delivered pursuant to Article 9, paragraph 1, or in whose territory an aircraft lands following the commission of an act contemplated in Article 11, paragraph 1, shall immediately make a preliminary inquiry into the facts.
As 1 see them, those are obligations imposed upon this country adopting the Convention and picked up under the Bill. Then the two honourable senators make the point that clause 7 of the Bill uses two expressions. Sub-clause (I.) states that an authorised person may accept delivery and sub-clause (2.) states that the authorised person shall cause the person so delivered to be held in custody until that person can be brought before a magistrate. The honourable senators also refer to clauses 10 and 13.
I have had a good look during the dinner suspension at these various points. I have consulted with the advisers on this Bill and the people who helped to draw it up. I wish to make a couple of points briefly. The purpose of the Bill is to enable Australia to give effect to obligations under the Convention, and nothing in the Bill can detract from that. I am advised that in clause 7 (2.) the words ‘until that person can be brought before a magistrate’ really mean, in effect, until it is possible to do so and no longer.
At this stage let me say that I have listened with great interest to the comments made by my colleagues in this chamber. This has been an extremely interesting exercise and one that I have taken quite seriously. The view I now have is that it would be better for all concerned if the Committee reported progress and asked for leave to sit again. I would like more time in which to study the matter again before tomorrow.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[8.6] - I move:
In his policy speech prior to the last elections the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said:
We shall pay pensions at standard rates instead of at married rates to aged couples who lose the economies of living together by reason of failing health - for example, if one or both of them is in a nursing home.
The Bill provides the legislative measure to give effect to that undertaking. One of the Government’s social services aims has been to seek out areas of special need and to bring to the Parliament measures to meet those needs.
For some years now it has been recognised by the Government and, I think, by honourable senators, all of whom are personally aware of the situation of many pensioners, that a single person needs more than half the combined income of a married couple to maintain an equivalent standard of living. The Senate may recall that in recognition of this situation the Government introduced supplementary assistance in 1938 for single pensioners who had little or no means beyond the pension and were paying rent.
Later, in 1963, a higher rate of pension for single pensioners - the so-called standard rate - became part of the social service pension structure. The innovation brought Australian practice into line with that of most other countries where differential rates for single and married persons are accepted as an essential feature of a modern pensions system. The changes I have just outlined were a major departure from the previous Australian common rate pension pattern and they have been fully supported by people interested in, and conversant with, the problems of pensioners.
The Senate may be interested in comparative figures showing the Australian position in this regard as compared with the position in certain other countries. This can be measured by expressing the single pension as a percentage of the pensions received by a married couple. This is set out in the following table which, with the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard.
-0721/70 - S - (141
I think that it should be pointed out that in the above table supplementary assistance is excluded from the Australian figures. If supplementary assistance were taken into account the Australian proportion would be 64.2% . However, it must be recognised that the economic situation of some married couples who, through illness or infirmity, must give up ordinary domestic living and be cared for in a nursing home or in some other similar way, is often much the same as that of single pensioners.
The Bill recognises the special needs of such married couples by providing that, where either or both of a married couple, because of illness or infirmity, are obliged to leave their matrimonial home and the situation is likely to be permanent, the Director-General of Social Services may, if he is satisfied that their living expenses are greater than they would otherwise be, give a direction that each shall receive the rate applicable to single pensioners. Where, under the provisions of the Bill, married couples become eligible for pension at the single rate they may also - subject to means - each become eligible for supplementary assistance. Thus on the passage of the Bill, couples may each receive an increase of SI. 75 a week in their pension plus grant of $2 a week supplementary assistance, giving them a combined increase of $7.50 a week.
An increase in the pension rate for these married couples will raise the income and property limits beyond which no pension is payable. For married persons the present income limit is $70 a week and the property limit $37,200. These limits will now become $77 a week and $40,840 respectively. Under other new provisions which were introduced by this Government in 1968 the survivor, on the death of one member of a married pensioner couple receives, for six fortnightly instalments, the equivalent of the two pensions that would otherwise have been payable. The payment of this ‘double pension’ entitlement will, on the passage of the Bill, continue on the basis of the married rate.
In conformity with the usual practice it is proposed that the increase in pensions provided by the Bill will come into operation on the pay day following the royal assent, lt is proposed to write to the authorities of aged persons homes, nursing homes and benevolent homes asking them to bring the provisions to the notice of married pensioner inmates so that their claims can be considered. Mr President, the new provisions which I have just outlined mark a further step in the Government’s concerted programme of assisting those with special needs. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to bring into operation for repatriation Service pensioners the election promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) that the Government would introduce legislation providing increased pensions for married means test pensioners who lose the economies of living together because of failing health. The specific proposal is that where pensions are now paid at married rates to each of such a married pensioner couple, each will receive pension at the standard rate after the passage of this legislation. The Bill makes the same provision for Service pensioners as is made for age and invalid pensioners in the Social Services Bill introduced by my colleague Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth).
Honourable senators will know that an eligible ex-serviceman or woman who is single, widowed or divorced may receive a Service pension at the standard rate, namely $15 per week, which is higher than the married rate - currently $13.25 per week - payable to each of a married pensioner couple. The higher rate for single people recognises their special needs as compared with married pensioners who, because they live together and are able to share common expenses, are in a relatively better situation. lt must be accepted, however, that the position of married couples who because of illness, for example, must give up normal domestic living to be cared for in a nursing home is often the same as that of single pensioners. The Bill gives practical recognition to this fact.
Clause 3 of the Bill therefore provides that where a repatriation board is satisfied that a pensioner husband and wife cannot live together in a matrimonial home because of the illness or infirmity of either or both of them, and these circumstances are likely to continue indefinitely, the Service pension may be granted at the standard rate.
Under the Repatriation Act a repatriation board is the primary independent determining authority concerned with the determination of claims. It is for that reason that the power of determination in these instances is given to a board, lt will exercise the power in relation to Service pensioners which is exercised by the Director-General of Social Services in relation to age and invalid pensioners. Under the Social Services Act the Director-General has a general power to review a determination whenever it appears to him that sufficient reason exists for doing so, and upon review he may affirm, vary or annul it. Clause 3 of the Repatriation Bill gives a similar review power to a repatriation board in relation to the circumstances of married pensioner couples who may be eligible for the standard rate.
The Bill also provides in clause 4 that couples who benefit from the amendment I have outlined may, subject to their means, also receive supplementary assistance, often known as rent allowance. It will be recalled that in 1968 the Government amended the Repatriation Act to provide that, where one of a married pensioner couple dies, the surviving pensioner receives for 6 fortnights the amount of pension that would have been payable to the couple jointly. The Bill provides that this benefit will continue to be paid on the basis of the married rate.
The Bill also provides for the appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary for the purposes of the Bill. It is proposed, in accordance with the usual practice, that the increases in pension rates provided by the Bill will come into operation on the pay day following royal assent. The measures I have outlined represent a further development in the Government’s provision for the needs of means test pensioners, and I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11 March (vide page 199), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is the first of its type in relation to the wheat industry that has ever come before the Parliament. Although the reason is fairly easy to see, it is most unfortunate that this is the case. Since its introduction the wheat stabilisation scheme has been able to pay its way and to meet the costs incurred in making the first and subsequent payments to producers. There has been no problem in that regard. In the last couple of years, however, we have seen a trend which indicates that the situation will not remain so favourable. World demand for wheat has fallen. Trade in wheat has fallen from 2,300 million bushels in 1955-56 to 1,700 million bushels in 1968-69, a drop of 600 million bushels. It is obvious that with improved methods of production and unless the situation changes world trade in wheat will fall even below this amount. In Australia during the last year we have had to make our first payments for wheat. These payments have been financed, as is always the case, by the
Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank must recoup those amounts within 12 months. Generally, sales of wheat on the world market have enabled the sums to be recouped without difficulty; but due to restricted markets for wheat, sales until recently have failed by about $250m to meet advances totalling $624m made by the Reserve Bank. I am very pleased to say that in the last few weeks further sales of wheat have been made, and these will reduce the amount necessary to be raised.
This legislation anticipates that a lot of negotiating has to be done for future sales. As the amount necessary to be raised is subject to guesswork at this stage, it has been thought wise to ask for approval of more than the sum of $250m estimated to be required to repay the Reserve Bank. In fact, approval is sought for an amount of $300m. As the payment has to be met by 31st March this Bill must be dealt with urgently. I have said that I deplore that we have been unable to make sufficient sales of wheat to overseas buyers to meet the requirements of the Reserve Bank.
This Bill is fairly straightforward, except for a couple of matters to which I wish to direct attention. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 providesthat moneys borrowed under this legislation may be made available, on such terms and conditions as the Treasurer determines, by way of loan to the Australian Wheat Board.’ That is the way in which it works. But when an explanation is sought it is found that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in his second reading speech referred to 2 points concerning those terms and conditions. The first is that the Board will be required to use for repayment of the loan all net receipts after the date of the loan from export sales of wheat of the 1968-69 pool. The disturbing feature about that requirement is that it means that no additional payments will be made to farmers until that amount has been paid off. This is a fairly serious matter although once wheat growers have received the payment of $1.10 a bushel they are hopeful of being in a reasonable financial position. However, it is the extra payments that give the wheat growers the ability to carry on. In the light of the present state of world markets it could be a considerable time before the loan is paid off and any surplus paid to farmers. This is one of the terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer. The only reference to it is in the Minister’s second reading speech, as I have said.
The other point promoted quite a lot of discussion in another place. I refer to the interest rate. Since the introduction of this Bill the interest rate on bank loans has been increased throughout Australia. It seems reasonable to anticipate that the interest rate payable on this loan will also be increased. Questions from both sides of the chamber in the other place anticipated an alteration in the bank interest rate but continual pressure on the Minister did not elicit the likely interest rate, other than that at that moment it was 5%. 1 would like to know whether in the period since the discussion of the Bill in another place the interest rate has been increased. I would like to know whether the Treasurer has determined what interest rate is to be charged on this loan.
I do not think wc can stress too much the importance of the interest rate. Any increase will add to the burden of the farmers because they will have to pay it. The amount available to them will accordingly be reduced. The next point to which ] wish to refer does not really enter into a discussion of this legislation, but it is worth remembering. We could be faced with a very serious situation in the coming years if production of wheat continues at the present rate. Production will further increase unless protection is given and the situation will be extremely serious unless other export markets are discovered or a method of distribution of wheat is effected throughout the world to supply the wants of needy countries. Probably a more appropriate time to discuss this matter is when we are debating the wheat stabilisation measure. However, I have mentioned it now because of its serious nature.
A number of conflicting opinions have been given about world requirements of wheat. Some experts are claiming that there is no shortage of food in the world, and that it is only a shortage of the more sophisticated types of food. The United Nations has stated that there is a serious food shortage which will be greatly aggravated during the 1970s. If that is so, it is our duty to find ways to distribute our wheat.
– Rice is a carbohydrare food.
– I agree that there are people who prefer rice to wheat, but Senator Sir Magnus Cormack appreciates that a taste can be cultivated for wheat products provided the problem is tackled in a realistic way. In some areas where wheat was introduced it was found to be unsaleable until it was manufactured into a product such as noodles. That was one way of getting over the problem of making wheat acceptable to people who are used to eating rice. That is part of the situation surrounding wheat, and it is an interesting point, but 1 do not think it really enters into a discussion of this Bill. It is in this situation, in which it is likely that as the years proceed we will be in a worse position than we are at present, that we must look at the Bill. At the moment we are forced into agreement and, consequently, the Opposition is not opposing (he measure. However, we may see another Bill brought in al the end of this year requiring probably even greater finance to be made available in order to assist the Australian Wheat Board in the problem with which it is faced.
On behalf of the Opposition I announce that we do not oppose the Bill. 1 trust that the remarks I have made about the difficulties that I see will be taken into consideration. I refer particularly to the problem of interest. The question of further payments to farmers before the Australian Wheat Board has discharged its debt to the Reserve Bank is an extremely serious one, but 1 am sure that the problem will bc solved because already it is referred to in the second reading speech. I have no objection to the Bill.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) 18.31] - I compliment Senator Wilkinson for the factual way in which he has dealt with the Bill. As I see it, he has stated the purpose of the Bill correctly. Although it has been pointed out that approximately 5250m will have to be covered by the Government guarantee, the guarantee is for $300m to provide for any contingencies in the sale of the wheat remaining from the 1968-69 crop. This is a very wise precaution. As to the interest rates, 1 understand that the meaning of the terms applied is that interest will be paid at the same rate as is currently being paid by the Australian Wheat Board for its credits from the Reserve Bank, that is, there will be no increase or decrease in the rate of interest charged on the amount that is now guaranteed by the Commonwealth in respect of the amount that was owing toy the Australian Wheat Board to the Reserve Bank of Australia.
It is interesting to recall, as Senator Wilkinson did, that this is the first time since the wheat stabilisation plan came into operation that the Commonwealth has been called upon to make good a guarantee. It is noteworthy that although the Wheat Board owes to the Reserve Bank $250m on the 1968-69 crop, during that year the Board sold wheat to the value of $374m. That is very close to the actual figure for wheat sales; I derived it from the figures available to me. The substance of the Bill reveals only partly the story of the wheat industry. I should like to bring to the Senate a few figures which show just how important the wheat industry is to Australia and the contribution that it has made to Australia’s economy, and to set against that the cost in terms of payments by the Commonwealth to wheat growers. In the 10- year period from 1958-59 until 1967-68 Australian wheat growers produced $4,271,772,000 worth of wheat. Although at present there is some doubt about its final value because there are not full realisations for the last 2 years, Australia has grown more than $ 1,000m worth of wheat in the last 2 years. I repeat that proviso that last year’s figures are not final. Over a period of 12 years Australian wheat growers have produced more than $5,000m worth of wheat. During that period the cost to the Australian Government has been $155m. The Commonwealth contribution in relation to the total value of wheat produced has been less than 3%. The pundits, the economists, the wise men, tell us that this injection of 3% has caused a tremendous upsurge in the production of wheat in Australia.
– Who said that?
– This is the generally accepted idea, that the subsidies have led the wheat industry into a tragedy. It is true that in the last couple of seasons there has been an increase in the total acreage of wheat grown in Australia and that it has been caused largely by guaranteed prices and the stability that has existed in the wheat industry, providing a ready means by which graziers in New South Wales could offset their losses due to drought conditions. Surely the Government does not deplore the fact that there was a means whereby the grazing industry, particularly in New South Wales but also generally in the eastern States, could finance itself out of a desperately bad position. I think it is fortunate that this situation has obtained.
But let us look at this position, which is being represented as being a new position, a disastrous position. In 1963-64 the carryover of world stocks of wheat was 50,160,000 metric tons. In that year the world trade in wheat was 45,367,000 metric tons. In the last year for which comparable figures are available the carry-over of world stocks was 36 million metric tons, as against 50 million, and the world trade was 47 million tons as against 45 million. So in 1968-69 the world position was much better than it was in 1963-64, a year which we survived without turning a hair, almost.
– We are turning a few hairs this year.
– We are indeed, but we need to look at the whole position with regard to what has happened in the Australian agricultural scene. We need to look at it realistically, having regard to the socalled tremendous increase in Australian wheat acreages. During the 10-year period from 1930-31 to 1939-40 Australia sowed an average of 14,175,000 acres of wheat each year, whereas in the last 10-year period Australia sowed an average of 17,857,000 acres of wheat. If we made a calculation over a period of 40 years we would find that Australia’s wheat acreage had increased by 25.7% only.
– What about the bushels per acre?
– Seasons have been better and the bushels per acre have improved, but we are talking about the expansion of the wheat industry and the expansion of wheat acreages. A calculation reveals that the average increase of wheat acreages over a period of 40 years has been about V% per year. In 1930-31 Australia sowed over 18 million acres of wheat and we did not again reach that figure until the year 1966-67 when we grew 20 million acres of wheat. The whole upsurge of wheat acreage has been over the period 1967-68 to 1968-69 when we did plant 26 million acres of wheat.
– Have you the corresponding figures in bushels?
– Yes, I have the figures. The bushel production is largely a factor of seasonal conditions. The period in the 1930s was the worst period ever in our history in relation to seasons. Seasonal conditions are the principal factor in bushel production, plus of course the increased use of fertilisers and better wheats. Various other factors also contribute. But the increase in yield over the period is not very considerable. The main point of contention has been that the wheat acreage has increased unduly. In view of the fact that 40 years ago we sowed 18 million acres of wheat with horse power and it took us nearly 40 years before we caught up again to that acreage, the argument that the Australian wheat industry has increased disproportionately either to the population or the general economy is complete and utter utter nonsense.
The other fallacious point is that it has been contended that the advance of $1.10 that has been declared is unduly high. The advance of $1.10 means to the wheat grower a price on the farm of some 90c. This is in the year 1970 and the value of the money is in terms of 1970 purchasing power. If we look at this in relation to the 1930s when the wheat industry was in a desperate condition, that 90c needs to be divided by a factor of 6 to get somewhere near its relative purchasing power. Those who talk about 90c being a high price for wheat today should realise that its value in terms of 1933 values is somewhere in the nature of 15c. Those who argue that the solution to the present problem is a reduction in the first advance should look at the history of the wheat industry and the fact that the big upsurge in wheat production in 1930-31 was in response to lower wheat prices, and this would be the effect of lower prices today. Indeed, the upsurge in wheat acreage has been the product of the fall in wool prices and the relative fall in wheat prices.
– Do you think that there is an overproduction of wheat today?
– I think that there is in the world an overproduction of wheat.
– Who should be restricted - everyone or certain countries?
– I think that we need to tailor the production of wheat to the needs of the market. Anybody who reads about what is happening in Asia and throughout the world with regard not only to the increased yields of wheat but also to increased yields of rice in Asian countries - these are to an extent complementary - will agree that there is undoubtedly at the moment an increased supply. I believe that we have unduly exaggerated the world position. We have on hand at the moment about 1 year’s supply, but this was the position in 1963-64. We had a world stock of 50 million metric tons compared to a world trading figure of 45 million tons.
– Yes, but China then came to your aid.
– China bought our wheat. The Australian sales of wheat have not fallen dramatically. In export and domestic sales in 1964 Australia sold 239 million bushels. In 1965 Australia sold 322 million bushels; in 1966, 287 million bushels; in 1967, 370 million bushels: in 1968, 262 million bushels; in 1969, 299 million bushels. The estimate for 1970 is 283 million bushels. There has been no dramatic fall in our sales of wheat. The situation is that we have had the coincidence of one particularly good season all over Australia.
– You are cursed with good seasons. Is that your argument?
– It depends on the way in which one looks at it. The Australian farmer is in many respects infinitely better off than farmers in, say, Canada. The whole of Australia’s wheat production is being taken into storage where it will be adequately protected.
– Who is paying for it?
– The wheat growers will pay for it. The Government is lending money to the industry. The wheat industry is one without which the Australian industrial superstructure could never have been built and without which the progress that this country has made would never have been established. A miserable 3% of the value of the product is a very small price to pay for the contribution that the Australian wheat industry has made to the development of this country.
– Senator Prowse made some amazing statements. He started by trying to convince the Senate that there has been no dramatic increase in acreage sown to wheat in Australia. He discounted the production of bushels per acre because this is governed by seasons. He went on to say that there had been no dramatic change in the amount of wheat that Australia has been able to sell each year. I ask him: What is wrong with the wheat industry? ls it the Australian Country Party that is wrong with the wheat industry? I do not know. There is something wrong somewhere, and that is a question that has to be answered. Senator Prowse also said that the $1.10 advance payment represents only 90c to the grower. In fact, there is a guaranteed price of 170c for home consumption wheat and 145c for 200 million bushels exported. He went on to say that in real terms of purchasing power this 90c meant about 15c.
– In terms of 1933.
– If the honourable senator were to go to the depths of the depression period to pick a base year he could probably get the value of the 90c down to almost nothing. In making comparisons it is necessary to pick a base year that is an average year and not the year when the wheat industry was down at its very lowest. All I say is: What is wrong with the wheat industry in terms of what the honourable senator has said? As far as he is concerned the wheat industry is in a good position. I do not believe that the wheat industry is in a good position. I do not believe that any of the Australian rural industries are in a good position. The purpose of the Bill is to raise a loan for the purpose of repaying an advance to the Australian Wheat Board by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank. The Bill deals with that and with nothing more. I do not want to digress very far from the purpose of the Bill because when legislation to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act is introduced we will have an opportunity to discuss the ills of the wheat industry. We will be able to roam all over the field when discussing that legislation.
This loan was made necessary because of the provision of the Reserve Bank Act which stipulates that the advance to the Australian Wheat Board must be repaid within 12 months. It is time that the Government studied this provision. We are not dealing with an industry in the terms of 1922; we are dealing with an industry in the terms of world over-production and in the terms of 1970. To expect the Australian Wheat Board to dispose of a huge crop of wheat such as that grown in 1968-69 and to repay this loan in 12 months is not to be realistic. The Government should study the requirement for the Wheat Board to repay loans within 12 months. Having to repay loans within 12 months has a lot of consequences which I hope to be able to talk about later, particularly as my colleague Senator Wilkinson referred to the interest rate, which is a further impost upon the grower; the grower will have to repay it in some way. The advance has to be repaid by the end of this month, that is, 31st March 1970. If action is not taken with some degree of haste, next year we will be faced with the same kind of situation again.
– What action does the honourable senator suggest?
– The Government is the protector of the rural industries. It is not for me to lay on the line at this time the policy of the Australian Labor Party.
– The honourable senator has no constructive criticism to offer.
– I think that I have always tried to be constructive. I hope to be a little destructive later on. I think I should put some constructive propositions, although I do not know how one can be constructive when faced with the prospect of having to raise money to repay an advance. One can be critical of the Government for allowing the industry to get into the state in which it is, for not amending the Act to allow a longer term for repayment and for imposing an interest charge which, I think, is exorbitant. The Government can do the things I suggest within the terms of this legislation, but I hope to be able to say something about a constructive policy during the debate on the next wheat Bill, i think that what I will put forward will meet some of the wishes - not all of the wishes - of the farmers. It has taken 20 years of Liberal-Country Party government to put the farmers in the position they are in today, and the Labor Party or any other party will not be able to pick them up and pull them out of their position in one season.
– The Labor Party had the chance for one season only.
– The Labor Party gave the wheat industry security when it introduced a stabilisation scheme. The honourable senator should ask the farmers about that.
– The Labor Party took away the authority from the Wheat Board and sold cheap wheat to New Zealand.
– We did a lot of things, but over the years we gave the wheal farmers security, lt has taken the Government 20 years to destroy that security. 1 agree thai the Bill has to be supported. The Government has to keep face with the industry. The Labor Party does not oppose the Bill but it does draw attention to a situation which is arising and which probably will face this Parliament year in and year out if some action is not taken and if we continue with the system of regulating this industry which has been adopted by the Liberal-Country Party coalition over the years. Last year we guaranteed a first payment of SI. 10 a bushel on a crop of 357 million bushels. In storage at that time we had about 250 million bushels. To clear stocks we would have had to sell overseas approximately 550 million bushels. In the present state of world supply it is unlikely that we will be able to do this. Again this year we accept not the Government’s recommendation but the Board’s. The Government has nothing to do with this; it asked the Australian Wheat Board to tell it how much wheat we should grow this year. The Board fixed the Australian quota at 318 million bushels, again with an advance payment of $1.10 a bushel.
As my colleague Senator Wilkinson said, the amazing thing is that the loan may not be for $300m. The loan will be for the amount required by the Board. The Bill provides lor $300m to take care of contingencies. The Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), in his second reading speech, said: lt is also proposed that the Board be required to use for repayment of the loan all net receipts, after the date of Ihe loan, from export sales of wheat of the 1968-69 peo!.
The Government has given the wheat industry a guaranteed home consumption price. We can forget about the home consumption price because the loan will be repaid from export sales. The Government has given the industry a guaranteed export price of $1.45 a bushel, but the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has said that the maximum that growers will get is $1.10 a bushel until they pay off the loan of $300m plus interest. When and how will the farmer be paid for the wheat he produced in 1968-69? It will be 4 or 5 years before he gets any second or third payment on the 1968-69 crop. During that time interest on the loan will build up. There is also the possibility of another loan again next year to assist the Australian Wheat Board. This is the kind of policy that the Government has put to relieve some of the ills of the wheat producers.
Senator Prowse said that over a period of 40 years the acreage sown to wheat did not increase dramatically nor did the amount of wheat that we were able to sell each year decline dramatically. In the years 1965-66 to 1967-68 we were able to sell 71% of our production, but in the year 1968-69 we were able to sell only 43% of our production. The honourable senator is not able to refute those figures which give a picture of the state into which this industry has been allowed to fall. As has been said in another place, it was known for 5 years that this position would arise. Personally I would contest that suggestion because I. think something which I will say in a little while will disprove that it was known 5 years ago. Nevertheless, there was some welcome news in the Press this morning when it was reported that Australia was able to make wheat sales to South America, Pakistan and India. Those sales will not relieve the position very greatly, but they are welcome sales. 1 hope the Wheat Board will be able to make more sales like that so that the position of the wheat producers will be relieved. Some measures have been taken lo try to control the situation, but they are having little effect. A muddle was created over quotas last year. ] cannot help but emphasise these words. A muddle was created over quotas last year. This Government cannot, be relieved of responsibility for the quotas, lt is of no use anyone standing up in this Parliament and saying that quotas are a matter for State Parliaments. After all, this Parliament set the national quota and the first advance payments, and then it passed the buck to the States to apply the quota to the individual growers. It is no good Australian Country Party members of this Parliament going out on to the hustings and saying - as I have heard them say - that it is not the responsibility of the Federal member but of the State member and that growers should look to the State member in respect of their quotas. This is not true, because the national quota was fixed in this Parliament and nothing else could be done. I say that there would have been fewer Country Party members returned to this Parliament at the last election had the announcement about the quotas not been held back until after the election day.
In my State of Western Australia - everyone will admit this - there was the greatest racket in the world to keep the quota announcement back and post it on the day of the election so that the farmers received (heir quotas on the Monday following the Saturday election. Then Country Party members said: ‘People must believe in the Australian Country Party, because we did not lose any seats’.
– You know that is false.
– lt is no: false, and you know it. You are in the racket with your Stale leader.
– You believe the Stale governments connived, do you? How about spelling that out? Did the State Governments connive with the Federal Government to do that?
– The Suite Government did not do anything in connivance with the Federal Government. The State Government connived with the Australian Country ia, tv candidates t:i withhold the quotas until after the election. The growers in the industry received quite a shock when they found out what their quotas were. I am quite satisfied that many Country Party members would not have received the number of votes they did had the farmers known about the quota before the casting of the vote. I say that quite openly. If honourable senators opposite can prove otherwise, it is. up to them to do so.
It is admitted, Mr Deputy President, that over the years the farmers did sell wheat to the Australian people at less than world prices. There is still an amount owing to the farmers for this wheat, so it cannot be said that we are making a charitable handout to the farmers when we keep faith with them to guarantee their prices. I do not know what the amount would be, but it would be somewhere between S300m and $400m. That amount will be practically wiped out by this loan. The books will be evened out, and next year if the growers come back for a further loan on advances you will be asking the taxpayers to put in an amount over and above what they should be putting in. The debt of the taxpayers, thai is the people of Australia, to the wheat industry will be substantially paid by this loan this year.
So it is urgent that some action be taken to try lo reverse the situation. 3s it not lime that the parties which come to this Parliament and misrepresent the primary producers tried to work out a national plan to alleviate the hardship these people are going through? I think Senator Prowse will appreciate the difficulty in Western Australia, not only in regard to quotas but also to drought.
– The Australian Country Party caused that too, 1 see.
– The Country Party takes credit for the good seasons anil it puts put figures on what Australia has been able to produce and what it has been able to sell. The Country Party takes the credit for all the good seasons. I give it the credit for the bad ones - and I take it quite a little bit further, lt has been the boast of the Liberal-Country Party Government in Western Australia that it has been bringing approximately I million acres of land into production each year over the past 10 years. 1 wonder how many of those people on those conditional purchase blocks will walk off their land this year, and not only walk off their land but leave a lot of savings behind, as well as a lot of debts? Many of the people who have invested in this industry and have borrowed from banks and stock firms in order to be rural producers will walk off their land this vear. Very little is being done to try to protect them, f have the greatest sympathy for them for many reasons, f do not like to see people in hardship and I do not want lo see these people flowing into the industrial areas in competition with the work force which is there, not for work, because there is work about for people to do, but for the facilities for them and their families; that is, the facilities to educate them, and the facilities for their health and welfare, which are sadly lacking at the present time. If these people are forced to come in numbers into the city areas there will be a breakdown in the facilities available to them.
– Do you want them to stop out in the bush?
– I do not want them to stop out in the bush at all. I want the Austraiian Country Party to do what it boasts of doing, that is, to protect them. The Country Party has gone out with a pseudo policy of protection for the rural industries over the past 30 or 40 years; and what has it done? It has led the rural industries by policies of expediency into the worst mire they have ever been in in their lives. That is all the Country Party does. Every time something happens rural industries are given another subsidy but, boy oh boy, the Government is coming to the end of its subsidy run. The wool industry is not going to take it from you. You are not going to put the wool industry in chains the same as you put the rest of the rural industries in chains.
I am not one who believes that the massive development of the mineral industries is a substitute for production from the land. I believe that Australia and the Australian people owe a lot to the rural producers. If the rural producers are in trouble it will not be very long before the industrial producers are in trouble. I want to see the rural industries placed on a fair and sound footing so that the farmers will be able to make a living out of their land. I want to see full benefit derived from our rural industries, which will in turn mean that our country is developed to its full capabilities. I think a viable rural industry in Australia is still of great significance to the Australian economy, but the Government has mishandled this industry by its policies of expediency. The Government now asks the Parliament to agree to a continuation of these policies without offering some plan which will relieve the situation.
As we have not learned to control the seasons we do not know what the world’s production will be next season nor do we know what Australia’s production will be. Placing a restriction on production is not the answer to the problem, although it is generally the answer which the conservatives offer every time something crops up which interferes with the economy of an industry. The whole thing takes me back to the little horror Budget which was announced on 15th November 1960 by the late Mr Harold Holt, who was then the Treasurer, when restrictions were applied. All the conservative Party opposite could think about in order to solve the problem was to impose restrictions. If there is a failure in world crops next year or perhaps the year after we will be able to sell the wheat we have, but should we have a policy which is based upon the misfortunes of the growers in some other countries or our own country? Surely the industry is able to work out a plan which will alleviate the problems of the industry without relying on the seasonal conditions to solve the problems.
– That is exactly what the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has been doing and the Government has listened to the industry.
– Is that so? I do not think restrictive policies solve the problem nor does over-production. There must be a balance between the two.
– How does one get it?
– If I were at liberty do do so within the confines of this Bill I would explain it to the honourable senator. Most of the problems in the industry have been brought about by weather conditions. There is no doubt that the 1965-67 drought in New South Wales, which almost crippled the pastoral industry and forced the pastoralists in that State to turn to the quick cash crop of wheat which under the wheat stabilisation scheme guaranteed them an income, is the basic cause of the overproduction in Australia today. In order to save what they had built up over the years these people came into the wheat industry and, as far as I can see, they will stay in it for a considerable time. In order to go into the wheat industry they had to meet fairly heavy capitalisation expenses and they will not leave the industry until such time as the wool industry is flourishing and their capitalisation expenses are repaid. One has to live with these facts. As one of the measures lo overcome the problem 1 would apply quotas to those farmers who overproduce. 1 have said before that farms producing 10.000 bushels or less should not have a quota applied to them.
– What about if a father and his three sons on the one property got a quota and they finished up with 40.000 bushels? Do not worry’. The Australian Wheat Board had a look at this and it would not work.
– it would guarantee a reasonable living for the small grower and the traditional grower.
– ft does not.
– I must admit that 10,000 bushels may not be the correct figure in each State. There would be differences from State to State as to the number of bushels which provided a reasonable living for the farmer and his family. When the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill is debated in the Senate I will produce figures to show that such a quota system could have been applied last year. The quota for those farmers who produce in excess of 10,000 bushels would have been reduced by only 20% but we would have been producing on an average only the amount of wheat we budgeted for this year, which is the national quota of 3,507 million bushels. That is one way in which to balance it out. 1 know that one farmer in Western Australia has a quota of a quarter of a million bushels while others are producing 6,000 or 7,000 bushels. However, the farmers who are almost on the bread line - those with a production of 5,000 or 6,000 bushels- have a 20% quota applied to them. If it is carried right through how will the farmer get out of the debt he is in? How can he do so if he is not allowed to produce a quantity of wheat which will give him a living? I think it is time a policy of diversification is introduced. Many other crops can be grown on the same land as wheat.
– Such as?
– The honourable senator knows that there are plenty of crops which can be grown on the same land as wheat. When I was in Lima in 1968 I found that our rural industries could not provide the quantity of oats required by Peru. Australia has sent oats to Peru for many years.
Oats are the staple diet of the Peruvian people. Yet we find that in 1968 Australia could not provide them with sufficient oats. Our rural industry should grow more oats.
– What was the pool price for oats this year?
– I obtained the pool price for oats this year and forwarded it to friends of the honourable senator in country areas who were asking me about it. The drought conditions in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in 1967-68 altered the whole picture in relation to the production of wheat. The farmers who switched over to wheat production at that time are the ones who should have quotas applied to them. I offer that to the honourable senator as a constructive thought, f do not know whether he is capable of understanding it.
The Bill provides for a (300m loan. Another way in which assistance could be given to the industry is a reduction in the interest rate which applies to the loan. The Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), who is in charge of the passage of this legislation through the Senate, said that forward predictions cannot be made but that the interest rate should be 5%. On 31st March it might be 6% or 7%. I believe that loans of this nature which are raised to help people who are in distress should not carry any more than a servicing amount in interest. I would think that this loan could be raised -
– What rate is that?
– At about 1% or 2%. Senator Prowse and his colleagues in the Australian Country Party agree that the rate of interest should be at least 5% and that it should not be the lowest which can be offered today. They agree with this policy of usary which says that profits should be made out of the distress of people on the land. It is a policy of usury to apply this rate of interest to a loan that is designed only to keep people out of trouble. I cannot repeat that too often. Let members of the Country Party go out and tell the people in country areas that they agree with that sort of policy and see how many votes they get.
– The Labor Party would lend the money at an interest rate of H%; is that what the honourable senator is saying?
– I am saying that the Joan should not carry an interest rate higher than that required to service it.
– That is Labor policy, is it?
– I am not saying that it is Labor policy. I am saying that when Ben Chifley had this problem on his plate he did not increase the interest rate; he reduced it. But this Government will not even say that the interest rate will be 5%. It is only game to say that the interest rate will be whatever the ruling rate is at the time the loan is made. It is 5% today, but it might be 6% on 31st March. If that is so, that will be the rate of interest. That is the rate of usury interest with which members of the Country Party agree.
– I remember that Scullin promised us 4s a bushel and we received ls 8d.
– I am not talking about promises. Had the Menzies and Fadden promise of 1949 to put value back into the £1 been carried out the wheat industry would not be in the trouble it is in today. So do not let honourable senators opposite talk about promises if they do not want to talk about putting value back into the £1. They have had to go back to the lowest year they could possibly find - 1931, in the depths of the depression-to try to support their argument. Had value been put back into the £1 the farmers would not be in any trouble today.
If the anti-Labor parties had not spent £2m in 1949 to oppose the prices referendum, which was designed to give Labor the opportunity to get this country on its feet, the wheat industry would not be in trouble today. This free enterprise Government has brought the industry to the stage at which it is today. Honourable senators opposite support the free enterprise policy. Members of the Country Party support that policy because in their narrow range of thinking - let me emphasise those words - they evolve a policy of survival for the industry.
The Country Party, which purports to represent the rural industries, supports the imposition of this interest charge, whatever it may be. It supports a policy of pushing the people in the industry further into debt, with all the consequences that flow from that. If a policy of this nature is pursued thousands of farmers will have to leave their land. I have already said where they will go. They will go into the industrial areas where there will be trouble providing all the services that are required for communities. In addition, in the country areas millions of dollars of public investment will become obsolete. Not only will the farmers leave the land, but for every farmer who leaves an area 3£ families also leave the area. We can multiply the figures and see what devastation the Country Party will cause in the country areas if it continues to pursue this policy. The waste involved in the public investment that will become obsolete is another tax on the community.
I repeat that members of the Country Party support this sort of policy, provide no remedies for the situation and go along with everything which is proposed and which will only lead the industry into greater troubles. They do not attempt at any time to provide any of the answers that are required. It is time the rural producers took stock of the people who misrepresent them in this Parliament and chose someone better who would be able to represent them.
– 1 note that both Senator Cant and Senator Wilkinson have supported the Bill. But Senator Cant has gone to great lengths in criticising and condemning the Government’s policy with regard to the wheat industry. To me it seemed rather strange - if one had a warped sense of humour it might be rather amusing - that Senator Cant spent quite some time condemning the Federal Government and saying that it went to the Australian Wheat Board and they fiddled around and decided on quotas and it went to the State governments which legislated for quotas, when this was the responsibility of the Federal Government. Let me say this: Woe betide the industry if ever we get centralised power for any industry, be it the wheat industry or anything else.
In fact the Government went to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation - the grass roots of the industry. Without any arm twisting, the Federation made recommendations to the Federal Government for the introduction of voluntary quotas. That is exactly what happened. So, when we hear all this waffle about State legislation. Wheat Board control and so on, I wish to remind the Opposition that the Government accepted its responsibility by going to the responsible area of the industry and listening to its proposal. Hence we saw the introduction of wheat quotas.
Then we heard at quite some length criticism about the cost factors in the industry today. Let me be one of the first to say that the wheat industry, along with many other areas of primary industry, is fraught with many problems. But let us not start star-gazing and saying that, if the Liberal-Country Party coalition 20 years ago had not spent £2m to fight a campaign against rent and price control, today the wheat industry would be a complete and utter paradise. As this matter of rent and price control has been raised, let us look closely at what it really meant and what the Labor Government of the day tried to introduce.
We know what price control means. It is the complete control of prices. But let us look at the word ‘rent’. When the Labor Party talked about rent control people might have thought that it involved 30s or £2 a week, or whatever it may have been, for an office, a flat or a home. But that is not the true interpretation of rent. An economist’s interpretation of rent is the surplus above the cost of production on a marginal plot. In other words, rent is income. So what the Labor Party set out to do was to control both incomes and prices. Yet members of the Labor Party have the audacity to go back 20 years and say to the people: ‘If you had listened to us you would not be in this position today’. Let me say quite clearly that if. tragically, the people of Australia had listened to them 1 doubt very much whether there would be a wheat industry today, there definitely would not. be a wheat industry under free enterprise. So I suggest that the Opposition should not use arguments such as that.
We have also heard about interest rates. The criticism here is that the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank works on a 12-monthly basis and that interest is a very costly factor. We know what the interest rate of the Rural Credits Department is. It is 5%. We also know that the Government proposes to borrow money this year to lend to the Australian Wheat Board to enable it to pay off this debt to the Rural Credits Department. This loan money will cost the Federal Government 5% or in the vicinity of 5%. So, the Federal Government is not making a profit out of an industry which at the present time is not in a very sound position, as Senator Cant said. On the contrary, the Federal Government today Ls lending money to the wheat industry basically free of charge. It is spending at least 5% to obtain this money, which it is lending to the industry at the same rate of interest, and absorbing all the administration costs itself. So, let us not talk about the Government trying to make a profit out of the wheat industry in respect of this loan, because that is completely untrue and ill-founded.
We have heard criticisms tonight from Senator Cant with regard to the 51.10 first advance. He said also that a sum of about $3 00m was still owing to the wheat industry. I remind the Opposition that if we had not had a wheat stabilisation scheme and if we had not had a Federal government which was willing lo give the growers such a good first advance, the wheat industry today would be in a much worse position than it is. If we were back to the open market system and did not have a stabilisation scheme, I doubt very much whether there would be much of a wheat industry because there would be price wars not only internally but also automatically on overseas markets. So let us look factually at all these aspects. I am waiting most eagerly to hear Senator Cant’s proposals, which he says will revolutionise the wheat industry, when the next Bill conies before the Senate.
We have talked about the overdraft that the Wheat Board has with the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank. This Bill provides for the Government lo borrow some $300m of loan money which it will lend to the Wheat Board so that the Wheat Board can meet its commitment to the Rural Credits Department. As I said earlier, the Wheat Board’s commitment has decreased as a result of Commonwealth legislation and the generosity of the Commonwealth Government in paying $1.10 a bushel. The 1968-69 season was the best season in the history of the wheat industry in Australia. That season we grew for sale about 515 million bushels of wheat. When that crop is related to the SI. 10 1 think it will be appreciated that the Government supported very heavily and most readily the Australian wheat industry. In spite of drought and falling wool prices, the wheat industry finished up with the greatest crop of all time.
Senator Cant then went on to criticise the fact - I do not know whether the criticism was levelled at the Wheat Board, the Government or someone else - that the Board could sell only 43% of that huge 1968-69 crop. But there are many other factors that must come into this if we try to ascertain why we have a surplus of wheat. Firstly, let us go back to the 1 964-65 season. In that year about 368 million bushels were produced. In the following year 1965-66 production fell to some 259 million bushels. However in 1966-67 we had a crop of 466 million bushels. Then production fell again in 1967-68 to 277 million bushels. That was the season when the industry was in the throes of drought. As a result of double sowing and so on, in the next year 1968-69 we finished with a crop in excess of 500 million bushels.
The present situation in the wheat industry is not peculiar to Australia. New Zealand was one country which was importing Australian wheat. Suddenly New Zealand became an exporter, not of any great magnitude but nevertheless it became a seller instead of a buyer. So there was one Australian market which dried up. During the years to which Senator Cant referred Russia had been a buyer of Australian wheat. That market also has dried up. The introduction of a new type of rice which gives 2 or 3 crops in a season closed some of our markets in India and Pakistan. The new Mexican variety of wheat which can be grown in those countries also played its part in drying up our markets there. In other words, some of our rather traditional markets were gradually closed to us. Coupled wilh all these factors was a great increase in the production of wheat in the United States and Canada. As a result there has been a world surplus of wheat and at the same time a lessening in demand. As I have said, the present situation is not peculiar to Australia. Therefore when honourable senators talk about only 43% of the 1968-69 crop being sold they should be fair and look at all the relevant factors to bring the matter into perspective.
As I said earlier the Wheat Board had approximately 500 million bushels of wheat to sell. It has sold about 440 million or 450 million bushels. That includes the sale of wheat to China which was announced last December. I am waiting now for Senator McManus to jump to his feet and make a few comments. No doubt they will come later. Even though the wheat was sold to China last December, shipment started in January and wil continue until October this year. The terms of the sale are that 10% of the value of the wheat will be paid on shipment and the remainder will be paid in monthly instalments over 12 months. So we will have to wait until October 1971 before the final payment is made. This sale of wheat to China has helped tremendously in shifting a lot of the surplus. Overall we have in the vicinity of 70 million bushels of saleable wheat from the 1968-69 crop still on hand.
This sale to China, however, does not alleviate the financial problem because, as I have pointed out, the money will not be recouped in full until October next year. Hence there is a vacuum and a debt to the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank. The Government is to be congratulated for introducing this Bill which I am pleased to see is being supported by both sides of the Senate because it is necessary that the Government have the money it is seeking so that it can be paid to the Australian Wheat Board before 3 1st March this year.
There has been criticism of the fact that the Rural Credits Department works on a 12-monthly basis. It is claimed that this could affect interest rates, but I have dealt with that aspect already and I think 1 have shown very clearly that in the matter of interest rates the Government definitely is not making any money out of the Wheat Board and that the Wheat Board is borrowing at interest rates far below those that it would have to face if it borrowed outside in the commercial world. I would hate to think what those rates would be. I am sure they would be far higher than what the Government is charging. But even this reduced commitment to the Reserve Bank must be met by 31st March. That is why the Government is stepping into the breach by making a loan to the Wheat Board at 5% interest.
The Government’s action on this occasion shows very clearly its responsible approach to the problems of the Australian Wheat
Board. The wheat industry is left with all of this year’s crop to sell as well as the surplus from last year’s crop. The Commonwealth Government has seen fit to come in and underpin the industry, give it security and give the growers, the grass roots of the industry, their first advance. The Government is carrying the responsibility of a long term debt. So when I hear criticisms of this legislationI question the sincerity of the critics. Criticism has also been levelled at the quota system. No doubt we will have a better opportunity to speak on this subject when we are debating another Bill. I mention it now only because Senator Cant tonight spent a lot of time criticising the Government and condemning it for lack of leadership.
I believe that the Government has shown good, sound, fair and democratic leadership. It has not acted as a dictatorial and centralised form of administration. It is a Government which is representative of the people and their industries. It has encouraged free enterprise and expression and responsible attitudes.It has listened to representatives of the Australian wheat industry and has heeded their recommendations about quotas. In the year following the great crop of over 500 million bushels representatives of the wheat industry held discussions with the Government and as a result the quota system was introduced. Whether we like it or not, it is necessary that uniform legislation be introduced throughout the Commonwealth to implement the system. It was necessary for State Governments as well as the Federal Government to pass complementary legislation. The point I wish to emphasise is that the wheat industry made the recommendations, as a responsible body, and the Government accepted those recommendations. This is an entirely different picture from that which might have been painted had a government of a different political colour been in office.
Last year the overall Australian quota was not filled. A drought reduced the crop in Queensland and had an adverse effect on the crops in the northern part of New South Wales. Western Australia also suffered a drought. The result was that 2 States grew over-quota wheat, but the overall Commonwealth total was below the quota. Although the total quota was not reached - for 1969-70 the wheat industry brought in quotas totalling about 357 million bushels - people in the industry appreciated the problems associated with surpluses such as storage and potential markets aggravated by vast surpluses of wheat in the United States of America and Canada. For those reasons this year the wheat industry has voluntarily recommended to the Government - and I emphasise the word ‘voluntarily’ - a further reduction in quotas to 3 1 8 million bushels. The Government has accepted the recommendation as a basis. So when honourable senators opposite with tongue in cheek launch attacks about the irresponsibility of the Government or the wheat industry I believe those statements to be complete and utter untruths. Apart from whatever might have happened in the past, the wheat industry has shown complete responsibility in facing up to its problems. On the other hand, the Government has shown fair and democratic leadership. I give my wholehearted support to the Bill. I again congratulate the wheat industry on showing such responsibility and I am pleased for its sake that we have a democratic government which is prepared to listen to the good, sound leadership of an industry.
– Senator Young has gone on record this evening as saying that the Government has given sound, fair and democratic leadership so far as the wheat industry is concerned. He said that it has not acted as a dictatorial and centralised form of administration and went on to indicate that, in his opinion, it is a government which is representative of the people and of the industry generally. But having regard to the history of the wheat industry and to the actions of the Australian Country Party in connection with the wheat industry, I would describe the record of the Government to be coercive. Having failed to mobilise wheatgrower organisations into action soon enough, and having failedto pressurise State Ministers for Agriculture into drafting legislation in respect of the quota system at the critical time confronting the industry about 12 or 18 months ago, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) threatened individual growers with a reduction in the size of the first payment and the cost of storing mountains of wheat if the industry decided to go ahead and sow the area of 25 million acres that it was preparingto sow.
The motion before the Senate is that this Bill be now read a second time. Having regard to the criticism of the Government that has already been voiced by my colleagues Senator Wilkinson and Senator Cant who have preceded me in this debate, I now move the following amendment on behalf of the Opposition:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of opinion that the Government has failed to give positive leadership to overcome the crisis in the wheat industry’.
The proposed amendment indicates that whilst the Opposition is not opposing the Bill, we are certainly expressing our opinion that the Government has not shown adequate leadership to overcome the crisis in the wheat industry. The proposed amendment conforms with a matter of urgency raised by my Party last week in another place. It is in line with the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) moved on behalf of the Opposition during the Address-in-Reply debate. As I have already said, it is in conformity with the opinions expressed by my Party and a very large section of wheat growers.
On 15th April last year a rather prophetic article appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’. It stated that pressure had been applied for some time on the Minister for Primary Industry to get wheat growers and State governments to agree to a scheme which would limit deliveries of wheat from the 1969-70 crop and, at the same time, would permit the Federal Government to maintain the first advance payment of$ 1.10 a bushel. The article pointed out that the staggering total of 535 million bushels was harvested in 1968-69 and 506 million bushels were delivered to the Australian Wheat Board, involving a Reserve Bank advance in credit to wheat growers of no less than$592m, or about$200m more than in the previous year. The article went on:
The economic consequences of advancing such a large sum on a once-over basis in conditions of full employment are worrying enough but as the following season’s crop promises to be just as large, maintenance of the credit payment of$1.10 a bushel spelt severe demand inflation.
The domestic economic problem of coping with two massive wheat harvests in succession. 1968-69 and the impending 1969-70, was forbidding in itself but on top of this the harvests come at a time when the world market for wheat is in oversupply and prices are declining.
Having cited that extract to show the situation as it appeared in April of last year, let us come up to the present time. The Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), who represents the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in this place, has said that the purpose of the Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to meet its obligations under a Commonwealth guarantee of repayment of certain borrowings by the Australian Wheat Board from the Reserve Bank of Australia in respect of wheat from the 1968-69 crop - not the 1969-70 crop, but last year’s crop. The Minister went on in his second reading speech to indicate that arrangements were made for the Board to borrow up to$624m from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank for the 1968-69 pool, the date for final repayment being 31st March 1970, which is about a fortnight from today. When honourable senators compare the article written in April 1959 with the situation as it appears today they will sec why I have described that article as being prophetic.
There is a sense of urgency about this Bill, and certainly there is great concern generally about the state of the industry, particularly as regards the small growers who are involved. We of the Opposition do not oppose the measure because we understand and appreciate the enormous difficulties confronting the people who work in the wheat industry and rely upon it for their livelihood. We have moved an amendment because we believe that the Government has failed to give positive leadership to overcome the crisis in the wheat industry.
We have heard much historical reference to the industry, but let me cite one or two other references. Wheat stabilisation was introduced by the postwar Chifley Labor Government and on 31st December 1948 the Wheat Stabilisation Board ceased to function. Under the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act 1948 the Australian Wheat Board was constituted to administer the first stabilisation plan.In the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill, which was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1948, a provision was included whereby in the event that the Australian Wheat Board, acting on behalf of the industry, was not able to repay advances made to it to repay money made available in the form of first advances, the Commonwealth Government would guarantee those advances. For 22 years there has been no reason for the Government to take this action. In that time sufficient wheat has been sold by the due date and the industry has been able to repay to the Reserve Bank, through its Rural Credits Department, the total amount owing. But now, as Senators Wilkinson and Cant have said, because of surplus production or the inability of the Government, acting on behalf of the industry, to find new markets or sufficient markets, for the first time in 22 years the Commonwealth - in other words, the Australian taxpayer - is being called upon to honour the guarantee under the Chifley Wheat Stabilisation Act 1948.
The Minister said in his second reading speech that the Board’s indebtedness, which really means the industry’s indebtedness, to the Reserve Bank is in the vicinity of $250m and that it is estimated that recoupment of this amount from subsequent sales of wheat to overseas markets will take up to about 15 months. By that time, of course, we will have had another season, and by that time even more could be owing under the terms of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act. The Minister admitted in the course of his speech that very large sums of money are involved and probably will be involved in future. Whilst Senator Young and Senator Prowse, representing the Liberal Party on the one hand and the Country Party on the other, certainly this evening have quoted figure after figure, statistic after statistic and percentage after percentage in respect of the Government’s general economic and rural policy, so far as wheat is concerned we say it is about time that the Government stopped looking only at figures, statistics and percentages and came down to the real and pressing problems of the man on the land, the small grower, his wife and family and those who live in rural areas, who rely on the stability of the wheat industry for their livelihood and economic security. It is men, women and children who rely on the growing of wheat for their livelihood who are involved in this situation.
I have noticed that the number of farms growing 20 acres or more of wheat has increased by nearly 3,000 in New South Wales alone in the last 5 years, from 17,700 to about 20,600. We say that the Government has deliberately encouraged excess production of wheat. The lawyers, the accountants and doctors - the Pitt Street farmers - have all combined to acquire larger holdings at the expense of the small grower. To those of us who, as members of Parliament, are charged with the responsibility of studying people and representing their interests in this place, it seems that Government supporters in particular are looking at the situation in terms of hard cold statistics, of numbers of acres and numbers of bushels. They seem to forget the problems of the little man who grows wheat for his livelihood. It is the small wheat farmer and his family who are involved principally in the crisis that confronts the wheat industry today. The speculators, the Pitt Street farmers, the fellows who live in the cities and own large land holdings, have been encouraged to diversify from other agriculture into wheat production pending something more profitable developing for them. The Government cannot claim that it has had no notice of this situation. As long ago as October 1967 Mr E. J. Donath, the lecturer in economic geography at Melbourne University, said that, despite the oft heard statement that the world was crying out for more wheat, world demand for Australian wheat, on a commercial basis, was extremely limited. He said:
The world demand for Australian wheat, on this basis, is quite likely to even decline during the next decade.
Because of this and other problems, such as that of erosion in marginal areas, the acreage should be reduced.
Notwithstanding this type of economic advice which was so freely available to the Government, in order to overcome the crises that were occurring in other rural industries the Government encouraged people to diversify into the wheat industry and to take part in further overproduction. On behalf of the small wheat grower, his wife and his family and workers involved in the wheat industry 1 and other members of the Opposition criticise particularly the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen).
On 3rd March the Minister for Primary Industry in another place said, amongst other things, that 5 years ago anybody associated with the industry must have been aware that growers were heading for - to use his words - ‘very serious trouble’ - because unless they expanded their market outlets there would be over-production. I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that it is not good enough for him or it to be sheeting home the blame to the industry today or to the grower involved. It is the Government - and it was the Government over the period - which should have been seeking out the markets, or at least it could have been flashing the amber light at that stage to give warning to the industry and to the grower of a future dangerous situation. Before Senator Young interjects, let me say that 1 member of the Government parties supports the Opposition in that regard because in another place last week the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey), a prominent member of the Australian Country Party, went on record in Hansard as saying:
I want to go further and state in the most categorical terms that I believe the present Minister for Primary Industry and his counterparts in the States must share equally a large amount of blame for the problems and the difficulties in which the industry presently finds itself because the Ministers, both Federal and State, although holding the authority - the legislative power, the constitutional power - to take effective action to deal with this problem, did not exercise that power but preferred to say to the industrial organisation: ‘You have a look at this problem. You tell us the answer to it and we will endeavour to sort the problem out along the lines of the solution you provide’.
The honourable member for Moore is not a member of the Labor movement. He is a prominent member of the Country Party and a former member of the Australian Wheat Board. He said in the most categorical terms in the Parliament last week in another place that so far as he was concerned he believed that a great deal of the blame could be sheeted home to the present Government and the Minister for Primary Industry. As I have said, this Bill relates to the 1968-69 wheat crop. It will be some 15 months before recoupment of the outstanding amount of $250m is made. I notice that the Minister in his second reading speech mentioned that the Bill authorises the Commonwealth to borrow up to S300m to make the loan to the Board, and he went on to point out that the amount of $300m exceeds the Board’s current estimate of the amount required under the guarantee but another $50ra over and above the estimate seems prudent in case the Board’s estimate proves to be too low.
The Opposition states that the Government has failed to give to the industry positive leadership in these times of difficulties. The economics of the industry, because of its variable export income, are very much the economics of this nation. Certainly it is hard for us in limited time on a restricted Bill of this nature to discuss the things which should have been done and which have not been done or the things that should now be done but which are not being done. However, as Senator Cant pointed out there will be an opportunity for us to do so in the debate on another Bill that will be before the Senate. In view of the special circumstances now confronting the wheat grower and his family, particularly the small grower and the worker in the industry, and the economic reliance of large and small rural towns for their continued progress on the wheat industry generally, the Opposition does not oppose this measure but urges the Government to put its thinking cap on and show some leadership. It should give some leadership to the industry in order that there will be progress in country areas rather than the justifiable fears and frustrations of many who have been affected by the Government’s failure to give leadership so far as this industry is concerned.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak on this matter at a later hour.
– The Senate tonight is in the position of a banker. It has been approached for a loan. When a businessman or a farmer approaches a banker for a loan he is compelled to make a complete statement of his situation, and on that full statement a decision is made as to whether the loan should be granted. We are asked to make a loan to an organisation which consistently over the years has refused to make available to this Parliament details of important circumstances in which it conducts its operations. Over the years I have consistently sought from the then Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar, who represented the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr
Anthony), details of the prices at which Australian wheat was being sold, particularly to Communist China. I was consistently refused that information. I was informed on numerous occasions by the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry that the Government had no power to obtain that information from the Australian Wheat Board. The Hansard record will confirm that I was informed that the Government had no power to compel the Board to reveal matters which were vitally necessary for any decisions that would be made in regard to wheat.
A couple of years ago I was informed by a well-known economist that I had been deceived and that actually the Government did possess that power. When I examined the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act I found a clause which stated:
The Minister may give directions to the Board concerning the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers, and the Board shall comply with those directions.
Therefore I was misled and in a sense the Parliament was misled because we were informed that the Board was autonomous in these matters when actually it was not. The question of responsibility has been brought up here tonight. It is perfectly clear that the body responsible for that situation was not the Board but the Government. I want to point out that on 15th May 1969 when I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it was not a fact that we had been misled and that in fact the Government did have power over the Wheat Board I received this answer:
To be truthful, 1 have not seen that specific section . . .
Was that Minister replying on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry when he said that he had never seen that section which stated that the Government had control over the operations of the Wheat Board?
– When was that?
– On 15th May 1969. The answer continued:
If the honourable senator says that that is the position then I have no doubt that that is so but I think it is fairly obvious that even if that section is in the legislation the Government has not seen fit to interfere with the operations of the Wheat Board and the Government has been satisfied to leave the conduct of sales of Australian wheat in the hands of the Board which is responsible to the Australian wheat growers.
If the wheat industry is in a mess the Government is responsible, and the Opposition is partly responsible because it did not attack the Government for its failure to control the industry. At some of the meetings of farmers which I have attended I have heard it said by representatives of primary industry that the politicians have got rural industry into a mess and it is up to them to get it out of the mess. One party in this Parliament can disclaim any responsibility for the mess in which the wheat industry finds itself. Over the last 6 or 7 years the party to which I belong consistently warned the people and the Government that we would arrive at a situation where we would have so much wheat that we would be unable to sell it.
– Your party would not sell it to Communist China.
– The Government was bemused by the opportunity to make immense sales on a market which, if it had any common sense, it would have known was doubtful. The Government was bemused by that market and it allowed to arise a situation in which over a period of 8 or 9 years we almost doubled the amount of wheat grown and in which wheat was grown in places where it had never been grown before. The Government allowed to arise a situation in which there were insufficient storages. The Government would not face up to the situation which inevitably would arise when it would be unable to sell the wheat. This situation became obvious 2 years ago. I think it was about that time that Dr Callaghan of the Wheat Board warned the Government that it would be very difficult for the Board to sell ail the wheat grown. On behalf of my party I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry what the Government intended to do about the immense surplus with which it could not deal. This was the answer I obtained from the Government, which now disclaims responsibility:
I want to deprecate the spirit of gloom that seems to exist throughout a large section of the community over the fact that we had such a record crop. This should be rather a matter for congratulation.
This reply was given at a time when anybody who knew anything about the wheat industry knew that we were faced with a crisis. The Minister said that it was a matter for congratulation. I would like to know how many times the Government was congratulated by the wheat farmers who suffered.
What was the position? The carryover from the 1967-68 season had been about 51 million bushels. This, together with deliveries from the 1968 harvest of some 514 million bushels, meant that the Board had a total of 565 million bushels to sell during 1969. On the most optimistic forecast it could see markets for only about 320 million bushels. The Minister said that that was a matter for congratulation and that we should be proud of the record harvest. For nearly 7 years the Party which I represent consistently said that an unhealthy situation was developing because of the increasing amount of wheat sown. Over that period the amount of wheat grown almost doubled. We claimed that the sale of wheat to China raised problems. We were told that it was necessary that wheat be sold to China to keep the industry on its feet and for the purposes of overseas exchange. We then asked the price at which the wheat was sold. We were consistently informed that the Wheat Board was an autonomous body over which the Government had no control. When we found out that the Government did have control, we were informed that the Government would not compel the Wheat Board to make the information available.
I want to point out the foolishness of the whole situation. After I had been told on numerous occasions that the Wheat Board could not permit the prices at which it was selling wheat to be known because our competitors would be advantaged - Canada was mentioned particularly - I wrote to the Canadian High Commissioner and asked him would he have any objection to letting me have complete details of the prices and so on at which Canada sold its wheat to Communist China.I received a lot of documents containing all possible information from Canada, which made it rather obvious to me that the situation of fear of competition was phoney unless our wheat was being sold at prices which could not bear the light of day. The next thing that happened was that I was informed by 2 or 3 economists at Australian universities that they knew the prices at which Australian wheat was being sold to Communist China. I asked them how they knew. They said: ‘If you are a good economist and mathematician and if you get hold of the statistical summaries issued by the Commonwealth Government, you can ascertain the prices. We have been doing it for years’.
– Why did not the honourable senator ask them instead of asking the Government?
– We are supposed to be parliamentarians and we are supposed to control the destiny of this country. An instrumentality, which is subject to Government control, refuses to make available information which is available to people other than parliamentarians. We are called upon to vote entirely in the dark on matters affecting the wheat industry. The responsibility for the situation in which the industry finds itself lies upon members of the Government and of the Opposition who tolerated such a situation. They have consistently voted in the dark on measures affecting the wheat industry and they have accepted the situation in which they can be denied any information about how the wheat industry is run. After we made these points clear we were informed by a distinguished member of the Government that there was no possibility of anything being done about wheat sales or about controls on the amount of wheat sold. The gentleman concerned was very frank and very blunt with me. He said: We cannot do anything because the farmers organisations would kick up a row and that would mean votes’. There was no question of a principle being involved. Votes were involved and the Government was quite prepared to tolerate a situation in which the wheat industry would get into a mess, as it has, because if the Government attempted to interfere at any time it might lose votes.
In those circumstances my Party ceased to talk about Communist China and we devoted ourselves to trying to ward off the calamity that was due to happen. I and members of my Party put forward a 3- point plan. We said: ‘A catastrophe is coming’. To try to save the wheat industry from that catastrophe we called for, firstly, restrictions on the amount of wheat sown or discouragement of the amount of wheat sown; secondly, increased storages; and, thirdly, stronger efforts to diversify our markets. That was over 5 years ago. I will repeat those three points. Five or six years ago we called for action, firstly, to discourage the amount of wheat sown; secondly, for increased storages; and thirdly, for stronger efforts to diversify our markets.
– Why increase storages if the acreage is to be reduced?
– We realised that increased storages would take some time to complete. We also realised that even then there would be a problem. The problem is with us today. The responsibility for the present mess lies at the door of the Government and also at the door of the Australian Labor Party. Prior to the last election, when the Opposition was desperate, the Australian Labor Party declared in wheat growing areas in Victoria that it would fight to the last ditch any attempt to impose quotas. Anybody knows that at that particular stage the Government had no alternative but to impose quotas.
My Party will support the Bill because it has no alternative. The wheat industry is in a state of crisis. The Government has to lend money to the wheat industry. I support this Bill although it goes against the grain, because I think it is entirely wrong that we should be called upon to discuss the wheat industry wilh all its ramifications while, at the same time, the Government supports the refusal of an instrumentality to make available to my Party financial knowledge which is essential to its consideration of the whole question. I am going to ask one question in conclusion: Why are we not told the prices at which wheat is being sold to Communist China? We are not being told because the prices would not bear the light of day. Australian economists have said publicly that the prices at which the wheat is being sold are less than the cost of production. It has already been said that Australia is selling wheat .to Communist China at prices lower than those for sales being made to India and countries which are friendly disposed towards us. If that is the case - and I believe it to be the case - the Government, for political reasons, is denying us essential information. I am sorry for the wheat grower. He was led up the garden path by people in the Government who refused to provide any leadership and who were actuated only by one thing - the fear that if they opposed the people running the wheat industry they might lose votes In those circumstances I say we will vote for this measure, but in the future I hope we will get a little bit of leadership from the Government for the wheat industry. I believe that until we get that, the future of our rural industries is going to be very poor indeed.
– I express support for this Bill and seek leave to continue my remarks on a future day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take up a few moments of honourable senators’ time to correct a grave injustice which was done by myself during the debate on the Address-in-Reply when I used in evidence some confidential information. Honourable senators realise that in my speech on the Address-in-Reply I spoke on the question of the Yuendumu native settlement. I said that I was in possession of information which would prove that the abduction of three native girls did take place and that, possibly, a prima facie case had been made out that mass rape of those three girls took place. To prove my case I relied on a report by Reverend T. J. Fleming, a Baptist minister who was stationed at Yuendumu. Since using that report it has been brought to my notice that Reverend Fleming’s document was a confidential one submitted to the welfare officer of the Department of the Interior. Reverend Fleming submitted that document in the belief that it would go no further than the welfare officer and his director.
– Where did you get the document?
– I shall inform the honourable senator of that. Everyone will agree that to use such a highly confidential document for the purpose of establishing a case is treacherous, filthy and contemptible. I recognise that in normal circumstances I would never have used the document. The reason why I find myself in the position tonight of having to apologise for using the document is because at no time did I realise it was confidential. I have made the document public by quoting from it and having it incorporated in Hansard. I was also responsible for submitting a copy of this document to Mr Nichols who was my informant.
Honourable senators will recall that the document referred to Mr Nichols as a trouble maker, one who had given statements to the Press and one who had threatened some reprisals against the Administration. Mr Nichols, knowing that the accusations were false, consulted his solicitors who sent a letter to Reverend Fleming asking for a withdrawal of the accusations within 14 days, otherwise they would take proceedings for defamation. In this case I have been supplied with a copy of the correspondence to Mr Nichols’ solicitors, Messrs Stanley and McRae of Adelaide, from Reverend Fleming who after acknowledging receipt of the letter stated:
The statement referred to was never published by me, but was submitted as a strictly confidential statement to the Director of Social Welfare. To the best of my knowledge it was seen only by the Assistant Director of Welfare, Alice Springs, and the Director himself.
Unfortunately, the lime allowed to submit an apology has not been sufficent for me to discover if the statement received was for circulation. If Mr Nichols considers the statement to be untrue and it has caused him any inconvenience or distress I apologise to him for making it.
I have been asked where I obtained the information since this was a highly confidential document meant for the Assistant Director of Social Welfare. The reverend gentleman was of the belief that this document never went further than the Assistant Director of Social Welfare and the Director himself. The unfortunate part about this is that this document was supplied to me by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). The Minister obtained a report from Reverend Fleming to support his case and refute my allegations. The report was supplied on condition that it would be treated as a highly confidential document. The Minister for the Interior handed the document over to me in reply to correspondence when I said that I had no alternative but to make public the information which was in my possession. Here is a highly confidential document given to the very one who had stated he was going to make a public statement and use all the information in his possession.
This document was not marked confidential, nor was it disclosed to me that it was confidential. It seems like a deliberate action on the Minister’s part to give it to the very person who said he was going to make a public statement.
Reverend Fleming feels that he would never have made that statement had he known it was going to be made public. He is not prepared to submit a public apology until he knows how wide the circulation has been. The document has now become a public document. In his reply to me the Minister for the Interior included the document and said he regretted that I felt I had no alternative but to make public the information I had. He supplied to me for the very purpose of making it public something which he received and which is stated to be highly confidential. IfI feel aggrieved by the fact that I was the agent who made a highly confidential document public, how must the Minister feel knowing that this highly confidential document was supplied to me for the purpose of publication of the document? What more contemptible attitude could anyone take over a document which I obtained in support of my case not knowing that it was not meant for publication. I submit that Rev. Fleming had no intention of including in the document any information which would be published generally, but that he did so in the interests of the welfare officer and the Director. It was not intended that it should be bandied about in the Senate or by the Australian Press, but this has happened as the result of a betrayal of a trust by the Minister for the Interior.
– On the 5th and 10th March Senator Cavanagh made some extremely serious allegations. On those occasions I listened to his comments and communicated the full text of them to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). A couple of days ago I received a full and detailed answer to the comments which were made at that time. Having listened to Senator Cavanagh and having read the full text of the reply, I must say that it seemed to me that many of the accusations he had made - most of them extremely serious - were not supported. Having listened to him tonight, I now realise that new material - a new element - has been introduced. In fairness to Senator
Cavanagh, the Minister, and officers of the Department as well as the Senate, I think more information bearing specifically upon the extra matters Senator Cavanagh has raised tonight ought to be provided. I shall endeavour to get this information as soon as possible. Having said that, I think it will suffice for me to say that on 11th March 1970, Senator Cavanagh placed on notice two questions for which I am endeavouring to get answers as soon as possible.
– I wish to mention a matter which I had intended to deal with earlier this afternoon by way of a question but I felt I was inhibited in doing so. It relates to a circular which has been sent out by the stockbroking firm D. J. Carmichael and Co., which is a member of the Perth Stock Exchange. I understand that similar circulars have been sent out to the clients of other stockbrokers, in particular by the firms A. C. Goode and Co., and Guest and Bell. I believe that the contents of this circular are very significant and important. The circular states:
For some time now the partners have been concerned by the situation existing within the securities industry in regard to processing share certificates and subsequent delays in registration and settlement. At present, despite the rapidity with which a client may purchase and dispose of securities, the physical delivery of scrip to and from your broker is in most cases months in arrears.
Hence, while the partners recognise that these very difficult scrip conditions are general throughout the industry, they feel compelled to adopt measures to facilitate dealings for their clients.
Basis of operation as from February 19th, 1970:
Purchasing orders for mining and oil securities, and those industrial securities being employed as mining vehicles, must be a minimum value of $1,000 per order.
Immediate payment for any purchase will be required by cheque, on receipt of the contract note. Unsettled purchases may result in ‘selling out’ action through the stock exchange.
Proceeds of sales may be settled or employed against purchases only–
And the word ‘only’ is underlined - when selling documents are in a negotiable state.
It is signed by D. J. Carmichael and Co. It may be that there are some problems in the Perth Stock Exchange or the Companies Office with regard to the registration of the transfer of scrip.
Presumably that is what is referred to in paragraph (c) of the circular issued by D. J. Carmichael and Co. and the other stockbrokers to their clients. But I would suggest - I hope that I am not being unduly suspicious when I say this - that it is unlikely that the large dealers in negotiable securities are being given the same instruction, which is to the effect that they will be required to have their documents in a negotiable order before they can be presented for sale. Anybody who has any knowledge of the workings of a stock exchange would, I think, know that very often it takes many months for scrip to be delivered so that it may be negotiated. Indeed, 3 or 4 months is quite a common time for a negotiable scrip to be prepared and made available for sale. This instruction will mean that stockbrokers or the Stock Exchange will be able to act in an arbitrary manner in accepting settlements on behalf of some persons, which I am sure they will be doing, and rejecting settlements on behalf of others.
I suggest that the requirement in paragraph (b) of the circular, which seeks immediate payment for any purchase by cheque, will be insisted upon only in the case of small purchasers of stock and not in the case of large purchasers of stock. It would seem to me to be unlikely that, when bidding is taking place at a stock exchange, the broker will be asking for a cheque to be handed to him through the door. Brokers will be unable to do that when they are making bids on behalf of their clients. The most obvious and blatant example of what the brokers are doing is to be found in paragraph (a) of the circular, which states that in the case of mining and oil securities and those industrial securities which are being employed as mining vehicles there must be a minimum value of $1,000 an order. Quite clearly any person who has a small amount of money to invest is completely precluded from taking part in the prosperity which we are told is taking place at present in Australia as a result of developments in the mineral and oil fields. Only a person who can make a bid of $1,000 will be able to purchase shares on the market while the stock exchange abides by these instructions. No doubt many people do engage in some folly in the speculative buying of shares. However, this is a folly which is endemic in the capitalist system in which we live and if people are being silly it is because they are living within a silly system.
What I believe is most important is the fact that the Government - the exponent of the present system - is constantly telling us that we are living in a sociey where, through the operations of the stock market, small investors are able to buy shares and any person with a small amount of money to invest is able to share in the prosperity of the country. We are told repeatedly by the 17th century thinkers sitting opposite, who apparently feel that they have superseded the 19th century thinkers, that the arguments of their predecessors have become completely unfounded owing to the fact that the vast companies of Australia are owned by citizens in all walks of life. Whatever else may be said about the stock exchanges and whatever else may be said about the whole system of joint stock companies and the private enterprise system tinder which we live, it is quite obvious that the requirement for minimum bids of $1,000 is a complete mockery. What is being done by the stockbrokers is designed to retain the operations of the stock market in the hands of only those persons who have such considerable assets that they can afford to make minimum payments of $ 1 , 000 on each individual dealing.
I believe that this matter speaks for itself. I would be very interested to hear from the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) or some other member of the Government whether it proposes to take any action on this matter so that the people of Australia, particularly the small investors of Australia, for as long as this system continues may be permitted to be foolish if they wish to be foolish and if they wish to may be permitted to make the profits from investments in the mineral and oil developments of this country which foreign speculators and wealthy Australian investors are at present enabled to make.
– The subject on whichI propose to speak is not related to that raised by Senator Wheeldon, if the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) wishes to reply to him.
– I would close the debate if I replied at this point of time. I will reply at the end of the debate.
– I wish to refer to a matter that I hoped to raise today or at some time in the near future by way of question. But it is with some regret thatI have to say that these days we have reached a situation in which, except in the case of a few Ministers, it is virtually impossible to obtain a reply to a question put on the Notice Paper.
I say this by way of lead-up to the case I am about to present to the Senate. This is the third week of this session of the Parliament, and questions that were placed on the Notice Paper on the first day of the session have not been answered to date.I might say that among the questions thatI put on the Notice Paper were a number that were placed there in the life of the last Parliament, but because they disappear from the Notice Paper when the Parliament is dissolved they have to be placed on it again.
The Nilsen case has gone on, as far as I am concerned, for a period of21/2 years. It has resulted in 44 pieces of most unsatisfactory correspondence. First of all
I mention that Erald Herman Nilsen was killed in Vietnam on 14th November 1966 and his personal belongings have never been returned to his next of kin; nor has any compensation been paid. As recently as 27th February this year I wrote to the new Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) in these terms:
Late in 1967 I wroteto the then Minister for the Army (Honourable M. Fraser) regarding the loss of personal belongings of a deceased serviceman (Erald Herman Nilsen), andI regret to say that continuous correspondence over a period of almost two and a half years has failed to locate the belongings of the serviceman, nor has his mother received any compensation.
It would be appreciated if you could investigate this matter immediately and advise me of the action taken.
I regret to say that after a lapse of 1 8 days the Minister has not seen fit even to acknowledge the letter or to say that he is doing anything about the matter. At about the same time I wrote to (he deceased lad’s mother saying:
I am completely fed up with successive Ministers and would like your permission to raise the matter in the Parliament as it will be necessary to quote the case and your name. In the meantimeI have written to the new Minister and asked him to expedite the matter.
I bring this case before the Senate with the authority of Mrs Nilsen and with her permission to use her name at any time. I want to refer to the various items of correspondence because I believe that these things should go on record for all time in order to show that there has been a complete breakdown somewhere along the line. I want a reply; the mother wants a reply; and many people in Australia want an explanation of what has taken place in this case.
The first letterI received from the deceased lad’s mother was dated 7th November 1967. I wrote to the then Minister for the Army, Mr Malcolm Fraser, 8 days later - on 15 th November. On 23rd November I received a reply from him. 1 will read out the letter. Most of the items of correspondence thatI propose to read are fairly brief. In this letter dated 23rd November 1 967 he stated:
I have received your personal representations concerning the personal effects of the late Erald Herman Nilsen.
I will make urgent inquiries about this and will write to you again as soon as possible.
The next letter from the Minister which deserves to be quoted was dated 7th February 1968 and was in these terms:
After conducting extensive searches through both Army and RAAF Transport and Storage facilities in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia it has not been possible to locate the personal effects of Mrs Nilsen’ s late son.
Although it appears that there is little likelihood of locating the effects.I have issued instructions that the matter is not closed.
As far asI know it has not been closed to this day -
I have also issued instructions to avoid a repetition of this nature and have written to Mrs Nilsen personally asking her to accept my sincere apologies on behalf of the Army for this unfortunate loss and advising her that if. by chance, the effects are found they will be forwarded to her immediately.
On 22nd February I wrote to the Minister saying:
I have . . . interviewedthe late soldier’s mother and there is no need for me to reiterate that Mrs Nilsen is very perturbed because she has not been able to obtain possession of her late son’s belongings.
On that occasion Mrs Nilsen showed to me a letter that she had received from the Minister. That was the first time this unfortunate woman had received any communication on this matter from the Army. Although her son was killed in November 1966 it was early 1968 before the Army deigned to have any communication with her. In my letter to the Minister of 22nd February I also said:
Possibly you will not agree with me but it appears that there has been gross negligence by responsible people over a period of many months and I respectfully request that you advise me what action has been taken at the present lime to recover the possessions of the late Private Nilsen so that they may be returned to his next of kin.
On 8th March 1968I wrote a letter to Mr Lynch, who had succeeded Mr Malcolm Fraser in the position of Minister for the Army. In that letter I pointed out the problems that we had had with the previous Minister. On 2nd May - time was slipping away - the Minister wrote as follows:
Despite every effort by the Army and theRAAF, I am sorry to say that the search has, so far, been unsuccessful. Mrs Nilsen may be fissured, however, that every avenue is being examined minutely and no stone will be left unturned to bring the mailer to a satisfactory conclusion. You will be kept informed on the subject.
There was further correspondence. The last three or four items I received from Mr Lynch are real gems. On 30th May he wrote again saying that attempts to find the belongings had again proved unsuccessful. On 17th September he wrote again saying:
I very much regret that, despite the exhaustive investigations of the Departments of Supply and Customs, the RAAF and the Army, it has not been possible to trace the effects.
By other methods I was able to secure the serial number of the Royal Australian Air Force plane that left the area with the late serviceman’s belongings on board. I know that in fact the plane landed at Richmond. Even whenI supplied the then Minister for the Army with that detail he was not able to follow it through any further. By that time we had just about reached the end of our tether. On 27th May 1969 I wrote to the then Minister as follows:
You will also recall that apparently the possessions of this lad were never recovered, and I have now suggested to Mrs Nilsen that a claim should be entered for compensation.
She had purchased some of the personal belongings herself. They were gifts to her son. So she should have received some small compensation at least, even if there was no real attempt to locate his personal effects. I then received a series of letters from the then Minister. One was dated 12th August 1969. In an earlier one dated 20th July the Minister said:
The calculation of the cost of the effects which were lost has now been completed and consideration is being given to means of compensating Mrs Nilsen.I hope to be able to reach a decision shortly on this matter and I will then write to you again.
On 12th August - a few weeks later - the Minister wrote:
I refer again to your personal representations on behalf of Mrs V. P. Nilsen concerning the question of compensation for the loss of her late son’s possessions.
I regret that this question has still not been resolved.
This was after saying that the matter had been resolved and that all that remained to be done was to make an allocation of compensation. The Minister concluded:
However, all is being done to reach a decision as early as possible.
On 3rd September the Minister again wrote to me in these terms:
I refer again to your personal representations. . . .
This matter has yet to be resolved. However,I assure you that inquiries are still in progress and I shall reply to you as soon as possible.
We had reached the stage where a decision had been taken but then we went back to the stage where inquiries were again in progress. On 6th October, a month later but for 2 days, the Minister wrote to me again as follows:
I refer again to your personal representations. . . .
I regret that this matter is taking so long to resolve. However, all is being done to finalise the case as speedily as possible.
Then on 3 1st October after the shocking political fright that the Minister got he wrote a 3-paragraph letter in which he said:
I refer again to your personal representations. . . .
I regret that, because of the nature of this case, I am not yet able to convey a decision to you.
Remember, Mr President, that I had already had a decision from the Minister 4 months earlier. He went on:
However,I can assure you that my Department is pursuing its efforts to complete the necessary inquiries as quickly as possible.
As soon as I have further information I shall write to you again.
From 3 1st October 1969 to 17th March 1970 there has been a deadly silence. The present Minister apparently thinks that the matter is of so little moment that he does not intend to reply. I demand, on behalf of this poor unfortunate woman who has given her son’s life to this country in this infamous war in Vietnam, that the matter be looked at with the greatest speed and that some decision which is just and equitable to Mrs Nilsen be reached.
– I think it would be fair to say that none of the Services would withhold the belongings of a deceased soldier, airman or seaman, and it is regrettable that in this case the belongings of the deceased soldier cannot be traced. The honourable senator was good enough to give me notice that he would be raising this matter on the adjournment. To this stage I have been unable to obtain full details of the case but I assure him that I will take it up with the Minister concerned and ask the Minister to reply to him personally.
Senator POYSER (Victoria [10.53]- I wish to raise a matter which concerns me. It relates to alleged charges of assault on the late Mr Lionel Pugh, an Australian Broadcasting Commission reporter, at Essendon aerodrome on 28th February, and to the report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ on Saturday last, 14th March. The report seems to indicate that decisions have been made in relation to this matter without the fullest and most complete investigation. I quote a report which is alleged to have been given to the Press by Superintendent E. S. Canney, officer in charge of Commonwealth Police in Victoria, who has investigated the allegation. The newspaper article carries the headline ‘Report Says Pugh Punched’ and goes on in this way:
Radio reporter the late Lionel Pugh was punched, but only after ‘extreme provocation’, says a report compiled by the Federal Police.
Later it gives much more detail:
Superintendent E. S. Canney, in charge of Federal Police in Victoria, investigated the allegations.
His report says that one Federal policeman in plain clothes was present, but he definitely did not assault Pugh.
The report says that, after a demonstration at Brisbane Airport, it was decided that all except newspaper photographers would have to stay behind a barrier when Burchett arrived at Essendon.
Several reporters jumped the barrier and were ushered back behind it.
Despite warnings to stay behind the barrier. Pugh and two others again jumped the barrier, the report says.
The Federal policeman chased two reporters and a uniformed Department of Civil Aviation officer chased Pugh.
The report alleges that Pugh rammed his tape recorder into the officer’s face and kneed him in the groin.
Pugh was then punched and taken back behind the barrier, it says.
The Department has not decided whether action should be taken against the officer.
I am afraid that if the matter remains in that situation it might be the end of a proper investigation, lt is entirely contradictory to a written statement that the late Lionel Pugh gave to both the Australian Journalists Association and the ABC. This indicates that the fullest possible inquiry is warranted to ensure that the action taken by police officers on that occasion was taken in the interests of keeping control in the area.
According to the reports that I have been able to see, it seems that reporters were kept off the tarmac on that occasion and were denied the use of the VIP room at the airport because it was reserved for television channel GTV9 for the purpose of an exclusive interview wilh Burchett at the request of his solicitor, Mr Frank Galbally. lt seems also from the reports that 1 have been able to see and from statements that I have heard that no reporters moved onto the tarmac at Essendon. On no occasion did that happen. Only photographers were on the armae to take photographs of the arrival. When Mr Burchett and his solicitor walked into the covered walkway leading towards the terminal building many reporters were able to get to Mr Burchett and started to interview him. Mr Pugh, in bis statement to the ABC and the AJA, has indicated that upon seeing other reporters already interviewing Mr Burchett he and another person moved in to interview him.
When Pugh entered the covered walkway - not the tarmac as was indicated in the inspector’s statement - he was grabbed by an officer in a Department of Civil Aviation uniform and thrown against a fence. A fist was raised and Pugh said: ‘You keep your hands off me’. Without provocation he was struck, lifted from the ground and thrown by the DCA officer to another officer in plain clothes. That officer in turn punched
Mr Pugh, put an arm lock on him and removed him from that area back into the reception section and told him to say there. It would appear from the information which is available both to the ABC and to the AJA that several people could well be called as witnesses of this incident. I believe there is also every likelihood that television stations and even the Victoria police have photographs of the incident.
I am disturbed to think that this can be brushed off simply by an inspector saying that this did not happen and indicating in the very last paragraph of this statement that no decision had yet been made on whether action will be taken against the DCA officer. This matter is far too serious to be allowed to pass without the fullest investigation being conducted and without calling many witnesses who were present at the time. The situation is arising in Australia in which there is far too much provocation by both Federal and State police which results in demonstrations of force where force does not exist. We have seen an example of that in Canberra. On that occasion it was not the Commonwealth police who provoked action in a demonstration but the State police who were brought in to assist. I refer to the demonstration against the visit of Marshal Ky to Australia when it was proved conclusively that provocation outside the Hotel Canberra caused a melee which never would have occurred. There would have been only a peaceful demonstration.
If there are to be strong arm tactics in this community every time there is a demonstration or when some person wants to interview another person, I am afraid that we will finish up in a situation like that which exists in New York and in other cities of America and that finally guns will be used and innocent people will be shot down in the streets. It would be very serious if that situation were reached. It is most disturbing that the fullest inquiry has not been initiated by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). It is a matter of public knowledge now that shortly after the incident to which I have referred the reporter in question was found dead in Royal Park in Melbourne. That aspect will be the subject of an inquest and for that reason I do not propose to go into it tonight. The journalist reported to the Australian Journalist Association and to the
Australian Broadcasting Commission that after the assault occurred he was treated at Prince Henry’s Hospital for abrasions and an injury to the head. I would like to know whether the medical report has been made available to the Minister.
I urge that the Minister take action to ensure that the matter does not rest with a 2-paragraph report in a Melbourne newspaper and an attempt to make us believe that that is the end of the incident. It is quite clear that sufficient witnesses to the incident are available to justify a full inquiry to determine what really happened on that night. The man concerned is now dead and everything should be done to clear him absolutely if he is innocent of the charges of provoking the assault.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales - Minister for Civil Aviation) - It will be remembered that Senator Mulvihill addressed a question on this matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - It is necessary for the Minister to seek leave.
– I seek leave.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Is this to make a statement?
– It is not leave to make a statement. It is simply to say something in response to Senator Poyser’s remarks so that later I may be able to speak on the matter in more detail. I have referred to the fact that my colleagues in the Senate will remember that Senator Mulvihill asked me a question about this matter. I told him that my knowledge at that time was that the Commonwealth Police were making an inquiry which was then being finalised. I also said that the Regional Director of the Department of Civil Aviation had made an inquiry and it was also in the process of being finalised. I said that I hoped to have the results of those inquiries fairly soon and that I would then, after reading them carefully, communicate them to Senator Mulvihill and if necessary to the Senate. I do not yet have those results. I am hoping to get them later this evening or tomorrow morning.
Senator Poyser has raised some points which may cause me to make further inquiries. He has my assurance that that is in no way intended to cause delay. However, in the process of making comments - as the senator rightly did - inferences must be drawn. Allegations are quite obviously intended. One must do what one can not only to answer the allegations and inferences but also to try to protect the situation of all those who are involved. Senator Poyser has my assurance that that is what I will be trying to do. At present I have nothing more that I can communicate to him. I will be endeavouring to get more information. When I have it, I will see that it is made available. Senator Poyser has asked me to ensure that justice is done and the truth established. I will do my best.
– Earlier in this debate Senator Wheeldon referred to stockbroking procedures, as I understood him, in Western Australia. I did not reply to him immediately because I had moved the adjournment of the Senate and to have then replied would have stultified the debate. Senator Wheeldon dealt with a circular setting out terms and conditions that had been sent out by a particular stockbroking firm.
– I referred to more than one firm.
– That may be so, but you were dealing with a particular firm which had said: ‘Righto. As far as we are concerned we will do business on the stock market only in a certain way’. A notable example given by the honourable senator was that that firm would not accept business unless it was for the purchase of shares to the value of $ 1,000 or more. The honourable senator developed his point to such an extent that he put that this action would limit the people who could operate on the stock market, that it was an affront to anybody’s freedom to buy or sell shares because of the set minimum of $1,000. Be that as it may, I do not think it was correct for Senator Wheeldon to develop his argument on the basis that a decision taken by a stockbroking firm, setting out the terms and conditions under which it would operate-
– I named three stockbrokers.
– But you did not name three stockbrokers in relation to the condition of $1,000.
– Yes,I did. I named three.
– AsI see it, quite clearly this is a matter within the responsibility of the Western Australian Stock Exchange.I have no doubt that the organisation- or three organisations, if you like - had a seat or seats on the Western Australian Stock Exchange.I would imagine that it would be quite competent for the Stock Exchange to say to the particular firm - or to the three, four or five firms, if you like - that in view of the condition under which it planned to trade, its position as an operator on the Stock Exchange would have to be evaluated. I do not think that is a matter to be dealt with by the national Parliament.I think it is primarily a matter for the Western Australian Stock Exchange. It could well be within the responsibility of the Western Australian Government, butI do not believe the national Parliament should express a view on it at this time.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has given notice of a motion concerning stocks and shares. In the normal process we could anticipate that we would deal with it on Thursday night.I have no doubt that Senator Murphy will speak on a much wider canvas. It would be out of order for me to presume to anticipate what the honourable senator will put in terms of setting up a committee. Had Senator Wheeldon addressed a question to me on this subject at question time my reaction would have been to say that if a firm is not prepared to do business except under certain conditions, that is its decision; but that decision would be effective only in respect of its industry or its profession. If it were inconsistent with its profession it would be up to an organisation in Western Australia - the Stock Exchange, I would think, in the first instance - to consider an analysis of the effects of that decision.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700317_senate_27_s43/>.