27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament’ assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids. - -
“That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next Ave years by the States for these needs. (d) That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should he amended. to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to- , Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will “be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for 78 per- cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the honourable the President and members of the’ Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth.: .
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the addition sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the Slate school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to -
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to. the States for their public education services which ‘ provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your- petitioners, as in duty , bound, will ever pray.
– J present the following petition:
To the honourable The President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established . serious deficiencies in education. ,r
That these can be summarised as lack, of classroom accommodation- desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes ‘and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional’ sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five yean by the States -for these needs. (ti) That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
Thai the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance’ Act’ 1970 should be amended to include all , the .country’s physically and mentally handicapped children. Your petitioners most humbly ‘pray that the Senate .in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to- .
Ensure that emergency finance .from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public: education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.. And your petitioners, as .in duly, bound, will ever pray.’
– As much as 1 admire the. zeal and enthusiasm of honourable senators, quite frankly I often wonder what value petitions really are and what happens to them after they are presented.
– To’ meet that comment of yours, Mr President, I seek leave to propose a motion relating to the petitions.
– 1 have an idea that there is something on the notice paper concerning the handling of petitions.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the petitions be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts.
I think that this course of action has been adopted with other petitions, lt means that the matters can be inquired into.
– The Senate sent 2 petitions to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.
– Yes, that is correct. Question resolved in the affirmative.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President; I ask: Has your attention been drawn to the editorial which appeared in the ‘Canberra News’ yesterday concerning a speech made in the other place by the honourable member for Banks, Mr Martin, on Tuesday last regarding the pay - fates and conditions of attendants employed in Parliament House? Will you, Sir, consult Mr Speaker in the other place for the purpose of discussing the pay rates and conditions of the attendants so that they can be upgraded and brought into line with the pay rates and conditions that apply to other employees in Australia?
The PRESIDENY-1 will confer with Mr Speaker on this matter. I should point out that Mr Speaker and 1 have been the ones who consistently raised wages whenever we could throughout Parliament House. Therefore, the subject matter of the honourable senator’s question is not falling on unsympathetic ears. However, I will consult Mr Speaker on this matter. I know that there are some difficulties at the moment.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the abnormally protracted negotiations between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments on the release of land on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour for park purposes’ be attributed to either the failure of the New South Wales Premier to reply promptly to a request from the former Prime Minister or the high selling price of the land that has been determined by the Commonwealth, which is in contrast with the practice followed by the Government of the United States of America in its relations with the various States in that country?
I would need to make some inquiries to obtain the background information that the honourable senator seeks. I have some reservations about his inference that the question of the value of the land could be a factor. I do not know whether it is a factor, but I should have thought that that would not have been the issue involved. I will obtain the information for the honourable senator if I can and make it available to him.
– i desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Are there persons from other countries in Australia by arrangement with the ‘ International Atomic Energy Agency? If so, when did persons connected with the Agency first enter Australia?
– J shall have to get information on that subject from. another source. I ask the honourable, senator to put his question on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister lor Supply. It relates to recent questions I have asked of him concerning the future of Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury. Is the Minister able to give any further or more up to date information at this stage as to employment prospects and the future of Woomera and the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury?
I recall the honourable senator asking a similar question previously. On that occasion, whilst I gave a short response to his question, I said that I would try to get some further information. I can say that present operations at Woomera are being conducted under a British-Australian joint project arrangement that was last reviewed in May 1968 for a period of 4 years. In March 1969 I reported that the work load up to 1972 was expected to be significantly greater than was planned when the arrangement was renewed. I think I said that previously. I am now pleased to be able to say that this trend has been confirmed in discussions recently concluded between British and Australian officials in Canberra and that we can now forsee a satisfactory work load in the years ahead to at least 1974.
I indicated on 1st April in this chamber that I had reached a general understanding with the British Minister for Technology that the arrangement should be extended for a further 2-year period through to 1974. The Government will shortly be considering the proposal for such extension in detail. We can expect therefore that employment opportunities will continue to be available at Woomera for at least the next 3 years. The load after 1974 has not been assessed, but there is no reason to believe that the range will not continue to be active and viable in the future.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that Australian mail is “not delivered in Vietnam on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays of each week? As apparently there are direct air services into this country, can the Minister advise whether Australian mail is held on a direction from the Department of Defence or on the direction of the Postmaster-General?
– 1 am not aware that there is some holdup in mail to our forces in Vietnam. I think that ali of us here who have been on overseas service appreciate the fact that the arrival of mail is a tremendously important thing. If there is no delivery of mail on these days I shall ascertain the reasons and the background to the matter and let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Housing aware that increasing numbers of young Australians are meeting extreme difficulty in obtaining housing finance? Does he know that they have been forced to obtain finance at excessive and crippling rates of interest from finance corporations, some of which are closely linked with the very banks which are refusing such finance at normal housing interest rates? Will the Government take action to alleviate this position?
– It is known, of course, that there are some young house seekers who still experience difficulty in acquiring their homes at reasonable rates of interest, despite the great contribution that was made to overcoming that problem by the Government’s policy of establishing the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, which has enabled many young couples and other people to get their housing finance at a reasonable rate of interest, without the necessity for obtaining second mortgage or bridging finance.- But I share with Senator Georges concern at the level of interest rates at the present time. I shall refer the question to .the Minister for Housing and possibly to the Treasurer in order to obtain an informed, answer on the subject. - . .
-^ Has the Minister for Health seen a report that the New , South Wales. Branch of the Austraiian Medical Association has assured the New South Wales Minister for Health that the medical profession in New South Wales will not cease home visits, but that a group of doctors at Hurstville has placed a distance restriction of lj- miles radius of the surgery on such visits? Has he also seen a statement attributed to the Secretary of the New South Branch of the Australian Medical Association that whilst he did not know of other doctors making this type of restriction, he is sure there must be some. Will the Minister agree that if any distance restrictions at all are placed by any medical practitioners on home visits, then there could well be a snowballing effect, thus depriving many contributors to medical insurance funds of their entitlement to home visits and ensuring a consequential saving to the Commonwealth and funds on refund benefits? In order to protect fully the rights of medical insurance fund contributors, will the Minister discuss with his counterpart in New South Wales - the New South Wales Minister for Health - and the Australian Medical Association this matter to ensure that all contributors to funds are not deprived of their right to receive home visits irrespective of the distance they might live, from a doctor’s surgery?
– 1 do not think I can usefully add to what J said yesterday in response to a question on the same matter asked by Senator Douglas McClelland. As I remember his question yesterday, it was based upon a belief, of which he had some confirmation, with regard to doctors in Hurstville. Thereafter his question was based on a supposition that the Commonwealth’s, interest might be aroused if the pensioner medical service was affected. I repeat that the Commonwealth’s interest in this aspect is essentially in the area of the pensioner medical service. If it would appear that doctors who are - party to the pensioner medical service are. preventing in some way pensioners, whom the Government regards as entitled: to receive the benefits of. the : pensioner medical service-, from receiving those benefits, that matter would concern this Government. The . statement made by the New South Wales Minister for Health^- I have seen Press reports, of it - indicates the concern of the State Government In regard to this matter which., primarily, is a State Government matter. I am not prepared to give the assurance that the honourable senator has asked for - that any restriction by doctors notwithstanding the distance they may have to travel would be a bad thing - because one cannot impose on doctor’s the obligation to travel from one end of the city to the other. It would be unreasonable to expect them to do so. Surely the important point is that medical services are available to those who want them. I think it would be deplorable if doctors, by their unilateral action, prevented services being made available.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry been drawn to a paragraph in a leading article in an Australian newspaper of today’s date to the effect that there are justifiable fears in the minds of the Japanese Government and of exporters that any foothold they have established in a particular segment of the Australian market can be capriciously closed by Australian vested interests - often United States or United Kingdom owned companies - and the closure justified on the spurious ground of balanced development? Is this statement true? Can it be justified in any way? If it is not true, will the Minister for Trade and Industry take appropriate action to correct that statement? .
– I ‘ have nol seen the paragraph referred to’ in ‘ today’s newspaper. The Minister for Trade and Industry has not indicated to me anything about the paragraph. Therefore ‘the observations 1 make are my own. It would seem to be an extremely unlikely state of affairs. During the years Australian-Japanese trade relations have been strong. They have been growing stronger. Bach depends: upon the other a great deal - Japan for our raw materials and Australia for markets in Japan. The conclusions drawn by the -leading article would seem to me to be unjustified and unwarranted.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister . for . the Interior inform the Parliament of the total cost to date of police patrols of the Russian Embassy, the South African Embassy and all other embassies and similar- institutions? What is the current weekly cost of police patrols at each of the 2 embassies, other embassies and similar institutions?
– 1, think that the. greater part of the information sought came out in the process of the examination pf the estimates for the Department; of the Interior by Estimates Committee t>. I think that the. information required ;by .the honourable senator will be found in the Senate Hansard report relating to that Committee. There has, been a considerable expansion in watching, activities because of the bomb . damage . to the Russian Embassy.’ This has cost additional amounts of money. If, after reading the Hansard, the honourable senator requires anything more than that, I will get it.
– I will bet that it is not detailed information.
– In that case, we will obtain for the honourable. senator an examination of his question and the estimates’ information that he requires.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National
Service: What are the main areas of dispute in the current marine stewards strike and what rates of pay and hours and weeks of work do stewards at present enjoy? What steps can be and are being taken by the Commonwealth Government to help determine the strike? Can the Minister give an assurance that every possible step will be taken to get the ships operating again, particularly those to Tasmania which is suffering serious and possibly permanent damage as a result of this strike?
– The area of dispute is simply one concerning pay. It follows a determination by an arbitrator and an appeal as a result of which pay was fixed. The union now is striking because of disagreement with the rate of pay so settled. The rate of pay varies from approximately. $7,000 a year to, I think, as high as $8,000 a year.
– A year? Senator WRIGHT- Yes. Senator Prowse- For 32 weeks?
– As to the number of weeks worked, it is well known that this is some where, in the 30s. As to the steps that are being taken, I can inform the honourable senator that definite steps are being initiated this morning. In my position as a representative Minister, I do not feel at liberty at the moment to specify them. But I can assure the Senate that the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for Labour and National Service, often in consultation with the Prime Minister, throughout the whole strike have been doing everything that seems humanly possible to get this strike resolved and the ships moving. They have been doing this since the early days of the strike.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Health by referring to the earlier oral answer thatI received from him to the effect that he had no knowledge of any proposal to release portion of the Abbotsford Animal Quarantine Station to the Drummoyne Council for public reserve purposes. I now ask the Minister whether this is. still the situation having in mind the fact that this morning I received correspondence from the Drummoyne Council indicating that as late as
December 1970 his predecessor had had discussions with the Council and an inspection had taken place?
– I have no information beyond that which I conveyed to the honourable senator some short time ago. However, in the light of the further statement that he has made, I will investigate the matter again.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When in the name of sanity will the Government take notice of the appalling and continuing revelation of atrocities in Indo-China and exercise some of the humanity which Government members claim to possess? Why does not the Government face its conscience and take some international initiative through the United’ Nations to bring the war to an end?
This is a question loaded with inferences derogatory,I think, to the Government.I think the simple thing to do is to put the question on notice.
– Does the. Minister for Civil Aviation recall my question of last Wednesday concerning; breaches of the Air. Navigation Regulations by cabin crews on domestic flights and his answer that he would direct inquiries into this matter? Will the Minister advise the Senate of the steps that he has taken?
– Quite obviously, I have directed inquiries and, equally obviously, they have not yet been resolved and I have not an answer. Had I received an answer, I would have given it to the honourable senator. But I certainly shall, when I leave the Senate, find out what the delay is.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, relates to a matter involving the Public Service Board. Is the Minister aware of the fact that certain professional classes of Commonwealth public servants feel that there has been salary injustice arising from a failure on the part of the Public Service Board to extend to them the salary increase granted late in 1970 to closely related professions? Is the Minister aware that a group known as Commonwealth Public Service Scientists has suffered this discrimination? Will the Minister urgently investigate its claims so that any delay in hearing them can be minimised? Will he give due consideration to making retrospective to the beginning of the year any increase finally granted?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs Senator Webster indicated, this matter comes within the field of the Public Service Board. It is sufficient for me to repeat that the Public Service Board acts independently in exercising the powers and responsibilities conferred upon it by the Public Service Act which, I think, goes back to 1922. The Board is hot subject to political direction. The manner of handling any salary claims made to the Board is a matter for determination by that authority. All I can undertake to do is to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Board.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of a statement this week by Dr Paul Nestel, a professorial fellow in the Department of Clinical Science at the Australian National University, about the association between the. level of blood cholesterol and the statistical risk of coronary disease? Did Dr Nestel state that no scientist with . a real knowledge of nutrition would deny that the level of blood cholesterol could in the vast majority of people be readily raised by a diet rich in animal fats and lowered by a diet in which animal fats had been reduced or replaced by vegetable fats? Did fie comment that it was unfortunate, in 1971, after 2 decades of intensive study into the cause of coronary disease, that there could still be debate about what had been established scientifically? I ask the Minister whether in view of this statement, following upon statements to the same effect made by prominent specialists in this matter, the Department of Health will make clear its position and enable further pressure to be exerted to remove the quotas preventing people from having ready access to those foods which will assist them on health grounds?
– I did not see the statement to which the honourable senator referred although I am aware of a controversy which has been apparent in newspaper reports during the past week. The information I have obtained, and I must concede that it does not represent a deeply researched inquiry on my part, is that there is a difference of medical opinion about the areas to which the honourable senator referred. I appreciate his interest and concern about this matter and I recognise the authority he attaches to the statements he mentioned. I shall investigate this matter further. ‘
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister consider arranging for the preparation of the equivalent of a White Paper on the question of the smoking of tobacco and whether any form of legislative action is desirable of not?
– The suggestion made by the honourable senator has a great deal of attraction to me, but I have had little experience with! the problems involved in printing White Papers. I will certainly investigate what the honourable senator has to say because I believe that in the whole atea of cigarette smoking there are a number of issues which require consideration by the public. I think any means Which brings home tq’ the public the dangers and the risks involved to one’s health through smoking cigarettes ought to be undertaken. Having said that, I point out that it does not necessarily follow that any of the suggested remedies of banning advertising of one sort or another aids that objective. The canvassing of all these matters is undoubtedly worthy of the closest attention and a White Paper may well be the best way of presenting the issues. I shall give consideration to what the honourable senator has said.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has read an article in today’s Melbourne ‘Age’ referring to Dr Jackson, the President of the Australian Table Tennis Association, who says that he has been profoundly moved by his expert?ences in China, where he has found that the people have been friendly and warm, and everyone is well fed, and that be is convinced that China does not intend any aggression. So impressed is Dr Jackson with what he has seen that he intends to take 2 months off from his practice in Adelaide to write and lecture in Australia about China. Does the Government intend to do anything at all to relieve the tension between our country and China which has had a disastrous effect on our rural industries, particularly on our wheat exports?
I have not had the advantage of reading what Dr Jackson said, as reported in the Melbourne ‘Age’. I am, therefore, not able to comment on it and, in any event, do not think I would comment on what Dr Jackson’s personal experiences were. As to the balance of the question, as I repeated several days ago in this chamber, we had a full scale debate on this issue last week during the discussion of a matter of urgency. 1 have nothing to add to what was said by the Minister representing the Government on that occasion.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact that members of the Australian merchant marine have restricted repatriation rights vis-a-vis the other arms of the Services, particularly in regard to medical and hospital treatment. If so, as these men served in the front line and as their casualty rate has been reported to be 400 per cent greater than that of any of the other Services, would the Minister examine the position and correct the anomaly?
– It is so that these men have restricted repatriation benefits. The reason for that has been stated by the Government time and time again. I will bring before the Minister for Repatriation the honourable senator’s question and see what information I can obtain for him.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the’ Senate, refers to his answer to my previous question. How can an appeal to the conscience of the Government be claimed to be derogatory? Does he imply that’ the Government has no con science in the matter referred, namely, the Indo-Chinese war?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAgain there is an implication in the honourable senator’s question. I ask him to put it on the notice paper.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether his attention was drawn recently to an article in the Manchester ‘Guardian’ which stated that 2 professors from the University of California at Los Angeles made a report to the National Heart Foundation of America which, it is suggested, may earn them the dairy industry’s next citizenship award. If so, was the Minister’s attention drawn to the portion of the article which said that those gentlemen had been working for S years on 846 elderly men; that those who stayed on a diet low in saturated fats and high in poly-unsaturated fats were found to have a lower incidence of heart disease than those who stayed on a diet of saturated fats; but that those whose diet was high in poly-unsaturated fats showed a death rate from cancer twice as great as in the case of those stick-in-the-muds who had gone on consuming the old meat and potatoes, apple pie and ice cream, highly saturated all- American diet? Is he also aware that Messrs Pearce and Dayton were alarmed by their finding that many of the old men who popped off with cancer had been oh a poly-unsaturated diet for only a few months? Is he aware that the National Heart and Lung Institute had carried out studies on this matter - admittedly in a much shorter time - the results of which indicate that female rats on a polyunsaturated diet tended to have a very high incidence of cancer of the breast? Will the Minister take these findings into account when he gives consideration to the question asked by Senator Murphy?
– I regret that I have not read the issue of the Manchester Guardian’ in which the facts to which the honourable senator referred appear. I sense from the character of the honourable senator’s question that there is a real problem in that the matter of what contributes to heart disease is linked very closely with the use of butter, margarine, animal fats and poly-unsaturated fats. I can only regret this because I feel that, in medical terms, the matter ought to be looked at on the basis of medical research. However, the honourable senator asked me to bear these matters in mind. I will refer his question to the officers of my Department. It can be taken into account along with those matters which I have assured Senator Murphy will be taken into account.
– Can we have a fairly early answer on this matter?
– I cannot give any assurance to the honourable senator as to when the answer will appear, but I will indicate the concern of the Senate and endeavour to do what I can in that regard.
– 1 address a question to the Minister- representing the Minister for the Interior. The question is supplementary to a speech on the adjournment and three follow-up questions relating to the final’ determination of the size of the Northern Territory Top End National Park. How long does the Minister expect me to wait for answers?
– I do not know. I shall do my best, as I said before.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer:. Is there at present any financial limit placed upon the amount which may be claimed by taxpayers as deductions in respect of medical and hospital expenses? Is there any restriction on. the type of hospital whose treatment is an allowable deduction?
There are some, elements in the question that would need to be referred to the Treasurer. I ask that the question be put on notice.
– I ask the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities whether it is correct that estimates of the tourist traffic to Australia in the next few years show that there will almost certainly be a gross shortage of accommodation to meet the projected traffic. What is proposed to be done about this? In particular, what came out of the consideration which the Minister adverted to in answer to a question which I asked him on 2nd November- last’ year when he said that proposals for the’ benefit of the industry were under the immediate consideration of the Government?
– The estimates that have been, made predict, a growth rate of international visitors that will create accommodation difficulties at the present rate of progress in accommodation . building. However, . accommodation for tourists is being increased substantially. Up to the present the Government has npt adopted a policy comparable to that adopted by Fiji, New Zealand or Great Britain, of subsidising the construction of accommodation for tourists. It has been the subject’ of continuing and very earnest thought.. in many sections of the Government, but a moment’s reflection will remind the Senate that it is very difficult to fit that sort of proposal into the general^ taxation structure of Australia.
The. honourable senator asked what had become pf certain proposals. I think that in deference., to him I. should .state that they, were quite extensive proposals and they have had to receive the consideration of more than, one department. After the resignation from the Parliament of Sir John McEwen, whom I directly assisted, the present Minister for Trade and Industry; Mr Anthony* took’ over primary responsibility for tourist activities. Because of the very many difficult problems, that occupy His, prior attention finality has not been, reached on that submission, but I can assure -the Senate that it is under continuing consideration. <
” Senator PROWSE- My question is directed to . the Minister for Health. Will the Minister, in considering the question of poly-unsaturated fats in relation to health, take cognisance of the fact that the recent revival of interest iri the matter significantly coincides with the launching on the Australian market of a new brand of margarine which does not happen, to be of poly-unsaturated content?
– 1 can only reiterate what I said before, that is that. I feel there is a real danger, in a public appreciation of the factors leading to heart disease, of wrapping these up too closely, and unreasonably with poly-unsaturated fats and their consequences. I shall cer?tainly bear in mind what the honourable senator says but only in the sense that it is a consequence flowing on from what medical research discloses.
– Following up the last question, and in view of my own difficulty and that of a great many people with the term ‘poly-unsaturated fats’, I ask: Can the Minister for Health indicate to the Senate what is the meaning of the expression or what is his interpretation of its meaning?
– I shall get an informed answer and in due course supply the honourable senator and other members of the Senate with, it.
(Question No. 887)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
TAA also provided similar handling and reservation facilities for Jetair at Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Rockhampton. Office space was not leased to Jetair at these centres.
Apart from air navigation charges which are imposed on all operators for the general use of airport and other facilities, Jetair was charged the following amounts for airport properties rented from the Department:
In addition to these rentals we also received payments from Jetair for rent due by the. Department’stenant Western Air Navigation Ltd in respect of the following:
It is understood that Jetair hold the controlling interest in Western Air Navigation Ltd.
In addition, Jetair was liable for service charges in respect of the leased properties, including electricity and sewerage.
(Question No. 1007) .
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What research has been carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to develop artificial juvenile hormones which could destroy insect pests and accelerate the complete elimination of DDT and kindred insecticides?
– The Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science has supplied the following answer:
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is aware of research being undertaken into the development of artificial juvenile hormones by a number of scientific teams in overseas laboratories. Some preliminary studies with these substances and with allied materials which affect the moulting stages of insects and also crayfish, have been undertaken by CSIRO. However, as these studies are very costly in terms of scientific staff and facilities and as it is known that a number of overseas laboratories are working on the subject, the Organization considers that Australian interests can be served best by limiting its activities to keeping closely in touch with developments overseas in this field for the time being.
(Question No. 1055)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
Was the stock of F111 aircraft spare parts stored at Amberley returned to the United States of America at the Minister’s direction; if not, who authorised their return.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I concurred in the return of spares to the USA.
(Question No. 1056)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1057)
asked the Minister for
Air, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is. as follows:
Commonwealth at their acquisition price. Spare to the value of about $US2.2m have been returned for rework due to modification changes to the aircraft rendering the existing spare parts unsuitable. After rework these spares will be returned to Australia. Certain other spares have also been returned toUSAF at its request to cover shortfalls in the USAF inventory. The value of these spares is about $US1 15,000 which has been credited to the Commonwealth.
– On 9th March 1971 Senator Gair asked me the following question without notice:
The Minister for External Territories has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Yirara ResidentialCollege for Aboriginal Students. Alice Springs, Northern Territory. .
-I wish to make a statement on a matter about which I claim to have been misrepresented. Last Wednesday during the debate on the Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Bill Senator Cavanagh when discussing illegal demonstrationsstated, on the authority of Senator Hendrickson, that I had once participated in an illegal or unlawful demonstration. Senator Cavanagh went on to say that at that time Senator Hendrickson and Senator McManus marched through the streets of Melbourne to protest against the city council by-laws which prohibited the holding of a procession on St Patrick’s Day. He continued:
So it is not only Moratorium campaigners who demonstrate.
I confess that I did march in the procession. It was51 years ago. I was a school boy in short pants andI marched with my school. It was not an unlawful demonstration. At that time the Irish civil war was raging and tempers in Melbourne were running as hot as they are today in Belfast and Londonderry. When the usual application was made to conduct the procession, the city council refused permission, but in discussions held before the procession the council offered to give permission on condition that the Union Jack was carried at the head of the procession. That was agreed to and the procession was held. Therefore, in my short pants I marched with my school in a lawful and legal procession. I think Senator Willesee knows that there were certain features of the procession which have gone down in history. I merely thought I would clear the record of that occasion and assure honourable senators that I was not a lawbreaker, even when I was in short pants.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act on the next day of sitting.
– by leave - I give notice that on the next day of sitting I. shall move:
That the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance 1971 as contained in the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 3 of 1971 and made under the. Seat of Government (Administration) Act be, disallowed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– With your indulgence, Sir, I would like to make a quick comment before I move . for the suspension of Standing Orders. If I can accomplish Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1970-71 and Appropriation. Bill (No. 4) 1970-71 today and get the messages on the slate I will feel that I have done a good day’s work.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I want to speak to the first reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 3). I do not know whether the Senate is taking the 2 Appropriation Bills together.
– No. They are separate.
– I rise to direct the attention of the Senate to the unsatisfactory position that exists within the offshore petroleum industry today. In 1967 the Government brought before the Parliament legislation to pro vide, for the administration of the off-shore petroleum industry. The preamble to that Bill, which is now the Act, reads:
Whereas in accordance with international law
Australia as a coastal state has sovereign rights over the continental shelf beyond the limits of Australian territorial waters for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources:
This is a clear statement by the Commonwealth Parliament that it is a coastal state which has constitutional rights over the area of the continental shelf. Senator Webster - That, of course, means the Commonwealth, does it not?
– There is only one coastal state in the international sphere. In the preamble the. Commonwealth weakens its own hand by stating:
And whereas Australia is a party to this Convention on the Continental Shelf signed at Geneva on the twenty-ninth day of April, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight, in which those rights are defined:
And whereas the exploration for and the exploitation of the petroleum resources of submerged lands adjacent to the Australian coast would be encouraged by the adoption of legislative measures applying uniformly to the continental shelfand to the sea-bed and subsoil beneath territorial waters:
The first matter to which I draw the attention of the Senate is that as a result of evidence given before the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources which was inquiring into the legislationthe Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act: - it was revealed that there were serious weaknesses in that legislation, particularly in Part II which has for its purpose the application of the laws operative in the States, whether they be Commonwealth laws, State laws or common law, in areas adjacent to the States. Some of the learned witnesses who appeared before the Committee cast grave doubt on whether Part II did, in fact, do what the Commonwealth set out to accomplish. As a result, at a meeting of Attorneys-General held in Hobart in March 1969 it was agreed between all parties that section 9, which is the section that applies the laws, would be amended. I emphasise the date. In March 1969 this agreement was arrived at. If one goes to the non-justiciable agreement which underpins the petroleum submerged lands legislation, in clause 6 of that agreement it will be found that no amendment can be made to the legislation unless there is unanimous agreement between the 7 governments. In March 1969 the 7 governments agreed to amend the legislation.I am advised by one of my colleagues who is skilled in the law that the amendment as agreed to would eliminate much of the objection and doubt which Professor O’Connell, a highly trained lawyer, had expressed concerning the application of the law. We find that South Australia amended particularly section 9 which is the section about which I am speaking. There are other sections but I am referring particularly to section 9. The South Australian Parliament amended its legislation in November 1969. Western Australia amended its legislation in November 1970. The Commonwealth, Tasmania Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory - which would amend by ordinance - have not made any amendment. I shall again read the third paragraph of the preamble to the legislation. It states:
And whereas the exploration for and the exploitation of the petroleum resources of submerged lands adjacent to the Australian coast would be encouraged by the adoption of legislative measures applying uniformly to the continental shelf and to the sea-bed and subsoil beneath territorial water:
– Briefly, what was the effect of the Western Australian and South Australian amendments?
– The effect of the amendment was to make clearer the fact that the laws operating in the States would apply in areas adjacent to the States. These areas are defined in the legislation.
– Did the amendment make the legislation more uniform?
– The fact that 2 States have amended the Act and that 4 States, the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory have not amended it clearly discloses that uniform legislation to control the industry was never at any time necessary. Section 9 which is a rather short section has 5 sub-sections in it. Its purposes is to pick up the whole body of law operating in a State and project it out to sea to operate in the adjacent area. This is an important procedure. It is done in quite a simple way. A committee was appointed to do this drafting work although the bulk of it fell upon the chief Parliamentary Counsel in Canberra, Mr Ewens. At that stage he was the Parliamentary Draftsman. What he had drafted had to be approved by the various State authorities. Professor O’Connell raised a doubt as to whether the Commonwealth could go as far as it purported to go. under the external affairs power. He raised a doubt that a State could legislate extra-territorially unless it could establish a nexus with the State itself. As a result, that section was amended by two States. Section 9 of the Act, of course, placed some clear restrictions upon the Commonwealth Government. .We have a Constitution which was made, in the horse and buggy days which the people have refused repeatedly to allow the Commonwealth to amend in order to catch up with the conditions which exist today. Subsection (3.) of section 9 reads: (3.) This section does not -
The Commonwealth can transport laws into adjacent areas only if they are laws which are capable of being passed by this Parliament: Honourable senators will know the restrictions that are in the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Sub-section (2.) reads: .The provisions referred to in. the last preceding sub-section apply to and in relation to all acts, matters, circumstances, and things touching, concerning, arising out of or connected with the exploration of the sea-bed or subsoil of the adjacent area for petroleum and the exploitation of the natural ‘ resources, being petroleum, of that sea-bed or subsoil, and. not otherwise . . .
This sub-section threw grave doubts upon whether, in the event of criminal acts being committed out to sea on oil drilling rigs, pipe laying barges or those sorts of things, the Commonwealth Crimes Act or the States criminal code applied. In the opinion of Professor O’Connell the Crimes Act did not apply.
– Did not apply?
– Did not apply. There is a firm of solicitors in Victoria, which is the most active State in oil exploration and exploitation, who are advisers are to Ingram Contractors (Australia) Pty Ltd, the largest contractors out to sea in adjacent areas of Victoria. That firm has had to advise Ingram Contractors that if criminal acts are committed in working places- in adjacent areas the criminal law does not apply.
The amendment seeks to overcome that position. Senator Greenwood was kind enough to give me advice. He was of the opinion that the amendment does cover most of the things raised by Professor O’Connell. Therefore it is important for the legislation to be amended in accordance with the unanimous agreement entered into between the parties in March 1969.
I would think that we cannot get thi* legislation amended by. this Parliament before the Budget session, although it was about this time last year that I asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) when the amendment would bs passed through this Parliament. The answer was that he did not think it would be possible to do it during the autumn session of last year but it would be done , in the Budget session of that year. It has not been done. It is not proposed to bc done during this autumn session. It is now 2 years since the parties unanimously agreed to the amendment.
I read . in the newspapers this morning that the Victorian Parliament has gone into recess for the winter. So it is obvious that this legislation cannot pass through the Victorian Parliament before it resumes for its Budget session later this year. I do not know the position with respect to the Parliaments of New South Wales and Queensland nor do I know the position with respect to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. But I regard this matter as of such importance that some urgent action should be taken to have legislation promulgated. It has been drafted; it has passed through 2 State Houses of Parliament. lt must pass through the other 5 Houses of Parliament and the Northern Territory Legislative Council in the same form. For this to be done would only require the legislation to be printed, and I say that it should be done.
Section 101 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act allows the Designated Authority - that is the officer in charge of the legislation in each of the States, generally the Minister for Mines in that State - to give directions to a permittee or a licensee, that is, an individual or corporation that has been issued with a permit to explore for oil or an individual or corporation that has been given a licence to exploit petroleum, to use the words of the
Act, which has been found. Those directions may be given on any matter upon which regulations may be made. The directions may be contrary to the regulations, if regulations have been made. To date regulations have not been made. The directions can’ override the regulations. In other words, the directions given by the Designated Authority can wipe out anything that this Parliament has done. But the important part of it is that the directions may be given only to the permittee and the ‘ licensee. As honourable senators will know, most if not all of the work that is carried out is being carried out by contractors. At least that is the position in Bass Strait. The Designated Authority in the States is unable to give directions to a contractor to carry out work, as provided in section 97 of the Act, for the health, weir fare and safety of the work force. The Designated Authority is not capable of directing a contractor to do that. If he gives a direction the contractor can ignore it. It is not binding upon him.
The amendment agreed to in March 1969 sought to recover this position and allow the Designated Authority to. direct anyone in the field - contractor, permittee, licensee or the holders of any other documents. It is important that this should bc done. I am not saying that contractors in . Bass Strait and off the north west coast are doing as they like, but they could be able to do as they like. The meeting of AttorneysGeneral in Hobart which was called as a result of evidence given to the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources saw the seriousness of this position and agreed unanimously that the legislation should be amended. Yet more than 2 years after that agreement was arrived at we find that the legislation has not been amended.
I wish now to direct my attention to Appropriation Bill (No. 3). I hope to be able to ask some questions in relation to the appropriations during the Committee stage of the Bill, but there is a particular matter I want to bring to the attention of the Senate. When the then Treasurer presented the Budget on 18th August last year he said:
Since total expenditure is estimated at $7, 883m the Budget shows a surplus of $4m.
However, when speaking about the Post Office - I take the Post Office as only one example of what is going on - the then Treasurer said in the same speech:
To avoid a Post Office loss this year, and to enable the Post Office to make its contribution to financing the desired capital programme, it is proposed to raise charges to increase receipts by about $42m in 1970-71 and about $53m in a full year. The proposed increases cover postal charges, telephone rentals, the telephone connection fee and charges for certain other services. The PostmasterGeneral will presently give further details.
When we look at the current estimates we find that some very large supplementary appropriations are sought by some departments - not all departments - in Appropriation Bill (No. 3). We are told that the reason for the increases in postal, telegraph and tele-‘ phone charges is that costs have increased since 1st October 1970, which is when thelegislation was passed in this place. But we find that the extra $42m that is sought- to be gathered into the Treasury by the increase in postal, telegraph and telephone charges is not a consideration in respect of receipts and expenditure for the year when the Budget! is presented. Therefore it is not correct for the Treasurer to say that he provides for a surplus of $4m because the departments between them will have to expend their proportion - not the whole - of the increased charges amounting to $42m. Let us take it that the Commonwealth is a 30 per cent contributor to the charges made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. We find that the Commonwealth Government’s additional expenditure will be $21m, yet the Treasurer comes into the Parliament and makes a statement that there will be a $4m surplus. - This is government by deceit. It is government that takes no account of increased expenditure by the Commonwealth for various departments because the Government says that this cannot be estimated.
The Government says that when a department makes up its estimates of expenditure for the year - they have to be made about May or early June for consideration by the Cabinet - that department has no knowledge of what another department may be doing with respect to increased charges. It is unable to make an estimate in advance for increased charges made by another department. I suggest that in the computer age adjustments in expenditure can be made within hours and, in many cases, within minutes. I suggest that when it is found that the estimates of expenditure by the various departments reach a particular figure and the estimates of extra revenue that is to come to the Commonwealth due to various departments raising charges on the Commonwealth and the people are known, the adjustments to the estimates of the various departments can be made very quickly. In this way as near as possible to a correct picture can be placed before the people at Budget time. I do not criticise the Treasurer in person in any way. He is the functionary, for good or ill, who has to carry out this job on behalf of the nation. No criticism is intended of the character of whoever holds the office. But he comes into the Parliament and tells . the people of Australia, through an official document, that, the Commonwealth will have a surplus of $4m for the year without any regard to the extra SI 20m of additional appropriations that are required in these supplementary’ estimates.
We know that there will be additional receipts by the Treasury. The increase granted in the national wage case is estimated to have put several hundred million dollars into the’ coffers of the Treasury; so if is quite likely that there will be a bigger surplus than the $4m’ which the Treasurertold the people there would be. That increase ‘was outside the control of the Department. The things that were within the control of the Parliament, that is, the additional charges that will have to be met and that are not taken into consideration when the estimates are brought up, have been completely ignored.
There is one other matter I want to refer to. I ask you, Mr Deputy President, to advise .me whether I am in order in raising it. I want to refer to the charges that are being inquired into at HMAS Leeuwin’, the Fremantle naval depot. I think every honourable senator here would have knowledge of accusations, of allegations, that are being made with respect-
– I suggest that, withinthe spirit of our rule, the honourable senator should not refer to matters that are being inquired into by a judge. I suggest that he should not canvass those allegations.
– 1 take the point. I do not want to offend.
– Judge Rapke has to deal with it and he would be prejudiced by any remarks made here. We usually extend that privilege to the judiciary. .
– Very well, 1 will leave it at that. 1 forcefully request Senator Cotton, who represents the Minister for National Development, to ask his colleague even at this late stage, to attempt to get before this Parliament before we rise the amendment to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967-68 and to impress upon those States which have not amended their legislation the urgency and seriousness of the legislation being amended as agreed. I suggest to the Leader of the’ Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) - he is not in the chamber at the moment but I hope someone will draw his attention to my remarks-that 1 there should be a wider use of computers in the. presentation of the Budget during, the next sessional period in order that a more correct picture of the financial. -workings of the Parliament may be presented^ at- that time.
– I want to take up only .a few minutes . of the Senate’s time to .put the record straight. When I washout of the chamber this morning I believe “that Senator McManus made a personal explanation for the purpose. of correcting an. injustice which he claimed I .had done to him. If there has been any injustice . I want to .correct it immediately. The fact of the matter. is. that in speaking to the Public Order. (Protection of Persons and Property) Bill on Wednesday last. I did mention an Irish procession. This was not done with any desire to say anything detrimental to the 2 persons I named. I was only showing that unlawful processions need not necesarily bbe. connected with Vietnam and the Moratorium and that the St Patrick’s Day procession as far back as 1921 was an unlawful procession in that there was no permit for it. I said that Senator Hendrickson reminded me that he took part in that procession .in company with Senator McManus. Of course, if there is to be an apology to Senator McManus then one is needed also for Senator Hendrickson because he, likewise, was falsely accused of participating in an unlawful procession.
At the conclusion of my speech, Senator McManus came and saw me. He told me that he was not in the House at the time I made my speech but that what I had said was not trite and that it was not an unlawful procession. He said that permission had been refused originally but was finally granted on the condition that the Union Jack was carried at the front of the procession. The carrying of the Union Jack made it a lawful procession for which they had a permit I referred these facts to my informant, Senator Hendrickson, and asked him if this was so. He said that it was but in his interpretation of events the fact that the marchers’ burned the Union Jack at the top of Bourke Street made it an unlawful procession, because the conditions under which the permission was granted were not carried out. If that is not the case - and I am told that newspaper reports at the time will prove that it is - then it was not an unlawful procession. But, as Senator McManus said, on that occasion feelings between . the - countries concerned were running high, and even Senator Little, said by interjection that nd-one is very responsible on St Patrick’s Day. I dp not fully accept that. I conclude by -saying that, that is the history of the procession as told to me.
– I take the opportunity on the first reading of this money Bill to introduce a matter which I think is of very serious importance. It is probably a matter which ought to have been the subject of an urgency motion or debated -in this chamber in some other way. I refer to the mini-scandal of the Jetair affair. Honourable senators will recall that on 16th, 17th and 18th February many members of the Opposition asked detailed questions as to a contract between the Government and Jetair Australia Ltd. This contract had apparently been well on the way to completion just prior to the commencement of the sitting of the Parliament this year. On 16th February 1971, 1 asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) on this subject.
I want to make it quite clear that it will be necessary for me to go through the whole case in chronological order. Because of the fact that there are certain time limitations in this chamber it will be necessary for one or two of my colleagues to supplement the case with additional evidence. There are certain things to which I must refer in order to put the case in its right perspective. The question I asked on 16th February, 1971 was whether one or more of the DC3 aircraft purchased from Jetair and donated to Cambodia and other countries was previously owned by a Commonwealth department and sold to Jetair and, if so, what was the original sale price to Jetair and what was the purchase price from Jetair. The Leader of the Government went into a lengthy reply. He was obviously caught off guard. It will become obvious as I go along that in this case the Leader of the Government and Minister for Supply had or appeared to have’ perfectly clean hands in this transaction. It is unfortunate that other people, acting on behalf of the Government, committed the Government to the purchase of these aircraft under, shall I say, extremely doubtful circumstances,, to use the most charitable term. The Leader of the Government” included in his answer to my question of 16th. February the following statement:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs issued a statement on 14th February which I presume the honourable senator would ‘have received by now. In it he indicated that -Australia had agreed to supply 11 DC3 aircraft .to 3 countries, the Khmer Republic, which was formerly Cambodia, Nepal and Laos, as a foreign aid project. In that project there was a component of 6 DC3 aircraft which are to be purchased from Jetair Australia Ltd. Those are the aircraft involved In the questions asked by the honourable senator. At this point of time the Department of Supply has no policy initiatives in this matter at all.
I think those words are very significant. On the same date Senator Turnbull also asked a question of the Leader of the Government on this subject. The Leader of the Government said, in reply, that the honourable senator’s question about prices concerned a transaction that was proceeding at that time and that when the transaction had been completed the information would be made available. It was pretty obvious at that time that the Leader of the Government was over a barrel and that secrecy was being maintained until such time as the deal - I refer to it advisedly as an under the counter deal - had been completed. On the same date I directed a question to the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) in relation to aircraft that are surplus. The Minister replied:
Any aircraft which we have surplus to requirements are sent to the Department of Supply for disposal
My colleague, Senator Poyser,, interjected with the comment:
The honourable senator is giving us the run around..
The run around started at that point of time. On’ 17th February Senator Georges asked what I thought was a most interesting question. It was as follows:
In addressing my question to the Minister for Air I refer to the purchase of DC3 aircraft from Jetair. Is it a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force had 7 DC3 aircraft available . for disposal at Laverton? Can he explain why only 3 of them were made available for external aid and 4 were allowed to remain rotting away at the base? How does this fit in with- the- Government’s austerity campaign, especially since these planes needed only $5,000 to be spent , on them to make them airworthy whereas the Department of Foreign Affairs is reported to have paid Jetair $40,000 for each of the. aircraft obtained from that company?
The Minister for Air replied that there were in fact aircraft which were surplus. He then went on with a fair bit of follow up information which I will not go into in detail at this stage. The fact is that there were other aircraft available for purchase at a much cheaper price. It . is extremely strange that this deal should have been done while the Parliament was not sitting and should have .been disposed of- sealed, signed and delivered - -before the Leader of the Government brought anything ‘ into this chamber. On 18th February the Leader of the Government indicated that the then Minister for Foreign Affairs had that morning spoken at some length in reply to questions about this matter. This was about the time that we started to get little bits of information about the transaction. The Leader of the Government went on to say that he agreed that in view of the interest being shown in the matter it may be necessary to have a completely consolidated, chronological statement of the circumstances. He said that he was in some personal difficulty because, as the Senate, knew, he had been ‘overseas and there was ari acting Minister for Supply in his absence. He said that within 24 hours of his return somebody telephoned him - he thought it was the Australian ‘ Broadcasting Commission-and asked him about the matter. He said that he; had to say that he was in the process of taking over his: Department again and would have to obtain the information.
The Leader of the Government went on to say that before Tuesday of the next week he would collaborate with the Department of Foreign Affairs to obtain a complete chronological statement setting ‘ out’ what had happened. It is obvious that the Department of Supply would have had to finalise this deal, but here we find that the Minister was in a situation in .which he did not know what was going on while other people were doing the deal for. him. I think it is a pretty poor way of running a. country to keep a senior member of the Cabinet in the dark about aeroplanes that are flying in the daylight. I think that I ought to quote the parley that went on across the chamber on 18th February in relation to this matter. Senator Douglas McClelland asked whether anyone had looked ‘&t any aircraft other than those owned by Jetair. The Leader of the Government, said that he could not answer that question. He went on to say that if his Department were invited to look at certain aircraft those were the ones it would look at. Senator Turnbull then made the- following interjection:
I was going to allow the matter rest after the Minister made his statement, bm he ended that statement by saying that the purchases were .made.
The Leader of the Government, replied that they were iri the process of being made. Senator Turnbull came back with the following interjection:
You said they were -made.. Even if they are being made the Minister must know the. -price. ‘.
The Leader of the Government said that of course he did. Senator Turnbull again interjected and said:
Why can we not be told?
The amazing reply , of . the Leader , of the Government was as follows: , .
The answer to that question is pretty .simple. I think in any area of business when ..a transaction of that nature is” being carried on . both the buyer and seller have obligations not to disclose prices. It amazed .me that somebody suggested that we should bandy about the prices while’ .the transaction is still proceeding. The Department of Supply never does’ that.’ I should imagine that no Government Department does that, nor would I imagine that it is done within the commercial community. But the Parliament has a right to know this information in due course, and I will be the first to see -that it ;is given the information at the appropriate lime. . ,
I would like to know who was applying pressure on the Leader of the’ Government not to disclose information at that stage. It is perfectly obvious’ that, while’ he had the information, he was not prepared to disclose it to the Parliament. The Parliament represents the people of Australia. Therefore, it ought to be given any information of this nature, particularly in view of the fact that something like a little under $50,000, plus the cost of this and that which still has to be added to these aircraft, was paid for these aircraft when the same type of aircraft in a similar condition were obviously available at prices ranging from between$7,000 and $8,000 up to about $15,000. Around 15th March replies to questions on notice started to seep through. Prior to that date I had placed a question on notice concerning the latest developments in the Jetair DC3 case.I also asked the Leader of the Government whether the Government had completed the transaction. The Leader of the Government replied a month later in the following terms:
The format documentation needed to complete the transaction was finalised on19th February 1971 when an order was issued to Jetair Australia Ltd for the supply of 6 DC3 aircraft and spares.
He said that the purchase price for the aircraft and spares was $275,000. Then he said that minor repairs to the extent of $4,000 would be necessary on each aircraft; that is another $24,000. He said also that the delivery costs would be of the order of $10,000 per aircraft. That is another $100,000, in round figures, that we Can add to the price of the aircraft. There were other replies to questions on this matter on 15th March. I will not go through all the questions, but I did ask how many aircraft had been purchased for government departments since 1st January 1965, for which departments were the aircraft purchased, how many were new and how many were second hand. This question was also tied up with the DC3s. The Minister replied:
That is a fair enough reply to a question of that nature. The purchase of the 2 planes for the Bureau of Mineral Resources is not under any suspicion whatsoever. Then on the same date I asked another question about this matter. I asked:
The Minister was able to say in reply to the first question that 44 Governmentowned surplus or obsolescent aircraft had been sold in Australia since 1st January 1965. He was able to say, in reply to the second question, that 37 of the 44 aircraft were sold by public tender. I ask: Was this great departure from procedure made in only this one instance? The Minister’s reply continued: 7 were disposed of by private treaty, including the 5 ex-RAAF DC3 aircraft purchased by Department of Foreign Affairs for foreign aid. The other 2 aircraft disposed of by private treaty were a Mosquito and a Fairy Firefly sold for use in a London to Sydney air race and to a British military museum respectively.
Of course, those 2 aircraft are not in question. But in the Minister’s statement to this House he said:
The Royal Australian Air Force declared surplus 6 DC3 aircraft over the period August to November 1969. Following negotiations between the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Supply 5 of these aircraft were bought for a total of $60,000. Two were purchased on 21st November 1969 and 3 on 15th April 1970. The aircraft were’ in a military configuration and it was intended to convert them to the civilian configuration required and to do work necessary to bring the aircraft up to a standard where they could be issued with a certificate of airworthiness for civilian aircraft. As at December 1970 the estimated cost of this commission and renovation was estimated to be $425,000.
In December 1970 Jetair Australia Ltd advertised its fleet for sale in the Sydney Press.
There is no need for me to go into the Ministers statement in any more detail because reference has been made to it in this chamber at other times during the current session. But I think it is interesting to refresh our minds on the manner in. which the offer was made. The Minister’s statement concludes:
A written offer was made by the Department of Foreign Affairs to Jetair on 6th January 1971. This was accepted by Jetair.
This quiet little deal was still going on on 6th January 1971. Obviously this House was not in session. In fact, we find that nothing very much leaked to the Press until about the 11th or 12th February, and that was about 5 weeks later. It was a very wellkept deal. The Minister’s statement continued:
When the Department of Supply was asked to proceed with preparing the formal contracts it made inquiries to ascertain whether other suitable aircraft were available. The inquiries revealed that other suitable aircraft were not available and the Chairman of the Contracts Board therefore issued a certificate that it was impracticable and inexpedient to call tenders.
The Department of Supply also reported thai having ‘ regard to the condition of the aircraft, and working out a price’ on the method used by Trans Australia Airlines to place a value on similar aircraft, the price to be paid, that is $275,000 which included a small quantity of spare parts, was a reasonable price. The aircraft were bought for this price.
Then there was the additional question about spares to which I referred to a moment ago. One wonders whether the spare parts consisted of a tyre repair outfit. These spare parts have not been listed at any time in any document. I wonder why there is secrecy on this matter, too, because it really does not build up the background to the argument. Then at a later date, in question No. 926, I asked the Minister representing the .Minister for Foreign Affairs the following question:
Did all the countries to which DC3s are now being donated as part of our foreign aid programme request that such aid take the form of aircraft?
Then I asked whether the Minister would make available copies of the written request seeking such aid. A very lengthy reply was given to these questions, and it was a good old passing-the-buck job. In the final part of the answer the Minister said:
These discussions are very often informal-
Referring to discussions with various diplomatic missions and what have you, which one presumes took place at tea parties and on the cocktail circuit - particularly where it is a case of supplying used equipment, lt was as a result of this kind of discussion that the Department became aware of the desire of a number of countries to build up their fleets of DC3 aircraft. As it became, possible to fund the purchase of available aircraft, the consultations were finalised with Nepal (2 aircraft), Laos (3 aircraft) and the Khmer Republic (6 aircraft). The acceptance of Australian offers was received by the respective diplomatic missions as follows:
There is a very serious discrepancy there, because hotourable senators will recall that we were miking this big deal with Jetair 2 days before Cambodia said that it wanted the planes; 2 days before they formalised it. If this matter was discussed on the cocktail circuit earlier, it is obvious that Cambodia was not greatly interested. But apparently Australia said: ‘We have now got the planes in our hot little hands at an exorbitant price.’ Cambodia said: .’Yes, we will have our share.’ In the case. of Laos the request was made personally by. the Laotian Prime Minister to the Australian Ambassador. .We do not have a diplomatic mission in Nepal, so we had to go through the Australian High Commissioner to India who is also accredited as the Ambassador to Nepal. The request was- made through the Nepalese Ambassador to India. In the case of Cambodia - and I use this name of the country instead of the name Khmer Republic under which it is “ now known, because people know Cambodia well; it has been in the news a fair bit in the last year or so - the request was formalised by a diplomatic note from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This request” was for 5’ planes. That was 2 days after, we had purchased them at this exorbitant price and before Cambodia said that’ it wanted the planes.
On 18th February 1971. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, in a continuation of the Jetair debate in this chamber - the question and answer session - said: .
As I said on, 1 think, the first .day we discussed, this matter, my Department has the responsibility of completing the transaction. When the Department of Supply disposes of aircraft it does so in accordance with a procedure. This purchase was the present lime. I do not propose that we should of Foreign Affairs. Having been made the matter comes to my Department for completion of the transaction. That is the process that is going on at the present time. I do not propose that wc should alter our procedures at all. -
I asked a further question, rather, rudely, in these terms:
Did the initial negotiating discussions regarding the purchase of DC3 aircraft from Jetair (Australia) Limited take place between ‘the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr Alexander Barton of
Jetair (Australia) Limited? If not, who were involved in such preliminary discussions?
We were told this:
There have been no negotiating discussions between the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr Alexander Barton of Jetair (Australia) Limited. Following advertisements in the press by Jetair (Australia) Limited inviting offers for their DC3 fleet, initial negotiating discussions were held between representatives of Jetair (Australia) Limited and senior officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs with an officer of the Aircraft, Guided Weapons and Electronics Supply Division of the Department of Supply present as technical adviser.
I suggest, with all due respect, that if this is the way in which deals are done some senior officer should be asked to explain how a deal of that nature was permitted. I still suspect that he got his orders from elsewhere. In order to clear that officer somebody in the Department has to come clean and give us details. We were also told:
Treasury Regulation 52 under the Audit Act provides that invitation of public tenders may be dispensed with where the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, or an officer authorised by him in writing for the purpose, certifies that invitation of tenders would be impracticable or inexpedient. The regulation does not impose any limitation on the value of contracts for which public tenders may be dispensed with.
That information was contained in a reply to a question asked by Senator Georges which related to the manner in which this deal was made. The reply continues:
In the circumstances of this purchase, no good purpose would have been served by the calling of public tenders. The availability situation as known to the Department of Supply at the time of entering into the contract with Jetair may be summarised as follows:
There were 36 DC3 military and civil aircraft in operation or derlared for disposal in Australia. Of these 5 were already owned by Foreign Affairs for overseas aid purposes. Of the remaining 51 aircraft only 13 were ‘on the market’ to the timing required to meet such overseas aid purposes; these were: 5 military aircraft ex-RAAF and held by Department of Supply for disposal. 6 civil-aircraft on offer from Jetair. 1 specially fitted aircraft ex-Bureau of Mineral Resources. 1 civil aircraft owned privately in Darwin but not in active service.
It was clear to the Departments that the cost of buying the 6 aircraft in the required civilian configuration from Jetair to meet foreign aid purposes represented considerable savings to the Commonwealth as against meeting the requirement from the other available 7 aircraft which would have required substantial work to bring them to the desired standard and configuration.
It might be interesting to note that at about this time aviation journals were carrying advertisements which offered for sale numbers of DC3 aircraft which were available in India, apparently in excellent order, at a very cheap price. One would have thought that, if the Government was so anxious to assist with foreign aid, it would have purchased aircraft in this area thereby reducing transportation costs. In other words, the Government could have completed the deal for one-third of what it cost the taxpayer. It is significant that in a newspaper published at about the time of this cosy deal was an article which carried this heading:
Jetair: Wangling profits from old planes. .
The article states:
Substantially below $50,000’ for a used DC3 may possibly be a good buy for the Australian . Government, as the Foreign Minister, Mr McMahon, assured the House of Representatives on Thursday. But if this is ‘the case the $8,396 for which the Government originally sold 2 of the 6’ it is now buying back from Jetair was an absolute steal.
That was a journalist’s pertinent and most appropriate comment. For a long time I have not seen so much buck passing on any issue in this Parliament as happened in this case. I am. not blaming the Minister for Supply. I believe that he was given the bag with the dozen dead cats in it- in this case, the 1 1 bad aircraft- and the smell was oozing to the ceilings of both chambers of the Parliament. He was left to hold the bag. However,I am suggesting that something not quite ethical - I presume I can use that word without getting turfed out on my neck for one month - went on between representatives of this Government and representatives of Jetair.
To get the record straight, let us look at the firm. Jetair was incorporated on 12th May 1969. It was not a very old company when it blew up. The authorised capital was $5m in 50c shares. Some 155 shares were paid for, of which 51 were owned by Alexander Barton of Liberal - Party and other fame, 50 were owned by Mr J. O. Bovill and 50 were owned by Mr R. A. Rydge who is a distant relative of Sir Norman Rydge. We will not hold that against Sir Norman or Rydges Business Journal’. The company’s operations were planned at over $100,000 annually, or more than 14,000 times the paid up capital of 577.50. It had a fleet of DC3s bat no licence for the third airline although obviously that was what it was angling for in the long term. The Department of Supply previously sold 2 DC3s to Stenair for $8,369. As I quoted a while ago, we repurchased those aircraft at almost 5 times that price - more than 4 times the price, anyway, with a bit to spare. When Stenair went out of operation h was found that the debt was owing to Harbourside Oil and Bounty Oil. Both of those companies are Alexander companies. I have a suspicious mind and an awful lot of circumstantial evidence is coming out. The companies took over the aircraft and sold them to Jetair. This was a nice cosy little company deal. We do not know the price for which they were sold. No price has been disclosed but in a paper deal of that nature it could have been as low as $5 or less. One could say that in this tragic blowup of Jetair the Prime Minister might have been worried about seeing another firm - 1 give him the highest motives - going bankrupt. I remind honourable senators that he was then the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is easy to say to an aide: ‘Let us get them off the hook. We need some aircraft for Cambodia. Before we do anything about it, we will have to ascertain whether Cambodia needs aircraft’. I claim that so far as Jetair and the Government are concerned unethical deals went on. The Government had been very cagey and very secretive. It has been afraid to come out in the open and tell us the real story. A departmental inquiry or even a governmental inquiry into the whole show should be set up so that the people of Australia will not be hoodwinked again by under the counter deals such as the Jetair-Australian Government mini scandal.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Keeffe. It is unfortunate that the Senate has not had a previous opportunity to debate the issues of the Jetair Australia Ltd case. I join with Senator Keeffe in having suspicions as to the ethics of many of the things that were done. He concluded his remarks by referring to the formation of Jetair, about which I intend to speak. As Senator Keeffe pointed out, Jetair commenced operations late in 1969 with a very small paid up capital. Those of us who have been members of the Senate Select Com-
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mittee on Securities and Exchange over the past 12 months are not surprised now by the number of companies being formed with a very small paid up capital. They are being floated with the frequency of liberty ships during the last war, and are having about the same rate of survival. Whatever Mr Barton chose to do and how he chose to organise his finances for the creation of Jetair were entirely his business. However, it was very much the business of this Parliament, and of the Department of Civil Aviation in particular, why Mr Barton elected to get into the airline business. In reply to a question the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) stated that under Regulation No. 203 of the Air Navigation Regulations it is necessary for an applicant to be the holder of a charter licence. The Minister was questioned about when thai charter licence had been granted. It was granted at about the time that Jetair was incorporated. In other words, Mr Barton had had nothing whatever to do with airline operations prior to that date. Out of convenience, it would seem, he was granted a charter licence in order that the exemption applicable under Regulation No. 203 could apply.
It is a strange thing indeed because it is a well established fact that this Government is committed to the 2-airline agreement and has been since the inception of that agreement. We remember the previous case of another Mr Barton who attempted to establish a third major airline in this country. To put it in the shortest possible terms, he failed. What guarantees was this Mr Barton given, verbal or otherwise, that he may be allowed to operate a third airline when the present agreement eventually expires in 19777 If the present agreement was replaced by a 3-airline agreement he would be on the ground floor to become the third mainline operator in Australia. Was he in fact given some guarantees?
Here was a very successful business man in the form of Mr Alexander Barton who had become a very wealthy person in Sydney knowing full well that there was no money in third level airline operations and commuter services. That is a well established fact in the airline industry. No person with the background and experience of Mr Barton would have entered into this activity unless he had a good reason for doing so. Is his move logical otherwise?
Are we to assume that he took this step as a result of certain guarantees which were given to him by the Department of Civil Aviation? That is one question that I ask the Minister. Perhaps he will give the Senate a reply when he speaks.
Not only did Mr Barton have no previous experience in this industry but also was there no guarantee that he was capable of recruiting the necessary personnel to operate an airline. It is a vast step from operating a charter service to an airline. Under the Air Navigation Regulations, almost anyone who buys a small aeroplane can operate a charter service, and does so. It is a very different kettle of fish within the terms of the Regulations when one becomes an airline operator. One would assume that the Department would hare made a thorough investigation of Mr Barton and his capability to operate an airline service in Australia. I suggest that this was not done. The evidence that it was not done was apparent later on when it was known - and I ask the Minister to correct me later if I am wrong - that not one person who had had any previous airline experience whatsoever was employed in an administrative position of responsibility in Jetair Australia Ltd. No-one had had experience beyond light aircraft and also clubs. In fact, there did not even seem to be a serious attempt to recruit these people. That is another question which I would like the Minister to consider.
I refer to another matter which is one of those many questions which cannot quite be explained and in which, as Senator Keeffe so rightly said, circumstantial evidence exists, but the facts are difficult to prove. I refer to the sale of the 2 Viscount aircraft by the Department of Supply. These aircraft eventually were purchased by Jetair Australia Limited. These Viscounts were put up for tender. There were 3 main tenderers from the United States of America. The top tenderer was offered the aircraft and he declined to take them. He forfeited his deposit, I understand. The second tenderer declined also. The third tenderer accepted. The 2 aircraft were flown to Sydney and either that day or the next day the third tenderer was approached by 2 persons purporting to come from Jetair. It is sufficient to say that the aircraft changed hands. They were sold by the Americans to Jetair with which they remained for some months and then eventually were exported.
A question was asked about this transaction and the Minister quite rightly said that eventually these aircraft were exported. But there was something strange about the whole thing. Why did these people come from the United States and tender to buy these 2 aircraft? Then why did the successful tenderer, following an approach by virtual strangers - or people who on the face of it were strangers - sell the aircraft to those strangers? Why did not the Department of Civil Aviation take steps at that time in regard to this matter. On the face of it, the aircraft were being bought for the purpose of use in Australia. The only excuse that the Minister gave in reply to that question was that eventually they were sold. But they were sold months later. In the intervening time, no action was taken by the Department to ensure that the provisions under which they were sold by the Department of Supply were abided by. We know that, in respect of the American firm whose tender was accepted, Mr Barton has certain interests in the United States. He recently acquired a major interest in a United States oil exploration company. One ponders whether or not some liaison occurred between Mr Barton’s representatives in the United States and this company whose tender for the Viscounts eventually was accepted. That is all that I wish to say on the actual original formation of Jetair.
I wish to deal with a couple of points about the operations of the company. As I said earlier, in the administration of the company there was not anyone with proper experience to operate an airline. There were many deficiencies in the operations of the company. My remarks do not apply so much to flying operations because 1 think that, generally, they were quite sound. Certainly, the senior pilots were most competent men who knew their business as well as any other airline pilots. I would like to know whether or not a Mr Gruzman, who was Mr Barton’s Queen’s Counsel, in fact was flying as a co-pilot on Jetair DC3s? I would like to know also whether it is a fact that one of the captains of the airline refused to fly with Mr Gruzman because he, the captain, said that Mr Gruzman was not competent to fly DC3s. Is it a fact also that Mr Gruzman is a friend of the Director-General of Civil Aviation? Whilst on the subject of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Minister may care to say whether or not 2 and possibly more senior officials in DCA purchased shares in Barton’s enterprises at that time.
On the question of the sale of the aircraft, the first thing that ought to be remembered is that aircraft have a world market price. There is no such thing as an Australian price, a British price or an American price. Tenders are called for on the world market. It was, I believe, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, as be then was, now the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), who described the sale of those aircraft as a “very good deal’. I wish to quote his words. The ‘Australian’ of 19th February 1971 reports:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr McMahon, yesterday defended the Government’s purchase of 6 DC3 planes from Jetair Limited for foreign aid as a good buy. Mr McMahon refused to disclose the purchase price of the planes but said that it was substantially below $50,000. He went on to say: The price, far from being excessive, is, I believe, well below the market price.’
There have been one or two aircraft sales recently in this country and these would suggest that Mr McMahon was not as conversant with world market prices as he may have been. For example, the aircraft VH-MMT sold by MacRobertson-Miller Airlines in the first quarter of 1970, described as ‘2 half-time motors, 75 per cent airframe’ brought $8,000. I understand that it was a beautifully clean aircraft. No-one in the industry would say that Jetair had an aircraft as good. In the first week of January 1971 aircraft VHANZ was sold by MacRobertson-Miller. It was described as ‘no less than i-time motors, at least a quarter airframe left’. It brought $8,000. It was not as good as the previous aircraft I mentioned but, nevertheless, it was a good aeroplane.
It is interesting to look at a copy of Flight International’ of 13th August 1970. In that publication, we find the following advertisement for a DC3 or a C-47, as it is described here. It reads:
Check 4 completed July 1969; Viscount type seats on Vickers rail; . . . engine hours since overhaul port 556, stb. 298; completely refurbished interior, full airways equipment: £Stg 13,500.
The same aircraft was advertised again on 7th January 1971 and the price was reduced to £stg 11,000. Yet we had to listen to a statement read by the Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) on 25th February this year in which he said:
As at December 1970 the estimated cost of this commission and renovation was estimated to be $425,000.
The commission referred to is that of the aircraft and the figure represents $85,000 each. That is just complete nonsense. There would not be a DC3 on the world market which would command that sort of money.
One cannot help but have the gravest suspicions about the aircraft that were sold to Cambodia to which Senator Keeffe has referred already. I do not wish to go over that ground unnecessarily. Suffice it to say that there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that that market was deliberately created. As Senator Keeffe pointed out, the request for information, I think originally by Senator Turnbull, was made 2 days after negotiations were commenced. Could any honest, reasonable person believe that to be a fair deal? I do not think so. The fact is that they wanted to get rid of these planes and the only way they could get rid of them was to purchase them. For all we know this could have been some sort of pay-off to Jetair for undertakings it was given verbally 12 or 18 months previously. This purchase certainly got Jetair out of some sort of trouble although it is a fact that Mr Barton still lost a lot of money on the whole business.
It is interesting to consider the reference by the Minister to the permission to sell these aircraft for Cambodia. His words were: ‘The Department of Foreign Affairs ascertained’ that Cambodia ‘would be glad of the RAAF aircraft’. 1 suggest that if there is still some doubt about this matter that the documents relating to these requests and what transpired ought to be tabled in this Senate so that it can decide once and for all whether our doubts have any validity.
There is one other point I want to make. In the statement by the Minister for Supply on 25th February, which appears at page 347 of Hansard, he stressed that Nepal, Laos and the Khmer Republic had all stressed urgent delivery. Yet we find that originally the decision to purchase the aircraft was made early in 1969. Two years later they still had not been delivered.
Where was the urgency? These are things that we cannot follow. Three departments were involved and they all hedged instead of coming out in the first place with a clear, honest and detailed statement of what had transpired. If they had made such a statement we would not be talking about this matter today. The trouble is that things were being covered up. We have reasonable ground to believe that things were done and deals were made; then presumably they were unmade and there was some effort to cover up.
I join with Senator Keeffe in suggesting that there ought to be a proper inquiry into what did transpire so far as Jetair Pty Ltd is concerned. 1 have spoken to a lot of other people who are in a position to know something of what went on. The difficulty is to prove anything. Perhaps this is the greatest safeguard that the Department has. It probably knows that we cannot prove anything. At least the people of Australia ought to be made aware of the sort of things that are going on and have been going on. Friends of the Government get themselves into trouble and then there is an effort to smooth things over. I hope the Government will attempt to answer some of the things said here today. Possibly then we can get a truthful and clear picture of precisely what did happen.
– The Senate is dealing with the Bills which provide for the additional estimates. 1 wish to comment on matters which arose before Estimates Committee E of which I was Chairman. One of the intentions of the Senate in setting up these estimates committees was to reduce to a minimum the time taken by the Senate to debate the Appropriation Bills. Due to a number of factors this has not been achieved.
I want to mention one or two of the matters that came forward as a result of the deliberations of Estimates Committee E. That Committee was set up in the middle part of 1970 and it dealt with the Appropriation Bills presented late in 1970. At our latest series of meetings we dealt with what is known as the additional Estimates. I found the several committees of value. Committee E dealt with the additional Estimates for the Department of Air, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of the Army, the Department of Repatriation and the Department of the Navy. I think members of the Opposition as well as members of the Government parties who took part in the investigation of the estimates gained, a great deal of knowledge. They questioned the departmental officers on a total requirement of about $55m. I appreciate the assistance given by members of the Committee and the way they phrased their questions in the public interest. They dealt efficiently with these members of the Public Service who appeared before the Committee.
I congratulate the advisers and officers who appeared before my Committee. Their knowledge was great and they brought back-up experience to the Committee which was of immense value. They demonstrated that they were keen to give guidance to the Committee and to members of the Parliament. There were difficulties associated with the meeting of these committees and they have attempted to go along with this innovation, introduced in the last 12 months, and to help in every possible way. I believe they impressed all honourable senators. Undoubtedly those who watched our committee in action would agree with my remarks. I believe that honourable senators who will work on such committees in the future must demonstrate that they are anxious to ensure that the knowledge and the time of these public servants are used as efficiently as possible. Those who appeared before the Committees are busy, hard working men who had to find time late in the evenings to come and give evidence before us.
When Committee E met originally it reported to the Senate on a number of points which it believed could advance the work of the Estimates Committees. It suggested that the physical facilities available in Parliament House for the meetings of the committees and for the departmental officers waiting to be called were quite inadequate. We emphasised that the most efficient use must be made of departmental resources. We suggested that copies of departmental explanations and notes on the Estimates should be circulated to committee members 2 or 3 days in advance of the meetings. We suggested that it was essential in the interests of the efficiency of proceedings for committee members to be well prepared to ask their questions when the item of expenditure concerned was being considered.
We put forward those positive suggestions hoping that they would be adopted. As a result of then and of suggestions put forward by other committees I believe that some success and some progress has been achieved. I believe the important point was that departmental explanatory notes were distributed to members of the Committee prior to the meetings of the Committee and this had the effect of considerably reducing the volume of discussion that was needed to elucidate what the additional amounts of expenditure were required for. Honourable senators will note also that on this occasion departmental officers found a room where they could meet prior to the committees’ requiring them. Honourable senators will agree with me that in most instances the committees attempted to deal with departmental officers and their resources as effectively as possible. I know this was nol the case in one or two instances of situations which were impossible for honourable senators to control. However, I do express my thanks to those who attended and particularly to those honourable senators who were not part of my Estimates Committee E but who came along and listened to the proceedings. I know that you, Mr Deputy President, took some part in those proceedings.
The matter on which I am called to speak is the statement in my Committee’s report, which has now come to the Senate, that while investigating amounts of proposed expenditure, one of the most important matters raised at the Committee was that raised by Senator Murphy when he attended. In our report we said that the view, was put to the Committee that in future provision should be made in the Particulars of Proposed Additional Expenditure for indicating amounts representing under-expended appropriations as an offset against amounts sought in the Additional Estimates. That suggestion was reiterated by Senator Murphy in his speech in the Senate last evening. In summing up his comments, as reported on page 1189 of yesterday’s Hansard, be said:
I ask the Government to consider this matter with a view to ensuring that the Appropriation Acts reflect exactly the realities of appropriations for the services oi the Government.
It is no easy matter for this to be brought about. My Committee said that probably the most important aspect of its investigations is that it requested advice from the Treasury on these matters. Mr Hill, the First Assistant Secretary, forwarded a letter to the Committee. That had the effect of giving members of the Committee some knowledge of the situation.
– Is that in your report?
– The letter is not incorporated in the report. I was attempting to draw the attention of honourable senators to our report in relation to this very difficult area where the Committee said it requested advice from the Treasury and directed its attention to the problem.
– I would like to know how you think it fits in with economies in departmental time and skill to require the Department to strike a balance twice a year.
– The Minister has asked whether we requested the Department to strike a balance twice a year. I do not think that was the request of either the Committee or Senator Murphy, but I would suggest that there are many citizens in Australia and many members of both the Houses of Representatives and the Senate who have no earthly idea of what the requirement under the additional estimates really means or of the volume of work that it means to departmental heads in preparing those accounts and figures which have already been requested by the Parliament. To some extent that may endorse the Minister’s comment which inquired whether I realise the work that will be required if we want a balance struck twice a year. That was not the matter that was raised.
– These are items of additional expenditure. There would be 10 or 20 times that number of items of under-expenditure or items where the break-even point was achieved.
– The situation arose mainly due to a most unusual event occurring this year. I think it was quite logical for Senator Murphy and members of my Committee, as perhaps other committees did, to ask for the true position regarding the requirement of additional funds. We have a situation where in February 1971 the then Prime Minister said: ‘1 require savings in my departments’, and savings were gained. But there was no reflection on that in the work the Committee was doing. If the Minister thinks that the Senate has no right to any knowledge of what the savings were, that may be one side of the cake. It was felt by simple honourable senators that this situation should be made known. Let me instance how this came about.
– That is a very inapt expression of my suggestion. You will get all that at Budget time in the annual balance.
– The Minister may have a great deal of knowledge of the accounting of the Commonwealth; it is a most intricate matter. I think it is quite significant that this point was raised.
– They went to a lot of trouble to find out they were short in some departments. Would they not at the same time have discovered that they were over-supplied in others?
– I will come to that. The Committee’s inquiry came up during investigation of the expenditure of the Department of Air. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a submission from the Department of Air setting out the funds sought and savings made by that Department.
In short the Department of Air in its original budget estimate required $272,999,000. It then had a revised estimate on 31st December 1970 of $290,441,000. This required the Department to ask for an additional appropriation under Appropriation Bill (No. 3) of $16,016,000. On the figures I have given, it was quite clear to honourable senators what they were asked to investigate. The point came up as to what offset savings there might be under the requirements of the Prime Minister, who suggested that there should be savings in every department. The Department of Air was able to advise the Committee that in fact there were offset savings in other divisions of $16,016,000, so that the adjusted revised estimate was the figure quoted of $290,441,000. But financial restrictions were to be imposed on the Department, which meant a saving, in the terms used in Commonwealth financial circles - it is not a saving in truth, but the
Department referred to a saving on various items - of $5,875,000. In short, what was required under Appropriation Bill (No. 1) was a revised total estimate of $284,566,000.
There was also an intricate matter of loan funds credits - United States credits. A misunderstanding at the beginning of the year regarding the lease of the Phantom jets resulted in credit funds not being able to be used as it was originally considered they could be used. So extra funds were required there. The final position came about by the Department of Air, having asked at the outset of the year for $312,791,000 net, then asking for an extra $16m when in fact it required only $307,904,000. In this situation Senator Murphy had the right to raise this point. The original Budget estimate was for $3 12.791m. A request was made for another $16.0 16m. The net situation was that a sum of $307 .904m was required and that was the point raised under Appropriation Act (No. 3). The Department said that that was the net position that it required. In short, while the Parliament was being asked to grant another $16m, an amount significantly less than that was required by the Department of Air. It does seem a little incongruous to deal with figures in that way.
– The honourable senator is speaking as though the Appropriation Bill were a cash bank balance.
– I see the Minister’s point. He says that an accountant may look at it as perhaps a cash flow situation in which one can state one’s position at any time of the year. The difficulties of this situation would lead ohe to argue with Senator Murphy on his suggestions to the Treasury. The preparation of the estimates is a major matter for departments. In fact today is an important day for them. The annual estimates of expenditure which departments are required to put forward are referred to in Treasury Direction 16/4 which provides as follows:
Departmental estimates of expenditure which form the bases for preparation of the Appropriation Bills (Nos 1 and 2) and the Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, shall be prepared in a form approved by the Treasury and shall contain estimates of such expenditures as have been endorsed by the Government and also new services, the liability for which has been approved by the Treasurer or his delegate. Departmental estimates, approved by the respective Minister, shall be forwarded to reach the Treasury not later than the last day of April or such other date, each year, as the Treasury directs.
The situation is that the estimates for the coming year must be in the hands of the Treasury by today. So it follows that the estimates for the year under consideration by Senate Estimates Committee E were prepared on this day last year. The Parliament seeks considerable accuracy in estimated expenditure well ahead of actual payments being incurred. Request for additional estimates may be made. Treasury Directions 16/7 and 16/8 provide as follows:
Where an amount provided in Appropriation Act (No. 1 or 2) is found to be insufficient to meet approved commitments in a financial year, additional appropriation may be sought in a further Appropriation Bill (No. 3 or 4). Appropriation may also be sought for new items of expenditure in those Bills.
In each financial year departments shall submit to the Treasury, at such time as is directed (usually in February or March), a return listing the items for which it is necessary to obtain an additional or new appropriation. Provision will not be made in the relevant Appropriation Bills unless the amounts have previously been approved by the Treasurer or his delegates.
In accordance with those directions we see the formulation of the additional estimates. There is a further way in which departments may seek funds, and that is through the Advance to the Treasurer. Expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer occurs subsequent to the closing date of the additional estimates. That will be subsequent on Sth March 1971 in the case of the financial year 1970-71. That amount includes $20m for capital works and $20m for the ordinary annual services of departments. The principles to be observed in the preparation of estimates - this strikes at the heart of the discussions we have had - are set out in Treasury Direction 16/9 which was issued on 10th October 1970. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate Treasury Direction 16/9 in Hansard.
The following general principles shall be observed by departments in preparing estimates:
The First part of the Direction, which is the core of the matter, reads:
The following general principles shall be observed by departments in preparing estimates:
Estimates for all items of expenditure shall represent a realistic assessment of the sum that is expected to be spent having regard to the information available to the department at the time of preparation. Estimates for supplies and services shall be based upon current or known costs and in no circumstances shall any provision be made for possible rises in costs. Where an item is for a type of recurring expense, e.g., office services or travelling and subsistence, it is appropriate to budget on the basis of experience.
Departments are bound by three or four other factors in submitting their estimates, lt is impossible for a department at this time of the year to take into account the things that might occur in the next 12 months which might affect its estimating. As Senator Murphy mentioned, an explanation may be necessary as to why the Parliament was not aware of the particular under-expenditure at this time of the year. My Committee sought from the First Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Treasury a note to explain the situation. I would like to quote one or two passages from his letter. Mr Hills says that the Treasurer, in introducing these Bills in another place, advised the Parliament that the savings were being made. The wording of his letter and advice is as follows:
In his Second Reading speeches in the House of Representatives on 6th April 1971 the Treasurer stated that although additional appropriations totalling $120,968,000 in No. 3 Bill and $32,700,000 in No. 4 Bill were required, savings were expected to be available under other appropriations to the extent of $50m and $ 17.6m respectively. The Treasurer pointed out that these savings could not be legally offset so that additional appropriations could be sought as a net amount and that appropriations not fully spent lapsed at 30th June in accordance with section 36 of the Audit Act 1901-1969 . . .
It is usual, in any financial year, to find that in a number of appropriations actual expenditure falls short of what was considered at the outset to be a realistic estimate. An indication of probable under-expenditure or savings is given to the Treasury as a result of examination of revised estimates of expenditure, usually provided by departments in January and at such other times as may be required. Those savings may, or may not, be realised, depending on decisions relating to the commitment of work, ability of contractors to work to schedule, changes of policy and so on. I certain circumstances, expected savings might be frozen’, i.e., not drawn upon, but generally speaking, they would be available for expenditure within the purposes of the appropriation until 30th June.
In other words, with the approval given by Parliament under the earlier appropriations in the financial year, the department may spend that amount at any stage until the end of the financial year. While we may request a department to indicate what savings are expected so that we are not misled by apparent over-expenditure when no over-expenditure has taken place, the department has available to it the appropriated amount until 30th June. There is no requirement legally for a department to say that at this time of the year there appears to be a saving of $16m, as was the case with the Department of Air. It might well use this amount, and there is nothing to say that it should not use this amount prior to 30th June. I would have imagined that by his wording Senator Murphy was asking purely that the Government should look at this matter, but he was a little more demanding in that he said that the Parliament should be notified. I think there are considerable problems in that. Mr Hill, in his conclusion, stated:
It may, nevertheless, be possible to present a paper in association with the Appropriation Bills Nos 3 and 4, setting out the appropriations in which savings, according to the latest information, may occur, together with an estimate of the saving. The informatory paper would be based on the forecasts available to the Treasury on or about 1st March and it will be appreciated that the listing of an expected saving under a particular appropriation line would not mean that the amount will, at 30th June, necessarily remain unexpended. In these circumstances such a document might have limited usefulness.
Consideration will, nevertheless, be given to the preparation of such an information paper in future years and a report will be made to the Treasurer at the appropriate time.
Let me mention the difficulties that may be experienced. A department may be called upon in January or February to express the areas in which savings may be made. I think there would be a human reaction to that. The department has the figure available until 30th June. Is it to be thought that estimates committees will grill a department or investigate a department as to where it has obtained those savings and perhaps about why it made the original appropriation, when, 7 months later, it is willing to say that those figures were not available? I think there is a problem associated with that. There could be a power within the Treasurer to suggest that a vote be frozen. That again would be a difficulty. I imagine that the human factor again would be involved in that the department would not wish to suggest that it did have savings; it would not be anxious to make them known.
It is possible that the additional funds which legally it must seek for any item it wishes to increase may be offset against savings in the department, resulting conceivably in great difficulty within the department. Honourable senators should realise that this could perhaps spill over into the community generally. If a department was proposing to do certain work, and if there was a likelihood that in January or February certain items were to be cut off, I imagine that private contractors and private suppliers to the Government could be most embarrassed because funds were then to be denied to them. I see a considerable problem for the Treasury in putting within the appropriation papers a definite record of the savings that will be achieved by departments. Such an amount could only be an estimate. It could only be a figure, and a department could not bs held to it and forced to give an assurance that those savings would be available by the end of the year. I believe - I think the members of the estimates committee of which I am the chairman would perhaps go along with this view, whilst they have not expressed it - that the Treasury will be doing all we ask of it if it can give consideration to the provision of an information paper. Indeed, this should be discussed with the Treasurer so that it could come before the Senate at an appropriate time.
– I take this opportunity to direct some comment to a matter which was raised during the course of the examination of the Estimates in Estimates Committee E in relation to the Department of Repatriation. It arose out of somewhat of a shock 1 got when I saw it was necessary to provide an amount of $449,000 additional to the initial appropriation for the year for drugs. I can appreciate the explanation which the Department gave that it is terribly difficult to estimate with close accuracy what may be required from year to year because of various fluctuations. This was quite amply demonstrated to the Committee at the time, not only in this direction but in other directions. But it still seems to me to be an inordinately high figure for additional drugs particularly in this day and age when one becomes pretty much alerted to the problems of drug taking and the consequences of the ready availability of drugs and problems of this kind.
I pricked up my ears and I directed some questions to the advisers from the Department, who were very good and who gave clear explanations of these things. One must concede that ex-servicemen patients are getting older and are probably needing drugs in greater quantities than they did previously. I guess this trend will continue. With the development of new drugs and new systems of treatment for various conditions, I suppose it is reasonable to expect that doctors will try out various medications and forms of treatment on a patient until such time as the correct treatment or the correct drug is arrived at and the patient can get some relief.
Quite recently I became acquainted with the case of an ex-serviceman who had suffered for years and years from a certain condition. He had almost given up hope of getting any relief. He was in a rather desperate situation because the amount of pension which he received as compensation for his loss of ability was inadequate to cover the situation. He was in a difficult situation. But ultimately, as a consequence of some action we took - I pay a very great tribute to the officers of the Repatriation Department in Tasmania for what they did in this case, and in so many others - the person concerned was taken before a doctor, given an examination and given a form of treatment. It will not cure his problem, but it has given him relief for the first time in many years. I suppose it is reasonable that the various drugs should be tried out and ultimately it is hoped - and in this case it turned out to be so - that relief can be given to the sufferer. 1 think we ought to acknowledge that there is a serious problem in relation to increased drug taking. I raise the question here, and I point out that I am proposing to discuss the matter in greater detail with the advisers of the Department. I have informed them that I want the opportunity to raise with them this question and question of a general check on the drug taking of ex-servicemen. I want to ascertain what sort of checks are placed on the availability of drugs, how readily prescriptions are made available to ex-servicemen and matters of this kind, and generally whether some sort of curb is placed on the very ready availability of drugs to ex-service people.
– Are you implying that they are available to only exservicemen?
– No, I am talking about the Repatriation Department and the general question of medication that is provided to its patients. The problem which I see is that there seems to be no check. I want to illustrate this in a moment or two by referring to a couple of very dramatic instances that came to my notice and which I believe ought to be checked and which I will take up with the Department. The problem of drug taking is one we are conscious of. Senator Marriott, who has just interjected, has had far greater experience than I have had and most members of this chamber have had in relation to that problem, its root causes and the systems that may have to be applied to meet the present situation. But I think all of us would agree that there is a too ready availability of drugs in the community. I hope that some check will be made on this. When I see a figure of $449,000 for additional drugs- the underestimation of the drug requirements of the Repatriation Department - I prick up my ears and feel that apparently this is a problem of very great dimensions. 1 believe that consideration will have to be given to this by the Government, the Department and other organisations which may be involved to see whether some sort of check can be made on the extent of drug prescription and drug taking. At the moment I am referring to ex-servicemen because the Repatriation Department is concerned, but I believe that the problem is much wider in the community at large.
In the course of an examination of these estimates by the Estimates Committee a few days ago I indicated that instances of malpractice in the system had been brought to my attention. Perhaps I could give a general outline of the sorts of things which have come to my notice and which I propose to discuss with officers of the Department because such serious matters are involved. What I have in mind amounts to a conspiracy to defraud, the Government and also to jeopardise seriously the treatment of these people through the prescription of medication for the disabilities that they have. I refer first to those ex-servicemen who unfortunately are alcoholics. It has been mentioned to me that in one of the principal cities of Australia a practice has grown up whereby a doctor in good faith - I am not criticising the doctors - will provide an exserviceman with a prescription and, because he is a member of that alcoholic group, he will then go to an unscrupulous pharmacist and trade his prescription for a sum of money. In the particular instance mentioned to me he received about half its value. Presumably the pharmacist would claim on the Repatriation Department for the total cost of the medication prescribed. At that time the ex-serviceman was given Ss so that he could indulge in his unfortunate practice.
– Surely that would be a rare occurrence?
– Initially when it was brought to my attention 1 had hoped that it would be a rare occurrence, but subsequently I found that the practice was not nearly so rare as I had thought and would have expected.
– The honourable senator mentioned Ss. Was this before the change to decimal currency?
– This happened a few years ago and that was the term used when the matter was mentioned to me. The prescription was probably for drugs valued at 10s and the person involved probably received 5s with which he would have bought a bottle of wine. Presumably the pharmacist would have claimed the 10s from the Repatriation Department. Another practice which has been mentioned to me and which has alarmed me greatly involved the ex-serviceman being given a prescription for drugs and finding it a simple matter to obtain from a pharmacist its value in cosmetics and other things of that kind for his wife. It is a serious matter and a serious malpractice. Perhaps by raising the matter here now I might be able to give some sort of warning to people that it is a serious matter which may have grave legal consequences for them if they persist with the practice. Not only is this a fraud on the Government and a fraud on the Department but also it must impede and retard the treatment of the person for whom the prescription has been written.
In view of the fact that prescriptions are used in this way, I wonder whether doctors are issuing prescriptions too readily. If drugs are prescribed and the doctor seriously believes, as I am sure he would, that the drugs are necessary for the treatment of a condition suffered by a person, it should not be possible for that person to trade with a pharmacist on the basis of that prescription and consequently retard the curative process for which the prescription was written in the first instance. I shall discuss this matter with the departmental officers because I think it is serious enough to warrant this course being taken. Perhaps by doing this I can give the Department an opportunity to make some check on the situation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sittings I mentioned my very deep concern for the problems which had arisen concerning practices which have grown up over relatively recent years in relation to drug taking, drug availability and the . allocation of funds from the resources of the Government to meet the costs of providing drugs to the Repatriation Department. Perhaps I should hasten here to say that my purpose in raising this matter was to endeavour to alert the community to the sort of things that are going on and to get those who have a responsibility in this direction to do something about it. During the luncheon adjournment I discussed this matter with a number of honourable senators and I was deeply disturbed to find that this practice is far more widespread than I had earlier imagined. For instance, I believe that it has been described in Sydney as a notorious racket that has been going on for years.
Let me say that the malpractices to which I have referred do in fact relate to a very small section of the pharmaceutical profession, the vast majority of whose members I regard as hard working, sincere and honourable people. My comments relate to a small number only who are principally in the capital cities and whose activities bring discredit upon their profession and are seriously prejudicial to the treatment and cure of those unfortunate members of the community for whose welfare they seem to have such scant regard. 1 pose the question: ls there any way in which the Repatriation Department can set up its own dispensaries? As I have said, these malpractices in the main take place in the cities and this is where I would imagine there would be sufficient call on the services of such a pharmacy to justify its establishment. I wonder whether such pharmacies could be established in the capital cities where they could be readily available to people who required their services. If this were done, I believe, we could minimise the problems to which I have referred. Again I ask: What checks, if any, can be made? I imagine that it would be very difficult to apply checks to ensure that those for whom drugs are subscribed actually use them and do not sell them.
I know that the allegations I am making are of a very serious nature. For a long while 1 have been concerned about them. I alluded to the problem on a previous occasion during a speech in this chamber. However, I did not follow the matter up because I have a very deep and sincere regard for the problems of these ex-service people and I would not want to do anything prejudicial or hurtful to them. But what 1 have heard has been confirmed in so many directions that I believe this practice can no longer be permitted to go on and something has to be done. It appears that the situation may be much more widespread than I had first imagined. In the circumstances I think that this matter should be closely investigated. I do not think it would be very difficult to carry out an investigation so that at least some of the mysteries surrounding the practices to which 1 have alluded can be unravelled.
At the moment this whole matter is a scandal and cannot be allowed to continue.
I suggest that this is a thorough-going racket in this country. It not only involves considerable sums of money but it also impinges on the whole question of drug taking and must bear heavily on the treatment and cure of ex-servicemen and their dependants. As I have said, one hesitates to raise this question because of a deep feeling of obligation to ex-servicemen, but one cannot remain silent while a section of the community whose actions should be beyond reproach, since its members operate largely on trust, proves unworthy of the trust and responsibility reposed in them by the system. I earnestly hope that any unhappiness 1 may cause by these revelations will be more than offset or counterbalanced by the good that may ultimately come as a result of what I have said. I warn those people who have some responsibility in this matter that so far as I am concerned it will not be tolerated. I imagine that the question having been raised here, all possible steps . will be taken to stamp out this practice and to reduce to the lowest possible level the practices which have grown up and have been regarded and referred to as notorious rackets throughout Australia.
– As I was absent last evening from the Senate 1 was unable to take the opportunity to speak about the crown of thorns starfish problem. The Senate took note of the ministerial statement made on this subject. I now take the opportunity offered by the first reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) to make some comments on the crown of thorns starfish because I do not feel that the recent report of the Joint CommonwealthState committee set up to investigate the problem should go unchallenged. However, before turning to that subject I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the loss to Queensland and the nation of John Busst, an outstanding conservationist of north Queensland whose sudden death only a few weeks ago was a great loss to the cause of conservation, especially in Queensland. The efforts of John Busst were responsible in many ways for delaying the commercial exploitation of the Great Barrier Reef. His close friendship with the late Prime Minister Harold Holt prevented extensive experiments in defoliation in north Queensland. I say that in spite of denials by the Government in ans wers to questions I asked on that subject It is obvious that the Government had intended to carry out large scale defoliation tests in north Queensland. Because of John Busst’s friendship with the late Harold Holt the experiments were delayed and eventually cancelled.
John Busst’s close friendship with former Prime Minister John Gorton brought about the setting up of a royal commission to investigate drilling operations on the Great Barrier Reef. His efforts offset the influence of Mr Bjelke-Petersen - that extraordinary man who is Premier of Queensland - which was being exerted to have appointed to the royal commission a geologist who was closely associated with Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s oil interests. We owe a great deal to John Busst and it is a great pity that his death should occur at a time when it is necessary to reactivate the campaign to protect the Great Barrier Reef against exploitation and natural disaster.
Concern has been growing, especially since the committee’s report was tabled, that the threat to the Reef is not properly recognised. We have now had 3 reports on the problem of the crown of thorns starfish. The first report was produced by Mr R. G. Pearson and Dr Endean. Dr Endean has expert knowledge of the Brrier Reef and of the problem of the crown of thorns starfish. If the Queensland Government had taken notice of this report of the surveys that had been carried out by these 2 gentlemen and had awakened to the implications it revealed, the problem of the crown of thorns starfish would not have reached its present magnitude. If the most recent committee had carried out its investigations and made its recommendations at the same time as Dr Endean and Mr Pearson made their surveys, some positive action could have been taken then against this threat, but because of the deliberate delay by the Queensland Government in recognising the magnitude of the threat, as reported in the first report, we are now faced with a continuing need of research for another 3 or 4 years before something physical, active and positive is done against this plague.
– Did not the final report say that there was not the threat that you are trying to suggest? Was not the
Premier of Queensland right and you wrong?
– No. I questioned this last report - that is why I am on my feet now - because the first report indicated that there was a threat. The second report, too, cannot be ignored. It is a report on the crown of thorns starfish and the Barrier Reef. It is paper number 1 1 of the Australian Academy of Science and it was prepared by a committee comprising Professor R. J. Walsh, Dr M. F. Day, Professor C. W. Emmens, Professor Dorothy Hill, Dr D. F. Martyn, Professor W. P. Rogers and Dr D. F. Waterhouse. That report underlined in no uncertain terms the threat to the Great Barrier Reef and supported Dr Endean’s revelations. It did not question them. It did not rubbish the surveys and reports of Dr Endean and Mr Pearson as did the last report.
We have 2 eminent reports which say that there is a great threat to the Great Barrier Reef and a third report which says, contrary to the 2 earlier reports of scientists, that there is no threat to the Great Barrier Reef from the starfish. I would say that the 2 earlier reports are based soundly on scientific evidence and knowledge. One could argue that the third report also is based soundly on scientific investigation and knowledge, but as we have 3 reports, 2 stating that there is a considerable threat to the Great Barrier Reef and 1 stating that there is no threat I, for one, will accept the 2 reports. Any reasonable man would place himself in an invidious position if he were to accept the last report, especially when that report is so contradictory in its conclusions. In its summary of conclusions and recommendations that report states:
The report concludes by recommending to the Government that an investigation and research programme, which will cost the Government $300,000 to $500,000, be set up to investigate a threat which that committee itself says does not exist. I intend to read an article written by a young journalist which appeared in the ‘Sunday Review’ of 4th April 1971. It outlines the contradictions in relation to this matter. I feel it is important that these contradictions should be brought before this Parliament. It states:
The brief report of the committee appointed by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to consider the crown of thorns starfish problem on the Great Barrier Reef, has already caused quite a stir in scientific and conservationist circles. The controversy is certain to grow as the report becomes more widely available.
It is necessary to read this report because this matter is passing through the Senate in such a quiet manner, and it is important to stress that there is growing concern about the crown of thorns problem. It would be unwise to say that because a committee has said there is no threat therefore there is no threat. We ought to be aware that this concern and controversy will grow and that conservationists in Queensland and other places will see that the controversy is stimulated so that the truth of the matter will be discovered. The article continues:
Already, critics have charged that the committee in its conclusions has accepted some hypotheses while rejecting others for which there is equal weight of evidence.
Examples include the committee’s findings that the starfish ‘ . . . does not constitute a threat to the Great Barrier Reef as a whole’ and that the entire living cover, or even a large proportion of the coral cover of the Reef, will not disappear as a result of A. planci activity’-
That is crown of thorns activity -
The report states that serious damage is limited to reefs between Cairns and Townsville but brings forward no reasons why it might not extend to a large proportion of the coral cover of the reef. Some scientists who see the reef as a total ecosystem would argue that damage to a large proportion of such a system could well endanger the whole. The point made by the committee’s critics is that neither view has been established.
One anti-alarmist conclusion that has already drawn heavy fire is that ‘reef-building is a continuous process of growth and destruction of organisms, including coral and algae. Consolidation of the dead material in the reef mass provides the platform necessary for the continuation of this process. In this context the feeding by the crown of thorns starfish on living coral constitutes, in the long term, portion of the destruction by natural forces within the reef-building process.’
The complaint is that the committee’s conclusion doesn’t come to grips with what has to be demonstrated - namely that an extraordinary level of destruction arising from a population explosion of starfish is still simply part of the normal reefbuilding process.
In other words, the article says that whereas a normal population of starfish on the Reef may be part of the growth building process of the Reef the complaint is that excessive population does not necessarily fulfil this purpose and may lead to the complete and ultimate destruction of large areas of the Reef. The report continues:
On the available evidence, the starfish explosion may just as easily be one of those natural forces which result in ultimate destruction.
Another disturbing feature of the report is contained in the statement that neither tourism nor commercial fishing has declined as a result of the crown of thorns. Although this has been disputed, no references are given to any supporting data. Nor has any comment been made as to whether these activities are likely to remain unaffected.
The tourist market is usually susceptible to adverse publicity. Some Barrier Reef resort proprietors are suing the weather bureau over adverse publicity caused by cyclone warnings.
Honourable senators can see that we have another problem, with vested interests endeavouring to downgrade the threat to the Great Barrier Reef because of their economic commercial interests. The report continues:
In relation to fishing, the introduction to the report mentions a Cairns doctor’s report that the crown of thorns infestation was coincidental with an increase in ciguatera - a form of fish poisoning often associated with disturbances to a marine environment
The article in the ‘Sunday Review* states further:
In evidence before the Barrier Reef Royal Commission on oil drilling, a leading United States expert on corals, Professor R. E. Johannes, suggested that the poisoning might occur from fish eating certain types of algae that flourish on reefs denuded or coral organisms.
Although a causal relationship has not been established the problem must be regarded as important but no further mention of ciguatera is made in either the main body of the report or in the conclusions; Yet surely this must be something that could affect commercial fishing.
Severel theories explaining how the population increase in the starfish occurred were examined and most were eagerly attacked on the grounds of insufficient evidence to substantiate them.
Of the various explanatory theories examined, the Committee opted for what it called the Periodic Fluctuation Theory - population increases occur due to failure of one or more of the normal population checks. It is quite astounding that this should be offered as an explanation of the starfish infestation for it is only to state the obvious - the question is to determine which population checks have failed.
Despite the many comforting conclusions arrived at by the six-man committee- compared with the other committee ( described - comprising one human geneticist, one accountant, one geologist, one chemist and two zoologists, its final recommendation was that over $100,000 a year be spent on further research ‘as knowledge of reef ecology is inadequate to permit a complete assessment of present and future problems concerning the crown of thorns’.
Despite the statement made at the beginning of the report of that Committee that there is no threat to the Great Barrier Reef, the Committee concluded that we should spend many thousands of dollars on investigating whether such a threat exists. I do not question that this expenditure should be provided for. I have argued on many occasions that this research is necessary and that it is mandatory that money be spent on such a valuable area. It is not only a State or national asset, it is a-
– That is the very point. It is an international heritage.
– I agree with the honourable senator who has assisted me. It is a tremendous responsibility which this nation has to face, and we should expend large sums of money to make certain that this area is protected. If we had botanic gardens that were infested by a caterpillar plague we would take immediate steps to eradicate the pest by the use of physical efforts. Surely we should not accept the decision that what is happening to the Reef is merely a cycle and that we should allow the area to be devastated because in the natural course of events the whole area will recover. It may also be argued that the great bushfires which ravage our lands should be permitted to go unchecked because in SOO years time that cycle will be completed and the areas devastated will recover to their original form.
The argument has been put forward that this is what is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef, but it is a dangerous argument. If it is a cycle, as it is claimed to be, which is likely to take perhaps 500 or 600 years to complete, and the conclusion therefore is that the Reef as a whole is not under any threat of destruction, we must be very careful in our consideration and bear in mind that in that 500-year period other elements may intrude into the restoration of the area. Man himself may intrude. If the area were a wilderness and were left to its own devices, then in 500 or 600 years the cycle may be completed and the devastated area may return to its original beauty. But that is not the case in these days of pretty rapid progress and exploitation. What would happen if this area were downgraded by vast devastation by the crown of thorns or by pollution from rivers? The commercial interests which have their eyes on the Great Barrier Reef would be justified in exploiting the whole of the area, thus preventing the regeneration cycle from completing its course.
So I feel that we ought to take the sort of initiative that was taken by the Americans in an area of far less responsibility. They have taken the initiative in expending $4m to protect their coral reefs against the crown of thorns by physically reducing the infestation; by protecting areas of regeneration. Yet after 3 reports and 10 years of investigation the Government will now merely provide money for research. This is good. Let us spend the money. Let us try to find the basis of the problem, but in the meantime the Government needs to provide finance to launch a physical attack on the problem, particularly the major areas of infestation. Do not let us be sidetracked by the magnitude of the problem or by the attitude of the scientists that no immediate results could be achieved because the problem is so vast. Let us follow the example of the man who had a vested interest in attracting tourists to Green Island. By placing a bounty on the crown of thorns he reduced the infestation and the devastation caused around that island. 1 give notice to the Senate that in the coming recess I, with many other conservationists in Queensland and throughout Australia - conservationists who fought to prevent drilling on the Great Barrier Reef - will launch a campaign to set up a fund to protect the Great Barrier Reef against the menace of the crown of thorns. Even if wc achieve only a little it will be something. We will endeavour to involve the Torres Strait Islanders, many of whom are skilled divers and fishermen but who are idle at the present time. We will seek to refit some of the luggers that are rotting in the Torres Strait. We will seek to combine the harvesting of the crown of thorns with a revival of the industry of harvesting beche-de-mer. Our aim is in some way to attack the problem at the major point of infestation. I give notice that funds will be raised to such an extent that the Government will be embarrassed into subsidising an immediate physical campaign against the crown of thorns. We will enlist the assistance of the various skin diving associations in order to attack this problem.
If a particular reef is severely infested surely it is reasonable to launch such an attack as has been launched in the United States. Lest this infestation develop and move south, surely it is reasonable that we should try to erect a barrier. Because of the tremendous support that was given to the campaign to prevent drilling on the Great Barrier Reef perhaps people will come to the assistance of such a fund. In the circumstances I feel that the setting up of such a fund is justified. It has been proved necessary in other parts of the world. I am certain that the efforts of various groups and the various news media will be co-ordinated to such an extent that such a physical and immediate campaign will be successful.
The future of the Great Barrier Reef certainly cannot be left in the hands of the present Queensland Government which is led by a Premier who has a vested interest in its commercial exploitation. This is proven by the amount of money that is being spent by the State Government in paying for representation before the Royal Commission. It is paying for representation before the Royal Commission in effect to support its case for drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. No money was provided by the State Government for counsel to support the tourist industry or the conservation cause. In all fairness, the Federal Government provided money to help pay the costs of the conservationists. I do not doubt that several thousand dollars will be expended in providing counsel for the conservationists to appear and present a reasonable case against drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. On the other hand, the State Government is making no contribution to the costs of the Royal Commission. To this date I have seen no mention of any amount of money paid by the State Government towards the cost of the Royal Commission as a whole but it is providing for the cost of an eminent Queen’s Counsel to support the case of the Queensland Mines Department for drilling on the Reef.
So we cannot leave the future of the Great Barrier Reef to the Premier of
Queensland or to the Country Party dominated Government of Queensland, no matter what Senator Webster might think about it. It seems to mc that as Mr Gorton is no longer the Prime Minister we cannot allow the future of the Great Barrier Reef to rest in the hands of this Federal Government. The Great Barrier Reef will be saved only if there is a great involvement on the part of the people of Australia and it is the intention of the campaign that we will launch to involve as many people as possible so that no government will be prepared to take any action which will threaten the Great Barrier Reef and no government will be prepared to delay for too much longer some immediate physical action to protect the Reef against this predator - this plague - the crown of thorns.
– 1 rise to speak in relation to a matter which was noted by Estimates Committee C, of which I was a member. It deals with an item in the Additional Estimates for the development of Avalon Airport to Boeing 747 or Concorde standard. This matter was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on 3rd September 1970 and a report was presented by that Committee on 19th October 1970. The expenditure sought and recommended by the Committee was $6,400,000. As I said, that amount was contained therefore in the Additional Estimates, having not been contained in the Budget presented in August 1970. This raises an important question of departmental or perhaps interdepartmental planning. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in its 33rd General Report made some points which I think it is relevant to quote. In paragraph 9 it said:
It is the Committee’s belief that, generally, with proper and efficient planning there is ample scopewithin the present procedures for the Committee’s scrutiny of major works to be carried out, at the appropriate time, without delay and without detriment to the timing of design or completion of the proposals. On the other hand, when a project is hastily referred to the Committee as the last step before tenders are called, seeking a rubber stamp endorsement of the proposal, there must always be concern that hurried planning and tight building construction timetables will lead to illconceived development and cost penalties flowing from restricted construction periods.
When that Committee considered the particular work proposal it found that there were some disturbing features. I wish to quote from paragraphs 51 and 52 of the 20th report, of 1970, which was presented by the Committee. Paragraph 51 states:
We feel it is necessary to point out thai the Committee received the reference at a point in time which made it difficult, if not impossible, not to endorse the work. Not to do so would mean that the training of Qantas aircrew on Boeing 747 aircraft could only be done under considerable penalties after their delivery in August 1971. The Committee feels that, because of the programme, it was left with no alternative but to recommend the construction of the proposed work at Avalon.
Paragraph 52 states:
It is quite probable that if the programme had not been so demanding the Committee would have recommended the development of a training airfield in another location. As the Department of Civil Aviation has known of the Qantas Boeing 747 programme since 1968, we feel it is necessary to protest yet again at the apparent inability of the Department to do its forward planning effectively and at its apparent indifference to the requirements and possible implications of a Committee investigation.
I understand that Avalon airport, which is situated some 9 miles from Geelong, was in its early life - from 1953 - a Services test flying airport which was used also for research and other purposes, but that from 1958 the important part with which we are concerned came about. It was then that Qantas Airways Ltd acquired Boeing 707 aircraft and found the need for training facilities for its pilots. The airport has, since that time, been used for civil jet training purposes - at least with regard to overseas aircraft - and, as 1 understand it, some domestic aircraft. This role is to be increased to include most domestic jet flying as well as the overseas jets at some time in the near future. Extensions to the runways at Avalon are required to bring the airport up to a standard for use by Boeing 747 and Concorde aircraft. I again wish to quote from the report of the Public Works Committee. Paragraph 47 states:
Quite clearly, under the present civil aviation policy, the Commonwealth has a responsibility- to provide landing facilities for commercial pilot training and, because of the time factor, it is obvious that the upgrading of the facilities at Avalon is the only practicable way of satisfactorily providing for Boeing 747 training. We therefore believe that the work in this reference should be carried out without further unnecessary delay.
It becomes relevant then to consider whether there has been adequate forward planning in relation to this matter and. further, whether any extra cost will be involved in the work having to be undertaken as a matter of urgency. The other question which is relevant is: Why was it necessary to include this item in the additional estimates? Planning and estimating for and by Government departments should presumably enable proper annual budgeting. If large projects - a $6.4m project is a relatively large one - are to be occurring in many departments obviously there will be considerable problems if they are not provided for in annual budgeting. As to these questions it is relevant to consider that Government approval for Qantas to buy the Boeing 747 aircraft was given in, 1 believe, November 1967 and finance was arranged in approximately May 1968, so that certainly since May 1968 it has been known that the Boeing 747 was to be introduced by Qantas.
Qantas, in its report for the year ended 31st March 1970, referred to the expansion of the Sydney jet base to provide, among other things, the facilities necessary for, as Qantas described it, the new giant Boeing 747B. The report also stated that these developments would be completed in 1971 and were at the time of the report - 31st March 1970 - either under way or in the advanced planning stage. It has therefore been known since 1968 that Qantas is to take delivery of its first 747 in mid- 1971 - the actual date, as I understand it, being August. Obviously it could not be said that the need for these works at Avalon was not foreseeable from the time of the approval of the purchase of the aircraft, nor could it be said that the time when the need for the work to be completed was not foreseeable from the time when the delivery dates were fixed, which was. as I understand it, in about May 1968.
The Department of Civil Aviation has, according to paragraph 47 of the report of the Public Works Committee, which I have already quoted, the responsibility of providing the facilities, lt has therefore had the whole of the financial year 1968-69 and the whole of the financial year 1969- 70 to plan for these works. On the face of it there could have been provision for this work in the 1970-71 Budget. As to this, the Committee’s report includes a conclusion in paragraph 53. It is conclusion No. 9 and it is a somewhat disturbing conclusion. It reads: lt is necessary to protest yet again at the apparent inability of the Department of Civil Aviation to do its forward planning effectively.
Whether any additional costs are involved due to the late planning is another question, but I understand from information which was obtained from the Department and supplied to me by the Minister - for which I am grateful, this matter having been raised during the Estimates Committee’s hearing - that no extra costs will be involved as a result of any questions of late planning. For completeness I mention that that is my understanding; that in this case, anyway, no extra costs will be involved.
But I raise this matter for the attention of the Minister and for the information and consideration of honourable senators. I believe that it is the function of Estimates Committees to draw attention to matters such as this, and the Comittee of which I am a member stated in paragraph 3 of its report which was presented to this chamber yesterday:
Evidence given to the Committee indicated that in some cases at least, original estimates are formulated on a basis which does not include expenditure for some foreseeable departmental activities. Such estimating could lead to a situation where the original estimates would not represent a true indication of a government’s anticipated commitments for the financial year.
If the reason for the apparently inadequate forward planning is simply a matter of the large volume of planning work necessary to cater for this fast growing industry, then I ask the Minister: What consideration is being given to overcoming the difficulty to prevent this type of case becoming a regular feature of his Department’s work? His Department is responsible for a very fast growing industry. I can well understand that there may be very good reasons why; in this particular case, it was not possible to apply the forward planning which one would have expected, bearing in mind the time schedule which I have mentioned. 1 conclude by reminding honourable senators that the time schedule was that by about May 1968 it was known that 747s would be required and when they would commence to be delivered. No reference at all was made to this project in the Budget for 1970-71, which was presented in
August 1970, and it was not until 3rd September 1970 that the proposal for the work was submitted to the Public Works Committee with the statement: ‘Achievement of the planned schedule is highly dependent on a start being made by midNovember 1970’. So although it had not reached the planning stage in August 1970 to enable it to be put into the Budget, by 3rd September it had reached the stage where it was imperative that the Public Works Committee complete its investigation of the project in time for a start to be made on the project by mid-November 1970. I simply put the matter and would be grateful if the Minister would comment on it. I raise it also for the general information of honourable senators.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to take advantage of the fact that we are debating the first reading of this Bill to bring forward another matter with which I will deal only briefly. I was inspired to do so by a report which appeared in last night’s ‘Herald’. It concerned the wool industry, and it referred to a statement made in England by Sir William Gunn. I refer firstly to a report of a meeting held in Perth on 3rd and 4th April last year at which Sir William Gunn was one of the distinguished persons present. I shall refer to that portion of his address which dealt with the wool industry and which has relevance to the report which appeared in last night’s newspaper and in today’s ‘West Australian’. Sir William Gunn, speaking to the assembly of farmers and those interested in primary production, about the future of wool and about the International Wool Secretariat, said:
I can assure you that through the activities of the
IWS there is no doubt now, in my judgment, that in the minds of the consumers there is now a preference for wool over all of the other fibres in sufficient number of end uses to enable us to sell all the wool we are capable of producing in the foreseeable future.
I would interpolate that selling it does not mean getting an adequate price for it; he can see that it will be sold. He continued:
Wool is in strong demand at the present time and at the consumer level I believe it is remarkable the demand which has been maintained, taking into consideration high interest rates; very difficult economic conditions; uncertainty as to economic conditions; uncertainty as to the value of sterling; uncertainty as to the French franc; uncertainty as to the German currency, and dollar crises. All of these things have happened in the last 18 months and to wool they are very important and are very disturbing to the market. But in spite of all these - one of the worst periods of currency stability we have been through since the end of the Second World War - wool has gone into consumption at a reasonable rate and, from our point of view, a satisfactory rate.
If we can go through that kind of period with a consumption of the rate it has been then, with the kind of stability we look to be moving into now, the situation ought to be better and all the forecasts which I can get - and those of anybody who is prepared to put their neck out and say what is going to happen to wool prices- are now prepared to say that prices will be better. Please do not quote me, they might not bet That is the best judgment which we can take! That the prospects ahead are better than they have been in the past. If we look at it from that end, therefore, I believe we are starting from a strong position.
Later in his address he referred particularly to prices in this way:
I am also going to say with a fair amount of confidence, in answer to Mr Lee-Steere because he posed the question without answering it, that wool today is under priced. There are many in the processing side of the industry who have told me (they told me back in June last year, when wool was at least 10c a pound higher than it is today)–
At that time the average price of wool was 40c a lb, not the average price of 30c a lb to which it has dropped today. He continued: – that wool was then cheap. You can use your own judgment about how cheap it is today. In June of last year–
This would be in June 1969. He went on: - processors told me that they were making more money out of using wool than they were out of using any other fibre and, ladies and gentlemen, the users of fibre will use the fibre out of which they make the most money. They were not making the money out of it because of the cheapness of the raw material, they were making money out of it because they could sell it at the consumer-level. I do not believe that if the price of raw wool were to increase by 10c per pound it would have any effect whatsoever on the consumption at the consumer level.
That is what Sir William Gunn said in April last year. For many years he has been one of the wool industry’s principal experts and advisers. At that meeting he spoke after the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Anthony, who had stated that the Government was setting up a committee which would revitalise the industry and that he expected to have a report on which the Government could act within a few months. The report resulted in the setting up of the Australian Wool
Commission. Yesterday, Sr William Gunn made in London a statement which represents a complete about face. I am interested in getting the facts in relation to this statement because all that we have at the moment is a report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald*. This article is headed: Wool Faces Ruin, says Board chief. The article states:
The wool Industry will need a major revolution if it is to match the growing competition with the fibre market, the chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn said today. Sir William said the industry was no longer economic at today’s prices. Sir William said that as far as he knew, no-one in the wool pipeline - including growers, brokers and buyers - was making any money.
Everyone is in trouble, and they all realise that there must be a change’.
Because this statement is so diametrically different from the statement that was made only 12 months ago, I ask the Minister whether he will obtain for us a full copy of the statement that was made by Sir William Gunn at this Press conference in London yesterday. It seems to me to be tremendously important to the wool producers of Australia and to a large section of our export dollar earning trade. I ask the Minister to do this.
– I take this opportunity to state, first of all, that I stand four-square with Senator Georges on his plea in relation to the crown of thorns problem. I do so on the basis that I believe that while nobody today opposes outright any of the conservation causes, a tendency has developed to roll with the punches or to adopt what might be called a ‘defence in depth’ attitude. The point that I am making is that a number of assurances are received. Pious promises come from State Premiers and their various departments but nobody seems to take the matter a stage further.
Senator Georges already has indicated his fears in relation to the problem of the Great Barrier Reef. As a corollary to this, 1 remind honourable senators, as some of them know, that I have been agitated about the inevitable conflict of interest that arises in so many of these fields between the Department of the Interior and the Department of National Development. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, for the diligent way in which he obtained an answer for me in relation to my question on the national park at the top end of the Northern Territory. The answer that I received this morning indicates, as I feared, that this will be the typical story of people with a vision splendid who seek 1,000 square miles for national park purposes and then, at the behest of the Department of National Development, traces of some valuable mineral are discovered and immediately a ‘hole in the ground’ complex arises.
I make this point: Whether the request comes from Senator Georges or from me, the Department of the Interior and the other departments which are not more or. less under the thumb of mining interests must stand up and be counted in relation to these conservation matters. It is inevitable that some plan to exploit national park areas will arise. This problem affects tourism which is of concern to Senator Wright as Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities, We are not achieving the big victories that we want. Too many qualifica-tions, in regard to whether a question affects this sphere or another sphere, are raised.
I wish to introduce now a much more serious question. You, Mr Acting Deputy President, will recall that the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, of which you were chairman and I was a member took evidence from the Department of Shipping and Transport. It was extremely difficult for me to get a clear answer on information that I sought regarding an assessment of the various dispersants and detergents that are used to combat oil spillages. We were told that the Department obtained the best that were available. The next clue in my search came following a spillage of oil in Sydney Harbour. The then Minister for the Navy indicated that products from the GamenGamen Chemical Co. were being used. I made inquiries on this topic when I was overseas and obtained the information that the earlier products of this company - be they Gamlen OSR, Gamlen Sea Clean, Gamlen D or Gamlen CW - have all proved to be unsatisfactory for one reason or another including inefficiency at promoting emulsification of oil, high toxidity and low flash point.
I say very deliberately that whether oil spillages for which these products are needed occur in an area of the Great Barrier Reef or in any of our ports, we seem to accept some of these overseas assessments of the potential of these products on face value. Deliberately I will not mention one or two other products which are regarded by my informants as far superior to the products that I have mentioned. I put it squarely to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) through his representative here, Senator Cotton, that if other products were substituted for those which are used now better results would be achieved. The present attitude seems to be similar to the attitude adopted to some brands of jam. We do not want to change even though we know that those jams arc not good enough. But when we are dealing with our marine life this attitude is not good enough.
I want to indicate to the Minister for Shipping and Transport that this is a matter about which I will have a lot more to say when his departmental shipping advisers appear before the Senate Estimates Committee. These minor oil spillages add to the fears of a lot of conservationists. The Commonwealth does not have a coastguard service and the Services are reluctant to assist in this area of activity.
The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) knows that the United States of America has a corps of engineers engaged in flood mitigtion relief work. He also is aware that there are a host of other ways in which much more is being done under the Federal systems that operate in the United States and Canada. I find as I advocate Commonwealth action in this regard that I have no less an ally than the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, who states that the Commonwealth should do much more in the general fields of research and work relating to beach erosion. I am not referring to the work that the Minister knows was done in the electorates of Barton and St George which arose as a result of other work carried out by the Commonwealth. I am talking about shire councils on the far north coast of New South Wales. I know that my Victorian colleague, Senator Poyser, has had similar overtures. So far as the various conservation causes that we have advanced are concerned, I believe that the Commonwealth has to move in and do more by way of providing fringe benefits.
Also, I think it is time there was more positive action on the question of the Refugee Seamen’s Convention. I received via the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) one answer which said that the Commonwealth had some sort of inner reservation about this matter. I believe, quite seriously, that we should be told what these reservations are. I understand that there are 8 signatory countries to this convention. Not all those countries have violent ideologies; they have rather moderate forms of government. Again I give friendly warning that this is another matter which will receive a very good airing when full discussion on the Estimates takes place.
– I rise to put the record straight about a few of the remarks made by Senator Georges relating to the crown of thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef. There is no doubt that this starfish has done a great deal of damage on the Reef, as it has done for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. However, if we look through the report of the committee that inquired into this matter we find numerous references to the damage that was done north of Cairns back in 196S and 1966. Since then we have not heard much about the activities of the starfish up in that area. It has moved south and the main concentration is in the area off Townsville. In company with the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Senator Wright) I toured the area earlier this year. We flew over 200 miles of the Reef and spent a few days on inspections out on the Reef. People who have been associated with tourist and other organisations in the Barrier Reef area for many years are more than pleased at the regrowth that has taken place. In fact some of them said that they had never seen the coral looking so well. The statement in the report saying that this is part of the ecology of the Reef certainly is borne out in that area north of Cairns.
I want also to refer to some of the remarks Senator Georges made about the Queensland Government. He said that it is interested only in drilling for oil on the Reef and in exploiting it. The Queensland Government is the only State government that has declared marine parks. It is continuing to do this with the object of setting aside the best areas of the Reef in which no exploitation, such as fishing and other activities by private individuals, can take place. We will be able to look after the coral and keep the crown of thorns starfish and other things out of these marine parks. We are dealing with a strip of reef 1,800 miles long and God knows how many miles wide. It is physically and financially impossible to keep the Reef free of all sorts of pests. The Queensland Government is doing its job. The only oil drilling ever contemplated by the Queensland Government was in river estuaries where the normal tides and prevailing winds would never have allowed oil slicks to go near the Reef. It is also interesting to note that nearly all the area covered by the Great Barrier Reef, with the exception of that portion from Townsville to Innisfail, is in the electorates of the honourable members for Leichhardt (Mr Pulton), Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and Dawson (Dr Patterson). In talking to those gentlemenI have not heard much from them about the damage that is being caused. In fact, the honourable member for Leichhardt, when I have spoken to him, has seemed to be most upset about the publicity that has been given to the crown of thorns starfish. The area north of Cairns is his province. I say that in passing in order to put the record straight.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) (3.16) - in reply - In closing the debate I want to make only one quick reference. During the first reading debate Senator Keeffe quoted in part from a series of documents in relation to the acquisition of aircraft. The documents from which he quoted in part are already incorporated in Hansard in full. They comprise questions and answers to questions by myself, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Bury) or the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). I can only add that the conclusions and inferences Senator Cant has drawn and the suspicions he has expressed are completely unfounded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
(3.17) - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
With the concurrence of honourable senators,I incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain Parliamentary authority for expenditure in the current financial year for which provision was not made in the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1970-71. The total appropriations sought in this Bill amount to $120,968,000. The Schedule to this Bill is the same as that contained in the document entitled ‘Particulars of Proposed Provision for Additional Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30 June 1971’, which was referred on 7th April for examination by the Senate Estimates Committees. Although additional appropriations are being sought, actual expenditure will not exceed the amounts included in Appropriation Act (No.1) 1970-71 by $120,968,000. As a result of measures taken to reduce Commonwealth expenditure this year, and for other reasons, it is expected that savings of about $50m will be available in existing appropriations to offset the additional appropriations now proposed.
It is not possible, for reasons associated with parliamentary control over the appropriation of moneys for specified purposes, to utilise these savings as an offset in the sense that the total new appropriations sought can be reduced to a net figure in this Appropriation Bill. Thus I am seeking parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in the divisions, subdivisions and items set out in the Schedule to the Bill. To the extent that an item of any annual appropriation is unexpended the appropriation lapses at 30th June in accordance with section 36 of the Audit Act 1901-1969. I think that honourable senators should recognise the fact that when the then Prime Minister announced on 16th February the Government’s intention to reduce expenditures in 1970-71 by $75m in the remainder of the financial year, the revised Estimates as at December 1970 indicated a net increase of $242m in expenditure since the Budget was prepared. This is the primary reason why, despite the cut-back in
Government spending, it is necessary to ask the Parliament for additional appropriations.
This Bill - and the companion Bill - deals only with annual appropriations of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It does not deal with special or standing appropriations; nor does it involve the Loan Fund. The reductions announced by the Prime Minister, on the other hand, relate to Commonwealth spending as a whole. In referring to the intended reduction of $75m in total Commonwealth spending, I should make it clear that at the time it was recognised that further commitments would arise and would need to be considered against the background of the Government’s decision. Since then, the Government has approved further commitments but, for the most part, these are special appropriations and are thus not included in the Appropriation Bills (No. 3) and (No. 4). As the various items included in this Bill have been examined by the Estimates Committees, I propose to refer only to some of the major provisions.
The additional requirement for departmental salaries is $32. 3m and provides for increases in salaries arising from the national wage case, increases in salaries for the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service and increases arising from other arbitration determinations, reclassification of offices and additional staff positions approved earlier in the financial year. Further appropriations totalling $13. 6m are required for departmental administrative expenses, including $2.1m for overseas representation;$1. 5m for rents; $0.5m for consultants and architects fees; and $2.3m for increased allowances and other benefits for overseas officers of the Papua New Guinea Public Service as a result of the flow-on of recent salary increases in the Commonwealth Public Service. The balance is made up of a considerable number of appropriations each of which is less than $500,000.
Additional appropriations amounting to $20m for departmental other services include $1.7m for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; $1.3m for Commonwealth scholarships; $1.9m for educational purposes in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory mainly for increases in teachers’ salaries; $lm for aid to Pakistan and Cambodia; $1.2m for embarkation and passage costs for migrants; $2.5m for broadcasting and television services; $1.2m for war and service pensions and allowances; $1.3m for other repatriation benefits; and $2.8m for grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The balance is made up of a number of appropriations each of which is less than $500,000.
Additional appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund totalling $55m are sought for defence services, including about $35m for increases in Services pay and allowances and increases in salaries of civilian staff, arising mainly from the national wage case and other determinations. However, it is expected that there will be savings of $26m in other defence appropriations and $17m in the Loan Fund. In part these arise from a lower than expected rate of expenditure under the United States Defence Credit Agreement and as a result of rephasing of and lags in both orders and deliveries of defence goods; and to agreed reductions in Commonwealth expenditure in response to the request of February 1971. It is expected that total expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and Loan Fund on defence services in 1970-71 will exceed the Budget estimate by about $12m. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Are there any requests?
– Before you put the question, Sir, let me say that I do not want anyone to be under any misunderstanding. I would be perfectly happy for the Committee to deal with the Bill this way. If it is not the will of the Committee to deal with it this way, I suggest that it be dealt with under the heads of Committees A, B, C, D and E. It is a matter for the Committee.
– I seek some clarification. Are we dealing with the Estimates as a whole and are the 5 Ministers here and prepared to answer questions?
– The situation is that we had officers here. They were here for a fair amount of time today because of the extended debate on the first reading. As we expect to rise at a few minutes to 4, I suggested a few moments ago that it would be unnecessary for them to stay. If Senator Cant wants to cover a wide range, perhaps we could deal with Estimates Committee A first.
– May I suggest that we deal with the Estimates of the Committees in the sequence A, B, C, D and E?
– There being no objection, that course will be adopted. We will deal first with the Estimates dealt with by Committee A. Are there any requests?
– A number of questions which 1 asked of the Committee are still unanswered. Can the Minister reply to them now?
(3.22) - The first question asked by Senator Keeffe related to workers compensation, did it not?
The unforeseen workers compensation payment related to the payment to the widow of an employee of the Weapons Research Establishment who was killed whilst travelling to work on 23rd February 1970. Authority to make the. compensation payment was not handed down until 30th September 1970. The amount of $10,000 therefore could not be included in the Budget Estimates. In answer to the honourable senator’s second question, the number of sheep at the Weapons Research Establishment at 30th June 1970 was 6,275 and on 31st December 1970 it was 5,362. The profit on sheep operations at the Weapons Research Establishment for 1969-70 was $7,626. The saving of $6,000 is being effected by the changeover from manual crutching to a chemical method and by letting the number of sheep in the flock run down.
The third question related to laundry. Further investigations have revealed that the savings of $4,000 on laundry at the Weapons Research Establishment will not now be effected due to cost increases, and it will be necessary to seek other avenues of cost saving to limit the cash demand to that sought by way of additional estimates. Between the preparation of the Estimates documents and the time they were dealt with, a new situation has emerged owing to increased costs. Senator Murphy asked a question on Division 738. The answer is as follows: The contract for computer aided services for micro-electronics was awarded to Scientific Computer Systems Ltd of Sydney at a cost of $75,000.
– Are there any further requests? There being no requests, I declare the Estimates for Committee A passed. We will now proceed to the Estimates of Committee B. Are there any requests? There being no requests, I declare the Estimates passed. Let us turn now to the Estimates of Committee C. Are there any requests? There being no requests, I declare the Estimates of Committee C passed. We shall now turn to the Estimates of Committee D. Are there any requests?
– When Estimates Committee D was sitting the Chairman advised the Committee that questions would be allowed only on items upon which a supplementary appropriation was being sought and that questions generally on civil, aviation - the item with which the Committee was dealing - would have to be dealt with in the Committee of the Whole. I drew to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) the types of matters upon which I would require information, so that the officers of his department would be in a position to give some information on those matters. I now ask Senator Cotton why it is that overseas brochures designed to encourage people to travel to Australia by Qantas Airways Ltd, the Australian overseas airline, exclude any reference to Darwin, Adelaide and Perth and deal only with the attractions of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Why is information about one half of the Commonwealth excluded from overseas advertisements?
– Have you not omitted Hobart in Tasmania?
– I think Hobart is not regarded as part of Australia in this context. I think the honourable senator might make some inquiries for himself. Many
Tasmanians think of the mainland of Australia as an offshore island. I also ask: Can the Minister give any information as to the air-mile passenger fare from Sydney to Singapore and the air-mile passenger fare from Perth to Singapore? Can the Minister advise us whether the fare from Sydney to South Africa includes $40 for the portion of the journey across Australia and that the charge for the Australian part of the passenger fare from Perth to Honolulu is $120? If this is so, can the Minister give an explanation for it? I would like an explanation. I am advised that the air fare from Perth to Singapore is a little over 8c per mile whereas the air fare from Sydney to Singapore is 6c per mile. If this is so, people travelling from Western Australia suffer a handicap. There must be some reason for it.
– You would not claim that the per mile fare would be the same for a long haul as it would be for a short haul, would you?
– I do not want to make a second reading speech. But in many respects those on the west coast are at a disadvantage when travelling to Asia whereas we should be at an advantage because of our closer proximity to Asia. I am only asking the Minister questions that have been posed in public, in the Press and on television and in various other places. I. want to say something about the domestic airlines. I know that when I speak about one airline I speak about both of them, because they are like children at play - they follow the leader all over Australia. The services and the times of travel of the 2 airlines are so similar that one cannot say anything about one airline without its being applicable to the other airline. In a question some weeks ago I asked th<* Minister for Civil Aviation whether he could tell me the load factor from Perth to Adelaide on flight 593 for the past 12 months.
I would like the Minister, if he can, to explain why the number of flights in and out of Perth has been reduced so drastically, why their times of departure have not been as scheduled and also why economies are being practised without any reduction in fares. I refer particularly to flight 507 upon which most members of Parliament travel from Perth on a Mon day. On that flight, which used to leave Perth at 1 o’clock and on which a meal was provided, and which now is scheduled to leave Perth at 1.50 p.m. and on which a meal is still scheduled, a meal is no longer provided. This is not so much of a handicap to the people who have their homes in Perth as it is to people who have been staying in hotels or in accommodation of that kind who are unable to have a meal before leaving Perth. They look at a timetable and find that a meal is to be provided on the flight, but they find during the flight that they get nothing. Nevertheless, the fare is still the same. I know that many business people from Perth are now travelling by economy class from Perth to Adelaide, even though they are travelling on expense accounts and would be entitled to first class travel.
I should like the Minister to give some explanation for the drastic reduction in the number of flights and also, if he can, some explanation of the number of flights departing from Adelaide which miss the connections with on-flights from various places. A lady left Canberra last week on a flight to Tasmania. She was supposed to join a connecting flight in Melbourne but was unable to catch that flight and had to spend 5i hours in Melbourne waiting for the next flight. She missed the connecting flight by 5 minutes because her flight from Canberra was 25 minutes late in leaving. This is not an infrequent occurrence. If we ask Trans- Australia Airlines for an explanation we are told that it is better to have an accident on the ground than to have one in the air, but in my opinion the delays in many cases are not caused by mechanical faults in the aircraft’s system.
– I must confess that it will be extremely difficult for me to answer accurately from the information available to me and out of my head some of the questions asked by Senator Cant in relation to detailed operations. I am a little annoyed about this, not at Senator Cant but at others. have been able to send to the Committee answers to questions asked by Senator Murphy and Senator Bishop. Senator Cant had indicated some of the information that he wanted. 1 had hoped that I would have answers to his questions, if not in my hand then in a letter to him. I do not have that information at present. The only question in relation to which I believe he did not give me some indication was about pamphlets published by Qantas Airways Ltd and distributed overseas listing the attractions of Australia. He said that they failed to include the attractions of Adelaide, Darwin and Perth, and by interjection some of my colleagues reminded me that Hobart also was excluded. That seems to me to be an omission. All I can do is find out about this for the honourable senator and let him know
I was hoping that he would have a letter from me detailing the answers to the balance of his questions because in many cases they call for detailed information. An analysis of the route mile structure between Perth and Sydney, Perth and Singapore, and Sydney and Singapore has been asked for and it does throw light on the matter which has been mentioned. 1 understand quite clearly what the honourable senator wishes to establish and I understand quite clearly his right to have it established. The honourable senator also directed to me a question about flight 593 and its general load factor. The reason why in general aircraft flights out of Perth had been cancelled or reduced would have been because of a decline in traffic. Coming to the question about the lack of meals in flight which was mentioned by him and by me to the airline operators, the brief reply from them is that they have been in the habit of providing a meal on the 1 o’clock flight but not on the 2 o’clock flight. But the honourable senator probably reminded me, and 1 reminded them, that this did not help the people who were in hotels and had to leave those hotels before 1 o’clock to get to the airport. I would just remind the honourable senator that the questions he has asked me are detailed questions which call for detailed answers. The answers should have been in his hands; the questions asked by Senator Murphy and Senator Bishop are in the hands of the Chairman. All I can do is to express my regret that the honourable senator has not been given the answers that he wants. However, he will receive them.
Delayed departure times involve a mixture of factors. Sometimes delayed departures are due to operational reasons sometimes they are due to aircraft not being quite ready at the appointed time; sometimes aircraft do not pass their final checks. This is a matter in which we say as a department that aircraft do not leave the ground until they are finally checked out. If there is any slight problem it has to be fixed before departure. If specific cases are referred to me I shall deal with them specifically. I cannot do more at the moment than that. I say again that I hope to be able to supply the honourable senator with this information if not tonight then by mail early next week.
– We will not leave tonight if I am able to get answers to all of my questions. Could I ask Senator Cotton, through you, Mr Temporary Chairman, whether the answers to queries asked by Senators Murphy, Prowse, Bishop and Turnbull which I have received through the Minister’s good offices today, will be incorporated in Hansard?
– Mr Temporary Chairman, we have made it a point to send this material to the Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee D so that it can be incorporated in Hansard.
– Why not incorporate it now?
– With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the material in Hansard.
Minister for Civil Aviation, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
My dear Chairman,
In the hearing before Senate Estimates Committee ‘D’ on Wednesday, 21st April, 1971, Senator Murphy asked about salaries paid to senior officers of the Department of Civil Aviation and to captains of aircraft in the domestic and international fields. Attachment ‘A’ shows the basic salaries of these two groups. As I said at the hearing, the Public Service Board prescribes the gradings and classifications of senior officers within the Department, with the exception of the Director-General whose salary is set by the Parliament.
asked if I would supply details of the training schemes which the Department of Civil Aviation conducts for specialist staff and whether trainees were recruited from outside the Public Service. Attachment ‘B’ shows the classes of officers trained As you will see, the large majority of trainees are recruited from outside the Commonwealth Public Service.
Yours sincerely, ROBERT COTTON
SenatorJ. E. Marriott,
Chairman, Senate Estimates Committee ‘D’, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
In addition tothe above basic rates of pay, pilots are paid additional remuneration on an hourly rate basis for hoursflown in excess of prescribed minimums. The guaranteed minimum pay in the case of a B707 captain is based on a pilot flying up to 128 hours each 56 days. The average amount earned by flying in excess of these hours is of the order of $2700 per annum and the average earnings of a Qantas B707 captain would approximate $22,000 per annum.
A similar system exists in the domestic area where, for example, the guaranteed minimum pay of the B727 captain is based on 65 flying hours per month. The average amount earned by B727 captains employed by TAA and Ansett by flying in excess of these hours is of the order of $1,970 per annum and the average earnings of these pilots would approximate $17,700 per annum.
ADDITIONAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS AT HEARING ON 28th APRIL 1971 DIVISION 358
Under Sub Division 1, Item 01, how many new positions were approved by the Public Service Board?
There were 67 new positions approved by the Public Service Board.
Under Sub Division 1, Item 01, what amount Is sought in respect of each of the elements listed in the Explanations?
The provision of $632,000 is made up as follows:
Senator Turn bull
What are the functions of the News and Information Bureau? Answer
The functions of the News and Information Bureau are as follows:
To produce, as required, publicity and information material for dissemination abroad with the objects of making Australia as a whole more widely and more favourably known; of helping the people of other countries to understand Australia’s outlook, endeavours and potentialities; and of helping to foster good relationships in all Australia’s dealings with other countries.
What is the total strength of the News and Information Bureau and where are the personnel located?
The Organisation for the News and Information Bureau is 335 positions.
The location of the positions is shown in the following table:
What are the duties of journalists in the Bureau? Answer
The duties of journalists in the Bureau include:
The writing of feature articles and other types of literary material, placement in overseas press and other determined uses in support of national objectives abroad;
Planning, assisting, directing and advising on publicity campaigns;
Acting as Press Liaison Officer on occasions such as international conferences, royal visits and tours of V.I.P.s, answering inquiries from new media, sub-editing of literary material, to ensure that it accurately reflects the Commonwealth’s policies;
Supervising the lay-out, format, selection of pictures, marking of type, standard of printing, proof reading and distribution of pamphlets, booklets and books.
What are the duties of the Bureau staff located in Australia House, London?
The London office of the News and Information Bureau consists of 3 positions. A Director heads the post and is assisted by an Investment Liaison Officer and one other Journalist.
The duties of the Director are to administer the London office including:
Serve as the Bureau representative on the Deputy High Commissioners Committee for the co-ordination of general publicity activity including the requirements of the Departments of Trade and Immigration;
Provide publicity background and support for all national objectives;
Maintain contact with newspapers, radio and television services and other potential users of Australian material;
Report on the effectiveness of publicity material used in the area and recommending ways in which information material might be adapted to meet special needs.
The Investment Liaison Officer is concerned with assisting in investment promotion activities in the United Kingdom and providing a service for investment inquiries on questions such as taxation, tariff treatment and the like. He prepares and circulates material for publication or other use regarding economic conditions in Australia, industrial themes and so on. He prepares reports for use by Commonwealth Departments in Australia regarding Australian investment activity in London.
The Journalist acts as Press Officer. He distributes Australian information to the Press, radio, news agencies, educational institutions and other appropriate media. He prepares special articles and news features as required and supplies information for broadcasters, lecturers and publicists who can assist in the furtherance of national objectives. He maintains contact with newspapers and radio services and other potential users of Australian material.
– I refer to division 390, subdivision 1, item 01, salaries and allowances, Department of National Development. Under the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) the appropriation for salaries and allowances was $1,660,000. On this occasion an additional appropriation of $210,000 has been asked for. I have not bothered generally to look at increases in salaries and allowances in the supplementary estimates because I know that increases would result from Public Service Board decisions and the national wage case. So increases in salaries have not been of very great interest to me. They are out of the control of the Government and there is nothing we can do about them.
However, the national wage case accounts for only $50,000 of this appropriation of $210,000. This leaves an appropriation of $160,000 to be used for additional positions and promotions. Cadet trainee draftsman and technical officers are to cost an extra $60,000. Surely the Department nas some idea of what it is doing with respect to additional positions of cadet trainees and what its intake of draftsmen and technical officers will be. Although the then Prime Minister said only last February that there would be a cut back in recruitment we have not had a cut back in the vote to which I am referring. Mr Gorton said that the various departments would be asked to recruit the lowest possible number of staff and that there would be various other cutbacks.
Another matter which 1 have not analysed in any way is the extra appropriation for overtime. I realise that if a higher wage scale is being paid as a result of industrial decision there will be more overtime paid unless less overtime is worked. So I have not bothered to analyse that item. I think an explanation should be given in respect of the appropriation of $60,000, in view of the circumstances. Perhaps the Minister will indicate the extra activity engaged in by the Department to require the services of the officers. How many are there in each category? I have taken details from the explanatory notes.
– In answering Senator Cant I remind him of the comment by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) that none of the officers who are normally here to help in these matters with more specific details is here now. Senator Cant will appreciate also that I represent the Minister here and I do not have available to me now the details of the Minister’s administration that he would have. As Senator Cant suggests, the additional amount of $210,000 is made up of 4 principal items. They are the national wage case $50,000; arbitration determination $47,000; transfer of position of 12 cadets to a higher grade $32,000; and the amount to which Senator Cant specifically directed his attention $60,000 in respect of additional positions of cadets, trainee draftsmen and technical officers. The general comment is that the original appropriation was based on an expected average full time employment of 369. As at 28th February 1971, 415 were in employment. It is expected that by 3rd June 1971, 431 personnel will be employed to give an overall average full time employment for 1970-71 of 401.
From my experience in other places I assume that for a period draftsmen and technical trainee draftsmen were very hard to get. Perhaps the Department had been looking for such people for some time without success and had not expected to get them, but suddenly had access to more of them than they thought they would be able to get or for whom they had provided in the Estimates. I have support for that view, based on my experience in other places, in the comment in the notes that average full time employment has risen above the estimated figure. Beyond that I cannot comment accurately. I will ask the Minister to supply for the honourable senator specific information on a number of positions and I will have it incorporated in Hansard. In such circumstances I always send the information to the Chairman.
– I refer to the appropriation of $6,000 for travelling and subsistence in Division 392 - Northern Division. It is only a small amount, but I direct the attention of the Committee to paragraph (b) of the explanatory notes, which states:
The doubling since November 1970 of visits by Northern Division officers to Perth to attend meetings of the North-West Planning Authority and the Ord Project Co-ordinating Committee-
I would have thought that most of this work would have been done long before now. The additional works on the Ord River were an election gimmick in 1968. Were we not prepared? Did we not know what was going on at that stage? Surely we would have known what was going on. Three years later we are still having meetings of these people. The notes continue: - and the Western Australian Government, which has the primary carriage of these meetings decided from November to hold them on alternate fortnights instead of the same day.
Just what is meant by that? Are we to be put to extra expense because of poor liaison? These people in Western Australia rely very heavily on the Commonwealth Government for grants under section 96 to enable them to carry out national works. Then they dictate the days upon which meetings may take place and add expense to the Commonwealth Government for the travelling of officers to attend meetings. Surely there can be some co-ordination in this matter.
I also direct the Minister’s attention to the appropriation of $20,000 in Division 394 - Division of National Mapping - for the hire of aircraft. If we examine the appropriation in last year’s Budget we find that the expenditure provided for was $70,000 more than for the previous year. Some considerable amount of additional activity must have been anticipated, but what is the reason for the extra $20,000 for which this item now provides?
I refer to Division 396, subdivision 2, which relates to administrative expenses of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and particularly to item 07. The explanatory notes refers to a seismic survey of the Sepik River. They do not refer to a seismic survey of the Sepik River district. Is any part of the Sepik River where the survey is to be conducted licensed or reserved for prospecting? Will this work be carried out in conjunction with some exploration company or will it be carried out by the Department alone and the information made available to some exploration company? If the area is found to be prospective for minerals or other materials that are being sought in the area will an exploration company or corporation pay for the seismic work? Will it make any refund to the Commonwealth Government? If a project is successful as a result of the expenditure of public money, what share will the people gain? I should like the Minister to give some explanation of this item.
I draw attention to the supplementary appropriation of $200,000 in respect of contract investigations under this same Division. The Budget appropriation was for SI. 6m. According to the explanatory notes the additional appropriation is required to meet the amount expected to become payable under contract for a geo physical survey of the outer continental margin. No cash provision was made for payments under this contract in the original appropriation so it would seem that the whole of the $200,000 is related to a geophysical survey of the outer margin. Does the expression ‘outer margin’ refer to the outer edge of the continental shelf? What does it mean? Why is a geophysical survey of only the marginal area being carried out?
As 1 understand it most of the continental shelf is under permit to oil explorers. Of course some areas are not and there are reasons for this. I would think that the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility in this area would be more to define the outer margin of the continental shelf rather than to be carrying out a geophysical survey. If a geophysical survey is being carried out what is its object? What are we looking for? Are we looking for areas which may contain hydrocarbons? Are we looking for other minerals in this area? Why is the activity being carried on. If that geophysical survey is being carried out for information purposes- for the Commonwealth Government or the Bureau of Mineral Resources, what assistance is being received from the people who presently hold exploration permits or perhaps exploitation permits in this area? I do not think any exploitation is going on in that depth of water. Is the survey being conducted to ensure that licences or permits are not issued beyond the margin?
There has been some considerable controversy as to whether the Australian Australian Government should take full advantage of the definition of continental shelf as it appears in the ‘Geneva Convention’. As the Minister well knows, that Convention provides that the continental shelf extends to the depth of exploitation, whatever that may be. But generally the Commonwealth has not issued permits beyond the 200 metre mark. Is the survey being carried out for the purpose of issuing permits beyond this 200 metre mark? I would be pleased if the Minister could give me some answers to those questions.
– Under Division 309, administrative, I make the remark that Senator Cant is greatly ahead of other honourable senators in discussing the Estimates because he has some explanatory notes which I notice from the Hansard report of the Estimates Committees were given to members of the Committee. I notice this was the practice of most committees. Could other honourable senators who were not fortunate enough to be elected to the committees be assisted in a consideration of the Estimates by being supplied with the explanatory notes?
– I think it would be recognised that I was anxious from the beginning of the establishment of the Senate Estimates Committees that the departments I represented would give the maximum information to members of the Committee in order to allow them to adjudicate on the expenditures proposed. When I reflect that 1 am the only Minister being questioned this afternoon I wonder whether mat was a wise course. But be that as it may. To the extent that I can have the explanatory notes made available to honourable senators for their information I shall certainly do so, whether or not they are members of the committees. I believe this information does help although sometimes one finds it hard to answer in the detail honourable senators would like.
Senator Cant has asked a number of questions which could not possibly be answered by me in the detail he would like. However, I shall make some attempt to do so. Firstly, I refer to Division 392, Subdivision 2, Item 01, travelling and sustenance. Senator Cant spoke about the problem of an excess amount of $2,100 caused by Northern Division officers of the Department of National Development visiting Perth to attend meetings of the North West Planning Authority and the Ord Project Co-ordinating Committee. Officers had to visit Perth more frequently because the Western Australian Government changed its schedule of meetings. From my knowledge the work of consultation and development of the Ord Project and what it might do is still going on. What Senator Cant said about the inconvenience caused to Federal officers by the change in the planning of a meeting programme, fundamentally set down by State officers, is noted. I do not want to say more than that. I have no wish to imply in my remarks any criticism of the State. There may be very good reasons why the people concerned felt that this was the apropriate thing to do.
In regard to the additional appropriation of $20,000 about which Senator Cant asked and which relates to the hire of aircraft, the general explanation is that the purpose of this appropriation is to pay for the charter of aircraft, both fixed wing and helicopter, for photography for the production and revision of maps, for survey reconnaisance for the location of, and checking the indivisibility of sites for trigonometrical stations, for radio altimetre heighting, for barometric heighting for helicopters and for taking measurements with airborne electronic equipment. The additional amount is required for cash payments on the programme basis. The rate of expenditure is not easy to fix because much of this work is dependent on weather conditions. The 1970 field season started late, which meant that in the early months of the financial year expenditure rates were rather high.
Senator Cant wanted to know what was happening in regard to the Sepik River seismic survey and whether any part of the area being seismic surveyed was under licence or a reserve. I do not know, but I shall find out for him. He also referred to the extra amount of money being provided for the geophysical survey of the outer continental margin. Like the honourable senator, I have taken some interest in this matter, but it would be wrong for me to speculate on what I believe might be the circumstances relating to this expenditure. I would be entering into the area of policy and an area within the responsibility of another Minister I do not have sufficient knowledge about this matter. I have my own views on why this additional expenditure would have been incurred. If the honourable senator will bear with me, I think it would be better for both of us if I obtained from the appropriate Minister a statement on what the geophysical survey of the outer continental margin was designed to achieve.
– I do not wish to ask any further questions relating to the expenditure of the
Department of National Development. I want to move on to the Department of Shipping and Transport, whose estimates are also under the control of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in this place.
– In view of the time I suggest that it might be appropriate to move that progress be reported.
– I will move accordingly.
Senate adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 April 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710430_senate_27_s47/>.