27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honourable Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Does the request by the Drummoyne Municipal Council seeking portion, if not all, of the Abbotsford Animal Quarantine Station for parkland purposes hinge on the overall transfer of Commonwealth land to the New South Wales Government which is the subject of negotiation between the Prime Minister and the New South Wales Premier? Or can he, as the Minister for Health, finalise this request separately? If so, can he indicate what would be the amount of land available for park purposes?
– The negotiations between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales do not include consideration of the Animal Quarantine Station at Abbotsford in the Municipality of Drummoyne. As far as I am aware there is no current proposal that the Department of Health should vacate that station, and therefore none of that area at present is available for park purposes.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, by stating that it is reported that the Minister for Customs and Excise has said that because of the cancellation of the bylaw permitting duty free entry of a wide range of imported truck parts those parts will be subject to a duty rate ranging from 27 i per cent to 35 per cent. My question is: Does the Minister agree with those who claim that this increased protection will mean a higher manufacturing cost for commercial vehicles and, if so, place a further cost burden on our hard-pressed rural industries and industry generally? Did the Minister for Trade and Industry give an assurance in 1965 that the effects of this by-law would be referred to the Tariff Board in 5 years time? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Tariff Board will be instructed to review the effects of these newly opened duties when they come into operation on 1st October?
– I think it will be understood that in my newly found capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry I would not have all the information on this matter. The information I have is much the same as that which Senator Bull has and comes from reading newspaper reports. Some of the questions he asked do bear on policy and relate to a concern, which I share, about any added cost burden for primary industries. I imagine that any increased manufacture of parts in Australia by employees in our factories would add to the capacity of those factories to produce at a lower cost. This may have some bearing on the matter. I certainly share the honourable senators concern. I am sure that the Minister for Trade and Industry also is concerned about any possible increase in the cost of equipment supplied to primary industries. I will refer the matter to him, particularly the reference to the Tariff Board inquiry, and get an answer for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. If the Commonwealth Government is serious about cutting its spending why does it not eliminate the embarrassing forms it sends to pensioners each year? Is the Minister aware that pensioners are asked 32 of the most personal questions on each form and that a couple receiving 2 different pensions get 4 such forms every year? Surely this must require a huge staff and add another burden and insult to pensioners.
– I shall refer the honourable senator’s comments to the Minister for Social Services, but in doing so I feel 1 should point out that the administration of legislation which had been passed by Parliament requires that steps be taken to ensure that only what Parliament has authorised is granted. It is therefore inevitable that steps are taken to ensure that only persons who are entitled to benefits receive them. That must involve some filling in of forms. This is an intricate and inevitable part of the administration of our social service system. Naturally the Government will be concerned to eliminate unnecessary form filling; but that is not to say that any of the present form filling is to be regarded as unnecessary. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Social Services.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the need for financial and other assistance of many primary producers and the Government’s stated intention to assist in rural reconstruction, and also having in mind discussions held with respective State Ministers, can the Minister say how long it will be before the Commonwealth Government makes known to the Parliament and primary industries details of its plans? It has been stated that the sum of $100m has been allocated for rural reconstruction. Can the Minister say whether that figure will be increased if it is found that more money is needed?
– As has been stated before, all States have now accepted in principle the Commonwealth offer on the basis of loans totalling $75m at 6 per cent interest and $25m as grants. However, at present the States are studying a draft agreement. Four States have given their views on the draft agreement. Western Australia, my home State, has offered particular comments. I believe that South Australia has not yet replied. It is hoped that when all the States have replied it will be possible before the end of this sessional period to introduce the relevant legislation into the House. I point out to Senator Young, as I pointed out to Senator Prowse last week, that at present moneys up to $804,000 are available to the South Australian Government under the Commonwealth Loan (Farmers Debt Adjustment) Act. As is the case in Western Australia, in South Australia there may be a need to amend the State legislation. It has always been the intention of the Commonwealth that such unexpended funds should be used before funds for rural reconstruction are advanced by the Commonwealth. As to the use of further funds the Minister for Primary Industry has stated that when the scheme is operating, in the light of the experience gained it will be reviewed from time to time. If there is a need for further funds to be advanced, the matter will be examined.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that the salaries of most Commonwealth public servants have been increased by about 20 per cent since July 1967? Has there been an increase in superannuation payments to retired Commonwealth public servants since that date? If not, when can those retired public servants expect an adjustment to their superannuation payments to offset cost of living increases during that period?
The honourable senator’s question warrants a considered reply from the Treasurer. I will take it upon myself to get a reply for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Is it a fact as stated in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 25th March, that the Post Office is considering cuts in the discount handling of registered papers and periodicals which in 1969-70 amounted to 150 million articles? Furthermore, is a statement in the same newspaper that the senior management of the Australian Post Office has recommended that the discount handling of registered papers and periodicals be discontinued correct? Is it correct, as further stated in the article, that the PostmasterGeneral has recommended this action to the Government?
– The questions which the honourable senator has raised should be put on notice. I am unable to give the honourable senator an answer. I will refer the question to the PostmasterGeneral and ask him to furnish a reply.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the 23 fellowships offered under the Colombo Plan for the training of personnel in Australian companies of the metal trades export group. What wages and/ or allowances will be paid to those who undergo training and who will make such payments?
– I shall get those details for the honourable senator at the earliest opportunity.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Supply, refers to the Woomera rocket range and the existing joint United Kingdom- Australia Project Arrangement which expires in 1972. I ask the Minister: Is the current visit to Woomera by a House of Commons technical committee directly related to any decision which the United Kingdom might make in connection with the Arrangement, or is the visit likely to result in an increased workload at Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment facility in Adelaide?
I would say that the visit of this United Kingdom delegation has not a direct realtionship to the continuation of the joint Arrangement between that country and Australia. During my recent visit to the United Kingdom and before I became ill I had an opportunity to have discussions with the Minister for Technology in relation to a renewal of the Arrangement. There was a general acceptance that we should renew the Arrangement in terms of a forward programme for a continuous 2- year period. That is being negotiated at the present time. I believe, and the Minister for Technology indicated to me, that they are very happy with the Arrangement.
The visit by the delegation had been arranged earlier but a general election disorganised those arrangements. It is a nonparty visitation. I am very happy about the visitation because I think that the more United Kingdom parliamentarians who see Woomera and gain an appreciation of what is being done there the better. I am proposing to meet members of the delegation in either Sydney or Canberra before they return. Their timetable is very tight. However, I do not see any difficulties in relation to the continuation of our agreement with the United Kingdom in the joint project.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Have any orders for the purchase of wheat been received this season from the Chinese Government? Has the Minister any comment on a recent Japanese report on the Chinese economy which stated that China will buy no wheat from Australia this year?
– To the best of my knowledge, no wheat has been sold to China in recent months. I am not in a position to comment on the latter part of the honourable senator’s question. I ask the honourable senator to put it on notice and I will get some information for him.
– Can the Minister representing the Attorney-General inform the Parliament what methods are adopted in allocating Commonwealth funds to the various States to cover operations of State police? Is a State informed that a specific amount is available for this purpose, or is it taken from the general allocation to the State? Is the Minister aware that the general ratio of police to the population of Australia is in the vicinity of 1 to 650? Would it not be desirable to have the ratio set at approximately 1 to 500?
– I think I should say that the control and administration of police forces are entirely the responsibility of the State governments. That is the Commonwealth’s view as well as the constitutional position. As far as I am aware, the expenditure on a police force is a matter for the State government concerned. It takes the money necessary from the resources available to it. The Commonwealth Government plays no direct part in the financing of police forces.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. As it is customary under industrial regulations for a holiday which falls on a Sunday to be transfered to the following day, will this procedure be adopted in the Australian Capital Territory this year when’ Anzac Day is observed on Sunday 25th April?
– The Minister for the Interior, whom I represent in this place, has given me no note on this subject. Accordingly, I think it would be proper for me to ask him on behalf of the honourable senator. I shall do this.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the insurance laws of the Commonwealth. What is being done to bring the accident insurance companies under the same strict supervision that applies to life assurance companies? The Minister may recall the great controversy about this matter last year and some years earlier. Is the Government preparing legislation to deal with this matter of great public importance?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do recall some discussions last year about the invested funds and so on of the fire, accident and marine insurance companies as distinct from the life assurance companies. I have the impression - I do not want to be held to this if I am wrong - that the Attorney-General of the day made some statements about the position. At present I cannot answer that part of the honourable senator’s question which dealt with policy. I think I would need to ascertain what the current position is.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. It refers to the marking of the attendance of senators in the Senate, which figures are used later for statistical purposes and are sometimes quoted for or against the senators involved. Is any action taken to mark as present for the sittings of the Senate those members of Senate committees which the Senate, for special and important reasons, authorises to meet while the Senate is in session? If no such action is taken, should not consideration be given to having the record so marked in view of the fact that the senators are in the precincts, are available to speak and vote if required and are in fact fulfilling their parliamentary duties as required by the Senate?
– Senators certainly are not marked as being present in the Senate if they are not here. I have not the foggiest idea of the answer to the rest of the honourable senator’s question, but I think I had better have a look at it.
– I again direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I remind the Minister that he did not reply to one part of my question. I would now like to have his views on the general ratio of police to the population of Australia. The ratio currently stands at 1 to about 650. Would it not be more desirable to have the ratio set at 1 to 500?
– I think it follows implicitly from what I said earlier that (the number of members of a police force which a State government requires and therefore the ratio between population and police is entirely a matter for the State government concerned. Any views which the Attorney-General or I might express as to what is a desirable ratio would, I should think, be an unwarranted intrusion into an area which is essentially a matter for the State governments.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. By way of preface, I refer to a report in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 19th March of a meeting by the Minister for the Interior with a deputation representing the Australian Capital Territory Study Group on Environmental Quality, which was protesting against the erection of a television tower and restaurant in the Black Mountain area. The Minister for the Interior was quoted as saying that he had not yet arrived at a decision on the type of construction to be permitted. I ask: In the light of this comment by the Minister for the Interior, is it to be assumed that he has already capitulated to the environmental rapists of the Postmaster-General’s Department instead of recognising that his prime duty as Minister for the Interior is to leave the Australian Capital Territory’s bushland as he found it?
– The general answer to the honourable senator’s question is no. The honourable senator did not refer to the total body of what the Minister for the Interior is reported to have said. He may have drawn from the part of it to which he referred some assumptions which may not be correct. I have been informed that if the honourable senator had seen the full body of what the Minister did say he would not have the same concern that he now expresses. The report went on to quote the Minister as saying, and saying correctly, that a final decision will be made by the Cabinet after the matter has been examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works. All honourable senators are aware that Senator Mulvihill has a particular concern in these matters. He can rest assured that a final decision will be taken on balanced reasoning and judgment and in the broad public interest.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Treasurer. I ask: Is the Leader of the Government aware that the extremely high interest rates which are prevailing in the community are bearing very heavily on those young people who are endeavouring to purchase a home and on others who are paying off hire purchase commitments? Will he inform the Senate of the effect that this is having on increasing the cost of living throughout the community? When can the public expect to receive some relief from the extraordinarily high interest rates which have persisted for a very long time in our community, notwithstanding the fact that interest rates are falling in other parts of the world?
I am not clear whether the Leader of the Opposition is talking in terms of Government interest rates, which of course are based in the structure of the Reserve Bank of Australia, or whether he is talking about commercial interest rates.
– I was talking in particular about the interest rates on housing.
That still begs the question. Interest rates for government instrumentalities are fixed in relation to the interest rates on Commonwealth securities, and movements in building society interest charges also have a relationship to that factor. As I gather, the Leader of the Opposition’s question is concentrated on the free flow of interest rates in the commercial sector. This is a matter on which I think I should get a considered reply from the Treasurer. Government interest rates on housing are clearly tied to Government policy and depend on the state of the economy at the time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I ask: Will the Minister advise the Senate as to the volume and cost of the various drugs which are consumed by the Australian public under the national health scheme? Is it a fact that the Federal Government, through the national health scheme, either subsidises or provides free a number of the aforementioned drugs? Can he inform the Senate of the action that the Government takes to ensure that exorbitant prices are not paid by the Government for the supply of drugs under that scheme? Can the Minister satisfy the Senate that the Government is active in pursuing policies which ensure that inordinately high prices are not paid for drugs? Will the Minister consider a suggestion that the Government should request the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, a government body which is already a significant supplier of certain drugs to the Commonwealth, to provide advice to the Government as to how the cost of a variety of drugs supplied to the Australian public could be lowered substantially?
– The honourable senator’s question is very long and very complex, but I appreciate the genuine interest which prompts it. However, I feel that I am not competent at this time to give him an answer to the very many aspects which he has raised. He will be aware that the National Health Act contains provisions relating to the drugs which are to be included in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the price at which they are to be supplied and generally the conditions on which they are to be supplied. 1 am quite sure that the administration of the scheme broadly takes account of the matters which the honourable senator has mentioned. The honourable senator will be aware also that the drugs which are available under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme are supplied, when prescribed, on payment of a prescription fee. However, if the honourable senator requires further information beyond that which I have given to him, admittedly in a general way, in response to his question I ask him to put the question on notice.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Why is the bank rate in Australia over 8 per cent when in the United States of America, for example, it has been reduced recently to just over 5 per cent? Is this present rate a factor operating against inflation, as is suggested, or is it, as a eminent financial authority has said, a cause of inflation in this country? Are the statements correct that large sums of money are being poured into Australia from the United States to take advantage of our extraordinarily high interest rates?
– The question posed by the honourable senator, coming as it does against the background of the question asked by Senator Murphy, opens up quite a vista in relation to economic theory and the application of the traditional procedures, which have been accepted throughout the free world for many years, for the use of the interest rate as a factor relating to the whole economy. I do not think I could be expected at question time to embark upon a reply which would contribute anything in response to this question. One could even take the very last part of the question and suggest that we must start thinking in terms of what advantages may accrue from the inflow of capital, which relates to the very point that he has set out to make. I think I should join the honourable senator’s question to that asked by Senator Murphy and get a considered reply from the right source, which would be the Treasury.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry recall the many questions asked in this Senate regarding the plight of pear growers in the Goulburn Valley area of Victoria? Does he recall the questions by members of the Opposition, by Senator McManus yesterday and by myself the day before and on many other occasions in this place? Do questions to Ministers mean anything in prompting the Government to act in any particular way?
– Order! Is the honourable senator asking a question?
– I certainly am.
– I have not much idea yet of what the question is.
– I shall not repeat it Sir, but I shall just say to the Minister that he will be aware that on many occasions senators on both sides of the chamber have raised questions regarding the plight of pear growers in the Goulburn Valley area of Victoria. He will recall that this matter was raised.
– Order! The honourable senator is going over ground that I shall not allow him to cover.
– Further to the questions asked by Senator McManus and myself, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he will request the Treasurer to bring down a ministerial statement, in the form of a White Paper, dealing specifically and fully with this question of the high interest rates in Australia, indicating what are the supposed advantages and the disadvantages, and dealing especially with a comparison with interest rates elsewhere, the inflow of moneys to Australia, how these are affecting the cost of living in Australia and how it is that the Government contends that those who are bearing the brunt of these interest rates are somehow deriving advantage from them.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThere is, of course, a political implication in the question. But, putting that aside for one moment in a spirit of sweet reasonableness, I will ask the Right Honourable the Treasurer whether he will prepare a White Paper. It will be for him to decide whether he does or does not. Senator Murphy’s question predicates that in certain circumstances the interest rates in several countries were the same. Of course, that is nonsense.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. On 17th February the previous Minister for Health claimed that banning cigarette advertising had no effect on the consumption of cigarettes. Does the new Minister agree with that? If so. has he any idea why cigarette companies spend such large sums on advertising?
– I do not recall the exact words of the then Minister for Health on 17th February, although I am aware that he made a statement along the lines to which the honourable senator has referred. I think it is important to look at precisely what the then Minister for Health said. The position, as I understand it, is that the banning of cigarette advertising has not been shown to have reduced COn.sumption of cigarettes in those countries in which a ban has been in operation for some time. As 1 indicated in an answer I gave to Senator Turnbull earlier this week, there is a complex range of questions which have to be considered in any final determination of what should be the policy of the Government and what course shou lil be followed in this country.
– Then what is the point of all the advertising by the companies?
– As to why the cigarette companies spend tremendous sums of money on advertising, it is not within my competence to know what goes on in the minds of those who control those companies. One can only say that the experience in the United Kingdom is that the money that was spent on advertising before the ban came into force has been utilised in other ways such as a coupon system. This is one of the complex questions which always have to be borne in mind in any examination of this matter.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the senate. When the Prime Minister makes his statement on the effects of the British immigration law on Australians entering Great Britain, will that statement be tabled in the Senate so that, if needs be. honourable senators can discuss aspects of it?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIf the Prime Minister makes a statement in the other place, very properly he will commission me to make the statement on his behalf in this place, and T would hope to be able to obtain it in sufficient time to enable everybody to look at it before it is made in this place. I repeat that if the Prime Minister makes a statement in the other place the normal procedure is that 1, as his representative in the Senate, make the same statement here, although a little later because of the time factor.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. 1 was intrigued by his reference to the present Treasurer as the Right Honourable the Treasurer. I just want to ask: When did this happen?
It has not happened. I was thinking of a previous Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the problem and inconvenience of having 4 rural telephone directories for South Australia at the present time, will the Postmaster-General give consideration to incorporating all of these in one country volume, which would assist greatly both country and city subscribers in telephoning people in the various country areas?
– Having had the opportunity of engaging m recent discussion with the Postmaster-General on this subject I can say to the honourable senator that the tendency of the Department is to separate directories into smaller volumes rather than to combine them into one. One reason for this is that there have been substantial binding problems as telephone directories have become larger. I think honourable senators will appreciate that in both New South Wales and Victoria there has been a separation of the pink pages from the ordinary directory. The pink pages are now in a separate volume.
Notwithstanding the points which the honourable senator from South Australia has raised, it was thought that with the availability of a free inquiry service to ascertain the telephone number of a person in another part of the State, and also the availability of directories for other parts of the State which are supplied on application, the facilitity of having a smaller book is more in the public interest than having a large volume which, apart from being difficult to handle, also increases costs because of the wider circulation it has to be given.
– My question, which is directed either to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services or the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, relates to the legislation which was introduced many months ago to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and what has been reported to be current consideration by Cabinet of further suggestions on this matter from the unions concerned and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In view of the fact that the standards of workers’ compensation available to employees of the State governments are in advance of those covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, can the Minister indicate when the Parliament will have the opportunity to debate these matters? Has the Government decided what action to take on the suggestions which have been advanced to amend the legislation?
– As I have been a member of the Ministry directly concerned very intensively with this matter over recent months, I shall respond to the honourable senator’s question. This matter has been under comprehensive review by a special committee of the Government and is reaching the stage of finality. It is not fair to say that the standards of compensation afforded under Commonwealth legislation are inferior to those in the States. The honourable senator will be reminded that in view of the fact that there had been a delay in reviewing the legislation we took the opportunity last year to bring the rates of compensation up to, and in some cases in excess of, those which prevail in the States. 1 can assure the Senate that there is an abiding interest and determination to get this matter on a proper basis.
– My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows the questions asked of him by Senator Murphy and Senator McManus concerning the economy. I noted the acceptance by the Leader of the Government of the proposition put forward by Senator Murphy that the Minister should ask the Treasurer to bring down a White Paper on the matter of investment. In addition to this, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to place before both Houses of Parliament a White Paper on the economy generally setting out the steps that are likely to be taken by the Government to combat inflation? 1 direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that rumours are rife that the Parliament will go into recess on 29th April. I think it would be almost criminal if we were to leave the national capital without the Parliament having had an opportunity to deal with one of the most serious problems of our time and to give its opinions on what should be done in relation to the inflationary trends in the economy of this country.
– 1 shall not deal with the matters in question in the order in which the honourable senator asked them, following upon which he delivered his epistle. I shall reply firstly to his inquiry as to when the Parliament will rise. I cannot subscribe to any date which apparently he has heard in the lobbies or corridors. I have been here for 18 years and in that time I have heard all sorts of information as to when the Parliament would rise. I think it is rather perilous for him to base a fairly comprehensive question on that thesis. Also he said that I had endorsed suppositions put by Senator Murphy. I certainly did not. What 1. did say, as I am obliged to, is that I would put his question to the Treasurer.
– I said that you had accepted his request.
– 1 thought you meant that I had accepted his thesis but I certainly do not. If I may add one snippet to keep the matter going, I think everybody recalls that during the life of the previous British Government interest rates were moved almost month by month as an instrument of economic policy. That was done by the Wilson Labour Government. If honourable senators opposite are discomfited by the remark I add that the Macmillan Government, a Conservative Government, and the government of every other country has used the interest factor as an economic instrument. Let us wait to see whether the Treasurer - I accept the correction made earlier by Senator Kennelly - wishes to bring forward a White Paper or an additional White Paper as requested by Senator Toohey.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer agree that many requests have been made over the years by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber for the lifting of payroll tax on municipal authorities. Having regard particularly to the tremendous impact of the 6 per cent increase in wages and salaries payable by municipal authorities, will the Government consider reviewing this matter with the possibility of freeing the semigovernmental authorities from the impost of payroll tax? As the Minister will appreciate, the 21 per cent payable is added lo the 6 per cent wage increase.
This clearly is a question of Government policy. Therefore all I can say is that I shall refer the question.
– I direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the detailed submissions I made some 10 days ago in an adjournment debate concerning the long delay by the Minister for the Interior in finally determining the boundaries of the Top End National Park in the Northern Territory, can the Minister indicate when such a decision will be made?
– No, I cannot, but I understand the honourable senators concern. I sent a reminder to the Department of the Interior on Tuesday, I think, saying that in view of the honourable senator’s comments about this matter 8 days previously I would expect him to be displaying an interest in it again in the very near future and asked what was the position. T have not yet heard.
– My question is addressed fo the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Will he request the Minister for Primary Industry to make n statement about the situation of growers of pears and other fresh fruit in the Goulburn Valley area of Victoria? Does the Minister believe it to be a fact that many tons of fresh pears in that area will rot if they are not handled? Why did not the Commonwealth Government consider having the pears canned and given to needy people in other countries?
– The honourable senator, and some honourable senators opposite, have asked numerous questions about assistance for pear growers in the Goulburn Valley. The Government is aware of the situation of those growers. The honourable senator asks: ‘Why do we not can the pears?’ I suggest that, as the canneries are full of cases of canned pears due lo the present great production of pears, adoption of the honourable senator’s suggestion would be only a short term measure and would aggravate the position. Representations for Commonwealth financial assistance have been made to the Victorian Government by representatives of the industry. The Victorian Government has put a case before the Commonwealth Government and it is now being studied. I am quite sure that when the Minister is in a position to make a statement on the matter he will do so. 1 am also sure that the honourable senator does not want the Commonwealth to act. hastily and take half measures.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Parliament whether Sterling Nicholas Duty Free Pty Ltd has been prevented by his Department from selling duty free goods to passengers at Sydney international airport? Is it a fact that the same ban has not been applied by the Department of Customs and Excise? Can the Minister advise the reason for different rulings being given by the 2 departments? Was the ban originally applied because of personal conflict between the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for Customs and Excise?
– Starting from the bottom up. the answer to the last part of the question is certainly no. The Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Customs and Excise have a very close and sensible working relationship. I also enjoy that relationship with the Minister for Customs and Excise. The problem of Sterling Nicholas Duty Free Pty Ltd has been dealt with by the High Court. 1 am awaiting on more complete information concerning its judgment. I understand that the company attempted to overcome a problem which arose because it was an unsuccessful tenderer for the concession to operate a duty free shop at the Sydney international airport. Public tenders were called for that concession, and the concession was allotted by the process of public tender. Beyond that I cannot comment. I am sure the honourable senator will understand the necessity to examine the legal judgment and the consequences that may flow from it.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service I refer to industrial disputes occurring from time to time which do not involve major problems of wages or conditions but whether a dismissal is justified, or something of that nature. Disputes occurring in the airlines industry have held up that industry at times for many days at tremendous cost and inconvenience, and other industries have been affected. I ask the Minister whether inquiries could be made to ensure that a sufficient number of conciliation commissioners and conciliators is available to move in immediately when this kind of dispute occurs so that resolution of it may be effected almost immediately instead of after a lapse of days or weeks, when presumably the result is achieved which could have been achieved almost immediately had adequate machinery been available. Leaving aside the merits of any particular matters, can the Minister ascertain whether an abundant number of people is available to avoid the tremendous economic costs caused when the process of conciliation, or arbitration, operates after a delay instead of immediately?
– I recognise the immediate importance and timeliness of the aspects of industrial relations to which the honourable senator refers. So far as the availability of sufficient Commonwealth conciliators is concerned, 1 have recently perused with care the report of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. As far as I can recall, it has not brought to notice that the number of conciliators is insufficient for the work which properly comes within the Commonwealth field. One of the things that bedevil the situation is the division between the Commonwealth and the States. At least half of the employees of the nation come within the jurisdiction of the States.
The honourable senator referred to the aircraft industry. We did constitute the Flight Crew Officers’ Industrial Tribunal with special jurisdiction. We took immediate steps, upon the cessation of duty of Professor Isaacs, to appoint Mr Coldham, Q.C., to that office. The honourable senator, as well as the Senate, will be aware of the intensive study that has been’ given to the subject of industrial disputes by the Donovan Committee and a committee comprising lawyers of the Conservative Party in England, and also the provisions of the Industrial Relations Bill in the United Kingdom that have been the subject of intense parliamentary contest for the past 2 months. One of the proposals, briefly stated, is that a great amendment should be made to the law of dismissal which today is justiciable in the Commonwealth only on a very restricted basis of compensation when the dismissal is wrongful. Following the English study, the legislation substitutes for that principle the principle that compensation ought to be on a much wider range for unfair dismissal. That question of unfairness of dismissal is justiciable before a special tribunal which is made readily available to solve any question before it develops into a wider industrial dispute. T mention these matters because T know that they are before the Minister, and over several months they have been the subject of study by myself and others concerned with this problem.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a question. The Minister will recall that in the last Budget excessive increases were imposed on postage rates for journals. 1 think the increases ranged from 300 per cent to 400 per cent. I am concerned about this from the point of view of the union journals, because I think the only way to keep people interested is for them to get the journals and be informed about what is happening and so prevent the control of a union falling into the hands of one or two people. Let that be as it may. Will the Minister ask the PostmasterGeneral to obtain from his officers a report on whether the excessive increases have made postage rates uneconomic. 1 know that a number of unions instead of posting their journals once a month now post them once in 6 months. This applies also, 1 think, to the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria which delivers Hs monthly journal instead of posting ii. I would be very pleased if the Minister would obtain a report on the matter to let the Senate know whether this means more or less revenue for the Post Office.
– I am aware of the increases to which the honourable senator has referred. I note that he described i hem as excessive increases. 1 think that, in saying that, he ignored the fact that the increases were necessitated by the tremendous projected losses of that section of the Postmaster-General’s Department unless some action were taken to raise the charges which, for many years, had been very low charges. While the increases were sleep, in all circumstances it is not fair to say that the increases were excessive. However, the point that he raised as to whether the result of these increases has been to produce more money - and. therefore, in a broad sense, as to whether that section of the Department is economic - is one which I am sure is constantly commanding the attention of the Postmaster-General. 1 will refer to him the points which the honourable senator has made.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I draw his attention to the world cable service of the ‘Australian’ of today’s date which states that President Nixon intends to increase the withdrawal rate of American troops from South Vietnam, that it is expected that the withdrawal rate will be increased from 12.500 to 15,000 per month and that the President will be completing his assessment of the situation in South Vietnam this week. In view of the fact that the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said publicly that Australian troop withdrawals from Viet nam would be a matter of one out all out, what factors operated to change the Government’s mind in deciding to pull out only some of the troops? Will the Government take the public into its confidence and say now when ail our troops will be withdrawn?
Listed on the notice paper for debate is a ministerial statement which deals with a significant phased reduction of our forces in Vietnam, commencing in May. At this point of time 1 do not think I have anything to add to that statement, bearing in mind the honourable senator’s question. lt may well be that at a later hour of the day. if we dispose of certain Bills, we will be debating this statement. I think that would give Senator O’Byrne the opportunity to speak on the subject if he so wishes. The present situation is that the statement has been made by the Prime Minister. On his behalf, I have made that statement here, ft is on the notice paper. Subject to our functioning here today, it may well be that we will be debating the statement.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories inform the Parliament whether the new superannuation Bill for local government officers in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will be completed and the legislation passed before the Territory House of Assembly completes its current session? Can the Minister also advise whether the contents of the Bill were ever discussed with the Public Service Association and particularly with the local government officers section of that Association? If not. why not?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question requires a reference nol only to the Minister for External Territories but also to the House of Assembly in Port Moresby. That reference will be made and the answer supplied at the earliest possible opportunity.
– Yesterday Senator Turnbull asked a question about the closure of the staff dining room of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms on those occasions when a large parliamentary function is being held. As the honourable senator has stated, this has been a practice that has been followed for some years. The reason for it is that on such occasions the kitchen is under considerable pressure to service the main function and cannot, at the same time, prepare a menu for the staff dining room. The basic problem is not in the employment of waitresses, although this is not easy, but in the capacity of the kitchen to prepare a hot meal. However, although a meal is not served in the staff dining room, every effort is made to ensure that other services are available. Morning and afternoon tea, a full service of take-away foods such as sandwiches, cakes, fruit, hot soup and tea and coffee have always been provided and were provided yesterday.
(Question No. 909)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What action docs the Government contemplate to enable Australia to become a signatory to the Refugee Seamen’s Agreement of 1957.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
There have been several aspects of the Refugee Seamen’s Agreement of 1957 which has caused us difficulty. For example, the 1957 Agreement required the issue of a travel document in accordance with Article 28 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and we had entered a reservation against that article. However, we have very recently found it possible to withdraw the reservation so that one difficulty has been removed. The appropriate Commonwealth authorities are now looking at the 1957 Agreement again in the context of possible future accession.
(Question No. 930)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As the question of entry of the aircraft for home consumption would not arise unless permission to import were given it has not become necessary for the Department to determine the value of the aircraft for purposes of the Customs Act.
(Question No. 949)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Dr G. F. Humphrey (Leader Chief, Division of Fisheries and Oceanography, C.S.I. R.O.)
Dr A. J. Gilmour, Fisheries and Wildlife Branch, Chief Secretary’s Department, State of Victoria.
Mr T. D. Meagher, Sheen Laboratories (Analysts and Consulting Chemists), Perth, Western Australia.
(Question No. 940)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What are. the safety requirements to bc met by the pilots of overseas airlines operating in Australia.
– The answer to the honourable senators question is as follows: lt is a condition of the International Airline Licence issued to overseas airlines by the Department of Civil Aviation that, when operating in Australia, the licensee and the aircraft used in these Public Transport Operations shall comply with the provisions of the Air Navigation Act and the Air Navigation Regulations.
In addition, the International Civil Aviation Organisation prescribes safely standards for international airline operations: and Australia has actively participated in the development of these international standards.
(Question No. 97!)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Government authorities, three of the priests were released on 20lh November 1970. and some of the other persons arrested have also been released.
(Question No. 9HO
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
When was Jetair Australia Limited granted a charter licence prior to its obtaining an airline licence under Regulation 203 of the Air Navigation Regulations.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Jetair Australia Limited was grunted a charter licence on 9 September 1969.
In pursuance of Regulation 203 of the Air Navigation Regulations, Jetair Australia Limited was granted, on 17 December 1969, an exemption from the necessity of obtaining an airline licence.
At no stage was Jetair Australia Limited granted an airline licence.
– On 9th March 1971, Senator Lawrie asked Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson the following question without notice:
As the Australian negotiators have now returned from negotiating a new international grains agreement has the Minister any statement to give to the Senate on the possible implications of this agreement on the Australian wheal industry?
The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided me with the following reply:
The Australian delegation has reported on the outcome of the United Nations Wheal Conference which was held in Geneva between 18th January 20th February. The terms of the new International Wheal Agreement, 1971 will shortly be considered by the Cabinet after which I would expect to make an appropriate statement in the Parliament.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the following document:
Report by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on the Teaching of Asian Languages and Culture in Australia, dated August 1970.
– I move:
I understand that the Government is considering ils attitude towards these matters. In these circumstances I suggest that it would be in the interests of the Senate not to proceed with them today.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Second Reading
Debate resumed from 31 March (vide page 693). on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy President, may I seek your ruling on whether we should debate together this Bill, the Dried Fruits Levy Bill and the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill rather than deal wilh them individually? They are related Bills and T believe that it would be more appropriate to deal with them together.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Cotton is in charge of these Bills. Is it his wish that they be dealt with together?
– To say that I am in charge of these Bills is perhaps not to indicate the tate state of affairs. At the moment I am sitting here by myself in a state of suspended animation. However, I think that in the circumstances the Bills should be proceeded with together.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is it the wish of the Senate that the 3 Bills be taken together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The purpose of the Dried Fruits Research Bill is to establish a joint Commonwealth and industry research scheme. I believe that this is a particularly good proposition and, consequently, we shall offer no opposition to the Bills in principle, although we have circulated amendments which we propose to move at the Committee stage. Funds will be made available for purposes of research from levies imposed on producers of dried fruit and from a matching grant from the Commonwealth on a $1 for $1 basis. The Dried Fruits Levy Bill authorises the payment of the levy and places a ceiling on the levy of $1 a ton on currants, sultanas and raisins, and $5 a ton on dried apricots.
I address myself first to the levy. I think it will be agreed that growers should be obliged to pay the levy. We have no serious objection to that because the funds will be used for purposes of research. However, I suggest that it is unusual for a government to say that growers should be obliged to pay a levy for purposes of research, or for any other matter, and then criticise trade unions because they require their members to pay a levy or because they object strenuously when someone who takes up employment in an industry fails to join the appropriate trade union. The purpose in imposing the levy is to ensure that any producer who avails himself of the benefits of the research shall accept his responsibility to contribute finance towards the research programme. I repeat that this action of the Government in imposing a levy and insisting that growers pay it is entirely different from the attitude it adopts when trade unionists band themselves together and demand that all people working in an industry shall be members of a union.
There is also a contrast in regard to the penalties that are to be imposed for failure to pay the levy or contravention of other sections of the legislation with which a grower, producer or packer may find himself in conflict. I refer particularly to clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill, which slates:
A person shall not:
fail or neglect duly to furnish a return or information that he is required under the regulations to furnish; or
furnish, in pursuance of the regulations, a return or information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
For that misdemeanour the penalty is $200. Let us visualise what can happen if people who are required to make these returns or give this information fail to do so. It will lead to some serious deficiencies within the research programme. Yet they are to be fined only $200. I make a comparison between that and what happens to trade unions which are in a position in which they may fail to observe some provision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1970.
We see that there are no priorities, as far as the Government is concerned, as to how penalties should be inflicted. On the one hand, for what may be regarded as a serious misdemeanour which may tend to reduce the efficiency of the research programme a person can be fined $200. I contrast that with the penalties that this Government imposes on workers and trade unionists. For instance, section 111 (4.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act says:
The maximum penalty which the Court is empowered to impose in respect of a contempt of the Court consisting of a failure to comply with an order of the Court made under paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of section one hundred and nine of this Act is:
where the contempt was committed by an organisation . . . One thousand dollars;
where the contempt was committed by an employer, or the holder of an office in an organisation . . . Four hundred dollars or imprisonment for twelve months; or
in any other case - One hundred dollars.
That provision is similar in terms to what this Bill says. If, by a contemptuous action, a person does not conform with clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill, he can be fined §200. But that is not so in the case of a union, or an employer if it comes to that. A union can be fined $1,000, and an employer or the holder of an office in an organisation, such as a trade union secretary, can be fined $400 or imprisoned for 12 months. Is there any justice in a system that imposes penalties of that nature for failure to comply with the provisions of an Act? I contrast that situation with that of the grower, packer or other person who fails to comply with clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill now before the Senate.
Let us look at some other sections or the Conciliation and Arbitration Act> Section 152 provides:
An organisation shall keep, in accordance with this section, the following records:
It then sets out that the organisation must keep a register of its members showing the name and postal address of each member, and things of that nature. For failure to comply with this provision of the Act an organisation may be fined $20 for each week of default. Would that failure be any more heinous a crime than the one contemplated by clause 11 (1.) of the Dried Fruits Levy Collection Bill? I suggest that it would not. This shows the discriminatory nature of Acts of this Parliament when such acts are directed against workers and trade unions.
– Are not these people workers?
– Of course they are workers. I am not suggesting otherwise. What 1 am suggesting is that under clause 11 (I.) of this Bill a person who fails to comply with the requirement to furnish certain details can be fined up to $200 whereas in similar circumstances a secretary of a trade union can be gaoled for failure to do some things that are nowhere near as serious as what is contemplated by the provisions of this Bill. Let me examine some other sections of the Conciliation r.nd Arbitration Act. I turn to section 169 which provides:
Notwithstanding anything contained in the rules of an organisation or of a branch of the organisation, an organisation and every officer of an organisation or branch of an organisation . . . shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure that all ballot papers . . . used in connection with … an election for an office are preserved and kept … For a period of one year after the completion of the election.
If the secretary of a union fails to do that - incidentally, I suggest that it is a domestic matter within his own union - he can be fined $200 or imprisoned for 12 months, or both. Where is the justice? Under one piece of legislation of this Parliament a person can be fined $200 for failing to do something, and under another piece of legislation of this Parliament a person can be fined $200 or imprisoned for 12 months, or both, for something almost identical. If honourable senators on the Government side claim that that is justice F suggest that they should put the word ‘justice’ in inverted commas. Lel me turn now to section 1 70a (2.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which is in these terms:
A person shall not . . . obstruct or hinder a person … in the performance of his functions in relation to an election or in the taking of any action under the last preceding subsection.
That carries a penalty of $200 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both, in other parts of the Act there are numerous instances of similar penalties. For example, if a person records more than one vote in a trade union ballot he can be fined $200 or imprisoned for 12 months or both. I ask honourable senators on the Government side to examine their consciences to see whether this is not discriminatory and directed towards persons in the trade union movement. I now address my remarks to section 177(1.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. lt provides:
Any organisation or person bound by an industrial agreement shall for any breach or nonobservance of any term of the agreement be liable to a penally noi exceeding Mich amount as is fixed by the industrial agreement: and if no amount is so fixed. then to a penalty not exceeding in the ‘-asc of an organisation One thousand dollars, in the case of an employer Five hundred dollars, and in the case of an employee Twenty dollars.
That section is worthless because it has been held over the years in all industrial tribunals thai you cannot contract yourself out of an award. I direct the attention of the Senate to the discriminatory nature of the legislation which the Government introduces and enforces. I have no objection to clause 1 1 of the Bill before us which provides that a person shall be required to perform certain functions and that if he fails to do so he is required to meet the penally. I believe that such provisions in a Bill of this nature are necessary, but 1 ask honourable senators on the Government side to re-examine the minimum fine of $200 in the light of the fact that other sections of the community can be fined anything up to SI, 000 or be imprisoned, or both, for misdemeanours of a similar character.
I have indicated that the Opposition has no desire to oppose the Bill. We believe that it will be in the interests of the people involved. Nevertheless I felt compelled to stale the Opposition’s views when I learned that the penalty for failure to observe the provisions of the Bill was the minimum amount of $200 in view of the penalties which can be imposed on trade unions and workers tinder the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Senates WEBSTER (Victoria) (12.22)- We have heard an amazing exhortation from Senator Milliner. The whole point of his comments, I lake it, is that he is dissatisfied with the penalty to be imposed under clause 1 1 of this Bill. Because of his knowledge - a significant knowledge, I may say - of the arbitration and certain other legislation he feels that a much harsher penalty should be imposed upon the individuals who fail to comply with the provisions of this Bill. That seems to be a little inconsistent with what is usually put forward by the Labor Party. Front a reading of the comments of other members of the Parliament and from listening to Senator Milliner, perhaps it is fair to say thai their ignorance of this industry has led them to the point where the only fault they can find wilh this Bill is that the treatment set out for persons who fail to observe the provisions of clause 1 1 is not sufficiently harsh.
– I did nol say that.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable senator say that because the proposition seems to be rather silly. As I understand it, the principle proposed by the Labor Party over the last few years is that if there is legislation which attempts to ensure by some means that the parties will adhere to an agreement into which they enter, some penalty should be applied should they attempt to break the agreement. It has been amazing to see the way in which the Opposition has dealt with a variety of measures, particularly those relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Members of the Opposition have flouted the directions of the court and have thought of promoting strikes and adopting all sorts of major methods of influence in the community in an endeavour to avoid paying the penalty which applies. Senator Milliner has just said that the penalty of S200 imposed by clause 1 1 of the Bill is altogether too light. I have some concern for a number of growers who started in the industry only recently. To them S200 would be a very significant amount and it would represent a very harsh penalty should they be found not to have furnished the information which is required to make this legislation of some use.
Perhaps it is nol necessary to have a lengthy debate on these 3 Bills because they are not opposed by the Opposition. Certainly the Government and my own Party, in discussing the problems of the dried fruit industry over many years, have seen fit eventually to bring this type of research measure forward. Therefore we have these 3 Bills before us. One is a research Bill, the second sets the levy, and the third contains provisions for the collection of the levy.
I think it is fair to say that the dried fruit industry is another primary industry in Australia which has significant problems in this day and age. I have said in the Senate that I believe it is incorrect for people to conclude that all primary industries are in great trouble. That is not so. Undoubtedly there are some dried fruit growers who do not face the problems faced by others in the same industry. Basically research in any industry will assist growers. Let us consider a country which has volume production of a particular commodity and is able to satisfy the local market. With a minimum of Government assistance it may compete at world parity prices on the world market. At that stage research is of great importance. The Commonwealth Government has been assisting the dried fruit, industry with finance for research for years past. Under this legislation we are establishing a basis for the Commonwealth to work on a $1 for $1 arrangement with the industry on further research. From my reading of the Bill, the money already held by the industry for research purposes will draw a subsidy from the Commonwealth when it is placed in the trust account. This will be of great assistance to the industry and I congratulate the Government for this decision.
The problems which arise in this industry are worthy of comment. In past years, as far back as the First World War, vine growers were able to work small blocks and produce sufficient income for their needs. They were able to do the job manually on blocks of 14 acres, 17 acres or 20 acres. Now, with mechanisation and the demands of the individual for a higher standard of living, those small areas are entirely insufficient for a man to earn an adequate income over a period of years. There should be an investigation of this industry to ascertain means by which growers can improve and expand their holdings.
The cost problem, which has been mentioned in this debate, is common throughout the world but it has attracted the attention of the Senate on many occasions. The Australian Government has been criti cised for the inflation that has occurred throughout the community. I have said here previously that I believe that this Government has done a great deal to hold down the rate of inflation. I heard a comment on the radio this morning about the problems experienced in Great Britain. The British Labour Party is critical of the Budget because the British Government has done little to dampen the incidence of inflation. I believe that yesterday the South African Government introduced a Budget, the core of which deals with the rale of inflation in that country. Only within the last week or so, in a comment I made in this chamber, I set out a schedule demonstrating that the rate of inflation in Australia was more than comparable with that in other countries. I think honourable senators would acknowledge that in the 3- month period prior to Christmas there was a greater rate of inflation in Australia than we had ever before experienced. This was during the time that the Government took some action in relation to taxation and when there were demands for wage rises throughout the community.
Lt is interesting to note the prices which dried fruit producers have been receiving for their products. They have remained fairly stable. I am told authoratively that about 7 years ago the average price of sultanas was $23 1 per ton. In 1968 it had increased only by $13 to $244 per ton. I am referring to a pack in the Sunraysia area. But according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics the cost of production during that period increased by about $43 per ton. That situation will continue in every primary industry in Australia. The rate of inflation will continue. F can see no action being taken by the Commonwealth Government or by the people of Australia which is likely to dampen the rate of inflation here. No member of Parliament is willing to rise and say that he believes there should be no inflation in Australia or that we could take some acceptable action which would keep the value of the dollar constant. As I understand it, it is impossible for this to happen on the world scene. If we can keep our rate of inflation to a maximum of 2i per cent or 3 per cent, perhaps the growers in every area of primary industry, aided by research, can cope with it.
Research is of great importance in the dried fruit industry. 1 am aware of the research work done in the past by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the fact that the various State Departments of Agriculture have contributed greatly to the production figures on various properties, but there is more to be done because the scene is changing every clay. Other countries realise the wisdom of pouring money into research and we must keep pace wilh the information obtainable overseas. This is of great importance. We do noi do enough to take advantage of the knowledge available to growers in other countries and add it to that which we gain from our own research efforts. This knowledge will enable our growers to live.
The Sunraysia area in my State of Victoria is the greatest producer of dried fruits in Australia. The industry, in common with all primary industries, suffers great problems brought about by weather.
F know of no primary industry in Australia which will know the result of its work at the end of a year. Weather plays an important part in determining primary production in Australia. Over a period a primary producer must recognise that in one or two years his returns may not be considered adequate by him. Such has been the position in recent years. I understand that in the current year growers are noi very happy at the prospective returns for their fruit production. Again this is a problem caused by weather. Research can play a significant part in this respect. Some primary industries, had research not been conducted and government assistance afforded, would not be in their present healthy state. Many people would argue that some industries referred to in the’ Minister’s second reading speech are not particularly healthy. Certainly they would be less healthy had they not received government assistance to conduct research.
In respect of the wheat, wool, meat, dairy, egg, chicken meat and tobacco industries the Federal Government said that if they could generate sufficient interest within those industries and establish reasons why money should be provided for research, aid would be given. This practice is of great advantage to growers throughout Australia. I note that one or two primary production areas, particularly dried apples, do not come within the ambit of this particular assistance. Reference has been made to growers in Tasmania who will not obtain assistance through this measure. 1 hope that they will unite in an approach to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. Honourable senators opposite have not denied that this legislation is good for the industry and for Australia in general. We will deal with the amendments proposed by the Opposition as they arise, f have great pleasure in supporting this group of Bills.
– I wish to raise some points in relation to the 3 Bills before us. We have heard from the Opposition a completely invalid comparison of the penalties imposed under this legislation and those imposed under certain industrial legislation. If we have not listened to utter rubbish before, we have done so on this occasion. It is complete and utter rubbish to compare the significance of the two different types of legislation. In this instance growers have requested the Government to impose a levy for the purpose set out in the measure. 1 remind honourable senators that in these Bills ‘research’ refers to scientific, technical or economic research in connection with the production, processing or packaging of dried fruits.
I sincerely hope that the research is not concentrated too much on production. Certainly considerable benefits can he gained by producers through processing and packaging improvements, but if the marketing of dried fruits remains as it is. as is common with most primary products the benefits of this legislation will not go to the producers but to the public at large. In the first place the benefits will go certainly to those carrying out the research, and to the general public through better quality fruits. If research into production results in increased production without maintaining the price of the final article to the growers, the growers will receive no benefits from research. The benefits will go to the community at large. We have heard ridiculous comparisons made between penalties imposed under this legislation and penalties imposed for industrial blackmail. Having made that point, I emphasise that in respect of scientific research I would like to see the purposes of the levy enlarged. I
Dried Fruits Research Bill have in mind particularly investigation into the marketing of the primary products.
A study of returns to growers of basic foodstuffs and the prices paid by consumers of the same products shows a tremendous disparity between the price paid for the food material and the price paid by consumers for the article in the form in which it reaches them. If we want to assist producers and consumers to get a better deal I think the lines of research should be directed more towards an examination of the inefficiencies that occur in the marketing and retailing of products. As the measure stands, this research will undoubtedly result, as has happened with most other research directed towards production rather than marketing, in increasing the volume of production without adding to the profitability of the growers. The hopes of the growers are that increased production will result in increased returns, but, if the history of other primary products is repeated, benefits may be returned to the community but it is doubtful that benefits will be passed on to the producers.
– We of the Labor Party do not oppose these Bills. They deal with an important part of primary production. The dried fruits industry has been suffering for many years, on overseas as well as local markets. It is time that something is done to help this important industry. It is an important industry to South Australia. Many settlers on holdings in South Australia along the upper Murray as far as Renmark and even further depend on the dried fruits industry for their living. This scheme was set up as part of the rehabilitation project after World War II when soldier settlers were granted properties in the area of the upper Murray. Those people have had to contend not only with seasonal problems but also with problems involved in the organisation of the scheme. I appreciate that that point is not particularly relevant to the Bills before us but I feel I should point out that the people established under the war settlement land settlement scheme are working under certain conditions.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I v/as saying how important the dried fruits industry was to rural
Dried Fruits Research Bill 713 industry as a whole and particularly to South Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister mentioned the importance of the industry to the economy of Australia. I also point out that most of the growers, particularly those in South Australia, were allotted land under the war service land settlement scheme after the First World War and after the Second World War. I may be getting a little away from the ambit of the Bill but because it concerns dried fruit growers, I think it is important to mention that the war service land settlement scheme ran into quite a number of difficulties and thereby the difficulties of the growers were increased. Every honourable senator has been approached by these people to see whether some assistance could be provided.
– Are you speaking about the Murray Valley growers?
– No, I am talking about the growers in South Australia whose properties border the Murray River as far as Renmark. These people came under the war service land settlement scheme.
– You mean the ones who had difficulty with their land tenures?
– Yes, and they had to cope with the burden of increasing costs. I feel sure that this had an effect on production because the settlers became a little disheartened. Of course, this .was only one of the factors which contributed towards the ultimate plight of this industry. After the First World War these men were allotted holdings of between 17 and 20 acres. At that time that average was probably quite sufficient for these men to produce crops and to make a decent living, but as costs rose and as the price of fruit decreased in some instances, and because of the adverse climatic conditions under which they worked, it was found that a holding of this size was not sufficient. For this reason, and because of changing living habits, I feel that the size of these holdings should be looked at. I think the matter warrants very serious consideration.
Growers of dried fruits as a whole experience unfortunate fluctuations. As I mentioned previously, they experience devastating seasonal conditions and, on top of this, they have to export the bulk of their crop. 1 April 1971
Only about 20 per cent of the fruit produced is sold on the Australian market. The income of the growers from these sales is much greater than they receive for the 80 per cent of their crop which is exported overseas. I believe that this Bill, which provides for the establishment of a dried fruits research trust account, could help the industry to some degree. However, I think the Government must also investigate the ways and means by which these people can be assisted.
We all know that in 1963. I think it was, the Government instituted a stabilisation plan for the industry, lt was not a success. When that stabilisation scheme ran its course the fruit growers were given the opportunity to vote on whether they would like another stabilisation scheme instituted. They rejected that proposal because they felt that the previous scheme had let them clown badly. A lot of the blame has been laid at the door of the people who marketed the dried fruits. A lot of the blame has been attributed to the growers themselves. But the growers were so fed up at the time that when the new proposal was put to them they voted against it. One of the reasons given for the defeat of the proposal was that not all the growers took advantage of the opportunity to cast a vote, and that only a minority actually voted against the scheme.
I believe that this research trust account will help the growers. But I believe that something more should be done. I have been informed, in answers to questions which I have asked, that the Minister for Primary Industry is negotiating at the moment for the re-opening of talks with the growers in regard to a further stabilisation scheme. I am sure that if such a proposal is pui to the growers they will vote for il and thereby bring some stability into the industry. The plight of the industry has been caused not so much by falling prices as by rising costs. Like most of the primary producers, these people cannot pass increased costs on to anybody. They have to bear the brunt of them themselves, and as their income decreases their living standards suffer. This measure is a step in the right direction, and I believe that it will help the fruit industry. However. I urge the Minister for Air to ask the Minister for Primary Industry to re-open the negotiations for the introduction of another sta bilisation plan. I feel that this is what the growers want. They need some form of statutory marketing board, and they have asked for this from time to time. I feel that if this request is granted the plight of some of them will be relieved and I feel sure that the state of the industry will improve. Although it is not impossible for us to increase our sales of dried fruits on the overseas markets, we have met with a great deal of competition in this field. L believe that Turkey is moving more and more into this field and is now exporting much of its production overseas.
I can recall an instance some time ago when a colleague from South Australia asked a question about the quantity of dried figs which was being imported into Australia at that time. He circulated samples of these dried figs. They did not meet with a very good reception from honourable senators, particularly those who wear dentures, because the number of seeds in the figs caused a little discomfort. At that time quite a number of growers, particularly those in South Australia, were growing figs for drying purposes. There was an influx of the Turkish product. From memory, I believe that there was a Tariff Board hearing on this. A tariff was placed on the imported figs. I do not think that had a great bearing on the amount that was being imported. Consequently, many growers along the River Murray in South Australia stopped growing figs. Last time I was in the area very few growers were growing figs for drying purposes because they found it was uneconomic. They had turned their endeavours to other forms of fruit growing.
The Labor Party does not oppose the Bills. We hope that they will do something to help the industry. We hope that the work will be carried on in the manner in which it should be carried on. Consideration should be given not only to all aspects of dried fruits but also to all aspects of fruit growing in the industry. I am sure that the industry can come up with something that will be of great assistance not only to the growers but to the Austraiian economy as a whole.
– I wish to add my word of approval and commendation to the proposals contained in the 3 Bills. The Australian dried fruits industry is a very important component of the overall fruit industry of Australia. It is interesting to note that, although the 311,000 acres under fruit cultivation and the 140,000 acres under vineyard cultivation represent only 1 per cent of the whole area cultivated for crops in Australia, the produce of this area represents 13 per cent of the gross value of the principal crops produced. In the dried fruits sector of the fruit industry, for a number of years growers have provided finance on an ad hoc basis for specific dried fruits research projects. They have been supported by the Government. It is good to see that now this very important sector of fruit growing is to receive a Si for $1 subsidy for research work to be undertaken. At present the importance of research is underlined by the need to meet the rising cost of production to producers generally and the increased competition in overseas markets and by the need for more stringent quality standards on both home and overseas markets.
There are precedents for a research scheme being evolved for this industry in that research schemes have been evolved for other rural industries such as the wool, wheat, meat, dairy products, tobacco, egg and chicken meat industries. These 7 industries have research facilities available to them. This has been brought about through their own efforts and through government assistance. I feel that, in the eighth instance, the establishment of research facilities is an indication of the Government’s policy of encouraging and fostering self-help schemes. I do think that, when an industry shows its preparedness to do things for itself - things which will be for its own benefit and, collectively, for the benefit of the nation - the Government can come into the picture and assist with what has been proved to be an important scheme. By virtue of the preparedness of an individual industry to do things for itself in the first instance, the Government can assist.
I feel that there is a close connection between the promotion of dried fruits - for efficiency in the industry and for ability to dispose of the product in overseas markets - and the production of vine fruits, f note that last year 92,043 tons of currants, sultanas and raisins were produced. It is of great interest to note an association between the tonnage of currants, sultanas and raisins going into the dried sector of the industry and the usage of some varieties of vine fruits for wine making. Honourable senators will note that, when there has been a great demand for grapes of the varieties which can be used by wineries, there has been a decrease in the production of dried fruits. For instance, in 1967 there was an all-time record production of vine fruits for the making of currants, sultanas and raisins amounting to 86,933 tons. The following year there was an even higher tonnage. This was at a time when great difficulty was being experienced by growers of vine fruits who wished to dispose of grapes to the wineries. .
I feel that we have to be very careful that, with greater acreages of grapes which can be used for wine making being sown and with the huge amounts of this type of grape coming forward, in the process of things there shall be facility for disposal of the production via the dried fruit sector. 1 noted the very high figures for the production of dried vine fruits in 1966-67. These were the years in which the growers had difficulty in disposing of their produce to the wineries. So I feel it is encumbent on the fruit growing and vine growing industry generally to ensure a continuing interest and ability to produce at economic levels in the dried fruit sector to meet a situation, which could well arise, in which the growers could be faced with difficulty in disposing of their produce in one form or another.
– How suitable are the wine grapes for drying?
– It is the other way round. It is more that certain drying types can be used for wine manufacture. Because of the cheaper labour costs involved in picking and delivering to a winery as against the long process of drying, there is a tendency on the part of many to short cut and sell their produce of the drying types to the wineries. In recent years there has been a quite active demand for this type of grape at the wineries. The danger to which 1 refer is that if that outlet is denied to the grower there has to be ability to place that fruit in the dried form. This is where research is so important. Herein lies the value of the legislation which provides that there shall be a maximum levy of Si per ton on currants, sultanas and raisins and of S5 per ton on dried apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines and prunes. The actual operative rates are to be prescribed by regulation. The figures to which I have referred are the maximum.
I feel that unless we are prepared to give extra consideration to conducting continuous research into our ability lo produce the best quality dried fruits at the lowest cost lo the producer this important seclion - the dried fruit section - of the whole fruit industry faces very great difficulties. It is for these reasons that 1 welcome the introduction of this legislation and commend the Government for having been prepared, at the request of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, spontaneously to assist on a $1 for $1 basis in the things which the industry itself desires to do to promote ils welfare and, through promoting its own welfare, to promote the wellbeing of the fruit industry- in Australia. I support the Bills.
– I rise merely to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports these Bills ;ind welcomes the assistance which is to be given to this segment of Australia’s rural industries, lt is most important in the developing world situation in relation to the marketing of primary products that Australia’s primary industries shall be as efficient as possible and shall produce a product which is appropriate to the market which is to be supplied, at a price which is competitive on that market.
I was interested in the comment which was made by Senator Drury on the production of dried fruits in Turkey. As I was in thai country recently I know that this is a matter which is of considerable interest to Turkey because of the emergence of the European Economic Community into the field of demand. Dried fruits are not produced in the countries which are strictly within the European Economic Community, but they are produced in countries which are associate members of the Community. Turkey is one of these countries. There are many countries on the African Continent - what we call black African countries - which are also associate members of the EEC. It is possible that Turkey and these other countries will be able lo supply dried fruits in sufficient quantities to meet the demand of the European Economic Community. If that is so, a very grave threat is posed to Australia’s production and export of this commodity. Such a threat can be met only by the production of a quality product, attractively packaged and competitively priced in what looks like becoming a very severely constricted market. These things can be achieved only by the proper direction of finance towards the necessary research.
I shall be having something to say about the more technical aspects of the Bills at the Committee stage. 1 merely wanted to indicate to the Senate at this stage that the Democratic Labor Party welcomes these Bills. This legislation highlights a further fact, namely, that most of Australia’s primary industries are increasingly getting into difficulties. These difficulties arc arising from one cause or another. The Democratic Labor Party still persists in ils belief that it will be necessary to examine the role of each industry in the rural segment in order to determine what assistance - financial and technological - is required to enable it to discharge its proper and newly determined role in the Australian economy and the world economy in relation to the consumption of rural products. Having said those things, 1 indicate again to the Senate that the Democratic Labor Party supports the Bills and welcomes their provisions.
– in reply - I wish to thank the Senate for the support which has been given to this legislation. In particular, I w:sh to thank those honourable senators who have contributed to the debate. I do not think that there is any need for me to refer to the purposes of the 3 Bills which are now before the Senate because these purposes are set out quite plainly in my second reading speeches. However, J would like to comment briefly upon a number of the points which were made by various speakers during the course of the debate.
asked why dried apples are not covered by this legislation. I think Senator Milliner also referred to this point. The Australian Dried Fruits Association did not propose that dried apples be included in the scheme nor did the Australian Agricultural Council, which is responsible for approving the fruits covered in this legislation. However, I have taken a note of Senator Webster’s suggestion. If the dried apple industry wishes to be included in it al some time in the future an approach to the Government to this effect will receive very careful consideration.
Senator Drury referred to the difficulties experienced by the dried fruits industry in his State of South Australia. The Government is considering the points to which he referred, lt is very conscious of the situation which exists in South Australia as well as in many other parts of Australia. These difficulties are, of course, under consideration by the Government all the time and the Government is in close consultation with the industries themselves at all times. The Government has in the past given a considerable amount of assistance to rural industries in general. This assistance has been in the form of lax concessions, fertiliser bounties and agricultural research extension grants. The recent Budget provided assistance to upgrade telephone lines and erect lines within 15 miles of an exchange.
During the course of his speech Senator Drury gave the reasons why the Government’s offer of a dried fruits industry stabilisation scheme was turned down by the industry. There have been several discussions between the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and officers of his Department and the industry on this subject. 1 understand that the industry is at present giving consideration to various aspects of a stabilisation scheme which the Government has put before it. But these are not the only things that we are doing for the industry. I refer to the international sultana agreement which has resulted from the Government’s efforts to have agreements reached. Admittedly, because of the great world production of dried fruits, we are finding difficulty with this agreement. Honourable senators may recall that last June the agreement was renewed, but only for a period of 12 months, lt will come up for consideration ..again very shortly. This is the type of thing that the Government is trying to do. lt is consulting with the industry regularly and, wherever possible, is assisting the industry, just as it is assisting it by means of this legislation.
The honourable senator mentioned also ‘ the single statutory marketing authority. My advice on this is that the proposal was put up by a minority of growers as an alternative to the present arrangement of an Australian export control board and then a number of State boards. This proposal has not attracted the attention or support of principals in the industry or of the Australian Agricultural Council. In other words, most growers at present are not in favour of the suggestion put forward by the honourable senator. Those are the main points to which I wished to refer. Senator Laucke reiterated some of the points that I mentioned in my second reading speech and many points which had been put forward by other speakers. Senator Byrne made the position of the Democratic Labor Party quite clear and referred to difficulties within the industry. I have already touched on some of these difficulties. I can say to Senator Byrne that this morning during question time I was asked about funds for reconstruction. Whilst those funds in the main are available to support the sheep and wheat industries, I understand that they are available also to some other sections of rural industry. No doubt in due course we will see applications for assistance from the growers with whom we are now dealing. I thank the Senate for supporting this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 31 March (vide page 694), on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 7 and ask the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) whether he can indicate the circumstances in which parts of that clause would apply. Subclause (1.) of clause 7 states:
Where any dried fruits received for packing have been purchased by the packer or received by him under a contract or arrangement that permits or requires him to sell, or to arrange for the sale of, the packed dried fruits derived from the dried fruits received for packing and to receive the net proceeds of the sale, the packer is liable to pay the levy on the dried fruits received for packing.
My understanding is that that is the normal manner in which dried fruits are received and packed, in almost every circumstance. However, sub-clause (2.) provides that the grower can become liable for the payment of the levy where the last preceding sub-clause does not apply. Can the Minister explain a circumstance in which the last preceding sub-clause would not apply?
– The situation is that in the normal course of events a grower will deliver his fruit to the packing sheds or packing house, whichever you like to call it, and, as honourable senators will know, returns for each variety of fruit go into a pool from which the growers are paid progressively. The levy will be deducted by the packing house from those progressive payments. The packing house will then be liable to pay to the Commonwealth Government the amount of the levy on the dried fruits that it has received. I understand that more than 90 per cent of dried fruits is delivered to the packing houses by 30th June each year. It will be seen that the Bill provides for the payment of the levy to the Commonwealth by 30th November each year. By this time most of the packing houses would have sold a fair proportion of the fruit that had been delivered to them, so there would be no burden on the various pools until the funds were in hand. The Government and the industry believe that payments in this way should be smooth and fairly equitable.
– With due respect, I do not think that sub-clause (2.) is covered by the explanation that has been given by the Minister. Where the fruit has gone to the packer and the packer has received it, in most instances he is liable to pay the levy to the trust fund, but sub-clause (2.) states:
Where the last preceding sub-section does not apply. . . . [ presume that that is a reference to instances where the grower of the fruit does not deliver it to a packing house, the packing house does not become liable for payment to the grower and where the packing house is not responsible for payment of the levy. Sub-clause (2.) envisages a situation in which the grower of the dried fruits which have been received for packing is liable to pay the levy on those dried fruits.
– Where does the honourable senator get that from? I understood that this merely imposed the same penalty on a packer, if he did not pay the levy, as it imposed originally on the grower. However. I may not be right.
– The Minister may be able to explain it better than I can. I ask him, in relation to clause 7(1.) and (2.), to explain how the liability to pay the levy will fall on the shoulders of the 2 groups of individuals - in one instance, the packing houses and in other circumstances the growers.
– When I gave the previous explanation I was referring to clause 7 (1.), which applies to the majority of growers. However, there are a few growers who pack their own fruit. They will come under clause 7 (2.) and pay exactly the same levy as is paid by the majority of growers, who will pay through the packing house.
– Does the Minister know what percentage of growers do their own packing?
-I will write to the honourable senator. I cannot give that information to him off-hand.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 31 March (vide page 694), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That me Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a secondtime.
Clauses 1 to 7 - by leave - taken together.
– I refer to clause 4, which reads:
The provisions of this Actthat apply to and in relation to proprietors of packing houses bind the Crown in right of a State.
Undoubtedly, that is legal terminology. Could the Minister indicate what is meant by that wording? While he is obtaining an explanation of that clause. I will refer to clause 6, the side heading of which reads:
Liability of packer in respect of levy of another.
I ask the Minister to explain to the Committee the expected method of collecting the levy. He has given some indication of it. A question was raised in my mind as to sub-clause (4.), which reads:
The proprietor of a packing house may, notwithstanding any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth or any contract entered into before the commencement of this Act, refuse to receive into his packing house dried fruits on which levy may become payable unless the grower of the dried fruits first provides the proprietor with the funds necessary for the due payment, on behalf of the grower, of that levy.
I have attempted to envisage what that sub-clause means, butI ask the Minister to give the Committee an explanation of it.
– The provision in clause 4 is really made for some future occasion, in case the situation envisaged ever arises. It applies to the situation in which there is a State government owned packing house. I understand that at the present time no State government owned packing houses are operating. But, as this is a new Bill and as things can change from time to time, it was considered that a State government owned packing house might come into operation. If it did, it would come under clause 4 and would be subject to the levyin the same way as any other packing house would be.
– Are the words ‘bind the Crown in right of a State’ intended to mean that?
– I understand so.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 8. (1.) The following amounts may be recovered by the Commonwealth as debts due to the Commonwealth:
– On behalf of the Opposition,I move the following amendment:
Leave out sub-clause (2.).
We believe that this is an obnoxious subclause which strikes right at the fundamentals of justice. If my understanding of it is correct, it means that an officer may go on to a property and, on the basis of his own observations, make an averment or statement, and then that is unable to be challenged by anybody. If that is the case, surely it is entirely wrong for a provision of that nature to be in any Bill whatsoever.
I recall that on one occasion I raised in this chamber an incident in which security officers, customs officers and State police officers journeyed about 200 miles outside of Brisbane to an egg producing farm. There was some difficulty. The egg producer had failed to pay a levy. The provisions of the Crimes Act, I believe it was on that occasion, were invoked. What could be the situation with a provision of this nature in the Bill? Any of those people, working as individuals or working collectively, could go on to a producer’s property and make a statement or averment, and then that would not be open to challenge. In those circumstances the producer is in a most invidious position. I am surprised that members of the Country Party, in whose favour this legislation is directed, accept a provision such as this.
Let me take it a step further. We must look at the possible consequences. If the person who goes on to the property to make the inspection bears a grudge against the producer, it is likely that his averment will be coloured in his favour and will not be in accordance with the facts. I ask the Minister to take these matters into consideration. I believe that if he does that he will see the serious repercussions that could arise as a result of this sub-clause. Accordingly, the Opposition opposes the inclusion of this sub-clause and I have moved an amendment to have it deleted from the Bill.
– The Opposition is asking that this clause toe deleted. The Government does not believe that it should be deleted. If the honourable senator looks at the purpose of the Bill he will see that it is designed to provide research levies for the industry purposes. In other words, the industry has said to the Government: ‘If we provide a certain amount of money from our production we can use it for industry research’. This is not a tax levied by the Commonwealth Government and paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The industry having put this request to the Government, the Government has said: *Yes, we agree with you and we will make a contribution on a SI for $1 basis’.
I think the honourable senator will agree that it is only fair that if one is producing the fruit mentioned in the Bill and is reaping the benefits of the research that is done in the industry, then one should make a contribution towards the cost of that research. For that reason there are certain enforcement provisions in the Bill. We all recognise that there are degrees of enforcement. If the industry wanted a large number of inspectors to stand outside the packing sheds and check every vehicle coming in, there would be no need for the enforcement provisions in the Bill. We could go further. If we had more inspectors we could have them at the vineyards watching the cases of fruit being put on the trucks to be taken to the packing sheds, but the cost would be so prohibitive that the Government would not enter such a research scheme as this. That is why the clause in question is in the Bill. The Government believes that it is desirable and that it should be retained.
– Can the Minister go further? We agree entirely with the provisions of the Bill which require all who reap any benefit from the research to contribute to the cost of that research by way of levy, but the Minister did not answer my question. An officer may go on to a property and make an averment or a statement which cannot be challenged. Am I correct in that interpretation of the sub-clause? If I am, will the Minister indicate accordingly. The basis of our complaint is that the averment or statement can be used by the Government or by anyone in authority, and the person against whom the averment or statement is made has no reasonable chance of challenging it.
– I enter the debate to answer some of the questions raised by Senator Milliner. He may not understand what happens. The averment under notice is not an averment made by an inspector when he enters upon a property. It is an averment made in an information. The procedure varies from State to State but the averment is contained either in the information or in the complaint at the initial proceedings. As a rule, it is a matter which comes within the scope of summary jurisdiction. All it means is that what is stated can be rebutted by knowledge which only the defendant has. The averment is not absolute proof. When it comes into court it can be disputed easily by the defendant producing his receipt and that is the end of the action.
Averments are common in prosecution proceedings where the evidence to rebut what is averred is most easily obtained by the defendant. He has that knowledge within himself. To cite an easy example of how averments apply, there is a provision in the traffic legislation in Western Australia which relates to an averment in a complaint that a person’s motor vehicle is unlicensed. In Western Australia we have the peculiar situation in which there could be up to 200 licensing authorities. For the prosecution to prove that my vehicle is unlicensed it would have to provide evidence from 200 licensing authorities that my vehicle was not licensed with one of them. Surely it is reasonable that 1 should bc able to go along with my licence and say: ‘You are wrong.” If I cannot do that, it is too bad. The whole process of averment is often in (he defendant’s favour because if the prosecution had to go through the formal proving of every piece of evidence it could run the defendant literally into thousands of dollars in costs if the prosecution succeeded.
The averments referred to in the Bill are in relation only to the levy which is payable in accordance with the provisions of clause 6. We are talking about the amount payable by way of penalty. I imagine, in my simplicity, i w if the defendant is not guilty he would have a document in a simple form, such as a receipt, to prove it.
– What if he has lost it?
– He can always get a duplicate or take out a subpoena on the person who issued the receipt to produce a duplicate. These are not difficult proceedings. I think Senator Milliner misunderstands what is meant by the words ‘averment or statement in the complaint’. I imagine the word ‘statement’ is used because some Slates use ‘statement’ instead of “averment’, and some States use ‘information’ while others use ‘complaint’, lt is a matter of terminology within the various State jurisdictions, ft must be understood that the averment or statement is the matter which is averred or stated in the information or complain! which commences the action. It is always required that a matter which is averred must be within the knowledge of the defendant and which he can rebut easily and simply. For those reasons ] intend to support the Bill.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party opposes the amendment and supports the Bill as presented for the reasons which have been adduced by Senator Withers. It is common for matters of the kind under notice to be included in Bills and Acts of this character. I have before me a list of cognate Acts in which the evidentiary situation of the averment is relied upon. For example, there is the Chicken Meat Levy Collection Act, the Honey Levy Collection Act, the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Act, the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act, the Butter Fat Levy Act, the Canning Fruit Charge Administration Act and the Dried Vine Fruits Contributory Charges Act. They indicate that this is a common practice.
The fact that it is in other Acts of a cognate nature does not necessarily justify its being in this or any other Act. Nevertheless, obviously there is a good reason why it should appear in a statute of this nature as has been suggested by Senator Withers. One can imagine, for example, that it might be necessary for a person to hold a permit of some kind from a local authority. If the prosecution had to establish that a person did not hold such a permit or licence or entitlement, it would have to prove that in relation to every local authority in Australia whereas it lies particularly within the competence of the defendant to adduce evidence from his own knowledge, within his own possession, that he holds such permit or licence or entitlement. As Senator Withers said, that would be to his financial advantage, would make for easy proof or disproof and is a very convenient method of administration. This is the most minor type of averment. The clause does not say that the averment shall be conclusive evidence or anything of that nature, lt merely says that it shall be evidence which is, perhaps, an averment at the most minimal level. As I have said, we oppose the amendment and support the Bill.
– We have heard two different explanations of the inclusion of this averment clause. One came from the Minister who said, as 1 understood him, that it was included in order to be fair and so that everyone would have to pay the levy. Frankly, I could nol follow that argument. Senator Milliner agreed that we do not want some people 1o pay and others not. We do not want to pass a law like that. The defence offered by the two honourable senators who are lawyers. Senator Withers and Senator Byrne, is the classic defence. Of course, averments are lawyers” dreams, particularly lazy lawyers. If they can make averments it is much easier for them to prosecute or to handle a case.
– What was that about lazy lawyers?
– I said: ‘Particularly lazy lawyers’. I did not say that you were particularly vehement in putting your view forward.
– What about lazy politicians?
– 1 see lazy politicians; I am looking right at one. We should always challenge the inclusion of averment provisions. Their inclusion has been challenged many times in this Parliament. It is true, as Senator Byrne said, that they have slipped through. He commented recently about having regulations and not instruments in writing. He said, quite correctly in my opinion, that he was worried about this piecemeal approach. I think he implied that that sort of thing should not be included in legislation. For that very good reason I suggest that averment provisions should be wiped out of all legislation. Surely, if you walk up to a person and say: 1 aver that you are 75 years of age and 1 am going to hold that against you in some way’, it is simple for the person concerned to produce his birth certificate. He has that right and the fact is within his knowledge. That is something which should be within his knowledge only. I do not think people can go round getting people’s birth certificates.
I have not been convinced by the two honourable senators who supported the Minister, because they contradicted him. Those were not the reasons he gave for the inclusion of averment provisions. I am not convinced that this is such a simple matter. To use the words of Senator Byrne, I am not convinced that we should have averment provisions because they are a convenient method of administration. That is not sufficient reason. If we drafted all legislation with a view to having convenient methods of administration - all civil servants look for it - vastly different legislation would be passed in this place from that which we have examined so closely from time to time. If the averment is simply a matter of stating your name and age, that is one thing. In this case I do not believe it is so simple. If a matter comes to court, then the onus should be on the shoulders of the prosecution to say what levy or charge a person has to pay. Honourable senators on the Government side say it is easy for a person to prove that he did not sell a certain amount or that he should not have to pay a certain levy. I say it is just as simple and just as administratively convenient for the prosecution to have to deal with these matters. I support the amendment moved by Senator Milliner.
– The question that arises in my mind as a result of what Senator Willesee said is this: How would the Crown prove that certain levies had not been paid if all it could produce were books showing the absence of such a record? To my mind, to place the full onus of proof on the Crown in this matter would perhaps be more undesirable, for the purpose of the administration of the Act, than to require the grower concerned to produce evidence that he had paid. It would be much simpler for the grower to produce the evidence than for the Crown to prove, in a negative sense, that there was no record of payment in the books. From the point of view of the Crown, this could not be a very satisfactory means of proving the case. On balance, I think it would be impractical in this sort of situation to have other than the process set out in the Bill.
– There is on old saying in law that he who asserts must prove. This means that if somebody goes into any court in the land and says that somebody owes him money, that person must establish his case. If a person says that somebody did him an injury, he must establish the case. That is the basic law of the land and it should not be interfered with except for very exceptional reasons, and any interference with it should be confined within very strict limits. Senator Prowse just asked how the Crown goes about proving certain matters. The Crown is given exceptional remedies in this case. It is endowed with some criminal procedures - procedures where the sanction is the criminal law. Clause 10 of the Bill states:
Where 3 person is, at the commencement of this Act, carrying on business as the proprietor of a packing house, he shall, within fourteen days after the commencement of this Act, inform the Secretary in writing that he is so carrying on business and shall furnish to the Secretary such information with respect to the packing house’ as the Secretary requires.
There is a similar provision for a person who commenced such a business after the commencement of the legislation. Under criminal penalty, that person can be asked to supply to the Secretary any information about the packing house which the Secretary requires, and he must supply it. Surely, if the Crown has that special advantage and comes along afterwards and says that such a person owes it money, it is reasonable to suppose that the Crown should prove the case. But in this Bill, without any limit, there is an averment provision. Those who have studied this provision may be more familiar with it thanI am,but what is to stop somebody coming alone after a few years and saying: Look, the Crown avers That 10years ago your business was conducted in such a way that you owe us $9,500 for that year’.
– Surely the Statute of Limitations must apply.
– Does the honourable senator suggest to me that the limitation in respect of the Crown has in some way been departed from in this regard? I suggest to him, with respect, that that is not so. Even if it were so and we could go back only 6years, it would notbe altogether satisfactory that the Crown could simply aver that 6 years ago a person owed$9,500 and 5 years ago he owed $7,862, and then to put the onus uponthat person to prove that he did not owe those sums. There is no limit to this provision. The Crown is not seeking to say in an averment that a person did not have a licence or some other specific thing. The Bill states:
In proceedings for the recovery of an amount referred to inthe last preceding sub-section, an averment or statement in the complaint, claim or declaration ofthe plaintiff is evidence of the matter so averred or stated.
There is no qualification and no restriction. It is evidence and it. puts the onus upon the person proceeded against.
This is a very alarming provision to be introduced into the civil law. This is not a basic principle related to the approaches of the various political parlies.I suggestto Government supporters and to others that they think about the matter. Little provisions like this are creeping into our legislation again and again and I think they are wrong. Instead of regarding this in some party political way, examine these things. If honourable senators on the Government side do this I think that many of them also will come to the conclusion that these things are most unsatisfactory and should not be encouraged.If the Government wants an averment provision to cover a simple proposition, such as saying that somebody did or did not have a licence in order to save gathering a great number of papers, include it in the legislation.I can see the sense of doing that. Such a provision exists in a number of other Acts. We are not saying that a certificate from the Secretary stating that somebody did or did not have a licence is not a useful method of establishing that fact to the satisfaction of the court. But in this case we are considering an unlimited averment provision. With great respect, I suggest that it is unsatisfactory. It is not the kind of legislation which should be passed. A pattern is being established and honourable senators realise what happens with such patterns.I believe that the legislation ought notto contain such an unlimited provision, changing the basic law of the community against the citizens and in favour of the Crown.
– I think the point at issue may be getting out of proportion. Let us look at the situation from a practical point of view. Inthe dried fruits industry about 95 per cent of growers deliver to a packing shed and receive a receipt for the amount of fruit delivered. In due course they receive a statement setting out the amount of fruit and a deduction for the levy. The sort of averment we are discussing will not affect very many growers.
– In other words, an assessment is not given by a person who lays a charge. It is merely a statement that the assessment was made at the time and point of delivery.It is an averment of what took place. It is an averment that on a certain day fruit was delivered in a certain quantity and certain sums of money were remitted. It is an averment of a fact.
– I was trying to say that if someone came along to a grower and inquired about the amount of fruit he produced he would be able to show a piece of paper setting out a certain amount of fruit.
– A receipt was issued, and that is all.
– That is all it is. If that person then wishes to take the grower to court he will be wasting someone’s money. But it would not get to that stage, so that it does not affect the ordinary grower. As to the packing houses, they ha.ve receipts which they can tender. I should point out that an inspector does not make a visit every day, every month or every year. Spot checks are made from time to time. At one particular factory 2 years may elapse between checks. It could be that long.
– What does the inspector do in his spare time?
Senator Byrne mentioned, he has plenty of other industries to check. They look after other industries besides the dried fruits industry. Their duties relate to the industries in respect of which such legislation has been passed. They have plenty to do. If an inspector visits a factory and asks to look at the books, evidence is available to show him. If an inspector finds a discrepancy in the quantity delivered to the factory amounting to, say, 1,000 cases of fruit, he will then say: ‘Where did you get the thousand cases of fruit for which you have not accounted?’ The factory owner is then required to produce proof. There may have been a fire at the next factory down the river. The manager of that factory may have said: ‘Will you take my fruit?’ No doubt in that case there would be evidence and no more questions would be asked. This is the matter we are really dealing with - an instance of an inspector periodically visiting a factory and asking to see the books. Senator Murphy seemed to try to develop a legal wrangle out of the point. Similar provisions are implemented in other legislation to which Senator Byrne referred.
– I am not really satisfied with what the Minister has said. I. am disturbed that the provision covers the operations of packers and individual growers. I think the Minister said that about 15 per cent of growers do not supply through packing houses.
– I said less than 5 per cent.
– I would still be disturbed if the number was only 1 per cent. We are trying to look at this from the viewpoint of everybody. An individual grower who is providing fruit to a packing house will be covered because there will be a record of everything entering the packing house. We are concerned about the individual grower who does not dispose of his fruit through a packing house. He will not have any record. In his case there may be an averment and that is what disturbs us. Someone will make an estimate which will become evidence. It will be extremely difficult for the grower to prove or disprove an averment that is made. We want to cover that point, even if only 1 per cent of growers are affected.
The disturbing feature is that there is no guarantee that such evidence can be refuted by a grower or upheld by the Government. Proof is difficult on that basis. I do not believe that the provision is necessary. In the case of a packing house there is a signed document in respect of goods brought into it. There is no need for a statement or averment to be made by an officer. An inspection of the books is sufficient to discover what a particular grower has supplied. We envisage that the provision will apply only in the difficul* situation of a grower who is not supplying a packing house. I would be pleased to have the Minister cover that point.
– - J said earlier that less than 5 per cent of growers deliver fruit packed by themselves. Senator Wilkinson is a farmer. If he sold a certain number of bales of wool privately 1 believe that he would be able to show evidence of the number sold in that way. A grower who packs his fruit himself must sell it somewhere and he would have an indication of how much fruit he sold. An inspector from the Department of Primary Industry would almost certainly know which growers pack their own fruit. He would expect them to send in returns to the Department. If the growers failed to send in returns I suggest that they would get a reminder notice. If they ignored the reminder an insepctor might appear on their properties and ask to see their books. In such a case all a grower has to do is produce his returns and the inspector would then say: ‘You had better hurry up with your levy contributions.’ That would be the end of it.
– I cannot let the matter end there. In good faith a grower may say: ‘I have provided so much dried fruit.’ An inspector could say: ‘We have been watching your place and we think you have a lot more fruit than you have given us information about. I aver that 10 per cent more fruit came from your place than you have given me information about.’ That is evidence, and that is what concerns me.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Milliner’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Penalty: Two hundred dollars. (2.) A prosecution for an offence against this section may be commenced at any time within 5 years after the commission of the offence.
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
It may be necessary for me to go back to the debate which took place when the Broadcasting and Television Bill was before the Senate some 2 months ago. On that occasion the Opposition proposed that the period of time prescribed in a particular provision should be extended rather than reduced. In case honourable senators on the Government side say that we are being inconsistent, let me explain that the circumstances under the Broadcasting and Television Bill were entirely different. On that occasion we put forward the example of someone being convicted while absent overseas and learning of the conviction when he returned. If he had evidence to prove that the conviction was wrongful he could then proceed to have that conviction discharged. The reason why we moved that amendment was to give that person an opportunity to clear his name if the evi dence justified such action.
Clause 11 of the Bill presently before us reads: (2.) A prosecution for an offence against this section may be commenced at any time within 5 years after the commission of the offence.
I hope I am not deliberately misinterpreting the Minister, but I understood him to say that a fruit grower would take his fruit to the packing shed and would be given a receipt for it but that there may be some suspicion that he had more fruit than he had declared and in such a case an inspector could examine his books. What would happen if the fruit grower had lost his books in the intervening period? There could have been a fire in his home; there could have been a robbery in his home; there could have been any set of circumstances which would justify an explanation that his records had been destroyed. He would be put in an impossible position in seeking to justify the claim that had been made originally. The Minister for Air shakes his head. I would dearly love to have a copy of the Hansard in which the Minister’s remarks are recorded. As 1 said, I hope I am not deliberately misinterpreting what he said, but it is my firm belief that this is what he said in essence.
Irrespective of that, the Bill provides that a person shall keep the records for 5 years. We are nol dealing with major organisations: we are dealing with fruit growers who are probably employed on their own behalf and who are not really accustomed to keeping all types of records. They are not managing big businesses, and yet the provisions of this Bill put them in a position where an inspector, if he believes an offence has been committed, can go in and examine the books within 5 years, and his averment will be accepted. I will not dwell on that aspect of the argument again. 1 repeat that it appears to the Opposition that a period of 5 years is far too long, particularly when the records in the possession of the grower have been destroyed. The 12-month period suggested in the amendment is probably too long but, nevertheless, in an effort lo reach some agreement on the matter we ask that the words ‘5 years’ be deleted and that the words ‘12 months’ be inserted in lieu thereof.
-In a sense the provision allowing for the commencement of a prosecution at any lime within 5 years after the commission of an offence is necessary for the administration of legislation of this nature. We must concede that a heavy administrative responsibility devolves upon those who are required to provide the inspectorial services for the great number of places to be inspected in a necessarily limited time. Therefore a very grave problem could arise if inspectors make their inspections and discover that they are out of the legal time in which to institute proceedings. This is the difficulty which faces the Department of Primary Industry, which has a limited staff, a large area of inspectorial responsibility and a large number of units to be inspected. We must also concede the right of the persons concerned. They should not remain legally vulnerable for an undue period merely because of the limited administrative abilities of the inspectorial and prosecuting departments, lt is between those two positions that a way must be found.
The proposition presented by the amendment seems to me to mean that unless the staff were expanded greatly, any of the inspectorial provisions of the statute would be negatived completely and rendered totally nugatory because, if proceedings can be brought only within 12 months after the offence is committed and if inspectors do not have sufficient time to inspect units in 12 months, the person who is in deeply would escape completely free and without the possibility of a penalty being imposed upon him. That would nullify absolutely all the inspectorial provisions and the provisions requiring the audit of levies to be paid. That is one side of the argument. Can we discover an intermediate period which, on the one hand, would reasonably satisfy the just entitlements of the persons who will be mulcted wilh the levy and, on the other, the reasonable administrative responsibilities of the department concerned? For those reasons 1 suggest that the Government and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) might be good enough to look at this provision again.
I think - and it is the opinion of my Party - that a term of 5 years is altogether too long to have a person in a condition of legal vulnerability and required to keep his records for that length of time, in case an inspector calls, so that he can justify the deduction of the levy. I would ask the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) even at this stage to have another look at the provision to consult with the departmental officers and to obtain their advice bearing in mind the periodic inspection of units, the availability of staff without any undue increase in staff and the regularity of inspection they could say what they think might be the minimum period to which they can reduce the term of legal vulnerability, whether it be from 5 years, to 4, 3 or 2 years. I ask the Minister to be good enough to consult with his advisers to see whether they might look further al this provision. My Party, recognising the difficulties of the Department and acknowledging the entitlements of the people concerned, might be prepared to accept such a compromise term based on a fair assessment of the rights and responsibilities of the 2 parties concerned. I commend that proposition to the Minister who might be good enough to give his advice to the Senate at this stage and, if necessary, to defer further the consideration of the Bill to enable my suggestion to be carried out.
– Whilst sympathising to some extent with some of the points that Senator Byrne has made, 1 think one thing should not be overlooked. This Bill deals with the collection of a levy from the growers to help their industry. Honourable senators opposite are querying the term of 5 years for the commencement of a prosecution for an offence. A comparison was made between the position here and the position in relation to the Post and Telegraph Bill. The 2 positions are entirely different. Under the Post and Telegraph Bill somebody is served with a warrant because he had been avoiding the payment of his licence fees. Such people were given a period of 5 years for their own protection because they might have been away, particularly overseas. Under this Bill it could be that, because of a shortage of inspectors, regular inspections might not have been able to be carried out. As the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) said earlier, we should not load the industry with the cost of having too many inspectors. If we do, there will be very little benefit left for the industry itself. A grower may have been avoiding the payment of his levy for 3, 4, 5, 6. 7 or even 8 years. It may be that in the seventh or eighth year, to take an extreme case, the Department of Primary Industry finds this fellow who has not been paying his levy.
– That is a long time.
– Well, we shall keep to the 5 years. He may not have met his commitment for the previous 5 years. If the period is limited to 1 year, the inspectors cannot look even at the previous year. This fellow has had a ride on the industry’s back for 5 years. He has had all the benefits. On this point alone it is necessary to have a substantial period of time. Nearly all growers are willing to accept their responsibilities. One or two, for reasons best known to themselves, may not have accepted their complete responsibility. I think, in fairness to the industry, all should pay the levy. They are helping themselves. Therefore, all in the industry should be protected. If somebody who has avoided paying his levy for a number of years is detected, inspectors should have the right to search his books, to say that he has dodged paying a large amount of levy and that he should pay his levy. 1 support the Bill.
– I wish to take a few minutes to reply firstly to Senator Milliner. He referred to the grower who, because of fire or some similar happening lost his receipts for his fruit. I think the simple answer to that problem is for the grower to ask the company or packing house for duplicates. I deal now with clause .ti. I point out to the Senate that the Government has already made a concession in relation to this clause. If one looks at other research legislation one finds that the equivalent clause states that a prosecution may be commenced at any time. The Government, recognising the Senate’s views on similar matters, thought that it would look very carefully at the situation, and it did so. The Government finally decided that it could make this legislation work by making the period 5 years. Now the Australian Labor Party says that this is not good enough; that the period should be reduced to 12 months. I believe thu! 12 months is far too short a period. T give my reasons, which are these: In speaking on a previous clause I said that an inspector does spot checks at infrequent intervals. He might not go near a factory for 12, 15 or 1.8 months. A period of 12 months is far too short.
Senator Byrne said that he recognised that fact but that he believed that the Government should still shorten the period. I do not know whether he suggested a period, but he said that he thought that 5 years was far too long and that the inspectors should be able to inspect these packing houses or, in some cases, the premises of individual growers before that and that if prosecutions were to be commenced the Government should commence them before the 5 years had expired. Senator Byrne went on to suggest that I should have a look at the situation and consult with the officers and advisers of the Department of Primary Industry as well as the Minister for Primary Industry.
As members of all political parties in this chamber have expressed their disquiet about this matter, I thinkI should give it further consideration. In view of the circumstances pertaining at the present time I think the most appropriate course to adopt is to move that progress be reported.
Statement by Chairman
– by leave - As honourable senators will be well aware,I am Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, which was appointed pursuant to a resolution of this chamber. As the Senate is the House of the States, I have always considered it appropriate that, in dealing with references to the Committee by the Senate. I should consult with the sovereign Stales in relation to matters on which there may be some dispute as to jurisdiction.
This morning, as a result of a resolution by the Select Committee on Securities and Exchange.I made a public announcement to the effect that it was the intention of the Committeeto call 4 witnesses front Western Australia. I made this announcement shortly before the adjournment of a meeting of the Committee at one o’clock this afternoon. At five past one this afternoon I received a telephone call from the Attorney-General of Western Australia in relat ion to the area of jurisdiction.I then mads a public statement at a quarter past two t h is afternoon which I consider it is proper that I should report to the Senate. I said that after considering a request from the Attorney-General of Western Australia at five minutes past one the Committee had decided that it would not now require the attendance of certain witnesses tomorrow. I went onto say that the Committee would later announce whether it would call the witnesses at a later date.
In consultation with the AttorneyGeneral of Western Australia. I added the following sentence:
The Attorney-General of Western Australia and the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Committee of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia agree that this action is without prejudice to the powers of the Senate.
That is the end of the statement. I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30 March (vide page 621), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Senatetakenote of the statement.
– I believe it is the intention at this stage, in the remaining half an hour of today’s sitting, to debate the statement which was made on 30th March this year by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on the withdrawal of Australian forces from Vietnam. Following a visit to Vietnam by the new Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton) the Government announced that Australia intendedto withdraw some 1,000 of her troops from Vietnam, leaving 2 combat battalions totalling some 6,000 troops in Vietnam. The Prime Minister said that the withdrawal of the 1,000 troops would be conducted over a period of 4 to 6 months and would commence in May. Therefore, if we can accept his statement at least 6,000 Australian troops will remain in Vietnam until November. One formed the opinion from Press reports that the combat forces of the United States of America would be withdrawn by the end of May of this year. If this happens Australia will be one of the few countries with combat forces left in Vietnam. The stage is being reached where our forces will be denied the necessary security of supporting forces as a result of the type of withdrawal which is to take place. It was only in 1968, after the Tet offensive, that the then Prime Minister stated that it was impossible to have a partial withdrawal of our troops in Vietnam - it had to be one out all out - because it would be dangerous to the small force which Australia had in Vietnam to withdraw some of the troops. Although this risk still remains, we find that some of the supporting troops of our forces in Vietnam are to be withdrawn.
The war in Vietnam has been costly to those nations which entered the conflict in a misguided effort to save someone or some principle. A report in the Press this week indicated that it had cost the lives of some 900,000 South Vietnamese, American and Allied servicemen in Vietnam. To suppress a small country of some 1 1 million people we have used three times the weight of bombs which were used in the First World War. Nowhere in Vietnam have the Americans left a good impression. Whilst it has been claimed that the stage has been reached where fighting can continue without the use of American ground forces, not nearly enough territory has been captured to make peace possible. American troops are being withdrawn only because the South Vietnamese have been sufficiently organised and trained to continue the war with American aerial support and advisers. We have not made any progress geographically nor have we made any progress towards the main objective of winning the hearts and minds of the people of Vietnam.
The Vietnam was has never been supported by the Australian Labor Party. It has been termed a dirty, filthy, immoral war in which we have no right to participate and sacrifice the lives of our young men. The Australian Labor Party has not been alone in this attitude. We find support has come even from those progressive elements in South Vietnam which wish that they could be left in peace to settle their own affairs and which believe that Vietnam should be left for the Vietnamese. 1 am indebted to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) for supplying me with a translation of a declaration by the Liaison Committee of Peace Forces in Vietnam on the Intrusion of South Vietnamese Troops into Laotian Territory, which had been supplied to him by Don Luce, the representative of the World Council of Churches in Saigon and a Leading peace campaigner.
The organisations which supported he declaration were the People’s Front Struggling for Peace; Saigon Student Union; Van Hanh Student Union, of the Buddhist University in Saigon; Buddhist Student Association; Women’s Movement for the Right to Live; Movement for the Right to Live of Children and Orphans who are Victims of the War; Union of Private School Teachers; Unified Progressive Labor Forces; Progressive Cao Dai Scho lars Group, the Cao Dai being an important religious group; Minh Duc People’s Movement; National Progressive Force; Struggle Committee for the People’s Right to Live; Tin Sang Group, ‘Tiri Sang’ being the largest newspaper, the words meaning morning news’; and People’s Self Determination Group. All these organisations met in Saigon and carried the following resolution:
While the Vietnamese people are very miserable and wretched as a result of the inhuman war which has lasted over 20 years; while people throughout the world arc strongly criticising the cruel war being waged in this part of our land particularly and the doctrine of imperialist invasion generally; while the peace lovers in Vietnam as well as throughout the world are trying to make initiatives and efforts to stop the war and restore peace; President Nguyen Van Thieu, on February g, 1971, officially sent the Vietnamese young people into the Laotian battlefield in order to carry out Nixon’s goal: ‘Use Asians to kill Asians.’
The Liaison Committee of Peace Forces in Vietnam proclaims that: The action of landing troops to intrude into Laotian territory violated rudely the Geneva Agreement of 1954 on Indo China, the Geneva Agreement of 1962 on L;os, and seriously violated the international laws on the principle of respecting the territory of any nation. The action of intruding into Laotian territory is obviously aimed at widening the war, revealing once more the warlike nature of the Nguyen Van Thieu government which always uses the citizens’ lives to serve its own interests. The action of sending Vietnamese troops into Laos in order to decrease the loss of American forces, as is President Nixon’s declaration, reveals the submissive nature of Nguyen Van Thieu’s government, using the lives of Vietnamese young men as cannon fodder for the American expeditionary soldiers in Indo China. The action of widening the war of invasion into Laos reveals once more the savage ambition of the United States Government, using the native servants of undeveloped nations to kill each other, serving the interests of the imperialist state. The Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese peoples are only the miserable victims.
From the above observations, wc solemnly declare that: We strongly oppose the action of sending troops to Laos by the government of Nguyen Van Thieu because it contrasts with the aspirations of the Vietnamese people and with the human ideals of peace, liberty and justice. We completely support the Laotian people’s standpoint of opposing the intrusion of Laotian territory by the South Vietnamese Army. We ask for the immediate withdrawal of ail the troops which are intruding into Laotian territory. Simultaneously, we also appeal to withdraw all the expeditionary soldiers in Cambodia to save Vietnamese lives and create a good opportunity for the search for peace. The United States Government should withdraw at once all its expeditionary troops out of Indo China and stop ail elkins at widening the war and obstructing the restoration of peace though disguised in any form.
This declaration was made on 1 5th February 1971. In it we see that the people and organisations of Saigon are expressing opposition to the expansion of the war within their territory.
The war in Vietnam has been made more difficult because at no time since the invasion of Vietnam have the foreign invading forces received any support from the local Vietnamese population. We have now reached the stage where, for political reasons, the Australian Government is making a gesture by withdrawing 1,000 troops. But Australia is one of the few nations which has troops remaining in Vietnam. The New Zealand Government has announced its intention to withdraw its troops from Vietnam at a very early dale. We have seen reports in today’s newspapers that President Nixon finds now that he can accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. We have received notification also that the United States ground forces are to be removed from Vietnam at a much earlier date than Australian ground forces.
Australia was the only country which voluntarily and’ readily came to the assistance of the United States in the Vietnamese war. and it did so for internal political reasons. The Foreign Relations SubCommittee of the United States Senate has published information showing payments made by the United States to other nations in return for propping up American morale by sending their troops to Vietnam. The United States payment to Korea for this purpose was $l,000m: the payment lo Thailand was $200m; and the payment to the Philippines was SI 4m. That is the price that the United States has been prepared to pay in order to demonstrate that it has the support of the free nations of Asia.
We have known all along that Australia’s purpose in sending troops to Vietnam was to boost the morale of the Americans, particularly the American population at home in the United States, and to show that there was support for American action, ft has been for this reason, rather than for what our 8,000 troops could achieve in jungle warfare in Vietnam, that our troops have been sent to Vietnam. The invading forces have moved through Vietnam destroying life and agriculture, and causing a destruction of the way of life of the Vietnamese people. There has been further invasion of the adjoining countries of Cambodia and Laos. The attempt to invade Laos was disastrous. Australian troops in Vietnam have made no impression. They have made no advances, nor have they won any friends.
The battle over the ideology that will control the future government of Vietnam still has to be fought, lt will be fought after the Americans and the Australians have left the country. The Vietnamese problem is a Vietnamese problem to be settled by the Vietnamese. This is not new. This is what we have been saying from this side of the chamber since Australians went into Vietnam. We have reached the stage where we have completely upset the old. high principled theories that we have always been the goodies in warfare and that we have always fought on high principles and for an ideal, and not on the basis of the rape, murder and invasion of another country.
The much discussed finding of guilt in the case of Lieutenant Calley over the My Lai massacre shows that in the American Army - an Army we are supporting - there can be terrorism, murder and massacre as great as we thought in the past belonged only to the enemies we were fighting. Whilst one of the lower ranking officers has been found guilty, as today’s ‘Australian’ reports the defence counsel for Calley as saying, this man was following his teachers’ instructions - kill, kill, kill. That has been his whole military instruction by America. Today’s ‘Australian’ points out, I think very pertinently, that there are 2 questions. If Calley was following instructions and carrying out Army policy, is he the sole guilty person and should others be on trial for the massacre that occurred at My Lai? Sam Lipski’s article in today’s ‘Australian’ states:
Critics of American involvement in Vietnam are now asking if men like Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Walt Rostow, Richard Nixon. Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird and William Rogers are guilty of war crimes under the Nuremberg definitions.
In Australia we had the judgment of a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales who commented, in relation to an individual who had murdered someone at a motel, that his whole training for the past
Future of Australian 5 years had been a training to kill. Someone has to be the scapegoat for the whole system that we put into operation. The American public is divided on the question: ‘Whilst it is a lower ranking officer who has been found guilty, should we have a complete revision?’
Another question has also been posed. America, by finding this lieutenant guilty of his own action at My Lai, has established an acceptance of the Nuremberg trials principle that the individual is responsible for his own conscience and his own action. He cannot put on to someone else the blame for something he does which amounts to a crime under the laws of his country. Whilst the killing of an armed enemy in battle is excused, if he kills when killing is not necessary he is guilty of the crime of murder and is entitled to receive the death penalty, no matter what the cause was or what his instructions were, and he cannot place responsibility for it on someone else. lt also brings up this question: If this can be the fate of a lieutenant in the Army, what is the position of the bomber pilots who, with no knowledge of military targets, drop bombs on villages and create more devastation and more loss of life than did Lieutenant Calley, who has been found guilty of the killing of 22 people?
– They even drop them on friendly villages and kill the population.
– They even drop them on friendly villages. Under the Nuremberg trials principle, this is now the question: ls such a pilot of such a bomber guilty? He no longer has the defence that he was acting under instructions from higher authorities. He no longer has the defence that he was carrying out military instructions. Dropping a bomb on a populated area, such as a street, where it will kill innocent civilians, is thought by some people not to be justified now, in view of the recent trial of Lieutenant Calley.
There is another question which must concern those who are interested in the future defence of any country. As has been stated, it is unlikely that anyone will volunteer to join an Army in which his
Forces in Vietnam 731 actions may bring a death sentence upon himself and in which he has no defence that he was acting on instructions, ft is unlikely that anyone would voluntarily put himself in the position of joining the Army knowing that he may be found guilty of causing the death of somebody other than under the normal requirements of military action. In the excitement of the time, a person may do something which may bring him within the bounds of being charged with murder. No person - especially a person 20 years of age - knows how he would react on the tense scene of battle, when he has seen friends, companions or mates shot down by someone who appeared to be only on an errand. While it is a case of a life for a life and a struggle for survival, a person is justified in using a gun in his own defence.
There is this enemy that we have been creating. Calley said in his evidence: ‘To me, they were not human beings; they were enemies’. Calley was a normal boy. He was brought up normally. He had no killer instinct before the American Army indoctrinated him into this psychology that everyone with slanted eyes in Vietnam was a pest that should be destroyed. This is brought about, as stated in evidence, by statements such as: ‘You have seen your mates or companions killed not only by armed soldiers but by women and children who carry bombs’. So, we see the creation of this hatred. How would anyone going into the Army react in such a situation? No-one knows how he would react. The willingness of people to volunteer in the future will be greatly reduced by their being placed in a position in which, although it will be essential to kill a person, in doing so they will lay themselves open to the possibility of being found guilty of committing the crime of murder.
It is claimed that there is great difficulty in obtaining volunteers so it is necessary to have conscription. When a young man is faced with the alternative of refusing to be conscripted and spending 2 years in a civilian gaol within Australia, or perhaps reacting to the situation by committing an act which would justify a charge carrying the penalty of death or life imprisonment, is it not much more preferable and much more desirable from the point of view of the 1 April 1971 young man and his parents, for himto say that he will serve the 2 years gaol, which will be less than that with the remissions that the State grants, rather than find himself in the position in which a young American lieutenant now finds himself? We have altered the whole concept of recruitment in Australia. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 April 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710401_senate_27_s47/>.