27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I desire to make a statement on behalf of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). I wish to inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) is leaving Australia today to visit the United States of America and Britain for discussions with President Nixon and Mr Heath on matters of mutual concern. Mr McMahon is expected to return to Australia in the middle of November. During his absence Mr Anthony will be acting as Prime Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Government call for the results of the research being undertaken by North Australia Rubber Mills Ltd of Brisbane which has introduced Australia’s first 4-day working week and relate them to the urgent need for a proposed recreation and sports policy for Australia to meet the anticipated leisure crisis due to automation, reduced working week and daylight saving?
The honourable senator asks whether the Government will call for these results. Perhaps the phrase ‘call for the results’ is not quite apt. I think it is appropriate that the Government should seek information in relation to a matter which may have an implication for national policy. I shall therefore direct the question to the Minister for Labour and National Service and suggest to him that, pursuant to the honourable senator’s question, it would be appropriate to seek the results, impressions or other information available on the point that he raises.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: On 30th September I asked whether because of the alteration to the National Service Act personnel who elected to serve for 6 years in the Citizen Militray Forces in lieu of 2 years national service training would be discharged after 5 years service, whether they would be permitted to resign, or whether they would be automatically discharged. Has any decision been made on this matter? Can the Minister say what will happen as far as these lads are concerned?
– The Minister’s response to the question has not yet reached me. 1 shall give a reminder today to see whether I can give the honourable senator the information tomorrow.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it correct that, as one correspondent states, the United Nations is carried on in the main by the United States of America’s largesse, that many other members, particularly the Soviet Union, have failed to meet their financial obligations to the organisation and that the United Nations is hence drifting info a state of bankruptcy? What is the constitutional position regarding votes taken in that body of countries failing to meet their membership obligations?
– This was a vexed question 2 or 3 years ago. I would have to take time to refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs the promptness of payment of contributions by members of the United Nations to get reliable information on it. We all know that the contribution by the United States of America to the maintenance of the United Nations is undoubtedly the most significant contribution made by any country. With regard to the constitutional position, while membership was retained a member whose subscriptions were in default would not be disqualified from voting.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the serious irregularities in the electoral rolls, as disclosed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council election on Saturday, 23rd
October last, will the Minister for the Interior conduct an immediate inquiry into the reasons why so many electors were disfranchised? Further, will the Minister take the necessary action^ in conformity with the Electoral Act, to ensure that all eligible persons in the Northern Territory are correctly enrolled before the next election?
– I am sure that the responsible Minister, the Minister for the Interior, who, as the honourable senator well knows is in the other place, would be as aware of any irregularities as the honourable senator is. If there have been any, as the honourable senator has suggested, the Minister with the help of officers of his Department will be directing his attention to them. I cannot say more than that, but I shall direct the question to the Minister for his information and response.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, relates to the FI I ) aircraft. Have the evaluations of that aircraft reached the stage at which the Minister is able to report upon its acceptability or otherwise to Australia? If not. will the report be made before the Parliament rises for the Christmas recess? Has there been any final resolution of the amounts which may be payable for storing the aircraft? If so, what payments by Australia are likely?
– I am sure that the honourable senator will recall that in the Fraser-Laird agreement of last year it was agreed between Australia and the United States of America that certain static and fatigue tests should be carried out and that the results of these tests should be made known by October of this year. Some of these tests have fallen behind schedule and information in regard to them is still coming through. Other tests have been completed, and officials of my Department at present are studying reports of those tests. I hope that very shortly a submission will be placed before the Cabinet so that early in December a decision can be made about whether there is sufficient evidence to go ahead with the ordering of the Fill.
– They were ordered in 1963.
– I mean to take delivery of them. I stand corrected. The amount for storage has not been finalised yet; so I can give the honourable senator no information beyond that which I gave him the last time he asked a similar question.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to reports that preliminary census figures show that Australia has the greatest percentage - 88.5 per cent - of urban population of any nation and that this percentage represents a big increase in recent years? Will the Minister take up the matter with the Prime Minister to see whether any kind of inquiry into this undesirable trend can be instituted and also what measures can be taken to achieve a greater degree of decentralisation?
Yes, I was prompted to look at the figures circulated. Therefore my attention has been drawn to the Press report about decentralisation. I should mention that the Commonwealth and State Officials Committee on Decentralisation has co-ordinated a range of studies on this subject in recent years. I understand that the Committee is at the stage of finalising its report and that it is to meet again next month. The report will draw upon the studies to which I have referred and, when it is completed, will receive consideration by the Commonwealth and State Governments. However, I should point out also that the Commonwealth has done more in the interests of decentralisation than is generally appreciated. For example, a wide range of measures introduced over recent years, including those announced in the last Budget, have been designed to assist primary industries. I have in mind the rural reconstruction scheme and the wool deficiency payments scheme. Other examples are mining and mineral exploration incentives and the petroleum prices equalisation scheme. In addition, particular localities have benefited by, for example, the establishment of military facilities and Commonwealth assistance for universities and other educational institutions.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Of the nursing home patients in respect of whom Commonwealth benefits are payable, what percentage are in nursing homes operated by non-profit organisations and what percentage are in nursing homes operated by profit oriented organisations?
I am able to extract that information from a document that I have before me. As at 30th June, 46,750 beds in nursing homes attracted the Commonwealth benefit. It will be appreciated that that is the total number of beds in hospitals, nursing homes and institutions and that it does not necessarily follow that at all times there are 46,750 people in those places. The 46,750 beds which attract the Commonwealth benefit are in 1,194 nursing homes. No less than 823 of those nursing homes are privately conducted, 320 are run by voluntary organisations and 51 are owned and controlled by State governments. No less than 54 per cent of the 46,750 beds are in privately conducted homes. I know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was merely seeking information, but perhaps I could add that we have an equal responsibility to folk in those homes and to patients in nursing homes conducted by voluntary organisations and the States. It is the care of the patient which is the profound consideration in this matter - not the issue of who conducts the hospital or home.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has his attention been drawn to an article in today’s ‘West Australian’ claiming that the wool deficiency payments scheme will not benefit the average wool grower? Is there any substance in the charge that it will protect only the brokers?
– I have seen the article referred to by the honourable senator and I am quite sure that he, as well as many other honourable senators, will be aware of the views of Mr Pedlow on the private buying of wool in Western Australia. The wool deficiency payments scheme has as its sole purpose the payment to growers of a price support through registered private buyers or through the brokers. I believe that it would be much more costly and clumsy to operate the scheme in any other way. I remind the Senate that the price support scheme is based on the average price obtained for wool at auction. The Australian Wool Commission uses statistical information which is obtained through the auction system. Therefore this scheme has been introduced to meet a present problem facing the wool industry. It will give the wool industry a breathing space to look at these problems and try to use methods to overcome them.
– Is the Acting Minister for Immigration satisfied that the screening procedure which was applied to United Kingdom migrants following the Biggs episode has proved effective in the light of the revelation which occurred during the recent Qantas Airways Ltd robbery trial?
– I understand the point which the honourable senator is trying to make. 1 know that he will understand that the person to whom I am sure he is referring is at present under a process of trial by law. With that situation in mind I do not think that I should comment in the Senate upon any records which might be available about that person. I will be happy to discuss the general problem with the honourable senator if he would like to do so. I am sure he will understand that I am precluded from saying anything more than that.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of allegations published in the Melbourne paper ‘News Weekly’ of 20th October 1971 that the Soviet Ambassador to Australia, Mr Nicolai Mesiatsev, has personally tried-
– Order! Senator, are you quoting from a newspaper?
– No. I am referring to a newspaper article.
– You may refer to an article but, in accordance with my ruling of yesterday, you may not quote from it.
– 1 am not quoting. Is the Minister aware that the Soviet Ambassador to Australia, Mr Nicolai Mesiatsev had personally tried to persuade 2 recent defectors from the Soviet Union to return home? Is the Minister aware that the same article further alleges that on 17th February 1971 Mr V. E. Toulaev, the second secretary of the consular section of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, personally led a party to a home in Auburn, Sydney, and sought by great psychological pressure-
– Order! Senator, please resume your place. Yesterday I ruled that I would not allow quotations from newspapers. The honourable senator may refer to a newspaper report but he is not to quote from it. I gave this ruling because one cannot vouch for the accuracy of a report.
– May I rephrase my question?
– Yes . Resume your seat for the moment and I shall give you time to rephrase it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether a liquor licence was granted for the Gove Peninsula area in the Northern Territory after a court in camera hearing. Was the granting of an open licence and not a club licence contrary to the expressed wish of the Aboriginal people in the area? Because of the nature of the in camera hearing, were the Aboriginal elders unable to express their opposition before the court? Is such a procedure - without hearing all interests concerned - contrary to the accepted practice of court hearings? Will the Minister withhold the issuing of a licence until such time as an opportunity has been given to all interested people to be heard?
– This question concerns a series of events about which I have no knowledge whatsoever. The Minister for fee Interior is represented here by me. I do not know anything about the court hearing, the proposed issuing of a liquor licence or the interests of the Aboriginals - plus or minus - in the case. As soon as T can I shall try to find out the circumstances and the actual position for the honourable senator. I shall suggest to the Minister that he take note of the honourable senator’s remarks.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Works. Has any action been taken by the Department of Works to enable the people of Perth to view the photographic display of work of government architects which has been featured in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide recently? The original display in Sydney coincided with the centenary celebrations of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
– The display to which the honourable senator refers had great success in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. In consequence it has been decided to make the display available in Perth at the David Jones Ltd store on 29th November and the following 10 or 12 days. I may add that it is a display which features not only contemporary architectural performance in the shape of airports and high rise buildings but also old prints of architectural drawings made 80 or 100 years ago and architectural features of a special historic nature that we are beginning to appreciate more and more in connection with our preservation of historic buildings.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Why, in the Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1971, is a section of wool growers, mainly in Western Australia, who sell under a respectable and condoned method - that is, private selling - discriminated against in the distribution of Commonwealth funds by having a subsidy paid on a lesser sum than is paid to those growers who sell at auction? Is it true that associated wool brokers will receive approximately $250,000 to alter their computers to adjust account sales to growers for the purpose of eliminating subsidy payment on excluded wools?
– I assure the honourable senator that no discrimination is necessarily made against those who sell wool privately. The private buyer who is not undercutting the market should be able to pay to the grower an amount which with the deficiency payment would result in the grower receiving the same net amount as he would receive if he had sold at auction. In regard to the amount of money cited by the honourable senator as the sum that will be made available in this respect, the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry has, with the approval of the Minister for Primary Industry, the power to make payments on behalf of the Commonwealth to registered persons for the performance of certain functions. The second reading speech on the Bill states that brokers will need to re-programme their electronic data processing equipment, so payments will be made available for this purpose. However, at this time I cannot give the honourable senator the total cost because I do not know how many pieces of equipment will need to be re-programmed. No payment will be made to the brokers for doing the work carried out with deficiency payments.
– I refer the Minister for Civil Aviation to the answer which he gave to my question yesterday about the Concorde. As the Australian Academy of Science has been asked for a judgment on the effect of the Concorde on the upper atmosphere, I ask: First, could the Minister ensure that Qantas Airways Limited does not take up its Concorde options until after the Academy has published its report? Secondly, can the Minister give an assurance that he will match the atmospheric study against the economic study before Qantas exercises its options on the Concorde? Thirdly, will the Minister make the reasons for his decisions public?
– Yesterday I tried to Indicate that there was quite a wide range of information to be sought by all people involved with the Concorde before any decision would be made by Qantas Airways Ltd. One part of that is a study of the upper atmosphere problem. This is being conducted by the Academy of Science. Certainly, the results of this will be taken into account in making a judgment as to whether or not the aircraft should be purchased by Qantas for use by that operator. Some information was published today - I think in the ‘Financial Review’ - which extends considerably the comment on this matter. lt mentions in one part that a British report indicates quite clearly that the SST Concorde presents no problem in this area. Another problem regarding the Concorde is its economic operation by airlines which might be able to use it. The honourable senator may be assured that the Government, to the extent to which it is involved in this decision, will take into account every possible factor that bears on the problem.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise been drawn to figures released in Canberra yesterday showing that wine consumption per capita dropped by 2 per cent during the last financial year following the introduction of the 50c a gallon excise charge- - a situation referred to very aptly as ‘excise bottles up wine growth’? I hesitate to mention the source of this caption, but I might say that I admire it very much. Is it a fact that, allowing for the population and tourist increase factor, total wine sales rose by only an infinitesimal .01 per cent as against a 10 per cent increase recorded over recent years? As stocks of wine in 1970-71 have increased by 5 per cent over the previous year’s stocks and the incidence of detriment to the industry has a critically adverse impact on the bulkproducing grower-owned co-operatives in Australia whose ability to process and store the coming vintage of grower members is now in grave doubt, what action is contemplated by the Government to ensure that grapes will not wither on the vine in the coming vintage?
– Order! I well understand Senator Laucke’s desire in this matter. I might even share it. But one of my predecessors in this chair ruled as follows, and I quote it for the benefit of all honourable senators including the honourable senator who has just asked the question:
Detailed information involving considerable preparation should be sought by motion for a return, instead of by question upon notice.
– The honourable senator began by asking whether my attention had been drawn to a series of figures and comments. I must say that it had not been drawn to those figures and comments until he gave them, in quite useful detail, to me and the Senate. I know of his very great concern as a senator from South Australia and his continuing interest in the problem as it affects the industry at large and in particular as both he and I are consumers of his State’s products from time to time. I will direct all his comments to the Minister who is responsible for this matter and who is in the other place, pointing out the details that he has given to me and asking what is proposed to be done to examine these figures and whether there is any proposal for remedial action.
– I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is aware that recently an Australian Democratic Labor Party senator attended, I believe by invitation, as an observer at the presidential elections in South Vietnam. Is the Minister able to say who issued the invitation? Has he any knowledge of the reasons why invitations were not extended to members of the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Country Party? Was any part of the cost of this trip borne by this Government? Finally, does he know of any reason why an invitation would be restricted to such a narrowly based section of Australian political opinion?
I am not aware of the circumstances in which one our our senators, Senator Byrne, was invited to visit Vietnam. I am sure it would have been a very worthwhile and informative visit. I suggest to the honourable senator that he should ask Senator Byrne and get the information. Having got it, perhaps he could frame a subsequent question.
– Mr President-
– Does the honourable senator want to ask a supplementary question?
– Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson asked me to address my question to Senator Byrne.
– No, I did not say that. I said the honourable senator should ask him personally, not here in the chamber.
– Order! Senator Devitt, do you wish to ask a supplementary question?
– I asked the question. I have not yet got an answer.
– Do you wish to ask a supplementary question?
– Yes. I ask whether invitations were extended to the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Labor Party also to send observers to the recent presidential election in South Vietnam.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not in a position to give an answer because I do not know. Since that question comes within my responsibility as the Minister representing the Prime Minister I will seek information on it. As to the first part of the original question, perhaps I did not convey my message to the honourable senator. 1 intended that he should ask Senator Byrne personally, not publicly here in the chamber.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Housing advise the Senate whether finality has been reached between the Commonwealth and the States concerning the new Commonwealth and Slate housing agreement? If so, can he provide any information on the terms of the new agreement? Can he tell us whether legislation ratifying it will be presented to this Parliament before it rises in December?
– All States have agreed to the proposition. Stating it from memory, it will be recalled that the arrangement provides for an annual grant from the Commonwealth to the States of $2.75m over a period of 30 years. That is to be supplemented by an additional new grant of $1.25m for special housing needs, making a total annual grant of $4m. That contrasts with the 1 per cent interest benefit that accrued under the previous Commonwealth and State housing agreement. The figure escapes me, but in financial terms it was between $lm and $2m a year.
MEDICAL BENEFITS Senator POKE- Can the Minister for Health inform the Senate when an item number will be designated under the Commonwealth schedule of medical benefits for the service of venipuncture? Is the Minister aware that persons who have received the service of venipuncture are unable to collect Commonwealth medical benefit payments until the Government allocates an item number?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAn item number might be designated in a number of circumstances. If it is a matter that has to be referred to the special committee set up to evaluate an item, that is one aspect of the question. If the honourable senator is referring to a technical problem I will be able to give him a very quick detailed reply after question time. I will have the issue examined. I will give him an answer, if not today, certainly tomorrow at question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Will he inform the Senate whether any proposition to amalgamate the Government Aircraft Factories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation is being investigated? If such an amalgamation is being considered, will he inform the Senate of the circumstances surrounding such contemplation and will the Parliament be fully informed before any commitments are entered into?
– I am only the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Supply. I will have to approach the Minister and obtain an answer to the question asked by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Has the Minister observed thai, according to the census figures released recently, the population of the Australian Capital Territory is increasing more than 4 times faster than that of Australia? Does he realise that if this population trend continues there will be before very long more people in the Australian Capital Territory than in, for instance, Tasmania? In view of the fact that Canberra produces little more than government, will the Minister give consideration to arresting this unenviable growth rate and thus assist decentralisation?
– I am aware that the population of the Australian Capital Territory is increasing at a very fast rate. I think it is increasing at a rate second only to that of Darwin in the Northern Territory. I am not quite sure whether that is still correct, but it was the case a little while ago. The increase in the Australian Capital Territory is consistent with a couple of things. Australia is increasingly becoming a nation of importance and its national capital is becoming a place of increasing importance. Because of this the Australian Capital Territory is attracting increasing numbers of people and increasing numbers of departments. There has also been a very impressive increase in the level of tourism in the Australian Capital Territory. The figures on this aspect were given about 3 weeks ago in answer to a question asked by an honourable senator. Those figures were quite interesting. I think something like 1,600,000 people came to the Australian Capital Territory last year as tourists. All in all, I think one should expect this trend to continue. I am unable to suggest any method by which this trend might be decreased in order that the population of some other part of Australia might be increased. I think the trend is a natural one. The only way in which one can alter population trends of this kind is to have an authoritarian regime, of which I do not approve.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, relates to reports of statements made in Melbourne by officers of a Victorian association for the retarded and the Australian Association for the Mentally Retarded which, among other things, referred to the waiting lists for places in education department schools. I ask: Has the Minister noted the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare in its report on handicapped people in Australia that a national advisory council be established to co-ordinate services and facilities for handicapped people? As a further recommendation was that the members of such a council should be appointed by the Minister for Health, will he say whether he has given this matter his attention and, if he has not, whether he will give consideration to such an appointment so that some early studies may be made of this difficult and complex matter?
– The report which was put down was comprehensive. It dealt with matters which came within the direct responsibility of not only the Department of Health but also the Department of Social Services. J can only say at this point of time that that report is currently under critical examination. Inherent in that examination is an examination of how interdepartmental responsibility should best be evaluated. But I can say quite categorically that the report has not just been put away; it is being examined. I have initiated a consideration of all the aspects and recommendations in that report.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that the Department of Health has been repeatedly advised by the National Health and Medical Research Council that measures should be taken to encourage the increased use of low tar cigarettes as against high tar cigarettes? ls it a fact that the new voluntary code for advertising on radio and television which has applied since 1st October includes the following item, which is numbered 11: ‘No claim for reduction of any ingredient from smoke of any cigarette may be included in advertising.’?
Was this code announced by Senator Greenwood, when Minister for Health, on 3rd May last after discussions between State and Commonwealth health authorities, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, cigarette manufacturers and broadcasting and television services? Was this item slipped into the code by the cigarette manufacturers to prevent the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria from advertising on television to the effect that low tar cigarettes are less dangerous than high tar cigarettes? Will the Minister recommend to the Postmaster-General, as the Minister responsible for policing the voluntary code, that the item I have quoted be removed from the code?
– The honourable senator has asked a whole series of questions, many of which will need reference to my Department to obtain answers. That will be done. I feel bound in the short term to say to him, as he referred to decisions taken by the previous Minister for Health, that the new voluntary code became operative from 1st October. If I understood the honourable senator correctly, I think he should have some reservations in suggesting that it was the ultimate development or that it was discussed and decisions taken as far back as he suggested. It may well be so.
However, the honourable senator also referred to the exclusion from television of a certain anti-cancer advertisement. Again I will have to check on the voluntary code. My understanding, reached before I became Minister for Health, is that the advertisement was ruled out because it was pitched, not as a general advertisement against smoking in terms of the anti-cancer group, but directly to a particular company and one type of cigarette. I understand that to be the reason why the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had the advertisement excised. But I will need to check that point with the Postmaster-General’s Department. I will certainly do that. The honourable senator raised a number of other matters and I will have a comprehensive reply prepared for him, in the same way that I will supply answers to honourable senators to whom I promised answers yesterday.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs any knowledge of the allegation that on 17th February 1971, Mr V. E. Tulayev, the second secretary of the consular section of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, personally led a party of men to a home in Auburn, Sydney, and sought by great psychological pressure to persuade Dr Soloviev, a defector, to return to the Soviet Union? Is it true that Soviet diplomatic personnel need the Government’s permission to travel outside a 40-mile radius of Canberra? Did Mr Tulayev seek such permission to travel to Sydney in February this year? If so, what reason did he give for his visit, the purpose of which, if this allegation is true, would appear to have no connection whatsoever with normal diplomatic business?
– I am sure that the honourable senator would be the first to acknowledge the need for absolute precision in answering a question such as he has asked. In those circumstances I would like to refer the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for personal attention so that the honourable senator may receive the earliest possible answer.
– In addressing my question to the Minister for Works, 1 have no doubt that he will be well aware that an adequacy of trained personnel will be of great importance to the future development and stability of Papua New Guinea, particularly after it has been granted independence. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the action being taken by his Department to train local personnel?
– I am grateful to the honourable senator for raising a matter to which the Director-General of Works and I gave quite considerable attention in our recent tour of Papua New Guinea. We are very conscious of the need to be thinking of the advent of independence. At the present time we have 23 local personnel who are trained as technical assistants and draft assistants, and I saw some of them at work. Since 1963 the Department has trained 300 apprentices through to tradesman status and at the present time we have nearly 50 apprentices receiving training. In addition to that, the most significant fact may be that whereas 4 years ago 40 per cent of our plant operators were local personnel today 80 per cent of plant operators are local personnel. May I just add, as a matter of interest concerning not the Department of Works but the Bougainville operation, that the degree to which local plant operators were employed there was indeed striking, so much so that the drivers of the 105-ton trucks were all local personnel.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that approximately 2 weeks ago he adivsed me in a written reply to a question that there would be no more dismissals of employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works in Queensland before Christmas 1971. Is the Minister now aware that because of an alleged shortage of work at Amberley 50 employees of his Department face imminent dismissal? I ask the Minister whether he can again state publicly that such dismissals will not take place.
– I well remember the reply that I gave to the honourable senator about a fortnight ago to the effect that on our assessment of the work load in Queensland - in Brisbane and the country districts - it was expected that the retrenchment of personnel in our Department would be nil. With regard to the honourable senator’s reference to the situation at Amberley, I shall have to check with my Department and I undertake to give him an early reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government subsidy on homes built in the Northern Territory by the Northern Territory Housing Commission has not been increased since 1962? Is the Housing Commission in Darwin now required to purchase land and meet costs of servicing building sites which amount to approximately $3,000 for each home? If the answers are in the affirmative, will the Minister recommend a substantial increase in the Commonwealth Government subsidy to ensure that rents on these homes are maintained at a reasonable level?
– I know a little about this matter. There is a subsidy on home construction in the Northern Territory. I cannot tell the date on which it was first introduced, nor its quantum, nor when it has been reviewed. I will need to find out these things. I am sure the honourable senator would be concerned, as most people are concerned, about the tremendous cost of building homes and other things in the Northern Territory, and he would share the anxiety of the Government to do what it can to ensure, if possible, that these activities are not in any way reduced. I cannot say more than that.
I shall be as helpful as possible to the honourable senator by directing the question to the responsible Minister and getting what information I can obtain for him.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise receive on 12th October 1971 a report by Sir Leslie Melville, K.B.E., on oil industry terms and conditions for refining of indigenous crude oil on behalf of independent marketers? Has that report been distributed to members of Parliament? Is the report which has been distributed to members of Parliament the full report as presented by Sir Leslie Melville? Further, when can it be expected that the Government will announce its decision in relation to that report?
– I understand that the Minister for Customs and Excise, whom I represent in this place, tabled that report in the House of Representatives yesterday. I have it with me to table in the Senate today when the tabling of reports is called on. Beyond that I cannot comment until I refer the honourable senator’s question to the responsible Minister. The question as to when action will be taken by the Government is for that Minister and for total Government decision.
– I direct to the Minister for Works a question following upon his answer about the training of indigenous personnel in Papua New Guinea. Can he give some indication as to how the rates of pay for indigenous plant operators compare with those for white plant operators?
– It is known to everybody that there is a wage level that the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly, supporting the Government there, is most careful to preserve lest the diseconomies of extravagant wage rises imperil the future advancement of true prosperity in the Territory. Having regard to that, there is a disparity between the wages paid to local plant operators and the wages paid to their counterparts in Australia. That would be well known.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the grave concern being expressed by the Corporation of the City of Whyalla, the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce and the Spencer Gulf Cities Association at the proposed transfer of the engineers and telecommunications section of the Postmaster-General’s Department from Whyalla to Kadina, will the Minister request the PostmasterGeneral to postpone this transfer to enable these Spencer Gulf bodies to make representation for the retention of this section at Whyalla?
– The general matters raised by the honourable senator’s question were canvassed in a statement made by the Postmaster-General in the House of Representatives yesterday. At the earliest opportunity available to me today I propose to table that statement or to ask for it to be incorporated in Hansard. I think that when the honourable senator reads that statement he will find that there has been some change in the situation which was announced by the PostmasterGeneral on 16th September.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform the Parliament whether an investigation into the drinking habits of Canberra people will commence in the Australian Capital Territory on 2nd November - Melbourne Cup day? Is it also a fact that drivers of motor vehicles will be stopped at random and that it is intended to interview 3,500 motorists in the survey? Will the persons carrying out the survey be unqualified civilians? What will be the legal rights of a motorist who refuses to stop or who refuses to submit to questioning or a breath test?
– I certainly do not know whether it is intended to carry out a check of driving habits in the Australian Capital Territory on Melbourne Cup day. I shall have to direct the question to the responsible Minister. The question is a detailed one. I can only ask the honourable senator to put it on the notice paper.
– Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that there is great apprehension among the staffs of current affairs programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission following a memorandum issued recently by the commissioners which revealed the commissioners’ deliberations on ABC current affairs programmes and which criticised and castigated some interviewers for being too hectoring in their approach? Is it true that recently there was considerable criticism by the Queensland and New South Wales branches of the Australian Country Party of the type of programming and the manner of reporting on the programme This Day Tonight’, and is it true that recently there was appointed as a commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Commission the Chairman of the Bonnie Doon branch of the Australian Country Party? Will the Government give an assurance that the executive producer and journalists employed on the programme This Day Tonight’ will be allowed to remain unbridled and to carry out their journalistic work of producing and presenting programmes of an adequate and comprehensive nature serving the best interests of the Australian community, and that no political pressure of any kind will be tolerated in any circumstances on the ABC’s current affairs programmes?
– The honourable senator asks me whether I am aware of certain apprehension felt in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I must say that I am not aware of it because, I must confess, I know very few persons in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. But the honourable senator then proceeds to suggest that because a person is a member of the Australian Country Party, or because Country Party branches express a point of view, in some way membership of that Party or the expression of views by that Party is to be deplored. I think I should assert that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent autonomous commission and, as such, is not amenable to the influences, pressures or directions of any party or any person, any government or any opposition. I think the question proceeds on an entirely erroneous assumption that the members of the
Australian Broadcasting Commission can be influenced in the way that the honourable senator suggests. I am not able to give any assurance as to whether or not persons in the employ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will continue in its employ because that is a matter for its commissioners to determine. One expects that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will preserve its independence and will preserve as much objectivity as it can in the presentation of its programmes. I think that sort of approach is the one that we ought to canvass and base our questions upon with regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I ask the Minister for Works a question. If, as he states, the rates for plant operators in Papua New Guinea are so well known, will he kindly give that information to the Senate, as I asked in my previous question? If he does nol know the exact amount that is paid, will he give some idea of what percentage or proportion of the wages paid to other employees is paid to indigenes?
– What I said in answer to the honourable senator’s earlier question was not that the wages of plant operators were well known but that the disparity between the wages of local or indigenous plant operators and of their counterparts in Australia was well known. It would not be in accordance with my practice to attempt to give such statistical detail without reference to documents. I shall make the earliest reference and give the honourable senator substantial information of the detail at the earliest opportunity.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. By way of preface I refer to the recent statement by the Council of the New South Wales Bar Association condemning the alleged lack of safeguards for people called before Federal parliamentary committees. Inter alia, the Bar Council warned of the danger of personal denigration by members of such committees of witnesses appearing before them. Is it a fact that within a couple of days of the publication of the Bar Council’s statement a witness appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, represented and presumably advised by the President of the New South Wales Bar Council, Mr Gordon Samuels, Q.C., and indulged in a scathing and intemperate attack on the credit of another witness who had appeared before the Committee a few days earlier? Does the AttorneyGeneral consider that the Bar Council’s case is weakened by the association of its President with such conduct by his client?
– I do not doubt that the broad factual situation to which the honourable senator refers is correct. The Council of the New South Wales Bar Association published a report. It made the comments which the honourable senator has suggested it made. As I understand the situation the President of the Bar Council, acting in a professional capacity, appeared with a person who gave evidence before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. I do not desire to express any opinion on the propriety or impropriety of any conduct by a member of the legal profession who represented his client and who would undoubtedly act in the interests of his client as he thought best. I feel that the issues raised by the honourable senator ought to concern the legal profession, all members of Parliament and certainly members of the Senate. I am sure that the considerations raised by the Bar Council will be given every consideration by me and by those who work on Senate committees. I think the general circumstances to which the honourable senator has adverted indicate that the problem is not free from difficulty.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. What liaison have officers of the Department of Health with United States health authorities who are experimenting with a form of pill to replace the traditional needle as a key weapon in vaccination?
– I shall seek information from my Department. If it is available I shall give it to the honourable senator as early as possible.
– Mr President, I direct a question to you. It arises out of the question asked by Senator James McClelland. Have you read the editorials which have recently appeared attacking the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange? Are you aware that in New South Wales there is a massive lobby operating to intimidate this Committee and, in some way, to intimidate future committees? I ask: When is the Privileges Committee going to investigate the whole of this area and come down with some guidelines for the satisfaction not only of the public in general but also of members who serve on these committees and who are embarrassed by these statements and editorials?
– I make the general comment that the whole problem of committees has been causing me some concern. It has become a problem since I have been elected to this office by honourable senators. I have instituted a wide ranging series of papers from the Senate secretariat in relation to the whole question of privilege. If the honourable senator will be kind enough to allow me to defer this matter for consideration overnight I shall make a statement in the Senate tomorrow.
- Mr President, I ask you whether, when you are preparing that statement, you will take into account the fact that earlier this year the Senate referred to the Privileges Committee the whole question of the rights, immunities, duties and protection of honourable senators and also the proceedings of the Senate and its committees in relation to members of the public? That Committee is engaged on the task of reporting to the Senate on exactly what ought to be the guidelines in each of these areas.
– I will give the honourable senator that undertaking.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. The answer which he gives, Mr President, may have some reference to the statement which you intend to make to the Senate tomorrow. Has the Government sought advice from the Attorney-General as to the limits and bounds of action of the various parliamentary committees in the Federal Parliament? Has the Attorney-General supplied the Government with such advice? When will the Senate be notified of that advice?
– I think it is well known that the Prime Minister in approximately April or May of this year charged my predecessor as AttorneyGeneral with the task of undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the work of parliamentary committees and also of parliamentary privilege.
– But for the House of Representatives only.
– I hear Senator Rae commenting behind me that it was in regard to the House of Representatives. I think the Prime Minister indicated that particular reference would be made to the House of Representatives, but naturally any inquiry of the character which is to be undertaken does comprehend the work of parliamentary committees of either chamber and also parliamentary privilege in respect of either chamber. That work has been proceeding over the past months and a considerable amount of work has been done. I am not able to say when the work will be completed but as soon as it has been completed it will be submitted to the Government for its attention.
– Before this matter is concluded, I wish to ask a question of the Attorney-General. Will he, in dealing with this matter and in reporting to the Government, take care to see to it that the Executive branch of Government does not intrude in this inquiry into the proper role of the Parliament and, in particular, into the proper role of this Senate? Will the Attorney-General bear in mind also that the Privileges Committee of which he is a member is engaged currently on this very task of defining what are the limits and what ought to be the rights and duties of the various persons concerned, whether they be members of Senate committees or members of the public? I ask him: Will he undertake that what is being done by him will be advisory merely?
– I think I can assure the honourable senator that I will take account of all the matters which he has raised. 1 think it is wrong, however, to draw a dichotomy between the Executive branch and the proper role of Parliament in the contextin which this inquiry is being made. After all, the Attorney-General is a member of the Parliament and naturally is concerned with the rights of parliamentarians. The members of the Government are all members of the Parliament. Indeed, any decision which is made in this area must be a decision which is acceptable to the members of the Parliament. It would appear proper that the Prime Minister should have instituted this inquiry when he did because it required some initiative to be taken in order to resolve matters which for a long time have been regarded as requiring resolution. As a result of that initiative, work is now being undertaken.
(Question No. 1430)
asked the Acting
Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Was consideration given to the Inclusion of a post-war immigration trade unionist in the trade union representation on the present Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, when the members of the Council were appointed? If so, what were the reasons for not including one?
– The Acting Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Appointments to the Council are made by the Minister for Immigration on the basis of nominations sought from representative organisations.In relation to the trade union representation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions was invited to submit 3 nominations. The representatives whom the ACTU nominated were Messrs R. J. Hawke, H. J. Souter and T. Dougherty.
(Question No. 1455)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
In view of the increasing number of dogs being imported into Australia, does the Government intend to replace the quarantine station at Dobroyd Point in New South Wales with an island station.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The animal quarantine station in New South Wales is located at Abbotsford. There is no intention of replacing this station with an island station.
(Question No. 1198)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1199)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Have any figures been taken out by the Department of Health for the December quarter of 1970 and the March and June quarters of 1971 to indicate the percentage of all specialist medical fees that were at or below the common fee levels in each of the various States; if so, what are the respective percentages.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Yes. The following figures have been extracted from surveys of claims processed by the principal registered medical benefits organisations in each State.
The above details relate to items 9 to 18 covering referred specialist and consultant physician consultations and items in the First Schedule to the National Health Act with the symbol ‘S’ The symbol ‘S’ denotes that the item covers ‘the service specified in the item when rendered by a specialist in the practice of his specialty to a patient who has been referred to him’. The symbol ‘G’ covers the service when the patient has not been referred, or is outside the specialty of the specialist, or is performed by a medical practitioner who is not a specialist. Most items do not have either one of the symbols ‘G’ or ‘S’ and for these services there are no differential common fees or benefits.
(Question No. 1272)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In Australia similar warnings would be required if the product contained a scheduled poison. This is a matter for each State, the Commonwealth being responsible only in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.
Such information is obtained mainly through the following sources:
The Poisons Schedule Sub-Committee of the
National Health and Medical Research Council is the main avenue through which liaison is effected. In addition, the Public Health Branch of my Department maintains a continuous liaison with Stale Departments of Health.
(Question No. 1409)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1418)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1431)
asked the Acting
Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
In what way can immigrant ethnic groups make submission to Committees to be set up by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council to study aspects of immigration integration, as announced in the Department of Immigration News Release’ No. 40/71 of 17th September 1971.
– The answer tothe honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In accordance with the expressed wish of the Minister for Immigration, it is the intention of Committees of the Immigration Advisory Council to consult ethnic groups on aspects of migrant integration which they, are to study.
Any written submissions which immigrant ethnic groups may wish to make to the Committees should be addressed to the Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council, Senator G. S. Davidson, c/o The Executive Officer of the Council, Department of Immigration, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600.
(Question No. 1435)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1450)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement made to a Court in New South Wales, in support of a drug addict, to the effect that a gaol sentence would be a slow death for the victim; if so, and as the Report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in Australia strongly supports this point of view, what action has been taken by the Department of Health to implement those recommendations of the Committee which deal withthe treatment, rather than imprisonment, of drug addicts.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I have noted newspaper reports of this statement. The Courts in Australian have discretionary powers concerning penalties for drug addicts and the offender may not necessarily be imprisoned. With regard to the Senate Committee recommendation that every facility should be afforded for the addict’s medical rehabilitation, this recommendation centres around the adequacy of available facilities for treatment and rehabilitation.
The Senate Committee’s recommendations are at present under consideration by the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence and the Mental Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council.
I must point out, however, that implementation of any recommendations will be primarily a matter for individual States, the Commonwealth having responsibility in this field only in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.
(Question No. 1477)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Are charges by a medical practitioner for a second prescription, provided for repeat issues of medicine, levied on the basis of$1 for a nonmember of a medical benefits fund and $2.50 for a member of such a fund; if so, will the Minister have this anomalous situation rectified.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am not aware of any general practice in the medical profession of charging differential fees for insured and non-insured patients for similar services. Commonwealth and fund benefits for insured patients are of course related to the most common fee for a particular service in each State. ft is possible for the circumstances connected with consultations at which repeat prescriptions arc provided to vary and any charge made by the doctor could vary accordingly.
To qualify for payment of Commonwealth benefit, however, there must be a physical attendance on the patient by the doctor. Telephone or mail requests for repeat prescriptions would accordingly not qualify for payment of benefit even though a charge was made by the doctor.
– Earlier this year Senator Kane asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, the following question:
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry:
Is it a fact that a large tonnage of liquefied petroleum gas was recently shipped by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd to South America and that the price of this gas was about$15 to $16 per ton?
Is it also a fact that the current price of this type of gas from Australian refineries is in excess of $30 a ton?
Can the Minister inform the Senate why the Department of Customs and Excise grants export licences instead of the gas being used inside Australia and thus assisting to reduce the cost of living and the cost of manufacture?
Is it a fact that on long term contracts for liquefied gas for Japan the Esso-BHP price is of the order of $16 to $17 a ton?
Is it also a fact that the total committed for export by Esso-BHP is approximately 1 million tons a year? Can the Minister inform the Senate why this liquefied petroleum gas is not available from Esso-BHP to consumers in Australia at less than $32 a ton?
The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 16th September 1971 Senator Murphy asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, the following question: ls the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware that Dr Paul Ehrlich is a distinguished Professor of Biology at Stanford University and that a few weeks ago he caine to Australia at the invitation of an international science school which is comprised of students from the United Stales of America, Japan, the United Kingdom as well as young Australian students in science?
Can the Minister inform me whether this year the traditional practice is for United States students to be farewelled by the President of the United States and for Japanese students to bc farewelled by the Emperor of Japan. Can the Minister inform me whether this school and the lectures which are given by the distinguished scientists who come here are welcomed by the people of Australia as making a great contribution to the spread of science and to a better understanding between the peoples of the world? Docs the Commonwealth hope that those lectures will continue and that such distinguished contributors will continue to come to Australia?
The Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The international science school is organised by the Science Foundation for Physics -In Sydney. Professor Messel who is the principal m that Foundation, has approached the Commonwealth for a contribution towards the cost of an international science symposium that he wishes to hold under the auspices of the Foundation. The Government is at present giving consideration to Professor Messel’s request.
– On 30th September 1971 Senator Murphy asked me the following question, without notice:
Is the Attorney-General in a position to inform the Senate whether the legislation which has been passed by the New South Wales Parliament in connection with the famous Clutha Development project purports to deal with off-shore territory which is within the legislative power of the Commonwealth or with territory as to which there is a dispute about whether it is within the legislative power of the Commonwealth? If he is not in a position to do so now, will the Attorney-General look into the matter with a view to making a statement to the Senate?
I gave the following reply:
I would find some difficulty in answering the Leader of the Opposition’s question because 1 am not aware as to whether this legislation does have the possible effects to which he adverts. In one sense the answer might be arrived al by simply looking at the terms of the legislation itself. If the answer should appear from such an examination, 1 am quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition would not wish me to take the matter any further. On the other hand if it involved interpreting the scope of the Stale legislation and determining whether that legislation intrudes into a legal area, I would not be able to assure him that 1 would give expression to any opinions which might be formed. I say that because 1 do nol think it is appropriate to give legal opinions in response to questions and this would certainly involve that type of opinion. I understand the Standing Orders are designed to prevent such an opinion being given. But, having said that, I will look into the matter and if I feel, subject to the reservation I have given, that something can be said I will let the Leader of the Opposition know.
I now provide the following further reply:
On 30th September Senator Murphy asked me whether 1 could inform the Senate whether the legislation passed by the New South Wales Parliament in connection with the Clutha Development Company’s proposed mining operations south of Si’dney purported to deal with off-shore territory within the legislative power of the Commonwealth or wilh territory as to which there is a dispute about whether it is within the legislative power of the Commonwealth.
I have given consideration to the New South Wales legislation. Apart from the well-known proposition that there is a plenary power in the States to make laws for the peace, order and good government of their territory and that in certain circumstances such laws may operate extra-territorially, I think it would be impossible for me to reply without expressing a legal opinion. It would not be in accordance with the Standing Orders and the practice of the Senate for me to do so.
On 26th October 1971 Senator Willesee asked me a question concerning the investments by hospital benefits associations. I now provide the following answer:
The reserves of medical and hospital benefits organisations are held in various forms. These include cash at bank, short term money, market, bank fixed deposits, Commonwealth bonds and inscribed stock, semi-government bonds, local government, shares, debentures and mortgages. Most funds hold a very high proportion of their reserves in trustee type investments.
The various types of investments held are such that sufficient funds are always available to meet any contingencies to regard to the payment of claims. While there has been some investment in industrial type stock by some organisations, these have generally yielded satisfactory results.
The Government examined the question of the investment policies of organisations when considering the recommendations made by the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry, into Health Insurance (Nimmo report). It concluded that funds had generally exercised a proper sense of responsibility in the assessment of reserves ?nd that non-trustee investments have provided good returns to the advantage of contributors. The Government therefore decided that the policies followed by organisations in regard to investments should continue without the imposition of specific restrictions.
In relation to medical treatment, the position is that under the pensioner medical service eligible pensioners and their dependants receive general practitioner surgery consultation and hume visits without charge. Most general practitioners participate in these arrangements. It is also customary for pensioners and their dependants to receive medical services without charge during any period of treatment in public hospitals, and specialists’ services are usually available to them without charge through public hospitals. It should therefore bc unnecessary for an eligible pensioner to obtain medical benefits insurance unless, as u matter of personal choice, be elects lo seek treatment from one of the few general practitioners who do not participate in the pensioner medical service or from a private specialist.
The situation regarding hospital insurance is that public hospitals in all States provide public ward treatment free of charge for eligible pensioners and their dependants. The Commonwealth pay> a benefit of S3 per day to the hospital towards the cost of this treatment. It is therefore unnecessary for tin eligible pensioner to have hospital benefits insurance unless he desires to seek accommodation in a private hospital or in an intermediate or private ward of a public hospital. However, if he is accommodated, by his own choice, in a private hospital or in the intermediate or private ward of a public hospital his own doctor will generally charge him fees for his medical treatment. Consequently if he takes out insurance lo cover intermediate or private hospital accommodation he should also lake out medical insurance towards his medical fees. In this case he will be on exactly the same basis as any other citizen. For example, he will be responsible for the difference between the doctor’s fees and his medical benefits.
To summarise, there is generally no need for any eligible pensioner to take out either medical or hospital insurance because the arrangements made by the Commonwealth with the medical profession and public hospitals enable him to get treatment free of charge. However, as a matter of choice he may take out insurance towards the cost of treatment he seeks as a private citizen, in which case his insurance coverage is the same as that of any other citizen. His insurance benefits are subject to the same rules as apply to health insurance generally, including the rule that he is not entitled to benefits for any, amount in excess of hospital charges. In particular if no charge is made by the hospital because he is getting public ward treatment, he is not entitled to insurance benefits except in Queensland where there is a special situation which is currently under review.
The new pensioner medical service entitlements card issued to eligible pensioners clearly described the health services available to them without charge. My Department also publicises the availability of these services and 500,000 copies of a pamphlet titled ‘Pensioner Health Services’ have been distributed since January 1970, mainly through hospitals and private medical practitioners.
To the best of my knowledge health insurance organisations are advising pensioners in accordance with this explanation, but I have asked my Department to take special steps to remind them of what advice they should give pensioners.
– Yesterday Senator Cavanagh asked me a question and 1 promised to seek further information regarding the availability of houses in the Tindal area. There are 1 14 transportable houses at Tindal which were provided for use by the Airfield Construction Squadron when the airfield was being constructed. The Royal Australian Air Force has a continuing need for a number of these houses but is currently negotiating to dispose of the remainder. These negotiations have not yet been finalised.
The houses are designed so that they can be re-located and if agreement is reached for their disposal it will be the RAAF requirement that they should be removed from the Tindal Air Base. The reason for this is that Tindal is used for operational exercises and it would be inconvenient and undesirable for security reasons to have these houses occupied by other than Service personnel in what is a RAAF secure base.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
– I have received the following letter from Senator Murphy: 27 October, 1971
Mr President, ,
In accordance with Standing Order No. 64 I intend u> move today for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 10.59 a.m.
STATEMENT OF MATTER OF URGENCY:
The Government’s neglect in failing to introduce legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
– I move:
I do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The Government’s neglect in failing to introduce legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
– Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I moved that motion in order that the Senate may discuss this most important matter - the Government’s neglect in failing to introduce legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance. There is little doubt that there is a very serious position in the field of accident insurance. I leave aside the life assurance companies. Throughout Australia, with the exception of Queensland, it seems there is not the protection that there ought to be by law for those who have paid premiums and have obtained policies from various companies. I leave aside, of course, the government companies but include all those which are not in the field of general life assurance.
The Commonwealth has clear legislative power in this field and has the assent of the State governments to introduce legislation. There is a need for legislation to protect the public against the collapse of insurance companies with the attendant financial damage and worry that faces people when there is a collapse of the security which they thought they had. Yet the Government has not acted. As long ago as September 1970 the then Prime Minister, the right honourable John Gorton, recognised the importance, the necessity and urgency of this matter and said that action would be taken to have the necessary legislation introduced. The honourable member for Hawker in the House of Representatives, Mr Ralph Jacobi, spoke about this matter in his maiden speech on 19th March 1970 and has since carried on a campaign both inside and outside the Parliament, by questions, by speeches and by articles, in order to have this position remedied. No-one has been more assiduous than he but there have been a great number of supporters in both Houses of this Parliament. Their number is legion and includes the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). In this chamber Senator James McClelland and I, as well as others, have asked questions on the matter.
We have become impatient at the delays that have occurred. Our impatience is shared by others outside this chamber, including representatives of the insurance groups and automobile associations. Indeed, the Liberal Minister for Transport in New South Wales, Mr Morris, spoke very recently about this subject. Perhaps if I mention what he said it will give honourable senators some notion of how important it is that something be done and how little is being done. Mr Morris said that the Federal Government was toying with legislation to protect motorists against shaky vehicle insurance companies. He said:
In normal circumstances the Commonwealth’s delay would be disgraceful but no doubt the regular turnover of Commonwealth Attorneys-General in Canberra has contributed to the situation.
Mr Morris was speaking at the opening of the annual general meeting of the Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce in Sydney. He said that the issue had been raised more than a year ago by Mr Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, with the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, when it became apparent that many insurance companies were in a shaky financial position. Mr Morris said that the control of motor vehicle insurance could be effectively enforced only by the Federal Government. He said that there was no doubt in his mind that the Commonwealth would act, but that he and his Government were disturbed at the time it was taking the Commonwealth to do so.
I shall also refer to what has been said by others in this field. The whole country is concerned about the shaky position of insurance companies. They have been folding up all over the place. Action was taken in the last few weeks in the Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales to have one insurer removed from the register. After 3 days of hearing evidence from actuaries it surrendered its licence. Proceedings have also been taken against another insurance group. Reports have been tabled in the Victorian Parliament about the liquidations that have been occurring. There have been calls on all sides for action to be taken. When I asked a question, which was phrased in pretty important terms, of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in this chamber yesterday he made a most astonishing reply. I will remind honourable senators of the question I asked of the Attorney-General. I asked: h the Attorney-General aware that the Fire and All Risks Insurance Group which -consists ot the Fire and All Risks Insurance Co. Ltd. the Car Owners Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd, Falkirk Insurance Co. and Australian and International Insurance Ltd has come to the attention of the Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales and that a few days ago after evidence given by a number of the judges permission to operate as a compensation insurance company was surrendered by the Fire and All Risks Insurance Co. Ltd and a motion, again instituted from the Commission, has been made similarly in regard to Australian and International Insurance Ltd, and that this action is based on the unsound financial structure of the companies? If the Attorney-General is not aware of these matters, is he aware that a series of incidents concerning insurance companies has occurred which suggests that tens of thousands of people who have paid premiums in good faith have only dubious protection because they are insured with unsound companies? I ask the Minister: How much longer will it be before legislation will be introduced under the insurance power of the Commonwealth to regulate and to supervise fire, accident and other insurance companies including particularly those dealing with motor vehicle insurance, in the same way as is done with life assurance companies by Commonwealth law?
In the light of what had been said over 12 months ago and the criticism the day before by the Minister for Transport in New South Wales, one v/ould have thought that that was a moderate way in which to put the matter to the Attorney-General and a reasonable request to make of him. But listen to the reply which was given by the Attorney-General. He said:
I was not aware of the particular instances to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred; nor am 1 aware that there is a situation in this country whereby tens of thousands of persons may have dubious insurance policies.
The Attorney-General is not aware of that, although reports have been tabled in the Victorian Parliament and details of these matters have been splashed over the pages of Victorian newspapers - I presume he reads them - as well as the national newspapers, i have a file in front of me which contains dozens if not hundreds of articles on this matter. The Attorney-General can have a look at the file if he wants to do so.
I am astonished that the AttorneyGeneral could say in this chamber that he was not aware of a situation in this country whereby tens of thousands of persons may have dubious insurance policies. Not only did he say that he was not aware of it but also he rather suggested that it was wrongful for someone to be raising this matter. He said:
I would hope that any currency would not be given to any such suggestions because I fear that in certain circumstances what is adequate and proper security might cease to be adequate and proper security simply because of a fear which becomes widespread and which, whilst not promoting a ‘run on the banks’, creates great uncertainty in people’s minds as to whether or not they might change their insurance companies and thereby create a problem which is not in existence.
I said to him: ‘I am rather understanding the position, am I not?’ The AttorneyGeneral then said:
I am quite conscious that Senator Murphy did not advert to that possibility. All I will say is that it is a matter which has had some publicity given to it in recent months. As 1 recall the position, certain statements have been made by my predecessor. The general question as to what the Commonwealth Government might do and when it might be done is a matter of policy which I do not take further at this point of time.
Could one have a more incredible statement in October 1971? This matter has been a burning issue for quite some time and a promise was made by the former Prime Minister that remedial action would be taken: yet the Attorney-General tells us in this chamber that the question whether, and if so when, something will be done is a matter of policy. I suggest, with respect, that what was said by the Liberal Minister for Transport in New South Wales was exactly correct, namely, that in normal circumstances the Commonwealth’s delay would be disgraceful but that no doubt the regular turnover of Commonwealth AttorneysGeneral in Canberra has contributed to the situation. This Government’s turnover of Ministers cannot be used any longer as an excuse for inaction. The present Attorney-General has been in office long enough to know what other people in the community know, that is. that action should be taken to protect the public. In the New South Wales Parliament only today Mr Peter Cox, the Labor member for Auburn, said that there were 3 New South Wales motor insurance companies on the verge of collapse.
– Did he say that today?
– Yes, today. He said that they were still collecting premiums, as were a significant number of smaller proprietary companies, some of which had a paid up capital of only $2. He said that this situation had to be stopped immediately. We have passed the time when anyone should want to say: ‘Look, do not scare the people’. The people need to be scared. They need to be sure that they are with a sound insurance company. Above all, some kind of action needs to be taken by this Government. It is no excuse now to say that this is a matter for the States because it is primarily in their field. The States are willing to allow the Commonwealth to legislate. They are not merely requesting but demanding that some kind of action be taken by the Commonwealth, as the Minister for Transport in New South Wales has said. When a Liberal Minister has to describe the inaction of the Commonwealth as disgraceful we have reached the stage where a better answer has to be given by the Attorney-General than to say it is a matter of policy as to whether and when legislation will be introduced.
This matter has been canvassed quite a lot. 1 know that Mr Jacobi and others in the House of Representatives have raised it previously, as have honourable senators in this chamber. As a result of the crashes which had occurred the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said on 8th September 1970 that the Government has given close consideration, in the light of recent developments in the insurance industry, to the broad question of supervision of the affairs of general - that is non-Commonwealth - insurance companies.
He said that the Government had reached the conclusion that there is a need for better supervision of the insurance companies doing business in Australia. He said he thought that for various reasons it seemed to the Government that Commonwealth legislation was the preferable course to achieve this. He also said that the Government regarded the subject as one of urgency and that it would press ahead with it with all possible speed. He went on to say:
It is true, I should perhaps say, however, that the preparation of a comprehensive legislative scheme will be a large and complex operation and I am unable at this stage to indicate a likely timetable for the introduction of legislation.
That was over 12 months ago. One would have thought that at least some kind of interim legislation would have been introduced. We are not asking for perfection, but something ought to have been done to vest the Insurance Commissioner or some body with the power to move in and examine these organisations, to demand answers and, if necessary, to take proceedings in a competent jurisdiction to stop their operating. Even an interim measure such as that, which could be framed in a matter of hours, would have given some relief to those people who have suffered in the meantime because of the collapse of insurance companies. The list of the companies which have collapsed is long.
Many persons have given advice in this field, including a Mr Adler, a person of some importance and one who ought to be regarded, I suppose, as being in a somewhat authoritative position. His advice and proposal were referred to in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 30th September last. The article reads:
One such proposal was put forward in December last year by Mr L. J. Adler, chairman of the FA1 Insurance group, who recommended that if insurance companies contributed only one quarter of 1 per cent of their annual premium income to such a fund it would have some $6m or $7m within 3 or 4 years.
Mr Adler said then that ‘the insurance industry exists to provide the financial machinery that guarantees security.’
That was very wise advice from Mr Adler, who seems to be the person principally concerned with a company which has just been removed from the Workers Compensation Commission list of authorised insurers and is also concerned with a group which has come into question with the Commission. No doubt he would be in a position to know that there ought to be a very large fund which might protect members of the public who would otherwise suffer from the collapse of the insurance companies. There are instances in the reports which have been tabled in the Victorian Parliament of unscrupulous conduct and incompetence, and of a scandalous position throughout the field of general insurance. Clearly the Commonwealth ought to be acting. lt is clear that the previous Prime Minister recognised that action should be taken and indicated that it would be taken. It is rather strange to read the answer given yesterday in this chamber by the AttorneyGeneral who is in charge of the parliamentary draftsmen, the men whom one would think would be consulted in this matter. If the Commonwealth is proceeding with all expedition to introduce this protective legislation, how docs that square with the answer which was given by the Attorney-General yesterday? That is the astonishing feature of this matter.
It is not very comforting to us that the Attorney-General should give to us an if and when answer and say he is unaware that tens of thousands of people have dubious insurance protection. I thought that the matter was put to the AttorneyGeneral in an understated and most moderate way. Yet he will not accept it. Has he bothered to read since the remarks made by his own colleagues in the other House? Has he seen that even though he has not heard of the Fire and All Risks Insurance Co. Ltd, the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has heard of that company? He was able to answer questions put to him in another place earlier this month. On 6th October Mr Jacobi asked the Prime Minister what is happening in this field. The Prime Minister said:
My attention has been drawn to a report relating to the East Australian Co. Ltd to which I presume the honourable gentleman refers and also to the action taken in New South Wales by the Workers Compensation Commission in respect of the Fire and All Risks Insurance Co. Ltd in that
State and one other company the name of which I cannot remember. It is true that my colleague, the former Prime Minister, gave an assurance that the Government would introduce legislation relating to genera] assurance. What I want to point out. is that the case of the East Australian Company Ltd arose over 17 months ago. lt was one of the companies in relation to which we were informed and it was a decisive element in making up our minds that there should be legislation on general assurance. I am informed, too, from my personal inquiries that a general assurance Act is an extremely difficult one for the Commonwealth to frame.
Negotiations between the States and the insurance companies arc proceeding at an intensive pace. The officials and the parliamentary, draftsmen are doing all they can to have legislation introduced at the earliest practicable moment.
We were told by the Prime Minister that the legislative draftsmen, who are under the charge of the Attorney-General, are doing all that they can to have this legislation introduced at the earliest practicable moment. The Prime Minister went on:
I have pushed as strenuously as I can to see that the matter is hastened. But I cannot give the House any assurance at all that the Bill will be introduced during the course of the next few weeks. I am trying to see that it will be introduced during this session of Parliament and permitted to stand over until the autumn session.
Judging by the attitude of the AttorneyGeneral in this chamber yesterday, he does not know anything about the subject. He is not aware that tens of thousands of people have dubious protection from their insurance policies. The Prime Minister is aware of it and is doing his utmost, we are told, to have action taken. We can imagine the draftsmen in the Attorney-General’s Department flat out night and day to prepare legislation so that no more people will suffer from the collapse of insurance companies. Yet the Attorney-General states in the Senate, in effect: ‘Oh well, I am not aware of that. Do not start saying this. You might cause a bit of a run on the insurance companies. If and when we do something like that, it will be a matter of policy and I am not going to talk about that.’
We might well ask: ‘What is going on in the place?’. The Prime Minister has expressed concern and wants action taken, but we are as good as told by the AttorneyGeneral that he has never heard of it, is doing nothing about it and we should mind our own business. He tells us that if and when the Government decides to do anything about it, it will be a matter of policy. That is the attitude presented by the Attorney-General in this chamber. It is not satisfactory in a very serious matter which has been aired in both chambers and has been featured again and again in the newspapers of this country. The Melbourne Herald’ of 30th September, in an editorial headed ‘Insurance: action must come now’ said:
A singularly explicit report to State Parliament yesterday on yet another scandal involving an insurance company must produce more than just another round of platitudinous expressions of official alarm. What is needed is quick evidence of effective corrective action.
Victoria’s State Government has received a letter from the Federal Government saying that the Commonwealth hoped to introduce legislation on insurance companies soon. This is depressing!)’ similar to assurances given in July, 1970. Members of the public put at risk by such official inaction have a right to demand that the legislative protection they are entitled to expect from governments must now be forthcoming.
Are we asking too much? Is it said that in this community people, when they pay their premiums in good faith, are not entitled to have the elementary right of laws and administration which see te it that the people are protected? Day after day the Attorney-General speaks in this chamber about law and order. Let us have a little bit of law and order in a field where hundreds of thousands of people are affected when companies have collapsed. If the Attorney-General thought that an estimate of tens of thousands was too much, he will find that 30,000 policy holders in one company which just went completely bung have no hope of being able to get protection. A whole depressing list of companies which have collapsed has been provided in answers to questions. Dozens and dozens of companies have been named in answers which have been given both in this chamber and the other chamber. The Attorney-General will soon have a list, if he wants it, to show thai not tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands are affected. They do not have merely dubious protection; the probability is that they have no protection whatever.
Are we to have some protection in this field? Is the Attorney-General going to stand here and say, as he said yesterday, that he is not aware of that situation, or has he found out overnight what the real situation is? Has he had a chance to talk to the Prime Minister to find out what the Prime Minister thinks about the matter? Has he been able to find out whether it is still a matter of policy whether legislation should be introduced and when it should be introduced? Are we going lo see determined action to introduce legislation preferably with some kind of interim protection in order that the elementary duty of the Government to the people of Australia may be carried out? It is not a matter which merely concerns companies that have already collapsed. The position has been made plain throughout the community by credible authorities that more firms are heading for ruin. The Attorney-General may not read the Victorian papers but I shall refer him to the ‘Australian’ of 10th October 1971. It states:
More firms heading for ruin, warns State official. State and Federal Governments are under increasing pressure from powerful motoring lobbies to tighten the law on the motor vehicle insurance industry . . . ‘Any simple Simon boy, girl or criminal can set up an insurance company under existing law,’ said the executive secretary, vice-president of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, Mr Athol Kelly. ‘They can make a million by registering a business name and lodging the statutory 520,000 with the Commonwealth Government.’ Mr Kelly said 11 motor insurance companies had crashed all over Australia. More would founder soon without rapid Government intervention.
I ask the Senate to support this motion, ft is true that the motion states: . . neglect- and there has been neglect - in failing to introduce legislation . . .
I think the present situation is no less than a disgrace. The motion draws attention to the lamentable failure of the Attorney-General to face up to what has been expected of him, not only by the public and his Liberal colleagues but also by the Prime Minister of this country. I ask that the legislation be introduced without delay and that at least some interim protective legislation be introduced. If the Government cannot manage to do it, will it indicate whether it would be prepared to introduce some kind of interim protective legislation, even if it has to be drawn up by somebody else if the Government is not capable of doing it within a short time? The interests of hundreds of thousands of people are affected. I ask the Senate to indicate that the Government ought to take action to protect those people.
– Senator Murphy has moved:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 10.59 a.m.
He has moved that motion for the purpose of debating, as he says, a matter of urgency. The matter of urgency which he circulated to members of the Government at about 12.30 p.m. today is in these terms:
The Government’s neglect in failing to introduce legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
I could not help feeling as Senator Murphy was speaking that personal abuse is no substitute for sound argument. I can only feel that the way in which he sought to suggest that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth lacked ability, lacked capability, lacked knowledge and read only occasional newspapers did not redound to the point that he was endeavouring to sustain. 1 feel that he vented a certain personal spleen which can only be regarded as an attempt on his part to make political capital for his Party or to retrieve his somewhat failing political fortunes in his own Party. Senator Murphy does not make an argument by raising his voice and ignoring what is the essence of the statement of urgency which he has put forward. The fact that there are insolvent companies, the fact that there have been insolvent companies over the past few years cannot be rectified by legislation which is now introduced. Yet the whole point of Senator Murphy’s argument was that in some way the people who have suffered can have their fortunes retrieved by legislation, and that is patently false.
– How about the ones in the future?
– The position for the future, of course, is a different matter. That is an area in which the Government has made its obligations and its intentions quite clear. I would suggest that if anybody examines the record it will be found that this is an area in which care must be taken in the course of preparing legislation, lt will equally be recognised that the statement that the Government Is proposing to introduce legislation acts as a brake upon the formation of the flybynight, mushroom, snide companies. There is no suggestion that there has been a spate of companies formed in the last 12 months which would indicate that a problem is being created which was not present before. If Senator Murphy addressed himself to the case he ought to be putting forward, he would well appreciate these facts.
I want to suggest that there are some considerations which ought to be borne in mind if there is a concern for the public interest and if there is a concern for those people who in good faith have put their money into insurance policies with these insurance companies. We would not help them by creating a situation where they are in a slate of uncertainty as to whether they have a good security, because it is that condition in itself which causes the problems. It has caused problems wilh some of the companies which have already gone bankrupt. I feel that the way in which the Australian Labor Party is trying to make political capital out of this does not add 1o the good fortunes of those people about whom it professes to be concerned.
A great deal was said about the question which was asked of me yesterday by Senator Murphy and the reply which I gave. May I suggest that Senator Murphy asked whether 1 was aware, of certain circumstances and whether I was aware that there were circumstances or a series of incidents concerning insurance companies which suggest that tens of thousands of people who have paid premiums in good faith have only dubious protection because they are insured with unsound companies. Then he asked for details of legislation which was to be introduced by the Government. My reply was concerned to point out that if currency is given to these suggestions that there may not be an adequate and proper security then we may have a situation comparable with the traditional run on the banks, and that these companies - some of which have assets worth many millions of dollars - would find that there would be a withdrawal of their premium income and there would be a withdrawal of what is one of the bases upon which they are meeting their claims and providing for their contingencies; and that situation in
Accident Insurance itself creates the danger which we wish to avoid. It was for that reason - I think it is a perfectly valid and proper reason - that I made the statement that I did. I regret that Senator Murphy sees no point in the explanation which I gave.
I think it should be recognised - I am sure that reflection will remind Senator Murphy of it - that the administration of the Commonwealth Insurance Act and the Commonwealth Life Insurance Act is a matter for the Department of the Treasury. He referred to questions asked in the House of Representatives by Mr Jacobi. All the questions asked by Mr Jacobi were directed to the Treasurer. If Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson had been here now he would have the carriage of this matter. It is pure chance that, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson not being available this afternoon, I am standing in his place to meet this argument. Yet the whole point of Senator Murphy’s plea was to suggest that in some way it was the Attorney-General’s responsibility to look after the insurance side of Commonwealth legislation. It is not. As I said, reflection will readily convince Senator Murphy that that is the position.
What is the situation with regard to Commonwealth insurance legislation? Since 1932 the Commonwealth has had an Insurance Act which provides that insurance companies shall deposit as security with the Treasurer a sum equal to roughly onefifth of their annual premium income. That Act does not apply to life assurance companies, but it applies to all other insurance companies whether or not they are concerned with accident insurance. In 1945 a Life Assurance Act was introduced. That has operated successfully during the 26 years of its existence. In the early days of federation a Marine Insurance Act was passed by the Commonwealth Government. Apart from the Life Insurance Act. the other 2 insurance Acts do not provide for a comprehensive supervisory control of insurance companies. It is only in some of the States, particularly in Queensland I think, that there is any legislation which seeks to deal comprehensively wilh insurance companies, their obligations, the security which they must provide and the rights of policy holders.
Accident Insurance 1493
The situation which prevailed was that until the middle 1960s insurance business was conducted by the large insurance companies. I think one would have to search through the newspapers to find any record of insurance companies not being able to meet their obligations. It is only in recent years that there have been instances of people, seeking to establish insurance companies with the prospect of getting rich quickly, who after some time found that they were unable to continue and that clients suffered losses. That situation became apparent in one or two instances about the middle of last year. That prompted the Government to indicate its intention. On 8th September 1970 the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, stated that the Government had given close consideration to the broad question of the supervision of the affairs of the general non-life insurance companies. He indicated that he had had certain views expressed to him by the Premier of New South Wales and the Acting Premier of Victoria and also from the leading organisations in the insurance field.
As the then Prime Minister said, there was a need for better supervision of general insurance companies conducting business in Australia. They need to be supplemented by a system of supervision under which companies are required to meet the specified standards before they are authorised to begin carrying on general insurance business and in the conduct of their affairs thereafter. He indicated that it had been decided that the preferable course was for the Commonwealth rather than the States to introduce legislation. Although he had had consultation with the States, it was indicated that the main insurance organisations had accepted the need for greater supervision of general insurance and had expressed a strong belief that it should be conducted by the Commonwealth. There was no suggestion in that statement that the States had concurred in the proposal that the Commonwealth should introduce the legislation. That necessitated discussions with tha States. In any event there would necessarily have to be some consultation with the States because an expertise has developed in State areas because compulsory third party motor insurance and workers compensation insurance are types of insurance 27 October 1971 covered by State legislation which has provisions regulating the obligations of insurance companies. This was adverted to by the former Prime Minister when he said that it was recognised that the State governments have a close and practical interest in insurance in a number of ways. i There is an additional problem in this area, which was mentioned in passing by the former Prime Minister, and that is that in a number of States there are government insurance offices and they carry approximately 20 per cent of the total insurance in Australia.
– Motor vehicle insurance and workers compensation insurance. The point I make is that under the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth’s power to make Jaws with respect to insurance is not as comprehensive as is commonly supposed. It is not as wide as the power to make laws with respect to banking, to the incorporation of banks and to the issue of money - an area of legislative power which was canvassed in the High Court and in the Privy Council about 25 years ago. The power to make laws wilh respect to insurance is a power to make laws with respect to insurance other than State insurance; so there is an immediate problem as to the role of the State government insurance offices and how they fit into any comprehensive scheme which the Commonwealth may undertake. When the former Prime Minister made his statement in September 1970 he said that the preparation of a comprehensive legislative scheme would be a large and complex operation. He indicated that he could not say when the legislation would be prepared. i Subsequent to that statement being made, other inquiries have been made in the House of Representatives about the progress of the legislation. In February of this year Mr Bury, the then Treasurer, was asked a question and he indicated that officers in the Department of the Treasury had had a number of conferences with State officials who had co-operated with them very generously and who had, as he said, ‘given their services in a very cooperative spirit in order to evolve a new Commonwealth Insurance Act’. He stated that the Government had received representations from insurance associations, brokers and all sides of the business. He indicated also that it was the Government’s aim to press on with this work as rapidly as possible and keep the momentum going but that it was a complex task and that he could not predict what the timetable would be. When the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) was asked a question in October of this year he likewise indicated that it was a difficult task. In the short time in which I have had an opportunity to acquaint myself with what is involved in this matter 1 have ascertained that during this year discussions between Commonwealth officials and State officials and representatives of insurance organisations have been proceeding. They are still continuing.
Senator Murphy seems to accept the view that comprehensive legislation of this character can be introduced overnight, as it were. 1 have been told that the Commonwealth Life Insurance Act, which was passed in 1945, was in the course of preparation for several years. That Act, comprehending 90 pages, deals only with life assurance. That was introduced in the days when Dr Evatt was the Attorney-General. Whatever may be said about Dr Evatt, noone could suggest that he did not work hard and that he did not ensure that all employees under him worked hard. The point is that it is a comprehensive and time consuming task to prepare legislation of the complexity involved in insurance legislation.
– Why was it said that it was hoped that the legislation would be ready for introduction in this sitting?
– It is always hoped that legislation would be ready for introduction in the present sitting because that is the intention which we set ourselves. If there were no other legislation to prepare and if there were no other consultations which had to take place about other legislation, the prospects of introducing this legislation would be so much the better. But, it must take its place along with a host of other legislation which the Government is preparing and, of course, in respect of which, if it were not introduced, there would be just the same sort of criticism from the Opposition as we are experiencing today.
It is suggested that in some way the Government has been at fault and that there has been Government neglect. I think it is fair to look at the position of the Australian Labor Party with regard to this matter. At least it was in August 1970 that the Government indicated that it was looking at the whole question of Commonwealth insurance legislation and it was in September 1970 that the then Prime Minister announced what the Government’s intentions were. The Australian Labor Party, in regard to its platform, had not even given consideration to this matter until the Party had a conference in Launceston - a famous conference about which I trust the Australian people will be more informed in due course - at which it adopted a number of policy proposals. It was at that time that the Australian Labor Party first adopted, as part of its platform, the type of matters on which it suggests the Government: has been at fault in not having introduced legislation already.
– Is it our fault that we do not have the Act?
– All I shall say is that it was in July this year that the Australian Labor Party sought to have, as one of its platform items, a proposal for accident and other insurance to be brought under Commonwealth control and the power and authority of the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner extended. That, generally, is the type of legislation which the Government in 1970 said it was proposing to introduce. But it was not until this year that the Labor Party introduced it as part of its own policy. I mention these points only because it would seem inappropriate for the Opposition to be accusing the Government of neglect when it was only recently that it decided that the type of legislation which the Government was introducing was also to be part of the Labor Party’s platform.
In short, the preparation of the legislation which has to be prepared is a major administrative task. It is one which is being attended to, and the legislation will be introduced as soon as the many complexities have been unravelled. One only has to reflect that earlier this year legislation known as the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, which was a most voluminous Act and which covered a great number of areas, was introduced into and passed through this Parliament, but that it had been many years in the course of preparation. I think it is a sign of the quality of that legislation that it went through both Houses of the Parliament without amendment. What we are seeking to establish is legislation which is complete, which is acceptable and which does the task which the Government sets its advisers and its draftsmen in the preparation of the necessary measures.
These things cannot be done, and should not be attempted to be done, overnight. Had there been, as Senator Murphy has suggested, the speedy introduction of legislation - one way of doing that might have be»n to increase the deposit requirement or, as he suggested, to give wider powers to an investigator - the risk would have been that there would be a crop of failures which would undermine public confidence and cause a run on other insurance companies. The only sound course was the long term preparation of legislation for the comprehensive supervision of all general insurance companies in Australia. This view is not held by the Government only. I hesitate to cite newspaper editorials, but the ‘Australian Financial Review’ is a newspaper which, I think, has preserved a uniformly high standard in its editorials. It said on 28th August 1970 that the Federal Government was right not to be stampeded into hasty legislation on general insurance; that it should not be stampeded into any ill-considered legislation. The editorial went on:
The danger is that when any major public issue becomes heated and emotional the wolf pack syndrome emerges supreme and legislative action tends to become emotionally reactive rather than rationally creative.
I felt that those words were quite appropriate after 1 heard what Senator Murphy had to say on this proposal. The editorial continued:
Most of the general insurance debate in recent months has centred around default on motor insurance and losses to many people which could ensue.
Of course, that was a matter for major public concern.
– What was the date of what?
– The date of that was 28th August 1970. The merit of not being stampeded into legislation is quite apparent. It is appropriate that the matter should be examined as carefully and comprehensively as the advisers can examine it. It is difficult to confine the discussion on this matter to the terms of the statement of urgency, which is limited to accident insurance only. The proposal which the Government has is a much more extensive one which would cover all nonlife insurance, or the whole field of general insurance. I suppose that, in essence, that is what the Labor Party’s statement of urgency proposes, but I can assure the Senate that this is a matter to which the Government is giving attention.
It is regrettable that the State Minister for Transport in New South Wales should have erred by suggesting that the responsibility for this legislation was in the area of the Attorney-General’s Department; it is in the area of the Treasury. However, that is a matter which simply arose in the course of what Senator Murphy had to say. The basic essential is that the Government has indicated that the Commonwealth has the power to pass legislation relating to general insurance. It has indicated that there is a preparedness on the part of the States to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the passage of that legislation. It is recognised that there is a need for this legislation and, over the course of the last 12 months, work directed towards enacting this comprehensive legislation has continued. It is hoped that in the immediate future there can be a general outline of what is proposed. If that is not to be done before this session of the Parliament concludes, it will be done in the early part of next year. I suggest that to say that the Government has been neglectful in this area is to fail to appreciate the very complex problems which have to be resolved and the need for resolving them in a way which gives satisfaction to the people who want to have adequate and proper insurance.
– The matter of urgency which has been raised on behalf of the Australian Labor Party expresses a concern which is shared by the Democratic Labor Party and obviously, in view of the statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), by the Government. The difference between the Opposition and the Government and the Democratic Labor Party in this regard is in the measure of that concern. The measure of the concern expressed in the statement of urgency is reflected in the fact that the matter is introduced as a matter of urgency which requires the immediate attention of the Government. The terms of the statement of urgency refer to the neglect of the Government. In the light of the Minister’s statement, and more particularly in the light of his advertence to what the Government has done, the complexity of the legislation and, more especially, the fact that the proposed insurance legislation will perhaps cover fields wider than those embraced in the terms of the matter of urgency, it would appear, in fairness, that the term ‘neglect’ may be used inappropriately. 1 can say to the Senate that I have men tioned this matter to Senator Murphy and suggested that the word ‘neglect’ be deleted and that the word ‘delay’ be inserted in lieu thereof. I know that the Minister and the Government would not be prepared to concede that that would be an appropriate term, but I think it would be more appropriate than ‘neglect’. I believe that the Government is alert to the situation: but in our opinion it has not been sufficiently alert, nor was it alert sufficiently early.
– May I interrupt the honourable senator? I am prepared to ask for leave to amend the statement of the matter of urgency by substituting the word delay’ for the word ‘neglect’. We want some action taken. If this amendment will help to obtain action I will be satisfied. I ask for leave.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - You are seeking leave to alter-
– I ask leave to alter the statement of the matter of urgency by substituting the words ‘delay in introducing’ for the words ‘neglect in failing to introduce’. The statement would then read:
The Government’s delay in introducing legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I feel that the words inserted in lieu of the deleted words more accurately reflect the actual position, lt will more certainly reflect the disposition of the Democratic Labor Party to the terms of the motion. Here we are dealing with a matter which must be of national concern. The more recent history of insurance failures shows that in some fields there will be a severe effect on those unfortunate people who place their trust and confidence in their insurance policy of some kind or another only to find that they are not ultimately protected at all. This situation has become particularly evident in the field of motor vehicle insurance. We are dealing with a group of people who are vulnerable to commercial malpractice. In this era of rising levels of insurance premiums and the extension of the motor car ownership market, in the less affluent sections of the community - particularly the younger section - great disability is experienced by those who, with some difficulty, purchase a car and then are required to insure it at this increasing level of premium cost. Those are the people who are most likely to be attracted by an insurance company which offers adequate protection and holds out the offer of adequate security for that protection at a lower premium rate than applies generally throughout the insurance community.
These people cannot be blamed for putting their trust in an insurance company which has to register and lodge a deposit, therefore appearing to have all the imprimatur of respectability. People cannot be blamed because they want to insure at a lower level within their competence. This may be the only thing available to them because they have stretched their limited financial resources to the utmost to purchase a vehicle. They cannot alford the normal high premium levels which are charged by what I shall call the ‘orthodox’ insurance companies. Therefore these people must be protected against themselves. As I say, it is a measure of our concern that this matter should now emerge as one of urgency. In the community there must be hundreds, perhaps thousands of these people - particularly younger people - who are not adequately insured because of these circumstances. If they do not take this kind of insurance, they do not take motor vehicle insurance at all. Of course in the event of an accident the unfortunate person who collides with such a person as I have mentioned may be unable to recover from an insurance company which may have collapsed.
In other words, there is not only the misfortune of a person who has insured with one of these unsatisfactory companies but there is the grave injustice done to other motor vehicle owners and users who may become common victims of this type of commercial malpractice. In these circumstances it is important that legislative movement take place early to see whether the position can be rectified.
I know and I appreciate the submissions of the Attorney-General. The legislation is complex, particularly when it requires consultation with the States which, with the exception of Queensland, have not moved in this field. But wc do not think that in view of the increasing demand for some sort of protection and security the Government can altogether be excused for the legislative sloth which has accompanied the consideration of the remedial measures to be applied to this type of practice. The implications of a lack of insurance cover are very serious to the individual and quite serious to the community. Unfortunately in this place we have seen delay at the hands of the Government where legislation or complementary legislation was necessary in conjunction with the States in another field. I shall mention this matter on another occasion. Now in recent times an important report was presented, as you would know Mr Acting Deputy President, from the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. That report called for joint Commonwealth and State action. It recognised that there was an urgent need for the Commonwealth to act because the States were legislating in the field and the opportunity for integrated and coordinated legislation would be lost if the Commonwealth did not move in synchronisation with the States. Only today - I shall discuss this matter on some other occasion at greater length - I received an up to date summary of the legislation and administrative acts which have been taken by the States in the field of environmental control. The States are active. They are dynamic. They have much legislation. They have committees of inquiry. As far as I am aware the Commonwealth has as yet made very little movement in this field.
In any of these fields where effective results can only be produced by joint Commonwealth and State action the Commonwealth must be particularly alert. It should move promptly, effectively and in closer co-operation with the States. It is for that reason that we are concerned at the evident and undue delay and the lack of early alertness by the Commonwealth Government in the field of insurance. Perhaps the action which is now being taken in the Senate to acquaint the Government of the concern felt by those in this chamber at this delay might well prompt an even accelerated solution to the problem which, apparently, is now under close consideration. As I said, the legislation which is proposed goes quite beyond the terms of the motion. For that reason the legislation will be complex, compendive and difficult. It will impose quite a considerable burden on the staff of the Parliamentary Counsel. In those circumstances 1 suppose we cannot ask the impossible of the responsible Minister, the Treasury or the Attorney-General - as the case may be. On this occasion all we want to do is to see that the Senate is concerned and alert that so many people are suffering and likely to suffer.
With the Attorney-General I realise that this legislation will not retrospectively cure the ills or salve the wounds of those who have suffered because of the collapse of insurance companies. There may be many now who are living, as it were, in a shadow land in which they do not take insurance or they are living in a worse shadow land in which they are taking insurance which might ultimately prove of little or no effect at all. We must move quickly to cover both situations. 1 feel that a resolution from the Senate in the new terms, not exposing the Government for any gross neglect which I do not think is evident, but impressing upon the Government our concern that there should be greater speed and that these people should be protected as quickly and as closely as possible at a fair insurance rate commends itself to honourable senators. I commend the amended statement of the matter of urgency to the Senate.
– I rise to oppose this motion to permit the discussion of an alleged matter of urgency which is now stated as follows:
The Government’s delay in introducing legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
I do so with the full knowledge and understanding of the importance of having new and modern legislation to control the matter of general insurance as well as life insurance. As has been stated by both the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and the present Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, the Government recognises the need for this new and updated form of legislation. As has been restated here again today by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), this legislation is being drafted. Such legislation obviously needs great care. A good deal of discussion obviously is required both with the insurance companies that are concerned and with the State governments that are involved in this field. Therefore, I oppose the motion.
I am sure that those who oppose the motion, including the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) and myself, do not do so because they do not agree that the need exists for such legislation. We oppose it because the time of the Senate is being taken up in the discussion of an alleged matter of urgency in an atmosphere in which an attempt is being made to create a feeling of panic not only in the Senate but in the minds of those who are listening to these proceedings which today are being broadcast. The situation is not one of panic at all.
Notice of the intention to propose for discussion this matter of urgency came shortly before the Senate commenced its sitting this afternoon. When the matter first came before the Senate it referred to the ‘Government’s neglect’. Perhaps some case could be made for taking up 3 hours of the time of the Senate on a discussion to emphasise this point if real Government neglect existed. This matter was proposed at the very last minute by Senator Murphy to discuss the subject of neglect by the Government in this field. No sooner had the matter been brought forward for discussion than it was modified, probably in deterence to the comments made by Senator Byrne and for the purpose of obtaining support from that direction. As amended, the mutter for discussion now reads:
The Government’s delay in introducing legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
Neglect’ has been changed to ‘delay’. Is the business of the Senate to be held up possibly for 3 hours to debate as a matter of alleged urgency the fact that some delay on the part of the Government has occurred ;n dealing with this matter?
Looking at the whole subject we see, as I have said, that full agreement exists between the Government and my colleagues on this side of the Senate that legislation is required. But surely the question is one of priorities. It is a question of maintaining a sense of proportion and of responsibility. On the notice paper today is a Bill relating to wool deficiency payments. A Bill relating to new restrictive trade practices legislation to cope with the urgent situation that has arisen as a result of the High Court’s decision in the concrete pipes case awaits debate. This important and urgent legislation will be held up today and probably will not be dealt with even this week simply because the Standing Orders are being used to introduce for debate a subject which now does not refer as it originally did to alleged neglect but simply lo some delay or alleged delay on the part of the Government in introducing most complex legislation. Obviously the preparation of such legislation takes time and a lapse of time or a delay- call it what we will - is involved in its drafting.
In introducing this matter for discussion this afternoon, Senator Murphy undoubtedly did endeavour to create a feeling of panic in the minds of many thousands of Australian citizens who of necessity are covered by insurance of one form or another. He talked about dozens of companies failing or being about to fail. It was not good enough to say that tens of thousands of Australians stood to lose some of their savings; he had to refer to hundreds of thousands of Australians in this respect. What sense of responsibility and what sense of proportion does this reveal on his part in respect of this or any other subject?
Funnily enough, the matter for discussion proposes that the Government should introduce legislation in respect of accident insurance. No-one would realise, reading what the Leader of the Opposition has proposed, that the Commonwealth Government has had on the statute books since 1932 an Act dealing with the subject of general insurance as well as life insurance, and an updated and much more satisfactory specific Act on life insurance since 1945. Although that legislation may be out of date now and although it may be accepted that it needs to be brought up to date, needs modernising and needs more teeth than it has now, this legislation is in existence. In addition to the Commonwealth legislation, some of the Sta-tes have legislation also. I understand that Queensland has a comprehensive Act on this subject. All States have some laws relating to insurance companies particularly in the fields of workers compensation and third party insurance.
Moreover, in addition to this special legislation, insurance business is being conducted by limited liability companies. Therefore on all statute books in Australia company legislation controlling this aspect of insurance in some shape or form is to be found. With all the attention that is being given to company legislation at the moment I would say that a fair degree of control exists to prevent the sort of recklessness or fraud which is being suggested now on the part of some directors of insurance companies. These matters are being taken care of already under company legislation. I am not saying - nor has anybody else on this side of the Senate said - that this matter should be left at that level. We are saying that insurance does call for a special Commonwealth Act to deal with the control of general insurance. But I am concerned about the question of proportion. As I pointed out, Australia has some most extensive legislation, both Commonwealth and State, to deal with or to try to prevent the sort of activity about which Senator Murphy ;s concerned and which he says is a threat to hundreds of thousands of Australians and apparently is a threat which must be dealt with immediatly. Senate Murphy suggests that the attention of the Government should be directed to accident insurance. I would be disappointed indeed if the Government introduced legislation here dealing with accident insurance only. Accident insurance has a most technical meaning and is defined in the Insurance Act as being limited to: . . the issue of, or the undertaking of liability under, policies of insurance upon the happening of personal accidents . . . disease or sickness, or any class of personel accidents, disease or sickness.
– But that means- ?
– ls that all that the honourable senator wants legislation on?
– That meaning would not apply to what is proposed here.
– Anybody who knows anything about the insurance business knows that that is what accident insurance business means. It is a perfectly technical meaning. Moreover, not only is it the meaning understood by anybody who knows anything about the subject but also it is the meaning incorporated in the Insurance Act as the definition of accident insurance business. I repeat that that is the provision in a current Act.
It is perfectly ludicrous to propose as a matter of urgency here the need for legislation to deal with such a restricted form of insurance. Obviously what is desired and what is meant is that we should have a new and up-dated bill. That is what the Government is working on. It is working on the production of a new Bill to cover insurance business other than life insurance business. It is general insurance business on which I hope the Government is working. In fact, I know that it is. I do not want anything to do with the limited type of legislation which would need to be introduced to meet the requirements of Senator Murphy’s proposal.
– You know that that is the true interpretation of the word accident’.
– When the Labor Party introduces matters in this chamber it is its responsibility to make sense of them.
– But you are distorting them.
– I am pointing these facts out to cast some reflections on the bona fides of the Labor Party in introducing this matter of urgency. I believe that it has been introduced because it is felt that there is a certain amount of panic among certain people at the present moment. As the Attorney-General said, it is designed to make some political capital and to waste 3 hours of the precious time of this chamber in doing so, and it is done at the expense of debating some very urgent and important legislation. I would have thought that had the Opposition and Senator Murphy been really bona fide on this matter, he would have told us what sort of legislation he thinks the Government ought to be introducing. If there is as much urgency and concern as he expresses, it wold not have been all that difficult for him to have introduced some suggested amendments to the existing Insurance Act.
As I have said, on seeing this motion one might well conclude that the Commonwealth Government has introduced no legislation at all on this subject. I have shown how completely false that assumption is. There is legislation covering the field in the Commonwealth sphere. There are State Acts, albeit unsatisfactory. There is some control over general insurance by State governments and, anyway, there is control through the ordinary company legislation. Therefore, as I have said, to introduce this matter into this chamber is to endeavour to make political capital out of the concern that is felt by a number of people about their situation, as has been expressed recently by the Press.
The fact is, of course, that with an insurance business there is not the same sort of tremendous loss suffered overnight by large numbers of people as there would be if there was a large company failure or a bank failure. Admittedly, if insurance companies cannot meet their liabilities a number of people may well suffer. That is why we have this legislation and why we are hoping to have better legislation. But the Insurance Act contains a section which enables policy holders who can establish liability on the part of a defaulting company to gain access to the fund that is created by the provisions of the Act. So, some cover exists already for people who may suffer from the failure of an insurance company. Of course, in the nature of the insurance business, when a company fails to meet its liability to one policy holder that in itself is the red light; it is the alert for all the other policy holders. Admittedly, if a company fails they have to go to another company and they have to pay another premium for that year. But at least they do not stand to lose all the money they have paid in-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I was in the chamber during the whole of the time for which the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) spoke and also during the time for which Senator Murphy spoke prior to that. I must confess that I was surprised that Senator Greenwood should see fit to criticise Senator Murphy’s speech in the manner in which he did. Senator Murphy did not reflect on the ability of the Attorney-General. He did not in any way reflect on him in a personal sense. The Attorney-General claims that this matter is the responsibility of the Treasury. Why, therefore, the AttorneyGeneral should be handling this debate for the Government, 1 do not know.
What Senator Murphy did was to reflect on the awareness of the Government in respect of this matter. With every legitimacy, he quoted authorities including responsible spokesmen for the Government - going back 12 and 18 months - who expressed an alleged awareness of the need for something to be done in this field. The point that Senator Murphy was making - he did so quite correctly - was that in all the time that has elapsed since those first statements by Government spokesmen nothing has been brought before this Parliament, despite the fact that at least one statement indicated that legislation would be introduced shortly, or contained words to that effect. But even now we have not seen it.
Also, it is quite wrong to suggest that Senator Murphy was talking of changes being made overnight. Of course, he was not. He realised, as we all do on the Opposition side, the complexity of the problem involved. But, on the basis of the statements made by Government members, we have every right to believe that this legislation could well have been introduced by now. Even the Attorney-General in his closing remarks spoke of the time that was spent on the preparation of the Life Insurance Act in 1945. He said that it was some years. But then he gives an assurance to the Parliament that this legislation will bc brought down before the end of this session or early in the -lew year. So it would seem that the complexity of preparing this legislation is not as great as we are led to believe. The complexity of the general insurance industry, in comparison with the life assurance industry is well known, or should be known by those who are taking part in the debate. Nevertheless, we are confronted with a position in which this Government has not acted in a manner in which it was its responsibility to act.
Senator Durack made some comments concerning the meaning of the word ‘accident’ contained in the matter of urgency. I remind him that in the insurance industry - this is the intention of the matter of urgency - the word ‘accident’, is not restricted in the manner he just expressed to the Senate. Accident insurance covers a wide range of policies. For example, it covers motor vehicle-
– Does it cover fire?
– No, it does not cover fire. Just listen to me and I will tell you. It covers motor vehicle insurance, workers compensation, personal accident, burglarly, public liability, fidelity guarantee and all risks insurance. All these classes come under the definition of accident insurance, as distinct from fire insurance. So 1 think that Senator Durack is perhaps not as conversant with these matters as he would lead us (o believe.
Every person who enters into an insurance contract does so with the utmost good faith. Every insurance contract is written under the condition that it is entered into with the utmost good faith. It is not within the capacity of the member of the general public taking out an insurance policy to know precisely the legalities of what he is doing. He is not expected to know them. It is for that reason that he is given protection by law to ensure that proper disclosures are made both by himself and by the insurer. But it is also implicit in that good faith that the insuring company should be one which can discharge the responsibilities into which it enters. The fact that 11 or 12 companies have collapsed over the past 3 or 4 years is not in itself a justification for the introduction of legislation of this nature. All it does is prove the point that these companies do not survive and that .they have entered into these contracts with members of the public in the utmost good faith and probably in many cases realising, even before they started, their inability, to see the contract through. The Government should legislate lo ensure that these sorts of things do not happen in the future.
Of course, the passage of legislation, either now or early next year, will not save those who have suffered already or those who may suffer between now and then. But, I think it was Senator Georges who interjected and said that it is the future we are concerned about. In fact, the sorts of things that we are looking at now will prevent the occurrence of collapses such as those we have seen in the last 3 or 4 years. I think the point ought to be made that the general insurance industry basically is sound if one looks at it as a whole. In 1968-69 in most classes of insurance total premiums collected in Australia exceeded the total claims mct.
Sitting suspended from 5.4S to 8 p.m.
– 1 wish to make one or two points in the brief time left at my disposal. Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner we were discussing the proposed legislation covering general insurance companies. During the preparation of that legislation the Government should look at the many new proposals which have been advanced by competent persons for the restructuring of third party insurance in Australia. Some very good papers have been written on this subject in the last year or two, and we know that the present situation is most unsatisfactory. I would not dare to say that this is a matter on which the Commonwealth should specifically legislate but I think the Commonwealth ought to consider holding discussions with the general companies to see what can be done to bring the present third party insurance laws in Australia into more realistic light.
We know that many people travelling in motor vehicles are not covered by the present laws and a tremendous amount of time is lost as a result of litigation overclaims. The Commonwealth would do well to give these matters very serious consideration. There is a danger also, 1 think, that possibly too much influence may be exerted by the various general companies in drawing up legislation. Their advice and thoughts are important but it should not be drawn up in such a manner as simply to ensure that what is done will be for the benefit of the larger companies particularly.
The last point I make concerns the very difficult question involved in this proposed legislation concerning retention policies of general companies. Over the past 3 or 4 years we have seen various companies fail. I understand from the various press reports that most of these failures have been due to rate cutting by certain companies. It could well be that many of them found themselves in that position because their retention policies were not sufficiently prudent. I do not know how the Commonwealth could legislate specifically in this area. I am not sufficiently conversant with the Queensland law to know whether that State has done so. ff we want stability in the industry the question of retention policies offered by genera! companies is very important. This is another matter to which the Government ought to give serious consideration during the drafting of this legislation. [n closing I reiterate a point made earlier both by myself and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), that is, that the purpose of this urgency debate is to try to prod the Government into bringing forth this legislation at the earliest possible moment. 1 think we can take comfort from the fact that the Attorney-General indicated that before the end of this sitting, or early in the new year, we will have the opportunity of debating this legislation in the Parliament. What we want from the Government is action, not words. The problem has been with us for at least 18 months or 2 years. It is comforting to know that the Government finally has decided to take some action. I am sure that this motion proposing this matter of urgency will be passed and will make the Government all the more determined to bring this proposed legislation before Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
– In rising to take part in this debate I must say that I wonder what goes on in the minds of members of the official Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, if more than one member of the Opposition have anything whatsoever to do with putting forward the Opposition’s side of the business of the Senate. As is known, the Opposition has full authority to use Wednesdays in sitting weeks for the raising of matters of urgency if it so desires. This is provided for in the Standing Orders. This is the pressure valve that the Parliament provides to allow the Opposition to air matters of urgency and to bring them before the Government in public. As is known, the Senate proceedings are broadcast on Wednesdays.
It is courteous and traditional - and decent thinking people act courteously and traditionally - to let other members of the Parliament know what matter of urgency is to be raised unless, of course, the matter happens to come to notice only during the lunch hour. But, as our learned Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, pointed out the Government was informed at the latest possible time today, 12.30 p.m., that this matter of urgency would be debated following question time this afternoon. The nature of the subject raised as a matter of urgency must have been known yesterday to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) because, in his speech attacking the learned Attorney-General, Senator Murphy quoted the AttorneyGeneral’s reply to a question asked yesterday without notice. He tried to build his case, in his attack on the Government, on this question without notice yesterday which dealt with this particular subject.
I remind the Senate that our time has been taken up today, for some 3 hours, on a matter which was introduced in true Labor Party style. The matter of urgency raised by the Opposition was in these terms:
This was the urgent matter thought out and decided upon for debate in order that the Opposition could delay debate on a Bill which is of importance to the whole economy of Australia, namely, the Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill. I must remind the Senate that the Leader of the Opposition was heard in absolute silence. This appeared to embarrass him. Provocative as he was, he drew no fire, no interjections, which are disorderly.
– Not absolute silence.
– No. He aroused a little opposition from members of his own Party and ordered one of his own team back to the dressing room. As 1 said, the Leader of the Opposition was heard in silence except for that one interjection. His speech was made up of ceaseless repetition.
He had hoped to live off the interjections of honourable senators on the Government side. After he resumed his seat, he considered what he had said. The Attorney-General replied and when Senator Byrne was half way through his speech the Leader of the Opposition rose and obtained leave of the Senate to alter the wording of the matter of urgency. Incidentally. I do not cast any reflection on anyone but 1 did not understand the forms of the Senate which permitted him to do that. So the matter of urgency we are now debating has been whittled down. Second thoughts have been brought to bear and the matter of urgency now is:
The Government’s delay in introducing legislation, to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
The wording of that motion is quite sensible for a debate in this chamber, but whether the subject matter of the motion is of sufficient urgency to delay a discussion on the Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1971 must remain a matter of opinion. However, there is no arguing against the claim that the subject of this motion is a matter of Commonwealth Government responsibility.
I understand that the first Commonwealth legislation regarding this type of insurance was introduced in 1932 and that it was amended in, I think, 1966. The fact is that that legislation has stood the test of time. But the growth in the population of Australia and the expansion of the industry has brought to light the fact that there may not be safeguards in the legislation to protect those people who support certain types of insurance companies. This matter has been raised in both Houses of the Parliament. I believe it is only fair to say that the Government has not only agreed that action should be taken to improve the legislation but also promised to take action.
– The actual date is not known. That has been freely admitted by the Government. But there are 2 reasons why the actual date is not known, although those reasons would not come to the minds of members of the Australian Labor Party because not one of them has ever been in government. They do not know what it is like to be in government. They have no responsibility. They have no idea what goes on.
– You have only been in it yourself for 6 weeks.
– I would remind Senator Wheeldon that I am a member of a government which has been in power since 1949. We are now in our adulthood in office. As I was saying, if the Opposition had some tinge of experience in government it would know that the framing of legislation in respect to a subject such as insurance is a mammoth task. I feel confident that Senator James McClelland, a learned legal member of the Opposition, will agree with me when I say that it is a mammoth task to prepare legislation that suits modern times in this particular phase of the insurance industry.
Another factor about which the Opposition should be aware because it has been mentioned many times in the Senate is the difficulty of all governments, Commonwealth and State, in drawing into their service adequate efficient drafting staffs for their legislative counselling departments. This is almost impossible. Unfortunately, therefore, there is a delay in the preparation of much important legislation and supplementary legislation. As a former Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I know how long it takes to draft an ordinance in respect to the Australian Capital Territory.
– That does not speak well for a Government that has been in office for so long.
– Tei1 us about insurance.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order!
– Lots of interjections have been made, Mr Acting Deputy President. 1 do not know why the Opposition has adopted such an attitude to the speech I am making on the matter of urgency it has raised. I would remind members of the Opposition that the Leader of the Opposition, in putting forward this motion on behalf of - it would appear - a divided Opposition, attacked the AttorneyGeneral. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition did not realise that the legislation which is the subject of this debate comes under the administration of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). If he had known that, Senator Murphy probably would have addressed the question he asked yesterday to the Minister representing the Treasurer, who is responsible in this chamber for the administration of the legislation or lack of it that is under attack today.
I believe that the main thing - 1 may be slightly in error here because I had the misfortune to miss the first 3 minutes of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech - that is worrying the Opposition in respect of insurance is workers’ compensation and motor vehicle insurance. No-one dealing with either of those 2 aspects of the insurance industry would treat them with any levity. Everyone hopes that the industry will have adequate legislation as soon as possible to cover the proper running and conduct of insurance companies because we all know of the rapid increase there has been in the number of serious and fatal accidents on our roads and of the terrific loss of human life and the terrific cost of the repair or replacement of damaged vehicles caused by road accidents. It is not very pleasing to realise how great this problem will be in Australia if past trends continue.
Ten years ago there were 2,000,000-odd motor vehicles on Australian roads. There are now 4,861,000. Official figures show that the increase has been 2,037,000. If the development of Australia continues as widely and as rapidly as it has in the last 10 years and the general opulence of the community continues, as I believe it will, we are going to experience added problems in respect to motor vehicle insurance. Both sides of the Parliament and all elements in the community should give serious thought to not being destructively critical and petty party political about this matter but to looking at it from a national outlook. We should consider the matter from 2 angles. First of all we should make the vehicles and the roads safer and generate commonsense and sobriety in the drivers and users of motor vehicles. In this way we could cut down on the chance of accidents occurring. If more consideration were given to the safety features in the design of motor cars and roads as well as to the health, knowledge and sobriety of drivers we would be going a long way towards taking the burden off the insurance companies because the fewer accidents there are the less lighter will be the burden on the insurance companies and, for that matter, the holders of insurance policies. I believe that we should all do our utmost to support anything that will improve those features of our national life.
I do not deny that there is room .n the statutes for improved legislation in this respect, but I do not believe that the Opposition really meant this matter to be treated as a matter of urgency. I think the Opposition thought it would catch supporters of the Government unawares and unprepared to come into the debate. The fact that the Opposition did not let the Government know until just about the commencement of lunch time today that it was going to raise this subject means either that it was trying to break away from tradition and the normal practice of letting the Parliament know what it is going to debate or that the members of the Opposition could not reach a decision among themselves and they pulled this matter out of the hat at the last minute. If it had really been a matter of urgency, they could have given us notice this morning of their intention to raise this matter. The Opposition has sometimes done that in past years. But lack of unity and thought as to what is to happen today in the ranks of the Labor Party is one of the matters that adds to the burden of honourable senators on this side of the chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate is not debating the desirability of all drivers remaining sober and avoiding road accidents in order that we would not need to have car insurance, as Senator Marriott seems to believe. We are discussing the unconscionable delay of the Government in introducing legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
– What sort of accident insurance?
Motor accident insurance. This debate arises largely out of an irresponsible, ill informed and even arrogant reply which the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) gave yesterday to a perfectly civil question, soberly phrased, from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator
Murphy), who asked what was happening to the legislation in this field. He was referring to legislation which has been promised by responsible spokesmen for the Government, including Mr Gorton, the previous Prime Minister, as far back as 12 months ago.
asked the AttorneyGeneral when we might expect to see this legislation and the reply he received was so astonishing that we on this side of the chamber could hardly believe our ears. Senator Greenwood said, in part: 1 was not aware of the particular instances-
That is instances of insurance crashes - to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred; nor am I aware that there is a situation in this country, whereby tens of thousands of persons may have dubious insurance policies.
We of the Opposition decided that if the Attorney-General did not know we should act to inform him. He has disclaimed responsibility for this legislation, quite correctly, but he is the Minister under whom the parliamentary draftsmen work and we would assume that if such legislation is in the offing he would be the first to know about it. In effect, the Attorney-General said: ‘I do not know what the dogs have been barking for for more than 2 years’. So, quite properly, the Opposition decided that if he did not know - and perhaps some of his colleagues did not know - we would remind them of the problem in the hope that we might belatedly get some action in this important field.
I remind honourable senators opposite that the demand for action in this field has come not only from the Opposition but also from the public and from reputable insurance companies. It has come even from Government supporters. I remind honourable senators opposite that Mr Gorton stated as long ago as September 1970 that he had been requested by Mr Askin, the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, and by Sir Arthur Rylah, the Acting Premier of Victoria, to introduce legislation in this field. In case any honourable senator opposite believes that somehow or other the Government was not aware of this problem, I remind the Senate that I, among others, asked questions on this matter in the Senate, the first of them in May of this year. I asked when this legislation would be introduced and I was told by Senator
Sir Kenneth Anderson, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, that it had not proved practicable to introduce legislation in the insurance field during the present session but it was hoped that legislation would be ready for introduction during the Budget session. I have pointed that out in order to explain our impatience.
When nothing was forthcoming by September, I asked another question as to when we might expect this legislation. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson replied that he could not tell me just when we could expect it but he hoped to be able to give me an early reply. We have not yet had a reply, apart from Senator Greenwood’s disclaimer yesterday that there is any problem, and his brazen statement that to suggest there is a problem can only serve the evil purpose of undermining the confidence of policy holders. In that context this motion has been moved by the Opposition.
Why is there this problem and anxiety? Do we need to remind the Attorney-General that there has been a series of spectacular insurance crashes over the last 12 months? Apparently we do. Because he is so ignorant of this problem I will remind him of the names of some of the insurance companies that have crashed. I refer to Insurance Associates Pty Ltd; Riverina Insurance Co. Ltd; Motor Marine and General Insurance Co. Ltd; Bonus Benefits Insurance (Underwriters) Pty Ltd; East Australian Insurance Co. Ltd; Oxford Insurance Co. Ltd; Property Accident Commercial and Executive Insurance Co. Ltd; Cosmopolitan Insurance Co. Ltd; Vehicle and General Insurance Co. (Australia) Ltd, and so on. It is not an exhaustive list but I submit that at least it adds up to a reason why Senator Greenwood should know that in this country tens of thousands of persons may have dubious insurance policies.
Perhaps we must wait for action until we have a crash of the dimensions of that which involved the parent company, Vehicle and General Insurance Co. Ltd, of the Australian offshoot Vehicle and General Insurance Co. (Australia) Ltd. When the parent company failed in England earlier this year it left about 700,000 policy holders uncovered by insurance. I submit that when this debate was brought on today, the responsible attitude for Senator Greenwood to have taken would have been to admit the dilatoriness of the Government and to try to do something to repair the damage. But that was not his attitude. His answer was that in giving warning of the danger of even more insurance crashes the Opposition was making such crashes more probable and had raised the matter for cheap political advantage. Of course, this is a familiar catchcry in this country. It has been echoed by honourable senators opposite who have spoken in this debate.
I ask Senator Greenwood and Government supporters generally whether Mr Morris, the New South Wales Liberal Minister for Transport, is trying to achieve some cheap political advantage when he accuses the Federal Government of merely toying with this problem. Is he some sort of Labor stooge? Is Mr Askin in the same category? Is Sir Arthur Rylah, who was Acting Premier of Victoria when he asked Mr Gorton to take action in this field, a Labor stooge? Is Mr Cattley, Managing Director of Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd, some sort of Labor stooge who is trying to gain cheap political advantage in pointing to the magnitude and urgency of this problem? Is Mr Athol Kelly, Vice-President of the Federal Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, some sort of Labor spokesman? Is Mr Lamble, General Manager of National Roads and Motorists Association Insurance Ltd, a Labor spokesman? Is Mr Hamer, Liberal Chief Secretary in the Victorian Government, a Labor stooge, or is Mr Perrott of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria?
– Is the honourable senator reading from ‘Who’s Who’?
– I am reading the names of prominent men in the insurance field - managers, secretaries and directors of reputable insurance companies who have said about this matter even harsher things than have been said today by members of the Opposition. These people have pointed time and time again to the urgency of this problem. If we are to believe Senator Greenwood and Senator Marriott these men are all part of some irresponsible Labor conspiracy. They would have us believe that these men are Labor stirrers who are painting an alarmist picture of a imaginary problem. If Government supporters believe that proposition, they have lost even more credibility than I thought they had lost. Another alibi - one that we have heard not only from Senator Greenwood but also from Senator Marriott - is: ‘It is a very complex matter to draft this legislation. It is so difficult that you cannot expect us to have done anything about it up until now.’ Senator Greenwood was even bold enough to quote from an editorial in the ‘Financial Review’ in which the editorial writer of that paper suggested that it would be wrong for the Government to be stampeded into drafting hasty legislation in this matter. But when Senator Greenwood was questioned by an interjector he had to admit that this suggestion against stampeding had been made 15 months ago. This is hardly the pace of a stampede.
– Do you remember how long it took your Party to introduce the Life Insurance Act?
Senator Rae suggesting that rather than discuss the problems of 1971 we should go back to the problems of the 1940s? I know the reluctance of the Government at being dragged screaming into the 1970s but I suggest that this is the real problem. The problem is not even so much what has happened to the unfortunate policy holders who found themselves without cover in the past. Senator Greenwood seemed to suggest that because we could do nothing about them the urgency had gone out of the matter. What we are concerned about is to see that this does not go on happening. But we do not have to wait until we get a crash of the dimensions of the one in England to which I referred when 700,000 people suddenly found themselves without cover before the Government suddenly discovers that there is some urgency in this problem. I would like to point out also, as Senator Murphy has pointed out, that this Government which is so fond of emphasising its unity and contrasting it with the socalled division in our ranks-
– We do not tell our fellows to shut up and get out of the Senate.
Government spokesmen on this matter have 2 quite dissonant voices? We heard from Senator Greenwood yesterday and again today a claim that there is no real problem; there is nothing that he has heard about. We were doing some disservice by suggesting that there was a problem but this, as Senator Murphy reminded him, is not the attitude of his Prime Minister. Only the other day Mr McMahon admitted that there had been a delay, regretted it and said in the old strain of ‘promises, promises’ ‘I will try to do something for you this session about it’. Where is the unity there? Perhaps Senator Greenwood does not speak to Mr McMahon. That would not be so strange. We have heard that these things do happen on the Government side these days. Of course, we had an egregious contribution from Senator Durack, which was echoed by Senator Marriott, suggesting that somehow or other we are being almost treasonable in wasting 3 hours of the Senate’s time to discuss what we regard as an urgent matter. I make bold to suggest that the thousands of threatened policy holders in this country will not hold that against us if as a result of this motion we can get some action from the Government.
– I think perhaps the debate of this evening and this afternoon could be described now as something which had a degree of importance, a degree of seriousness, which certainly warranted the attention of the Parliament - the attention of the Parliament by way of question, the attention of the Parliament by way of answer - but the attention ot the Parliament by way of a lengthy debate on an amended motion which no longer has any real meaning to it is something which I find hard to understand.
– Your understanding level is not very high.
– Senator Poke, if you would mind just trying to pay attention to running your side of the show and stopping Senator Murphy from whipping Senator Poyser’s head off I will get on with my speech and we will all be much better off, I am sure. Getting on with the matter under discussion, the statement of the matter of urgency originally raised by Senator Murphy was in these terms:
We have already heard from Senator Durack as to the meaning of accident insurance and how apparently the drafting of this motion was not quite in accord with what intended by it. I will not pause any longer other than to say that Senator
Murphy’s motion apparently was intended to relate to general insurance and not accident insurance. But then at the suggestion of Senator Byrne he accepted an amendment which deleted the words ‘neglect in failing to introduce’ and substituted the words ‘delay in introducing’, so that we now have the statement of a matter of urgency in these terms:
The Government’s delay in introducing legislation to regulate and supervise accident insurance.
This matter, I would have thought, has been fully explained by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) who is in charge of the debate and who has indicated the sort of considerations which have created the delay. Perhaps if one can take the simple matter that if Rome was not built in a day, general accident insurance legislation is not likely to be built in a day either.
– Or a year.
– Or a year because, as Senator James McClelland is happy to remind me, it tends to happen that parliaments before having presented to them by a government legislation for consideration expect that government to have given adequate consideration to the drafting of it, and this is what happened in 1945 in relation to the Life Insurance Act. I must say to the credit of the then government, the Labour Government of the day - a credit which I am not sure is reflected in similar terms in the attitudes expressed by the Opposition here - it worked long and hard on drafting the Life Insurance Bill 1945. The Bill was supported by the Opposition - the present Government - and the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Menzies, spoke strongly in favour of it, with one or two exceptions into which we need not go. But one of the features about that legislation was that it was a matter which had been very carefully considered. It was a matter in relation to which the drafting had taken into account the legislation from Great Britain, South Africa and several other countries. It was legislation which had taken into account the royal commission which had taken place in Victoria at the end of the 1930s and a number of experiences of the various States in legislating in this field. I think the care that was taken in preparing that legislation is well demonstrated in its usefulness by the report in 1970 of the Insurance Commissioner appointed under that Act who said:
Since 1946 it has been found desirable to amend the Act on several occasions and it is inevitable that further amendments will be required from time to time to meet changing conditions. Nevertheless, the basic principles embodied in the Act remain the same as when the Act was first introduced. This record is a testimonial to the foresight and skill of those responsible for the preparation of those principles and for their translation into legislation.
I hope that when in 25 years time this Parliament is considering the general insurance legislation it will be possible to have before it a report of a general insurance commissioner or such other person in a similar position who will be able to say that the record of that legislation is a testimonial to the foresight and skill of those responsible for the preparation of those principles and for their translation into legislation.
– Will we have to wait 25 years?
– I was referring to 25 years of operation. One anticipates that we will have legislation this year. One anticipates that 25 years from then we will be a’ble to look back, as we can now on the operation of the Life Insurance Act, and see with what success, with what dangers, and with what inefficiencies the Act has been able to be enforced and used by those charged with administering it. I would hope that a good Act, even if delayed, in a field such as this is a better Act than one hastily but ill-conceived which creates problems greater than the problems which it was intended to overcome.
I pass from that, which is a matter of relatively little importance at this stage of the debate, when the whole debate has lost its meaning as a result of the amendment accepted by Senator Murphy who gave the impression of spinning the motion off his head as he walked in, having in his hand the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and in his mind a feeling of bitterness towards Senator Greenwood for some reason inexplicable to those who sit back and try to watch with some objectivity what goes on. There may be some explanation. I do not know why Senator Murphy displayed such animosity this afternoon and this evening towards the Attorney-General. It was said that Senator Greenwood said that there was no problem. I think we should refer to Hansard of yesterday. Senator Greenwood did not say that there was not any problem nor did he say, as was attributed to him by Senator James McClelland and Senator Murphy, that he was unaware of any problem. He said:
All I will say is that it is a matter which has had some publicity given to it in recent months.
How could Senator Greenwood say that it is a matter which has had some publicity given it in recent months if he were unaware of the existence of the problem? It is being pedantic in the extreme - in fact, it is offensive nit picking - to use the arguments which have been used in relation to Senator Greenwood’s answer to try to support an unsupportable motion when the matter should have come before this chamber by way of question only. The question should have been: When is it anticipated that the legislation will be introduced?
– That is what we asked him and he would not tell us.
– If the question had been directed to the responsible Minister, the Treasurer, through the Minister representing him in this chamber one might have expected an answer.
– I asked him twice.
– Apparently Senator James McClelland is not able to realise within whose ministerial responsibility the matter falls, notwithstanding the fact that his colleagues in the other chamber know and have been able to direct questions to the right person on previous occasions when the matter has been raised in the Parliament. If one asked the Attorney-General about a matter coming within the jurisdiction of the Treasurer, one might expect him to say: ‘Cool down a little. Do not start a rush on insurance companies generally. This is a matter on which the Government will act. It is preparing legislation in accordance with the promises it made. The legislation will be introduced as soon as it had been drafted properly so that in 25 years time we can look back, as the Insurance Commissioner does on the Life Insurance Act, and say that it is a testimonial to the foresight and skill of those responsible for its preparation.’
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 96l of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901- 1970, I present the annual report of the Australian Post Office for the year ended 30th June 1971 together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the statistical returns from each of the 6 States showing the voting within each subdivision in relation to the Senate election on 21st November 1970.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930-1963, I present a statement of moneys received and expended during the year ended 30th June 1971 by the Commonwealth in the administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a Tariff Board report on grinding wheels of the depressed centre type and cutting off wheels (Dumping and Subsidies Act) dated 19th August 1971.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report by Sir Leslie Melville, K.B.E., appointed by the Commonwealth as arbiter, on oil industry terms and conditions for refining of indigenous crude oil on behalf of independent marketers.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955- 1965, I present the sixteenth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1920- 1971, I present the reports of War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals Nos 1, 2, 3 and 4 for the year ended 30th June 1971 and No. 5 in respect of the period 1st July 1970 to 21st June 1971.
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to: That business of the Senate notices of motion Nos 1 to 4 be postponed to the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to:
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business orders of the day Nos 2, 5 and 7.
– I inform the Senate that it is proposed that tomorrow, Thursday, 28th October, the adjournment of the Senate will be moved at 5.30 p.m. instead of at 10.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 6th October (vide page 1179), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party will not oppose the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Bill because it seeks to extend the payment of the phosphate bounty for a further 3 years. The bounty has proven to be of very great benefit to rural producers. It is at times such as these that they need as much assistance as the nation can economically afford to give them. I am not dealing with the special fertilisers bow when I say that to continue the payment of the $12 a ton on standard superphosphate, keeping the cost of a ton of phosphate at $15.25, will benefit rural produrers. This price has remained reasonably stable since the introduction of the scheme in 1963.
We would not oppose a measure of this nature. It is interesting to note that since the subsidy was introduced the taxpayers of Australia, through it alone, have paid $235m to the rural industries. This is a fairly large sum to be paid for one subsidy over an 8-year period. The fact that the taxpayers of Australia are prepared to pay this subsidy is an indication of the gratitude that the community feels towards the rural industries which have been the mainstay of the economic situation in Australia over a great number of years. This is another reason why we would not oppose the Bill.
Despite the fact that over the years the workers of Australia have grizzled about the cockies, they have appreciated the standard of living that the exports of the rural industries have been able to provide for the Australian community. It is for this reason that there has been no complaint about the payment of this subsidy. Nevertheless, we ask the Government to take reasonable care, in paying the subsidy, to ensure that we do not start subsidising over-capacity. One realises that there is somewhat of a slump in the rural industries arid that, although rural producers might like to have more phosphate on their land to enable them to grow more corn or oil seed or to improve their pastures, they are just not in a position to purchase great quantities of phosphate, as a result of which there is a decrease in the turnover of phosphate for the rural industries. The effect of this is the commencement of an excess capacity for the production of phosphate in Australia.
Only recently 2 phosphate works in Western Australia closed down because they were not receiving sufficient orders to enable them to carry on business. One country phosphate works at Geraldton has reduced production by 40 per cent. This is an indication of what is happening throughout the phosphate industry. Consequently, we ask the Government to give serious consideration to ensuring that the subsidy is not directed towards creating a greater capacity than is required. Care will have to be taken also to ensure that a monopoly position is not created within the industry. We all know of the mergers and takeovers that are occurring in Australia, not only in this industry but also in many other industries. So care should be taken to ensure that during this period in which there is a downturn in the requirement for phosphate we do not bring about a situation in which monopolies can be created. One of the worst things that could happen to the rural industries would be to take competition out of this area of service to the rural industries. We are aware that because subsidised industries have guaranteed incomes they are attractive to overseas investors. We should be trying to ensure that as much as possible of the phosphate industry remains in the hands of Australians. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I would not delay the Senate, except for the fact that I want to draw to its attention some matters that are perhaps somewhat different from those that are considered in a general survey of the existing legislation. I last spoke on a Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Bill on 9th September 1969, but I do not want to repeat any of the things that I said then. This legislation has been and is, as Senator Cant pointed out, of tremendous value in helping to offset some of our rising costs. Since September 1969 the f.o.b. landed cost of sulphur, which is one of the important ingredients of superphosphate, has declined from $32.54 a ton to $17.71 a ton - a drop of $14.83. This means that the cost of the sulphur ingredient in a ton of superphosphate has fallen during that period by $1.80 a ton.
However, during that time, other costs, including the cost of wages and materials, have increased; so that the price of superphosphate recently was increased by 20c a ton. Whereas there should have been a reduced cost to producers, the amount of that reduction has been more than absorbed by rises in other costs. It is fortunate that in the original Bill we provided that the Department of Customs and Excise should supervise the operations of the manufacturers of superphosphate to ensure that the bounty was passed on fully to the producers. I believe that this is being done.
The aspect of the Bill to which I wish to refer is one that has been of some concern to me for some time. In the original Bill in 1963 the subisidy was made payable only in respect of soluble and citric soluble phosphate. The calcium phosphate of the original rock phosphate did not qualify. Dr R. J. Swaby and others reported to the Australian Plant Nutrition Conference of 1964 in Perth that it was possible to produce a mixture of powdered rock phosphate with sulphur and water which behaved very much like superphosphate, except that it was a little slower in its initial reaction in the soil. I shall read the final passage of the report and ask the Senate to note carefully what was said by Dr Swaby:
In all soils all plants in their first season produced highest yields from superphosphate and lowest from rock phosphate, the granules being intermediate.
They are the granules to which I have referred as being the new process. The report continued:
In the second year the residual value of the granules exceeded or equalled that of superphosphate and rock phosphate.
In Australia while there is a bounty on superphosphate but none on granules this fertiliser cannot compete. In underdeveloped countries lacking superphosphate plants this fertiliser has possibilities, particularly for perennial crops and pastures.
That passage attracted my attention; so I sought to find out what the position was. I learnt from Dr Swaby that because the legislation put superphosphate in a highly preferential position it was not economically possible to develop this new form of phosphate. Later on great concern developed because of the inability to exploit the Rum Jungle phosphates. These phosphates were found to be intractable. Because of very high iron content they would not respond to normal treatment with sulphuric acid. I drew attention of the then Minister for National Development to the possibility of using the Swaby process on the Rum Jungle phosphate. Various things had been tried. The phosphate had been calcined. It had been crushed finely but it was not soluble enough in its original form. There was virtual despair at being able to use the Rum Jungle phosphate economically. However, the then Minister for Education and Science, Mr Gorton, persuaded the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organisation to go ahead with some experiments on the Swaby process. The results were published. The experiments were done by Fisher and Norman in the Northern Territory at Katherine. I will not bother honourable senators with full details of the results but in vol. 10 No. 46, October 1970, of ‘Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry’ a summary appears. It states:
Pelletting the Rum Jungle material with sulphur and Thiobacillus (‘biosuper’)-
It was then known as ‘biosuper’ instead of sulphur granules- increased its effectiveness in the field at the end of the second year to the equivalent of that of superphosphate.
At least experimentally we have solved the problem of how to use the Rum Jungle phosphates. I bring this matter to the attention of the Senate because I desire the Government to take note of the experimental material now at hand and so that we can utilise the findings of Dr Swaby The inclusion in the Bill of a restriction on the use of rock phosphate should be altered so that rock phosphate used as biosuper should become eligible for the payment of subsidy. If we do this the experimental findings in the Northern Territory can be carried into the practical field of agriculture.
There are tremendous possibilities of saving in this process. We have the raw material on the spot. Manufacture is much simpler and costs are much less. I believe that this phosphate could conceivably be the answer to the costly phosphatic fertilisers now in use in the Northern Territory. But it would go beyond this. I believe that there is a role for this type of fertiliser in all the acid soils throughout the Commonwealth. It would have the advantage that it could be applied perhaps every second year instead of every year as now occurs with superphosphate. Thus great savings could be made in the actual cost of spreading. In addition it has the virtue of being less rapidly available. It is also less rapidly leached. In these days we find that there is a considerable wastage of soluble phosphate in times of heavy rainfall when soluble phosphate is washed into our rivers and lakes. I think that there is a place in our agricultural practice for this type of slower acting but still extremely valuable and economical phosphate. I urge the Government to consider amending this Bill at some early date to provide for the use of biosuper in agriculture in Australia.
– in reply - I am grateful for the comments expressed by both Senator Cant and Senator Prowse. I think they added something to the knowledge of all honourable senators who are here and to those people outside this place who will have listened to this discussion on the air. I am quite pleased and I am sure the Department of Customs and Excise is pleased that the Opposition supports the Bill and demonstrates its awareness of the benefit that the bounty confers on primary producers. Senator Cant made a comment regarding over-capacity and its possibilities. I assure him that officers of the Department of Customs and Excise are continuously checking the records of superphosphate producers to make quite sure that the bounty is paid only on genuine sales and that over-capacity is in no way encouraged. It is true to say that there is only one producer in every State except South Australia. But this rationalisation of the industry which depends a great deal upon economies of scale has ‘been necessary in order to make quite sure that there were the maximum economies in production and that therefore prices were kept as stable as possible.
Senator Prowse’s comments have been most interesting. I can assure him that the price of sulphur is constantly under review. Perhaps out of his own knowledge, which is extensive, he will recall that the price of superphosphate was reduced last year because of the reduction in the landed cost of sulphur. In 1963 when the bounty first came in the Government decided to limit it to water and citrate soluble phosphorus pentoxide content of superphosphate and ammonium phosphate. I am informed that the Government has several times reviewed extending the bounty to other phosphate substances such as those mentioned by Senator Prowse. But so far it has decided on scientific and agronomic evidence before it that further extension is not warranted at this stage. That is not to say that at some later stage it may not be warranted. I think we are all aware of the existence of these deposits about which
Senator Prowse speaks in the Northern Territory. Equally we are aware of the deposits in the Duchess area in Queensland. It may well be that one day Australia will need to have access to its own phosphate supplies in order to support the requirement for phosphate.
Those of us who have been involved on the land for some part of our lives have been well aware that phosphate and phosphatic fertilisers have produced quite a dramatic revolution in the Australian agricultural and pastoral economy. I think we all know what this has meant. We all know what the results have been. We all know how very important it has been because Australian soils are fundamentally phosphatic deficient. As Senator Prowse has said, they are also podsol soils and therefore acid in the main. Equally they are nitrogenous deficient. This country in its pastoral grasslands and agricultural scene does need supplementary fertilisers, phosphatic and nitrogenous. These fertilisers are quite essential to make the pastoral and agricultural economy of this country work. The measure is a good measure. It has been in existence for quite some time. Honourable senators know the details of it. It is not a measure which is opposed. It is welcomed on all sides of the Senate. I do not think I will add anything further to the progress of our knowledge if I take up any further time. Accordingly I suggest that the matter may now be resolved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– by leave - Mr Acting Deputy President, yesterday in the House of Representatives the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) read his statement on the re-organisation of the Australian Post Office telecommunications activities. This statement is contained in the Hansard of the House of Representatives of yesterday’s date. I ask leave to incorporate this statement in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! Is leave granted?
– No. I think that it ought to be read. The proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Leave is not granted.
– On 28th September 1971 I informed the Senate of the decision to re-organise the telecommunications services of the Postmaster-General’s Department into 32 management areas, 6 metropolitan and 26 country. The Postmaster-General has since received many inquiries and representations from honourable members and honourable senators, town councils and others concerning the economic and social effects of the withdrawal of staff and their families from country towns, some of which are already quite seriously affected by circumstances within the primary industries. The Postmaster-General has therefore explored ways in which area management headquarters staff might be decentralised without serious loss of efficiency in that organisation. I would like to explain the change in arrangements which has been decided on. At the same time 1 would like to remind the Senate of the principles of area management and to clarify one or two points which may have been misunderstood.
At present the telecommunications service is represented in provincial and rural areas by 2 relatively small and quite separate units - the district telephone office responsible for commercial and customer advisory functions and an engineering unit responsible for the technical aspects of the service. As I explained previously, Mr Deputy President, each of these district units has limited authority. There is shared responsibility for some activities and official co-ordination and final authority rests at State headquarters in the capital city. Under area management co-ordination and authority in respect of most of the functions involved in providing and maintaining the telecommunications service will be transferred from the capital city to area headquarters. Thus these activities, instead of being managed by 6 very large State units at capital cities will he largely managed in a town within each of the 32 areas. I will not repeat the advantages of this change, Mr Deputy President, except to say that it is designed to improve the quality, the efficiency and the economy of the service and it has been developed in the public and national interests.
To obtain the full advantages from decentralisation of authority, responsibility and accountability, it is necessary to place a management unit in an area geographically larger than existing districts. In general, a new area embraces 2 or 3 districts. A small proportion of existing district staffs would need to be grouped eventually at area headquarters. It is this factor which has given rise to most representations. It is on this point also that there could have been some misunderstanding. Staff responsible for commercial and customer advisory functions are not affected by the establishment of area headquarters. That is, almost all members of the district telephone office - telephonists, lines staff and installation and maintenance staff will remain in their present locations. Engineers and some supporting staffs, and a small commercial group, would be concentrated at headquarters. On this basis the original plan would have involved the eventual movement of about 25 to 35 staff positions from a district centre not selected as area headquarters over a period of several years. This was clearly stated by me on 28th September.
As I mentioned at the outset in this statement, the matter has been further investigated to determine whether or not it would be both feasible and practical to decentralise within each country area some of the positions carrying out area headquarter functions. The Postmaster-General has concluded that decentralisation of a high proportion of these area headquarter functions would be possible without too significant an effect on the economic benefits and increased business efficiency which would have resulted from the original scheme.
The results of this change will oe fourfold. Firstly, approximately two-thirds of district staff that was proposed to be transferred or moved by promotion or otherwise will remain where it is at present located. It will operate in circumstances or in a situation similar to a business branch. Secondly, the effect on the town not chosen as the management centre will be minimal both commercially and socially.
Thirdly, it is expected that all staff changes that do occur will be achieved by normal promotions, voluntary transfers, normal staff wastage and by local recruitment. Fourthly, personal economic problems of most members of the staff who are not promoted will be overcome or certainly alleviated in substantial degree.
In addition I should again explain that the changes even on the new basis will be gradual and spread over several years. The decentralisation of authority, responsibility and accountability for telecommunication services to 32 business units of adequate but manageable size is in harmony with the modern business practice for the control of large organisations. I am satisfied that the introduction of area management in the Post Office will have considerable advantages in terms of service, efficiency and economy. The modification to the original arrangements will enable the benefits and advantages of area management to be substantially achieved whilst ensuring that community needs are met.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to propose a motion that the Senate take note of the paper. I would like to speak for 3 or 4 minutes on this ministerial statement if leave is granted.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper. The first point that I wish to make is this: In his statement, the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) said that the transfers of personnel will be from capital cities to country areas. As the Senate knows, a ministerial statement was made on this reorganisation a little while ago. That statement caused quite a deal of concern among postal staffs. The only figures that I have before me deal with New South Wales because the unions which have given these papers to me have not had time to go through the various States to establish the position in each of them. Looking at what is proposed, it seems to me that unless more alterations are proposed that do not appear in the second ministerial statement there would be a transfer of people not from capital cities to country areas but from some country areas to other country areas with the exception of Canberra where staff would be transferred into Canberra, that is, into a capital city and not out of a capital city. This fact throws quite a different light on the whole question of decentralisation and the areas to which staff will be transferred.
The other point - and Senator Greenwood will remember this because he paid a deal of attention to my speech on the recent legislation dealing with postal charges - is that I pointed out previously that obviously a breakdown in personnel work had occurred from either the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) or the Department onwards. The proposed reorganisation was a shock to those people in the trade unions within the Post Office who are concerned with this matter. A furore resulted from this proposal. The results of this agitation have been brought to the ears of the Postmaster-General by members on all sides of the Parliament. Honourable senators will notice that the AttorneyGeneral, speaking on behalf of the Postmaster-General, stated that:
Firstly, approximately two-thirds o£ district staff that was proposed to be transferred or moved by promotion or otherwise will remain where it is at present located.
This underlines the point that I have made. It is obvious that a breakdown in personnel work has occurred because it has been found now that it is possible to move onethird only of the people about whom the Minister spoke previously. So I put it to the Minister that very obviously a breakdown occurred between the organisation and the unions and the people concerned. Personnel work is always very ticklish because people are being dealt with. The Government was saying to the people concerned: ‘We intend to move you lock, stock and barrel. You will be transferred’. Some of them were going from areas where they are buying their homes. There was no consultation with the unions or the people concerned as to what was to happen to their homes, what was to happen in regard to the education of their children, or that type of thing.
Obviously, the situation has been handled very badly. The best we can say about the latest statement is that it appears to be an improvement. I saw this statement only yesterday. Obviously 1 saw it before the Attorney-General read it tonight because I am interested in this matter. All I can say is that what is proposed now is a little better than what was proposed before. I do hope that on this occasion the personnel communication has not broken down and that the unions and the people concerned are very clear about what is to be done.
I wonder whether I might make a request of the Attorney-General. I request that he see the Postmaster-General and give us even more information. It should be possible by now, because this position has now developed over a few weeks, to find out the number of people involved and even their classifications. I do not see any great difficulty about that, particularly in an engineering section. I request that he give us, as near to exactly as he possibly can, the classifications of the people who will be transferred, the number of people who will be transferred and what centres they will be coming from and going to. I would like him to check up on this matter because it could well be that my information is lacking as I have only the New South Wales figures. In this case I do not see that the people concerned are being transferred from cities to country areas at all. From memory and without going through the notes that I have, I think the people in the area of Gosford were being transferred to Sydney. If this is true, and unless I have misread it, this document is inclined to give a false impression. I promised not to speak for very Jong. So I now seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 October (vide page 1174), on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Bill we are about to discuss is one which will amend the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act 1964-1968. I state at the outset that the Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Bill. It provides for the extension, for a further 3 years from 1st January 1972 to 31st December 1974, of a special levy on the slaughter of livestock. This levy is imposed in order to provide finance for the operations of the meat industry and to permit the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to carry out its work in connection with the meat industry. I might say that I think many of us lose sight ot the great work that is done by the CSIRO not only in this field but also in many other parts of the primary industry field. I think that all credit should be given to the CSIRO for the manner in which it has carried out its job in the past. From my point of view, the members of that Organisation are unsung heroes. I believe that they have played a very important part in placing production not only in the meat industry but also in other primary industries on a very high footing in Australia, and also in overcoming some of the problems that have faced these industries.
I would like to touch on a problem that worries not only myself but, I believe, every member of the Parliament. This is the increase in the production of synthetic meats that has taken place over the last 2 or 3 years. If we cast our minds back, we can realise just what part synthetics have played in the field of primary industry. I refer particularly to man-made fibres and the effect they have had on the wool industry. I can recall that 10 or 12 years ago, when we were discussing a Bill in this chamber - I think it was in regard to wool - the matter of synthetics was raised. I do not think we realised at that time just how important synthetics would be and the harm they could do to the wool industry. I felt that we took the matter a little too lightly, although many honourable senators from both sides of the chamber spoke about synthetics. I thought we could have taken greater pains really to go into what would be the repercussions of the introduction of man-made fibres.
Although the production of synthetic meats is only comparatively small, I hope that we do have a close look at what effect it could have on the meat industry in Australia, particularly in regard to beef. We all know the great part that science and technology have played in producing synthetics. They will continue producing synthetics and will continue to play a very important part. I feel that this is something that we have to watch very closely in order to make sure that we are able to cope with this threat to the meat industry. I do not suggest for a moment that we could possibly stop the production of synthetic meats. But at least we could do something about controlling imports into Australia and we may be able to control or to place some restrictions on the labelling of this type of commodity. I will quote from the annual report of the Australian Meat Board in a few moments. I believe it shows that the Board is concerned and has made certain recommendations regarding the labelling of synthetic meats. I am also aware that perhaps this cannot be done on a Federal basis to the extent to which we would like to do it because it might cut across the jurisdiction of the States. I feel that something should be done in consultation with the States regarding the labelling of any product that does not contain any meat whatsoever.
Reports regarding the production of synthetic meats show that they have a very high protein value. Some of the people who support synthetic meats say that their nutrition value as far as protein is concerned is as high as that of beef. We all know of the large protein content and value of soya bean and that it forms the basis of the manufacture of synthetic meats. Again, it is thought that the protein value of soya bean is higher than that of beef. Because this synthetic meat can be manufactured on a large scale, probably it will be sold at a much cheaper price than beef and therefore more of it will be produced. However, I believe that the problems relating to the taste of these synthetics have not quite been overcome. I think advanced technology and science will overcome those problems in a short time. Once people become used to the taste of the synthetic product it may be very difficult, because of the price, to get them back to buying beef and other meat products. We all know what happened with butter; synthetics made inroads into butter sales Also, we know what has happened with wool. I think we are faced with a problem in the meat industry and that something should be done about it.
In its annual report, at page 12, the Australian Meat Board made certain recommendations about what should be done. On 30th September I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary
Industry the following question about synthetic meat as reported at page i011 of the Senate Hansard:
Has the Australian Meat Board’s annual report for the year ended 30th June 1971 disclosed the potential threat of meat substitues to the Australian meat industry, as a competitor which could have an adverse effect on the future of this industry? Did the Australian Meat Board recommend to the Minister earlier this year that it would be desirable that uniform labelling be introduced to ensure that the word ‘meat’ should not legally appear on any package unless the package contained a recognised animal meat product? If so, can the Minister inform the Senate as to what action has been taken by the Government and the stage that that action has reached?
Senator Drake-Brockman replied and said:
Yes, I saw the annual report by the Australian Meat Board. The report stated that the Board was conscious of the threat being posed by the development of synthetic or imitation meats. It was making every endeavour to alert the industry to the dangers of this development. It made the point that immediate legislation was desirable to prevent the use of the word ‘meat’ in connection with the importation, manufacture or sale of any product other than a recognised meat product.
The Minister went on to say:
In April of this year the Australian Meat Board and the Minister for Primary, Industry wrote to the State Ministers responsible for primary industry asking them to examine their respective legislation concerning the labelling and description of such products to ensure that the misdescription with respect to the use of the word meat’ does not occur. Currently, the States are reviewing their legislation. The Federal Minister for Primary Industry is in the process of writing to the Minister for Customs and Excise to seek an examination of relevant import regulations to ensure correct labelling of imports of imitation or synthetic meats.
If one looks a little further into the Meat Board’s report one sees what progress has been achieved in the manufacture of these synthetic meats. At page 81 of its report the Board presents a figure representing what the Japanese have done regarding synthetic meats. Under the heading ‘Meat Substitutes’ the Board states:
Figures published recently in Japan, show that total production of vegetable protein material (‘man-made meat’) increased from 12,141 tons in 1968 to 24,217 tons in 1970. The publication source stated that most of this material was used as a blending ingredient in processed meat products.
I was interested to read an article in the Adelaide Chronicle’ of 22nd October this year in which Professor Edwards, head of the Department of Food Technology, at the University of New South Wales, was reported as having said:
Fabricated products with the appearance of meat have gone so far as to simulate turkey slices with their own plastic wishbones.
I do not know whether people would want to eat plastic wishbones but, according to him, they are simulating poultry. If they can do that then eventually they will be able to simulate meat in the same way. The report continued:
Professor Edwards, head of the University of New South Wales Department of Food Technology, said this in an exposition of the status of simulated meats to the annual conference of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation in Sydney. Virtually, all US production of these materials prepared from non-meat sources was based on soybeans.
Further on the article mentions figures relating to the consumption of this sort of thing and the extent to which it has increased in the last couple of years. The article went on to say:
Professor Edwards said he understood that a local agent for US isolate sold about 10 toss a month to local industry for use in manufactured meats in concentrations of 1 to 2 per cent. US materials included comminuted products which had found their way into hamburgers, sausages and meat loaves. A variety of meatlike pieces had been used in packet soups, canned stews and casseroles.
It is estimated that the consumption of soybean protein products competing directly with meat rose from 30 million lb in 1967 to 50 million lb in 1969,’ Professor Edwards said.
This shows how far this sort of thing has gone in just a short time. Something should be done about it and done quickly.
I do not want to delay the Senate for any great length of time. Although overall our meat exports for 1970-71 were about the same as for the previous year we know that our exports to the United States were down a certain percentage, particularly in the case of mutton. I think our mutton exports were about 30,800 tons less than in the previous year and that our beef exports were down not quite as much. Despite this the United States remains the greatest importer of Australian beef. I dare say there is a reason why mutton exports were down so far. At page 68 of the Australian Meat Board’s report there is set out the tonnage of our meat exports to North America and the variation in the different meat products. The volume of meat exports fell by 21 per cent. The figures show that our beef exports fell by 30,708 tons and mutton fell by 37,897 tons. To my way of thinking these are large reductions but there could be some reason for them. Perhaps there were some import restrictions operating against American buyers or restrictions on our abattoirs which caused the figures to be down in that year.
That is all I propose to say about this measure. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill but we ask the Minister to look closely at the threat that synthetic meats pose to our meat industry and the possibility that they will become a great proportion of the meat sold throughout Australia and the world.
– The Bill before the Senate is a short one. Its purpose is to amend the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act 1964-1968. The Bill consists of some 5 clauses. Three of those clauses relate to the extension from 1971 to 1974 of the rate of levy on the slaughter of cattle, sheep and lambs. The levy which is imposed under this legislation was originally proposed by the industrial section of the meat industry and the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council. The proposal was supported by the Meat and Allied Trades Federation and the Australian Meatworks Federal Council, who put a proposition to the Government some time ago that they would be anxious to support a levy if they could achieve some assistance from the Government by way of funds for research in certain areas of the meat industry. Whilst it is only a short Bill, I believe it is a measure that is of particular importance to not only the farming community and the industrial section of the meat industry but also the whole of the Australian community and the national economy.
Under this legislation a levy of lc per head is imposed on cattle over 200 lb dressed weight and a levy of one-tenth of a cent per head is imposed on sheep and lambs which are slaughtered at meatworks. The levy, which is not payable by other that the processors, is payable at slaughter. This expense is not passed on to the producers in any way at all. In fact it is a levy which is applied purely at the point of slaughter of cattle and the farming community is not involved in any cost at all. The Commonwealth Government is to be congratulated for matching the levy on a dollar for dollar basis. The money collected from the imposition of this levy is paid into Consolidated Revenue. It is then transferred to the Meat Research Trust Account. A dollar is contributed by the Commonwealth for every dollar expended from that account. This levy has operated since January 1969. At present there is a credit balance in the account of $145,812. The funds are used primarily for research, which is of vital importance to the industry as a whole.
The export value to Australia of the industry about which I am talking can be seen from the 1971 report of the Australian Meat Board. It shows that last year Australia exported meat to the value of $4 14m, which was some $7. 5m higher than the figure in the previous year. That in itself indicates the great importance of the meat industry to the Australian economy. At a time when many areas of primary industry are experiencing great difficulty the beef industry is holding its. head reasonably high. Australia has shipped some 540,000 tons of meat in 1970-71, which was 5,000 tons less than the shipment in the previous year. Beef accounted for some $305m of the volume previously mentioned. The importance to Australia of the United States of America market can be seen by the fact that some $209m was spent by the United States on the importation of beef from Australia. Japan, which was the next largest importer of our beef, spent $23.6m. In the same period the United Kingdom imported from Australia beef to the value of $21m, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics $18. 2m and Canada $ 16.8m. Japan took some $16m worth of mutton from Australia whilst the USSR took $9m worth and theUnited Kingdom $6. 8m worth. The value of the lamb which went to the United States last year was about $8. 5m.
Exports represented some 49.7 per cent of the Australian beef and veal production last year. They also represented 49.2 per cent of the mutton production and 15.3 per cent of the lamb production. Overall some 39.3 per cent of all meats produced in Australia are exported. The very importance of the research measures which will be undertaken as a result of the legislation we have before us this evening is quite obvious. It is interesting to note that local market sales of beef, veal, mutton, pork and lamb rose some 55,000 tons last year to 1,084,000 tons. In fact there was an increase in all categories. Perhaps this is to be expected because the population of Australia is increasing. It is good to know that this industry can look forward to receiving increasing interest from the local market. There is also some indication that the exports will continue on a somewhat rising scale during the next few years.
The great developments which have occurred within the last few years in research has been prominent in the minds of those people who have noted the problem which the abattoirs have had in so many areas of Australia and the actions which the inspectors from the United States have taken and the criticism they have made of the quality of the meat which has left Australia and the quality of the abattoirs which have handled that meat. Because of this the meat research laboratory section of the industry, which operates from Cannon Hill in Queensland, has conducted some major investigations. Those investigations are listed in the report of the Australian Meat Research Committee at page 15. Perhaps the most important investigation insofar as exports are concerned is in relation to cysticercosis, which is the greatest single cause of the rejection of Australian frozen boneless mutton by the United States market and which is to Australia a very severe economic problem. It is also a cause for the rejection or condemnation of mutton and lamb at Australian abattoirs. It is a problem which has loomed very greatly in Australia over many years. This problem is one which is going to be most difficult for us to overcome in the future. There is no likelihood at the moment of a complete eradication of this disease, but a long term eradication project is under way. No drench is known at the moment which will readily absolve us from the problem and there is no injection which will ensure a safeguard from it. The cost of it to the industry is extreme.
Eventually we will have to attempt to guarantee the immunity of herds from this disease.
– What is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation doing about it? Does it have any particular projects under way that you know about?
– The CSIRO is involved in such work at Cannon Hill in Queensland. It is doing this work on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Have there been any breakthroughs recently?
– A great deal has been done. I will mention one or two of the things that have been done. X-rays have been used in an attempt to find a ready solution to the problem. They are used to that the meat can be looked at quickly. Incidentally, this method has not been very effective. Comments on X-ray procedures by the CSIRO Food Preservation Division suggest that in using those procedures about 10 per cent only of the total boneless mutton examined would be declared cyst free, but it would be a positive test; then approximately 13 per cent of the boneless mutton would be declared cyst positive but that would be cyst free. So there is an enormous problem.
– It is not a complete solution.
– There is no complete solution. That is the point. That is why the Government and the industry regard it as important that we should continue this research.
– Is it a case of too little, too late?
– I do not think so. We all have our problems. In this field the Labor Party and the Government realise the importance of continuing this research. Certainly in the years to come it will be extremely important that customers for Australian meat receive the quality they want. The eradication of disease, the cleanliness of the meat and the cleanliness of the abattoirs whence it originates are all extremely important. Each aspect is subject to investigation by CSIRO at Cannon Hill at present. Meat research newsletters are: sent out quite regularly and have been made available to me by departmental! officers in the past few weeks. These publications indicate that research is continuing into the effective washing of mutton for future storage life. They also refer to the storage of mutton under ultra violet light, the surface drying of meat and its effect on the storage life of chilled carcasses; the use of packaging films for chilled fresh meat; the use of packaging films for other purposes; batch process dry rendering; cleaning and sanitation; and the evaluation of foam additives and foam drying equipment.
That short survey of the action being taken by CSIRO is an indication of the very important research in progress. One could not but support a measure such as this, quite recently introduced, but obviously one of great value to Australia as can be evaluated by the volume of money to be poured into research in future years. I recommend the Bill to the Senate and have great pleasure in congratulating firstly the meat industry which prompted the scheme and made available the money which attracted the financial support of the Commonwealth Government. Secondly, the Commonwealth Government is due for congratulations on its actions in this matter. As Senator Drury said, we should offer our congratulations also to the Division of Food Preservation of CSIRO for the work it is doing in this field.
– I join with Senator Webster in endorsing this Bill, as my Party has done. The report of the Australian Meat Research Committee shows that income from the levy in 1969- 70 was $744,000. In 1970-71 it has increased to $1,049,000, mainly due to the increase to 5c a head on beef cattle. In the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents in the Senate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), it is stated that the rates of levy are to remain unaltered at lc a head on cattle weighing over 200 lb dressed weight, and one-tenth of a cent a head on lambs. The Minister’s speech goes on:
The levy is payable by the owner of the livestock at the time of slaughter and, in contrast to the levy used to finance the operations of the Australian Meat Board and the Australian Meat Research Committee, may not be passed back to producers.
Anybody who has practised farming for a number of years, or even for some days, would know very well that it is the farmer who ultimately pays. All these types of levy are allowed for by the buyers who purchase animals from farmers. It is the farmer who pays, despite what may be written in legal jargon into the legislation.
– At least today they will be able to cover lc a head in the value of the animals.
– I agree that the amount is not very great, but I wanted to make that point to the Senate. I want now to comment on some of the projects of the Australian Meat Research Committee. The Committee states on page 8 of its report that $800,000 is to be expended over a period of 5 years on a sheep blowfly programme. Apart from foot rot, blowflies represent one of the greatest problems confronting Australian wool growers. That has always been so. Although $800,000 sounds like a lot of money, it does not really amount to a great deal annually when expended over 5 years. One hopes that in the future it will be increased, if the problem is not solved, we hope that more money will be made available to people engaged in research.
It is my hope that a biological answer to the problem will be discovered. This would relieve primary producers including wool growers of paying the costs of chemical sprays, one of the major items in rural industry today. If the need for sprays could be obviated through biological methods producers would also save a great deal of time.
– Would there not be an extra saving to the wool grower if there were no blowfly in the case of dirty sheep because there would be no crutching?
– In wet country in a period of muggy weather sheep can be blown within 4 or 5 hours of crutching. Another matter of great interest to primary producers is the successful research carried out into the importation of a dung beetle. So far, success has been gained only in the northern areas of the continent, but research is being continued in the hope that a similar type of beetle can be evolved for the more temperate regions of this country. This would be of immense benefit, not only to primary producers, but to the nation as a whole.
The Senate has dealt tonight with legislation authorising payment of a bounty on superphosphate. That legislation could become redundant if the entire dung of the animals in Australia were to be properly utilised through the use of dung beetles. In some areas of Victoria a rather bitter debate has been waged between proponents in the Department of Agriculture of superphosphate fertiliser and those people who today advocate the use of a more natural fertiliser such as dolomite. The day may come when the use of superphosphate is diminished through the utilisation of the manure of animals.
– Is the strike of the blowfly and the dung beetle being investigated by using the research money that is put up by this Bill?
– According to this report of the Australian Meat Research Committee the sum of $41,000 was spent in relation to the dung beetle. On pages 14 and 15 of the report a matter is discussed which is of great importance not only to primary producers or the growers of the meat in this country but also to the consumers. The report deals with the tenderness of meat. We know that everybody likes to go to his favourite dining house and to be dished up a rather tender steak. Of course, it’ does not always happen. It even happens in the Parliament House dining room that the steaks are not tender, but not very often, to be quite honest. At the present time the beast after slaughter is hung by the achilles tendon. This is the universal method. It would appear that it has been done thus ever since man slaughtered a beast and hung it to a tree. Research has shown that this type of hanging of a beast leads to the contraction of the muscles in the rump and back area. The expansion of these muscles promotes tenderness in meat. The Committee has brought forward the suggestion that it should be possible or it may be wise in the future to hang the beast in the foetal position and thereby stretch all the muscles in the body. The Committee believes that this would lead to more tender meat. I do not know how much money the CSIRO has spent in this field of research but I believe it was money very well spent because, one hopes, the market for these meats will increase once people are assured that irrespective of where they go they can be virtually guaranteed tender meat.
On page 53 of the report there is mention of a matter on which I believe not enough funds are being expended, but one would presume that the Committee is short of funds and must draw up a list of priorities. I say that I believe not enough money is being expended because I believe that the dairy industry in particular contributes very largely to the funds by way of chopper meat. The matter I refer to is commonly known as white scours in calves. It is a very big problem in the dairy industry. Anybody who has tried to rear calves knows that once this complaint gets in amongst the animals there are all sorts of strife and, try as one might with the various chemical products on the market, there are times when all attempts fail and the animals die. I notice that only $7,420 is being expended in this field. I would hope that at some time in the very near future a much larger sum can be made available in the field of research into this scourge of young calves.
– I am only trying to help you, but those research measures about which you are speaking are contributed to by the farmer directly. They are not provided for under this Bill.
– I am sorry. One would believe that the amount of money that is set out is forwarded to the Australian Meat Research Committee. In its fifth annual report the Committee sets out the various projects in which it is engaged. Senator Webster may be right; I do not know. I would be gracious enough perhaps to give him the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless I shall carry on. Bovine tuberculosis is another matter that has been of great interest to the meat growers of this country. It has been of particular importance to dairy farmers in the State of Victoria. For many years now that State has been carrying on a very stringent campaign to try to wipe out this curse. One of the great problems involved with it, particularly to the farmer, is the immense amount of time it takes to round up the cattle so that the veterinary people may inoculate them. In 3 days time they come back and read the results. It would seem from my reading of this report that there is a possibility of a serum being evolved which will detect this tuberculosis. Of course, such a serum would be much better suited to the beef growing areas because it is not quite as easy to round up beef cattle as it is to round up dairy cattle. <Bloat and grass tetany also are mentioned in the report, and research is being carried on in those fields. But as I have no desire to detain the Senate for too long I shall pass them by. Senator Webster mentioned cysticerosis. I can but agree with everything that he had to say. There are some discrepancies in the reports about the animals that act as hosts for the wogs - for want of a better term - that infect the sheep. There is an article in the Victorian Journal of Agriculture’, volume 66, of September 1968 which is entitled ‘The Guilty Fox’ by Dr L. Morrisroe. It reads:
A current survey confirms that that historical villain, the fox, also plays a leading role in the spread of sheep measles, the disease which is causing rejection of Australian mutton exports.
In a broadcast which was heard on one of the ABC’s Canberra radio stations on 14th October a Mr Bonner, the District Veterinary Officer of the Department of Agriculture at Goulburn had this to say:
I say there is a discrepancy because of this statement on page 68 of the report of the Australian Meat Research Committee under the heading ‘Identity of the intermediate host’:
The painstaking examination of stomach contents for foxes, dogs, cats, and dingoes continued. At the Keith Turnbull Laboratory, Frankston, 1,000 fox, 200 dingo, and 80 wild cat stomachs have passed across the post mortem table. In New South Wales, 80 foxes have been examined. In all these examinations, there has been only one- and that questionable - identification of T. ovis. The country dog emerges as the only likely intermediate host.
So it would appear that research is progressing rather rapidly in some of these fields and that even agricultural or veterinary officers are not quite up to date with some people in the field. Of course, it is in recent years. I do not hold this against people such as Mr Bonner who made this broadcast, but I merely point out that in my opinion research perhaps has overtaken some people in the field. Of course, it is in this field that the problems actually lie.
I would like to mention here one or two matters that have not received any consideration by the Australian Meat Research Committee, in the hope that perhaps some research is being done somewhere. One of these matters is brucellosis or, as it is known in man, undulant fever. The fifth report of the Joint Food and Agricultural Organisation/ World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Brucellosis points out that brucellosis is a world wide problem. It appears in, amongst other animals, goats, sheep, cattle, water buffalo, pigs, yaks in Mongolia, reindeer and caribou, and in the United States of America a form of brucellosis has been identified in dogs. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation joint report recommends further research in this field. From the report it is interesting to note that a vaccine prepared from strain 19-BA has been widely used for the past 17 years in the USSR, where it is given to population groups occupationally exposed to infection. Those of us who have met persons inflicted with this complaint known as undulant fever - 10 days ago I met a man who has been very ill with it for 2 years - realise that it is a problem for anybody who is unfortunate enough to contract it. Among the matters recommended by this report for further research are the bacteriology of brucella, immunity and vaccination and diagnosis of human and animal brucellosis. I do not know whether the Australian Meat Research Committee is carrying out any investigations in those fields, but I would hope that somewhere someone has not allowed this matter to slip. While the dairying industry in Victoria has to a large extent been successful in wiping out bovine tuberculosis, I am afraid that brucellosis still presents a very large problem.
One other matter that receives no mention in the Committee’s report is a complaint known as nasal granuloma. It has given me and many farmers in my area some headaches and some personal problems. It is particularly serious in wet country. Unfortunately the Department of Agriculture in Victoria has taken the attitude that this complaint is on the decline, despite the fact that almost every day in the sale yards in the wet areas of the State one can see truckloads of perfectly good dairy cattle being sold because they are stricken with this rather distressing complaint. I hope that somewhere someone is carrying out further research because, despite all the research that has been done in the past, to the best of my knowledge science is no further advanced. I support the Bill. I heartily compliment the Meat Research Committee, the scientists and others who have worked alongside them upon their work in this field.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Deputy President, can you advise the Senate whether a discussion on the general subject of the report of the Meat Research Committee actually comes within the scope of the debate on this Bill? I believe that reference to the title of the Bill would suggest that some of the matters that have been discussed, particularly brucellosis, are beyond the scope of the Bill.
– Mr Deputy President, I think you will see that the Bill has a very broad title. I have been listening very carefully to Senator Primmer’s speech. I think that it was in order, particularly with the system that we adopt in the Senate. We do not limit the speeches to confines as narrow as those adopted in another place. That is the type of debate that we have here. I am trying to assist you, Mr Deputy President. I believe that reference to the title of the Bill will show that it is wide enough to cover the very good speech that we have heard from Senator Primmer.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have considered the point of order. The practice of the Senate, as has been pointed out by Senator Willesee, does enable honourable senators to traverse matters that have relevance to the general subject. I suggest that there is no substance in the point of order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President, for ruling in that way. I do not doubt that Senator Webster was prompted to take the point of order because during the course of his speech, in which he referred to certain diseases of cattle, he failed to mention the very important and dread disease called brucellosis. It has to be considered within the ambit of this Bill because it concerns not only the future of our meat exporters but also the welfare of the slaughtermen, the meat exporters and the veterinary men who have to slaughter and prepare these beasts for export. We had to wait until Senator Primmer spoke before brucellosis was mentioned.
I remind the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) that by way of question I indicated that among the many threats to the export of beef from this country to the United States of America there was the added threat of brucellosis, because the information coming from the United States indicates that brucellosis is almost completely under control there and Australia could face an added restriction by the American health authorities against the export of our meat. West Germany, which is free of brucellosis, has imposed this restriction on our meat already. Meat from this country cannot be exported to West Germany. So it is very important to press the point that moneys raised under this Bill should be directed towards, and emphasis and priority should be given to, the control of brucellosis in this country because limitations could be imposed on the export of our meat to the United States. That could affect us economically. That is a very real threat. The United States authorities consider this to be a very serious disease. As a matter of fact, they consider it to be more serious than bovine tuberculosis. It may be that in the past we have been secretive about this disease because we did not want to raise the fears of the American authorities in any way, but I do not think that that is a reason for us to endeavour to avoid research into the control of this disease.
I turn now to the human element and the need to carry out research to control brucellosis because of the dreadful consequences which can flow to men who work in the industry. Brucellosis is, in effect, the venereal disease of cattle. It is transmitted to man. In particular it is transmitted to the men who work closely with the preparation of these beasts for the market. There have been many instances in which meat inspectors have contracted this disease which, in effect, is incurable. It renders a man impotent at an early age. In many cases this has led to the breakup of a man’s family. The rendering impotent of a man is a serious consequence which should be compensated. In fairness to the department concerned, it keeps on the payroll for as long as it can men so afflicted, but that is no compensation for the complete loss of family life. In Queensland 2 weeks ago a meat inspector who had contracted brucellosis died of an overdose of drugs which he took because of threatened divorce action by his wife. Who can blame a young wife who, in the early stages of marriage, is faced with this situation? It is very important that moneys should be collected and that a priority should be established if for no other reason than to clear our herds of this disease. A vaccine is available, but unless we face this problem, bring it out into the open and taken action to clear our herds of this disease we will face, firstly, the economic problems that I have mentioned and, secondly, the disastrous consequences which flow to the men who work in the industry.
There is no cure for this disease. The meat inspectors are aware of the likelihood of their contracting the disease and take blood tests from time to time merely to find that they have contracted this disease for which there is no cure. Many meat workers in Australia contract this disease, and often their problem is that their condition is not properly diagnosed. For this reason, during the debate on this Bill we should indicate to the authorities, the Government and the Minister who is responsible for this area that moneys which flow from this levy ought to be directed towards finding a cure for this complaint.
– in reply - In responding to the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill I should like, firstly, to thank honourable senators for the attention they have given to the debate. Also I am appreciative of the fact that no honourable senator wants to oppose the Bill. I propose briefly to summarise the purpose of the Bill by saying that it is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964-1968 to provide for the extension, for a further period of 3 years from 1st January 1972 to 31st December 1974, of the special levy on livestock slaughterings to provide finance for the operations of the meat industry service and investigation section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Meat Research Laboratory at Cannon Hill.
The levy was introduced originally in January 1969 at the request of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, the Australian Meatworks Federal Council and the Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia. These organisations have agreed to an extension of the levy for a further period of 3 years. This extension has been supported by the Council of Australian Public Abattoirs Authorities. The levy is payable by the meatworks and may not be passed back to the vendors of the livestock. I should like to point out that in this respect the levy differs from another levy that has been mentioned during the debate. The rate of levy is to remain unchanged at lc per head on cattle which are over 200 lb dressed weight and 0.1c per head on sheep and lambs. The expenditure of funds raised by the levy is matched on a $1 for $1 basis by the Commonwealth. 1 propose to refer briefly to the type of research which will be financed by the levy. The industry section of the Meat Research Laboratory in the CSIRO Division of Food Preservation has set up schools to investigate the ageing of meat and to ascertain the best time to package meat; that is, whether it is best to package meat 1 day, 2 days or 14 days after the meat has been killed. Finance is made available also for demonstrations in various States of cleaning and sanitation procedures and to advise on the best detergents to be used in meatworks. Also, as Senator Webster mentioned, finance is made available for studies of the use of X-ray equipment to detect cysticercus ovis, to assist meatworks experiencing spoilage problems and to help with microbiological and quality control procedures. In other words, after the meat is killed it is affected by microbes, and the meatworks want to know why microbes enter the meat and what is the best action to take to overcome the problem. Then there is the issue of technical reports relating to the matters I have mentioned. Finance is available also for the distribution of a newsletter. Information contained in the newsletter relates to the storage of meat, the packaging of chilled meat, the process of foam cleaning of CLA, or cheesy glands as it is commonly called, and also problems of cysticercus ovis. This is the type of purpose for which money raised by the levy is used.
In opening the debate on behalf of the Opposition Senator Drury referred to synthetic meats and the importance of watching carefully the development of them. He pointed, as an example, to the inroads that synthetics have made into the fibre market and their effect on the wool industry. He suggested that if a close watch were not kept on the production of synthetic meats inroads could be made into the market for meat. I should like to take the matter a little further and repeat what I said to Senator Drury in answer to a question asked in the Senate some time ago. On that occasion I said that the Australian Agricultural Council had had the matter of synthetic meats under review since 1969 and that the Animal Production Committee, the Australian Meat Board and the Department of Trade and Industry had been requested by the Australian Agricultural Council to keep this matter under review.
If we refer to the Australian Meat Board’s annual report, which was tabled in this place on 28th September, we see the position clearly set out. The report states that the Board is conscious of the threat being posed by the development of synthetic or imitation meats, that every endeavour has been made to alert the industry to the dangers and that legislation is desirable to prevent the use of the word ‘meat’ in connection with the importation, manufacture or sale of any product other than a recognised meat product.
I remind the Senate that in April last year, at the request of the Meat Board, the then Minister for Primary Industry wrote to all State Ministers asking them to examine their legislation concerning the labelling and description of such products to ensure that misdescription did not occur. The latest information on this matter is that the States are currently reviewing their legislation. Senator Drury spoke also about the export of meat to the United States of America. I understand that the fall in the shipments of mutton to the United States in 1970-71 compared with 1969-70 was a direct result of the United States ban on mutton from Australia which was imposed in the middle of 1970. It was not until March that a significant number of works which formerly had prepared mutton for the United States were reinstated to prepare mutton for that market. Hence the 13,000 tons exported in 1970-71 was a reasonable achievement. The slight fall in shipments of beef and veal to the United States arose because of a strong demand from other markets. In particular, shipments of beef and veal to Japan rose from 16,000 tons in 1969-70 to 29,700 tons in 1970-71. Shipments to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics increased from 15,000 tons to 24,000 tons. These 2 markets, which represent a total increase of about 23,300 tons, more than compensate for the fall in exports to the United States. I shall make one other comment in relation to brucellosis about which Senator Primmer and Senator Georges spoke. I recognise the importance of this matter. The Australian Agricultural Council has dealt with it on a number of occasions and work is being done on it. I shall certainly convey the remarks of the honourable senators to the Minister. If there is any further information which I can give to them on this matter 1 shall do so. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 6 October (vide page 1179), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Railway Agreement (Western Australia) Bill is to extend the time for the construction of the standard gauge railway between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana. The building of this line is not all done under the Railway Standardization Agreement Act. About half the work is carried out under the Railway Standardization Agreement Act and about half is declared to be development works. This throws quite a different light on the subject. The Bill also makes the maximum amount payable for these works $125m. The original estimate for the works was £41. 2m. Of course this amount was split up and the consequence was that while the Commonwealth advanced the money to the State for the State’s shares of its part of the work the money had to be repaid in various ways. Part of it was repayable over 20 years and part was repayable over 50 years. Both amounts attracted an interest rate which was the long term bond rate. At that time it was 5 per cent.
One could open up the whole matter of Commonwealth-State financial relations here because this exposes the sort of gimmick which the Commonwealth Government has been putting over the States in relation to financial assistance for a great many years. Money which the Commonwealth collects through taxation from earnings within the States goes into consolidated revenue and is then lent back to the States at an interest rate. When the original Bill was before the Senate I took the trouble to look at the matter. Using the long term bond rate of 5 per cent I found that the works were to cost the Commonwealth and the State £41.2m. Under the Railway Standardization Agreement Act the Commonwealth Government was responsible for 70 per cent of the cost of standardisation and the State was responsible for only 30 per cent. The overall figure for the cost of the works was £4 1.2m but the State would pay £3 8m to the Commonwealth despite the fact that the Commonwealth was responsible for 70 per cent of the cost of the work which was regarded as being done under the Railway Standardization Agreement Act. This sort of financing is not peculiar to this particular railway work. If honourable senators look at what has gone on in the States at various times they will see that generally Commonwealth assistance today is on a dollar for dollar basis. In this way the budgets of the States are tied up. Certain moneys have to be paid into certain projects. There is no elasticity within the State budgets. Then we find that the States have to pay interest on the amount which the Commonwealth puts in unless it is a straight out grant. The States finish up paying for practically the whole of the work. This is the situation we find in relation to this work at this time. While the Opposition does not oppose the Bill we do invite the attention of the Government to the situation which it creates within the States by this method of financing. Remembering that the long term bond rate has now increased to about 7 per cent, this is the rate which the States will have to pay if they enter into these sort of financial arrangements.
I know that Western Australia was very pleased to be connected by rail to eastern Australia. It improves communications between the States. It brings us all closer together. It makes this country much more one country than what it would be if it were divided by lack of communications. Communications solve most of the problems of the people. But this is a pretty high price to pay when one considers that the railway gauge between Sydney and Melbourne was standardised under the Railway Standardization Agreement Act. Two States are included in that agreement and they each paid 15 per cent of the cost of standardisation. We find that the work in Western Australia is much more expensive. Western Australia has a smaller population. Because of distance it is inhibited by having to pay this great amount. We do not oppose the Bill.
– I am also very happy to support the Railway Agreement (Western Australia) Bill. I do not rise to speak on the actual provision of the Bill which is for the very proper purpose of extending the time for the expenditure of money under the agreement. I shall simply say a few words about the extension of the standardisation of the railway system in Western Australia with particular reference to the desirability of immediately extending the standard gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. This Bill, as honourable senators are aware and as Senator Cant mentioned, refers to the provisions for standardisation of the gauge between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana. This has been one of the really notable development projects not only in Western Australia but in Australia in the last decade. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) pointed out in his second reading speech, this standardisation work was of enormous importance in the development of an integrated iron and steel works at Kwinana. But I hasten to add that its impact on the development of Western Australia has been far greater than that and that its impact will be of greater importance as the years go by.
Ever since the agreement was made - and in fact particularly in the last year or two - it has become obvious from the potential of the nickel areas in the eastern goldfields and particularly through the processing of nickel there that it is highly desirable to connect Kalgoorlie not only with Kwinana but also with Esperance. Distance is an obvious factor. The port of Esperance is only some 250 miles from Kalgoorlie. By comparison, the distance between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana is nearly 400 miles. Furthermore, some of the nickel development is occurring south of Kalgoorlie, between Kalgoorlie and Esperance. An important part of the policy of the Government of Western Australia has been to encourage the processing of minerals in the area in which they are found. That policy has been applied to the nickel belt. The Western Mining Corporation has been persuaded to establish a nickel smelter south of Kalgoorlie, between Kalgoorlie and Kambalda. This makes even more desirable from the point of view of that company the ability to transport the nickel that is produced in the smelter or the concentrates at Kambalda to either Esperance or Kwinana. But this is only the beginning of very great developments in this whole region. No doubt there will be many other sound economic reasons why a standard gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to the alternatives of Kwinana and Esperance should be established. Indeed, a fairly substantial salt project at Lake Lefroy near Kambalda is in production already. It is this type of development which will continue to occur and which will demand rail standardisation.
Applications have been made from time to time over the last 12 months or more for the Commonwealth to extend its programme of assistance for rail standardisation in Western Australia to include the upgrading of the Kalgoorlie to Esperance line. But I regret to inform the Senate that these applications have not been successful despite the fact that the Western Mining Corporation has entered into an agreement with the Government of Western Australia to provide half the cost of the upgrading of this railway line. I was rather disappointed to read the remarks made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) in another place on 30th September 1971 when this Bill was before that House. In reply to a reference to this matter, the Minister referred to the fact that the Commonwealth Government wished to -
This statement entirely misses the point that the principal company concerned - the Western Mining Corporation - already has offered to provide more than half the cost. Indeed I believe that the salt company also is prepared to make a substantial contribution towards the cost of the extension of the rail standardisation project from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. So, the very proper principle that private development companies should contribute handsomely to the cost of a project of this type has been met in this case. But that has not solved the problem because a small proportion of the cost still remains to be financed. This has been left to the State Government to finance. But to the present time the State Government has not been able to find the funds to meet this cost. Therefore, I believe that a very real case exists for immediate sympathetic consideration to be given by the Commonwealth to this important development project.
The matter has gone even further. The Western Mining Corporation has offered to lend to the Government of Western Australia the difference between the total contributions by the Western Mining Corporation and the other company concerned and the total cost of the project. Although that offer by the Western Mining Corporation was not accepted immediately by the State Government, I understand that it has been accepted now in principle by that Government. But Commonwealth Government and Loan Council approval may well be necessary to enable the State Government to accept a loan from a private company for a development project of this kind. I understand that this matter is now before the Commonwealth Government. If this is the only solution that can be found to the problem, I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Government will exercise its influence at Loan Council level, if that becomes necessary, in order to permit the Government of Western Australia to accept this offer from the Western Mining Corporation and to enable this most important extension of the standard gauge railway system in Western Australia to be carried out as soon as possible.
However, I believe that this type of development project has a far greater economic impact than perhaps a few millions dollars of investment by the Commonwealth Government. It is the type of project which, as I said in the Senate a few weeks ago, could well be financed out of some national development fund to which the Commonwealth Government could contribute annually so that these funds are available to it when relatively minor development projects of this kind require financing at Commonwealth level. As I said, the cost to the Commonwealth Government of development projects such as this would be only a relatively small sum. Of the total cost of this work of $14m the Western Mining Corporation is bound contractually to provide $9m. The other company is prepared to contribute approximately $3m. This leaves only a couple of million dollars to be found from public funds. It may be that the Government of Western Australia will contribute some proportion of that amount. So the order of expenditure that is being sought from the Commonwealth is, I suggest, of a rather modest character and really out of proportion to the enormous economic value to this nation of work of this type. Therefore I take this opportunity to raise this matter in the debate on this Bill in the hope that the Minister in charge of the legislation may be persuaded to impress upon his colleagues the desirability of sympathetic consideration by the Commonwealth of this project.
– in reply - I note that Senator Cant and Senator Durack, who are both from Western Australia, have spoken in support of this Bill and made separate comments. Senator Durack’s principal concern has been with the possibility of the Kalgoorlie to Esperance railway line. He has traversed the matter in some detail and obviously with a fair degree of understanding and authority. As I understand the situation from my briefing notes and the comments which are given to me by the advisers from the Department of Shipping and Transport, the matter at present is the subject of correspondence between the Premier of Western Australia and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). There is little that I can add to that, it being in the situation which it is. They will certainly be in touch with each other and, as always in these cases, will endeavour to resolve the matter in the interests of the Australian people as a whole and the people of Western Australia in particular. I will see that the comments of Senator Durack and Senator Cant are directed to the responsible Minister, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon), when this debate concludes, so that he knows the views they have expressed here. To the extent that he is able to take them into account and communicate them to the Prime Minister, he will certainly do so.
Australian Loan Council considerations have been mentioned. It will be appreciated that the deliberations of the Loan Council are a matter for everybody involved in the Commonwealth area, including people in the Treasury, plus the people in the State Treasuries and the State Premiers. They meet together on assigned programmes in time. I imagine that this matter is one which probably would have to await consideration at a properly organised Loan Council meeting. It is not for me to say other than that I will do what I am asked to do, namely, communicate the matter to the Minister so that he can speak to the Prime Minister about it.
I note Senator Cant’s remarks. He dealt principally with the overall problem of financing State works by Commonwealth financial assistance and the charging of interest on Commonwealth assistance. This is really a subject for a discussion on general monetary policy within a commonwealth, a federation or, indeed, a unitary system in regard to what ought to happen to public moneys that are made available for capital works and whether they should bear interest or not. I do not think we can really involve ourselves in that debate here, although it is an interesting subject on which people hold wide ranging views. The only comment which I might offer in the short time available and which might be of interest is that I have been doing some work on this subject in regard to another matter upon which I will be engaged in about 10 days time. It is a seminar on inter-governmental relations. I have been doing a little private work on it.
For the interest of honourable senators, I comment briefly as follows: The total Commonwealth receipts in money since 1949-50 have multiplied 8 times. Out of that total sum of money the Commonwealth has received, it has disbursed to the States a sum of money which has multiplied 12.4 times. The amount the Commonwealth has had left for itself out of its total revenue has multiplied 6.9 times since 1949-50. If, on the other hand, we take the total revenues available to the States from all sources - their own sources and also the Commonwealth - we find that they have had a resource multiplication of 8.37 times. So in that span of years the Commonwealth has had relatively less growth in total revenue than the States have had. It will be noted by analysing State accounts that they charge their own authorities interest when they lend them money for capital works. Such interest in their case has multiplied from $11.3m in 1949- 50 to a total sum of$142.6m in 1971-72. In other words, it has multiplied 12 times.
So it has been general policy in both State and Commonwealth spheres to charge interest on money made available from the public revenue for capital works, whether it is made available by the Commonwealth to its instrumentalities, by the Commonwealth to the States or by the States to their instrumentalities. That is just an observation which I offer. I thank the Senate for its consideration of this Bill, and I thank the 2 honourable senators who spoke for their comments, which will be forwarded to the responsible Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– by leave - I present a ministerial statement made in another place today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Mr N. H. Bowen, on emergency relief aid. I ask for leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows.)
I rise to make a further statement on the question of emergency relief aid. Honourable members are aware of the problem of refugees from East Pakistan, which has now assumed such enormous proportions. From the beginning of this problem, the Government has kept closely in touch with the situation and has been in contact with local authorities and United Nations authorities. The Government’s initial contribution was promptly made. The position continued to deteriorate. On 8th June following an announcement of additional aid by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Bury), referring to this grant, said in these emerging and rapidly changing conditions, it was important to keep the priority needs of the refugees constantly under review.
The Government has carried on this close review of the situation and has responded to the deteriorating situation by grants, which now total $3m. Unfortunately the political situation, which has produced this great humanitarian problem has so far eluded solution. The position now is that there are some 9 million refugees in need in India and a great deal of suffering and distress also in East Pakistan. The Government in pursuance of its constant review and assessment of the situation and having in mind what it believes to be an international obligation of this country in this unfortunate situation has now decided to make a grant of additional aid amounting to $2.5m of which $500,000 will be a direct cash grant to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The remaining $2m will be allocated in a flexible way to the provision of urgently needed items. We will be consulting with the local and United Nations authorities before deciding onthe specific ways in which this amount will be spent.
It is not just a matter of agreeing to provide funds. It is equally important to ensure that these funds are employed in bringing relief effectively to refugees, who are most in need. Our High Commissioner in India, Mr Shaw, hasbeen keeping in close touch with the Indian authorities and has been making regular on the spot investigations. Having now decided to make a further substantial grant of aid we will be following the matter up through him. We are proposing to have Mr Shaw return shortly to Australia to report to us on this matter and to receive briefing as a part of our continuing review. The Government’s record in providing aid to the area has been a good one. We sought to control our aid in a way which has ensured that it reached the area promptly, that it was in a form which matched the needs and that it efficiently reached those for whom it was intended by delivering it as required at Calcutta and upcountry airports. Indeed we received commendation from the Indian authorities, which came forward in a message from which I quoted in the House on 18th August. I think this bears repeating. I said:
Although relatively small in magnitude Australia’s timely refugee relief has been greatly appreciated by the Government of India and by the Government of the States directly concerned. This gratitude has been expressed on numerous occasions by Indian Ministers and senior officials, both privately and publicly. Apart from the humanitarian aspect of the relief aid our contribution has had a very valuable impact on Indo-Australian relations generally, out of all proportion to its magnitude. We were correct in our early decision to deal directly with the Indian Government, to consult with it about what was wanted and where it was wanted. Each air lift of our relief supplies was well-planned and executed. Thereby we avoided the delays and frustrations suffered by other governments and agencies. Moreover Indian Government officials had the feeling that we are working with them and not supervising or directing them and we have been overwhelmed with thanks.’
This was a rather lengthy message and I shall skip some of it but it also states:
The plastic polyfabric material supplied by Australia was particularly successful. We have inspected camps largely constructed from it in Tripura, Assam and West Bengal. It has saved many lives and international agencies and other donor governments are now providing similar material. And as for our medical supplies, they have been well-selected and packaged and are being put to good use.’
We have continued this policy and as lately as the 24th October have received a further warm commendation from the Indian authorities. In a message received on the 24th October from Mr Shaw the following passage occurs:
During official talks last week Foreign Secretary T. N. Kaul and Secretary of Economic Affairs I. G. Patel both thanked Australia for its prompt and effective refugee assistance which they described as “exemplary”.’
This amount of $2½m which I have just announced is additional to the existing aid estimates for 1971-72. The Australian Government is not diverting aid from any other area or country in providing this assistance which will bring the total of the Government’s emergency relief to the area to $5.5m since last May. The private contributions of citizens and organizations have to be brought into account in order to obtain a full picture of the total Australian effort. I would like to pay a tribute to the generous spirit with which Australians have responded to the appeals. On the figures available to me as at 24th September an amount approaching $2m in cash and kind had been sent to India.
The question of providing relief for the refugees has been recoignized as an international one. The Government acknowledges its obligation to make a significant contribution to the international effort. The major economic powers and the major donors of aid to India, like the United States and Britain, are making the largest contribution to the international relief effort
The Government’s record in providing aid for the refugees has been a good one. Australia’s per formance since May in responding to this situation places us in fourth position amongst donor countries, when our aid is assessed as is normally done, as a percentage of gross national product.
I believeit is a concern of all Australians that in aid matters it is performance that counts, not promises. It has been a disappointment to Australia that for the past four calendar years from 1967 to 1970 the total volume of official development assistance from all countries who are members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD has remained static. This has become known as the problem of aid fatigue in the major donor countries.
But Australia’s aid has not remained static. During the same period our aid has in fact increased. I believe Australia can be proud of its aid record. In the situation which faces the world on the Indian sub-continent, relief aid can deal only with a symptom of a deeper trouble. This is not the occasion to deal with the deeper problems, which are causing this human suffering. Honourable members are aware of the situation and I referred on the18th August in this House to some of the initiatives being taken by the Government in an attempt to influence constructive moves towards a solution. The hope of the Australian Government is that in the face of this tragic situation enmities will be set aside and strenuous efforts will be made by those in authority to bring about an early solution. We shall certainly continue our own efforts towards this end. In the meantime, the need for aid relief will continue and the Government will maintain its constant review of the situation.
– by leave - I present a ministerial statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in another place yesterday on the Arts in Australia. I ask for leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
In recent years my Government and its predecessors have given greatly increased support to the arts in Australia. The reponse has been most encouraging. As a result, our policy on the arts and the interpretation of action taken or not taken by the Government have attracted a good deal of attention from honourable members as well as from the media and the public. It is timely, therefore to give to the House a fresh appreciation of our attitude to the arts. It is proper for me to clarify some aspects of our involvement which have been under discussion in recent weeks. The Government sees the arts in a multitude of expressions and forms. Not as an adornment but as an integral part of life. Not something exclusive to the hours of leisure but as a force, penetrating and enriching every aspect of human affairs. Not as the preserve of the rich and the sophisticated but as a source of delight for all.
The arts are among the factors which go to create a quality of life unique in Australia. In the past we may have been inclined to stress the physical and material satisfactions of life at the expense of the pleasures of the creative imagination. And as a result many talented Australians who wished to be painters or writers, actors or dancers, musicians or film directors have had to leave Australia to build a career in a more sympathetic artistic climate elsewhere. We could not afford this leaching of our society any more than we can now afford to allow our incomparable environment to be despoiled and polluted by lack of foresight and conscience. But, with the growing cultural awareness of the Australian society and because of support provided by Governments, the opportunities for talented Australians to pursue a professional career in this country have been increased significantly in recent years. While there is still much to be done novelists and poets, painters and sculptors can now command a better market as professionals here and abroad than they could do- not so many years ago.
The Australian Opera, the Australian Ballet, the State Drama Companies, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Elizabethan Trust Orchestras, and many other smaller companies, all now employ artists on a continuing basis. And they attract back to Australia artists who, having gone abroad for further experience, wish to return and work in their own country. This flow will increase as time goes by and bring great stimulus and enrichment to the daily life of all Australians.
The effectiveness of policy in relation to the arts will depend in part on the vitality and wisdom of the institutions set up to administer it In the Commonwealth, overall responsibility for the arts has been placed by me with the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. This Ministry was created to take over from the Prime Minister policy issues of increasing importance on a variety of matters which demanded more sustained attention than it was possible for him to give. Nevertheless, I find a certain logic in the combination.
The Minister’s responsibilities are all in different ways concerned with the quality of life which opens out before the Australian people. It is increasingly clear that the superb natural environment which this continent provides for human life can no longer be taken for granted. It must be protected with understanding and with care. If, as I have said, the arts should be deeply integrated into our lives, they, too, form part of the intellectual and cultural environment within which our lives are lived - offering diversity of experience and - lending form and substance to our personal and natural identity. Aboriginal Australians are an unqualified responsibility of Governments - a challenge to our conscience and to our political and social wisdom. There is, particularly in relation to the environment and the arts, much that we can learn from them. For tens of thousands of years they have inhabited this continent, living in harmony with it and its creatures. They established a way of life in which the arts of music, dance, theatre and ritual were woven into the texture of their daily lives. It is indeed a happy combination of responsibilities which I am sure will give the Minister and his advisers great stimulus and satisfaction. In the past, when responsibility for the arts lay with the Prime Minister, several separate bodies were set up and were responsible for advising him on various aspects of the arts. They continue to this day and now advise the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts.
The Commonwealth Literary Fund had its own advisory committee. In the building up of the national collection of works of art and on many related matters the Prime Minister was assisted by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board. Advice on the needs of composers has been provided by the Board of the Commonwealth Assistance ;o Australian Composers.
In the field of the performing arts help was given by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, a private corporation supported by Government funds. In recent years several major institutional developments have occurred including the establishment of the Australian Council for the Arts, the completion of the National Library and the decision to begin planning a National Gallery for Canberra. More recently the Government established two new organisations in the field of film and television, the Film Development Corporation and the Interim Council of the Australian Film and Television Training School.
Apart from these bodies, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, through its symphony orchestras, television and radio programmes, has continued to exercise powerful direct effects on the content and style of the performing arts. The Government has now, therefore a range of organisations - advisory and executive - to assist it to form and give effect to policies for the support of the arts. The time, therefore, may be ripe to review the structure of these bodies and their relationship to one another so that they can best promote the vigour and diversity of Australian artistic life. When the late Mr Holt announced the Government’s decision to set up an Australian Council for the Arts he said it would be responsible primarily for the performing arts but would also have the task of advising the Government on those aspects of the arts not receiving aid through existing channels. He said also that the establishment of the Council did not preclude the possibility of an overall Council responsible for all aspects of Government support for the arts along the lines of the Canada Council and the Arts Council of Great Britain. Support has also been expressed for a comprehensive Ministry of culture in the style common among European countries.
During the last two or three years the Council for the Arts and other advisers have given thought to these possibilities. After consultation with them, I am inclined to distrust the idea of a single monolithic controller of public patronage. With all its faults I believe that our pattern of various channels of support, with scope for varied artistic and social influences, is almost certainly healthier. Nevertheless, the arts are in a perpetual process of change and are unlikely long to fit a pattern of institutions evolved slowly over many years. New art forms emerge under the stimulus of technological change which do not fall readily within accepted classifications.
One of the most exciting aspects of contemporary cultural life is the cross-fertilisation which now occurs between different art forms - a process greatly stimulated by developments in film and electronic processes. It is important, therefore, firstly, that the organisational structure should be flexible and capable of adapting itself to change and, secondly, that the state of the arts should continuously be studied so that, where necessary, gaps may be filled, collaboration ensured and new initiatives stimulated. My colleague, the Minister, tells me that he intends shortly, and thereafter at intervals, to bring together the Chairmen of the various Commonwealth agencies in the arts to discuss their present responsibilities and relationships one to the other. This will be a valuable opportunity for them to offer their advice on the effectiveness of the present structure to meet the changing demands of contemporary art forms.
It will continue to be the function of the Council for the Arts to study, and report on those aspects of the arts which are not assisted through existing Commonwealth Agencies. And to make its contribution to advice available to the Minister on the balance and effectiveness of our programmes as a whole. It was in pursuit of these functions that the Council presented my predecessor with a report which led to major developments in the field of film and television to which I shall return later.
More recently a study of the state of music in Australia has been completed and the Council will shortly be presenting my colleague with its recommendations arising from that study. Two additional studies will be undertaken this year by Committees to be established by the Minister. The first of these will examine the role of crafts as art forms in their own right, as a widely spread experience of creative processes and as the foundation of good industrial design. The Committee will include representatives of the Council for the Arts, the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board and the Council for Industrial Design who will jointly advise on the Committee’s terms of reference.
The second will concern itself with means whereby children and young people can be helped to enjoy and practice the arts more effectively. The Chairmen of the Council for the Arts, the Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers Advisory Board, the Commonwealth Literary Fund and the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board will jointly advise on the terms of reference of this study which will also involve educational authorities. Special attention will be given in these and other future studies to the effect of innovation in art forms and the mutual stimulus they can provide for one another.
Before leaving areas of the arts for which the Council is responsible, let me comment on the increased support for the performing arts being given this year. The grant has been increased by almost 17 per cent to $4.5m. The greater part of the increase has been given deliberately to the Australian Opera and to the Orchestras of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. Their share has been increased by 45 per cent to $1,290,000.
Some critics have seen this as an example of discrimination or favouritism. The Government believes that increased support for the arts cannot sensibly, be given uniformly across the Board. That way, no large development can ever be achieved, given the competitive pressures on Government funds. It is more effective to seize opportunities for major break-throughs as they are offered by the occasion or by some other stimulus to innovation.
In 1973 the opening of the Sydney Opera House will give Australia the chance to match the splendour of that building with performances which will be worthy of it and of the long association of Australians with this art form. The Government makes no apology for the emphasis it has this year given to strengthening the Opera Company and its associated orchestra. Their success will set new standards for all the arts and I am sure that the special occasion for others will be not far distant. Those who love the arts will rejoice that Australian Opera has been given an effective opportunity to set new standards of excellence.
Let me turn now to developments in the visual arts. As honourable members know, the first steps have been taken to establish a National Gallery. Over many, years, the Art Advisory Board has built up in the gallery an historical collection of the works of Australian painters of the past and the present. It will also incorporate outstanding examples of the work of indigenous artists of New Guinea and Aboriginal Australia, art of the South-East Asian and Pacific region and art on a world-wide basis, beginning with the 20th century. The Gallery will be more than the home for a unique and splendid collection of works of art. Its functions are broadly conceived so that it will become also a centre of creative activity for the exhibition of collections from abroad and of the work of contemporary artists and a focus of education and research exercising, in collaboration with sister galleries in the States, a profound and pervasive influence on the life of Australians.
When the decision to proceed with Gallery planning was taken in 1967 an interim Council was appointed to administer certain aspects of the initial programme. Its terms of office expired recently and it is the Government’s intention now to legislate for a permanent Council as a statutory body to administer the Gallery. Much, of course, will depend on the Gallery’s first Director. I am pleased to announce that the Government proposes to appoint Mr James Mollison to the post. Pending the submission of the legislation and the establishment of the statutory, office, Mr Mollison has agreed to make his services available under contract to the Government to carry out the duties and responsibilities that will fall to the Director of the Gallery. The Government has deliberately chosen in Mr Mollison ons who is young as well as talented and experienced. It will be some years before the building of the gallery is complete and its work in full power. By then the new Director will have grown with it in stature and have benefited from the experience of others in Australia and abroad.
The Government is fortunate also that Mr James Sweeney, the eminent American Gallery Director and international art and gallery consultant, has agreed to work with Mr Mollison and the architect during the present design phase of the Gallery. He will work as a specialist consultant and adviser to the Government and the National Capital Development Commission which has charge of the whole project. Mr Sweeney has already, given distinguished service to the Government and the NCDC - and we value highly the contribution be has already made to the preparatory phase of work in the gallery.
Honourable members will share, I am sure, my appreciation of his work and his readiness to continue to assist us. I should also add that when the permanent council for the gallery is appointed the Art Advisory Board to which 1 have already referred will become part of the council. The Art Advisory Board will also perform those other functions it now exercises which are not directly concerned with the gallery.
I come now to the film and television industry. When the Council for the Arts presented its report for the development of the film and television industry it urged the establishment of three new institutions - the Australian Film Development Corporation, the Experimental Film Fund and the Australian Film and Television School. The Australian Film Development Corporation is actively at work and a number of investments have been made. The Corporation was designed to serve as a source of part of the capital needed for commercial film and television ventures, and thus act as a catalyst for funds from private and banking sources.
The Government looks, however, to other sections of the film and television industry to share more actively with the Corporation the development of an effective Australian industry. The Experimental Film Fund has, until recently, been the responsibility of the Australian Council for the Arts. It has already proved effective in identifying original creative talent in this medium. The Council has also developed a more general programme to stimulate the Australian content ot film and television programmes and to extend sensitive and critical appreciation of high quality film and television. Responsibility for these programmes Will now be taken over by the Interim Council for the Film and Television School as has been announced by the Minister. It was partly with these new responsibilities in mind that the Government has decided to add to the Interim Council 2 men long experienced in radio, television and film making. They are Mr Hector Crawford and Mr Lenard Mauger. Their knowledge will be, I am sure, of great value in helping Us to promote plans for the development of the film industry.
There has been a good deal of misunderstanding of the Government’s attitude towards the question of assistance for training of film and television, producers. The Government decided at Budget time to defer consideration of a proposal to establish a training school for this purpose. This was one of a number of proposals over the range of Government activity on which consideration was deferred because of the need to restrict Government expenditure. This does not mean that the Government has abandoned the idea of establishing a training school. In this House on 7th October I informed honourable members that I had instructed the Minister to proceed as quickly as possible to collect all the evidence that becomes available to him so that the proposal could be presented to the Government well before the next Budget and not necessarily, therefore, in a Budget context. He is doing this.
The current position is that the enlarged Interim Council to which 1 have just referred has been asked to review the relationship of the training already undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the commercial television organisations and the film industry to the programme of the proposed school. It will seek the co-operation of those interests for this review. When it has received this report the Government will then consider the most appropriate way in which it might act to assist the industry in this important area.
In addition to the institutional developments recommended to and adopted by the Government, (lie Council for the Arts drew attention to the need for the Australian film industry for some degree of protection to establish itself on the Australian market. The Council suggested that advice on this matter should be sought from the Tariff Board or a specially constituted committee. Many other countries have found it necessary to establish quotas or to provide other forms of protection to prevent their vigorous but infant film industry being overwhelmed by imported features. I have, therefore, asked my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, to invite the Tariff Board to consider the need and appropriate form of protection for this industry. He has agreed to do this and in due course the Tariff Board will begin its work. I should also remind honourable members that the Government has done much to advance the cause of the Arts by ensuring that the Australian Broadcasting Commission and, through the Broadcasting Control Board, the commercial stations, give a substantial percentage of their viewing time to Australian made programmes. Under recently specified new requirements commercial stations have increased their quotas of Australian programmes. All stations which have been established for 3 years or more must televise at least 50 per cent of Australian programmes and 45 per cent of peak-time programmes between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. must be Australian. Audience surveys in recent years show that some Australian programmes are getting top ratings.
There remains much of the more detailed work in support of the arts of which my colleague, the Minister, will tell the House at the appropriate time. This statement has been designed to express my Government’s deep concern for the arts as an essential and vigorous component of our national life; to acquaint the House with the principles which underlie our organisation for making that concern effective; and to inform the House of certain initiatives which Will, I am sure, be welcomed inside and outside Parliament by those who share our belief that the arts can add both richness and diversity to the quality of life.
Papua New Guinea - Arts in Australia Motion (by Senator Wright) proposed: That the Senate do now adjourn
– I take this opportunity to place on record a number of questions which have come to my mind concerning the situation which has arisen in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. I do this in the adjournment debate because the questions are considerable in number and also because of the ruling by The President, with which I agree, that it is not acceptable to read quotations from newspapers during question time and that if the nature of the question requires some research it is not suitable for the short period of question time. Again, I do not disagree with this point of view. But it means that the situation will arise in which senators will have to use the adjournment debate to seek answers to certain questions from whoever the responsible Minister may be. 1 wish to deal with the position since the tragic and unfortunate death of Mr J. Emmanuel, a district commissioner in Papua New Guinea. Let me make it clear that I consider this crime to be a great atrocity and that no sympathy is intended for those who perpetrated the crime against a district commissioner who was highly regarded in the area which he previously supervised. However, there is considerable evidence that the Administration in Papua New Guinea has over-reacted to the situation and, instead of correcting the unfortunate position in which the people find themselves in Papua New Guinea, may add considerably to the problems. 1 will read out the questions which I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories without any comment and knowing, of course, that he may not be in a position to answer them tonight. 1/ he so desires I can raise the matter again at the first opportunity. He can have the necessary investigations carried out by the Department in order to get more comprehensive answers than he may be prepared to give me tonight.
The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 3rd September 1971 reported a statement ky Mr Oscar Tammur, member of the House of Assembly representing Kokopo on the Gazelle Peninsula, to the effect that he had been told that police were raiding villages and forcing people at gun point to pay taxes to the local government multi-racial council. I ask: Would the Minister agree that it is the responsibility of an elected member to make known disturbing rumours of this nature if they came to his ears? ls it true, as the said report stated, that the Secretary for Law, Mr L. J. Curtis, told the House of Assembly that Mr Tammur’s statement would be investigated and ‘if untrue, careful examination would be carried out to see if the member for Kokopo has infringed any laws of this country’?
I ask: Has the Secretary for Law carried out the examination to which he referred? What is the outcome of that examination? Is the member for Kokopo to be proceeded against in any way? Does the Minister acknowledge the Secretary’s statement to be a crude and unconcealed threat to, and most disturbing intimidation of, a duly elected member designed to prevent him from discharging his public responsibilities? That is a situation which we should view with great concern since we are responsible indirectly for the administration of the Territory. Did the patronage of the member for Kokopo of the Mataungan Association, a known opponent of the Administration’s intended political solution for the Territory of Papua New Guinea, in any way influence the Secretary’s decision so to intimidate the member for Kokopo?
To refer to the murder on the Gazelle Peninsula of the District Commissioner, Mr J. Emmanuel, it is common knowledge - one can see, for example, the article in the ‘Melbourne Age’ of 4th October 1971 - that the Administration has been engaged, ever since the Administrator’s eulogy the following day right to the present day, in an extraordinarily unabated and persistent campaign of villification against the Mataungan Association, complete with the rhetoric of law and order - something we are very familiar with in this country also - which has carried the clear insinuation that the Mataungan Association either inspired, instigated or aided such murder. I ask: Is it not a fact that despite the most intensive investigation into the circumstances of the murder no evidence to implicate the Mataungan Association has ever been found? Will the Minister make an immediate statement, in the interests of justice and fairness, unequivocally clearing the Mataungan Association of the innuendo of complicity which the Administration is unashamedly seeking to fix on it?
The Administrator was reported in the Australian’ of 9th February 1971 as announcing the upgrading and reorganisation of the Territory of Papua New Guinea security and intelligence services and as saying:
The new division will be concerned with providing information about external danger and internal subversion, but its total role will be much wider.
I repeat that he concluded by saying: . . but its total role will be much wider.
I ask the Minister: Will he detail the matters additional to external danger and internal subversion with which his spies are concerned? Does it include the surveillance of elected members of the House of Assembly? Does it include the members of the Mataungan Association?
Honourable senators will recall the exposure last year of the Administration financed and sponsored Warmaran Group which was granted news media facilities to peddle the Administration’s political propaganda. In case the memory of honourable senators has dimmed, the Administration’s Director of Information and Extension Services, in a letter dated 1 1th May 1970 addressed to the Radio Rabaul station manager and published in ‘Inside New Guinea’, wrote:
A major concern of the Warmaran Group was to reduce and destroy Kaputin’s standing.
My questions are: ls it still the Administration’s aim to destroy the standing of John Kaputin and of the Mataungan Association? ls the upgraded security and intelligence service being used for these purposes?
On 30th September 1971, according to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 1st October 1971, a summary of a confidential report on the problems of the Gazelle Peninsula, commissioned from Professor R. Salisbury earlier this year, was tabled and, so the Press report said, its principal recommendations were rejected. The questions f ask therefore are: What was such summary and is a copy available? Were any recommendations therein acceptable to the
Administration? The same newspaper report contained this quotation:
The Admistrator’s Executive Council considers that the first priority is a political settlement.
What does this mean? Does it mean the liquidation of the Mataungan Association? Does the Minister accept Professor Salisbury’s statement, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of 30th August 1971, that his time on the Gazelle had convinced him that all Tolai leaders were progressive men? Why is the Administration so unwilling or unable to come to an accommodation with the Mataungan Association comprising, as Professor Salisbury vouches it does, all progressive men?
The Minister many times has given the platitudinous assurance that the people of the Territory of Papua New Guinea will be allowed to choose their own society and their own political structure. Since that is the clear statement of the Minister, I conclude with these questions: What public and universal political education has the Minister directed to be implemented to enable the people to make such choice intelligently? Does such education include the sympathetic presentation of the principles of socialism with which we are very much concerned, that is, public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange? If not, why not? Does the Minister intend the people of the Territory of Papua New Guinea to be kept in ignorance of a social system adopted in whole or in part by a majority of the citizens of the world? Is not the sin of the Mataungan Association that it rejects as unsuitable for the Territory of Papua New Guinea the capitalist free enterpise system which the Administration is endeavouring to transplant and entrench before the people there discover the total inadequacy of such a system in a newly emerging nation?
I place those question on the record and I ask that in due course some answers be given to the matters I have raised. 1 have with me some copies of the articles to which the questions refer and I ask for the leave of the Senate to incorporate them in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 will conclude at that point, Mr Deputy President, and take no further time of the Senate. (The documents read as follows) -
Johnson Takes Over NG Security Service
By MAX HOLLINGSWORTH
The Papua-New Guinea Administrator, Mr Johnson, yesterday announced a sweeping reorganisation of the Territory’s security and intelligence network.
Mr Johnson, speaking in Port Moresby, defended security work and said be did not want a cloak of secrecy cast over intelligence services or their motives.
He announced the establishment of a division of security and intelligence, to be set up within the Administrator’s Department and headed by a first assistant-secretary.
Mr Johnson said the Administration would be remiss if an intelligence service was not developed and made available for use by a self-governing Papua-New Guinea.
He had been concerned by criticism of such a service which emanated perhaps from a suspicion that intelligence information was used to suppress civil liberties and silence critics of the present Government. 1 suggest no citizens of any country of the world have greater freedom of speech than Papuans and New Guineans’ the Administrator said. ‘No citizen is subject to coercion because he expresses opinions critical of government action or motives.
As the Territory advances towards independence there is a need for the structure of government to become more streamlined and more sophisticated so it may be able better to meet the increasing demands that are made on it.’
Mr Johnson said the new division would be concerned with providing information about external danger and internal subversion, but its total role would be much wider.
NG Taxes Taken At Gunpoint
PORT MORESBY, Thursday- Legal action may bc taken against a member of Papua New Guinea’s House of Assembly for claiming police were collecting taxes at gunpoint on the Gazelle Peninsula, the Secretary for Law, Mr L. J. Curtis, said today.
Mr Oscar Tammur, member for Kokopo and patron of the Mataungan Association, said in Rabaul yesterday that he had been told police were raiding villages and forcing people at gunpoint to pay taxes to the Gazelle Council.
His allegation was denied by the East New Britain District Commissioner, Mr Arthur Carey, who has been directing police action on the Gazelle Peninsula after the murder two weeks ago of bis predecessor, Mr Jack Emanuel.
In the House of Assembly today, Mr W. A. Lussick (Marius and New Ireland) asked Mr Curtis to take appropriate action to stop inaccurate and damaging rumours if Mr Tammur’s statement was untrue.
Mr Curtis said the claim would be investigated and if it was found to be true - ‘which I doubt’ - action would be taken.
If untrue, ‘careful examination will be carried out to see H the member for Kokopo has infringed any laws of this country*. (AAP)
Gazelle Proposal Is Rejected BY NG Cabinet
From IAN HICKS
PORT MORESBY, Thursday- Papua New Guinea’s embryo Cabinet has rejected principal recommendation from Canadian anthropologist Professor Richard Salisbury on the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain.
The Deputy Administrator, Mr Tony Newman, made it clear today that neither the Administration nor the Cabinet - the Administrator’s Executive Council - saw any long-term solution to the Gazelle problems in (he Salisbury report.
The council considers that the first priority is a political settlement’, Mr Newman said when tabling a summary of Professor Salisbury’s recommendations, and the council’s reaction to them, in ,he House of Assembly.
Professor Salisbury is understood to have argued that a breakdown of communications between the Administration and the 70,000 Tolai people of the Gazelle was at the root of the peninsula’s problems.
He urged that Tolai public servants be returned home to staff and direct Administration departments in Rabaul and that regulations governing participation of public servants in politics be greatly relaxed.
The council has rejected the first recommendation and indicated rejection of the second - both reactions are predictably in line with Australian policy.
Similarly predictably based is the council view that there will be no changes in the structure and status of the Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council unless all Gazelle factions take part in next December’s council elections, thus producing a fully representative council membership.
The official summary of his report indicate? that Professor Salisbury wanted changes before the elections to entice the Mataungan Association to take part in the poll.
With such enticement rejected by the Administration and the Executive Council, there is little likelihood that the Mataungan Association will change its opposition to the Gazelle Council and lake part in the poll.
Plea to Return all Tolai Officials to Gazelle Duties From IAN HICKS
PORT MORESBY, Sunday.- Papua New Guinea’s Administration will be urged tomorrow to transfer senior Tolai public servants working outside the Gazelle Peninsula back to their homes.
The return of educated and experienced Tolais to the Gazelle is one of the key recommendations in a confidential report to be presented to the Administration by a Canadian anthropologist, Professor Richard Salisbury.
Professor Salisbury, professor of economic anthropology at McGill University, Montreal, is investigating the Gazelle Peninsula problems for the Territory Administration.
The report will also urge the Administration to permit the establishment of a Tolai local government council, independent of the division of Local Government, to explain land law policies and to provide a new form of assistance to local businesses.
It will also recommend to the Administration that the Mataungan Association’s New Guinea Development Corporation not only be assisted, but be given sufficient help to ensure its success.
Professor Salisbury wrote the report, which will go to the Administrator, Mr L. W. Johnson, tomorrow morning, after three weeks on the Gazelle Peninsula, on which he is an expert.
He said today that his time on the Gazelle had convinced him that all Tolai leaden were progressive men.
None of them was a ‘yes’ man as alleged by some young revolutionaries.
All Tolais had agreed there was a need for much more local control of politics and economics.
But they disagreed on techniques of getting it,’ Professor Salisbury said.
I have no solution for this; they have to do it themselves. But 1 think there are some things the Administration can do to help.’
I have said to the local people that if the feel able to go it alone in local government without an Administration adviser, then the Administration should recognise this,’ Professor Salisbury said.
The Administration should recognise that this is a gamble that may lead to lower efficiency, but which is very important if there is to be Tolai control.’
Professor Salisbury said the idea of sending Tolai public servants back to the Gazelle was designed to mend the communications breakdown that was a major part of the Gazelle problems.
The people who explain administration actions to the Tolai people should be people who speak Tolai,’ he said.
It is really incredible if you look at the history of the past four or five years how much of it is based on poor communications.
For example, there is nothing really wrong with a multi-racial council except that the Tolai in the early stages of the council dispute didn’t understand what it was all about.
The whole issue of how to get knowledge ot new legislation, new policies and new institutions across to the Tolai people is something that really has to be faced.
If the Gazelle situation had not arisen over the issue of a multi-racial council, it would simply have come up over something else a few years later.
You must recognise these different pressures of regionalism, and one of them is that policies have to be explained locally, and they have to be adapted to suit circumstances - expatriates are not very good at this.’
Professor Salisbury said past experience with development corporations provided useful advice for the Mataungan Association’s New Guinea Development Corporation.
There is suspicion in the Gazelle that things are not well with the development corporation; people have paid their money in during the past year and a half and nothing has yet happened,’ he said.
If it does fail it will be serious for the Tolai people, and the Government should be prepared to do what it can to help.’
Professor Salisbury said the New Guinea Development Corporation was the brainchild of Mataungan spokesman Mr John Kaputin, who is understood to have collected about $70,000 from the Tolai people for use as capital for the venture.
Papua-N.G.’s Intelligence be Upgraded
PORT MORESBY (AAP): Papua-New Guinea’s security and intelligence services are to be upgraded and re-organised, the Administrator, Mr L. W. Johnson, announced yesterday.
A new division, expected to be headed by the Acting Secretary for International Relations and Internal Affairs, Mr Gordon Linsley, will be set up in the Department of the Administrator to run the services.
This means the police will no longer be responsible for security intelligence.
Mr Johnson said the services would have ‘a role of assisting the Government to ensure the safety of the country and the protection of the people by providing information about external dangers and internal subversion’.
It also would have the wider role of the ‘collection, validation, analysis and assessment of every kind of information which will contribute towards the Government’s understanding of climates of opinion and appreciation of peoples’ attitudes, needs and aspirations, which will provide early warning of developing pressures and underlying discontents, and which will point to unpopular policies and prompt a realisation of the dangers inherent in pursuing them’.
Intelligence, in other words, assists the Government to make intelligent, informed decisions and to devise sound, acceptable policies,’ said Mr Johnson.
– I deeply regret the lateness of the hour at which I rise to speak but I inform honourable senators now that I will be speaking for some time about the statement on the state of the arts in Australia. Owing to the lateness of the hour we of the Opposition agreed that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) should incorporate in Hansard the statement he presented on this matter on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Nonetheless I believe it is of tremendous importance. We of the Opposition do not wish it to be thought that we have no interest in this subject because we agreed to the statement being incorporated. Because of my continuing interest over a number of years in this subject, I took the opportunity to read the statement that was delivered! in the other place by the Prime Minister at 8 o’clock last night. Having read that statement, which I assume is the same as the one which the Minister for Works tonight obtained permission to incorporate in Hansard, I wish to express the opinion on behalf of the Opposition that that statement would appear to amount to nothing but prolixity and tautology. It was a mere mouthing of a lot of words that are completely meaningless. The statement explained nothing to the people of Australia about what the Government has in mind about taking all forms of Australian culture - music, literature, theatre and drama - to the great bulk of the Australian community and really developing a spirit of Australianism throughout the community by the extension of our forms of cultural and artistic expression.
The Opposition has advocated in this Parliament for years that the creative and the performing arts of this nation should be deeply integrated into the lives of the people of Australia. We believe that Aboriginal Australians are an unqualified responsibility of government and a challenge to our conscience and to our political and social wisdom. Those are words that in fact appear in the statement that the Minister incorporated in Hansard. But, in short, all that the Minister has done today is to express the Government’s concern for the arts as being an essential and vigorous component of our national life. If that statement is the criterion of the Government’s policy, I say that whilst it is in office and is -being influenced by the type of people who are exerting influence on it, the Opposition is concerned about the development of the arts as an essential and vigorous component of our national life. Whet? I say the arts I mean both the creative and the performing arts. Throughout the whole of this statement very little if anything was said about the creative arts. There were some hotch potch expressions about what is going to happen insofar as the performing arts are concerned. We on this side of the chamber believe that the creative and performing arts cannot be isolated from each other.
All the Government has said is that at long last, after a lot of haggling, it has decided to appoint a Mr James Mollison as the first Director of the National Gallery and that legislation will be presented to the Parliament in relation to this matter. The decision to proceed with the planning of the National Gallery was taken as long ago as 1967. It is scandalous that it has taken the Government 4 years to consider the appointment of a director. As I understand it, the gentleman to be appointed is an officer of the Prime Minister’s Department. I understand he is an acquisitions officer in that Department. I do not know what his other qualifications are. Certainly they have not been set out in this statement. The Interim Council that was appointed to administer certain aspects of the initial programme recommended by 8 votes to 4 that Mr Laurie Thomas, a very well known man in the field of arts, a former director of the Queensland Gallery and, I think, of the Gallery of Western Australia, be appointed to that position. Obviously the Interim Council’s recommendation has been ignored as the Government has decided to appoint someone else. I will be very interested when the appointment is made to see whether the Government is prepared fo set out the qualifications of Mr Mollison on the one hand against the qualifications of Mr Thomas on the other so that the Parliament and the people of Australia will be able to assess for themselves what should have been done about this important position.
From recollection it was also recommended in 1967 that the National Gallery be opened during the Captain Cook bicentenary celebrations which were held in January 1970. It is now October 1971 and the Government is only just making the announcement that at some time in the future - the date has not been set in the ministerial statement - legislation will be presented to appoint a permanent council as a statutory body of the gallery.
Let us examine the general state of the arts in Australia. The Prime Minister said that the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) will bring together the chairmen of the various Commonwealth agencies in the arts field to discuss their present responsibilities and relationships one to the other. Frankly the only thing that 1 can say on that aspect is that this sort of approach should have been made years ago. There should have been much more discussion and coordination of the activities of this Important aspect of departmental administration. Perhaps the only reason it has not been done is that a room large enough to accommodate them all is not available. I say that because on 14th July 1970 the then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Gorton, wrote to me providing information I had sought about existing departmental committees and sub-committees dealing with the development of the arts in Australia. I intend to take some of the time of the Senate to read out the names of the various committees that are advising the Government. First of all, there is the Advisory Committee on the Teaching of Asian Languages and Cultures. There is the Committee on Cultural Development in the Australian Capital Territory. There is the Canberra Theatre Trust. There is the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board. There is the Commonwealth Literary Fund. There is the Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. There is the Advisory Board for Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers. There is the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery. Then, of course, there is the Australian Council for the Arts and the sub-committees of the Australian Council for the Arts, namely, the Experimental Film and Television Committee, the Aboriginal Arts Advisory Committee, the Music Committee and the Special Projects Fund Committee.
There is the Interim Council for a National Film and Television Training School and there are a number of UNESCO Committees which provide the Commonwealth with a continuing source of informed advice on aspects of the programme and budget of the Director-General of UNESCO and on the desirability and implementation of UNESCO projects in Australia in which they take an active part. Those committees are the Australian National Advisory Committee for UNESCO the Australian UNESCO Committee for Drama and Theatre, the Australian UNESCO Committee for Letters, the Australian UNESCO Committee for Music, the Australian UNESCO Committee for Film, the Australian UNESCO Committee for Press, the Australian UNESCO Committee for Radio and Television and the Australian UNESCO Committee for Visual Arts. It can be seen from the conglomeration and multiplicity of committees and sub-committees that have been established over the years by the Government to advise it on various aspects of the cultural development of this nation that it has been very difficult if not impossible to get a coordinated policy insofar as the development of the creative and performing arts is concerned.
I turn now to discuss a national theatre. I do not think there is anything in the Prime Ministers statement about the Government’s intentions to establish a national theatre in Australia. When the Chifley Labor Government was in office, Prime Minister Chifley invited Sir Tyrone Guthrie, a very prominent British theatrical producer, to come to Australia to advise on the possibility of the establishment of a national theatre. He toured Australia for about 6 weeks in 1949 and then tendered his report to the Government. He advised against the investment of government money in building a national theatre but held the idea of investment in the art of the theatre. He suggested a scheme whereby selected Australian actors could be assisted to go abroad for a period, and also suggested that Australian managements be assisted to’ hire distinguished theatrical guests from overseas.
Very shortly after Sir Tyrone Guthrie tendered his report, the Labor Government of 1949 which had sought his professional advice on the establishment of a national theatre unfortunately went out of office. For the last 22 years, under a conservative Liberal and Country Party administration, nothing has been done to develop a national theatre in Australia. Last year Sir Tyrone Guthrie returned to Australia. On 23rd August he was guest of honour on an Australian Broadcasting Commission programme. In that programme he stated that throughout the world by the middle of the twentieth century every capital city with pretensions to culture had its own national theatre and opera house and, more importantly, opera companies comprised of the best actors, directors and technicians in the land. He went on to say:
In the last decade, however, Great Britain and Canada have both established national theatres and companies. Ireland has had them for SO years. Two exceptions remain - the United Slates and guess who?
Those words were used by Sir Tyrone Guthrie, a celebrated British theatrical producer, when he visited Australia last year. I repeat that be was brought to Australia in 1949 by the Labor Government of the day, to advise on the establishment of a national theatre. Twenty-two years later, after the Government has been in office all that time, it produces a ministerial statement and pretends to the Australian people that it is doing something constructive about the development of the creative and performing arts in this country.
I turn now to consider literature. Speaking from memory, I believe that the Prime Minister referred to the Commonwealth Literary Fund in his statement. The fact is that in May 1969, only a little over 2 years ago, the Australian Society of Authors commissioned a private survey company to conduct a confidential mail survey into the earnings of Australian authors and writers. The survey indicated that 59 per cent of our authors and writers earned less from authorship than the then current social service pension, and 85 per cent of them earned less than the then current shorthand typists’ secretarial salary. The interim results of the survey were published in August 1969 and included the following:
Gross earnings of authors of books over the last 2 calendar years averaged between $5 a week and $10 a week. Among the small group who had published 10 or more books, namely 12 per cent, earnings rose to an average of between $20 a week and $50 a week. Gross earnings from freelance literary work other than books averaged for all respondents from $2 a week to $6 a week. If those with no income from this source are omitted, the figure rises to about $10 a week.
In releasing this preliminary report of the 53- page computerised study, the Australian Society of Authors finds itself at a loss for words. If it were not for the. evidence of publication, the Society would be justified in believing it represented a group composed in the main of amateur writers who might just ax. well spend their time collecting stamps or chasing butterflies.
Let us now turn to the subject of television which, because of its far reaching impact on the lives and habits of all Australians, must be automatically regarded as forming a part of the cultural and artistic development of this great nation when used according to its proper potential. Honourable senators are aware that a Senate select committee was appointed in 1962 to inquire into the encouragement of Australian productions for television. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who is now at the table, was a member of that committee. I am sure he will agree that the Senate owes a debt of gratitude to the late Senator Seddon Vincent who was chairman of the committee.
The committee tendered its report to the Parliament in about October 1963. That report has continued to gather dust in the lofty pigeon holes of bureaucracy and the Executive. Had the recommendations of that committee been implemented Australia would now be well along the road towards achieving an effective creative and performing arts policy for all sections of the Australian community. Because the Government has failed to heed most of the recommendations of the Vincent Committee, I and a number of my colleagues from both sides of the chamber have had to wage a constant battle here and in another place lo persuade the Government to increase the Australian drama content of television programmes.
Last year, immediately before a Senate election was held, because the matter was becoming of great national importance, the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board yielded to pressure and increased the Australian drama content requirement. Quite a lot could be said about this subject. Only 4 capital city commercial stations - the 2 large commercial stations in Sydney and the 2 large commercial stations in Melbourne - are producing substantial Australian productions. Other stations are merely playing repeats, purchasing old programmes or purchasing new programmes at cheap rates. I suggest that the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should be studying ways of making the other commercial stations in Australia face up to their responsibilities under section 114 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. It states that as far as possible Australians shall- be used in the production and presentation of programmes.
Despite all the hoo-ha in the Prime Minister’s statement about the Australian content in television programmes, I refer honourable senators to paragraph 172 of the recent annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It shows that in a letter to the Board on 30th March 1971 the secretary of Television Corpora- tion Ltd, which holds the licence for TCN Sydney and controls GTV Melbourne, challenged on counsel’s opinion the powers of the Board in respect of its determination of 10th November 1970 on revised requirements for Australian content in television programmes. These stations are commonly known as the Packer stations. They have the opportunity to lodge objections and in fact, through the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, did lodge a submission with the Board. It made its decision proclaiming that there should be no increase in Australian content, but the decision having been made and the quota having been increased they then lodged counsel’s opinion challenging the validity of the Board’s direction.
We all know that the establishment in Australia of a film and television training school was recommended by Lord Willis as far back as 1968. I have with me a copy of the report of Lord Willis who was brought out here under the auspices of United Nations Educational Scientific and Agricultural Organisation to advise the Government on the development of television in Australia. At page 6 of his report he said:
It is my view that this need -
Meaning the promotion of Australian theatrical and artistic development - can only properly be met by the establishment of a film and television school and this must be organised on an all Australia basis, independent of existing institutions and backed by the full authority and prestige of the Commonwealth Government.
Later in his report he pointed out that no action had been taken on the Lloyd report, a report in Britain similar to the Australian Willis report. He pointed out that there was no recognised national school in the United States and he went on to say:
Australia therefore has the unique chance to achieve a first among the English speaking countries, providing there is swift and vigorous action. There is no doubt that a decision to establish a film and television school would be widely welcomed in Australia and would add immeasurably to her international prestige.
That report was presented in 1968. To the credit of the former Prime Minister, the right honourable John Gorton, he was determined to see that something was done to carry out the recommendations in the Willis report and he gave an undertaking to the Australian people that the Government would establish such a film and television training school. But only last month - I think it was - the Government announced that it was deferring for the time being, for economic reasons, the development of this school.
It is interesting now to note that the Government has decided to add to the Interim Council 2 men who, according to the Minister’s statement, are long experienced in radio, television and film making. One is Mr Hector Crawford of Crawford Productions of Melbourne and the other one is Mr Len Mauger. Certainly Mr Crawford has had a long experience in radio and television productions. Whether he has had any experience in the making of feature films I frankly do not know. True it is that Mr Mauger has had long experience in television production but the fact is that he is a senior officer of TCN9 in Sydney,the station owned by Sir Frank Packer. I understand that he is virtually in charge of Sir Frank Packer’s interests in radio and television, and this man is now being appointed by the Governmentto the Interim Council of the Australian Film and Television School. I express the point of view that having regard to the close association between the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Packer organisation, and bearing in mind the criticism that was made by the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations of the original proposals to establish the training school, we of the Opposition must be very circumspect about such an appointment.
Ifthe Minister wants a reference to the express opposition of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations to the establishment of the Australian Film and Television School it can be seen at page 22 of the 1969 annual report of FACTS. Indeed, when proposals were being considered by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for an increase in the Australian content of television programmes Mr Mauger was one of those who were signatories on behalf of FACTS against any increase being made by the Board in the Australian content of television programmes. Now the Government has the audacity to appoint a person of this nature, who has been opposed to the development of Australian television, to the Interim Council for the Film and Television Training School.
There is also deep consternation among film producers about the administration of the Australian Film Development Corporation. We all know that the distribution of films throughout Australia is in the hands of American entrepreneurs. Certainly until the Corporation is given more money than the niggardly amount of Sim that has been made available to it, and until it takes steps effectively to distribute these films in Australia, it will never achieve anything worthwhile for the production of Australian feature films. I have before me a letter that was recently sent by the Australian Writers Guild to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. Included in the letter is this expression:
The Government should realise that, if it was possible for a Corporation lo profitably survive by backing film production with no steady replenishment of capital, many private companies would already be doing it and there would be no need for a government Corporation. Film making in every nation in the world, outside the United States of America, survives only through systems of subsidy, mostly from governments, and we urge that our Government should ensure that the Australian Film Development Corporation should be administered more as a subsidy organisation and less as a banking institution. Failure to do this will mean failure in the long run to support any kind of increase in Australian film production.
When I was in England a mere 2 months ago I met many Australian expatriates who have made names for themselves in the creative and performing arts, i met men such as Michael Noonan and Peter Yeldham, 2 of the foremost scriptwriters in England who very proudly call themselves Australians. I met Ed Devereaux and Paul Griffiths and a number of others who are prominent in the acting sphere. They all would very much like to come back to this country if they thought that the opportunities that are available to them in England would be available to them in Australia so that they as Australians could exploit their great talents in the interests of this nation. But unfortunately because the Government to date has done little to develop opportunities for Australians in the fields of the arts and culture, both creative and performing, there is nothing in this statement to give people of that ilk encouragement and confidence to come back to this country and to ensure that they can make a contribution in their own country comparable with that which they are in fact making abroad.
I regret to say that, in my opinion, the Prime Minister’s statement is worthless and meaningless because it merely restates an already worn out existing policy. It strengthens the sphere of influence of Sir Frank Packer, and I suggest it will do nothing to enrich the quality of life in Australia for those who are not rich or sophisticated, to use an expression appearing in the statement of the Prime Minister.
– I listened to what Senator Georges directed to me as the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). He indicated that he would not expect any response tonight, and it would be most inappropriate for me to attempt to respond tonight. I only hope that the questions that he has read flow from himself and his own authorship and are in the true interests of the Territory.
– What does it matter? They need an answer.
– I heard the interjection of the somewhat disturbed Senator Cavanagh. I take no notice of it. I proceed to note the remarks that fell from Senator Douglas McClelland on the subject of the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on the arts. His speech seemed to me to be a disgruntled grumble. 1 thought that he was unable to develop any artistic taste and that he could not discern any usefulness whatever in the statement. Notwithstanding that, his speech was a comprehensive survey. I assure him that the responsible Minister will take it into consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 October 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711027_senate_27_s50/>.