27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir A lister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Leader of the
Government in the Senate aware that hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Australia today stopped work and that workers and pensioners attended mass rallies protesting at the injustices and economic discrimination of the Budget? Does the Government intend to do anything to meet the wishes of these people, which are representative of the feelings of most Australians, or does it propose to ignore them?
– In the first placeI am not aware of the magnitude of the protest meetings or whatever they were that were held. The information that has been given to me is that the rallies that were conducted were of a rather modest nature compared with what we are told was going to happen. One wonders what the intention of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive was in relation to this matter. At one stage today’s events were “billed as a strike and then, when the light of the implications of what that meant bore down on those concerned, the events were described as a series of rallies. Whatever else can be said, 1 think that by encouraging this type of stoppage the ACTU executive has done a grave disservice to its own cause. It is one thing for a trade union movement to be advocating action and taking action within the law in relation to conditions of employment, but it is a vastly different thing when the movement becomes hooked to the chariot of a political party by engaging in a political demonstration.
I am quite sure that the number of people who turned out for the rallies is a fair indication of the point I am making. The ordinary member of the trade union movement would say to himself: ‘I joined my trade union and I look to it for assistance in relation to my conditions of employment. I do not need it to tell me when I have to rally on a political issue.’ A political issue in a democracy is a matter for the individual and when there is an attempt to confuse political issues with trade union activities tremendous damage is done to the causes of the ACTU and the trade union movement. Just where Mr Whitlam stood in relation to this matter is yet to be revealed, but no doubt he has to accept some responsibility for doing irreparable damage to the trade union movement because of the action he has taken in relation to this matter.
– In addressing my question to the Leader of the Government I refer to the rejection by the Commonwealth Government of an application by the State of Western Australia for financial assistance towards drought relief. In view of the rapidly deteriorating drought position in Western Australia, which is becoming very serious in parts and a further request by the Western Australian Government for drought relief, will the Minister put before the Government the need to review the decision and to grant . Western Australia relief on the same basis as it has been granted to other States?
– I have explained here before that drought relief is not a matter that can be considered on the basis of comparing what happens in one State with what happens in another. Drought relief is dealt with on the Prime Minister-Premier level, having regard to the problems in the State concerned and the capacity of that State to encompass relief within its own financial responsibilities. So, one cannot simply pick something out of the air and say to the Government that because it was decided to give some relief to Tasmania, for instance, in certain circumstances or to Queensland in other circumstances, it must give a corresponding amount of relief to Western Australia, to New South Wales or for that matter to any other State. What happens is that drought relief is treated as an individual matter.
Representations were made on the Prime Minister-Premier level in relation to Western Australia. Careful consideration was given to the request from the Premier of Western Australia for assistance. However, the amount involved was of the order normally met by State governments and, bearing in mind the established principles and the need to deal uniformly with the States in terms of the principles rather than the individual case, the Commonwealth was unable to agree to the Western Australian request. As 1 see it, if there were thought to be a deteriorating situation it would be open to the Premier of a State to make further representations having regard to the circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Is it true that a contract for the extension of the runway in Botany Bay at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport has been let to Thiess Bros Pty Ltd? Is there a rise and fall clause as to labour costs, as is usually inserted in contracts between the Department of Works and the contractor - in this case, Thiess Bros Pty Ltd? I further ask: If a wage increase is awarded by the courts, will the contract be adjusted to ensure that the men working on the project will secure wage justice, thereby guaranteeing continuity of employment and the building of the runway free of the worry that proper adjustments of wages will not be made by the employers?
– lt is true that the contract for this job has been let to Thiess Bros Pty Ltd. It is a fact that the contract does not include any rise and fall clause. The decision not to have such a clause follows the previous contract when the original runway was constructed. It is the obligation of the contractor under that form of contract to provide for all industrial adjustments that are awarded by the tribunals. There is no fear whatsoever that the contractor in this case will not meet all the obligations of industrial justice that are awarded by industrial tribunals. I am confident that the contractor will adhere to tribunal awards. It is to be hoped that all other parties will take the determinations of those tribunals as the criteria of industrial justice.
– My question is supplementary to the one put by the Leader of the Opposition to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I know that rallies do not come under the admin istrative responsibility of the Leader of the Government, but I hope that my question will not be ruled out of order or that the Leader of the Opposition will not try to have it ruled out of order. Is it not a fact that the leaders of the trade union movement in Australia know the parliamentary procedures and customs and would be aware of the fact that tonight the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives will be making his political protest against a political document, or praising that document, and that, being aware of that fact and fearing the ineffectiveness of the reply that will be given to the Government’s budgetary policy, they decided to use industrial activity at the behest of politicians?
– Mr President, the honourable senator’s question contains a superfluous statement which is a reflection upon the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. It is not in accordance with Standing Orders. The honourable senator could have asked his question without that reflection and 1 ask you to rule that at least that part of his question is out of order.
– I must admit that my first reaction was to rule the whole question out of order. I must say to honourable senators that for years I have been trying to get some common sense into questions, but I am not succeeding. The point regarding the Leader of the Opposition in another place is well taken and I rule that part of the question out of order.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI can say by way of response, and hope that I can stay within your ruling, Sir, that it is true that the world at large would know that traditionally the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives responds to the Budget and makes the first speech on it for the Opposition on the Tuesday following the Tuesday on which the Budget is introduced. That practice has been followed for as long as I can remember, and certainly for the last 17 years. So that it would be common knowledge, even to Mr Hawke and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, that the Leader of the Opposition will be making his speech on the Budget tonight.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation received a report from a working committee of Commonwealth officers and airline representatives on the cost of providing aviation facilities in Australia, together with an addendum from the airlines? If he has received that report, will he make it public in order that senators will have time to consider it before the introduction of legislation which is to be submitted to increase air navigation charges? If the Minister does not intend to release the report, will he be good enough to give the Senate his reasons for such action?
– Senator Kennelly referred to the working group which has been studying several aspects of the costs and revenues of the Department of Civil Aviation. This working group was established by my predecessor following representations by the airlines in 1969. Its terms of reference are as follows: 1 To analyse Commonwealth civil aviation costs in Australia and Papua and New Guinea with a view to showing those costs applicable to the different categories of airports and facilities. 2 To identify those costs separately, as far as possible, with all users of facilities. 3 (a) To examine civil aviation revenues with a view to relating those to expenditures;
The working group includes representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation, Treasury and domestic and international airlines. The group has completed its work on its first 2 terms of reference and upon part only of the third term of reference. I have received a preliminary report on the work done so far. The group has yet to study and to finalise its work on the third term of reference. It is a very comprehensive report, and until I have seen it in its complete form and have had a chance to study it in full I will not be able to make it available to the Senate or to the Parliament. When it is completed, I will be anxious that an opportunity be given for it to be looked at, because I believe it is a valuable report. It sets out to try to examine the total effect of the cost to the Australian community of creating facilities for civil aviation and the opportunities that exist within the Australian community, and amongst the operators who come to Australia, to recover some of the costs borne by the Australian community.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate of the latest figures concerning our exports of meat under the quota system to the United States of America? Is it anticipated that the diversification scheme will have to be revised again prior to the end of November, when the 1971 quotas will be due for shipment? What effect is the drought in Queensland having on the shipment of beef from that State to overseas destinations?
– The honourable senator expressed to me earlier today his interest in obtaining information as to the amount of meat being exported to the United States of America under the quota system, so I have obtained the following information for him. To date, 184,632 tons of meat have been shipped to the United States of America. Allowable shipments to the United States of America for 1970, including rejections, are estimated to be 249,000 tons. This leaves 64,368 tons to be shipped. The Australian Meat Board decided this month that there would be no change in the diversification factors or in administrative arrangements at this stage. At an industry meeting to be held on 21st September 1970 consideration will be given to the progress of the scheme and arrangements for the diversification year commencing 1st November 1970. Although severe drought conditions are prevailing in Queensland, export statistics available to date do not show any marked effect in the level of exports. In fact, in the first 7 months of 1970 exports of beef and veal from Queensland, at 102,000 tons, are 2,000 tons above those for the same period last year.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr President. On Tuesday of last week I asked you why people were being denied entry into Parliament House unless sponsored by a member of
Parliament. Again today people were being denied entry on the grounds that the House of Representatives galleries were already full and no further people could be admitted unless sponsored by a member of Parliament. 1 observed this procedure myself and protested against the practice to the doorkeeper. Is this a new policy to exclude the people from the people’s Parliament? If so, on whose authority has this procedure been introduced?
– Senator Poyser, I am aware of the question which you asked last week, and I must say that I am a little remiss in not having given you an answer to it. But later this afternoonI will give you an answer to that question and to your further question today.
– Mr President, I direct my question to you. Is it a fact that any question on which a point of order is taken is not rebroadcast? If this is so, does it not give an opportunity to Senator Murphy or other members of the Opposition to raise a point of order against any question that may be pertinent or embarrassing to the Opposition, and by doing this that honourable senator is then able to prevent the question from being broadcast to the Australian people?
– The part of the question about which a point of order is taken is struck out. Honourable senators must remember that it is very difficult for people who are listening to understand questions in which points of order are involved. I think all honourable senators hope that everybody is listening to them when they ask questions - that is why we get so many questions asked. But there is a limit to the number of questions which can be broadcast over the air and there is a limit to the broadcasting of questions which, because of points of order that are taken, may be unintelligible to those listening. These matters are referred to me and in my judgment I say whether they should be broadcast. That is the position.
– I ask the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Is the
Government aware of the grave concern among meat producers at the shortage of meat inspectors, which seriously impedes marketing and threatens the future of an industry which is vital to Australia at the present time? Is the shortage due to the unsatisfactory conditions of employment and rates of pay? Has the Government any plans to improve the situation?
– I am aware that there is, and has been for some time, a shortage of meat inspectors throughout Australia.
– For how long?
– For years and years.
– I am answering the question. There are some difficulties in providing this inspection service for export industries. At present certain inspectors are taking their vacation. In the past they were unable to do so due to the pressure of work. Their vacations are being spaced to cause the minimum inconvenience. Some inspectors have not been able to take a holiday for 2 or 3 years because of pressure of work. Recently the number of positions of inspector was increased. The Department of Primary Industry is conducting an advertising campaign to try to fill further positions. The position of meat inspector has been upgraded and made a permanent position within the Department. By doing all these things the Government hopes to build up a situation in which the meat industry will have sufficient meat inspectors.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. Are you aware that a meeting had been arranged to be held at 1.15 this afternoon in the House of Representatives Committee Room No. 2 between representatives of the New South Wales Teachers Federation the New South Wales Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, the New South Wales Federation of Pre-school Clubs and members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party Education Committee? Are you also aware that when the delegates arrived at the entrance to King’s Hall they were refused admission despite their explanation to the attendant of the reason for their presence in Parliament House, and that subsequently the General Secretary of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, at the instance of one of the attendants, completed a form explaining the reason for the presence of these citizens at Parliament House? Is it true that after the form was completed and handed to the attendant, despite the fact that the people seeking admission were waiting downstairs nothing happened for a further half hour until the General Secretary of the Teachers Federation saw a member of the House of Representatives who was known to him, who made some inquiries and was able to obtain the admission of these citizens to Parliament House? Will you ascertain why this happened, Mr President, and will you give an assurance to the Senate that representatives of all responsible public bodies, such as these organisations, which have legitimate business that they wish to discuss with elected members of the Federal Parliament, are not hindered in future from going about their lawful business inside Parliament House?
– I am not aware of the circumstances outlined by the honourable senator but I shall make inquiries. There has to be some control over the numbers of people who enter Parliament House. We have had this problem for a long time now. I have very clear memories of a demonstration in the gallery of this chamber. The admission of those people was rather doubtful at the time. I will look into this matter and see what can be done. I repeat that there has to be some control over the admission of people to King’s Hall.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the Senate how soon the television transmitters at Hughenden, Julia Creek, Cloncurry and Mount Isa will be in operation in view of the fact that the microwave relay to Mount Isa is to become operational in December next?
– I cannot give the honourable senator information on the date which he seeks, but I will take the matter up with the Postmaster-General and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General In view of the widespread dissatisfaction with the inadequate consideration given in the Budget to age and invalid pensioners throughout the nation will the Postmaster-General grant to pensioners a remission of the $4.20 increase in telephone rentals announced in the Budget, which equals nearly 9 weeks of the miserly increase of 50c a week in the pension?
– The honourable senator has asked me a question concerning telephone rental arrangements which I shall put to the Postmaster-General for a considered reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the Committee of Mines Ministers agreed to amendments to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act sections 9 and 101? If so, when was the agreement arrived at? Has the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General agreed on the terms of the aforesaid amendments? If so, when was the agreement arrived at? Is it a fact that the Parliament of South Australia enacted amendments to the aforesaid sections in November 1969? Have any other States enacted or agreed to enact amendments in similar terms to those enacted by South Australia? If so, when is such action likely to be taken? Is the unilateral action taken by the State of South Australia in conformity with the spirit and intent of clause 6 of the agreement relating to exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources? If it is in conformity with the spirit and intent of clause 6 of the agreement, why have 10 months elapsed without any action by the other States and the Commonwealth.
– The honourable senator asked me a series of questions about amendments put through in the South Australian Parliament to sections 9 and 101 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. I tried to write them down as he read them out but it was quite impossible. It was a very detailed question. It really asked whether any other States besides South Australia have enacted such amendments and, if so, whether this is consistent with the spirit of the agreement. I shall have to find out the answer to all these questions and let the honourable senator know.
– A little while ago 1 promised Senator Poyser 1 would let him have an answer to a question he asked last week. Portion of this answer will be applicable to his question today but not applicable to the question asked by Senator Wheeldon. Senator Poyser asked me by whose authority were pensioners visiting Canberra to lobby for increased pensions denied entry into Kings Hall last Tuesday and why such entry was refused them. The answer is that on Tuesday a large body of approximately 150 demonstrators, including pensioners, gathered outside Parliament House and held a meeting. Subsequently they came to the front entrance and sought admission. The majority of these were admitted immediately, but because of congestion in Kings Hall a few were held at the front entrance. However, as soon as the House sat at 3 p.m. Kings Hall cleared and the remainder waiting at the front entrance were then admitted. The admission of persons to the building is controlled by the House staff, who act in accordance with certain principles approved by Mr Speaker and myself. The procedure followed on this occasion was in conformity with those principles.
– I ask the Minister in charge of Tourist Activities whether it is a fact that he recently visited the United States of America at the invitation of American Airlines? What advantages to Australian tourism does the Minister see in the institution of the new air service by this airline?
– It is a fact that I had an invitation from American Airlines to be a passenger on its inaugural flight to New York and to visit the United States. American Airlines ranks within the first 3 world airlines from the point of view of size. It will establish, in the new service which lt has been granted to Australia, direct contact for the first time with the cities of Chicago, Detroit, Boston and St Louis, with populations aggregating over 16 million persons and, having regard to its connection with the eastern States of the United States, it will service a very populous area of that great continent. When it is considered that it is starting % programme over the next 5 years to the extent of $30m to promote South Pacific travel it may be seen by the tourist industry of Australia as a great promotional factor in bringing American tourists to this country.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Is he aware that extensive flooding in north-western Tasmania in the last 24 hours has already led to loss of life and substantial loss of property? Will the Government give the usual undertaking that sympathetic consideration will be given to any request directed to it by the State Government to help in relief and rehabilitation where needed?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am sure everybody regrets that there has been intense flooding in a part of Tasmania which has threatened life and property. The normal procedure in these matters is that if a State Premier feels that his State needs assistance he will make representations to the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask him: Under what authority was Mr Justice Smithers appointed to conduct an inquiry into whether or not Brian Ross, at present in Sale gaol, holds conscientious objections? Is the conscientious objection the judge was to inquire into a conscientious objection which, if it is held, exempts a person from service under the National Service Act? Will the Minister assure the Senate that all decisions exempting persons from national service on grounds of conscientious objection to any form of military service are made only - and will continue to be made only - after judicial inquiry in open hearing when the person claiming to hold the conscientious objection gives evidence on oath or affirmation?
– I think I understand the principle that prompts the question of the honourable senator. It is a very important principle indeed that every individual member of the public upholds. As to the authority for the inquiry that he refers to specifically I shall have to refer that to the Department of Labour and National Service. I shall consult the Minister and get the information requested by the honourable senator regarding the authority under which the inquiry was conducted.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply and by way of preface 1 refer to concern expressed to me by officers of the New South Wales Transport Workers Union about the threat to the wage conditions of their members in the Commonwealth car pool. My question is: Can the Minister make a clear-cut statement on the plans of the Stores and Transport section of the Department of Supply to utilise emergency contractors when Commonwealth drivers are available for work? If such a system is aimed at eliminating overtime, how does the Department reconcile this attitude with the instructions given to drivers when being engaged that they are expected to perform a certain amount of overtime? Is he also aware of instances quoted by me during adjournment debates or during discussions of the estimates for the Department of Supply in which hire car contractors have tried to cram on to their drivers too many other private assignments, leaving no margin to meet their Commonwealth contracts on time, and as a result causing havoc with members’ commitments?
– 1 am naturally concerned about the difficulties that arose amongst the drivers employed by my Department in Sydney regarding the necessity to cope with the increased demand for official cars, particularly during peak hours. It is proper to say that consequent upon what happened last Friday there will be discussions on this matter between my departmental officers and the union. I want to make it clear that it is the practice of my Department to utilise Commonwealth cars when these are reasonably available. Commonwealth drivers are expected to work and do in fact work a reasonable amount of overtime. That will continue; there is no intention to disturb this practice. Any forward planning by my Department is done against the background that there will be a need for a reasonable amount of overtime to be worked by the drivers. This has nothing to do with ministerial drivers. This is the general driver in the pool. I am sure it will be appreciated that it would be inefficient and involve excessive Commonwealth expenditure to provide sufficient Commonwealth cars and drivers to cope with peak demands. For that reason careful judgment has to be made as to the extent to which the Commonwealth fleet should be expanded in line with the growing demand.
A tremendously growing demand exists particularly on the transport pool in Sydney in peak periods. We have to make a decision on this basis: Can this peak demand be handled efficiently and economically by the use of private operators? That is the problem we are facing. The appropriate solution may involve the expansion of our Commonwealth fleet and the number of Commonwealth drivers. It will certainly involve the continued phasing of some of the peak load demand onto the private operators. That is what has happened. We have been looking at this peak load in excess of the normal employment of our staff and normal requirement for them to work overtime and this may involve supplementing with hire cars and, possibly, taxis in certain limited areas. My Department recently called tenders to explore the possibility of using taxis. Contrary to what has been said and what has been alleged to have transpired no contract for taxis has been let.
Senator Mulvihill made some reference to complaints about some of the private hire services which, as I said, are used for supplementary work. Over the years we have had some complaints about the services given by private operators but, on the whole, the standard of service has proved to be reasonably satisfactory. This matter has received careful attention by my Department I am not talking about our own drivers but about the supplementary service. If it comes to an honourable senator’s attention that the service is not up to standard it should be drawn to my attention or sent to the Department for examination. This problem has arisen only in relation to supplementary work where because of the tremendous increase in our peak loads it has been found necessary to use the hire service. In certain circumstances we have been looking at the possibility of using a taxi service.If I were to indicate the magnitude of overtime which our permanent staff has been required to work, honourable senators would see there has been a tremendous growth in the last 12 or 18 months. In some circumstances officers naturally like to do an amount of overtime but they want it to be within reasonable bounds. These are the sorts of problems we arc facing. I repeat that we have not let any contracts for taxis at this time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Has a property been acquired for the construction of Commonwealth offices in Hobart? If so. have tenders been called for their construction and what stage has been reached? Will the Minister endeavour to expedite this project as soon as possible in order to arrest the current serious decline in non-residential building in Hobart?
– I question whether there is a current decline in non-residential building in Hobart. Over the weekend I made frequent comments as to the apparent activity with a huge library building, a huge hotel in Elizabeth Street and other public and industrial buildings there. With regard to the project within the responsibility of my Department, the position is that the property has been acquired and the Public Works Committee of this Pariament, I believe this morning, has begun an examination of the project. After the Pub- lic Works Committee has reported, tenders will be invited for contracts. I am very satisfied that the Department is proceeding with proper expedition to the construction of a quite significant Commonwealth office building in Hobart which I hope will be started in the first half of next year.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry give the Senate any indication as to the volume of New Zealand lamb which might have been imported into Australia during the past few months? Is he able to inform the Senate whether it is considered that such imports could affect the financial return to Australian lamb producers?
– The honourable senator has asked a question relating to the volume of lamb imports from New Zealand during the last few months. Obviously this question should be placed on the notice paper so that I may provide an answer with precision. If the honourable senator could indicate a period of 3 months, 6 months or 12 months instead of asking for figures for the last few months he would get an answer with even more precision. Perhaps he could adjust his question and put it on the notice paper.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government. Is the Government aware that South Australian wine growers and wine growers cooperatives have expressed grave concern at the Government’s decision to place an excise of 50c per gallon on Australian wines and that the application of an excise duty in this way will result in a direct restriction on sales as no wine movement will be allowed unless the duty has been prepaid? Does the Government know that this will suppress sales and depress the industry? Is it fully aware of the consequences of its action on the wine industry generally and particularly on the industry in South Australia? Has the Government given any consideration in the present circumstances to the grave threat that imported wines and liqueurs now pose to our local industry?
– The imposition of excise on Australian wines is a Government matter resulting from a decision taken in relation to the Budget. As we will be debating the Budget later this week in this place the honourable senator will have an opportunity to speak to the matter then, if he wishes to do so. This decision was taken by the Government, which was fully aware of its responsibility in relation to the overall economy and the overall structure of the Budget. As to the point raised by the honourable senator in relation to the importation of wine from other countries being a threat to the Australian wine industry, I am sure that he and all other honourable senators know that that is a matter which is dealt with in the tariff context. If there is any suggestion of a threat to the local industry it has access to the Tariff Board to seek assistance by way of a duty to be paid on wine which is imported. Speaking off the cuff, I seem to remember that the Budget contained some reference to a duty being applied to imported wine and, as soon as I sit down, I shall refresh my memory by reference to the Budget Speech.
– Import duty is to apply at the same rate.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am reminded that the import duty is at the same rate. Speaking in the generality of tariff proposals, not only in relation to wine but also in relation to anything else, where it is considered that an Australian industry is being injured because of importations the industry has at least the right to make representations to the Minister for Trade and Industry for added protection to be considered by the Tariff Board.
– What action has the Minister for Civil Aviation or his Department taken on the recommendations of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise? Will the Minister agree that the embargo on jet night flying operations at Mascot between the hours of 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. is not being rigidly enforced and in fact has become a farce and that in the month of June last there were some 40 all-jet operations to and from Sydney between those hours? Will the Minister agree that very little comfort is being given to the citizens of Sydney who live near the airport or in the line of flight path, and will he take action to ensure that the curfew is more rigidly enforced in the future?
– The report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise is in the nature of an interim report. I have been through it quite carefully, and so has the Department. We concluded that perhaps the best thing we could do at this stage would be to address a substantial letter to the Chairman of the Committee - which we are doing - on some viewpoints that we have already put to the Committee and others that we think may be valuable to it in the process of getting to the stage of finalising its report. None of those viewpoints will be to indicate that we do not think the report is a valuable document. We think it is. lt contains some proposals for short term measures. Many of the things it proposes have been done, lt contains some suggestions for long term measures. Some of them are in train; some depend upon work done overseas; and some may be difficult to achieve before quite a number of years have passed. But it is a valuable report.
Senator McClelland raised the question of nights in the curfew period, particularly at Mascot. I do not agree at all that the curfew has become a farce. All 1 say to him is that when curfew flights are authorised they are authorised after the most careful study by the Department, and in every case we try to consider what is a fair thing and what is justifiable. That is the approach that is taken and will continue to be taken. Equally, he may care to know that during the recent parliamentary recess I took the opportunity to take this matter up with Sir Reginald Ansett and Sir Frederick Scherger of the 2 domestic airline operators and to stress to them that we were concerned that applications should be made only in cases in which there was a genuine urgency and a genuine need. That will be our continuing policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that approximately 50 persons have refused to comply with call-up notices given under the National Service Act? Is it the Government’s intention to prosecute these persons for an offence under the Act? If so, when will the prosecutions be instituted? If not, why is no action to be taken?
– In regard to the last part of the question, I wish to allay the honourable senator’s disquiet; but he will be reminded that the Minister made a public statement recently. I would like to refer to that statement before answering the question. I shall refer the question to the Minister. I hope to provide Senator Greenwood with an answer this week.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service knowledge of any recent instances, apart from arbitration decisions, in which demands have been made by workers for more money for less time worked? If the Minister is aware of such demands by workers, does he regard those instances as isolated or widespread?
– I am sure that the honourable senator’s question is purposeful, but it appeared to me to be so general that I could not give a useful answer at this stage. I would like to read his question in Hansard so that I can afford him the fullest information I am capable of providing.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Was the demonstration just concluded in Adelaide today in protest against the Federal Budget the most successful protest held in any capital city in Australia? Was the success of the demonstration a recognition that the increased taxation in excise on motor vehicles, electrical goods and wines will more adversely affect South Australia than any other State? Will the Government take note of the demonstration of the concern of Adelaide people and institute remedial action to avoid unduly penalising this Labor State?
– Apparently the honourable senator has the advantage, in asking his question, of some information he has received which suggests that the demonstration held in Adelaide was a bigger and better demonstration than those held in other capital cities. Having regard to the relative populations of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, that rather gives us a clue to the strength of the demonstrations held in Sydney and Melbourne. However, I put that aside for one moment and I will not press that part of the question. It is something to reflect upon. I would think that South Australians, because a wine industry is located in that State, would be quite concerned about any proposal to increase the excise payable on wine. There is also a wine industry in Victoria and a wine industry in New South Wales. I do not think the point can be isolated in terms of States. As I said earlier, this part of the structure of the Budget will be debated by the Senate, commencing tomorrow evening. Knowing the honourable senator as we do, we can be sure that if he has a point in relation to the effect of the Budget upon South Australia, he will make that point during the debate on the Budget.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry agree that today’s strike that was called by Mr Hawke could cost the country millions of dollars? Would this not have an inflationary effect upon the economy and lead to increased costs adversely affecting the cost burden of rural industries
– I believe that the situation is as the honourable senator has described it. When speaking last week on the matter of urgency raised by the Opposition in the Senate in respect of rural industries I made the point that Mr Hawke said earlier this year that he did not believe that the cost-price squeeze affected all farmers, but only the farmers who were inefficient or who were past helping. I do not know whom Mr Hawke thinks today’s actions will help.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and relates to the answer he has just given to Senator Young’s question. I ask: In what manner has he or any of his colleagues last attempted to induce members of coalition State governments - Liberal or Country Party, or of similar complexion to the Federal Government, whatever they may be called - to pass legislation complementary to the Federal Trade Practices Act in order to protect consumers against unfair price rises? Will he also tell us what he has done to inform primary producers that the Federal Government has said that such State legislation is necessary to protect primary producers and the other people of this country?
-I raise a point of order. It is that the question should be asked; the Leader of the Opposition should not make a defamatory statement.
– He is asking a question and I will let it go. I do not think he is making a defamatory statement.
– Has he finished?
– Yes, I have.
– It was a long, general question, and if it is placed on notice I will reply to it.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows questions asked by Senator Murphy and Senator Cavanagh about the rallies which have been held. The Leader of the Government in the Senate suggested that the Australian Council of Trade Unions should be criticised because the rallies had nothing to do with employment. I ask him whether he is aware that in South Australia the motor car industry, the consumer goods industry and the light manufacturing industry are responsible, to a large extent, for maintaining the economy of South Australia and that any sales tax imposed upon goods which are produced in South Australia and which have to be exported interstate certainly will result in some reduction in employment standards. In the face of this fact, does the Leader of the Government in the Senate still say that it is net the concern of people employed in industry to complain about these sorts of taxes?
– What I said - and I think that Senator Bishop’s interpretation of what I said-
– Is true.
– As a matter of fact, Senator Bishop interpreted my remarks as meaning something which is slightly away from the point I was making. However, what I did say, in essence, was that whereas industrial problems that arise are very properly the affairs of the trade union concerned or a combination of unions or the Australian Council of Trade Unions, if you like, problems arising in the purely political arena are something altogether different. When the trade union movement is incited to move into the political arena and it does so, it does in fact put itself in danger because of the fact that it moves away from its traditional role into the political arena where, asI understand it, politics are the right of the individual. I can understand Senator Bishop’s attitude when he says that there are certain problems in South Australia. He is expressing that point of view. But it is a different matter once the trade union movement en bloc is directed to move into the political arena and to hold a strike or a rally. Whatever it was originally intended to be, it finished up as a rally. Senator Cavanagh said that there was bigger representation in South Australia than in Melbourne or Sydney-
– I did not say that. I said the most successful protest was in South Australia.
– Let us see what Hansard says tomorrow on that one. The fact is that I expressed a view - and I reaffirm it now - that these people are treading on very dangerous ground - ground which will do irreparable damage to their own cause because they are mixing politics with industrial responsibilities.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the fact that those people who are unemployed in Australia represent less than 1% of the total work force and that this percentage of unemployed compares favourably with the position in other countries? Is it not a fact that those individuals within the union movement and the political parties who urge stoppages and extended strike action by the Australian labour force are the ones who eventually will be responsible for loss of overseas trade by Australia and a possible increase in the number of unemployed in Australia? Is this the objective of such people?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI would not like to go into a long discussion as to the objectives of these people. I have some views about it in my own mind, but let me deal with some of the other issues that the honourable senator raises. It is true that Ausralia has an employment rate which probably compares favourably with that in other countries. Our unemployment figure is minimal. Having regard to the fact that we are a primary producing country and therefore have seasonal employment, we are in fact in a state of absolute full employment. Any trouble that involves our capacity to trade or to manufacture has some effect upon the employment situation. Whether honourable senators opposite like it or not, that is unfortunately true. None of us wants to see the present employment situation affected adversely.
Full employment is like a precision instrument; the balance is so fine. During the period of office of the previous Labor Party Government we had peaks and troughs of employment. A senior member of the Labor Party once went on record as saying that, to all intents and purposes, 5% of unemployment was full employment. For a decade now we have lived with full employment. The unemployment figure has varied between less than 1% and a figure slightly above 1%. To maintain that level of employment requires tremendous management on the part of government. That management is achieved with the aid and co-operation not only of management itself but also of employees and the trade union movement. For that reason, any decision taken to have a rally on some matter of grievance is a very serious and important decision, but to attempt to relate that decision to the whole Australian work force on a political issue is stark staring crazy, in my view.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. According to Professor Titterton, the proposed nuclear power station to be erected at Jervis Bay is expected to be less dangerous than the usual turbo-operated generating station. Can the Minister say whether this expectation extends to the elimination of the radioactive waste which, up to this time, has been an insurmountable obstacle? If the Minister is not in possession of this information, will he obtain it?
– Last week I gave an answer to Senator Mulvihill, I think, on a question about radioactivity and the Jervis Bay power station. The question dealt with certain aspects of what may happen to the flora and fauna there. Senator Wilkinson’s question deals more specifically with waste. Somewhere among my papers I have a statement which I intend to make to the Senate. It was activated by a comment made by Senator Keeffe, not in Parliament but during the recess. I happened to read it and 1 called for a statement on it.I will present it as a ministerial statement either after question time today or tomorrow.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in bis capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. By way of preface I refer to the massive ground swell of alarm and apprehension which is sweeping the grape growing and winemaking industries at the imposition of the excise charge on table wines. Is the Minister aware that in regard to the last vintage in South Australia certain varieties of grapes were hard to dispose of to the wineries because of over-supply, the first time in 6 years that this condition had prevailed? Inthe event of aggravation of this condition at the next vintage or early evidence of decreased wine sales, will the Government give immediate consideration to removing the excise charge? For the time being will consideration be given to allowing the wine making industry extended credit, say for 60 or 90 days, to pay the excise charges which have been imposed on the industry?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the first part of the honourable senators question is to be found in the Budget Speech. The Treasurer, when making the Speech, pointed out that the consumption of wine in Australia had risen dramatically from year to year and in the light of this trend and the evident profitability of wine production and the heavy taxation levied on other forms of alcoholic beverage the Government has decided that a moderate excise duty of 50c per gallon should be placed on locally produced grape wine and that there should be a corresponding increase on imported wine. This is a decision of the Government. It is a part of the Budget and we have to accept it as such. We should look at it not in isolation but as part of the revenue raising processes of the Budget.
The honourable senator then asked that the industry be given time to pay the charge. Frankly, I do not understand his reason for asking that. When the wine comes out of bond the duty will be paid by the retailer who gets it. He in turn will pass the extra cost on to the consumer. I do not know where the time to pay really conies into it. Senator Young tries to help by suggesting, by interjection, 30 days grace between when the excise becomes due and when it is recovered from the retailer through the consumer. It is suggested that the growers should be given assistance. I would be amazed by any suggestion that the wine industry is in such a state that it needs special financial assistance to cover the extra excise of 50c a gallon. This is somethingI cannot comprehend. I think it would be unique in procedures of budgeting and finance to grant this period to pay and I cannot imagine it being a matter that could be considered favourably. I think the wine industry has the capacity to make its own financial arrangements in this matter as it does with other things.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that in the port of Melbourne shortages of containers, failure of equipment to function, industrial troubles and other factors have caused containerisation to create a bottleneck hindering rather than promoting the effective handling of cargo? Has the Minister any action in mind to remedy this grave containerisation problem?
– I am disturbed to learn from the honourable senator that there are breakdowns in the handling of container cargo because of equipment failures and a shortage of containers in the port of Melbourne. As he appreciates, I am not the Minister for Shipping and Transport but this matter is of concern to me.I will ask my staff to see that the Minister hears of this matter this afternoon and I. will obtain a reply for the honourable senator as soon as I can.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate acknowledge that any political decision by the Government which reduces the purchasing power of wages and salaries received by employees and consequently reduces their standards of living is a matter of concern to the trade union movement and is a matter upon which the unions are entitled to take action to protect their interests?
– I do not believe that the trade union movement in protesting about a budget proposal should attempt - notably it has failed to succeed - to bring the whole community to a standstill for some period of hours. If it is the judgment of certain groups in the trade union movement that they have some grievance in relation to taxation or the conditions under which unionists earn incomes, that is one thing, but to attempt to bring ail the people, the whole work force, to a standstill from 12 noon until 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the afternoon is completely improper, and I do not shift from that proposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it correct that an application has been made by Trans-Australia Airlines to operate an air passenger service between Perth and Darwin, stopping at intervening ports? Is it correct that if this application is granted it will constitute competition for the service operated by McRobertson Miller Airlines which, as is being pointed out by interjection, is under the control of Ansett Airlines of Australia? Can the Minister indicate, if the application has been lodged, what stage has been reached in dealing with it?
– As the honourable senator suggests, the application by the Australian National Airlines Commission to operate a service from Perth to Darwin has been lodged and is under consideration. As another honourable senator is trying to indicate by way of interjection, such an application has been lodged previously and has been rejected, but it has again been lodged. It is correct that if granted it will constitute competition for McRobertson Miller Airlines, a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines of Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister aware that according to the August-September timetable issued by Trans-Australia Airlines there is a scheduled flight direct from Melbourne to Perth departing from Melbourne at 8.30 p.m.? The flight number is 516. Is the Minister aware that on Friday 21st August 1970 the said flight did not depart from Melbourne until 11.30 p.m.? Was the delay in the departure caused by the excess of passenger traffic in eastern Australia on that day? Did the excess passenger traffic make it necessary for TAA to use all their available aircraft to move this traffic before the expiration of the curfew hour of 11 p.m. in eastern Australia? Can Western Australian passengers expect that in the future their travel arrangements and times of departure will be subordinated to the requirements of travellers in eastern Australia, governed by the requirement to conform with the Government’s restrictions on the movement of aircraft in eastern Australia? Can the Minister give any reason why travellers on flight 516 on 2 1st August were not advised of the delay in the departure time? In order to prevent any further inconvenience of this nature to Western Australian travellers, when it is likely that a curfew will be introduced in Western Australia?
– That was a long series of questions which it would be quite impossible to answer by reference to one’s memory alone. However, I will endeavour to pick up some of the points and answer them as I go along. First of all, I am disturbed to learn that flight 516 on 21st August which was due to leave at 8.30 p.m. did not leave until 11.30 p.m. and that no explanation was given to the passengers as to why there was a delay. I mentioned earlier in response to a previous question that I had talked in the recess to the chairmen of the 2 domestic airlines about a number of things I felt needed attention, and one of them was this question of the delay in aircraft departure and failure to inform people concerned. I understand that increases in airline capacity to be implemented quite shortly ought to improve the situation insofar as travel to and from Western Australia is concerned. This is the information that I have. I am not aware of any set of circumstances in which a build-up of passengers in the eastern part of Australia would have made the service to Western Australia less effective. But I take these observations, questions and, indeed, criticisms seriously and I will ask the responsible airline for an explanation for the honourable senator.
– Would the Minister like the question placed on notice?
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that quite a large amount of wine sells at $1.50 a gallon an excise impost of 50c a gallon on that wine represents an increase in price of 33%. On imported wine priced at present at $4 a gallon duty of 50c a gallon will increase the price by only 12.5%. Does not the Minister believe that this is a discriminatory action which will react unfavourably against the local producers of wine?
– I rely upon the Treasurer’s Budget Speech which stated that the 50c a gallon duty on imported wine represents a duty of 8c a bottle. As to the particular question about Australian wine I would ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice so that I can have it examined.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation yet in a position to make a considered statement on future plans to upgrade aerodrome facilities in north western Tasmania to meet the increasing needs of jet services which will be available to the travelling public in that region? What are the present and future plans of the Department to improve this situation?
– I am not yet in a position to make that statement. When I am I shall let the honourable senator have a copy.
– I direct a further question to the Minister for Supply. In the answer given to my previous question about Commonwealth car drivers the Minister referred to discussions with the Transport Workers Union. Am I to understand that this meeting is a further discussion and not the abortive meeting held a few days ago between Mr Freeman, a senior officer of his Department, and Mr Pat Booler, an organiser of the Transport Workers Union?
– I understand that what Senator Mulvihill called an abortive conference took place on Thursday last. From the information supplied to me I understand that consequent upon the stoppage last Friday it was resolved at a meeting which preceded the stoppage that certain representations would be put to the Department. It is that to which I am referring. Quite frankly I welcome any proposals and any views which honourable senators want to put to me in relation to that. The meeting last Friday resolved that certain proposals would be put to the Department. These in turn will come to me. Representatives of the union in the Department propose to put a certain point of view and no doubt will ask for certain information about Government policy, lt is that to which I was referring.
– My question which I direct to the Minister for Supply refers to the proposed sale at the European
Launcher Development Organisation tracking station at Gove, Northern Territory, on 20th October of various electronic devices, tracking, communication and motor transport equipment. I ask the Minister whether this equipment for auction is the property of the ELDO member countries or is it the property of the Department of Supply? If it is the property of the Department of Supply cannot some of the equipment be used either at Gove or in some of the locations of the Department? Does the sale at Gove mean the end of the tracking facility or other communications facilities at Gove in the immediate future?
– I think the honourable senator’s question rates a considered reply in relation to the disposal of the equipment, the European Launcher Development Organisation’s proposals and the situation at Gove consequent upon the closing down of the tracking station there. 1 am sure 1 have some briefing notes on it in my office but I would prefer to give the information to the honourable senator in a comprehensive way. I will do that tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that because of the increasing expenditure abroad by commercial television stations on the purchase of overseas programmes Australian screen writers, artists, producers and technicians are becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of job opportunities available to them and that very large and well attended meetings have been held in Sydney and Melbourne over the past 10 days to protest against this very serious development? Has the Minister seen a report that the programme manager of a commercial television station has said that in less than a year his station has spent $16m abroad in purchasing programmes and that in the next few years the station will spend another $30m? Will the Minister agree that with so much Australian talent available this buying spree abroad on the part of commercial licencees is unwarranted? Because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is now giving or is about to give consideration to amending its standards so far as Australian content is concerned will the Government request the Board to establish specific quotas for Australian dramatic, variety and documentary programmes which are to be shown by commercial television stations in peak viewing time?
– 1 am aware that discussions have taken place in the last little while concerning the matter raised by the honourable senator, both by meetings as he suggested and also by interviews which I have seen publicised. The discussions have concerned Australian actors and Australian content in programmes. I shall place the points he has raised before the Postmaster-General, conveying to him the views the honourable senator has expressed. Later today I shall be answering a previous question which the honourable senator asked about Australian content.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: How long has Brian Ross been in gaol for a breach of the National Service Act? Without an application from the imprisoned person why has the Minister for Labour and National Service instituted an inquiry into the imprisoned person’s conscientious beliefs? If he thought it was necessary now why was not such an inquiry held 10 months previously to save this honourable peace advocate who may have an exemption under the Act. from 10 months imprisonment?
– In order to answer that question reference will have to be made to the files. I shall refer the question to the Minister.
(Question No. 376)
Senator BROWN (through Senator
McClelland) asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Government decided to buy for the Jervis Bay power station the type of atomic plant that produces the most nuclear explosive material; if so, is it the Government’s intention to buy the type of reactor best suited to producing nuclear explosive material dictated by this consideration.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 435)
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
The Commonwealth Archives Office preserves films which come into its hands during the normal course of its operations.
The Commonwealth Film Unit is responsible for the preservation of film material on Australia produced by itself or its predecessors.
The Australian War Memorial is responsible for preserving film of historical significance relating to the Australian Forces in wartime.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission does not produce or acquire films specifically for archival purposes but many films produced by the A.B.C. for television use are retained for archival purposes.
Although no field officers are engaged byany of the agencies listed, it is the National Library’s intention to provide for such officers in the future.
The current extensions to the War Memorial building include the construction of a film vault to house its film archives.
(Question No. 436)
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. 435, the Commonwealth Archives Office, the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Commonwealth Film Unit also preserve Australian films.
The Commonwealth Film Unit preserves copies of each year’s productions.
(Question No. 507)
Senator KEEFFE (through Senator
Byrne) asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
What is the total sum of Australian taxpayers’ funds likely to be paid to America for the non-flying, probably non-deliverable aircraft known as the F111 during the period of the Parliamentary winter recess, that is from theand of this week to 18th August1970.
Will the Minister make a detailed statement to the Parliament on 18th August 1970 covering such additional payments.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 194)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Prime Minister has supplied me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 297)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 325)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 336)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator may be interested in the fact that according to the Annual Report of the Canadian Radio and Television Commission for 1968-69, the comparable figure for Canadian content on Canadian stations was approximately 20%.
Based on a sample of a single week, the percentages of the various types of Australian programmes televised between 7.00 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. in March, 1970, on commercial television stations were as follows:
(Question No. 400)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
Will the Minister instruct officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to make a submission to the Royal Commission on the Great Barrier Reef, to assist in establishing the Reefs present and future scientific value and its present and likely future importance in the fields of scientific research.
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
CSIRO has not carried out a biological research programme specifically related to the Great Barrier Reef and is not in a position to make a submission to the Royal Commission. However, should the Royal Commission request information from CSIRO on aspects of the subject, the Organisation would, of course, provide whatever information it may have available.
(Question No. 443)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 444)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Does the Government consider that uniformity in the type of reactor to be used for power generation in Australia is desirable.
– The Acting Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
For economic reasons some uniformity in the types of reactors constructed for power generation in Australia is desirable, over moderate periods of time, but this does not necessarily mean adopting of the same identical type permanently. At least in the early stages it would be costly to operate a series of individual stations each based on different technologies and each requiring different ancillary services.
(Question No. 448)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
How many electron microscopes does the Australian Atomic Energy Commission Research
Establishment now possess and how much use did each receive during the past 6 months.
– The Acting Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Atomic Energyy Commission has four electron microscopes at its Research Establishment. The two newer instruments are in full time use on a variety of problems, while the older instruments, requiring more servicing are used less. At present these two older instruments are in use for at least half of each working week.
(Question No. 451)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
During such secondments regular reports are made of work done by the officers seconded. However, as these reports almost invariably contain material of a classified nature, they are not available for general distribution.
(Question No. 454)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Have any studies been made of the likely extent of thermal and radioactive pollution in relation to different types of reactor which might be used in the Jervis Bay power station; if so, have any conclusions been reached, and would the Minister have them conveyed to the Senate.
As regards thermal effects, heat rejected from the turbine condensers of any power station, whether nuclear or conventional, has an effect which must be considered in the location of the plant. At Jervis Bay ocean water will be used for condenser cooling purposes and the resulting rise in temperature of the sea from any of the different types of reactor systems available will be very small, so small as to be unimportant.
As to the possibility of radioactive pollution, all of the reactor systems to be proposed for installation in Jervis Bay must be designed, constructed and operated to ensure that release of radioactivity will be well below the lowest internationally permitted levels. There will therefore be no pollution.
Nevertheless as an added precaution detailed studies are being made of the ecology of the area so that a close watch can be maintained on any thermal and radioactive effects of theJervis Bay Nuclear Power Station on the environment.
(Question No. 456)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Is there any graduate course in nuclear engineering at any Australian university; if not, does the Government intend to introduce or encourage the introduction of such a course.
The School of Nuclear Engineering at the University of New South Wales provides a formal course leading to the degree of Master, and also facilities for Doctoral Programmes. This school has been established for some time.
The University of Melbourne offers a postgraduate course in this subject but to date no courses have been undertaken.
(Question No. 487)
Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 492)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Will the Minister direct the Bureau of Meteorology to give evidence before the Royal Commission into oil drilling on the Barrier Reef, as to the likely effects of weather conditions, especially cyclonic upon any such drilling.
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Bureau of Meteorology has the necessary expertise for the provision of consultative services, forecasts and warnings concerning significant weather conditions likely to affect oil drilling operations on the Barrier Reef.
A suitable representative could be made available to give evidence before the Royal Commission as required
(Question No. 504)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development the following question, upon notice:
Did the Government consider the possibility of building Australia’s first nuclear power station as a combined power/ desalination plant, located on the coast of a dry area, where both power and fresh water are in demand: if so, why was such a possibility rejected.
The possibility was considered in principle but detailed examination was not considered worthwhile. At this stage of development of the nuclear industry it is more economic to provide in dry coastal areas both power and water (including desalinated water) by conventional means. It is theoretically possible to obtain both power and desalinated water from nuclear plants at prices competitive with conventional means but only when extraordinarily large plants are constructed. There is no present demand for very large plants in such areas.
(Question No. 521)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Can the Prime Minister explain to the Senate the reasons for the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party being ranked above the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader ofthe Opposition in the Senate at the last two State functions at Parliament House, Canberra.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Leader of the Democratic Labor Parly was seated at the head table at both functions in his capacity as the Leader of a recognised political party in the Parliament.
– by leave - During question time Senator Wilkinson asked me whether I would make some observations in relation to radioactive fallout. Honourable senators will be aware that there are 2 committees which keep the Commonwealth Government fully informed on the situation in respect of radioactive fallout in Australia. The Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee, known as AWTSC, which is serviced by the Department of Supply, conducts two complementary monitoring programmes on radioactive fallout. One has operated continuously since 1957 and is devoted to monitoring the levels of longlived isotopes in fallout, that is, strontium 90 and caesium 137. Particular attention is given to these elements as they are considered potentially the most hazardous of the radioactive materials released to the environment in nuclear tests. The second programme is directed mainly at the shorter-lived radio isotopes in fallout which may be of significance only in the few months immediately after nuclear tests. This short term programme is instituted for a particular test or series of tests from which fallout may reach Australia.
The other committee is the National Radiation Advisory Committee, known as NRAC, which is serviced by the Prime Minister’s Department and advises the Commonwealth on matters concerning the effects of ionising radiation, whatever its origin, on the Australian community. The results of the AWTSC’s monitoring programmes are immediately made available to the NRAC. The 2 committees co-operate closely and meet frequently.It will be appreciated that in a comprehensive scientific monitoring programme of the type described it is necessary for all data to be collected, analysed and correlated before either of the 2 committees can issue any reports. In its most recently published report, that of March . 1969, the NRAC concluded that the fallout from the then most recent French tests in the Pacific, like that from earlier French tests, was of no significance as a hazard to the health of the Australian population. In respect of the latest French tests, the NRAC can see no reason to depart from its conclusion that the overall programme of French nuclear tests in the Pacific is unlikely to be of significance as a hazard to the health ofthe Australian population.
The general picture on the levels of radioactive fallout in Australia can be summarised as follows. In the case of annual deposits from the atmosphere of the long-lived radio isotopes strontium 90 and caesium 137, there has been a steady decline from 1964 to 1968, which is the last year for which complete data is held. In 1964 deposits of these elements, although still not a dangerous level, reached a maximum as a result of the extensive test programmes of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1961 and 1962 and the United States of America in 1962. The French tests in the Pacific, while making some contribution to the fallout of these elements in Australia, have not been sufficient to reverse the steady decline. Insofar as the shorter-lived radio isotopes are concerned, that which is potentially most hazardous is iodine 131. However, I stress that this material is not so important in an assessment of overall biological hazards as the long-lived materials I have already described.
Major milk supplies are monitored for iodine 131 when it may be present in fallout. A guide level for the presence of iodine 131 in milk has been adopted by many countries, including Australia, of 200 pecacuries per litre averaged over a year. Continuous contamination to that average level of iodine 131 would not contribute a significant threat to the health of the population. In Australia the annual mean of iodine 131 has remained well below this level. I, might add that due to its rapid radioactive decay it is usually present for only a few months after a nuclear weapons test.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
Early in 1967 the United Kingdom and Australian governments agreed to join together in the construction and subsequent operation of a large optical telescope to be located in Australia. The 2 governments decided that the telescope would have a nominal aperture of 150 inches and that its specifications would be based on the design adopted for a similar optical telescope which was to be constructed by the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona in the United States of America. The Australian National University’s Observatory at Siding Spring Mountain, near Coonabarabran in New South Wales, was chosen as the site for the instrument.
Pending the conclusion of a formal agreement between the governments, a joint policy committee was established to initiate arrangements for the construction of the telescope and to supervise detailed design and subsequent manufacture and construction. This committee is made up of Sir Richard Wolley the Astronomer Royal Professor Fred Hoyle, Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge University, Professor Olin Eggen, Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory, and Dr E. G. Bowen, Chief of the Radiophysics Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, together with Mr J. F. Hosie of the Science Research Council in Britain and Mr K. N. Jones of the Department of Education and Science, Canberra. A small project office has been established in Canberra. Under the direction of the joint policy committee, this office is responsible for all phases of design, relations with consultants, tendering, contracts and general supervision. During this interim period the 2 governments have acted through the Science Research Council in London and the Department of Education and Science in Canberra. The Australian National University has co-operated in the project from its commencement. In addition to the provision of the site at the Siding Spring Observatory, the University has agreed to make available the whole range of its scientific and technical support facilities, both at Siding Spring and at Mount Stromlo.
The manufacture, construction and running in of a large optical telescope is a complex and lengthy operation. A good deal of progress has been made. Detailed work on the project commenced in the latter half of 1967. Construction is scheduled for completion at the end of 1973 and alignment and testing of the instalments and associated facilities should be completed late in 1974. When the governments agreed to co-operate in this venture the estimated total cost of construction was approximately $llm. Today it is estimated that the partners will contribute approximately SI 2m on joint account and in addition the Australian National University will spend $1,800,000 on new and upgraded facilities at the Siding Spring site. Of the amount expended by the ANU, $820,000 will be a charge upon the joint project and will be repaid over a period of 20 years together with interest at the long term bond rate. Expenditure of $3,300,000 has already been incurred and commitments have been entered into for further expenditure of. approximately S3m.
Honourable senators will be interested to hear of the major activities which have already been carried out. The primary mirror blank was manufactured by OwensIllinois Incorporated at Toledo. Ohio, at a cost of $541,000. Earlier this year the primary mirror blank was delivered to Sir Howard Grubb Parsons and Co. Ltd of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, for grinding and polishing and for incorporation, together with other optical components, in the telescope tube, which itself is to be constructed by Grubb Parsons. At the Siding Spring Observatory, water and electricity services and roads have been upgraded, the lodge has been enlarged and additional houses have been built. A site has been prepared for the telescope building and construction of ancillary buildings is now well in hand. Contracts for the supply and erection of the telescope mounting and for the dome are about to be let. Tenders for the main building will close in October next. The joint policy committee has operated under the directive from the 2 governments that open tendering is to be used for all of the major components and that this work is to be available to any suitably qualified contractor from any part of the world.
The arrangements arrived at between the 2 governments were incorporated in a formal agreement which was signed on 25th September 1969. lt provides for the establishment of an Anglo-Australian Telescope Board to represent the 2 governments in the process of construction and subsequent operation of the telescope. The agreement contemplates the creation of that Board as a statutory authority under legislation of. this Parliament. The present Bill, to which the text of the agreement is annexed, has been prepared accordingly. From a reading of the agreement and of the Bill, honourable senators will see that the agreement spells out the arrangements made by the 2 governments for the construction and operation of the telescope and that the Bill itself deals primarily with the establishment of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board as a statutory authority, and with its relations with this Parliament.
The Bill regulates the appointment of the Australian members to the AngloAustralian Telescope Board and provides for the appropriation of moneys by this Parliament and their application by the Board. Provision is also made for audit of the Board’s accounts and for the presentation of periodical reports and financial statements, lt will be noted that a provision of the Bill exempts the Board from taxation under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth. As a complementary measure, provision will be made in a Bill to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1967 to exempt goods for use, and not for sale, by the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board. When the telescope has been completed, access to it will be shared equally by British and Australian astronomers, although there will be provision for each party to make available a portion of its time to other astronomers. In each country, arrangements will be made within the community of astronomers for the consideration of requests for use of the telescope, and the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board will be guided by this advice in the allocation of time on the telescope.
Australia has an enviable reputation as a world leader in both optical and radio astronomy. The provision of these new facilities should enable us, in co-operation with our British partners, to develop that reputation further. We will be able to exploit the natural advantage which our geographical location gives us through the use of facilities which will be equal to those available anywhere else in the world. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition [4.44] - I move:
– I thank the honourable senator. There are other natural disasters such as hurricanes, famine, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes-
– Yes. They can happen and have happened in a country such as this. It is not a new matter. It has been discussed in both Houses of this Parliament over many years, and elsewhere in the country. One of the proponents of the proposal for a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters was former Senator Tangney. We hope that she will soon be back with us in the Senate in order to participate in the deliberations of the committee dealing with the subject. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) in another place, and other members of this Parliament, from both sides, have supported this proposal. It is not a matter in which the Opposition claims copyright or anything other than an enthusiastic desire to press forward with something which has been well received everywhere and is in practice in other countries. The United States of America has a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters. Canada and many other countries have such organisations.
A similar proposal for a select committee to be established was put forward in the Senate on 28th September 1967 by Senator Cohen. He gave notice of a motion that a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought. For some reason notice of that motion was later given by me. That must have occurred in the new Parliament in 1968, because on 28th May 1968 Senator Cohen moved a motion in my name for the establishment of such a committee. The proposal was discussed during the early part of 1968 and again in August 1968. The Senate did not accede to the proposal mainly, as I understand it, for the reasons that it was thought that the Senate did not have facilities to deal with it, due to inadequate staff numbers and such reasons. I do not recall that there was any marked opposition to the proposal to investigate this matter. We feel that an investigation should be conducted. We now have an appropriate standing committee.
– As I have just come into the chamber I would be grateful if the Leader of the Opposition would explain what he means by ‘this matter’.
– We are discussing the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and particularly those arising from fire, flood and drought. We live in a country where natural disasters, especially fires, floods and droughts, are recurring phenomena. We know from experience over the last couple of hundred years that we will have more such disasters. They should not be treated as surprises or as if they were special and unusual circumstances. They are to be expected. This is a land of droughts, flood and fires, and perhaps of some other disasters also. We know that in the next 10 years we will have more floods and droughts. At present there are floods in Tasmania, and droughts in Queensland and parts of New South Wales and South Australia.
We ought to have continuing machinery to deal with these disasters. The appropriate machinery is a national organisation acting in co-operation with the States, local authorities and voluntary bodies. It should be able to swing into action when a disaster has occurred. It would not have to start from scratch to tell the various bodies what action to take, what were their rights and what they would be expected to do. Those bodies would know those things because they could be set out in legislation and by other means. I am referring to statutory and voluntary bodies, the efforts of which could be co-ordinated by a national organisation to enable optimum assistance to be given to people suffering from the effects of natural disasters. This is commonsense. It occurs, for example, in the United States of America. There legislation provides for orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to States and local governments to carry out their responsibilities, to alleviate suffering and damage resulting from major disasters, to repair essential public facilities in major disasters and to foster the development of such State and local organisations and plans to cope with major disasters as may be necessary.
In the United States legislation it is provided that in any major disaster the federal agencies are authorised when directed by the President to provide assistance by utilising or lending with or without compensation to States and local governments their equipment, supplies, facilities, personnel and other resources other than the extension of credit under the authority of any Act. They are authorised also to help by distributing through the American National Red Cross or otherwise medicine, food and other consumable supplies by donating or lending equipment and supplies determined under the then existing law to be surplus to the needs and responsibilities of the Federal Government to States for use or distribution by them for the purposes of the legislation, including the restoration of public facilities damaged or destroyed in such a major disaster and the essential rehabilitation of individuals in need as the result of any such major disaster; and also by performing upon public or private lands protective or other work essential for the preservation of life or property, and so on.
That is the type of machinery which the Committee would be asked to investigate. It may or may not come to the conclusion that it is desirable in Australia. I would be amazed if it did not reach that conclusion on this extremely important subject matter. We ought to have this continuing machinery to deal with disasters. This matter does not involve a party political approach. It ought to be welcomed by all members of this Parliament. I believe that such machinery would be the probable outcome of the committee’s deliberations. Why should we not enter upon this discussion? Why should we not investigate whether Australia should have the permanent machinery which we lack at present, to be put into operation automatically when a natural disaster occurs? An authority such as the Federal Government, the Prime Minister or the Minister for Primary Industry- someone authorised by the legislation - would decide that there was a disaster in a certain area and automatically the machinery would begin to operate. Various bodies including voluntary organis ations would know where they stood and what they could do. They would be able to plan to meet emergencies occasioned by disasters.
– What do you say on the question of finances?
– [ think that the question of finances is one of the matters that could be considered. Certainly the question of whether emergency finance should be made available could be considered. One would think that question would be incidental to the operation of a disaster scheme. I am speaking about what could be called pocket money - temporary finance to enable people to move about in transport and to obtain housing if they arc displaced from their houses. One of the questions for the Committee to consider is whether there should be, say, some insurance fund set up, as was I understand contemplated by the present Government or one of its predecessors. That could be considered by the Committee. But primarily the Committee should consider the organisation that ought to be established for meeting national disasters.
This proposal for the establishment of a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters has been about for a long time and it ought to be thoroughly investigated. The machinery is now available to do so. We have the Standing Committee. Why ought not this question be submitted as a natural topic for the Standing Committee to consider? It might be said that a Senate election is pending and that other matters are being attended to. It seems to me the answer to that argument is that the committees are here to work. They will enter into those matters which are referred to them by the Senate. This question is a topic which will require a great deal of investigation which might take some time. But if the topic is referred to the Committee now, at least it will enable the preliminary steps to be quickly undertaken.
The staff of the Committee can start to assemble material and get together comparative legislation from other countries. The staff can also invite submissions from interested bodies. I should imagine that all sorts of primary producer organisations, as well as others, would want to make submissions on the necessity for and the nature of any such national organisation. They would take some time to prepare those submissions because they would want to consult their own members. They would want to assemble material, and this would take some time. Surely the process ought to be initiated. At the very least, we ought to be referring this topic to the Committee so that it can start to get the material assembled. Whether a Senate election is pending or whether we are in recess, all these things can be begun. 1 think that the establishment of a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters is an extremely important matter that ought not to be delayed further. If the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade is to investigate various topics, surely this is one that it should consider. This is one of the greatest permanent problems facing Australia and one with which the Committee should engage itself without delay, lt is true that a number of proposals are set out in my notices of motion, but the question of natural disasters is the only proposal which I seek to have referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. Although other questions may be important, I would suggest, with respect, that in view of our experience over the years of the effects of natural disasters and in view of the existence of flood and droughts at the present lime and the moral certainty that there will be further such natural disasters in the future, the Senate ought to endorse this reference to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Two hours having elapsed from the rime of the meeting of the Senate, the orders of the day will be called on pursuant to standing order 127.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That consideration of orders of the duy be postponed until after further consideration of notice of motion No. I.
– (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) [5.0] - 1 wish to respond to the case put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for the reference to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade of the question as to whether there should be established a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters. I believe it would be fair to say that Senator Murphy has dealt, in a fairly cogent way, with the general argument for the establishment of a national organisation. I want to put my argument on a far broader canvass. 1 want to direct it to the structure of the standing committees, and the type of argument that I would direct to the notice of motion we are considering is the type of argument that I would direct to notices of motion (2) to (5) standing in Senator Murphy’s name.
I believe that we have set our hearts and minds on a pattern of standing committees, and we have to understand how they are to function. Unless we have a fairly clear understanding in our minds at the very outset as to how the committees are to function, 1 would suggest thai by misadventure or in the ordinary course of the way in which the committees will work, we could find ourselves in the position where we could quite easily destroy what we are trying to create. It is because of that reason that I want to speak on a fairly wide canvass and to say T believe that nol only this motion but also the other motions in Senator Murphy’s name - in the way in which they are seen by Government senators, at any rate - cover a far wider Odd than was envisaged by those on the Government side who helped lo create these standing committees. We believe that if the standing committees are to operate, if they are going to run almost parallel with Senate select committees - and we have Senate select committees - and if we are going to refer to the standing committees matters which cover a wide, general field, then we will in fact mitigate and defeat the purpose for which the standing committees were established.
Let me take, by way of illustration, what has happened with subjects which we have referred to Senate select committees. There was the Senate Select Committee on (he Container Method of Handling Cargoes which, like the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade, comprised senators from all political parties represented in the Senate. I would recognise that, senators on each of the Senate select committees have worked diligently, hard and within the capacity of their time, having regard to their other responsibilities. That Senate Select Committee sat for approximately 14 months. The Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures brought down its report after 14 months. The Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources has been sitting for 34 months and is still sitting. The Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution sat for 17 months and the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution for 14 months. The Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs sat for 26 months, and I have an idea that the Committee has brought down only an interim report. I am not sure on that point, but it has sat for 26 months.
– The Committee brought down a full report and then it asked to be reconstituted.
That is right. However it has sat for 26 months. The Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir took only 3i months to bring down its report, and I want honourable senators to keep that Committee in mind because I want to refer to the type of reference which was given to that Committee. The Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse has been sitting for 9 months and the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange has been sitting for 4 months. We on our side of politics believe that these Senate select committees are doing a good job, but because of the nature of the subjects which are referred to them they take a considerable amount of time to bring down a report [ know that I speak on behalf of those who sit behind me when I say that if the nature of a reference to the Standing Committee envisages a report being presented within a certain period of time, this whole new structure that we are creating and which is developing in theory, perhaps consistently with what is happening in other parts of the world, may be destroyed. That could happen if, in our first major step, we agreed to resolutions for the reference to standing committees of matters which, by their very nature, cover a wide field and involve a tremendous amount of research and study. My speech on this subject could be related to a future debate on the subject matters to be covered by the other committees set out in the notice paper. My arguments could be used with more force in relation to some committees than to others. I do not want to anticipate future resolutions, but 1 do not want to have to make the same speech on more than one occasion.
Some of the other committees will cover tremendously wide fields which would mean all manner of considerations. The Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources has been sitting for 34 months. I should think that some of the proposed committees would take 12 or 18 months or even 2 or 3 years to present a report. That is the argument I want to put. I put the proposition that we should not have motions which will cover such wide fields and require such a wide-ranging research organisation to follow them and such tremendous probing that the result achieved by the standing committees in presenting their reports would be noi worthwhile.
Honourable senators may ask what sort of references to standing committees I have in mind. To give an illustration, f shall deal with the Select Committees to which 1 have referred. The Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir was, I think, a good example of what I have in mind, lt was related to a particular matter. The setting up of the Committee came about as a result of a debate on a regulation or on a ministerial statement or both; I cannot remember. The matter under discussion was very urgent, very topical nod the Senate thought that it should have more information on it. The Senate set to work to obtain that information. Tha’ is the kind of reference that I have in mind. I have in mind the more particularised references. I refer now to the experiences in other countries. I point out that in Canada, for instance, most of the references have been to Bills.
– The position here should be the same also.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI believe that standing order 196a provides the machinery whereby, upon resolution of the Senate. Bills may be dealt wilh by standing committees. The Bills would relate to particular matters. The Canadian Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce had a White Paper on anti-dumping.
The Health, Welfare and Science Committee considered various Bills, as did the Legal and Constitution Committee. The comment I am making is based on information relating to the period from September to October in one 12-monthly period. The Transport and Communications Committee had a reference entitled The Causes of Transportation and Handling Difficulties in the Grain Industry’- That Committee dealt with a specific reference relating to the grain industry, lt seems to me that the experience in other countries has been that the committees deal mainly with Bills. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Committee dealt with Bills and any matter relating to foreign and Commonwealth affairs generally and in particular the Caribbean area. That reference was a little wider than the references of the other committees. The general approach has been to consider particular matters.
Earlier today I presented a ministerial statement on radioactive fallout. Some honourable senators might consider that what I had said was inadequate and that a further study on radioactive fallout should be undertaken. I should have thought that that was a particular matter which could be referred to a standing committee. Other matters on the same subject could be referred to that committee. lt is suggested that one of the Standing Committees should deal with matters concerned with the Repatriation Act. That is a tremendously wide field to encompass. If the reference were related to a particular aspect of the Repatriation Act, naturally that would lend itself more to a study by the standing committee. But when we embark upon a wide-ranging canvass of the Repatriation Act, is it imagined that one of the standing committees, in the multiplicity of all the other things that it can do, will be able to produce a worthwhile report in a reasonable period of weeks or months?
I and the Government members who sit behind me believe that we have set about to create standing committees. We still have select committees and statutory committees. I need hardly mention the Estimates Committees which will sit for about 3 weeks only. We have this concept of setting up standing committees. We will have two immediately. Ultimately we will have 7 within a 12-month period, lt seems to us that if those committees were to have referred to them subjects which were wide in their sweep and which required tremendous research, attention, study and time, we would tend to defeat the concept and the objective of the scheme.
My speech is related to the first committee, but I would want it to be regarded as having reference to the others. Now is the time for the Senate to set the pattern of what it wants, to decide the type of references it wants and to have recorded in Hansard our idea of what those references should be and of how the committees should function. I believe that, if we resolve those matters in the spirit in which this debate should be conducted, we will have a better pattern and we will do a lot towards ensuring that the principle of establishing standing committees will prevail, will continue and will do a good job for the parliamentary institution. For those reasons I resist the proposal nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in Notice of Motion No. 1.
– These early references to 2 of the 7 standing committees give us an opportunity perhaps quickly to make an appreciation of exactly what is to be the function of the standing committees in the context of the whole Senate system in relation to committees. Unfortunately this principle of the appointment of standing committees was accompanied by some difference of opinion between the Opposition, the Government and members of the Democratic Labor Parly as to the number of committees and the time for their constitution. This difference of opinion arose in circumstances which all would have preferred to have been resolved without such conflict. However, I would not like honourable senators to think, from what 1 am saying on this occasion, that my speech in any sense is in pursuance of that conflict. It is an attempt to get down to a working proposition and to examine how we will use the standing committees and what role they will play.
In the first place, it was never intended that the standing committee should be a substitute for the select committee. I think that is the first principle to be remembered. It would be a tremendous disadvantage to the Senate if the standing committees were to exclude the select committees from operation and from viability within the Standing Orders. I think we are conscious of the fact that a select committee, by its nature, can perform functions and is equipped to do things that a standing committee, which may have a number of references, which may sit in a different manner from a select committee and which probably will not have the same opportunities for travel, is not equipped to do.
– The honourable senator would not agree to a select committee on this subject. Does he now say that we should have a standing committee on it?
– 1 will come to that. Like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), my comments will be general as to the position of standing and select committees. Senator Murphy has raised particularly the subject of drought as a matter of reference. The Democratic Labor Party is particularly enthusiastic that this subject should come under scrutiny by the appropriate committee. As a matter of fact, we take some pride in the fact that we perhaps were the first Party in Australia to advert publicly to the necessity for some kind of investigation on the subject. I quote from the policy speech of the Democratic Labor Party in 1 969.
Senator Gair said:
I am disturbed at the way in which various emergency situations - requiring both State and Commonwealth liaison and action - have been badly handled in recent years.
Drought relief is a current example of the confusion and time-wasting which often occurs.
What Australia needs is a permanent secretariat, consisting of State and Federal officials, ready to anticipate and study natural disasters, evolve contingency plans, and act as the co-ordinating body when asked to.
Very often, quick action is required. You don’t get quick action under the present cumbersome Public Service system.
Recently at a Federal Executive meeting of the Party that policy was reiterated and some publicity was given to it. Therefore our Party is enthusiastic about the discussion and investigation of this matter. If a select Committee of the Senate to look at this were proposed or were the will of the Senate, we would support that
– You voted against it in May 1968.
– No, we did not vote against it. If we did it was not on the basis of that but because we already had our own resolution and our own attitude to this matter.
– That would not be a permanent committee, would it?
– It would be a permanent secretariat of Commonwealth and State officials, properly equipped financially, to have matters under constant investigation and review not merely to evolve a plan but to have a plan constantly operating and available.
– That is a national organisation.
– Yes, a national organisation.
– What is wrong with my proposal?
– As I understand it, Senator Murphy’s motion proposes that a standing committee of the Senate should investigate with the view to the emergence of some sort of natural disaster plan.
– .1 propose a national organisation.
– We contemplated and announced something of that character in our policy speech. Just what form it would take may be a matter for parliamentary investigation to lay down the metes and bounds, the constitution and mode of operation of such a body. But again I say it is of such magnitude that it is appropriate, if it is to be discussed by the Parliament - and if it is hoped that something like that would emerge - it should be in the hands of a select committee expressly and specifically directed to that question.
– Why did you not vote for that in May 1968?
– I am not familiar now with the reference which Senator Murphy mentions, but that has been our policy and remains our policy and it has recently been underlined. As I said, the select committee was not intended to be ousted by the standing committee. It would be most unfortunate if that were to happen.
I would like to comment on a number of matters that Senator Murphy mentioned in the course of his address. First, he referred quite a number of questions to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. The very fact that Senator Murphy puts four or five major questions to this Committee inevitably requires that they will stand in some sort of queue for consideration. I think it has been the will of the Senate - if I remember correctly, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack particularly was insistent on this - that when matters are referred to select committees they be not permitted unduly to prolong the presentation of the committee reports. Time limits have been imposed. Senator Davidson can correct me if 1 am wrong, but I think there was a motion passed which gave the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution an extension of time for the presentation of its report because of circumstances, but the Senate showed that it did so reluctantly and expressed the opinion that time limits should be imposed and that investigations should not go on indefinitely.
The fact that 4 major matters are referred to I standing committee means inevitably that from the time of the first reference there will be no report for perhaps years. That would appear to me by its nature to contradict the point of view which has been expressed by the Senate in relation to select committees. I would therefore say that the sheer number of references put forward in Senator Murphy’s motion, quite apart from their weight and impact, would seem to contradict what was the prevailing view of the Senate. My recollection is that that attitude was supported by Senator Murphy rather insistently.
– There is only 1 reference to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. Will the honourable senator vote against that?
– I am talking about the whole approach, as 1 said, to the question of standing committees and the multitudinous references to them. Now 1 come to the question of the weight of the references and the type of matter under investigation. Standing committees necessarily will involve many senators who have other duties to perform. It could be that if there are a number of heavy and prolonged references to a number of committees senators will not be able to bring their minds continuously to an investigation and determination of the one subject. Senators will be running from committee to committee; investigations will be protracted over a long period; the continuity will be lost, and possibly the personnel on the committees will change. We know that the personnel has changed in 1 significant committee here over the 3 years it has been in operation. That is entirely unsatisfactory.
– Senators could not do the job expected of them.
– Exactly. They could not do the job. Chairmen have in the meantime been translated to other positions and others have had to step into their places and try to pick up the threads of the investigation. That is necessary where it is a very heavy reference and where the investigation takes a protracted period; but to impose all those situations on a standing committee seems to me to be totally improper.
– What type of matter would Senator Byrne suggest?
– For example, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson referred to the Repatriation Act. I would imagine a reference such as this. There has been a lol of disputation in this chamber as to whether the appropriate section of the Repatriation Act dealing with the onus of proof provision was operating to the welfare or to the detriment of the claimant. That is a matter which quite appropriately could be a specific reference to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. I give that as only 1 minor illustration. I could think of many other similar situations. The one I have mentioned could be a reference. The area of investigation would be in a comparatively narrow compass. It would be specific and factual, and the report could be presented promptly.
– lt may necessitate the examination of a hundred witnesses.
– If that were so it would still be more limited than a total investigation of the Repatriation Department, which obviously may be a matter of major concern. In this chamber there has already been a suggestion that the question of mentally and physically retarded children should be referred to a select committee of the Senate. That has already received in broad terms the general approbation of the Senate. I refer to Senator Fitzgerald’s motion, which was not formally operative.
– The Democratic Labor Party will no doubt find a way of voting against it.
– It was the subject of Senator Fitzgerald’s proposal and it is now the subject of a motion for a select committee on the private members’ part of the business sheet. Our Party will be prepared to support the establishment of such a committee, consonant with only one thing - that wc cannot extend the physical resources of the Senate or the administrative staff beyond breaking point. With the Estimates committees operating, with the standing committees operating, with a series of select committees and now possibly the emergence of some joint standing committees there may be a physical limit on what we can do. But consistent with that and the priority which we think should be given to one or other reference, we would be prepared to support that, as we indicated at the time to Senator Fitzgerald, to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and to the Senate.
For those reasons, addressing myself as the Leader of the Government did to the general question of the co-existence of standing committees and select committees, I say that it has been the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party right from the inception of this proposal that the matter should be approached with prudence and restraint. Therefore I think that specific references in a narrow field would be better. There will be plenty of them and there will be plenty of opportunities. I have mentioned one. I have no doubt that it will not be beyond the ingenuity of those who have had occasion to advert to these in the course of years of debate to see that these references are made. If four or five references in this limited Be:d , were made to a standing committee I would not have the objection that 1 have to the four or five major exploratory references which Senator Murphy. I know in good faith, has been prepared to put down. For those reasons our Party does not feel it can support these series of resolutions but we support a reference on drought to the appropriate committee.
– There is only one reference before the Senate. Before Senator Byrne sits down can he tell us why he voted against the proposal for a select committee in May 1968.
– If the honourable senator wants to resurrect the debate I shall be happy to discuss the matter. I point out to Senator Murphy that I have done my best not to intrude party political considerations into this debate. I think that my objection has been put quite objectively. I expressly at the beginning adverted to the fact that I did not wish to pursue any differences that might have occurred in the original creation of these committees. We were trying to look at it impartially in the present context. Therefore I do not wish to enter into a political confrontation on this question but merely to say that we would support an appropriate select committee to investigate this problem, hoping that our proposition and that our policy might emerge as one of the recommendations. For those reasons we find that we are unable to support these references - I deal with them all in globo - while we would be prepared to support references to select committees, consonant, as 1 say. with the availability of staff and the availability of senators.
I think if all these matters were referred it would be very bad to have so many matters referred and not dealt with. I think it should be a matter of concern to the Senate. It would expose the Senate to a charge of irresponsibility. I am sure senators would finally be very concerned to be members of a committee to which there were standing references, none of which could be dealt with under a number of years. It could well be that we could have a standing reference made today that could be dealt with for 2 years and in the meantime a matter of very much greater consequence might emerge that would require a reference; we would immediately have to dismiss the one that had been there for 2 years and insert another. Undoubtedly that would provoke to protestation - naturally so - those who were interested in the first reference but it would show the total undesirability of such a position being allowed to develop. So for these reasons, while welcoming the making of references within the metes and bounds that I have suggested, wc find we are unable to support the motions proposed by Senator Murphy. In the particular case of the motion before the Chair at the moment, dealing with the reference concerning national disasters, we find ourselves unable to support that.
– 1 rise because I have an abiding interest in the purpose and the efficiency of the committee system that the Senate has embarked upon. I disregard entirely the interchange provoked by Senator Murphy when he imputed considerations extraneous to that purpose during the speech of Senator Byrne. 1 might remind the Senate that Senator Murphy, on the morning after these 2 standing committees were decided upon, offered to the Senate no fewer than 5 subject matters for consideration by these standing committees.
– That is not correct. 1 did it the same evening.
– The same evening, was it? Well, then it showed even more presumption and impetuousness than I had attributed to the honourable senator, lt was quite obviously motivated by a purpose to drown and submerge the standing committees and render them inefficient. I rise in an attempt to offer a few remarks on the threshold of our experience of this system in the hope that they will help to define the course of procedure that we should adopt in implementing these committees. In the first place, I am in complete agreement with the submission that was made by Senator Byrne that the subject matter of the standing committee references should not be general, or so general as is instanced here by a general inquiry into national disasters, in particular fire, flood and drought. 1 cannot believe that any honourable senator in this chamber would think that, he could do justice to a study of that subject and the delivery of a responsible report upon it after less than 12 months consideration, when it is to be remembered that he must concert his activities with those of his fellow members of the committee and, following joint consideration in the time that is available to the 8 members of the committee, reach a responsible conclusion on such a pervading national subject.
If I may just mention other matters, in the second notice of motion the subject of the reference is the adequacy of the existing Commonwealth and Stale social welfare legislation. Just take that as an instance of the type of thing which will damage the purpose of the standing committees. I would think that a committee of S senators could not possibly undertake the study of a subject so general as that without continuous consultation between the committee and witnesses for at least 12 months. 1 would think it would take more like 3 years to consider the adequacy of the existing Commonwealth and State social welfare legislation. Then we come to just one other subject, by way of instance, that of all aspects of repatriation including the operation of the Repatriation Act. That embraces not merely the principles upon which repatriation pensions are granted but also the present set up of Repatriation Boards and the evidence that is appropriate, and also the particular item to which Senator Byrne referred, the provision as to onus of proof, lt would also require an investigation of the proprietary of the approach of those tribunals against the background of ‘Be In It Mate’, the book that has recently been published. Then, for good measure, this subject matter of a suggested reference embraces war service land settlement.
I mention this just as an illustration of a generality that is to be deprecated. It is this generality, inherent in the first motion, that I think will drag into disuse our standing committees, and the whole purpose of the Senate should be to make the standing committees efficient. When we refer a subject matter to a standing committee this Senate, I would think, would expect that the standing committee, would within a month in most cases, come up with a report that the whole Senate could feel that it was doing a responsible act in supporting.
There is a second point that I would make with regard to this matter. I will give one or two subjects that occur to me as possibly appropriate for a reference to standing committees. I give, first, the subject that Senator Byrne mentioned, the onus of proof provision in repatriation legislation. I would think that that is a very appropriate subject matter, if I may say so with respect. For myself, I would go further; the Senate might wish to consider whether or not the principle on which repatriation benefits are granted should be on a social service basis Or a compensatory basis. One will see this referred to and discussed most thoughtfully in the recent report of the secretary of the Returned Services League, Mr Keys, and it has opened up a subject that has been debated in this place and elsewhere for the past 4 or 5 years.
– 1 raise a point of order. The motion before the Senate is to deal with natural disasters. While some passing reference to other motions may be in order, a diversion into a debate upon the subject matter of the other motions is hardly consistent with attending to this subject matter.
– I will not pursue that. I was referring to that aspect of repatriation merely as an illustration of an appropriate reference to a standing committee, not by reason of its appearing elsewhere in the notice paper. I will just go on to give another instance that I would think might be appropriate. We have had before us recently civil aviation liability legislation. There we have a limitation of the amount of compensation that can be paid. I would think that that probably is an appropriate matter for reference to a standing committee. To take another, there is the justification of the Australian National Line in increasing freights on carriage of goods to the island State of Tasmania; or, to take another, the increased airport charges proposed in the present Budget - although there would be some question as to whether the Senate should take an initiative with regard to a money proposition.
– Or, may I suggest, the propriety of paying emoluments by administrative decision in preference to regulation or other parliamentary enactment.
– I adopt that proposition. It could be accepted. In these 2 months ahead we have the great burden of making the Estimates Committees work. Having regard to the fact that it is the desire of many honourable senators to give the Estimates a more searching scrutiny it should be remembered that one thousand and one items can be inquired into with particularity. I think that to overburden the Senate with a general inquiry such as is proposed here would be an unfortunate handicap to the effort that will be available for the efficiency of the Estimates Committees.
– What is the Committee going to do this year?
– 1 pass by that interjection.
– Ii should not be passed by because the President is going to report upon the Committees’ operations. If you intend to see they do not operate there will be very little to report upon.
– 1 was trying to make a submission for consideration. I was not playing a game for continuous interjection. I think that any proposal which was responsible for establishing an organisation to alleviate national disasters would have as ils major component financial provisions. I cannot think of any organisation commending itself to a responsible statesman which did not immediately concern itself with the financial supply whether by way of taxation or insurance. This would be the first consideration. If it is to be by taxation this is not the most appropriate place to discuss it. I do not say that it is a forbidden field for the Senate, but it is not the most appropriate field. It is quite obvious that the first matter raised by Senator Murphy is not a matter within the exclusive field of the Commonwealth. It is nol obvious that it is within the concurrent field of the Commonwealth and it cannot be denied that the States have a considerable responsibility with regard to the proper organisation of relief during national disasters. I submit that the subject is most inappropriate for a standing committee; it involves consultation with 6 State governments in addition to all the other comprehensive considerations that would have to be taken into account. I submit those matters simply with regard to the operation of our committee system without in the slightest degree wishing to oppose a proper study of the whole proposition because I think that in a country like Australia it is a national duty for a proper study to be made to determine whether we can better the proposals for the relief of national disasters.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) [5.38 1 - I do not wish to speak for long on this motion. I support with all the ability at my disposal the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy. Having listened to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Iven net h Anderson), Senator Byrne of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and then to the Minister for Works, Senator Wright. I only wish that every primary producer could have sat and listened to their remarks during the course of this debate. Had the primary producers done so 1 am sure they would have been amazed and staggered at the negative attitude adopted by those political parties. It seems to me that these standing committees having been decided upon and about to be effectively established the Government does not want generality of inquiry into particular or specific matters. It wants the committees, as it were, to be a gabfest sort of operation. It wants them to sit around and discuss individual or interrelated matters but not to get to the grass roots of any problem. In other words the Government appears lo accept the baby, it having arrived, but does not want it to grow so that it will have teeth and, eventually, an expression of opinion not only within the Parliament but also throughout the community.
Senator Wright gave illustrations of one or two subjects which he thought could be the subject of inquiry by standing committees. I think that Senator Byrne from the Democratic Labor Party related his remarks to the onus of proof provisions in the Repatriation Act. Senator Wright, the Minister for Works, connected his remarks with civil aviation. But this is a Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. It seems to me that the principal reason why the Government and the Democratic Labor Party object to this proposition now proposed is because it comes from Senator Murphy and it is not a Government proposition or a Democratic Labor Party proposition. The proposition emanated from the Labor movement and because it came from the Labor movement it was not to be considered.
The matter contained within the ambit of the proposition now put by Senator Murphy concerns all sections of primary producers throughout Australia. In recent times as some honourable senators have toured and visited various parts of their States, as 1 representing the State of New South Wales have, doubtless they have had contact with large sections of primary producers. At every meeting of primary producers which one attends and in every hotel at which one stays in country towns one is constantly asked the question: ‘Why has there been no organisation set up to help us over the difficulties through which we, the primary production section of the community, are going at the present time?’ If we are objective parliamentarians representing our Slates and the people in those States and if those people have problems, grave and critical problems, confronting them and their families, it is imperative and vital that this Parliament or a section of it comprising a standing committee should give early and earnest consideration to ways and means of ameliorating the problems confronting the people concerned.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate during the course of his remarks said that if in the nature of the reference to the Standing Committee the Labor movement envisaged an inquiry taking a period of time similar to that taken by a select committee and if it tied the Standing Committees to a consideration of certain specific or special subjects, it might destroy what it was trying to create. I suggest lo the Leader of the Government in the Senate that if the Standing Committees do not inquire into special and certain subjects which are of grave concern to large sections of the community - I refer in this instance to the primary production section of the community - the people who put us here will think very little of the worth of our .Standing Committees.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was speaking in support of a motion which has been moved by Senator Murphy for the proposed standing committee on primary and secondary industry and trade to have referred to it the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters and, in particular, those arising from fire, flood and drought. In reply to a submission that had been made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate I was saying that it is the responsibility of the Parliament and committees of the Parliament to consider, discuss and debate matters concerning large sections of the Australian community. I said that if we did not pursue this course of action we would not be fufilling our true role as parliamentarians representing people, trying to understand the complexities of their problems and their difficulties.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson suggested that if we proposed tying the standing committees that are envisaged to specific and special subjects we might destroy what we in the Senate are trying to create. My reply to the Leader of the Government is that if we do not refer to these committees vital subjects in which the Australian people are very much concerned and by which they are vitally affected the standing committees will merely wither on the vine. I come to another argument advanced by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson who seemed to suggest that the purpose of a standing committee should be to inquire into Bills that come before the Parliament or perhaps ministerial statements that are made to the Parliament. I ask rhetorically: What if no Bills are presented by the Government and no ministerial statements are made to the Parliament? Alternatively, what would be the position if a ministerial statement were made on the effects of the drought as it exists today and it was agreed that the matter be referred to a standing committee of the Senate? Surely after the matter had been referred to the standing committee and had been considered by the committee it would be within the purview of the standing committee to recommend to the Senate that there be established a national organisation to consider the effects of fire, flood and drought.
I believe that it was the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who suggested that the matter proposed by Senator Murphy on behalf of the Labor movement for referral to the standing committee was not really one for the Commonwealth but perhaps was a matter for the States. This seems to have been the cry of conservative people for a number of years. I remember that in 1962 the Australian Country Party lost the seat of Cowper to a Labor member, Mr Frank McGuren, who, for the 2 years that he was in this Parliament, moved motion after motion for the discussion of an urgent matter of public importance, namely, the problems concerning flooding of the northern rivers system of New South Wales. He suggested that the Commonwealth should interest itself in the very important matter of supplying finance to the States to effect the flood mitigation work. But the constant cry of those who sat in Government then was that flood mitigation was not a responsibility of the Commonwealth but was a matter for the States. This cry was kept up for 2 long years until about 3 weeks before the 1963 Federal election when the Government undertook that if it were re-elected it would make money available to the States for flood mitigation work.
While on that subject, today we have a situation where money is made available by the Commonwealth to the State of New South Wales - I believe that the amount is of the order of S7m - to effect flood mitigation work on the northern rivers system of New South Wales. The Commonwealth provides the finance, the State provides the know-how and the local government authorities undertake the work. This is a matter which comes within the ambit of fire, flood and drought and surely should be the subject of scrutiny by a standing committee of the Senate in view of the amount of money being made available by the Commonwealth - by the Australian people - for this specific purpose.
I come now to what was said by Senator Byrne of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. His argument was that it was never intended that the standing committees should be a substitute for select committees. He went on to say that his Party was keen to see this subject come under scrutiny by an appropriate committee. But if a standing committee is not an appropriate committee to inquire into the feasibility and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the ever recurring problems of fire, flood and drought, then frankly I do not know what would be an appropriate committee. In the course of his remarks Senator Byrne read to us the 1967 Senate election policy speech of his Party wherein, from recollection, he said it was proposed that a secretariat-
– It was 1969, senator.
– I am sorry, but 1 thought it was 1967. In any event, on 28th May 1968 the then Deputy Leader of my Party in the Senate, the late Senator Cohen, moved for the appointment of a Senate select committee to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters. The debate took place on 28th May and was adjourned until 20th August 1968 when a vote on the matter was taken. At that time members of the Australian Labor Party only supported the proposition.
In support of our contention that a standing committee of the Senate should be utilised to inquire into this matter I propose to refer to one or two remarks by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, Senator Gair, on 28th May 1968, at which time he said:
As worthy as this matter is for discussion, I think that we should examine it more thoroughly and And out what relief already exists for floods and droughts, which are the principal disasters.
Could a standing committee not find out what relief already exists for floods and droughts, which Senator Gair said are the principal disasters? At page 1177 of Hansard Senator Gair is reported to have said:
It is true that there was a large fire in Hobart not so long ago and that in recent times Victoria has had periodic outbreaks of fire, but floods and drought are the principal disasters. We should ascertain what forms of insurance exist at present and decide how the Government can supplement existing schemes.
Surely the responsibility of a Senate standing committee inquiring into a matter of this nature could well be to ascertain what forms of insurance exist at present for people vitally affected by these catastrophes and to decide how the Government can supplement existing schemes.
– That is only a phase of the whole question.
– It is a phase of the whole question, but it certainly is a matter that needs investigation. If we have a standing committee of the Senate to deal with primary industry, secondary industry and trade, surely, having regard to the critical situation confronting so many Australians today, the sooner we get on the job on this mutter the better it will be for everyone.
– Do you see a difference between Senate standing committees and Senate select committees in the future?
– I see a great deal of difference between standing committees and select committees. I would have hoped that a select committee would have been appointed in 1968 to inquire into this matter; but despite the attitude adopted by the Labor Party a majority of the Senate did not see fit to join forces with us. Now we say that, a standing committee being appointed and a critical situation confronting people in the drought stricken areas in particular, the standing committee should be utilised to lay down the foundation for an inquiry as to what should be done.
As my friend from the Country Party, Senator Webster, has interjected, let me quote to him from the maiden speech made by a very prominent member of the Country Party in another place on 21st August last year. I refer to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) who at one stage was the President of the Country Party in New South Wales. He said, amongst other things:
With regard to drought, expensive drought relief measures have been undertaken by the States with unprecedented Commonwealth Government financial backing. However, the actions that have been taken so far have been designed to meet the emergency. They have been basically defensive. I feel that while drought experience is fresh in our minds we should move to the offensive. Since drought is a feature of our environment, we should be planning now to meet the next drought before it starts. I have long been an advocate for a National Drought Authority whereby the Commonwealth and States can get together on a permanent basis to take all possible steps under their joint powers to plan ahead to meet the problem of major droughts.
It is for those reasons, as enunciated by the honourable member for Gwydir last year, that we believe that a standing committee of the Senate, appointed for the purpose of inquiring into primary industry, secondary industry and trade, should immediately grasp the nettle, get down to work and not only try to overcome many of the great problems that exist, as Senator Webster and his Country Party colleagues would know, for people who are very badly affected by the current drought but also plan to ensure that the after effects of the next fire, the next flood and the next drought will be nowhere near as severe as those that have been experienced in the past.
The New Zealand Government has established a national calamity insurance fund. A non-contributory scheme is in existence in the United States. It is known as the federal disaster relief assistance scheme. Moneys are made available to the States, from a fund controlled by the President of the United States, for the purpose of coping with natural disasters that occur from time to time. In 1965 - the last year for which I was able to ascertain figures - a total of $US124m was allocated by the President to the various States from the President’s disaster fund to ameliorate the problems of those who were affected. I understand that there is a form of national organisation equipped to deal with natural disasters in Canada and also in Japan.
We believe that this is such a vital matter that a Senate Standing Committee on Primary Industry, Secondary Industry and Trade should have this subject referred to it, should inquire into it and should report back to the Parliament. We believe that the Committee could investigate very worthily the possibility of setting up such a scheme, especially having regard to the research officers who would be available to it, and that such a report presented by a standing committee of the Senate could have considerable influence on the thinking of the present Government. I support the proposition that has been moved by the Labor Leader, Senator Murphy.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) [8.16] - It has become perfectly clear to me, as I suppose it has to most honourable senators, that the Senate is involved in talking about 2 different things which fall into the category of a lack of communication, to use the modern expression. There is a lack of communication, which it seems to me, Mr Deputy President, is almost total, between honourable senators sitting on your left and honourable senators sitting on your right. This lack of communication is as to what committees are for. With the indulgence of the Senate, I propose to go back through the domestic history of the Senate to the problem that seemed to members of the Standing Orders Committee to exist in the processing of legislation through this chamber.
The Standing Orders Committee of the Senate, looking at this problem of the Senate striking out into a new area of jurisdiction, referred the problem to the Clerks for examination and report to the Committee as to how the mechanistic method by which legislation goes through the Senate could be improved in order to provide this chamber with an opportunity to examine problems and events that had transpired in the past, existed in the present and could be expected in the future in the performance of its review function, lt was felt - anyway, I as one member of the Standing Orders Committee felt this way - that to do this it was important to examine how legislation should be processed through the Senate without necessarily duplicating the processes of the House of Representatives. That was my concept. If anything adverse has flowed from this, 1 must accept the blame.
The important question, as 1 saw the position then - I still believe this to be the all-important question - is: How is the Senate to deal with the flow of legislation that is coming through this chamber now under its Standing Orders which were evolved to deal with the minute flow of legislation that came from the House of Representatives in 1905 and 1906-60 or 70 years ago? I do not think there is one honourable senator who sits in his place here who does not deprecate the sort of mirror system in which we involve ourselves and by which we duplicate in almost exact terms the processing of legislation that originates in the House of Representatives. So, an attempt was made to devise a method by which the mechanical processes of legislation in the Senate could be changed to give it far more time to devote itself to its review functions in respect of events that have happened - for example, statutes that were passed by the Parliament in, say, 1910 and are no longer valid - events that are occurring in the present and events that may occur in the future.
I believe that it is in this area that a lack of communication has ensued between honourable senators who sit on your left, Mr Deputy President, and honourable senators who sit on your right, lt seems to me that two totally different concepts have evolved. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber sought to streamline the processes by which legislation could flow through the Senate. On the other hand, the concept as originated quite properly by Senator Murphy has been reflected in moving motions in the Senate to set up a series of standing committees. I think that the problem has never been properly analysed by the Standing Orders Committee. As a result the Senate is faced with a problem of enormous difficulty.
I want to make perfectly clear my position as an individual senator sitting on the backbench on the Government side of the Senate. I believe that the function of the Senate is to device means by which legislation will flow freely through this House, not in terms of 1901 but in terms of 1970. bearing in mind the vast volume of legislative processes in 1970 as against those of 1901. The second fundamental that I lay down for myself in this matter is this: If the House of Government, which is the House of Representatives, has obtained an electoral mandate as a result of an election, it is entitled to send legislation based on its electoral mandate into the Senate. It is the function of the Senate to accept such Bills in principle but to examine them, for example, in the context of how they are drafted. This was the basis of my approach.
In this mirror procedure we in the Senate duplicate the second reading speeches delivered in the House of Representatives. Then the Senate properly and very wisely and capably gets down to the problem of the Committee stage. I think the pressure on the House of Representatives is so great that it does not pay proper attention at the Committee stage of debates, and to a substantial degree its members have begun to rely on the Senate to analyse at the Committee stage the problems of a Bill. But analysis of legislation at the Committee stage in the Senate is interrupted and disrupted and time is taken up because we go through the arguments already adduced in the other place where legislation properly originates. We find ourselves compressed in terms of time as to whether we can properly apply analytical procedures at the Committee stage as we should. In other words, a Senate of 60 senators is not in the same position in respect of time as the House of Representatives is.
In the meantime, the Senate has properly set up committees of review. We call them select committees. Such committees have dignified the Senate. I have in mind, for example, the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. I believe that those committees will have a significant influence on Australian legislative practice in the future. That influence has already been felt in the case of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures.
– You are too modest to mention the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes.
– I would like to say to Senator Gair that if there was any value in that Senate Select Committee it was due in a substantial degree to him. The concept, as it was understood on this side of the House, for the setting up of standing committees, was that they would take some of the pressure off the Senate at the second reading stage of debates, and also at the Committee stage. In order to avoid substantial areas of repetitive debate it was understood that the Senate could send a Bill to a standing committee on one nature or another and ask it to report back to the Senate as to the area of conflict. The Senate would therefore deal with the particular area of conflict as reported back to it by a standing committee.
I feel that I should accept some of the blame for the lack of communication that has developed on this subject in the Senate. The concept of a Senate standing committee has changed from that of a body which could be used by the Senate as a mechanical device to get a problem out of the processes of the Senate and before a standing committee. That committee would report back to the Senate in, say, 36, 48 or 60 hours, as to the area of conflict between the Opposition and the Government on a particular Bill. That would then become the area of debate. That was the concept I had in mind and I think my understanding was shared by other honourable senators on this side of the chamber. But this has been changed into another concept altogether, into the idea that there would be a series of standing committees to which policy matters would be referred.
I would like now to pose to the Senate some issues which have already been canvassed in part by honourable senators who have preceded me in this debate. For example, there is no suggestion in the present birth pangs stage that we have reached - although there has been some reference to it by Senator Byrne and it was touched on in part by Senator McClelland - about the problem of time limits. In setting up a standing committee of the Senate it is necessary to impose a time limit system in order to avoid the situation that has developed in the Senate of the United States of America where standing committees of the United States Senate use the system of standing committees to bottle up legislative processes, according to the dominance of the party that holds the greater numbers in the Senate. I have said here previously that about 18 months or 2 years ago, on my last analysis, about 2,500 Bills were locked up in standing committees of the United States Senate. It was to avoid that sort of operation that my intrusion into the concept of standing committees was first invoked; that is to say, that time limits must be imposed on the process of referring a Bill to a standing committee and the committee’s reporting back to the Senate. We have not examined this matter.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson in his reply to Senator Murphy this afternoon cited, with no injustice to the committees involved, the sort of time factor that has operated with select committees of the Senate. Although the Senate has required a report from a committee by 31st December, or by this, that or the other date, that committee has become involved in the problem of time. It has come back to the Senate to report and to obtain an extension of time. Senator Murphy’s proposal contains no reference to time limits - none at all. There is no such reference in the first of Senator Murphy’s motions or in the subsequent motions. No suggestion is made of time limits. Such is the speed of change in the world in which we live that there is adequate evidence to illustrate that the analysis of a problem is covered and destroyed by the speed of events that overtake it.
– It would be open to you, Senator, to move an amendment if you thought that a time limit was desirable.
– But you are the mover of the motion. You should have anticipated this aspect. 1 think you spun this off the top of your head without thinking the problem through.
– You are trailing a red herring.
– I am not trailing a red herring. I am merely saying that I have provided myself with the honour of trying to analyse this problem through to its logical conclusion. I do not think that the Opposition has done that.
– It was hardly off the top of my head; it was first proposed in 1967 and debated in 1968.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKAt the present time I am not debating Senator Murphy’s motion. I am referring to the principle of standing committees. I am quite willing to embark on a discussion of notice of motion No. 1 in Senator Murphy’s name without any trouble at all.
– How many bills have been held up so far in this Parliament?
– I suggest that Senator O’Byrne should retire to his office because he has not even begun to catch on to what this argument is about. The question of the difference between a standing committee and a select committee has already been raised in discussion. Senator Murphy’s motion seeks nothing more than the setting up of a select committee. I will read Senator Murphy’s motion. It is in these terms:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade-
Not to a select committee - the following matter - The desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought.
I have no objection to that proposal at all. I do not think that any honourable senator would have any objection to the proposal if the motion were framed in such a way that it sought the appointment of a select committee to examine the matter. I am sure that Senator Gair would agree with this because it is part of his Party’s policy. I am sure that Senator Byrne also would agree. But the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade has nothing to do with the concept of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters. This subject would probably come within the ambit and surveillance of a select committee which was appointed to examine the specific problem.
– What do you say about the second notice of motion which deals with poverty?
-I am grateful to Senator Murphy for providing me with an opportunity to come to this notice of motion, and I will deal with it in a moment. Let us look at the particular problem which faces the Senate. This is a Senate of 60 senators. It has 5 Ministers of State who cannot sit on committees. It has a President who cannot sit on committees. The Chairman of Committees may elect to sit on a committee. So 7 senators are excluded from sitting on committees. We are down to 53 senators. I suggest that the 3 Whips have their time fully occupied and cannot sit on committees. Therefore the number is down to 50. Then there are the abstentions of one sort or another which occur from time to time.
– The Leader of the Opposition would be too busy to sit on committees.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKThe Leader of the Opposition goes to Tehran, quite properly, to attend meetings of the Inter Parliamentary Union. So in essence there would be 40 senators available to man committees. Let us look at the committees on which senators are sitting at the present time. The Senate’s notice paper of today, Tuesday, 25th August, shows that there are 7 standing committees of the Senate, 3 joint statutory committees and 3 joint committees of the Senate and House of Representatives which have been appointed pursuant to resolutions of the Houses. That is to say, there are 13 committees always in existence. In addition, we have sitting currently the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse and the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. That makes a total of 16 committees.
– There are 8 senators on each of those committees.
– There are 8 senators on each of those committees. So we have reached the ridiculous state where the concensus of the Senate has agreed to the setting up of a series of committees under the guise of standing committees and notices of motion numbers 1 to 5 on today’s notice paper, in the name of Senator Murphy, point to 5 areas which he says shouldbe examined by standing committees. That makes a total of approximately 21 committees. The Senate has to divide itself into these component parts and try to carry out this examination. I might add that the Senate is under the pressure of a message from the House of Representatives which was read out this afternoon by the President proposing the appointment of an additional joint committee of both Houses.
– Do you approve of that?
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKNo, I do not. So we have the ridiculous situation where, in our enthusiasm to set up committees, the Senate can no longer adequately man the committees. I want to look at some of the matters which Senator Murphy proposes to refer to these committees. In notice of motion No. 1 Senator Murphy proposes to refer to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the question of the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought.I was chairman of one Senate Select Committee which was proposed by the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Sir Denham Henty, and I am currently Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, which was proposed by Senator Murphy. On both of those Committees the first problem with which I was faced was looking at the terms of reference. Every time I look at the terms of reference of these Senate select committees I realise that they have been hastily drawn with no understanding of what is involved.
– That is not correct.
– Senator Murphy is the draftsman of the terms of reference of the Senate Select Committee in which I am presently involved, and he is the putative draftsman of the notice of motion seeking to refer to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the question of the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought. Reference has already been made to the fact that there are all sorts of natural disasters. We can have disasters involving kangaroos, notwithstanding the fact that a House of Representatives select committee is looking at the question of kangaroos at the present time. There can be a natural disaster involving rabbits. Long before myxamatosis was discovered I lived through a period in which rabbits nearly ate the whole of Australia. There can be natural disasters involving grasshoppers or crickets. Senator Murphy, who lives in asphalt Sydney, would not know about these sorts of things.
There can be natural disasters involving disease in fish where the fish suddenly die, say, in Port Phillip Bay. There can be natural disasters involving oil pollution, for example, from the tanker which ran aground in Tories Strait. These are natural disasters and they have not been touched upon in Senator Murphy’s motion. There can be natural disasters involving environmental destruction, earthquakes and sea wrecks. These are all natural disasters which have not been mentioned in the question which Senator Murphy proposes to have referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. He refers to the great rhetorical concept of fire, flood and drought. These are historical and valid problems which have faced Australia. But what happens to the chairman of the standing committee who has to deal with the terms of reference? Where does he narrow them down and there does he extend them? Then we get to the question, as we always do in these matters because we cannot take the nigger out of the woodpile in politics, of the political implications involved in these matters. We seek to refer to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the question of natural disasters, but politics come into it and minor matters are introduced into the referenceto the Committee. Part of the argumentI adduce must relate to the sub sequent motions, notices of motion Nos 2 to 5, which Senator Murphy proposes to move, although he has not moved them yet. These notices of motion contain other matters to be referred to the Standing Committees.All I want to say about them is that they again come down to this question of the terms of reference. Let me take notice of motion No. 2 which refers to the incidence of poverty and so on. It refers to primary and secondary poverty. The Chairman of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare has to ascertain what primary and secondary poverty is. The notice of motion also refers to the adequacy of existing Commonwealth and State social welfare legislation. What is the definition of primary poverty? What is the definition of secondary poverty? Senator Murphy may know, but I do not know. Then there is the problem facing Australian Aboriginals who are a separate ethnical group in Australia. That is not defined. It should be defined if it is to be referred to the standing committee. Notice of motion No. 3 relates to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. This will be another reference to a standing committee. The notice of motion reads:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare the following matters
forecasts of housing demands in Australia;
Over what period are the forecasts of housing demand in Australia supposed to be? That is not spelt out. It may be over the next 50 years or the next 4 or 5 years. Senator Murphy will move this as a substantive motion although there is no definition in terms of time. The notice of motion continues:
Over what period will that be? The notice of motion continues:
Over what period will that be? What amount of private capital can be expected over what period? What is the state of the savings in the community over that period? What can be anticipated? The notice of motion goes on:
Over what period will that be? It is not spelt out. These are just glib rhetorical terms. The notice of motion continues:
What are the urban renewal projects? Can anyone in the Senate tell me what the urban renewal projects are? No-one can. There is dead silence. The notice of motion continues:
What are the standards of town planning and what is the provision of urban services? They are not spelt out. So the notices of motion go on. No other conclusion can be reached than that the concept of standing committees of the Senate, which could have matters referred lo them in order to clean up the legislative channels and facilitate the progress of legislation through the Senate, has been .substituted for another concept altogether. The standing committees of the Senate should be - and I. am indebted to Senator Laucke for this expression - staccato; that is to say, we can refer matters to them and quickly get an answer in 5, 7 or 10 days. I concede that to be the function of a standing committee. I concede that the proper function of these committees is to create another channel by which we can facilitate the progress of legislation. That concept is being reduced to using these committees as a means to get matters out of the pure legislative function into the field of politics. On these grounds, 1 reject Senator Murphy’s notice of motion No. 1. I hope the Senate will support me in the rejection of that and of the other notices of motion.
– I join my colleagues who have spoken on this subject. I was interested in the final remarks of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack when he decided, as a matter of his own supposition or investigation, we would not be able to man committees or that committees had reasons for sitting other than those set out in the Standing Orders, ft is interesting that during the currency of this debate two remarks have been made concerning select committees. One of them was made by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack when he used these words:
I do not think any senator would object to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into this matter if the motion were so framed.
Those were the exact words used by the honourable senator.
– 1 do not run away from that.
– I am very pleased because shortly I will drop at the honourable senator’s feet a flood, a bush fire, a cyclone and a few other natural disasters. I hope that he will not run away then and that he will continue to stick to what he said. The other remark to which I refer was made by Senator Byrne, who spoke on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. He said that he was keen on seeing the subject come under scrutiny by the appropriate committee. He went on to say that it was never intended that a standing committee would be a substitute for a select committee. He implied that if the motion were for the appointment of a select committee the DLP would support it but because it is for a standing committee the DLP has decided to oppose it. I shall return to that statement shortly. I shall drop a bush fire at his feet. too. I quote again the terms of the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), lt is:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter - The desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters . . .
Honourable senators should remember that there Senator Sir Magnus Cormack took exception to the motion because, he said, it does not cover oil spillages, earthquakes, etc. Senator Murphy’s motion continues:
The matter of other disasters was not overlooked in the original notice of motion. I invite honourable senators to look at it in depth. In a moment I propose to quote some authorities. At some time or other every Stale is affected to either a greater or lesser degree by bush fires. Admittedly, many of the fires start through carelessness. Every Stale is affected by drought. In a moment I will give figures concerning the areas of the arid parts of Australia, to highlight this point. Practically- every State is ravaged by floods - some States each year, others less frequently. Some areas are ravaged more than once a year. About 2 years ago Victoria had one of the greatest droughts in its history. Even Melbourne, the capital city, was badly affected.
– The trouble was that we had to give water to South Australia.
– I cannot help it if the honourable senator drank all the water in his grog. That is what happened in Victoria. That State was short of water. There are 2 ways in which water conservation can be made to work. One is by the alleviation of drought, the other is by flood mitigation. These are tremendously important. Shortly I will state in detail some of the facts that relate to my home State of Queensland. A committee could investigate a series of matters to ascertain why complaints are lodged from time to time. In addition, it would have the authority to be able to examine matters that many statutory authorities cannot examine. On 20th March 1969 I asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. I asked:
Has a request been received from the Queensland Government during the last 3 weeks for a reappraisal of the Burdekin Dam scheme?
The Minister, in a very lengthy reply, said:
That reply was received on 22nd April 1969. Not having a suitable dam there has plagued generations of Queenslanders. The construction of the Burdekin Dam would fulfil 2 roles. It would prevent the floods that have plagued this area almost every year. It would bring under cultivation tens of thousands of acres of arable land. This kind of matter could be examined in depth by a committee. I refer now to an article in the ‘North-West Star’ of 15th July 1970. It relates to a statement made in Hughenden by the Premier of Queensland. It reads:
A Commonwealth delay in agreeing to a Queensland proposal for rehabilitation of distressed graziers was attacked by the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, today.
He said that the Queensland Government last March sought Federal approval and financial assistance for the establishment of a Rural Reconstruction Board similar to that operating in New South Wales.
Late last week he had received a reply from Canberra that his request was being studied.
I am highly critical of the length of time which has passed since we submitted this application’, he said.
Today the Premier received deputations from organisations seeking more help for the grazing industry as a matter of urgency because so many graziers were in a desperate plight.
The Premier said he was hopeful that the Prime Minister would agree to Federal-State talks at officer level to consider the Queensland proposal.
He went on to state that he would like the talks to be held in the Longreach area where some of the worst effects of the current drought are being felt. Why does the Premier of a State have to issue a statement of this nature and not have it taken up by anybody, not even by the Commonwealth Government? Surely it is the task of a committee to investigate in depth and find out why there has not been correspondence between 2 governments - in this case both of the same political colour, although the Commonwealth Government is inclined to disown the Country Party dominated Government of Queensland.
Let us look at the actual amount of country irrigated in Australia. The latest figures available are for the year ending 1968, which incidentally show a decline of 1.1% from the previous financial year. The land under irrigation at that time amounted to 3,321,188 acres. I will run through a few of the details of the types of crops that are under irrigation. In New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia 59,926 acres of cotton are under irrigation. In New South Wales the area is 39,642 acres; in Queensland it is 8,502 acres and in Western Australia it is 11,782 acres. The cotton industry in Queensland is languishing because there is no possibility of obtaining irrigation in those areas which support cotton but which are subject to frequent drought. Surely this is an industry that should be encouraged and surely a committee could investigate the reason why water is not available or why it ought to be made available if the crop is an economic one. Orchards under irrigation in New South Wales cover 35,313 acres, in Victoria 46,616 acres, in Queensland 9,537 acres, in South Australia 32,512 acres, in Western Australia 12,808 acres and in Tasmania 9,042. Sugar cane, which is the staple industry in the tropical areas of Queensland, has 141,087 acres under irrigation.
I could go on quoting the acreage under irrigation for tobacco, vegetables, rice and other cereals and name other crops under irrigation which have not in many instances been properly investigated but which ought to be investigated by some sort of semi-independent committee if they arc to receive the sort of assistance and have the sort of advice readily available that is necessary to carry on this very important aspect of primary industry. I would like to quote from a publication entitled ‘Resources and Industry of Central Queensland’, which is a report brought out by the Commonwealth Department of National Development, to back up my submissions. The worlds appear on page 52 of the report if anyone wants to check the authority. The report states:
The use of groundwater for irrigation is a comparatively recent development and it is al present largely confined to the Callide Valley. There the area under irrigation has increased rapidly over recent years, the most important crops being fodder, cotton and vegetables wilh areas of introduced pastures. The area of the alluvium in the valley is 166 square miles (106,000 acres) with soils well suited to agricultural production. However, some 15,000 acres of land is affected by poor quality water apparently due to seepage from surrounding areas. In 1.965 the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission assessed the safe annual groundwater yield from the alluvium at 25,000 acre feet.
Water usage during 1963-64 was 14,000 acre feet. This, compared with assessed safe annual yield from the Callide Valley alluvium, indicates that irrigation development could be almost doubled, although certain areas within the valley are already at or past the stage of full development. This applies particularly to the Thangool-Mount Scoria and Kroombil Creek areas which together utilise well over half the present water offtake and, to a lesser degree, to the Argoon-Dakenba and Prospect Creek areas. Before the full potential of groundwater supplies may be realised, it will bc necessary for further attention lo be given to the problem of the possible encroachment of poor quality water from adjoining areas, and a more detailed investigation made of the possibility of replenishing supplies by artificial means.
Land west of the Great Divide is well covered but it is the driest area of Queensland. I will quote some figures in a moment, but the official report goes on:
West of the Great Divide supplies of underground water are critical for the pastoral industry and for domestic purposes because of the inadequacy of surface water supplies, lt is, however, difficult to generalise about the size of achieved yields of underground water since these vary with bore diameter, pump capacity (for non-flowing bores), bore depth (since different aquifers may be lapped), and the amount of water present in the aquifer, but achieved yields are usually adequate for requirements, lt is known that in most areas of the Great Artesian Basin flows are fully developed in relation to the Basin’s capacity. State Government policy aims to prevent excessive consumption of water from this Basin and to eliminate wastage. On that part of the Barkly subartesian basin located in the region there is scope for increasing the number of bores. Such additional bores could be expected to lead to increased beef production but they would need to be complemented by other capital expenditure, notably on fencing, to enable herd management practices to be improved at the same time. At present most bores are too widely spaced to allow animals lo walk to neighbouring bores so fences are not required.
This is an area in which only limited research has been carried out. Up until a few years ago most of the pastoralists were able to use water from bores without any restrictions. Consequently many of the underground supplies dried up. As a result of restrictions that have been brought in in more recent years a real attempt is now being made to ensure that some of the water in the underground supplies or catchment areas is retained for future use. I turn now to the annual report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology for 1968-69, which is the last report available. Another statement that ought to attract our sober attention appears on page 19 of that report, lt states:
An analysis has been devised by D. N. Body of Central Office for application to monthly or daily rainfall records designed to provide data in the planning of water supplies for domestic use where (he sole catchment is roof run-off. The study relates tank storage lo annual rainfall and roof area available for run-off, the output being in the form of the probability of dry periods or water storage relative to the specified rationing rules. lt is anticipated that this type of analysis could be applied with advantage in most parts of Australia, and it is proposed to issue information brochures for regional use.
Officers of the Central Office Co-operative Studies Section are members of committees and advisory panels of the Australian Water Resources Council.
The Bureau has undertaken the responsibility to expand the network of rain gauges, pluviogrnphs and evaporimeters to meet the future requirements of hydrological research. This is a long term project with network targets of 12,000. 1,200 and 400 respectively.
It is important that this sort of research work be carried out. But how do we know whether it has been properly done when we hand out to responsible departments finance in a piecemeal .sort of way and when, if any appropriations have to be cut down, we are more inclined to do it where research is needed than we are likely to for, say, the purchase of another Fill aircraft. We can spend unlimited money in the latter field, but when we need it for the type of research we are speaking about it is frequently unavailable. I realise that to some people the quotation of these authorative statements and statistics is rather boring but I think in their proper context, in the manner in which J am using them, they are necessary if we are going to build up the argument to support the establishment of a committee. I want to quote from the ‘Water Resources Newsletter* of June 1970. This particular observation seems to me to be of very great value. It reads:
The Australian Water Resources Council has begun an important programme to achieve a better understanding of Australia’s water resources as a basis for future planning.
The programme involves the gathering of data from about 100 river catchment areas specially chosen because they are representative of the wide range of catchments in Australia.
The data on rainfall, evaporation, and stream flows will be analysed by CSIRO to obtain a more detailed understanding of the whole process of rainfall and runoff.
In this way, authorities responsible for the management of Australia’s water resources will have a belter basis for estimating river runoff throughout Australia, even where runoff records are inadequate.
The programme complements the acceleration and expansion of stream gauging which is currently being undertaken by State authorities with financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government.
The Minister for National Development, Mr Swartz, who is chairman of the Australian Water Resources Council, gave details of the programme when he released a progress report “The Representative Basin Concept in Australia’ on 27th April 1970.
The report, published by the Department of National Development for the Australian Water Resources Council, outlines the scientific basis for selecting the representative basins, and sets out proposals for collecting and analysing data from them.
Mr Swartz said the selection and establishment of the representative basins throughout Australia was one of the most important projects sponsored by the Council.
To choose basins representative of Australia’s 3 million square miles, an Advisory Panel appointed to work out the programme developed a new map, the first of its kind to be prepared based on land form and rock type’, he said.
The 93 representative basins chosen for instrumentation and study from this map, in conjunction wilh overlays showing the main climatic zones, cover the major variations in catchment types and climate throughout Australia’.
This is obviously a very valuable adjunct to the work being carried out by the Council but I venture to say that there would be very few people in Australia who would be aware that this sort of planning is taking place. But the more important question is: Is it taking place on a proper basis? In other words, are those areas which need the greatest research having attention devoted to them? Is it specialised? Only a committee comprising both Government and Opposition members would be in a position to carry out the necessary questioning and make recommendations in the hope of Government implementation of them. It cannot be done purely on a basis on which, perhaps one might say - and this is not meant to be uncharitable - it is the intention of one political organisation alone to gain the limelight. I now wish to quote a paragraph from a document titled Report of the ANZAAS Symposium on Drought’. This is from a paper introduced by Mr W. J. Gibbs, who said:
It Ls clear that in a country like Australia, where over a large part of the continent the rainfall is barely sufficient to support agricultural or pastoral pursuits, the normal variability of rainfall will result in the occurrence of ‘drought’. It is important to note however that the severity of drought is not so much due to the rainfall variability as to man’s use of the land. It would be possible to arrange land use in Australia so that drought never occurred, but this would be wasteful and uneconomical and would result in a very considerable restriction in present agricultural and pastoral practices. A more rational approach to the problem is to ascertain the frequency with which droughts may be expected and plan agricultural and pastoral practices accordingly. It is evident that in Australia a ‘nomad’ type of land use - in which frontiers are expanded during good years and contracted during drought years - has been forced on the farming community. There should be a planned system of land use.
That is an authoritative statement by one of the better known people operating in this area. I mentioned a moment ago that a large area of this country, which is commonly referred to as the driest continent, is classified as arid or semi-arid. I have before me a table showing the arid and semi-arid areas in the 5 States where this type of country occurs, together with the numbers of sheep and cattle running on that country. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate that table in Hansard. 1 will nor detain the Senate for much longer but I do want to make certain references to the drought affected areas. Over the last two or three months I have had the opportunity to travel extensively in my own State and in some parts of north-west New South Wales. There are large pockets of drought in many of these areas. In the Wyandra-Cunnamulla area of southwestern Queensland extending down to the area generally known as ‘Heartbreak Corner’ the drought is almost a perpetual thing. In the central area of Queensland around Longreach the same sort of thing has happened. Even in the Darling Downs area, around Dalby, the area outside Toowoomba, the Oakey district - areas which are normally looked upon as the parts of Queensland where our wheat, oats and many other types of cereal thrive - the drought has hit the young wheat, and consequently we will be in a very serious situation in the immediate future. I mentioned earlier that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and the spokesman for the Democratic Labor Party both said that they would approve of a Senate select committee and 1 now wish to move a formal amendment to the motion moved by Senator Murphy. I move:
That will overcome all objections of those who are worried about there being not enough time to report. The amendment continues:
The foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent wilh the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
This gives all senators an admirable opportunity to set up the type of committee that is apparently required by all parties.
Senator Keeffe’s proposal is directed to another object altogether. He completely misjudges the purpose of last week’s resolution which was to enable a matter to be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. It is only because the proposal is to refer to that Committee this subject of natural disasters that discussion came on today in our business list. If it had been a motion to appoint a select committee to inquire into that matter it would have taken a different precedence altogether and would have come on under General Business at the time, if it were moved by a private member, allocated for private business by resolution of the Senate. This only serves to confirm the complete incapacity of the-
Senntor Murphy - I rise to a point of order. The proponent of a point of order cannot, in aid to his point of order, start to criticise the motion. He is not entitled to criticise a motion which, for the purpose of this discussion, he must concede is prefectly in order. For him to start to argue the merits of the motion as distinct from addressing himself to his point of order that an amendment is out of order surely is not open to him. He cannot go into the merits of the motion on this point of order. Surely that is out of order. That is what the honourable senator is proposing to do. He is criticising not only the merits but the capacity of the mover of the motion.
Authorised by the Senate.
One might have a motion put forward to bring up some matter and in the course of that there will be an amendment to deal with it in another way. The difference here, it is suggested, is that instead of sending the matter to a permanent standing committee it is to be sent simply to a temporary select committee. I have no doubt that those casuists who are present in this chamber will find still yet another excuse to avoid the setting up of this committee. I refer to those who suggest: ‘If only it were a select committee. Do not remind us that we voted against this very proposition on 28th May 1968 when a select committee was proposed. We are sorry that you brought it up today as a standing committee. If only it were a select committee we would vote for it.’ No doubt they will find another excuse tonight and say: ‘We are sorry, but we cannot support this. An amendment for a select committee is really out of order. The only thing that we can consider is a standing committee.’ Then when we have got rid of the amendment their attitude will be: ‘We cannot consider a standing committee because really it should be a select committee.’
If we are able to get by that there is no limit to the resources of the casuists who suggest that this chamber cannot deal in a simple and straightforward way with a proposition that has been brought forward by me to send this matter to a permanent standing committee. I expect that they will be able to bend themselves sufficiently to be able to find yet another way to avoid dealing with what is open to them, but as the proponent of the motion I suggest that the amendment is perfectly in order and that the Senate should deal with it.
Every Amendment must be relevant to the Question to which it is proposed to be made.
Questions of relevancy must always have shades of degree. A matter is relevant if it appertains to or is related to the subject matter which is under discussion. But I should have thought that an examination of what is the actual question before the Senate and an examination of the amendment which is proposed would indicate that the degree of supposed relevance is so remote that we cannot say that the amendment is relevant to the question which is to be proposed. On 11th June the Senate passed a resolution setting up standing committees. Clause 2 of the resolution stated:
A Standing Committee shall be empowered to inquire into and report upon such matters as are referred to it by the Senate, including any Bills, estimates or Statements of Expenditure, messages, petitions, inquiries or papers.
The same resolution established 7 committees. The question which is before the Senate at present and which we have been debating today is a motion by Senator Murphy that there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter, which I shall read to make the record complete:
The desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters and, in particular, those arising from fire, flood and drought.
The point I desire to make is that the essence of the question which is before the Senate is that there should be referred to one standing committee a particular matter. It is a question of reference to a committee of a matter. That is the nature of the question. If there were an amendment which suggested that possibly another matter be referred, the same question of relevancy would arise and it would be a matter of judgment on how close the amendment was to the actual question for the issue to be determined. It may be thai if a different committee were to be substituted that would raise relevancy in another way.
If we are to regard as relevant an amendment such as that proposed by Senator Keeffe, I suggest that there would be no limit to what I should say would be an abuse of that provision under which, by the resolution carried on 11th June, notice of motion may be given and, under the resolution of 19th August, important business of the Senate shall be given a priority. The rights of honourable senators under General Business could be completely negated.
The Democratic Labor Party will no doubt find a way of voting against it.
I then said:
It was the subject of Senator Fitzgerald’s proposal and it is now the subject of a motion for a select committee on the private members’ part of the business sheet. Our Party will be prepared to support the establishment of such a committee, consonant with only one thing - that we cannot extend the physical resources of the Senate or the administrative staff beyond breaking point. With the estimates committees operating, with the standing committees operating, with a series of select committees and now possibly the emergence of some joint standing committees, there may be a physical limit on what we can do. But consistent with that and the priority which we think should be given to one or another reference, we would be prepared to support that . . .
Are not they fair qualifications? That is not an unqualified undertaking to support the establishment of a committee on this subject. That has always been the qualification that we have imposed on the creation of Senate select committees. We have been very conscious of the staff requirements, the administrative demands and the demands on the time of senators in approaching the creation of select committees. We have never deviated from that proposition. We reiterated it today.
So, I support the point of order taken by Senator Wright. I base my support on the propositions submitted by Senator Greenwood. The appointment of a select committee is a most important matter. It is not embarked upon lightly by the Senate. If I remember rightly, it usually comes on by way of motion on notice so that the Senate can be adequately informed in time of what is the proposition and so that all the aspects can be considered. On this occasion I cannot help feeling that we came prepared to debate this matter as merely a reference to an existing standing committee, but now we find ourselves being translated, by a suggestion off the top of the head, to a consideration of the creation of an additional Senate select committee. That certainly cannot be consonant with the proposition that was originally before the Senate.
We came here to discuss in good faith whether these subjects should be referred to standing committees as a pioneering effort in the utilisation and functioning of committees. Then Senator Murphy, faced with the probability that that would be resisted and because of an incorrect interpretation that in all circumstances he would receive support from this quarter for his proposition, dragged this new proposition out of the hat and presented it to the Senate. I do not think the Senate could accept this proposition at all in those circumstances. If it did so, on every occasion on which there was a motion for a reference to a standing committee somebody could stand up and move an amendment in terms similar to those of this amendment. That would produce an extraordinarily stupid situation.
As a matter of fact, what surprises me is that Senator Murphy has moved for the question of mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia to be referred to a standing committee when already there is on the Senate notice paper a motion for the appointment of a select committee on this subject which has received the approbation of the Senate subject to the formal constitution of the committee. Therefore, in that case Senator Murphy has abandoned the select committee for a standing committee, and now in this case he abandons the standing committee for a select committee. I am quite unable to reconcile that contradiction because the matters are apparently of equal import. It only underlines the suggestion that I am making, namely, that politics has been allowed to intrude into what was to be an objective debate on the functioning of the new procedures of the Senate. 1 agree with Senator Greenwood that this amendment cannot in any circumstances be considered to be relevant to the matter before the Senate. In those circumstances I support the objection that has been taken to the effect that the amendment is contrary to the Standing Orders in that it is not relevant.
All committees which are not committees of the whole Senate are Select Committees. They may be standing committees or committees appointed to inquire into a Bill, but they are selected. A committee of the whole Senate is not selected because it consists of every Senator. Any committee which is selected om of the Senate is a select committee.
I put it to honourable senators that that is a reasonable and clear statement of what is meant by the term ‘select committee’. The limitation that is placed on a standing committee in that it has to be re-elected at the beginning of each Parliament is the only difference between a standing committee and a select committee.
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter - The desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought.
I do not think it helps us much to debate whether someone will now support the proposal or may support it in the future. The point is that an honourable senator has seen fit to move an amendment to the motion that has received priority for discussion. Mr President, you are asked to determined whether the amendment may be allowed, having in mind standing order 137, which provides:
A question having been proposed may be amended - (I.) By leaving out certain words only; 01.) By leaving out certain words in order to insert or add other words; (III.) By inserting or adding words.
I do not think that anyone can properly disagree that the purpose of Senator
Keeffe’s amendment is to leave out certain words and to insert other words. The proposed amendment is attacked on the score of its relevancy, as provided for in standing order 139. It is our task to examine whether it is relevant to the original motion. The motion seeks to refer a matter to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. Secondly, the subject matter that is sought to be referred to the Standing Committee is the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, and in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought.
Surely under lbc relevant standing orders we have power to amend a motion. The motion having received priority to come before the Senate for debate, we must have power to amend it. If we can amend one part of the motion by leaving out words and inserting other words, we must be able to amend the other part of the motion. If we sought to refer to the Standing Committee not the desirability but the possibility of establishing a national organisation, would the capacity of the Senate to deal with such an amendment be queried? Would the capacity of the Senate be queried to accept an amendment not related to the establishment of a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, but something entirely different? Of course we would have that power. If we have the power to decide upon a subject matter, why do we not have the power to amend the motion of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate-
You have been led along tortuous paths by the legal gentlemen of the Senate in being asked to determine a matter which has been stated by Senator Cavanagh in lay terms. I, too, can deal with the matter only in lay terms in stating what constitutes relevancy in the Standing Orders of the Senate. My understanding is that Senator Murphy asked that Standing Committee which already exists should examine a certain problem. Senator Keeffe moved an amendment that a select committee be appointed and that it should deal with the matter in the way that Senator Keeffe then proposes in the second part of his amendment. I am suggesting that the Senate would be well advised not to become too technical in these matters and that the operative words in the proposal before the Senate are ‘a committee’, if an honourable senator wants to move from A type of committee to B type of committee, such as the amendment does, I am asking you. Mr President, to say to the Senate that that is perfectly relevant.
Speaking as a layman and as one who has had some association with Standing Orders in my Party and in other organisations, I feel that, if we get bogged down with technicalities in trying to argue this matter on the basis of relevancy simply because we change from a standing committee to a select committee, at some future time in the Senate we will find that because of a decision made along these lines we would seriously inhibit discussion on matters which the Senate may have before it from time to time. I recall Senator Sir Magnus Cormack saying that nothing was defined in the proposition which Senator Murphy originally proposed in his motion. J recall Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asking: ‘In what way would this committee operate? What would its functions be? What would it do? All that Senator Keeffe’s amendment has done, in the second part of it, is to meet the objections that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack had to Senator Murphy’s original motion.
Then we heard Senator Greenwood take the extraordinary course of arguing the relevance of the second part of Senator Keeffe’s amendment. I suggest that the second part of Senator Keeffe’s amendment has nothing to do with the question of relevancy that you. Mr President, must determine in your decision this evening.
The basic point that you have to determine is whether the question that is before the Senate is the question of whether a committee should be appointed or a committee should deal with a certain matter. If that point is accepted, Senator Keeffe’s amendment must have perfect relevancy to Senator Murphy’s motion. I would suggest that to take any other course would be to bog the Senate down in a series of technicalities, whatever you might call” them - legal or otherwise - which would seriously inhibit discussion in this chamber of matters which have yet to come before it.
Every Amendment must be relevant to the Question to which it is proposed to be made.
When the point of order was first taken I was in the process of reading out the machinery sections of the motion. I want to say quite clearly and unequivocally that I believe the amendment was completely relevant. I ask honourable senators to note again the words of the amendment, which are:
Leave out the words ‘there be referred to a Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade’, insert ‘a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon’. . . .
The amendment then goes on to refer to the desirability and practicability of establishing a national organisation to deal with the effects of natural disasters, in particular those arising from fire, flood and drought. The rest of the amendment, of necessity - again under the Standing Orders - must be purely of a technical nature. I did not read out the last 5 paragraphs of the amendment when the point of order was taken, but I know that as the amendment has been circulated you, Mr President, in your judgment will no doubt allow the remainder of the amendment to be duly incorporated in Hansard. If I did not add to the amendment the technical requirements for the establishment of such a committee, we would have to come back to the Senate with a separate proposal.
The amendment seeks to do a certain thing, to alter the status of the committee, and then the machinery paragraphs that are added to the amendment set out the manner in which the committee shall operate. T respectfully submit that the amendment is completely in order both under Senate practice and under the Standing Orders and that it is in conformity with the accepted custom for moving amendments to firm motions.
When we look at the situation we find that what is proposed by Senator Keeffe could never be said to be anything other than a means of clearly overcoming the spirit of the Standing Orders, whatever the actual terms of the Standing Orders may be, because we have provided 2 entirely separate means of dealing with this particular question. In relation to select com’mittees we have provided a certain type or procedure which requires that notice of a matter shall be given and that it shall be debated in due course when it comes up in the proper sequence of the business of this chamber. Standing committees were foreseen to be something which were to deal, to use Senator Laucke’s term, in a staccato manner with problems which might arise. The intention was that something could be referred as a matter of urgency to a standing committee for a short and particular investigation and report.
What Senator Keeffe is trying to do is to take advantage of the opportunity which we have provided to have the matter debated as a matter of urgency in effect and to get it priority on the notice paper. He is adopting a back door means, against the spirit of the Standing Orders, to get a vote on the question of the appointment or otherwise of a select committee. For that reason I agree completely with Senator Toohey. This is a matter where we do not have to look at the legalism or the strict interpretation of the Standing Orders; we have to look only at the spirit of them to see that Senator Keeffe is trying to destroy a system which we have recently tried to create. I suggest that Senator Keeffe is trying to do this completely against the spirit of the Standing Orders. For that reason, if for no other,I oppose Senator Keeffe’s proposition and suggest that there should be a ruling accordingly.
-I have listened to the argument and I uphold the Minister’s point of order. I therefore rule that Senator Keeffe’s amendment is not in order.
– I move:
I further move:
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– That is the motion for immediate determination, not the motion for dissent.
– That motion has been moved already.
– Senator Murphy said that he moved the dissent motion.
– I also moved that the question required immediate determination.
– I only wish to clarify the position. The motion is to take the question into account immediately.
– The question is, That the question of dissent requires immediate determination’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is, ‘That the ruling be dissented from’.
– I do not propose to go into the matter because it has been canvassed in this chamber.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In view of what has taken place, obviously there is little purpose in my continuing with the amendment. I bad completed my general remarks prior to the moving of the amendment.
– I do not desire to detain the Senate for any length of time because I think that the ruse which was just pulled by Senator Keeffe is a recognition by the Opposition of the hopelessness and indeed the fallacy of the case which it has been putting. If honourable senators opposite believed that there was a righteousness in the case they were presenting, there would have been no need for the past President of the Australian Labor Party to move an amendment seeking to retrieve the situation. I think it is important to stress that, if the standing committees which the Senate is establishing are to work along the lines that the report of the Standing Orders Committee suggested they could work and if they are to work along the lines that Senator Murphy mentioned when he introduced the motion, the procedures and tactics involved in Senator Murphy’s motion currently before the Senate and the notices of motion on the notice paper will not aid those objectives. I think it is worthwhile recalling that on 11th June the Senate agreed to the proposition that there should be 7 standing committees. On 19th August the Senate accepted a motion as to how these committees were to be constituted. On 20th August 5 notices of motion were given by Senator Murphy to refer certain matters to committees.
– Notices of motion were given on 19th August.
– According to the Journals, the debate concluded on the evening of 19th August and the notices of motion were given on the 20th. That is the basis upon which I made my statement. I think it is worth while to recall the words Senator Murphy used when he introduced the motion on 4th June this year because what 1 think is being done is inconsistent with what he said. He indicated - and I think this is a fair interpretation of his remarks - that these standing committees would stand available to have referred to them matters which arose in the course of the Senate’s deliberations and which the Senate was not adequately suited to deal with in the chamber. At page 2050 of Hansard of 4th June of this year he is reported as having said:
The experience all over the world has been that legislative chambers can operate better in a modern world by the establishment of standing committees. What are they, after all? They are samples of the chamber itself. It means that we can set up a small group which can investigate, which can hear the submissions of witnesses and which can deliberate upon matters in better circumstances than can a chamber at large.
By that statement Senator Murphy indicated that, where a matter which would come into the chamber, which would take time and which, because of the forms of the Senate, would not be dealt with as expeditiously and as clearly as it could be dealt with by a standing committee, then a standing committee was the appropriate body to which these matters should be referred. He also stated at the same page:
We set up a number of committees exercising the functions which might be exercised by a committee of the whole and in that way we amplify our activities.
Thereby he is indicating that the committees would perform the functions which ordinarily the whole of the Senate would perform. We should recognise that the Senate now has 3 types of committees. We have the standing committees which over many years have been the standing committees referred to in the Standing Orders and which deal with matters such as privileges, Standing Orders, disputed returns, and regulations and ordinances. Each of those committees has a clear function, which is set out in the Standing Orders. We have also had over recent years the socalled select committees to which are referred ad hoc measures from time to time which require investigation in depth and some report upon which Government ultimately can be expected to act. They are not essentially part of the legislative activity of the Senate. They arc part of an inquisitorial investigating function which the Senate has been able to perform and which I think it has performed in a way which has reflected credit on the senators who have participated in them.
More recently we have established Estimates Committees which are designed to perform, in small committees, functions which the Senate has not found performed as well as it was thought they might be performed when the Estimates have been debated by the Committee of the Whole. Where then do these present standing committees appointed by resolution of the Senate on 11th June fit? I think they clearly fit into the category not of select committees dealing in depth with ad hoc measures; they fit rather into the category of traditional standing committees. That again is what Senator Murphy indicated on the same day as I mentioned earlier. According to page 2051 of Hansard he stated:
We have over the last 3 years had select committees and these have been very valuable but I think they suffer from some defects. Those defects are that a task - and often a very big task - is sent to a committee and we require it to report. We expect a definitive report. We expect everything on that subject to bc answered almost for all time - in our context anyway - by that committee.
Then Senator Young interjected:
Purely ad hoc.
Senator Murphy stated:
Yes, it is ad hoc. It means that we put a tremendous pressure upon the committee to investigate everything, to come up with everything all at the one time and it is hard, therefore, to get it to bring in its report within time. I think these committees have done wonderfully well but there is no doubt, from the experience of those who have served on them, that this has imposed a tremendous pressure upon the people doing it. I think it would be better for us to adopt the standing committees in general to which work is referred. When a Bill or an estimate or a petition comes in, and when the Senate decides - and only then - that it should be referred to the Committee let the committee deal wilh that, f think in our references to the committees we should put strict time limits on them. We do not want Bills sent to a committee and locked up for 6 or 12 months.
Senator Murphy, of course, was not referring there to matters of. the character envisaged in the motion which is before the Senate at the present lime. He was referring to Bills, estimates and petitions. 1 think that is where, at least in the initial stages, the standing committees have a role to fulfil. We have heard today in the course of the debate from Senator Byrne and Senator Wright in particular the type of matter which could be expeditiously dealt with by these standing committees. 1 share the sentiments which they have expressed, lt may be that as these committees develop their expertise they will find that matters of some greater depth will be able to be dealt with in a way which we cannot visualise them being dealt with at the moment. But these are broad considerations which to me are important in the consideration of this motion which is before the Senate.
I do not think that it is appropriate for the Senate to refer a matter such as that for which Senator Murphy has moved - the whole question of what is the appropriate machinery to deal wilh natural disasters - to a standing committee. That is an appropriate matter for a select committee, as an earlier motion from the Australian Labor Party indicated and as the amendment which was attempted to be moved tonight indicated, f would have thought that if we desire these committees to work effectively we must proceed cautiously. That is the view I had in supporting the Estimates Committees, lt is a view which I expressed at far greater length when this matter was before the Senate on 1 1th June.
But I would urge upon the Senate the desirability of mastering the intricacies of committee work at the early stages to give the Estimates Committees a trial. I certainly would have preferred those Estimates Committees to have reported and for some assessment to have been made of their work before any matters were referred to the standing committees. That of course is not the will of the Senate as expressed in its resolution of last week, but it is still up to the Senate to determine when matters shall be sent, and I would hope that the Senate will use scrutinising judgment in the matters which are initially sent to these committees so that the work which is done by them will be work which is done effectively and will be work done within the competence of the committees and will be work which redounds to the credit of the committees and develops their reputation and flair for the sort of work in which they are engaged.
All the debate which we have had from the Opposition tonight has been largely on the merits of some committee to investigate natural disasters. That type of investigation has merit. When it is to lake place and by what body it is to take place are matters which may be properly debated on a motion of a different character to this. But referring that type of matter lo a standing committee negates, in my belief, the whole intention which has been reflected in the work which has been done by the Standing Orders Committee and the intention of the movers when they initially produced these committees. For that reason, if not for others which I will not elaborate, I. feel that this motion at this stage ought to be defeated.
– in reply - We have had an interesting debate. I. suppose this debate illustrates the problem of the parliamentary institution. People all over the world start to despair of parliaments because great matters are dealt with in this way. A proposal has been put forward to have an inquiry by this Senate into the desirability and the practicability of having a national organisation to deal with the natural disasters we have in Australia, especially those of fire, flood and drought. On all hands the people of this community, whenever asked about this matter, say lt is a wonderful idea to have such a national body. They say that this is the kind of thing we ought to have. There may be different views about it, but everyone would say that at least it is a wonderful thing to have a parliamentary committee to look into this matter. As far as 1 can see, no objection has been put up tonight to the Senate inquiring into this matter, nor was any real objection put up before. Yet all the time members of the Democratic Labor Party drag up every kind of excuse and hypocrisy in order to prevent it being done.
– 1 think the Leader of the Opposition has a fixation.
– Let us see who has the fixation. In May 1968 the late Senator Cohen moved for a select committee to inquire into this very subject in these very terms. He pointed out that during the previous election campaign the Democratic Labor Party had suggested that there should be a national organisation dealing with this subject.
– We are always first in the field.
– Senator Byrne says that they are always first in the field. He makes promises to the primary producers. He says: ‘The DLP will look after you. We will set up some organisation to inquire into natural disasters. We really love you. Vote for us and we will look after you.’ That is what he said in the 1967 Senate election campaign. But when it came to May 1968 and there was a simple proposition to have an inquiry by this Senate into that subject by means of a Senate select committee, what did they do? They found an excuse to vote against it. They said: Oh, no. We would love to do this but there is not the manpower or there is not this or there is noi thai. We cannot da it al this time.’ So that shelved it. Their promise did not matter because the election was over.
We come along here now when there is to be another election at the end of the year and it is very embarrassing for them because here is a proposal to have an inquiry by the Senate into the same subject matter. So tonight Senator Byrne gets up and says: ‘Look, this is a wonderful idea. We would support it but you have picked the wrong thing. Do not have a permanent standing committee, just have a temporary one, one that we call a select committee, and then we will vote for it.’ So in order to deal with those who have a fixation about this and to put them on the spot Senator Keeffe moved an amendment proposing a select committee. What did they do? As one would have expected, honourable senators heard Senator Byrne’s excuses. He said: ‘Look, I did not really say we would support a select committee. 1 said it with a qualification. I said we would do it provided that we had the manpower, provided the time was right, provided the temperature was right, the pressure was right, provided it was the time Df the year and it was not snowing and provided a lot of other things. Then we would support the select committee, but unfortunately although 1 said it with u qualification we just cannot do it.’ I hope the honourable senator will go out and tell those primary producers that during the campaign prior to the Senate election. But here is the opportunity to have an inquiry into a very great problem - and it ought to be carried out. lt was put forward that we should have a select committee. That was rejected in May 1968. lt was put forward tonight i hal there was the alternative of having a select committee or a standing committee. The select committee has again been rejected. The opportunity was available of having this simple but important subject referred to a standing committee, lt is all very well for Senator Wright to say: ‘Look, this is a good idea if only you were going to deal with the finance in it but if you are going to deal with the finance then it is no good. You cannot deal with the finance really because the Senate is not the appropriate body to deal with these matters because it inevitably involves taxation or something else.’ Has any honourable senator ever heard such rubbish? There i. a national organisation in the United Stales set up to deal with these very subjects, lt deals with them not on the basis of the finance to bc provided but the relief to be provided and the action to be taken to see that people do not suffer from these disasters. But there is no limit to excuses. If there were not thai excuse some other excuse would be found. The Democratic Labor Party has a sound excuse, I suppose, because it has a vested interest in opposing committees in this Senate. If this has not been said before it ought to be said now.
– How many committees are you on?
– The honourable senator can find that out by looking at the record. Honourable senators know that there are only 4 members of the Democratic Labor Party in the Senate and because they have this insistence upon serving on virtually every committee in order to maintain their status they have a vested interest in holding down the number of select committees. Whatever may be the problems of the Government or the Opposition there is a peculiar and special vested interest of the members of the Democratic Labor Party in holding down the number of select committees. They could meet this problem if they were able to say: ‘we do not really want to serve on all of them.’ It is true that sometimes they will give way to the independent senator but if we were to have a rational proportion this would mean that they would be serving on only about half of the committees. It is that vested interest which emerges in these debates not in any expressed way but as an undercurrent of opposition. I think it is unfortunate when it concerns a very great national problem. I think there are persons here who feel that this subject ought to be investigated by the Senate. I think it ought to be. There has been no real reason advanced for not dealing with it. There are droughts at the moment in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. There are floods in Tasmania. In recent times we have experienced the great fire in Tasmania. We have had these disasters from time to time all over the Commonwealth. It would be a very great tragedy if, when the Senate has the opportunity to embark upon an inquiry which would be of real assistance to this community, not only to primary producers, it again failed to take advantage of this opportunity. I would say that those who. for their petty partisan reasons, fail to support this pro posal deserve the censure not only of the primary producers and those who will suffer from future disasters, but the whole of the Australian community. I commend the motion to the Senate.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 August 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700825_senate_27_s45/>.