27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Post Office proposes to construct a 640 foot high solid concrete tower, housing radiotelephony television transmission facilities, on Black Mountain in Canberra.
That in the opinion of many responsible citizens such a tower would seriously impair the beauty of this city and is likely to lessen the value of the Black Mountain Flora and Fauna Reserve.
That requests from residents of Canberra, and their Parliamentary representative for information on the technical considerations supposedly favouring a solid tower have been refused by the Australian Post Office.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should, through its Standing Committee on the Social Environment, examine whether construction of a tower of this nature on Black Mountain is in the public interest, having particular regard to the need to preserve the beauty and environmental quality of the National Capital.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I ask for leave to move that the petition be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment for its information.
– Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting 1 shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to preserve competition in trade and commerce to the extent required by public interest.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Are hospitals or State governments still making payments on behalf of pensioner patients because of delays in implementing the recommendations of the Nimmo report? Can the Minister say when the recommendations regarding this matter will be implemented?
– ] am not certain that I understand the purport of the question. It is true that, under an arrangement with the States, the Commonwealth pays to the States $5 a day for pensioner patients who are admitted to State hospitals, provided of course that they get service, and that they are not charged for the service. That is to say, for a pensioner patient in a State hospital the Commonwealth would pay to the State $5 a day during the time he was in hospital.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Will he consider whether it would not be cheaper to ship part of the stockpiled wool held by the Australian Wool Commission to India for blanket weaving than to maintain it in storage in Australia for the lengthy periods between acquisition and indefinite sale? Would not this be doing simultaneous favours to both the Pakistani refugees and the taxpayers of Australia in view of the costly retention of the stockpile by the Australian Wool Commission?
– The suggestion put forward by the honourable senator would be a good one if the main portion of the Australian wool clip was wool that was used in the making of blankets. But not all of the Australian clip is suitable for the weaving of blankets. For this we need the stronger type of wool. I suggest to the honourable senator that I show his question to the Minister for Primary Industry and if he has any reaction 1 will give it to the honourable senator.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Does he know whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport has taken cognisance of and is in a position to comment on the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade on Tasmanian shipping services?
– It is my understanding that the Minister and the Department have been studying this; but they have not yet passed to me any comment that 1 can usefully make to the honourable senator or the Senate. I shall make inquiries for him.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read a report in today’s Melbourne ‘Sun’ in which Mr Carl Rodgers, the President of the Federal Council of Poultry Farmers Associations of Australia, has warned of the virtual collapse of the orderly marketing of eggs in Australia due to the failure of the Victorian Government to agree with all other States on a method of controlled production? As the industry is facing an acute crises, will the Minister now accede to a call I made one month ago in this chamber for the convening of an emergency meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in an endeavour to solve the problem?
– I have not read the statement, but I know Mr Carl Rodgers. He is a Western Australian and was instrumental in bringing a stabilisation scheme into the Western Australian egg production set-up. I remember the call made by the honourable senator some time ago. I think I answered him by saying that this matter was brought up at an Australian Agricultural Council meeting and at that stage New South Wales was asked to put a submission before the Council. But I understand that Victoria has not agreed to it at the present time; and, until there is agreement by all States, the Commonwealth cannot take any action.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr President. Are you aware, Sir, that for the whole of this session of the Parliament the 4 fountains immediately in front of Parliament House have not functioned? Do you know whether this is part of an economy campaign or is due to mechanical failure? If the reason is economy, could the Senate be informed what money has been saved in sacrificing the lovely vista once presented to Australian and overseas visitors?
– The fountains in front of Parliament House come under the jurisdiction, control and administration of the Department of the Interior. As to whether their non-operation is due to a mechanical fault or to a financial famine, I undertake to discover on behalf of Senator Little and to provide him with an answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether his attention has been drawn to the annual report of the Apprenticeship Commission of Victoria in which it is stated that in the past year trade training has not fared as well, in the competition for limited government resources, as secondary and tertiary education. The Commission pointed out that during the year 1970-71 the Federal Government spent $13m on technical education. $37m on colleges of advanced education and $109m on universities. Is the Minister able to advise of any future programme in which greater emphasis will be given to funds specifically for technical education?
– I would prefer to examine the report more closely and then give the honourable senator a responsible reply.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. First, is it true that the present Government parties, when in opposition, adopted a bipartisan approach to Australia’s post war immigration programme, whose architect was Mr A. A. Calwell, MP? Secondly, do recent tumultuous events in the Australian Labor Party, leading to the disappearance of the Opposition’s spokesman for immigration, mean, the end of an agreed and intelligible policy on immigration? If so, will the Minister inform the House whether he will approach the Opposition and suggest that it appoint several spokesmen who will bc prepared to explain the varied and differing views on immigration which the ALP is publicly proclaiming?
– Mr President, 1 rise on a point of order. 1 submit that this is not a proper matter to raise at question lime. Disputation as to what is one’s parly policy or internal affairs is not, and never has been, a proper subject to be raised at question time. I suggest that the honourable senator’s question be disallowed, or else the Opposition will have to resort to similar tactics which can be devised and the purpose of question time will bc lost entirely.
– As a result of matters which were raised yesterday afternoon I listened to Senator Gair’s question with the closest care. I admired the skill with which the honourable senator framed his question and I think that he just keeps outside of the baulk line and that is all. I pass the question to the relevant Minister to answer in the best way he can, and 1 note the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr President, I shall note your admonition with some care and endeavour to keep my answer within the guidelines as far as I can distinguish them. First, I think that one might well say that there are quite a few areas in Australia where bipartisan policies can be said in the broad to encompass the general interest of the Australian people. One such policy through the years has been the concerted view of immigration as it has been presented to the outside world by the Australian attitude practically across the board. I think one also ought to pay respect to the work that was carried out 21 or 22 years ago by the Right Honourable Arthur Calwell, who will retire fairly soon and whose work in immigration in this country, I think, was quite notable. For my own part, I must say that I have noted wilh some regret the appearance in the last year or so of what would seem to me to be a division of view and 1 hope that can be set to one side.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to me annual report of the New South Wales Air Pollution Advisory Committee which shows that Sydney’s average carbon monoxide air pollution is comparable to the levels of similar pollution in Los Angeles and Chicago in the period 1962-67. which was a mere 4 years ago? In view of the notorious incidence of air pollution in Los Angeles and Chicago, regarded as amongst the worst in any part of the world, will the Minister make urgent representations to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts for immediate consultation with the New South Wales Government to enable such research and action lo be taken as may ensure to Sydney, or in like manner to all of our capital cities, an avoidance of the American cities’ dire experience in’ respect of air quality?
– I am unable to say whether the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has seen the report of the New South Wales body to which the honourable senator has referred, although 1 expect, having regard to his continuing interest in these mutters, that it has been brought to his attention. I think the honourable senator is aware that action to be taken in the State of New South Wales with regard to matters of air pollution is essentially a matter for the Government of New South Wales. The role which the Commonwealth Government can play is an exceptionally limited role, and whatever representations are made by the’ Commonwealth it is up to the New South Wales Government to determine what action it shall take. This, of course, is one of the problems which must be recognised in this area. I will arrange for the Minister lo have a copy of the honourable senator’s question and ask him to note the request that urgent representations bc made. I should point out, however, that there are regular meetings between the Federal Minister and the relevant State Ministers, and I would expect that these matters are discussed at those meetings.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It relates to rail standardisation and the agreement between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government which will provide the basis for the construction of the new broad gauge railway link between Adelaide and the east-west standardised service. Is the Minister able to indicate whether the formalities connected with this agreement have yet been finalised and whether the Government has any idea when the project may be started?
– This would be a matter exclusively within the province of the responsible Minister. 1 only represent him in this chamber. I would not know the state of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government. I acknowledge the interest of the Senate and the honourable senators from South Australia in this matter. 1 think they will understand that I will have to seek an answer for them in order to make quite sure that they are accurately informed.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware of the statement made by Sir Frederick Scherger, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and published in the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 8th October 1971 that Australia should be moving towards arming itself with nuclear weapons and that he believed that the armed forces’ planners should be moving in that direction now? Will the Minister give an assurance that this viewpoint of a distinguished expert will receive due and careful consideration by the Government in its planning for Australia’s future defence?
Yes, 1 did read the statement made by Sir Frederick Scherger. I would say that any statement made by a man who has been such a distinguished serviceman and a man of great achievement in the service of Australia is a statement that must be looked at, examined and evaluated. The statement he made, of course, impinges on Government policy. I cannot reflect on it in that sense, but I can give the assurance to the Senate and to Senator Gair that the statement will be examined critically by the government in any policy decisions that it makes on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Government was deeply disappointed that the Commonwealth was not prepared to provide financial assistance for the LockKimba pipeline, which would relieve the acute shortage of water in the Kimba area and would benefit farmers over an area of about 1,000 square miles? Is the Minister aware that if the Commonwealth continues in its refusal to assist the people living in this area the State Government will go ahead with the pipeline? Is the Minister also aware that if this project is left to the State of South Australia the project will take much longer than the 6 or 7 years in which it could be completed if financial assistance was forthcoming from the Commonwealth? Will the Minister consult with the Prime Minister for the purpose of having the necessary finance made available so that the service can be given to the people of Kimba as quickly as possible?
– Has the Minister any accurate knowledge which would enable him to answer this lengthy question?
– None at all. All I say is that it would noi be unusual for State governments to find finance out of their own resources for projects of importance to their States. This has been known to happen before and I hope it will continue to happen. But the burden of the question will have to be directed to the responsible Minister, because T cannot add anything more.
– 1 suggest that the honourable senator put his question on notice.
– Canthe Acting
Minister for Immigration outline the extent of liaison which exists between his Department and the New South Wales Department of Education as regards the acceptance of United States and West German migrant teachers? In view of the attitude of the New South Wales Teachers Federation to the credentials of several teachers from those countries what is being done to overcome the impasse? Does not the Minister feel that this apparent check to teacher influx from the countries I have mentioned justifies the acceptance of a plan which I suggested to the Minister’s predecessor; that is, that as an interim measure all Asian high school teachers in New South Wales be granted permanent domicile and not, as in the case of Mr Tsang, be denied this status?
– I have quite a lot of general information which the Department has supplied to me relating to this matter, which has had some publicity. I shall make my answer as short as I can. As far as the Department of Immigration knows, West Germany has not been a source of teachers for New South Wales but the United Kingdom and North America have been. The New South Wales Department of Education and the Department of Immigration have worked very closely together on the matter of recruitment. The co-operation has been said to have been successful.In 1970 more than 800 school teachers came from Britain alone. Some special cases have been noted of people who before coming here have made insufficient inquiry and their unsatisfactory experiences have been publicised. The experiences of people who have made sufficient inquiries before coming to Australia as teachers have been satisfactory.
All in all, one can make a judgment on the information which I have that CommonwealthState liaison is satisfactory. The understanding of the position which is given overseas to those concerned - provided they seek it out - is satisfactory. To some extent the problem tends to be that overseas people have not availed themselves of the opportunity to seek information. In regard to the last part of the honourable senator’s question I do not agree with his general observation made to the Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes, that Asian teachers should be given permanent domicile here. AsI understand this matter the general principle is that Australia offers opportunities to people from Asian countries to train in Australia for service in their own countries.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether he is aware of the pornographic content of the New South Wales University student journal Tharunka’, particularly the ‘Family Issue’ dated 28th July 1971? Is the taxpayers’ money being used in the production of Tharunka’ and associated publications such as the notorious ‘Sex Manual’?
– The journal referred to has not been perused by me nor come into my possession.I shall ascertain whether any university moneys help to pay for its publication and inform the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. If, as we were told during the debate on the National Service Bill last week, membership of the Citizen Military Forces is a protection against being sent to Vietnam, how is it that the figures supplied by the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service show that there were one death and 9 casualties of CMF personnel in Vietnam? How many CMF personnel serve in Vietnam? Was there a state of emergency or a declaration of war which permitted such personnel to be sent to Vietnam?
-I do not think the honourable senator is right in saying that membership of the Citizen Military Forces is a protection against being sent to Vietnam.
– The Attorney-General said so.
– I was referring to what the honourable senator said. However,I do think that membership of the CMF is an alternative. Whilst I understand that some CMF officers go to Vietnam from time to time for further training, I would have to refer the remaining part of the question to the Minister for the Army for an answer.
- Mr President, I seek your indulgence because 1 find it somewhat difficult to decide whether the question which I wish to ask should be addressed to the Leader of the Government or to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement by the Associated Chambers of Commerce which said that transport systems in Australia’s major cities will soon reach strangulation point and essential community services will be prohibitive? Do the Chambers suggest that urban renewal will become a massive problem affecting the lives of more than 60 per cent of Australians in the major cities and that it Ls unrealistic to expect the States to shoulder the full responsibility for decentralisation? Will the Government heed the plea of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia and give immediate priority to the development of co-ordinated decentralisation policies and relieve the pressure on land prices and other social problems in the’ urban areas?
– I should think that this question could be directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, whom 1 represent and who would have the activities of the Australian Transport Advisory Council and the Bureau of Transport Economics in his care. One just might make the observation quietly that this again is an illustration of the continual reiteration of the claim that the Commonwealth must do everything. I make the observation that over the years since 1949, total Commonwealth revenue has multiplied by H times whereas the disbursements to the States by the Commonwealth have multiplied by 121 times. So the States are not short of resources to do things for themselves.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDHas the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a statement attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Health, that he would have hoped that the Federal Government would have developed a national dental benefits scheme and that the Commonwealth Ministers recent predecessor had indicated to the State Minister his interest in one? Will the Minister agree that the standard of dental care in Australia is lagging behind the standard of most economically advanced countries, because the cost of dental treatment in Australia is quite beyond the means of the ordinary Austraiian wageearner, having regard to his family responsibilities and financial commitments? Has the Minister perused the scheme now being proposed by the Australian Dental Association for the establishment of a non-profit organisation to arrange group prepayment for dental care? What consideration, if any, has the Federal Government given to expanding the present national health scheme to cover dental care in Australia?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn the first place, I would not reflect upon the efficacy or lack of efficacy of dental procedures in a State as I consider that to do so would be singularly inappropriate for a Commonwealth Minister, particularly at question time in replying off the cuff to a question. The second point I make is that I did see in the Press this morning a report of what was said by the State Minister for Health and also I read what was certainly a fair and accurate report of what I said. If I may say to, the comment by the State Minister, /or Health rather reflects what was said a moment ago by Senator Cotton in replying to a previous question, that is, the tendency to wish all these matters to be dealt with by the Commonwealth. Whilst the States have sovereignty, which they guard and protect with great verve, some items, particularly those involving revenue, in their view suddenly become Commonwealth responsibilities.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am answering the question. The next thing I want to say in answer to the honourable senator’s question is that I have been given no information about the scheme, as I indicated in the Press yesterday. I have noted Press reports that the Australian Dental Association intends to implement a dental subsidy scheme. However, my knowledge of the proposed scheme is limited to what I have read in Press reports. That answers the next part of the honourable senator’s question.
In response to a Press inquiry yesterday I expressed the view that any voluntary scheme falls within the pattern set by the principles of a free enterprise economy, to which this Government subscribes on the broad canvas. I wish the voluntary scheme every success in the future. Many problems are associated with such a dental scheme. Until I am informed of details of the scheme it would be singularly inappropriate and improper for me to reflect on its merits in detail, other than to wish the scheme every success.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that many people in rural industry believe that a more equitable means of assisting the rural sector would be for the Commonwealth Government to provide finance in order to reduce interest rates for rural borrowings from financial institutions, rather than to persist with the current rural reconstruction scheme? Can the Minister tell me whether the Government is prepared to consider such a proposal?
– 1 am not aware of any submission that has been made to ‘he Commonwealth Government for the subsidising of interest rates on rural loans. It seems probable that such an arrangement would not provide the answer that the rural construction scheme was designed specifically to do. The honourable senator will recall that the rural reconstruction scheme provides for 2 main forms of assistance, the first of which is in respect of debt reconstruction for producers who have reached the end of their credit resources and are in danger of losing their properties. They are eligible for assistance provided they have prospects of carrying on and regaining commercial viability. The second form of assistance is in respect of farm build-up. Finance can be provided for the purchase of additional lands by producers whose properties are too small to be economically viable. Such producers can seek assistance under the rural reconstruction scheme. I am not aware of any
20368/71- S.- 150)
application that has been made to the Government for the subsidising of interest rates on rural loans.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply give any further information concerning the acceptance or otherwise of the project for N2 aircraft by the Department of the Army and other Service departments? Can the Minister give any indication whether there is a likelihood of orders from commercial interests being received for this excellent aircraft?
– Ail I can say now is a repetition of what I said to Senator Bishop yesterday. Perhaps the only person who can truly evaluate the performance of the N2 aircraft is the pilot who is at present flying it. Representatives of my department and the Department of the Army are at present having discussions with representatives of the Defence Department on the evaluation of this aircraft. I am aware that a number of commercial firms are interested in the aircraft, but they are awaiting its evaluation to see whether it meets their requirements.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to the rural reconstruction scheme. Can the Minister say how many forms are required for a farmer to apply for rural assistance in Victoria, and how many similar forms are required in South Australia? Does the Federal Government have any say in the type or number of questions asked a farmer when making an application under the rural reconstruction scheme and are these applications more difficult in some States than in others?
– 1 think the honourable senator would be aware that in the Bill that was before the Senate, the Commonwealth Government laid down a general framework. The detailed operation of the rural reconstruction scheme lies with the States themselves They are responsible for drawing up the questions in the application form. As far as I understand, there is only one application form in both South Australia and Victoria that has to be filled in by the applicant.
-I ask the Minister rep resenting the Postmaster-General: Is Tharunka’, the student journal of the University of New South Wales, registered at the General Post Office for transmission by post as a periodical? Is the Postmaster-General aware of the pornographic content of this periodical, particularly the issue dated 28th July 1971? If so, does he propose to withdraw permission for transmission by post of this periodical under category B?
– I understand that the journal is registered for transmission at the GPO as a periodical and I understand also that steps have been taken to make the Postmaster-General aware of the particular issue to which the honourable senator refers, but I do not know whether it has come to his notice. With regard to the honourable senator’s final question as to whether action will be taken, I will refer this to the PostmasterGeneral.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. How many bales of price averaging plan wool offered for sale by the Australian Wool Commission have been passed in at auction this season? Is it a fact that a large number of PAP bales need to be re-offered four or five times before a sale is effected? What is the cost per bale incurred each time a bale is reoffered for sale?
– The only information I have here is that up to 2nd August there were 120,000 bales purchased from PAP operations and it was anticipated by the Commission that these bales would be transferred to PAP No. 3 pool. In regard to the cost of re-auctioning these bales, I cannot give that information to the honourable senator but I can say that at the time of offering, wool is allowed to stay in the brokers’ stores for 4 weeks free of charge and from then on it costs 10c per bale per week.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that more than 200 Catholics have been callously imprisoned in Northern Ireland for a period of many months without trial? Will the Minister advise the Parliament whether the Australian Government has sent any form of protest to the Government of Northern Ireland? If the answer is in the negative, what action does the Government propose to take?
– There is a basic, fundamental answer to questions of this nature. It is that matters relating to the responsibility of another government are clearly the responsibility of that other government and that intervention or intercession by this Government in the sense posed in the question would not be indulged in. In any event I think the question should go on notice if the honourable senator needs any further response.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: In view of the advice that 1 received during the last recess, that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was on the verge of signing the Refugee Seamen’s Convention, can the Minister now advise me whether we have crossed into the promised land of civil liberties?
– Is the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that in an article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 1st October 1971, written by someone who calls himself ‘Modest Member of Parliament’, there appears an unwarranted attack on the professional integrity of a senior and respected public servant, namely Sir Frank Meere, C.B.E., who is the Special Advisory Authority to the Australian Tariff Board? In view of the fact that Sir Frank Meere is not permitted publicly to defend himself, will the Minister take immediate steps to refute this cowardly attempt to smear a distinguished public servant who holds an important position in his Department?
– J have not read this article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ by the modest member of Parliament although 1 have read one or two of the writer’s previous articles. I do not always agree with everything he says although on some occasions I have agreed with him.
– Is he always a modest member of Parliament?
– Modesty is an attribute many of us would find attractive. I know something of the work of Sir Frank Meere who has had a most distinguished career in this area. 1 will ask the Minister for Trade and Industry for his feelings on this matter and whether he can do anything to overcome the problem.
– My question to the Minister representing .he Minister for Supply relates to the recent announcement by the Minister for Defence regarding the cancellation of orders for helicopters for the Services. Will the cancellation of those orders result in any reduction in the offset orders available to the Australian aircraft industry, thus creating further employment problems in Australia? If there is a reduction in offset orders, is it proposed to provide other essential production for the industry?
– Arising from the Vietnam campaign the Royal Australian Air Force nas learned a number of lessons in the operation of helicopters in a permissive area. We have also learned a number of lessons from the Americans in the operation of helicopters in a nonpermissive area. At present those lessons are being studied by my Department, so we have delayed the procurement of the helicopters. I understand that in the main the helicopters will come from overseas so for the present the offset work available to the Australian aircraft industry will not be very great.
– I preface my question to the Attorney-General by reminding him that on 28th September and earlier he promised to discuss with Senator Gair the latter’s allegation that Soviet spies were sabotaging the trade unions and the Public Service. Has that discussion taken place?
What evidence has the honourable senator made available to the Minister? If discussion has not taken place, does that indicate that the Attorney-General is not very concerned about foreign spies and sabotage in Australia or that he places little reliance on the allegations made by the honourable senator?
– The reason Senator Keeffe has not received an answer to his question is that he put it on the notice paper. I am pursuing the matter.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a newspaper report of a statement made in Adelaide yesterday by Sir Ewen Waterman, former Chairman of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, in which he said that wool would survive but only by better marketing and that wool producers were suffering by comparison with their competitors in the production of fibres? Will the Minister take up with his colleague the continued urgency of the matter of marketing and production of fibres? Does the comment of the distinguished former Chairman of the Austraiian Wool Industry Conference reflect on programmes already in hand? Will the Minister also direct attention to the many apparent convenient facets attributed to synthetic fibres and arrange for an early development of wool to meet this competition, as well as advising the public on the progress made?
– 1 have not seen a report of the comment made by Sir Ewen, but 1 worked with him for some years before I was elected to the Senate. 1 know his views on wool, wool marketing and wool promotion because he was in charge of the International Wool Secretariat for some time. I agree that there is still a lot to be desired in the marketing of wool. At present the Australian Wool Board is not able to proceed with more satisfactory marketing operations because these are not acceptable to the large majority of wool growers. Until such time as the majority favours an acquisition scheme or a similar scheme the Board, the Australian Wool Commission and the Government are unable to act further in this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the Prime Minister personally complimented the 3 young men who commenced a fast outside Parliament House in their efforts to raise money for refugees in India? Is he also aware that one of thefasters - Mr Paul Poernomo - is continuing the fast? Is the Government prepared to make a further increase in the donation previously granted to the refugees? If the Government is of the opinion that it is not possible to make an increase in the donation because of the economic depression now being experienced in Australia, will the Minister take the necessary action to set up the machinery for an appeal to the Australian people in an endeavour to raise at least $10m for this very worthy cause?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not aware of the answer to the first part of the question. The balance of the question adverts to matters of policy. I suggest that the question go on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Has the Victorias Hospital Benefits Association committed contributors’ funds to the newly formed Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia? Is this new association a political organisation whose aim is to wage a political campaign against the introduction of a government-sponsored national health scheme? What is the general position regarding the right of health funds to commit contributors’ moneys to political organisations?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not aware of the answer to the first part of the question, although I did read in the newspapers a reference to this matter. I asked that certain views be put to me for study, but they have not been put to me. 1 would prefer the balance of the question to go on notice. Here again I am being asked to comment on policy matters which involve the administration of various funds, the powers that they may have to administer their affairs and the powers that the Commonwealth may have to oversee them. I would like to give a considered reply to that. I have not been informed about the circumstances to which the honourable senator alluded in the first part of this question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. During the last 12 months, which wool broking and handling charges have been increased and what has been the amount of each of those increases? Will the Minister not agree that the operations of the Australian Wool Commission have meant a bonanza for brokers?
– I would definitely not agree with the last portion of the honourable senator’s question. I will have to get from the Minister for Primary Industry the detailed information that he is seeking and I shall do so.
(Question No. 1200)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1210)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
Was there any cut-back in allocation of funds for programme production in the ABC in the last financial year; if so, what were the cutbacks, and how many and what sort of programmes were affected.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1214)
asked the Minister representing the Post master-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1304)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
How many children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands descent were enrolled during the 1971 school year for (a) final year matriculation classes; and (b) university courses.
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
With the exception of some statistics maintained by my Department on the number of
Aboriginal students receiving Commonwealth Government financial assistance, as outlined below, comprehensive information on this subject is not available since Aboriginal students are not normally enumerated separately in statistical collections.
The Aboriginal Study Grant Scheme provides assistance for persons to undertake courses of study after leaving school. A number of persons taking up these grants have applied them to university courses and, at 30th June 1971, 20 were attending universities with Study Grant assistance.
The Study Grant Scheme also assists persons who are beyond normal school age to resume secondary studies with the object of qualifying for entry to courses of further education. At 30th June 1971, 13 students holding Study Grants were enrolled in matriculation studies of this nature.
In addition, at 30th June 1971, 66 students enrolled in the final secondary year at government and non-government schools throughout Australia held Aboriginal Secondary Grants, which are awarded to enable school students to remain at school beyond the statutory leaving age.
(Question No. 1381)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1376)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
On what date did the Department of Health carry out the last survey of medical practitioners who charge the most common fee.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Department is conducting a continuing survey of the proportion of fees for services under the Medical Benefits Scheme which are at or below the most common fee. The survey is based on contributors’ claims processed by the principal medical benefits organisations. Results for the quarters ended 31st December 1970 and 31st March 1971 are given on page 142 of the 1970- 1971 Annual Report of the Director-General of Health, which was tabled recently.
Information for the June quarter 1971 claims is available for 3 States and is as follows:
Further information will be released as it becomes available.
– Yesterday Senator Poke asked me a question as the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. He asked:
The answer supplied by the Minister for Primary Industry is as follows:
In determining the minumum reserve prices for superfine wools the Commission had regard to the market prices which prevailed for these wools last season and also took into account the views expressed by users of superfine wools which were obtained during the recent overseas investigations.
On 30th September Senator Bishop asked whether the South Australian and Western Australian governments had requested the Commonwealth Government to consider promoting talks between the Commonwealth and the State governments on the question of basic price controls. I have made inquiries into this matter and am advised that no request in these terms has been received.
(Question No. 1223)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
However, the figures quoted relate only to specific purpose payments made by the Commonwealth to the States.
Railways are State Government business undertakings. As such they receive allocations from the State Governments including a share of the State Government’s works and housing loan programmes, but the size of these allocations and other assistance granted by the States is a matter for State Governments. Despite this the Commonwealth has provided assistance to the States for specific railway projects mainly those associated with the standardisation of railway gauges.
(Question No. 1268)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science:
Have the Department of Education and Science and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs conducted an investigation into complaints that a group of Aboriginals, undertaking a management training course in Canberra 4 weeks ago, were receiving grants smaller than those which would have been paid to Europeans in their position? If so, what was the result of the investigation?
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The management training course to which the Honourable Senator refers was conducted at the Canberra Technical College between 29th July and 13th August. The course was specially arranged by, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs in order to provide management training for managers of Aboriginal enterprises in various parts of Australia who were receiving assistance from the Commonwealth Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises.
Following press reports that dissatisfaction with the benefits had been voiced by some of the trainees, officers of the Department of Education and Science and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs discussed the matter with the group.
The original arrangement was that the course participants should receive awards under the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme for the duration of the course, a period of about 21 weeks. Their benefits comprised not only the cost of return travel between their homes and Canberra and of their fees and books for the course but also full board and accommodation at a Commonwealth hostel at the rate of just under S35 per week, an allowance of S8 per week for incidental expenses and dependants allowances where appropriate.
After discussions with the trainees it was agreed that the allowance for incidental expenses should be raised to 32 a day, the same as the travel rate applicable to junior Commonwealth public servants whose accommodation is provided at Commonwealth expense.
(Question No. 1338)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Division of National Mapping of my Department, or the Army Survey Corps working on behalf of my Department, is responsible for the selection of sites required for Commonwealth purposes and for the erection of stations on the sites.
For selected sites located in the States a real property description is obtained from the State Department concerned and the Department of the Interior acquires these sites on behalf of my, Department.
In the case of the Bellarine site the description given by the State Department referred to an earlier location and not to the present location of the geodetic mark. Consequently the Department of the Interior initially made investigations about the acquisition of the earlier site. This delayed completion of the acquisition and as a result there was a shortfall in expenditure of $900 during the financial year 1969-70, as indicated in the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
On 7th September 1971, Senator Gietzelt asked me for information concerning . the Government’s policy on child care centres. In November last the Government announced its desire to introduce a scheme to assist with child care centres. However, I should point out that at no time has the Government promised ‘to meet the full cos* of any centres that might be included in any proposal. As you are aware, the economic situation has altered since the initiative was announced. Because of the Government’s appreciation of the importance of restraining inflationary pressures which are currently evident in the community, it adopted a deliberate policy of curtailing Commonwealth expenditure and in the light of that policy the decision was taken to defer the proposal on child care for the time being. In the meantime the issues relating to child care will continue to be examined by the Government in preparation for the time when the matter is further considered.
– On 29th September 1971, Senator Murphy asked me the following question:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I refer to the extraordinary ban imposed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on Messrs Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Could the Minister inform the Senate why the procedure laid down in Section 119 of the Broadcasting and Television Act was not followed? That Section gives persons an opportunity to be heard before any order placing restrictions upon them is made. Could the Minister indicate whether he would ask the Postmaster-General to make a full statement to the Parliament upon this incident which, as far as I know, is the first that has occurred, as to why the Board has, apart from the legalities, taken what appears to be extremely arbitrary action in relation to these persons and as to why, when there is an opportunity to deal with particular matters, there has been a blanket censorship imposed upon these persons taking part in live television shows although apparently there was only one incident when some offence was caused?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
In the first place I would like to point out that the Direction of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in this matter is not a ban on televising by the 2 people concerned. It was a direction that interviews or performances involving the persons in question must not be transmitted unless the material has been pre-recorded and passed for transmission by a responsible station executive.
There is a great bulk of television programme material which is pre-recorded and the direction does not place the persons in question at any great disadvantage in finding employment in television. On the other hand it has to be remembered that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has a very important responsibility to the community lo ensure the acceptability of television programmes. Section 99 of the Broadcasting and Television Act obliges the Board to determine standards for programmes and to see that programmes conform with these standards. It is a matter for the Board to act in the best way it secs fit in connection with any particular case and in this instance it considered that the appropriate course was to ensure that no material would be televised or broadcast by the persons in question unless it had been previously approved by a responsible officer of the licensee. Section 119 of the Act provides inter-alia for the Board in respect of a person who has rendered, passed, or selected for television offensive material to show cause why an order should not be made prohibiting him from such activities. Surely the honourable senator will agree that the effect of Section 119 is to impose a punishment on a person who has caused offence but in the interim it would not necessarily prevent the further transmission of off?ensive material. It was the latter aspect that the Board regarded as its prime responsibility and I agree. In the circumstances the requirement for pre-recording of performaces by these persons was entirely appropriate. It has to be appreciated that the Board acted against the background that the persons concerned had, in the Board’s opinion, previously televised material which would have caused serious offence to a large section of the public. In connection with whether any action should also be taken under Section 119, this would be a matter for consideration by the Board which has called for a report from the licensee. I take it the honourable senator is not setting out to defend the persons concerned as to their offence, especially as the manager of the station saw fit to make a public apology not only through the television medium but also in the Press, for the incident. Judging by letters that have been received complaining about the offensive material to which I have referred, it is obvious that some drastic action had to be taken. I think the Board is rather to be commended than questioned in its conduct in the matter, and I think this is the view of responsible members of the general public, judging again from the tone of the letters. The honourable senator refers to arbitrary action by the Board, but is it not arbitrary for persons using the public medium of television to take it upon themselves to make an affront to the accepted standards of a large section of viewers.
– I give notice that tomorrow I intend to move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
Construction of stage 2 development works at HMAS Nirimba, Quakers Hill. New South Wales.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Chicken Meat Research Act 1969, I present the second annual report of the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Meat Research Act 1960-1963, I present the fifth annual report of the Australian Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30th June 1971. An interim report of the Committee was presented to the Senate on 19th August 1971.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Apple and Pear Organisation Act 1938-1966, I present the twenty-fifth annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Is notice of motion No. 1 formal or informal?
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to certain Purported Decrees under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 or under that Act as amended.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That the second reading of the Bill be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
I ask for leave to make a statement and then move a motion.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe proposal for the business of the Senate today is that we deal with the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bills. Then, in order to make the position clear, I move:
That Business of the Senate, notice of motion No. 1, be postponed until the next day of sitting.
I am referring to the motion in the name of Senator Byrne.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI now move:
That notice of motion No. 2 be postponed until a later hour of the day.
The intention is to deal with the Apple and Pear Stabilisat ion Bills. If they are concluded notice of motion No. 2 in the name of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) will be called on. If we conclude those matters I will then call on the debate on the Ministerial Statement on Australian Military Forces in Vietnam as the next item for today. The only variation to this arrangement will be if a message comes from the other place. I shall intervene to put that message down.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following paper:
Accident Investigation Report - Canadian Pacific Airlines DC8-63 Aircraft, CF-CPQ, and
Trans-Australia Airlines Boeing 727 Aircraft, VH-TJA, at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, New South Wales, on 29th January 1971.
I ask leave of the Senate to make a statement in connection with this report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable senators will recall that on 29th January this year, a Trans-Australia Airlines Boeing 727 aircraft, VH-TJA, taking off on runway 16 at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport just after 9.30 in the evening, struck the tail fin of a Canadian Pacific Airlines DC8-63 aircraft, CF-CPQ, which had just landed on the same runway at the completion of a flight from Vancouver via Honolulu and Fiji. Some 8) feet of fin and rudder was shorn from (he taxying Canadian aircraft and there was considerable damage to the undersurfaces of the TAA aircraft. The Boeing 727 remained aloft for some 40 minutes during which it dumped excess fuel off-shore and then landed again at Sydney Airport without further incident. Although there was considerable and expensive damage to both aircraft none of the 240 passengers and crew was injured. Without a doubt, however, a much more serious accident was avoided only by a very narrow margin and the Air Safety Investigation Branch of my Department commenced its enquiries immediately to ascertain how such an event could have occurred. As I have already explained in answering questions from several honourable senators, the investigation of this incident has been protracted by the need to seek important information from Canadian Pacific Airlines whose headquarters are in Vancouver, from the Minister for Transport in the Canadian Government who has responsibilities in respect of the standards of operation of Canadian registered aircraft, as well as from the aircraft manufacturers who are located in the United States of America. In addition, a programme of experimental work was carried out by the National Transportation Safety Board, an instrument of the United States Government, in order to assist the Air Safety Investigation Branch of my Department in their resolution of one important facet of the investigation. I must say at once that ail of these persons and organisations were most co-operative in providing assistance in this investigation. 1 am now able to present the final results in the report which is tabled.
It has been pointed out by others before me, who have looked at the problem of how air accidents are caused, that almost without exception they are the result of a chance combination of a number of normally unrelated and unexpected events. This accident is certainly no exception and a perusal of the report will indicate to honourable senators that, on this occasion, the unexpected and normally unrelated events comprised errors of discernment made by the pilots of both aircraft and by the air traffic controllers involved. I think that the situation is most effectively summarised in the section of the report entitled ‘Casual Factors’ which commences on page 33. The first error, in terms of time, made by the people involved in this occurrence was made by the captain of the Canadian aircraft who misread the air traffic controller’s instruction ‘take taxiway right’ as ‘backtrack if you like’. Perhaps there is a certain phonetic similarity between these 2 phrases and they are of somewhat similar length but the import of each is very different and, in the vital operations on and around an airport, there can be no room for this sort of misunderstanding. It is rather remarkable that so many of the members of the Canadian crew claim to have read the clearance in the same way particularly since the enunciation and speed of delivery of the clearance, as recorded on the ground, does not seem likely to have contributed in any way to such a misreading. It was over 8 years since the captain had previously flown into Sydney and it seems to me that this would be the most likely single factor contributing to such an error. Nevertheless, on its own, there was no reason why an error of this sort should cause an accident.
It was a rather dark and wet night at Sydney Airport when this accident occurred. The aerodrome controller in Sydney tower was responsible for observing the movements of aircraft on the runways being used for landing and take-off and for regulating the movements of all aircraft so that safety would be preserved at all times. Here, however, the error made by the Canadian captain was compounded by a separate and completely different error made by the aerodrome controller.
By chance the landing run of the Canadian aircraft finished right opposite the entrance to a taxiway which the aerodrome controller expected it to use in complying with his instruction to ‘take taxiway right.’ The direction of the turn taken by the Canadian aircraft was to the right, towards the entrance to this taxiway and because of the size of the aircraft involved and the wetness of the surface on which it was manoeuvring, this turn was carried out at a speed much slower than is exhibited by the types of aircraft more frequently using Sydney Airport. Furthermore, the aerodrome controller under-estimated the deceptiveness of observations of an aircraft’s position on a night such as this and the need for verification of his observation, made over a distance of some threequarters of a mile. Unfortunately, the controller’s misjudgment of the position of the aircraft and his belief that it had entered the taxiway removed from the safety backup system the first opportunity presented to correct the initial error made by the crew of the Canadian aircraft.
The investigation report then looks at the next opportunity in the system for correction of the 2 errors already made. Although the TAA aircraft was cleared for take-off by the aerodrome controller, it seems from the evidence that the crew did not see the Canadian aircraft on the runway. It is apparent, however, that the captain did see it after the take-off had progressed some 2,000 feet down the runway. He decided at that stage to continue with the take-off and that he would use normal take-off techniques, apparently in the belief that this would provide the optimum flight path to overfly the Canadian aircraft. As the investigation report points out, had the TAA captain decided at this crucial point to abandon the take-off rather than to continue with it, he would have been able to bring his aircraft to a halt on the runway still some 2,000 feet short of the obstructing Canadian aircraft. Alternatively, if in deciding to continue the take-off, he had also elected to vary the normal take-off techniques so as to achieve a better initial climb angle, once again the collision would have been avoided. Certainly the TAA captain was presented with the need for quick decision in the face of quite unexpected events, but obviously one of the vital elements for safety in aircraft operations on an airport is that flight crews maintain a sharp lookout for circumstances which endanger the safety of their aircraft. This does not detract from the controller’s responsibility but neither does the issuance of a take-off clearance absolve the flight crew from their responsibilities.
As the report points out it was the conjunction of errors made on the flight decks of both aircraft and in Sydney tower which led to this accident. In its findings, the Air Safety Investigation Branch has said: . . the cause of this accident was that the taxiing clearance given after landing was misread by the flight crew of CF-CPQ and this error was not detected by the aerodrome controller who cleared VH-TJA for take-off. The flight crew of VH-TJA on detecting the obstructing aircraft did not then adopt the most effective means of avoiding a collision.
I believe that this is a fair and proper statement of the principle causal factors leading to this accident and I commend it to honourable senators.
Immediately this accident occurred the Director-General of Civil Aviation undertook a close and searching examination of the traffic control procedures and practices related to this occurrence. Although this was not the only area in which remedial measures should be considered, it was the area in which the Department itself was most directly involved. As the investigation report makes clear, the error by the aerodrome controller on this night did not stem from any degree of carelessness or lack of adherence to proper instruction, but rather from the much more human error of underestimating the limitations of his visual observations made under the prevailing conditions. The training and instruction of air traffic controllers has been modified to ensure that they recognise the difficulties of determining, at a considerable distance, purely by visual judgment, the precise position of an aircraft on the runway/ taxiway system of an airport, particularly under night conditions. The instructions to air traffic controllers have now been amplified to indicate more clearly when they should supplement their visual judgments by seeking radio reports from the flight crews of aircraft that they are clear ofthe landing runway.
Shortly after this accident the Director-General also took up with Canadian Pacific Airlines the question of the degree of familiarity of their crews with Australian airports, acceptable methods of achieving that familiarisation and the need for cockpit procedures which would ensure compliance with air traffic control instructions issued at our airports. These matters are being further pursued by the Director-General in the light of this report. Now that the report has been made public, the Director-General will also be taking up with TAA and the other Australian airline operators the whole question of the vigilance of flight crews whilst operating on and in the vicinity of airports. The matter will be featured in the Aviation Safety Digest which reaches all licensed pilots in Australia as well as many others around the world.
Finally, Mr President, 1 should inform the Senate that, arising from this accident, a civil action has been commenced in the High Court of Australia. The policy of insurance held by the Australian National Airlines Commission in respect of the Boeing 727 aircraft VH-TJA contained the usual subrogation clause which gives to the underwriters an entitlement, at their own expense, to sue in the name of the insured. In this case the underwriters have exercised this privilege and, in the name of the Australian National Airlines Commission, they have issued out of the High Court of Australia a writ claiming unspecified damages against the Commonwealth and against Canadian Pacific Airlines Ltd. Consideration of this claim is the responsibility of my colleague the Attorney-General and, of course, officers of my Department will provide whatever assistance is necessary in dealing with that matter. Mr President, it is clear from this report that the accident at Sydney Airport was a most serious occurrence, but fortunately it did not result in injury to any persons. I believe this report sets out the facts of the occurrence comprehensively and fairly. I can assure the Senate that the lessons to be learned from this occurrence, in some cases have already been implemented and in others are being actively followed up by my Department. I commend the report to the Senate.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I have read the statement now tendered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). It appears to me that it adds very little to the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation which was furnished to the Parliament yesterday. However, it adds a great deal to the reply given to me by the Minister on 26th August to a question that I had placed on the notice paper. I am pleased that at long last, after a period of 9 or 10 months, the Minister has condescended to give Parliament and the Australian people a detailed report on the collision that occurred at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport on 29th January 1971 between a Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft bound for Perth and a Canadian Pacific Airlines aircraft coming in from Honolulu and Nandi. Very fortunately, as the Minister has said in his report to the Parliament, no loss of life was involved to the crew or the passengers, or to any of the residents adjacent to the airport. But the accident was of such a serious nature that hundreds of Australian lives could well have been lost.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! it is not the practice to make a lengthy speech at this stage, Senator McClelland. You would need to seek leave to do that. I understand that you have moved to take note of the paper.
And I ask for leave to make a short statement.
Senator Willesee - The Government might be agreeable, as we may want to debate this matter at another time, for Senator McClelland to seek leave to move the motion. Then the debate would be carried on. He could seek leave to make a short statement and after that statement the matter would then be finished with, or he could ask for leave to move a motion. Senator Wright is interjecting. I ask him to listen to me. Senator McClelland could ask for leave to move a motion and the Government should not object to that. He could continue his statement and the debate could be adjourned to another day of sitting.
– I understand that Senator McClelland rose to move quite appropriately that the Senate take note of the statement. Then he proceeded to make a series of remarks which began to be a little lengthy. You, Sir, raised a point. The honourable senator then said that he wanted to make a short statement. If he does that, I am content. On the other hand, if he wishes finally to discuss the matter in depth, and I am quite agreeable to that, the procedure suggested by Senator Willessee is appropriate and I would then take note of the adjournment. I assume that the debate would not be resumed today.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator McClelland, I take it that you wish to proceed with your request to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement on the matter raised by the Minister.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Having set out the details of the collision I was about to go on to say that 1 had deliberately used the word ‘condescended’ because it appears to me that a deliberate attempt has been made by the Minister and his department to keep this Parliament and the Australian people in the dark for a long period as to the serious consequences that could have arisen. T want to be sure that all steps have been taken to ensure that there will be no repetition of such a collision. Senator Georges and I, since the accident occurred, have constantly pressed the Minister in the Senate to give to the Parliament details of the incident. 1 will compare the answer given to me by the Minister on 26th August with the account appearing in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation which, incidentally, was tendered to this Parliament only yesterday. The statement made by the Minister today adds very little to the account of the incident in the annual report. 1 assume, notwithstanding the fact that the annual report was tendered to the Parliament only yesterday, that it was prepared much earlier than 26th August when the Minister last replied to me about the accident. The annual report of the Department stales at pages 58-59 that as at 30th
June the investigation into the accident was still in progress. The report then sets out what it describes as a brief summary of the events leading to the accident.
I will compare that brief summary with the answer given to me on 26th August by the Minister. The brief summary in the annual report states that there were 8 crew members and 84 passengers on the TAA aircraft bound for Perth, and 12 crew members and 136 passengers on board the Canadian Pacific airliner. Nothing was said in the answer given to me on 26th August by the Minister about the numbers of crew members or passengers on board both aircraft, despite the fact that I had asked the Minister in my question on notice to state details of the collision that occurred at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport between a TAA aircraft and an overseas aircraft in January 1971.
The annual report and the statement just made by the Minister set out that it was a dark, wet night, but in the Minister’s answer to mc on 26th August nothing was said about the night being dark and wet. The annual report states that the Canadian Pacific aircraft was instructed as follows: Take taxiway right, call on 121.7.’ It goes on to say that the Canadian flight crew read the instructions as follows: ‘Backtrack if you like, change to 121.7.’ That misinterpretation of a message given in English is, quite frankly, incredible to me. It appears to me that the pilot must have been a French speaking Canadian who did not understand English or that the instructions given to him must have been given in English by a migrant who spoke Mongolian. But whatever the circumstances, and knowing the fallibilities of the English language, it is beyond my comprehension that there could have been such a misinterpretation of such an instruction. But again nothing was said in reply by the Minister to me on 26th August about the type of instruction that was given by the control tower, and nothing was said in that reply about the manner in which the instruction was interpreted by the crew of the Canadian Pacific Airlines aircraft.
The annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation mentions that the Canadian aircraft carried out a 180-degree turn on the runway and taxied back towards the TAA aircraft; that because of the size of the aircraft and the wet surface of the runway the Canadian aircraft turned very slowly on the runway and, incidentally or coincidental^, right opposite a taxi-way exit Nothing was said about these details in the reply that the Minister gave to me on 26th August; nothing was said in the reply about a 1 80-degree turn or about any aircraft turning slowly or being right opposite a taxi-way on the runway.
– What are you trying to prove?
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDJust let me finish. All that the Minister said in his answer to me on 26th August was:
A departing TAA Boeing 727 was cleared for take-off after the DC8 completed part of its turn on the runway and had appeared to have entered an adjacent runway.
In the annual report of the Department it was stated that the Canadian aircraft ‘was showing its two red rotating beacons, its navigation lights, wing illumination lights, cabin lights and four landing lights . . .’ Those lights were on. The Minister merely said in his reply to me on 26th August that:
The crew of the TAA aircraft did not observe the lights . . .
But. apparently all of the lights were illuminated on the Canadian aircraft at the commencement of the TAA flight take-off. And we only learnt that yesterday for the first time. The annual report states that the airport controllers were three-quarters of a mile away from the incident - the Minister has confirmed that in his statement - in the Sydney tower on a dark wet night. Nothing was said in the Minister’s reply to me on 26th August about the distance involved or the state of the night-
Frankly, 1 am concerned to see the Minister and his Department providing this Parliament with the scantiest of information on a matter which is of paramount importance to the Australian people, and particularly the people of Sydney, when obviously fuller and more complete details were available to the Department and should have been available to the Minister when the reply of 26th August was given to me. The safety of people travelling on aircraft and the safety of people living around an airport, particularly one in the geographical position of Kingsford-Smith airport and of the size of that airport, should be of paramount importance to this Parliament. When members of this Parliament ask questions on very serious incidents that occur so far as collisions between aircraft are concerned, it should be the responsibility of the Department and of the Minister in charge of it to provide details to the Parliament if those details are in the possession of the Department, as they obviously have been for some time.
The Minister said on 26th August that we ‘can be assured that measures, designed to prevent a repetition of such an accident, have been implemented’. Apparently all that has been done to date, according to the Minister’s immediate statement, is that instructions to air traffic controllers now have been amplified to indicate more clearly when they should supplement their visual judgments by seeking radio reports from the crews of other aircraft that they are clear of the landing runway. True it is that other matters have been taken up with the Canadian authorities. True it is that the Director-General will also be taking up other matters with TAA. But at this stage, despite the Minister’s answer to me on 26th August that we ‘can be assured that measures, designed to prevent a repetition of such an accident, have been implemented’, all that appears to have been done by the Department to date Ls to set out in clearer details what air traffic controllers should do when incidents of this nature occur or are likely to occur.
Surely this incident, and the serious repercussions which could have followed, highlight the necessity for the Government to take immediate action to establish a second airport for Sydney. Because the Minister now has had the interdepartmental committee’s report in his possession for over 12 months, it is more than time that an announcement was made on this vital subject. Australians, particularly the people of Sydney - especially those living adjacent to Kingsford-Smith airport - cannot tolerate any longer such protracted procrastination on the part of the Department.
– Mr Deputy President, I suggest-
– If I may-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I call Senator Cotton.
– I move:
– Mr Deputy President, I was on my feet seeking to speak.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I will seek advice on the position. Are you raising a point of order, Senator Georges?
– No. I seek leave to make an exceptionally brief statement on the same matter before the question is resolved.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The
Minister has moved the adjournment of the debate.
– I was watching very carefully. We were both on our feet, but 1 thought I was on my feet perhaps a little ahead. I have moved the adjournment of the debate. However, if Senator Georges wants to make a short statement - and I emphasise the word ‘short’ because there are varying views on what is a short statement - I will be happy to co-operate with him provided that it is understood that when that short statement is concluded the adjournment process I began will be concluded.
– I am not prepared to allow the matter to pass without making this observation. I have asked questions about it over the last 2 or 3 months. I was mostly concerned about the qualifications of overseas pilots who were required to land at Australian airports. That is the point I had been presenting for quite some time. I am disturbed by this report because it endeavours to shift the blame which obviously should be laid at the feet of the Canadian Pacific airliner to the Trans-Australia Airlines crew. I take quite a deal of exception to this and I want to oppose it at this stage.
It appears to me that this report is a compromise which has resulted from consultations, over a considerable length of time, with the Canadian authorities. It seems obvious from the report that the people who were primarily to blame - it points it out clearly - were the crew of the overseas aircraft. How can one be expected to accept that an air crew received an instruction to take taxiway right and misinterpret it as ‘backtrack if you like’ without checking with the observation tower?
– And then make a 180 degree turn.
– Yes, and then make a 180 degree turn. In effect, this report is shifting the blame from the overseas crew. I would not mind that except that the blame has been shifted to the Australian crew and to the personnel of the observation tower. I make the point now that I do not accept this report and will not accept this report. At a later stage I shall make my objections in a more definite manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 12 October (vide page 1289), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Is there any objection? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– At the outset I express on behalf of the Opposition the keen disappointment we feel at the Government’s having introduced legislation in this way. Over many years the practice has been for the Government to introduce legislation into this chamber, for the debate to be adjourned and for the debate to be resumed about one week later. On this occasion the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents in this place the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), introduced the legislation yesterday and the debate is being resumed to-day. This is most unfair to the Opposition because we expected the practice which has been followed over the years to have been followed on this occasion, thus affording time for us to prepare our remarks on the legislation. The Opposition rejects completely the reason advanced by the Government that a computer system is to operate in relation to this legislation. If that be so, we are becoming servants of a computer and it is incorrect for any government to ask members of Parliament to be subject to the wishes of a computer programmer.
We shall proceed to debate the legislation but we make it clear that the Government is not to take our action on this occasion as a precedent because the ready co-operation which we have extended in the past may not be extended in the future. 1 do not think anyone on the Government side can accuse the Opposition of frustrating the Government’s attempts to get urgent legislation through the Senate. When legislation has been required urgently the Opposition has proved conclusively time out of number its desire to cooperate to the fullest possible extent, but on this occasion we reject the fact that a computer may be waiting to deal with aspects of the legislation as an urgent reason for bringing on the debate to-day.
Having said that, I now indicate that although the Opposition does not oppose the principle of the Bill it believes that the Bill has serious deficiencies. On behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that a single national marketing authority should be established which will be the sole authority responsible for the export marketing of Australian apples and pears and which will administer, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, a well formulated apple and pear stabilisation scheme’.
We believe that our proposal is the way in which to attack the problems facing the industry today. The legislation seeks to implement a stabilisation scheme to support the returns of apple and pear growers for a period of 5 years. As I have indicated, we do not oppose that principle. What we do oppose is the way in which the Government intends to implement the scheme. We believe that a single marketing authority is the appropriate authority to implement a stabilisation scheme.
Another important aspect of this legislation which should not be ignored is that it has socialistic characteristics although the Government opposes Socialism so bitterly. Between elections the Government attacks members of the Australian Labor Party on Socialism and what we believe in but then, by a surreptitious move, it introduces legislation of a socialistic nature. In the last sessional period the Shepparton Preserving Company was in financial difficulties and the Government came to its assistance - the Opposition approved the legislation - by providing money to enable the company to continue operations. That was good but, notwithstanding what honourable senators on the Government side might say, it tends towards Socialism, and the Government took its action despite its statements to all and sundry that it opposes Socialism.
The finances of this country are getting into a most difficult situation. Let me illustrate what I mean by that statement. Early last year many people in the western area of Queensland made representations to the Commonwealth Government for a grant of S10m to assist them to overcome the difficulties they were experiencing as a result of successive droughts and depressed wool prices. The Commonwealth Government, for reasons known only to itself, rejected those representations. The Queensland Government, however, in its budget introduced into the State House last week, made provision for a grant of $10m to the very people whose representations had been rejected by the Commonwealth Government. Now the Queensland Government has said: ‘As a result of the allocation of this money to those whose representations were rejected by the Commonwealth Government, we now propose to become a mendicant State’. Surely primary industry is so important to Australia that a higher degree of consideration should be given to matters affecting adversely that section of the community. Although people in the area between Charleville and Longreach were living in, to use the words of the
Premier of Queensland, a disaster area, the Commonwealth Government said to them: ‘We cannot give you the $ 1Om you seek’. The State Government gave the Si Om and then applied to the Commonwealth Government to become a mendicant State. Surely this is an illustration of how the finances of the country are being maladministered.
I suggest that it is hypocrisy for the Government to attempt, by back door methods, to introduce legislation which on the hustings and between elections its members so vehemently criticise. We agree with the propositions contained in the legislation, but we are accused of being terrible people. We are accused by the Government of being people whose actions are designed to ruin the Australian economy. It is an inescapable fact that the Government is surreptitiously introducing this legislation while at the same time condemning its purpose. What the legislation fails to do on this occasion is to indicate how it will assist the promotion of the industry. The legislation fails to indicate how it will help to develop marketing arrangements for the apple and pear industry. Surely that is what is required. This legislation will achieve nothing of that nature. It means a change on the Apple and Pear Board from one person nominated by the Minister to 2 persons with no authority for the 2 persons responsible to implement the legislation. As a matter of fact, the legislation brings one to the point of saying: ‘It does not matter whether you are eaten by an alligator or a crocodile’. That is the way in which people in the apple and pear industry will approach the legislation. They want positive action by the Government. This legislation will not give the positive action that is required by the people in Tasmania.
Why is there a single authority in sections of legislation dealing with some of the more outstanding and progressive rural industries? Has the single authority failed in the sugar industry or in the beef industry? These authorities are remarkable examples of how a single authority can achieve the desired results of improving the lot of the people in an industry. There is no attempt to do that in this legislation. I believe that the Minister, in his second reading speech on the Apple and Pear
Organisation Bill, indicated 2 things. Referring to the proposed changes he said:
These changes were made in the light of tha Government’s recognition of the need to have the closest liaison between the Government and the board in view of the operation of the particular Government backed stabilisation or other scheme.
How will this legislation achieve that? It will do nothing at all, with the exception of discarding one person on the Board, as is the position under the present legislation, and substituting 2 people in his place. It will not give the close liaison that the Government expects that it will. It will not give the close liaison that would have resulted if a single national marketing authority had been set up. The alteration brought about by this legislation means nothing. The 2 members of the Board will not have the right to negotiate agreements with overseas countries or to negotiate freight rates or anything of that nature. A single national marketing authority would have those powers. At present single authorities in other industries have that power. Another portion of the Minister’s second reading speech on the same Bill states:
The net effect of the proposed new arrangements is that, in lieu of the present single member of the Board who is both representative of the Commonwealth Government and board chairman, there shall be 2 members, one of whom is the representative of the Commonwealth Government but who is not chairman, and the other of whom is a member and chairman of the board but is not the representative of the Commonwealth Government. Both appointments will be made directly by the Minister.
One would have to be a child of nature if one believed that there were not conflicts in that statement. Let me repeat that section of the Minister’s speech. He stated: . . and the other of whom is a member and chairman of the Board but is not the representative of the Commonwealth Government. Both appointments will be made directly by the Minister.
Does the Government suggest that the Minister will have no influence over those 2 members and that those 2 members, notwithstanding anything they believe to be the case, will report io the Minister in a way that does not accord with his belief? One would have to be a child of nature to believe that appointees of the Minister would do those things. We believe that the principle contained in the legislation may be desirable. However, the legislation falls far short of what is required by the people in this very important section of primary industry. Consequently we have no desire to delay the passage of the Bills, but we show our disapproval of the legislation not having gone nearly as far as it should by moving the amendment that I moved.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– These Bills are particularly important Bills which contain very wide ramifications for a considerable number of people. Not only the sustenance of the people concerned in the industry affected by the Bills but whole towns in my State and certainly in Tasmania are involved in this matter. The industry involved is a nationally important industry. Over the past years there has been a demand on growers in the apple and pear industry to demonstrate a great deal of efficiency in their industry. They have demonstrated that efficiency. At present they face a problem which is being faced by a great many primary industries in Australia. The marketing problem which is being faced by apple and pear growers in Australia is being experienced by growers in other countries. Because of marketing problems and particularly because of the increasing quantities of fruit to be sold on an at risk basis the Government has accepted the responsibility of introducing a stabilisation scheme which perhaps is unique as far as any stabilisation scheme in this country or perhaps, as I am advised, in the world is concerned.
The Government is not involved in a minor matter here. Under these Bills the Government’s obligation to the industry could extend to $ 17.6m. But it is estimated that, because of averaging, the Government’s obligation will be approximately $10m over a 5-year period. The introduction of this stabilisation scheme is particularly timely. Honourable senators who represent Tasmania and Victoria - indeed, all States where fresh fruit is grown - will know of the general arguments that have developed over the last 2 or 3 years while the industry has been coming around to making a decision that a stabilisation scheme definitely is needed. This has not been done without the great pains which attend the development of stabilisation schemes in very nearly every industry. In my own State of Victoria the pear growers, whom I have mentioned in this place on a number of occasions, have had great heartburning in deciding whether this scheme really will be of benefit to them. But I believe that the majority of growers are convinced that it will bring the industry benefit.
I think it can be said that throughout very nearly the whole of the producing areas there is agreement that this stabilisation scheme, as proposed by the Government and as endorsed by the industry generally, is what is wanted. The industry has promoted the idea. Here we find a divergence between the view of an anti-Socialist government and that of the Labor Party. I believe that a Labor government would attempt to enforce on an industry a scheme which that government had thought up and which it wished to be introduced. I think that is the main division of opinion here in the Labor Party putting forward a proposition and this Government putting forward a proposition.
– There are models in the Labor Party’s performance in the past on stabilisation schemes.
– There have been models which have fallen down very badly when the growers or those who control the product have not been sufficiently consulted and have not been the ones who decided the general basis of the scheme that was put forward. I think Senator Devitt makes a point, namely, that undoubtedly his type of administration would look to what could be considered a model for stabilisation and would attempt to bring it forward. Of course, the whole of the argument members of the Labor Party make falls down when it is necessary to bring in this great variety of stabilisation funds for all these items. As they know, there is no scheme in Australia that is anything like the type of fund that is being promoted at the present time. In short, there is no model on which members of the Labor Party would be able to design a stabilisation scheme. I think Senator Devitt probably agrees with that point.
– No, I do not.
– Well, he might have the opportunity to indicate the way he would see it otherwise.
– He will; be careful.
– I do not know that I need to be very careful. I think he will have great difficulty in indicating the model that he would follow in this regard. Undoubtedly we will hear about that in due course.
– If you sat on this side of the chamber you would know this.
– The Government has not sat on that side of the chamber for 22 years Every year 1 have been in this chamber, Senator Poke and his confreres have stood up and said: ‘In the next year we will be in government’. They have been saying that for many years. But the fact is that certainly a percentage of primary producers in this country wish to feel that they have some control over the product they produce. The Labor Party would deny that to them. If Senator Devitt argues on that basis when he stands up to speak it will be most interesting. I have not a great deal of time. I know how honourable senators opposite like to interrupt what I have to say, but it is reasonably important.
I would not agree that the whole basis of a successful stabilisation scheme and marketing scheme for the fresh fruit industry is laid before us with the presentation of this scheme. Undoubtedly, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) would agree with this, and it would be agreed with by the industry. There is much to be done within this industry in relation to the confining of the volume of production, the ability to seek further markets both inside and outside Australia and the problems to be overcome in relation to the handling of the fruit. Modern methods attempt to bring us around to more successful marketing the whole time. Also, great problems face us in relation to freight. Freight is a very important part of the basis of whatever product we wish to export.
– Freight rates are very high.
– That is quite so. The general rise in costs of production in Australia has to be coped with by attempting to gain greater efficiency in production in view of the inflationary trend that is so obvious in Australia today. Of course, it is being demonstrated all along the line that this can be done. But the Federal Government has an obligation to the Australian community to make a definite attempt - let me say a greater attempt than has been made in the past 3 or 4 years - to confine the rate of inflation in Australia. It is the exporter - the very person with whom we are dealing here - who takes the brunt of every rise that occurs, whether it be a rise in wages, which is the main burden of the rise in costs of production in Australia today, or whether it be those other rises that flow from wage increases. These rises need to be controlled.
I read in one newspaper today - I think it was a Queensland newspaper - that the members of one union organisation in Queensland, to their great credit, have denied themselves a wage increase. I think it is to the everlasting benefit of those workers that they have done that. I hope that many other groups of individuals, when they are presented with the proposition of seeking a substantial wage rise, will take the opportunity to deny themselves that rise and demonstrate to the people in general that costs of production and costs generally should be confined.
– Could that’ be taken as an indication of your policy?
– Everything I say in this chamber is a general indication of the way I view policy, and the honourable senator can take it that whenever he questions me in that way that will be my answer.
– Is that the policy of your Party?
– I do not necessarily speak entirely for my Party. But I believe that whenever Senator Milliner speaks he speaks entirely for his Party without being game even to mention his own private view. Again, that is the difference between the Government and the Opposition. Senator McLaren, who is interjecting, has been here for only a very short time. If he heard the number of times I have been castigated for voting against the Government, he would have some sympathy for me. But let us leave that for the time being.
One of the most interesting documents which obviously supplement any debate on the problems of the apple and pear industry is the 1970-71 report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Some of the comments made in this document are particularly relevant to this debate. The problem of disposal of the crop, the problems involved in marketing at the present time, the grave problems that face producers of the many varieties of apples and pears and the fact that the traditional base of their overseas market apparently is being eroded by the proposition that Britain will enter the European Economic Community, are pointed out very dramatically in this excellent report. Knowing that the Government is anxious to have this Bill passed, I think it is best for me to do no more than refer members of the Senate to this report. They should note that the report sets out clearly the matter of marketing, the problems which face this industry in the future and the basis of this stabilisation scheme so that growers can understand what is contained in it.
The report sets out also the grave problem of freight rates and also the general encouragement that is given. Further, it sets out the efficiency that this industry has gained from the shippers by way of a lesser freight component in relation to the product than perhaps would have been gained by this industry had it not been for the great efficiency shown by shippers and, indeed, by the producers. This point is worth noting. The performance by shippers in respect of the number of bushels per day that were loaded on to ships has enabled the shippers to grant a particularly fine rebate to the industry. A comment on page 8 of the report which refers to a number of matters indicates that the Australian average performance reached 13,068 bushels per day, thus again entitling the industry to the maximum rebate of 7c per bushel - or some 5460,000 - making the net rate of freight SA2.I6 per apple carton. An earlier part of the report indicates that the figure could have been moved up to SA2-23 per apple carton. Throughout the whole industry we have an indication that the producers are willing to look to better methods within their orchards in the hope of gaining better production.
It is interesting to note what may come about in the future. I think that in some areas in Tasmania experimental crops have been planted and optimum attention has been given to the particular cropping. Something like 2,000 bushels of apples per acre have been harvested off certain types of trees. These improvements can be brought about with new types of pruning and new fertiliser application. Of course, a figure like that is beyond comparison with the Australian average of 300 bushels per acre and a Tasmanian figure of 500 bushels per acre. It is in this respect that the Apple Isle shines out in such an excellent way. Tasmania has an ideal climate for the growing of apples.
– They grow the best apples in Australia.
- Senator Lillico, undoubtedly speaking on behalf of Tasmania, said: ‘The best apples in Tasmania.’
– He said: ‘in Australia*.
– I thought he said in Tasmania. I know of the quality that is attained by some of the Goulburn Valley producers-
One important matter in which my Party has been greatly involved over the past few years has been to see that adequate devaluation compensation is paid to the various export industries which have been put at risk by the earlier devaluation of sterling. The Government has decided, on the basis of the previous compensation rates of 50c per bushel for apples and 53c for pears, that, on acceptance of this scheme, further devaluation compensation will not be payable. One should understand that the support given by the Federal Government in the past year meant that the apple industry gained $2,155,000 and the pear industry $443,000. Also, the apple industry has received support from the Commonwealth by way of the Commonwealth’s meeting 50 per cent of the cost of the overseas publicity and promotion that have taken place.
The Senate should bear in mind that within a few years there is a likelihood, should Britain join the European Economic Community, that this organisation will create the largest trading bloc in the world.
I believe that, as matters stand at present, this will be to the disadvantage of all other trading nations which have attempted to sell on the British market and traditionally have attempted to sell into the European bloc. These nations will find that prohibitive tariffs will be placed against them if they try to sell into that market. I hope that some of the words of the leading negotiators will eventually prove to be true and that we will see an enlarged market which will allow entry to some of Australia’s products. I hope that this will be so.
But the apple industry generally has a great many problems facing it. I note that the report of the Board suggests that production in the northern hemisphere, particularly in haly and France, is increasing and, because of the growing protectionist attitude among European Economic Community members, grave difficulties face the Australian industry. 1 note also that the industry has attempted to promote a greater volume of exports to areas immediately to the north of Australia. Diversification undoubtedly is something of particular importance to this industry. I think that in 1964 Australia shipped some 7,335,000 bushels of apples to the United KingdomEurope market whilst other markets such as those in Singapore-Hong Kong accounted for 669,000 bushels. However, the figures for the last year - that is for the 1970 year - indicate that apple shipments to the United Kingdom-Europe market barely reached 5,770,000 bushels whilst quantities for Singapore-Hong Kong, North America and elsewhere reached 1,200,000 bushels. I believe that the figures for pears are similar to the figures 1 have just mentioned.
The apple industry has been efficient from the producer onwards. My comments have demonstrated that producers are looking to efficiency in the handling of their produce and marketing. Undoubtedly some credit must be given to the labour force involved at the ports where shipment is made. Those workers have demonstrated their ability to get goods on to a ship and to get them away. The agreement made by the shippers, which was basically over a 3- year period, provided that they would not increase their freight rate by more than 5 per cent each year. The shippers even made some concession by giving to the industry a benefit of more than S400,000 because of efficiency in shipment. These things are particularly important.
I have mentioned that the market outlook is difficult and that promotion is being undertaken on an expert basis. I believe that the industry in Australia could do much more by way of publicity to sell its products on the local market. We are dealing with fresh fruit and as such we are dealing with an item that has problems inasmuch as it can be destroyed between the place of original shipment and destination. There is no better market for these products than the Australian market. For instance, the industry may well have sought - at this point of time 1 am not certain - to involve a school lunch principle of distribution of fresh fruit to school children. No doubt such a scheme would probably be carried out with government assistance. Papua New Guinea is a market which is close by. It is most disappointing to go into some of the stores in New Guinea and find that they are chock-full of fruits imported from places other than Australia. This situation should not exist when our market is so close. The Government is now offering a stabilisation scheme, the industry says it welcomes it, and perhaps the industry will progress. The Government has said that it will support this scheme over a 5-year period but that during that period it looks to the industry to take the greatest advantage that it possibly can of the Government’s assistance and get itself into a position where perhaps a broadened scheme may be introduced either prior to the end of that period, if it so desired, or immediately at the end of that 5-year period.
I have the greatest pleasure in supporting what is probably one of the most unique stabilisation schemes for any area of primary production in Australia. I oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. One can oppose it on very simple lines. The Opposition amendment proposes purely to add words. Of course, the words proposed to be added are intended to be purely some criticism of the Government’s present scheme. But the final line of the amendment is typical of what the Opposition puts forward. It says:
Senator Milliner, who spoke in this debate before me, was not able to grapple with the subject, if I may so so. He certainly did not indicate what he thought was a well formulated apple and pear stabilisation scheme. I hope that future Opposition speakers in this debate will tell us what really is the Opposition’s view on this matter. I believe that the Senate would do well to support immediately the Government’s Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill 1971.
– 1 welcome the opportunity to make some comments on the 4 Bills before us. Firstly, and importantly, there is the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Bill 1971. The associated measures which go to make that Bill a viable proposition are the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Export Bill, the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Export Duty Collection Bill and the Apple and Pear Organisation Bill. As I say, 1 welcome the opportunity to make some comments on these Bills because this debate affords honourable senators in this place a chance to put on the record something of the nature, extent and importance of this industry and to give to the public in Australia al large an opportunity to assess for themselves just how it rates in the overall scheme of things in this country so far as this nation’s output is concerned. I go further than that to say that this is an extremely important industry as far as my own home State of Tasmania is concerned. This has already been acknowledged from both sides of the chamber.
Before I commence to make my observations in chief, as it were, I think I should make some reference to the comments which were made by Senator Webster, whose interest in primary industry is very well known to us here. The amendment which has been moved by the Opposition states: but the Senate is o? the opinion that a single national marketing authority should be established which will be the sole authority responsible for the export marketing of Australian apples and pears and which will administer, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, a well formulated apple and pear stabilisation scheme’.
Senator Webster seems to be saying , at least I believe it is implicit in his comments^ , that it is not within the capacity and capability of the Commonwealth to set up a well formulated apple and pear stabilisation scheme. He decries the proposition which we have put forward in this respect. I would just remind the Senate that if the suggested scheme were introduced it would not be the first scheme of its kind known to exist. I believe that the New Zealand people have a national marketing scheme for their pome fruits. So we may be able to take some advice from the efficiency of the scheme as it operates in New Zealand and apply some of the things which happen there to the betterment of the industry in Australia. There is no doubt that at the present time, because of so many factors which are obtaining in the rural industries of this our nation, the apple and pear industry is in a very serious condition financially. Unless something is done at this point of time it is reasonable to expect, I believe, that substantial areas of this industry in Australia would go to the wall and the producers would have to migrate to the cities. I have spoken about this trend on past occasions when I have addressed myself to these matters in the Senate. I believe that this trend has many undesirable features. I believe it is up to us, if we can possibly do it, to maintain our rural industries, and to extend and to make realistic the concept of decentralisation in Australia.
Further than the New Zealand marketing scheme, I have noted the success of the efforts which are made by people who offer products which are manufactured in Japan. One rarely finds that these products are offered on a relatively small, parochial or narrowly based area of operation; in fact when the operation is undertaken it is in the name of Japan as a national effort, as it were, and not on some sectional basis. I think there are a number of ways in which advantage can come from marketing on a national basis. I do not accept what Senator Webster has said, that it is not within our capacity to formulate a nationally based scheme. I believe it is.
Senator Webster also made what I took to be some rather disparaging comments about the effects of labour costs and matters of that kind in relation to the developing problems of the industry. Certainly one can debate this matter in another context and point out that there have been wage rises over the past several years but that these wage rises have always been based, as I understand it, on judgments made by proper tribunals within the arbitration system of this country. I think Senator Webster would have done bis cause a great deal better service had he directed his comments more specifically to the very great and real and serious problem which affects the pome fruits industry >n this country, thai is the problem of shipping freights. There seems to me to be no control over this matter whatsoever. My mind harks back to an occasion in 1964, I think it was, when an announcement was made right out of the blue by the shipping organisations, the Conference lines, which were concerned to carry our goods overseas, that as from October 1964 shipping freights would increase by 10 per cent. That was not the end of the matter because in April 1965 a further 17 per cent was to have been added to freight costs without any consultation with anybody in this country. The Government acknowledged that even though these existed at that time the organisation Known as FEOTC - Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee - which was recognised and in fact subsidised by the Government, there had been no proper consultation about the projected increase ;n shipping freights.
Honourable senators may recall that at that time the Israelis came to our aid and offered an overseas shipping service at the then existing freight rates which were to have been maintained for a period of 5 years to enable the industry to meet the threat of the additional costs and to stabilise, as it were, the shipping freight rates. It is a funny thing that history repeats itself. I have noticed in the Press in the last few days that an offer has been made by, I think, a United States based shipping organisation, to carry the coming season’s crop overseas at the now existing shipping freight rates, despite the threat of those who are now carrying this cargo to increase shipping freight rates by 24 per cent or thereabouts which will then make the cost of shipping a case or carton of fruit from this country something in the vicinity of $3.10. This represents 60 per cent of the total cost of exporting fruit from this country. So let me remind the Senate that it is not the wage factor which is bedevilling this industry at the present time but in fact it ls the shipping freight rates that are causing the great concern. I understand that the Minister has acknowledged this situation and in fact had some measures in contemplation which would have offset this situation had it arisen.
As 1 said in my opening remarks, any additional shipping freight costs applied to this industry at the present time would sound the death knell of the industry or, at least, substantial sections of it. In Tasmania over the past few years there has been a drift from the growing of apples and pears. I believe the figure is down to about 71 per cent compared with the figure of some few years ago. This is understandable, because costs are killing all sections of primary industry. Some sections are sufficiently robust and some strong enough in relation to the return they receive from their products to be able to withstand the onslaughts which are being made on them at the present time. In my days in primary industry I was made very well aware of the fact that primary producers are at the end of the line. All the intervening entrepreneurs can have a crack at the primary producer, but he is the bloke who is doing the production work; he is the fellow who is doing the leg work, as it were, or the hard yakka back on the farm. The primary producer has no say in the matter whatever, lt used to annoy me intensely when somebody came to me and said: ‘You fellows are doing pretty well; your product is costing us so and so over the counter’. We would find that that price was about 300 per cent on what we were getting for the product at the farm gate. These are the sorts of problems which are coming along.
– The old middle man.
– There were several middle men. The product went from one to the other and so on. Since then there has been a consequential increase in costs and further threats to the industry because costs have continued to rise despite all the measures that have been taken or seemed to be taken. We still face that problem. In Tasmania the return on capital in primary industry is about 2i per cent. But the return on capital invested in the apple and pear industry which is a fairly high capital investment industry, must be considerably below 2i per cent. Really, it is no wonder that people are leaving the land. I chide Senator Webster for taking one section of the industry - that is, the labour force section and saying what effect this has upon the fruit industry. 1 say again that wage rises have to be justified before a properly constituted tribunal, but freight increases do not. In fact, often freight increases are applied in isolation by people living in some other part of the world. Their concern for the viability and survival of this section of primary industry does not seem to rate very high. One wonders how they can take this sort of cavalier attitude because their business is carrying the products of various countries. Apparently with the development of production, increased trading and things of that kind they are able to do a bit of bargaining here and there and the devil take the hindmost. This is a pretty poor attitude when one considers the tremendous amount of money which has been paid into shipping over the years by people who produce fruit and export it.
I turn to the matter of stabilisation. I put a question mark after the word ‘stabilisation’. I think the scheme could be better described as a support scheme because its intention is to underwrite that section of the harvest which is exported at risk. A few years ago it was fairly common for about only 35 to 40 per cent of the crop to be sold at risk on the world markets in Germany, Great Britain and elsewhere. I believe the figure has now risen to about 70 per cent. So there has been quite a dramatic increase in the problems of the industry in relation to that section of the crop sent overseas in the expectation of a payable price for the product. It is not without historical record that there have been occasions when the producers have received very little indeed for their crop. In fact, some producers have even been billed. I have known this to happen in parts of the Huon Valley in Tasmania. Some people have received an account rendered to them by the agents who have been handling their crop because of the costs which have been consequent upon the marketing of the crop. We in the Labor Party say that the ideal to be aimed at is an authority which can take responsibility for the marketing of the crop, the financing of the producer and all those things which are necessary to enable the producer to carry on his operation.
The current proposal is hardly a stabilisation scheme. I think it is more in the nature of a support scheme. The industry is tremendously important. I believe it is interesting for the record to note that the 3 main food items in the world are the grains - that is wheat and rice - fruit and the various forms of meat. Among the fruits are apples, bananas and oranges. It is my understanding that about 1,000 million bushels of apples are consumed in the world each year. My fear about the Government’s present scheme is, when it sets a figure of 4.4 bushels - I believe that is million - which is to come under the umbrella of this scheme, that in a world with a growing population, an increasing consumption of apples and where we want to be because I believe we are still among the first 12 or 13 trading nations of the world, we are going to seriously jeopardise our position if we put a top level on production which will tend to pitch the industry towards that level of production and where far too great a risk is involved to the grower if he goes beyond this figure in the hope that he may be able to export his crop.
The point I am trying to make - perhaps 1 am not doing it as well as I might - is that if we slow up, if we stop production or tend to inhibit the development of this industry we are going to do ourselves a disservice because we will not be able to compete in a world where there is a growing demand. In Tasmania we have an ideal rainfall and climatic and soil conditions which are very suitable for the production of apples. Senator Lillico was correct - of course he has to be correct - when he said that the Tasmanian apple was the best in Australia - not in Tasmania, Senator Webster, but in Australia. We grow in Tasmania the best apple because we have such ideal conditions. How sad it is that for an industry which has ideal conditions for growing this crop and turning out this product the economic circumstances are such that it has to go backward instead of forward. As I say, the industry has a future, but it is a terribly sensitive industry. It is a very vulnerable industry. I do not want to go into statistics in relation to the industry. Perhaps I should acknowledge that I am directing the remainder of my comments to the industry as I know it in Tasmania, where we have the Huon Valley, the Derwent Valley, the Tamar Valley and the Mersey Valley, which are the 4 main growing centres of Tasmania. People who are engaged in this industry normally operate on quite small properties of 20 or 30 acres. I can recall that a few years ago a 40 acre orchard was a substantial one indeed.
The main source of the grower’s livelihood comes from the production of apples and pears. If anything happens to that industry people are in serious trouble indeed. The trouble would not just relate to the 4 principal growing centres of Tasmania. lt would not take much imagination for honourable senators to understand that a substantial part of the development of Hobart came from the growing of apples and pears. Similarly, it was like that in Launceston and in parts of the north west coast of Tasmania. If anything happens to these rather sensitive areas of primary production the effects are felt right through trade and commerce generally and in areas surrounding them. T pay a very great tribute, and 1 acknowledge the tribute paid by Senator Webster, to those members of the Waterside Workers- Federation and associated industrial organisations and trade unions in Tasmania who, during the past season, have enabled a rate of handling of the crop such that the industry received a very substantial rebate. I am not sure whether the rebate was not 7c per carton, or something of that nature, which is a quite substantial sum of money. T think it proper that we should all acknowledge that a performance of this kind has afforded a very great service, so much so that the Minister for Industrial Development in Tasmania wrote to the Hobart branch of the Waterside Workers Federation thanking the organisation for what it had done and acknowledging the part it had played in helping the industry. But the great problem is shipping freights. I sincerely hope that a means may be found to overcome that difficulty.
I believe that at present there is in contemplation - no doubt it has already been planned - a conference to bc held in Melbourne from 20th October where, at the instigation of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), all sections of the apple and pear growing industry of Australia will come together in conference to determine what is best for the industry and to consider how the problems at present besetting and bedevilling the industry can be overcome. In Tasmania we have had about 19 agencies handling the crops. Let us acknowledge that in this modem day and agc we cannot go on in this fashion. However much we may be aware of the assistance which has been given to the industry by many people, including those whom I have just mentioned, the time has come when we can no longer afford the luxury of a disseminated approach such as there has been in the past. There is no doubt that we must move towards a single marketing authority, an organisation which can turn its undivided and wholehearted attention to a solution of the industry’s problems. I have said that the world will take our fruit, although there remains the problem of marketing and of presentation.
One must pay tribute to those sections of the industry which in the past have played some part, whether it be large or small, to ensure that the industry can he kept going. However, we have now come to the point in history where something more than this has to be done. More than plain goodwill is necessary if this industry is to survive. The proposal which is before the Senate at present is certainly a step in the right direction - we acknowledge that - and that is the reason why we are not opposing the measures which the Gov.ernment has brought forward. However, we say most earnestly that there is a need for a deep and concentrated approach to all the various problems in all facets of the industry, including finance.
The problems of finance are tremendous. This is one of the features which has hit the small grower, the vulnerable person, so hard. It is not good enough for us to allow these small sections of the industry to fall away or to fall off the edges of the main industry so that eventually we reach the stage where we no longer have a viable industry. There must be a volume of performance in any industry if it is to be a viable proposition. If we allow little pieces of the industry to float away from the edges with, as it were, an erosion of the banks of the industry, ultimately we will finish up with a small core in the middle which is not worth worrying about. We must keep the industry going and keep it viable, particularly when, as I have said, the fruit industry is one of the 3 most important food sections of industry throughout the world. 1 mentioned earlier that freight rates constitute 60 per cent of the total costs of the industry. In Tasmania at present discussions are going on as to the form of marketing authority that should be set up in that State. I mentioned that 19 organisations were involved in purchasing, forwarding., shipping and matters of that kind. The Minister said during his recent visit to Hobart that the industry could expect some assistance from the Government, but only when it puts its own house in order. It has been accepted throughout Tasmania thai there is need for a single marketing authority and action towards that end has been taken already. The question is what son of authority is to be set up. As I understand it, talks are going on at present and a conference or meeting of the various sections involved will be held within a day or two to determine what will be the form of the marketing authority to handle Tasmania’s fruit crop next season.
The proposal before us at the moment is to come into operation in time for the 1971 harvest and it is to remain in force for 5 years. Naturally we will be watching with very keen interest to see what benefits the proposed meeting will confer upon the industry. When we do anything in this place to help sections of industry I am always apprehensive that the benefit which it was intended to confer on that section of industry, whether it is a benefit in the form of a fertiliser bounty or some other concession of that kind, will flow to some other section and that those for whom the benefit was intended will not gain from it. Reference has been made to the middle man. On occasions it is the middle man or some other section of industry or commerce who gets the rake off, whereas the man back at the farm misses out. In the case of shipping freight rates, fertiliser bounties and all sorts of things we have found that concessions which have been given to help people in primary industry have very quickly been lost to some other section. This is a matter to be deplored. I hope that we will be able to find some means of solving this problem and avoiding this happening.
We have been told that 4.4 million bushels are to be sold at risk and that this is the ceiling that the Government has imposed. I believe that this is an unrealistic figure. I believe that it does not take account of the need to become part of the expanding world market. I suggest that what we should be aiming for is something in the vicinity of 7 million bushels so that we may provide an opportunity for expansion and give some sort of incentive to the industry. It would be an indication that the Government is aware of the situation and that it wants to be part of the world scene so far as the supply of this type of foodstuff to the world market is concerned, lt would be an indication also that we have some hope and expectation that we will be part of the world scene in due course. 1 recall reading some of the observations on the subject of stabilisation made by members of another place when this Bill was before that chamber, lt is interesting to note that nobody on either side of the House of Representatives seemed to express himself as being completely satisfied with what was being proposed. Certainly there are many aspects of the proposal that we do not know about, and there are many things that we ought to know, things which so far we have neglected to find out. Perhaps we have not been giving to these problems the sort of attention that we should have given in the past. I am always conscious of our shortcomings in relation to marketing activities. I do not believe that enough effort is put into establishing markets around the world or in promoting our goods throughout the world. I was reminded of a situation of this nature recently in the wool industry. It is my understanding that in Russia, for example, the going price for wool is 300c a lb and that in the United States it is something like 73c a lb. We have so tied ourselves to one buyer that the price for our wool is very depressed, and our primary industry is suffering very greatly as a consequence of that. 1 am aware of the other side of the story, that there must be trade between countries, but whether we can afford to tie ourselves completely and utterly to one type of trading is, I believe, very much open to doubt. I suggest that there should be a very much more vigorous approach to the general question of marketing, particularly as it affects our primary industries.
I have very much welcomed the opportunity to make some comments on the apple and pear industry and to put on record some of the facts, figures and statistics relating to this industry. 1 hope that what 1 have said will be of help. It is not always easy to see the immediate consequences of what one says in observations of this kind, but perhaps in time to come, if we have the right will and spirit in approaching the problems besetting our primary industries, some cognisance will be taken of what has been said in relation to a collection of things as one hears of them from sections of the industry. Thrown into the ring, as it were, 1 believe it enables us to form a better and more balanced judgment of what is involved. 1 welcome the measure as providing an initial move towards helping an industry in the plight in which it finds itself at present. 1 earnestly hope that the industry will be helped and that this legislation will mark the turning point on its road to recovery. In the deliberations which are about to take place at the Federal level and in Tasmania, I hope that due regard will be had to the consequences of increases in costs and interest rates and all other matters consequential upon the endeavours of human beings in a difficult situation so that many of the problems which beset this Australian industry at present can be resolved.
– With great pleasure 1 avail myself of the opportunity to participate in this debate. The industry to which this measure relates has been a persistent and important interest of mine in the 25 years that have passed since 1 entered politics.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 lo 8 p.m.
– The Senate tonight is dealing with the Government’s 4 Bills that are designed to establish a stabilisation scheme for the export consignment trade in apples and pears. Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was saying that I have had a long acquaintance with the history of this trade now extending back to 1945. 1 had the pleasure of representing the apple growing district in southern Tasmania as my original electorate in the State Parliament. I have had the opportunity of participating in 2 royal commissions on this industry and therefore have had an abiding interest in the welfare of what 1 believe is an industry which is indispensable to the welfare of Tasmania.
We have been reminded by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in bis second reading speech, and again by his representative here, the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), in his speech in the Senate, that the origin of the apple export industry in Tasmania is unique, extending back for over a century. It is not to be forgotten that during that time people who have been able effectually to maintain that trade have been dependent upon the 10 weeks when seasonally apples are unavailable in the European markets and the southern hemisphere can supply them, Tasmania in particular and also Western Australia. In the case of Tasmania, they are supplied from 12,000 miles abroad. This is a remarkable effort on the part of enterprising tradesmen and producers that will stand as a unique record of Australian development of industry.
In 1938 it was seen that some regulation of this industry was necessary to enable exports to be continued. Since 1938 we have had, in the Federal sphere, the Appia and Pear Organisation Act. The provisions of that statute have been in operation during the 22 years that I have been in the Senate. I want to remind honourable senators that that statute provides an ample degree of regulation for this industry. It created the Australian Apple and Pear Board representing growers and exporters from every State of Australia, not entirely in proportion to production or export but nevertheless on a compromise basis. The Board has the power to make recommendations regarding the regulations that apply to the export of apples and pears. It makes reports and suggestions to the Minister on such matters as quality, standards and grading of any particular class or kind of apples and pears. It advises and makes recommendations to the Minister in respect of matters arising in connection with any programme for the export from Australia of those apples and pears. If it is a matter of interest to those in the Senate I would say that the additional power is that it has power to advise and make representations to the Minister on matters affecting the welfare of the apple and pear industry, lt also has power to arrange for or to take any action which, in the opinion of the Board, is likely to lead to an improvement of the quality or prevention of the deterioration of apples during transport; or any action to expand existing or new markets, or to increase and extend the consumption of fruit throughout Australia; or to improve the production of apples and pears in Australia.
The Board does not have the right to take part in the trade of buying and selling but it has had, through all these years, the power to fix a quota for Australian export gauged upon the basis of the Board’s assessment of the capacity of the European markets to accept our fruit, not merely on an Australian basis but also on a State basis. Therefore the Board has been equipped with the power of prohibiting the export of apples that do not come up to the standard and apples that are in excess of what the Board judges to be its export quota.
That system having gone on ever since J have been here, I want to say that the first Bill that I had the privilege of piloting through the Tasmanian Parliament, from the Opposition of the day, was a Bill for the support of the apple and pear industry. That is just an indication that the industry always is poised upon such precarious trading contingencies that it gives rise to anxieties, and those anxieties were never more acute than they are today. Therefore it is a matter of inestimable pleasure that I was privileged to be of the Ministry and to take part in the consultations that decided to accept, in the Federal sphere, this stabilisation scheme that we are now urging the Parliament to adopt.
Today there have developed in the industry, firstly, freight demands that are very critical; secondly, internal production costs have dwarfed the economy of this primary industry in comparison with the economies of other industries of Australia so as to reduce the apple and pear producer to a level of economy that is not respectable from the point of view of parliamentary performance in relation to other strata of our people; thirdly, the industry is beset with unsurpassed marketing difficulties, accentuated by the probable advent of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. In that respect, ever since the Department of Trade and Industry was established in the Federal sphere with the particular duty of expanding trade, be it noticed that from 1956 onward we have been developing markets other than in Europe. It is a matter that bears mention in the Senate tonight that if we look back to 1965 the imports of apples into Singapore and Malaysia from Australia were 6,000-odd tons and in 1970 they were 12,000-odd tons.
On my visit to Singapore a fortnight ago 1 had consultations with the Trade Commissioner there, who was a fruit merchant from Hobart, Mr H. C. Sargent, to whose work I would like to pay a fitting tribute. He reminded me that we should be quite sensitive of the fact that there was a growing market in Singapore not only for its own consumption but as an entrepot for the rest of Asia which, properly developed and not treated as a secondary alternative for our trade but attended to as a primary preoccupation, can be a market that will absorb an increasing percentage of our fruit in that area. With those problems confronting the industry, this legislation should be accorded credit for recognition that the first thing to do is to give benefit at the foundation, that is to say, to stabilise the industry recognising, as the Minister said in his second reading speech, that the legislation does not solve all the problems of the industry but that it makes a contribution in the vital area where the risk is most intense. The legislation provides a substantial understructure for the industry which. I believe, will enable the industry to continue to operate with prosperity.
The legislation operates for the present year, that is to say, for the harvest that began on 1st October 1970, and will operate for the season of export during the early months of 1971 and continue for 5 years.
– Do you not mean 1972?
– No. It operates from 1st October 1970 and for the fruit which has been exported from February to April 1971. If the honourable senator reads the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board he will see that the Board, as the body responsible to the Government for the running of the scheme, has been so solicitous that it has taken all the necessary steps to establish the appropriate administrative machinery and procedural arrangements for processing the exporters’ returns. The Board did that after immediately seeking urgent Government action to enable the scheme to operate for the 1971 season.
That leads me to state the substantial benefit of the scheme which is to provide, by way of assistance to the apple and pear industry of Australia, $10m over 5 years, $3m of which are expected to be devoted to the industry in 1971. Realising that this is a Commonwealth Government proposition and that I, as a Tasmanian, have placed emphasis upon the unique features of the Tasmanian industry, let it not be considered that any Government action proceeds by neglecting the realities of the situation. Tasmania exports 71 per cent of Australia’s apple crop. Before the Second World War Tasmania exported about onethird of its crop to Sydney. The difficulties that bedevil shipping between Tasmania and the Sydney market have led to a great reorientation of our export trade and the practical loss to Tasmania of the Sydney trade. The reason why the federated Australia finds it of interest to support a scheme such as I am advocating here tonight, which is for the benefit of us all, is that reference to the figures relating to production of apples reveals that in New South Wales in 1961 production was 2.3 million cases and that in 1971 it is estimated to be 6.3 million cases. For practically the whole of that increased production the New South Wales and mainland markets are available without competition from the Tasmanian crop so long as continuance of the export of the Tasmanian crop to the extent of 71 per cent of the Australian export can be arranged.
This is a matter in relation to which the interests concerned have been brought together on the Apple and Pear Board and has resulted in a decision which has been advocated for the past 15 years. But the constitutional difficulties so bedevilled all those who worked in the field, and the mainland States showed insufficient interest to underpin an export scheme, that a little more than 3 or 4 years ago purposeful units of the Tasmanian industry waited upon the Department of Primary Industry and received great assistance from the then Secretary, Mr Maiden, whose contribution to the origin of this scheme I acknowledge tonight. I acknowledge too the untiring work, over the years that have intervened, of the Tasmanian State Fruit Board; the members of the Australian Apple and Pear Board; the most earnest and skilful officers of the Department of Primary Industry and the untiring efforts of my colleagues, first, Sir John McEwen, then Mr Anthony and now Mr Sinclair, which have resulted in the stabilisation scheme now before us which has surmounted all the constitutional difficulties that bedevilled us for 15 years - the uniformity required by the Constitution for bounties; the non-discrimination between trade benefits required by the Constitution, and the offsetting of section 92 which in this case docs not really offer any obstacle when the exporting States are Tasmania and Western Australia. They are prevented interstate trade by other considerations.
The unique features of this scheme are, firstly, that it applies only to a section of the industry once it has been committed to trade. It does not apply to that part of the crop which is sold either at home or overseas so that any grower, if he can get a profitable sale for his product and does not wish the benefit of this scheme, can be outside it simply by selling his product. Secondly, it applies only to fruit exported from Australia. ‘We are not concerned with internal regulation of prices of fruit; we are concerned only with fruit which is exported. Then we were bedevilled by the fact that this is an industry in which skill is a paramount consideration in producing a product - apples and pears - which appeals to the buyer, and in which some people persist in growing unwanted varieties and all not of very high quality, and in which other people specialise in growing the attractive varieties and all of very high quality. Therefore, the scheme was devised whereby the stabilisation plan would operate differentially according to whether sturmer, delicious, jonathon or any other variety was concerned. The scheme was devised to provide limitations such as any government will place upon a new scheme, but being always capable of modification as the years go by. At this stage it is limited, as I understand it, to the export of fruit - apples and pears - to the extent of 4.4 million bushels, and the maximum payout by the stabilisation fund for any variety is 80c per bushel.
The way in which the scheme operates is that the Government collects the various results of the market trading for the year and ascertains the average return for each variety. If the average return for jonathons this year is less than the support price that the Government has determined for each year, within the limitation I have mentioned, with the ultimate ceiling of Si Om for the 5 years, the government pays from the stabilisation fund the benefit necessary to bring the amount received up to the fixed price for that year for the quantity exported. If, next year, jonathons exceed the determined price of their average overseas market yield the grower is required to pay into the stabilisation fund a contribution to supplement the Government subsidy to keep the fund going. It is acknowledged that that scheme has its limitations, but it is the basis of structuring the continuance of a sound export market not only to Europe but also to Asian markets such as Singapore and Malaysia and to the United States of America and Japan if only we can penetrate the Japanese market. 1 do not wish to be understood as saying that this scheme applies to the Asian market. It does not. It structures the industry on a basis that will enable it to take the opportunity of exploring the advantages of the Asian market.
It is most unfortunate that the scheme should have been introduced in a year in which the shipping difficulties are particularly critical for the industry. In his second reading speech the Minister stated that the amount that will be determined for the export support price will be adjusted according to cash costs as the years pass. Everyone is quite anxious to see whether there is any hope that the scheme will have the capacity to cope with what has been announced as a 25 per cent increase in the overseas freights demanded this year and whether the adjustment can take care of that. The annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board states:
There is little doubt that at such a rate the future viability of the UK/European trade is open to question, particularly at existing levels of around 7 million bushels. The industry is therefore lacing a most serious situation which in realistic terms could involve the very survival of large sections of the industry.
That has led to an advocacy on a basis not yet fully considered, I believe, of the establishment in Tasmania of a statutory marketing body. That was advocated by Professor Grant and his colleagues at an inquiry that was conducted, the results of which were published about 12 months ago. In the debate this afternoon I heard reference to the fact that New Zealand has such a body. Distant fields look green, especially to those who do not know. The New Zealand scheme has operated since 1949, I think. Between 1949 and 1958, for the first 2 years the trading loss was $167,000. For the following 8 years- honourable senators should remember the years - from 1951 to 1958, when most people were prospering, the trading profit was $4m. From 1959 to 1969, for the first 5 years the trading loss was $4,300,000. For the next 6 years the trading profit was $3,900,000- The result over the period was a loss of $426,000. I remind honourable senators that during the period of operation of the New Zealand scheme the administrative and assembly costs have risen, between 1966 and 1969, from 14.5c a bushel to 22.4c a bushel for the Tasmanian crop; the shipping costs, through the committee which arranges the shipping operations for the Tasmanian crop, have risen since 1921 from 3c a bushel to 5c a bushel. Therefore I say that the proposition contained in the Labor Party amendment has not yet had full consideration.
As an alternative, the efforts of the Minister for Primary Industry and the skill of the industry representatives on the Federal Board have evolved a scheme in which, to eliminate the complexity of brands, the multiplicity of ports of delivery and the ineptness of shipping that bedevils the export of the products of this industry, they have decided that instead of issuing 19 export licences for Tasmania, one export licence should be issued to a consortium, representing the exporters, under a unified management, lt is of great satisfaction to know that the Minister has been sufficiently alive to the situation that he has called industry representatives and officers of the Department of Primary Industry to meet in Melbourne on 20th October to evolve a scheme that will attack the freight problem and surmount these other difficulties so as to ensure this year as practical and as successful an export season as possible. A practical man sees the difficulties. He does not despair, despite the difficulties to which I have referred. He acknowledges this scheme as a substantial, practical and significant contribution, in the history of the industry, to the establishment and continuance of this great Australian export industry.
– 1 seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned-
– I move:
On 30th September the Senate debated the Death Penalty Abolition Bill introduced by Senator Murphy on behalf of the Opposition. It had been before the Senate on 3 occasions. Senator Murphy moved the second reading of the Bill and made his speech in support of the Bill on 29th April. On 9th September, when the debate was resumed, 7 senators spoke on the measure. With the exception of Senator Byrne, who spoke on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, they were all Government senators. Some of those speakers indicated support for the Bill; others indicated opposition to the Bill. But I think everyone who spoke expressed a personal view in which there were some qualifications, reservations or general discussion on the advisability of the measure. The debate was then adjourned, and it resumed on 30th September when another 6 Government senators spoke. Those speakers also expressed views, some for the Bill and others against it.
Towards the conclusion of the lime allotted for the discussion of the Bill I sought leave to have it referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which is one of the standing committees of the Senate, with a view to having that Committee inquire into the Bill and report to the Senate as soon as possible. Upon leave to do that being refused, I indicated that it was my intention to move that proposal at the earliest opportunity and I sought the adjournment of the debate. The Senate agreed to the adjournment of the debate. Immediately upon the adjournment of the debate I gave notice of motion in the following terms:
That the Death Penally Abolition Bill 1970 be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for inquiry and report as soon as possible after the appointment of the members of the Committee.
This is the first opportunity convenient to both sides of this chamber to have the matter further discussed. I think it should also be indicated that in the intervening period the membership of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has been constituted and there is now a committee to which this measure could bc referred.
– Do you propose to reframe the motion to deal with that?
– I am indebted to Senator Murphy. In view of :he fact that the members of the Committee have been appointed the motion should be amended. I seek the leave of the Senate to delete the words ‘after the appointment of the members of the Committee’.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not wish to speak at length on this occasion because I stated the broad considerations which I advance in support of referring this matter to a committee when I spoke on the motion for the second reading. But I think I might usefully remind the Senate, in short form, of the considerations which may be urged in favour of this course. The first matter I raise is that there is a committee which is eminently qualified to give consideration to this proposal in the depth which I suggest it requires. The membership of the Committee is, I think a very distinguished one. It consists of Senators Byrne, Durack, Hannan, James McClelland, Murphy and Withers. 1 think that those honourable senators, judging from the contributions they have made in the course of the debate, are well seised of the problems which are raised by this measure.
Secondly, I think that a reference to the Committee will provide an opportunity for an examination of the whole question of the abolition of the death penalty in the context of punishment generally. This is a concept which was advanced by Senator Withers, in a manner which I think is worthy of further study, and I commend what he had to say to members of the Senate. He indicated that there is an offence against society involved in any offence against laws, and what are the appropriate punishments for particular types of offences is a question which has never been studied in depth and which ought to be studied. Of course, in the area of capita) crime, the question of what should be an appropriate substitute punishment for the death penalty is one which has to be examined.
What also has to be examined is whether there is any place at all for capital punishment. I appreciate that the Bill which has been introduced by Senator Murphy contemplates that there is absolutely no place at all, at any time and in any circumstances, for capital punishment. Yet, I wonder whether that is the viewpoint of all members of this chamber. 1 wonder whether it is the viewpoint of members of the community. I wonder whether it is the viewpoint of those who, according to gallup polls, are relied upon as constituting that percentage of the community who favour the abolition of the death penalty. One has only to refer to the circumstances of treason committed in wartime and to invite persons to consider whether capital punishment should not be applicable in those circumstances to obtain some idea of the areas in which this matter could be looked at. 1 noticed that amongst those speakers on the Government side who spoke in support of the proposal for the abolition of capital punishment there were some who recognised that there could be exceptions to the general rule for the abolition of capital punishment; there were others who suggested that the real challenge of the 1970s was to consider how we shall deal with delinquency and how we shall deal with crime, whether it be capital or otherwise; and there were others again who suggested that there was a pressing need to look at the position not only from the point of view of the individual or from the point of view of the possibility of his recovery or rehabilitation but also from the point of view of the welfare of society. There is the further point, which was the theme of Senator Withers’ speech and with which I am altogether in concurrence, namely, what is the role of punishment generally and where does the traditional capital crime fit into this context?
A third reason is that there is a need to re-examine the degree of popular support for such a Bill. There has been no survey of opinion as revealed by gallup polls, which is some indication and an indication often relied on, since 1967. I have stressed that in matters of this sort the people who are articulate, who are propagandists and who constantly argue for the proposal are those who are opposed to capital punishment. The viewpoint and considerations of those who are opposed to it are not generally aired simply because the nature of the viewpoint they are expousing is not one on which they wish to go into print; it is not one which they wish to articulate generally.
The fourth point, 1 suggest, is the need to examine and evaluate with some care those reservations that persons who otherwise support in general the principle of abolition have about the Bill. That leads oh to the next point, namely, the necessity to deal in detail with particular situations which may arise from the abolition of the death penalty. In this regard, there is one point which is always a matter of problem and concern: What is the situation of a person who is committed to an institution for life because of a crime for which that type of detention is warranted? He, in a sense, if committed to prison for life, has nothing to lose if he breaks every other law that might be supposed to constrain him. What is the position of the gaoler? What is the position of the policeman? What is the position of the person who would seek to prevent that person from escaping from lawful custody? Is it proper to say that there will be no capital punishment even if a person takes life in the course of attempting to escape from a gaoler or a policeman? What is the position of policemen who, in the course of their duty, are confronted by someone who is not concerned whether or not he takes life because he knows that although he is committing a serious crime the very worst that can happen to him is life imprisonment?
– Have you ever heard of rehabilitation?
– I heard Senator Cavanagh’s interjection and 1 well appreciate rehabilitation as one of the aims of sentencing when persons have committed a crime. But there is also an area - and this is part of what I feel the Committee could look at - where rehabilitation is not the real point of the sentencing or of the punishment. After all, if a person has embezzled a vast sum of money there is a punishment which society expects should be meted out. It may be that there is no rehabilitation which can be imposed in those circumstances.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral not repeating the arguments that were advanced in the second reading debate?
– I indicated to Senator Murphy that I was not proposing to elaborate them. 1 am mentioning them point by point. I think that I had just about reached the sixth point - that is the necessity to clarify the situation regarding the wartime offence of treason. At the present time the Crimes Act provides a penalty of death for a person who assists the enemy in times of war. Under the Bill it is intended that the penalty should have substituted for it the penalty of imprisonment for life. That again, is a matter which I think causes concern and ought to be examined in the context of whether that is the appropriate penalty to impose. 1 think there is also the question of what is the appropriate penalty to impose if there is to be a substitution of some other penalty for the death penalty. The Bill which has been proposed suggests imprisonment for life- What is imprisonment for life? It is imprisonment for the term of one’s natural life? Is it imprisonment for a statutory period of 15 years? Is it a term of imprisonment for a period which can be fixed by the Executive Council? If the term is fixed, is it to be open at any stage for a subsequent government to release the offender because a suitable time having elapsed it is felt appropriate that the prisoner should be no longer detained? These are areas in which I feel there is need for some clarity. Certainly I feel that a committee could look at this with a view to determining and recommending to the Senate, or putting before the Senate for its consideration, what would be appropriate considerations to have in mind.
There is also an area in which there could well be consideration - that, is whether there is to be a distinction between the types of murder, if murder is to be an area in which capital punishment for any purpose could be retained. I remember that Senator Withers, in the course of his address, expressed the view that those persons, who today are concerned with sentencing people and recommending to the judge in the way of pre-sentence reports what are considerations relevant to the wrongdoer about to be sentenced, would possibly participate in a way they do not participate now in the actual sentencing. That is one approach and I think it is worthy of consideration.
I have always been attracted to the view that because the jury system is one of the very precious and highly desirable features of our judicial system, the jury could be given a far greater role to play in terms of serious crime. I would have thought that in the area of capital crime a jury could be called upon to distinguish by the type of facts it finds proven, judged by the length of sentence or type of sentence, whether it be capital punishment or otherwise which that offence carries, the type of offence of which it will find an accused guilty.
– Do you believe in capital punishment?
– There may be an area - and this is the point which I feel needs to be examined in a way it has not been examined - in which, though the general tendency is to abolish capital punishment, capital punishment should be retained- That is an area which I feel cannot be canvassed in the Senate in the form of debate we have had - it is one which could be discussed, thought out and argued in the forum of a committee.
– But you know that a majority of senators are opposed to you. Therefore you are seeking to subvert the will of the majority.
– Well, Mr President, I can only say that Senator Cavanagh suggests that a majority are in favour of the Bill which has been proposed. I do not know whether a majority are in favour. But I do know that a majority of the Senate were prepared to adjourn the debate when the Bill was last before the Senate in order to enable this matter to be considered. I know from reading the newspapers that this has been suggested to be some Government delaying device. I regret that when the newspapers report what happens in this chamber they ignore, when it suits them, plain words which are used. When 1 got up to speak I said as clearly as words will show, and Hansard records it, that I was not expressing the viewpoint of the Government. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), who preceded me in the debate, made it abundantly clear that the Government had no view on this measure and members on the Government side - and this point was strikingly evident by what they had to say - were free to vote as they pleased. I can assure the Senate - and I can assure those people who have written in the Press quite categorically in different terms - that there has been no Government ploy involved in this measure. The fact that a majority of this Senate saw merit in referring this matter to a committee approximately a fortnight ago and therefore agreed to an adjournment of the debate so that the question of referring it to a committee could be considered, is a true indication of what the feeling of the Senate was.
– No, that was loyalty to you in your position.
- Mr President I do not agree. When one has heard from Government senators the strong views that they expressed against the concept of capital punishment, are they entitled to be regarded on a serious issue like this as being motivated by what Senator Cavanagh calls a loyalty? I believe those senators have had the courage of their convictions, notwithstanding the views they expressed, to see merit in the reference of this matter to a committee. I hope that this Senate will see merit in the reference of this matter to a committee.
I acknowledge that if delay is a consideration, it certainly means that a decision on the Bill is not taken immediately. Time will elapse until the Committee reports. I would hope that the Committee could give consideration to this matter in a way which is appropriate, having regard to the seriousness of the subject. But if anyone in this chamber desires to put some time limit on when this committee should report, I am not opposed to that but I would expect that a reasonable time should be given.
– I propose to suggest that.
– Well, 1 am interested. Providing that a reasonable time is allowed for some work to be done 1 will not be unreceptive to such a proposition because I feel that the important thing is that the study should be undertaken.
I suggest that the establishing of standing committees of the Senate has had as one of its objectives the reference to committees of measures which can be usefully studied by them in an atmosphere and in circumstances where worthwhile work can be done. It is not often, I think, that Bills have been referred to a committee, but I have always held the view - and J have expressed it on earlier occasions - that there are appropriate times when Bills could be referred to a committee. I believe this is one such occasion.
I believe that there is everything to be gained from a study of this character. Noone can say there is an urgency about this measure- There has been no execution in the Australian Capital Territory at any time; there has been no execution under Commonwealth law, I think, for almost 20 years. The last execution in Australia took place in 1967. There is no imminent need for this legislation and therefore it is a matter which can be examined without the pressure that it must be passed within a certain time. It is in those circumstances that I think the Senate can show the quality of its committee work on a particular issue like this where views have in fact been strongly held but where, nevertheless, because it is an issue which has been argued for decades, possibly centuries, there is always value in reconsidering positions which might have been taken up many years ago. I would commend this motion to the Senate.
– The hardest thing in this life is to change tinything. We live under the dead hand of the past more than is often realised. Indeed, 99 per cent of what we do in this life - the very ways we talk, the ways we act, the things we use and everything we do - is conditioned by the past. Those who lived even before we were born determined what should be the customs. We were born into this. This situation is not like Pavlov’s conditioned dogs but it is almost so. The hardest thing to do anywhere, even at the top of this system in this Parliament, is to change anything. Of course, once it is changed it is accepted on all hands as being the most marvellous thing that could happen. Tonight we heard the AttorneyGeneral saying that the Bill should be sent to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. He wants it to go to this marvellous Standing Committee, one of the 7 Standing Committees that we have. We hear various other honourable senators lauding the standing committee system. Some of them act as evangelists; they tell people how marvellous it is that we have this system of standing committees and how the Senate has improved, how we are doing this and that and how we can make it all work. We have to turn our minds back to a little over 12 months ago when the Australian Labor Party initiated the standing committee system. We voted for it and our proposal was accepted with the support of an independent senator and one Government senator. The Australian Democratic Labor Party senators and the other Government senators opposed it as strongly as they could because they were conditioned to the old system and any change was to be opposed.
The proposal to abolish the death penalty was first introduced by the Australian Labor Party in 1968 and it was carried through this Senate in my absence. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the time was Senator Cohen. The problems that are raised now in relation to the clauses of the Bill were not apparent at that time. The Government had an outstanding Attorney-General and other great lawyers in both Houses and they saw no problems about the clauses of the Bill. It was a simple problem, either to abolish the death penalty or not. It was as simple as that. If it had been decided to substitute life imprisonment’ that would have been a simple matter. If any government wanted to alter the death penalty provision to something else that would have been a simple matter. None of these great lawyers saw any problem in this and, as I understand it, lawyers around the rest of the world have not found any problem.
This matter was introduced into this chamber again in 1970. Because of the immense difficulty of getting through this Parliament any measure which is not initiated by the Government, it took a long time to come up for discussion. It was not until a few weeks ago that we started to move on the matter. We almost got to a conclusion last Thursday fortnight. I was under the impression, which I think was reasonably founded, that the matter would be brought to a vote that evening. Suddenly, without warning - in any event to myself who introduced and was in charge of the matter - the AttorneyGeneral put forward the proposition, even before the Bill had passed the second reading stage, that the matter be referred to a committee which at that stage was not even established. I am sure the Government will forgive us for thinking that this was a device to bury the Bill. Since that time the remainder of these standing committees, including this one on constitutional and legal affairs, have been set up.
I think really that this was an attempt to bury this Bill. I, however, would like to see the Bill go through. My own attitude to the matter is this: I am prepared to be reasonable and I will make a suggestion which 1 think would be a proper approach to the matter. The Attorney-General has modified the terms of his motion. I suggest that, as with other Bills, this Bill ought to pass the second reading stage and then go to the Committee stage, whether it be dealt with by the Committee of the Whole or by the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I move:
Presumably the motion for the second reading will be decided tomorrow night. If the Senate defeats that motion that is the end of it. If the majority feel that the Bill should be read a second time then let us go on with it. The Attorney-General’s motion is in these terms:
That the Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1970 be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for inquiry and report as soon as possible.
I further move:
That after the word ‘possible’ the following words be inserted: ‘and not later than 9th November 1971’.
That would give 27 days for the matter to be looked at. Normally, of course, it would have gone before the Committee of the Whole and would have been dealt with then and there. I do not know whether what happened last time is a fair representation of how this simple Bill - it has only two or three clauses - should be dealt with. None of the outstanding lawyers on the previous occasion saw reason to raise any question about the clauses of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is clear enough. If somebody suggests that the expression ‘the term of his natural life’ should be inserted, that the grammar is wrong somewhere or something else should be looked at, we will have 27 days in which to look at it instead of having a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days.
I suggest that period of time not because I think it is reasonable; I think it is unreasonably long. I suggest it because I think no-one could cavil at the time limit which it imposes. It would mean that the Bill could be dealt with in this Senate before the end of the year and we would have an opportunity of getting it through. I would not like to suggest a longer period because I know that it is the custom of the Government at the end of the session to say: We are in a hurry. We have got a lot of legislation and we would like to do away with general business. No more general business is to be dealt with’. I do not think it is safe to leave the matter go beyond 9th November, because the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) - I do not think he is concerned in any way with stifling the Death Penalty Abolition Bill but nevertheless he might have other reasons - may feel that he would have to propose a motion to suspend general business. So I think that is probably about the longest period I could possibly suggest I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is willing to agree to the amendment which I have proposed.
– For my part I would agree to the second part of the amendment, but I think the first part of the amendment commencing ‘Contingent upon’ should be left out. When the matter comes on there will be time to debate it.
– I am pleased to hear what the Attorney-General says but I suggest that both parts should be added to his motion. I think it is a reasonable enough proposition that this Senate should express itself upon the principle of the Bill. Why should not we say: ‘Let the principle be decided’? The Attorney-General suggests that some other provisions should be included, such as ‘the term of his natural life’? Surely those are matters to be considered at the Committee stage, and that is what he is suggesting. The Standing Orders lay down regular procedures either for the Committee of the Whole to consider the clauses of a Bill or for referring a Bill to a select committee. The normal procedure to deal with it is to either adopt the principle of the Bill and vote on the motion for the second reading, or vote against the proposal, in which case that is the end of it.
If honourable senators do not believe in the principle then they should reject it. No-one will force an honourable senator to vote for it. If he is honest about it he is either with the principle or he is not. Surely it is fair that the Opposition should be entitled to have the view of the Senate on the principle of the Bill. We are not going to hold a gun at anybody’s head. We do not believe in this kind of punishment. But we ask honourable senators to be fair in relating to proposals whether they come from the Opposition, from the Democratic Labor Party or from one of the Independent senators. We are all entitled to a decision by the Senate on the principle that is put up - either acceptance or rejection. Because I want this Bill to go through, I think it is fair enough that it should be dealt with in a reasonable way by the Senate. I am prepared to go more than halfway with the Attorney-General. I think it is wrong that the Bill be dealt with in this way. I think it should have been dealt with in the ordinary course in the Committee of the Whole and dispatched. I think that the Bill should have been dispatched the other Thursday night. But I am prepared to be reasonable about the matter. I ask that since there is no problem about the time, and as we have gone to the utmost limit of the time proposed for the debate, the Senate should allow the matter to be dealt with tomorrow night. Let us deal with the second reading of the Bill. If the second reading were adopted the Bill would go to the Committee. If my amendment were accepted the Committee would have to report by 9th November - that would be a Tuesday. Presumably the Bill would be dealt with in that week. I suggest that the amendment be carried.
– Does the honourable senator suggest we take the 2 issues separately?
– 1 have moved the amendment. If other interests are to be considered let them be dealt with. But I think that what 1 have suggested is a reasonable proposal. In all fairness, if this matter is to be considered on its merits, I suggest for the consideration of the Senate that my amendment be adopted as a way in which the Senate might properly deal with the matter.
(9.1) - When the Death Penalty Abolition Bill was dealt with about a fortnight ago - in fact, when the second reading debate was almost concluded - it was moved that the matter be referred to a committee. Having spoken on the Bill myself and made it abundantly clear that this was a private member’s Bill in which there had been no caucusing of Government views and that there was to be a free vote, with all its implications, I was appalled at what I subsequently read in the Press. There was an implication that the motion moved by Senator Greenwood was a device to kill off the Bill.
– I do not suggest that it was a Government device, but I think it was a device by Senator Greenwood.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONJ want to make it abundantly clear that we are now dealing with a motion to refer the Bill to a committee. The situation in relation to the notice of motion as far as the Government is concerned is precisely the same as when we dealt with the Bill. This is not a Government motion. It is coincidental that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has moved this motion. We are in the climate of a completely free vote. Personally I intend to exercise a free vote. When I spoke on the second reading of the Bill it was clear that I did not believe in the Bill in its present form and I made some obvious criticism of the drafting of the Bill and some of its implications. Senator Murphy has moved an amendment to Senator Greenwood’s motion that the Bill be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The honourable senator suggests that the second reading debate should be disposed of and a vote taken. He suggests that after that is done the Committee should report not later than 9th November 1971. I subscribe to the view that it is fair enough to put a time limit in relation to reporting back to the Senate. Significantly 9th November 1971 would be during the intended period of the sittings of the Senate and the Parliament. There would be a reasonable time after that date - roughly a month, give or take a day or two - before the Senate recessed. I do not criticise that as a proposition. I support it. If that proposal had been put in the amendment in a separate form I would vote for it in that separate form. In fact, from what Senator Greenwood has said by way of interjection I think that he would not be strongly against the proposal that the Committee report back to the Senate.
But I find difficulty in the proposition that the Committee’s report is contingent upon the second reading of the Bill because it is not an isolated issue on one line. As we said during the second reading stage of the Bill there are contingency situations in the Bill in relation to life imprisonment. There are contingency matters which any honourable senator is entitled to reflect upon before he casts his vote for the second reading. If the motion moved by Senator Greenwood is passed tonight the order of the day under General Business in the name of Senator Murphy will be taken off the business paper. It will disappear. It will not be debated tomorrow night if the motion moved by Senator Greenwood is carried. The Clerk of the Senate has told me that that is the procedure. In my capacity as an individual senator, I support the motion moved by Senator Greenwood. I also support part of the proposed amendment moved by Senator Murphy which provides that the report be brought back by not later than 9th November. But I cannot support the proposition that this is all contingent upon the passage of the second reading of the Bill. It seems to me that the second reading of the Bill, if it were passed, establishes the whole issue. I do not think we can vote on the whole issue until such time as certain elements which arc contingent issues and which have been referred to by Senator Greenwood and, indeed, referred to by myself when the Bill was debated previously, are decided. If Senator Murphy were to take that part of his amendment out I think we could have a speedy resolution of the matter which is now before the Senate.
– 1 indicated that 1 am prepared to support the motion before the chamber which was moved by Senator Greenwood for the adjournment of this debate. 1 do not believe that we have any other proposition before us, in spite of the backchat which we have had across the chamber making various suggestions as to how or why this should be done. As has been said this is to be a free vote for many honourable senators in this chamber. In the Australian Democratic Labor Party, to which I belong, we have differences of opinion on the matter. I, indeed, have an almost unique reason for making the final decision on the issue as to why I stand in favour of the principle of the abolition of capital punishment in the case of civil crime. I believe and subscribe to the ideas that we have the moral right to take life for some crimes which are committed. The attempt to extort money from parents by using their child as a hostage, who is destroyed, in my opinion gives society the moral right to extort the extreme penalty. But what, as I see it, society does not have the right to do is to appoint somebody to do the destroying. That may be a unique and peculiar reason for being opposed to the infliction of capital punishment. My stand is not in the interests of the person who has perpetrated some particularly dastardly and unspeakable crime, not in the interest of preserving his life - because I believe that he would have sacrificed his right to life - but because I would not subscribe to the brutalisation of an innocent human being by giving someone the task of destroying such an obnoxious perversion of humanity as one who had committed crimes of the type which I have just illustrated.
For those reasons I am satisfied to make an indication on the principle, as I have done in the course of the discussion on the Bill. But I am one who falls down on the fine line. 1 am not too sure that in the final analysis society will not find that, my conscience being what it is, it has created a second set of circumstances which may ultimately react quite detrimentally to society as a whole. But that matter has not yet been proven. I do not suppose that it ever will be proven by debate and argument. I do not think that this is a clear cut issue of black and white. I do not think that one has to decide in great haste to be for or against the principle. I see no reason for haste. I think that further consideration should be given to the matter as long as there are doubts in the minds of some honourable members in this chamber. I do not look on winning this issue by one, four or five votes as a great political triumph. 1 see nothing political in the issue. I see a principle and a yearning of humanity towards higher ideals and a better way of life, and I see in this proposal a means of defining how we feel towards our fellow human beings. That being the case, I do not think that time is so important a factor in dealing with this measure.
If society has been wrong in exacting a penalty of death, it has been doing the wrong thing, by various means, for a long time. If in the interests of protecting society we take some months more than perhaps is necessary to abolish capital punishment, in view of the reluctance on the part of any government in Australia today to carry out the death penalty, would the delay be so important? Before taking such a step I would rather be absolutely sure that we had explored every avenue, not here in the heat of debate where we can easily be misled but rather in the atmosphere of a committee hearing. I hope that Senator Murphy has not prejudiced my judgment on this issue, but, being human, I tend to be suspicious about some of his arguments because he has misrepresented the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party towards the appointment of committees, and he has done so merely to win a point tonight. He knows that we supported the appointment of committees but advocated some restraint because of practical and logical difficulties that would arise from bringing the committees into operation immediately. The passage of time alone has proved that our attitude on that occasion was perhaps more reasonable and sensible than was the attitude of honourable senators who rushed the proposition through the Senate long before we were in a position to give practical expression to the system or to solve the practical problems of committees being able to meet their commitments. 1 do not think that the proposal before the Senate is a device introduced by the Government for the purpose of burying the Bill. Many Government supporters have expressed an independent view on this subject and, for differing reasons, in some cases with qualifications and in some cases without qualification, have expressed support for the abolition of capital punishment. Some have argued from a deeply religious sense and others have spoken in other than a religious sense. The attitude that I have expressed has nothing whatever to do with any religious belief that I may hold. For this reason 1 suggest that it is wrong for the Press to charge anybody who wishes to have time in which to study this matter or to enable a committee to consider it with adopting a device to bury the Bill. Honourable senators who have taken part in the debate and who are aware of the non-political way in which this measure has been considered know that such a charge is wrong.
I do not know with certainty what the policy of the Australian Labor Party is on this question today or whether, as in some other parties, it varies from State to State. But when I see a complete unanimity, with an issue such as this being absolutely black or absolutely white, with no qualification whatever, as a reasonable person I can only accept that some degree of regimentation has been introduced. Wherever this matter has been discussed by fair-minded people there have been those who nave been in favour of it, those who have been against it, and between them a great number of people who have tremendous reservations, no matter what they might finally decide on the issue. 1 become suspicious when I find that the entire membership of a political party has no reservations on a question, and perhaps I may be forgiven for thinking that some members of the party have been silenced or are afraid to express their true opinion.
– It is our Party policy.
– If it is part of the policy of the Party then everybody in this chamber does not have a free vote on the issue. If that is admitted, I have no objection to it being so, but I think it should be clearly admitted because then the qualifications and reservations will not be shown to be on the one side. It may be that some who are prepared to vote for the abolition of capital punishment and who will do so because it is Party policy share some of the reservations that I have expressed, I am prepared to vote for the motion proposed by the Attorney-General in order to express my view on a principle. 1 hope that the resolution for the adjournment of the debate so that the matter may be considered by a committee will be carried, with no negotiated qualifications whatever.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I remind honourable senators of the warning that I issued to the Senate in the early stages of our discussions on the appointment of committees. I repeat now that I supported the establishment of Standing Committees and that my views were different in relation to Estimates Committees. I have worked on one of the Standing Committees and I was in favour of them being established. During those early discussions I warned that the committee system should never be used in Australia as it is used in the United States of America for the purpose of burying legislation. I am convinced that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) had this purpose in mind when moving his resolution. I believe that he did so because he was unable to accept defeat in the Senate on a matter on which he holds strong beliefs. He is so strongly in favour of hanging persons who have murdered that he is fighting a last ditch fight against legislation at a Commonwealth level to abolish capital punishment. If he feels so strongly about this subject he has every right to use any tactic available to him to achieve his purpose, and I believe that thi3 is what he has been doing on this occasion.
I wish to refer to a situation which is worrying me very much, especially in the light of the remarks that I made initially in this chamber on the subject of committees and their reports to the Senate. An examination of the notice paper, which any honourable senator may examine if he wishes to do so, reveals a list of reports from Committees which are still buried on the notice paper. Because there are so many reports on which we will not be able to conclude debates during this session 1 become frightened about the committee system that we have adopted. In saying that I remind the Senate that I am still in favour of the system as it has been established by the Senate. Order of the day No. 18 under the Government Business relates to the report of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. That matter has been on the notice paper for so long that it is a wonder that the print has not worn off the blocks that they use to print the notice paper. We have never had an opportunity to finalise our debate on that report. If we move further through the notice paper to order of the day No. 4 we find that it relates to a report on the milk industry by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. The debate on that report was adjourned from 22nd May 1970- That debate has never been held, let alone concluded, yet I understand that the recommendations contained in the report have been implemented without the Senate having ever discussed the matter.
Order of the Day No. 6 relates to the interim report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources. That debate was adjourned from 24th September 1970, on which date the Off-Shore Petroleum Resources Committee tabled its report in this place. But the report has not been debated since it was tabled a little over 12 months ago. This is what happens in relation to reports which committees table in the Senate. Item 15 on the notice paper, which relates to the report on Sunday observance submitted by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, has been there since 22nd April. Obviously the recommendations in the report have been implemented without this House having had an opportunity to debate them.
– It is obvious that if the Government has its way the same thing will happen with this Bill. That is patent to everyone.
– It is quite obvious that that is the purpose of referring the matter to the Committee. I have a long list of matters that appear on the notice paper. 1 remind Senator Young, who is attempting to interject, that I will be quite happy to discuss the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade. That Committee submitted its report on freight rates to and from Tasmania on 9th September and we thought we would be able to debate it. Now it appears as item 24 on the notice paper. A more important matter appears as item No. 20 - the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. That report deals with one of the most important issues that the Senate has ever appointed a committee to investigate, but it has appeared on the notice paper since 6th May 1971. I venture the opinion that the report will not be debated in this session although it contains very important recommendations to combat the terrible operations of drug trafficking within the community.
Men of goodwill sat as a committee and brought down a report of such importance to the Commonwealth that it should have been examined urgently. But what do we find? It is item 20 in the Orders of the Day. Honourable senators are aware of what happens to Orders of the Day. They are brought on for debate on alternate Thursday evenings because that is the measure of importance attributed to them by the Government. That is why this important Bill which was introduced by my Leader for the abolition of capital punishment is the subject of a proposal that it be referred to a committee.
I will support the proposed amendment wholeheartedly but the Government can, and 1 believe it will, if a report is obtained within the prescribed time, include it as item 25, at least, on the notice paper, and thus bury it forever. I warned of this possibility when the Senate was discussing the setting up of the committee system. I was fearful because it has happened so often in the United States of America. My only concern about the committee system is that it will evolve in this country as it has in the United States. When the late President Kennedy was assassinated his successor, President Johnson, tried to change the laws relating to the carriage of guns and other weapons. The obvious thing happened. The lobbyists for the gun manufacturers moved in. They were employed by the people who sell weapons by mail order to anybody with the money to buy them. By their lobbying efforts they were able to force the question to a committee and there it has remained for over 2 years.
– What about instruments to bring about the death of an unborn child?
– Abortion on request.
– Who are those little people who are yapping? I see. They are members of the Democratic Labor Party. They yap like poodles. The fact is that the suggested changes to the gun laws of the United States have been buried before a committee for over 2 years. The result is that the people who manufacture weapons can cause the deaths of innocent people in the streets. I read of a deaf and dumb lad who ran because everyone was running. He was shot dead because he was thought to be a criminal. Everybody has the right to carry a gun in the United States and the proposed amendments to the law have been buried in committee deliberations. I honestly believe that the conviction of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) that capital punishment should continue has caused him to adopt a manoeuvre to ensure that the day will never come again when we can, as we did when Senator Cohen was here, carry legislation in the Senate for the abolition of capital punishment.
– I feel somewhat ashamed to sit in the Senate and hear someone like Senator Poyser make a speech like the one he has just concluded. I do not think any honourable senator will take much notice of Senator Poyser’s attack on the integrity of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). That attack did nothing for the standing of Senator Poyser in the Senate. I do not know why some honourable senators opposite delight in imputing improper motives to other people. I believe that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. I suggest to Senator Poyser that he examine his own motives in this whole operation. Now that we have heard Senator Poyser speak tonight some of us may wonder where a recent newspaper canard originated. I wonder who did sell the story to the Press a couple of weeks back that Senator Greenwood by his motion attempted to bury this matter.
– They read my thoughts.
– That is a fair admission. It does no credit to honourable senators to run that sort of story. I was very interested to hear tonight the remarks of Senator Little. Honourable senators who heard my speech on the night that we previously debated this Bill may remember that I said I had certain reservations on this question. I suppose that if anybody is the villain of the piece it is I. I am quite prepared to admit that I did suggest to the Attorney-General - I do not think he will mind my saying this - that because some of us were troubled about this matter it would be a good idea if one of the proposed committees examined it. I could not again speak in the debate because I had already spoken.
I am not saying that the Attorney-General should be blamed for taking any notice of a suggestion of mine and I hope I am not doing him an injustice when I say that I think that until I spoke to him in those terms he had not thought of that move. It therefore does Senator Poyser very little credit to go on with the sort of nonsense he has talked here tonight. He also spoke a lot of nonsense about burying matters before committees. I think it is time that Senator Poyser was honest and said that he does not like committees. There are 2 types of people in the Senate. There are those who are prepared to do real and effective work in committees and there are also those who just like to yap in the Senate chamber. It is interesting to note the great number of yappers, the long term speakers who do not seem to like the committee system. They like to grandstand in this chamber rather than carry out effective work as members of committees.
Senator Poyser said that we have not had time lo study all the reports on the notice paper. I was Government Whip for about 18 months. In that time 1 did not notice any great enthusiasm on the part of members of the Opposition to sit on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each and every week during a session. They could not get out of this place fast enough. It is just sheer hypocrisy for honourable senators opposite to come into this chamber and talk about not having had an opportunity to debate a subject. Recently the House of Representatives was sitting 4 days a week, 2 weeks on and one week off. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) moved a motion to the effect that we should sit only 3 days a week as we did previously. Was there any cry of objection from members of the Opposition? We well know that members of the Opposition cannot get out of this place fast enough. They have no great desire to come here. They are so ineffective, so ineffectual, that they do not like coming here. They have to meet in Caucus and have a row once a week.
– 1 rise to a point of order. I have been grossly misrepresented in the speech that Senator Withers has been making. He has indicated that members of the Opposition-
– Order! If you claim to have been misrepresented you may address yourself to me at the conclusion of Senator Withers’ speech.
– I have now fished them out. I realise I have hurt them sufficiently so that people have to worry about points of order and alleged misrepresentation. 1 will conclude by saying that what has been said about the action of the Attorney-General in this matter is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Those who impute improper motives to the Attorney-General ought to have a good look at themselves before they do so.
– Mr President, my point of order is that in painting so wide a canvass Senator Withers misrepresented me - I will not speak for my colleagues - by saying that in effect I was not prepared to serve on committees and was not prepared to come here day after day in the recess period to serve on committees.
– Order! I do not recollect Senator Withers mentioning you by name.
– No, but he indicated me by the manner in which he spoke.
- Senator Withers did not accuse you by name of not being in attendance in the Senate. He made his statement and you have taken it upon yourself to say that that was a reference to you.
– Of course. How else could it be taken?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. If you wish to address yourself to the amendment moved by Senator Murphy I will be pleased to hear you.
– Very well. Sir. 1 will take advantage of your suggestion and speak to the amendment.
– Very well.
– It is not to the credit of Senator Withers to make such a charge against all members of the Opposition.
– You might let Senator Withers judge that matter.
– Since he passed judgment on us let me pass judgment on him. This is about the second occasion on which Senator Withers has spoken in so many weeks. Since he saw fit to criticise the work of the Opposition on committees let us look at his record. Anyone who serves on a select committee in this place - there are many of us on the Opposition side who serve on select committees - know that there is little time left to us. In fact our recess periods are taken up almost completely. Where was Senator Withers on Monday of this week when a Senate select committee met in this place at 9 o’clock in the morning, sat through to 11 o’clock at night, commenced again at 9.30 the next morning and sat until 1 o’clock? Then the Senate sat in the afternoon.
It is grossly unfair for Senator Withers to make such a statement against members of the Opposition, some of whom serve on 2 select committees and on many other committees. It is grossly unfair, especially at this time. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) indicated that this very important matter has been held up for years. We on this side of the chamber, in order to get a decision after such a great lapse of time, have refrained from entering into the debate. It seems to me that this device has been introduced by some Government supporters, particularly by 2 of them - and especially, I would say, by
– in order to delay a decision on this matter.In speaking directly to the amendment, Mr President, I expect that it is the feeling of the Senate that this matter should go to a standing committee.
– Is the honourable senator still speaking on his point of order?
– No. I am speaking to the amendment. I manouevred myself out of that situation and am now speaking to the amendment,
– What is the subject now?
– The subject is the amendment. I am not quite certain whether Senator Withers is a member of that standing committee.
– I am.
– ThenI ask him to appreciate the amount of time that will be required to assess the evidence given to the committee and come back with its decision on 9th November, or about that time. It would be of advantage to the committee, and to Senator Withers, to know the feeling of the Senate about this matter. Therefore the proposition put by the Leader of the Opposition that there should be a vote on the second reading is a good one. The standing committee at least would have the expressed opinion of the Senate on this matter. I think the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) indicated earlier in the piece that it would be of advantage to look at the expressed opinion of the people at gallup polls. How much more to the advantage of the standing committee would it be if there were a vote on the second reading, proposed for tomorrow evening, to so advise the standing committee how the Senate as a whole feels about this matter?
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority .. .. 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the motion (Senator Greenwood’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
(9.49)- I move:
I indicate that if a message comes from the other place tonight I shall ask that progress be reported to enable me to put the message down. Meantime, we shall deal with order of the day No. 11.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 August (vide page 201), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Senate lake note of the statement.
– I rise for the second time to debate the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on the future of Australian forces in Vietnam. What I am about to say is in continuation of what I began to say on 19th August last. It is now about 8 weeks since the debate on the statement was adjourned. It is rather remarkable that such an important announcement, telling the Australian people that Australian conscripts and Australian regular forces will no longer be sent to Vietnam, should receive such cavalier treatment from the Government. One can remember that in 1965 and 1966, when the cry of the Government was ‘All the way with LBJ’, when we were told about the domino theory, when maps with red arrows pointing to Australia were produced and when fleets of Chinese sampans were sailing towards Lake Burley Griffin, the Government was only too anxious to discuss its Vietnam policy - not because it wished to engage in an analysis of foreign policy, not because it wished to talk about the great issues of peace and war which confront Australians but because it was aware that by talking about the yellow peril and the Red hordes it could frighten a lot of little old ladies in white tennis shoes. At that time we were told that the whole future of this nation, the safety and security of Australians and the preservation of democracy, Christianity and our Judeo-Hellenic heritage depended upon the dispatching of 20-year-old conscripts to Vietnam.
What a different story it is now. This most important announcement was made by the Prime Minister and almost 8 weeks has elapsed before the Government brought the debate back into the Senate. Why is this? It is because the Government does not want to debate its failed policy on Vietnam - a policy which has failed completely; a policy which has left this Government without one shred of credibility; a policy which has dishonoured this country; a policy which has led to the death of nearly 500 Australians; a policy which has led to the death of countless Vietnamese; a policy which has inflicted misery on some of our neighbours in South East Asia; a policy which has rendered fatuous, futile and utterly unworthy of serious consideration the arguments put by the Government over the past 6 years as to why we should be sending young men to die or to be maimed in Vietnam. No wonder the Government does not want to debate this subject.
On this occasion I think it is opportune to remind the Government of some of the things its supporters said when it introduced this barbaric policy for reasons of election gimmickry. What did they say to us? They said that there was a threat of world wide Communist expansion and that both the Soviet Union and Communist China - Red China as they called it when they were not talking about wheat sales - were determined to conquer this country. As the argument ran, insofar as I could follow it, some diabolical commissars in Moscow or Peking, or both, had determined that the way to fulfil the goal which had been the main desire of their lives - that is, to invade Australia - was to set in motion a fall of dominoes. Firstly they had taken over in Russia and then, by some strange process, they had taken over in China. Then they had taken over in North Korea and then North Vietnam. Then they were on the way to take over in South Vietnam. They were going to come down through Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia until at last they got to where they were ultimately hoping to get - the Kew Golf Club.
We were told that opposed to these commissars was our great and powerful ally, the United States of America, steadfastly determined to oppose Communism and to support democracy even if supporting democracy meant sending troops into the Dominican Republic to depose a democratically elected president.
Nothing would inhibit the United States of America in its desire to maintain democracy, so dedicated was it to this great proposition. There was our great and powerful ally with a great and powerful President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, with whom we would go all the way and with whom, I think, we have just about gone all the way.
– What about John Foster Dulles?
– He had departed. He had shuffled off this mortal coil at the time of which I am speaking, but his spirit lingered on, as did his views on the topics to which I am referring. I am sure that many burned candles to his portrait at night, thinking of the grand old days. Here we were faced with this menace, but we were allied with the United States of America steadfastly opposed to Communism - a country which would never talk to Chou En-lai or Mao Tsetung; a country which would never recognise Communist China; a country which, with every fibre of its being, would oppose the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. We could rest somewhat easy thinking that, with us, this great and powerful ally would turn back the Red hordes which had shown such aggression against Australia that they had moved from North Vietnam into South Vietnam.
We were told something else. There were those who did not follow these complex theoretical arguments and those whose ideology and idealism were not as finely keyed as those who were impressed by these arguments. There were those of a more mercenary nature - those who wanted to know on which side their bread was buttered; those who felt that there should be some tangible rewards for a present sacrifice. To these people it was suggested that if they were prepared to make the sacrifice of voting to send 20- year-olds to be killed in Vietnam treasures would be stored up, if not in Heaven at least in this temporal world of ours. The main treasure would be that the USA would be so deeply indebted to us for our assistance in helping to withstand the forces of monolithic Communism, that it would look after us in future. It would see to us. It would watch over us.
It would appreciate our standing by that country in a time of need and it would stand by us in a time of need.
We were told by the Government, in the same way as it once accused members of the Australian Labour Party of being anti-British, that if in any way any person tended to oppose this policy he was antiAmerican and that this betokened a most disloyal frame of mind, just as I am sure that in about 5 or 10 years members of the Liberal Party will be telling us that if we are anti-Japanese, in their interpretation of that word, we will be equally disloyal. There we were. There was the downward thrust of Communism and there were the dominoes falling over. We had to stop that. In any case whether or not the dominoes were falling over and whether or not the war was a good thing, the United States of America was sending troops there and if we sent our troops there with theirs the United Slates would look after us. We were told that if we were to send Australian troops to Vietnam we would help to stop the dominoes falling. We were told that not only would we preserve this democracy in Vietnam but also we would save other small countries from aggression.
What are the consequences of all this? It is that the conflict has now extended from Vietnam into Cambodia and has been intensified in Laos, and a war that once could have been described as the Vietnam war is now referred to by most people as the Indo-China war because it would be quite inaccurate to talk about it as the Vietnam war; it is the Indo-China war. In fact, Cambodia, a small neighbouring country - one of those countries which were supposed to be protected by the presence of our troops and the American troops in Vietnam - is now itself a cockpit and a country where there is bitter struggle, death, misery, devastation and many of the other horrors of war which have been witnessed in Vietnam. So much for our policy of defending small countries by our example of being in Vietnam. Not only did we not stop that domino from falling but another country - Cambodia - which, whatever criticisms many people may have made of it, was at least living in peace has now been embroiled in horrible blood-letting, murder, massacre, misery and all the other attendant horrors of modern warfare.
And have we won in Vietnam? Is anyone seriously suggesting that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam- North Vietnam - has been destroyed or that it is any less powerful now than it was when the conflict started? He would be a very audacious supporter of the Government who would make such a claim as this, because all the evidence is to the contrary. North Vietnam is just as strong as it ever was. It is confident in the victories that it has had and confident of the future victories that it will have. What is the situation in South Vietnam? It is just as devastated and just as subjected to the insurgency of the National Liberation Front as it ever was.
– It had a free election.
– As Senator James McClelland tells me, an election has taken place there. What is the situation with this election?
– I think it goes farther than corruption. The situation in this election is that there is only one candidate. Two of the most eminent South Vietnamese, General Minh and Air ViceMarshal Ky - not so long ago feted on his visit to this country - have condemned the actions of President Thieu and the Saigon Government for the undemocratic manner in which they have conducted this election. Sometimes, one hears from various people the specious argument: ‘There are not free elections in North Vietnam. There are not free elections in China. How many candidates are there for the Prime Ministership of the Soviet Union’?, as if this is some devastating, knock-down argument for use against anybody who asks: ‘What is the situation in regard to the elections in South Vietnam’? This, of course, is a palpably false and utterly inapt analogy.
The Government of this country sent Australian troops into South Vietnam because it claimed that it would make South Vietnam different from North Vietnam. What it said was: ‘We are different from the Communists in China, North Vietnam and those places. We believe in free elections. That is what we object to about North Vietnam. If the North Vietnamese, the Vietcong or the National Liberation Front were to take over in South Vietnam, that would be the end of free elections’. That is why 500 young Australians have been killed - in order to see that there are free elections. We have not sent troops to North Vietnam and we have not sent troops to China in order to carry out some wild claim that we would preserve democracy. But we have sent troops to South Vietnam for that purpose, and we see now what it means: A virtual dictatorship by President Thieu and the clique around him- When I say that I am quoting not Communist sources - the National Liberation Front, Moscow Radio or the Peking Review - but none other than General Minh and, even more significantly I suggest, Air Vice-Marshal Ky who is so democratic and so committed to the Western way of life that on more than one occasion he has expressed his most warm admiration for the former chancellor of Germany, Herr Hitler. We see there a total failure of our policy.
Let us look at the other proposition. lt has been said that if we make these sacrifices now, America, being a just nation, will keep a sort of ledger in which it will have black entries and red entries and we will be scoring up some credits, and at some time in the future when we are in a spot of bother the United States will come to our assistance. I am one who has always argued that this argument is false. The United States of America, like any other power, great or small, will act in a way which it believes is conducive to its own best interests and the interests of its own ruling class, and not for any other reasons. Over recent years, we have seen many examples of United States foreign policy and action and how this has worked.
I return to an example which I have mentioned in the Senate earlier, namely, the relations between the United States and the Netherlands. I suppose that there could not be a more loyal and dedicated ally of the United States than the Netherlands. It was an ally of the United States in World War II. It is a country of similar ethnic and cultural origins to the United States, a country which provided the earliest white settlers in the United States, a country which is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and which, up to the time about which I am speaking, was also a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. On the other hand, there was the Republic of Indonesia under President Sukarno, whose name was often bandied around here as being a sort of halfdomino which somehow had slipped under everybody’s guard and got underneath our defenders in Singapore and Malaysia. It was in every respect, we were told, a most reprehensible country. A number of its leading citizens had collaborated with the Japanese during World War II and had been enemies of the United States. It was certainly not a member of SEATO. It was an active member of the Afro-Asian bloc and, in fact, the instigator of the Afro-Asian Congress at Jogjakarta in 1955, at which the most stringent criticisms of the United States were made. It was a country which, in season and out of season, maligned the United States in the United Nations and elsewhere.
In the dispute which broke out over who was to get West Irian, the former Netherlands New Guinea, when the chips were finally down on which side did the United States come out? It came out on the side of the Republic of Indonesia under Sukarno and not on the side of the loyal ally, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Juliana. Why did it do this? The United States did this because it believed that, whatever the Netherlands had done for it in the past and whatever the Republic of Indonesia had done against it in the past, the best interests of the United States were served by recognising the Indonesian claim to Netherlands New Guinea and repudiating the Dutch claim.
– That was the Bunker plan, wasn’t it?
– Yes, Ellsworth Bunker was the ambassador at the time - the man who has also played some role in Vietnam.
– For democracy in Vietnam.
– Yes, in Vietnam he has played a similar part for the United States to that which he has played in other parts of South East Asia. I believe that the moral of this is that if needs be, the United States will treat Australia in precisely the same way. If Australia becomes involved in some military conflict and the United States of America believes that it is in the interests of the United States to come to Australia’s assistance it will do so whether Australia had done anything for the United States or not. If Australia became involved in a conflict with someone else and the United States did not believe that it was in its interests to come to Australia’s assistance, it would not come lo Australia’s assistance.
Can anyone imagine a President of the United States going to his .people in three or four years time and saying: ‘I have bad news for you. Indonesia now has nuclear weapons and a dispute has broken out between Indonesia and Australia. We are not involved in this at all but you remember several years ago when the war in Vietnam was on, when we were saving the one candidate presidential democracy of South Vietnam, that the Australians sent 8,000 conscripts up to South Vietnam. So my bad news for you is that despite the fact that we have no interests involved in this conflict between Australia and, say, Indonesia, we are going to go into the war. It might mean that San Francisco, Chicago and New York will all be wiped out by atom bombs but we will have to do it because of what Australia did for us several years ago when their Prime Minister said ‘All the way with LBJ.’ Of course the United States is not going to do anything remotely like that. We have already seen what the United States has done. When the President of the United States announced his intention of going to the People’s Republic of China, did he inform his loyal little ally, the Prime Minister of Australia, that he intended to do so? Of course he did not. Did he even give sufficient warning to the Prime Minister of Australia that he intended to go to the People’s Republic of China in order to stop the Prime Minister from making a fool of himself when he attacked the visit to China of the Leader of the Opposition? No, he did not even do that.
When the United States decided to impose a 10 per cent surcharge on imports as a result of its recent currency difficulties did it say that this applies to everyone except Australia because it sent troops to Vietnam? No, of course it did not. We got exactly the same treatment as Romania, Albania and everybody else who engages in any sort of trade whatsoever with the United States. We received precisely the same treatment - a 10 per cent surcharge on Australia the same as the 10 per cent surcharge on Chile with the Government of President Allende. As 1 mentioned when I was speaking earlier - but as it is 2 months since we last debated the Vietnam war I may remind honourable senators of it - we could not have got any different treatment if Mr Ted Hill had been Prime Minister of Australia and not Mr William McMahon. When it comes to any question of exports of Australian meat to the United States, do senators and congressmen from the cattle States and from the Rocky Mountain States say: ‘Well, we would like to organise a vote in Congress to do something to stop the import of Australian meat but we had better not do it because they sent some troops to Vietnam’? Of course they do not do anything of the sort. When it comes to negotiating airline agreements between the United States and Australia does the United States say: ‘We have a different sort of commercial relation with Australia from those which we have with France, Italy and other countries which did not send troops to Vietnam. We give them special treatment’? Of course not. The United States does not say anything of the sort.
The United States continues to pursue what it believes to be the policy in its own best interests. As it happens, as has quite often been the case with Republican administrations as opposed to Democratic administrations, there has been a quite radical change in foreign policy - one might say a much more sincere and healthy foreign policy. For myself. 1 have always preferred an honest conservative to a phony liberal and for that reason I think that the Republican administrations have had more intelligent, sensible attitudes to foreign affairs than have the Democrats who, despite their protestations of world peace, seem to have got themselves involved in more wars than the Republicans ever did. President Nixon deals with a lot of hard headed businessmen who have never believed all of this nonsense about dominoes falling over and saving democracy in South Vietnam. As the former honourable member for Adelaide said, this is only meant for the people out in Mugsville. They never believed that sort of stuff.
– Was his name Jones?
– Yes, the former member for Adelaide. These people believe that ‘if you cannot knock them over, if you cannot put them out of the ring, then you have to talk turkey’. They have come to the conclusion now that they cannot knock over the North Vietnamese and whether people like it or not, China is where it is and that is where it is going to stay. There are about 700 million people in that country, which is becoming one of the greatest and most powerful countries in the world, and the Americans intend to talk to them. They do not believe any more that there is any point in their being involved in stupid wars in South East Asia - stupid unwinnable wars such as the one in which they got themselves involved in Vietnam. Slowly but surely and reluctantly they are getting out and at the same time, with some hesitation and with a farewell wave to their old friends in Taipei they are putting forward propositions that Red China, now always respectfully referred to as the People’s Republic of China, become a member not only of the United Nations General Assembly but also of the Security Council. This has been the total transformation that has taken place inside American policy in South East Asia. 1 speak of American policy because probably the major part of the propaganda for Australia’s involvement in Vietnam - in Indo-China - was because of our American alliance, whatever that is or may be. The Americans have changed their policy, having realised that the situation is not what they originally thought it was. One can say that, however discreditable the American policy might have been, at least it was its own policy and at least that country made its policy in accordance with what it believed to be in its own national interests. The Americans did not go into Vietnam because the Australians had gone there. They went there under their own steam, of their own volition, to do their own dirty work for their own sakes. We went into Vietnam like a pilot fish trailing along behind the shark hoping for a meal that did not turn up. The United States’ policy has been completely discredited and our policy has been even more discredited.
My closing words are these: I believe that there are 2 lessons to be learnt from our sad and sordid experience in Vietnam. To illustrate the first lesson I would like to recall the words of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Stratford. ‘Put not your trust in princes for in them is no salvation’. We are not going to get salvation from any other country. If we want the salvation of this country we need to seek it ourselves. By that statement I am not talking about getting our own atom bomb or our own fleet of submarines. I am talking about building up our own self-reliant community with our own independent trade policies, with our own policies of peace in South East Asia and the whole world. That is the first lesson.
I believe the second lesson is this, if we have not learnt it already, if we have not learnt it from the experiences of the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in Algeria, the British in India and the Italians in North East Africa, however long it may take the great masses of the world’s people are not going to live permanently in a state of colonialism, whether it is political colonialism or economic colonialism. Whether we like the form of government they are adopting or whether we do not like the form of government they are adopting, the people of Indonesia, Indo-China, Malaysia, India, Pakistan - both east and west - are going to choose their own form of government in the same way as the people of China have chosen their form of government. There is nothing that we can do about it and there is nothing that we ought to do about it because the forms of government that these people have are entirely their business and not our business. If we are going to become involved in any future conflicts of this nature it will only lead to greater sacrifices of Australian lives, greater sacrifices of other people’s lives and greater damage to Australia as well as suffering, misery and a repetition of the disaster which now, fortunately, is coming to a conclusion in Vietnam.
– About 6 days ago I had the privilege of standing beside the saluting base at the Australian Task Force Headquarters at Nui Dat in South Vietnam while the Third Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment paraded perhaps for the last time prior to the withdrawal of that unit as part of the Australian Task Force. On that occasion decorations for bravery and general conduct were presented to members of that battalion. I could not help thinking, as I saw with pride that proud battalion with its proud record parading, that well might have been in the minds of those who were parading this thought: ‘We have come up here in terms of a contract to do a job in this part of the world. We have come up here to secure the integrity and independence of South Vietnam and to ensure that this country shall be allowed to pursue its own affairs and to pursue the establishment and operation of its own democratic institutions’. With pride that battalion, as part of the task force, could have said: ‘We have ensured that that was done, we have ensured the security of this area which is now being entrusted to the South Vietnamese battalions themselves, and we are withdrawing’.
Two days earlier in the same week it was on test whether or not the South Vietnamese Government for its part had discharged its end of the contract; in other words, whether that Government had seized the opportunity given to it by the lives, the blood and the treasure of the Australian and other allied troops to secure parliamentary institutions in that country. The test came, among other things, with the conduct of the presidential election which was held on the Sunday. I left Australia on last Friday week to attend as an observer at the presidential election. I was the only observer from the Australian Parliament. I was the only observer from an Parliament in Australia on that day. Perhaps .1 was the only observer from Australia at all, because I am not aware that any direct representative of the Australian Press was present. However, the Australian Press may have been operating through agencies. I am fairly certain that no direct representative of the Australian Press was there, and there was none from the Australian Parliament, although the Parliament of Great Britain was represented by a Labor peer and two Conservative members of the House of Commons. The Japanese Parliament was represented. I think the
Parliament of the Philippines was represented. I had the great privilege and distinction of representing the whole of this Parliament and perhaps the whole of Australia.
– No, not officially. The international Press was represented there. Journalists from all over the world were sent by their newspapers. No doubt they went at great expense, but this event was regarded as of such significance that it required the attendance of direct representatives of the international Press agencies. To my knowledge no representative of the Australian Press in the same category was there at all. However, I had the opportunity - the only opportunity of anyone from this Parliament and perhaps from Australia - of observing just how the election was conducted and to what extend it did comply with democratic forms. I think it is my duty tonight in this very short time available to me as far as I can to report faithfully, accurately, and, J trust, objectively what were the results of my observations and to what extent I thought the election complied with the ordinary democratic forms of the electoral process.
Having reported in Saigon, I found that the information centre of the electoral machinery had provided a great number of tours to various parts of South Vietnam. These tours could be inspection observing tours which could be taken by various correspondents, by official observers and by more distinguished people. I did not opt for such a trip because I thought that in the economy of time of an election that commenced at 7 o’clock in the morning and concluded at 5 o’clock in the evening it was only fair that I should attempt to observe the election in the capital city, Saigon, as well as, and as far as possible, the operation of the election in one of the provincial areas. To have gone to Da Nang or Hue may have deprived me of any opportunity of observing the election in Saigon.
Therefore in the morning I went along to the main polling booth in Saigon and observed the opening of the ballot. Then 1 was moved by helicopter with some international journalists to the province of Binh Duong which is about 15 helicopter minutes from Saigon. At this point we made observations of the polling in a number of villages in that province. In the afternoon I returned to Saigon and made a further personal, on-the-spot inspection of a number of polling places in Saigon. I again inspected the closure of the ballot and the counting of the ballot in the Saigon town hall at 5 o’clock.
– Did you have your own interpreter?
– No, I did not have my own interpreter. I will tell you the situation, Senator Mulvihill. The elections were conducted under the presidential law. The important thing was, first of all, that the elections should be held in pursuance of that law. I have a copy of the presidential election law here, which perhaps 1 might be wise to table at the end of my speech. Under the presidential election law the whole of the procedures which are to be followed in the election of a president are laid down. They are most comprehensive in that they specify the date of the election, the nature of the polling, the selection of candidates, the operations of parties, moneys provided, even by the Government, to parties to conduct their campaigns, and things of that nature. The election had to be operated under that law. On my objective assessment - I am myself a lawyer - I found that the election was conducted explicitly in terms of their own law. There appeared to me to be no departure from the statutory principles which were required to be observed.
– What was your opinion of the law itself?
– Senator Georges, you may have a copy of this later on. More particularly, if I table it, you may have access to this document to see whether you think it does in all ways comply with the ordinary principles that you would expect a free election to comply with. The second question was that if the election complied with the presidential election law, was that election law a law in terms of the ordinarily accepted canons of democratic free elections? That necessarily would be the next point. What would be the principles which one would apply to determine whether an election was conducted according to the canons which we would want to apply to determine whether an election was free and democratic? The first principle would be that the voters would have the opportunity of voting without pressure of any kind being applied to them, whether it be physical, psychological, economical or political.
– Was the Australian newspaper report that the ballot boxes were guarded by sentries correct?
– I will come to that. I hope in the short time available to me to deal with that. The first principle would be whether or not people were coming to the ballot boxes under pressure. I was there at the opening of the main booth in Saigon and I was in the provinces. I saw no evidence whatsoever of any pressure being applied to any voters to come to vote. Whether pressures were applied to voters a long way down the line one could never calculate. There was no evidence of pressures applied to voters at all. In Saigon in the morning the voters were present in great numbers, as you would find them in an Australian election. There were early comers ready to vote and there was a constant throughput of voters during the day until the ballot closed at 5 o’clock.
The second canon which would have to be applied is the availability of the processes of voting, in other words that polling booths and ballot boxes should be available. That would be the second principle. I have documents here which set out the facts. Throughout South Vietnam there were over 8,000 polling places. I think in anyone’s calculation that would indicate a very wide availability of the processes of the ballot box within easy reach of a nation, much of the population of which is not on wheels, much of which may have to walk. Nevertheless 8,180 - I think that is the figure - polling places were available.
The third principle would be whether the ballot was secret. The method of voting in South Vietnam is different from ours. The community there is largely not literate. 1 think the literacy or illiteracy rate is 40 per cent or very close to that figure. Therefore to mark a ballot paper is not within the ability or competence of many voters. Therefore they have - and it is prescribed in the presidential election law - a slate. If, for example, there were 3 parties such as the Libera] Party, the Australian Labor Party and the Australian
Democratic Labor Party each putting up a party ticket, the ballot paper would have the party ticket on it. The paper I hold up - say, for argument’s sake, it is for party A - is called a slate. The slate carries on it photographs of the candidates and the party symbol for the benefit of those who are not equipped to read or write. By viewing it they recognise it as the slate or the ballot which they want.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting that outside the presidential elections other parties contested the election?
– 1 was told that at the election which was held a week or a fortnight before that at one place there were 81 candidates for 5 electoral positions. Therefore there were 81 ballot papers or slates of that type. Every elector who came in would be issued with one of those slates. In the case of the 81 candidates there would be 81 slates. The elector would discard the 76 he did not want. This is the method of voting. Every person in Vietnam carries an identity card. When he becomes 18 years of age he registers as a voter and is issued with a voting registration slip. It has attached to part of it coupons A, B, C, D and E. When a person comes to vote he presents his identity card so that he can be recognised. He presents his voting registration slip so that he can be identified as a person duly registered and as the person whom he appears to be on his identification card. He then proceeds to the next table. We saw this in all the places. In this case, the presidential election, he was presented with one slip because there was only one group. In the previous case I mentioned there would be 81 slates. He is also issued with a brown manilla envelope. From there he goes into the voting cubicle.
– What happens to the identity card?
– I will tell the honourable senator the whole process. The voting cubicles were small cubicles enclosed with a black curtain which is impenetrable. The voter went into the voting cubicle taking with him his brown manilla envelope and the voting paper. It was impossible to see what went on in the voting cubicle. The voter may elect to put his ballot paper in the manilla envelope or he may elect not to do that. He could do a number of things. He could put that ballot paper into the manilla envelope; he could mutilate the ballot paper or he could discard it within the secrecy of the voting cubicle. I and the journalists with me from the international Press inspected these cubicles. We went into a number of them in the country area and in Saigon.
Receptacles were provided for discarded ballot papers. When I inspected some of the receptacles in the province at about 11 in the morning there were already a great number of discarded ballot papers. Those who were not prepared to vote for President Thieu and his vice-presidential colleague and who did not use their ballot paper put the paper in the receptacle. Others mutilated the ballot paper and returned it to the envelope. The voter then came back from the voting cubicle to the place where there was one ballot box. He deposited his brown manilla envelope, holding it up first so that it could be seen that he was not duplicating it. He then put it in the ballot box. At that stage he was under no scrutiny or surveillance at all. That was apparent to anybody in the polling place. This process complied with the third requirement which was that the voter must have the opportunity of voting no or dissenting. Voters could dissent either by remaining away from the ballot box altogether, or by not using their ballot paper or by mutilating their ballot paper and returning it in a mutilated condition in the envelope to the ballot box. But every envelope had to be returned to the ballot box.
After the voter had done that he passed along the table where the appropriate coupon for the vote was cut off his voting registration slip. For example, it could be the B coupon because the A coupon had been used for the previous election. There were no marks on that coupon to identify it with the voter. The coupon was then threaded on to a wire. At the end of the day a balance was taken between the envelopes in the box and the voting coupons to see whether the proper result had been obtained and that the number of envelopes corresponded with the number of votes who had been registered. That is the second aspect of the matter. That night - I shall deal with this matter more particularly - when an inspection was made of the ballot papers taken from the envelope, as far as I could see the whole balance of doubt was given against the ticket and not in favour of the ticket. If there were the slightest mutilation on the ballot paper, even if the corner at the bottom were torn - in our concept that would not have affected the validity of the voting at all - it was immediately put back into the envelope and the envelope was endorsed by the person we would call the presiding officer. The envelope was then put away. In other words votes which had the slightest suggestion of doubt were declared invalid and not formal. It appeared to me and to all of us that the whole count told against the presidential ticket and not in favour of it.
The other canon is the integrity of the count. The count and the conduct of the election appeared to be in the hands of schoolteachers just as we have schoolteachers as our presiding officers. I asked about this matter. As I say, the whole of the population is not equipped for this task. The presiding officers and poll clerks were mostly school teachers and other young men and women who were, no doubt, clerks. They presided as polling officers. At night the scrutineers, in terms of the presidential law, were invited from among people around, and the ballot was counted. The envelopes were counted in the public view and were tallied just as we might tally an election if we went in and acted as scrutineers as we have done so often at elections. I would say that, from what I saw, this ballot completely complied with the conditions and canons which we would require in any electoral system. I could not fault it at all.
– There is just one matter before the honourable senator gets into that area. He has not given us particulars of the eligibility of candidates to stand.
– The eligibility of candidates-
– Why were certain candidates excluded?
– As I say there were 2 matters. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
NATIONAL HEALTH BILL 1971 (No. 2l
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(10.38) - I move:
The purpose of the Bill before the Senate is, firstly, to provide for an increase in the patient benefit for ordinary nursing home care from $2.00 a day to $3.50 a day; secondly, to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals in relation to the contribution payable by the patient for pharmaceutical benefits; thirdly to incorporate into the schedules of the National Health Act variations made to certain items of those Schedules during 1971 by Regulations. As the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) announced on 5th October, it is proposed to increase the Commonwealth benefit for patients receiving ordinary nursing home care by $1.50 a day to $3.50 a day or $24.50 a week. As a consequence, benefits for patients receiving intensive nursing home care will be increased from $5.00 a day to $6.50 a day or $45.50 a week.
The nursing home benefits made available by the Commonwealth Government apply to patients accommodated in nursing homes approved for such purposes under the provisions of the National Health Act. These nursing homes are conducted by private proprietors, by religious and charitable organisations or by the various State Governments. The Government has been reviewing the present arrangements for patients requiring nursing home treatment. As stated by the Prime Minister, the Government has not abandoned its aim of introducing new long term arrangements as soon as it is practicable to do so and the increase of $1.50 a day proposed in this Bill is in the nature of an interim measure to alleviate the financial difficulties which are now being experienced by nursing homes and their patients. It is estimated that the proposed increase of $1.50 a day will inject some S24m more a year into the nursing home area. During 1970-71 Government expenditure in this area amounted to $49. 5m and is estimated to rise, excluding the proposed increase of $1.50 a day, to $5 1.9m in 1971-72.
As announced in the Budget, it is proposed to raise the level of patient contribution in respect of general pharmaceutical benefits from 50c to $1. The fee has remained at 50c since 1960. However, the contribution payable by persons eligible for assistance under the subsidised health benefits plan will be maintained at 50c. Pensioners and their dependants covered by the pensioner medical service will continue to receive pharmaceutical benefits free of charge. It is proposed that these provisions will come into effect on a date to be proclaimed. The present system of providing pharmaceutical benefits to the general public, other than pensioners, is based on the principle of Government assistance to the individual in meeting the cost of medical treatment rather than the provision of ‘free medicine’ in the literal sense. In September 1950 a scheme was introduced by the Government which provided certain life-saving and diseasepreventing drugs free of cost to the whole community on a doctor’s prescription. From July 1951 the Government introduced a further scheme which provided a comprehensive range of medicines for pensioners who were enrolled in the pensioner medical service. No charge was made for these drugs.
Between the years 1951 and 1960 the list of life-saving and disease-preventing benefits was periodically expanded to include newly-developed drugs. In March 1960 a major departure was made from the then existing schemes. The general and pensioner benefits schemes were amalgamated and the entire range of drugs in both schemes, with the exception of a small number of drugs restricted to eligible pensioners, was made available to I he general public. The list of benefits was greatly expanded to provide a much wider range of treatment. At the same time all items on the list, except those restricted to eligible pensioners, were made available to the general public at a fee of 50c for each item supplied by a chemist. Pensioners, however, continued to receive the benefits free of charge. The drugs and medicinal preparations made available as pharmaceutical benefits are determined by the Minister for Health on the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee established under section 101 of the National Health Act.
As honourable senators are aware, pharmaceutical benefits are the most expensive component of the Government’s overall health benefits plan. In 1970-71 the cost to the Commonwealth of prescription benefits to the general public amounted to $88. 2m. Additional costs to the Commonwealth included payments to public hospitals and miscellaneous sources of $26.9m and payments in respect of benefits supplied to eligible pensioners and dependants under the pensioner medical service of $45. 2m, a total of $ 160.3m. This figure compares with $136.7m in 1969-70. In 1960-61 the corresponding costs were $34.3m, $6. 8m and $14.7m respectively, a total of $55. 8m. Commonwealth expenditure on pharmaceutical prescription benefits for the general public has thus increased by 157.2 per cent over a period of 1 1 years.
The patient contribution has increased from $10.3m to $24.4m for the same period, an increase of 136.9 per cent. However, the relationship of patient contribution to the total cost has fallen from 23.1 per cent in 1960-61 to 21.7 per cent in 1970-71. While the cost per prescription has risen from $2.18 in 1960-61 to $2.30 in 1970-71 and is estimated to rise to $2.65 in 1971-72, the number of prescriptions per head has increased from 2.13 in 1960-61 to 4-26 in 1970-71 and is expected to rise to 4.48 in 1971-72. The effect has been that the cost per person in respect of general benefit prescriptions has risen from S4.62 in 1960-61 to $9.80 in 1970-71.
Three main contributing factors are responsible for the increase in cost to the Commonwealth. These are the addition of new expensive drugs and the relaxation of restrictions on prescribing of certain drugs - particularly in relation to the antibiotics, analgesics, anti-hypertensive and anti-depressant groups of drugs - together with some increase in prescribing by doctors unaccounted for by the above 2 factors. It is estimated that the proposed increase in the patient contribution from 50c to $1 will effect a reduction in the cost of the scheme to the Commonwealth, in respect of general prescription benefits, of $24. 6m in a full year and $15. 8m in the current financial year. These estimates have been made on the basis of the situation that pertained in 1970-71. The expected savings, however, could be affected by variations to the list of benefits and changes in doctors’ prescribing habits.
At a time when the Government is concerned with the continuing sharp increase in the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, it believes that it is not unreasonable for the community at large to bear the cost of the increased patient contribution- There have of course been substantial increases in incomes since I960 when the existing patient contribution was first set. The proposed increase to $1 will mean that those items listed in the schedules to the pharmaceutical benefits regulations as pharmaceutical benefits which cost $1 or less will not be available as benefits to the general public. It is not proposed that these benefits be deleted from the schedule of benefits, as the Government recognises that such items should be retained and made available for the use of pensioners and persons eligible for assistance under the subsidised health benefits plan. The present provisions of the National Health Act relating to the treatment of chronic diseases or conditions will also continue to apply.
As I have already mentioned, persons eligible for assistance under the subsidised health benefits plan will not have to meet the increase of 50c for national health prescriptions. This decision is in keeping with the Government’s policy under the health benefits plan to assist where possible those special groups in the community to meet the cost of medical care. The subsidised health benefits plan, which has been in existence since January 1970, provides assistance in meeting the cost of medical and hospital treatment to persons receiving unemployment, sickness and special social service benefits, migrants during their first 2 months in Australia and low income families.
The Bill provides that persons and their dependants eligible for assistance in each of these categories will be able to obtain medicines and drugs prescribed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for 50c per prescription. While the Government will assist these special groups of people to obtain their pharmaceutical benefits for a charge of only 50c, the onus to establish initial eligibility must rest with the persons concerned. It is essential therefore that persons who believe they are entitled to subsidised pharmaceutical benefits, should make application to the Department of Social Services or, in the case of migrants, to the Department of Health as soon as the changes become effective.
The Government has also considered the position of certain members of friendly societies who joined prior to 24th April 1964 and who, under their lodge rules, are entitled to receive varying levels of rebates on the present 50c patient contribution for benefit items dispensed by friendly societies’ dispensaries. The Government has decided to allow society dispensaries to rebate the proposed $1 patient contribution in whole or in part to those members who joined the societies prior to 24th April 1964.
The third purpose of the Bill is to incorporate into the schedules to the National Health Act variations made to those schedules by the National Health (Variations of Benefits) Regulations in accordance with section 13a of that Act This section provides that a table in a medical benefit schedule to the Act may be varied by regulation. However, the regulations cease to have effect unless they are ratified by an amendment of the Act within 15 sitting days of the House of Representatives following the expiration of 12 months after notification of the regulation in the Commonwealth Gazette. This particular section was inserted by amendment to the Act in 1970, as part of the reconstruction of the medical benefits segment of the new health benefits plan. It was recognised at that time that adjustments to the schedules would be necessary as more comprehensive data became available regarding fees commonly charged by doctors for medical procedures infrequently carried out. It was also realised that it would be necessary from time to time to fix appropriate amounts for new medical procedures as they were introduced and to adjust Commonwealth and fund benefits for medical services when new common fees were determined.
The National Health (Variation of Benefits) (No. 1) Regulations (Statutory Rules No. 43 of 1971) were notified in the Commonwealth Gazette on 1st April 1971 and came into force on that date. The National Health (Variation of Benefits) (No. 2) Regulations (Statutory Rules No. 75 of 1971) were notified in the Commonwealth Gazette on 24th June 1971 and came into force on 1st July 1971. The variations made to the medical benefit schedules contained in the Variation of Benefits Regulations No. 1 and No. 2 are therefore covered by the present Bill. The regulations which became effective from 1st April 1971 involved amendments to 29 items of the schedules. A number of services not previously listed were introduced into the schedules and in addition the common fees and benefits for some items already listed were varied.
The variations in the most common fees were made because at the time the original list of most common fees was drawn up, information on some services had been incomplete. These amendments from April 1971 resulted from recommendations of the Medical Benefits Schedule Advisory Committee which is a body appointed by the Minister for Health to consider and recommend changes in the benefits schedules. The Committee consists of representatives of the Australian Medical Association, the registered medical benefits organisations and the Department of Health. The changes to the medical benefit schedule made by the regulations which became operative from 1st July 1971 were much more significant in their scope than the previous regulations, although not as many in number. The most significant feature of these regulations was the increase in Commonwealth and fund benefits in most States for the important general practitioner surgery consultations and home visits to meet the increases in the most common fees for those services as from 1st July 1971.
When the new common fee system was introduced on 1st July 1970 both the Government and the Australian Medical Association recognised the necessity for periodic reviews of medical fees to take account oi economic circumstances, lt was decided that there should be a review of the most common fees at 2-yearly intervals and that the first review would have effect from 1st July 1971. These regulations incorporate the changes made to the most common fees for surgery consultations and home visits as a result of a review of common fees. Consequential adjustments were also necessary to fees for 11 other medical services which, for fees and benefit purposes, are equated to general practitioner surgery consultations. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711013_senate_27_s50/>.