27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry I draw his attention to the fact that during the last examination of the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry reference was made to the preparation of a booklet setting out in detail the requirements to be met by the management of abattoirs to bring them up to export standard, lt was indicated then that the booklet was in the course of preparation. In the discussion which ensued it was said that the preparation and distribution of the booklet would be speeded up. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the booklet has been published and distributed to the management of export abattoirs?
– I well recall the interest in this matter expressed by the honourable senator when the estimates were being examined. I do not have with me details of its contents or advice on whether it has yet been published, but I will make an effort to find out and let the honourable senator know the result.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, concerns the urgently needed completion of the sealing of the remaining loose surface section of the Eyre Highway in South Australia. Does the Government regard the Eyre Highway as having national economic and defence importance, and as a highway which is peculiarly not the responsibility of a single State? As the proposal put forward by the South Australian Government to provide funds for the bitumenising project in the proportion of $1 State funds to each $2 Commonwealth contribution has been rejected, will the Minister seek to obtain criteria from the Minister for Shipping and Transport as to what would constitute to the Commonwealth acceptable conditions to enable sealing te proceed?
– Questions have been asked on this matter from time to time by senators from South Australia, including Senator Laucke, who have shown a great interest in it. When the last question on the Eyre Highway was asked I gave the information I had. lt was that about 300 miles of the road remained unsealed. There was a substantial increase ki funds to the South Australian Government under the Commonwealth aid roads agreement which would have allowed that Government to do this work adequately itself if it had wished to establish this priority. 1 read in this morning’s Press a report - perhaps inaccurate - that the South Australian Government has now decided to do the job itself. I would need to refer the balance of the question, regarding criteria and the importance of the road, to the responsible Minister. However I am quite sure that everybody in the Commonwealth would regard it as being a very important road.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen the criticism by Mr Linehan, the Federal Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, of the Government’s proposal in regard to across the board cuts in the Public Service? Will he say whether Mr Linehan’s criticisms iri regard to the unnecessary duplication of .function in the Prime Minister’s Department, the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry are correct and whether this duplication is as a result of political in-fighting between the Ministers? Will the Minister say also whether the Government proposes to investigate Mr Linehan’s suggestions about taking a positive line on restrictive trade practices and dealing with the taxation laws in such a way that some of the deflationary measures might be aimed at other than the public sector?
The Leader of the Opposition has posed a series of questions to me, the first being in relation to an observation made by Mr Linehan in connection with proposed cuts in the Public Service, and has projected the arguments used by that gentleman in relation to some duplication of function. The question of duplication of function is always with us, but until 1 have had an opportunity to look at the statement with some precision I would not be able to make any worthwhile contribution about it.
Clearly there is a responsibility on the p.art of the Treasury to look at the statement and make an evaluation of it, and I hope and presume that that will be done.
The question as to whether or not a more appropriate way of dealing with this problem would be one linked with taxation and restrictive trade practices is a broad question which I think Senator Murphy would agree I could not respond to at question time. Statements have been made from time to time about restrictive trade practices and taxation. I will attempt to have them picked up and monitored and then bring them to the Senate in response to the question.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by saying that under the price averaging plan introduced by the now defunct Australian Wool Marketing Corporation for the 1970-71 wool selling season, wool acquired by the Corporation was to be paid for in two 6-monthly periods, August-December and JanuaryJune. The first payment was to be 60 per cent of the price at which wool was acquired and the second payment was to be 40 per cent, less handling and selling costs. Can the Minister advise the Senate when growers who marketed their wool in the period August-December 1970 will receive their second payment from the Australian Wool Commission under the price averaging plan?
Senator Bull informed me of his interest in this matter and F obtained certain information for him. The price averaging periods vary somewhat from State to State. In New South Wales the period is August to December; in Victoria, August to January; in Queensland, August to November; in South Australia. August to December; in Western Australia, August to February; and in Tasmania, August to December. Wool admitted to the price averaging plan is not acquired. It remains the property of the grower until it is sold but is under the control of the Australian Wool Commission. When wool is received by a selling broker or nominated classing house it is appraised for the purpose of calculating the 60 per cent advance. This advance is paid to the grower within 10 working days of the wool being identified as eligible for payment under the price averaging plan. The second and final payment to growers is collected after the pool is closed on the basis of the pool’s average price for each type of wool. This payment represents the difference between the 60 per cent advance payment and the pool average price less handling and selling costs. Ali pools in the first pool period have now been closed. However as some brokers in some States were unable to meet the Australian Wool Commission’s schedule for the provision of details for price averaging plan wool, finalising of some pools has been later than planned. Payments were made for the Queensland pool on 22nd January and for the Tasmanian pool on 29th January. The planned pay out dates for the remaining States are: South Australia. 5th March; New South Wales, 16th March; Western Australia. 9th April; and Victoria, 22nd April.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether in the name of commonsense and austerity the Government has given any consideration to holding future elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate on the one day?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe question that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition poses is one which we in the Senate have all had occasion to look at with some concern. I cannot give any definitive answer to the honourable senator’s question because it is a matter of Government, policy as he would appreciate. In any event, I suspect there are some constitutional matters involved hut I think it is a fair question. We will ha/e to come to it in terms of debate sooner or later. For that reason I would like the question to go on notice to the Minister for the Interior. Then of course we will ‘ obtain a reply which will open up the . question for further debate.
– ls. the Minister representing the Minister, for the Interior aware of the fact that many honourable senators are receiving copious letters expressing concern about a rumoured change in the basis of land rent in Canberra? As the position seems very confused could the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government proposes a change in the near future and. if so, what the Government is proposing to do in the matter of land sales and rental ir. the Australian Capital Territory?
– Yes, I am aware that people have been receiving letters because I have been receiving them too. This has caused me to ask the Department of the Interior this morning about the actual position. Equally, I think I should say in fairness to other honourable senators that they have come to my office to ask for information about this matter. What I am about to say may well answer others who are concerned about this. The answer the Department cf the Interior has given to me to reassure honourable senators is this: There is no truth in the belief that through a recent ordinance which proposes to abolish land rentals of lessees all leasehold land in the Australian Capital Territory is to be made freehold. Under the new system of revenue collection all ACT land remains leasehold. The Commonweatlh has surrendered none of ils powers and none of ils control over land in the ACT. lt is apparent that some confusion has developed in the minds of some people in this matter. I understand thai thu Minister will be .shortly sending a circular to all honourable members and honourable senators to clarify the situation.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Firstly, has the Minister seen a copy of the journal Woroni’ of 22nd February 1971 which has been issued in the name of students of the Australian National University and which can be described only as disgustingly pornographic? Secondly, as on previous occasions the student body took action and removed from control of the paper those concerned, has the Minister any advice on present student attitudes? Thirdly, is this pornography produced from funds to which every student is compelled to subscribe? Fourthly, in default of action by students themselves will action be taken by the university authorities? Fifthly, if the student body and the university authorities dodge their responsibility will the police take action?
– Yes, I have seen a copy of the publication to which the honourable senator referred. 1 have no information as to the attitude of students towards it. I shall ascertain from the Minister for Education and Science whether funds acquired compulsorily from students support the publication. I notice in this morning’s Press that Sir John Crawford made a statement on law enforcement on the university campus. That seems to me to be a proper recognition of the obligation of civil authorities to enforce the law on or off the campus. I would refrain from adopting the honourable senator’s description of the publication, not because I disagree with his description but because, with the probability of a court prosecution, it would be better to refrain from categorising the publication in any way. The responsibility for law enforcement with regard to indecent publications in the Australian Capital Territory is, I think, the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for the Interior, through the Canberra Police. The honourable senator, I think, will be encouraged by the reminder that in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ there is a report that police are investigating this publication already. For my part, I would invite the honourable senator to ensure that a copy of this publication is officially brought to the knowledge of the Commissioner of Police to prevent any possibility of its nol being dealt with properly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It refers to a Press report today that the establishment of the proposed Office of the Environment is to be delayed. I ask the Minister whether this report is correct. If so, will he make representations to the Prime Minister for a review of this postponement, particularly so far as it relates to the area of water pollution? Is the Minister aware of the many activities now taking place in the States in this field and does the Minister agree that co-ordination of this work is essential for total national effectiveness? In view of the wide public comment, including such articles as that in today’s ‘Financial Review’, on the problems of water pollution, will the Minister draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and facilitate without delay the establishment of a national water commission?
As it was indicated to me that a series of questions on this subject would be asked, I sought some information on the subject. Bearing in mind the reduction in Commonwealth expenditure and the restrictions in the growth of Public Service employment, for the time being we are deferring the formal establishment of a Commonwealth Office of the Environment. However, attention will continue to be given, within the existing resources of the Prime Minister’s Department and the relevant Commonwealth departments, to questions arising in this field. In the circumstances I do not think it would be appropriate for me to make representations to the Prime Minister for a review of this postponement. As the Prime Minister indicated in answer to a question on 18th February 1971 - a few days ago - the Commonwealth has written to the States seeking the formation of a national advisory council to advise the Commonwealth and the States on action to be taken in areas where coordination can be properly achieved. Four of the States have replied and we are awaiting replies from the other two.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the widespread concern in Tasmania about the ambiguity between State and Commonwealth government policy relating to the construction of the important Launceston-Bell Bay rail link, will the Minister obtain an indication as to whether there has been any alteration in priority for the commencement of this economically feasible and most essential project?
– Yes, I will seek without delay, from the Treasurer, information which I will convey to the honourable senator and to the Senate.
– Has - the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen the comment in today’s Press to the effect that the Premier of South Australia has finally backed down and indicated his acceptance of the Dartmouth Dam agreement? If this comment ;s correct will the Minister . indicate when a start will be made on the Dartmouth Dam, which is urgently needed to supply further water to South Australia and which, unfortunately, has already been delayed by many months because of the attitude of the Premier of South Australia?
– I saw a report in this morning’s Press that: the Premier of South Australia had said, that the South Australian Government now agreed to the construction of a dam at Dartmouth. Such a dam. would be of benefit to not only South Australia but also New South Wales and Victoria. 1 cannot say when a start will be made on it, but I will endeavour to find that out for the honourable senator. I am -more than conscious of the importance of the waters of the Murray River to South Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry I ask: ls the Minister aware of the economic problems facing pear growers in the. Goulburn Valley of Victoria? Will the. Minister acknowledge that this matter has been raised in the Senate on several occasions? Can the Minister indicate to the Senate any action which the Department of Primary Industry or any other Commonwealth department has taken in this matter? Has the Commonwealth Government held discussions with the Victorian Government about finding a solution to this problem? Will the Commonwealth Government or the appropriate Commonwealth Department consider the payment of compensation to growers in cases where financial hardship can be proved? Will the Commonwealth Government then seek to have the fruit distributed to philanthropic institutions throughout Australia? Is the Government impressed by the need for immediate action? ls some method of avoiding the anticipated loss beyond the capacity of the State and Commonwealth Governments?
– This mailer was drawn to my attention last in questions asked by honourable senators on both sides of the House. I indicated at that time that the present position of the pear industry in the Goulburn Valley was due to the heavy production of pears last season and. furthermore, that the factories there had had a carry over of something like, I think, 1,500,000 cases. 1 also informed the Senate that the former Minister for Primary Industry had paid a visit to the area and discussed the problem with the producers. On that occasion the Minister said to them that if they put a case to the State Government and the State Government then discussed the matter with the Commonwealth Government he felt sure that the Commonwealth would investigate the matter and give sympathetic consideration to it. After a number of questions had been asked I said that I would make further investigations to ascertain what action had been taken. This information has not come to hand. Senator Webster has now put forward a further suggestion. I think the best way of handling the matter is to put Senator Webster’s suggestion to the Minister for Primary Industry and ask him to provide the necessary information to the Senate.
– Is the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities aware that tourists from the mainland were denied access recently to the Cape Bruny Light area by persons presumably employed by the Commonwealth? Is it not a fact that such areas of great tourist attraction have been accessible in the past? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that all areas of Tasmania which are of value in promoting tourist activities are accessible to tourists?
– I shall be only too happy to take up the honourable senator’s suggestion. This is the first knowledge I have had of any suggestion of denial of access to that interesting area. As to the tourist influx into Tasmania, may I say that Tasmania this week is already more than overloaded with tourists.
– Can the Minister for Works inform the Senate what
Commonwealth Government expenditures for building projects are likely to be cut or curtailed in the near future in the Government’s anti-inflation drive? Will the Minister assure the Senate that due consideration will be given to the relative importance of stable State economies? For example, will the Minister assure the Senate that in a State such as South Australia where only one Government project may have been envisaged, compared with the position in New South Wales or Victoria where several such projects may have been envisaged, that that one project will not be cancelled or postponed in view of the drastic repercussions of such action on the building industry and in view of the fact that cancellation of one of several projects in a larger State would not be so drastically detrimental to the economy of that State?
– In the Department of Works the saving which has been achieved is of the order of S4m comprising, as to about one-half, matters affecting administration, overtime and certain minor works. As to the remaining $2m which is attributed to the works programme the honourable senator may be assured that I believe that in not one instance will a works project which has been let to tender and in respect of which a contract has been arranged be affected. The $2m will be saved by postponing tenders yet to be accepted and programming the initial expenditure for the first 4 months with regard to work undertaken between now and June. It is to be kept steadfastly in mind that the purpose of this cut in expenditure is to ensure that in this sector there is an appreciation of the need to keep costs under responsible control. It was never the objective of the Department or of the Government to cause anything like a complete cessation or a substantial dislocation of works programmes.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by some suitable procedure, provide this House with an opportunity to debate the consequences to Australian trade of the emergence of the European Common Market, more particularly in the event of Great Britain joining the European Economic Community, with the resulting need to develop new patterns of trade especially in South East Asia?
There has been a lot of publicity in more recent times in relation to the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. Indeed on a recent delegation overseas of which I was the leader and Senator Byrne was a member, we had an opportunity to go to the headquarters in Brussels to be given an exposition of the various aspects of the European Economic Community. “The honourable senator has asked whether we should not use some forms of the House to precipitate a debate on this matter. I should like to think about that because the question of timing is involved. For example, we have been reading that the United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer has been in negotiation with the Ministers of the European Economic Community in relation to the financial aspects of British entry. We have been told of certain developments between the parties as to whether or not the Parliament at Westminster will decide whether Britain will join the European Economic Community. Perhaps this question could be put on notice to give me a little time to consider whether it would be appropriate and timely for us to debate the effects on Australia of Britain’s entry at a time when so many critical decisions have yet to be taken. I am not sure that this is an appropriate time to debate this matter. My immediate reaction is that perhaps it would be untimely to do so at present.
– Will the Leader of the Government explain the conflicting reports from Vietnam on Australian civil aid programmes and the misleading statements by the Minister for Defence? Has the futility of programmes which are not acceptable and in most cases are resented by the local population finally become apparent? Does this lead the Government to an inevitable conclusion as to the hopelessness of our continuing involvement in Vietnam and can we expect a complete withdrawal?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThis, too, is a fairly wide question. I ask honourable senators to bear in mind that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition posed a question on this matter in the other place yesterday, to which the Minister for Defence gave a reply, lt would be inappropriate and very unwise for me to start assuming things from the Minister’s reply. However, the Minister did make it abundantly clear that Australia would continue to give civil aid in Vietnam. I commend yesterday’s daily Hansard of the other place to the honourable senator so that he may read with a precision which obviously 1 could not give what the Minister said in response to the question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What will be the cost of extensions on the Senate side of Parliament House, including any other proposed alterations or extensions in the near future? Did the Government consider the economic situation when proceeding with this expenditure?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not sure that this is a matter to which the Treasurer should respond or whether it is something that you, Mr President, may wish to reply to. For that reason I shall take the question as being on notice and have the matter examined.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior agree that it could be to the advantage of all concerned if mobile polling booths were provided at private and public hospitals, aged persons homes and similar institutions throughout the Commonwealth for use at federal elections? If the Minister approves of the proposal, will he give favourable consideration to its implementation?
– This is an interesting suggestion which I can only communicate to the responsible Minister. J shall do that.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of. the Government. Is it a fact, as it appears to have been reported, that the likelihood of Britain joining the European Economic Community is less today than it has been in more recent months? Does it appear that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to joining the European Economic Community? Would it appear to the Government that now is an appropriate time for the Australian Government to send to Britain a high level delegation to make known more clearly and precisely the great difficulties which would face a number of Australian primary industries should Britain’s application to join the European Economic Community be approved?
I am being invited to enter, or am being drawn into, a discussion on Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. 1 want to avoid that, if 1 can, because as I and the Government have said, primarily this is a matter for decision by the British Government, lt is true to say that I - and I think all members of the delegation who were with me- discovered that there is a great divergence of views in relation to this matter, in the parliament and also throughout the electorate. For instance, we discovered that on the back benches on both sides of the chamber there were very strong advocates of Britain’s non-entry and that on the front bench on both sides of the chamber, that is on the Government side and on the side of the official Opposition, there were very strong advocates of Britain’s entry. A- gallup poll was conducted but this became almost impossible to interpret because of the way in which the questions were framed. The answers received were in their totality selfcontradictory and self-exhausting. So I cannot make any observations other than to say that this is a matter for Great Britain. I think thai the honourable senator’s question, together with Senator Byrne’s question, should be put on the notice paper for the time being.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. What stage has been reached in negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Victoria in relation to the proposed reconstruction of the wool industry in Australia? ls it a fact that Victoria is the only State which has refused to be a party to the plan? If so. will the refusal of Victoria to participate hold up the necessary legislation, which must be submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament for its approval?
– As far as I know, Victoria is the only State which has not agreed to the proposed plan. I am not aware of the stage which negotiations with Victoria have reached. I understand from the former Minister for Primary Industry that he told State representatives that he would be prepared to go ahead with the Commonwealth Government’s reconstruction plans even if some States did not agree to them. I will take up the question with the Minister for Primary Industry and get some information for the honourable senator.
– I ask you a question. Mr President. Will you ask your officers to make an investigation of car parking at Parliament House, particularly on the House of Representatives side? Some people seem to have no concern about whether they park on footpaths or anywhere else. Possibly the car population in this city is greater proportionately than in any other city, but I would like you to request your officers to investigate the position, particularly between 9 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. when one is faced with the spectacle of cars blocking footpaths. I trust I have directed my question to the right source.
– Obviously I would not have much say in what is done on the House of Representatives side of the building. ls that what the honourable senator was adverting to?
– We cannot walk along this side of the building because of the construction work being carried out.
– The parking situation on the Senate side of the building is under review by the officers of the House. We have asked for assistance from the Australian Capital Territory Police.
– Parking comes within the province of the Department of the Interior. I shall raise the matter with that Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I refer to the answer which the Minister gave to Senator Young about the Dartmouth Dam agreement. In the newspaper report to which the Minister referred was Mr Dunstan reported as having stressed that the South Australian Government would not approve words in the amending agreement providing for the ending of the Chowilla proposal but, in relation to Chowilla, it would seek power to carry out the necessary works in terms of amendments which it had previously put to the other governments and parliaments involved, the amendments to be approved at some future time? In the light of his answer to Senator Young, will the Minister now consider what Mr Dunstan said and give to the Senate a considered reply which properly puts the position of the South Australian Government in respect to the DartmouthChowilla controversy?
- Senator Bishop would be well aware that I did not read out the Press statement attributed to the Premier of South Australia. All I said was that I had seen a report of it in a newspaper, and T commented on that part which Senator Young referred to me. I believe I saw something about the Chowilla Dam in the part to which Senator Bishop has referred. If that is what Premier Dunstan said, no doubt that is what he meant. I will communicate Senator Bishop’s views to the Minister for National Development and ask him whether he believes it to be appropriate to make a considered statement on the whole matter.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Tn view of the decision of the Senate on Tuesday last asking the Government to introduce immediate legislation to provide increases in the rates of social service payments to pensioners who are in necessitous circumstances, I ask the Leader of the Government: Can this urgent legislation to assist those in need be expected now or is this decision of the Senate to be ignored? What action is the Leader of the Government in the Senate prepared to take to ensure that decisions of the Senate are given effect? Will the Government accept resolutions only when they are favourable and ignore all the others that are unfavourable as in the case of the export of merino rams, the site of the new and permanent parliament house and the sale of the Canberra Abattoirs?
Without wishing to beg the question, Mr President, let me say that, in the light of what was said here on the day following the debate, and the ruling that you gave in response to a question asked by Senator Murphy no less, what we decided on Tuesday was to sit at 2.55 instead of 3 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. In the process of deciding that we had a debate on social services; but let me repeat in direct response to Senator Fitzgerald’s question as to what the Senate resolved to do that in fact the Senate resolved to sit 5 minutes earlier on the next day.
– You are only evading the issue.
I am not evading it. The next day, when we discussed another matter, Senator Murphy asked you, Mr President, for a ruling on this very subject. So there is no doubt about it. But, as 1 said at. the beginning, I do not want to beg the question. There was a general debate on the question of social services in which honourable senators expressed their views, but no definitive resolution in relation to the matter was carried.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. By way of brief preface I refer to the fact that several times in the past 2 years I have asked questions relating to the United States proposal for the establishment of an Omega navigational station in Tasmania and the Minister’s answers then given are set out in full in Hansard. Can the Minister supply any further information as to the stage reached in the consideration of this proposal and any negotiations with the Australian Government in relation to this matter?
– This matter is not within my portfolio. I am groping, but I think it is within the portfolio of the Minister for the Interior or the Minister for National Development. I do not know, but I will find out and obtain a reply to the question. It is certainly not within my portfolio, and at this moment I am not informed as to where we are in relation to it.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that cars which are ducoed black produce extreme discomfort for the occupants because they absorb much more heat than do cars ducoed a lighter colour? Is there any other reason why the Minister insists of having his Department’s cars ducoed black? If not, will he give consideration to selecting another colour more in keeping with the Australian climate?
– A good question.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI think it is a proper question, too. I have been told by people who should know that the drop in temperature in a sedan car with a white hood instead of a black one is of the order of 10 or 12 degrees. Perhaps it is even higher. This question of whether we should have some variation in the ducoing of pool cars has been raised before. I think that in certain circumstances in the Northern Territory or in South Australia I have given approval to certain people to have white ducoed vehicles. But the basic reason why we have all black cars is, first of all, to have uniformity.
Because administratively it is considered to be easier. Secondly, certain parts of the fleet are used from time to time for VIP purposes and it has always been considered that a black sedan is far more VIP-ish than a white sedan. That is the basic reason for the choice of colour. T am always willing to look at particular circumstances, for instance in Western Australia, the Northern Territory or other areas where obviously it would be far more advantageous in the prevailing heat conditions to vary the rule.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Supply, refers to a claim by a newspaper reporter published today that the future of the Woomera range in South Australia is in doubt. I ask the Minister to say whether there is any truth in that report. Can the Minister give any information on the claim by a journalist that the situation arises because of the slow down of the Black Arrow programme?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONMy attention was drawn to an item appearing in a journal called ‘Inside Canberra’ of 18th February. The item is headed ‘Woomera’s Future in Doubt’ and suggests that cancellation of the Black Arrow programme would cause the facilities at Woomera to be under-utilised. It claims that a critical situation would develop there. The Black Arrow satellite launch vehicle is a complex multi-stage vehicle which in launchings at Woomera exercises important units of the launch facilities and calls upon much of the expertise, of which wc are very proud, that has been built up over the years. However, in terms of work load Black Arrow launches planned at Woomera represent only a relatively small proportion of the total military and civil range programme for 1971 and 1972. Only 2 such launchings are planned, one in each of those years. No launchings have as yet been planned for subsequent years. It would therefore be incorrect to draw the conclusion that if the Black Arrow project should be cancelled in the United Kingdom the Woomera range would be seriously affected.
The present and future work load at Woomera is adequate to occupy the resources of the range and the deletion of any one firing could have only a marginal effect. The Black Arrow launch site is of course distinct from those sites utilised by many other range projects and there is no relationship between Black Arrow facilities and those used for other space projects. The Black Arrow facilities, for example, are not used for European Space Research Organisation or joint project Skylark upper atmosphere launchings. It is not without significance that very recently an official approach was made by the United Kingdom Government - and I had discussions on the matter while I was in London - for an extension of the present joint project agreement which is due to expire in 1972. This suggests a certain measure of confidence on the part of the United Kingdom Government and the continuing need for facilities at Woomera.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service visualise anything but industrial chaos arising from the determination of the Government to attempt to collect $38,000 in fines imposed on unions under the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. - the sections that Parliament considered showed such injustice as to necessitate amendment? Why does the Government desire at this period to create such industrial chaos in Australia?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable senators question is yes. Why industrial chaos should be a consequence of the enforcement of the law only the blind and prejudiced would suggest. The Government desires to collect the fine imposed on the Moulders Union simply in pursuance of its duty to enforce the law.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Minister for Air and the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can the Ministers inform me Parliament of the latest developments in the Jetair Australia Ltd DC3 case? Has the Government completed the transaction? If the answer is in the affirmative., what price was paid for the aircraft, what will be the cost of conversion and how much will it cost to ship or fly them to their overseas destinations?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI ask that that question be placed on the notice paper. F promised last week that I would get a statement on this matter. I am in the process of doing that in collaboration with various departments. When 1 get it I will present it in the Senate.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy a question about the oil spillage that occurred in Chowder Bay, in Sydney Harbour, on 12th February during a naval fuelling operation. My question’ is: Why are not surface booms always kept adjacent to such fuelling operations to minimise such mishaps? Furthermore, why does the Department of the Navy continue to use detergents which are dangerous to marine life? Finally, in the incident referred to, how much time elapsed before anti-pollution measures were commenced?
– I received an indication that this question would be asked and I sought certain information. I was advised that the Royal Australian Navy has booms which can be used to contain oil spills. However the use of booms is practical only in certain areas and if the spill is not widespread. The spill at Chowder Bay was due to a weld giving way and the oil shot 100 feet into the air. It was carried by the wind over a large area. This made the use of the boom impractical. The detergent used by the Royal Australian Navy is used throughout the world for dispersing oil and has proved to be the most efficient for this purpose. The staff at Chowder Bay began dispersing the oil spill within 3 minutes. Boats from Garden Island manned by specially trained crews were at work within three-quarters of an hour, lt should be stressed that the spill was clue to a split weld in a pipe and was not in any way due to negligence.
– As a lead up to my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, I draw attention to the fact that an attempt was made recently through the share market to take over a retail company in Adelaide trading under the name of Harris Scarfe Ltd. I ask: Has the Government given any consideration to the desirability or otherwise of the share market being used for the purpose of swallowing up companies that have been in existence for over half a century? Can he tell me whether the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange is considering such actions?
– It would be inappropriate of me to speak about what the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange has done. 1 have not been informed. I. believe that its Chairman, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, would be the proper person to speak about matters which the Committee might wish to disclose. I prefer to refer the other matter to the Attorney-General. Quite frankly, with respect to Senator Toohey, I did not appreciate the legal basis upon which his suggestion was put.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. We know that 5 per cent per annum was charged on all leasehold land in Canberra. Will the Minister be good enough to tell me how much the Commonwealth received from that 5 per cent imposed on individual people for their leaseholds?
– The only figure 1 took out for this purpose was for the financial year which ended on 30th June J 970. The amount then involved was §2,760,146. If the honourable senator wants figures for earlier years I will endeavour to get them for him.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain from the Australian Broadcasting Commission why it refused to show on Australian television a highly praised British production on Vietnam called ‘The Quiet Mutiny’? Is it not a fact that one of Australia’s leading television critics, Phillip Adams, described the rejection by the ABC of this film as a scandal? Was the film rejected because it showed clearly the disillusionment and the cynicism of a great number of American troops who do not believe in the war? Is this just a part of the broad policy of Australian television channels to keep programmes on Vietnam to a minimum so that Australian viewers remain apathetic about our role on this shameful battlefield?
– The honourable senator’s question concerns a particular television programme. I do not have the information he requires. I shall obtain what information T can from the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that garbage may be removed from an overseas vessel only by a person approved by the Commonwealth Director-General of Health and that the garbage must be disposed of as the DirectorGeneral directs? Does this regulation place responsibility on the Commonwealth for the disposal of ships’ garbage? Which of the States have accepted the now quite aged offer by the Commonwealth of funds to build incinerators and support facilities for the disposal of ships’ garbage? Is there any fault on the part of the Commonwealth that some States have not accepted the Commonwealth’s offer? Will the Minister consider making a statement to the Senate on this most important matter?
– I am very appreciative of the importance of the question the honourable senator has asked. I am conscious that he has raised this matter in the chamber on more than one occasion in the past year. On those occasions I have obtained from the Minister for Health quite detailed replies for him on the situation. The replies were up to date at the time of his asking the questions. I shall again take the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Health and obtain what information I can regarding the present situation.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Perhaps it could be answered by you, Mr President. Does the Minister recall that last year in the Estimates debate I advanced an argument that the Clerk of the Senate should have the same financial standing and prestige as heads of executive departments in having a tax free allowance? Does the Minister recall that my argument was terminated by his statement which appears on page 1917 of the Hansard report? U- states:
T have just been informed that the President has authorised me to say that the question of allowances in the 2 Houses. , is. currently under examination by the Presiding Officers, that is, the President on the one hand arid ‘ Mr Speaker on the other.
Therefore I ask: What was the result of this examination which was presented as the reason for terminating, at that time my advocacy of justice? Dp. the permanent heads of the executive departments receive an allowance for the expenditures of office at rates of either $1,000 or $1,500 per annum? Do the permanent heads of the Parliamentary departments receive such allowances? If not, why not?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn the circumstances 1 ask the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper. 1 would like to speak to the President about it. In due course I, by leave of the President, or the President himself will respond to the question.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, fs the Minister aware of any circumstances which have arisen recently which would necessitate or justify notifications being sent by State Departments of Education to winners of Commonwealth scholarships that funds for the purpose have been reduced and that scholarships are not available now?
– I am not aware of any such circumstances. I shall, for greater assurance, refer the matter to the Minister for Education and Science and ask him to correct my impression if it is wrong.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In 1970, was an agreement entered into between Trans-Australia Airlines Ltd and Jetair Australia Ltd for the provision of services such as ticketing, passenger reception and handling, ground transport, air cargo reception and handling, baggage handling, weight and balance and passenger manifest preparation, marshalling and operating of aircraft, cabin service and catering facilities? Was Jetair given permission by the Department of Civil Aviation to erect an administration building at Mascot airport and was TAA to provide office facilities for Jetair at Essendon airport? Will the Minister furnish the Senate with details of the agreement entered into between TAA and Jetair and will he state what fees were paid by Jetair to the Department of Civil Aviation for rent and aircraft parking facilities at Kingsford-Smith airport?
– Quite a lot of information is required by the honourable senator. I ask him to put his question on the notice paper. 1 will get as much information as I can as quickly as I can.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. lt refers to questions I asked of the Minister during meetings of a Senate Estimates Committee as to whether Australian companies registered in Norfolk Island were using the Norfolk Island ordinances to avoid paying taxation in Australia. At that time the Minister promised to have the matter investigated. He stated that it was under consideration. Is the Minister able to supply any further information about the matter?
– I respond in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, not as Minister representing the Attorney-General. It was when questions were asked about the estimates of the Department of External Territories that the honourable senator asked whether the Government was aware that the companies legislation of Norfolk Island permitted the Island to be used as a tax haven. I have been informed today that the Minister had already given instructions for improvement of that Territory’s company legislation; in particular, on the companies which were not bona fide located in the Territory; and on whether the fees - I think he is to be understood as referring to the registration fees - should be increased. The ordinance giving effect to that direction is in the course of preparation. After being referred to the Territory Council it will come before the Governor-General and then before both Houses of Parliament. If sufficient information is not provided, I shall be only too happy to get any supplemental report that is necessary. From reading the letter from the Minister and his Department, I rather sense that the full purpose of the honourable senator’s question has not been focussed upon the tax evasion angle, so I propose to ask the Minister directly to have the question submitted to the Treasurer to ensure that that aspect of the matter receives special consideration.
– Does the Minister representing the Attorney-General recall that one of the first questions I asked in this place concerned secular marriages? I draw the Minister’s attention to Statutory Rules No. 6 of 1971. AmI to understand from these regulations that officiating at secular marriages is to be facilitated so that it will be possible in the future for people to be married more easily outside the normal hours?
– I remember neither the maiden speech of the honourable senator nor that of Sir Winston Churchill or of any other great statesmen of the world. I also do not carry within my ready acquaintance the contents of Statutory Rules No. 6 of 1971 in order to be able to answer immediately questions as to whether the regulations facilitate or frustrate civil or other marriage services. I am unable at the moment to add to the knowledge of the hourable senator on this subject.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that the honourable member for Kennedy in another place has accused an international trade cartel of depressing wool prices and has said that he would bring Australia’s wool problems before the United Nations? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether the statement made by Mr Katter regarding the activities of international cartels is true? Has the case for improved wool prices been brought before the Economic and Social (Second) Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations?
-I will check with the honourable member mentioned.
-I desire to ask a question of either the Minister representing the Minister for the Army or the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I ask: Will the appropriate Minister make a full and frank statement on Australia’s future role in Vietnam and thus dispel the many rumours and the speculation about Australia’s future in that area? If so, will such a statement include the reasons for the reposting to Australia of both of the Australian commanders who are at present in Vietnam and explain the position of Australian ground combat forces after
May of this year, which is when it is planned that the United States of America will have withdrawn all of her ground combat forces?
– The Minister representing the Minister for Defence is not present in. the chamber. However, as the representative of the Minister for the Armyin this place, I will draw his attention to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 508)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not proposed to set up a commission with terms of reference similar to those of the Gates Commission referred to in (1) above. The Government has, however, established a Committee of Inquiry into the financial terms and conditions of Service employment; an area in which the Gales Commission was also concerned and in which the President has announced a number of decisions taken by the Administration to improve conditions of service in the United States armed forces. An Inter-departmental Committee has also been established to examine all aspects of Service housing needs.
In addition, the Government has in recent months approved a number of changes over a wide range of Service emoluments, costing over $40m in a full financial year. These include a restructuring of officers’payandaflow on to them of the 9.5 per cent Public Service Third Division increases; considerable changes in the pay for other ranks in a significant number of Service employments; equal pay for female other ranks and substantial increases in the pay of female officers; and pay increases for service cadets, apprentices and the junior categories, medical and dental officers, chaplains, senior CMF officers and the Pacific Islanders.
The general disability loading applicable to all servicemen has been increased and the following allowances have also been increased - flying pay andflightpay, submarinepay and rental allowances payable to servicemen for temporary premises after family removal.
In short, every effort is being made to improve voluntary recruitment.
(Question No. 725)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Should any such men return to Australia before reaching 30 years of age they remain liable for national service in Australia. In that event any periods of full-time defence service they may have rendered overseas would be recognised and they would be liable only for a residual period of national service.
Under the laws of some countries children of emigrants who arc born overseas are liable for compulsory militay service. However, special conditions, for example with regard to exemption from call-up and return to the parents’ homeland, may apply to those who have lived permanently and continuously in their country of birth.
(Question No. 750)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
When a married couple who are unableto satisfactorily live together and do not obtain a divorce because of religious beliefs decide to separate, does the separation agreement prevent the wife qualifying for a deserted wives’ pension, even if the husband cannot be located and does not pay maintenance; if so, does this show an anomaly in the social services legislation which penalises people of a particular religious belief.
– The Minister for Social Services has providedthe following answer to the honourable senators question:
For the purposes of widow’s pension, the Social Services Act defines a deserted wife as a wife who has been deserted by her husband without just cause for a period of not less than 6 months. Where a husband’s conduct has been such that his wife is justified in leaving him (i.e. where constructive desertion has occurred), she would be accepted as a deserted wife for widow’s pension purposes. Separation by mutual agreement would not constitute desertion without just cause as each would be a consenting party. However, if subsequently the wife genuinely desired reconciliation and the conduct of the husband was such as to constitute desertion without just cause, she may then qualify as a widow as defined in the Social Services Act.
(Question No. 800)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1)-(4) The Government is satisfied that the new Health Benefits Plan introduced from 1st July 1970 has been implemented satisfactorily and general co-operation has been forthcoming from the medical profession in the operation of the most common fee system on which the Plan is based. However, as the honourable senator is no doubt aware, the Australian Medical Association has recently announced recommended fee increasesto apply from 1st July 1971. The Government does not consider that these recommended fee increases are justified. The matter was the subject of discussions between representatives of the Australian Medical Association and the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health in Canberra on 12 February last. The Australian Medical Association is now considering the matters raised by the Government during these discussions.
(Question No. 806)
asked the Minis ter for Immigration, upon notice:
Does the Minister see a parallel between the complaint to the European Commission on Human Rights concerning 25 Asians inEast Africa who possess British passports but were denied entry into the United Kingdom and the denial of entry rights to mainland Australia of indigenous citizens of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. Persons born in Papua became Australian citizens under the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 which represented Australia’s part in a scheme of nationality law agreed upon between the Commonwealth countries. Previously the only nationality held by the peoples of the Commonwealth countries was that of ‘British subject’. It was agreed that each country would define what British subjects were its citizens and it was essential that each country should include those British subjects who were more closely associated with it than with any other country. Papua had been British territory for 60 years and persons born there had become British subjects.It had been an Australian territory since 1905. For these reasons Papuans became Australian citizens on the commencement of the citizenship legislation on 26th January 1949.
Persons born in New Guinea are not Australian citizens.
The suggestion that the people of Papua and New Guinea should have right of entry to Australia runs counter to the Government’s objective of preparing the Territory for independence.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Under the National Service Act 1951-1968, how many young men, to date -
Of those listed in (e) above, how many have been prosecuted by the Department and against how many others have legal proceedings been commenced.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection. leave is granted.
Honourable senators will recall that on 9th April 1970 I circulated a similar list in regard to aged persons homes and havesubsequently provided further information keeping that list up to date. I would propose from time to time to issue further lists showing new sheltered workshop approvals. I would like to express my gratitude to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber for the assistance they render to both the sheltered workshop movement and the aged persons homes movement.
– 1 move:
That the Senate lake note of the statement.
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
(4.2 lj - For the information of honourable senators I lay on the’ table the following paper:
Migration and Settlement Agreement Between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of Malta. 1 ask for leave to make a statement in relation to the Agreement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 wish to inform the Senate of the main features of the Migration and Settlement Agreement recently concluded between the Government of Australia and the Government of Malta. The Agreement was signed in Canberra on 14th December 1970 by Dr V. Tabone, Minister of Labour. Employment and Welfare, on behalf of the Maltese Government and by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) on behalf of the Australian Government. Australia has had assisted migration agreements with Malta since January 1949. These agreements including that which expired on 30th June 1970 were essentially agreements for assisted migration. Rather than extend the old Agreement for which there was provision under its Article 23. the Government decided to negotiate a new and more broadly based agreement which would: (a) give expression to the entitlements and obligations’ of all Maltese citizens who migrate to and settle in Australia; (b) make the agreement consistent with the basic provisions of recent agreements concluded with other migrant source countries, for example, Italy. Turkey and Yugoslavia; and (c) take account of substantive machinery modifications agreed upon between Australia and Malta late in 1969 in regard to financial arrangements and eligibility criteria for assisted Maltese migrants.
On 1st June 1970, in Malta Dr V. Tabone. Minister of Labour, Employment and Welfare, on behalf of the Maltese Government and the Minister for Immigration on behalf of the Australian Government initialled agreed draft texts of the proposed new Migration and Settlement Agreement and related Arrangement dealing with assisted passage provisions. In formulating these texts, the Department of Immigration had the advice of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, the Treasury, Labour and National Service, Social Services. Health. Education and Science. Civil Aviation and the Attorney-General’s Department. The draft text of Agreement was referred to each State Government for its concurrence on matters falling within the State’s competence. Each signified that it had no objection to the terms of the Agreement proposed. With its signing by both parlies (he Agreement retroactively enters into force from 1st July 1970 and remains in force until ‘he one hundred and eightieth day after the day on which either Government receives from the other notice in writing of its desire to terminate the Agreement.
The new Migration and Settlement Agreement has the following principal elements. It describes the facilities for settlement of Maltese citizens, lt records the rights they enjoy and the obligations they undertake in common with Australian citizens .and other citizens; it affirms that Maltese citizens resident in Australia will receive social service and health benefits which Australia provides to Australian citizens, and that both Governments will make efforts towards reaching areement on reciprocity in payment of each other’s corresponding social security benefits. The Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Immigration have already had initial discussions on social services reciprocity with Dr Tabone. The Agreement provides for advice to Maltese migrants on the acceptance of vocational qualifications in Australia and records that the Australian Government will endeavour to advance the acceptance of Maltese qualifications within the framework of Australian laws, regulations and practices; the rights of Maltese settlers as residents and as workers are set out. and that Australia undertakes to extend to Maltese workers and their families the facilities available in Australia for migrants to learn English.
Article 15 of the Migration and Settlement Agreement indicates that the migration of Maltese citizens may be considered on the basis of direct applications submit ted in Malta and nominations submitted to the Australian authorities in Australia. In addition it provides that the 2 Governments shall co-operate in such special assisted migration programmes as may be mutually agreed. Under the terms of Article 15, assisted migrants 19 years of age and over will contribute $A25.00 towards the cost of their travel to Australia, those under 19 years will travel free and the Australian Government will meet the balance of the fare. This accords with the conditions available to assisted migrants generally. Special provision has been made for single women with or without close relatives in Australia to be nominated by a relative in Australia or by a friend or by an organisation approved by the 2 Governments.
As in other recent agreements an article has been included in the Migration and Settlement Agreement with Malta which deals with a Maltese citizen’s liability for military service in Australia. Article 18 records that in accordance with the National Service Act 1951-1968 Maltese citizens who have rendered continuous full time service in the naval, military or air forces of Malta or a country other than Australia are granted recognition of such service in determining their national service liability. It also records that a Maltese citizen who was liable to register for military service after 1st January 1967 and who is called up may exercise his option to leave Australia rather than render such service. The reference to 1st January 1967 takes account of the fact that prior to this date this concession did not apply to British subjects including persons from Malta. This concession applies, of course, to nationals from any country who may be called up. The Agreement records that the right to determine who may be admitted to Australia for permanent settlement rests with Australia. The selection procedures provide for an assessment by Australian officers of the general suitability, health, character and the potential of the individual to settle here satisfactorily.
People from Malta were among our earliest arrivals. In the late 1850s a group of Maltese fishermen, domestic servants and labourers settled in Queensland. The first organised group of Maltese migrants arrived in Queensland in 1883 for employment on the canefields. After World War I the inflow of Maltese increased rapidly until by 1921 Australia was taking more Maltese settlers than any other country. The greatest inflow, however, occurred after World War II. when the migration agreement was signed with Malta. Although migration from Malta has diminished in recent years, Australia now receives more than half of the number of Maltese migrants leaving Malta each year. As at the 1966 census there were approximately 55,000 Maltese-born people in Australia, and inthe 4 years ending 30th June 1970 more than 5,000 settlers from Malta had arrived in this country. The population of Malta is not large - 325,600 people at mid- 1 970 - and it would be unrealistic to expect very large numbers of migrants in relation to the total Australian migration programme, but in terms of the Maltese population it is a welcome movement.
The steady movement of Maltese migrants to this country has created strong links of family relationship and of friendship between the 2 countries. Migrants from Malta have played an important role in Australian development over the years. More than half of all Maltese workers in Australia are employed in manufacturing, especially heavy engineering.
It is my firm belief that as Maltese settlers continue to bring to us those qualities of loyalty, valour and determination which have earned the respect of the world, their contribution to Australia’s future will be equally as distinguished. I commend the Agreement to honourable senators.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Agricultural, Horticultural, etc., Machinery.
Pyjama Girdles and Girdling (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Pursuant to statute I present also Special Advisory Authority reports on the following items:
Industrial Radiographic Equipment.
– Pur suant to section 41 of the Meat Industry Act 1964-1969, I present the thirty-fifth annual report of the Australian Meat Board for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements. An interim report of the Board was presented on 15th September 1970.
-BROCK MA N - Pursuant to section 29 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1966, I present the annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30th June 1970. An interim report of the Board was presented to the Senate on 20th August 1970.
-I pre sent the Fourth Report from the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to . the following proposed work:
Electricity Supply Power Station at Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
Bill received from, the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrochman) read a first time.
– I move:
The basic purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of the Parliament to an agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government to regulate the production and marketing of sugar within the Commonwealth for a period of 5 years from 1st July 1969. On 25th September 1969 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton! made a statement in the Parliament that the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and Queensland Government for a new Sugar Agreement had been satisfactorily concluded and the basis on which a formal agreement could be drafted had been arranged. The Bill now before honourable senators contains the text of the Agreement as subsequently concurred in by the governments, and provisions to implement the Commonwealth’s responsibilities under the Agreement.
The previous Sugar Agreement, the Sugar Agreement 1962 as varied by the Supplemental Sugar Agreement 1967. had been due to expire on 3 1st August 1968, but the two governments agreed, by exchanges of letters, to the extension of its term of operation until 23rd October 1969, the day on which the Sugar Agreement 1969 was made. A significant reason for extending the term of the 1962 Agreement, which originally had been due to expire on 3 1st August 1967, was the desire to continue that Agreement until the outcome of the negotiations for a new International Sugar Agreement was known. As honourable senators are well aware, a new International Sugar Agreement was achieved late in 1968 but only after protracted and difficult negotiations. When the Sugar Agreement 1969 was finally executed its terms provided for its retrospective operation from 1st July 1969. Previously the traditional starting date of sugar agreements had been 1st September but the change in commencing date on this occasion was made for reasons of administration. In the course of his statement to the Parliament which I have referred to above, the Prime Minister outlined the principal features of the new Agreement. In view of the importance of the Agreement I would (Hee to touch briefly on some of those features again.
The new Agreement, which is the latest in a long line of agreements which go back to the 1920s, is in substance along similar lines to the Agreement it replaces. In this connection I quote verbatim what the Prime Minister said in the Parliament in September:
Experience in operating the provisions of the existing Agreement, since the last major review in 1962, has indicated that some changes can make it more effective in its operation and clearer in its expression. During the drafting of the new Agreement the opportunity will be taken to effect these adjustments, which are largely of a technical or drafting nature and will have no bearing on the principles on which the Agreement is based. This, as previously indicated, will follow the traditional lines of previous Agreements.
The text of the 1969 Agreement as subscribed to subsequently by the 2 governments and as now contained in the Bill before honourable senators is consistent with what the Prime Minister said. For example, under the new Agreement, which will run for 5 years, the State of Queensland, on the one hand, will continue to control the production of raw sugar and will make available, as a matter of priority and at stated maximum wholesale prices, refined sugar and sugar products to meet Australian needs. The Commonwealth of Australia, on the other hand, will continue its embargo on the importation of sugar and of the sugar products, golden syrup and treacle. The maximum domestic wholesale prices for sugar and sugar products as were prescribed in the Supplemental Sugar Agreement 1967 have been continued under the new Agreement.
Features of previous sugar agreements have been the domestic sugar rebate scheme and the export sugar rebate arrangements. Both of these features will be continued under the new Agreement. The objectives in the case of both rebates include that of assisting, by stabilising fruit prices, growers of fruits used in manufactured products. Manufacturers who purchase fruit at prices not less than [hose declared annually by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, established under the Agreement, are entitled to the domestic sugar rebate on the sugar used in conjunction with the fruit.
Under the export sugar rebate arrangements exporters of products containing sugar obtain their requirements of such sugar at prices related broadly to the Australian import parity price. In short they pay what they would have paid had there been no embargo on the importation of sugar. In the case of domestic sugar rebate the rate has been increased by$5 to$15 per ton from 1st July 1969. This will make the rebate more significant to manufacturers. The higher rate of rebate represents the only major difference between the old and the new agreements. To provide funds to pay the rebate at the higher rate the State of Queensland will increase its contribution from the level under the previous Agreement to a new level of$924,000 a year.
So far I have been speaking almost entirely about the Sugar Agreement 1969 which comprises the Schedule to the Bill. It is now appropriate to turn to the clauses of the Bill itself. The Bill is similar to previous Acts in that it continues the Commonwealth’s obligation, under the Sugar Agreement, to prohibit the importation of sugar, golden syrup and treacle.
In addition the Bill ‘approves’ the new Sugar Agreement as did previous Acts in respect of sugar agreements which were new at the time. In this connection I would remind honourable senators that it was not possible to bring the new Sugar Agreement before the Parliament when it was made by the 2 governments. Accordingly, and since it was agreed by both the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland that it was in the interests of both producers and consumers that the Agreement should be brought into operation as soon as possible, it was decided that the Agreement should come into full force and effect upon its signing in order that the benefits under it could commence to flow without delay.
Clause 6 does not have an equivalent in earlier sugar agreement legislation. It is a machinery clause to place beyond doubt the position of interest or other income derived from the investment of moneys which belong to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee and which are placed to the credit of the Commonwealth Trust Fund. Clause 6 is intended to ensure that the interest or income will flow to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee Fund to which it rightly belongs.
The Sugar Agreement Bill 1971 advances further the story of co-operation between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments in the field of sugar, which has fostered the development of the sugar industry and at the same time has ensured full and stable supplies of sugar at reasonable prices for Australian consumers. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– On behalf of Senator Murphy, I move:
I think the Senate is well aware that for many years now the Opposition has been endeavouring to have an examination of the housing needs of Australia made in some depth. On a number of occasions we have moved amendments to appropriate legislation to this end. Up to date we have not been successful in having a committee of the Parliament established to investigate this matter. We now believe that this is an opportune time for such an investigation to be made. We believe thisfor a number of reasons which are outlined in the motion itself and also because, by decision of the Senate in August last year, we now have an appropriate committee ofthe Senate formed but not yet established. We believe that the time is now ripe for the establishment of that committee.
The situation that exists now is that, probably during this session and certainly no later than the Budget session, the Parliament will have before it legislation to renew or re-establish the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which has existed since 1945 when the then Labor
Government initiated the Agreement for the purpose of providing homes particularly for persons in the lower income groups. We all recall that at that time the basis of the plan was mainly to provide homes Tor rental and to eliminate the lag that existed after the war years, when the construction of homes was very limited because of the lack of materials and manpower.
Since that time, every 5 years the Commonwealth has renewed this Agreement with the States. Various innovations have been introduced from time to time, perhaps to take the emphasis away from the rental section and put it on the purchase section and also to lay down other conditions associated with the loans that are made to the States. We believe that because the Commonwealth has not been able to assist sufficiently to overcome the housing lag that still exists in the community an investigation in depth should be made. The committee whose establishment was proposed in August last year is to have the task of looking into the social environment of people. Its terms of appointment state specifically that it should consider the housing needs of the people. They refer to it as:
The Standing Committee on Social Environment (this shall include Housing, Transport, Communications and the provision of other facilities). So, it is quite obvious that it is the appropriate committee to examine this matter. A further resolution of the Senate, carried in August, slated that the method of setting up the committees would be as follows:
The actual establishment of the total number of
Committees, including the appointment of senators to the various Committees, shall be done over a period of not less than 12 months and not before 2 of the said Committees selected by the Senate for first’ establishment have actually operated and a report of the operation of those Committees has been presented to the Senate by the President.
The Senate has received the report of the President in accordance with that resolution, and the operation of the 2 committees selected for first establishment has been reported upon, as suggested in that resolution of 19th August 1970.
We members of the Opposition believe that it is now incumbent upon the Senate to commence to form and establish these other committees gradually, as suggested by the Senate by resolution, and in a man ner that will increase the number of committees sitting. We believe that the Senate should establish a committee in this field as a first priority. We are bolstered in our view of this matter by a paragraph in the report that the President has submitted to the Senate. Paragraph 54 states:
It is suggested for consideration that, with the successful launching of the first stage of the Senate’s committee system, and the experience gained from the operation of both the Estimates Committees and the 2 Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees, the Senate might during the autumn sittings of 1971 embark on the next stage by the full establishment of certain of the 5 committees yet to become operative. For committees vet to be fully established, see page 23.
One of the most important committees remaining to be established is that associated with social environment. I have indicated before in the Senate that the Government’s approach to housing begs the question of what action it will finally take. I believe that the Commonwealth should take a greater part not only in the provision of finance through loans to the States but also in the creation of a standard of housing acceptable throughout the Commonwealth.
– Housing should ba provided at a lower cost, surely.
– That point is also applicable, particularly in respect of people who have been forced to pay increased interest rates on their home purchase loans over the last 9 or 10 months. The motion indicates that an inquiry into these matters should be established. The States are moving into the housing field, mainly in the area of home ownership and particularly in respect of home units. Government supporters are fond of saying that 70.6 per cent of Australians own or are in the course of purchasing their own homes. They are not so ready to tell us of the tremendous debts that our young people must incur to purchase a home. That is another matter worthy of investigation, particularly as it concerns young people wishing to purchase homes under various schemes, not the least of which are the housing co-operative schemes and the operations of State housing commissions.
– What interest rate do the co-operatives charge?
– If I remember rightly it is 6i per cent, which is far too high for a young couple to pay. On a previous occasion I cited figures which I do not propose to repeat today as they are incorporated in Mansard. The effect of the last increase in interest rates imposed by the Government is to raise the cost of a home valued at $10,000 by about $4,000 over a 40-year term, and by more than $3,000 over a 30- year term. A home costing about Si 0,000 to build - I think, all honourable senators will agree - is a very modest home. Under present interest charges people buying such homes will pay almost two and a half times the amount of the purchase price before they become the outright owners.
Difficulties occur also at the municipal rates level. People who have fought and battled hard all their lives to raise families and to buy a home strike difficulties when the breadwinner dies. The surviving partner finds that on an income of the pension it is impossible to pay the municipal rates. Many such examples can be found throughout the nation, particularly in the older established areas of Melbourne and of Geelong, the city where 1 live. Such areas often are re-zoned. The residents there do not want to sell their homes. Often they cannot sell because their neighbours do not wish to sell and one small housing block is insufficient for the commercial enterprise that may be interested. The properties of these people are rated according to the prices that can be obtained for the land when it is used for purposes other than housing.
The Victorian Valuer-General is directing that the valuations of old homes in the inner parts of the cities are to be based on their rental capacity. In the cities of Geelong and Geelong West the old homes are mainly owned by elderly pensioners. The last rating notices issued showed an increase in rates of over 100 per cent. Some of the more modern houses in these suburbs have had the rates reduced. The elderly pensioners are finding that the increase of 50c a week in the pension included in the last Budget will be more than offset by the increased rates they have to pay. These people have battled for 30 or 40 years under difficult conditions to own a home.
Young people today will be infinitely worse off because of the high interest rates imposed by the Commonwealth Govern ment. Their situation is made more difficult because no control has been exercised over land prices. The greatest racket in Australia is the buying and selling of land for home building. Prices have skyrocketed with the result that people are moving into the outer areas of the big cities and into the small towns where cheap blocks without services are available. Within a few years they find that they are in exactly the same position as they would occupy if they had purchased a block of land in a more established area. Almost overnight they face the costs of construction of footpaths and roads and the provision of sewerage and other services. A detailed investigation of these matters is required.
We have now a golden opportunity to set up a Senate committee which, with expert assistance, could bring to light the facts associated with .home construction, purchase or rental before a final decision is made on the renewal of : the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. 1 do not think that many honourable senators are completely happy about the method of construction of rental accommodation, particularly in Melbourne . where there has been a tremendous increase in the construction, of high rise housing, lt is hardly a suitable environment ici which to raise families. High rise buildings of over 20 storeys are being constructed. The Melbourne Apex Club has clearly established that inadequate amenities are provided for young people in those buildings. The Apex Club has gone to great trouble to compile a report that every honourable senator should obtain and read.
The increased high” rise development in the centre of Melbourne means that children must play in pocket-handkerchief sized areas. The experience of the Harlem area of New York will be repeated, I believe, in the inner suburbs of our big cities. We are not giving bur children a real chance because associated with high rise development are existing inadequate schooling facilities. State., governments cannot or will not at this stage increase education facilities and improve the environment of the inner suburban schools to enable proper education to be given to children living in these sub-standard areas. The construction of these concrete jungles is not the way to solve the housing problem of people who are paying rent. This has been clearly indicated. Also, it is not necessarily the most economic way. It may appear to be economic when you say that you can put 2,000 or 3,000 people in a huge concrete block in these suburbs, but you cannot build the type of home unit that Australians wish to have.
At the moment the Victorian Government wants to acquire 15 acres in the area bounded by Church Street, Reid Street, Rae Street and Nicholson Street in Fitzroy. About 170 homes would be demolished. Several months ago the Fitzroy Residents Association spoke to members of more than half the households in the proposed development area and most were reported to have said that they were happy and did not want to move. The Victorian chapter of the institute of Architects said that the scope and arrangement of houses in this area is intimate and involved. The people are not living in sub-standard conditions but are housed al a standard well above the minimal level. The Institute estimates that to redevelop the area with 4 high rise blocks each containing 200 Mats would cost about $14m. For the same amount it could build about 1,270 houses in suburban areas. Const ruction of these high rise jungles is not necessarily the cheap way out of the problem of finding accommodation for those who have fo rent homes. 1 suspect that the move back into the centre of cities such as Melbourne has been designed by the big business magnates who control the golden mile. They want people back in the central part of the city in order to sell their goods. They do not want lo develop other areas that are available, lt may bc said, and it has been said previously, that by moving into outer suburbs and other areas we would be taking people away from the centre of employment.
– You would have a job to get them away from Myers.
– I would say that would be so in Melbourne and Geelong. The industrial development of Melbourne is going on in .outer areas such as Dandenong and Laverton where land is still available for the. construction of suburban home units and where families have’ a chance. These are the things that the Standing Committee on Social Enrivon- ment should investigate and report on to this Parliament prior to any further agreement with the States on housing. The motion is quite clear.
– Do you believe that the unions in Victoria who are associated with retail trade are having an effect on the construction of these high rise flats?
– The unions in Victoria are associated with retail trade because of the gross and unfair exploitation by existing retailers of the workers in that State and other States. Among the worst offenders in the field of land costs are the farming communities close to the metropolitan areas. They have split up huge areas of farm land valued at about S200 a block and have sold it for $2,000 and more. Sometimes the price gets as high as $5,000 a block. Other exploiters besides the retail traders are involved in this question. That is- another matter that needs examination. Of course, the developers have to provide roads and other services.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! lt being 2 hours after the time of meeting of the Senate, orders of the day will be called on pursuant lo standing order 127.
Motion (by Senator Dante Annabelle Rankin) agreed to:
That intervening business of the day be postponed until after further consideration of Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1.
– I will not delay the Senate much longer because the motion I read, and which is printed on the notice paper, sets out quite clearly the matters that the Opposition wants investigated. There has not been an investigation into housing in Australia since 1947. At that time there was an investigation in depth which developed what we have today - a system of home ownership and of rental accommodation. But today major things are needed to assist people to obtain adequate housing and there must be some decentralisation of industry in the suburbs.
Some of the major problems facing an industry that wishes to establish itself in an area other than the big metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, and to a lesser degree the other capital cities, are the availability of labour and houses and other facilities for workers. England tackled this housing problem, and others, immediately after World War II and established 15 new towns. She was able to provide housing, hospitals and educational facilities which enabled industry to go to those new areas. She was eminently successful in this project and took industries away from the swollen purely industrial cities. We in Australia should be tackling this problem in a similar manner. These things could be examined in depth by a committee appointed by the Senate.
– The Committee would not be appointed by the Senate. I apologise, you are referring to the Standing Committee on Social Environment.
– All that is necessary now is for the personnel to be appointed to the Committee. Senator Byrne was not present earlier when I read from a report which indicated quite clearly that this was the present situation. We have the opportunity to carry out the gradual development of our committee system as suggested by the words contained in the report of the President of the Senate. What more important question should we look into than the very vital one of housing? As I said earlier, it will be the subject of legislation in this Parliament this year when the housing agreement with the States is to be renewed. This Federal Parliament has the right, under the original agreement of 1945 - it was subsequently renewed from time to time - to discuss with the States not only the amount of money that the Commonwealth will lend to them for housing but also the type of housing that we believe is needed and the type of environment required. We should not merely provide a lot of boxes in a concrete jungle. We could provide homes at no extra cost to the people, if the Institute of Architects is correct. This is particularly so in Melbourne. I commend the motion to the Senate.
(5.04)- I have carefully listened to Senator Poyser because I know he is interested in these matters. But I was a little amazed because he really did not seem to be speaking to the motion. He talked about interest rates, municipal rates, high rise buildings and social amenities, but none of these things is mentioned in the motion.
Another interesting point is that this motion has been on the notice paper since last August. Senator Murphy implied that it was of great importance when he moved the motion, but today his seat is vacant when we are debating it and another senator has led for the Opposition in the debate. Surely this shows that Senator Murphy is treating the matter as trivial. If he had been sincere in moving this motion, surely he would have been here to open the discussion on it.
– He does not want to leave his seat vacant. The Australian Democratic Labor Party will snap it up.
– Having listened to the interjection of my friend may I also comment that if this is how Senator Murphy shows his concern for the motion which he has moved and brought into this House then 1 wonder how much attention honourable senators opposite would give to no inquiry into these matters.
– The Minister will hear more on this subject when a Minister who has introduced a Bill is not here to lead for the Government in the debate. We will use the same argument.
– I do not think that has anything to do with the subject at all. Senator Murphy moved this motion. I thought that up to this time he was treating it most seriously and that he was personally concerned with it.
– Honourable senators opposite are touchy about it.
– Yes, I noticed that. I have looked at this motion on the notice paper and given a good deal of attention to it. For good reasons which I shall enumerate to honourable senators the Government opposes Senator Murphy’s motion. One reason is that the proposed scope of the inquiry is much too wide. It would take ages to produce a report on all the items which are contained in this motion. If there is to be an inquiry into housing problems - and we do not think that this is necessary - I believe it should be into specific housing problems where the matter could be the subject of a quick report. A committee could meet, discuss the matter, obtain information and report back to the Senate.
Another interesting point is that for all these months we have had this matter before the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. This time we are asked to refer it to a committee which is noi yet in operation, lt has not yet been set up. We do nol know when it will be set up. To me this seems to be extraordinary.
In listening to Senator Poyser I have not heard one argument which I feel would convince any thinking Australian that the appointment of an inquiry such as proposed would provide an additional home for a needy family. To suggest that the Government is not continuing to explore the housing needs of Australians and is not considering desirable further action to satisfy as many as possible of these needs is sheer nonsense. A reasonable supply of private finance has been made available for home building and purchase. In 1970 the value of housing loans approved to individuals by savings and trading banks and major assurance companies was a record $773m. In addition the permanent building societies approved housing loans amounting to $339m, a total of $1,1 12m. As all hon~ ourable senators will be aware we recently increased from 35 per cent to 40 per cent the proportion of depositors’ balances with savings banks which may be lent for home ownership and other socially beneficial purposes. Large and increasing Commonwealth advances are being made each year through the Home Builders’ Accounts to co-operative housing societies to assist home seekers on modest incomes to acquire their own homes.
The Commonwealth is also providing large sums for aged persons homes. We are also offering long term housing loans at a very favourable rate of interest to eligible ex-servicemen. In addition we are providing generous assistance to their widows. We are making sizeable advances to the States at a concessional rate of interest to permit them to house needy families at rents which these families can afford to pay. This is being done under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement to which the honourable senator referred. The home building industry does not lack the capacity to build the number of new dwellings needed, nor is there any significant under-employment of the industry’s resources. Lenders are being encouraged to make, and are making, high ratio housing loans to home seekers at what are, under today’s conditions, reasonable rates of interest. This is being done by the offer to insure repayment of principal and payment of interest, both by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation we have set up for this purpose and also by private insurers. Most important, is there any significant number of our citizens lacking shelter? There is not a considerable number, but we are very concerned about those who are living in inadequate accommodation or paying too large a proportion of their incomes as rent. These are matters which concern us.
As I have mentioned the Government is maintaining an economic climate favourable to an increasing flow of private finance for home building and purchase, lt is offering financial assistance lo home seekers in a variety of ways. Our several efforts in the housing field have raised the standards of housing and dwelling accommodation for many Australians - I think this is an important point - and we are continuing our efforts to provide more accommodation for those most in need of satisfactory homes. We have a great record in regard to housing in this country. Most people in Australia are better housed than those in any other country. But we still need more suitable accommodation for some aged and disabled persons, some families without a male breadwinner and some large families on relatively low incomes. These persons and families need housing at rents or prices they can afford to pay. The Government is continuing to direct its attention to these problems which are indeed important. But I ask honourable senators to note that housing for the needy is not among the matters specifically listed for referral to the Standing Committee. The Government is concerned with the practical things that need to be done to improve the housing situation of a number of Australians and not with just theoretical exercises.
A satisfactory number of homes is being commenced to meet the housing needs of the growing number of young married people, migrant families and single persons wishing to establish a home of their own. During 1970 some 143.000 new homes were completed. 1 ask honourable senators opposite a question: Does the Opposition really believe that an inquiry into housing, especially one with the terms of reference proposed in this motion, would produce practical proposals not already being considered by the Government to improve the lot of those in need of better housing? Would the proposed inquiry be likely to be concerned with the real housing problems which the Government is tackling? 1 would say that up to this point we have not been given a scrap of evidence by the previous speaker to suggest this. 1 invite honourable senators to look carefully at what the Standing Committee would be asked to inquire into. It would bc asked to find out what would be future housing demands - not needs but demands - and whether the home building industry is capable of meeting these demands which no-one can accurately forecast some years ahead, lt would bc asked to report on the extent to which private capital can be expected to finance future demands for housing; a question to which no reasonably precise answer could possibly be given. It would be asked to examine the allocation of Commonwealth finance for different types of housing need and for urban renewal projects - for what purpose is far from clear, unless of course the Opposition wishes to allocate less Commonwealth money for housing the needy and to indicate to the States that in their fields of town planning and the provision of urban services they must comply with standards laid down by the Commonwealth in respect of these operations as ari essential precondition to determination of the extent of any new offer to the States of Commonwealth housing assistance. The final matter which would be inquired into - which was added only last Thursday, ] would remind honourable senators - relates to land costs.
I fail to see how the proposed inquiry would assist people to obtain better housing. The motion smacks of time wasting political opportunism by the Opposition. Let us look at the proposed matters which . are to be inquired into one by one. The first matter on the list is forecasts of housing demand in Australia. Forecasts, in this field, must be guesses because any forecast of the number of dwellings that may be demanded in future years must be based on a number of assumptions. I doubt whether any two forecasters would agree on all the inescapable assumptions. Probably the most significant factor affecting future demand is the estimated growth in population and in family formation. This must be based on guesses as to future birth and marriage rates and the future level of net migration. Allowances must also be made for improvements in standards, including the increasing tendency for single people to establish their own homes, for obsolescence and demolitions, for the growing tendency of many to own a holiday home, for the movement of people within Australia and for changes in the number of unoccupied dwellings.
Any forecast of the housing that will be demanded must also take into account changes in the economic climate, which have significant effects on the availability of housing finance, and on the movements in costs, prices and real incomes. All these are factors which will significantly affect the demand for new or better homes. How do we assess their influence in 2, 3 or more years time, or even in 12 months time? 1 should think that most Australians would agree that it is impracticable to guess the nature of the housing demands some Years hence and the areas or regions in which the homes will be required. The most rapidly expanding regions in 5 or 10 years time will be determined by a multitude of private decisions which will be influenced by many factors yet to be formulated. Those are things which I think honourable senators must consider. We will continue to study housing needs throughout the Commonwealth and the extent to which the homebuilding industry is meeting and is likely to meet these needs in the years immediately ahead. If and when We think it necessary we will use our influence to adjust the likely availability of private finance for housing and possibly the flow of finance from Commonwealth sources. But it has yet to be revealed how the preparation of forecasts of housing demand in Australia will add to the number of homes that will be built.
The next proposed matter for inquiry, as we look at the list, is the capacity of the building industry to meet future demands for housing, however uncertain the size of these demands may be. The history of the home building industry in Australia, 99 per cent of which is in the hands of private industry, has been one of continued expansion to meet all reasonable calls on it. In recent years there has been a steady growth in capacity to build the homes demanded. The industry has become more efficient in the sense that now fewer workers than were needed a few years ago are needed to produce the same number of homes. At present there is an adequate supply of all key building materials. I am quite unaware of any residential building that has been held back due to a shortage or lack of building labour, lt is true that there is little unemployment in the building industry, but this is the situation at which we aim. However, the fact that the home building industry is very close to full employment does not mean that it cannot expand as the requirement for its services grows in future. During the past decade the number of dwellings commenced increased, on average, by more than 5 per cent per annum, whilst population increased by about 2 per cent per annum. The number of dwellings commenced rose from fewer than 100,000 in I960 to close to 139,000 in 1970. This expansion in capacity has been the outcome of the many private initiatives.
The next suggested inquiry is into the extent to which private capital can be expected to finance the future demand for housing. In proposing this matter for inquiry, I can assume only that the Opposition is hoping to produce statements that insufficient private capital will be available to finance a high proportion of future home building. This is unlikely to be the case while this Government is in power. As I mentioned earlier, housing loans approved by savings banks, trading banks and major assurance companies were no less than S773m in 1970. Lending for new housing by permanent building societies is also running at a very satisfactory level. Under the stimulus of housing loans insurance, these societies are now attracting a rapidly expanding volume of funds. Over the past 12 months the major lending institutions have increased substantially the volume of their lending for the purchase of previously occupied homes. This has done a great deal to assist home seekers in satisfying their needs and requirements. Encouraged by the favourable climate for investment, brought about by the policies of this Government, more and more inves tors are being attracted to put money into new flats and so increase the amount of residential accommodation available to rent or to purchase. Private capital can be expected to finance future housing demands to an increasing extent, and with increasing effectiveness, as the idea of the high ratio insured loan takes hold.
Private capital will not provide all the finance for housing. A number of home seekers cannot afford to pay the rents asked for private dwellings or are unable to buy a modest home without some government assistance. Governments must expect to continue to provide homes for the neediest among our people - some of the aged and those families which cannot afford to purchase a home or to pay market rentals for reasonable accommodation. The prospects of an increasing flow of private capital to meet the future growth in housing demand are excellent. In proposing this matter for inquiry, honourable senators opposite appear to have overlooked the fact that this Government has been successful in influencing the flow of private investment into housing. Of course, one could not be sure that this would continue if the Opposition became the government. We should never forget that private investment is very sensitive to ‘the political climate and under this Government the climate has been very favourable indeed.
The Opposition then called for an examination of the role of Commonwealth finance in housing. The role of the Commonwealth in this field is to help those needing Government assistance- to .obtain a suitable dwelling at a price that they can afford. I think that is very important. The first essential is, of course, to. determine which groups are most in need, of this assistance. From our own investigations’ and our consultations with the States we have learned a great deal about who comprise these groups and what their, needs are. We have also had the benefit of information obtained from private surveys and advice on this subject by a variety of. welfare and charitable organisations. More ; recently my Department, in collaboration with the States, commenced an investigation into the housing needs of Aboriginals..,! should think that there would be a wide measure of agreement in this chamber in particular and amongst Australians in general as to who are in need of housing assistance and what it is they need. For that reason there is no need for the proposed inquiry.
Commonwealth financial assistance for housing is largely directed towards assisting the less fortunate groups in our community. It is comprehensive and comes in a variety of forms. The most significant form of assistance is that provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was referred to by Senator Poyser. The record sum of Si 42.5m will be advanced this year to the States under this Agreement. Close to $94m of this amount will be made available to the State housing authorities. This will benefit those who need to rent a dwelling but cannot afford to pay market rents and those who can afford to buy a home only with the assistance of a very long term loan at a concessional rate of interest. The remaining $49m is the estimated amount to be paid into Home Builders’ Accounts which, together with the addition of some $22m which will be made available from the repayment of earlier loans, is being advanced to co-operative terminating societies and other approved institutions. These advances will provide long term housing loans at a concessional rate of interest to low income families who wish to buy or build a home of their own choice.
Then there is, of course, the war service homes scheme. At least $60m will be advanced under this scheme to exservicemen and ex-servicewomen during the current financial year. Some S20m has also been budgeted for this year to provide generous capital grants for the housing of our elderly and incapacitated citizens under the aged persons home scheme and the sheltered employment assistance scheme as well as dwellings for needy single aged pensioners. We are also providing more transitory accommodation for migrant families in hostels and, for a limited stay of no more than 6 months, self contained flats. We are continuing to help young people to save for their own homes by giving them a tax free gift - the home savings grant. It has been estimated that tax free payments of about $15m will be made this year to young married couples and widowed and divorced persons with dependent children who have saved in an acceptable form for the acquisition of their homes. The Commonwealth’s overall con tribution to housing has risen from Si 64m in 1960-61 to an estimated $288m in 1970- 71. With this help Australians are being better housed with each passing year.
The next matter which has been proposed for investigation is the allocation of the Commonwealth finance between housing for private owners, rental housing, housing renovation and urban renewal projects. Whilst it is our policy to encourage and assist as many Australians as possible to own their own homes, we recognise that many families and individuals require rental accommodation at some stage of their lives. Our policy is to ensure that sufficient and adequate homes become available for those on the lower incomes and to offer them the choice of buying their own homes, if they can afford to do so with some Government assistance, or to rent a home. Given this choice, there is surely no problem in allocating funds between home ownership and home rental - or would the Opposition deny a family on a relatively low income the opportunity to own its own home, as it did under the 1945 agreement?
The Commonwealth Government does not ordinarily make advances to private owners to carry out alterations, additions or renovations to their homes. This is a matter for private initiative and private borrowing, lt does, however, encourage and assist private owners to carry out alterations and additions by its offer to insure the repayment of second mortgage loans for these purposes. As for urban renewal projects, these may or may not include the acquisition and demolition of existing homes or the provision of new residential accommodation. Urban renewal can be a vast exercise involving the determination of new land uses and may include the provision of new social facilities in addition to the building of new commercial, industrial and office accommodation. Much urban renewal is being undertaken in Australia by private enterprise, although public authorities are playing some part in providing housing and new utility services. It is surely for the States themselves to decide how much, if any, of the housing advances the Commonwealth makes under the agreements which have been entered into is to be used to provide new Government housing that forms part of any urban redevelopment scheme. If some large part of the Commonwealth’s finance were to be allocated to assist urban renewal schemes less could well be available to meet urgent housing needs. Once againI stress the word needs’.
It has been suggested that an inquiry should be conducted into the extent to which the allocation of Commonwealth housing finance to the States should be made conditional upon compliance with standards of town planning and the provision of urban services. These standards of town planning and the provision of urban services are State matters.I am unaware of any request from any State for the Commonwealth to lay down such standards. In any case, are there generally accepted standards of town planning? Does the Opposition envisage new Commonwealth-State financial arrangements under which the Commonwealth would make special advances for the provision of urban services?
The last matter into which an inquiry is sought is land costs. Notice was given of this matter only last Wednesday. Without drastic action of a very socialistic nature it would be impossible to control land costs near the centres of our capital cities. I think it is a well known and well recognised fact that the amount of land which is available within 5 or 10 miles of the centre of these cities cannot be increased. With a rising demand the cost of this land must increase. It is true that the States might develop more land on the outskirts of the cities and, by this means, slow down the rate of increase of land prices, but even this is likely to be temporary. Anyway, where is the money for this to come from?
I have traversed in some detail the suggested matters of inquiry by the proposed standing committee. However, I want to make it quite clear that an inquiry of this nature would be most unlikely to serve any useful purpose. I believe that it would be a waste of time and effortto prepare a range of forecasts based on a number of differing assumptions. In conclusion I would point out that the Government is continuing to make progress in the field of housing. It is aware of the difficulty which many people are having in securing a home suited to their needs. It would be foolish and wrong to pretend that we have solved every problem, but no other country can. point to a better record and few can point to one nearly as good. The role of theCommonwealth in the field of housing isto do everything reasonable to help those in need of housing assistance and itwill continue to fulfil this role. It would not be appropriate for a Commonwealth committee to inquire into matters which arc the prerogative of a State without the invitation of that State and its local authorities. For these very obvious reasons, I ask the Senate to dismiss this motion as an irrelevant, time-wasting exercise.
– I intend to move that the debate be now adjourned. Because I think the Senate is entitled to know what has inspired me to consider such a motion I would like to point out, with the indulgence of the Senate, that standing on the notice paper under Orders of the Day for debate is the report of the President of the Senate on the establishment of committees generally. I propose to move the adjournment of this debate and, to the motion that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting, I have in mind moving an amendment to the effect that such resumption take place only after consideration of Order of the Day No. 1 1 on the notice paper, which is the President’s report on the creation and developing of standing committees. Therefore, I move:
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That the debate be resumed at 8 o’clock this evening.
I have moved this motion because I understood that the debate on this matter was to proceed. If it were not to proceed 1 would have expected to have been informed of that fact. Instead, I came into the chamber only a few minutes ago to learn that a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party had submitted a proposal to adjourn the debate, the suggestion being that this matter should not proceed until the report of the President on committees of the Senate had been dealt with. I regard the action taken by the Democratic Labor Party as a means of delaying the determination of the proposition before the Senate. The proposition before the Senate is simple enough, namely, that there shall be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment the question of housing.
– Has the Committee been set up yet?
– The Committee has been appointed by the Senate. The proposal to appoint the Committee could have included such a proposition. There is no reason why the matters which that Committee would consider could not be determined at any stage by the Senate, including this stage, so that when the members were appointed to the Committee it would then go ahead to consider the matters that had been referred to it. This is a proposition which could well be determined by the Senate. The Senate would decide whether a particular reference was a fitting matter for consideration by the Committee. The Senate would decide whether to accept or to reject the reference. Notice was given of this proposition and we think that it is fair enough that the Senate decide whether the matter now before us should be referred to the Committee. It is sensible that this aspect be decided because if the matter in question is to be considered by the Committee all sorts of preliminary work could be done even before members were appointed to it. I repeat that the Committee has been appointed by the decision of the Senate.
I should like to make 2 observations. The first is that the Party which has moved for the adjournment of the debate has shown on many occasions throughout the last several years since the committer system has been established a disposition to endeavour to sabotage the operation of the committee system. Many valuable committees could have been set up. Many valuable inquiries could have been conducted but for the opposition of the Democratic Labor Party. That opposition was evident when it was suggested that a committee be set up to inquire into the needs of education in Australia. I recall also a proposition for an inquiry into national disasters. Both of those matters were manifestly in the national interest but the inquiries were not conducted because of the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party.
Despite what that Party said about the committee system being a wonderful system and how the Senate had advanced; it must be remembered that the 7 committees were established only in the face of determined opposition by the Democratic Labor Party and with the assistance of a member of the Government parties and the Independent. Here is another illustration of an attempt to delay the determination of propositions. I think it is proper for the Senate to decide one way or the other. If the Senate does not think that this matter should be referred to the Committee or if it thinks that the reference is premature, the Senate will defeat the proposal. But let us decide these matters and not have attempts to defer and delay the reference. I suggest that this is an illustration of what is happening to the Government in Australia. If the Democratic Labor Party is to take over the running of the affairs of the Senate-
– We have as much right to be here as you have.
– Yes. But if the Democratic Labor Parly is to take control of the affairs of the Senate it will be the Government parties, not the Opposition, which will suffer. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson may have some views on this matter so I will not say any more on it except that it was my clear understanding that this matter would proceed. There was no suggestion that it would be cut off. In the proper course of affairs 1 believe that it should go on and be dealt with tonight so that the Senate decides one way or the other. If the Government does not like the proposition, let it vote against it. If the Democratic Labor Party does not like the proposition, let it vote against it. But this matter should not be deferred.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The time now being 8 o’clock, in order to enable the debate to proceed on a sensible basis I ask leave to reframe the motion which 1 have moved so that the resumption of the debate shall be immediately after the determination of this question. I seek leave to amend my motion to read:
That the debate be resumed immediately after the determination of this question.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– I do not propose to say much more. It was my clear understanding that this debate would proceed. Arrangements have to be made to deal with the business of the Senate. I am not suggesting that there was any reneging on the arrangement by the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). I think he was probably unaware of what was happening, so I take that element out of the matter and simply say that I think the debate should proceed and the question ought to be dealt with one way or the other. I ask the Senate to reject the motion that the debate be postponed and to agree that it be dealt with this evening in accordance with the amended motion which I have proposed.
– I propose to move an amendment. I am not clear on the amended motion presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
Murphy). I do not know when it is intended by him that the debate should be resumed.
– The motion was to the effect that the resumption of the debate be immediately upon the conclusion of this question, that is, immediately this question is determined the debate should bc resumed on the motion before the Senate.
– In that case I move as an amendment to Senator Murphy’s motion:
Leave out al] words after ‘That’ and insert ‘the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of silling, but not before consideration of Government Business, order of the duy No. 11.’
That order of the day relates to the report by the President on committees of the Australian Senate. This matter conies up at this stage at the initiative of the Democratic Labor Party. Firstly, I should like to advert to the situation referred to by Senator Murphy, in respect of which he said that there was some arrangement that this matter would be proceeded with. To use the honourable senator’s own terms, he was not suggesting that the Government had reneged on the arrangement.
– I said the Leader of the Government.
– Let it be clear that if any arrangement was made that this matter would be proceeded with, to my knowledge the Democratic Labor Party was not a party to such an arrangement. Therefore, if there has been any breach of faith - Senator Murphy certainly does not allege that against Senator Sir Kenneth. Anderson - no charge can be levelled against the Democratic Labor Party because we were not aware of the arrangement. Perhaps it would have been much more prudent if the Leader of the Opposition . hod chosen to acquaint us of his intentions in this regard. This matter has stood on, the notice paper for quite a long time and it has come up on at least 18 occasions on which it might have been proceeded, with. But on no occasion has it been proceeded with. In those circumstances we would have had no warrant for believing that it was going to be proceeded with on .this, occasion. Perhaps the Senate would have been better served if Senator Murphy had chosen to include us in the arrangements that he made or the agreement he came to with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.
We are concerned at the charge made by Senator Murphy that in some way the Democratic Labor Party has all along sought to sabotage the formation and operation of the committee system. That charge is completely spurious and is totally untenable. There is no party in this chamber that has more conspicuously or more enthusiastically supported the adoption of the committee system, and no parly has supported it more articulately in this chamber. But more importantly, no party has participated personally through its members in the functioning of committees of all kinds to a greater degree than has the Democratic Labor Party. If one looks at the committees set out on the notice paper one will find that the Democratic Labor Party is represented on almost every committee of the Senate. Of the standing committees, Senator Gair is a member of the Library Committee, and of the legislative and general purpose standing committees he is a member of the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. Of the select committees, he is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Off -Shore Petroleum Resources. The Democratic Labor Party is represented also on the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse and the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. On the estimates committees, every one of our entitlements to representation on 4 committees was taken up. Therefore we have served on every committee which has been available to us and ours is the only party whose Leader serves on a select committee.
Since the inception of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources which has been sitting for many years Senator Gair has served consistently and with great dedication on the Committee. Therefore, to say that the Democratic Labor Parly has in any way attempted to sabotage the committee system is to make a spurious charge, one that is quite untenable and one which is resisted and resented by the party which sits in this part of the chamber. I think that on reflection Senator Murphy will agree that the charge is unsustained. When this matter was coming up and we decided that this should be the course of action that we would pursue, [ informed the Government Whip and also Senator Poyser what we proposed to do. Senator Poyser asked me whether I had spoken to Senator Murphy about it and then said that he would acquaint Senator Murphy with it. Therefore the Democratic Labor Party had informed both the Government and the Opposition as to the course of action it proposed to take. That is a courtesy that we always try to extend to the Government and to the Opposition. We did not depart from that practice on this occasion.
The Democratic Labor Party has taken this stand in pursuance of a consistent attitude which has been taken by the Party in relation to committees since they were first mooted in this chamber. We know that the establishment of committees is a very good thing and an historic thing, but also we have a sense of responsibility to the public revenue, to the people at large and to the Senate to ensure that by some excess of enthusiasm this chamber should not embark upon some complicated and expensive system of committees without adequate investigation by a process of trial and error. Consequently, when’ the proposal was originally presented that there should be established 7 standing committees, we moved an amendment, which was defeated at that stage, that 2 only of those committees should be established and that, following their establishment, there should be a report from Mr President and from the Clerks at the table as to the manner in which the committees had operated and what proposals, suggestions, improvements, emendations or corrections would be required for the on-going work of the committees and for an extension of the committee system. That has always been our policy.
Our proposal, defeated at that stage, was subsequently carried by resolution of the Senate some months later, as a result of which these 7 committees were established. Only 2 of those committees were given immediate viability, they being the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare and the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade, to each of which references have been made. At other times matters of this kind have come up for debate in this place and we have taken stands as to the type of matter which suitably could be referred to this type of committee as against matters that could more properly be referred to select committees of the Senate. We have been quite firm in our attitude to those matters. Therefore, in our attitude to this matter we are completely consistent with what we have done from the inception of the consideration of the committee system. We have always supported committees.
– You voted against the proposal for the appointment of standing committees, which was carried.
– We have always supported commitees. We have always proposed a policy of gradualism. I think that if, particularly at this time of financial stringency, the Senate had embarked lightly and indiscriminately upon the immediate establishment of 7 standing committees with their total infrastructure and consequential expense, it would have been subject today to a charge of gross lack of prudence in the expenditure of public moneys. The fact that wc can present to the public the process we have followed and the practice which we have adopted - that there should to a period of trial and error, that it should be a process of festina lente - enables us to go lo the public and say that these committees operate in the public interest and that we have the public interest in mind in the method by which we establish them, the numbers in which we establish them and the way in which they will function.
Since we have been charged with sabotaging committees, it is interesting to note that there is one very important committee on which we do not serve, that is, the Standing Orders Committee. That is not because we do not want to serve on that Committee. We do want to serve on it but we understand that the Opposition has denied us the opportunity to serve on that Committee. It has opposed our membership of it. To that extent I must rely on hearsay evidence. But that is the reason why, on the notice paper under the heading ‘General Business’ there appears in my name notice of motion No. 7 which seeks the appointment of Senator Gair to that Committee, together with other honourable senators. It is extraordinary that those who would deny us membership of an important committee on which we want to serve should now charge us with sabotaging the committee system as though we did not support it at all. Unfortunately, that is the type of attack to which we have been subjected. We have served on the estimates committees with. I think, constant attendance and I trust with some fruitful participation.
The wisdom of our attitude is demonstrated when one reads your report on the committee system, Mr President, which is now before the chamber and consideration of which is an order of the day. It seems an extraordinary thing that, as the Senate resolved that this should be the method adopted for the establishment of further committees, any move should be undertaken at this stage which in effect would cut across and violate the decision of the Senate. To move now for the creation of any other committee or a reference to any other committee when this report is actually before the Senate seems to me to be trespassing upon the decision which has already been made. I could not imagine a more inappropriate time to bring forward this motion in Senator Murphy’s name or his motion to refer to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare the introduction of a national superannuation scheme, lt would appear to me that prudence itself would dictate that both these matters be allowed to stand aside until a discussion of the President’s report. The infrastructure required for such committees, and the demands on the time of senators have now been investigated. After considering the President’s report we could go ahead and, if necessary, consider the matters which Senator Murphy has placed on the notice paper under General Business for reference to the standing committees.
Therefore, we think that this is the rightful, the prudent and the wise course of action to pursue. We hope that the Senate in its wisdom will agree with that proposition and will let these matters stand aside. Our attitude is not to discuss the merits of these matters at this stage. We may have firm views on the types of reference - we have expressed those views - which should be made to standing committees. Honourable senators will recall that lime and time again we have thought that standing committees were not appropriate for the reference of major investigations which would take long periods of time and probably involve travel from place to place. More particularly is this so when it will result in a queue of references which will have to stand in their place for long periods of time while the personnel of the committee changes and while interest in the subject may well be lost.
Senator Murphy has suggested that housing is a matter of some consequence and should be the subject of immediate reference. Nobody denies the importance of the subject. Nobody denies that it might well warrant some sort of investigation. The question is what is the appropriate body to do it and the depth in which it should be undertaken. Let us look at other notices of motion on the notice paper in relation to the appointment of select committees - in the name of Senator Murphy or of other members of his Party. There is a whole host of them. I have on the notice paper a proposal for the appointment of a select committee on defence. Senator Murphy has given notice of a motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service. Senator Devitt has given notice of a motion for the appointment of a committee to inquire into and report upon the land tenure and land administration, planning and development in the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Murphy also has given notice of a motion for the appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into and report upon the laws and practices presently observed by the Government of the Northern Territory. Those are the major matters.
The point is that if this type of reference is made to standing committees all those motions for the appointment of select committees will have to stand aside and take their place in order of importance and urgency. Personally I do not know just what order Senator Murphy or the members of his Party would give one as against the rest, but it does seem unfair that a motion like the one before us now should be allowed to supersede all the motions for the appointment of select committees. Once we are appointed to one of these committees we are required to forgo membership on select committees. Therefore, to say that this matter is of great urgency is not correct when it is compared with the relative importance of all the other matters to which Senator Murphy subscribes.
There is another notice of motion on the notice paper in the name of Senator O’Byrne in relation to Commonwealth and State financial relations. Some requests for the appointment of select committees have been stood over as orders of the day. There is a host of references. Are all those matters to be put aside merely because of this reference to a standing committee? If we are to embark upon all these things willy-nilly we will get into a position which will be totally intolerable because the demands made upon the time of honourable senators will force them to sever themselves from participation in other committees. That, of course, would be a disaster for the whole of the committee system. The wisdom of gradualism is demonstrated by the notice paper as we now see it.
We have before us a comprehensive report on estimates committees and standing committees which has taken up a considerable amount of your time, Mr President. It is the outcome of consultation with senators who have participated in the various committees to ascertain the difficulties they have experienced - difficulties of accommodation and difficulties in the provision of staff and matters of that character. It seems most appropriate that this report should receive its airing and attract discussion in this place first. When the general principles embodied in this report have received the attention of the Senate we will know where we are going and to what extent motions such as that proposed by Senator Murphy will be accepted or rejected by the Senate according to the capacity of the standing committees to deal with them.
For those reasons, Mr President, I feel that the amendment which I have proposed should have the concurrence of the Senate. It seems an eminently sensible method of procedure. We can discuss the general principles and when we are satisfied that our course is planned and we know where we are going we can take aboard, to use the term of the Leader of the Government, these more specific references to see whether the committee system is able to accept them at this stage. So, Mr President, I commend this course of action to the Senate. I believe that if it is followed we finally will have placed the whole matter on an orderly basis and the Senate will be able to proceed, having satisfied itself that it is proceeding with prudence, in the light of all the known facts and in the light of the experience of the participation of honourable senators.
Then, if it is decided that one or more additional committees should be created, wc will have to decide which of those committees should be made viable. After all, the type of motion that Senator Murphy has propounded contemplates the appointment of the Standing Committee on Social Environment because it contemplates that there shall be an immediate reference to that Committee when the members are appointed. If that motion is carried it is, if not directly and specifically then at least indirectly and inferentially, a decision by the Senate that such a committee should be appointed.
– We have decided that already, have we not?
– lt is a decision that such a committee should be made viable and the members should be appointed. But, on consideration of the President’s report, the Senate might well decide that the viability of that Committee should not receive thai type of priority but that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs or some other committee should be the next to be established.
Therefore, I believe that it would be unwise for us indirectly to tie our hands in relation to the establishment of this Committee when the whole structure is coming under consideration and the questions of the establishment of an additional I, 2, 3, 4 or 5 committees and which of those committees, if any, should be established will receive our particular consideration. For all those reasons I commend to the Senate the amendment moved on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. Mr President, perhaps you could indicate whether that amendment requires seconding. If it does, it will be seconded in due time.
– I want the amendment to be seconded.
– 1 second the amendment.
(8.22) - I am sure everybody would agree that it is not appropriate - it would never happen in normal circumstances - for me to get myself involved in recounting in the Senate discussions that the leaders have, or what we call discussions at the leader level. Everybody appreciates that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) and I, in our mutual interests and in carrying out our mutual responsibilities, have discussions as to the procedures and management of this place. Normally they are sacred discussions and ones that would not be reflected in any debate here. But I am sure Senator Murphy will not think, and I hope the Senate will not think, that 1 have broken the sacred ruling if I refer to the fact that Senator Murphy and 1 did have discussions this morning, because I believe that they are germane to this situation.
It is true, as Senator Murphy has indicated, that I expressed the view that we should follow on with this motion, which was a notice of motion in his name. Let me say in fairness to him that it is equally true that I indicated that I was anxious to have it disposed of. The reason that I gave in our discussion was that we were in this cycle of sitting for 2 weeks and having I week off and I wanted to keep as close as possible to the work load coming from the other place because I did not believe that wc should get ourselves involved in a Friday or Monday sitting unless it was absolutely necessary. For that reason I was pressing the point. I think it would be fair to say that the Leader of the Opposition agreed with me and that he saw the validity of what I was saying.
So it came about that, although I had to leave the Senate chamber to go to the other end of the building for Cabinet discussions, I arranged with Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin that that would be the work procedure and that we would push on with the notice of motion after certain second reading speeches had been made. I understand that under my guidelines for the management of this place, in fact. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin moved a motion to bring on the notice of motion in
Senator Murphy’s name. We then had the situation that the 2-hour rule applied. So I gave Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin an instruction, with which she agreed, to move to have that rule in the Standing Orders suspended so that the debate could proceed. That is the situation that emerged. I am informed that at about the time Senator Poyser led for the Opposition - either at some time during his speech or certainly immediately after it - Senator Byrne indicated to the Government Whip that he proposed to move an amendment. Apparently he foreshadowed the substance of the amendment. I was most anxious tonight to let Senator Byrne speak before I spoke and give the reasons for his amendment.
There was one other matter that I discussed with Senator Murphy. I think 1 must bring it out, too, because it is important in relation to this issue. I indicated to him and subsequently to Senator Gair - it was not until during the dinner suspension in the case of Senator Gair, because I missed speaking to him earlier - that I thought that on Thursday evening we should discuss the President’s report because in my view that was not Government business so much as the Senate’s business. I suggested that it would be logical to debate that after 8 o’clock on Thursday night. Senator Murphy promised me that he would take that proposal to the members of his party. I in turn indicated that I would take it to the members of my party, and I have done so. I say this despite my normal judgment that we leaders should not reveal what we discuss. In fairness to the Leader of the Opposition I wanted to put this on the record.
Let me come now to the matter of substance. This motion has been on the notice paper since 20th August last year. It had priority on the notice paper during the last session. But, for reasons which I do not canvass at all, it was not brought on.
– That was because you wanted Government business dealt with.
I wanted Government business to be disposed of-
– And we co-operated.
To the extent that Government business was disposed of, there was a high degree of co-operation from the Opposition in relation to it. The fact that earlier today I expressed the view that it was desirable to get on with this motion does not, in my view, inhibit in any way the right of any honourable senator to stand up and move an amendment. When an amendment is moved we have to accept it at its face value and as it is proposed, examine it and make a decision. Otherwise it would be pointless to move an amendment. I think everybody recognises that an amendment that comes from the floor has to be looked at, and looked at at its face value.
I believe that Senator Byrne, speaking since 8 o’clock, in fact has stated a case. As I understand the position, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, in leading for the Government on the motion in Senator Murphy’s name, indicated that we would oppose a proposal for the setting up of such a committee. By an odd circumstance, we find ourselves in a situation in which Senator Byrne is saying: ‘We are not prepared to vote against the motion in Senator Murphy’s name at the moment, but we are prepared to wait, and we think it is logical to wait, until the Senate decides whether in fact it will have a Standing Committee on Social Environment and then decide whether this would be a suitable matter for it to examine’. In my opinion it is a simple problem that we have to resolve.
– There is a logical sequence.
Yes. If we can dispose of the President’s report on Thursday night, as I see it, under the Standing Orders Senator Murphy would have priority and could come in on the first day we sit after that-
– The motion would be at the bottom of the notice paper.
– It would still be on the notice paper; whereas if we have a vote on it tonight members of the Government parties will vote against the motion. I do not know what the members of the Democratic Labor Party will do. That is a matter for them to decide. If the matter is deferred, the motion will still be on the notice paper. It may well be that a decision will then have to be taken by the members of the Democratic Labor Party. But we feel that Senator Byrne has made a case for deferment and itis the view of the Government that the matter should be deferred until after we dispose of the President’s report. I propose that we dispose of that next Thursday night.
– The one or two points I want to make have become more important because of the speech just made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). The opinion seems to be held around the chamber that we should first discuss whether we should establish the additional committees, and that we are not now deciding whether a committee should be requested to conduct an inquiry into housing. The real question to be decided now is whether the Senate should be permitted to make up its mind about an examination of housing now or at a later date. We are faced with the fact that whatever may arise out of consideration of your report on the Senate committees, Mr President, the Senate has to appoint an additional 5 committees duringt his session.
Some honourable senators seem to have the vague idea that we are deciding now whether to appoint committees, but the Senate resolved on 19th August 1970that the actual establishment of the total number of committees, including the appointment of senators to the various committees, should be done over a period of not less than 12 months. Therefore the Senate has until 19th August 1971 to appoint 7 committees. An arrangement for gradualism in the appointment of the committees was agreed to, in that 5 committees were not to operate before 2 of the committees selected by the Senate for first establishment had actually operated. Two of the committees have actually operated.
– And are hard at work.
– The arrangement is not based on the time at which the 2 selected committees submit a report to the Senate, but on a time at which those 2 committees have actually operated. I accept Senator Rae’s assurance that they are hard at work and therefore are in operation. A report on the operation of the committees has been presented to the Sen ate by the President. Appendix D to the President’s report provides:
Obviously the report of the President is concerned with an examination of staff requirements, accommodation and so on. But the Senate has decided that we have to appoint 7 committees before 19th August 1971, that is within 12 months of 19th August 1970. If we do not appoint the additional 5 committees during this session, when do we appoint them? It is obvious that the appointments must be made during this session. If as a result of the President’s report we cannot continue to abide by the previous decision on the selection of committees it will be necessary for the Senate to carry a resolution of rescission of the previous decision, in order to supplant it by another decision. The President’s report contains no questions about our capability as a Parliament to provide accommodation, Hansard staff and printing staff for the standing committees. It contains a reference to the difficulties of Senate estimates committees but nothing to justify deferring the appointment of the additional committees.
Therefore we must appoint 5 additional committees during this session. On 20th August last Senator Murphy gave notice of a motion to refer a matter to the only committee available at that time, the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. It is necessary now for the Senate to appoint another standing committee rather than have an inquiry into housing referred to a committee that is already overloaded and possibly would be an inappropriate committee to conduct such an inquiry. Senator Murphy therefore chooses to submit that the inquiry be conducted by a committee that we appoint on this occasion. Whether the inquiry should be referred to that committee is another question. What we mustresolve now is the right of the Senate to say whether the inquiry should be referred to a committee which we have to appoint on this occasion.
Nothing is to be gained by adjourning this matter until after we have considered the President’s report on the standing committees. Whatever we decide about these standing committees, we cannot alter a previous decision of the Senate and therefore 5 additional committees must be appointed during this session. The President’s report contains no advice to the effect that the facilities for those committees to operate are not available. Should we simply appoint them without something for consideration or should we examine the various questions that we may wish to refer to them? One such question is the state of housing throughout Australia and we want a decision on that point now. 1 do not want to be offensive in this matter. I think that an examination of the whole proposal shows that there is validity in Senator Murphy’s claim that the suggested adjournment is simply another way of staving off a vote of the Senate on the point and another adjournment moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party could be consistent with opposition to the committee system.
– It could be sensible, too.
– The honourable senator may say that opposition to the committee system is sensible, but we say that the rest of the Senate agrees with the committee system. If the DLP wishes to carry on opposition to the committee system, it should simply carry it on. Senator Murphy has suggested that the DLP was opposed to it from its commencement. The Senate committee system has developed out of 2 decisions of the Senate, one originating with the Government’s proposal to establish Estimates committees, and one originating with the Australian Labor Party which moved to establish standing committees. Each suggestion competed with the other. The Democratic Labor Party supported the Government’s move for Estimates committees and it was successful.
The DLP opposed the motion of the Labor Party on standing committees and effected a compromise for the purpose of defeating the establishment of an effective committee system through the appointment of 7 standing committees, as proposed by the Labor Party. The compromise was that 2 standing committees be appointed for first establishment and that 5 more be appointed at a later date. In order to defeat the Labor Party’s motion for the establish ment of 7 standing committees the DLP compromised on the appointment of 2 committees and an assurance of the Senate that 5 more would be appointed within 12 months of August 1970.
Now the Democratic Labor Party is seeking to starve the proposed standing committee of activities, using as its justification the plea that it is concerned about the Treasury. Surely to God if there is a need for an inquiry into housing the Democratic Labor Party is obliged to agree to that inquiry and should not seek to defer it on the ground that it is concerned about the amount that the Treasury may be obliged to vote for the operations of a committee selected to conduct that inquiry. Such an inquiry would examine poverty and housing in the States represented by DLP senators. I submit that this action truly indicates the opposition of the Democratic Labor Party to the committee system.
We are committed to the appointment of 5 additional committees and we must appoint them. The Labor Party desires to give them the opportunity to work, lt is suggested that one of them should inquire into housing. We do not have to decide on this occasion whether one of them should inquire into housing. The question we are deciding on this occasion is whether we should refer to the Standing Committee on Social Environment an inquiry into housing. The Democratic Labor Party if it so desires, may vote against this when the vote is taken. But let us have the opportunity to say whether we should refer something to these committees which the Senate has decided to establish and which will be established in this parliamentary session.
– I ask the Senate to reject the amendment moved by Senator Byrne and support the motion so that this debate may proceed. I indicated the arrangements made for my part and, although I realise that the circumstances which occurred this evening were not the personal responsibility of the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), I expect them to be adhered to. Whether they are or not will be decided by the vote of Government supporters.
As to the arguments put forward by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, I repeat that it is my view that the Democratic Labor Party is endeavouring to sabotage the committee system. Senator Byrne said that this charge was not sustainable. The facts are that the Democratic Labor Party opposed proposals for select committees which were clearly in the national interest, such as the proposal for a select committee to inquire into the establishment of a national disaster organisation, the most important proposal to have an inquiry into the needs of education throughout Australia and also, and perhaps most importantly, the proposals for the establishment of these standing committees about which we are speaking. lt endeavoured to do everything it could to sabotage the motion ultimately adopted by the Senate for the appointment of these 7 standing committees.
– That is not correct.
– The resolution of 11 th June 1970 was that the Senate should set up 7 standing committees. That motion was opposed and the Democratic Labor Party voted against it. It was carried with the assistance of a Government supporter and the independent senator. Then, in an unprecedented action - I know of nothing to compare with this - on 19th August 1970 when the Government supporter was absent overseas, I understand with the permission of his Party, the proposition was put to prevent the establishment of the 7 committees although the Senate had deliberately resolved to appoint them. Two committees only were then established but il was resolved that the others would be. established. I would be very surprised il, when we come to decide on the report of the President about the operation of the committee system and on what should be done in the future, the Democratic Labor Party does not support some proposal aimed at not establishing the 5 committees but at reducing them to a mere token of one or two and thus prevent the Senate from effectively carrying out its intention that 7 should be established.
– We will try not to disappoint yon.
– I have no doubt, and 1 think the Senate will have no doubt.
The realities of politics in this place are that everyone knows that the Democratic Labor Party is endeavouring to sabotage this system. Tonight’s proposal to defer the debate on this matter is part of the same course of action.
– Tell us how many committees you are on.
– He is. not on one committee.
– That is not true. Senator Gair should know better than to repeat such untruths in this Senate, particularly as he has said it before and it has been repudiated.
– This is time consuming. For my information will you answer the interjection?
– My answer is that I sat on Estimates Committee A. 1 was a member of an important committee which sat for a long time during two parliaments - the committee on parliamentary papers and Government publications, the report of which led to the establishment of the Australian Government Publishing Service. There were many other recommendations which I understand were accepted in toto by this Government. 1 belong also to some other committee. Senator Rae would be able to find out if he looked through the record.
The reality of this matter will be determined by the reactions of those who vote against these proposals and endeavour to sabotage the committees when they are set up. The action of the Democratic Labor Party is simply part of the same course of action. We will see it repeated during the next few months when those who are opposed to the committee system will do their darndest to see that it is not properly established. I hope that those honourable senators with enough vision to realise that the committee system will work effectively in the national interest will see to it that this sabotage does not succeed for reasons of temporary political expediency. I hope they will come to the aid of the committee system and ensure that it is put into full operation. I ask the Senate to reject the amendment and carry the motion.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Byrne’s amendment to Senator Murphy’s proposed motion) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 18 February (vide page 156), on motion by Senator Dame Annahelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I support the Bill and I oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– Is this your maiden speech?
– No, it is not.
– It is his second time round.
– Any assistance that you want to give will be accepted readily. While expressing those views, I think the Senate is indebted to Senator McClelland for his thoughtful contribution to the debate. Although I must break a lance with him on a number of points, I feel that his thoughtful contribution to this fairly complex subject was something for which the Senate should be thankful. I support his remarks about my former colleagues of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In the 2 years that 1 was privileged to serve with them I came to know and to respect their dedication to the tremendous task of directing the bulk of Australia’s television and radio programmes. For good or for ill, regardless of what cynics and sceptics might say, 87 per cent of viewers - I am not quite sure of the percentage of listeners to radio programmes - watch the commercial channels - the channels for which the Broadcasting Control Board is responsible.
It is true that in another place the Control Board has been criticised fairly extensively and fairly heavily - I think unfairly. As Senator McClelland said, the Chairman, Mr Myles Wright, has a knowledge of the industry unrivalled by anybody. The Vice-Chairman, Mr Donovan, is a senior public servant whose long years of service in this industry have made him an intellectual genius in the very difficult and complex task of unravelling interlocking company directorates and interlocking company shareholdings. The third permanent member of the Board is Mr McDonald, a former Post Office engineer, with whom I was privileged to work in the development of Navy radar equipment and whose knowledge of medium frequency transmitters and practice is. I think, probably unique in the Commonwealth. The membership of the Board is completed by adding the distinguished educational authority, Dr Radford. I suppose it seems almost an anticlimax to add my name to the names of such distinguished personnel.
– Hear, hear!
– Do not be so enthusiastic about that. Until a month or so ago I was a member of the Board. The Board has a fairly thankless task. If things go well, the licensees do them off their own bat. If things go wrong, they blame the Control Board. In my younger and more exuberant days I once said that the Broadcasting Control Board could not run a milk bar. I do not resile from the statement that I made at that time because of the circumstances in which it was made, but I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Control Board and to the dedication and ability with which it directs itself to its tasks. My belief is that it is perhaps the most dedicated-
– Has the Board brainwashed you?
– If you cannot beat them, join them. In my view, the Board is one of the most dedicated and competent statutory bodies in the Commonwealth. It is misunderstood frequently and criticised frequently. Sometimes it is blamed for the programmes on the Australian Broadcasting Commission network, over which it has no jurisdiction. Some of its failings are not of its own making. As the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) would be well aware, the decision in the boilermakers’ case in 1953 makes it impossible at the moment for an administrative body to have any judicial power. Hence the Board’s powers over licensees are either too great, that is, it can cancel a licence, or too little, that is, it can deliver a reprimand. If the legal geniuses - or genii - were able to work out some system by which the Board, in the enforcement of its standards, had a moderate power to fine, with provision for appeal to the courts, I think its machinery provisions would be improved greatly.
The philosophy behind the Bill. I think, appeals to all honourable senators. In fact, in another capacity, I had the privilege of taking part in the discussions before the Bill actually reached this place. I think that if the Senate passes the Bill it will be very well received by the people who have to administer it. I am not brash enough to intrude into those areas concerned with accountancy, into the mystical realm of figures. I content myself by saying that anything which simplifies, regularises and makes more certain the financial accounting procedures of any statutory body is to be commended. Over the years the Government has been at some pains to prevent the ownership and control of radio and television licences from falling into too few hands - from becoming the plaything of powerful monopolies. 1 express no view as to how successful these endeavours have been, bill il seems to me extremely desirable that, whatever the position may have been before 1964, the control of mass media should be as widely distributed as possible. The ownership of these valuable licences should be controlled carefully.
Current legislation says that no company shall be in a position to control more than 2 television licences or 8 radio licences. I would have been quite happy to see these maxima halved. Control is defined in the parent Act as 15 per cent and a prescribed interest is set out as 5 per cent. I borrow a word from Mark Antony and Octavius. The word is ‘proscribed’. Whilst I do not deny that originally there were difficulties in setting up this tremendous modern, jet age industry, I believe that every effort has to be made to prevent the control of mass media falling into too few hands. Hence it is h:,rd to argue against the proposition that when trustees of a staff superannuation fund are directors of the parent company they are not in effective control of the fund and its holdings. Accordingly, this means of circumscribing the Act must be slopped.
However, 1 oppose the Opposition amendment on the operative date, for 2 reasons. Firstly, in my view, retrospectivity, except in special circumstances, is repugnant to the concept of natural justice. Secondly, and perhaps more practically, retrospectivity to the date in the Opposition amendment, would not have stopped any dealings which should not have been prevented anyhow. Therefore it seems to me that the date set out in the Bill, the date of the announcement made by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), should be the operative date. Changing the date would nol have prevented anything which should not have been prevented - for example, the Fairfax foray. The date in the Bill, the date on which the announcement was made, has successfully intercepted the Melbourne ‘Herald’ venture. On monopolies and quasi monopolies, the Aus tralian Labor Party is in no position to cast the first stone. Ringed around Australia is a series of powerful radio transmitters which continuously feed out the old, worn out discredited and useless shibboleths of Labor Socialist propaganda. The licence of 3K.Z Melbourne is held by the Industrial Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. One does not have to be Mandrake to know that that licence is worth a mint.
– Can the honourable senator tell me what its profit was last year?
– Yes, I can. I am coming to that. I am glad that Senator Georges brought up this point. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ reported that the net profit to the Labor Party last year from the operations of 3KZ was SI 56.000. Real money!
– lt is nothing compared with the profits of BHP.
– The year before - this will really slay honourable senators - it was $247,000. I am prepared to concede that nothing is too good for the representatives of the downtrodden and oppressed masses, but a net profit of 5247,000 is really laying it on a little too thick.
– With free advertising thrown in.
– It is true to say that the socialists are really the most successful capitalists. Let us have a look at the operations of some of the other stations.
– How about 4KQ Brisbane?
– Let me finish the list I have in front of me and then 1 will get around to it. I shall deal only with the transmitters with which I am personally familiar. The next one is 2KY Sydney. You could not buy that station with hay. Then there is 2HD Newcastle. All of these stations are pouring our socialist nonsense day in and day out.
– Oh, no. I can believe the rest of the story but I cannot believe that part.
– I turn now to Adelaide. Here we have an amalgam in which a prescribed interest is held in SKA by the
Labor Party and the Methodist Church. I do not express any comment on the nexus or the association: I wish merely to point out that a prescribed interest is held in 5KA by the Labor Party. The next one on the list is 4KQ Brisbane. Our rather sizeable continent has been ringed with powerful radio transmitters controlled by the Australian Labor Party. I will not accept that radio has lost its impact and influence because it has not.
– What about the rest of the country?
– I am coming to Perth now. The struggling masses in Perth were represented by 6KY and 6NA. It is strange-
– They are not.
– They were. These 2 stations were not held in the interests of vested capitalists; they were held by the representatives of the workers before being sold out for a mint. They are no longer owned by the Labor Party, but I feel sure that the capital derived from them played a minor part in recent publicity in Western Australia which was possibly effective, although I hope not.
– The money was probably used to buy television stations.
– 1 am unable to say what the Australian Labor Party’s interests are in the field of television because they are fairly wide, diverse and obscure. If it has had something good coming up in the past it has often been fairly well-conceived. Most of the things to which 1 have been directing the attention of the Senate were reported in the ‘Financial Review’ during the past few months. Of course, matters relating to profits which have as many noughts on them as those which the Labor Party’s stations have been making are well worth reporting. I feel quite sure that some of the directors of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd would not mind having a finger in some of the radio transmitters owned by the Australian Labor Party.
– It only goes to show how efficiently operated they are and how well patronised they are commercially.
– I do not challenge that proposition. All that I am saying is that it is a little bit rugged for distinguished socialists opposite to get up and talk about the vested interests of the vast monopolies when they themselves operate stations with audiences running into millions. I would be grateful if honourable senators opposite could direct my attention towards one channel which is owned by the capitalist oppressors.
– All of them bar the ones the honourable senator has mentioned.
– What about the Packer empire? What about Channel 9? How about the Santamaria interests?
– I thought that someone would get him in somewhere.
– I feel, Mr Acting Deputy President, that this jesting is not in order in this serious debate. I know that honourable senators opposite are not serious about the propositions they have put forward, but I feel that it is only right and proper that as I have given the date, time, place, chapter and verse of these matters my remarks should be at least recorded.
– We could not get a television licence.
– I will get around to that later. I have mentioned these matters just to show the hard type of bargain the socialist democrats enforce. After they got $247,000 a year from the downtrodden and oppressed company with operates 3KZ, Val Morgan and Sons Pty Ltd, they charged $1,000 a year for the rental of their aerial field. Can honourable senators imagine a capitalist outfit doing that?
– All right. I will leave that matter. Perhaps I can deal with it on some other occasion.
– I am interested in 4KQ.
– I will come round to that one, too. I have only a few mon.utes and there is a matter of some significance to which I wish to direct the attention of the Senate.
– I asked for these figures from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and I was told that they were confidential.
– I am not allowed to disclose any of the Control Board’s figures.
– But the honourable senator hay
– Everything I have disclosed has beeB reported in the ‘Financial Review’, so there is no problem about that matter, h is in the Parliamentary library.
– I would like to know how the ‘Financial Review” got hold of confidential figures.
– That is not my problem. Perhaps the honourable senator had better see Max Newton or somebody else. Eleven years ago - on 31st May 1960-1 had the privilege of moving an amendment In this chamber to the Broadcasting and Television Bill that was designed to provide a qualified privilege to commercial licensees during an election period in respect of the broadcasting of political matter. I forget the precise section of the Act, 11 was either section 112, 114 or 1.16. I think it was section 116. It provides that if a licensee sells time on his commercial station to one political party he must supply the same amount of time at the same price to any other political party which is represented in the Parliament for which the election is being held.
– lt is not quite that. He has to give a reasonable time.
– No, it has to be the same amount of time and at the same price. Everything has to be equated as far as possible. This can present difficulties. In fact it has presented certain difficulties over the years, especially to country broadcasting stations. Having sold a quarter of an hour or whatever it is to a particular party a station must by law provide a similar amount of rime to other parties which are represented. For reasons which seem good lo the commercial operators - I will not analyse them in detail at this time - they have been acutely conscious of the law of libel and defamation in this regard, and many of them have refrained from letting out their station time to any of the parties because of this requirement. I hope that al some time in the future - tonight is not the opportune time to go into the detail of it - the Government will have another look at this. For reasons which completely escaped me at the time, my amendment was defeated. I suggest to
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who in this chamber represents the PostmasterGeneral, thai some consideration be given to the problem posed by actions for defamation because it has been agitating the minds of commercial licensees in this country.
– You want immunity for them?
– No, I want qualified privilege. There is a vast difference. I do not believe in immunity - that it is ridiculous - but qualified privilege is another matter. With all the modesty I can summon 1 might say that I have had some experience in libel actions against broadcasting stations and, since the actions which 1 took were eminently successful, I feel that the licensees on the receiving end of this kind of legal process have just reason for asking that their proposition be examined by the Government. I hope that at some time in the future the Government will get around to doing so.
– Prior to Senator Hannan making his speech I was made aware of the fact that he had a considerable background and experience in the field of broadcasting in Australia as a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, so I was looking forward to the comments he would be making because one would have assumed that with a background of that nature, coupled with a legal background, we would have heard an intelligent and well informed contribution to the debate. Had that been the case it would have been my privilege to have complimented him on his contribution. But in view of what we heard that would be the last thing I would do now. By contrast I offer my congratulations to Senator McClelland on his contribution last Thursday and I indicate my support for the amendments which he foreshadowed would be proposed at the Committee stage.
In any debates on broadcasting and television in the past it has been customary for attention to be centred on television and for very little thought or effort to be given to the position of radio in Australia, particularly ABC radio. That is understandable because the great majority of Australians today are more concerned with television programmes than they are with radio, and it is unfortunate that despite the excellent quality of so many of the programmes presented on ABC radio it is becoming the Cinderella of broadcasting in this country and I suspect, is not receiving the attention from the Australian Broadcasting Commission to which it is entitled. I think that some of the programmes which have been produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are worthy of comment. I refer in particular to 2 documentaries ‘A.M.’ and ‘P.M.’ which are broadcast each week day for half an hour. They cover current affairs and are probably the best documentaries available on either radio or television at the present time. The producers and officers of the Commission who are responsible for the production of those programmes are to be complimented. I should like to refer also to ‘Correspondent’s Report’ which is broadcast on Sunday mornings. It deals with political matters and is another extremely good programme. ‘Fact and Opinion’ is another programme to which we often see reference. An excellent science programme The World Tomorrow’ is broadcast on Saturday mornings. I have taken the trouble to mention those programmes because they are indicative of the quality of programmes which the ABC is producing on radio.
There is a significant minority in the community which is concerned with radio. It may be only 5 per cent or 10 per cent of the population but the fact remains that those people want a good standard of entertainment in sound. I am concerned that the trend is, and has been over the past few years, to push radio into the background and so there has been a vast investment in television. There would seem to be an awareness on the part of the Commission of the need to show in its annual reports the amount of money which has been expended on radio and television but the amount has not been dissected. Therefore it was with interest that I noticed in the One Hundred and Seventeenth Report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts which was produced this year that on page 33 reference is made to this fact in the following terms:
The evidence shows that the dissection between radio and television that had been maintained in I the estimates of expenditure and in the Commission’s annual statements of receipts and payments until 1960-61 was abandoned from 1961-62 in favour of an expenditure dissection that included the integration of radio and television.
The Committee went on to indicate the problems associated with a division of expenditure between television and radio. It is interesting to note that the Commission has seen fit to employ a management consultant for the purpose of determining ways and means whereby these amounts can appear again as separate items in the Commission’s reports.
It is of some interest to me and to a considerable number of my fellow Australians that, despite the fact that the idiot box appears to have taken over in most lounge rooms and the height of one’s entertainment for the evening is to look at inane programmes such as ‘Division 4’ and Homicide’, a significant number of Australians are looking for something better and consequently they are compelled to turn to ABC radio to find it. The people with whom I have some contact in this regard are mainly listeners to music although there are some with political interests and some who want good drama and so on, but primarily they- are people who look to broadcasting to hear good music. To my knowledge this Ls a matter which has never been raised in the Parliament. I do not pretend to be the official spokesman for that section of our community but I do know that a lot of people are concerned about radio. Apparently the Commission itself is mindful of these facts. On page 81 of the One Hundred and Tenth Report of the Public Accounts Committee which was produced in 1969 the following comment appears: lt was said- ,
That is, to the Committee - that while television is essentially complementary to radio broadcasting, radio is still the most effective medium for the broadcasting of serious music, news, market information, weather information and similar programmes. Radio broadcasting was said to be a vital force and a major responsibility of the Commission and it was claimed that radio, perhaps more than television, has a vital part to play in the creation of national unity, particularly through the instrument of the national broadcasting service. The Commission is concerned because in its present position it is unable to meet the challenge presented by radio as effectively, efficiently, or as fully as it ought to.
The challenge which is referred to is not spelt out, but I suspect that it comes from the fact that the Commission has insufficient finance to invest in further radio development in Australia. From information which has been given to me verbally I think this is a fact. It is a great pity that over the years more and more money has been poured into television, a medium which is more restricted than most people realise. I saw only the other day that Mr Rod Taylor, the President of the Australian Association of National Advertisers, said that people are becoming bored by television and are looking for something different in that medium as well as in others. 1 should like to refer specifically to the Australian Broadcasting Commission second network programmes. As I mentioned earlier, and as is mentioned in the passage that 1 cited a moment ago, the ABC second network is primarily directed to people whose interests are in better quality broadcasting, particularly in music, and the trend in ABC radio programmes is, I believe, away from that which those who listen to the ABC second network radio are wanting. They are a comparatively selective group - they are not a mass audience - and they know what they want to hear. If we look at the figures for 1967- 68 in the programme analysis which is provided with the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission we find that the number of hours devoted to orchestral music in that year was 1753. In the following year the number of hours had fallen to 1575 and in 1969-70 it had fallen again to 1550. This is a strange tendency in the ABC’s programming arrangements and I do not think it is consistent with the experience of other things which are referred to in the report.
I must apologise for citing these figures which may sound a little tedious, but I feel that I should state them because nobody else seems to be particularly concerned about them. In 1967-68, we find by comparison, the amount of instrumental music broadcast by ABC radio was 368 hours, in the following year it was 391 hours and last year it was 451 hours. In other words, the time devoted to instrumental music was increasing. Yet the sales of records of classical music showed a reverse trend. Recently I made inquiries on this point from 2 major retailers in Melbourne in an attempt to ascertain the market and the wants of people who are interested in this field. I was advised that three-quarters of classical records sold in Melbourne are made up of orchestral works. But when we come to the concerts which are provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission we find a different story altogether from that which is reflected in ABC programmes. For example, the attendance at orchestral concerts sponsored by the ABC increased by 25,000 in 1969-70 as compared with the previous year and the number of people attending recitals fell from 120,000 to 103,000.
If we look at the figures relating to attendances at ABC concerts we find that for the 1 2-month period more than 900.000 people attended orchestral concerts but only 117,000 attended recitals. This is completely contrary to the policy of the ABC and its programme department. Some people are so concerned about this that we find in Melbourne and Sydney the formation of the music broadcasting societies of Victoria and New South Wales. The reason that these people are making the effort to form their own radio stations is the lack of music being provided by ABC radio. One of the problems of the programme department as revealed by the report is that it is required to cover no less than forty different classifications of subjects during the year whereas on television the ABC is required to cover only half that number. I can fully understand the dilemma of the programme department; it is almost impossible for it to provide the time that is needed in order to give people who want better broadcasts of music the music they require.
Before concluding I should like to refer lo the introduction of colour television. Honourable senators will be aware that probably we will see colour television introduced in this country in the next 3 or 4 years. I would not oppose the introduction if it in the ultimate sense and 1 think that eventually we will see colour television introduced in Australia during this decade, but I think it would be totally wrong for it to be brought here when radio - particularly frequency modulation - is being neglected. I am aware that the committee appointed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is meeting in Sydney to commence hearings next Monday, lt is hoped that the evidence submitted to that committee will be sufficient to convince the
Government that frequency modulation ought to be proceeded with at the earliest opportunity. It would be a great shame if we were to see frequency modulation broadcasting set back some years so that we could see in colour so many of these fourth rate television programmes, such as Donald Duck’ and ‘The Cisco Kid’. There are other things which are much more important and which a significant section of the community wants to hear with the up-to-date technological equipment which frequency modulation can provide.
– Which frequency band would you select for FM broadcasts?
– That is a matter with which the honourable senator might have dealt because he has a considerable background and knowledge of the subject.
– I am not chipping you; I am just asking you.
– The honourable senator knows as well as I do that there has been a problem in providing a FM band. This is a matter that could be sorted out by people who are conversant with the technicalities of it, and no doubt the problem will be solved. The introduction of frequency modulation broadcasts will not be prevented by an obstacle such as that mentioned by the honourable senator but will be determined by an attitude on the part of the Government as to whether it is prepared to provide the money to build frequency modulation transmitters in this country. I hope that the Government will realise that money expended by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should not be poured more and more into television, and especially into colour television to provide which we will have to spend up to $10Om, at the expense of better broadcasting.
– I rise merely to indicate that the Democratic Labor Party supports in principle and generally the provisions of the Bill. There are one or two matters with which we might find ourselves at variance with the Government and those matters may be raised in the course of the Committee discussions. It is interesting and salutary to find this sensitivity and concern regarding the undue control of television stations in a limited number of hands. As is always the case, no matter what legislation is introduced, we find that by some manoeuvre it is possible to bypass the discipline and to go on one’s merry way. The provision that interests purchased in other companies by the use of superannuation funds shall be considered as interests held by the first company is an indication that this practice has become prevalent. This is an attempt to quell it in the future. That raises a question as to the datum point from which this provision should operate. That will receive consideration from the Democratic Labor Party when the matter comes before the Senate in detail.
The necessity for constant scrutiny of the administrative procedures of the Australian Broadcasting Commission becomes apparent also. We see that there is provision in the legislation for the control and audit of accounts and also with regard to the disposal of property and other matters of that nature. This type of Bill is necessary from time to time. It does not embody any great principle; it merely puts emphasis on the practical implementation of certain principles. For that reason we support it.
The provision relating to the service of summonses by mail for failure to have the necessary licence and the consequences to an unfortunate person who may not be served is a matter which will come up in some detail at the Committee stage. At that stage the Democratic Labor Party will indicate its position. I merely mention one other thing. Together with other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives I had the opportunity of being shown colour television in France. I do not know what system was used. I am not technically equipped to recall what the system was, but having seen colour television in the United States of America and Britain I am satisfied that the French system was as near perfection as any I have seen. I most certainly think that if and when colour television comes to this country earnest consideration should be given to the adoption of that or a similar system. The American system, whatever it may have been, is harsh and unattractive and unless I saw it demonstrated on very bad television sets I think it is one which we should try to avoid. Having said that, the Australian Democratic Labor Party substantially supports the Bill.
– The Broadcasting and Television Bill seeks to amend in quite a number of instances the original Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1969. A number of these amendments give me some reason to question the wording used. Probably I could deal with them at the Committee stage. Proposed section 27d(1.) provides that the AuditorGeneral shall draw the attention of the Minister to any irregularity disclosed by his inspection and audit which is, in his opinion, of sufficient importance to justify his so doing. This is something which was looked at by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and it may have some validity. I think this is the first instance in which such a provision has been included in an Act of Parliament. I also draw attention to the fact that proposed section 27d (2.) provides:
The Auditor-General may. at his discretion, dispense with all or any part of the detailed inspection and audit of any accounts or records referred to in the last preceding sub-section.
I ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) in this place, to provide for me during the Committee stage information as to where that particular provision appears in any other Act of Parliament, lt seems to me that this is an innovation and is perhaps one that may be acceptable. But it appeared lo me to be fairly wide.
Provision is made also for a change relating to the delegation of duty by the Commission, lt appears to me that there are some wide powers of delegation. One which I question particularly is the delegation of power to any employee of the Commission. That seems to me to be fairly substantial and 1 question that it is necessary to do this. I would imagine that the delegation of power could go from the Commission to perhaps an officer or some person in authority; but the wording here suggests (hat this delegation of power can now be made by instrument in writing under the common seal of the Commission to any person employed by the Commission. One questions whether that is necessary.
Other areas of change are quite substantial. I support the changes proposed in relation to the ownership and control of television and radio licences. It appears to me thai the change brought about by amending section 61 of the principal Act - that is, to increase the amount of finance which must be approved by the Minister before it is expended - is one to which we can well agree in these times of inflation. I question whether it is necessary to extend from 5 years to 10 years the period for which the Commission can enter into certain rental and lease arrangements. When the time comes I would like the Minister to give us some indication as to why this change is proposed. Her second reading speech does not disclose the reason.
I would like to mention two other matters to the Senate. The first relates to the encouragement of Australian content in television. Probably this matter has been one of those of greatest interest to honourable senators during the time that 1 have been a member of the Senate. Indeed, those who have taken part in the debate this evening have certainly demonstrated over the past years their great interest in encouraging the establishment of a greater Australian television industry. At the moment we have a quiet situation in relation to the development of a greater Australian television industry. Al the present time there is not a great deal of publicity or a great deal of argument about the necessity to encourage a greater Australian content in television programmes. The community seems to run hot and cold on this issue. Perhaps it is because of the fact that during the last session we dealt with a Bill which proposed that television stations should screen more Australian drama during prime viewing times.
– lt was not a Bill; it was a decision of the Minister.
– Well. we did discuss the matter in this place; but it appears to me that when there is great excitement in the community and there is a demand for some change, at that point something is done. I suggest that any ideas that we need to look at the volume of imported film, at the employment of more Australians in this industry, or that we should be encouraging the public to take a greater interest in the types of films produced by Australian producers and should be encouraging television stations to give consideration io Australian productions are left until there is a great cry in the community and there ‘« a demand for some change. There is no forward planning of what we are to achieve in Australia in regard to Australian content in television programmes.
I believe we can be proud of many aspects of the establishment of various private enterprise companies in the community. Undoubtedly they have battled through a time of great hardship and have been established successfully in the general climate that has existed in Australian television. They have battled through a time when they have had unlimited competition from overseas television films. It has been a most unfair position. Indeed, I accept that the Government has taken little notice of that fact when il has been proposed in this House on a number of occasions that consideration should be given to some curtailment - perhaps some tariff barrier - of the wholesale importation of American films. I refer to top line programmes running for an hour which would cost approximately $120,000 to produce in America but which could be sold on our market for S5.000. If an Australian producer puts up to an Australian television station a film that costs $20,000 an hour when the station has available lo it a top line American film at a cost of S5.000 an hour, obviously there is very little reason for the station to place itself at a disadvantage by taking the Australian film.
– The former Minister for Trade and Industry and Leader of the Country Party refused to refer the matter to the Tariff Board.
– There have been many problems relating to this. In fact, a good argument can be put on the basis that applying a tariff only imposes an extra cost.
– You cannot have two bob each way.
– No, but there needs to be a balance. 1 am expressing my viewpoint - ‘I think the honourable senator will give me credit for expressing it previously - that there needs to be some planning as to what we are attempting to achieve for the Australian industry.
On this matter that I am mentioning initially, I am suggesting that the Government should call the industry and the Broadcasting Control Board together in some type of conference - perhaps they should meet on a number of occasions - in an effort to plan what we hope to do in further establishing our Australian industry. What will we have by 1980 or 2000? In 20 years time will we have a situation in which suddenly the public will be so excited that it will demand a greater drama content in prime viewing time, and we will make a change and say, as we have said at this time, that stations must have at least half an hour of drama in prime viewing time from September onwards?
It does not appear lo me that there is sufficient planning on this most vital matter. In the further establishment of the Australian television industry, from the viewers’ point of view, in the interests of having a strong and resilient private film industry in Australia and in order to project overseas a view of what Australian industry can do, it is essential that we have more planning and, perhaps, a statement by the Government on what we hope to achieve in the next 20 or 30 years.
– What we need is a Labor government to do these things.
– I remind Senator Poyser of Senator Hannan’s comments. Senator Poyser had very little to say when Senator Hannan was pointing out what the Labor Party does in the wholesale exploitation of people and the making of enormous profits.
– I was not here.
– Senator Poyser ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself for being associated with such a capitalistic outlook as Senator Hannan pointed out. I do not doubt that he was not here when Senator Hannan was speaking. He very often is not here.
The other matter that 1 wish to put to the Senate relates to the importance of the radio and television industry to the Australian community. I suggest to the Government that the management of radio and television services in Australia calls for the appointment of an assistant Minister to the Postmaster-General to deal with this facet of Australian business. With the concur- the Auditor-General for the year 196970rence of honourable senators, I incorporate showing the expenditure on broadcasting in Hansard an extract from the Report of and television services.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 February 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710223_senate_27_s47/>.