27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present from 67 citizens of Victoria the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That due to higher living costs, persons on social service pensions, are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance wilh the ACTU policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Pensioners’ Federation and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our petition; so that our citizens who are receiving the social service pensions may live their lives in dignity and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
Senator appointed by the Leader of the Government in . the Senate or the member of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister as Chairman and the other as Deputy Chairman.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As he will appreciate, many weekly wage workers are compelled to use public transport to travel to and from work each day. As the cost to the worker concerned could be as high as $1 a day, will the Minister give favourable consideration to allowing the legitimate cost of travel to and from work as an income tax deduction? Will he give the same favourable consideration to allowing, as an income tax deduction, the legitimate cost involved in travel to and from work when a shift worker is required to use his own vehicle for this purpose because public transport has ceased to operate?
To my conscious knowledge, down through the years this proposal has been put both in debate and by way of question. As all honourable senators would know, the normal period in which the Treasurer considers any variations in allowances is in the pre-Budget period. Therefore, at this stage in the Budget session I express the view that nothing will be done now on the lines suggested although I point out that propos- als in relation to changed allowances, new allowances, grants to various organisations and so on are examined every year. However, in fairness to the honourable senator and in accordance with my responsibility I will refer the request to the Treasurer.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that dependants of Commonwealth Railways employees performing national service are denied interstate passes which are available to them while their husbands are serving with the Railways? Is it a fact also that the Commonwealth Railways likewise denies concessions for travel on the Commonwealth Railways system to dependants of employees of State railway systems who are doing national service? Will the Minister consider allowing the standard travel concessions to continue just as though the railway employees were not doing national service?
-I am rather surprised at what the honourable senator has said. I would have thought it was possible for a concession of this kind to be continued. It seems to be not a very good thing for railway employees doing national service to be deprived of their rights. I think the honourable senator will appreciate that as I am not the Minister responsible I cannot give a direct answer but I must say that I am anxious about this.
– And sympathetic too?
– Yes, I certainly am sympathetic. I will ascertain the position and inform the honourable senator.
– By way of. preface to my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs I refer to a statement made by the Minister for Customs and Excise that Holland does not regard bird smuggling as an indictable offence. Has the Australian Government made a direct approach to the Dutch Government requesting it to change its present neutral attitude and to undertake mutual action with the Australian Government to eliminate this form of racketeering, being mindful particularly of past mutual co-operation between our 2 nations?
I believe that the normal process in a mat ter of this kind is for the administering department - the Department of Customs and Excise in this case - to request the Department of External Affairs to raise the issue if it believes that there is some conflict and that such action is justified. I am not in a position to say off the cuff whether in fact that has happened. But from my background experience when I was Minister for Customs and Excise I know that, in a case in which there was obviously some difference of attitude and it was felt that something was operating against Australia’s very best interests, the approach would be for the Department to raise the matter with the Department of External Affairs in order to see whether that Department considered if appropriate to raise the matter with the other government concerned. That would be the machinery, as I see it, that is inherent in the question asked by Senator Mulvihill. I will have to find out the position and let the honourable senator know.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. How many and which Australian manufacturers of tractors receive assistance under the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act 1966? How many Australian manufacturers are eligible today for temporary additional bounty, and what are the names of the companies concerned?
– I rather feel that these 2 questions have arisen from a statement that I made yesterday on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry. The answer to the first question is that 2 companies are receiving assistance under the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act. Those 2 companies are Chamberlain Industries Pty Ltd of Western Australia and the International Harvester Co. of Australia of Melbourne. The honourable senator also asked how many Australian manufacturers are eligible for the temporary additional bounty. The Government’s proposal, as indicated in the statement made by me yesterday on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry, is that the temporary additional bounty will be given only in respect of tractors manufactured at premises registered under the Act - those are very important and relevant words - and only in respect of tractors manufactured at premises registered under the Act as at 1st July 1970. The premises concerned are those of Chamberlain Industries Pty Ltd and the International Harvester Co.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. lt refers to the matter of the publication of the birth dates of those liable to be called up under the national service scheme. 1 remind the Minister that 1 asked questions on this matter on 10th March and 14th May of this year and that the indication was that an answer would be given by the Minister. Is it a fact that the Government instead has made some announcement elsewhere that it proposes in future to publish the birth dates that have been drawn? Will the Minister raise with the Government the most important question of the publication of the past birth dates that were drawn, so that those young men selected - some of whom are facing death or injury and certainly experiencing disruption of their normal life - will have some independent check on whether they were properly selected in the ballot?
– The question asked by the Leader of the Opposition is really in 2 parts. First of all, he draws attention to the fact that he asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service in this place on 14th May and no answer has been supplied but on the other hand a statement that bears on the substance of that question has been made away from this place. As the Leader of the Opposition knows, I am acting for the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service this week. All I can say is that immediately after question time I will put in train inquiries as to the reason why, in those circumstances, a reply has not been provided to the Leader of the Opposition.
The second question that he asks is: In regard to any publication of the birth dates drawn for national service, has consideration been given or, if not, will consideration be given to the retrospective publication of the birth dates? Whilst I can understand the question, I have some difficulty in understanding the comment at the end of it. But I certainly will put the question to the Minister for Labour and National Service and obtain a reply from him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: fs it a fact that 2 major meat exporting firms have objected to the increasing demands of United States health authorities and have refused to co-operate with them? Is it also a fact that because of this development the senior United States veterinary inspector has been urgently recalled to the United States for instructions? Does there now arise a likelihood of future disruption of our meat exports because of this conflict?
-) do not have the detailed information necessary to answer the honourable senator’s question. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the expenditure by the Commonwealth on overtime or extra duty pay for the Public Service during the past year? Those payments totalled $19,124,000. Is the Minister also aware that overtime payments within the Postmaster-General’s Department ment - another Commonwealth responsibility - is recorded as amounting to about $35,800,000? Can the Minister give an assurance to the Australian public that this form of expenditure is essential to the proper functioning of the Public Service and that the ultimate in efficient working is gained by this method of payment for work done? Is the Public Service Board currently investigating overtime payments with a view to improving the system of control of overtime?
I was not aware of the quantum and cost of overtime being worked in the Public Service; but that is not surprising, because it is a matter of detail. I, along with all other honourable senators, have been aware for a long time that a great amount of overtime is worked in the Public Service. I would not put under challenge at all the judgment of the necessity for that overtime because I believe that the Public Service in all departments has a high degree of efficiency. I believe that if it is determined that there is a need for the overtime it is completely and absolutely justified. I am not one, and I hope the honourable senator is not one, who imagines that people can work overtime in the Public Service just for the sake of gaining extra income. I believe that overtime worked in the Public Service is done in a responsible way and at the direction of responsible officers.
The next part of the honourable senator’s question related to the question of efficiency of extended overtime. I do not doubt that all honourable senators accept that in the workload there comes a time when a person who works too much overtime tends to lose a degree of efficiency. Here again I am quite certain that every department would be aware of this basic situation. Where it arose I have no doubt that representations would be made to the Public Service Board for an increase in staff. This is a normal practice that is followed all the time. But one other factor is involved that we must al! accept: In the higher echelons it is nol always possible to have complete delegation and in the Public Service it is sometimes necessary for people to work extended overtime because of the demands made on their specialised knowledge by governments and parliaments. Sitting on top of all that is the Public Service Board. It is a highly efficient and capable organisation whose job it is to look at these matters. I believe that it does an excellent job. The end result is that we have an excellent, competent and efficient Public Service.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science would he approach his colleague to have the government library grants scheme extended to cover primary schools. This request is supported by parents and teachers throughout New South Wales and, I am sure, by all Australians.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThis matter is really one of policy, but 1 certainly will refer the question to the Minister for Education and Science for consideration.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the result of the latest gallup poll which indicates a continued hardening of public opinion against the gaoling of people who refuse to register for national service? The poll revealed that only 4 per cent approved of the present penalty of a gaol sentence. In view of the widespread dissatisfaction with the present provisions of the National Service Act, which dissatisfaction is being expressed in protests and demonstrations which in turn create clashes with law enforcement authorities, will the Minister for Labour and National Service give urgent consideration to amending the hateful parts of the National Service Act and to providing an alternative to young men so that they may perform duties other than combat duties?
– I am sure we all would agree that the honourable senator’s question covered a fairly wide canvas. Firstly, I think the honourable senator would have been far better placed if he had given the complete results of that gallup poll because as I understood it not only was one question asked but a series of questions were asked. Therefore, we need to look at the particular answer in the context of the series of questions asked. As I remember the results, the gallup poll also showed that an overwhelming majority were in favour of people serving in the Services. The honourable senator’s question dealt also with policy - the principles that operate. I will refer that to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I think the third part of the question related to alternatives to military service. There is an alternative, and everybody knows that. Young people may elect to serve in the Citizen Military Forces. As I understand it CMF volunteers have to attend 2 camps a year in Australia and a certain number of parades. With that training, they become efficient; so if the call ever came they would be trained to serve the nation. That is provided as an alternative. So I do not see the point in the fina) part of the honourable senator’s question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government’s attention been drawn to the recent statement attributed to North Vietnam’s Prime Minister Mr Pham Van Dong to the effect that there can be no solution to the war in Vietnam while fighting continues in Laos and Cambodia? Is this not a clear indication from North Vietnam that the North Vietnamese intention is that its aggression in Laos and Cambodia must succeed before it will consider any end to the war in Vietnam? Is it not also true that in the face of such an unequivocal indication of intention any total withdrawal of United States and allied troops from South Vietnam before South Vietnam is able adequately to resist this aggression would simply be to ensure that Communist aggression must succeed?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have not had the advantage of seeing the reference which the honourable senator mentioned. Therefore it is difficult for me to comment on the substance of what is purported to have been said. I am not suggesting that the honourable senator has not reflected what was purported to have been said by the Prime Minister of North Vietnam.
– It is a newspaper report.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes. I agree with his final conclusion, if he is seeking a comment from me about leaving South Vietnam completely exposed to this aggression. The situation there is linked with the situation in Laos and Cambodia. To withdraw all troops would be disastrous.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. Is it a fact that plans are in course of preparation for additions to this Parliament building? Are these plans limited to the extent that some committee staffs will not be accommodated in the new extension? Would you consider the desirability of making the plans available for study by senators and members who could offer practical suggestions, based upon their experience of present shortcomings, calculated to ensure that the best possible use is made of the human and material resources of the Parliament pending the construction of a new parliament house?
– I am aware that consideration is being given to the preparation of plans which are aimed at putting a further wing on the Senate side of the building. That wing will accommodate the Hansard staff and some other departments in the House. I would forget any grandiose ideas that may be going around the House about provision being made in the new wing for committee rooms or things of that nature. I cannot see how we can alter the present planning to make provision for committee secretariats and so on that are being mentioned. I do not know how far the plans have gone. I do not know whether approval will be given, or when it will be given.
What we have done with the amount of money that has been indicated will be available to us is to plan carefully to make provision, first of all, for members of the House of Representatives who are unduly overcrowded - there is no question about that. We are also making provision for the Library, and we hope to make provision for increased staff in the Senate. I think that overall, with the amount of money we have available, we have done the best we could in the planning. As regards seeking outside advice, I do not think it would have any value because all it would do would be to add to the initial cost of the building. That would not help the cause very much.
I am very glad to know that the honourable senator is taking an interest in the new parliament house. I would hope that everyone who is anxious to see the new parliament house built will continue to advocate the desirability of starting it fairly soon.
I will make use of this opportunity to refer to a matter raised by Senator Cavanagh on the adjournment last night, in which he pointed out that the Library was unable to supply a volume of the South Australian industrial reports within the time he specified. I asked the Library to examine this matter, and it was able to locate the volume this morning and to deliver a copy to Senator Cavanagh’s office. An apology was also made by a senior member of the reference section. Difficulty arose because of an error which was made when the volume was bound, which caused it to be wrongly shelved.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to an advertisement in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of today’s date, signed by Bob Lundberg, the State Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, in which he advises his members that the Moratorium does not have the support of the trade union movement and that they should resist any attempt to take them away from work against their wishes? Does this not indicate a great weakening of support for the Moratorium and also that, it is opposed by a great majority of Australians?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have not had the advantage of seeing the advertisement in the newspaper, but I have had the advantage of reading in the Press, for instance, that the Labor movement in South Australia has dissociated itself from this Moratorium Campaign, and that other unions have indicated that they are not supporting it.
– What other unions?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONGive me a bit of time and I will dredge up the information. T do not wish to engender any great heat in this issue at all. T merely want to say that what we on this side of the Parliament have maintained all along about the value or otherwise of this Moratorium Campaign has obviously been accepted now by the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. I think that good sense is beginning to prevail.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister seen 8 report that a commercial television station in Melbourne intends producing an Australian amateur dramatic programme styled Acid Test’ in which it is intended to use amateur actors, show them in unedited performances and then let a panel of adjudicators tell the amateurs where they went wrong? How much longer are Australian viewers to be allowed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to be regarded as guinea pigs when there is so much professional talent available in
Australia which is unable to obtain continuity of work on Australian television in their chosen professions? Does the Minister agree that the sort of programme which is envisaged is a deliberate skirting of the spirit of section 114 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, which stipulates that Australians will be used as far as possible in the production and presentation of programmes, and that this approach is likely to lead to a lowering of Austraiian dramatic standards? Will the Minister ask the Board to insist that this sort of pro-, gramme be not recognised as Australian drama under the Australian content provisions? If necessary, will the Government consider amending the Act to protect the employment rights and opportunities of professional Australian actors, writers and dramatists?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator has referred. Therefore, I cannot answer in detail the particular points which he has raised. However, 1 am sure that what the honourable senator has said is correct. I will take up with the Postmaster-General the honourable senator’s desire to have this matter looked at and see whether there is any information which the Postmaster-General feels he could . communicate to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President, ft arises out of the reply which you gave a few moments ago in regard to the Parliamentary Library. My question relates to that section of the Parliamentary Library which is known as the Legislative Research Section. Is a fact that the output of this section has increased enormously in recent months and that the number of requests by members of the Parliament have increased sharply, necessitating further demands on both the staff and space? Are you able to give an indication of the large volume of effective research which is carried out and of the services that are provided to members of the Parliament by the staff of the Legislative Research Section of the Parliamentary Library?
– I wish to thank” Senator Davidson for his interest in this matter. I know the valuable work he is doing as Chairman of a sub-committee of the Library Committee. This Parliament has occasion to be very proud of its library. The Parliamentary Library has probably the best research and reference section in any parliament in the British Commonwealth. I do not know of any other library, apart from the library of the United States Congress, which has a better research or reference section than we have. It is really first class. The Library Committee has reason to be proud of its achievements in the years in which it has been in existence.. It has brought the Parliamentary Library up to its present peak. A total of 1,500 requests have been made so far this year - a considerable number - and the staff of the Parliamentary Library is very hard worked. I propose to add to the staff if possible. Once again we are limited by room in Parliament House itself and other things. However, I think I should point out to honourable senators that they are better served by the Parliamentary Library than is any other parliament in the British Commonwealth.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I ask: Is it a fact that Australia’s defence planning is being impeded by a shortage in staff, a failure to recruit specialist staff or the application of new management or organisational procedures which have resulted in considerable delays in purchases amounting to millions of dollars? If so, what is being done to correct this situation?
The honourable senator’s question relates to the processing of purchases, which is a matter which could come within my own portfolio of Supply. I think we all recognise’ that there have been some problems in relation to obtaining the highly specialised staff which we need in certain fields. As this question has an importance which relates to the Department of Defence it warrants a considered reply from the Minister for Defence, and it may well be that I shall wish to add a supplement to that reply insofar as my own Department is concerned. I shall set about getting the information for the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minster representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is the continuing shortage of first class coking coal causing the Government concern? In particular, are long term Japanese contracts embarrassing the Government and the whole of the coal trade?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs I understand it, that matter would come within the portfolio of the Minister for National Development, because the Joint Coal Board has a line of communication with and responsibility to that Department. Therefore I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether he would like to respond tq the question. If he does not wish to do so, I shall ask the honourable senator to put the question on notice.
– When I heard the question I thought that this was a matter for the Minister for National Development. I am quite conscious of the honourable senator’s interest in the Joint Coal Board and his earlier very important activities with that Board. There has been a dramatic increase in Australia in the production and export of coal. My understanding is that we have adequate reserves and that the situation in Queensland has opened up opportunities very considerably. I know that at one stage it was said that Australia did not have enough coal to enable it to engage in exports, but this has been proved to be completely false. As to a clear differentiation between coking coal and other coal which is available, one would need to be a little more precise than I am able to be in my current stage of knowledge. I acknowledge the honourable senator’s interest in the matter and I shall talk about it to my colleague, the Minister for National Development.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services relates to a matter which I have previously mentioned to her and in respect of which I should like to obtain an answer, that is. the value of fringe benefits available to pensioners and the form that those benefits take.
– I have obtained information from the Minister for Social Services concerning the matter about which Senator Rae has asked. Pensioners whose entitlement to pension did not arise solely as a result of the introduction of the tapered means test are entitled to each of the following benefits: Free consultation from a general practitioner in the pensioner’s home or at the doctor’s surgery and free specialist treatment as an outpatient at any public hospital; free treatment in public wards of public hospitals together with all associated ancillary medical services; and free pharmaceuticals. The average value of these three benefits to a pensioner is $3.10 a week. A one-third reduction in telephone rentals, and concessional licence fees for radios - that is $1 instead of $6.50 or 70c instead of $3.30 in remote areas; for television $3 instead of $14 and for combined radio-television licences $4 instead of $20, are worth 17c a week on average to a pensioner. There is also the provision and maintenance of hearing aids at a hiring charge of $10 to those pensioners who would benefit. The Commonwealth provides financial assistance to the States to encourage the provision of dwellings for aged pensioners. The value of this assistance is 14c per head. State and Commonwealth transport systems provide special fare concessions to pensioners, though it is difficult to calculate the value of these important benefits. Councils may defer or. remit the local rates of pensioners. Again, it is difficult to calculate the value of those concessions. In certain States, additional cash assistance may be provided to pensioners; medical, dental and optical facilities may be made available; legal aid and assistance with heating costs may be provided as may certain necessities such as blankets or clothing where need is demonstrated. Certain voluntary bodies and private business organisations also make available goods and services to pensioners at reduced rates.
In addition to the benefits already mentioned, the following benefits are available to all pensioners, regardless of means: A subsidy towards nursing home fees of $14 a week where light nursing is involved or $35 a -week if intensive nursing is required. The average value of this benefit would be 80c weekly. The Commonwealth also provides financial assistance to en courage the provision of nursing home beds, home nursing, home care, paramedical services and meals on wheels. The combined average value of these benefits would be some 6c a week. A subsidy of $5 a week is paid to hostel type non-profit institutions for each resident over 80 years of age. The average value per pensioner is 4c a week. Housing benefits provided by way of the aged persons homes scheme and rental concessions for aged persons provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are worth an average 47c a week. Persons of pension age receive certain taxation concessions. Single persons pay no tax if their taxable income is less than $1326 a year and reduced tax if it falls within the range of $1,327 to $2273. The corresponding figures for a married couple where at least one is of pensionable age are $2314 a year and a range of $2315 to $4102. It is not possible to calculate the value of these concessions.
In summary, those benefits which it has been possible to cost may be valued at $4.78 a week for the average pensioner. When account is taken of the other concessions mentioned but not costed, the value of fringe benefits is seen to be some $5 a week.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government who represents the Prime Minister in this chamber. Is the Minister aware that in matters dealt with by the Appeals Board, conducted under section 55 of the Public Service Act, persons charged with offences or subject to disciplinary procedures are being denied access to the transcript of proceedings and other documents essential to the conduct of their defence? Could inquiries be made into this matter and could necessary action be taken in order to ensure that justice is done?
– I am not aware of the background of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Quite properly I will refer the question to the Prime Minister’s Department because the Public Service Board is within the Prime Minister’s jurisdiction. . I would have thought that this matter had been resolved many years ago, either in terms of practice or in terms of a relevant section of the Public Service Act. However, I will have the question processed in order to get some explanation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question which follows upon the question asked by Senator Greenwood. If the Minister agrees with Senator Greenwood’s contention that forces of the United States of America and Australia must remain in Vietnam until such time as South Vietnam can stand on its own, can he say how long the Australian Government is prepared to accept such a commitment? Would he not agree that the longer the United States commitment remains, the greater the likelihood of increased Russian influence in other parts of the world? Finally, which does he prefer: A settlement in Indo-China based on self-determination or the continuing encroachment of Russian influence in the Middle East, Africa and South America?
Obviously those questions are aimed at inciting me to embark upon a full foreign affairs debate. I must decline. The type of matters asked about by the honourable senator could have been developed, for instance, in debates such as the Budget debate which ranges very widely and permits great freedom. I find it difficult to accept what he postulated. He mentioned self-determination. That remark was a beauty. South Vietnam is being ravaged by invasion. The invaders are attempting to force upon it their way of life and political philosophy. The Australian Government’s activities in that country are being carried out in the name of freedom in an endeavour to let those people enjoy the right of selfdetermination.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. By way of preface I refer to the fact that yesterday’ the Minister supplied to the Senate details of the average cost of building brick and timber homes for the respective State housing commissions. Those figures show that in Tasmania the average cost per square is 15 per cent to 30 per cent higher than in the other States. Will the Minister ascertain the reasons for that very large difference in building costs?
– As the honourable senator is aware these figures are supplied by the State housing commissions. I will endeavour to obtain some further details from Tasmania concerning the point raised by the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise: Has there recently been a major theft of dangerous drugs from a pharmaceutical wholesaler, involving the fantastic amount of 4 million doses? If so, when will details be supplied as to how the theft occurred, how such a large quantity of this specific drug was accumulated by the wholesaler and what steps are being taken to recover the drugs?
– This is an interesting question but it is not terribly specific in its details. I will have to direct it in a fairly general sense to the Minister for Customs and Excise. As I hope the honourable senator will understand, any honourable senator in this chamber representing a Minister is most anxious to do justice to his colleague and to be accurate and fair. Therefore, it is necessary to see that the Minister has the information needed to get an adequate reply back to the honourable senator. Afterwards I would like to get from the honourable senator the precise details - the date, the firm he mentioned, the name of the drug and anything which might aid the Minister and aid me to help him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is aware of the apparent level of indebtedness of many primary producers? Does the Minister not acknowledge that the interest rate which is now currently charged on overdraft borrowing is an impost which for those in industries which produce, in the main, for export becomes quite unreasonable and, at times, impossible to service? Does the Minister not see a need for some specialised banking service which will extend loan facilities on interest rates of 21 per cent or 3 per cent to those who produce goods which must compete for sale on world markets and which mean export income for this country?
– I realise there is a lot of truth in what the honourable senator says regarding interest rates for primary industry and exporting industries in particular. At the present time I think the Minister for Primary Industry” is trying to do all in his power by way of debt restructuring. I believe this will be. one of the questions he will be looking at. At this stage I would like to convey the honourable senator’s question to the Minister in the hope that he will lake it into consideration when he is doing this restructuring.
– Will the Minister, representing the Treasurer tell the Senate when the average person buying a home or incurring interest charges by banks and other institutions can expect some relief from the onerous interest rates which have been permitted and encouraged by this Government thus causing a great deal of financial worry and concern to millions of Australians?
– Obviously the honourable senator’s question is directed to a political atmosphere. I would point out that the interest rate for housing follows, in the first instance at any rate, the general movement of interest. The facts of life are that interest rates on overdrafts and on fixed securities are at a certain level and the interest rate normally charged on housing has a relationship to those rates and it follows them. For instance, when it was decided as a matter of Government policy to increase the interest rate on overdrafts and fixed securities there was a corresponding increase in interest rates on housing finance through the banking institutions and the building society movement, the 2 main providers of housing loans.
Another element in this matter to which I suspect he was alluding is the interest rate on short term finance. That is a different matter altogether. I would be the first to agree that the interest rate might vary a little up or down. However, in truth the main quantum of interest on housing finance is tied in a very real way under the law of economics to the movement of interest rates fixed at governmental level as a matter of government fiscal policy. Therefore, if the general interest rate varies, the interest. rule on housing finance varies accordingly.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the sizeable grant made by the Commonwealth Government to- the city of Sydney for the Chifley Square fountain, when can we expect the fountain to be in working order?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONSenator Mulvihill, with a tenacity which we all appreciate, has asked me a series of questions from time to time in relation to the completion of the fountain at Chifley Square in Sydney. I recall that on 2nd September he asked me a question concerning the operation of the fountain to which I replied that I would make furtherinquiries of. the Sydney City Council. Advice has now been received from the Town Clerk that the fountain has been completed and was handed over to the Council on Tuesday, 15th September. The Town Clerk added that there is still minor electrical work associated with the illumination of the fountain to be finished but it is not expected that that will interfere with its functioning. I know that Senator Mulvihill will now go to look at the fountain with some joy, having regard to his constant urging that it be completed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Did the Prime Minister on 25th September last year present a minis,terial statement to the Parliament on the Government’s proposals for the preservation of superannuation rights? Did the Treasurer in a Press statement on 21st June last state that it was not possible in the last parliamentary session to introduce Bills to amend the Superannuation Act, the Defences Forces Retirement Benefits Act and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act? Because the portability provisions outlined in the Prime Minister’s statement are of vital importance to a great number of people, especially Commonwealth public servants, will the Government undertake to introduce the appropriate amendments to the Acts in this sessional period?
– The honourable senator has asked me whether the Prime Minister made a statement about 12 months ago in relation to superannuation. I accept without reservation that the Prime Minister did make a statement on or about that date. It is equally true, as the honourable senator has suggested, that in June this year at the conclusion of the last period of sittings the Treasurer made a statement to the effect that it had not been possible to bring down legislation to implement what was then being examined and in contemplation. But there is another element which I think the honourable senator did not mention. I am groping a little but I have an idea that certain things were done as an interim measure. Was not that the position?
– I cannot recall.
Now the honourable senator has asked what is happening and when we are likely to expect legislation. I have been made aware of the tremendous task that is involved and that is the reason why the proposals have not come before us yet in legislative form. I will get up to date information from the Treasurer and make it available to the honourable senator.
– -Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware of the extent of the financial support offered by overseas governments to their manufacturing industries that tender for contracts in this and other countries? Is he aware that governmental financial support enables some overseas manufacturers to offer, along with tenders, benefits such as repayment holidays and eventual low interest rate repayments that extend over periods of up to and even more than 40 years? Is he aware that in recent instances the net cash flow benefit offered by overseas suppliers can be calculated to be as much as 15 per cent on tenders which at first sight appear comparable with competitive Australian tenders? Does the Australian banking system support Australian manufacturers who tender in competition with overseas suppliers to the extent and in the manner I have stated? Is the Government giving this problem its urgent consideration? Will it see that Australian manufacturers are not disadvantaged in local or overseas tenders as a result of overseas governmental support for our competitors?
– The Commonwealth Government does give assistance to our own manufacturers in a variety of ways, as the honourable senator knows. What he is asking me to say, in fact, is whether that assistance is comparable with what other countries give to their manufacturers and exporters whose products come into Australia. To answer the question one would need to tabulate what all the countries do. There are great variations as between countries with which we trade in the assistance they give to their industries in the export field. There are also great variations in the types of goods in which they trade. For instance, I can think of certain forms of assistance that the United Kingdom would give in relation to certain types of equipment. I can also think of other forms of assistance that the United States and notably Japan give.
So, in order to make an intelligent evaluation of this matter one would need to do an exercise across the board and put down what Australia does - I repeat that we do a whole variety of things through the banking system, through our export payments insurance plan and so on - and then put down what each other country does. When that had been done would be the time to ask another question. Until we have that information, I do not think I could make a really intelligent contribution by way of answer.
– T direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. A statement put down in another place by the Minister for Social Services in relation to the work force in sheltered workshops contains the following statement:
Sheltered workshops are, therefore, continually losing their most proficient workers with resultant loss of their productive capacity. Because of this there has been an understandable reluctance on the part of many workshops to encourage their best workers to attempt the step to open employment.
Could the Minister indicate the names of the ‘many workshops’ to which he referred?
– As the honourable senator will understand, I, as Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, could not indicate those names. I will take this matter up with my colleague and see what information can be given to the honourable senator.
(Question No. 619)
asked the Minister for
Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 291)
asked the Minister repre senting the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1)I am not aware of any previously promised proposals for a nationwide legal aid scheme. The matter of further Commonwealth participation in the provision of legal aid additional to the provision already made under the Judiciary Act is still under consideration.
(Question No. 544)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Will the Minister have investigated the mounting delay in payment of claims experienced by Hospitals Contribution Fund members in New South Wales country areas; if so, will he have investigated the case of one particular member, G. Minehan, a resident of Bowning, New South Wales (Fund No. BTL856) whose claim was lodged on 14 July 1970 and remains unprocessed, despite frequent inquiries directed to the Sydney office of the Hospitals Contribution Fund.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The normal delay in the assessment and payment of claims by the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia is usually less than two weeks, although due to the administrative effort required of. the fund in the changeover to the payment of benefits under the new Health Benefits Plan effective from 1 July 1970, I am informed that the current delay is three to four weeks. I have been assured that the extra delay in processing benefit claims caused by the introduction of the new Plan is of a temporary nature only and everything possible is being done to minimise the delay. It is anticipated that the situation will improve after a settling in period. In relation to t he particular case to which the honourable senator refers,I wish to advise that the appropriate benefit payment was made to Mr Minehan on 19 August 1970.
(Question No. 615)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Have several schemes for the construction of dwellings for single aged pensioners been submitted by the States and approved; if so,
how many such schemes have been submitted by each State and approved;
how many single aged pensioners will be thus accommodated;
when will construction commence on the dwellings approved;
when is it anticipated that the dwellings wilt be able to be occupied:
what rentals will be charged for these dwellings; and
bow many qualified single aged pensioners require such housing.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Five States have submitted schemes for approval in accordance with the provisions of the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act 1969. Details are given below. Proposals are currently being developed in Queensland.
New South Wales- $2.50.
South Australia- $2.80 to $3.20.
Western Australia- $3.00.
Tasmania - $2.00.
(Question No. 575)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The first two parts of the question are answered in the following broadsheet prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry with respect to outwards cargo shipping. As far as inwards cargo shipping is concerned full details of conferences operating are not known, but by and large the same shipping lines operate in the inwards conferences in the trade as operate in the outwards. The information necessary to answer the last part of the question by the honourable Senator is not available. The cargo carried by individual lines is known only to those lines and is regarded by them as private information.
– Pursuant to section S3 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1968 I present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 31st March 1970 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report on those statements.
– I present the following report by the Tariff Board:
Pencils, crayons and chalks.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an
Act to amend the Lighthouses Act 1911-1966.
Bill presented, and read a first time. Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is not very often that Parliament is called upon to deal with lighthouse matters. This is so despite the fact that the first Commonwealth Act relating to lighthouses was passed in 1911. That Act, amongst other things, provided powers covering the establishment of new lights and the maintenance and improvement of coastal lighthouses and other marine marks that were being taken over from the States. Since that time we have made considerable strides in the provision of lighthouses, or ‘marine navigational aids’ as they are now more generally known. The term ‘marine navigational aids’ in itself is symptomatic of the changes that have occurred. In the early days most lightstations were manned by a lightkeeper who physically tended his light, which was then operated by kerosene. Over the years, however, many lightstations have been converted to automatic operation, using gas or electricity, and, despite a significant increase in the number of coastal lights, we now employ considerably fewer lightkeepers than was the case a couple of decades ago.
Probably more importantly, however, a number of new developments have occurred which allow other aids to take the place of the lighthouse as such. Over the years radio beacons have been installed at a number of points on the coast. These allow ships to continue to navigate in fog and other weather conditions in which a lighthouse would be of limited use. The most recent development, of which honourable senators will generally be aware, is the electronic position-fixing system installed at Port Hedland to cater for the navigational needs of the large bulk ore carriers calling at that port.
The principal purpose of the present Bill is to ensure that the Act will apply to this wider and more sophisticated range of marine navigational aids now in use and likely to be installed in the future. One particular navigational aid which needs to be covered by the Act is the automatic tide gauge recently installed at Booby Island in Torres Strait for the benefit of the many ships navigating Gannet Passage. This gauge would probably not be considered a marine mark for the purposes of the Act as now worded. It is, however, providing very important information to ships in relation to the depth of water in Gannet Passage, lt is a matter of particular concern to the Government that, if through some mischance this gauge contributed in some way to a marine casualty, the Commonwealth could be held liable. At the present time the Lighthouses Act provides that an action shall not be maintainable against the Commonwealth by reason of any act, default, error or omission, whether negligent or otherwise, in relation to any lighthouse or marine mark. It is most important that the phrase ‘lighthouse or marine mark’ used in the Act be amended to include all types of marine navigational aids now installed, and that this be done as soon as possible.
At the same time the opportunity is being taken to extend the provisions of the Act to cover a lighthouse and 2 beacons established in the new Coral Sea Islands Territory, and to enable the Act to be extended by proclamation to cover aids to navigation established in any other Australian territory. Existing section 7 confers on the Minister power to erect lighthouses and other marine marks and allows him to add to, alter, remove or vary the character of a lighthouse. In the Bill now before the Senate the responsibility for these matters is being vested in the Commonwealth rather than the Minister. This arrangement overcomes problems of both a legal and practical nature concerning questions of exercise and delegation of the power by the Minister. It is impossible with the great expansion of Commonwealth activities in this field for the Minister to be personally involved in the exercise of all the powers under the section. It is thus proposed that the powers set out in this section should be exercised in the ordinary way by Commonwealth officers, with the Minister having the overriding responsibility, as must always be the case.
When the Lighthouses Act was first enacted, it relied in the main on the Commonwealth’s .constitutional power in relation to lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys. As the various new types of marine navigational aids to which I have referred may not all be covered by those words, the new section 7 will include a reference to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, under which Australia has an obligation in respect of marine navigational aids. It thus draws on the external affairs power under the Constitution to cover any deficiency of power that might otherwise have existed.
Collectors of Customs and other officers of the Department of Customs and Excise perform duties under the Lighthouses Act, particularly in relation to collection of light dues, on behalf of the Department of Shipping and Transport. As the existing definition of ‘Collector’ is unsatisfactory, a more appropriate definition, which follows the definition in the Customs Act itself, is being substituted. The Bill is both desirable and of an urgent nature, and T commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to charges in respect of Commonwealth air navigation facilities and services.
Bill presented, and read a first time. .
Standing orders suspended.
– -I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Air Navigation (Charges) Act imposes charges on the operators of aircraft for the use of aerodromes, airway facilities, meteorological services and search and rescue services maintained, operated or provided by the . Commonwealth. This Bill is designed to amend the Act in a number of respects, but principally in relation to the level of charges and the application of charges to general aviation aircraft.
There has been some comment regarding the level of the Australian air navigation charges and the proposal by the Government to increase them by 10 per cent as from 1st January 1971. It must be appreciated, however, that the annual operating costs of the Department of Civil’ Aviation continue to rise as new facilities and services are added and as wage and salary levels are increased. Although the expanding utilisation of civil aviation facilities results in corresponding growth in the revenues received from users, the gap between costs and revenues is still considerable, and the Government has a responsibility to see what can be done to keep it within reasonable bounds. For this reason the Government reviews its charges each year, taking into account all pertinent factors, including the economic situation of the users of facilities and the contribution which air services make to the national economy. In 1969-70 the total cost of operating and maintaining the departmental network of aerodromes and airway facilities, together with the meteorological services provided for civil aviation by the Department of the Interior, amounted to some $75m. On the other hand, the revenues of the Department attributable to the use of these facilities were only $20m.
The working group appointed by my predecessor has been studying civil aviation costs and revenues, and the first part of its report has been submitted to me. Included in this report are recommendations by the airlines, both domestic and international, regarding costs and revenues properly attributable to commercial aviation. The group’s work, is not. yet completed but, in the meantime, it has been necessary to review the level of charges in the light of the existing policy on recovery of civil aviation costs. After careful consideration ot all relevant aspects, it was concluded that a 10 per cent increase in charges was warranted and clause 4 of the Bill is included for that purpose.
Clause 6 of the Bill inserts a revised Second Schedule in the Act. This schedule deals with the charges payable by the operators of domestic general aviation aircraft, that is to say, private, aerial work and charter aircraft. The provisions of the new schedule define more precisely than before how charges are to be adjusted when changes in the registration or use of an aircraft occur, and in this respect they are more favourable for the operator than those in the existing schedule. -Charges payable in respect of general aviation aircraft are calculated on an annual basis. If the registration of an aircraft is cancelled or there is a change in ownership during the year for which charges have been paid, it is considered reasonable that a proportionate refund should be made. Apart from the general authority for refunds or remissions to be made at the discretion of the Minister, the Director-General or an authorised officer, there is no provision for such an adjustment of charges in the present schedule and, although the matter has been dealt with administratively in the past, the inclusion of specific provisions in the Act itself is considered to be desirable. Paragraphs 5 and 1 0 (3) of the proposed new Second Schedule are relevant to this question.
As things now stand, if an owner has paid an -annual, charge at the private aircraft rate, and he decides during the year to engage in aerial work or charter operations, his annual charge is increased to the higher rate applicable to those operations for the whole year. The proposed new provisions in paragraphs 7. 8 and 9 of the schedule confine the increase to the period during which the aircraft engages in aerial work or charter operations, subject to a minimum period of 4 weeks. Similarly, the existing schedule does not authorise any refund if an owner, having paid an annual charge for this aircraft at the aerial work or charter rate decides during the year to confine the operation of the aircraft to a category for which a lower charge would be payable - for example, private operations. The Government proposes that an appropriate reduction in the charge be applicable in these cases, the conditions under which such a reduction would be granted being as set out in paragraph 11 of the schedule included in the Bill. The changes introduced by the new Second Schedule will probably result in a small loss of revenue, because they reduce the amount of the charge payable in certain circumstances. Undoubtedly, however, they are fairer to aircraft owners than the existing provisions in the Act, and the Government therefore considers they are justified.
Paragraph 6 of the new schedule revises the provisions for adjustment of charges when a general aviation aircraft is used on regular public transport operations. The effect’ of the change is to ensure that, in cases of this nature, any refund of charges paid under the Second Schedule does not exceed the charges payable under the First Schedule in respect of the operation of the aircraft on regular public transport services. The existing provisions sometimes result in the owner of a charter aircraft paying less than the normal charge applicable to the aircraft when it is used periodically on commuter services, and this is not the intention of the Act.
The Bill adds further routes to the Table of Flights on which charges payable by airline operators under the First Schedule to the Act are based, and it increases one of the factors in this table. These amendments are necessary to cover new services or variations in route patterns, and to remove some anomalies. It is also proposed that a new sub-paragraph be added to the First Schedule to make it clear that a reference to a place in the Table of Flights refers to any airport in the vicinity of that place, this being desirable when there are two airports concerned - for example, Essendon and Tullamarine at Melbourne. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate extends the operation of the Urea Bounty Act 1966-1969 for a maximum period of 6 months to 31st December 1970, unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under the existing Act, bounty ceased to be payable after 30th June 1970. The Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Act 1962-1969 also expired on 30th June 1970 and I shall shortly introduce a similar Bill to extend that Act for a further period of 6 months. Urea and sulphate of ammonia are both nitrogenous fertilisers. I shall deal with the reason for the extension of the 2 Acts in this speech.
The Tariff Board recently completed its review of the urea and sulphate of ammonia industries and has forwarded its report to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). The bounty legislation is being extended to ensure that assistance to both these industries is maintained until the Government has completed its examination of the Tariff Board’s report. The annual financial limits on the total amount of bounty payable will be retained. These are the equivalent of $500,000 in a full year for urea and $lm in a full year for sulphate of ammonia. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the Houseof Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to extend the operation of the Sulphate of Ammonia Bounty Act 1962- 1969 for a maximum period of 6 months to 31st December 1970, unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. The purpose of the Bill is to implement this proposal. I have already outlined the reasons for this extension in my speech concerning the extension of the Urea Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill now before the Senate extends the operation of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954-1969 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 31st December 1970, unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under the existing Act bounty ceased to be payable after 30th June 1970. The Pyrites Bounty Act 1960- 1969 also expired on 30th June 1970 and I shall shortly introduce a similar Bill to extend that Act for a further period of 6 months.
The sulphurc acid and pyrites industries are closely allied. Bounty is paid under certain circumstances on iron pyrites received into a sulphuric acid manufacturer’s premises for the purposes of being used in that manufacture and is also paid on the sulphuric acid produced from the pyrites. In addition, sulphuric acid bounty is paid on the acid produced from lead sinter gas. Because of this close alliance,I shall deal with the reason for the extension of both Acts in this speech.
The Tariff Board has recently completed a revew of the sulphuric acid and pyrites industries and has forwarded its report to the Minister for Trade and Industry. The Government considers that the present level of assistance to the industry should be maintained until it has completed its examination of the Tariff Board’s report. Accordingly the sulphuric acid bounty legis lation is being extended to 31st December 1970 or to an earlier proclaimed date. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
It is proposed to extend the operation of the Pyrites Bounty Act 1960-1969 for a further maximum period of 6 months to 31st December 1970, unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. The purpose of this Bill is to implement this proposal. I have already outlined the reasons for this extension in my speech concerning the extension of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill now before the Senate extends the operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1969 for a maximum period of 6 months from 1st July 1970 to 31st December 1970 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation. Under present legislation the bounty period expired on 30th June 1970. The Tariff Board has reviewed the industry and has submitted its report to the Minister for
Trade and Industry. The Government considers that the present level of assistance to the industry should be maintained until it has completed its examination of the Tariff Board’s report. Accordingly the operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty legislation is being extended to 31st December 1970 or an earlier proclaimed date. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 646), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1970-71.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30th June 1971.
Particular of proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30th June 1971.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30th June 1971.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1970.
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add “, and the Senate condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to (a) standards of social service and war pensioners, (b) assistance to schools, hospital and urban authorities and (c) restructuring of stricken primary industries, and because it introduces and increases taxes and charges of a regressive and inequitable nature”.
– When this debate was interrupted last night I had drawn attention to some of the critical situations with which we will have to deal in the foreseeable future. I had mentioned that we are at a watershed of history at present, that we have reached a time when we must revalue many of the old established ideas that we had in relation to Australia’s position in finding markets to replace the traditional markets that we have had since we have been settled here as a white section of this part of Asia, as migrants from Europe, more so since we have been on our own with regard to dependence on the British Empire or British Commonwealth for our markets. I believe that the reevaluation of our position has not proceeded rapidly enough, as the result of which many of the critical situations to which I have referred are tumbling in, not only on the Administration of this country but also on the people who are becoming quite alarmed at the position as they see it.
Recently a number of statements have been made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) relating to the European Common Market. Australia’s situation in relation to world markets has been changing for a long time, but for party political purposes there has been a tremendous amount of covering up of the real facts relating to the European Common Market, which is a very important development in our marketing history. The time has come when those who have the responsibility must be much more candid and not only bring the people of Australia into their confidence but also tell primary producers what has happened to their traditional markets. Attention is being drawn away from these important issues by local conditions and situations such as the drought which in many places has reached proportions which have been unequalled in the past.
According to reports 1 have received, conditions in parts of the west of Queensland, until the last weekend in areas of New South Wales, in parts of South Australia and Western Australia, have reduced virtually to ruin and bankruptcy many people who were considered to be the most substantially established people in the district. It is not as though the drought is entirely responsible for our situation. The confidence and optimism of the man on the land has always been such that he would look forward to the day when the drought would break, when he could start to build up his property again from the remnants of his flocks; but suitable conditions are not offering today for. people affected by the drought. Prices that are obtaining for the commodities which they have to sell and the values of the stock that they would be able to build up after the drought have been reduced by circumstances completely beyond their control to the stage where the future is so bleak that many of them are giving serious consideration to abandoning their properties. Although some temporary measures have been provided by the Budget, in view of the extent of the critical situation which exists the amount allocated in the Budget is completely inadequate.
There is virtually a national disaster, with many of these people - not only those whose families have been on the land for generations but those who have taken to the land a means of livelihood - finding through a combination of seasonal conditions and economic conditions that they are deprived of any hope for the future. The markets which have yet to be developed are the ones closer to home. It is my firm view that too little has been done to develop markets in Asia. Last night I mentioned mainland China and spoke of the attitude that the Government has taken to trade with that country and to acknowledging the position of mainland China in relation to the United Nations. The Government’s attitude has created in China an hostility towards Australia, even though the Chinese have been purchasing a considerable amount of our wheat. The reevaluation of which I have spoken is of very great importance not only to the Government; it is important also that the Government should take the people of Australia into its confidence and tell them the truth rather than cover up many of these grave situations which have to be faced. 1 should like to say a few words about my home State of Tasmania and mention what is happening there as a result of the Government’s fiscal policy. I am quite certain that Tasmania has been overlooked by the Government when it has been formulating its overall policy. Tasmania, being an island State is experiencing conditions that cannot be equated to other States. We in Tasmania have the disadvantage of having to rely on shipping and, to a small extent, aircraft to handle our transportation to our market. The ever-increasing cost of sea and air freight charges is making very deep inroads into our capacity to compete not only on mainland markets, to which we have been able to export much of our production, . but also, and particularly, on world markets. We are finding that in many areas of production we have costed ourselves out of our markets. The value of our superfine wool has declined to a greater extent than that produced on the mainland. Our dairy producers, who have been following a long range policy aimed at developing high quality herds and high production of milk, butter and other products, are finding great difficulty in obtaining ready markets. The added cost of freighting across Bass Strait, along our only lifeline, is creating a burden that is having a really bad effect in Tasmania.
So far as population increase in concerned, Tasmania is not able even to hold its own with the overall population increase for the Commonwealth. This is lessening Tasmania’s relative significance as an equal State of the Commonwealth. In addition, we are going to find it more and more difficult to maintain our present proportion of the Commonwealth’s population.
– Would it be of any help if we brought Tasmanians over to Victoria?
– We still have some pride left. We would have 4 or 5 other choices before we would accept ultraconservatism of the Victorians. We have to draw the line somewhere. One of the worst features of the situation facing Tasmania is the migration of young people from that State. Statistics for a 5 year period show that in the 15 to 25 years age group there was an average of 1,100 people more per year leaving Tasmania than coming into it, and that included migrants. We are faced with a similar situation with respect to migrants who come to Tasmania. We can produce a pretty attractive brochure aimed at attracting migrants to Tasmania. There is no doubt that our climate is similar to that in many European areas. Tasmania has many advantages. It has a quieter way of living. It is said that the rats do not race as hard in Tasmania as they do in other parts of the Commonwealth. There are attractions such as beautiful mountains and rivers and all sorts of sporting facilities are available. But it seems that these things will not hold the migrants that we need.
They come to the island and find that the job opportunities do not hold as much for them as those offered in mainland States.
These are all very serious matters affecting the future of Tasmania. Another important matter to which I have to draw attention in this Commonwealth Parliament is the great losses being suffered in our rural areas. Many of our industries, timber, dairying, fat lambs, pork and the like, are find’ ing much greater difficulty in competing on mainland and overseas markets. We have to have assistance from the Commonwealth because we are unable to raise further finance with the State. Individual payments facing Tasmanian people as as high as or higher than those facing people in the other States, lt has become a great burden for our people to meet the very high and growing charges for rates in our municipal and city areas. High interest is involved in the loans required for development purposes such as housing and the like. All the facilities that have to be provided by local government result in the imposition of extra charges on the Tasmanian people and they are finding them a very irksome burden to carry. For Tasmania to hold its own as an equal State a much bigger scale of Commonwealth assistance will have to be granted in one way or another.
It would be a great advantage if Tasmania had a proper proportion of the money diverted by the Commonwealth - and quite rightly so - for assistance for railway and other projects in other parts of Australia. I refer to such projects as the east-west railway, the railway standardisation scheme and beef roads. These have given a tremendous fillip to the other States but Tasmania has not received its proper proportion of these funds.
The Commonwealth must give fairly early assistance for the upgrading -of our rail system and the development of our port .in the north of Tasmania. It should assist the Tasmanian Government to extend the railway from Launceston to Bell Bay. We must use our rail facilities to the fullest extent. We want to develop our transportation system so that we can bring our goods right to the seaside in order to take full advantage of the container method of handling cargo. This would help in getting our products on to the markets at competitive prices. There is a certain amount of pressure being applied by private transport operators, truck operators, in Tasmania who would like to see the activities of the railway system curtailed and confined to the carrying of freight on the more or less unpayable sections of our transport system. This pressure must be resisted because railways have a very important role to play in Tasmania. It would be a retrograde step if railway operations were reduced.
I would say that the main problem facing our railway system at the moment, is the cost of this very important extension from Launceston to Bell Bay. We want to be able to feed goods in from other parts of the State to this port, which could be a central export port allowing us to take advantage of the container system.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had spoken of some of the real problems facing Tasmania. These problems are even more acute than the serious ones facing the rest of the Commonwealth. I draw the attention of the Senate to the great need that exists for sharing in correct proportion funds which have been made available to other States for the upgrading of the railway systems and the beef toads. I have pointed out that’ Tasmania’s only lifeline or trade line across Bass Strait is by shipping and, to a smaller extent, by air. The impact of freight increases on Tasmania’s cost structure is a serious disadvantage. Two increases have occurred in air charges over the last month or so and only yesterday there was a further increase in the cost of petrol in Tasmania. All these charges are putting an undue burden on the already critical situation which exists in our State.
There is no reason for this differential between Tasmania and the mainland States because Tasmania has products which are of a very high quality. The climate is to our advantage, because we can grow very succulent foodstuffs. Our baby beef is equal to if not better than that raised . in other parts of Australia which do not have the same type of soil and the same rainfall. In Tasmania we have early lambing and the spring lambs are equal to the famous New Zealands lambs. Not only that, but we have a climate in which, we can develop industries such as the pheasant industry which is growing and which can supply the mainland. We have an abundance of rivers and streams and a new industry there could fill the specialised markets with our inland fish - the Tasmanian trout. Tasmania should have a better share of the Australian and overseas market for its excellent Tasmania cider to give an outlet to the apple industry.
We need as much assistance as we can get at the Federal level in trade promotion for Tasmanian products which will help to obtain an even greater share of the markets on the mainland than we have at the present time. As I have repeatedly said we have to direct our eyes towards South East Asian markets, to Indonesia and the Philippines. Japan has become a very big market for Australia and has replaced the United Kingdom as far as our exports are concerned. Tasmania has high quality goods but it needs to obtain just that extra assistance. I would like to bring quite a number of other points before the Senate to show that Tasmania, being an equal State in this federation, has a just claim to its share of the so-called affluence which has been bragged about by the Government. Tasmania is not getting its full share because of the factors I have already outlined. The situation is not only static but it is showing signs of deterioration.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in condemning this Budget as being a Budget which would appear, on the surface, to be honouring a promise of tax concessions for the lower and middle income groups whereas, in fact, the people who really need the assistance - the family man and the person on the average wage - will be receiving in the vicinity of $1 a week concession. The other charges which have been imposed by indirect taxation will more than take away any concession which was made. The condemnation which has been widely directed at this Budget is, in the opinion of the Australian Labor Party, justified. Members of the ALP give their support to the amendment as moved.
That the words proposed to be added’ (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The Senate having disposed of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) I now move the following amendment which was foreshadowed by my colleague Senator McManus on 3rd September and by myself last evening:
At the end of motion, add ‘but the Senate is of the opinion that:
the defence vote still does not adequately meet the requirements for Australian defence and security demanded according to the Government’s own Budget statement by ‘the changes occurring in international relationships especially as they affect South East Asia and Australia, and of developing defence policies which will serve us in the strategic developments of the future’;
there is inadequate provision to make the armed forces a career, encourage voluntary enlistment, and arrest the alarming rate of resignations by improved conditions of engagement and service;
the Budget merely plugs holes in social services and makes no provision for a comprehensive national insurance scheme or for necessary aid for family life through better child endowment, maternity allowances, housing, health and education assistance;
the Budget again fails to remove pensions from the area of politics by setting up an independent tribunal of experts to determine pension rates;
the Budget fails to properly compensate pensioners for cost of living increases;
the Budget fails to ameliorate in a substantial way the restrictive operation of the means test;
while offering limited short term relief to primary producers, the Budget fails to provide for the necessary examination of the whole structure of rural industry by an expert commission which could advise the Government on the application of fundamental long term remedies;
the Budget offers no adequate provision for decentralisation; and
the Budget fails to ensure that the tax burden is equitably distributed over the community by action to prevent evaders employing legal technicalities to avoid their responsibility’.
I content myself with moving that amendment. I do not wish to exercise my right to speak to it.
– Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment which has been presented by Senator Gair. This debate is now in its dying stages after having progressed for some weeks and after a delay and intervention caused by the rising of the Senate for a week. Perhaps the more emotive responses to the contents of the Budget have now been dissipated by the passage of time. It has been fairly evident that that is the case because of the nature of the discussion of the Budget in this postponed period of its consideration. This run of speeches has been marked more by discussion of the Budget as a technical document and an analysis of it in the economic sense because of the role it plays in the control of the disciplined economy which is the kind of . economy that we have in Australia.
I do not wish to protract unduly the discussion on this matter. I might say that I have been informed that our exercise in the embarkation of Committee discussions on the Estimates is contemplated for this afternoon, but due- to the way this discussion has proceeded it may not be possible to commence the deliberations of the committees as early as was hoped and expected. The services of a great number of departmental officers have been made available, so merely to protract this discussion would not be altogether warranted in the circumstances. Nevertheless, we have presented a very substantial amendment which requires at least some discussion and analysis.
The discussion of the Budget at this stage of the debate has underlined certain things which are becoming manifest from year to year such as the increasing area of rigidity in the finances of the Australian nation. Revenue is determined according to the avenues which are available, but increasingly as governments move more and more into the conduct of society, instead of merely being remote and entering into normal administrative functions, it is inevitable that there will be increasing demands for fixed commitments of the revenue. As we look at the Budget we find that that is so. Within any financial possibility the limitations on what one must do according to one’s commitments, and what one may do according to one’s political ideas or one’s political philosophy, depend on the area of manoeuvrability which is available in the presentation of the financial accounts. As the fixed demands build up inevitably in the hands of one government or another of one complexion or another, the ability to manoeuvre and . the attempt to carry into administration some of the political ideas become increasingly circumscribed. We find that that is so when we analyse the accounts which are related to this Budget.
The fixed commitments - that is, the inescapable commitments, those which may vary from year to year in amount but are fixed in obligation, either in political obligation or in contractual obligation - are things such as the defence commitment, payments to or for the States, social welfare payments, the ordinary administrative costs of the Government and matters of that character. They are all fixed commitments and they are all inescapable. Before the Budget can be used for any other purpose those commitments must be met in one degree or another, the only variation being perhaps to adjust to the increase due to the deterioration in the value of money and, if necessary, increases in demand on those services. That is continually injecting an increasing rigidity into the public account and is robbing it increasingly of its flexibility. That can be a very dangerous thing but it is becoming inescapable.
In the area of what I call the rigidity of the Budget, the matter we have raised to the prime position in our amendment is the provision of Australian defence. We make no apologies for that because Australia today finds itself in an extraordinary position. We are still only a comparatively young nation and a comparatively undeveloped nation. In the normal course of history we might well have been given the opportunity to go about our affairs - building our population, developing our resources and building, .strengthening and extending our economy - without interrup-tion. But that has not been the fate of the Australian nation. In a very short period, of time we have been involved in 2 major wars, with all the economic consequences, population depletion and matters of that character. So already there has been a severe interruption of the historical growth of this nation.
But today we find ourselves in a different position again. Whereas we might have expected a period of placidity in which we could go about our affairs, because of our geographical situation and developments in the world we find ourselves embroiled in international situations that must be faced. Fifty years ago the world was fairly rigidly defined in national areas or colonial areas. But over the past 25 years we have seen the fragmentation of the world and the emergence of new nations with all the problems that have come from that in the form of international discontent and international friction. We have also seen the emergence of aggressive political ideologies confronting one another or confronting the free world. We have seen these ideologies penetrating through the continent of Europe, and we now see them penetrating through the continent of Asia and the sub-continent of South East Asia.
It is in this geographical situation that Australia exists and has been denied what we had hoped would have been a period of placidity in which national development could take place, because of our geographical remoteness from any areas of the world. We must accommodate the whole of our national existence to this new international situation and this new geographical situation in the area in which we are intimately involved. For that reason Australia cannot afford the privilege and comfort of going about her affairs as a young nation might have been permitted to do, might have been expected to do and might have been entitled to do, without having to assume all the obligations of maturity and to accept all the responsibilities of adulthood. But that is precisely what Australia is now required to do.
To a major degree Australia has grown up very rapidly. She has been thrown on to the vast international stage. Those who protected her have had to go about their own affairs. Britain has found herself compelled to withdraw within the perimeter of her own existence and now orients herself towards Europe. The United States of America, to a major degree, finds herself in a similar position. Australia therefore is now in the position that she must pursue her national destiny independently, using her own resources, making her own national decisions, taking up her own international positions, adapting herself to international situations as she sees them and making her own decisions on defence, foreign affairs and international economic policy. These are very big things for the Australian nation to be called upon to do.
In terms of the Latin phrase salus populest suprema lex - the safety of the people is the supreme law - we must necessarily, as a matter of national obligation, elevate the defence of Australia to a position of prime concern. This imposes extraordinary burdens upon this young nation at this stage of our development. Because this is so, we must continuously write into national Budgets firm and rigid commitments in the area of defence. Of course, these commitments will be great; they will be continuing; and they will be necessary. Despite all the talk in the world and no matter which party is in power, it will have to face up, in some degree or another, to the necessity for major defence votes for Australia in the context in which Australia finds herself.
I do not propose to make this a speech on foreign policy; but, because we make a point of the inadequacy of the financial provision for the defence requirements of
Australia in terms of the Government’s own assessment, as we say in the first paragraph of our amendment, it may not be inopportune if I pause for a few moments to reflect on my own more recent associations with the countries immediately to our north. Earlier this year I was in Vietnam and Thailand. I do not propose to discuss those countries at this stage. In the last few weeks I have been in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Those are the areas in which, by the Australian military presence, the defence requirement to a major degree is committed. When one discusses the Australian presence with people of significance in those areas, one inevitably hears that they find it necessary, desirable and most welcome. They see the containment of Communism on the IndoChinese peninsula as something that will save the rest of South East Asia. They realise that they stand in the path of subversion and aggression from the north - not the mass aggression of great armies, but the insidious aggression of economic and physical subversion. They have no illusions about that.
Somebody has asked: ‘Who believes any longer in the domino theory?’ Those countries say: ‘We believe in the domino theory because we are dominoes’. They have no illusions about the fact that they stand in the path of aggression of that nature from the north. They say without equivocation that if Communism is not contained on the Indo-Chinese peninsula but breaks through into Thailand - there is already subversion on the Thai-Malay border - then almost immediately the sub-, version will be into Malaya and Malaysia. They know that, because of the communal problem that they have and because of a certain inbuilt communal instability due to racial differences, they are quite vulnerable to that type of subversion. Therefore they regard the Australian presence as an indication of our participation in their security and as a guarantee that there is an interest in the preservation of the integrity of those new nations who do not wish to be subverted so early in the history of their independence from the colonial powers. This is logical; this is reasonable; and this is what they are looking forward to Australia persisting in doing.
When we move south and east of there we come to Indonesia, which very nearly failed to avoid a Communist takeover in 1965. The extent of the Communist penetration there is still not known. That is why there are still camps for interrogation in an attempt to trace the tentacles of the Communist conspiracy. The Indonesians find that in their country there is an instability which creates a tremendous vulnerability to this process of subversion from the north. Again the Australian presence in that area - not of course in Indonesia - is a demonstration of the identification of this country with the security of that area. Quite apart from that, it is also an indication of our own concern for the security of this nation in a process of forward defence. If that is so, the provision of finance to back such defence commitments is an inseparable part of our national obligation but necessarily writes into the Budget a certain rigidity which again is inescapable.
I come now to the other matter which . has been of great concern to the Democratic Labor Party, particularly as we all know during the House of Representatives election campaign last year, namely, the suggested welcomed accommodation to the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Again this is a matter that is of very grave concern to that part of the world. It was pointed out to me that the Strait of Malacca has ceased to assume the significance it once did and that the route across the southern Indian Ocean to the East Indies and that part of the world is now of very great importance. Hence, as somebody said, the Russian naval interest in this area. When we protested against this suggested policy of accommodation to the Russian naval presence, our protest was criticised as being almost an indication of mere prejudice and that we ‘ were fanatics in that regard. There are 2 major areas of concern. The United States and Great Britain are concerned about it.
The presence of Australian and British troops in that part of the world and the presence of Australian and British naval, forces in the Indian Ocean are both considered there as being a tremendous demonstration that a vacuum of power will not be permitted to . live in South East Asia. The. great. powers, as is said in physics of ^ nature, abhor a vacuum. A vacuum is not destroyed merely by its being filled. It is destroyed by a presence within the area of the vacuum. It might be cynically asked whether we mean to say that the minor Australian naval and military presence in itself will fill the vacuum. We say nothing of the kind. We say to other powers who believe that nobody is interested to go in there that we are interested because we regard ourselves as part of this area and the security of this part of the world is part of our national concern.
Therefore, if in this Budget we accept the rigidity of an adequate defence provision, limiting opportunities that might otherwise be given to a government for expenditure in other fields which it might be the wish of any government to engage in - to extend the social and cultural life of the community - this is one of the inescapable facts of Australian life at this period of our national development and this period of our history and of the world around us. We therefore accept- this element of rigidity as inescapable and as totally necessary. But, of course, when we come to the other areas of national concern, we say that those are the areas where there may . be opportunity for the projection in definite terms of political philosophies, the amelioration or extension of social security, or the extension of interest in education or science where they are not in the same sense rigid and necessary but certainly in degree are capable of more or less emphasis.
That is where governments do have an opportunity if the finances are available to exploit their own political and social ideas. But again, the opportunity to do that is being gradually more and more circumscribed by other limitations in the Budget. Not the least of those limitations are those imposed by the financial responsibility which the Commonwealth has now assumed towards the States. On reading the Budget documents one is not apalled but concerned, not merely by direct grants to the States or tax reimbursements but by the multiplicity of specific grants for specific purposes which seem to proliferate and increase year by year. There are ad hoc grants, specific grants, temporary grants and things of that nature, all of which in time become a fixed financial cornmoment in the Budget.
In terms of the presentation of the national accounts it is becoming increas ingly evident that any Budget today must in some sense only partially reflect the desires of the Government in any area of operation, and the Government cannot really give effect to what it would like to do. We make no apologies for the Government for the emphasis it places according to the distribution of moneys in its hands. Senator Gair last night made a most realistic approach to this matter. He spoke f rom long, political, parliamentary and governmental experience in pointing out that governments unfortunately at times have to prune where they would like to be generous. That is inescapable in the. modern world. We are concerned at whether this rigidity will be accepted as inevitable and whether governments will deny themselves all opportunity for manoeuvrability and generosity in terms of their political ideas.
I think it was Senator Cotton, or perhaps it was Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who made the point that inevitably the difficulties must increase unless our gross national income and gross national wealth can be enlarged. If not, there will be constriction from year to year until the Budget will become like the laws of the Medes and the Persians and in the hands of any government of any complexion, unless it can cut down on essential and fixed commitments like defence, we will get the difference only between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Because we find that position developing today we should examine the whole structure of the nation to see whether we are exploiting, to the best advantage and as quickly as possible, the natural resources of the country and capital and manpower resources to increase the national wealth in order to have available the resources which will enable an enrichment and amelioration of the lives of the people. That is why we particularly draw attention to the condition of the primary industries.
Australia is moving into a new position internationally and into many fields of commitment, but we are still basing the whole stucture of our national economy on the same concepts as we did 30, 40 or 50 years ago. We are still approaching our rural industries as if they had the same role in the economy as they had 50 years ago and as if they were as strong economically as they were at that time. Our approach is based on the assumption that they make the same contribution to the national wealth as they did 50 years ago and have the same opportunities, particularly opportunities for regeneration, after periods of low prices and poor seasons. That is totally unreal. If we continue on that basis budgets increasingly will become only formal documents of receipts and expenditure which do not project any positive political ideas. In other words, what is now necessary is a complete examination of the structure and infrastructure of the Australian economy to find at what points and by which reorganisation the matter can be approached and investigated to see that the national wealth is accumulated and developed as quickly as possible.
As the rural economy has always traditionally provided a great part of our national wealth and is today threatened with a diminishing role in this respect, this problem particularly has to be handled not only in the economic and human interests of the people concerned, but because obviously resources in that field of the economy are not being used to best advantage. The physical resources of the people engaged and embroiled in that industry are not being used to the best advantage and they should be. Otherwise, we will not be able to give the. people of this country what we think are their entitlements and what we want to give them.
Therefore, when we put these proposals forward in our amendment we do these things in a positive way. We differ from Senator Murphy in his proposed amendment because we consider, as Senator Gair has said, that the amendment proposed by the Australian Labor Party was negative in concept. That result may stem from the fact that the Opposition, legitimately or not, considers that its role is to criticise rather than to proffer suggestions. I do not know, lt is a matter of interpretation. We have perferred to put forward positive propositions because, we feel that everybody in the Parliament has a contribution to make. Although a party is in Opposition, it should think positively and advance propositions.
I was intrigued that Senator Murphy in his proposed amendment on behalf of the Opposition condemned the Budget because it is negative. I was intrigued because Senator Murphy in his own proposed amendment adopted the same attitude, which we describe as negative. That is why in general terms we propose to prefer the amendment which is now before the Senate. Senator Gair has dealt with the matters which are in what might be called the area of monoeuvrability’ of the Budget. They are such things as maternity and child allowances and an increase in the pension at least to compensate for cost of living adjustments. I do not deal with matters of that character. I simply direct the attention of honourable senators to the fact that the propositions which we advance are really related to the structure of the economy so that if those items are handled properly the Parliament and the country will not be faced with the position with which they are faced in this Budget.
In a more realistic assessment of the Budget after a period in which, as I have said, the emotive response has subsided, people are saying that perhaps this type of Budget in many degrees was almost inescapable. The worst thing about it is not that a Budget should be presented in terms which are unsatisfactory but that the nation has to accept it as being inescapable. That shows a departure, at the fundamental level, from the processes of government which would mean that such a Budget ought not to be presented. We must avoid Budgets of this kind. They can be avoided only by the processes of approach suggested by Senator Cotton and by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - that is, increases in national income and national productivity. Honourable senators will note that most of the propositions in our amendment are positive in context and penetrate to the fundamentals of the Australian economy - fundamentals such as defence. Associated with that is paragraph (2) which deals with the armed forces and which is a proposition that the armed forces should be a career service which would attract people by the adequacy of the income salary remuneration.
Paragraph (3) states that pensions should be taken out of politics. Again that is part of this method of attacking the whole infrastructure of the Australian economy, ft is not possible to consider a matter of such consequence as pensions in modern Australia merely by a periodic review of pensions by Parliament. This concept of determining pensions by some independent tribunal should be built into the Australian way of life in the same inseparable manner as the determination of wages by arbitration tribunals is now built into the arbitration system and into the system of wage fixation. The means test, of course, is ancillary to that and again goes to the issue of the fundamental Australian economy because it goes to the issue of the conservation of resources, to the building up of savings and to the use of investment capital. Paragraph (6) is tied in with that. National resources and capital have 3 components: National productivity, national income and national wealth.
Paragraphs (8) and (9) are practical propositions on the nature and structure of the Australian economy which, if properly handled, will be reflected in the finances of the Budget and will enable the Budget to become a real and vital document from year to year, gradually advancing the conditions of the people, gradually enriching their lives and gradually extending their opportunities. For those reasons, and because of the limitation of time as a result of which I shall confine my remarks in the interests of the work of the Committees in considering the Estimates, I support the amendment which I seconded and which was moved by Senator Gair. I commend it to the Senate because of the positive nature of its proposals and because it puts forward suggestions which could be considered by the Government and which, if adopted by the Government, would in future years give it the opportunity to present Budgets which could be taken as a reflection of real advances in the community and which could inject into the nation that element of hope which is always so necessary. Therefore, I commend the amendment to the Senate. I trust that it will receive the support of all honourable senators.
(2.57) - I listened to the points raised by Senator Gair and Senator Byrne. I must inform them that, after consideration, the Government cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Gair and seconded by Senator Byrne.
– This is the usual annual technical exercise that the Australian Democratic Labor Party goes through. The original : motion before the Senate is one to take note of the Budget Papers. If the amendment which the Senate has just rejected had been carried, it would not have had any operative effect. This amendment, if carried, will have no operative effect. It does not do anything in the legislative sense. It merely amounts to an expression of opinion. If the DLP had wanted to express an opinion against the Budget, it had ample opportunity so to do. It could have supported the Opposition’s amendment which was:
At end of motion add ‘, and the Senate condemns this deceptive and negative Budget because it fails to meet the real needs of the Australian people, especially with respect to . . .
Certain matters, standards and so forth are set out. The amendment was a comprehensive one. If the DLP really believed that the Budget departed, at the fundamental level, from the processes of government one would think it would have joined us in expressing an opinion adverse to the Budget. Instead we are now faced with an amendment moved by the Democratic Labor Party, whose members voted against our amendment, which contains some matters which are no doubt quite good matters. But we have not had an opportunity to examine them in full. On the face of it, some seem quite reasonable.
– The amendment was circulated 2 weeks ago.
– We have not examined the amendment in detail. Some of the matters appear to be quite sensible, but the whole amendment is drawn in such a way that the DLP would know that it would be unacceptable to the Opposition. For example, paragraph (1) states:
The defence vote still does not adequately meet the requirements for Australian defence and security . . .
I suppose that up to that stage the paragraph is all right, but it goes on: . . demanded according to the Government’s own Budget statement by ‘the changes occurring in international relationships especially as they affect South East Asia and Australia, and of developing defence policies which will serve us in the strategic developments of the future’;
If we supported that part of the paragraph we would be adopting the basic assumption of the Government’s defence policies, which we reject. We could not do that. Another example is paragraph (4), which states:
The Budget again fails to remove pensions from the area of politics by setting up an independent tribunal of experts to determine pension rates;
It is obvious that we could not accept that. Parliament has the function of determining pension rates. It is our responsibility to do that.
– Who said it is the function of Parliament?
– Those who drafted the Constitution and those who voted for the change in it which empowered Parliament to make the laws. An appropriate function of parliament is to disburse public moneys. Pensions are a large part of public moneys. Even Senator Gair would not say that some body outside parliament should determine, as distinct from advise, what the rates should be. I do not think anyone would object to somebody giving advice on these matters. But whilst the suggestion that an outside tribunal should determine pension rates may be the policy of his Party, he knows, from past experience, that it is unacceptable to our Party. Some of the paragraphs contain sensible matters, but some are not very well drawn. Paragraph (9) states:
The Budget fails to ensure that the tax burden is equitably distributed over the community. . . .
That is good. We agree with that, but it goes on to limit the cure by stating:
Of course there should be such action, but that is not the only way in which an equitable distribution ought to occur. What the DLP suggests is extremely limiting.
– Does the honourable senator say that we have limited the cure?
– The DLP has limited it. The paragraph states: the Budget fails to ensure that thetax burden is equitably distributed over the community. . .
It is good to that point. Then it goes on to limit the action which can be taken by stating:
– The. honourable senator does not mean to say that that applies to the whole of the taxation structure, does he?
– The Democratic Labor Party has limited the action to one kind of cure. In that way obviously it is defective, but that is not the main point of the objection. The amendment contains other ideas which, 1 suppose, are sensible. The DLP could have added more and should have added more, but the main point is that it has included in the amendment items which it knew would be unacceptable. If it had wanted to express an opinion it could have joined with us and it should have joined with us, but it did not do so. This is the way the DLP has chosen to do it each year. This is just a technical exercise. The Labor Party will not support the DLP. If the DLP had wanted to join in expressing an opinion against the Budget, it had an opportunity to do so. Its amentment, in this form, is quite unacceptable to us and we will vote against it.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator G air’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMuIlin)
Majority . . . . 40
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the service of the year ended 30th June 1971, and the Particulars of Proposed Provision for certain expenditure in respect of the year ended 30th June 1971 be referred herewith to the 5 Estimates Committees for examination and report in accordance with the Senate’s resolution of 11th June 1970;
That the Committees report to the Senate on or before 13th October 1970 unless otherwise ordered.
– Shortly I will move that the sittings of the Senate be suspended until 8 o’clock tonight, but before I do so there are a few matters that I think I should clean up because when the Senate resumes at 8 o’clock it will proceed to deal with General Business. The first matter relates to the order in which we will deal with the orders of the day under General Business at 8 o’clock. I understand it has been mutually agreed that we should deal with the order of the day which refers to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I move:
That intervening business after 8 o’clock tonight be postponed until consideration of order of the day. General Business, No.. 9.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Pursuant to section 38 of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967 I present the third annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board for the year ended 30th June 1970. There is a statement in relation to the matter which I should like to have incorporated with the report, if that is the will of the Senate. I ask for leave to incorporate this statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the sittings of the Senate be suspended until 8 p.m.
My reason for doing so is to enable the 5 estimates committees of the Senate to meet and appoint their respective chairmen.
– We have already done so.
Those estimates committees which have not already done so will meet and appoint their chairmen. Three of the committees, namely, estimates committees A, B and D, will then proceed to consider the Estimates.
– Will the 3 committees be sitting at the one time?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes.
– Mr President, I thought the Senate would have debated the document which is entitled ‘Senate Estimates Committees - Proposed Procedures’ before the system of estimates committees in the Senate came into operation. Apparently this document is a guide to the estimates committees. Of course, I am somewhat fearful of how the system of estimates committees will affect individual senators. No honourable senator wants to give away the rights which are accorded to him by the Senate. Perhaps the system of estimates committees will involve an extension of their rights, but I do not know whether it will. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said that, after the chairman of each committee had been selected, 3 of the committees would commence consideration of the Estimates. I appreciate that all honourable senators have a right to attend the meetings of these committees, but I do not think they have the right to choose a chairman or take part in all business. I am anxious to know how honourable senators will be made aware of what each committee is considering and where it is holding its meetings in order that they may attend if they wish to do so.
Another matter about which I am concerned is this: As the system of estimates committees in the Senate is a novel one, I would have thought that the Senate would have fully discussed the formulation of the procedure of these committees. The proposed procedures of the Senate estimates committees are set out in the document to which I have referred. 1 assume it was prepared by the Clerk of the Senate. Surely these guidelines should be discussed. I understand that there was some discussion this morning in the Leader’s office as to the membership of these committees.
– Which leader?
– The discussion was between the Leader of the Government and the members of his own Party. I ana not condemning this. I think the aim was to achieve uniformity in the operations of the committees. But I think that an honourable senator who is not a member of a committee should have some say as to how the committees function. 1 believe that if the guidelines which have been proposed by the Clerk in relation to the procedures of the committees are adopted in globo honourable senators who are not members of a committee could be placed at a great disadvantage.
– Which one is the honourable senator on?
– 1 am not a member of any of the estimates committees. In considering whether 1 would nominate for membership of an estimates committee I had to take into account how best I could preserve my rights as a senator. As one who takes seriously his obligations as a member of a committee, I felt that I would be under a moral obligation to attend the meetings of that committee when it was sitting. This would not have given me the freedom 1 want to attend the meeting of what T consider to be the most important committee sitting at the time. As a result, I have adopted a freelance approach so that I can attend whichever committee 1 desire to attend. I noticed in the proposed guidelines’ some suggestion that members of a committee should have 20 minutes to question officials and that the chairman of the committee will fit in the questioning by the other honourable senators who attend as it is convenient and practicable.
– Where is the reference to a limit of 20 minutes?
– lt is one of the guidelines.
– Was. it not some reference to what happened in Canada?
– I think it was. Page 19 of the document entitled ‘Senate Estimates Committees - Proposed Procedures’ states:
In Canada, it would appear that the estimates committees follow a procedure of allowing each member, in turn, approximately 20 minutes for questions and replies, with a certain flexible practice (or chairman aquiescence) of allowing a number of brief supplementary questions by other members at the end of each member’s turn. When all members have had a turn of questioning, another round starts.
The document continues:
Since other senators may be in attendance and also seek to ask questions … the chairman will need to ‘fit them in’ and give them the call as convenient and practicable.
I believe that honourable senators who are not members of a commitee may be restricted in asking questions. My point is that although these proposed procedures have been laid down only as guidelines for the estimates Committees they may be adopted. I do not think that we should accept in strict terms the guidelines which have been laid down. T believe that in formulating methods of procedure we should keep to the forefront the right of every honourable senator to have the same rights at committee meetings as he had in this chamber prior to the introduction of the committee system in view of the fact that many honourable senators cannot be in attendance at committee meetings when items in which they are particularly interested are discussed, they should be entitled to reserve their right to bring these matters up in this chamber at the committee stage of the Appropriation Bill.
Although I am not in favour of the system of estimates committees, the Senate having agreed to adopt such a system I will do everything possible to assist it to work. However, I think all honourable senators should be jealous of the liberties which they had prior to the setting up of such a system. If we do not take our rights into consideration in any determination of the procedures of these committees and preserve them we could be stuck with a set of rules which will debar us from asserting our rights in the future. My main purpose in rising was to express the doubts which I have about these committees.
– As the
Senate has adopted a committee system for the examination of the Estimates the Opposition will do its best to make sure that the system works. I have some reservations about the necessity for such committees but it seems to me that an answer to the doubts which have been expressed by Senator Cavanagh - and this is something which could be considered during the operations of these committees- would be to have only a permanent chairman of each committee. There need be no permanent members. Really all that is needed is for the chairman of each committee to be in attendance together with the appropriate Minister and his advisers because if there are reasonable rules as to when each item of expenditure is to be considered, any honourable senator could go along and raise the matters he wants to raise. It seems to me that it is not really necessary to have permanent members of these commitees.
– That is an oversimplification.
– It may be, but I think it is the correct approach to the matter. It would avoid the problems to which Senator Cavanagh adverted. I put this suggestion forward as my view of the matter. The system of estimates committees is experimental. The Senate may be assured that we will do our best to make the system work. Senator Cavanagh drew attention also to what I suppose is a’ practical problem, that is, where and when the Committees will meet. I do not know whether there has been an announcement on this aspect.
– I have indicated that 1 intend to join Committee ‘D’ because of a particular interest that I have in civil aviation and national development, and because I have a belief in the committee system. Like Senator Cavanagh, I wonder what will happen to some of the other items of the Estimates in which I have some interest. The yellow covered book on proposed procedures for Senate Estimates Committees which has been circulated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) states that a consideration of estimates by the Committees was to be spread over 3 weeks. The period allotted to Committee ‘D’ on which I shall serve was 12½ hours. The proposed timetable for sittings of the Committees is set out at page 12 of the book and a suggested timetable for Committee ‘D’ is set out at page 16. If we take the third week from that timetable we take away 4¾ hours of the proposed sitting time and leave 7½ hours for the Committee to consider the estimates of the departments for which Senator Cotton is responsible; that is, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of the Interior, the Department of National Development, the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of Customs and Excise.
– The word ‘suggested’ appears right throughout’ this book. The Committees will fix their own hours.
– The point is that this document was drawn up on the basis of 3 weeks being available for sittings of the Committees, but we will be limited to 2 weeks - next week and the week after. The Committees will not be sitting during the week that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is meeting in Canberra. But we are left still with the proposition put forward by Senator Cavanagh, that the 20 minutes to be allowed for questioning will have to be reduced. I suggest that we will get confusion out of chaos in the committee system if we proceed in this way.
– It is at least progress to reduce chaos to confusion.
– I keep my ear pretty well to the ground in relation to what is going on about Parliament House and I know that many people here do not think the committee system will work. They have suggested that the system is crazy, that we will have the Committees considering the Estimates which will then be re-argued by the Committee of the Whole in the debate on the Appropriation Bills. Some honourable senators have chosen not to serve on the Committees because they want a freedom to discuss any of the estimates of expenditure and propose to do this in the debate on the Appropriation Bill. If Senator Greenwood wants to know, this is the sort of confusion which now exists. But if the sitting times are to be reduced to 2 weeks without new guidelines being laid down, there will be chaos. I suggest
Order of Business that as a result of the reduced sitting time the Committees will not be able to give adequate attention to the matters put before them and members of the Committees even will be coming into this chamber, to continue their work when the Appropriation Bil] comes before us for consideration. I believe that the committee system should be thought out quite a bit further and that more consideration than has been given so far should be given to it.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister -for Supply) - by leave - I should like to intercede without closing the debate because 1 believe that I might be able to circumvent some of the continuing debate. The motion how before the Senate is that the sitting be suspended until 8 p.m. We have already debated the principles of the committee system and the Senate, after a full debate, carried a motion adopting those principles. The book of proposed procedures for Senate Estimates Committees which has been referred to by honourable senators is merely to establish some guidelines. As Senator Cant has said, many questions of procedure are as yet undetermined. What we propose to do, with the goodwill of honourable senators which has been indicated from both sides of the chamber, is to go to the committee rooms where the Committees will first of all elect their chairmen. Having done that, no doubt a discussion among members of the Committee who have been appointed will follow. A document has been circulated showing the names of honourable senators who will serve on the various Committees. Under the guidance of the chairmen, members of the Committees will discuss in the first instance how they will proceed. It is true that they will have the yellow covered book, on proposed procedures as a guide.
– All I asked-
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAllow me to develop my argument; the honourable senator can then question me On any point that he wishes to raise. When the Committees have discussed procedure they will then set about to consider the Estimates. It is not to be imagined, nor was it ever thought, that a consideration of the Estimates by the Estimates Committees would be the only discussion of the Estimates, that when the Estimates Committees completed their consideration and
Order of Business 685 reported to the Senate that would be the finish of the matter, that honourable senators would have no further opportunity to discuss the Estimates. Such a suggestion is completely unreal and a procedure of that kind would do scant justice to honourablesenators on either side of the chamber, lt is hoped that the establishment of the committee system will enable honourable senators, as committeemen, to seek information on points of detail, information which in the past has been sought during the Estimates debate by the Committee of the Whole. I shall come back in a moment to the question of who can attend at Committee hearings.
The committee system will enable honourable senators to get answers from the respective ‘ Ministers and departmental officers. This material will be recorded in a daily Hansard so that when the Committees report to the Senate, all honourable senators will be aware of answers that have been given. It may be that at that time honourable senators may wish to have further discussion on some matters. If this system achieves nothing else, at least it should leave the Senate with more time because in the debates on the Estimates in this place, even when the proceedings have been broadcast, honourable senators have sought information, as they are entitled to do, about some modest variation in one line of expenditure from one year to the next, information which can usually be supplied by a simple reference in a departmental answer. It is felt that by going into the Estimates Committees in chambers, as it were, we will be able to provide honourable senators with many answers and much of the information that they are seeking and that we will be able to do so in a better atmosphere, one which will not inhibit them. There is no suggestion that honourable senators will be inhibited by that procedure when the Estimates come back for consideration in this chamber.
If the Senate became bloody minded, if 1 may so describe it, when the Estimates came back into this place and decided that it wanted a full scale Estimates debate, there would be nothing in the world to prevent that from happening. But our belief and hope is that through the Estimates Committee honourable senators will be able to get information in depth. It may 17 September 1970 well be that the information which will be supplied and which will be recorded in Hansard will be of assistance to honourable senators when they come back into this place and will enable a better examination on some particular point which an honourable senator considers to be of importance.
I refer now to the attendance of honourable senators at Committee hearings. This point, which is a valid one, was raised by Senator Cavanagh. This is one of the matters that we have had to look at very carefully. It is proposed that 3 Committees shall sit concurrently. It is hoped that this afternoon Committee ‘A’ will sit in Room LI 7, Committee ‘B’ in Room L58 and Committee ‘D’ in Room L22. It has been suggested that the bells might be rung to indicate that the Committees are sitting. This is a matter which we would have to discuss with the Presiding Officer. The expected times of sittings will certainly be circulated to all honourable senators. It is important that all honourable senators be kept informed of when the Committees are likely to sit.
– But there is a difficulty.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONLet me explain further before the honourable senator raises difficulties. I know the difficulties. One of them was pointed out by Senator Cavanagh. He wants to operate on a broad canvas. If he becomes a member of one committee he will not be able to attend another committee which sits at the same time. All I can say is that it is anticipated that a senator may attend the sitting of any committee if he wants to do so. If he cannot attend, if he is required at another committee meeting or is attending a standing committee meeting, or even if he is meeting a constituent in King’s Hall, he does not prejudice his rights. He will get 2 bites at the cherry. If he misses the committee meeting he may exercise his right to rise in the Senate and ask his questions here.
– It is a waste of time.
– Consider that alleged waste of time against the situation that we had before. It has been not a waste of time but time consuming. Consider the difficulties we had in the past. For example, I dealt with the esti mates for the Department of Supply and I could be asked 20 questions in a row. I had to get the required information from the officer sitting next to me in the box. He had to note the questions as they came - and they came quick and fast - scribble answers for me and draw my attention to where the matters appeared in the Estimates. Then, exercising my task as a Minister, I had to stand and give a series of 20 answers involving mathematics. I had to explain that the reason for spending $200,000 on a particular item was an increase in award wages in the month of June, or something of the kind. There is a whole host of such questions which can be better answered at the committee level. I invite honourable senators to look at the records of the past.
If a senator finds that he cannot attend a committee meeting his rights are not prejudiced. I would not like to think that any Minister would then get up in the Senate and say: ‘I will not give you that answer because you had your chance*. That is not the spirit. If that happens it will kill the committee system quicker than anything else. I am the first to say that.
– What would happen if a senator arrived late at a committee sitting, he having been to another committee meeting? There would be a duplication of inquiry.
In that case we have the beautiful situation of the daily Hansard. If he knows that the question has been asked he can refer to the daily Hansard. He can bring the Hansard into this chamber when the committee reports to the Senate. He can then say: When committee A dealt with this matter the Minister got information from his officers and said so-and-so. I have had an opportunity to examine this, Mr Chairman, and I do not think the answer given is valid for the following reasons.’ This is a similar procedure to supplementary questions. We will probably get a far better debate in this chamber after the committees report than we had under the old system.
Let me put it this way: We are in an area of trial and error. It is true that this morning I met the Ministers and those honourable senators whom I anticipated would be elected as chairmen of the committees. I told them what I have said here in the Senate this afternoon. They are all here to testify to that. We are entering into a new procedure which will require great tolerance, forebearance and patience. We must all do the best we can to make the system work. The matter is in our hands. The chairmen and the Ministers have a special responsibility. I am saying to the Senate now what I said this morning when I met the Ministers and prospective chairmen. Someone mentioned a period of 20 minutes but I want to point out that that was in reference to what happens in Canada. It will be for the committee itself to decide whether it will proceed line by line and department by department.
– All I ask is that we do not follow the guidelines too closely.
-That 20 minute period did not refer to our guidelines. It was part of the information we received. The committee members have to choose their chairman and adopt procedures. If honourable senators are asking me for a personal opinon, I would have thought that the simple thing to do would be to follow much the same procedure adopted in local council meetings where councillors go through from start to finish. If there is no objection to one particular item you then go to the next matter. This is a matter of judgment. The committee may decide to do it another way.
– I suggest that we follow the procedure followed in the Senate.
The basic proposal is that we follow the procedures of the Senate. Let us put our hands to the wheel. If it does not succeed then at least we have tried. I think the experience of the system in other countries will prove to be the same here and that we will find that it will be good for us because of the responsibilities we have. We will all be better informed about the affairs of the nation and therefore will be able to make a better contribution to the problems of the nation. If problems arise the chairman of the committee concerned has a responsibility to come back to me and tell me about them and then we will look at the problems in a frank and open way in an endeavour to resolve them. Do not imagine that we are entering upon a perfect system. We will have teething troubles but we are big enough and intelligent enough to overcome them in the best interests of the scheme.
– I want to take two or three minutes to make a couple of points which I think are important. The Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) mentioned the matter of senators being advised of the sittings of the committees. I ask that particular attention be given to this point because it relates to the right of each senator to attend committee meetings. If he has that right of attendance then he should be told when the committees are meeting. This should be done not only by a formal notice if he is a member of the committee. He should know, for instance, that committee D is working in room 22 at 10 a.m. tomorrow and will be discussing estimates Nos so and so.
– He should also know the departments concerned.
– Yes, and he should know what department is affected. A senator has to exercise his rights and privileges as a senator, just as he does in the committee of the whole. This is what Senator Cavanagh argued and I support him. In order to do this we would have to know what work is proposed for the next day. This will enable us to decide which committee to attend and what attention we should give to the subject under discussion.
The next point relates to something which has already arisen in the committee with which I am associated. I appreciate that we are now developing procedures in the committees but I think there should be some pre-recognition of a standard of uni’ formity. We do not want chairmen making different rulings about the way questions are to be asked or what procedures are to be adopted. Therefore I raise with the Leader of the Government a point about the conversations going on between the 2 leaders in the Senate-
– The 3 leaders.
– The leaders in the Senate then. There should be some uniform standard applied. If rules have not yet been formulated which are good enough to work on, then let us make sure that each chairman does the same thing and arranges matters in the same way so that we will not have an odd development which might spoil the system.
– I think Senator Murphy put his finger on the point when he interjected and said that the basis should be the procedure followed in the Senate. I think all would agree that that is a reasonable basis upon which to start.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 3.43 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business
Debate resumed from 10 June (vide page 2211), on motion by Senator Davidson:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I follow Senator Davidson, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, in the debate on the Committee’s report. At the outset, on behalf of my colleague Senator Ridley and myself I would like to pay a tribute to the Chairman of the Committee. After hearings that went on for 2 years between October 1968 and June 1970 and which encompassed 84 meetings, 44 public hearings, 17 on-site inspections and the examination of 233 witnesses, I think I can liken Senator Davidson’s performance to that of Bill Lawry on his tour of India and South Africa. Fortunately Senator Davidson did not have to front up to a board of control. Senator Ridley and I felt that the way in which our activities were co-ordinated played a big part in the final presentation of this report. We are not unmindful of some of the staff work which was involved in spearheading the production of this document.
I think it is fitting when dealing with the subject of water pollution to state that, whilst I shall be elaborating on one or two of the recommendations in the report, what has happened in the last 8 weeks is remarkable. I think it is true to say that most of the States have manifested some interest in this vital question. It is equally true to say that there has been a spate of meetings at the local government level and meetings of conservation groups, all these people being somewhat impatient to get going on solving the problem of pollution at a national level. The Committee was most anxious at all times to maintain effective relations between the Commonwealth, the States and local government authorities, and it is on that basis that I approach the report. I suppose that in some quarters even at the Commonwealth level it was thought that the Committee was looking down at the States and was telling them that they had to do better, but that is far from the truth. When we advocated a national water commission we were concerned to ensure that the Commonwealth put its own house in order. In saying that I remind honourable senators that we must face up to the fact that the Department of National Development has under its umbrella the Water Resources Council, the Forestry Council and the Bureau of Mineral Resources, all of which are involved in this problem. The Committee found when it investigated the use of pesticides that to a certain extent a tug of war goes on sometimes between the Department of Health and the Australian Agricultural Council. These are issues that are dealt with in detail in the report.
In advocating a Commonwealth authority, we state that we see it as being able to bridge all the differences that exist at the Commonwealth level, quite apart from what the States are doing. One of the other salient points which emerged during our inquiry was that we are, in effect trying to leapfrog over the years since the 1950s during which North America has been trying to grapple with the problem of water polution. In our study of the situation in the United States we went back as far as the Truman era. We found that statements by semi-governmental authorities and some of the anti-pollution authorities gave the impression that the plans they were implementing would solve the problem, but of course, they did not do so.
Some of the Australian States are now embarking on some forms of legislation relating to pollution, but the main fear is that because Australia is such a large continent there could be a tendency by some industries to threaten State governments that if they bear down too heavily those industries will establish themselves somewhere else. We are trying to discourage actions of that kind, but unless we have uniform standards throughout Australia this situation could develop. I know that some of my colleagues from other States who served on the Committee will be able to speak about the situation in their own State, but generally this is a problem with which the Committee was vitally concerned. In laying down its guidelines the Committee felt that a situation must be created in which we could harness the activities of local government and citizen groups in the cause against water pollution.
I suppose that one of the most effective testimonials that could be directed to the Committee was given at a public meeting held at the Sydney Town Hall at 8 p.m. on 27 August under the chairmanship of Sir Garfield Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court and Chairman of the Australian Conservation Foundation. This was a very representative gathering and it adopted a 5-point recommendation which endorsed the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. As a matter of fact the recommendation went further and asked for the establishment of a national environmental council. Our Committee looked beyond the area which could be dealt with by a national water commission, but I think it will be seen that the recommendation which came from this public meeting in Sydney virtually endorses the contents of our report. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate that recommendation in Hansard.
That this representative meeting of citizens, held at the Sydney Town Hall on August 27th, 1970, endorses the view that -
That the Water Pollution Bill in its present form is only a piecemeal approach to the problem of environmental pollution in this State, and for this reason is of the opinion that the Bill should be withdrawn, and that the initiation of effective measures to control Water Pollution should become the responsibility of the proposed single pollution authority to be established by the State Government.
Most of the States have attempted to introduce some type of legislation. Our Committee was particularly interested in some of the experiments in the United States and Canada by some of the regional authorities. I know that each State has its own particular problems but, speaking for myself, I was tremendously impressed with the way in which the Swan River Conservation Board had gone about its activities in Western Australia. I can say of metropolitan Sydney that people in local government, and particularly those in an organisation known as the Sydney HarbourParramatta River Anti-Pollution Committee, which represents 16 riverside and harbourside councils, are tremendously impressed with the appendix to our report which dealt with the Swan River Conservation Board.
One lesson which we have learnt and which we must apply to any future government activity, particularly in the field of pollution but also in so many other areas, is that we must be able to feel that the various tiers of government are making some contribution. Possibly all of us, although we are members of the Commonwealth Parliament, realise that the day has gone when the Commonwealth can issue directions from Canberra about what the States shall do. We must have this teamwork of the 3-tier system, and it is for that reason that we indicated that regional authorities also should become involved in this problem. I have never been one who has. held the Utopian concept that the Commonwealth can always pay the piper. I think the contrary is the case. If the Commonwealth is going to make sizeable amounts of finance available to combat various facets of water pollution it should lay down water standards. That is what the Committee had in mind in framing all its recommendations. When we talk to people like Alderman Parkinson, who is the Mayor of Mosman, and Alderman Wild, the Mayor of Parramatta - I instance these 2 gentlemen as extremely efficient mayors who are already concerned in problems of water pollution - we find that they want to be able to help but that they realise that the resources to help are beyond the means of their respective councils. This brings me to a consideration of all the things which are set out in our report and other facets with which I shall deal in due course.
Until the Commonwealth Government takes the plunge and creates the authority suggested by the Committee people will be lulled into a false sense of security. I know that ministerial utterances have been made in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia on what is contemplated, but the administration in those States is probably able to combat some types of pollution in some fields, whereas in others the problem will continue to be compounded. This is what has happened in the United States, but it is something that we are trying to avoid here.
I take this point a little further and point out that even at the Commonwealth level more can be done. A Northern Territory newsletter of July 1970 contained an announcement by the Department of the Interior that the uranium production at Rum Jungle is to cease. The first thing that struck me was the tragic lessons to be learned from the Molonglo River in New South Wales. Residents of the Australian Capital Territory suffered when the Lake George Mining Company gradually drifted out of production. Typical of many mining ventures, there was not much done about what could happen in the future. We do not want this to happen in the Northern Territory. I have written to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and he has assured me that certain rigid safeguards are being applied but no one has been able to tell us what is happening about the devastation occurring along 15 miles of the Finnis River and how it will be rehabilitated.
I know, Mr Deputy President, that you, as an experienced cattleman, would realise that there is considerable concern in the Northern Territory about this situation. The Committee visualises the establishment of a national water authority headed by someone holding Cabinet rank so that there would be a Minister to go to bat for it. We all know that some departments are very laggard. We all realise that this is a very arid continent and we cannot afford to have any river polluted to this extent. I know that many of the newspapers have seized on this section of the Committee’s report. Members of the Committee, from the Chairman down, were astounded when witnesses said: ‘Oh well, this river flows out to nowhere.’ We cannot afford to waste a gallon of water in this continent.
We cannot live much longer with this idea of easy come, easy go. Fortunately concern about water pollution is growing. We found that the momentum of concern is increasing everywhere, not only in the capital cities. A big conference was held in Sydney on 1st August. It was a seminar called ‘Crisis-Pollution 1970’ and was under the chairmanship of the former illustrious Governor-General, the right honourable Sir Wiliam McKell, who is patron of the Conservation Society of New South Wales. There was a tremendous cross-section of people in attendance and they were all agitating for co-ordinated activity. The New South Wales Minister for Health was present on that occasion and he outlined a certain crash programme. But even at the State level - and this applies to a degree to the other States - the idea seems to be to compress all the protection from water pollution into the health ministry. We found even at the State level that the authorities had failed to state any clear guidelines as between State mining and State irrigation authorities. These are all problems which some central authority must tackle.
All honourable senators know that the State boundaries were defined at the turn of the century and the existing State structures cannot always adequately cope with a particular situation. The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales and the Wild Life Preservation Society of Australia are 2 other bodies which have commended the Commitee’s report. They ask what the Commonwealth Government is doing about the problem. I refer the Senate to the Canberra Times’ of Thursday, 3rd September, which reported that a spot check made of Canberra residents revealed that those people wanted legislation introduced to control water pollution. I know some reference has been made to improved methods of combating the sewage problem in the Australian Capital Teritory. That is to be commended. I suppose we could say it is pleasing to know that this Commitee was able to bring this situation out into the open.
None of us underestimates the forces that will be opposed to us if our suggested authority is established - and I sincerely hope it will be established. We will find that the Government will be faced with situations such as the Swedish Parliament faced recently. The State power authority in Sweden proposed to erect 4 storage dams and 13 power plants along a river in northern Sweden. When it was argued that the scheme would create certain water pollution difficulties the Parliament vetoed the proposal. I fear similar opposition when 1 direct my personal criticism against the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Despite the promises given by Sir Philip Baxter and his officers serious pollution occurred in the Finnis River in the Northern Territory. 1 suppose that Austrafia has to he with it scientifically and has to enter the nuclear power station club. However I think it would be much better if we had other scientific bodies to examine the standards which the Atomic Energy Commission claims to follow. I know that there has been tremendous controversy in the United States of America. Linus Pauling was scoffed at when he first made some suggestions about pollution but in America now even some of the State authorities are not accepting everything said by atomic scientists as being gospel which must not be questioned. That is why I strike a note of caution in connection with the Jervis Bay project. I know of the series of questions that have been directed at Sir Philip Baxter. I do not question his dedication or that of his staff but I would like to think that Cabinet will take the trouble to get other views and I think those views should be made public. According to the information I have, a number of study groups are undertaking environmental tests of the area but in the final analysis all the data is going back to the Atomic Energy Commission for final evaluation and I think that is wrong. The matter should not end there. There must be relations with State authorities.
My colleague Senator McClelland would agree with me, if he were present, that there are some misgivings among oyster growers on the Georges River. At this stage we do not say that any atomic wastage is affecting oysters. The monitoring carried out in that area is under the control of a troika consisting of the State Department of Health, the New South Wales Maritime Services Board and the Atomic Energy Commission. But then we discovered that the only people with the sophisticated instruments necessary are those employed by the Atomic Energy Commission. I am not only indicting the Commonwealth authorities because we found that there was a reluctance by certain State authorities to carry out regular checks. According to my studies of happenings in New South Wales the Maritime Services Board falls into that particular category. My South Australian colleagues are certainly more competent to talk about salinity in the Murray River. I am sure that Senator Rae, in his own style, and Senator Byrne will refer to water pollution problems in their respective States.
The question of oil pollution loomed largely at the time when the Committee was taking evidence. Last year Senator Lawrie and Senator Keeffe in particular, put a lot of questions to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), about the ‘Oceanic Grandeur disaster. The Minister for Civil Aviation will recall that he had a very busy time then because of the questions that were asked about that happening. I tried to link the answers we received to those questions with the evidence given to the Committee by officers of the Department of Shipping and Transport. Prior to the Commonwealth election last year the Committee was somewhat concerned about the growing menace of oil spillage. We took the almost unprecedented step of recalling witnesses from the Department of Shipping and Transport to ask them what they were doing in preparation for a possible happening similar to the ‘Torrey Canyon’ disaster. The evidence we received indicated that they had a very tight coordinated activity in mind. On the surface the arrangement looked pretty good. However at the time I had some misgivings about whether all State authorities were linked as well as they could be. Of course, at the time of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ disaster there seemed to be a flap on in many areas. It is interesting to go back to 21st August last year when I wrote to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and expressed concern about the need for something like the Brussels Convention or a code whereby every oil tanker sailing the seven seas would have to carry very high insurance coverage. I was not being unduly fearful because according to the evidence the Committee received there had been what I call mini - spills and we were far from happy about liability. As a matter of fact I think some oil was spilled in Corio Bay and the Geelong ratepayers had to foot the bill. 1 suppose that on present-day standards it was not a lot of money - something like $5,000. I said to the Town Clerk at the time: ‘Why did you not question this bill? He said: ‘If was not a lot of money and we thought that if we went to court and we got involved in litigation and then lost we would be in deeper water still.’ The Committee was faced with the situation where the evidence given from the Commonwealth Shipping Ministry witnesses was that we were waiting for the Brussels Convention decisions to be implemented. Mark you, I am not criticising completely the Australian Government. I am saying that pending the implementation of the Brussels Convention decisions I felt Australia should have taken independent action.
Mr Sinclair put forward the alternative of a private indemnification fund which a lot of the oil companies belong to. A lot of (fs and burs were involved. I think that if 50 per cent of the oil companies did not become members of the fund it would not function. On 21st August I received a letter from Mr Sinclair in which he pointed out that a number of oil companies were non members. Ampol Petroleum Pty Ltd was one company, Australian Oil Refining Pty Ltd another, and H. C. Sleigh Pty Ltd another. He also mentioned oil companies such as Howard Smith Ltd. He itemised the companies. As late as 18th August of this year T placed a question on the notice paper asking whether this list of companies could be brought up to date and whether I could be told how many oil companies operating tankers on the Australian coast represented a potential risk because they had no effective insurance cover. I have not received an answer yet but I did receive a phone call at my Sydney office from Caltex Oil (Australia) Pty Ltd assuring me that it had joined the club. 1 do not think we should wait much longer before taking action. Whatever prejudice I might have in this field against certain oil companies has been justified by a further answer I received from Senator Cotton. It involved this long standing claim - as claims go - which the Queensland Government has against the owners of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’. I think the claim is for something like $130,000. Probably if Senator Wright were here he would chide me in his legal way about prejudging . a case. I see Senator Greenwood here so I will have to be careful and not tread in too far. But we could have another ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ case and it could be an oil tanker which is not covered by the TOVALOP scheme or a maverick tanker with no insurance coverage. The Brussels Convention recommendations have not been implemented. As far as the oil companies are concerned, there is something like a ships convoy.
The other day my Leader, Senator Murphy, reminded me that the Senate gave an emergency Bill quick passage last year. We have been assured that in the near future the Senate will have another look at the legislation. 1 believe the time is opportune now to abbrogate the 1923 freedom of the sea conventions and say to the companies: ‘After November any oil tanker which does not have substantial coverage will not be given port facilities.’ I know the present Minister for Shipping and Transport holds the view that that attitude is a little drastic but to my way of thinking if there are any more of these spillages Australia will be in serious difficulties. I pay tribute to all my colleagues on the Committee. In item 5 of our recommendations speaking as one voice we urged that consideration should be given to the need for a coastal protection fund to meet the cost of damage arising from tanker mishaps and oil spillages from refineries. In making that recommendation the Committee is not seeking to emulate some ot the revolutionary governments in South America, lt is emulating the State of Maine in the United States where a small levy of 3c has been imposed on every barrel of oil from a refinery. I am not confusing the issue. I think that refineries, whether they be in Corio Bay, or the Shell refinery in the upper reaches of Sydney Harbour, or at Kurnell should have this levy applied. As far as tanker traffic is concerned I think time is running out. I feel very concerned that the situation is, as far as 1 can see, that the Department of Shipping and Transport has been a little bit dilatory. In the ‘Canberra Times’ of 25th July 1970 Mr Sinclair, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, stated that further discussions were to be held with State authorities. Of course, when the Committee took evidence there were other disturbing features. 1 recall evidence given by the Harbour Master in Darwin and the Marine Branch of the Harbours and Marine Department in Queensland. It appears that no government authority, whether it be State or Federal, directs the oil companies when they are cleaning up to use the best dispersal or the best detergent. This is left to the particular oil company. In the United States the US Coast Guard has a strong right to decree what shall be used. That right does not apply here. This is something which is very involved. I refer also to an answer which was received on 26th August by the honourable member for Newcastle. Mr Charles Jones. He received from the Minister for Shipping and Transport a schedule dealing with tankers which covered 3 pages of Hansard. When I look at this schedule 1 immediately see owners who are not covered by TOVALOP and they are certainly not covered by the Brussels Convention. I repeat that this problem of oil pollution is with us. I feel it is not sufficient to have a discussion with the various State authorities. Urgent action has to be taken. I am now going to make rather a unique gesture: Our own recommendations are good, having the unanimous support of the 6 members of the Committee, but with the concurrence of honourable senators I shall have incorporated in Hansard 3 documents. They consist of a letter to me from Senator Edmund Muskie of the United States Senate who played a very prominent role in the United States in connection with the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1969; a Press release in which the senator deals with oil pollution and a statement of elaboration.
In the weeks since you wrote to me, we have made some progress in the areas you mentioned.
For example, the Congress approved, and the President signed on April 3, the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1970. Copies of my statement, the conferees’ report, and the Act are enclosed.
At the moment, our Subcommittee is holding hearings on all pending water pollution bills. Among these is my proposal, S.3687, designed to improve the Federal/State effort against water pollution.
You also may find useful to your purpose my proposal S.3516, to control and prevent further pollution by oil spills off the coast of California. A copy is enclosed.
I would appreciate very much hearing from you how your Committee is attacking similar problems in your country.
Chairman, Subcommittee on
From the Office of
221 Senate Office Building
(S.7- H.R. 4148)
A House-Senate Conference Committee today ordered the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1969 reported to the two Houses. The conferces reached final agreement on the compromise version of this omnibus bill. The House and the Senate will soon be asked to give it final approval. Major provisions of the conference version include:
– authority for immediate federal action to clean-up any spill, anywhere - the Senate form of absolute liability for the clean-up costs of oil spill from vessels, onshore and offshore facilities - limits of recovery on absolute liability of $100 per gross ton or $14 million, whichever is less - unlimited liability for clean-up costs in cases of wilful negligence or misconduct - stiff criminal penalties for failure to notify of an oil spill - $35 million revolving fund to finance clean-up - contingency planning against oil pollution disasters - expanded research to develop new clean-up methods
– required certification from the state water pollution control agency that any federal licensee or permittee will comply with water quality standards during construction and operation before a licence or permit is granted. (For example, no nuclear power plant will be built unless the state’s water quality standards will be met.)
– Federal Performance Standards for marine sanitation devices and required certification of devices before sale
– creation of the Office of Environmental Quality to staff the Council of Environmental Quality and monitor the Federal pollution control effort - Chairman of the Council to be Director of the Office
– the development of water quality criteria that indicate the effects of pesticides on thepublic health and welfare
– federal designation of hazardous substances and authority for clean-up.
From the Office of
221 Senate Office Building
The legislation we have approved attacks several of the most difficult water pollution problems which have troubled us over the years: oil pollution, vessel pollution, pollution from power plants and other federally licensed activities, pesticides and other hazardous substances.
The conference version of the legislation establishes the concept that the carrier of oil or the owner of an onshore or offshore facility is responsible for the costs of cleaning it up. And we have established an effective procedure to insure that oil spills are cleaned up.
The Administration now must establish effective regulations to coordinate the federal response to oil spills and provide the necessary personnel to make this procedure work.
Today’s action is limited to procedures forcleanup and the liability for the costs. The hearings on this legislation have indicated that there is great room for improvement in the handling of oil in transport. There is still too much room for accidents.
Therefore, 1 plan to introduce legislation to lighten the regulations governing the design and construction of vessels, the transportation of oil and other hazardous cargo, the training of crews, andthe location of onshore and offshore facilities.
I also hope that we can develop a system for providing compensation for private damages resulting from oil spills.
The section of this legislation dealing with federal licenses and permits is no less significant than the oil pollution section. All federal agencies have a responsibility to lead the fight to protect the environment, but agencies that are responsible for the promotion of activities that pollute should not regulate the environmental effects of those activities. So that federal license will not be a license to pollute, this bill requires certification of all license applications from water pollution control agencies before the licenses are granted.
Senator Muskie includes a formula on oil pollution in which he uses such terms as authority for immediate federal action to clean up any spill, anywhere’; and ‘the Senate form of absolute liability for the clean up costs of oil spill’.
The Press release refers to a liability of $US100 per gross ton or$l4m, whichever is less. The senator then deals with a $35m revolving fund to finance clean ups. I content myself with those observations.
– This would be largely aimed at the Santa Barbara episode and one or two others. I shall cover myself by handing to the Committee’s former officer, Mr Thomson, copies of Bill S.3687 and S.3516 of the United States Congress which deals in detail, I am sure, with the question Senator Greenwood has asked. I am sure the documents could be studied with advantage by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in connection with any legislation that is to come forth. I expressed concern to Senator Cotton over slowness - I refer to what I said earlier - in implementing the use of the best dispersal or the best detergent. I have here a copy of the United States ‘Conservation News’ which is a National Wildlife Federation publication which contains an article about a compound called Polycomplex A-ll. Today I received an answer through Senator Cotton from the Minister for Shipping and Transport which implied that the Department had about 200 gallons of this compound for use. My Sydney information is that some doubt exists about this and there is doubt as to whether a real green light has been given for its use. Perhaps in the light of the answer which the honourable senator gave me today and my remarks this situation will be looked at further.
Another matter I want to deal with is this urban problem of the large city sewerage disposal on to beaches with its consequent tremendous urban reaction. It is true that the United States, going back to the Johnson era, by legislation granted 40 per cent or more of capital costs for certain modern sewerage operations. Frankly, I regard this situation as representing the legalisation of something which has been deemed illegal. We heard evidence in Melbourne where there was a tremendous upsurge of public feeling about an attempt to deposit raw sewage in the Port Phillip Bay area. There was unity between the local councils, members of the Legislative Assembly, the 26 rebel unions and the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. Everyone was united in the belief that the Premier of Victoria would have to do something better. He castigated our Committee although - I am sure Senator Rae will agree with me on this - we were trying to help every Premier.
Sir Henry Bolte attempted to run a pipeline into Bass Strait. What will happen there eventually is debatable, but at least he made an effort to divert the sewage from the beaches. It was to cost an additional $9m spread over a number of years. lt is not for me in this debate to go too deeply into the argument about State finances but obviously Sir Henry Bolte has been able to earmark that amount of money for this purpose. I do not say this in any disparaging way, but the sooner the Commonwealth Government at least earmarks some money for this purpose in some of the big States, the better. What is happening in Sydney and Melbourne today will be a problem in Brisbane and other capital cities tomorrow. I know that Senator Rae has his problems in Tasmania and that he has been very vigorous in trying to solve them. There is a recommendation in our report that the Commonwealth Treasurer should have a hard look at this matter.
When it comes to the cost factor, we know that as a country we are doing well out of tourist activities. Therefore it is vita] that we solve the problems of our beaches. I am concerned about the local people, whether it be a small group of local citizens at Kurnell, people on the northern beaches of Sydney or people in the Melbourne area. They are all clamouring for action and I will watch with interest the next Premiers Conference to see whether the Premier of New South Wales says: ‘If Sir Henry Bolte can earmark $9m spread over 3 years, we want to do the same’. Unfortunately Senator Wright is overseas at a tourist convention. He would know that the Brisbane Waters area of New South Wales has a big problem in relation to the Pelican Island disposal. I do not know how anyone can go there and argue that he cannot get money from Canberra when the Premier of Victoria can deal with this matter in the way that he has. It shows a lack of consistency.
Lord Ritchie-Calder, a prominent scientist, has said that the ocean beds are being ruined by pollution. If initially every country has to spend a lot more money than it is spending at present on antipollution measures, then that money must be spent. My own view is that industry should bear a lot of the cost. I think it will be proved definitely that the situation is such that the recommendations of our Committee must be implemented as soon as possible. The London ‘Economist’ of 25th July carries a report on this matter. I have mentioned Senator Muskie of the United States Senate in relation to oil pollution. The President of the United States has gone further and is creating an invironmental protection agency and a national oceanic and atmosphere administration. Maybe one can become too bureaucratic.
The Committee in its report has tried to deal with many facets of pollution. The report has been geared deliberately so that we can work in partnership with the States. I am often hesitant about referring to Rhodesia but I think I can conclude with the words of Wilfred Rhodes to the effect that there is so much to do and so little time in which to do it. I leave those sentiments with the Senate.
– I have listened with great interest to Senator Mulvihills speech on this subject. I agree substantially with what he said but in some respects I go a little further. To give a little of the background, the report that we are debating represents approximately 20 months work by a committee of this Senale and by some extremely competent assistants.
I commence by paying tribute to the assistance which the Committee received in the preparation of the report from the officers associated with it in their various capacities. I am sure that those members of the Committee present now would agree with me that it would not have been possible to produce a report of the kind that has been produced were it not for the assistance that they received from the officers who were associated with the Committee in one way or another. Their ready co-operation, their assistance, their ideas and their very hard work are things for which not only the members of the Committee but also, 1 believe, the Senate and the people of Australia should be grateful. No-one other than those who were associated with the Committee will know the amount of-work that was put in behind the scenes by the officers concerned in the organising of the investigation, the investigation itself and the preparation of the report.
This report is more comprehensive than any other report on this subject has ever been. It is the only national survey of water pollution in Australia, lt has been well received by the Press and by the public. It is a matter of some satisfaction to members of the Committee to see the way in which the report has been received, not only by honourable senators but also by the general public. Everyone appears to have been favourably impressed by the report. Tt is unfortunate, therefore, that there has been some reaction from one or two relatively small sectors in the Australian national scene. Some individuals in State governments have been critical and have reacted in a way which can only lead to the impression - I am sure that Senator Mulvihill will agree with me on this - that they have not read the report, have not studied the report and certainly have not understood either the problem or the recommendations in the report. I can only conclude that they have reacted in that way because of a misunderstanding. It has been stated that the suggestions in the report were an unwelcome interference with State rights. To me that shows a basic misunderstanding of the Committee’s recommendations.
So far as 1 know, no-one to date has claimed that the Committee’s general conclusions were not right. Certainly some of the recommendations have been criticised but not the general conclusions. I believe that the Committee’s report will serve as a very useful guide for all those concerned with this problem in whatever way the problem is tackled, be it in the way recommended by the Committee or be it in some other way. I understand that some industries are very concerned that the legislation to be introduced will be too strict. There are some conservationists who are worried that the legislation will not be strict enough. This is typical of the problems which the Committee endeavoured to resolve. It spent a lot of time hearing evidence from those 2 extremes. The industrial side was concerned that industry should not be so impeded that it would be able no longer to compete or to operate economically. The conservationists, on the other hand, not unnaturally were worried about the effects of pollution and perhaps would wish to go too far in trying to restrict anyone whose activities would create pollution, be it water pollution or any other kind of pollution.
The Committee spent a great deal of time discussing this problem and, although the report does not deal with it at great length, it has dealt with it to a significant extent. The conservationists and the industrialists who are worried could well spend a little time reading sections of the report relating to this conflict, and cogitate on some of the matters which have been referred to in sufficient detail to give a guide to people on both sides to work out the answer to this inevitable conflict. The report discusses the issues and sets out the considerations. It does not and cannot say what the final determination should be, on balance, between those 2 conflicting views. That is not a matter on which a Senate select commitee can report. But the report does set out many of the issues and man of the relevant considerations.
If the report has done nothing other than simply assess the situation in Australia, assess some of the considerations in relation to overcoming the problem in Australia and make some suggestions as to how it can best be overcome, as a comprehensive survey of the Australian scene it has achieved a worthwhile result. That will be so even if nothing positive beyond that is achieved. Of course, 1 hope that much more than just that will be achieved. I would not be disappointed and I would not think that the very considerable effort and amount of time that were put into this report were wasted if nothing else happened. However, let us hope and trust that it goes much further than that and that there is a great deal of reaction to and application of the matters that are set forward in the recommendations in the report.
Let us look for a moment at some of the basic problems. One of the first basic problems at which we should look is the local administration problem. This is one that kept reappearing like the bad money in Boyle’s Law. If I remember Boyle’s Law correctly, it is that bad money stays in circulation and good money goes out of circulation.
– I think Boyle’s Law is concerned with pressure. Is not that Gresham’s Law?
– I think this was another Boyle; but perhaps it is Gresham’s Law. Anyway, the problem which kept reappearing like bad money and which was mentioned by people in every State was the one that local administration has in enforcing any sort of standards or any sort of a law in relation to water pollution control where, as very often happens, the enforcement authority is also a polluter in its own right and is put in a situation, due to lack of finance or the inability to raise finance, in which it cannot do anything about the pollution for which it itself is responsible, yet it is charged with the function of reducing pollution and prosecuting those who create pollution in its area. This is an impossible situation and one in respect of which I have the greatest sympathy for those who are charged with the duty of enforcing local anti-pollution legislation.
But it is not good enough if we are looking at this matter from the standpoint of what will happen to Australia and what will happen to water pollution control. So, one of the conclusions which were inescapable to the Committee, having sat and listened to the evidence that it heard, was that this impossible situation will continue if enforcement continues to be placed in the hands of those who are living in the same community as the people they have to prosecute. How does any local government get on if it has to prosecute the industry that is the mainstay of the area that it administers? It is a very difficult situation, and again one in relation to which I have sympathy with the local governments.
We have extreme variations in approach. Perhaps some of them are governed by the situation in which the administering authority finds itself in that the extent to which it is responsible for pollution is the extent to which it can enforce laws in relation to pollution. If, because of misfortune, lack of finance or perhaps lack of foresight, it is in a position in which it is responsible for a degree of pollution, we can expect to find that it will be more lenient with the other polluters than it should be. This is the dilemma in which local government is placed. This is the dilemma in which, to a lesser extent, State government is placed in the enforcement of such pollution laws as exist in this country at the moment.
Lel me refer now to the unfortunate effect variations in the legislation governing pollution - water pollution in particular - have on industries. One matter that was put repeatedly to the Committee during its hearings was the situation in which industry finds itself when it is faced with these wide variations in standards with which it should comply. Let me take an example which comes to my mind at the moment. The paper pulp industry is an inevitable producer of effluent which has a strong potentiality for creating pollution. Tt finds that in one State it is required to treat that effluent to a certain degree; in another State it is required to treat it to an entirely different degree; and in a third State perhaps it is not required to treat it at all. The requirement may vary according to the receiving body of water. Such variation would be perfectly understandable.
But there did not seem to me - I am sure that I can speak on behalf of the Committee when I say this - to be any real rationalisation between the regulations on the standard of effluent and the ability of the receiving body of water to deal with that particular standard of effluent. The standard seemed to me to be related far more to the keenness displayed by the local government or State government concerned to obtain the industry when the industry was thinking about setting up in the area. We have a situation in which an industry, wishing to establish in Australia and being one with a high potential for the production of harmful effluent, says: Where can we best set up? Where will the requirement as to the treatment of our effluent be less stringent?’ Not unnaturally, it will shop around. Again not unnaturally, lt will compare what the requirments will be in one area with what they will be in another.
The temptation is for a small State or a municipality that badly needs an industry to say to the industry: ‘We will not require you to comply with very strict standards at all. In fact, we will let you just pour your effluent straight out’. That actually happened in one of the most glaring examples that can be found in Australia. In a certain State an industry with an evitably very high pollution potential in its effluent was permitted just to discharge that effluent straight into the ocean without any treatment whatsoever. The net result was that 20 miles of coastline, I think it was. was badly affected by that effluent. That is the type, of situation that arises when we have this variation in standards and this variation in enforcement.
II simply say that these are the sorts of considerations that led the Committee inevitably to believe that it was essential to the control of pollution in Australia that there be one central theme behind that control and the enforcement of pollution laws in Australia. For the benefit of any of the State Ministers who have reacted to this report and anyone else who is concerned about this point I hasten to add that that does not mean that the Committee said that the Commonwealth Government should take control. What the committee did say was that there should be a national approach to this problem and that there should be co-ordination and cooperation in achieving a uniformity of approach. Subsequently I will deal with the way in which the Committee suggested that uniformity and co-ordination could be achieved.
But let me return to the situation of industry. How fair is it to industry in Australia that in one State its cost of produc tion should be very much higher than in another State because in one State it is required to protect the environment as an inevitable element of its cost of production
– Under law.
– Yes, compelled under law to do so; whereas in another State it is able to expend the environment and so put its product on the market at a cheaper price and gain a benefit for itself not by expending its own funds in producing that product but by expending that which is owned by the public and which is sacred to the public, that is, the environment, which is something that cannot be replaced - or not quickly anyway? This is the type of situation that exists when there is a lack of uniformity of approach to this problem.
I suggest that in the interests of the public, for the protection of the environment, as a matter affecting the success or failure of industry and the cost of consumer goods and a number of other factors, uniformity of approach is essential for the control of water pollution. Industry itself, for the reasons I have mentioned, has a very strong interest in ensuring that uniformity of approach to the problem. By uniformity’ I do not mean that every requirement as to standards should be exactly the same in every place. I mean that there should be a uniform approach to determining the standards which arc appropriate to each particular area because the standards required will vary according to the receiving body of water and its capacity to digest the effluent. It involves an assessment of the nature of the effluent and of the quality of the receiving body of water, its subsequent use and its ability to digest as well as a number of other factors.
For the reasons I have mentioned, and a number of other reasons, the interests of government are best served by a uniform approach to water pollution control. An overwhelming majority of witnesses before the Committee said that a national approach is essential. It is interesting to note that Mr Gilpin, Queensland’s Director of Air Pollution Control, said last month to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science conference that air pollution control in Australia is at present the subject of a patchwork of State laws and delegated local government responsibilities and will require concerted action from all 6 States to produce an effective national standard. The report in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 19th August 1970 of the speech by Mr Gilpin was headlined ‘National Code Urged For Air Pollution’. I would suggest that any report of my speech tonight would carry the same headline, with the word ‘water’ substituted for ‘air’.
I believe that a national code is absolutely essential in relation not only to air pollution, as Mr Gilpin suggested, but also in relation to water pollution. I hasten to add that this does not mean that anybody is suggesting that the matter should be taken over by the Commonwealth and that the rights of the States should be completely abrogated, or that any step should be taken other than the sensible one of adoption of a national approach. This is essential for a national problem when the future of the community in which we live depends upon the success or otherwise of the measures that are taken to overcome the problem. The Committee said at page 76 of its report:
We were told by various witnesses that a systematic attack on pollution problems would require properly controlled surveys, investigations and studies. After they were made, priorities could be assessed, and informed and rational judgments could be made. If Australia had the time, the expertise and the money, this would be advice worth heeding. But time for dealing with water pollution has, in our view, already run crucially short, co-ordinated expertise in the Field of water pollution is lacking in this country, and our financial resources are subject to other urgent pressures. Therefore, this Committee believes that some judgments must be made and that the nation must, as a matter of urgency, get on with the job of pollution control, abatement and prevention. Within the next few years we should like to see a general frontal attack on all the problems, but wc believe thai a start can and should be made more quickly on the four main problems . . .
The four main problems are, of course, sewerage, salinity, industrial effluent and the setting of standards. It is interesting to study the experience in the United Slates of America, to which Senator Mulvihill has already referred very briefly, In the time available in a debate such as this I too must refer to it briefly. I suggest to anybody who claims that there is no need for a national approach, or a uniform and co-ordinated approach to overcome this problem, that he should study the United States experience over the last 50 or 60 years. It has shown very clearly that there is only one very effective way in which to tackle the pollution problem. It has been firmly established that a fragmented approach will not work. A co-ordinated approach is essential.
There must be a willingness to recognise the problem and to do something about it. There must be adequate administration and enforcement machinery to implement a nationwide plan. There must be funds to achieve those objectives. The determination of priorities then becomes important. I suggest that we should all agree that priorities can best be determined by a body of representatives drawn from all parts of the Commonwealth with experience of pollution problems, resources and means to overcome the problems in their particular areas. Then priorities can be determined. I suggest that the Committee’s report would be quite helpful introductory reading to an assessment of the priorities. Obviously a body is required which can go much further than that and which is much more closely allied with the day to day administration in the States to determine those priorities and to guide on a uniform and national basis a policy which is agreed upon by all.
We should not overlook the work which is being done by the Australian Water Resources Council in its survey and assessment of the quality and quantity of our waters. But there are other aspects that need attention. A very important research ingredient is involved in overcoming pollution in Australia. The Committee gained the impression that the research into the problem in Australia has only been scratching the surface and that a great deal of work remains to be done. I do not mean in any way to suggest that the people who have carried out the research are not doing extremely effective work in their particular projects. The problem is that their numbers are very limited. I think every member of the Committee will remember the evidence of Professor Munro of the University of New South Wales who told us that at the University his department was the first to introduce a course which touched clearly and properly upon a consideration of all the problems involved in pollution.
However, he said that that was not nearly adequate and that it was necessary to go very much further than he had gone. He said that it was necessary to go further tha a any of the universities had gone in the training of officers and in all aspects involved in the control of environment and its relationship to the administration and development of a community. They are 2 very important aspects. More and more local government authorities concerned with the development of our community have been paying attention to pollution, but we were led to believe that throughout Australia they are experiencing great difficulty in finding trained operators, let alone skilled assistants.
There is a shortage of trained technicians to operate pollution control equipment and effluent treatment works. A great deal of education is required as well as a great deal of research before Australia can claim that it is up with it in respect of the technical aspects of pollution control, the necessary research, how to go about it and the persons best suited to handle the problem. None of these things is receiving adequate attention in Australia at present but excellent work is being done by many people already in the field. At the moment the number of trained technicians is rather sparse, and the extent to which our community is prepared to devote a proper sector of its public finance towards solving this problem is limited. Not only have we a sparse number of persons who are interested in, trained in and technically capable of dealing with the problems of pollution but also we have a very considerable shortage of finance to train, to educate, to carry out research or to carry out the implementation of the work itself.
Those people who say that the problems can be solved best by the States going it alone and nol working in concert are, f believe, kidding themselves and have not considered the problems. 1 believe that the States are to be congratulated for the work that they have done in the past year or two. They certainly have shown a great deal of activity which was not evident until perhaps a couple of years ago. During the progress of the Committee’s work it was very interesting to see the increasing activity in the various States. The attention that has been paid to this problem has been most commendable. I am not to be taken as detracting in any way at all from the individual efforts of each State; but the individual efforts of each State will be to no avail, comparatively speaking; if the States do not co-ordinate and co-operate in getting a uniform approach to the problem because inevitably they will be beset with the same kind of problems which the Committee found have been in existence for the last 100 years. We start with a very good piece of legislation appropriate to the time and then we find that the pressures which inevitably result from a fragmented approach to the problem break down the effect of the legislation and the legislation might as well never have been passed. Unless there is a unified and concerted approach to the problem we will not achieve any real or lasting effect from the approach taken by the smaller areas - be they States, municipalities, shire councils or whatever they may be.
What has been suggested by the Committee is a framework within which the States’ rights are protected but through which a national approach is possible. In its report the Committee said that it believed that, as a result of the evidence given by the expert lawyers who gave considerable assistance to the Committee, it was possible for the Commonwealth to design legislation to enable the Commonwealth to go it alone in relation to this problem. But what the Committee specifically said was that it did not wish to see that approach taken: it wished to see an approach by way of co-operation between the States and with the States working towards one national objective. At page 142 of the report the background to formulating this recommendation is set out. The report states:
In formulating its recommendations the Committee has recognised the following general principles:
That recommendations should bc made for desirable Commonwealth action within the areas that are fully and indisputably within Commonwealth power and responsibility. These include the creation of the necessary administrative authority, the provision of finance, and the determination of policy, within th’e ambit of a national policy, for the CommonWealth Territories and within the other areas under Commonwealth jurisdiction.
That evidence presented to the Committee tended to establish firmly that the Commonwealth has. through a coalescence of Commonwealth power in the fields of taxation, defence, external affairs, meteorology, fisheries, quarantine, and other fields, sufficient legislative competence to lay down and enforce a national approach through Commonwealth legislation alone.
I emphasise this paragraph:
However, notwithstanding this, the Committee believes that, bearing in mind the Federal concept of the Constitution, it is preferable to attempt to achieve the national approach through the system of concurrent, parallel or complementary Federal and State legislation.
I will read that again:
The report continues:
There are further areas of the implementation of the national approach which do not require such legislation and in which the Commonwealth may provide services to the Commonwealth jurisdictional administration, to the States, to local government and to industry. Such services include research, educational and training facilities and special grants or loans.
That recommendations be made for the creation of a national body to focus and implement a national approach, bearing in mind the above-mentioned principles.
In a short debate it is not possible to set out in detail the recommendations of the Committee in relation to the creation of such a body. Perhaps I should just say that the recommendations are urgent and vital if this country is to achieve the greatness which all of us on either side of the chamber hope it will achieve. If we are to achieve that, it is absolutely vital that great attention be paid to the recommendations of this Committee. I am not saying that the Committee’s recommendations are infallible. I am not saying that these are the only possible solutions. What I am saying is that it will never do people any good to bury their heads in the sand and say. ‘We are right and you are wrong and you can go jump in the lake, Jack’. They will not be able to jump in the lake before long. If they do they will need an injection before they are pumped out.
– A person would be able to walk on it.
– Yes, a person would be able to walk on it. My previous remarks show the kind of attitude which has been adopted by some people. Most unfortunately - I do not necessarily mean by some Ministers in State governments - it has been adopted by some sectors of industry and by a host of people in the community. It is most unfortunate and most short sighted. I suggest it shows nothing but their own ignorance because anyone who has studied this problem fully could not be other than deeply concerned about the effect it could have on the development of the country and about the possibility of overcoming the problem. In the past in the United States of America, in other countries and in Australia a completely fragmented approach has led to a complete failure to overcome the problem. Heaven forbid that we should ever achieve the result that the legislative approach in the United States of America achieved until the mid-1960s. It was not a lack of legislation, a lack of money or a lack of will, but it was a lack of uniformity and of coordination which caused the largest part of the problem which is besetting the United States at the moment. That problem will beset this country if people are not prepared to pay more attention to the findings of 20 months work on the part of members of the Committee, to the lifetime of experience of some of the professional advisers to the Committee and to the lifetime of experience of some of the witnesses who gave evidence.
The Commonwealth has its role to play and I trust that it will fulfil its role. It has a role to play in the Territories; in assisting in co-ordination between the States; in research by specialists; in education; in carrying out work, be it research or technical work of actually carrying out pollution control; in the education of the general public; and, I believe, in providing funds for the carrying out of a lot of aspects of this work, particularly in relation to finding a formula - whatever that formula may be - which will enable sufficient funds to be obtained, be they from Commonwealth sources, State sources, local government sources or some source about which we have not heard before, whether it be an Opera House lottery or something similar. It is absolutely essential that a formula be found. The Commonwealth is in a position to take the initiative to find a formula to provide adequate funds for the provision of proper sewerage and sewage treatment works throughout Australia. Only a period of time on a committee such as this is likely to bring forcefully to the notice of any member of the Senate the abysmal manner in which Australia has approached the problem of sewerage and of sewage treatment. One of the problems is that you cannot get proper figures because inadequate research has been done into and inadequate assessment has been made of a lot of these aspects, but the figure that was given to the Committee was that 55 per cent of the population of Australia has some form of sewerage provided. Even if this is correct and the assessment is correct that 60 per cent of the sewage is treated in some way, it means that a very large percentage of the total inevitable pollution which rises from a simple bodily function which is inevitable to the very existence of man in this country is not being adequately catered for and is not being adequately compensated for by proper treatment works.
The simple fact is that this country has not got its1 priorities the right way round in these matters. Man cannot live here without polluting. People cannot live on earth without creating pollution. But if they continue to pollute and to add to the pollution which is natural to their simple existence - pollution which is created by all the other activities in which man engages in order to be able to live in the so-called affluent society, al] the industries and all the other effects of the development which has taken place - without taking proper steps and spending a proper percentage of the income, which is the national income produced by all the people within the community, on treating that pollution, they will find themselves without a country to live in because they will have destroyed it. That is what has been happening in this community and it is what has been happening in other parts of the world.
It is all very well to say that it is not so obvious, but some of the evidence given to us might implant a little bit of fear into the minds of some of the people who have the responsibility to take steps in this direction. That evidence was given to us by a very experienced witness, a person who should know. He said that Sydney Harbour is no longer able to sustain marine life anywhere near the bottom of the harbour. We have managed to kill off the bottom of Sydney Harbour. It is still pretty to look at from the top of most areas; - although you can find a lot of areas that are not pretty. We have the situation in which
Bondi Beach, which is one of the most famous beaches in the world, and certainly the most famous beach in Australia, is regularly polluted as a result of sewage being swept on to the beach from the Bondi sewage outlet. I will not go through all the examples, but there are 2 examples which can start to make people think of what they are doing to this country.
It Ls a soluble problem, lt is difficult to find a solution to lots of problems, but this is not one of them. The solution is clear. I trust that honourable senators in accepting this report will also individually and collectively take steps to endorse the action necessary to motivate people to adopt a collective approach towards solving on a national basis what is one of the very real problems which our community faces in this day.
– Firstly, i should like to congratulate the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution for the report which it has presented to the Parliament. I refer not only to the contents of the report but also to the novel way in which it has been produced. I think ils production is most interesting and has received a great deal of favourable comment throughout Australia. In my capacity as a senator I have never been called upon to supply so many copies of a report to the general public as 1 have of this report. In fact, it is well known that supplies of the initial publication of the report were quickly exhausted and that a large second edition, if one likes to call it that, has had to be produced. This has happened because this Committee has awakened the whole nation to the great problem which is created by water pollution.
Senator Rae and Senator Mulvihill in their remarks have stressed that a national pollution problem exists not only with water but also with air. This chamber has done something about both of these matters, by having reports on them presented to the Parliament. It is obvious to me that this is a national problem and that it has to be tackled at that level. Apart from the pollution which comes from our land, we are now reaching the stage where pollution is occuring in our streams. Rivers and underground water resources in this country are being polluted because of mining operations. We, being now in the early stages of our development, have an opportunity to do something that people in many other countries fervently wish had been done by their predecessors two or three centuries ago. This is an important opportunity that Australia has today. I was greatly disappointed by the attitude which the Premier of Victoria adopted towards this report. He virtually said that he would not read the rubbish; that the Committee had wasted its time.
– Can he read?
– I doubt that he can read anything except comics. The simple fact is that he was not prepared to read a document which had been prepared by the Committee to ascertain whether he in his State could assist in overcoming this pollution problem. This is one of the reasons why I rose to speak. If ever co-operation is needed from all States, it is needed from the 3 States in the southern part of the Commonwealth. I refer to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. We are using extensively for stock, domestic and irrigation purposes water from the River Murray which flows through 3 States. Into the River Murray flows water from the Barwon River and the Darling River whose sources are in Queensland. If we cannot adopt a national policy to ensure that these streams are free from pollution, as far as it is possible for them to be free, from the source to the mouth, we will be in the situation where one State can do all it can to prevent pollution while another State fails to assist, and efforts of the first State will be to no avail. For instance, South Australia, which is at the bottom end of the River Murray, will be in a terrible predicament as regards water pollution if Victoria is not prepared to do anything about it. This is why a national approach has to be adopted to this major problem.
You. Mr Acting Deputy President, are very well aware of the salinity problem in the River Murray. The greatest pollutant of the River Murray is the State of Victoria, which over the years has done very little, other than what was done recently when Commonwealth funds were made available, to try to prevent pollution in the River Murray. Fortunately this year salinity in the River Murray will not be as great a problem as normally because at the moment the river is running a banker and naturally this cuts down the salinity in the river. Perhaps in 2 or 3 years drought will reoccur and the river level will reach an extreme low, and all the people in the lower reaches of the river, the New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian growers, will be in the same predicament as they were previously as regards getting pure clear water for irrigation purposes. 1 remind the Senate once again that the problem does not stop there because these waters are also used for stock and domestic purposes. But we have the situation where a State Premier, in a fit of pique, virtually has stated that as far as he is concerned he does not want any intervention by the Commonwealth in this very important field. I believe that if the Commonwealth is placed in this position it has to grasp the nettle and in a referendum ask the people to give it the power to exercise complete control over air and water pollution in the Commonwealth. It is far too dangerous for us to say that we will do it purely by co-operation and co-ordination. If one State decides that it will not co-operate to the full, we have to take national action to ensure that we have the power to legislate to prevent pollution.
– An overriding power.
– We must have an overriding power in this very important national field. This is the situation which could face this Parliament in the next 6 to 8 months or the next 2 to 3 years, if and when the Commonwealth acts on the recommendations contained in the report. Also we have in Victoria the situation, which possibly exists in other States throughout the Commonwealth, that there are far too many authorities involved in policing water pollution. Far too many authorities are involved in the prosecution of offenders who are caught polluting the seas and the rivers. This in itself is a weakness. The Minister for Health in the State of Victoria has overcome this problem by deciding to set up a telephone in Melbourne so that every person in the community can become a policeman; when a person sees an act of pollution in the Bay or in a waterway he can ring a central telephone number in the city of Melbourne. This is puerile action which will not defeat pollution. It cannot defeat pollution. This is another instance of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, as happens in respect of so many issues which face the community.
We had a situation as recently as this year when a tanker became stuck on the Great Barrier Reef. In this Parliament we were faced with a major problem at that time because of the escape of oil from the tanker. We facilitated the passage of legislation through the Parliament within a matter of hours to ensure that the Commonwealth could take action to save the Great Barrier Reef for the nation. We were assured that although that legislation was passed, more legislation which had been well thought out at the national level would be brought before the Parliament within 6 months of that time. We are hopeful that the legislation will come before the Parliament this session so that we may ensure that a disaster of this kind cannot occur again. We are in the situation that pollution does not affect only the nation at large; it is affecting many individuals in their ever)’ day means of earning a living.
We have the situation at Geelong on Corio Bay where the fish which are caught now have to be tested. Boxes containing hundreds of pounds of fish are being rejected by the market every year because of the taint of kerosene that comes from either shipping in the harbour or the Shell oil refinery and other industries in that centre. The fishing industry which operated in that port with a number of vessels is now dwindling to the stage where only 3 or 4 ships are employed because great batches of fish, particularly fish such as trout which feed and swim on the surface, are full of the stench of kerosene and cannot be processed or cooked. This is driving people out of the industry. But no compensation is payable to these people who arc affected by this great disaster which is occurring in Corio Bay. They lose every cent that they have put into the industry and receive nothing in return for the many hours that they put in to net their catches.
We believe that if the blame could be sheeted home to a particular person or shipping company, each and every one of those fishermen who have lost because of the pollution of the Bay should have a legitimate claim against the polluters for compensation and recompense of the money they have lost. It is an absolute tragedy to see dozens of boxes of what would otherwise be beautiful fish thrown into the tips because of the effects of pollution, and it is a tragedy also that hours and even days of work can be lost by the men who are engaged in this industry. This’ is a situation which cannot be tackled at a State level unless the States are prepared to take action. It is necessary that all States introduce uniform legislation and a uniform system of policing. I hold the very strong view that the penalties now being imposed for pollution are peanuts and are not commensurate with the offences committed. A ship from the wealthy oil companies can pollute Corio Bay, or any other bay, and as a penalty be fined $200. It can pay this amount from the petty cash tin. The companies are not showing a great concern about the safety measures required to prevent the pollution of the sea. I certainly hope that any legislation which comes as a result of this report of which we are asked to take note will be introduced very quickly. We cannot allow the situation to go on and on. We now have a golden opportunity to ensure that we do not find ourselves in the same situation as many other older countries of the world. We have an opportunity now to act and to stop pollution at its birth. If we do not act swiftly we will face the insoluable problems that are now being faced in Europe, the United States of Ameria and many parts of Asia.
– We have looked forward for some time to the discussion of the report emanating from the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. The report from those who were privileged to serve on the Committee has attracted tremendous interest. As other honourable senators have done, I take this opportunity of paying credit and thanks to the administrative and technical officers who had the long and arduous task of advising and assisting the Committee during its many months of deliberations. The Committee was diversely constituted from most States and from various skills. As this was a problem that had national implications, it was appropriate that most States should be represented. The problems of all the States came into focus and under scrutiny during the progress of the investigation. The problem at the time at which we embarked on this discussion was perhaps in a less intense stage of public interest than it was subsequently or is now. lt is to the credit of the Australian Senate and to the then Senator Henty who inspired this investigation that the Senate raised this matter quite early and created the Committee. Subsequent to that there was a tremendous intensification of interest in and knowledge of pollution among the people not only of Australia but all over the world. I think it can be said of the Australian Senate that we were reasonably in the forefront in our approach to an investigation of the problem. Pollution is a mounting problem, a problem which has increased in intensity, in depth and width from day to day as society patterns have changed, as urbanisation has replaced many areas of rural settlement and as society has become more industrialised and technocracy has taken over. Fortunately there is always that hard core of enthusiasts who, in days when their efforts are not appreciated, battle against public appeal and are interested in methods of this kind. In this chamber there is one honourable senator who served on this Committee and whose personal interest in conservation is well known. There are many people of this type throughout Australia. That is why, as we approach the solution to this problem, we are fortified by the thought that there will be a great body of enthusiastic support already available. If the type of enthusiasm which Senator Mulvihill has manifested is shared by many in the community, it gives promise that any coordinated efforts in this field will find considerable public support.
We are inclined always to overlook what we call the socio-economic consequences of pollution. We are inclined to think of pollution perhaps in financial or economic terms or as a disturbance merely of human comfort and interruption to human living. But actually it has grave socio-economic consequences which impede the economic development of a country and impose additional and financial economic burdens. It reduces efficiency, lt adds tremendous costs to public health administration and things of that character. Therefore anything done to overcome the problem or to do something to ameliorate it would be a great contribution to the strength of the economy of any country being affected by its occurrence.
The approach of the Committee was not merely to the question of the pollution of one of the natural elements, water, but to the genera] question of water, its conservation and its use in a continent which traditionally is one of the driest in the world and where water is extremely precious. Therefore the Committee took a very wide interpretation of its charter, as defined in the Senate resolution creating it, and got down to work on its area of investigation. We faced a matter which had local, State, national and even international consequences. The Committee at all times was conscious of the fact that it was operating within a vast continent, within a federal system, with a variety of climes, with a shortage of water, with a strong concentration of population on the perimeter of the continent and with a multiplying industrialised society. All these things created particular difficulties which if not handled at this stage would finally create a problem which would be totally unsolvable.
Our approach was traditional for these committees. We assembled the technical evidence and assembled the evidence from government sources. I pay tribute to the Government instrumentalities of the States because I think they responded adequately and in some cases enthusiastically to the request of the Committee that they present evidence. We were rather taken aback by the activity evident in many of the States. It was diverse and unco-ordinated. Sometimes it was a reflection purely of the individual enthusiasm of the officer concerned. Therefore there were uneven registrations of success in this field. That subjective approach cannot ultimately be the proper solution of the problem, but there it was and it obviously provided a challenge to any committee which was trying to find an objective solution which would be applied irrespective of the particular enthusiasm of the people who might be administering it.
I think other members of the Committee were as staggered as I at the reponse in some quarters when our report was tabled. I was particularly staggered at the response by the Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, who, if reported correctly, said that he would not even bother to read it. We realised that the conservation of water and the preservation of water quality are both objectives that will take tremendous financial investment to achieve, and much finance will be needed just to prevent the position deteriorating. We are conscious of the limited resources of the States. The Committee at all times was conscious of the constitutional role of the States in regard to this question and that any attempt to solve the problem in the absence of total co-operation and participation by the States could be doomed to failure.
Conscious of this but equally conscious of the limited financial resources of the States we therefore made specific proposals that finance should be provided by the Commonwealth. If the Report had been read by the Victorian Premier he would have noted this point. As Victoria would have participated in such financial interest and grants by the Commonwealth it staggered us to see that the Report was dismissed by the Victorian Premier unread and unsung.
Obviously, Mr Acting Deputy President, the time has arrived for concerted action. We know that there is tremendous activity throughout all States of the Commonwealth. We know that this is part of the general response throughout the world to the growing acuteness of the problem and that the States of the Commonwealth of Australia are not isolated in their response to this new world demand, this new world interest and this new world concern. Therefore we closely examined what legislative and administrative steps the States were taking in order to handle, within the limits of their constitutional power and financial ability, the problem within the perimeter of the States concerned. This constitutes a great deal of our report.
We did not then allow the Report and our concern and our interest in what the States were doing to finish at that point of time; we kept reviewing State legislation, the administrative and legislative advances and departures in State legislation, from then until the Report actually went to press, right to the last minute, so that it would be as up to date as we could make it in every element.
We are gratified that the States have continued their work. We find now, as we receive report after report, that there is increased and continuing activity in the States. We have read in the Press that there is now a uniform pollution law planned for Queensland. We know that New Zealand has had a uniform plan and that the authorities there say that Australia is IS years behind. Legislative implementation of the New South Wales policy is to provide for 2 new pollution agencies. A total anti-pollution body is being set up. Victoria will use similar methods to combat pollution.
All these things are of tremendous advantage and bear particular relevance to the investigation conducted at the direction of this Senate and to the deliberations of the Committee. We feel that it is only with the participation of the Commonwealth that a total solution to the problem can be found. The Commonwealth has the resources and is administratively situated to co-ordinate the best efforts of the States. In the absence of Commonwealth interest and participation at a level in advance of present activity - and I know that the Commonwealth is participating in this matter on a national scale - all these great efforts on the part of the States may well go without that element of national coordination which ultimately will give the whole approach new vitality and will ensure total success. That is why members of the Committee believe that consideration of this report is a matter of great urgency.
It is not. my intention tonight to mount a political attack but I was somewhat concerned the other day about a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) to a seminar on drugs. He recited before an international gathering activity in Australia on the question of narcotics. He dealt with the activities of Commonwealth departments in co-operation with the States. He dealt with Commonwealth-State ministerial conferences and with the departmental agencies which are co-ordinating their efforts. I was concerned and disappointed because, in the copy of the speech which I have, the Prime Minister did not mention to that gathering that there was a Senate committee investigating drug abuse and drug trafficking at the instance of the Parliament. No doubt the Prime Minister cannot retain everything in his mind or know everything but 1 felt concern that a matter as substantial and significant as that should not be included in a speech to an international gathering dealing with this problem. That is why I felt that this Report on water pollution should not be allowed to become merely another document. There is about water pollution, as there is about narcotics in a different sense, a great sense of urgency. The Committee has endeavoured to inject that sense of urgency into its Report.
Our Report is constituted not only in words. We endeavoured to make its format part of the Report so that it would speak loudly and clearly. As I said, those who ultimately are to solve the water pollution problems are not going to solve it only under disciplines of law. We have to create a national consciousness of the need to eliminate pollution, to reduce it, to remove it and to prevent it, and this is a tremendous task. Undoubtedly the education of our citizens, particularly the education of our young citizens and children will be one of the great contributing factors. That is why we presented this report in a colourful form with colour plates showing bad instances of pollution, with easy access to the recommendations and with a rather dramatic cover. If this report lies in a school library children will be attracted to it, persuaded to look at it and maybe persuaded to identify themselves with the campaign which attempts have been made to launch. In that way the Committee feels that the report may speak, by its very appearance, of the substance which is contained within its pages. We feel that this report should not be allowed to lie unseen and unsung and not given immediate consideration. I have no doubt that the report has already come under the scrutiny of the Government and is being examined. Perhaps action is being taken upon it. I do not think that absolves this chamber from the responsibility and the duty of expressing in formal terms its sense of urgency. For that reason I propose an amendment to the resolution as moved by Senator Davidson. I move:
At the moment the States are active in the field. The Commonwealth is active in the field also. But what is required is a new level of activity in different ways and in suggested different directions. If the States are moving in their independent directions with great activity, great enthusiasm and undoubtedly with great skill, but if at the same time their actions are not parallel with a new level and new direction of Commonwealth activity then unfortunately the motion would not ultimately and quickly achieve that co-ordinating action which constitutes an efficient approach. The Commonwealth can do a number of things immediately. Within Commonwealth territory it can implement the recommendations of the Committee if it decides to accept those recommendations. It can provide within constitutional power many services which will be available to the States not involving the exactions of legal discipline. For example, it can provide educational opportunities, research opportunities, educational grants, and scholarships to create a body of technicians in this field whether at a national university or State universities. Those things may be done within constitutional power to provide services made available to the States. In those other areas where complementary Commonwealth and State action may be required the Committee has visualised that type of approach rather than probing the limits of the constitution to call upon the Commonwealth to exact legal disciplines, perhaps against the will of the States, which may be subject to challenge under constitutional law.
This whole programme could be doomed to failure if it were to resolve into a constitutional battle between the Commonwealth and the States. That would be unseemly, undesirable and unprofitable. But if a method could be devised by which the enthusiasm of the States could be coordinated with the parallel enthusiasm of the Commonwealth and, within a system, co-operative federalism methods devised, then I think we will really be proceeding as quickly as possible along the road to a national programme in this field. If it were a question of explaining in great detail to the Senate the contents of this report because it was abstruse, highly technical and in the absence of many hours of study would defy understanding or comprehension, then I would feel disposed to speak at some considerable length. But that is not the nature of this report. While there are some technical sections in it, it is couched in simple language. This document is clearly set out in order that, as we say, he who runs may read. The document speaks for itself and its contents may be quickly appreciated and assimilated and, we hope, quickly implemented. For that reason I do not propose to speak unduly long to the report. We want to inject into this matter a sense of urgency at the instance of the Parliament. The fact that the Senate sets up a standing committee on any matter in itself betokens the sense of importance and urgency which the Chamber gives to that matter.
– That was not a standing committee.
– I am sorry, I mean a select committee. I am indebted to the honourable senator. We do not embark upon this merely as a matter of statistical collection or to produce a document which can be used for academic reference at some future time. All these committees are set up to establish ultimately a programme of action by an assimilation of the facts, a discovery of the situation and by suggesting methods of approach and action. This Committee had the same objective and this report has the same purpose. Embodied within the report are recommendations for action and a programme of activity which can go a long way to establishing the type of national approach to this question which I think the States, the Commonwealth and all the people require. Perhaps the amendment I have proposed could be more specific. If possible I would like to obtain unanimity of the senate on this matter.
The one thing I want to convey by this amendment is a sense of urgency. The report speaks for itself as to the manner in which urgent action should be taken and the lines along which it should be taken. I do not think it is necessary to spell that out- Some argument attaches to this. But because this amendment meets approval in certain quarters I would prefer to have it adopted rather than attempt to have it more specific and see it defeated or fragmented. I know a suggested further amendment may be considered at a future time in conjunction with the amendment 1 have proposed. I commend to the Senate that this report should go out from the Senate with a note of urgency attached to it that we expect something to be done, that the nation expects something to be done and the work of this Committee will not go for nothing. Then, very soon we will be able to go before the world demonstrating that this nation is conscious of its responsibilities to its people, to nature, to the world which, with us, is the joint heir of the beauty which nature has provided whether in this part of the world for our particular enjoyment or as a resort for others who come from other parts of the world.
– It is not just beauty.
– No. It is a matter of beauty, truth and use.
– There are a lot of other aspects as well.
– Exactly. There are a lot of other aspects which we can share with the world if we ourselves will share them and maintain them. 1 not only commend the report to honourable senators but 1 also commend the amendment which I have moved.
The Acting DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– The report is an extremely valuable one. The honourable senators who comprised the Committee deserve the gratitude of the Senate. The report exhibits all the signs of their great study, great diligence and an application of the resources of the Senate and the talents of individual senators and of the staff which we hope will be repeated in connection with other committees. We are indeed grateful for what has been done. It is not necessary for me to speak of the contents of the report.
If the amendment which has been proposed by Senator Byrne is carried, we conceive that that will mean that the Senate approves the report and that we request the Government to consider urgently initiating the legislative and administrative measures recommended, as well as the question of providing finance to the States and other authorities whose assistance would be required for the full implementation of the measures recommended. We would expect the Government to inform the Senate as soon as may be convenient of its intentions in regard to those recommendations, lt is in the national interest that the recommendations of the Committee be implemented without delay.
I suggest also that the Senate, having embarked upon this project by way of a select committee, should not stop there. When the appropriate standing committee is formed - the appropriate one would seem to be the Standing Committee on Social Environment - I believe that the proper course would be for the Senate to continue its interest in this field by establishing perhaps a sub-committee of that Committee to keep the field under observation and supervision and to see to it that this report is implemented to the extent that the Senate is capable of doing that.
We think that the amendment which has been moved by Senator Byrne is an appropriate amendment. Frankly, we would have moved an amendment perhaps in more specific terms - I have indicated that in what I have said already - but I think it is important that we have unanimity. We are capable of extending tolerance. Senator Byrne was a member of the Select Committee and he has informed me that he indicated to a member of the Opposition that he intended to move the amendment, so we waited until he had the opportunity to do that and perhaps also to modify it somewhat. I join in what I think’ is the general view on this matter and support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Byrne.
– I should like to speak to the amendment. I had the very great privilege of tabling on 10th June the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, and of making a short statement at the time in relation to it. Now that it has come forward in discussion of the motion that I moved on that occasion we find ourselves with an amendment which seeks to refer the report to the Government for immediate consideration and urgent action. Wc also refer to the Government for consideration the recommendation of the Committee that there should be a national programme on this matter. I believe that the amendment will have the support of the Government and I hope that when Senator Cotton, the Minister handling this matter, speaks in a few moments he will be prepared to indicate that.
A great deal has happened since we tabled the report. When speaking to it on that occasion 1 made the observation that we were then at the end of the beginning. I like to think that as a result of the tabling of the report and of the content of the debate tonight we have reached a situation where there has been and now will be a continuation of that beginning process.
Let me refer to reaction to the report. Amongst other things it attracted the lively interest of education authorities, the appreciation of academic leaders and scientific people, a widespread Press reaction which looked at it from a variety of angles, sometimes a practical angle, sometimes even a political angle, and even a complimentary article as a book review while on more than one occasion it has attracted the interest of a national television network. Everyone of them, and indeed many other people who have spoken or written on this report in the intervening weeks, has covered it from a variety of angles. Sometimes there was reference to local political issues, sometimes pollution of rivers or underground waters, sometimes placing special emphasis on oil, sewage, industry effluent or salinity. But whatever way they looked at it, whether it be even in the sphere of education, they all came back one way or another in support of what the Commitee was pleased to put in its conclusions and recommendations as a national approach.
As a result of our 2 years work we concluded that the whole task of water resources management could best be undertaken on a national scale. We believe that a national approach is essential to the provision of a clear focus for advice and action because we have reached a stage now where we no longer need to discuss the details of water pollution. The facts have been established and acknowledged. What we are looking for now is some ongoing movement from the tabling of the report in the Senate and the amendment which has been moved tonight in relation to it. Encouragement, assistance and coordination are required in many fields including an assessment of the quality of water and the quantity of water resources, the conducting of our research, the provision of funds as well as technical resources and, very importantly, as we said so many times during our negotiations, in the areas of education and legislation.
Having said all of that, we recognise very much the effective work that has been done on so many aspects at the national level by a number of bodies associated with water quality and water quantity. I am thinking now of the Water Resources Council, the CSIRO, health authorities and other bodies, all of which recommended that urgent steps be taken to establish some kind of national water authority. That led us to the recommendation that there should be established a national water commission. Having established that fact and having published it in our report, which in itself was a reflection of the work which was done, we are led to believe that an assessment of informed reaction to the report suggests that there has been in the broad little quarrel with the recommendations we have brought forward. Naturally there has been some comment and criticism. This has been of considerable interest to us because it has meant that there has been reaction, that the report has been read and noted and that the recommendations contained in it have been recognised.
In the interval since the presentation of the report much of the comment from public authorities, from industrial groups and from official sources has supported this concept of a national body to coordinate and advance a national policy on water pollution. We believe that such a body appears to provide the most effective means of giving direction to a national policy and achieving the maximum coordination of all of the many efforts of the various State and other authorities which carry a wide range of responsibilities in relation to water management and pollution control.
We come back to our original concept and that which has been made by speakers earlier tonight, namely, that it would seem that only the Commonwealth can give the lead in this kind of national policy. This lead appears most likely to be accepted if the Commonwealth acts through the agency of an authority such as we have proposed and described as a national water commission. When I spoke on the occasion of the tabling of the report, I detailed some of the specific responsibilities that this commission might undertake and referred to the possible composition of it. I express the view that the existence of a Commonwealth body providing this focus for Federal action would guard against situations in which this total effort in relation to water control might be prejudiced by a series of fragmented and ineffective actions.
But that is not the only reason why we consider that a national water commission should be established. We believe that it should be established because it would be the best way of controlling, preserving and safeguarding Australia’s water resources. But Australia is no longer a nation entirely unto itself. It has relations with the rest of the world. Other nations have experienced this problem. Other nations are concerned about their water resources in the same way as we are. Therefore it is my view that we should take note of the amendment and also of the recommendations of the Committee because they will enable us to contribute to solving this problem on an international level.
All of us have read of the world concern and debate in relation to water resources, water issues and water pollution. Within a couple of years a major conference is to be organised, sponsored and maintained by the United Nations through its Economic and Social Council. The conference is to take place in Sweden in 1972. It will deal generally with the environment but particularly with water resources and water management. Like all United Nations conferences, it will, amongst other things, attract increased attention to the importance and urgency of dealing with the problems that have been discussed in the Senate tonight.
Australia will be represented at the conference. I was in New York only a few weeks ago, and our Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Laurence Mclntyre, told me of the plans that his office and the Government are making in connection with our involvement in that conference. I suggest that we can contribute effectively to a conference of that kind only if we have some kind of national voice and some kind of national opinion. I also suggest that a national opinion can stem only from a national authority. So, for those and many other reasons I am particularly appreciative of the fact that there has been this widespread and lively response to the concept of a national water authority as put forward by the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution.
In recent times we have been very impressed by all the beautiful colour photographs of what has been described as spaceship earth’, which were taken by the Apollo astronauts. In looking at those photographs, one has become aware of just how small our home on earth really is and of how fragile the whole form of earth is. If we have learnt one lesson from our communication with the moon, I suppose it Ls that we now know more than ever before the real meaning of the word ‘lifeless’. If the world does not look after the resources that give life to it, perhaps we can look forward to the time when the earth will be described as lifeless. A body such as a national water commission will ensure that within one continent on earth there will be an authority that will take up this whole matter of water control, management and preservation. If that is done, the work of this Senate Select Committee, in which I had the very great privilege of being involved as Chairman, will not have been in vain because its recommendations will have been taken up by the Government and put into real and effective action.
– The report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution says very well in its opening that Australia is a dry continent - in fact, the driest continent in the world, lt stresses the importance to this country of water. If there are limitations on the future of Australia, they are probably in truth the limitations of water supply and water availability. Water is more precious to us than to most other countries. What this Committee has done for us all is to do a long and hard job. In the process it has produced a most constructive and most useful report. I think I can fairly say on behalf of us all that the report of the Committee is a credit to its Chairman, its members and its advisers; but it also ought to be said that it brings great credit on the Senate as a whole. We all share in the credit for the work that has been done by our colleagues and their helpers.
As Senator Poyser said, the report is attractively produced. It is a document that commands attention by its format, the way it is put together, its indexing and its subdivisions. Technically, it is a very well done job. It has had a wide circulation and sale, as we have been informed. I believe that it might equally be said that it has drawn wider attention to the whole problem. It is often said - I believe that it is said with great truth - that if one wants results in a democracy in the end one has to have a public opinion that impacts upon the legislators everywhere they are meeting. Without doubt the attention of the community has been drawn much more effectively to the problem by the work of this Senate Select Committee and its report.
The report represents, of course, a very useful collection of facts and opinions on this important question and, without any doubt at all, to my mind will be used as a reference document for a long time. It will be helpful to those involved in planning and implementing proposals associated with water quality management. The Commonwealth Government is also involved, often in conjunction with the States, in a variety of activities associated with the study and management of the quality of the environment. For example, we are involved in the National Health and Medical Research Council, which is studying detergents and other pollutants. We are involved in the Australian Agricultural Council, which is studying the effects of pesticides. We are involved in the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which is dealing with emissions from motor vehicles. We are involved in the Australian Water Resources Council, which is studying both water quantity problems and water quality problems. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - the government research agency - is involved in studies related to the environment.
However, as mentioned in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution, ‘in any future arrangements for the study of pollution problems, cognisance should be taken of the total environment and the interaction of the different facets of what is virtually one problem’. Against this background the Commonwealth is already carrying out a study of its responsibilities in relation to the environment generally and how it might most appropriately discharge those responsibilities.
Departments with an active interest in environmental problems are studying the reports of the select committees and interdepartmental discussions are in train to consider and report to the Government on the implementation of the recommendations of the committees and also on certain other proposals submitted by competent bodies such as the Australian Academy of Science.
Referring more specifically to water and the Committee’s report, whilst it is agreed that there should be maximum liaison between Commonwealth and State agencies, it appears that a national water commission in the terms proposed in the report would go further than might be appropriate. The commission, as defined, would in effect be a Commonwealth agency which in some of its functions, such as ‘programming for the conservation and orderly development of water resources’, would involve the overriding of present State functions and responsibilities.
– But it would be appointed through the States.
– Perhaps it could be said - this is my view - that it would be in an atmosphere of co-operative federalism, as instanced by some of the bodies that 1 mentioned earlier, that one might achieve the most useful combined result. That is the way I would imagine that this matter is likely to be approached.
Some of the general intention of this proposal is being achieved through the Australian Water Resources Council, which is stepping up its activities in relation to water quality as well as doing some pretty extensive work on water quantity measurement, as we all know. At its last meeting in July this year the Council decided to set up a Technical Committee on Water Quality. That Committee is in the process of being formed. The Council is also involved in the administration of a water research programme and has accorded a high priority to studies of a number of aspects of the measurement and management of water quality.
Having said those things, it only remains for me to say, on behalf of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) and the Government, that we accept the amendment which was moved by Senator Byrne and which has also been accepted by the Australian Labor Party. It seems overall to be a good thing for work of this quality and importance to be treated by the Senate in this way, to receive the full support of the Senate. It is in the light of its quality and importance that the Government has accepted the proposed amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) agreed to:
That further consideration of General Business be postponed until after consideration of Message Number 82 from the House of Representatives.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
(10.12)- I move:
With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard my second reading speech.
This Bill does two things:
In regard to the base rate of pension, information has been prepared for honourable senators, which is fairly detailed and which, with the concurrence of the Senate, I would like to incorporate in Hansard. It covers:
Mr President, while the proposed increase meets changes in the cost of living since the last Budget it does not increase the real rate of pension to any significant extent. Using the June quarter index, a small increase is indicated, but next month, when the September quarter index has been compiled, it will be found that the value at up-dated prices will be almost the same as the corresponding value last October. In real terms, nothing has been added to the base rate, and nothing has been lost.
Naturally there will be some disappointment that the Government has found itself unable to maintain the real progress in this field which was made in the last two Budgets. But this is a Budget for consolidation and for the major adjustment of Health Benefits. However, I have no doubt that before long we will resume the progress we have made in the past in improving the position of pensioners, whether in increases in the real value of the base rate, or in the provision of new Fringe Benefits or in both directions.
Meanwhile we have at least maintained the status quo. May I contrast this with what happened in 1949 - I know it is a long time ago, but it is the last time when Labor was in office and is therefore the only real indication of the way in which the Labor Party behaves.
In the 1948-49 Budget, the base pension was fixed at $4.23 per week (£2 2s 6d) while the cost of living index stood at 43.4. By the time that Mr Chifley’s next Budget came along, the cost of living index stood at 46.1. In spite of this, no increase was made in the pension, so that, by December 1949, when the Liberal Country Party Government came in, the real value of the base pension had fallen by 7i per cent.
Let me put it in terms of today’s prices. The 194S Chifley pension at today’s prices was worth §10.89 per week: by the time he left office it had fallen to $10.08 per week. This, 1 repeat, is at today’s prices Contrast this with the $15.50 per week in the present Budget. Better still, contrast what Labor does when it is in office. 1 know all this happened a long time ago, but it is the latest available evidence. And remember, supplementary assistance of $2 per week, which we pay as an addition to the base rate pension to those who are in most need, did not exist at all under the Labor Government.
And, of course, if honourable senators will look at the schedules which I have tabled they will see that the ‘Fringe Benefits” - most of which were introduced by the Liberal Country Party Government - add a great deal to the real value of the pension. With today’s average male earnings after tax somewhere in the vicinity of $63, the base rate pensioner who gets Supplementary Assistance of $2 per week and the Fringe Benefits which average some $5 per week is up in the range of one-third average male earnings.
Most emphatically I do not say these things in order to pretend that there are not still pockets of poverty among the pensioners. Even more, I do not say these things in order to give the impression that the Government will not bring in further improvements for pensioners as soon as opportunity offers.
Rather, I say these things to put the facts on record and to answer some of the misconceptions which have got about. This year our Welfare Programme concentrates on consolidating past gains and getting the new Health Scheme under way. This year we may not have made any significant improvement in the position of pensioners but we have maintained their position at its previous peak.
Indeed, in a way, the re-action is a testimony to the policy which we have now pursued for twenty-one years, and which we shall soon resume - that is, the policy of continuous improvement of- the real position of the pensioner. People have become so accustomed to this policy of continuous improvement that any slackening of the rate of advance appears to them almost as a regression. I can assure them that any slackening is only temporary, and that this Government, so soon as it can, will be bringing forward another instalment in its continuous and continuing plan of raising the standards of the pensioners in real terms, whether by increasing the base rate or by instituting new benefits for them or by both methods.
The Bill increases the married rate of pension by $1 per week - i.e. from $26.50 to $27.50 per week. It will also, of course, have a further indirect liberalising effect on the Means Test. The new limits for income (where there is no property component) and for property (where there is no income component) are as follows:
These are the points at which all pension cuts out. Where Means as Assessed include both Income and Property, the Merged Means Test principles apply. Ready reckoners for this will be available to pensioners and prospective pensioners at Post Offices throughout Australia. I should add, of course, that where a pensioner has dependent children the income limits I have quoted above are still further increased as is the property limit for ‘single’ pensioners.
The increase of 50 cents per week will apply to all widow pensioners, so that a B Class widow - that is a widow aged 50 to 60 and without dependent children - will now receive $13.75 per week plus, where applicable, Supplementary Assistance of $2 per week.
For a Class ‘A’ widow - that is a widow with dependent children - the position will be:
In addition, there will be an extra $2 per week if any one of the children is under 6 years of age or an invalid, plus, of course, child endowment at ordinary rates in all cases.
Let me now turn to the other provision of the Bill which will benefit about two-thirds of the total number of persons in receipt of sickness benefit.
Sickness benefits., like invalid pensions, provide a measure of support for the incapacitated and their dependants. The invalid pension is a long-term payment for persons who are permanently incapacitated for work to the extent of at least 85 per cent. Sickness benefit, on the other hand, is for persons who are temporarily incapacitated for work - the payment is primarily shortterm. However, circumstances do occur where an incapacity, although not pensionable, is nonetheless protracted and sickness benefit may be required for a long period. Even assuming that most sickness beneficiaries do not begin their period of incapacity entirely without resources, it sems unlikely that those resources would be intact after a period on benefit. The longer the incapacity continues the more the overall position of the beneficiary approaches that of an invalid pensioner.
Under the Bill the existing maximum rate of sickness benefit for an adult outside hospital and for an adult in hospital who has dependants will be increased, after benefit has been in force continuously for a period of 6 weeks, from $10 a week to the same rate applicable to an invalid pensioner - that is to $15.50 a week. Married minors and minors without parents in Australia will, of course, be treated as adults for the purposes of this increase. For unmarried minors outside hospital it is proposed to strike a uniform rate of $10 a week, in lieu of the existing rates of $6 a week for minors aged 18-20 years and $4.50 a week for those aged 16-17 years, in cases where benefit has been in force for 6 weeks.
Furthermore, it is proposed that an additional amount of $2 a week, equivalent to the supplementary assistance available to pensioners, will be payable where a beneficiary pays rent and is entirely or substantially dependent upon his benefit. The present rates of benefit for dependants are the same as for pension purposes and willnot be varied.
All persons receiving sickness benefit are covered by the Subsidised Medical Services Scheme which assists them in meeting medical expenses and also covers the charges made for public ward treatment in a public hospital. Quite apart from medical and allied costs, however, a person with dependants will invariably have continuing family and domestic expenses; accordingly, hospitalisation will not affect the introduction of the higher rate of benefit in such cases. However, this consideration does not apply where a person without dependants is in hospital and existing rates will apply in these circumstances.
The higher rate of sickness benefit for long-term cases will lessen the incentive for sick or incapacitated persons to seek an early grant of invalid pension, lt will also enable rehabilitation potential to be assessed thoroughly so that transfer from sickness benefit to invalid pension will not bc made until permanent incapacity is beyond doubt.
Rehabilitation is one of the major objectives of the Government’s Social Services programme, and we intend to implement here the slogan that the Seventies will be the Decade of Rehabilitation’. The present measure of giving a new long-term sickness benefit may be regarded as a step in that programme - a small step, but nevertheless a significant one. Another step will be made in the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill which I hope will be brought before the Senate very soon.
There will be other measures towards this same Rehabilitation objective as our pOliCy develops. I do not want to canvass them now; I simply want to alert the Senate to the fact that we are looking to the best means to help at least some of those 134,000 Australians who are still on invalid Penions to make their way towards a fuller and more satisfactory life.
The new rates of pension will be payable on the first pension pay-day after the day on which the Bill receives the Royal Assent and will benefit over 1 million age. invalid and widow pensioners. The increased rates of sickness benefit will also become payable from the first weekly payment falling due following Royal Assent. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate tlo now adjourn.
– I. wish to protest against the operations of the Estimates committee system on its first day. When the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) today moved that the Estimates be referred to the Estimates committees I expressed some doubts as to the successful operation of the system. I concluded my remarks by saying that I, like all other senators, would be jealous of the principles which had operated prior to the setting up of the Estimates committee system. The Opposition had not supported these particular committees. If we do not take our rights into consideration in determining the method of operation of committees and thereby ensure the preservation of those rights, we can be stuck with a set of rules which will debar us from asserting them. 1 was much concerned that any of my rights as a senator might be taken away from me by the operations of the committees. 1 voiced my misgivings in the discussion and Hansard tomorrow will show that I said:
No honourable senator wants to give away the rights which are accorded to him by the Senate.
Perhaps the system of Estimates committees will involve an extension of their rights, but I do noi know whether it will.
I expressed my doubts a little later in my speech when I said: 1 am anxious to know how honourable senators will bc made aware of what each committee is considering and where it is holding its meetings in order that they may attend if they wish to do so. Another matter about which I am concerned is this: As the system of Estimates committees in the Senate is a novel one, 1 would have thought that the Senate would have fully discussed the formulation of the procedure of these committees.
I referred to a meeting that was held this morning in the office of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I said that I did not condemn such a meeting and that in fact I thought it was a good idea if, as I thought, the aim of the meeting was to achieve uniformity in the operations of the committees. I stressed that any honourable senator who is not a member of an Estimates committee should have some say on how the committees are to function. I mentioned that in the guidelines it was pointed out that in the Canadian committees each member of a committee was allowed 20 minutes for questioning. It was suggested that after each member of the committee had questioned the officers appearing before that committee, the Chairman would have to arrange a time for other senators to address questions. 1 pointed out that to preserve my rights I had decided not to sit on an Estimates committee and I expected to be able to attend the hearings of any committee. I said that I was not satisfied that I should take second place to another senator who happened to be a member of a committee. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was given leave to make a statement. He said that the system is in the experimental stage. He assured us that my fears and those of other honourable senators would disappear. He said that it is a trial operation and that we would find we had increased rights rather than restricted rights.
When the bells were rung to call the committees together Senator Poyser and I decided that we would like to attend Estimates Committee B to question officers of the Department of Housing. We entered the committee room to find a scene of confusion. I was told that I could not enter. The Government Whip was inclined to permit me to enter but the Secretary of the Committee was definite that I could not. I believe that after I was locked out of the committee room and stood among the multitude of departmental officers in the corridor there was a discussion by the Committee. The belief was expressed that senators had a right to attend the Committee’s meeting, but the Assistant Secretary came out into the corridor to tell Senator Poyser and myself that we would not be permitted to attend the meeting this afternoon. He said that we could not go into the committee room this afternoon while the Committee was discussing preliminary questions.
We reported this state of affairs to the Clerk of the Senate. He was very much concerned and said that we could attend the meeting of Estimates Committee A where facilities would be made available to us. How we could get any satisfaction by attending Committee A when we wanted to attend Committee B I do not know. We refused the offer to attend Committee A. Later the Clerk approached us and said that he could make representations to allow us to enter Committee B, but I believe that I had a right to attend that Committee without permission being granted to me as a concession because of representations by the Clerk of the Senate.
Before the introduction of the Estimates committee system I had the fright during the Estimates debate, on attracting the eye of the Chairman, to direct questions to the Minister. I think that right should be preserved in the committee system. On no occasion have I been prepared to give that right away. One of the questions I wished to ask today concerned the increased provision for overtime payments this year. I wished to ask for a break up of the appropriation to find out whether increased overtime payments would be necessary because of the full day spent by departmental officers standing around the corridors of Parliament House because of the operations of the committee system on its first day.
For the first time since I became a senator I have been refused the right of entry to a unit of the Senate which was carrying out the business of this chamber. I was elected to consider or raise questions affecting electors. I am not prepared to accept today’s state of affairs. I made my fears known this afternoon. 1 expressed the view that senators who are not members of
Estimates committees because they were not fortunate enough to be selected by their parties should have the same rights as members of committees and that no rights should be taken away from them. I thought that, after the speech made by the Leader of the Government, I had the assurance that I would be granted permission to attend Committee meetings. Senator Poyser, Senator Keeffe and myself stood outside the room in which a Committee was meeting. Senator Keeffe stood in the corridor on 1 leg until he could stand there no longer, was refused entry and had to leave.
– You could not have had the right password.
– We obviously did not have the right password. The Committee did not carry out the assurance that I thought the Leader of the Government had given me. I” do not take 2 refusals. I do not take the indignity a second time. I refuse to attend any more Committee meetings and again accept the assurance given by the Leader of the Government that we have the right to participate in Committee discussions. In looking at the Estimates. I want to ask many questions. T shall not attend any Committee meetings, but I insist on my right to ask those questions when we are discussing the Appropriation Bills.
– As indicated by Senator Cavanagh, this afternoon I accompanied him for the specific purpose of attending the meeting of Committee ‘B’. What he has outlined is exactly what happened. When I went downstairs I saw near enough to 100 officers of departments milling around the corridors. They looked very angry, not knowing where to go. For a moment 1 thought we had been invaded by a Moratorium protest committee. Subsequently I learned that these gentlemen were departmental officers. They were milling around the corridors because there were no seats or no facilities whatever to accommodate them while they, too, were locked out of the room. I can understand that departmental officers would not be required when a chairman is being elected - obviously he had been appointed in the Government party room before the Committee met - but I cannot understand why honourable senators were refused entry to the meeting to listen and to perhaps make suggestions in relation to procedures to be adopted. If this afternoon’s procedures are to continue each Committee will decide its own procedures and methods of operations, which means that honourable senators will have to become au fait with the procedures adopted by the individual chairman of each of the 5 Committees. This kind of system is obviously wrong. I believe, as Senator Cavanagh believes and has stated, that if these Committees are to be successful the procedures to be adopted must be discussed in the Senate and not in 3 separate rooms on the lower floors of the building.
I believe I had the right, as indicated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), to participate in these proceedings. Like Senator Cavanagh, I do not intend to attend any of these Committee meetings, but I will exercise my right in this chamber to question the Minister when the Bill is being considered in the Committee of the Whole. Instead of saving time we could well be spending the 60 hours forecast for the Committee work and another 30 or 40 hours here discussing the same Estimates. I believe the system cannot operate successfully because honourable senators who want to examine a series of departments and matters cannot be in 3 places at once. I. did not choose to serve on a Committee for that very purpose. I could see that if I was a member of 1 Committee I would be duty bound - and I think any Committee member would be duty bound - to attend the meetings of that Committee and noi to slip off to another room where another Committee was meeting. If an honourable senator wanted to attend the 3 Committees that were sitting, he would be in an intolerable and unfortunate position. The system must break down because the rights of honourable senators must be preserved. I am certain that honourable senators will exercise their rights when the appropriate occasion arises in this place.
I, too, was rather angry that at no stage were we told by the chairman of the Committee that there would be no open session and that we would not be admitted to the room. A parliamentary officer told us that. From the brief glance I had inside the room into which I looked in an endeavour to obtain entry, I could see that considerable difficulties will be encountered in accommodating the people who may be required to attend these Committee meetings. It is obvious that the facilities in this building do not lend themselves to a system of Estimates Committees. I, too, raise a protest at the manner in which we were treated. I know that in the initial stages of such a project procedural matters have to be determined, but I think that too little thought was given to the operation of these Committees prior to getting them moving. I add my protest to the words of protest expressed by Senator Cavanagh.
-I wish to make a few remarks on the shambles that took place this afternoon. I have always been a strong advocate of the committee system in the Senate, even though I subscribe fully to the policy of my Party that the Senate ought to be abolished. As far as I am concerned, the establishment of these Committees has done more in a few weeks to support the case for the abolition of the Senate than anything I have seen.
– Never mind talking about rubbish. If the honourable senator wants to enter the debate, he may . make his own speech. He should not interject with stupid inanities like that. The Committee system has tremendous possibilities and in the long term could be one of the things that could make the Senate work more efficiently. In my opinion - and I will stick to it - the setting up these Estimates Committees is a very shabby attempt by the Government to avoid its responsibility. It is hoping it will be able to get. 5 Committees meeting at once. All of us do not speak on every subject, but a number of us will be divided between the Committees we should attend. I think the ultimate object is to get 5 Committees sitting at once and thus stop any criticism or any questioning.
To me this afternoon was a clear characterisation of Bullen Brothers Circus. There were long queues of people lined up in the various corridors. The employees in the building are just as confused as the people on the Committees. I asked an attendant - I will not name anybody - where a certain Committee was sitting. I was told to enter a certain room. When I got there another House clerk said: ‘You will sit here’. This was well away from the Committ ee. Obviously, the sheep were to be clearly divided from the goats. I decided I would have another look around. I ascertained that the Committee sitting in that room was not the one whichI had been informed previously was sitting there. I notice Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is laughing his head off. Probably he was one of the goats. It was one of those things that happen.
Today I got I hour’s notice that a Committee was meeting to elect a chairman. I think that is a very poor state or affairs. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), the man who ought to be taking the full responsibility for this shambles, is not prepared so to do. He has talked about this system for weeks. I got 1 hour’s notice that a Committee was electing a chairman. I had a commitment that I had entered into 2 weeks ago. 1 did not intend to walk out of a commitment on which I had given a solemn promise 2 weeks ago after somebody had come to my office this morning with an hour to spare and had said: ‘We will be meeting to elect a chairman’. I think this is a pretty dastardly state of affairs. As my colleague Senator Poyser said, the election of a chairman did not matter anyway because a meeting in the Government party room had it cut and dried. A decision had been made as to who the chairman would be. The Government’s great hope was that it would keep Labor men out of these Committees. I do not know what is happening about the other Committee of which I am a member because nobody has as yet told me whether it intends to meet.
– We elected a chairman today.
-I would not hope to be elected chairman because I do not belong to the same political party as Senator Young.
– I did not say that.
– Senator Greenwood must have said it. Both honourable senators talk in a similar fashion. Apart from the facetious side of these things, this is a very serious matter. As far as I am concerned, I here and now publicly resign from both of the committees to which I have been elected because I am not going through this sort of shambles. If the Labor Party wants to meet tomorrow in caucus to select someone to fill those 2 vacancies, it can do so.
I join with Senator Cavanagh and Senator Poyser. The Government has turned these Estimates Committees into a political exercise, bordering on Bullen Brothers Circus. It does not want the committees to succeed. It hopes that they will become a shambles. 1 am not going to be part of that shambles. I am not going to attend committee meetings when senior Commonwealth employees are lined up on both sides of the corridor outside the meeting room and when members of this Senate who are trying to be admitted to the meeting room are told that they have no right to enter it. If the Estimates are to be debated at all, I will debate them in this chamber. I will have nothing more to do with any of the Estimates Committees and the Senate can accept my public resignation from the 2 committees to which I have been elected.
– 1 want to associate myself with the remarks that have already been made about this afternoon’s incident. I was also involved in it. I believe that inadequate arrangements were made. I believe someone should have had the responsibility to inform the Opposition Whip of the situation so that he in turn would have been in possession of information to pass on to other senators. I went downstairs to the 3 committee rooms. 1 heard indirectly that these were the rooms in which the committees were to meet. I did this because I wanted to acquaint myself with the formalities, associated with these committees. I went along to the largest committee room in which Estimates Committee A was meeting, From the big crowd outside the door and the number of people inside the room, it appeared that if another person went into the room it would become overcrowded, so I went along to find another room in which a committee was meeting. But by this time 1 found that the doors to these rooms were closed and a messenger or an officer of the Senate was standing outside each door.
I believe that the teething troubles facing these Estimates Committees might soon pass. But, nevertheless, I want to add my support to the protest which has been made about the inadequate arrangements which were made for those members of the Senate who have a right to participate in these committees, as observers, if they wish. I may also say that because I believe in the committee system, I would like to see it succeed now that it has commenced. But I believe that the committees will have to show a lot more signs of viability than they did today when large numbers of very highly paid public servants were standing in the corridors outside the rooms. They saw the indignity of senators walking from room to room to gain entry after having been assured that they had a right to observe and participate in the committee hearings. That was not a very nice situation which confronted senators.
This matter has been raised tonight early in the life of the committees. I suggest to those associated with the committees that there should not be a repetition of what happened today. I regret that it happened. I think that it is one of the worst situations that 1 have seen arise in what is usually the very well ordered and intelligently administered Department of the Senate. I hope that a similar occurrence will not happen and that more satisfactory arrangements will be made in the future.
(10.34) - In the first place, I want to express my regret - indeed I do - about the misunderstanding which occurred in this afternoon’s proceedings of the com.mittes
– You organised it.
No. Sometimes Senator Cavanagh loses his sense of values. I sincerely express my regret to Senator Poyser, Senator Cavanagh and Senator Keeffe for the inconvenience and embarrassment which they suffered. As I understand the situation, the members of the committee to which those honourable senators have referred decided that they would deal with matters of procedure associated with the setting up of the committee. They resolved - as was expressed in the proposed guidelines for the functioning of the committees which were circulated - to deal with (he matters of procedure before moving into the normal process of hearing evidence.
– This morning did you not give me an assurance-
I have the transcript here of what I said this morning. Senator Cavanagh mentioned then that I could read what I had said in Hansard tomorrow. 1 suggest that he might do the same. I said that it was my understanding that the committees would be open to all honourable senators to attend. In fact, I want to say in passing that 1 was the first witness to be called before Estimates Committee A. Certainly there were a lot of people at the hearing and there were problems there, too. lt is interesting to note that questions were asked of me not only by the members of the committee but also by other senators who went along to the Committee in the same way as the 3 senators who have spoken in this debate. They directed questions to me in the normal way. I mention this only to point out that the systems in the committee before which I was the first witness did work. 1 think it was a magnificent performance in view of the fact that it was the first hearing of the committee. It is true that the room was overcrowded. There were a lot of people there who were associated with various departments. I think they came along to see how the committees were going to function. That problem will be overcome next time the committee meets.
– You had good cross-examiners.
I was really cross-examined. The system worked. I did not envisage that today’s situation would arise, although I said that probably we would be confronted with problems. All I say to the honourable senators who have said that they will not attend the committees, that they resign from them forthwith, is that they really disappoint me. They give up rather easily. I thought that they were men of stronger determination. As regards Senator Keeffe’s statement that he will debate the Estimates in this chamber, if he looks at what I said this morning he will see that I said there will be no inhibition on anybody who wants to come into this chamber, after the committees have concluded their deliberations, and debate the Estimates de novo. I made that perfectly clear. Senator Keeffe does not need to get up and announce that he will debate the Estimates in this chamber. He can do that. There is no need for him to give up so easily and to resign from the committees. I am really disappointed in him.
Senator Cavanagh made his position quite clear this morning when he said that he did not want to be a member of the committees because he wanted to be free. But I atn rather disappointed in Senator Keeffe who gives up so easily. I did not think he was that type of a fellow. But that is a matter for Senator Keeffe’s judgment, if he wants to do that. He did not need to say that he will come in here and debate the Estimates from the first page to the last page. I hope that he will reflect upon the matter and come back and say: Along with all the other senators, 1 am prepared to recognise that there are problems, but T will give it a go.’
– Mr Deputy President-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull)– Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has closed the debate.
– I moved the adjournment.
– 1 seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– Speaking for Senator Fitzgerald and myself, I only want to give the sequence of events that took place this afternoon. When Estimates Committee B met this afternoon to deal with machinery matters it is true that Senator Cavanagh attempted to enter the room. He was advised that the interpretation of the Standing Orders which was conveyed to Senator Davidson was that Senator Cavanagh was not permitted to enter the room while the committee was dealing with these machinery matters. Senator Cavanagh retired from the room and subsequently, after there had been further discussion, it was admitted that the interpretation was wrong. That was the only sequence of events of which I was aware.
– You sent the assistant secretary out to tell me that I would not get in that afternoon.
– I have taken the trouble to rise and give an explanation and I do not want any assistance from anybody on it. The point thatI am deliberately making is that in this sequence of events, asI saw the situation, an error was made and Senator Cavanagh was the victim of that initial error. I make that point clear. AsI interpret the statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), that error is regretted. I simply rose to explain the situation as I saw it at that point. I understand that following that nothing further was done by the Committee to interview any departmental heads or Ministers, and I understand that advice was conveyed to Senator Dame Annabelle
Rankin that the Committee would not be doing any more business on that occasion. My only purpose in rising was to explain that as I saw the situation there was a slight to Senator Cavanagh in the first instance but that after that, speaking for Senator Fitzgerald and myself, we were not aware of what was conveyed to people or whether they were told that they would not be wanted later. I have deliberately explained for the record the initial sequence of events - the misunderstanding, the slight to Senator Cavanagh, and our being made aware in the Committee that there had been a wrong interpretation. That is what I am spelling out for the record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700917_senate_27_s45/>.