27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10.59 a.m., and read prayers.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of The Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we express our deepest concern for our fellow men suffering in the refugee camps in India. While we recognise India’s outstanding contributions in providing as far as possible, for their immediate needs, we consider that this is a problem for all mankind to help solve, as there are eight million people, many of them helpless children, affected.
We have matched our words by deeds with contributions to our own special appeal in the Diamond Valley, Victoria. Now we ask the Government to:
Give immediate aid of at least $10,000,000 to help relieve the suffering.
Take the necessary diplomatic steps to seek a political solution.
Urge the United Nations to make a more effective effort to intervene on behalf of these stricken people.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– Yesterday, in answer to a question by Senator Georges and subsequently by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), I undertook to make a statement relating to Senate committees and privileges. The position is that the Senate has referred to the Committee of Privileges the question of establishing and making known matters connected with the rights, responsibilities, obligations and protection of senators, witnesses, members of the Press and others in relation to committee proceedings. I am not in a position to say when the report of the Committee of Privileges will be presented to the Senate. It is a most important and complex matter but I am confident that the Committee will present its report as soon as possible after a thorough examination of all the issues involved. In the meantime I deprecate any reflections on the conduct of Senate committees which may tend to obstruct them in the performance of their functions, the high objective of which is to serve the public interest.
On the question of parliamentary privilege generally, I take this opportunity to advise honourable senators that I have under examination a number of aspects of the subject. To this end I asked the Clerk of the Senate to have some general discussions with the authorities at Westminster following the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference which he attended in Paris in September. The information he gained in those discussions will, I am sure, materially assist the further consideration of these questions by the Committee of Privileges and subsequently by the Senate.
– Mr President, I ask for leave to make a very short statement in relation to the matter you have just presented to the Senate.
– Is leave granted?
– I wish to raise the point that it would be singularly inappropriate and improper if we allowed a debate to develop on the statement made by you, Mr President. I am not opposing the granting of leave but I raise that point so that this matter will not be debated’ at this time. This almost happened yesterday.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It is not my intention to provoke a debate on this subject. Perhaps I could indicate the nature of the matter to which I want to refer. You, Mr President, have indicated that you are concerned that the Committee of Privileges should bring in its report, and you have certain views on the matters that might be discussed by the Committee. I merely draw attention to a notice of motion No. 11 standing in my name in relation to a matter I raised in the Senate regarding the privilege of the Press and the conduct of the Senate. On that occasion I discussed the matter within a very narrow technical compass and subsequently put down this notice of motion for this matter to stand referred to the Committee of Privileges.
I merely wanted to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir
Kenneth Anderson) to indicate, that this matter might be referred to the Committee so that it will have before it everything which at the moment is of concern to the Senate. This may be one item that is of concern to the Senate, it is of concern to me. I merely would like an indication from the Leader of the Government. That is the nature of my statement which I sought leave to make. It does not go <o the merits of anything at all but relates to this purely technical matter which 1 chink should be taken aboard by the Committee of Privileges to allow discussion of the whole question of privilege.
– I would prefer it if the matter were left in abeyance at the moment and you took the opportunity to discuss it with the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition.
– Thank you, Mr President.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Has the Minister been made aware of a transport study that was carried out by the Australian Wool Board? If, so, does he regard one of the major conclusions of that study, namely, that restrictive State regulations have significantly increased the cost of and reduced the flexibility of moving wool from the farm to the wool store, as a burden on the industry? Will the Minister initiate consultation with the States for the purpose of formulating uniform transport regulations similar to those which already exist in South Australia where the transport of wool is effectively free?
– I regret to say that I did not hear all of the honourable senator’s question. I think that he asked me whether I would make an investigation into the formulation of uniform transport laws in the States and that he referred to the cost of transporting wool from the shed door to the factory door. I recognise that a number of States have laws which force up the cost of wool transport. That happens because of the insistence of those States that the wool be transported by rail. I understand that the Australian Wool Board has reported on that matter and that the Bureau of Agricultural
Economics is at present studying wool handling and transportation costs. 1 believe that the Bureau of Transport Economics, which 1 understand is a part of the Department of Shipping and Transport, is also conducting an investigation into this matter. I will have a look at the remainder of the honourable senator’s question. If I have any further information to add I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that the records of the Australian Government show that 2.12 million kangaroo skins were exported to the United States of America between 1966 and 1970? Is it also a fact that American statistics reveal that 3.76 million kangaroo skins were imported from Australia during the same period? Is the Minister able to account for the discrepancy in the importexport figures?
– Are all these figures available to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise?
- Mr President, I have noted the question of the honourable senator about the apparent discrepancy in the figures in relation to the Australian exports of kangaroo skins and the American imports. I am sure that there must be an explanation for this discrepancy, but I do not know what it is. I will have to obtain that information from the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the importance of air transport to the people of Tasmania will the Government say whether it is prepared to reduce the duty on aviation fuel used by aircraft on runs between Tasmania and the northern States? If it is impossible to do that, due perhaps to certain provisions in the Constitution, will the Government consider making a special grant to Tasmania in lieu of such a reduction and of the moneys that are spent in the other States on railroads and roadways?
This matter has been canvassed at the Department of the Treasury. While an answer to a question without notice is not the occasion on which to express an opinion on legal or constitutional issues, it does appear to me that the honourable senator’s suggestion of a lower rate of duty on aviation fuel used on flights to and from Tasmania would constitute discrimination between the States on a law relating to taxation, lt would therefore be beyond the Commonwealth’s powers. As to the second part of the question, I take it that the honourable senator has in mind that the Commonwealth should in some way or other subsidise interstate air services to Tasmania. I do not think the Government could agree that the absence of alternative land transport would in itself justify the provision of a subsidy. Furthermore, the proportion of air services subsidy would undoubtedly have implications for the passenger services provided by sea. The only answer I can give to the honourable senator is that the Government has no plans at this time to subsidise the air services to which he referred.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry any information regarding imports of paper into Australia which are reported to have considerably increased in the past several months? Has the Australian industry applied for increased tariff protection? Has it been contemplated that such protection should be given under the emergency legislation designed to meet a sudden influx of imports?
– I have some information on this matter but I will need to have it supplemented. As far as I know this morning, no application has been made by the industry for a review of tariffs on the products concerned but an application was made recently for the cancellation of certain by-laws which allowed the entry of specific types of paper. The application is still under consideration. I shall need to obtain from the responsible department the balance of the information requested.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: Have representations been made to the
Commonwealth Government to resume or purchase land owned by Tullamarine Estates Pty Ltd or for the Commonwealth Government to exchange land at Essendon Airport for the land known as the Keilor Estate7 Did the Tullamarine syndicate to which 1 have referred recently send personnel to study large developments overseas with a view to planning a large complex for the Essendon Airport site?
– I do not know anything that would allow me to answer the detailed question asked by the honourable senator. Knowing of his interest in this matter I am grateful for his apprising me of the developments to which he referred. I shall bring them to the notice of the Minister for the Interior and see whether he can elucidate some of the points raised for me and for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: What is the nationality of the aerodrome controller who was on duty in the tower at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport on the evening of 29th January 1.971? ls he still employed by the Department of Civil Aviation?
– Without reference to the records I am unable to inform the honourable senator of the nationality of the controller who was in the tower at that time, but I can say that he is not employed by the Department at present.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDHas the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report of a statement made by the New South Wales Minister for Lands last week that the New South Wales Government will have to stop helping farmers to reconstruct their debts unless the Commonwealth provides more funds within 10 days, and that even with the rejection rate running as high as 70 per cent of applications received, at least another $1.7m to $2m will be needed for debt reconstruction alone? Will the Government give very urgent and sympathetic consideration to increasing the amount made available to New South Wales for rural debt reconstruction purposes to stop the rapidly developing situation of increasingly depressed economic conditions and growing unemployment in the rural areas of New South Wales?
– I have seen the reports to which the honourable senator referred. There is a great deal of misunderstanding in this matter. The Commonwealth made available to the States $100m over 4 years. The money was made available in 2 parts and it was set down that the States would make half the money available for farm build-up and the other half for debt reconstruction. I understand that up to 25th October about 1,700 applications had been received in New South Wales. Of these 1,548 were for debt reconstruction. There were 152 applications for farm build up, which is only about 9 per cent of the total applications received. Therefore the honourable senator can see that most of the money is wanted for debt reconstruction. New South Wales was allocated $4m last year and it is to receive $1 1.98m this year. That State also had a total of about $2.5m in pre-war funds. This makes a total of $18m available to New South Wales, most of which is wanted for debt reconstruction. The State claims that if it services all of these applications it will use more money than is allocated for debt reconstruction. This is where the difference of opinion lies. There is not a shortage of money but there is a difference of opinion as to where that money is to be directed.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that the glass of the observation bays of the control tower at the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport is subject to misting in wet weather? ls it not also a fact that on the night of the collision between the Canadian Pacific Airlines Ltd airliner and the Trans-Australia Airlines airliner this misting was at its worst, and in fact the Canadian Pacific airliner was not in sight of those in control of the observation tower? Is it also a fact that complaints have been made by the staff of the observation tower concerning this matter over a long period and that they have been advised that nothing will be done concerning this until the new observation tower is built?
– There has been a report tabled in the Senate and a long statement given on the accident to which these questions are obviously directed.
– No, the question is directed to the future safety of the airport.
– Senator Georges is adding something extra and I take it into account. 1 mentioned in the report that this whole matter is the subject of a high Court case taken by the insurers of TransAustralia Airlines against the Commonwealth and Canadian Pacific Airlines Ltd. I do not feel that I should comment in any way on matters like this which may well be the subject of a judicial inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Is it a fact that the completion date for the Waymouth Telephone Exchange which his Department is erecting under contract in Adelaide for the Australian Post Office has had to be extended because of delays resulting from industrial actions on the project? If this is so, can the Minister now inform me when he expects this building to be ready for occupation?
– It is an unfortunate fact that the completion date of this project has had to be extended by no less than 49 days duc to industrial stoppages. As an indication of the seriousness of the matter affecting this important project, in the months of July and August alone 25 per cent of the available working time was lost through industrial disruption. In addition to that, of course, we have to take into account the dislocation of the contractor’s undertaking and the ban that has been placed on overtime.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Acknowledging the right of the United Kingdom Government to devise its own immigration policy, I ask the Minister: Does he not think it reasonable to expect a statement early next week on the current British legislation in view of the last minute changes in certain facets of that legislation, with particular reference to the patrial clause? Can we expect that during the visit of the Prime Minister to Britain he will have discussions with the British Prime Minister on this vexed subject of the conflict of status between Common Market nationals and those of the Commonwealth of Nations?
– I believe that the honourable senator’s question was asked as a result of a previous answer given by me to the effect that the migration policy of another nation is essentially and in every way the responsibility of the nation concerned. Senator Mulvihill now suggests that, in view of what has transpired about the application of that nation’s migration policy to this country, it should attract a comment from Australia. I do not walk away from that as a proposition in a question. I think that 1 should direct the question to our Minister for Immigration to see whether he wishes to respond and to give an informed reply as to how this nation regards the implications of the changed United Kingdom migration policy. I certainly will direct the question accordingly.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to the establishment of the Qantas subsidiary charter company. What progress has been made in negotiating charter landing arrangements necessary for the operation of the Qantas subsidiary? Does the Minister expect any obstacles to the consummation of early agreements? In view of the early operations of British Overseas Airways Corporation in the area, what is the likely date for the commencement of Qantas charter operations which might attract passengers to the Australian-owned airline?
– Earlier it was indicated that some time early next year was the likely date of commencement of the Qantas non-IATA charter subsidiary. I see no reason to depart from that forecast. If I get later information which changes that pattern I shall let the honourable senator have it. That part of his question which relates to the overseas negotiations can be answered by telling him that they are still proceeding and they will take quite some time. As in all international aviation matters, there are problems. The negotiations are not easy. The work is proceeding as quickly and as expeditiously as we in the Department can do it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the reported statement made yesterday by the national secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, Mr Laurie Short, to the effect that Australians would have fewer and shorter strikes if unions held secret ballots on industrial problems; that there were too many strikes in Australia ir the past few years, and that political strikes are wrong? Will the Minister seek the detailed advice of such responsible trade union leaders as Mr Short in the shaping of any future legislation in this important field?
– Yes, I saw the statement attributed to Mr Short and I can assure the honourable senator that Mr Short’s experience and standing in the trade union movement would always warrant a statement of his receiving full consideration by anybody having the responsibility of formulating legislation.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry tell the Senate which States have passed legislation setting up funds approved under the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969 and the amounts paid by the Commonwealth to each State by way of matching funds for research up to the present time?
– At a later dale I will be introducing in this place legislation dealing with this matter. At present I do not have information as to which States passed legislation and the amounts made available. I shall seek that information and give it to the honourable senator.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDMy question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, follows the one asked of him by Senator Sim. Did the air traffic controller who was on duty in the lower at the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport on the night of 29th January and who is no longer in the employ of the Department of Civil Aviation leave the Department of his own accord, or is he no longer in the employ of the Department because of the incident that occurred at Mascot that night?
– The reason why he is no longer in the employ of the Department is not known to me. I shall find out.
– 1 direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a supplementary question in regard to the effects of the United Kingdom Immigration Bill on Australians. How does he justify his earlier answer that the matter should be referred to the Australian Minister for Immigration when the Australian High Commissioner in London is responsible to the Prime Minister’s Department? Alternatively, does he mean that when asking questions on the Estimates I should direct such questions to the representatives of the Department of Immigration rather than to the representatives of the Prime Minister’s Department?
I think that we are at cross purposes to a degree, and I am not happy about that being so. The fact of the matter is that any matter coming within the portfolio of the Minister for Immigration in Australia must essentially be one in which he will be involved. It may be true that there are certain liaisons between the Australian High Commissioner in London and the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Department. But, even within that confine, the first thing the Prime Minister would do in regard to any matter that came before him would be to seek the advice and assistance of the relevant department. This can be applied to any department one likes. When there is some matter on which the Prime Minister’s intervention is sought, the first thing he does is to call upon the advice available to him, whether it be from the Department of Health, which is my own Department, the Department of Immigration or any other department. So I do not think that anything I said was inconsistent; nor would I like it to be thought that I was- trying to stonewall the substance of the question. I assure Senator Mulvihill that I was not intending to do that. The question will be referred, very properly, first of all to the Department of Immigration and the Minister for Immigration, who will have to react to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Do the air traffic regulations at the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport clearly state that any aircraft larger than a Boeing 727 shall not make a 160 degree turn? If this is the case, is this regulation made known to, or is it known by, overseas operators of airliners? If it is known, how did it come about that an overseas airliner made a 180 degree turn at the Sydney Airport?
– I am not an air traffic controller and I do not think Senator Georges is. This question is obviously designed to draw from me information which will have a bearing on a potential High Court case and I decline to be involved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services or to the Minister for Health if the matter is more appropriate to his portfolio. Is the Minister aware that there is a traffic for money in the sale of old people in some Australian nursing homes? I ask the Minister: What is the price usually paid per capita when transfers are being arranged? Is he aware also that some undertakers allegedly are paying premiums to proprietors of some nursing homes for advance knowledge of the imminent death of patients? What price is usually paid for knowledge obtained under these circumstances? Will the’ Minister inform the Parliament what action is being taken to stamp out such illegal and immoral practices?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI deprecate the question. I deplore the question-
– Well, it is true. What are you frightened of?
If you have some information of truth, make it available to me. But for goodness’ sake do not come in here reading something
– You are putting on an act.
God knows where you read it; but you put it here as a basis for an authentic question. So much for that part of the question. As to the price at which nursing homes are sold, that would surely be a matter for negotiation between willing but not anxious buyers and sellers.
– Am I to take it from his response to my questions this morning that the Minister for Civil Aviation is not prepared to answer any questions concerning the safety of the Sydney Airport because of pending litigation concerning that collision?
– Order! The question of whether or not a matter is sub judice is a constantly recurring problem in the Parliament. On the basis of rulings by my predecessors in this chair, a matter is considered to be sub judice if in the opinion of the Minister to whom a question is directed an answer to it will affect adversely the situation of litigants before a court. 1 call Senator Cotton.
– I wish to comment again, as I have done before, and I hope that my comment will be understood by those who wish to understand. In a case like this after question time in the Senate has concluded I will scrutinise the questions asked. If I believe that I can add something that will help the honourable senator without prejuducing other people I will do so. But I will not be drawn, and I hope that attempts will not continue to be made to draw me, into putting other people in an embarrassing situation; that would be quite improper of me.
– Yesterday I asked tha Minister representing the Minister for the Interior a question about an alleged investigation that was to be carried out into the drinking habits of people, particularly of motorists, in the Australian Capital Territory. As civil liberties of the individual are deeply involved in this question, I ask the Minister as a matter of urgency whether he has been able to obtain an answer to my question.
– I spoke to the head of the Department about this matter last night. He undertook to let me have information on this matter as soon as possible. He did not regard it, as I spoke to him, as a matter of the same seriousness as Senator Keeffe does. He thought that it was a matter to be not greatly concerned about. I said that nonetheless I would like to have information from the Department.
– I take it that it is going to be provided?
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry: Can the Senate be assured that the Government and those government agencies involved in Australia’s export trade are alert to the problems which may confront certain Australian primary industries upon the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community? ls it a fact that practically all Australian produced dairy products can find ready and quite lucrative export markets in many areas of the world and that this situation is likely to continue for the immediate future? Would it not be wisdom to divert sales from a market where a buyer has declared that it will shortly totally exclude our products to other areas where it may be possible to contract forward for new and expanding consumer markets?
– It will be remembered that on an earlier occasion Senator Webster addressed himself to this matter and I too spoke about it and answered his comments. 1 am sure that he can be quite at rest that there is a state of alertness in the Department of Trade and
Industry about this whole matter and the opportunities that exist in the European Economic Community for further export of Austraiian products. Equally the honourable senator will know from his commercial experience before he came here that these are matters essentially for the people involved in trade and commerce who will be looking for new markets to take the place of their old market. In that process they receive aid from the Australian Government and substantial help and advice from the Department of Trade and Industry.
– My question which relates to the rural reconstruction employment training scheme is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Where entry to a training programme depends upon additional educational qualifications, applications for the tuition necessary to acquire the prerequisite education will be considered up to a maximum period of 12 months prior to the commencement of the approved training programme. I under.stand that costs of fees for courses will be met by either the Commonwealth or State governments. I ask whether there is any provision for the payment of a weekly training allowance while this preliminary education is being undertaken.
– The scheme does provide that an allowance of 546-odd will be paid to each trainee undertaking full time courses at a vocational institution or college. This is subject to some qualification in relation to the amount in the case of minors and also trainees with other income. But that allowance does apply to those full time trainees in receipt of preliminary education to whom the honourable senator refers.
– Following representations made to me by the family of Geoffrey Mullen I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General. However, in view of his absence from the Senate, I wonder whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate would be prepared to answer the question. Is the Minister aware that Mr
Geoffrey Mullen, a young man gaoled for 2 years for refusing to be conscripted for the war in Vietnam, has been described by the various gaol superintendents as being a model prisoner? Does the Minister know that Mr Mullen has served 7 months of his sentence but has been shifted to at least 5 different penal institutions? Have these transfers been made at the request of the Commonwealth? Does the Minister know that the present prison where Mr Mullen is incarcerated is admitted by prison authorities to house an unusually high number of prisoners wilh homosexual tendencies? Can the Senate be assured that it is not the intention of the Government to harass or break the spirit of this young man who, on a matter of high principle, is paying a big enough price?
– I shall direct the honourable senator’s question to the Attorney-General immediately he is available to me. I am sure that he will examine the question and have the matter investigated so that he may give quick response to the substance of the matters raised by the honourable senator.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development has to do with an Omega navigation base, should it be established within the south east area of Australia. I ask: Is it true that if an Omega base is established within Australia it will not be used by Australian shipping around the Australian coast due to the strength of its signal causing interference and that, in fact, Australian shipping will have to use only Omega bases which are established in other countries?
– This matter lies within the province, of the Minister for National Development who is in the other place. It is a technical matter. The question contains reference to the strength of signals. I shall direct the question to the Minister for National Delevopment for a detailed reply.
– Mindful of the long hot summer we can anticipate this year, will the Minister for Air indicate whether, with the acquisition of a considerably larger fleet of helicopters by the Royal Australian Air Force, there will be any greater co-ordination of activity, including a blending of fire spotting activity and fire spotting patrols by service helicopters with State instrumentalities?
– It is the practice of the Royal Australian Air Force to work in with State authorities. If there is a flood we work in with the civil defence system. If a ship is lost we work in with the Department of Shipping and Transport. In the case of fire, which is what the honourable senator is referring to, I should say that if the authorities concerned asked the Air Force for assistance it would make assistance available.
– Only if it were asked?
– Yes, only if asked. We do not go about telling other authorities what they should do or how they should do it. If a request is made to our appropriate authorities we investigate the matter and, if we are able to assist, we endeavour to do so.
– I address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. If he has no concern for public safety-
– Order! The honourable senator may not ascribe that to the Minister. I disallow that remark.
– I have not finished.
– Order! I disallow that phrase. The honourable senator may proceed.
– Will the Minister at least have some concern for my safety, as I am a frequent flier into the Sydney Airport, and take immediate steps to have the glass in the observation tower at the Sydney Airport replaced with glass that meets international standards and qualifications?
– In the process of attempting to make a series of offensive remarks Senator Georges again is directing himself, by a devious process, to the effectiveness of an observation tower. This matter will be investigated. I should point out that many of us, in addition to Senator Georges, fly into the Sydney Airport.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Why are Biogastrone tablets. which are medically prescribed for gastric ulcers, not on the list of free medicines? These tablets cost $13.50 for a bottle of 100 and, because of the nature of the illness, frequent replacement bottles of tablets are necessary. As those tablets are prescribed frequently, why can they not be placed on the list of free medicines?
– I am not able to give the historical background of every tablet and T do not think that any Minister, no matter how good he might be, would be able to do so, especially in the case of tablets which are not on the list of pharmaceutical benefits. To be able to do so would involve a knowledge of many thousands, or at least hundreds, of drugs. I shall seek the information for the honourable senator. I would hope to have it very soon. I shall endeavour to ascertain the history of (he tablet referred to by him, whether it has been evaluated by the Drug Evaluation Committee and, if so, what the result of the evaluation was.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister explain the nature of the appointment of Dr Coombs as adviser on the Prime Minister’s mission overseas? Does he admit that Dr Coombs was surprised by the appointment? Will he indicate to the Senate what will be the future role of Dr Coombs? Does this appointment in some way reduce the standing of the other 13 advisers?
– I would not know what was in the mind of Dr Coombs - whether it was surprise, excitement, happiness or sadness.
– What about the Prime Minister’s mind?
– That adds one more element. 1 know that as I am Leader of the Government in the Senate I have to be a man of many parts, but I have not yet reached the stage of being able to read minds. However, I can measure up some honourable senators without reading their minds. There is a reference to this matter in my brief from the Prime Ministers Department. Like other honourable senators,I read this morning’s Press report on the fact that Dr Coombs is accompanying the Prime Minister to assist in relation to work which the Prime Minister will be doing for Australia. The Prime Minister has said:I would like to use his advice to the maximum and I believe I can use him in the interests of the Australian people.I think there can be no better accolade than that. I am sure everybody would recognise that it is very appropriate for the Prime Minister to choose to take a very distinguished man who has given service to this nation over a long period of years.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister to recall that over the past few weeks I have asked questions about the economy and the state of the Australian dollar. He indicated that in due course some statement would be made, I now ask: How is it that the Prime Minister can announce not to the Parliament but to a correspondent that the Australian dollar is to be continually tied to sterling? Is this the case? When are we likely to receive a statement on the position of the Australian dollar and the Australian economy in general?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI will look at the honourable senator’s question and see whether a statement is to be made. As to some other reported statement that the Prime Minister is alleged to have made to certain people, I shall not comment.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Works, follows upon an answer he gave about the employment of plant operators in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Is it not a fact that at Bougainville indigenous plant operators are working alongside expatriate plant operators but are receiving considerably different rates of pay? Can he justify that situation and the tensions that flow from it?
– The work at Bougainville is proceeding under the direction of a private company and is in no way part of government, either of the Australian Goverment or the Territory Administration.I confirm that there is a disparity between the wages of indigenous plant operators and those of expatriate operators. I do not know whether they are working side by side. The level of wage rates paid to indigenous employees is a matter of strict policy adopted by the elected representatives in the House of Assembly in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Senator Georges’ interference in such a matter can have only mischievous results.
(Question No. 1361)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister forSupply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 1509)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1345)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
How much capital the Department of Supply invested, in each year between 1967 and 1971, in
What will be the cost of building the new clothing factory at Coburg in Victoria, and how many persons will be employed in it?
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1514)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
These celebrations are being attended by Heads of State, Heads of Governments and other distinguished representatives of many countries of the world, many of whom will be travelling in their own aircraft. The Government feels that Australia as a country with significant standing in international circles is fittingly represented by the GovernorGeneral, and that it was right and proper for the Governor-General to use an aircraft of the VIP flight.
– On 30th September, Senator Drury asked me the following question without notice:
With the proposed reduction in national service training from 2 years to 18 months and in Citizen Military Forces training from 6 years to 5 years, can the Minister inform the Senate whether personnel who volunteered to serve in the C.M.F. for 6 years in lieu 2 years’ national service training and who have served for 5 years or more will be permitted to resign after 5 years’ service? Will they be automatically discharged or will they have to serve the full 6 years?
In my replyI undertook to check with the Department of Labour and National Service. The Minister for Labour and National Service has now provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
On 18th August the Prime Minister announced that there would be a reduction in the period of Citizen Force service complementary to the reduction in the period of full-time national service. In future men rendering Citizen Force service as an alternative to full-time national service will normally serve for five years.
National service registrants who as at 18th August 1971 had completed satisfactorily5 years of efficient Citizen Force service or who have since that date completed such service will be regarded as having completed their national service obligations. Men who are confirmed as being in this position will be advised accordingly by the Department of Labour and National Service. Upon receipt of this official advice they will be bound only by the conditions of their enlistment with the particular Citizen Force in question.
Other national service registrants who are rendering alternative service in the Citizen Forces and who are affected by the reduction to 5 years wilt also be advised individually as to their position under the revised arrangements in the near future.
– On 29th September, Senator Guilfoyle asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, the following question:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. It refers to educational opportunities available in the city of Darwin. Would the Minister inform me of any tertiary level courses available at present in the city of Darwin. I understand that plans have been approved for a community college in Darwin which is expected to be ready for occupation in 1974. Have any courses suitable for carrying on in temporary accommodation been planned to commence prior to that date?
The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer:
There are no full-time tertiary courses available in Darwin. Residents of the Northern Territory are eligible to enrol at the University of Queensland as external students for degrees in the faculties of arts, law, commerce and education. It is also possible for certain diploma courses in business fields and in cartography to be taken in the Northern Territory on an external basis from the Western Australian Institute of Technology.
The Darwin Adult Education Centre, which is to be absorbed by the Community College, provides some tutorial assistance for students enrolled in such courses and it arranges periodic weekend schools. It also assists students preparing for the examinations of professional bodies like the Institute of Chartered Accountants. This work will continue and, as College staff is appointed, it is expected that the scale of assistance to external students will increase.
Detailed planning of the Community College’s education programme will not be competed until the senior members of its academic staff have been appointed during 1972. At present, however, there is no evidence to suggest that demands in tertiary fields other than those mentioned will develop in Darwin in the near future. In the event of such demands arising before the College’s buildings are completed, provisions similar to those outlined would be made.
At the sub-tertiary level, the training of apprentices, tradesmen and technicians is conducted by the Adult Education Centre. As Jar as is practicable under the circumstances, facilities will bc provided before the College is completed to enable this work to develop. In a similar manner the work of the Adult Education Centre in continuing education, in-service training and extension courses will also be developed. As College staff becomes available new programmes in these and related fields will be introduced.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933-1966, I present the Thirty-eighth report (1971) and supplement of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on applications made by States for financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution.
– I wish to inform the Senate that I have received 2 letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) advising of changes in the membership of Senate committees. I shall read those letters. The first ohe is as follows:
I wish to inform you that I have appointed Senator Buttfield to fill the vacancy on Estimates Committee C consequent upon the resignation of Senator Young, who has resigned from the Committee at my request, having regard to his duties as Government Whip.
The second letter reads:
I wish to inform you that I have appointed Senator Webster to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Honey Industry Act 1962-1966, I present the eighth annual report of the Australian Honey Board for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements. The interim report of the Board was presented to the Senate on 8th September 1971.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act 1953-1965, I present the annual report of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Trust for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
(11.55)- I move:
The Estimates Committees will commence at 2.15 this afternoon and there will be the usual ringing of the bells to alert honourable senators that those Committees are about to commence their hearings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Under General Business, Order of the Day No. 13 relates to the second reading debate on the Trade Practices Bill 1971. 1 move:
That Order of the Day No. 13, General Business, be discharged.
This Bill was introduced by me prior to the Government’s introducing a Bill on resale price maintenance. A further Bill has now been introduced, and in those circumstances I have moved that the Bill I introduced be discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - The statement I am about to make was made today in another place by the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay). The statement is couched in the first person and honourable senators will understand that the use of the first person personal pronoun relates to the Minister for the Navy.
The Senate will recall my statement on 28th April when I announced that I had asked His Honour Judge Rapke, Q.C., of the Victorian County Court, to consider and report to me: (a) Whether there is evidence of the existence of any forms of initiation or similar practices in HMAS Leeuwin which involve organised physical violence, degrading or bullying behaviour, (b)
Whether there is evidence over recent years of any pattern of undue physical violence or bullying among junior recruits. Subsequently, on 30th April, I stated that in view of the increasing interest which had centred around the particular case of Junior Recruit Connolly, I had asked His Honour to examine this case first and without prejudice to his wider inquiry. On 6th May I issued a statement on the preliminary report presented by the judge on that case, and this was made available to all senators and members.
I have recently received from the Judge his report on the wider inquiry in accordance with the terms of reference given to him on 28th April. The Judge has stated that the material on which his report and findings are based may be summarised as follows:
The testimony of 467 witnesses interviewed at HMAS ‘Leeuwin’, in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, and on board HMAS ‘Sydney’, between 30th April and 3rd July 1971;
Written memoranda handed to him by witnesses or communicated to him by various authorities particularly in answer to requests by him for special assistance on specific matters.
A detailed examination of the medical records of and from ‘Leeuwin’ relating to traumatic injuries treated in sick bay at that establishment and at hospitals ashore;
Seminars and information discussion groups conducted at ‘Leeuwin’ and Nirimba’ and on board ‘Sydney’;
Civilian witnesses called mainly from those who responded to requests for anybody having any information on the subject of the inquiry to communicate with the Judge, and also from persons who bad been reported in the Press as the authors of information reported by the Press; and
Experts in criminology and social sciences specially approached by the Judge.
As honourable senators will recall, this inquiry was conducted in camera, for the reason explained by me in a previous statement. I said:
The preliminary inquiry will be strictly privateas though the Judge were talking with people in chambers. It would defeat the whole concept if the public or Press were present and these persons felt that they were speaking on the record.
As in the case of the first report dealing with the Connolly case, and for the same reasons, I do not consider that it would be desirable to make this report public. I shall, however, continue my practice of making a copy available in confidence to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) so that it may be known that nothing of importance is hidden which should be made public.
Before proceeding to the conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry I should like to recall to the Senate the great spate of national publicity - invariably in highly critical and condemnatory terms - which was given in late April-early May to various specific allegations published at that time. The Judge investigated all these reports and interviewed the persons stated to have been the authors of information reported by the Press. It is worth referring to his findings on some of these cases in particular. One was the case of Leading Junior Recruit J. R. Russell, which I referred to in a statement in Parliament on 27th April last. The Judge examined this case in depth, and though for good reasons I shall not repeat the detail from his report, I quote his finding. He said:
The Russell case is therefore unrelated to any organised violence. It is a case of a squabble over trifles getting out of hand and unexpectedly an unintentionally leading to disastrous results. Such an incident could arise at any place and at any time. The Junior Recruit who committed the main assault was punished. I saw him and he is a very sorry and chastened lad who wrote his regrets to Russell who proudly showed me the note. Both boys are good types of recruits.
Another allegation which received wide publicity in early May was that ‘sadism is rife on HMAS “Sydney”’. The Judge examined this accusation in great depth, and has reported as follows:
The suggestion that the ship is in any way distracted by the juvenile activities occurring at Leeuwin’ is a figment of the imagination. As far as I have been able to discover in what I regard as a very comprehensive research into the matter under discussion there is not a shred of evidence to support the suggested sadism, or whatever other expression emanates from a journalist’s emotive mind, to describe the conduct referred to. I give the ‘Sydney’ a clean bill of health in the problem under survey.
Though not strictly related to the ‘Leeuwin’ inquiry, the Judge investigated a Press story on 28th April which reported that a former naval officer had claimed that a bastardisation’ ceremony at the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, had hampered the ‘Voyager’ rescue operation on 10th February 1964. The article reminded its readers that 82 men had died in this disaster, and the inference was obvious and powerful. His Honour has reported on this allegation as follows:
I find as a fact that the headline … of 28th April reading - ‘Initiation Hampered Rescue Craft’, and the subsequent report that i hour’s delay was caused to the rescue operations is entirely baseless and incorrect. I am not prepared to find that the person responsible for the . . . report was the author of a fiction not given to him by his informant, or whether the informant in his communications with the Press left a reasonable reporter with the impression conveyed by the dastardly headline and story. All in all it is illustrative of the bias against the good name of the Navy that marred so much of the journalistic contributions to the matters under investigation by me.
I come now to Judge Rapke’s findings on the terms of reference of his inquiry. As I have stated these were:
I quote the relevant passages from the report:
Organised initiation ceremonies, a formal pattern of bastardisation, or any form of patterned violence or misbehaviour have never been, a part of the programme, official or otherwise, at ‘Leeuwin’.
The strict answer to the two questions which are contained in my terms of reference should therefore be no.
The inquiry revealed that in 1970, of ail the cases of physical injury reported, and relating to more than 650 boys, 22 could be held to be caused by fighting or bullying. Again in 1971 nine such cases had been identified to date, of which 3 were minor, and in 2 cases the incidents were reported and the offenders punished. This tends to support the initial assessment I gave of the proportion of such occurrences. The report then goes on to discuss the damaging effects of ‘unorganised and repetitive acts of bullying, violence, degradation and petty crime’ when they occur. Although these incidents apply only to a small minority, nevertheless they ‘are pernicious in their deep effect on the young sailor at an early and impressionable time in his naval career’ and ‘the physical and mental damage to the victims was and is deplorable’. The judge felt that losses by discharge could be greater than normal because of bullying; also because these practices could provoke some junior recruits to commit offences in order to obtain discharge, the formal reason for discharge in some cases reflected unfairly on the junior recruit involved. The judge declared ‘the condemnation which you gave expression to is in my opinion well justified and the warnings of the action to be taken were necessary’.
His Honour has devoted a considerable portion of his report to a discussion of both the problem and ways arid means of improving the position. I do not propose to discuss in detail the many suggestions proffered by the Judge in his report. They cover a wide range of matters, directed to every phase of activity that has a bearing on the question. His proposals include:
Increase in the complement and continuity of the training and divisional staffs at the establishment, and improvements in their selection and training.
Increased supervision of junior recruits and greater participation by the staffs in junior recruit activities.
More intensified organisation of the reoreation time of junior recruits and the provision of considerably increased recreational facilities.
Segregation of new intakes during their first 2 or 3 months.
Changes in the training programme with a view to providing the less studious recruits with more physically demanding activities.
Assignment of responsibilities to selected senior junior recruits for maintenance of good behaviour and order under a prefect type system.
All these matters, and others that have come to notice, will receive urgent study by the appropriate Navy directorates and authorities. Some of the proposed measures for effecting improvements will be brought into effect quickly. Others are of a more long term nature and some, regrettably, will be dependent on the provision of additional resources, both financial and manpower, which may not bc readily available.
I have stated on previous occasions that physically violent, degrading or bullying behaviour will not be tolerated in the Navy, especially towards its junior members. I am determined that every possible effort will be made to stamp it out where it is found to occur, and to introduce effective measures to ensure its detection and eradication. 1 entirely concur in the following view expressed by Judge Rapke in the concluding remarks of his report:
It will bc noticeable that no-one has suggested that the remedies can ever include the total eradication of the appetite for self-assertion that many lads possess. A check of this view with experts whom I have consulted and whose writings I have read supports this. But the alternative view was that bullying, like the poor, will always be with us. I prefer the view that a quality of selfassertiveness (unless it has developed to the stage where serious criminal behaviour results) can be re-orientated and directed into useful and even leadership value for the Navy.
I was pleased lo read in the report the Judge’s commendatory remarks about the sponsor system which has been in operation at ‘Leeuwin’ for some time. Under this scheme local families generously extend their hospitality and friendship to individual junior recruits from other States. This has been highly valued by the naval authorities and the boys. The Judge has stated:
Its maintenance, extension, organisation and supervision should bc encouraged. Much good can come from an early contact with suitable families in the Perth area and the meeting of junior recruit and sponsor should take place as soon as practicable after entry. Some evidence in this inquiry was commendatory of ‘Leeuwin’ - when the media rejected the informants they turned to me and 1 was glad to hear them - and these witnesses included people who were sponsors as well as those who had cause to be grateful to their sponsors.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not pay a tribute to His Honour Judge Rapke for the thorough and painstaking investigation he has undertaken, and the thoughtful and helpful suggestions he has offered. I assure the House that these will all be fully and carefully examined, and wherever practicable measures will be introduced to achieve necessary improvements.
In compiling his report the Judge has carried out faithfully my requirement - not so much to assess HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ or its role in junior recruit training as to investigate fully and impartially the prima facie evidence relating to a number of unfortunate incidents. In so doing, he scrupulously avoided any action which might even have appeared to be collusion with the command at ‘Leeuwin’. Commodore Ramsay may have felt that, in this way, he in particular was being treated with suspicion or was even under accusation. I want to take this opportunity of saying that, from first hand knowledge, I believe the Commodore to be a dedicated and conscientious officer who has become a respected ‘father figure’ in his command. That he has had to cope with a small minority of lads who have caused trouble is no fault of his and no more reflection on him than on the rest of our community. Every parent, every schoolmaster* indeed every responsible citizen shares his problems. The Commodore is, I hope, compensated by the greater privileges and pleasures of his successful endeavours which see the vast majority of young men emerge every year disciplined, enthusiastic and mentally and physically fitted for service of their country.
– I seek leave to move a motion in respect of the statement that has just been read and to speak briefly to it.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
This is a fairly lengthy statement and it is difficult to absorb it all in the short time we have had it. But I want to emphasise the fact that the matters which have been dealt with by Judge Rapke have been with the Navy for a long time and that there are still abuses being perpetrated in the Naval service which, in fact, are not covered in this statement. They may be covered at some later stage in a more detailed statement.
There is one matter that I take this opportunity to refer to specifically. It is the practice, which is still being carried out in the Navy and which has been tradiational for many years, of holding boxing tournaments or boxing matches. The actual purpose of these boxing matches is open to doubt. Some people claim that they are held for the purpose of physical exercise. Others claim that they are held for the sake of entertainment. I had drawn to my attention recently the case of a young lad who was encouraged to take part in one of these boxing tournaments at HMAS ‘Leeuwin’ some 2 years ago. The result of it was that he was knocked out in this very first bout.
At the time that he entered the Navy, he was a completely normal healthy lad. Some doubt existed, following all the medical examinations to which he was subjected, as to whether there was brain damage. I pursued this matter at some depth both with the Department of the Navy and the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) and with medical persons. I was assured that the medical condition which existed following this knockout was such that no medical person could say with complete certainty that no brain damage resulted from what had happened. Perhaps it is not the time to go into detail on this case. Sufficient to say that the lad was eventually discharged from the Navy. He has collapsed since on several occasions in his normal course of employment. He has had difficulty holding positions because of a certain abnormality which has developed in his manner. The Navy has not accepted liability. He has received no pension benefits. I will be reopening the case again with the Minister shortly. 1 wish to say that these boxing tournaments are events which should be discontinued if the Navy is not prepared to accept responsibility and liability where injuries occur as have occurred in this case. The lad’s parents have virtually been placed in a position where they have had to establish beyond doubt that injury was suffered by the lad to his brain as a result of this boxing match. Yet I am told by the best medical opinions that they could not possibly be definitive in this respect. I am not sure whether in the full report that Judge Rapke presumably will be presenting to the Minister for the Navy reference to these matters will be made: I hope it will be. I hope that he will have sufficient good judgment to demand either that these tournaments be stopped altogether or that the Navy accepts liability in cases where injury results from such tournaments. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bil! (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(12.18) - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision announced on 1st May 1970 to introduce legislation to ensure that the Commonwealth had adequate power to control the acquisition by local or overseas interests of large shareholdings in banks incorporated in Australia. The Governments policy towards the ownership of banks in Australia is based on the view that banking should be conducted by companies of undoubted financial viability which can be expected to recognise that banking is a business in which the nation has special interests. In addition, it is the policy of the Government, as it has been of all previous Governments since 1945, not to grant overseas interests authorities to carry on banking business in Australia or to allow them io acquire interests in existing Australian banks.
The Banking Act confers on the Government power to consider applications to open new banks in Australia and to recommend to the Governor-General that an authority should be granted. Sections 8 and 9 provide that, subject to certain exemptions, a body corporate shall not carry on banking business in Australia unless it has an authority to do so. In accordance wilh the long-standing policy, applications from overseas interests for authorities to carry on banking business would be refused. Before recommending the issue of an authority to an Australian applicant, the Government would need to be fully satisfied on ail aspects of the application, in particular that the applicant company had the financial strength to fulfil the responsibilities involved in operating an authorised bank and that the persons controlling the applicant company bad a standing commensurate with those responsibilities. Consistent with the power in relation to the granting of authorities to commence new banking business, the Govern ment needs to have undoubted power to control changes in ownership of an authorised bank.
The Banking Act confers only limited power on the Government to control such changes in ownership. Section 63 provides that, except with the Treasuer’s consent, a bank shall not enter into an arrangement for the sale or disposal of its business, by amalgamation or otherwise, or effect a reconstruction of the bank. But there are other ways in which the ownership of a bank could change hands. The legal advice is that it is doubtful whether the Treasurer’s consent would be required under this section to the acquisition of a controlling or significant interest in a bank, for instance, by (he purchase of the bank’s shares on a stock exchange, the acquisition of shares by means of a takeover bid, or the taking up of a parcel of new shares of the bank issued specifically for the purpose. The object of the Bill is therefore to supplement the provisions of section 63 c-f the Banking Act, by providing a method of exercising control over the possession by local or overseas interests of substantial interests in shares of banks incorporated in Australia.
The need for the Government to be able to control changes in bank ownership was emphasis last year when certain changes in shareholdings in one of the authorised banks were brought to the government’s notice. As I have already mentioned, a statement was issued by the then Treasurer on 1st May 1970 announcing the Government’s intention to introduce legislation to require the Treasurer’s approval in future to acquisitions of shares which had the effect of raising a beneficial holding to 10 per cent or more of the capital of a bank incorporated in Australia. He also warned that the amending legislation would provide that persons may be required to divest themselves of bank shares acquired after 1st May 1970, but before the enactment of the legislation, where the effect of acquiring such shares would be to raise a shareholding to 10 per cent or more, or, in the case of any shareholding of 10 per cent or more at that date, to raise that shareholding further. At the time it was envisaged that the legislation would be in the form of an amendment to the Banking Act. However, in view of the length and technical nature of the provisions, it has been decided that a separate piece of legislation would be preferable.
Subject to certain transitional provisions, the Bill limits the nominal value of voting shares of an authorised bank incorporated in Australia in which a person, including a corporation, may have an interest to less than 10 per cent of the total nominal value of the voting shares of the bank, unless the Treasurer has fixed a higher percentage for that person. Where the Treasurer has fixed a higher percentage for a person, the Bill provides that the person’s interest in shares of the bank concerned shall not exceed that percentage. Under the transitional provisions of the Bill, a person who had an interest in the shares of a bank amounting to 10 per cent or more at 1st May 1970, and who still retains that interest at the date on which the legislation comes into operation, will be permitted to hold such interests, subject to his compliance with certain notification requirements. Where the interest of a person subject to the transitional provisions has fallen between 1st May 1970 and the commencement date of the legislation, his permissible interest will be the interest held at the commencement date. The substantive provision of the Bill thus prohibits a person from being possessed of an interest in bank shares amounting to 10 per cent or more of the voting shares of a bank. This prohibition provides the support for Government policy of not allowing local interests considered unsuitable for the task, or overseas interests to acquire a stake in Australian banking through the acquisition of interests in existing banks.
Because it is not possible to foresee what developments in the structure or ownership of banks might be desirable in the future, the Bill confers on the Treasurer a discretionary power to allow a person to have an interest of 10 per cent or more in a bank. This is a permissive power and is not one intended to frustrate desirable changes. Without this discretionary power, the Bill would preclude the possibility of major changes in the Australian shareholdings of a bank in all circumstances: This is not the intention of the Bill. There could be sound reasons in some cases for authorising substantial shareholdings. For example, at the present time, the private savings banks are wholly-owned by their parent trading banks and it would be unreasonable not to provide for similar situations arising again in the future. Moreover, the recent merger of the ANZ and ES&A banks involved a change of ownership of the combined savings bank subsidiary and without the proposed discretionary power a merger of this kind in the future could be frustrated or at least impeded.
Limitation of shareholdings to some maximum arbitrary percentage in all circumstances could therefore be unreasonable and undesirable. The Bill does provide, however, for the Government to have an opportunity to consider specific applications. Any interests seeking to acquire a controlling stake in a bank would need to demonstrate, for instance, that the acquisition would not be contrary to the national interest. It should be emphasised that the discretionary power in this Bill is m effect an extension of the discretionary power which exists in the Banking Act for granting authority to set up a new bank in Australia. If the legislation had been in the form of an amendment of the Banking Act, as it might have been, rather than a separate Bill, this relationship would have been readily apparent.
I turn now to the specific provisions of the Bill. The Bill draws upon other recent laws relating to shareholdings in companies, with appropriate modifications to suit the purposes of this Bill. For example, with minor modification, clause 8 ‘interests in shares’ follows the definition of interests in shares in the provisions included in the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance 1971 at the recommendation of the Eggleston Committee to require the disclosure of substantial shareholdings in certain Australian Capital Territory companies. Clause 4 extends the obligation to comply with the Bill to all natural persons, resident in Australia or not, and to all bodies corporate, whether incorporated or carrying on business in Australia or not. Clause 5 extends the operation of the Bill to cover acts done or omitted to be done outside Australia. By virtue of the definition of ‘bank’ in clause 6, the Bill applies only to interests in shares in banks incorporated in Australia. This has been found necessary for legal reasons since the Commonwealth’s powers could not extend to interests in shares of a company incorporated overseas.
A person’s interest in the shares of a bank is widely defined in clause 8 to include interests in the shares held on his behalf by, or controlled through, associated persons or nominees. The definition is designed to cover situations where an interest in shares might be acquired which would enable a single individual or corporation, or a group, to control or influence the policies of a bank, or where the right to control the voting power of a share is exercised through intermediaries, for example, through a subsidiary company standing between the ultimate beneficial holder and the registered shareholders. Clause 9 extends the scope of a person’s interest by providing that a person is to be deemed to have an interest in shares in which an associated person, as defined in that clause, has an interest.
I have already explained the substantive provisions of the Bill limiting the holding of interests in the voting shares of a bank incorporated in Australia. These are contained in clause 10, which also empowers the Treasurer to vary or revoke a percentage fixed under that clause. As the holding of substantial interests in bank shares is a matter of public interest, there is also provision for the various instruments by which the Treasurer fixes, varies or revokes a percentage under this clause to be published in the Gazette.
I have also referred to the transitional provisions which are included in clause 1 1 of the Bill. These provisions protect any substantial interests held in shares of the banks concerned as at 1st May 1970. To bring such holdings under notice, the persons concerned are required to give the Treasurer within 3 months of the commencement date, or such further period as the Treasurer allows, full particulars of their interests in the relevant bank shares as at 1st May 1970 and the commencement date of the legislation. The Treasurer is empowered to vary the percentage applicable to a person under the transitional provisions provided the percentage is not reduced below the person’s interest at the date of the variation.
Clause 12 provides that where a person fails to comply with the substantive provisions of clause 10, a Supreme Court may, on the application of the Treasurer, make one or more orders of the kind set out in that clause. These include an order restraining the exercise of voting rights attached to the bank shares, or directing the sale of all or any of the shares, in which the person concerned has an interest. Before making an order the court must satisfy itself so far as it can reasonably do so, that the order would not unfairly prejudice any person. The court may not make an order, other than an order restraining the exercise of voting rights, if it is satisfied that failure to comply with clause 10 was due to the person’s inadvertence, mistake or ignorance and that, in all the circumstances, the failure ought lo be excused. The Supreme Court of each State is vested with Federal jurisdiction for the purposes of this clause.
Clause 13 provides a person with a defence to a prosecution, in the event of failure to comply with the provisions of the Bill limiting the possession of interests in bank shares being due to ignorance of a relevant fact or occurrence. To protect persons selling shares, clause 14 provides that where a transaction in bank shares has led to a contravention of the provisions of the Bill the transaction shall not be unenforceable, voidable or void for that reason alone. Clause 15 invests State courts with Federal jurisdiction with respect to offences against the provisions of the Bill irrespective of where the offence is committed, and invests courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory with jurisdiction with respect to offences committed in the respective Territories. Clause 16 provides that proceedings for an offence shall not be instituted without the written consent of the Treasurer. 1 commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senior Poke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(12.33)- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to amend the Western Australia (Southwest Region Water Supplies) Agreement Act of 1965, to raise the upper limit on the Commonwealth’s financial assistance payable under the Act from Si 0.5m to SI 2m. The Commonwealth is providing financial assistance under this Act up to SI 0.5m on a dollar for dollar basis with State expenditure to accelerate extensions to the comprehensive water supply scheme in the south-west of Western Australia. The Commonwelath assistance is by way of loans repayable over 15 years, at the long-term bond rate operating when the money is advanced. The purpose of the scheme is to provide water for stock and domestic purposes lo new areas aggregating about 4 million acres. The Commonwealth contribution under the present Act is available over the period of 8 years from 1965-66 to 1972-73 inclusive. At 30th June 1971, $9,842,000 had been paid to the State.
The revised cost of the works to which the Commonwealth is contributing is now estimated at approximately $24m, compared with the estimate of $21m made at the time the Commonwealth agreed to assist the scheme. It is proposed that the Commonwealth should share with the State the increase in cost, thus preserving the dollar for dollar basis of assistance under the present Act. Accordingly, the maximum amount of Commonwealth assistance payable will be raised to SI 2m. The terms on which this additional assistance will be available are identical with those under the present Act. In view of the proposal contained in this Bill to provide an additional amount of up to $1.5m over the remaining 2 years of currency of the Act, an amount of $1,950,000 has been provided in the Estimates in the current financial year. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cant) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(12.35)- I move:
Three Bills were assented to on 6th October 1971 to give effect to the decision to transfer pay-roll tax to the States. The purpose of this Bill is to enable Commonwealth authorities that have in the past been subject to Commonwealth pay-roll tax to be made liable for Stale pay-roll tax. It is considered that these authorities should not be relieved of their liability to pay-roll tax by virtue of the fact that this tax is being transferred from the Commonwealth to the States.
The Bill does not itself make the authorities to which it applies liable to pay State pay-roll tax. lt merely removes the barrier to payment of State pay-roll tax that exists in the constituting legislation of a number of Commonwealth authorities. Some 14 Commonwealth authorities will be affected by the Bill. There is, however, a number of other Commonwealth authorities which will also be liable to State payroll tax, but in respect of which no Commonwealth legislation is necessary because their constituting legislation contains no barrier to the imposition of the tax by the States. A list of Commonwealth authorities in both these categories is attached to copies of the speech I am making now. and I shall seek to have it incorporated in Hansard.
It is proposed that the Bill come into operation on 1st September 1971, which is the date of commencement of the pay-roll Tax (Termination of Commonwealth Tax) Act 1971. I commend the Bill to the Senate. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard the list of Commonwealth authorities to which I have referred.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
COMMONWEALTH AUTHORITIES WHICH HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO COMMONWEALTH PAY-ROLL TAX AND WHICH WILL BE LIABLE TO STATE PAY-ROLL TAX
. Authorities to which the Pay-Roll Tax (State Taxation of Commonwealth Authorities) Bill applies
Australian Canned Fruits Board
Australian Coastal Shipping Commission.
Australian Dried Fruits Control Board
Australian Honey Board
Australian Meat Board
Australian Tobacco Board
Australian Wool Board
Australian Wool Commission
Commonwealth Banking Corporation
Commonwealth Scrum Laboratories Commission
Export Payments Insurance Corporation
Housing Loans Insurance Corporation
Reserve Bank of Australia
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority
Incorporating the 3 constituent banks:
Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia;
Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia; and
Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia.
Australian Apple and Pear Board
Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority
Australian Capital Territory Totalisator Agency Board
Australian Dairy Produce Board
Australian Egg Board
Australian Industry Development Corporation
Australian National Airlines Commission
Australian National University
Australian Services Canteens Organisation
Australian Wheat Board
Australian Wine Board
Canberra College of Advanced Education
Canberra Theatre Trust
Overseas Telecommunications Commission
Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation
Trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund (Note - Some of the above authorities operate in the A.C.T. only, and would not in fact pay State pay-roll tax unless they were also registered as employers under State pay-roll tax legislation).
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania embodying arrangements for a Commonwealth contribution of up to$4.25m towards the cost of railway works in Tasmania between Launceston and Bell Bay. The Bill also seeks the necessary authorisation of expenditure for the purposes of the agreement. In September 1970, the Premier of Tasmania wrote to the Prime Minister seeking financial assistance towards the construction of a new rail link between the existing State railway system, north of Launceston in the vicinity of Nelson’s Creek and Bell Bay. Subsequently assistance was also sought for upgrading parts of the existing line between Nelson’s Creek and Launceston and for certain other associated railway works.
The railway will link the deep water port of Bell Bay with the State railway system. In particular it will facilitate the transport of timber for the development of the northern Tasmanian woodchip industry to be centred at Long Reach, a few miles south of Bell Bay. To meet woodchip export commitments the rail facilities will need to be provided by July 1972. The Premier stated that the State could not finance the work from its own resources within the time available. The Commonwealth agreed to contribute up to $4. 25m towards the cost of the proposed works of which up to $2. 5m is by way of loan repayable over 30 years and carrying interest at the ruling long term bond rate, while the remainder, up to $ 1.75m, is by way of non-repayable grant. The terms of assistance are similar to those contained in the Railway Agreement (Western Australia) Act 1961.
The works proposed comprise: Firstly, a new narrow gauge railway from a point approximately 8 miles from Launceston on the north eastern line to the Bell Bay wharf - overall the line will be approximately 27 miles in length, with a spur line to connect the proposed woodchip works at William Creek; secondly, a new railway bridge across the North Esk River in the vicinity of Launceston; thirdly, marshalling lines adjacent to a proposed freight yard at Dowling Street south of the North Esk River near Launceston; and fourthly, upgrading, where necessary, of the existing line between Launceston and the junction of the proposed Bell Bay line with the north eastern line approximately 8 miles from Launceston. For the information of honourable senators a map has been circulated showing the approximate route of the railway and the section of line to be upgraded.
The agreement follows the usual form for projects of this nature. It includes provisions to allow co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State in respect of the establishment of standards, designs, planning and supervision of the work, the disbursement of funds and the auditing of expenditure on the project The agreement itself is set out as the Schedule to the Bill. Before the agreement can come into effect any payments of financial assistance begin, the approval of the Commonwealth Parliament is necessary. Complementary legislation is being prepared for approval by the Tasmanian Parliament. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 5.23 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senate adjourned at 5.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 October 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711028_senate_27_s50/>.